Deep inside the Forbidden Forest, there was no cold wind sending shivers down their spines. Snow fell softly onto the canopy of the trees above, but for the most part the ground where Harry, Ron and Hermione sat was spared. There was enough shelter that they didn’t need warming charms, their cloaks and scarves doing enough to keep out the chill of the night air. Checking his watch Harry saw that it was almost eleven in the evening, and he wondered how long it would be before his friends agreed that they could keep moving on, that they could get closer to the castle.
He could understand why they were so reluctant. A strong fortress of Dementors lay in their path, surrounding Hogwarts castle on all sides. Even in the forest there was a strong presence, and for now they had settled far enough away that they couldn’t feel the cold or despair of bad memories that they inflicted. For their added comfort their three Patronus’ circled them as they rested, the Stag, Otter and Jack Russell playing and nipping at each other on occasion as they circled around their casters.
The silvery form of Harry’s stag eventually meandered away from its task, slumping down beside Harry as its colour faded to a light grey. Harry sighed, reaching out and touching what he could feel of the charm, apologetic for his lack of happy memories to keep his Patronus strong.
“You alright mate?” Ron piped up from his spot a few feet away. Raising his head he glanced at Harry’s stag and then towards his own, which still shone brightly. “What’s going on there?”
“Nothing,” Harry murmured softly, shifting to lean up against a thick tree and allowing his Patronus to fade completely. There was a soft cool breeze as he did this, and the feelings of hopelessness began to quietly return, as did the memories he only wanted to forget.
“Cast it again, mate,” Ron pestered him, going as far as to sit up. “You’ll only start feeling worse.”
Harry nodded, reluctantly agreeing. He twirled his wand in his fingers aimlessly, trying to conjure the more positive thoughts of Ginny and his family, but none of them seemed to stick in his mind knowing that she was in such danger.
“Think about the time Parkinson fell in the trip step, when no one would help her out. Or the time Seamus tied Dean’s shoe laces together, or when the Arrows were chumps in the league instead of the Cannons. Oh, I know! Getting through a whole box of Bertie Bots without gagging.”
“Ron, they’re your favourite things,” Harry remarked dryly.
“Yeah, I guess. Alright then,” he continued, accepting a challenge. “Catching a rogue Snitch, laying a fist on McClaggen, no Potions homework…hell, no Potions!”
“Ron,” Harry said in exasperation, reviving his weak Patronus with a little more effort.
“Right, good job then.”
Blessedly not replying, Ron shrugged his shoulders and lay back down, rolling onto his side as his own Patronus pestered him in play, the Jack Russel wagging its silvery tail. Harry on the other hand looked to Hermione, who stood some feet away peering off into the trees, her arms folded. Her Otter was now nowhere to be seen.
“Where’s your Patronus, Hermione?” Harry curiously asked.
She looked over her shoulder, a slight frown on her face. “He’ll be back,” she said with confidence, turning back to the forest and waiting.
Harry shared a glance with Ron before they both shrugged their shoulders, Harry laying back against the tree and strumming his fingers on his knee, his Patronus at great risk of fading again. He wished his friends would hurry up and get used to the presence of Dementors, knowing that they couldn’t waste more time sitting around. Already they had spent Thursday evening wandering the streets of Hogsmeade under the Invisibility cloak, approaching the school gates at a distance and observing the Dementor guard. He could see the castle in the distance, and pictured Ginny inside, probably asleep by now.
His impatience grew, but in the back of his mind Harry knew they were waiting on him, waiting for his Patronus to strengthen before they considered making their way through the Dementors towards the castle. He wished they wouldn’t be so cautious, knowing that if there was enough danger he could conjure a Patronus strong enough to protect all three of them. If his friends weren’t so reluctant to take a risk, they could be in the castle that night.
For a moment Harry wondered if Malfoy was still secured in the bathroom back in Privet Drive, kept unconscious while they were gone for the night. Hermione had covered him with a blanket before they had left, which Harry and Ron both agreed was far more than he deserved. Hermione was far too soft on Malfoy, having caved in that morning and given him something to eat, against Harry’s protest that he could suffer a little longer and tell them something else.
Looking up again, Harry watched as Hermione’s Otter came galumphing through the trees with grace that only a Patronus could manage, stopping before her and looking at her imperatively. There seemed to be an unspoken conversation between the Otter and Hermione, and not even a moment later Hermione whirled around as the Otter disappeared again.
“Get up, you two! Get up right now!” She whispered urgently, prodding Ron with her foot as he frowned at her.
“What’s wrong?” Harry demanded as he and Ron got to their feet, his Stag following suit and brightening. “What did it see?”
“I’m not sure,” she said vaguely, looking far off into the distance before carefully leading them through the dense trees. “Just follow it.”
“Follow it?” Harry confirmed in confusion. “I can’t even see it!”
“Keep your voice down!” she whispered angrily, still leading the way.
“Hermione, what’s going on?” Ron asked quietly, walking by her side and looking around.
“I’m not sure,” she repeated herself. “It’s either a trap, or really lucky timing.”
“Well would you care to share with the rest of us who don’t speak ‘Patronus?’” Ron hissed.
She ignored this, holding her lit wand low as she walked. Harry checked behind them constantly, his heart pounding in apprehension as his Stag followed dutifully. Whatever Hermione’s Patronus had seen had definitely set them all on edge, her evasiveness making it even worse. Ten minutes of walked passed, the Otter returning every now and then only to dash off straight away, still leading them deeper into the forest where they had come from. They moved painfully slowly, coming to a complete stop once or twice before Hermione set off again.
“What the hell are we doing?” Harry demanded, frustrated with their pointless wandering. “Hermione!”
She swore under her breath, turning around furiously to glare at he and Ron. “Fine,” she huffed. Taking his arm she steered him a little to his left, pointing through the trees and instructing them to be silent. “Listen.”
For a moment all they could hear was the deafening silence of the empty forest, its occupants driven away by the presence of Dementors. There was a long moment as Harry stared in the direction that Hermione had pointed out, trying to hear anything other than their heavy breaths until he was ready to lose his temper. Just as he was considering exactly how to phrase his annoyance he heard voices close by, his heart rate accelerating as he recognised them.
“Who is that?” Ron whispered. “A Centaur?”
Hermione shook her head, releasing Harry’s arm and allowing him to carefully move closer to the voices. He had only crept a few yards when he caught sight of the two of them, one figure tall and broad, the other small and petite. Their wand light shone at just the right moment, illuminating the face of the smaller figure, and Harry could have sworn his heart stopped. Ron saw them at the same time, and he swore under his breath and grabbed a hold of both of Harry’s elbows.
“Just wait, mate,” he implored him. “It could be a trap.”
Harry did so, but couldn’t stop the loud shout that erupted from his mouth. “Ginny!”
Ron swore as the two figures froze and looked their way, their wand light confirming their identities. Harry tore his arms from Ron’s grip and crashed through the trees and overgrowth, bursting into the clearing with her name on his lips. “Ginny?”
Reacting immediately, Hagrid burst forward at the sight of him and brandished his pink umbrella. “Stay back! Don’t you come any ruddy closer!”
Harry looked past him to where Ginny stood, the large sack she had been carrying dropped to the ground in her surprise. Just seeing her Harry managed to breathe a sigh of relief. Already he could see that she appeared well, only the dark circles under her eyes giving any indication of ill health. Despite Hargrid’s enormous hand thrown out to protect her, Ginny took a step forward, looking at him with a mixture of hope and apprehension.
“Harry?” she said quietly, pushing away Hargrid’s hand.
“It’s me, Ginny,” Harry said imperatively, taking a hesitant step closer just as his Patronus moved to stand by his side, glowing the brightest he had ever seen it.
That seemed to be enough confirmation of his identity, and upon seeing this Ginny burst forward with a cry of relief, and the distance between them closed in an instant. Holding her in his arms immediately began to fill the vacant space in his chest, and so he pressed his face into the side of her neck as she held him tightly enough to hurt. Behind them Harry could hear Ron and Hermione coming forward to greet Hagrid, their wands still drawn in preparation as they spoke. For the most part Harry ignored them, focusing on the fact that Ginny was okay, that she was there and he could help her.
“Are you alright?” Ginny began in a rush, pulling away just enough to look at him. “I’ve been so worried, Harry, so worried.”
“You think you’ve been worried,” he laughed, brushing back her hair and observing her properly. The side of her face was swollen and slightly coloured, making his stomach roll. He kissed her swollen cheek before kissing her on the lips. “I’m sorry this happened, but we came as soon as we heard.”
“How did you hear?”
Harry hesitated, unsure of what to say. They couldn’t guarantee that they were alone in the forest. “It’s a long story, but are you okay? They’ve hurt you,” he stated, touching her face gently.
She nodded, much to his distress. “Not badly,” she explained, but Harry could sense that she was lying. “Nothing I can’t handle.”
Harry didn’t allow himself to dwell on this; there was plenty of time for that later. Instead he looked over Ginny’s shoulder to Hagrid, who was positively beaming with joy.
“Not bad for a night’s detention, eh Ginny?” he rumbled, turning back to Ron and Hermione and clapping them on the shoulder.
“What did you do to get detention?” Harry asked, concerned. Was that where the bruise had come from? Had Amycus Carrow done that as punishment? What else had they done to her?
Ginny breathed out slowly, stepping out from his embrace and fumbling around in her pocket. “Don’t get mad,” she said, fumbling as she removed the enormous Sword of Gryffindor which had been stored in the pocket of her cloak.
“Ginny!” Ron and Hermione exclaimed, Ron looking at his sister with nothing short of pride.
“You stole Gryffindor’s Sword?” Harry gasped in amazement, helping her remove it completely before holding it up to the wand light. Question rushed through him in an instant. “How the hell did you get off with just a detention?”
“They couldn’t prove it was me,” she replied nervously, yet still smiling at Harry’s reaction. “I had help too tough. Neville and Luna helped me, Dobby too. And the weirdest thing happened with Sna-”
“How did you know we needed this?” he asked imperatively, turning the sword over before passing it to Hermione, who stuffed it into her beaded bag.
“She eavesdrops, that’s why,” Ron answered for her, making her blush a little as he hugged her in greeting, stepping aside for Hermione to follow suit.
Harry moved away reluctantly, allowing them to reunite as he spoke to Hagrid instead, who gave him his usual bone crushing hug. “Did you know we’d be in here?”
“No,” he replied, beaming down at him as his eyes glistened. He sniffled a little. “I had no idea you lot would turn up in the middle of the ruddy forest! We wouldn’t normally be in ‘ere this deep for just a detention, not with the Dementors an’ all. But Snape had to have ‘is way.”
“Snape?” Harry asked, his blood running cold as Ron and Hermione stopped to listen. “What did he want?”
“Well ‘e told us to come in ‘ere, didn’t he,” Hagrid explained. “He was quite forceful, told me the Potions classes needed Unicorn hairs, and that I ought ’a go in pretty deep.”
“Snape sent you in here?” Harry asked, turning back to Ginny for confirmation. Already things in his head were ticking over, and he began to fear that this was a trap after all. This was exactly why Ginny had been brought back to Hogwarts.
“That’s what I was going to say,” Ginny answered, moving forward. “He saved my hide today. He found the sword in Gryffindor tower and hid it from the Death Eaters again, then he gave it back to me.”
“He gave it back to you?” Hermione exclaimed in disbelief.
“Yes,” Ginny answered. “He gave it back and said to hang onto it all the time. I didn’t know what else to do, so I did.”
Harry, Ron and Hermione exchanged a glance, each of them in their own state of confusion. Harry shook his head, trying to understand what Snape had done by returning the sword to Ginny, and then sending her into the forest, exactly where they were. “He knows we’re here,” he said solidly, taking a quick look around as each of their Patronus’ wandered off into the trees to look for danger. “We need to go, right now.”
They nodded in agreement, and Harry moved to take Ginny’s hand as Ron gave Hagrid some instructions.
“Go back to the castle, tell them all that she disappeared, carried off by a horny Centaur or something. Make them believe it.”
“Right you are, you lot,” Hagrid nodded in agreement, clapping each of them on the shoulder in farewell before picking up the sack Ginny had been carrying. “Keep going, you’ll apparate eventually.”
“Thanks Hagrid,” Harry said gratefully, but didn’t hang around for proper farewells. They set off immediately, finding the path that Hagrid had taken so many times and following it in a slow jog, Harry and Ginny never releasing each other’s hands. Ron led them, with Hermione following from behind, and they continued in silence for at least twenty minutes. The sweetness of their reunion had vanished the moment Ginny had mentioned Snape’s intentions for her, but there was no sign that they were being followed, or even that the forest around them was occupied at all.
Their trek was uneventful, and they only stopped when they reached the deepest parts of the forest, and could finally hear the foreboding clicking of the Acromantula population. Ron stopped in his tracks and turned back to his friends, his face paling.
“I think that’s far enough,” he stated, looking around warily. “We arrived somewhere about here.”
“Where are we going?” Harry asked as they all nodded in agreement. They had decided the night before that Ginny could not return to Surrey with them. If they didn’t have Malfoy captive in the bathroom things might be different, but the bruises on Hermione’s face were still healing, and Harry couldn’t bear the thought that Ginny might be harmed at Malfoy’s hands. To that end though, they still had not agreed on a place to take her.
“I have an idea,” Hermione said quietly, looking to each of them cautiously. “But I’ll need at least a few hours to confirm it.”
“What are you thinking,” Harry asked, grateful that Ginny was patient enough not to pester them about what was going on. He slipped his arm around her shoulders.
“Tonks,” Hermione stated.
“We don’t even know where she is anymore,” Ron said, thinking about the attack on Shell Cottage.
“She had to leave,” Ginny piped up. “Remus was struggling at full moon, Sirius couldn’t always be there, so she went home by herself.”
“When was this?”
“Not long after you left. That’s why Remus came on Christmas day.”
“I can look for her,” Hermione said with confidence. “I know a few places where they might be, I can start at her parents’ house.”
“But what about Ginny?” Harry asked impatiently. “She can’t stay here in the forest!”
“We’ll put him in the shed, mate,” Ron said quietly, looking at Harry with a raised eyebrow.
Harry didn’t need to ask what he meant. “He’ll still be there! What if-”
“If he’s in the back shed, he won’t even know she’s here,” Ron implored. “We can move him back once Ginny’s safe. He’ll never know unless we tell him.”
“Who the hell are you two talking about?” Ginny demanded, unable to hold back any longer. She shook his arm impatiently. “Harry?”
He sighed, but didn’t look to her immediately, giving Ron and nod of reluctant agreement. “Everything’s alright, we’ll explain in a minute. Are you guys ready?”
“Yes,” Hermione agreed, taking Ron’s hand. “We’ll apparate in pairs. Meet out the front?”
Harry nodded, turning to take Ginny’s hand and facing her glare of frustration. “We’re going to Privet Drive,” he explained, taking her hand and looking around them to check for their safety. “We’ll tell you more when we get there.”
To his relief she accepted this quickly, holding his hand tightly and allowing him to Apparate them to Surrey. Unlike the dense forest, the street left them exposed to the snow and wind, and Harry immediately led Ginny to the front of number four, waiting by the door for Ron and Hermione, who appeared moments later. They too rushed to the front door, Hermione taking Ginny by the hand as Ron muttered to him, “Come up and help me with ‘im.”
“Okay,” he nodded as they opened the front door.
“Stay down here with me,” Hermione instructed Ginny, leading her into the lounge as Harry and Ron started up the stairs. Harry glanced down at Ginny and nodded, relieved that she allowed Hermione to keep her downstairs.
The bathroom door was open and the light was on, just as they expected. Malfoy lay on the floor unconscious, covered by a blanket Hermione had insisted upon. Ron crouched down and slapped his cheek a few times, confirming that he was still out as he should be, and so he looked back to Harry.
“You okay with this, mate?” he confirmed, knowing none of them wanted Ginny in the same place as Malfoy, even short term. “I’ll stay guard on him all night, if I have to.”
“Let’s just do this,” he said, swishing his wand and levitating Malfoy’s body into the air. Guiding the limp body out of the bathroom, Ron followed with the blanket slung over his shoulder.
“Be careful, you wouldn’t want to bump his precious head on the walls.”
Any other time Harry would have laughed and done so on purpose, but tonight he just wanted to get Malfoy out of the house, away from Ginny, and so he concentrated on what he was doing. He could hear Hermione and Ginny talking heatedly in the lounge as he reached the ground floor, but he didn’t allow himself to look over his shoulder. Instead, he headed out into the backyard with Ron close in tow, who jumped ahead to unlock the small garden shed in the corner of the yard.
Harry dumped Malfoy on the snowy grass and helped Ron remove the contents of the shed, hauling out the lawn mower and other power tools that Malfoy could use as a weapon, before dragging him inside and throwing the blanket over him. He cast a generous warming charm over the building, not having enough time to deal with Malfoy if he fell ill from the cold, and slammed the door shut and locked it.
“I’ll wake him up in the morning,” Ron murmured as they walked across the lawn. “Let him have a drink…take a whiz in the garden.”
“I wouldn’t bother,” Harry answered in reply, slipping back into the warmth inside.
“Alright,” Ron agreed patiently. “But if he dirties himself tomorrow, I’m not dealing with him.”
Harry was saved from reply as Hermione greeted them, fixing her scarf and rummaging in her bag. “I’ve explained to Ginny, she didn’t take it well. Is Malfoy all set?”
“Yeah,” Harry informed her. “He’s still out, easier that way.”
“I can’t help but agree,” she replied, removing Harry’s invisibility cloak. “Is it alright if I take this with me?”
“Of course,” he said, looking around for Ginny.
“Thanks. Ginny’s upstairs in our bathroom, having a shower. I’ve given her something to wear, but I’ll have to go through my clothes and give her a little more, she’s got nothing,” she explained. Kissing Harry and Ron on the cheek she set off towards the hallway. “I’ll be off then, I shouldn’t be more than a few hours.”
“Wait!” Ron demanded, following her hastily. “You’re not wandering off alone.”
“And I’m not leaving Malfoy here with only one Wizard who can use a wand,” Harry heard her argue down the hallway. “If something happens and Ginny uses magic, then we’re all done for.”
They argued a little more, but Hermione soon won as they all knew she would. With the agreement of checking in again at dawn she set off in search of Tonks, leaving Harry and Ron to supervise Malfoy. Ron busied himself making coffee and a late night dinner, but Harry refused all his offers and lay down on the couch, listening to the sound of the running water upstairs. A few minutes later the pipes groaned as Ginny turned off the water, and Harry grew impatient as more time passed while he waited for her to come downstairs. Just as he wanted to head upstairs and check on her he heard the soft pad of her feet coming down the hallway, and he sat up on the couch and awaited her arrival.
She wandered into the living room and sat down beside him, dressed in Hermione’s clothes which were slightly too big, still towel drying her hair. He shifted nearer her as she smiled, and he banished the wet towel back upstairs and dried her hair for her, trailing his fingers through it and marvelling at how much it had grown.
“Thanks,” she said gratefully, putting her hand on his chest and kissing him sweetly.
He kissed her back deeply, laying down again and settling her against his side. They sighed in contentment as he slipped his arm around her side and pulled a blanket around them, Ginny shifting a little in discomfort.
“Are you alright?” he asked, kissing the top of her head.
She nodded, tucking her cold toes underneath his legs as she slipped her hand under the hem of his shirt. He could feel her fingers tracing along each wound before she lifted his shirt for a quick look. “They’re looking better,” she remarked, pulling his shirt back down to its place and resting her hand on his chest, her head on his shoulder.
“Yeah,” he agreed, hardly focusing on what she meant. Her heavy weight in his arms was of great comfort to him, knowing for certain that she was safe and protected. At this thought Ron wandered into the dining room, sitting atop of the dining table and peering out into the backyard to keep an eye on Malfoy, munching on a sandwich.
“Hermione told me about Malfoy,” she began, looking at him intently. “I don’t like this, Harry. It’s risky, what if someone comes for him?”
“I know, Gin,” he tried to reassure her, praying that she would push it. “No one knows he’s here.”
They lay awake for the longest time, their fingers entwined on his chest, Harry’s free hand stroking the lengths of her hair. His hand ran in a gentle and continuous motion from her head down her shoulders and arm, finally coming to rest on her waist where her hair finally ended. An hour or so later Ron wandered into the lounge room and slumped across an armchair, his feet dangling over the side as he promptly began snoring. Almost as if on cue, Ginny promptly fell asleep against Harry’s shoulder, softly snoring in unison with her brother. Despite the obvious comfort of Ron and Ginny, Harry stayed awake, having to resist the urge to dislodge Ginny and check on Malfoy just in case.
He began to think about Gringotts, saddened by just how little of their break in they had planned. In the back of his mind Harry knew that his friends were currently more focused on Dumbledore’s penseive, which sat abandoned on the dining room table. Harry knew he would have to get back to it eventually, would have to start sorting through the memories in hopes that there was something new he hadn’t seen. As of yet the only memories that presented themselves to him were those he had already seen, as though Dumbledore himself was reaching out from death and preventing him from viewing those he was not yet ready for. Harry could see the multitude of unseen memories floating around in the penseive, but was quietly relieved that he had not been able to view them all as of yet.
Now that she was asleep against his shoulder, Harry took the opportunity to shift just a little, peering down at her face and studying the pink marks across her cheek. There was no bruise, but upon the further inspection of his gentle fingers he could feel the swelling, and immediately wanted to awaken her and demand to know how she had come across such an injury. There would be an innocent explanation Harry told himself, not wanting to dwell on the potential consequences she had faced when accused of stealing the Sword of Gryffindor, which now sat on the dining room table alongside Dumbledore’s penseive.
Carefully slipping out from Ginny’s embrace Harry got to his feet, readjusting the blanket to lay over Ginny’s shoulders as she settled. He turned and wandered into the dining room, his fingers tracing over the rim of the penseive before he carefully traced the edge of the Sword of Gryffindor. The blade was sharp, but did not harm his fingertips, even when he pressed them hard against the blade in curiosity. In a haze of memories Harry took the handle of the sword and raised it from the table, and although the sword fit perfectly in his hand, it was rather heavy. With his other hand he held the blade, wondering when he would find the need to use it.
“Harry? What’s wrong?”
His absence had awoken Ginny, who was sitting up on the couch and eyeing his in concern. Harry swallowed thickly and placed the sword back on the table, throwing a quick glance to the garden shed before he moved back into the living room.
“Nothing’s wrong,” he murmured as she shifted over to make room for him on the couch. Laying down he put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her to his chest, stroking her hair gently. “Not now, anyway.”
He could feel her smiling against his chest, but a moment later as he slipped his hand down her back she flinched sharply.
“What is it?” Harry asked in concern, moving his hand away.
Ginny shook her head against his chest in reply, and Harry took the hint to not ask again. Instead he took his free hand and tilted her face towards his, and he kissed her deeply. The relief of having her safely back in his arms empowered him, and when she kissed him back with as much vigour he clenched his hand in her hair so that she couldn’t pull away. When he finally broke their kiss Ginny panted against his jaw, trying to catch her breath before drawing him back. Taking note of Ron’s heavy snores Harry slipped his hand down Ginny’s side to her leg, taking the back of her knee and hitching her leg over his. The movement elicited another flinch from Ginny, who gasped against his lips, and so he allowed her to break their kiss.
“What is it?” he asked again, determined for an answer this time. “Did I hurt you?”
“No!” she whispered, her face showing alarm. She kissed him again, harder. “It’s nothing.”
Moving with caution Harry ran his hand up the back of her leg, feeling the distinct texture of a heavy bandage through the thin pyjama pants Hermione lent her. Concerned, he reached for the top of the trousers and made to slip his hand underneath, intent on determining exactly what was causing Ginny such pain. Immediately she batted his hand away, and on second thought she relocated it to her stomach. Harry would have none of that, and so distracted her with a kiss as he gently felt the back of her leg, confirming that the texture he felt was a bandage.
“Did someone hurt you?” he asked as she once again shied away from his touch. Harry sat up on his elbow and peered down at her, trying to interpret the conflicted look on her face.
Ginny sighed, slipping a hand underneath the front of his shirt. “It’s not what you’re thinking,” she lied.
“It’s exactly what I’m thinking, isn’t it?” he rebuked her, his heart racing as the thoughts of pain and mistreatment rushed through him. “Who hurt you?”
She sighed again. “It doesn’t matter to me,” she implored him, moving her hand further up his chest as she leant up and tried to kiss him.
“Just tell me, Ginny,” he pleaded, dodging her kiss and capturing her wayward hand. “C’mon, my mind is going to all sorts of places.”
He waited patiently for her to answer, perhaps gripping her hand a little too hard when she told him. “It was Malfoy, Lucius. He wanted me to confess to stealing the sword.”
“What did he do?” he asked when he released the breath he had been holding, his fears confirmed. Already surges of desire for violent revenge were teasing his subconscious. “You can tell me.”
“I already told you, it doesn’t matter,” she said sharply, and suddenly the path of her hand made sense to him.
“Did he do this to you?” he asked apprehensively, taking her hand and slipping it around his back to where they could both feel the wounds that had only recently healed into straight and neat scars.
Ginny nodded, much to Harry’s horror. “It’s not as bad as yours,” she rushed to elaborate. “And I told you, it doesn’t matter to me. It never has.”
Harry swore, feeling as though Ginny herself had clenched his heart in her hands. Slipping his arm tightly around her shoulder he pulled her against his chest, shaking as she finally settled back again. He regretted asking her, and began hating himself for abandoning her at Shell Cottage. He shivered, knowing in the back of his mind that he was abandoning her again when they most needed each other, but he had been left with no other choice. She was safest away from him, away from Malfoy and the terrible danger they would face when breaking into Gringotts. It would be bad enough if they were captured by Death Eaters amidst their attempt, he didn’t need to make it worse by having Ginny captured as well. Again, he corrected himself.
They lay there, listening to Ron’s slow and steady snores as Ginny rubbed her hand up and down his side, comforting him instead of the other way around as it should be. She was the one who had been hurt, she was the one who had suffered at the hands of Lucius Malfoy and had been subjected to Legilimens by Draco Malfoy. Getting himself together Harry shifted onto his side a little and brushed Ginny’s hair back off her face, trying to keep his voice steady.
“It’s gonna be alright, I promise,” he told her, seeing the trust in her eyes.
“I know,” she agreed readily, stroking his arm. She kissed him gently before resuming her position against his chest, pulling the blanket up and over her shoulders. “Now go to sleep.”
Biting back the initial remark he thought of, Harry did as he was told, casting his eyes around the room to Ron. It was well past two in the morning, and although Harry knew one of them should be awake and alert he closed his eyes and allowed himself to succumb to sleep. Hours later Harry awoke with a start, feeling the rumble of Ginny’s voice against his chest, already detecting her laughter.
Suddenly wide awake Harry blinked rapidly, replacing his wayward glasses and sitting up, dislodging Ginny from her comfortable position. “Is Hermione back?”
Harry swore, spinning around and nearly falling off the couch when he saw Tonks lounged out on the armchair where Ron had been sleeping. Her hair was once again its usual bright pink, although she wore it a little longer than usual, and Harry couldn’t help but detect an abrupt change about her. Despite the loss of her parents and the stress of the war, she was positively…glowing.
“Tonks…” Harry began in complete shock. “What the hell are you doing here?”
She and Ginny exchanged a devilish look, sharing in their own little secret. “Oh not much,” she began, leaning back and rubbing her swollen belly, which had grown considerably since the last time Harry had seen her. “Growing a human being, fetching a thieving school student…same old thing.”
“About time you let me up,” Ginny grumbled, getting to her feet and stretching. “You’ve got a vice grip there.”
Tonks grinned at her, giving her a quick wink. “We need to get going, Remus will be worried when he returns. Why don’t you go and nick some of Hermione’s clothes from upstairs?”
“Right,” she agreed reluctantly, touching Harry’s shoulder before rounding the couch and heading upstairs.
At that moment Hermione entered the lounge room, looking rather pleased with what she had accomplished. “Tonks was going stir crazy,” she explained.
“Where’s Ron?” Harry asked, taking note of Ginny’s ascent upstairs.
“He’s outside, keeping an eye on…him.”
Tonks cleared her throat, bringing their attention back to her.
Harry looked her way, immediately feeling dread as he noticed the dark look on her face, which reminded him somewhat of McGonagall’s expression when she was preparing to berate a student. Swallowing nervously, Harry wondered if the two of them had exchanged tips in the staffroom on how to intimidate students. “What?”
Pushing against the arms of the chair, Tonks hauled herself to her feet with what was clearly a great amount of effort. Immediately Harry began to rise, but sat back down when Tonks stood tall. Heavily pregnant, she was all belly, and despite her small stature she seemed to tower over Harry when she took a step closer. Harry realised he was right. She and McGonagall had been exchanging tips. “What?” he asked again.
She raised her eyebrows at him, and Hermione made a quick departure back into the kitchen. “You kidnap a renowned Death Eater, and you don’t even send an owl?” she questioned lowly.
“I erm…” Harry began nervously, looking towards the kitchen for assistance. “Well we err….shit…”
“You’ve been holding said Death Eater in your bathroom for over a month now, and you don’t even think to inform your trusty Auror friend?”
“We didn’t have an owl!” Harry blurted out.
“You could have dropped by.”
“We didn’t know where you were,” he replied stupidly.
“Well you found me!” she declared, throwing her hands in the air. “Honestly Harry, how could you be so stupid?”
“Stupid?” he demanded, standing up abruptly, though this did nothing to make her less intimidating.
“What do you think you’re going to do with him?”
Harry hesitated. “Well, we’re going to…” He spun around to furiously face Hermione, who had made a reappearance. “You couldn’t explain this to her?”
“What can I say?” Hermione shrugged, clearly enjoying his discomfort. “She wanted to yell.”
“She doesn’t need to explain,” Tonks said sharply, poking Harry hard in the chest and pushing him back down to the couch.
“Ouch. Hey!” he protested when she poked him again and as he tried to stand up.
“I know what you intend to do with him,” Tonks continued harshly. “Break into Gringotts? Draco Malfoy is currently the most sought after Death Eater! Both sides are looking for him!”
“You Know Who, too?” Hermione confirmed.
“Yes. The Death Eaters think he’s defected. Their current orders are to bring him straight to You Know Who for execution, assuming that is if his parents don’t find him first. They’ll want to take him into hiding.”
“We knew he’d be a target, Tonks,” Harry said in exasperation.
“You’re missing the point, Harry.”
“The moment you use him to enter the Black family vault,” she said loudly. “Death Eaters will be all over you! You can’t use him!”
“We know that,” Harry said a little too quickly, making Hermione raise her eyebrows. “We haven’t made any plans yet…”
“No,” Harry confirmed, hearing Ginny coming down the stairs. “Just trust us, we know what we’re doing,” he finished quietly, ignoring the darkening look on Tonks’ face.
“Is everything alright?” she asked quietly, a few shirts and trousers belonging to Hermione bundled up in her arms.
“Of course,” Tonks smiled, clapping her hands together and glancing at Harry. “Just imparting some wisdom. Are you ready?”
“Yeah,” she nodded slowly, moving over towards Hermione. “I’ll just say goodbye…are these clothes alright to borrow, ‘Mione?”
“Of course. C’mon, I’ll take you outside to see Ron.”
Ginny spared Harry a quick glance over her shoulder as Hermione led her outside, and the feeling of loss he was so associated with began to creep back. To distract himself Harry turned back to Tonks, who had softened somewhat. He cleared his throat. “How are you and Remus going?” he asked in concern.
“We’re alright,” she nodded sincerely. “He’s struggling at full moon, but he’ll be okay. Your Godson is getting rather cramped in here. Shouldn’t be long now,” she added as an afterthought, rubbing her belly.
“Son?” Harry asked in surprise, his eyes automatically drawn to watch the path of her hands. “How do you know for sure?”
“Tea leaves, they’re never wrong.”
“That’s debatable,” Harry scoffed, recalling his Divination lessons. “If tea leaves are never wrong I should have been eaten by a giant marshmallow long ago.”
It was the ice breaker that they needed, and when Ron, Hermione and Ginny returned from outside he and Tonks were laughing happily, as though their sharp words had never been said. Ginny smiled as she stuffed her newly acquired clothing into a bag and slung it over her shoulder.
“Time to go,” she said evenly, trying to hide her reluctance.
“We’ll apparate from the front step,” Tonks nodded, and led the way out the front to where the sun was rising.
There was no point in delaying Ginny’s departure any longer, and Harry was grateful that she appeared at ease with the arrangements that had been made. As Tonks said goodbye to Ron and Hermione, Harry and Ginny hung back inside the front hallway, exchanging a tight hug that would have to do for now.
“Don’t do anything stupid, alright?” Ginny instructed, her words somewhat muffled by his chest.
“Same to you,” he replied, kissing the top of her head affectionately. “But after what you’ve done, there’s not a lot more trouble you can cause.”
“That’s true, although from the look of Tonks, Remus is going to be delivering a baby.”
Harry flinched at that remark. “Shouldn’t she be in a hospital?” he asked in concern, having never really considered that at some stage Tonks was going to deliver.
“I’m sure she’ll arrange something,” Ginny reassured him, looking over her shoulder at Tonks who was evidently waiting for her. “I should go.”
“Okay,” Harry murmured, relieved that this wouldn’t be drawn out. He gave her a lingering kiss before ushering her outside. “Stay out of trouble.”
“Will do,” she grinned, hugging Ron and Hermione once more before taking Tonks’ offered arm, winking at him cheekily.
“Tonks, wait,” Harry said, stepping outside just a little as he gained her attention. “If you see Sirius, don’t tell him where we are.”
“Why?” Tonks asked with a raised eyebrow. “Afraid he’ll come and beat some sense into you?”
Tonks rolled her eyes in a non-committal response, and before Harry could raise his hand to farewell Ginny, the two women vanished in silence. Standing on the front porch of Privit Drive, Harry, Ron and Hermione shared a moment of awkward silence, surprised by the abrupt departure.
“Should she be apparating…in her condition?” Ron asked slowly. “I mean…won’t she splinch the baby?”
“It appears she can,” Hermione soothed, ushering them both back inside.
With the exhaustion of the last few days closing in on them the three friends trudged into the kitchen, Hermione and Harry gratefully collapsing into the kitchen chairs as Ron began to make some tea and coffee.
“What did you lot do with the penseive?” Harry asked, having noticed their absence from the dining room table. “And the sword?”
“I put them away,” Ron explained, placing a mug before each of them and sinking into a chair himself. “Figure we had enough to explain already.”
“Thanks,” Harry muttered, wrapping his hands around the mug gratefully. “We should move Malfoy soon.”
“After tea,” Ron and Hermione spoke in unison, and moments later Hermione launched into discussion about exactly where and how she had found Tonks, who had been staying at her vacant childhood home, just as Harry was.
Satisfied with her explanation and quick work, they settled into a comfortable silence that quickly turned awkward, each of them knowing exactly what the other was thinking. No one wanted to mention it out loud, but Tonks had raised a very serious problem that they had considered once before, but hadn’t pondered for too long. Their only way to gain access to the Black Family vault was to use Malfoy, but his kidnapping had put their entire plan to risk. They would have to be hasty in leaving the bank, though that would likely prove impossible. If Death Eaters became aware of Malfoy’s presence in Gringotts, there would be no escaping.
It was with great reluctance that Harry and Ron finally rose, hauling Malfoy out of the garden shed and depositing him back into the bathroom. His confusion about dirt and muck he was covered in proved to be a great amusement to both Harry and Ron, who awoke him only when he was safely back in the charms of the bathroom, neglecting to mention that he had spent the night outside.
A/N Bit of a slow chapter, but I hope you guys enjoyed. Please review, and action coming soon!
Write a Review Chasing The Inevitable: Chapter 37 The Forbidden Forest