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Protection by PrincessPotter
Chapter 8 : Fears Within
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 110


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Harry and Ron sat on the picnic table, their feet resting on the bench below. With their elbows propped on their knees, they stared out at the pond in silence.

“So,” Ron said finally, not bothering to look over.

“So,” Harry echoed.

“You and Ginny, huh?”

Harry looked over at Ron’s profile for a second before dropping his gaze to the ground.

“Yeah,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “Me and Ginny.”

Ron was silent for a few more seconds before he sighed. “Malfoy’s not going to like that.”

“I know,” Harry replied softly.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny’s eyes flew open.

Rising up on her elbows, she glanced around in confusion, unsure of where she was. Her body relaxed as her eyes adjusted to the darkness and she recognized the familiar surroundings of her room.

The feeling of relief was short lived, her tension returning full force with the realization that she was alone.

How did I get up here?

Ginny started to sit up but froze when a shadow glided past the window, temporarily blocking the moonlight.

Looking around for the source, she gasped when an ominous black figure materialized in front of her.

Instinctively, Ginny moved as it approached, rolling toward the far side of the bed to get away. A hand grabbed the back of her dress, jerking her back to the center. She began to scream but a hand clamped over her mouth, muffling the sound. Her struggles were futile as her head was shoved back down onto the mattress.

Whimpering as she struggled, Ginny twisted and arched her back as she tried to rip the hand away from her face. She froze, her heart pounding against her ribs when she felt a wand pressing against her throat.

“I’ll have to remember you’re a light sleeper,” Malfoy purred as he came into focus above her. Smirking, he watched her eyes widen in horror as he kneeled next to her.

Ginny snatched her hands away from his arm, fisting them into the sheets instead. Slowly, he trailed his wand down her neck. She squeezed her eyes shut as he traced the spot where his mark had been.

“I see he got rid of that for you,” he mused. “Impressive. Want me to put it back?”

Ginny opened her eyes and glared at him, but he just continued to smirk.

“No? No matter,” he said softly as he leaned over her. “What I need is still here anyway,” he whispered as he replaced the tip of his wand with his fingers, caressing her throat gently.

The feel of his fingers upon her sent shivers down her spine. In response, Ginny bit down hard on the hand covering her mouth, digging her teeth into his skin until she tasted blood.

Malfoy ripped his hand away with a curse.

Ginny screamed Harry’s name as loud as she could, but received only a sharp slap across the face in response. Her head snapped to the side and she squeezed her eyes shut for a second before glaring back up at him. When she opened her mouth to scream again, Malfoy shoved his wand back against her throat, pressing it into her skin.

“Scream all you want, Ginny,” he taunted, increasing the pressure of his wand tip on her neck until she grimaced. “No one can hear you. But on second thought,” he reconsidered after a brief pause, “your bellowing would annoy me… and I don’t think you’d like that.”

“What do you want?” she ground out.

“You,” he smirked, his eyes roaming her body before he leaned down and captured her lips in a demanding kiss.

Ginny stiffened, whimpering reflexively at the contact. In an instant, his words at the banquet flooded into her mind.

I’m going to make her scream…I’m going to do things to her she’s never even dreamed about…

Beginning to shake with fear, she tried to turn her head away to break the kiss, but he moved with her, keeping their mouths together until he chose to end it.

“I want you, and I will have you,” he promised, keeping his face close to hers. “Not today…but soon, Ginevra. He won’t be able to stop me. No matter how…”

“Go to hell, Malfoy,” she spat.

“Funny, that’s just where I’m going to send Potter after I take yo…”

With a cry, Ginny knocked his wand away from her neck and then shoved him up as hard as she could.

Her heart was pounding with adrenaline and fear as she fought to scramble away. Malfoy caught her legs, dragging her back to him and shoving her back onto the mattress. Pressing his wand into her throat again, he eyed her legs where her dress had ridden up.

Ginny’s stomach turned over and she jerked her skirt down over her knees. Refusing to allow her tears to take over, she chose anger instead.

“Why are you here if you aren’t taking me?” she demanded. “Why the games?”

“Games are fun,” he sneered back. “They pass the time…but mostly they piss off Potter.”

Dragging his eyes down her body, he moved his hand to her stomach, seeming to relish her trembling as he caressed her.

“Do you know…At first I could barely stomach the thought of doing a Weasley,” he told her his eyes flicking briefly to hers before moving to her hair. “…but lately…” He brought a hand up, running his fingers gently through her crimson waves.

Sickened, Ginny tried to turn her head away from him, but he grabbed her hair and twisted her back, forcing her to look at him. His eyes were icy as he raked them back down her body. The lust in his gaze made Ginny’s skin crawl as though he was actually touching her with his hands.

“Merlin, I can hardly wait to have you now that I know Potter wants you,” he breathed.

Ginny’s eyes narrowed to slits as he wrapped a clump of her hair around his hand and ripped it out.

Ginny cried out in pain before snapping her mouth shut as she watched him tuck the lock of hair into his robes. Taking advantage of his occupied hand, Ginny moved quickly. She swung her fist, punching him hard in the face and knocking him sideways.

The moment his wand slid from her throat, she scrambled away.

Furious, Malfoy lunged at her, letting out a string of curses as he grabbed for her. When Ginny felt his hands grasping for her ankles, she looked over her shoulder. Twisting onto her back as she moved, she pulled herself with her arms as she kicked furiously.

With a satisfying crunch, her heel connected soundly with his nose.

Letting out a wail, Malfoy’s his hand flew to his face while Ginny tumbled backwards off the bed.

Accio wand!” she yelled as she pulled herself up.

When nothing happened, her eyes shot to her nightstand. Realizing her wand wasn’t there, she let out a strangled groan of panic and frustration. Harry’s order to keep it with her at all times shot through her head and for a split-second, a ridiculous urge to laugh bubbled inside of her.

It died quickly as Malfoy rose from the bed, blood dripping from the hand that was covering his nose. Cocking his head, he watched with murderous eyes as she backed away. He sniffed with a grimace, wiping the blood off of his face with the back of his hand.

“That was a mistake, love,” he told her darkly. Advancing on her quickly, he backed her into the wall as he aimed his wand at her.

Out of options, Ginny threw her hands out instinctively in defense.

Instantly, Malfoy flew backwards as her wandless magic erupted from her hands, startling them both as he slammed into the far wall with a thud.

Ginny looked down at her hands, her eyes wide.

Where did that come from?

She didn’t do wandless magic. She certainly didn’t know how to do it again, so she ran for the door.

CRUCIO!”

Ginny cried out as pain exploded within her. The impact of Malfoy’s curse knocked her sideways and she slammed into the dresser, her head hitting the corner hard before she collapsed onto the floor.

It felt like her body was being ripped apart, as white hot agony tore through her flesh. It was too much to handle…it hurt too much and she couldn’t suppress her scream. It was as if the pain ripped it from her along with any possibility of conscious thought.

~..~..~..~..~..~

“Well, so long, my friends,” Fred called, interrupting Harry and Ron’s conversation as he, George and Hermione walked up to the picnic table.

“And humble baby brother,” George added for good measure.

“Where are you two off to?” Harry asked, fighting a smile as he glanced at Ron to find him rolling his eyes.

“Oh, you know…places to go, money to make,” Fred grinned. “As much as we’d love to stay…”

“….And beat Ron’s arse some more at Quidditch,” George added with a wink to Harry.

“Whatever, I was winning!” Ron contended, straightening.

Wisely, Harry remained silent, meeting Hermione’s amused gaze as the twins grinned at the ease they could push Ron's buttons.

“You keep telling yourself that, Ron,” Fred smiled, “but for now, we’re off.”

“Yeah alright…see you later boys,” Hermione said quickly before Ron could reply.

“Ah, Hermione, you know you miss us already,” George, sighed, wrapping his arm around her waist and kissing her on the cheek.

As Fred did the same, Hermione failed to suppress a grin before pushing them away.

With a final goodbye and salute, the twins Apparated away with two small pops.

When the twins were gone, Hermione climbed up to sit on the table next to Ron. Leaning over, she whispered something into his ear.

Harry turned to watch them, noting the blush that began creeping up Ron’s neck.

Taking Hermione’s hand, Ron leaned in and whispered something back. She gave him a secret grin and he shook his head slightly before she nodded back. A second later Ron leaned forward, kissing her quickly before murmuring something else to her.

Harry raised an eyebrow when they both looked over at him.

“Should I leave you two alone?”

Hermione laughed, pulling Ron off the table so that they were standing in front of Harry. He watched them with curious interest as Ron moved behind Hermione, slipping his arms around her. His hands linked loosely in front of her stomach as he gave Harry a small smile.

“We wanted to tell you something,” he said as Hermione moved her hands on top of his.

“First,” Hermione added softly, her eyes beginning to tear up. “We wanted to tell you first.”

Harry looked back and forth between them for a moment. Suddenly reminded of a day several years ago, he broke into a small smile. It had happened right here at the table after they’d pulled him outside to talk.

“You’re what?!” Harry exclaimed, his eyes widening before he broke into a grin.

Ron’s ears were blazing as he fought the smile that was twitching at the corner of his lips.

“We’re getting married,” he repeated, squeezing Hermione’s hand and shooting a glance at her beaming face.

“We wanted to tell you first,” Hermione added.

Harry looked back and forth between them. They were standing in front of him, holding hands while he sat on the picnic table. Letting out a joyful laugh, Harry jumped to the ground and scooped Hermione into his arms for hug.

“That’s brilliant!” he proclaimed as he swung her around and then set her back down.

Laughing, Hermione nodded her agreement as she brushed her fingers quickly under her eyes.

“I can’t believe you actually said yes to this prat!” Harry joked.

Hermione simply laughed in reply before offering a shrug.

“What could I do?” she sighed. “I just can’t seem to make him go away.”

“Hey,” Ron said in a hurt voice, even as he lip twitched.

With a giggle, Hermione threw her arms around him, rising up on her toes to give him a kiss.

“It’s ok, you can’t get rid of me either,” she murmured.

“Ha! Like I’d let you get away,” Ron quipped, grinning triumphantly before showing his agreement with a kiss. Simultaneously, he stuck his hand out for Harry to shake.

Chuckling, Harry took his hand and pumped it up and down, watching them in amusement as they continued to kiss playfully.

When they broke apart, Ron slipped his hand back into hers, meeting Harry’s gaze and looking a bit like he’d just won the Quidditch World Cup.

“Now we just need to find you a girl, Harry…”


Ron cleared his throat, bringing Harry back to the present.

“I’m listening,” Harry said, trying to force his expression into one of casual interest as he looked back and forth between them.

“Well,” Ron began, his lips twitching…

A second later Harry’s heart was in his throat. The house alarms were wailing loudly, interrupting their conversation and alerting them that Dark magic was being used.

The trio’s heads snapped toward the house and Harry forgot about everything else as the sound plunged his body into a tense panic. It only took a second for him to launch off of the table. He tore across the yard and through the back door, drawing his wand as he ran through the kitchen.

“GINNY?!”

Oh God, he thought as his insides twisted in panic. Please be a false alarm.

He collided with Bill who was rushing out of the den.

“Where is she?” Harry demanded as Bill stumbled back a step.

The oldest Weasley’s face changed from determination to confusion and then panic in a second.

“She’s not with you?” Bill asked frantically as Ron and Hermione appeared over Harry’s shoulder.

“I left her with you!” Harry shot back angrily.

Harry’s eyes snapped to Molly and Arthur. They were right behind Bill with their wands drawn, their expressions stricken. His body was suddenly rippling with desperate fury and he shoved past Bill to enter the room.

Where the hell is she? She’s supposed to be with her mother! I left her in the den with half of her family, why would she leave?

Danielle was crying on the floor, her hands over her ears as the alarms continued to wail.

“Get her out of the house,” Harry ordered, scooping Danielle up and passing her to Fleur.

Fleur nodded and then ran from the room with Gabrielle behind her.

“You too,” Ron yelled at Hermione, leaning in so she could hear him over the alarms. He turned her quickly and pushed her towards the back door.

“What?!” she demanded as she spun around and marched back to him. “Ron, I’m not…”

Hermione,” he pleaded, his hand going to her stomach.

She trailed off at the worry in his eyes and her hand covered his. Kissing her quickly, he pushed her back a step. Her gaze flicked from him to the door of the den, debating on whether to do as he asked.

“Hermione!” he bellowed, gesturing to the door behind her.

With a groan of acceptance, she turned and left.

Inside the den, Harry shut his eyes, reaching out with his senses. Immediately, he felt the magic coming from above him. Tilting his head back, he searched for a second longer before he cursed. His eyes snapped open, his pupils dilating as he met Bill’s gaze.

Bill saw the change, watching the green overtaken by black as Harry clenched his jaw and his grip on his wand tightened.

“Her room,” Harry said darkly before he flew up the stairs with the Weasleys right behind him.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Malfoy watched Ginny jerk violently upon the floor at his feet, reveling in her screams. As the familiar thrill of being in control shot through him, his smirk widened into a cruel smile.

Hearing the sounds of shouts in the hall, Malfoy glanced at the door before looking back at Ginny.

“It looks like the Chosen One has finally decided to join us,” he sneered as something slammed against the door. “Too bad I don’t have time for a social call from Potter.”

Expecting it to take much longer for Harry to break the seal, Malfoy jerked around in surprise when the door suddenly blew apart.

Not waiting for the dust to clear, Malfoy disappeared with a flourish just as a bright green flash seared across the room.

The force of Harry’s spell shook the house, blowing a hole in the wall behind where Malfoy had been standing and spraying debris out into the garden below.

Harry took no notice of the destruction as he ran straight to Ginny.

Arthur and Bill were only a few steps behind him. They eyed the ruined wall warily as they moved, coming up on either side of him, their wands drawn.

Ginny’s screams lessened and then became strangled gasps as Harry reached her side, stumbling to a stop. Her breathing was quick and shallow as her body continued to shake. Her eyes were shut, as tears streamed down her face.

Harry’s heart twisted painfully as he watched her twitching below him. The similarity of her position to the images from his dreams crashed over him, bringing a nauseous feeling with it. A second later, he doubled over as pain and power shot unexpectedly through him.

Bill and Arthur came around in front of him as he dropped to his knees with a cry. His wand hand went to the floor, catching his weight. His other hand went to his head, curling into a fist as he pressed it against his temple. Bill cursed when he saw Harry’s eyes begin to turn black as his body trembled.

Groaning, Harry curled over, resting his forehead on the ground as he squeezed his eyes shut. He gritted his teeth as he forced back his power until the pain subsided. Shaking his head to clear it, he rose back up slowly before reaching for Ginny.

Before he could touch her, Bill’s charm blasted him away.

Ron shouted in surprise as he watched Harry fly across the room. His eyes shot to Bill, who was crossing quickly to where Harry had landed. Stunned, he watched Harry’s wand fly from where it lay on the floor into Bill’s outstretched hand.

Looking over at his parents, Ron expected to find them as startled as he was, but surprisingly, they didn’t seem concerned with what Bill was doing. Instead, their attention was focused solely on Ginny.

Harry lay facedown across the room and shook his head to clear it. Rolling over, he jerked up to find Bill towering over him, his wand in his face, his expression furious.

“Don’t go near her,” Bill ordered.

Harry furrowed his brow. What’s wrong with him? I’m not about to stay away from her right now, he thought as he began to pull himself to his feet.

“Bill, she’s…”

“Don’t make me hurt you, Harry,” Bill warned.

“You can’t hurt me, and you know it,” Harry shot back, his temper spiking as his power flared.

Throwing his hand up, he sent Bill crashing into Ginny’s bookshelf. Ignoring Mrs. Weasley’s cry of dismay, Harry muttered angrily under his breath as he climbed to his feet. His wand flew back into his hand as he began to cross the room.

On the floor next to Ginny, Arthur was trying to pull her into his arms as he kept his gaze locked worriedly on Harry. Ginny was whimpering, tears flowing freely down her cheeks as she tried to keep from being moved.

Speeding up, Harry reached her side and dropped down next to her. Ignoring Arthur’s protests, he scooped her up. Climbing back to his feet, he held her carefully as her arm slipped around his neck.

Ginny trembled against him, her body aching fiercely with every breath. She felt like she was dying and her hair was matted with blood from where she had struck the dresser. Curling her fingers into Harry’s shirt, she choked out his name.

“Ok,” Harry soothed as he peeled her hair away, cradling her in his arms. “It’s ok now, love. I’m here. I’ve got you.”

Molly ran to Ginny’s wardrobe. She disappeared inside for only a second before emerging with an old shirt. Her hands were shaking as she folded it, crossing back over to them.

“Give her to me,” Bill ordered, reaching for his sister as he appeared in front of Harry.

Harry protested instinctively, taking a step back and turning away from him.

“You don’t know what to do, Harry,” Arthur said anxiously, stepping into his path. “Give her to us so we can help her.”

“What are you talking about?” Harry demanded. “I know how this works.”

“You don’t understand,” Arthur replied his focus on Ginny as he slipped his arms quickly underneath her body. Simultaneously, Bill took hold of Harry’s bicep, attempting to pull him back as Arthur began to lift her out of Harry’s embrace and into his.

“Leave her alone,” Harry snapped when she cried out brokenly. Shoving away from them he cradled Ginny closer as she clung to his neck. “She just needs to be still,” he said, heading for the bed. “I know what this feels like.”

In the doorway, Ron watched silently as his father and brother cut Harry off, continuing to try to take Ginny. Ron could see Harry’s anger mounting as he evaded their grasps. Ron’s eyes narrowed in confusion as he watched Bill raise his wand.

“Give her to me,” Bill demanded again as he pointed his wand at Harry’s face. “If you hurt her I swear I’ll…”

Expelliarmus!

Bill’s wand flew out of his hand and into Ron’s as Harry let out a curse. Bill swung around, his eyes wide with surprise as he stared at his brother.

“Ron, give me my wand!” he ordered, sticking out his hand but Ron just shook his head.

“I’m not going to hurt her!” Harry exclaimed in exasperation. “What’s your…”

“You’re out of control, Harry,” Bill shot back, his face red with anger as he pointed at what used to be Ginny’s bedroom wall. “Ron, give me my wand.”

“No, I’m not!” Harry spoke over him. “Do I look out of control? And I would never hurt her! I…”

Molly stepped in front of Bill, forcing Harry’s attention to her.

“Harry, please… just give her to us,” she interrupted in a calming voice.

In a soothing gesture, Molly placed her hand on Harry’s shoulder and reached up to tend to Ginny’s head. Arthur stepped up behind his wife. Bill crossed to Ron and began arguing with him as he tried to get his wand back.

“Give her to me, Harry,” Arthur urged and Harry took a step back.

Ginny’s grip on Harry’s neck became iron as she seemed to try to crawl inside him.

“Come on, sweetheart…let me help you,” Arthur soothed as he reached for her, running a hand gently down her hair.

“No,” she growled and Harry winced, her fingers digging into him. Her body shook more violently and Harry felt her beginning to convulse. “I won’t leave him,” she choked out brokenly, her voice muffled in his neck. “I won’t…please don’t…take him…I need…need him…”

Harry’s face flushed a bit despite himself as his eyes flew to the man in front of him. Arthur’s face paled, and he stopped fighting, his eyes wide as he stared at his daughter. He dropped his hands to his sides and then met Harry’s gaze.

“You need to take her to the bathroom,” he said softly as his eyes went back to his daughter before moving to his wife.

Molly had frozen at her daughter's words. Her eyes were wide, her mouth forming silent words as she brought her gaze up to her husband.

“She’s going to get…” Arthur began, only to have Ginny finish for him.

“Gonna be sick,” Ginny interrupted with a moan; trying to fight the urge to vomit that had surged inside of her.

The Weasleys parted down the center as Harry ran with her to the toilet across the hall.

They watched silently from the doorway as Harry held her hair back.

“Is Aunt Ginny sick, Daddy?”

Bill jerked around at the sound of his daughter’s voice. He looked down and found Danielle slipping through the legs of her family to get into the bathroom. He leaned down and scooped her up as she passed.

“How did you get here, baby? Where’s your mum?”

Ginny whimpered at the sound of her niece’s voice. She didn’t want her to see this and her eyes flew to Harry. He understood her silent plea and shifted quickly, blocking her with his body. Molly moved as well, entering the room and sinking down behind her.

“Is she sick?” Danielle repeated, twisting in Bill’s arms and pointing to where Ginny was shaking over the toilet.

“Aunt Ginny has a tummy ache, but she’ll be ok. Go with your mama, pumpkin,” Bill said softly in Danielle’s ear before passing her quickly back to Fleur who had appeared at the back of the group, calling her name.

When his daughter was gone, Bill turned his attention back to his sister. Ginny’s hand was clamped tightly in Harry’s as he murmured in her ear. Molly held a towel against her head with one hand and rubbed Ginny’s back in gentle circles with the other as her muscles convulsed. Molly’s eyes filled with tears as she met Arthur’s worried gaze over Harry’s head.

Ginny felt like she was dying. Every time she moved, every time her stomach clenched to empty itself, it caused a ripple of fierce pain to shoot out through her body.

She couldn’t keep from crying as she shook over the toilet. Her knees and shins hurt where they were touching the floor. Her hand hurt where it was gripping Harry’s but she couldn’t let go. She knew the Cruciatus was horrible, but she never dreamed it would feel anything like this…

“No wonder that’s…Unforgivable,” she whimpered, her voice trembling and barely audible as her tears increased with the pain shooting from her jaw down her throat.

“Don’t talk, love,” Harry soothed in her ear, stroking her hair gently. He eyed her worriedly, blinking quickly as his eyes began to sting.

Hermione arrived at the top of the stairs to find the family huddled around the door to the bathroom. She approached cautiously, not sure what had happened.

As if sensing her, Ron turned when she was still a few steps away. He reached out his hand and she linked her fingers though his. Pulling her close, he told her what had happened quietly.

“Do you think we should get Dumbledore?” Hermione asked.

“Dad Apparated down to use the floo a minute ago,” he answered.

He gestured behind her and Hermione turned to find Arthur climbing the stairs toward them. When he reached them, they turned back to the door. Harry was still stroking Ginny’s hair gently as he spoke in her ear.

Even after there was nothing left in Ginny’s stomach, her body continued to try to empty itself as she sobbed. When she finally got her body under control, Harry pulled her back into his lap, cradling her against him. Casting a cleansing charm, he held her silently until her tears began to slow.

“Are you ready to move?” he asked eventually, his voice soft.

Ginny nodded slowly.

Carefully, he stood up and carried her back to her room. Holding the towel in place, he laid her down as gently as possible.

Sinking down next to her on the bed he lifted the cloth to check her wound.
His hand was shaking and he took a steadying breath, relieved to see that the bleeding had stopped. If the sick, desperate feelings inside of him were what happened when you got attached, he suddenly understood why Remus had always warned them not to let it happen.

“How bad are you hurting?” he asked gently. Having been hit with the Cruciatus curse before, he knew what the lingering effects felt like. He’d never seen a reaction as fierce as hers though and it scared him.

“I’m fine,” Ginny answered, her eyes fluttering open.

“Liar,” he breathed as he leaned down, giving her a soft kiss.

Her lips were warm and soft against his and Harry felt her body relax almost immediately. She didn’t seem to care that her whole family was watching as she kissed him back. Her hand fisted into his shirt, pulling him closer as though seeking his warmth and strength.

He hesitated when she parted her lips for him.

“Ginny,” he breathed uncertainly as he began to pull back.

He could practically feel her family’s gaze boring holes into his back. When he met her eyes though, his heart stumbled at the depth of pain and desperation in them.

The need to protect her, to make the pain go away rushed through him, pushing any reservations about their audience out of his mind. He couldn’t deny her, not when she looked at him like that. The only thing that mattered to him at that moment was Ginny – comforting Ginny.

Cupping her cheek gently; he caressed her skin as the room around them faded away.

Her grip tightened on his shirt before she pulled him down, pressing her lips firmly against his with a soft whimper. The sound was barely audible but Harry heard it loud and clear. His heart clenched painfully at the sound and he shut his eyes, breathing in deeply through his nose.

Slowly deepening the kiss, he swallowed her soft moan as he slipped his tongue into her mouth. Ginny’s hand moved to his cheek and he reached up, caressing her wrist with his thumb. He kissed her reverently and thoroughly for a few moments, oblivious to the room around him as she melted into him with a sigh of relief.

Eventually, Ron cleared his throat from the doorway.

Dragging his lips reluctantly from hers, Harry pulled away. For a second, he held her gaze before turning to find Dumbledore standing in the doorway. The man’s usually laughing eyes were hard and guarded behind their spectacles as they flicked between Harry and Ginny. He blinked and the look was gone, replaced with one of concern as he moved into the room.

Madame Pomfrey came in quickly behind him, passing him on her way to the bed. Harry moved automatically, rising from his position and stepping back to give her room. He watched silently as she began to tend to Ginny.

The nurse looked at her temple while asking her how she felt, how long the curse had been done and where the effects seemed to be lingering most.

Dragging her gaze reluctantly from Harry, Ginny began answering the questions softly.

“How is she?” Dumbledore asked Arthur as Harry walked over to them.

Molly shook her head and brought a handkerchief to her mouth with a sniffle. “Oh Albus, it was horrible. I think it was the worst I ever remem…” she faltered when Harry as he came to stop in front of them. Her eyes filled with tears and she shook her head as Arthur brought a hand to her shoulder. “…remember anyone being affected by it.”

“I’ve never seen it this bad either,” Harry added in a low voice as his eyes moved back to Ginny. “I’ve seen similar reactions…but with hostages - people who’d been tortured for days, weeks even. The effects increase with time, but it couldn’t have been on her for more than a minute.”

“Everyone reacts differently,” Dumbledore pointed out. “The stress of this situation no doubt had an effect on her body’s capacity to handle the pain.”

Harry nodded with a frown. He rested his hands on his hips and stared at the floor in thought for a few seconds before looking back up.

“I’m taking her back to the flat.”

“Oh, Harry, I’m not sure we should move her,” Molly said shakily, her eyes locked on Ginny.

“She’s staying here,” Bill announced from his place behind his father.

The harshness of his tone caused Dumbledore to glance over at him. His arms were crossed, his posture rigid as he watched Harry.

Harry’s back stiffened angrily as he met Bill’s glare with his own.

“I don’t remember you getting a say in the matter.”

“I’m her brother.”

“And I’m her guard,” Harry snapped. “We don’t know how Malfoy got in or if he’s going to try to come back. My flat is the only place he hasn’t been able to get to her, so I’m taking her there…now.”

“You can’t take her, Harry,” Bill argued when Harry turned and walked determinedly toward the bed.

“What are you doing?” Harry questioned worriedly, ignoring Bill when he saw Ginny trying to sit up.

“Aren’t we leaving?” she replied, meeting his gaze and ignoring Madame Pomfrey as she tried to get her to lie back down.

Madame Pomfrey straightened, folding her arms with a huff. Her indignation was obvious as Harry moved in front of her, sliding his arms under her body and scooping Ginny into his arms.

“Will she be ok?” Harry asked.

The matron’s face softened at his worried expression and protective tone.

“Yes, of course, Dear, but…”

“Thank you,” he told her sincerely before turning around. “We’re leaving,” he announced as he reached into his pocket for a coin.

“Harry,” Dumbledore said as he began to cross the room. “We’re not finished here.”

“Yes, we are,” he replied sharply.

Ignoring the chorus of protests, Harry pressed down firmly on the coin. He felt the familiar tug on his navel and disappeared without a sound.

The room froze in shock when they were gone. Bill was the first to move, when he rounded on Dumbledore.

“How could you let this happen?” he demanded.

When Dumbledore just held his gaze and didn’t respond, Bill gestured in frustration and turned away. He swung back around a second later, pointing towards the hole in the wall. “I warned you about this! I told you I thought it was a bad idea to assign…”

“Bill, calm down,” Arthur interrupted sternly, his eyes flicking to Ron and Hermione.

“Calm down?! Did you see his eyes?! Did you see him kissing her?! We need to get over there right now.”

“We can’t get in unless he lets us, Bill,” Dumbledore replied calmly. “His wards are…”

“We’ll force our way in!”

Ron shot off the wall, his hands curling into fists as he crossed the room. Hermione reached out to catch him, but he just shook her off.

Across the room, Bill didn’t notice his brother’s approach as he continued to rant.

“This is a disaster waiting to…”

“What’s your problem, Bill?” Ron interrupted him.

“Back off, Ron,” Bill responded instantly, keeping his eyes on Dumbledore.

“No you back off,” Ron replied, his back stiffening. “What are you so upset about? You’re the one who attacked Harry for no reason! He was comforting Ginny! Holding her and helping her and you think he’s what…dangerous?”

“You know he’s dangerous!” Bill shot back as he swung to face him.

Ron was his height and they stood nose to nose, their faces flushed with anger and their eyes flashing.

“He is not!”

“Shut it, Ron! You’re just saying that because he’s your friend!”

“I’m saying it because it’s true! And I just watched you attack him when he was trying to help her!” Ron accused, poking him in the chest. “Who do you think you are?”

“You don’t understand the situation, Ronald!”

“Then explain it to me, William!” Ron mimicked. “Harry can protect her! Bloody hell, Bill...he’s the most powerful wizard in the world, why wouldn’t you want him guarding her?”

“He’s out of control!”

“He hasn’t been out of control in years, you over-protective prick!” Ron lashed out. “You just don’t want him near Ginny because she’s your sister!”

“You’re damn right I don’t want him near her! He’s dangerous and you know it!”

“Why can’t you just be happy for them?! They’re obviously happy and the first thing you try to do is ruin it! She’s not ten years old anymore, Bill. You can’t keep every male away from her and if anything, the only person you should approve of and trust with her is Harry!”

“I wouldn’t trust Harry with anyone!” Bill shot back before he spun toward Dumbledore. “Something I made perfectly clear before this all started! I told you this would happen. I told you it wasn’t a good idea to put him with her!”

“This is ridiculous!” Ron exclaimed in frustration. “You act like he can’t have a relationship! He’s dated other people, Bill and he hasn’t hurt them, so why all the…”

“She’s different!”

“Why?!”

“Because she’s Ginny!”

“What the hell does that mean?!”

Bill opened his mouth to respond but choked on his words and nothing came out.

Ron arched his brow.

Snapping his mouth shut, Bill crossed his arms over his chest and glared at his little brother.

Hermione took advantage of the silence, crossing the room quickly and stepping in front of Ron.

“Drop it, Ron,” she soothed softly. “This isn’t helpful.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny groaned as they reappeared in the kitchen of Harry’s flat.

“A little warning would be nice.”

Harry kissed the top of her head, apologizing softly as he carried her down the hall. He carried her to her room, watching her carefully for any sign of discomfort.

Her expression remained stoic, her eyes shut. The only indication he had that everything wasn’t fine was the force in which her fingers were digging into his shoulder.

“What can I do?” he asked when he set her down in the center of her bed. “Do you want me to get you anything?”

“I’m fine,” Ginny shook her head, giving him a small smile.

“It’s ok to admit you’re still in pain, Ginny,” Harry told her as he sank down next to her on the bed.

She met his gaze, her lips quirking. “Would admitting it make it stop?”

Harry hesitated before brushing a piece of hair from her face.

“No,” he admitted, matching her grin, “probably not.”

Leaning in, he grazed her lips with his. His love for her rushed through him at the contact and he smiled appreciatively against her mouth.

“You know what, Gin?”

“What?”

“I think you would have been in Gryffindor,” he mused as he pulled back.

“Because I’m a Weasley?” she smiled.

He shook his head as his gaze locked with hers. “No,” he said as he traced his fingers over her lips, “because you’re brave and strong…and completely beautiful.”

“Mm,” she replied when he replaced his fingers with his lips. “Is that a house requirement? Being beautiful?”

“Mhm,” he smiled against her lips and she snickered as he kissed her.

Merlin, she’s brilliant, he thought as he rested his forehead against hers.

To have humor so quickly after what she’d just been through only increased his respect for her.

“I love you,” he breathed.

She threaded her fingers through his hair and he shut his eyes. Tingles shot down his neck at the sensation of her nails on his skin.

“I was really frightened,” he murmured and she chuckled softly.

You were frightened?”

He smiled, but it faded quickly as he brought his hands to her face. Gently, he brushed her hair away and cupped her cheeks in his palms. As he tilted his lips back to hers, he squeezed his eyes shut. Fear rushed back in as they kissed. He blinked quickly when he pulled away and searched her eyes.

“What were you doing up there, Ginny?” he demanded softly. “I told you to stay downstairs. Why did you…”

“I didn’t,” she whispered, cutting him off. The levity of the moment vanished and she gritted her teeth, blinking back a fresh round of tears. “I…I had a headache. I fell asleep on the sofa. I didn’t leave…I don’t know what…”

Her chin had begun to tremble and Harry pressed his lips together as he looked away.

“Ok,” he said distractedly. So, someone moved her. But how did Malfoy get past the wards?

“Ok,” he repeated louder when he looked back over at her. “It’s fine,” he assured her, brushing her tears off with his thumbs. “You’re fine. Did you see how he got in?”

Ginny shook her head. “No. I was sleeping, I…I’m sorry, I…”

“Don’t,” he soothed. “Don’t apologize, Ginny.”

“I’m sorry,” she replied automatically and he chuckled, kissing her softly.

Resting his forehead against hers, the humor in his expression quickly faded. Ginny brought her hands up and gripped his wrists lightly as she shut her eyes.

“How did he get to me again?”

“I don’t know,” Harry gritted his teeth in frustration.

He was missing something. He could feel it but he just couldn’t see it.

How did he know she was upstairs? How did he get in?

~..~..~..~..~..~

“But how did Malfoy get in?” Bill interrupted, crossing his arms over his chest. The group had moved to the kitchen and were filling Dumbledore in on what they’d found when they reached the room.

“The Burrow was secure,” Bill continued. “The Burrow is secure. The wards are strong. We strengthened the bloody things because she was going to be here. There was no way for him to get in without being detected.”

“Bill’s right,” Hermione acknowledged from her place at the counter. “The ward alarms went off eventually, so he didn’t disable them…he just…got around them.”

“But how could he do that?” Arthur questioned with a frown. “He couldn’t have snuck past us, and the wards should have detected it if he apparated in.”

“So he found another way in,” Ron said finally. “Something let him come in. Something we didn’t think of.”

“I think you’re right, Mr. Weasley,” Dumbledore said grimly. “I think we missed something.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

How do you get through wards without setting them off? Harry asked himself. There’s no way to do that. He’s not powerful enough to do that…unless…

Harry’s heart lurched as it suddenly hit him.

“Did Malfoy do anything else, besides the curse? Did he say anything?”

She took his hand in her lap and furrowed her brow. “Um, he talked a lot, but didn’t really say anything important,” she shrugged as Harry laced his fingers through hers.

“I need you to think back, Gin. Back when he was James. Did he ever give you something to drink when you had lunch? Did he ever do a spell? An incantation? Anything?”

Furrowing her brow, Ginny bit her lip as she thought back.

“No…I don’t think so,” she said finally. “Why?”

Harry shook his head and shifted back. “It’s probably nothing,” he lied, releasing her hand so he could pull out his wand. “Just be still, ok?”

“Harry,” she murmured worriedly.

“It’s fine,” he reassured her. “I just need to check for something. I promise, it won’t hurt.”

Ginny stretched out her legs, smoothing her skirt with shaking fingers. As he ran his wand tip over her skin, her skin began to tingle. Her stomach dropped when she realized he was searching for something on her, or in her…Something Malfoy had left.

Struggling to swallow, she was suddenly unable to breathe at the idea that he’d done something to her. Sucking in an unsteady breath, her mind began to race. Following the progress of Harry’s wand with her eyes, she eventually brought her hand to her neck.

“What about the brand?” she murmured.

He froze at her question and looked up.

“What?”

“At the banquet…remember? He…” Her voice faded as she frowned at the wall across from her. Her eyes narrowed as she thought back to earlier in her room. “He…he did say something kind of weird actually,” she said as she met his gaze. “About the mark being gone, he said what he needed was still here or something…I mean, I thought he meant me but…”

Harry’s hand flew to her neck, pushing her hand away and fingering the area. He hadn’t considered the mark since he’d gotten rid of it at the banquet. He’d thought it was just a brand – just Malfoy being Malfoy – but his heart began to pound in his ears at the idea that he’d missed something.

Oh God, he thought. What if it was a decoy? What if he left something else… something deeper...

His stomach filled with dread as he pressed his palm to her neck and shut his eyes. Focusing his energy, he searched for the magic. Only a few seconds later he let out a string of curses as he felt the tracer.

No wonder he got into the Burrow, he thought in frustration. If she was allowed through the wards, Malfoy would have been able to come through as well. He’s bloody connected to her. He’d have known where she was at all times…hell, he’s probably been watching us to know exactly when to try to get to her.

“Fuck,” he breathed as he pulled her toward him and kissed her, cupping her face with his free hand.

How could I have missed that?

They’d been so focused on how Malfoy had gotten into the banquet; they hadn’t even discussed the brand afterwards.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized against her lips before kissing her again, moving his lips over hers.

Ginny kissed him back, but whimpered slightly when he pulled away abruptly.

“I’m so sorry, Ginny,” he said, his voice laced with fury and shame. “Hold still,” he instructed softly as he pressed his wand into her throat. He murmured under his breath and Ginny felt her skin begin to tingle.

Pulling his wand away, Harry dragged a trail of orange light out of her neck. He flicked his wand watching it fade away while he brought his fingers up and stroked her neck. He turned his gaze to her throat, staring at her skin for a second before he lowered his head.

Ginny shut her eyes as he kissed her neck. She tilted her head to the side and he kissed it again before he raised his head to look at her, brushing her hair out of her face.

“It’s gone now, ok? He’s not connected anymore.”

Ginny began to tremble. She felt dirty, sullied and she curled her legs up to her chin as she rolled his words over in her mind.

“Not connected,” she repeated, her voice soft and as shaky as her body. “So he could…he was…” she forced herself to swallow. “Could he see me?”

If there was anything left in her stomach she was sure it would have come up when Harry nodded.

“Yeah,” he murmured, pulling her to him as her trembling increased, “but not anymore.”

Malfoy had scared her before, but today he’d hurt her. They had failed her again. He had failed her again and his self-loathing mixed with his hatred of Malfoy.

“Why don’t you change, ok?” he suggested as he pulled back. “Then I want you to try to sleep.”

Harry got off the bed and went to her dresser. He pulled out a pair of pajamas for her and turned back. Guilt slammed into him when he saw Ginny crying in the center of the bed, her arms wrapped around her legs. He crossed back to her quickly and climbed up on the bed.

“Ginny, what’s wrong?” he questioned worriedly. He brushed her hair back from her face so he could see her eyes. “Tell me where it hurts,” he said but she didn’t reply. He cringed when her tears only seemed to increase.

He shifted so that he was on his knees beside her he pulled her into his arms. Her body shook against him as she cried. “Ginny, let me help you,” he pleaded into her hair as he pulled her closer. “Let me fix it. I can’t fix it if you don’t tell me what’s wrong, love.”

“I don’t want to stay here,” she whispered and he frowned.

“In the flat?”

She shook her head quickly. “In here. He…he knows this is where I’d be, I…He’s seen me here…”

Harry ached, and he nodded. “Ok. We’ll go to my room. Will that be better?”

Ginny paused for a second before she nodded with a sniffle.

“Ok, come on,” he said as he began to gather her into his arms.

“No, I can walk,” she said as she tried to push him off.

“Ginny, you don’t have to do that,” he assured her gently as he pulled back but she just shook her head.

“I want to,” she said stubbornly.

Harry didn’t like it but the set in her jaw told him it would be a long argument so he relented. Taking her hands he helped her slip off the bed and stand up, watching her face closely for any signs of pain.

Ginny gripped his arm tightly as she stood. She looked down and let go of him, allowing her legs to support her full weight. She wavered slightly but shook her head when he went to steady her. She took only one step before she crumpled, her legs giving out as a fresh wave of nausea swept through her from being upright.

Harry caught her as she collapsed, scooping her back up as she whimpered.

“I’m…I’m sorry,” she apologized.

“Stop apologizing.”

“I’m sor…” she cut herself off and Harry kissed her temple. “It’s just…it’s just that I feel so…so strange,” she said, frustrated that her body wouldn’t do what she wanted. Despite the fact that it was a result of an Unforgivable, it still made her feel weak and she hated that. “I hurt,” she admitted softly and Harry nodded.

“I know,” Harry murmured against her hair. “It’ll go away, Ginny. You just need a bit more time…”

He was just heading down the hall with her when he heard Hermione’s voice calling him. Pulling Ginny closer as she tensed, he turned and headed back to the front room.

“Harry!” Hermione called from the fireplace as they entered the room. The relief was evident in her expression when she saw them. “There you are. Could you let us in?”

“Who’s with you?”

She gave him an irritated glare as she cocked her head to the side. “You know who. We need to…” she broke off and turned to look over her shoulder. “I’m telling them, Ron,” she snapped before looking back around. “Sorry, we think she might be marked, Harry.”

“I know,” he replied, “I already found it, so you don’t…”

“Just let them in, Harry,” Ginny suggested into his ear and he turned to look at her. “They want to know what happened, and they aren’t going to go away. The sooner they get in the sooner they’ll leave.”

He frowned as he considered her and she brought her hand to his neck, tracing his collar gently. He sighed and turned back to the fireplace. “You and Ron can come. And Dumbledore, I need to talk to him.”

“And my parents,” Ginny added softly. Harry glanced down at her. She gazed up at him expectantly, her head on his shoulder.

“And her parents,” he agreed grudgingly after a second.

“Bill will…”

No.”

“He’s worried, Harry…”

Huffing, Harry hoisted her up against him. “That’s not the word I would use,” he muttered as his mind instantly came up with about ten other things he thought Bill was at the moment.

“What?” Ginny asked as she shifted back so she could see his face.

“Nothing,” he said when he saw her confusion.

He kissed her quickly and then looked back at Hermione. He pressed his lips together for a second, weighing his options before he spoke.

“Fine,” he agreed sharply. “Everyone can come, but when I say leave, you leave.”

Ginny nestled closer, thanking him softly as she kissed his neck.

When Hermione disappeared from view, Harry waved his fingers at the fireplace, lowering the wards so that they could get through.

“Are you sure you feel up to this?” he asked. “You could talk to them tomorrow. You could go to my room and I could talk to them.”

Ginny shook her head as her grip tightened. “I want to stay with you.”

“Ok,” Harry said.

Carrying her to the sofa, he set her down, trying not to jostle her. Summoning a blanket, he draped it over her lap before kissing her softly. He turned back to the fireplace when the fire glowed green, flaring up and into the room.

Hermione arrived first, followed by Ron, Dumbledore, Molly, Arthur and finally, Bill.

Sighing, Ginny pulled her legs under her as she watched them arrive. She steeled herself for the questions and conversation that would inevitably come, wrapping the blanket more fully around her. When she saw the dark look that Bill cast in Harry’s direction, she furrowed her brow.

What is going on with them? she wondered, but her thoughts were interrupted as her mother reached the sofa and sank down beside her.

Harry put the wards back up and turned the floo off as Ginny’s family headed to the sofa to check on her. He stood back, waiting silently for them to finish their greetings.

“She seems to be doing better,” Dumbledore observed from beside him.

“Yeah, I think it’s beginning to fade,” Harry agreed with a nod. He folded his arms over his chest as he watched Ginny wince slightly from Molly’s embrace. “Not soon enough though.”

“I’m fine, Mum,” Ginny assured her softly but Molly just sniffled.

“You are not fine, Ginny,” she argued as she pulled away, smoothing Ginny’s hair away from her face as she looked her over. “Just because you’re too stubborn to admit it doesn’t mean you’re not hurting.”

Ginny sighed and glanced around, looking for Harry as her mother continued to explain that she needed to let them take care of her. She found him standing across the room, his arms folded as he watched her. Meeting her gaze, he raised his eyebrow with an expression that clearly stated “You’re the one who wanted them here.”

Her lips began to curve into a smile but it slipped when she felt her blanket leave her lap. She looked over at her mother in confusion.

“Mum, what…”

“Let’s get you changed,” Molly soothed as she stood up, bringing her hand to Ginny’s hair. “You have blood in your hair, sweetheart. It’s on your dress…you’ll feel better after a nice shower, I promise.”

Leave the room?

Ginny’s body tensed at the thought and she shrank away, beginning to shake her head. The logical part of her brain knew her mother was probably right. She probably would feel a bit better if she changed, but the fear that surged quickly inside of her at the prospect of being separated from Harry made it impossible for her to agree.

“Can you walk, dear?” Molly asked gently before straightening. “Bill, help me here.”

Harry wasn’t sure what Molly was saying but he saw Ginny’s distress and was halfway across the room before he even realized he was moving.

“Mrs. Weasley, what…”

Before Harry could reach them Bill stepped forward, scooping Ginny into his arms. Harry stopped. His body tensed and his eyes narrowed as Bill turned around to face him. Hermione must have seen his expression because she stepped in front of him, laying her hand on his arm and forcing his focus down to her.

“Let Molly do this for her,” she said softly. Squeezing his forearm, she watched his eyes flick back to Ginny. “She’ll be fine and back before you know it. They need to help her too. They’re just trying to help her and she’ll feel better once she’s changed.”

Harry’s posture relaxed a touch but he could hear Ginny trying to tell Bill to put her down. When she said his name, Harry’s hand shot out. He caught Bill’s arm as he passed on the way to the hall.

Bill paused and looked down at where Harry was gripping him before bringing his cool gaze back to his face.

“Let go of me.”

Harry released his arm only after he’d stepped in front of him, blocking his way. He kept his gaze on Ginny and he could see tears of frustration swimming in her eyes. Bringing his hand to her cheek, he ran his fingers over her skin as she gripped his wrist tightly.

“It’s ok, love,” he assured her. He ignored the way Bill’s body jerked at the endearment, focusing only on Ginny’s face. “They’re right. You’ll feel better and your mum will be with you the whole time. You won’t be alone.”

Ginny hesitated before pulling his hand away from her cheek. “You’ll stay close,” she instructed softly as she kissed his palm.

“Yeah,” he agreed, trying to assure her with his eyes.

After a second, she nodded and kissed his palm again. Harry glanced up at Bill, but he was staring at something over Harry’s shoulder. Harry glanced back and found Dumbledore standing by the fireplace as he watched them closely.

He turned back when he felt Ginny let go of his hand. He watched Bill carry her out of the room with Molly and Hermione following.

When they were gone, Harry crossed to the sofa and sank down on it to wait. Ron sat down next to him while Arthur took the armchair near the fireplace. Dumbledore stood with his back to them, staring silently into the fire.

Harry tried not to fidget. He tried to keep his expression neutral but his body refused to cooperate as the seconds began to inch by. All he could think about was that he was too far away from her. He knew she was hurting and probably frightened. He wanted to be there with her.

The air began to feel stuffy around him and he clamped his hands together. After a few minutes that felt like hours he stood up, intending to go check on her. He’d only taken a few steps when Ron called his name. Hesitating guiltily, Harry looked back.

“She’s fine, mate,” Ron told him gently. He seemed to understand Harry’s worry as he nodded to emphasize his words.

“I was just…” Harry began lamely before trailing off.

He shoved his hands into his pockets and stared down at the ground. He looked up quickly when someone entered the room, but frowned when it was only Bill. “How is she?”

“Fine,” Bill answered.

“Perhaps, now that Bill is back, Harry,” Dumbledore said, “you can fill us in on the tracer while we wait?”

Harry nodded and ran a hand through his hair. He began to pace as he told them how he’d found it and when she had gotten it. His frustration began to return as he was reminded of their mistake.

“Bloody hell,” Ron breathed from the sofa. “Since the banquet?”

“He’s playing with us,” Harry said. “He could have gotten to her whenever he wanted and who knows how often he’s been watching...”

“So let me get this straight,” Bill interrupted tightly, bringing Harry’s focus back to him. “She’s been walking around with a magical tracer that connected her to Malfoy since the banquet and you didn’t find it? He put it on her right in front of you and you didn’t notice? What kind of Auror…”

“Yeah, I already said we screwed up,” Harry snapped. “But in case you’ve forgotten he didn’t just do the tracer, he bloody branded her as a decoy! Until today there was no reason to think there was anything…” Harry trailed off and shook his head before rounding on Bill. “You know what, Bill,” he said angrily, letting his temper flair. “I’ve had just about enough of you, today! What is your problem?!”

“My problem is that you’re doing a pretty shoddy job protecting my sister!”

Harry’s eyes flashed and he opened his mouth but Ron answered first.

“No, Bill,” he declared as he rose from the sofa. “We’re doing a shoddy job of protecting her. No one found that tracer. It wasn’t just Harry who…”

“Oh, stop defending him!” Bill exclaimed as he rounded on Ron and the three of them were soon in an argument that was quickly escalating to an all out shouting match.

“That’s enough!” Arthur ordered. He grabbed Ron by the collar as he lunged for Bill and yanked him back.

“Dad, he’s completely out of line!” Ron argued, pointing at Bill.

“At least I’m not out of control,” Bill shot back, eliciting an exasperated laugh from Harry as he threw his arms out.

“How many times do I have to say I’m not out of control!?” Harry exclaimed. “I’m not the issue here, Bill. The issue is Malfoy. The person out of control is Malfoy,” he stated firmly.

“That’s right,” Ron agreed in support of Harry. “He shouldn’t have gotten anywhere near her. He shouldn’t have gotten into the house…”

“He’s been a step ahead of us since the moment this started. How is he beating us?” Harry demanded. “I mean, for Merlin’s sake, it’s Malfoy we’re talking about!”

“We knew he was ruthless, Harry,” Dumbledore reasoned, finally breaking his silence. “Being less powerful doesn’t make him less determined.”

“Well it’s unacceptable!” he exclaimed. “We’re supposed to be protecting her, not offering her up on a platter.”

Dumbledore watched as Harry’s eyes darkened for a split second, the air shaking slightly before it faded.

“Harry, I understand that you have become…attached,” Dumbledore said carefully. “But you need to control your emotions. It’s dangerous.”

Harry stopped pacing at his words and dropped his head. “I’m fine,” he said softly, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. “I’m just…” He didn’t want to say angry as hell so he settled on, “I’m fine.”

“Were you fine when you blew a hole in that wall?” Bill asked with a glare.

Harry stilled, his body tensing slightly. “That was an accident. I was angry…it was nothing…not to mention it was aimed at Malfoy.”

“Are you doing your exercises?” Dumbledore asked, drawing Harry’s attention back to him before another fight began.

“Yeah,” Harry said with a nod.

He hesitated, debating on whether to bring up his dreams and power surges. He didn’t want to do that with Bill in the room because he knew it would only fuel his argument that he was out of control.

I’ll wait until he leaves and then pull Dumbledore aside, he decided.

Even if he didn’t want to do it in front of Bill, he did want to ask about them, especially after the last one when…

Harry froze as his heart suddenly lodged in his throat. His head began to pound and he brought his hand to his temple as he remembered.

“Oh, my God,” he mumbled. “I saw this.”

“I’m...Sorry?” Dumbledore asked in confusion.

“Saw what?” Ron asked.

Harry squeezed his eyes shut and ran his hand through his hair. “I…I dreamed this. I saw her being attacked.”

“What?” Arthur asked in confusion. “You saw Malfoy attacking her in a dream?”

Harry didn’t get a chance to respond as Bill let out a curse. Harry looked up when Bill was suddenly in his face.

“Why didn’t you tell anyone!?”

“It was a dream!” Harry shot back, “It was just a dream!”

“You don’t have just dreams, Harry!”

“I had no reason to think…” Harry shook his head, trying to hang onto his control. “I’m not connected to Malfoy,” he said through gritted teeth.

“Yeah, but she was!” Bill yelled and Harry shoved him away.

“Damn it, Bill!” Harry exclaimed in frustration. “I didn’t know that! You act like I let this happen on purpose. I wouldn’t put her in danger! If I’d thought for one second there was something to it, I would’ve said something!”

“Calm down,” Arthur tried to interject but they weren’t listening.

“You didn’t think it meant something when you saw Malfoy cursing her!?” Bill scoffed. “Is that a normal dream for you, Harry!?”

“That’s not what I saw!” Harry shouted angrily. He pointed his finger at his chest. “I was the one attacking her! I didn’t see Malfoy and I didn’t think it was related to him! I didn’t think I was seeing through his eyes or feeling his emotions!”

Harry snapped his mouth shut, his chest heaving. He narrowed his eyes at Bill, whose angry stance had deflated during his outburst.

Bill stared at him with an unreadable expression before he glanced behind him. Harry turned too. Ron was looking warily between him and Bill. Arthur was gaping at him and Dumbledore was standing behind him, his eyes narrowed slightly.

“What do you mean you were cursing her?”

Harry put his hands on his hips and dropped his head. He shut his eyes and took a calming breath before he shook his head and looked up.

“I mean that it was like I was Malfoy. I was doing the curse on her. I didn’t think it was real,” he explained, shooting a glare back at Bill. “I thought it was just another strange dream. I had no reason to think…I’m not connected to Malfoy, not like with Voldemort.”

Dumbledore’s body had gone very still, his eyes trained on Harry.

“What do you mean another strange dream?”

Harry stared at him, not quite sure how he’d gotten into this conversation so quickly.

So much for waiting for Bill to leave, he thought.

Pushing his glasses up onto his forehead, he rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“I keep…I keep dreaming of moments with her that aren’t real,” he said with a frown. “I thought it was a new effect or something because they really hurt, and they throw my magic out of whack…and the headaches when I’m awake, I…”

Dumbledore crossed the room until he was standing right in front of Harry. “How often are they happening?”

“Just, randomly…” he sighed as he settled his glasses back into place and met his gaze. “I was going to talk to you about them, but Bill might be right, actually.” He shot an irritated look at him. “I assumed it was my power, but maybe it was connected to the tracer.”

He dropped his gaze to the floor as he rested his hands on his hips. “That would actually explain why we’re both having them.”

“Both?” Arthur echoed faintly.

Harry nodded before shaking his head.

“Well, not the dreams. I don’t think she’s having those, but she’s been having a lot of headaches, more than me I think,” he said and Dumbledore’s eyes flicked to Arthur.

A faint rumble of thunder sounded outside and Harry’s head snapped toward the window. “Is it raining?”

Dumbledore looked over at the window, watching the water trickle lazily down the glass.

“I think it was going to shower tonight,” he said, “but I don’t really see why that’s relevant.”

Harry’s eyes narrowed and he walked to the window to look out. It was raining lightly but it didn’t seem to be getting worse.

Bill glanced at his father, whose eyes were on Harry’s back. He began to cross to Dumbledore but stopped when the older wizard shook his head, gesturing for him to stay back.

“I think that you might be right, Harry,” Dumbledore said, holding Bill’s gaze and giving a slight shake of the head when he opened his mouth to respond. He then glanced at Arthur before looking over at Harry. “Your dreams and her discomfort were probably linked to this tracer. It’s also not uncommon, given this situation and your feelings that you would dream of something horrible like this happening to her. I believe it is mostly coincidence.”

“Harry?”

Harry’s head shot around at the sound of Ginny’s voice in the doorway. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She looked tiny and so young with her hair down around her shoulders and her feet bare. Harry’s entire body seemed to relax in relief at the sight of her and he crossed the room in an instant.

“Hey,” he sighed, his hand going to her hair as he looked her up and down. “You’re walking,” he acknowledged with a grin and she nodded. “That’s so good, Gin,” he murmured as he ran his thumb over her cheek as her lip curled up. He saw her lips trembling and he noticed that her shoulders seemed to be shivering slightly as well. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m fine, it’s just that…it’s raining,” she murmured and her eyes filled with tears as her cheeks flushed.

She did not want to cry and she bit her lip as she blinked quickly. She knew telling him it was raining wasn’t going to do anything. It’s not like he could stop it, but she didn’t think she could handle a storm tonight.

“I know,” Harry nodded, bringing his hand up so that he was cupping her face. “It’s just raining though. It’s not going to storm.”

Ginny took a deep, shaky breath and nodded. When she opened her eyes again, she glanced at her brothers.

“Were you fighting? I heard yelling…” She brought her eyes back to Harry’s but he shook his head.

“It’s fine.”

Dumbledore watched them together as Harry spoke to her softly, one hand moving to her elbow and the other tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. Harry had been at her side within a matter of seconds and the emotional connection between them was obvious. He watched Ginny closely as she talked to Harry, wishing he could see just what was going on in her mind.

“It’s good to see you up, Miss Weasley,” Dumbledore said, drawing her attention to him. He was watching her over his half-moon spectacles with a friendly smile when she glanced over. “That is a very good sign. I know you’re tired, but we have a few questions if you’re up for it. Then we’ll be on our way.”

Ginny nodded, letting her mother gently pull her away from Harry and over to the sofa. She glanced back, watching as Hermione stepped up and spoke to him softly.

“So, she was ok?” Harry asked softly.

Hermione nodded but her expression told him something was wrong.

“What is it?” Harry pressed. “What happened?”

Hermione glanced at Ginny, who was curling up on the sofa. “She just got a little dizzy and…and sick again,” she admitted softly.

“What?” he hissed as his eyes snapped to Ginny.

Harry’s eyes met Ginny’s and her expression became guilty as his eyes demanded to know why she hadn’t told him immediately. He continued to watch her as Hermione explained what happened.

“It wasn’t that bad, Harry,” Hermione assured him softly. “She just…you know, she was standing a lot. In the shower and with all the movement…pulling on her clothes…it just…she’s just still a bit weak.”

Ginny dropped her gaze after a second and shifted further under the blanket. He saw her blink quickly as she focused on answering Dumbledore’s questions.

Hermione squeezed his hand and cocked her head to the side as his gaze came back to her.

“I thought you would want to know…”

Harry pressed his lips together and nodded. “Thanks, Hermione.”

His eyes went back to Ginny as she explained what had happened. He could sense her discomfort and he began to cross the room to the sofa. He pulled up short when Molly sank down next to her and took her hand. Fighting the irritation that surfaced at being unable to sit next to her, he remained where he was.

Trying not to openly sulk, he crossed his arms and watched Ginny’s eyes as she explained how Malfoy had woken her up. She was staring into the fire as she spoke, but her eyes flicked to his after a few seconds when she trailed off.

“What did he do?” Dumbledore prompted gently. “Before the Cruciatus, what happened?”

“He ripped some of my hair out,” she replied with a frown.

Ron cursed softly as Dumbledore exchanged a look with Harry. They all knew he needed it for the potion. They knew he was getting close and this would only accelerate things.

“He mentioned the brand, but you already know that,” she said, bringing their focus back to her. She chewed on her lip as she thought back. “He…he talked to me, about how he would take me soon and…he said when he was ready to… to take me… that no one would be able to stop him…”

Ginny took a deep breath, pausing as the fear from before rushed back in. Malfoy’s smirking face flashed through her mind. Searching for comfort, her eyes flicked to Harry. He was standing across the room, his arms still folded and his eyes locked on her. She could see his eyes flashing angrily at what she had said and her vision began to swim as she stared at him, willing him to come closer.

“I um…I remember screaming,” she pressed on, her voice shaky. Her eyes stayed locked with Harry’s as though afraid to look anywhere else. “I screamed for you and he hit me for it…”

Harry’s eyes ignited and Ginny brushed at her cheek quickly when she felt her tears begin to fall. Her mother squeezed her hand and she looked down, squeezing her eyes shut and shaking her head in frustration. She didn’t want to cry over this.

Harry, who’d started moving when he saw her tears, arrived in front of her and she looked up gratefully. Sinking down in front of the sofa he ran his thumb lightly down her cheek. She took his hand in hers, clutching it tightly as she stared at him.

In response, Harry squeezed her hand, silently urging her to continue.

“He um, he had me pinned down,” she said. “He kissed me and he said that…that…”

Oh, God, she thought suddenly, trailing off quickly.

All of Harry’s words, all of his worries that she would be in more danger because of him came shooting into her head and her chest began to ache.

I can’t tell him, she thought as an intense fear of losing him surged inside of her. I can’t tell him this.

Pulling back she began to shake her head.

“What did he say, Ginny?” he asked gently. “It’s over, whatever he said doesn’t matter.”

He searched her eyes in confusion when he saw a different kind of fear grow swiftly inside of them.

What did Malfoy say to her?

Ginny shook her head. “No, I…I don’t want to tell you,” she said, panic beginning to creep into her tone. Looking up, her gaze went to her father. “I’ll tell you, but Harry has to leave.”

“What?” Harry demanded in surprise.

“You heard her,” Bill spoke up. “She doesn’t want you near her, so…”

“That’s not what she said,” Harry shot over his shoulder, keeping his eyes on Ginny’s face. He caught her chin and forced her to look at him. “I’m not leaving, Ginny. Tell me what he said.”

“No,” Ginny whispered desperately as she shook her head.

“Why not?”

“Because she doesn’t want to tell you,” Bill chimed in. “She wants you to leave…"

“No,” Ginny interrupted, shaking her head quickly. “I don’t…” she brought her hands to Harry’s face. “Don’t leave me…”

Her body began to shake as her logic was overridden by fear of losing him. If she told him, he would do something crazy and honorable…like push her away and let someone else guard her…and the mere idea threw her into a panic.

“But I can’t tell you,” she whispered as she caressed his cheek. “You’ll do something stupid.” Her eyes filled with tears as she began to pull away. “You’ll want to go. You’ll…you’ll try to protect me by leaving or…you won’t be with me to…”

“Ginny,” Harry interrupted, catching her face in his hands and brushing her hair out of her eyes. “What are you talking about? I’m not leaving. I’m not…I won’t leave you. You can tell me.”

Ginny continued to shake her head, sinking quickly into despair as she began to cry.

Dumbledore frowned as he watched them talking. He could see Ginny slipping quickly into hysterics, trying to pull away from Harry as she babbled something about leaving and being alone. His brow furrowed and he exchanged a look with Arthur when she cried out, grabbing her forehead and scrunching her face up in pain.

“Ginny?” Molly called to her worriedly as she placed a hand on her shoulder. “Harry, if she wants you to go…”

“No,” Harry shot back.

Molly blinked in surprise at his harsh tone and his face flushed. He mumbled an apology before turning his attention back to Ginny. He could feel Arthur and Bill moving towards them and he caught Ginny’s face. He had no idea what was going on, or why she was suddenly so upset. He didn’t understand why she looked so terrified.

“Look at me,” he ordered but she shook her head, keeping her eyes shut. “Ginny, look at me,” he repeated and she opened her eyes with a whimper. “Tell me what he said. Please, baby, I swear I’m not leaving. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. I swear…no matter what he threatened, I’m not leaving.”

“Promise me,” she whimpered after a second.

She brought her hand to his face, running her thumb over his lips.

He placed a light kiss on her fingers. “I promise, love. Just tell me.”

“He said that...he plays games to upset you. That he’s going to kill you and he can’t wait to…to…” her eyes flicked around the room, taking in the worried faces of her family.

She met Bill’s gaze for a second before dropping her eyes to the floor and forcing in a shaky breath. She heard Harry say her name and brought her gaze back to his. Her chin was trembling as she spoke softly.

“He said he can’t…he can’t wait to sleep with me now that he knows that…that…”

She clamped down on her lip as she trailed off. She watched the blood drain from Harry’s face and she held her breath, fighting back her panic.

“…that I want you,” Harry finished for her in a quiet voice.

She nodded miserably and he shut his eyes.


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