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Chapter 9 : A Tangled Web
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Any passing Muggle probably wouldn’t notice the small castle perched precariously on a hill in a forsaken corner of Scotland. It appeared to be nothing more than a crumbling ruin, forgotten and half hidden by large trees and thick ivy. The doors and windows were broken or missing and the roof looked to have buckled many years before. One wall had collapsed inward, throwing the entire structure off balance. If you didn’t know to look for it, you would probably miss it completely as you drove by on the small winding road below. The path leading up to the building was overgrown with twisted vines and tangled branches, making it almost impossible to reach on foot.
With a small pop, a lone wizard appeared in front of the building. He held his cloak closed against the wind as he stared at the ruins. What he saw, however, was not a pathetic pile of stones. Instead he saw the castle as it should have been, with its walls firm and sturdy, the doors and windows intact and lights flickering from several of the windows.
Approaching quickly, the wizard ran up the few steps to the door and rapped with his knuckles. He didn’t wait for a response; he simply pushed the door open and went inside.
A house elf met him in the entrance hall but he didn’t bother to remove his cloak. Heading straight to the study, he reached for the handle. The door was locked and the wizard frowned when he realized it was magically sealed as well.
His fist was poised to knock when a voice spoke behind him.
“I wouldn’t bother, Nott,” the wizard said, causing him to turn around.
“Goyle,” he greeted with a nod. “Did he get it?”
“We don’t know,” Goyle shrugged. “He just got back and he’s sealed himself in. Didn’t speak to anyone and won’t open the door. You’ll just have to wait.”
Nott turned back around, hesitating as he considered knocking for a moment before deciding against it. Instead he turned away again and headed down the hall after Goyle.
Inside the lavishly furnished study, Malfoy was draped across a black leather sofa. Having abandoned his robes, he was wearing only a pair of black trousers and a crimson stained shirt. He groaned miserably as his head rested against the arm of the sofa, his eyes swollen shut.
Carrying a bowl of warm water and a cloth, Pansy crossed the room toward him. At the sound of him in pain, she sped up and sank down on the sofa next to him. Leaning over him, she studied the damage to his face. Malfoy’s hand moved to grip her hip as she took in the odd angle of his nose and his black eyes with a frown.
Setting the bowl on the table next to her, she dipped the cloth into the water and wrung it out. Keeping her eyes on Malfoy as she moved, she tried to discern his mood. She wasn’t sure yet if he was angry, or simply injured. She didn’t dare ask if he had been successful.
Gingerly, she began to clean the blood from his face. Her free hand moved to cradle his cheek, caressing his skin before she trailed her fingers down his neck. Her gaze traveled down to his blood-soaked shirt for a moment before she inadvertently bumped his nose with the cloth.
“Ow!” Malfoy snapped as his eyes shot open. He squeezed her hip tightly as her gaze met his guiltily.
“I’m sorry, baby,” she purred, running her hand down his chest in a soothing gesture.
“Be careful,” he warned and she nodded quickly.
“It looks like you were hit by a Bludger,” she commented as she set the cloth down on the table. He remained silent, providing no clues about what had happened.
“Who did this, Draco?” she queried hesitantly, still uncertain what he was feeling. She knew better than to question him when he was angry. Over the years she’d learned to read his moods and was usually good at not upsetting him more. “What happened?”
“Nothing,” he gritted out, his jaw clenched in pain and anger.
Pansy knew that wasn’t true but she didn’t press him further. She’d heard that tone enough from him to know he wouldn’t tell her.
It better not have been Potter, she thought, filling with loyal indignation. The idea that he would have hurt the man she loved again caused her stomach to churn with anger. He’s not going to take away everything Draco’s worked so hard to achieve…he’s already taken too much.
Frowning, Pansy’s gaze flicked back to Draco, slightly disappointed that, once again, he wasn’t confiding in her.
When she was younger, she’d wanted him to sweep her off her feet, envisioning the fairytale romance she read about in books. For a while she had hoped he would be more open with his feelings as he grew older and they left school, but now she understood. Pansy wasn’t stupid; she realized that wasn’t going to happen.
Draco would never be romantic, or share his feelings easily. She didn’t expect flowers or yearn for words of love whispered in her ear. She’d gotten what she wanted and had worked hard over the years to keep him – that was enough for her.
Throughout the war, he’d kept her with him, allowing her to accompany him on his travels. When she found out she was to play a part in the ritual, her excitement had been nearly overwhelming. To know that he trusted her with this honor showed her the depth of his true feelings. He respected her and in his own way, she knew he loved her. It was more than she’d ever expected. She didn’t deserve him, and worked each day not to disappoint him.
She knew it was only a matter of time before they would marry. Then she would have more than she’d ever hoped to attain. She would have a powerful husband, beautiful things and a status few of her friends had managed to achieve.
Still, she thought, it would be nice if he talked to me a bit more.
Shaking her head slightly, she chided herself for her selfish thoughts. He had worries and pressures she couldn’t fathom, and it wasn’t her place to question him. If he wasn’t telling her something, it was obviously for a reason.
“Well,” she said, fighting back the shame of letting her own selfish wants rise above his needs, “it’s definitely broken.”
“I know that,” he drawled angrily. He swatted her hands away as she went back to cleaning his face off. “Just fix it.”
Picking up her wand, Pansy cast a quick healing charm, causing Malfoy’s nose to straighten with a snap.
“Be careful,” he whined with a wince.
Pansy bit her lower lip as she continued to heal his eyes, watching the bruising begin to fade. When she finished she stayed beside him, stroking his cheek. After a few seconds the pressure on her hip increased as he pushed her away.
“Find Nott,” he ordered.
“Why don’t you rest for a few…”
“Now, Pansy,” he snapped.
“You don’t have to get angry,” she murmured as she reached up, fixing his hair back into place. She knew he wouldn’t want to see Nott with it mussed.
“I wouldn’t have to if you just did what I asked,” he replied irritably.
Nodding, Pansy drew her hand away. She kissed him lightly on the lips before standing up and heading to the door.
Malfoy watched her leave with cool detachment, his mind traveling to his favorite subject of late - Ginevra. Moving suddenly, he reached for his discarded robe. He searched inside the deep inner pocket and pulled out the lock of hair. Smiling smugly at his success, he waited for Nott to arrive.
Closing his eyes, he savored the feel of the lock of her silky ginger hair sliding through his fingers. Smirking, he pictured Ginny in his mind as he began to come up with different ways to punish her when he finally took her.
He promised…he promised, Ginny’s mind chanted anxiously as she stared at the top of Harry’s hair. She could feel it coming. When he raised his head he would take her in the other room and try to explain why she would be safer without him. They would have a horrible row and she would lose. He would leave her alone and she would perish.
She could see his jaw working and she ran her fingers into his hair. “You promised,” she murmured, “you can’t take it back.”
Shaking his head at her words, Harry finally looked up. When he met her gaze, he silently took in her fear as her eyes searched his. He knew she was trying to discern his reaction. Slipping his hands around her waist, he pulled her off the sofa and into his arms.
Inside he was furious at Malfoy but he held her protectively, pulling her closer as she linked her arms around his neck. Malfoy had done this. He’d made her frightened and clingy and Harry had to force his anger back. It was only by sheer force of will that he kept it in check.
“I’m not taking it back,” he reassured her softly.
Her sob was muffled in his neck as her grip tightened.
“Why are you so afraid?” he whispered in her ear.
“You’ll leave me to protect me,” she whispered back. “I’ll be alone.”
He shook his head as he stroked her hair. “Ginny, that doesn’t make sense. He already knows…leaving now won’t change that. I wouldn’t leave you. What’s going on? Why do you think I’d even consider it?”
“I don’t know,” she mumbled miserably as she clung to him.
Harry rubbed her back tenderly, hoping to ease the tension in her body. He murmured words of assurance and love into her ear, trying to convince her that he wasn’t leaving her; that he would protect her.
Molly began to cry as she observed them on the floor. Unable to watch the eerily familiar scene any longer she slipped from the sofa and moved to Arthur. He pulled her into his arms, keeping his eyes on the couple across the room as she wept into his shoulder.
Harry’s words of comfort echoed in Ginny’s head and she began to relax. She could feel the tight coil of panic quickly unraveling inside of her. As the panic slipped away, she was left with the growing embarrassment of how she must look to the room.
Feeling the change in her, Harry adjusted his hold.
The room remained silent as Harry picked Ginny up and moved to sit on the sofa, keeping her curled in his lap.
For a few more seconds, Ginny clung to him before trying to pull herself together. She wiped her cheeks with her hands as she mumbled an apology, suddenly feeling ridiculously self-conscious about her lack of control. Shifting in Harry’s arms, Ginny rested her hands on the arms wrapped securely around her stomach and faced the group.
Conscious of her blazing cheeks she glanced around the room, unsurprised to find everyone watching her closely. Her parents were standing by the fire, both looking pale as her mother dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief. Bill however, looked red and furious as he whispered into her father’s ear. Narrowing her eyes as she watched his lips move, she suddenly wished she had an Extendable Ear.
Noticing her eyes on them, Arthur stepped forward, cutting off whatever Bill had been saying.
“Are you ok?”
Nodding, Ginny felt the heat of her cheeks increase as she dragged her eyes from her brother to her father. He was giving her a reassuring smile. She could tell it was forced but she appreciated the effort and smiled back.
“Was there anything else, sweetheart? Did he do the Cruciatus after that?”
At the mention of Malfoy’s curse Ginny’s smile slipped and Harry’s grip tightened. Shaking her head, she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear.
“I think I broke his nose first,” she said.
Bill’s gaze shot to her while Ron let out an appreciative laugh.
“That’s my girl,” Harry breathed, nuzzling the back of her hair.
“I also…I also did wandless magic again, actually,” she added with a slight frown.
“You did?” Harry asked, tilting around her to see her face. She’d told him about the shield she produced at the banquet, but at the time he hadn’t thought much about it.
“Something defensive I guess,” she continued, thinking back. “It blew him across the room anyway, but I’m not sure how…”
Frowning, Harry stared at her profile.
You don’t just do wandless blasting spells. Accidental magic is random, not controlled.
His mind went back to the time when he’d inadvertently blown up his aunt before he glanced up at Dumbledore. The wizard was frowning at Ginny with uncharacteristically troubled eyes.
A silence had fallen over the room only to be broken by a faint roll of thunder.
Ginny jerked at the sound as her eyes flew to the window. Her body began to tremble almost immediately.
Thunder means there's lightning somewhere...It's storming somewhere...
Shutting her eyes, she took a deep breath, trying to slow down the rapid beating of her heart.
“Gin?” Harry murmured into her ear, causing her to jump again. He tightened his grip on her and she turned her head slightly. “It’s only rain, Ginny. It’s not getting closer.”
“You don’t know that,” she mumbled back.
Dumbledore watched their quiet conversation from across the room. Ginny shut her eyes, turning her head toward him as Harry spoke to her. His hand caressed her thigh and she nodded before he kissed her cheek.
“Is everything quite alright?” Dumbledore asked, drawing their attention back to him.
“Fine,” Harry said as he straightened. He left his hand in her lap as she laced her fingers through his.
“I…I just don’t like storms,” Ginny added. Her voice was casual, even as her gaze went back to the window.
“Really?” Arthur asked, looking startled. He glanced at Molly, Bill and Ron who also seemed confused by the announcement.
“Why ever not, my dear?” Dumbledore inquired, his face a mask of mild interest as he regarded her. “I’ve always found them to be fascinating displays of nature.”
Ginny smiled back at him despite the crimson spots that were blooming on her cheeks. “Fascinating is not the word I would use to describe them,” she replied.
“So, they frighten you?”
“More than frighten,” Harry interjected softly.
Dumbledore’s eyes flicked to him for a second before returning to Ginny.
“Ginny, what are you on about?” Ron asked. “You’re not afraid of storms.”
Ginny’s gaze shot to Ron’s but she remained uncharacteristically silent.
“Leave it, Ron,” Harry warned.
Meeting his friend’s confused gaze, Harry shook his head slightly.
Ron opened his mouth to respond but shut it again, remaining silent as he looked back over at his sister.
Harry could feel the tension in Ginny’s body continue to increase as she chewed on her bottom lip.
“Have they always frightened you?” Dumbledore asked.
Ginny shook her head. Her eyes flicked warily to her family as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
Dumbledore could tell she was uncomfortable with the questions. Her blushing cheeks stood out sharply against her paling skin and she appeared as though she was trying to simply sink back into Harry.
“Well,” he said lightly, “we’re all afraid of something, right, Harry? I myself find Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavored Beans absolutely ghastly.”
Ginny smiled but visibly twitched when it thundered again.
“I think we’re done here,” Harry announced abruptly as he pulled her closer. “It’s late.”
“Yes,” Dumbledore agreed, standing up. “Perhaps it’s time for us to leave.”
Dumbledore began to head toward the fireplace but he stopped and turned, focusing his attention back on Ginny.
“Do you mind if I take a look at your memory of today before we go? It might help to see exactly what Malfoy said. He let the presence of the tracer slip…perhaps we’ll get lucky and he will have been doubly careless tonight.”
Ginny hesitated before she climbed out of Harry’s lap. “I’ve never…”
“It’s quite alright,” Dumbledore replied. Crossing to her, he rested his hands lightly on her shoulders. “All you need to do is look into my eyes. It is perfectly painless, I assure you,”
Harry watched from his seat as Dumbledore delved into her mind, searching for what happened in her room. He watched his old headmaster’s expression become grim, his frown deepen and the lines on his face suddenly seem much more pronounced.
It must have been really bad, Harry thought with a sinking feeling.
Having just listened to Ginny’s description of the attack, he knew it had been bad…but now he had the sudden urge to watch Malfoy’s visit himself. Part of him wanted to see exactly what Malfoy had done to her. Another part of him knew it would be a bad idea, since he already wanted to rip him to pieces. Seeing what happened first hand and being unable to do anything about it would probably not be a good plan; especially right before sleeping.
After a few more moments, Dumbledore’s face shifted into one of casual interest as he broke his gaze from Ginny.
“Thank you, Miss Weasley,” he said. His voice was light, but oddly forced in Harry’s opinion. “That was most helpful. I’ll take another look at the events when I get back to my office and let you know if anything comes of it.”
Standing up, Harry crossed to the fireplace. He wanted them gone and he quickly lowered the wards. Turning back, he hooked his thumbs into his pockets as he watched Ginny become surrounded by her family.
Molly embraced her first, stroking her hair and kissing her cheek before passing her to Arthur. After a few moments he released her, stepping back to give Ron and Hermione room. Ron cupped her cheek as he spoke to her and after a few seconds she was chuckling and shaking her head as he pulled her into a hug.
Finally, she turned to Bill. He stepped forward and enveloped her in his arms, lifting her off the ground. Holding her protectively, he lowered his head and spoke softly into her ear. She nodded into his shoulder and he pulled her tighter before reluctantly lowering her to the floor.
Harry was rather surprised by how quickly the group left after that. Soon he and Ginny were the only ones left in the flat. Turning off the Floo, he raised the wards before turning to face her.
Ginny’s arms were wrapped around her stomach as she stared at the window, but she brought her gaze to his as he crossed to her. When he came to a stop in front she went instantly into his arms. Leaning into him, she rested her cheek against his chest.
“I thought they would never leave,” she sighed. “Who let them in here?”
“That was all you,” he replied, smiling against her hair as she chuckled.
“Tired?” he asked softly and she nodded into his shirt.
“Ok,” he said as he bent down and scooped her into his arms. “Off to bed with you…”
“Harry, I can walk,” she tried to protest.
“And I’m very glad to hear that,” he smiled as he headed down the hall.
“Then let me down,” she huffed in his arms
“Just enjoy it, ok?” he said as he passed the door to her room. “Tomorrow you’ll be all on your own, I promise.”
“Mhm,” he nodded.
“But what if I want you to carry me tomorrow?” she asked, her tone becoming instantly playful as she relaxed into him.
“Well, that’ll just be too bad, won’t it,” he replied with a smirk.
Leaning in, Ginny trailed kisses up his neck to his ear.
“What if I ask really nicely?” she purred in her sweetest voice.
“Well,” he considered as he entered his room. “We may be able to work something out,” he admitted with a grin. Waving his fingers as he walked, his sheets folded back to create a neat triangle across his bed.
When he came to a stop beside it he lowered her down gently. Moving gingerly, she slipped under the covers and pulled them up. When they were settled in her lap, Harry sat down on the edge of the bed facing her. Pulling her knees up, Ginny wrapped her arms around her legs as she met his gaze.
Leaning in, Harry kissed her a few times, pressing his lips against hers before he pulled back. As he studied her, he ran his hand up her shin before bringing it to rest on her knee.
“Do you need anything?” he asked and she shook her head.
He nodded and began to stand but her hand shot out, catching his sleeve and pulling him back down. Harry glanced down at her hand before meeting her gaze. Finding her eyes anxious as she stared at him, he furrowed his brow.
“What is it?”
Ginny looked down at her hand, her eyes intent on his shirt as she released her hold.
“You’re…you’re going to bed now too, right?” she asked, smoothing the fabric with her fingers. “In here?”
Harry’s heart stumbled as her hand dropped to the bed and her uncertain eyes flicked back to his. Until now he’d been completely focused on doing whatever would help her, but the reality of the situation finally slammed into him. She was going to sleep in his room…in his bed. Suddenly, Harry didn’t have a clue what to do.
Bugger, where do I sleep?
An image of them together in his bed flashed vividly in his mind. He could practically feel her curled against him, her head on his shoulder and her body pressed to his as he held her.
Merlin, that would be….
He tried to clamp down on the image as it developed a mind of its own. Rapidly, it became less and less innocent, causing his cheeks to flush and his insides to flare. Cutting off his train of thought with a shake of his head, he firmly reminded himself that she’d just been attacked. She was exhausted, hurting and she needed to sleep.
This isn’t about me. I’m not taking advantage of her.
“I’ll be right here,” he assured her, conjuring a camp bed on the floor next to them with a flick of his wand.
He watched her eyes shoot to his makeshift bed, her expression oddly blank as she stared at it for a few seconds.
Ginny fought to keep her expression passive as her confusion and disappointment surged.
He’s sleeping down there?
Opening her mouth to speak, she then shut it without making a sound. She didn’t know what to say, she just knew she was upset. For whatever reason, she’d assumed he would just sleep with her. The pallet seemed unneeded, not to mention entirely too far away.
Harry remained silent, keeping his expression neutral when she brought her gaze back to his. Her eyes were murky, but he saw the nerves she was trying to hide.
“You don’t…I mean…we could both sleep in the bed,” she offered impulsively.
She felt the heat begin to creep up her neck as she watched his eyes flick to the empty side of bed. The ridiculousness of her suggestion began to hit her as she stumbled on.
“I mean, you know…it seems silly…the bed is so big and…it would be more comfortable…” she trailed off, watching his jaw work as his eyes came back to her. She suddenly felt a bit stupid and more than a little pathetic that she was afraid to be in a bed alone when he was only a few steps away.
Remaining silent, Harry tried to force back the image of them together that surged afresh at her offer. His throat refused to work as he tried to swallow.
“The floor’s fine,” he replied finally, denying every instinct that was yelling for him to accept. He had to do what was best for her, not him.
“Ginny, the floor is fine,” he insisted gently. Moving his hand to her hair, he leaned in, resting his lips against hers for a second before moving to her ear. “I want you to go to sleep, love. You’re exhausted,” he murmured.
Moving hand to her shoulder, he gently pushed her back onto the bed.
Ginny didn’t fight as she settled into the pillow, determined not to seem even more like a child than she knew she already did. Curling over onto her side, she tucked her hand under the pillow.
Stop being ridiculous, she told herself, keeping her eyes on him, he’s going to be maybe four steps away, not in another room.
Slipping off the bed, Harry sank down in front of her. He glided his hand down her hair, cupping her cheek for a second.
“Go to sleep, Gin.”
“Yes, Mum,” she murmured and he smiled as the sparkle shot into her eyes for a second.
Leaning forward, Harry watched her eyes fall shut before kissing her forehead. He then shifted his face down, their noses brushing as he rubbed his thumb over her cheek.
“I’ll be right back,” he breathed before standing.
Ginny watched him turn away and head to his bureau. He pulled out a t-shirt and pajama bottoms and then headed into the bathroom. As he walked, he pointed his wand at the lamps, covering them in darkness. When he reached the door, he glanced over at her for a second before disappearing inside.
Left alone, Ginny pulled the covers up over her shoulder, breathing in the scent of his sheets. They smelled like Harry and she smiled as she burrowed further into them. Her comfort was short lived as her eyes moved to the window. The tree branches were swaying in the rain outside and her smile slowly faded as she watched. Closing her eyes, she willed herself to ignore it. She tried to block out the sound of the steady rainfall but soon her body began to tremble in the dark as she bit her lip.
Get a grip, she told her self sternly. It’s not storming. It’s not storming and Harry’s right in the other room. No one can get to you…
You don’t know that, her mind responded.
Her eyes snapped open and she glanced around the dark room. The shadows seemed to come to life on the walls as she watched. Shutting her eyes, she tried not to associate the shadows with Malfoy’s dark figure as he’d approached her bed. She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as she tried to force her body to relax.
As the minutes ticked by, the bed seemed to become larger and colder and the room grew much too dark. Despite her efforts, she felt it churning – the tension and the fear that she’d been attempting to ignore.
Angry at herself and determined to get her mind under control, Ginny sat up.
Across the country at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Dumbledore was in his office staring intently into the shimmering contents swirling within his Pensieve. His eyes were narrowed as he watched the scene playing within.
“…That was a mistake, love,” Malfoy growled. He advanced on Ginny quickly, backing her into the wall as he aimed his wand at her. Ginny threw her arms out and a bolt of power erupted from her hands, sending Malfoy flying across the room. He hit the wall with a smack while Ginny looked down at her hands in shock.
A second later she ran for the door as he raised his wand.
The Cruciatus curse he threw knocked her sideways and she slammed into the dresser. Her head hit the corner hard and she collapsed to the floor, twitching as she began to scream…
Frowning as the image faded away, Dumbledore prodded the memories with the tip of his wand. He leaned closer as another image he’d pulled unnoticed from Ginny’s mind began to take shape. His expression darkened as he watched. Wanting to be closer, he leaned down until he felt himself drop into the memory.
An instant later, he found himself standing in Harry’s flat. The sun was streaming in the window behind him, making the air hazy as he rounded the sofa. He clasped his hands behind his back as he observed the couple before him.
Harry and Ginny were entwined on the sofa, kissing hungrily. Ginny’s fingers tangled into Harry’s hair, pulling him closer as he stretched out on top of her. His hands slipped inside her shirt as they moved together.
“Merlin, Ginny,” Harry panted and she whimpered her agreement.
They continued kissing as the intensity increased. When Ginny arched up against him, Harry cried out, grabbing her thighs and repeating the motion as they moaned together.
Dumbledore felt little remorse about invading their private moment; he was too focused on what he feared was coming. He’d seen this in Ginny’s mind earlier, but wanted to make sure he understood what had happened.
He watched them as they moved together, their kisses becoming more desperate as the passion built, but then suddenly it all changed. Dumbledore’s eyes narrowed as they cried out again, this time in pain. He could see Ginny’s knuckles turning white where she clung to Harry’s shoulders, her eyes squeezed shut.
Dumbledore moved to the end of the sofa, his eyes now glued on Harry. He watched as Harry ripped his mouth away from Ginny’s and buried his face in her neck. His shout was muffled against her skin as his body trembled almost violently.
Although Ginny still had her eyes shut, too consumed by her own pain to notice, Dumbledore saw the way the furniture around them trembled, the blinds whipping up from the windows. He also saw the blackness of Harry’s eyes when he opened them a few moments later. It only lasted a few seconds before fading quickly as Harry spoke.
“Gin? Look at me, Ginny…”
Dumbledore glanced around as the scene faded away. It was quickly replaced by one of the other memories he had taken from Ginny. He found himself outside, his robe billowing slightly in the breeze as he stared out across a large lake. He watched the colors reflected in the water as the sun set behind it. After a moment he turned to his right, finally focusing on the person next to him. Ginny was standing with him, her arms wrapped around her stomach as she watched the sunset. She was several years younger, and he turned when he heard someone call her name. He stepped back as a young man with light brown hair came running up behind her.
“Where have you been?” the young man asked as he slipped his arms around her waist. “I was looking for you.”
“I was here,” Ginny replied simply as she continued to watch the sunset.
Dumbledore walked around them in a slow circle as they spoke and kissed. They were a perfect example of a young couple in love. His attention was drawn to the boy, his eyes shrewd as he studied his features. The youth’s light brown hair was windblown, and his brown eyes were full of affection as he gazed down at Ginny’s face while they spoke.
Dumbledore froze in his observation when the scene began to tremble. Startled, he looked around as the memory started to dissolve. It was like it a painting that had gotten wet, the colors beginning to mesh as they ran down the canvas…
Dumbledore’s frown deepened and his mind began to race as he watched the scene splinter and change.
A few minutes later Dumbledore stood at his window, the Pensieve tucked neatly back onto its shelf. He stroked Fawkes’ feathers absently as he stared unseeing at the Quidditch pitch, the stands barely visible through the rain. His expression grim, he eventually left the window and crossed to his desk. When he took a seat behind it, his posture slumped as he continued to contemplate what he had seen.
When he’d been summoned to the Burrow this evening, nothing could have prepared him for what he’d found. What he had seen and heard tonight had completely thrown him. Initially trying to remain optimistic, he’d hoped the signs were wrong. He’d hoped that everything that seemed to be happening was just coincidence, but he couldn’t ignore what he’s seen.
Resolutely, he straightened. He knew he didn’t have much time. Opening a drawer, he withdrew four sheets of crisp parchment. Picking up his large scarlet quill, he dipped it into his silver ink pot and began to write.
First, he penned a note to Arthur, Molly and Bill, who had returned to the Burrow after leaving Harry’s flat. Knowing they would still be up and talking, he didn’t bother sending a message to Bill’s house. He folded the parchment and set it aside before writing three more notes, each short and identical. He folded them neatly before sealing each one with his wand. The notes glowed gold for a second as his charm ensured that only the person they were addressed to would be able to open them. When he was finished, he pushed back his chair and headed across the room to give the letters to Fawkes. A moment later, the phoenix disappeared in a burst of flames to deliver them.
When Harry finished his nighttime routine, he returned to his room to find the lights back on. Ginny was sitting in bed with her arms wrapped around her knees and a book on the Chudley Cannons hovering magically in front of her face.
“You’re supposed to be sleeping,” he said as he walked to the bed.
Ginny just shrugged as she continued to read.
“Did you know that the first Cannon Seeker caught the Snitch in every game that season, resulting in a World Cup win and a record setting point total? I mean really, when did we get so horrible? Our Seeker couldn’t catch the Snitch if it was the size of a Quaffle and hovering in front of his face…”
She glanced up as Harry plucked the book out of the air and snapped it shut.
“Fascinating,” he said mildly as he set it down on the side table.
“I thought so,” she replied.
Her eyes went to the window for a second as she smoothed the blanket over her legs before meeting his gaze.
“Can’t sleep?” he asked as he sank down on the edge of the bed. Despite her attempt to act like she was fine, he could see her fear.
“I’m fine,” she replied nonchalantly.
She looked down at her knees, pressing her lips together and plucking absently at the blanket.
“I’m fine,” she insisted softly.
She was lying and she knew it. She wasn’t fine…she wanted him to hold her and stay with her but she didn’t want to admit it. She didn’t want to be weak. She didn’t want Malfoy and some rain to be able to affect her so much.
“Then why aren’t you sleeping?” Harry questioned as he brought his hand to her hair.
“I don’t know,” she snapped, jerking her head away from his hand. “Maybe I don’t feel like sleeping.”
Harry froze in surprise as her eyes flashed angrily at him.
“I’m not a child, Harry,” she declared, startling herself with the venom in her voice.
Harry stared at her for a second, stung by her outburst.
“I know you’re not,” he began slowly, trying to figure out why she was suddenly angry with him.
“If I don’t want to sleep, I don’t have to sleep! If I want to sit here all night, you can’t stop me!”
“Ok,” he replied, speaking carefully as he watched her eyes.
She glared at him, her chest rising and falling and her cheeks flushed with anger.
“Is that what you want? Do you want to stay up? We can stay up…” he offered. “Whatever you want, Gin.”
The change in her was instant. Her shoulders slumped as the anger slipped away to be replaced by despair and uncertainty. Resting her elbows on her knees, she rubbed her face. Shaking her head, she moaned softly in frustration against her hands.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “I don’t know what…” She shook her head again before running her fingers through her hair and staring at her knees. “I’m not angry with you…”
Tentatively, Harry brought his hand to her face and this time she leaned into it as he cupped her cheek.
“I don’t want to stay up…” Her eyes flicked to his for a second before they dropped back to the bedspread. “I was just waiting…I thought…maybe…”
“You thought what?” he prompted when she seemed to hesitate, her cheeks flushing.
“Nothing, I…it’s stupid,” she mumbled. “I’m fine.”
She started to slide under the covers but Harry halted her.
“Stop it, Ginny,” he said sternly and her brow furrowed in surprise.
He cocked his head, sighing slightly in frustration.
“Stop…this,” he said he brought his hand to her hair. “Stop trying to be strong, ok? You don’t have to do that. It’s ok to be hurting, or scared, or angry…or whatever it is that you’re feeling.”
She tried to look down and he bent his head, keeping her gaze. He shifted his hands; running his fingers up into her hair and tilting her head back slightly so that she had to look at him.
“I shouldn’t have snapped at you,” she said, the apology evident in her tone.
“I can handle it,” he said, smiling reassuringly before he kissed her gently. “What he did was unforgivable,” he reminded her softly. He leaned in and kissed her before resting his forehead against hers. “Unforgivable, Ginny.”
“Do you? That curse would send him to Azkaban. There’s a reason for that, love. Stop thinking you have to be better in an hour, ok?”
She bit her lip and nodded.
“Why are you awake, Ginny? Tell me what you wanted.”
Ginny pulled away and looked down. She picked at her nail until he closed his hand over hers and she took a breath.
“I thought that…maybe you could stay with me,” she said, her eyes embarrassed as they met his. “Just until I fall asleep,” she added quietly.
Harry leaned over and kissed her temple.
“Whatever you want, Gin,” he said.
Ginny took a shaky breath and laced her fingers through his. She tugged him onto the bed as she shifted over to give him room. He climbed up after her and stretched out so that he was lying next to her.
“That wasn’t that hard, was it?” he asked, giving her a lopsided grin as he met her gaze.
She laughed weakly before trailing off. Shaking her head, she scrunched her face up, trying to fight off the tears that suddenly threatened. Her hand flew to her eyes as the first sob slipped out.
Harry moved quickly, pulling her into his arms.
Ginny curled against him, her hand trapped between her face and his chest as she choked on the sobs she was trying to suppress.
Reaching up, Harry pulled her hand from her face, linking their fingers together.
“Let it go, love,” he whispered in her ear as he drew her hand to his lips. He kissed it softly while Ginny buried her face in his chest.
Giving in, she fisted her hand into his shirt as she wept.
Harry turned the lamp off, holding her protectively while she cried.
Eventually her tears slowed and she tucked her head under his chin. He stroked her hair absently as they lay together in the dark.
Hermione stood in front of the mirror as she brushed her teeth. Running her eyes down her body, she turned to the side. She eyed her flat stomach critically as she ran her hand over it. There was still no change and she huffed in disappointment as she shifted the toothbrush to the other side of her mouth. The door to the bathroom opened and she spun back toward the mirror. She followed Ron’s reflection as he entered with his dirty clothes. Her lips curled into a smile as she watched him dump them dutifully into the hamper. It had taken months for him to finally get into a habit of doing that.
On his way out he met her eyes in the mirror and smiled. Detouring on his way to the door he came up behind her, slipped his hands to her hips and dipped his head.
Instinctively, Hermione tilted her head to the side, giving him better access to her neck. He kissed her skin lightly before shifting his head back up. As he wrapped his arms completely around her stomach he rested his chin on the top of her head.
Remaining silent, Ron simply watched her reflection for a few moments before giving her a squeeze and heading back to the bedroom.
Hermione joined him several minutes later, pulling a brush through her unruly hair. Ron was in bed, his back against the headboard as he stared out the window.
She crossed to the bed, keeping her eyes on him as she moved. After depositing her brush on the bedside table and slipping off her robe, she climbed up onto the bed and crawled over to him. Ron shifted automatically, wrapping his arms around her as she settled into his lap. She laid her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat for a few minutes while he went back to staring out the window.
“Are you ok?” she asked after a few minutes.
“Yeah,” he nodded, kissing the top of her head. “Rough day.”
She nodded her agreement and he shifted them down so that they were lying together on their sides. Hermione’s back was against his chest and his arm was wrapped protectively around her middle. While Hermione shut her eyes and settled into the pillow, Ron remained restless. Instead of relaxing and drifting off to sleep, he stayed awake, staring out the window.
After several minutes of silence Ron slipped his hand under her shirt, caressing her skin as he shifted closer.
“Hermione,” he whispered.
“We didn’t get to tell them,” he sighed regretfully and she smiled softly.
“It’s ok,” she murmured as she placed her hand over his. “Harry knows.”
“Yeah,” Ron replied, kissing her hair, “he does.”
They lay in silence for a few more minutes before Ron spoke again.
“Hermione,” he whispered.
“She’s going to be alright, Ron,” she mumbled.
“I know,” he nodded. “It’s not that. Do you feel like… something was off tonight? Like everyone knew something we didn’t?”
“Like what?” she sighed sleepily.
“I don’t know…It’s just…”
He trailed off, not sure what to say. A few moments passed before Hermione turned over so that she was facing him. Bringing her hand to his face, she cupped his cheek in her palm as she shut her eyes again.
“It’s just…” she echoed softly.
“They weren’t happy for them,” he stated softly. He watched Hermione’s brow furrow before she opened her eyes.
“In the kitchen…when we found Harry and Ginny together,” he explained. “Mum, Dad…Bill. They weren’t happy.”
Hermione frowned, blinking quickly as she remembered.
“No, they weren’t,” she admitted softly, replaying the scene in her head. “That was a bit odd.”
“And what about Bill,” Ron continued, his eyes flashing. “What was wrong with him?”
“He was just worried about Ginny,” Hermione assured him.
“No. You didn’t see him,” Ron insisted shaking his head. “When we were at the Burrow, he blew Harry across the room!”
Hermione furrowed her brow and shifted her body, propping her head on her hand.
“Of course with magic,” Ron huffed and then flopped onto his back. “How else would he blow Harry across the room?”
“Well…why would Harry let him do that?” she asked in confusion.
“He didn’t let him, he was…” Ron paused as he thought back. He remembered Harry kneeling over Ginny, but he had no idea why he wouldn’t have blocked Bill’s magic. He should have blocked it easily. “I don’t know…the whole thing is strange.”
“I’m sure everyone was just stressed, love,” Hermione said. “With Harry’s power, his past…maybe Bill just got a little overprotective.” she suggested moving her fingers to his lips. “Like you do.”
Ron kissed her fingers, causing her to smile. He turned his head toward her, watching her silently for a moment.
“Maybe,” he admitted softly. “But it still seemed different.”
The conversation lapsed into silence. Hermione lowered her head back to the pillow, snuggling into his body as he wrapped his arm around her.
“We’ll discuss it again if it’s still bothering you tomorrow, alright?” Hermione offered drowsily after a few moments of silence.
“Ok,” he murmured. “Love you…”
“I love you too.”
When Harry was confident that Ginny had fallen asleep, he carefully slipped his arm out from under her. She shifted, mumbling as she settled onto the pillow and he slipped from the bed. He readjusted the covers and then leaned forward, kissing her temple. After watching her sleep for a few more seconds, he rounded the bed and sank down to the floor in front of the window.
Ginny’s eyes opened and she rolled over, watching him silently from the bed.
As he did every other night, Harry sat cross legged for about ten minutes as he centered his mind. He’d considered skipping it and just remaining on the bed, but after what had happened today he knew it would be a bad idea. For several minutes he gave in to it all, letting his anger and frustration with himself and Malfoy roll around in his mind. He replayed the events of the evening, going over what had been done and said.
What was going on with Bill?
He’d acted like a completely different person, even before the attack. And the same was true with Ginny’s parents. Harry kept picturing their faces, pale and drawn. Understandably, they were all worried about Ginny, but it seemed off somehow.
Knowing he wouldn’t get any answers tonight, he pushed his unease away with a sigh and focused solely on stabilizing his insides. He categorically and systematically shut down his emotions until he felt his power begin to settle. When he felt the familiar blank sensation wash over him, he opened his eyes.
Standing up, he walked to the camp bed and sank down onto it. He glanced up at the bed briefly before lying down. He felt drained and as soon as his head hit the pillow, he shut his eyes, praying he wouldn’t have any dreams tonight.
Back in the bed, Ginny was tense. She felt exposed - too out in the open for comfort. Her disappointment and nerves had surged when Harry had headed for his blankets on the floor instead of just returning to the bed.
At the sound of another soft roll of thunder, she bit her lip to stifle a curse. Rolling back over, she stared at Harry, who was asleep on the floor. Although he was only a few steps away, it seemed much farther. She shut her eyes, trying to go to sleep but it was no use. Her body shivering instinctively, she seemed unable to hear anything beyond the rain outside.
After a few more minutes, she gave up and slipped out of her bed. The fact that this might not be a good idea flashed briefly in her mind, but was replaced almost instantly with the need to feel safe.
She padded over to where Harry was sleeping and sank to her knees beside him. His makeshift bed was really only big enough for one and she hesitated. Spurred on by another distant role of thunder, she lifted his blankets and slipped into the camp bed with him, trying not to wake him.
Harry, who had just barely drifted off to sleep, awoke when he felt a hand slide across his chest. He didn’t think - he just reacted, his eyes snapping open as he shoved the body away.
Ginny winced as she landed on her back, her elbow hitting the floor with a smack. Her eyes widened when she was suddenly staring at the end of Harry’s wand and she looked up at his face. She watched the recognition and surprise flash through his eyes as they focused on her.
“Hi,” she murmured sheepishly as she watched his body relax and his wand drop to his side.
“Hi,” he echoed as he sank back down onto the blankets.
She saw the question in his eyes and shifted toward him. Almost without thinking he wrapped his arm around her and pulled her up against him.
“Shite, I’m sorry, Ginny. What are you doing down here?” he asked softly. “Are you ok?”
She simply kissed him in response. Her lips shook slightly as they pushed against his.
“I missed you…”
“Did you?” he smiled and she nodded.
Beginning to run his hand up and down her trembling back, he watched her closely. He knew she’d really moved because she was frightened and he kissed her gently for a few seconds as she shifted closer.
“Ok,” he whispered and she looked up at him. He smiled at her uncertain expression and ran his thumb down her cheek. “I think we’ll fit much better on the bed, don’t you?”
Ginny smiled in relief as he pulled her up, linking his fingers through hers as he led her back to the bed. Climbing up she began to crawl to the far side but then hesitated. To worn out to care how needy she seemed, she looked back to make sure he was following. When he climbed in after her, she slipped under the covers.
When they were settled, they lay facing each other on their sides. Their heads were close on their pillows as they stared at each other. Wanting contact, Ginny’s hand slid to his where it rested between them and she linked their fingers together.
“I’m sorry, Gin,” he breathed, squeezing her hand.
He pulled her hand to him and she moved, shifting toward him. He released her hand and draped his arm around her waist, pulling her against him.
“We’re going to find him soon, ok?”
Ginny nodded before tucking her head into his neck and curling into him.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she mumbled sleepily. “I just want to sleep…”
“Ok,” he agreed, kissing her hair.
Slipping her arm under his, she wrapped around his back as she burrowed further into his body and breathed him in. He was warm and safe and she fell asleep quickly as she let her exhaustion finally take over.
Harry stayed awake for a while, watching the rain fall outside the window. Although it continued to rain steadily, it didn’t seem like it was going to get any worse and he finally drifted off to sleep as well.
The door to the Room of Requirement opened to reveal a man in his thirties. His messy red hair was streaked with natural highlights from the sun. It was obvious he spent most of his time outdoors, the freckles on his skin so densely packed they practically joined together to create a permanent tan.
He came in, shrugging his cloak off as he surveyed the room. Half of his family was huddled in front of the fire, talking quietly. Frowning at their stricken faces, he draped his cloak over the back of a chair and headed toward them.
“Is someone going to tell me why I came halfway around the world in the middle of the night?”
He watched their heads snap around. Under different circumstances he might have grinned at their expressions, but something in their eyes froze him in place.
“Oh, Charlie!” his mother cried as she pushed past Bill and crossed the room at a run.
She knocked him back a step as her arms went around him, pulling him into a tight hug. He embraced her, frowning as her body shook against him. He looked up at his dad and brother as they came up behind her.
“What’s happened?” he asked worriedly. “Dumbledore’s note didn’t say, it just…”
He trailed off as the door opened again and they all looked over. Molly pulled back, wiping her eyes as Charlie turned. His stomach filled with dread as he saw who was entering. It couldn’t be good if he was here too.
“Remus,” he nodded.
The Hogwarts castle loomed large and dark as the wizard made his way through the gates. He ducked his head, scowling against the drizzle as he ascended the familiar front steps of his former school. He hadn’t been here for several years, and being summoned in the middle of the night did nothing to help his mood. The large oak doors opened automatically when he reached them and he slipped inside.
A house elf appeared at his elbow, bowing low as he held his hands up to receive the wet cloak. The man slipped it off, not bothering to look as he dropped it and headed resolutely up the large marble staircase. He’d just reached the landing of the first floor when Minerva McGonagall came striding around the corner.
“Oh good, you’re here,” she said, slowing to a stop when she saw him. She took in his sullen expression before she spun on her heel and headed back the way she came. “This way…”
Pulling his dark robe closer, the wizard glowered as he followed her through the corridors. They climbed the stairs in silence, traveling through the dark halls until they reached the tapestry of Barnabus the Barmy on the seventh floor. He watched the trolls in the tapestry rebel against their dancing lessons while Minerva passed the adjacent wall three times.
When the door to the Room of Requirement appeared, the man crossed to her. He nodded curtly as she pulled the door open and then he slipped inside.
Minerva pursed her lips and headed back down the hall, her hands clasped tightly in front of her.
Inside the room, the man remained unnoticed by the others for a few moments as he assessed the room.
The chamber had taken on the qualities of an intimate meeting room. There was an oval table in the center, complete with seven chairs spaced evenly around it. The walls were bare and there was a large fireplace on the far side of the room. There was a fire crackling in the grate, throwing light around the walls and causing shadows to flick across the faces of the other occupants.
His black eyes narrowed instinctively as his gaze fell on the Weasleys. The passing years had done nothing to erase his utter dislike for them.
Molly and Arthur were sitting at the table, speaking softly and looking pale and drawn. Behind them were their two eldest sons. Charlie was gesturing angrily as he spoke to Bill, who nodded his agreement to whatever was being said.
The wizard’s expression twisted into distaste as the final person in the room caught his attention. Remus Lupin was standing at a small table beside the fireplace. He poured himself a drink from the crystal decanter before crossing resolutely toward Charlie and Bill and joining the discussion.
Of course the werewolf is here, the wizard thought rolling his eyes as he crossed to the table.
The legs of the chair dragged loudly across the floor as he pulled it out, causing the room to fall silent as everyone looked over. He smirked as their faces fell when they saw it was him.
“Evening, Severus,” Remus greeted him stiffly.
“Lupin,” he sneered as he took a seat at the table.
A knock echoed through the silent office, breaking Dumbledore out of his thoughts. He looked up from the small envelope he’d been slowly twirling within his fingers. As the door opened, he stood up and tucked the letter into his robes.
“They’re all here, Albus,” Minerva McGonagall said as she regarded him from the doorway.
“Thank you, Minerva,” he nodded as he crossed the room.
She led the way along the corridor, her steps brisk and her back straight as her dark green robes rustled around her. Her beady eyes shot to Dumbledore’s face every few steps and she pursed her lips, trying to refrain from asking questions.
The wrinkles around her lips increased as she noticed the knowing smile flick across his face.
“Ask your question, Minerva,” he said simply.
She pulled up abruptly, crossing her arms over the chest as he turned toward her.
“Alright, is this Order business?” she asked suspiciously.
He regarded her silently for a few seconds before continuing down the hall.
“In a way,” he answered.
She huffed irritably as she followed.
“Well, are you going to tell me what it’s about?” she demanded incredulously, unused to being left out of things.
“That, I’m afraid, I cannot do at the moment,” he replied as he came to a stop in front of the blank wall across from the Barnabus tapestry. Turning toward her, he took in her stiff posture and angry expression. He could see her mind working as she tried to figure out what was going on. “If it becomes necessary, or a problem develops I assure you, Minerva, you will be the first person I consult.”
Narrowing her eyes, she studied him for a second before nodding sharply. She knew better than to question his reasoning or demand answers, so she simply spun on her heel and headed back down the hall. In her experience, there were only two individuals the people in that room had in common, Voldemort and Harry Potter. She shook her head, hoping whatever had prompted the meeting didn’t have anything to do with Harry.
He’s been through enough.
The gathering of wizards fell silent when Dumbledore entered the Room of Requirement. Taking his place at the head of the table, he prompted the others to find seats with a wave of his hand.
Snape sat to Dumbledore’s left while Remus took the seat to his right. Charlie chose a spot next to his parents but Bill stubbornly chose to stand. He leaned back against the wall, his jaw clenched as he stared intently at Dumbledore.
“I’m sure most of you are anxious to know why you’re here,” Dumbledore said as he looked around the table. “Given the late hour, I won’t waste time with pleasantries.”
“Several weeks ago we made the decision to allow Mr. Potter to guard Miss Weasley. At the time it seemed warranted, despite the concerns that were expressed,” he said, looking pointedly at Bill who seemed to be struggling to hold his tongue. “Tonight I became aware of a potentially disastrous situation developing. As I’m sure you all know by now, there was an attack on Miss Weasley earlier this evening while she was visiting the Burrow.”
Remus’ stomach sank as Dumbledore explained what had happened at the Weasleys’ home. He ran his hand wearily over his face when he heard about the tracer they missed. As Dumbledore began to describe what he saw in Ginny’s memory of the event, Bill spoke up.
“Did Malfoy say anything?” Bill asked his eyes cautiously optimistic. Dumbledore shook his head and Bill sagged back against the wall.
“Unfortunately that particular memory was of little help to me,” Dumbledore sighed. “Bill, if you could explain what happened when you entered Ginny’s room please,” he added and Bill nodded, his eyes narrowing at the memory.
“Harry reached the door first and tried to get in,” he explained. “He couldn’t open it because of the seal Malfoy had cast on it…”
His eyes moved to the fire as he thought back.
“It all happened so fast…I don’t know exactly what Harry used, he just stepped back and threw a spell that blasted the door open. When we ran in Harry threw another spell but Malfoy disappeared and it hit the wall instead. Ginny was screaming…”
He trailed off as he pictured his sister shaking on the floor. His chest began to ache as he pictured her shaking over the toilet, and how weak she’d been in Harry’s flat. He hadn’t thought he would ever see her like that again.
“Damn it,” he muttered in frustration.
Shaking his head, he raked his fingers through his hair as he tried to get the sound of her cries out of his mind. With a huff of frustration he crossed his arms over his chest and brought his eyes to the group.
“Harry reached her first,” he continued, “but then seemed to falter. He collapsed in front of her…grabbing his head. He was shaking. His eyes were glued on her as they began to turn black…”
“What do you mean they turned black?” Charlie interrupted. He shot an insistent glance at his father, demanding clarification.
“I mean they turned black,” Bill replied. “Harry collapsed in front of her, grabbed his head and his eyes began to turn…”
“Shite,” Charlie exclaimed softly, running a hand through his hair.
“He blew a bloody hole in the wall,” Bill added ominously. “Accidentally.”
“Although to be fair,” Molly spoke up, her face pale but her voice clear, “that spell was aimed at Malfoy.”
Dumbledore nodded and then took up where Bill had left off. He explained what had happened after Harry left the Burrow with Ginny. Briefly he touched on what had been discussed at Harry’s flat, namely Ginny’s curious aversion to storms and the apparent headaches she and Harry had been having.
While Dumbledore spoke, Remus rose from the table. He crossed to the fireplace, rested his arm on the mantle and stared silently into the flames as he listened.
Bill stayed against the wall with his arms folded over his chest. He seemed to become more and more agitated as Dumbledore spoke. For the moment though, he opted to remain silent, letting Charlie serve up the outraged responses.
“There was little else to be done at that point, so we left,” Dumbledore concluded.
“Are you kidding me?” Charlie demanded as he shot out of his chair. “You left her there!? She’s still with him, after…after what you’ve seen?” he sputtered furiously as his gaze swung to Bill.
Molly reached out and took hold of his wrist. Surprisingly, he obeyed her pull and sank back into his chair, glowering at his father as he did so.
“You left her there?” he muttered under his breath in disbelief and Arthur nodded silently.
“I assure you,” Dumbledore said, bringing Charlie’s attention to him, “we would not have left her had she been in any immediate danger. Although from what I’ve discovered, I do fear for her safety…”
The room looked expectantly at Dumbledore, waiting for him to elaborate. Remaining silent, he stood up and slipped his hand into the pocket of his robes. He drew out a dark blue bottle and a small bowl. After setting them on the table, he pointed his wand at the Pensieve and it grew instantly to its original size.
“Before we left, Miss Weasley granted me access to her mind to view the attack,” Dumbledore said as he uncorked the bottle and poured its shimmering contents into the bowl. “Although she is unaware, I took the liberty of searching out a few other recent events.”
“What?” Arthur asked in surprise. “You didn’t say…”
Dumbledore nodded and raised his hand. “I realize this was done without permission, but it was necessary. If you would all gather around, I believe it will be easier to show you what I found, rather than try to explain.”
Warily, the group moved to stand at the edge of the table, creating a tight semicircle around the shallow basin. On Dumbledore’s orders they pointed their wands into the bowl and traveled into Ginny’s memories.
They emerged several minutes later, confused and frightened by what they had seen. Bill and Charlie exchanged dark glances while Arthur led a shaking Molly back to her chair.
“What was that?” Remus asked as he returned to his seat.
“That, Lupin,” Snape replied as he sank into his chair, “was your Auror leaping right over the boundaries of professionalism. No wonder he …”
“That’s enough,” Dumbledore interrupted as he sat down, looking pointedly at Snape. Folding his hands on the table, Dumbledore suddenly looked much older and more tired than usual. “It seems obvious that something is going wrong. Harry’s power is surging…the protective magic is splintering…” he shook his head, as though trying to figure out how that could be possible.
Charlie pointed his finger at Dumbledore and leaned across the table. “Didn’t we say this whole thing was a bad idea? Didn’t we warn you about this?” He slammed his hands on the table and rocked his chair back. “Christ, we never should have let you talk us into assigning him to her.”
“We had no idea this would happen,” Dumbledore replied calmly, although it was apparent that his patience was beginning to fray.
“We knew it was an altered charm! We knew how powerful he was,” Charlie snapped angrily. “We should have known something could go wrong.”
“Memories do not come back,” Dumbledore replied. “The charm can’t be broken.”
“You know that’s not true!” Bill replied, shoving away from the wall.
“Pointing fingers, after you all agreed to this ridiculous plan in the first place,” Snape drawled from his seat, “is a waste of my time.”
“Well then, leave,” Bill snapped. He settled back against the wall, folding his arms over his chest. “You aren’t needed here anyway.”
“Aren’t I?” Snape replied, arching his brow.
“What’s done is done,” Dumbledore interrupted, bringing the argument to an abrupt end. “We need to deal with what’s happening. Tomorrow, Harry will be reassigned and they will be separated,” Dumbledore explained.
“Bollocks, let’s go now,” Charlie announced.
“No,” Dumbledore replied, shaking his head. “They won’t understand the urgency. I think it’s safe to say from what we experienced tonight, neither is going to be agreeable to the separation.”
Bill huffed knowingly from his place against the wall. “The honorable prick isn’t going to just leave her,” he noted.
“Potter never was good at doing what he was told,” Snape added. He received nasty looks from most of the table but just smirked, unaffected by the expected response.
“It shouldn’t be that hard,” Charlie argued. “He’s doing a job. If his orders change, he’ll leave.”
“I’m not so sure,” Molly replied, shaking her head slowly. “You weren’t there. You didn’t see them. Harry barely let us near her. And Ginny…” she trailed off as her eyes filled with tears. She could still hear her daughter’s words as she had clung to Harry.
“I won’t leave him…I won’t…please don’t…take him…I need…need him…”
“You didn’t see her, Charlie,” Molly whispered tremulously. “You didn’t hear her. I swear it was just like…” Falling silent, she shut her eyes as she remembered.
“We have to erase you.”
Ginny’s head shot up. “What?”
Dumbledore just looked back steadily at her although she saw the faint echo of pity behind his spectacles.
“Alter your memories so that it’s as if you never met. It’s the only way to protect you…to protect him.”
Molly’s eyes were glued on her daughter as Dumbledore spoke to her. She saw her body begin to tremble as she shook her head. She could see Ginny’s mind working, her skin flushing with mounting despair. When their eyes met, Molly didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know what to say to comfort her, so she just sat there, silent and frozen.
Ginny’s eyes filled with disbelief at her mother’s acceptance of the plan while Molly’s filled with tears. A second later, Ginny shot up from her chair.
“He can’t control it,” Dumbledore tried to explain. “He doesn’t know how to control it. He will kill you… and anyone who tries to protect you. We can barely contain him now and that’s only because for the moment, he doesn’t know how to use it, but it won’t be long.”
“Sweetheart, it’s the only way,” Arthur said gently as he walked toward her.
“No, it’s not!” Ginny protested, her eyes furious and desperate as she glared at her father. Her eyes returned to Molly’s, searching for an ally. “There’s something else. There has to be something else…something we haven’t…”
“There’s nothing left to try,” Dumbledore interrupted.
Ginny shook her head as she headed for the door. Arthur’s arm shot out, catching her as she passed him.
“We can’t let you leave, sweetheart,” he said. He moved in front of her, blocking her way to the door. “We don’t have much time.”
Ginny gaped at him as her eyes filled with tears of anger.
“You wouldn’t do this to me,” she breathed incredulously as she searched his eyes. They were filled with remorse but also with determination. Choking on a sob as she realized he would, she tried to shove past him. His grip on her arm tightened and in a matter of seconds, Ginny was in a rage, demanding that he let her go as she tried to jerk away.
When he refused to release her, Ginny flew into hysterics. Her cries became screams as she struggled more desperately. Arthur fought to hold her, trying to catch her arm as she swung at him.
Molly had a hand over her mouth, tears streaming down her face as she watched.
Having heard Ginny’s cries from the corridor, Bill and Charlie ran into the room, passing their mother on their way to help.
Ginny saw them coming and struggled harder, pounding her fist against her father’s chest.
“LET ME GO!” Ginny screamed as she fought them, trying to get to the door. Bill caught her around the waist and hauled her away from their father.
Twisting and kicking as she sobbed, Ginny threw her arms out. Her wandless magic sent all three Weasley men flying away from her and she dropped to the ground. Scrambling up, she ran for the door as Dumbledore raised his wand.
“No!” Bill called as he raised his own wand. “Accio, Ginny!”
With a cry, Ginny flew backwards into Bill’s arms. He spun her around and in an instant she was wrapped tightly in his embrace. She was pinned against his chest, unable to move.
Screeching in desperation, she tried futilely to kick at him as Charlie came up behind her. Placing one hand gently on her shoulder, he began to stroke her hair with the other, trying to soothe her.
“It’s ok, Ginny,” Charlie said softly into her ear.
“It is not…ok,” she sobbed, kicking her legs back, trying to hit him. “It’s not ok! It’s not…it’s…”
“Come on, Ginny,” he soothed, ignoring her heels when they connected with his shins. “We wouldn’t hurt you. We protect you…”
“I won’t leave him…I won’t,” she wailed into Bill’s shoulder. She tried to keep struggling but he was too strong and he held her in place easily.
“Please,” she sobbed in defeat as she became still. “…please don’t take him.”
“He’ll kill you if we don’t,” Charlie murmured in her ear, his voice filled with sadness.
“I don’t care…”
“We care, Ginny,” Charlie told her firmly. He stroked her hair while Bill kissed her forehead. “We care. And don’t you think…don’t you think Harry cares?”
Ginny whimpered at his name, her body beginning to shake.
“Don’t you think Harry needs you to stay alive?” he asked her softly. “What happens to him if he kills you?”
Ginny trembled, surrounded by the protective warmth of her brothers. They spoke to her softly, trying to reassure her, reminding her how much they all needed her alive…
“He would want you to be alive, Ginny…even if it meant you couldn’t be with him…”
Misery surged quickly within her, overwhelming her with its intensity as she thought of her future if they did this. She suddenly couldn’t breathe, her knees buckling as she wept into Bill’s chest.
Bill’s arms tightened as he felt her begin to collapse. Murmuring her name, he sank down to the floor with her. He looked to his parents for help and they crossed to them quickly. They knelt around her while Ginny curled over, clutching her stomach as her body shook with sobs. Arthur glided his hand over her hair while Molly rubbed circles on her back.
“Please,” Ginny pleaded softly. Her eyes were hollow as she looked up at her father. She reached for his hand, clutching it tightly. “We can try something else…we can try…”
Her face crumpled before she looked down, lowering her forehead to the floor as she broke down. “Daddy…” she choked out.
He reached down and pulled her into his arms.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, sweetheart,” he whispered brokenly into her ear as he rocked back and forth. Ginny turned her head, resting her cheek on her father’s chest as she met her mother’s gaze.
“Don’t do this,” she begged brokenly. “Please don’t take him…I…I need him…”
Arthur’s soothing hand on her arm brought Molly back to the present. She wiped her eyes quickly. Ginny had never accepted it. She had continued to plead before she began fighting again. She had fought them all the way up to the moment they performed the spell, trying to make them find something else.
Dumbledore was speaking and Molly blinked quickly as she tried to catch up.
“From what we’ve seen, the feelings between them seem to be rather…deep. I fear it may be the growing emotions that are causing the problem. We’ve seen what it’s doing to Harry. I’m afraid our only option right now is to separate them,” Dumbledore concluded with a sigh.
“Right, we’re getting her out of there before things get worse,” Charlie announced. “Before he hurts her.”
“Exactly,” Bill chimed in. “We couldn’t control him then, we would have no chance now that he’s even stronger.”
“Maybe, but like you say, he’s stronger” Remus pointed out testily. “It could be different…he’s different. He’s spent years learning to control it.”
“Yeah, because we erased her,” Bill reminded him in exasperation. “You know what he was like! If he gets his memories back, we could be right back where we started!”
“Oh, come on, Remus!” Charlie exclaimed. “Do you honestly believe that if he got his memories back now that he could control it?”
Remus didn’t answer. He clenched his jaw and moved his gaze to the fire, considering.
“I don’t know,” he answered finally. “But the point is we don’t know what would happen.”
“No, the point is that we’re not going to find out,” Arthur interrupted, finally breaking his silence. His voice was hard, his expression unyielding as he stared at Remus. “I’m not taking that chance with her life.”
“And what about Harry’s life?” Remus asked angrily.
“What about it?” Snape replied.
Remus began to respond but Dumbledore spoke first.
“We don’t have time for arguments,” he declared sternly. “Our concern is everyone’s safety. We need to separate them and fix what is breaking.”
“What does that mean?” Molly asked. “Another charm?”
“If that’s what’s needed, then yes,” Dumbledore answered. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
“Separate them…fix what is…” Remus shook his head. He chuckled in disbelief before pushing his chair back and standing up. Resting his hands on the table he met Dumbledore’s gaze.
“We don’t need another charm. We need to stop playing with their lives,” he proclaimed. Pushing off of the table, his gaze swung to Arthur and Molly. “You know they were never the same after…we can’t do it again. We can’t just magic it away because it’s not working. What we need is a solution to the problem!”
“You know there isn’t one,” Dumbledore said, his voice betraying his frustration.
“Sure there is,” Snape commented dryly, causing all eyes to fly to him.
“Oh, brilliant, Remus snapped. “And what would you do, Severus…kill him?”
“I think I’ve made my opinion perfectly clear in the past,” Snape replied, his eyes narrowed as he held Remus’ gaze. “Evil is evil, no matter how heroic the packaging.”
“It would…solve the problem,” Bill noted grimly.
All eyes swung to Bill. For a moment no one spoke, stunned into silence that he would even consider it. Charlie narrowed his eyes, staring hard at his brother when Bill’s gaze met his.
“Are you mad!?” Remus exclaimed, breaking the silence.
“We have to…protect Ginny,” Charlie added slowly, as though testing the idea as he spoke.
“And what about Harry!?” Remus demanded as he swung toward him.
“He’s a danger to everyone, not just her,” Bill exclaimed, taking a step away from the wall.
“Well it’s good to see that everyone’s judgment isn’t clouded by devotion to the Golden Boy,” Snape said smugly.
“You shut up, Severus!” Remus yelled, pointing at him as he kept his eyes on Bill. “Harry is not dangerous!”
“He is when he loves her!” Bill bellowed back.
“Arthur, get your sons under control,” Remus ordered as he swung around.
Arthur remained silent, his eyes going back and forth between his sons and Remus. He had his arms around Molly who was shaking with tears against his shoulder.
Throwing up his arms, Remus turned back to face Bill.
As they continued to argue heatedly over how best to handle the situation, Dumbledore pulled the letter from his pocket. He frowned at it, allowing the bickering to continue for a few moments as he contemplated his options one last time. Finally, he stood up.
“Enough,” he commanded.
The angry voices tapered off as all eyes moved to him.
“We are not killing anyone.”
He glanced down at the letter for a few seconds before addressing Remus.
“You know we will always continue to try to help Harry. But you also know that with what we have seen here, they must be separated. It’s the only way to determine the damage. The only way to ensure that it doesn’t get worse before we decide how to fix it.”
Remus stared at him for a moment before he relented. Raking his fingers through his hair, he nodded with a sigh. He shook his head and then sank back into his chair. Resting his forehead in his hands, he stared at the table as Dumbledore spoke.
“We have never understood exactly what happened,” he said. “We couldn’t have foreseen this, but now that we’re here…the best we can do is stop it before things spiral out of control.”
Ginny was running.
Her heart was pounding as her steps echoed around her, bouncing off the dark rock walls. She glanced over her shoulder into the darkness. She couldn’t see him but she knew he was there. If she stopped, the monster would catch her.
Bounding around a corner, her hand hit the wall to steady herself as her bare feet slipped on the damp floor. Tears stung her eyes as she choked back a sob and she tried to run faster.
She felt like she was running in place, forever trying to move but unable to get anywhere. Finally she erupted from the tunnel and skidded to a stop. Her heart lurched when she realized she was back where she started. She stood panting and trembling as a cloaked figure materialized in front of her, pulling back his hood.
The wizard’s eyes were gleaming at her and she took a step back, looking around for a way out but finding nothing beyond the familiar dark stone walls.
“I’ve missed you,” he whispered, his voice a deceiving caress as he followed her retreat.
The light from the torches gleamed off of his hair as he moved forward. He raised his wand and Ginny ran, her nightgown flowing behind her. She heard him throw a spell as she stumbled, tripping over a rock and tumbling to the ground.
The world trembled around her. There was only darkness, fear and pain as her surroundings began to dissolve, twisting and distorting…she was in her bedroom and a classroom and a cavern all at once as she saw disjointed and mixed up images and people.
She couldn’t stop screaming…she was in pain, her body trembling as he came in and out of her vision.
He was laughing and casting curses, but she couldn’t get away because he kept shifting, his body blurring and his image continuously changing from person to person…
Distantly, she heard Harry call her name. Dragging her eyes open, she found him crouched over her. His eyes were wide with fear and pain as he held his arm and stared at something over her shoulder…
Harry woke up with a start.
He blinked quickly and glanced down to find Ginny shaking in his arms. Her face was streaked with tears as she mumbled, her body twitching. Glancing at the window, he expected to find it storming but instead he found that the rain had passed. The clouds had cleared considerably and he could see patches of stars peeking through. With a frown of confusion, he looked back down at her.
Realizing she must be having a nightmare, Harry shook her gently.
“Ginny,” he called softly. “Ginny, wake up.”
Ginny’s eyes flew open and she cried out as she jerked awake. She immediately tried to push him off, whimpering and fighting him as he attempted to hold her in place.
Rolling her quickly onto her back, Harry trapped her on the bed with his body as she struggled.
Calling her name, he waved his hand at the lamp. Light flooded the room in an instant and Ginny blinked rapidly.
“Hey,” Harry whispered as her eyes focused on him. Her eyes widened as she became still beneath him. Bringing his hand up, he wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Bad dream?” he asked.
“I…I guess,” she murmured, bringing her own hand up to wipe at her face.
Her breathing was still unsteady and her fingers were shaking. Harry slid off her and pulled her over so that she was facing him on her side.
“Shite, I…I don’t…God, what’s wrong with me?”
Harry’s hand slid into her hair, cupping the nape of her neck.
“Nothing,” he told her, his voice firm as he held her gaze. “Nothing is wrong with you, Ginny,” he repeated.
Rolling onto his back, Harry shifted her so that she had her cheek resting against his shoulder. She brought her hand to his chest, her fingers absently stroking his collarbone.
“Want to tell me about it?” he asked softly as he ran his fingers through her hair and she took in a shaky breath.
“I… I don’t really remember…I just…I know I was terrified. It was a dungeon or a cave or something…and a snake…and Malfoy…or…I don’t…” she trailed off as her head ached for a second.
Harry pulled her closer when he felt the shiver run through her body.
“I think you were there,” she continued shakily,” or…I don’t know…I remember thinking you were…you were going to die…” she trailed off as her chin began to tremble.
“No one’s going to die,” he said softly.
Protectiveness surged within him at her whispered question. Slipping his fingers under her chin, Harry tilted her head up so that he could see her eyes. They were filled with tears and he kissed her forehead.
“I promise, Ginny. No one is going to die.”
Nestling back into the crook of his neck, Ginny shut her eyes and tried to erase the images of her dream. Eventually she drifted back to sleep, knowing that, for now, she was safe in his arms.
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