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Protection by PrincessPotter
Chapter 17 : The Price of Power
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 32


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Malfoy’s bedroom was dark, the only light coming from the many candles positioned on his bedside tables. The flames flickered as vanilla scented wax rolled slowly down the sides to pool across the wood.

Pansy sat cross-legged in the center of Draco’s bed, her black formal spilling across his crimson sheets. Her dark hair shone in the firelight as shadows played across her pale skin.

In her lap she held an ornate silver goblet. Intricate dragon claws seemed to wrap up around the cup and red rubies adorned the metalwork just below the rim.

Sitting across from her, Draco held a silver knife. Its blade was thick and sharp as it curved away from the handle. The dragon design matched the cup, with complex engravings and two large rubies encrusted on either side.

Placing the empty chalice on the bed between them, Pansy held it with one hand wrapped firmly around the base.

Raising his left arm, Malfoy held it over the cup, curling his hand into a tight fist. With his right, he brought up the knife and rested it on the inside of his forearm.

When he seemed to hesitate, Pansy moved her free hand to his knee, caressing him soothingly through his silky black pajama bottoms.

“Do it, baby,” she urged meeting his gaze when he looked up at her.

Pressing the blade hard against his skin, Draco cut a gash into his arm. Hissing at the pain, he dropped the knife, and held his arm steady as his dark blood began to flow freely into the goblet.

Fuck, that hurts,” he gritted out.

“I can do a charm to ease the pain, if…”

“No, just…just don’t move the goblet.”

For several moments they sat in silence, watching as the cup slowly filled.

Gradually, Draco’s eyes darkened as the pain faded under his growing excitement. His breathing deepened and his heart sped up as he felt himself moving one step closer to his goal.

He knew everything had to work perfectly…knew every part of the ritual had to be completed before he could get what he wanted. Pansy was essential to his success and tonight she seemed to almost glow as he looked up at her.

“You are so beautiful,” Draco murmured eventually.

Releasing his arm, Malfoy reached out, sliding his fingers over her cheek. There was a little blood on them and he watched, fascinated as it streaked across her skin.

“This is it, baby,” Pansy whispered as she leaned into his touch. “Tonight you get everything.”

“We get everything,” he corrected, sliding his hand into her hair and drawing her face to his for a kiss.

Strengthening his lie, he gently caressed her lips with his before easing her mouth open with his tongue.

Feeling her silky strands between his fingers, he pictured the color shifting from black to red…complete with gold highlights that would glitter in the candlelight.

“Draco…” Pansy murmured, melting into his unexpectedly tender touch.

“Watch the cup,” he warned huskily, moving to kiss her jaw so she could make sure his blood wasn’t spilling onto the bed.

His hand trailed down her neck, over the smooth skin at the base of her throat. Her gown was strapless, like he’d requested, leaving her skin bare and ready for the mark.

“It’s almost full,” she breathed eventually, her voice fading in a moan as he dipped his tongue into her ear.

“Perfect,” he whispered, anticipation building as he pulled back.

Picking up his wand where it rested beside him, he cast a simple healing charm on his arm. As he watched, his skin slid back together, forming a thin pink scar.

“Do you want to mark me now?” Pansy asked, lifting the goblet.

“No,” Malfoy shook his head. “Me first.”

Unbuttoning his shirt, he shrugged it off and tossed it over the side of the bed.

Shifting closer with a nod, Pansy dipped her finger into the blood.

Malfoy leaned back, resting his weight on his hands. Holding himself still, his breath caught in his throat when she reached out and touched him. His blood was warm against his skin as she painted a thick line across his chest.

Entranced, he remained silent as she drew the two shorter lines that connected to create a pyramid.

“Now you,” Malfoy said, straightening as she finished.

Careful not to smear his mark as he moved, Draco pushed her hair behind her shoulders and smoothed his hand over her skin.

Dipping his finger into his blood, he carefully drew the symbol onto her chest. His gaze followed the path of his finger, his lips curving into a grin when he saw the goose bumps erupt across her skin.

When he was finished, he stared at her silently for a moment. If he’d thought she was beautiful before, she was breathtaking now.

She represented a key element to his power…an essential part he’d created and nurtured over the years for this exact purpose. Now, sitting before him with his blood shimmering on her body, he saw the end in sight.

With a flick of his wand toward his chest and then hers, he dried the marks, assuring they wouldn’t drip or get wiped off. Then, taking the goblet from her hands, he forced her to lean back as he reached past her, placing the cup carefully onto the bedside table.

Instead of straightening, he kissed her, urging her all the way down onto her back so he was balanced over her. Kissing her tenderly for a minute, he smoothed his hand leisurely over her hair before laying it on her stomach.

“You know I love you, right?” he asked softly.

Shuddering at his words, Pansy nodded.

“Only you, Pansy,” he promised. “Always you.”

His hands were gentle as he stroked her sides, his tongue trailing across her bottom lip. Resting his weight on one forearm so their chests wouldn’t touch, he shifted her so he could lie between her legs.

Keeping the pace frustratingly slow, he explored her mouth before eventually moving to her throat. Using everything he’d learned in the years they’d been together, he seduced her with a care and tenderness he rarely showed.

After several minutes, his eyes slid to the clock beside his bed. Wanting release but not wanting to fall behind schedule, he began pulling up the folds of her skirt.

“What I have to do with her, tonight,” he murmured huskily, his body reacting instantly to the thought of what was to come. “I wish it could be you,” he lied.

“Really?” Pansy panted, her hands going to the tie of his pants to help.

“Oh yeah,” Draco nodded, searching out the warmth of her thighs as he kissed her. “She’s nothing, Pansy…she’s nothing and you’re everything. I love you.”

Arching against him, Pansy’s mouth opened under his with a moan.

“Tell me you love me,” he urged as he brought their bodies together.

“I…I love you.”

“Promise?”

“Forever,” she vowed with a sigh.

Lifting his face, Draco stared at her for a second to judge her sincerity. When he was satisfied her heart belonged only to him, he dipped down again, running his fingers through her hair. Closing his eyes, the image of Ginny resurfaced in his mind and he moaned in anticipation of what was to come.

~..~..~

Harry appeared suddenly in the middle of a small grove of trees.

Spinning around, his black eyes scanned the area as dark storm clouds seemed to curl instantly into existence above him.

Even as he turned, searching, he knew he’d jumped too far. The magical pull toward Ginny that had come from the west before, now came from the east.

The fact that he was getting closer didn’t comfort him. All he could feel was fury. He wasn’t where he wanted to be…didn’t have what he wanted. Throwing out his hands, he released a roar of anger.

Beside him, a tree burst into flames, crackling as it lit up the area.

His face bathed in the flickering light, Harry shut his eyes, focusing on her again before he disappeared without a sound.

~..~..~

The stone floor was cool beneath Ginny as she lay curled on her side. Her right arm was tucked under her head, while her left arm was stretched out on the stones in front of her.

Tears pooled in her eyes as she stared at the emerald ring on her finger. A golden reflection of the torch overhead swirled through the jewel, making it look almost alive against her pale skin.

In the silence, images of moments eased into her consciousness, tightening her throat as she remembered…

Opening the door, Ginny stepped into the room and pulled back the hood of her cape. Looking around, she didn’t notice the door swing shut behind her as her eyes fell on the person standing before the fireplace.

His back to her, the lone wizard stood with his hands stretched toward the warmth of the flames.

“Harry,” Ginny breathed in relief.

Turning at the sound of her voice, Harry met her gaze. Dark circles were visible beneath his eyes, the angles of his face more pronounced in the shadowy room.

“You made it,” he greeted, breaking into a weary smile.

Crossing the room at a run, Ginny launched herself into his arms. He caught her easily, her toes just brushing the ground as he hugged her.

“Hey, beautiful,” he sighed into her hair.

“Oh, Harry…”

Wrapped in his embrace, Ginny clung to him as she breathed him in.

Burying his face against her neck, Harry reached between them and pulled open the tie of her cloak. Easing his hand under the heavy fabric, he pushed the robe off her shoulders before enveloping her more fully into his arms.

“I’ve missed you so much,” she admitted into his sweater.

“Take your glamour off,” he replied gruffly, running his hand over her hair.

“Oh.” Pulling back slightly, she ran her palms over her hair; causing the short, honey colored strands to darken to a fiery auburn. “Better?”

“Much better,” Harry smiled, his hand moving to cradle her face as he watched her freckles reappear. “So much better.”

Bending down, he kissed her, gently at first as his lips caressed hers.

“How are you?” she asked, but he didn’t reply as he slanted his mouth over hers.

Clutching her tighter with every second, Harry’s kisses grew hungry and deep as they stood together.

“Missed you…so much,” he managed eventually, sliding his fingers into her hair to bring her lips closer.

When his attention shifted to her neck, Ginny forced her eyes to open.

“Harry…what are we doing here?” she asked, instinctively arching into his touch. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” he assured her, returning to her mouth. “I just…I needed to see you.”

Twisting away from the distraction of his lips, Ginny pressed her palm against his cheek.

“Harry, stop,” she told him gently. “Talk to me.”

Leaning in, he kissed her for another moment before reluctantly resting his forehead against hers with a sigh. Reaching up and taking her hand, Harry pulled it away from his face before kissing her palm.

“The end is coming,” he whispered, avoiding her eyes as he pressed his lips against the soft skin of her hand again. “Sooner than we thought. Everything’s in place.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yeah,” he nodded, finally meeting her gaze. “I can feel it.”

“You’re ready,” Ginny reminded him softly.

“I know, I just…I wanted to…I needed to see you. I needed to talk to you…ask you…”

Biting her lip when he trailed off listlessly, Ginny pulled him down as she rose up on her toes. Wrapping her arms around his shoulders, she held him tightly as he buried his face back against her neck.

“I’m here, Harry,” Ginny said, threading her fingers through his hair. “I’ll do anything, just tell me what you want.”

“You,” he answered immediately, his voice hoarse. “Just you.”

“You have me,” she promised.

“Not all of you,” he whispered, his grip like iron around her, solid and unyielding as he shuddered against her.

“What do you mean?” Ginny asked, confused. “Of course you…”

Sinking down to his knees, Harry pressed his forehead against her stomach as she stood before him.

“I love you,” he murmured, his hands heavy on her hips. “I love you so much, and I want…I wanted to…I just…”

“Harry,” Ginny said uncertainly, running her fingers through his hair as he reached into his pocket.

“No,” he said, stopping her when she began to kneel down with him. “I want to…just…just wait for a…here…”

Ginny froze when he thrust a ring up toward her. Large and winking at her, the emerald stone sparkled in the light from the fireplace.

“Harry,” she breathed shakily.

Looking up at her, his eyes were the same shade as the stone and filled with a sudden vulnerability that stole the breath from her lungs.

“Please, marry me,” he said.

Ginny stared down at him, her knees weak with shock and her throat suddenly so tight she couldn’t speak.

“I…I know this isn’t how this is supposed to go,” he said, his hand trembling as he held the ring out to her. “You deserve so much better…”

Ginny brought her hand up to cover her mouth as her eyes filled with tears.

“It’s just happening too fast now…I couldn’t plan…” Shaking his head in frustration, Harry looked at the floor for a second before meeting her gaze again. “I don’t know how this is going to end,” he continued thickly, “but I know…I know nothing matters without you. I want to be with you, Ginny. I want forever and always and I want you to never, ever doubt this is the future I want…the future I’m fighting for.”

Sinking to her knees, Ginny wiped her eyes with her fingers as she fought the tears beginning to escape.

“Please, say yes,” Harry whispered, reaching out and cupping her cheek.

“Y-yes,” Ginny choked out as she began to nod. “Of course, yes…”

In his arms in an instant, Ginny clung to him as she started to cry.

Kissing her as their tears mixed together, Harry eventually pulled away just enough to pull her left hand from his shoulder. With their heads resting together as they knelt on the floor, they both watched as he slid the ring onto her finger.


With the image fresh in her mind, Ginny was hit hard by the cruel irony of the situation. The ring she’d kept for so long as a gift from her parents was actually from Harry. Unable to focus on anything else, she remained on the floor, trapped by her recently recovered memories.

I’m engaged, she thought, her heart swelling an instant before she broke down into tears again. How could they let me keep it? How could they let me wear it?

Curling her hand into a fist, she tucked it close to her body as she shut her eyes.

If you don’t remember being engaged, does it still count? she wondered. Is there a time limit? If I remember and he doesn’t…what then?

Her chest and throat ached as she tried to ignore the questions swirling in her mind. Unable to block them out, her mind continued to race.

Does it even matter if he doesn’t reach me in time?

Malfoy’s twisted face surfaced in her mind, bringing with it a reminder of what would happen if Harry didn’t make it.

Unwilling to face that possibility, Ginny finally sat up. Determined to pull herself together, she wiped her hands over her cheeks, sucking in an unsteady breath.

“Come on, Harry,” she whispered, willing him to find her.

~..~..~

Arriving with a pop, Fred leaned forward, resting his hands on his knees.

“I think I’m gonna be sick,” he groaned as Remus and George arrived behind him.

“Can’t he just find her already and end this bloody goose-chase?” George demanded, sinking unsteadily to the ground with a muffled moan.

“Yeah, Apparating like this can’t be healthy,” Fred commented as he straightened gingerly.

“At least nothing’s on fire this time,” Kingsley offered as consolation, gesturing vaguely toward the trees nearby.

Ignoring them, Bill stood a few steps away already studying the map in his hand. Remus, his face set in a resolute frown, moved to his side to help determine their location in relation to Harry’s.

“He seems to be zeroing in on this area,” Bill said, running his finger in a small circle on the parchment.

“He’s getting closer,” Remus agreed with a nod. Glancing up at the stars to determine the time, his frown deepened. “He needs to hurry,” he muttered before looking to Bill. “Ready to go again?”

“Yeah,” Bill replied, tucking the map back into his pocket. “Come on, we need to stay one jump behind him.”

“Yeah, alright,” George agreed, although his face was green. “We’re ready when you are. Where are we going next?”

~..~..~

Hermione stood tensely, her hands twisting unconsciously against her binds as she watched Malfoy enter the room.

Dressed in loose black trousers, his platinum hair was slicked back against his head. On his bare chest was a rudimentary symbol painted in what looked like blood.

Hermione recognized the image immediately as a perversion of Thurisaz: the rune for chaos, evil and temptation. Turned on its side, it looked like a pyramid, crudely depicted on his body.

Following a step behind him was Pansy, holding a small goblet. Wearing an elegant black strapless dress, she too had the symbol brushed onto her exposed skin.

Fear churned inside of her as Hermione watched Malfoy approach. Without glancing her way, he passed her, heading straight to Ron.

“Don’t touch him,” Hermione blurted out vehemently as Malfoy reached for Ron’s shirt.

Responding with a smirk, Malfoy took hold of the fabric and ripped it open. Buttons popped off, rolling across the floor while Malfoy turned towards Pansy, dipping his finger into the goblet.

“Don’t!” Hermione cried, her eyes meeting Ron’s as Malfoy drew the symbol onto his bared chest. “Please…”

Please,” Malfoy mimicked finally looking in her direction while Pansy snickered.

“You don’t know what you’re doing,” Hermione warned desperately.

“Actually, I do,” Malfoy corrected, moving in front of her. “I’ve spent a lot of time learning exactly what I’m doing.”

Noticing Ron’s attempt to shift toward them from the corner of his eye, Malfoy smiled.

“Must be hard, Weasley,” Malfoy said, raising his voice as he drew his wand, “to be stuck over there while we’re over here.”

Quietly, Pansy moved away as Malfoy pressed his wand against Hermione’s shirt just below her collarbone.

“How mad do you think this will make him?” Malfoy asked her, the tip of his wand heating up as he spoke.

Attempting to jerk away, Hermione bit back a gasp as the tip burned a hole in her shirt and hit her skin. Despite her attempts to be silent, she screamed as Malfoy dug the scalding tip harder and harder into her skin.

Struggling to reach her, Ron was yelling furiously against his gag and glaring daggers at Malfoy.

“Pretty mad, I’d say,” Malfoy mused, twisting his wand against her skin.

The acrid smell of burning flesh and fabric filled her nostrils as the pain threatened to overwhelm her. Just as it began to be too much, Malfoy lifted his wand from her skin.

Biting her lip against a moan, Hermione squeezed her eyes shut.

“I wonder how he’ll react to…”

The sound of a crash and shout from the hallway stopped Malfoy, his wand inches from her cheek. Forgetting Hermione almost instantly, he pulled away and turned toward the door.

~..~..~

Harry stood silently in the middle of an empty field. His black eyes glinted beneath his lashes as magic flowed from his body in waves.

Deliberately, he turned in a slow, calculating circle before coming to a stop.

Any other Muggle or Wizard would have seen only rolling hills and a few trees, but Harry detected the faint trace of magic in front of him. Although he couldn’t physically see the protected house, he could feel it. More importantly, he could feel Ginny.

Finally, he thought, his lip curling into a sinister smile.

Instinctively knowing what to do, Harry threw out his hand, testing the magic hiding the house. Feeling the echo of an Unplottable and Fidelius amongst other less powerful protection charms, he rolled his shoulders and began to walk forward.

Drawing his wand, he pointed it toward the horizon in front of him.

With a crack, a black bolt of power burst from the end of his wand and shot toward the trees in the distance. Instead of hitting them, however, the energy collided with the front of Malfoy’s building with a boom.

The ground shook beneath him and the air crackled with energy as black magic flowed from his wand and toward the house, pushing against the barrier of the Fidelius.

~..~..~

Inside the house, Ginny fought against Goyle’s grip as he dragged her toward the door.

“Come on,” Goyle grunted in frustration, reaching for the handle.

“No!” Ginny cried, twisting against the arm wrapped tightly around her waist.

“I told you to stop fighting!” Goyle growled, grabbing her hair before slamming her against the wall.

Gasping as light flashed through her vision, Ginny’s hand went to her head.

Pulling her forward by her hair, Goyle flung open the door and shoved her into the room.

Stumbling inside, Ginny ran into the side of the bed, catching herself with her hands. Revulsion rushed through her as her palms pressed against the silky sheets. There were rose petals everywhere and as they shifted with the weight of her body they seemed to whisper a warning against her skin.

“Ginny!” Hermione cried as Ron struggled beside her. “Ginny, run!”

Looking over, a horrified gasp slipped from Ginny’s lips when she saw them, bound at their places around a pentagram. Panic engulfed her when she saw the symbol painted onto Ron’s chest.

“Ron!” she cried, running toward him.

Battered and gagged, Ron’s gaze held hers as he strained to reach her. Tears of frustration and fear lit his eyes as he looked up, yanking fruitlessly against his magical bonds.

Intercepting her, Malfoy grabbed Ginny’s arm, jerking her to a stop as she tried to dodge around him.

“Let go of me!” Ginny screamed, fighting against him as he dragged her to her place in the circle. “Ron!”

“Stop it,” Malfoy ordered, barely able to hold onto her as she thrashed in his arms.

When her elbow connected hard with his jaw, Malfoy let out a curse. Grabbing Ginny’s hair, he yanked her up against him, using his grip to bring her face up to his. At the same time, he drew his wand, shoving it under her jaw.

“No!” Hermione cried.

“Calm down, Ginevra,” Malfoy ordered.

With a hiss of anger, Ginny tried to jerk away, but Malfoy only twisted his hand, tightening his grip.

“Let me go,” Ginny gritted out.

“I told you to calm down,” he warned. “Are you going to be good or do I need to hurt her?” he threatened, swinging his wand toward Hermione.

“Stop it, Malfoy!” Hermione shouted.

A flash of gold shot across the room and hit Hermione in the stomach.

“No!” Ginny cried as Ron roared, trying to free himself. “Don’t! Malfoy don’t!”

“Are you calm?” Malfoy asked, keeping his eyes on her and his wand trained on Hermione.

“Yes! Yes, I’m calm,” Ginny stammered frantically. “Please just…don’t hit her.”

“I’m fine,” Hermione assured her, although her face was pale and her eyes were bright with tears.

Ron’s eyes were full of horror, his expression sick as he stared at his wife’s stomach.

“This is how it’s going to work tonight, Ginevra,” Malfoy murmured softly, drawing her gaze back to his. “Do as I say, exactly as I say, or I’ll do more than just hit her.”

Taking an uneven breath, Ginny shut her eyes.

“Do we understand each other?” Malfoy asked.

“Yes,” Ginny breathed, her eyes filling with tears.

“What?”

“Yes!” she repeated louder, bringing her gaze back to his. “What are they even doing here?” she demanded shakily.

“Your brother’s here to play with us,” he smiled cruelly, the pleasure of her dismayed expression lifting his voice. “The Mudblood’s just here to watch…for now.”

Ginny stared at him for a second in silence before her eyes narrowed.

“If you hurt them, Harry will kill you,” she warned him in a low voice.

“Oh, I know he’ll try,” Malfoy smiled cruelly. Dropping his head, he pressed his lips firmly against hers before slowly drawing away. “I can’t wait until he finds you all,” he murmured, licking his lips.

Sickened, Ginny shut her eyes as and gritted her teeth.

“Let her go!” Hermione yelled. “You can’t do this!”

“Shut up!” Malfoy snapped over his shoulder as he threw Ginny to the ground.

Before she could move, Ginny’s wrists rose swiftly into the air. Dragged up until she was positioned like Ron, Ginny was stretched up on her toes with her arms held above her head, the bed directly behind her.

Malfoy, please,” Ginny entreated when he began to turn away. “You don’t need Hermione. Let her go and I’ll do whatever you want.”

“You’ll do whatever I want either way,” he retorted as he crossed to the cauldron. “She stays.”

“Draco, please!”

“Is she going to argue the entire time?” a woman’s voice asked irritably from the shadows.

Looking to her right, Ginny saw Pansy lounging against the wall with a goblet in her hand. Like Malfoy and Ron, she too had a symbol painted onto her chest.

“Parkinson,” Ginny said coldly, her eyes narrowed.

When confusion filled the other woman’s face, Ginny realized Pansy didn’t remember her.

Ginny watched as Pansy’s eyes briefly darted to Draco before turning back to glare threateningly at her. Clearly out to establish her superior standing, Pansy pushed away from the wall and crossed to Malfoy.

Watching as Malfoy turned and dipped his finger into the goblet, Ginny realized it wasn’t wine Pansy held.

Pulling against her binds as he crossed toward her, Ginny tried to twist away when he reached out to draw the simple image on her body.

Fighting back tears of fear and frustration, Ginny shut her eyes as he dragged his finger deliberately across her chest. The liquid rolled down her skin, cold and oozing as it stained the white fabric of her gown.

“Not long now,” Malfoy whispered into her ear when he finished.

Feeling nauseous, Ginny dragged her eyes open, meeting his gaze as her tears began to roll down her cheeks.

“Aww, she’s crying” Goyle mocked as he stepped up next to Malfoy. “I don’t think she wants to play, Draco.”

“Sure she does,” Malfoy smirked. “She’s just dying to have me.”

“You’re insane,” Ginny gritted out.

Chuckling, Malfoy turned to Goyle and painted the symbol onto his chest with quick efficient strokes.

When he finished, Pansy handed him the goblet. With a wave of his hand, he motioned for Pansy and Goyle to take their places on the Pentagram while he walked to the point on Ginny’s right.

Once in position, he pulled his wand and performed a spell to seal the circle. A gust of energy swirled swiftly around them before snaking its way to the center of the five point star and disappearing into the bubbling cauldron.

Not part of the ritual, Hermione was left just on the outside of the circle, her heart pounding frenetically in her chest. Horrified and helpless, she watched as Malfoy began to carry out each step of the ceremony.

Muttering an incantation as he moved, Malfoy walked forward to the cauldron and poured his remaining blood into the potion, causing it to flare up.

Anticipating what was coming, Hermione looked instead at Pansy. She was standing across from her and following Draco’s progress as he worked over the pot.

She obviously doesn’t know what’s about to happen, Hermione thought as Pansy smiled proudly at Malfoy.

When the potion gave another burst of flame and turned brown, Malfoy’s lips spread into a smile before he crossed to Pansy.

“Do you love me, Pansy?” Draco asked, stepping behind her as he gently ran his hand up and down her back.
.
“You know I do,” Pansy replied silkily, leaning into his touch.

“Good,” he said, wrapping his arm around her waist before his eyes fixed on Ginny’s. “The life of love,” Malfoy murmured, his voice floating like a caress across the room.

Hermione watched as an ornate silver knife appeared in Malfoy’s open palm. Maintaining eye contact with Ginny, he winked.

“No!” Hermione shouted. “Pansy, move!”

Before Pansy could react, Malfoy raised the knife and sliced it across the pale, tender flesh of her throat.

Hermione, Ginny and Ron all screamed, struggling automatically as Pansy’s body jerked, gasping harshly for air as her hand flew to her neck. Goyle looked ill, although unsurprised by Malfoy’s actions, as he kept his eyes fixed on the floor at his feet.

“Oh my God,” Hermione moaned, her voice ragged as the life drained from Pansy’s slumped body

Nausea welled in her stomach as she pulled her eyes away, seeking the comfort of Ron’s as she struggled to shift toward him.

Ron held her gaze, shaking his head as she began to cry.

Across the circle, Ginny pulled against her binds, tears streaking her cheeks while she watched Malfoy summon a bowl from the floor near his feet and fill it with Pansy’s rapidly draining blood. Looking around, she saw a similar bowl near each point of the star. Biting back a sob, she watched Malfoy carry the bowl to the cauldron.

With a satisfied smirk, he poured the crimson liquid into the potion, watching it mix and swirl within for a few seconds.

Then, with a hiss, a dark thread of smoke wafted up from the cauldron. Making its way across the circle, it formed a smoky link between the potion and Pansy.

Her skin glowed, turning a sickening shade of red before the energy seemed to focus on the symbol on her chest. The bloody symbol shined a brighter and brighter red before the light was slowly drawn up from her body. The pull was so strong her back arched up from the floor for several seconds.

Finally, the connection broke and Pansy collapsed lifelessly to the floor while the smoky threads disappeared into the cauldron. When the flush had completely left her skin, the outline of the rune remained as a white scar on her skin.

Within the pot, the potion churned, turning a deep burgundy.

Picking up the silver goblet, Malfoy dipped it into the potion before bringing the steaming liquid to his lips. Meeting Hermione and then Ginny’s gaze, he smiled over the rim of the cup.

“Cheers,” he said, before he swallowed the potion in one long gulp.

Immediately, another gust of wind whipped around the room, causing everyone’s hair to rustle and goose bumps to break out on Hermione’s arms.

Shutting his eyes, Malfoy swayed slightly at the center of the circle. For a moment his skin took on a red hue before it faded.

Sick to her stomach, Hermione dragged her eyes away as she tried to slow down the beating of her heart. She knew how the ritual worked, knew Ron was running out of time. Panic threatened to overwhelm her as she began to silently pray for Harry…willing him to find them as Malfoy continued.

“The blood of the servant,” she heard him say.

Squeezing her eyes shut for a second, she then looked up and saw him moving toward Goyle.

“Do you give me your loyalty?” Draco asked.

“Always,” Goyle replied without hesitation.

“Prove it,” Malfoy ordered.

“No!” Hermione cried as Goyle reached for the knife Malfoy held out to him. “Stop! You don’t know…”

With a cry of pain, Hermione’s head snapped back, cutting off her words as though someone had punched her in the face.

Shaking her head gingerly, Hermione heard Ron’s muffled roar and looked over to see his eyes flashing as he struggled instinctively to protect her. Pulling her eyes from her husband, Hermione found Malfoy staring back at her from his position by the cauldron.

His expression was one of surprise before he looked down at his hand. A grin of delight spread across his face as he stretched out his fingers, realizing he’d just performed wandless magic.

“It’s working,” he announced with delight, looking over at Ginny with a face that made her shiver with dread.

Still trying to clear her vision, Hermione attempted to focus as Malfoy continued with the ritual. Her jaw throbbed and she felt her warm blood rolling down her chin from her lip.

“Prove your loyalty,” Malfoy repeated, holding out his knife to Goyle.

“No, please,” Hermione whimpered as Goyle willingly took the blade. “You don’t know what you’re doing…don’t…”

Her words faded when Goyle sliced the knife across the skin of his forearm with a grimace.

“Perfect,” Malfoy murmured, catching Goyle’s blood in the waiting goblet.

“Stop!” Hermione yelled again, frantic. “Goyle, no! Don’t let him add it! He didn’t tell you…”

Throwing his arm out, Malfoy looked over and squeezed his hand. Hermione’s words and air were instantly cut off as an invisible pressure began tightening around her throat.

“If you don’t shut up, I won’t gag you, mudblood,” Malfoy snarled as he held her gaze. “I’ll silence you permanently.”

Gurgling, Hermione struggled to breathe as she felt his magic crushing her throat. Her face turned red and her eyes began to water. As though his hand was literally touching her, he slowly tightened his grip.

“Stop it!” Ginny yelled at Malfoy while Ron struggled to free his hands. “Malfoy, stop!” she called frantically. “If…if you kill her now, her suffering ends.”

Glancing over at Ginny, Malfoy entertained the notion for a moment before smiling. Releasing Hermione suddenly, he allowed her a brief reprieve. Turning away as though nothing had happened, he left her gasping for breath.

Refocusing on his task, he carried Goyle’s blood to the cauldron, and poured it into the mix.

Ginny watched as Hermione’s gaze lifted to look over at Ron. Clearly he was angry with her, his words muffled, but his intent clear as he urged his wife to do what was necessary to stay alive.

“Ah!” Goyle sputtered suddenly, drawing everyone’s attention. “Draco, what’s happening?!”

Once again, smoky tendrils had risen from the cauldron, this time wrapping firmly around Goyle’s body in a tightening ring of mist. Lifted up on his toes by the force of the spell, the symbol on his chest burned a bright blue against his skin.

“You said it was just my blood! You said you just needed my blood!”

“Did I?”

Suddenly, Goyle’s body arched with a wordless shout as his soul was ripped from his body.

Crying out instinctively, Ginny watched as he fell back to the floor. It was as though he’d received a Dementor’s Kiss, still alive and breathing but left only an empty shell. Unwilling to look at his body, Ginny turned her head and shut her eyes.

Only steps away, Hermione stared mutely at Goyle’s body for a few seconds before dragging her gaze back to Ron.

“How could you do this?” Ginny asked, her voice shaking. “They were your friends.”

“They were pieces to a puzzle,” Malfoy replied, “a very important…very powerful puzzle.”

“You’re sick…”

“And soon to be the most powerful wizard in the world.”

Ginny had known Malfoy was crazy, but it was suddenly frighteningly apparent just how twisted he’d truly become.

To leave Goyle like that without even a second of remorse, she thought, horrified. To kill Pansy…

It was clear in that moment there was nothing she could possibly say or promise that would stop what was happening. There was no way to save Ron or Hermione because Malfoy wouldn’t listen to pleas or reconsider…or even leave them alive when it was all over.

The only one who can stop him is Harry…and he doesn’t even know where to look.

The magic in the room swirled again, interrupting her thoughts and signaling that Malfoy had drunk from the cauldron once more.

Knowing what was coming, Ginny’s eyes moved to Ron. His stoic posture was betrayed only by the tears in his eyes as he stared at Hermione.

“The power of a pureblood,” Malfoy stated softly, his voice deeper.

Ron flinched at the words.

Looking back and forth between Ron and Malfoy as he approached, Hermione saw her future…saw her child’s future, growing up without a father.

No,” she choked out, the weight of her anguish pressing down so hard on her chest she could barely breath. “Please, you don’t have to do this...”

Spinning his knife, still wet with blood, Malfoy looked between the three Weasleys for a moment. Slowly, his smile grew wider and, if possible, even crueler before he turned purposefully toward Ron.

“Malfoy, don’t do this,” Hermione begged, stretching desperately toward Ron, her face white. “Please don’t do this…Ron.”

“The power of a pureblood,” Malfoy repeated, coming to a stop directly in front of Ron.

For a moment he looked over at Hermione, soaking in her desperation. Finally, he reached up and sliced a deep cut down Ron’s arm, making sure to open the artery.

Ron cried out against his gag as Hermione wailed.

Ginny screamed too, fighting as hard as she could to get free, but Hermione couldn’t focus on anything except Ron. Tears were rushing down her cheeks, harsh and out of control as Ron stared at her, his teeth clamped hard on the fabric against the pain.

Bringing up the goblet, Malfoy stood silently until it was half full. Then, reaching up, he sliced open Ron’s other arm.

“Stop it!” Ginny cried as she watched Malfoy move the cup over to catch the fresh rush of blood. “You’ll kill him!”

“That’s the point,” Malfoy said smugly over his shoulder.

“You bastard,” Hermione choked out, unable to drag her gaze from Ron’s as she spoke. “The ritual doesn’t require this.”

Please,” Ginny begged futilely through her tears. “Please, I’ll do anything! I won’t fight you, I won’t…I’ll do whatever you want…just…please don’t do this. Draco please.”

Ignoring them, Malfoy kept his attention on Ron. With relish, he studied the pain of his features and the tears rolling down his cheeks. Following his gaze to Hermione, he smiled before leaning in.

“I’m going to kill her too,” he whispered, “eventually.”

Malfoy watched a violent shudder run through Ron’s body before he pulled back.

He held his gaze steadily before finally, after what felt like an eternity, he turned away and crossed to the cauldron. Pouring Ron’s blood into the potion, he laughed aloud, the sound dark and sinister, seeming to echo across the room as his magic oozed around him.

As before, the dark smoke of the cauldron serpentined its way across the room, wrapping around Ron’s body and lifting him onto his toes. His gaze never wavered from Hermione’s as his body arched. The rune symbol shone an acid green before the ritual yanked his magic from his body.

His eyes seemed to go flat, his skin ashen as beads of sweat glistened on his face and his body shivered. Blood was still running down his arms, reaching his sides and traveling down to soak into the denim of his jeans.

Choking on her sobs, Hermione began to yank against her bonds, trying to get free. Crying out, she pulled recklessly against the enchanted manacles, feeling the sting of magical energy singe her skin.

“Hang on, Ron,” she pleaded, continuing to jerk as hard as she could to break away.

With a strangled shout of pain, Hermione miraculously freed her left hand, the top layer of skin burning off as it slid through the restraining energy.

Reaching for her husband, she stretched until her palm slid against his face. His skin was clammy, his coloring pale as his strength began to fail him. Pulling at his gag, Hermione finally got it off, dropping it on the floor as she touched his lips.

“I love you,” Ron choked out as soon as his mouth was free.

“I love you,” Hermione echoed, her voice thick as she grabbed one of his wrists, uselessly trying to stop his bleeding. “I’ll love you forever.”

“She’s going to be beautiful,” Ron whispered, “just like you.”

“Don’t,” she moaned, squeezing his arm as she tried unsuccessfully to free her other hand.

“Stay alive, Hermione,” he breathed softly, his voice barely audible. “Promise me.”

“Ron, no,” she pleaded as his face grew paler and his eyes turned glassy. “Don’t leave me! I need you!” she begged even has his head drooped against his chest. “Ron, please...We need you.”

His eyes closed and his body went slack, now only supported by his magical binds.

“Ron!” she cried out as the last bit of his consciousness slipped away.

“Oh, God...Ginny, fix him,” Hermione whimpered frantically, turning to her sister-in-law as her face blanched white. “Fix him!”

“I can’t,” Ginny replied brokenly, her heart stopping when she saw the desperation in Hermione’s eyes.

“You’re a healer and a wandless…Fix him!”

“There’s nothing I can do!” Ginny cried, her tears increasing as Hermione turned back to look at Ron. “He bound my magic, I…I can’t.”

Drowning on the pain, Hermione shut her eyes, trying to force her brain to work enough to remember the incantation for a healing spell.

Episkey,” Hermione said finally, not caring when Malfoy laughed harshly at her attempt to heal Ron.

Ginny shut her eyes, as she listened to Hermione continue to repeat the incantation. Unable to breathe, she felt like she was suffocating.

“I’m sorry,” she whimpered, feeling the ache of loss already and the guilt of not being able to help him.

What was the use of her being a healer if she couldn’t heal when it counted...when it mattered the most?

Episkey,” Ginny breathed, opening her eyes and staring at her brother. “Episkey,” she repeated brokenly.

Moving her gaze to Ron’s arms, she whispered the incantation over and over, willing his wounds to heal. She knew it wouldn’t work, but it was all she had. It was the only thing she could try.

Over and over she said the word, her vision blurred by her tears as she focused her entire soul on saving her brother.

~..~..~

Gritting his teeth, Harry shifted his stance. Maintaining a steady stream of magic, he watched the deceiving image of the horizon ripple before him. A trickle of sweat ran down the side of his face but he didn’t waver, his arm steady and his eyes black.

Over the last several minutes he’d watched as the dark circle spread, forcing back the invisible barrier placed around the building. With every second, the protective magic weakened until a faint outline of the house flickered within the swirling blackness.

Suddenly, light flared as cracks began to splinter through the barrier of the Fidelius.

Seeing the deterioration, Harry raised his free hand. Placing it palm up, his body hummed with energy as a dark ball of magic swirled into existence above his hand.

Narrowing his eyes, Harry dropped his wand arm and threw the darkness at the house.

The Fidelius shattered with a burst of white light and a hot current of energy that shot in all directions.

Harry’s arm shielded his face, as his hair and robes blew back.

When the air was again still, Harry lowered his arm and stared at the house.

Still partially obscured, the ruined Fidelius seemed to hang over the house like a ripped invisibility cloak. Parts of the dark brick walls, the door and several large windows were visible, while other parts of the house appeared not to exist at all.

Yes,” Harry hissed, his words slipping out in Parseltongue. “Finally.

Moving swiftly toward the building, he made it halfway there before he pulled up short. Squeezing his eyes shut, a violent shudder ran through his body. Curling his hands into fists, he began to walk toward the house.

Ginny,” he hissed, opening his eyes.

Collapsing suddenly to his knees, he fell forward, catching his weight with his forearms at the last second.

“No,” he gritted out, this time in English.

~..~..~

Ginny couldn’t hear anything outside of her own words and the rushing of her blood in her ears. She couldn’t hear Hermione’s sounds of grief or see anything outside of Ron. It wasn’t until Malfoy finally stepped in front of her, blocking her view that she blinked and looked up.

His eyes were swirling with black, causing Ginny to shrink back instinctively.

“Touching,” he sneered. “Futile…but touching…”

Ginny jerked her face away when he reached out and wiped her tears off her cheeks with his fingers.

“Can’t have you looking a mess for the big moment, can we?” he asked as he pulled his knife from where he’d tucked it into the back of his trousers. “All that’s left …is the flesh of the innocent.”

“Don’t do this,” she whispered. “Harry will kill you.”

“Harry’s not here,” he murmured back, trailing the knife lightly down her throat and across the symbol painted on her skin.

As if on cue, the foundation of the house rocked suddenly as the walls shuddered.

“What the…” Crossing to one of the large windows, Malfoy looked outside. “How the hell did he get here?” he exclaimed angrily.

“Harry,” she murmured, hope blossoming in her chest as she stared at the window.

“Stupid bugger,” Malfoy spat, turning away. Stalking toward her, Malfoy came to a stop right in front of her. “Don’t worry, I’ll let him in eventually,” Malfoy told her drawing her attention back to him. “Just not quite yet.”

Reaching up swiftly, he sliced his knife across her palm.

Gasping, Ginny bit her lip against the sting as he caught her blood in the goblet.

When he had enough, she watched him cross back to the cauldron and add her blood to the potion. With a crack, smoke shot into the air and formed a barrier around them.

Her binds released suddenly, allowing her arms to drop to her sides as she staggered. Grabbing her nightgown to stop the bleeding of her hand, she backed up until she could feel the energy of the barrier right behind her.

In the center of the circle, Draco gave a triumphant cry and picked up the jeweled goblet sitting on the floor. He dipped the cup in the cauldron and brought it up, raising it in salute to Ginny.

“No turning back now,” he smiled before downing the cup.

Ginny watched as some of the liquid spilled over the sides and ran down his neck and onto his pale chest. He raised the cup into the air when he finished, wiping his mouth with his arm as the wind began to blow around him.

Draco doubled over, the goblet dropping from his hand and rolling across the floor as he crumpled to his knees. In seconds the wind was howling. Flashes of lightening shot through the room, striking the cauldron with a deafening crack.

With a cry, Ginny dropped reflexively to the ground. Wrapping her arms around herself, she squinted through the wind, trying to keep Malfoy in sight while her hair whipped about her face.

Almost as swiftly as it had begun, though, the wind stopped and the barrier dropped.

Climbing slowly to his feet, Malfoy stared at his hands in wonder. Turning them over, he stretched out his arms before rolling his neck with a primal growl of pleasure.

“I can feel it!” he exclaimed, swinging his arms wide with a giddy, yet terrible, expression as he faced her. “It’s inside me…the power’s moving through me!”

His eyes were dark, as though the pupils had dilated so large they almost took up his entire eye and he seemed to be glowing. As he moved, it was eerily smooth, almost like he was gliding towards her instead of walking.

“You have no idea how incredible this feels,” he purred, “but...it’s not complete yet, love.”

Terrified by the sight of him, Ginny launched herself up from the floor. Grabbing the cup as she ran across the room she hurled herself toward the window. Skidding to a stop a few steps away, she threw the heavy goblet as hard as she could at the pane.

The glass shattered easily, shards falling to the ground below as she gripped the frame and leaned out.

“HARRY!”

Seeing him on his knees in front of the house, Ginny leaned farther out the window, her body sagging in relief as he looked up.

“HAR…”

Malfoy grabbed her hair, jerking her head back and cutting off her cry as he clamped his arm around her waist.

“You’re not leaving early are you?” he asked, his mouth pressing against her ear. “We’re just getting started.”

Before she could reply, Harry was crouched on the window ledge at her feet. Looking up at her, his eyes were as black as the night sky as his mouth curled into a sinister grin.

Horror slammed into Ginny at the sight of his eyes…an immediate, instinctual result of her memories. Whimpering, she tried to move away, trapped between Harry and Malfoy’s body.

“No,” she choked out as Harry rose silently to his feet. “Harry…”

“Harry can’t save you,” Malfoy hissed into her ear as his hands moved possessively across her stomach.

Ginny held her breath as Harry’s attention shifted instantly to Malfoy where he was kissing her neck. He stared at him for a second before he squeezed his eyes shut and lowered his head.

“Ginny,” he gasped as he looked up, bright emerald swirling back into his eyes.

Hearing his voice, Malfoy glanced up with a start. Releasing Ginny’s waist with a snarl, he thrust his hand toward Harry’s chest.

“NO!” Ginny screamed reaching out as the force of Malfoy’s magic sent Harry tumbling out the window and back through the air. “HARRY!”

“She’s mine,” Malfoy growled as he flung Ginny toward the bed.

Tripping over the hem of her gown, Ginny landed on her knees. Pulling herself up, she turned around, backing up quickly as she kept her eyes on Malfoy.

“He’ll be back,” Ginny warned him, her gaze flicking to the window.

“How?” Malfoy asked with a harsh laugh. “I’m the most powerful wizard in the world.”

“Not yet,” Ginny shot back.

“Let’s finish it then,” he replied, the amusement fading from his eyes as his voice hardened.

“Ginny, run!” Hermione sobbed.

“I can’t leave you,” Ginny shot back, her eyes locked on Malfoy.

“RUN!”

Spurred into action by Hermione’s scream, Ginny turned and ran.

“Oh, don’t go, Ginny,” Malfoy called from behind her. “It’s going to be brilliant.”

Ignoring his taunting, she reached for the door, trying to yank it open. When it wouldn’t budge she looked around, trying to find something she could use as a weapon.

“You know what makes this so great?” Malfoy asked as he stalked her around the room. “On top of the power, I get what Potter wants.”

Never,” Ginny growled looking up.

With a wave of Malfoy’s hand, Ginny flew suddenly onto the bed with a cry. She scrambled to get off of it but Malfoy moved faster. Grabbing her ankle, he dragged her to the center of the bed.

“NO!” Ginny screamed, fighting to break away.

Much stronger, Malfoy easily turned her over and pulled her down beneath him.

Ginny moved quickly from panicking to hyperventilating. Almost as soon as the feeling came, however, it inexplicably began to fade.

Everything seemed to slow down as an intense feeling of security and warmth washed over her. Beginning in the ring on her finger, it moved quickly out until it filled her entire body. A second later, a force of energy sent Malfoy flying into the far wall.

Trembling, Ginny sat up with a sob and tried to move off the bed. As she slid off the side, Malfoy threw his arm out and she went flying back on top of it.

Rising up on her knees, she met his gaze as he stalked toward her, stopping at the end of the bed. There seemed to be an aura shimmering around her and when he reached for her it kept him away.

“What magic is this?” Malfoy demanded, his anger rippling through the air around him.

His eyes narrowed when Ginny let out a surprised laugh and looked down at her ring.

“Apparently…I’m still engaged,” she breathed as she looked back up, relief flooding her senses. “And not to you, I’m afraid.”

“What?” he asked, his voice low and deceptively calm.

“You can’t touch me.”

“Take the ring off,” he growled but she shook her head and scooted back on the bed.

Scrambling up after her, he reached for her hand to take it off himself but the barrier kept him back again. Rising up on his knees, he slammed his hands against the magic with an angry cry.

Accio ring!” he shouted but nothing happened.

“There are some things Dark magic can’t touch, Malfoy,” Ginny said with narrowed eyes. “Didn’t Dumbledore and Harry teach you anything?”

With a curse of frustration, he stormed away.

She watched him pace around, mumbling to himself and her eyes went to the door. She knew it was locked and that even if he couldn’t touch her, he would never let her leave.

If I can just get it open…

Knowing she couldn’t leave Hermione, Ginny looked over at her sister-in-law.

As though remembering her at the same moment, Malfoy laughed and crossed the room quickly.

“NO!” Ginny cried, jumping off the bed and running toward them.

She stopped short when Malfoy’s wand pressed against Hermione’s throat.

Unresponsive, Hermione barely seemed to notice as she stared at Ron’s still form.

“Take the ring off, Ginny,” Malfoy urged, his voice smooth as silk as he stared at her.

At his words, Hermione seemed to snap suddenly back to the moment. Her eyes widened as she looked over at Ginny.

“Ginny, don’t!”

“Take it off or she dies,” Malfoy threatened, ignoring Hermione’s outburst.

Looking back and forth between them, Ginny reached slowly for her ring.

“Ginny!” Hermione yelled furiously. “You can’t let him touch you! You can’t let him complete the ritual! I don’t matter...”

Shaking her head as she began to cry, Ginny’s gaze fell to Hermione’s stomach before she shut her eyes.

“Harry wouldn’t let you do this…”

“Harry’s not here,” Ginny whispered opening her eyes. Turning her gaze back to Malfoy, Ginny pulled off her ring with trembling fingers.

~..~..~

Bill arrived first, followed closely by his brothers and the rest of the Aurors.

“Oh my God,” he breathed, staring at the partially exposed house.

“Harry!” Remus exclaimed, heading automatically toward the young wizard when he saw him on the ground behind them.

“Wait,” Kingsley urged softly, grabbing Lupin’s arm to hold him back. “Look at him.”

Harry was kneeling on the ground, his body shaking as he squeezed his eyes shut.

I won’t hurt her, Harry chanted internally, trying to fight back the darkness. I won’t hurt her.

It had taken, what felt like, all of his strength not to run straight into the house when the Fidelius fell.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d given into his power for so long. His attempt to pull himself back together had been painfully slow, but it had almost worked…until he’d seen Ginny standing at the window.

The darkness had overtaken him in an instant, robbing him of his control and his desire to do anything beyond get to her and finish what he’d wanted to do for days.

Even now the image of her eyes, full of fear as she stood between him and Malfoy was like a drug, oozing through his system and making his heart pound.

I won’t hurt her.

Through the roaring in his head, he gradually became aware of his name being called.

“Harry…Harry…”

Dragging his eyes open, he slowly raised his head.

Bill and the rest of the Weasley men stood in front of him. Remus and Kingsley were with them, each wary as they stared at Harry.

“What’s happening?” Remus asked.

“I…I can’t go in,” Harry answered gruffly, forcing himself not to move. “I can’t…mmmph…”

Curling over with a gasp, Harry shut his eyes as the darkness tried to take back over.

From inside the house, Ginny’s scream came suddenly, jerking everyone’s attention to the building.

Crying out at the sound, Harry fisted his hands into the grass below him, his fingers ripping out the blades at the roots as he hung precariously to his control.

“Get…inside,” he bit out. “Bill…I can’t…it’s too much. Someone get inside…”

“We’ll help him,” Kingsley said in a low voice to Bill. “He’s right…someone has to go.”

With a nod to Kingsley, Bill, Charlie, Fred and George ran for the door. The screaming continued, seeming to grow louder and more desperate with each second.

“Hang on, Harry,” Remus said, running forward. “This will help,” he promised drawing his wand and touching it to Harry’s back. “Poleo-Consocio!”

~..~..~

Bursting through the door, Bill led the way to the large marble stairs. They were almost to them when the doors on either side of the hall flew open.

Malfoy’s men streamed out, wands drawn and ready for a fight.

~..~..~

Biting his lip so hard he broke the skin, Harry paused just long enough for the edge to siphon off. Not waiting to make sure Remus was ok, he shoved up from the ground and sprinted for the door.

Please, he thought as he ran. Please, let it be enough.

Skidding to a stop halfway to the entrance, he saw the fighting through the open front door. Turning, he looked up at the broken window instead. He could still hear Ginny, the sound of her panicked cries causing him to shudder. Taking a deep breath, he spun on his heel, Apparating into the house.

Appearing in the middle of the room a second later, Harry’s gaze locked instantly on the bed a few feet in front of him. Ginny was trapped beneath Malfoy, her wrists bound above her head and her face visibly bruised.

With a guttural growl, Harry threw a curse. The magic streaked red across the room, colliding with Malfoy and sending him flying off the side of the bed. He hit a window, crashing through and disappearing into the night.

As soon as Malfoy was off of her, Ginny rolled onto her side with a whimper, curling into a tight ball as she continued to sob brokenly.

Leaping onto the bed, Harry leaned over her with his heart in his throat. Reaching for the shimmering blue restraints on her wrists, he ripped them off, the binds vanishing like smoke as the spell broke.

When her hands were free, Ginny’s arms flew around Harry’s neck and he scooped her into his arms. His power reacted instantly to being so close and he squeezed his eyes shut, using a few precious seconds to steady himself as he held her.

“It’s ok, love,” Harry breathed when he opened his eyes, his hand unsteady as he reached up to stroke her hair. “I’m here. I’ve got you.”

Harry,” she sobbed, her hands clutching his shoulders as violent tremors wracked her body.

“I’m getting you out of here,” he soothed as he quickly shifted to the edge of the bed, sliding off as he held her close.

Heading to the door, he took two steps before he saw Hermione and Ron. Freezing, horror slammed into him when he saw Ron hanging limply, his arms covered in blood and the silver white scar of the rune burned into his chest. Hermione sagged beside him, her skin the color of chalk.

No,” Harry managed a second before Malfoy’s curse hit him.

The force of it propelled him sideways and he dropped Ginny’s legs, automatically using his hand to try to catch their fall against the wall. The angle was awkward and he winced when he felt his wrist break, the bone snapping under their weight.

Tucking his hand up near his body, he spun around, holding Ginny against him with his good arm.

Malfoy stood just inside the window, his chest heaving and his eyes almost completely black.

Cursing, Harry sent a wandless spell shooting Malfoy’s way, mostly as a distraction, before he dragged Ginny to the corner of the room near the door.

“Stay here,” he told her as he lowered her to the floor. Pulling his wand, Harry thrust it toward her. “Put up the strongest shield you can and don’t move.”

“Potter,” Malfoy called in a lazy, almost playful way. “You should just put her back on the bed where she belongs…”

“Harry,” Ginny whimpered, clutching his shirt.

“Put up the shield,” Harry repeated his eyes darkening as a shudder of energy ran through his body and out across the room. “Do one on Hermione and Ron too. Keep me out in case…”

Breaking off, Harry threw up his hand, deflecting the series of curses Malfoy sent zooming their way. They crashed into the wall beside them, sending plaster raining down on the floor as Ginny flinched.

“Come on, Potter, look at me!” Malfoy taunted impatiently from across the room. “I want to see your face when I kill you…”

Standing up, Harry spun around, feeling Ginny’s shield erupt behind him. He knew if he wanted to, he could bring it down. This way, at least he’d have to work harder than if he were taking down one he’d made himself. Shutting his eyes, he let go of his control, praying he’d be able to reign himself back in with Ginny in the room.

“I have power you couldn’t even dream of, Potter,” Malfoy growled as he sent a curse into the wall just behind Harry’s head, teasing him.

In the blink of an eye, Harry was across the room, standing nose to nose with Malfoy. His eyes were black, his skin was glowing slightly.

Prove it.”

“What, how…” Malfoy gaped, stumbling back a few steps. His black eyes narrowed an instant later as he straightened. “Always trying to steal my thunder, well NOT THIS TIME!” he shouted, raising his wand.

His curse was fast and powerful, but Harry raised his hand and sent it ricocheting off and into the wall as he stepped toward Malfoy. With another flick of his fingers, Malfoy slammed into the bedpost.

The wood splintered from the force, the canopy collapsing on top of Malfoy as he hit the mattress.

Staring at the bed for a second, Harry’s head then turned toward Ginny. Meeting her wide eyes as the darkness dictated his desires; he began to walk toward her, like a predator stalking its prey.

“Harry, no!” Hermione cried hoarsely from across the room.

Surging up through the rubble at the same time, Malfoy attacked with a cry of anger.

Annoyed by the interruption, Harry turned away from Ginny, focusing again on Draco as he knocked the curses away.

Spells shot back and forth, lightening fast and devastating in their power, but it didn’t take long for Malfoy to be on the run. His ritual unfinished and his power not completely within his grasp, he was no match for the raw energy within Harry.

With growing desperation, Malfoy threw more curses but they never met their mark.

Ginny’s gaze was locked on Harry, following his every move as she held his wand in one hand and kept her gown together with the other.

“Block this, Potter,” Malfoy panted from across the room. “AVADA KEDAVRA!”

“Harry!” Ginny screamed when he made no move to try to dodge the flash of green light that streaked toward him.

Instead, he simply raised his arm and caught the magic in his hand.

“NO!” Ginny screamed dropping her shield and racing across the room. “HARRY!”

A shockwave seemed to move up through his body as his fist glowed green. Grimacing, he shut his eyes, swaying backwards slightly as he squeezed his hand into a tight ball.

When he didn’t fall, Ginny skidded to a stop a few feet from him, her heart in her throat and her hand over her mouth.

Finally, Harry raised his head and smiled at Malfoy. Shaking out his wrist, what looked like green powder fell from his hand to the floor.

Gasping in relief and astonishment, Ginny began to cry.

“Don’t play with magic you don’t understand, Malfoy,” Harry said, his voice dark and dangerous as he sent a ripple of power through the room, knocking Ginny to the floor and shattering the remaining windows.

Done playing, Harry reached out toward Ginny. His wand flew from her hand to his before he swung it around to Malfoy.

With a scream Malfoy rose into the air, his arms and legs spread. Only Harry enjoyed the sound, smiling cruelly as he flicked his wand.

Malfoy’s body began to twist and contort, his bones breaking as he continued screaming. After a few moments, black smoke poured out of his mouth, muffling his cries as it began to wrap around his body like a cloak.

Ginny’s eyes were locked on the swirling mass but Harry turned away, dropping into a crouch beside her.

“Hey, baby,” he murmured.

Jerking at the familiar dark tenor of his voice, Ginny looked over. Her face paled as she suddenly remembered he was out of control…and she’d taken down her barrier.

“Harry, no,” she warned, immediately starting to scramble away.

Chuckling, Harry grabbed her ankle, yanking her back toward him. Her ruined gown fell open, exposing her to his possessive gaze as he leaned over her.

Even as she tried to pull the fabric back together, his black eyes raked over her form. His hand paused just over her throat as his gaze stopped on the rune symbol smudged across her chest.

Ginny held her breath, her heart pounding wildly as she watched his face. After a second, he shut his eyes, a muscle in his jaw working as he seemed to hold the rest of his body absolutely still.

“Harry,” she whispered, watching him jerk at the sound of her voice.

Above them, the cloud surrounding Malfoy finally dispersed, leaving nothing. Malfoy’s spells broke at once, causing Hermione and Ron to fall to the floor and the seal on the room to drop.

Out in the hall, Bill and Kingsley’s blasting spells finally worked on the door. Unlike their prior attempts, the wood splintered instantly, blowing into the room with a bang.

With a cry of relief, Bill ran forward, leading the way as his brothers, Remus and Kingsley spilled through the doorway.

Stumbling to a stop, they saw Ginny on the floor. Harry was on his knees above her, his eyes black as he stared down at her. Bruised and bloody, Ginny’s eyes were wide as she looked over at them.

“Harry!” Bill shouted, raising his wand as he strode forward. “Get away from her!”

“No!” Ginny yelled, throwing up a wandless shield to keep them away.

“Ginny! Are you crazy?” Bill demanded, running to the edge of the magical wall. “You know what will happen! Let us in!”

“You’ll just make it worse,” she countered, turning back to Harry.

“Harry,” Remus called, trying to draw his attention from Ginny as he stepped up beside Bill. “You don’t want to do this. Take control…use your training.”

Looking up, Harry cocked his head to the side, considering Remus for a moment before his eyes moved back to Ginny. For a second his lips curled into a hard smile before his face subtly twisted.

“For Merlin’s sake, Gin,” Charlie yelled his voice full of fear as they watched Harry rest his hand just under Ginny’s throat. “He’ll kill you.”

“No…no you won’t,” Ginny murmured, bringing her hand up to rest over Harry’s. “You love me.”

Grimacing, Harry pulled his hand away. For a second he stared at her before he gasped and began scooting back.

“Harry…”

Shaking his head, Harry shot to his feet, stumbling over himself to put distance between them.

“No,” he gritted out, fisting his hands at his sides to keep them in place.

Turning away, Harry staggered to the far corner of the room. Sinking down onto his knees facing the wall, his body shook as he fought with himself for control.

“Harry!”

“Leave him alone,” Charlie instructed. “He’s needs time to push back the power.”

“Charlie’s right,” Bill added. “Please, Ginny. We need to get you out of here until he’s back in control.”

“What will it take for you to trust him?” Ginny glared over at them. “He just saved my life,” she insisted before quickly getting to her feet and running to Harry.

Dammit, Ginny, no!” Charlie shouted.

“Shit,” Bill cursed, looking over at his brothers. “We need to get the shield…”

His words broke off when he saw Ron and Hermione lying on the floor across the room. His stomach twisted as he took in the blood covering Ron, red and thick as it stained his skin and pooled beneath his body.

“Ron,” he choked in horror, causing his brothers to instantly follow his gaze.

“Oh, God!” Fred exclaimed, immediately crossing the room at a run. “Ron!”

Bill began to follow before he halted, reluctant to leave Ginny. Glancing over at her, he struggled briefly to decide which way to go, wanting help Ron, but needing to protect their sister too.

“You work on the shield, we’ll take care of Ron,” George told him, grabbing his shoulder firmly before he too ran across the room.

Kingsley followed the twins to help, leaving Bill, Charlie and Remus at the shield.

Rubbing his hand roughly over his face, Bill turned back and pointed his wand at the shield.

Kneeling next to Harry, Ginny ignored everyone else as she reached for him.

“Harry,” she said softly.

He winced at the sound of her voice and tried to move away.

“Get away from me,” he whispered harshly, “They’re right...I’ll hurt you.”

“I don’t believe that,” she whispered. “You protect me.”

Shuddering, Harry pressed his hand against his head.

Reaching out, Ginny ran her fingers through his hair. In her eyes he was no longer just the Harry she’d fallen in love with over the last month…he was the Harry she’d loved since she was ten years old. Fighting the overwhelming urge to wrap him up in her arms and never let go, she kept her touch light and soothing against his skin.

Even if her brother’s couldn’t see it through their fear, she saw how different he was - saw the control that hadn’t existed five years ago. Last time he wouldn’t have stopped, he wouldn’t have hesitated or tried to get away from her.

He was Harry and she trusted him…trusted his goodness to be stronger than anything else.

“Come back to me, Harry,” she murmured.

Harry released his breath in a rush.

“Open your eyes, Harry,” she urged gently but he shook his head. “Please, baby, just open your eyes,” she repeated as a muscle in his jaw twitched. “Please.

Slowly, Harry opened his eyes and looked at her.

Ginny began to cry as relief flooded her. The green of his eyes was beginning to show, the blackness slowly disappearing. Pulling him to her, she hugged to him close.

Harry held himself together, gritting his teeth as he focused on the pleasure of holding her. For a second he looked at her brothers over her shoulder before burying his face against her neck.

“See?” Ginny challenged, looking over her shoulder at Bill before dropping the shield and turning back to Harry.

“Oh, God,” Harry said into her hair, rocking them back and forth. “Are you ok? Please, tell me you’re ok…did he…”

“I’m ok,” she breathed tremulously.

Groaning, Harry pulled her closer, fisting his hands into the back of her gown before he winced and pulled back.

“What is it?” Ginny asked as he took hold of his wrist

“Nothing,” Harry murmured, moving his hand gingerly.

“It’s not nothing,” Ginny contradicted, noting the swelling and burgeoning bruises. “Let me see…”

Gripping his wrist gently, she drew it toward her and cast a simple examination charm over his arm. Like a portable x-ray, a blue light ran over his skin from the tip of his wand, showing Ginny his fractured bone. Murmuring a healing charm, she easily fixed the break.

“Better?” She asked, looking up.

Nodding, Harry gathered her to him for a kiss. His hand moved up to cradle her face as their mouths moved together.

Groaning a few moments later, Harry dropped his head, his fingers pressing into her skin as a tremor ran down his body.

“Ginny,” Bill said, moving toward them with his wand raised.

“Don’t,” Ginny told him, keeping her attention on Harry. “He’s fine.”

“Right?” she asked Harry softly.

“Yeah,” Harry breathed unsteadily as he lifted his forehead to hers. “You’re alive…so I’m fine.”

“We need help over here!” Kingsley’s worried voice called out, interrupting their moment. “Right now!

Turning, Ginny gasped as she saw Ron and Hermione now lying on the floor.

Crying out, Ginny scrambled to her feet and ran to them.

Harry was right behind her. He felt Bill watching him but he ignored him, moving swiftly across the room.

“Oh, God, no,” Ginny choked out, her shoulders trembling as Harry rested his hands on them.

Hermione was draped over Ron, her body shaking as she wept onto his chest. A white scar from the symbol was still visible on his skin, his blood covering his arms and staining his pants.

George was next to her, attempting to gently pull her away, but she wouldn’t comply, knocking his hands away with a muffled cry.

“We need to get her off of him,” Remus said softly, looking up at Harry as he tried to reach around Hermione to feel for Ron’s pulse. “She won’t move.”

Stepping past Ginny, Harry sank down behind Hermione. Leaning over her, he eased his arms around her waist as he whispered into her ear.

At the sound of Harry’s voice, Hermione sobbed harder. At his quiet urging she moaned slowly allowing him to pull her away. He held her gently, his cheek pressed against hers as he cried with her.

“He’s alive,” Remus murmured, his fingers pressed against Ron’s throat.

“What?” Ginny gasped, dropping to her knees beside her brother.

“He’s alive, but just barely. We need…”

Pushing Remus’ hand away from Ron’s neck, Ginny checked for a pulse. Her fingers were shaking so much she almost couldn’t tell…but then she felt it and the room spun around her for a second as she began to cry. Running one hand over his chest where the mark was branded, she reached for his forearm with the other.

Gasping, unable to believe their attempts to heal him could have actually worked, she ran her thumb over the thin strip of scar tissue on his skin where the gash should have been. His breathing was barely detectable…shallow and uneven, but he was definitely alive.

“Ginny!” Harry called from behind her. “Something’s wrong…Help me!”

Looking over her shoulder, Ginny’s eyes widened when she saw Hermione.

Still crying in Harry’s arms, Hermione’s breathing was coming in gasps as she held her stomach. Her hair was matted with Ron’s blood, one cheek streaked maroon from where she’d been laying on him. Under the blood, her skin was even paler than before and her lips looked like they were turning blue.

“Put her on the floor,” Ginny ordered, scrambling over to them as Harry laid her down.

“Hermione,” Ginny said, bringing her hand to her cheek to get her attention. Her skin was cool and damp under Ginny’s palm. “Hermione, look at me.”

Bringing her other hand up, Ginny pushed the hair off her sister-in-law’s cheek as Hermione finally dragged her eyes open.

“He’s alive,” Ginny told her, nodding when Hermione’s eyes slowly widened. “Ron’s alive.”

Harry held her down when she struggled automatically to get back to him.

Ron!”

“Stop,” Ginny said, catching her arms and helping Harry hold her. “You have to calm down.”

Ron,” Hermione moaned, collapsing back to the floor.

“Ginny,” Harry entreated as Hermione’s shivering got worse.

“She’s going into shock,” Ginny explained. “Just…try to keep her calm.”

“Shh,” Harry soothed, leaning over Hermione and placing his hand over hers on her stomach. “It’s fine, Hermione. Everything’s fine. Ron’s alive and so are you. Just don’t move, can you do that for me?”

“Here,” Bill said, arriving beside them with the black satin comforter from the bed and a large fluffy pillow.

“Thanks,” Ginny said, not looking at him as she grabbed the blanket and placed it over Hermione, tucking it up under her chin.

Bill knelt beside her, using the pillow to elevate Hermione’s legs.

“We have to get her to hospital,” she said quietly. “She could lose the baby.”

“We can’t Apparate with her,” Bill shook his head. “With either of them,” he added, looking over to where Remus was placing a conjured blanket over Ron.

Following their gaze, Harry stared at Ron, looking like death with his pasty, blood smeared skin. The rune on his chest was visible for only a second before Remus covered him up.

“Fred and George went back downstairs to deal with Malfoy’s captured men,” Kingsley said. “I’ll go find a fireplace…floo to St. Mungo’s and bring the healers here…”

As Ginny nodded, Harry tuned out the conversation to focus on Hermione. Leaning down to murmur words of comfort, he wiped the sweat from her brow. As his hand shifted her hair, a flash of green caught his eye.

Curious, he reached down, searching through the thick strands of her hair with his fingers. Pulling out a ring, he furrowed his brow when he recognized it as Ginny’s. Not understanding why it would be on the floor, he looked over at her.

“Ginny, did you drop this?” he asked.

Brushing her hair back from her face, Ginny looked up.

A feeling of déjà-vu hit her so intensely she froze. Unable to speak, she stared at him silently as he held out her ring.

“It’s your ring, right?” he asked.

Ginny flinched at the question, her eyes filling with tears as she was reminded that to him it was just a ring…to him it meant nothing. Suddenly, everything was too much; her memories, the ritual, Malfoy’s attack…Ron and Hermione.

The room blurred out of focus as her tears spilled down her cheeks.

“Ginny,” Bill murmured, laying a hand on her arm.

The gesture was meant to be comforting, but it filled Ginny with rage so abruptly it took her breath away.

“Don’t touch me,” she gasped, knocking his hand away. “You did this…”

“Gin…”

“You did this!” Ginny cried, wrapping her arm across her stomach as she physically began to ache. “You took hi…”

Her throat closed up, the Fidelius preventing the words she’d wanted to say.

Whimpering, she curled over.

“Get away from her, Bill,” she heard Harry say angrily.

“Harry, you have no…”

“Get away from her!”

Harry’s arms were around her in an instant, his body warm and solid as he knelt behind her

“What’s wrong?” he implored worriedly in her ear. “What is it? Are you hurt?”

Shaking her head, she cried loud devastated tears, clutching her hand to her chest as though she could keep her heart from breaking.

“Ginny…”

“Harry, be careful,” Remus urged from somewhere nearby. “You’re still unsta…”

“I’m fine,” Harry interrupted, not bothering to look up as he focused on Ginny.

Ginny,” he repeated, pulling her around so her face was against his chest. “Everything’s ok,” he assured her as she clung to him. “You’re ok…it’s all over…he can’t hurt you now…”

“Not him,” she sobbed her hands moving to his neck and face. “It’s not him…”

“Then what is it? Talk to me,” he pleaded, lifting her chin so he could see her face. “Let me help you…”

“I…I can’t,” she moaned. “Oh God…”

Unsure what was wrong or how to help her, Harry held her close, letting her cry until her desperation slowly began to fade. His head was beginning to ache from being so close to her again, but he refused to move away.

His gaze flicked to Bill and then Remus, looking for answers. Their expressions were filled with guilt and sadness and when he looked toward Charlie he saw the same emotions etched across his features.

“What is it?” he asked.

When no one answered he delved silently into Bill’s mind, searching for the answers no one would give. He hit a white barrier almost as soon as he entered, the magic blocking Bill’s thoughts.

With a hiss of pain, Harry retreated quickly, his fingers digging into Ginny’s back as he clenched his teeth.

“Harry,” Remus warned. “If you can’t do it, get away from her.”

“I’m fine,” Harry gritted out, his eyes flashing as they flicked over to meet Remus’ gaze.

It’s the Fidelius, he acknowledged, sick to his stomach as he turned his attention back to Ginny. She knows something I don’t.

It was clear to him suddenly that the pain she was experiencing was different than his own. As she clung to him her brow didn’t furrow with a headache the way it would have two days ago. Crying against his shoulder, he realized her pain was emotional, not physical as it had been over the last week.

“Did Snape break it?” he asked her quietly, knowing she’d understand the question. “When he grabbed you at his house…was that what he was doing?”

Answering his question without words, Ginny’s tears increased with a whimper as she reached up cupping his cheek.

Feeling helpless, Harry looked at Hermione and then Ron. For all of his power, he didn’t know how to save any of them. He wasn’t a healer…if anything his power was naturally the opposite and he knew whatever was wrong with Ginny was something he couldn’t understand without Snape.

“Where are the healers?” he bit out in frustration, his eyes moving back to Remus.

“It’s only been a few minutes,” Remus answered calmly as he knelt next to Ron. “If they get here soon, physically, everyone should be ok.”

“Physically,” Harry repeated as Ginny seemed to hold him closer.

Pausing, Remus looked over at Harry for a second before looking back down at Ron. Deliberately, he reached up and pulled the blanket down, exposing the silver symbol burned into his chest.

“You know what Malfoy did to him,” Remus stated bleakly. “He’ll be…different now.”

He’ll be a Squib, Harry finished silently, knowing what Remus hadn’t managed to say.

“Damn him,” he breathed, wishing he could kill Malfoy all over again.

I’d give him some of my power if I could, Harry thought as he stared at Ron’s face, if there was some way to…to…

Realizing abruptly what he needed to do, Harry looked from Ron to the cauldron.

The weight on his shoulders lifted slightly as the idea came to him. He might not be able to do anything for Hermione or Ginny but he could help Ron.

“I’ll be right back,” he whispered into Ginny’s ear.

“Where are you going?” she asked her voice watery.

“Nowhere,” he promised. “I just have to do something.”

Releasing her, he ran his hand over her hair before rising to his feet. Crossing quickly to the large pot, he stared down at the liquid still swirling within

The ritual hadn’t been completed, the magic stuck in limbo now that Malfoy was gone.

Looking back over at Ron, Harry’s gaze lingered on him for a moment before moving to Goyle, lying harmless and forgotten on the other side of the circle. Finally, he looked at Pansy, who was, despite all of his powers, beyond his help.

Staring back down into the potion, Harry placed his hand over the top and shut his eyes.

Letting his mind go blank, he breathed out instinctual words of control, drawing the magic held within the potion toward himself.

Still on the floor, Ginny wiped her tears from her cheeks and looked over, straightening when she saw Harry’s hand held out and his head lowered.

“Harry?” she called, her heart speeding up when he didn’t answer. “What’s he doing?”

Following her gaze, Bill and Remus stiffened.

“Harry, don’t,” Remus called, climbing swiftly to his feet.

Gasping, Ginny watched as a green strand of magic shot up suddenly from the cauldron into Harry’s hand. He wavered, the veins in his neck bulging out as his body tensed.

“Don’t,” Bill warned, grabbing her when Ginny began to rise.

“What’s he doing?” she asked again.

“I’m not sure,” Bill said, moving quickly so he was positioned between Ginny and Harry.

“Bill…”

“Don’t be foolish, Ginny,” Bill cut her off as he kept his eyes on Harry. “You can feel it, can’t you?”

“Yeah,” Ginny replied, acknowledging the way the energy in the air had suddenly begun to rise. “But that doesn’t mean…”

Trailing off when the link between the cauldron and Harry’s arm broke, she stared at his glowing skin. It looked almost like he was holding a bright Muggle light bulb in his hand.

Raising his left arm, he pointed it toward Ron. Then, with a cry, his head dropped back as the light seemed to flow up his right arm, across his chest and then out his left hand. It shot across the room, disappearing into Ron’s chest, causing him to arch up with a gasp.

“Harry!” Ginny shouted worriedly as she leapt to her feet.

Her heart pounded hard in her chest, aching as she realized he’d just given Ron back his magic.

Harry fell to his knees, his hands hitting the floor to hold up his weight.

Remus reached his side, placing his hand on his shoulder as he crouched down next to him. Speaking to him softly, Harry shook his head before straightening gingerly.

Visibly shaky, Harry rose back to his feet. Reaching back out over the cauldron, he looked toward Goyle.

“Stop!” Ginny said, running toward him. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes, I do,” Harry replied, wincing as he moved around the cauldron to keep space between them.

“It’s hurting you.”

“I’ll be fine,” Harry replied, glancing over at her.

Ginny shook her head when she saw his pupils fluctuating.

“Harry…”

“I can’t leave him like that.”

“But you’re unstable,” Ginny insisted. “You’re more important…”

“Ginny,” Harry cut her off, shutting his eyes. “Just get away from me…please.”

Harry…”

Crossing to her, Remus took hold of her arm.

“Come on,” he urged, beginning to guide her away. “You know how hard this is for him…with you here.”

“But…”

“He’s the only one who can do this,” Remus reminded her. Glancing back at Harry for a moment, he studied his face. “He’ll be fine.”

Pulling Ginny farther back, he stood slightly in front of her, watching worriedly as Harry sent Goyle’s soul back into his body.

As soon as the magic passed through him, Harry collapsed again with a groan.

“Shit,” he gritted out, his body tense as his dark eyes sought out Ginny’s. “God…Gin…get her away…”

Immediately, Remus pulled her farther across the room, passing her to Bill. Ginny, unable to look away from the intensity of Harry’s gaze, didn’t notice the look that passed between them as they stood with her.

“I’m going to help you, Harry,” Remus said, frowning as he crossed slowly back to the cauldron.

Harry nodded jerkily, his eyes still locked on Ginny. He held his body completely still, as though afraid to move.

Remus stood next to him, pointing his wand down at his back. With one last look at Bill, he hit Harry with a silent Stunner.

Ginny cried out as Harry slumped to the floor.

“What did you do to him?” she yelled, trying to move forward.

As she twisted against his grasp, Bill caught her arms, holding her back.

“Harry!” she yelled out his name, her eyes widening as Remus approached. “Bill! Let me go!”

“It’s ok,” Bill soothed in her ear as Remus raised his wand.

“NO!” Ginny screamed just before the stunner hit her, sending her into darkness as her body collapsed.





Note: A huge hug and thanks to anyone who nominated Protection for "best plot twist" for the Dobby Awards! Apparently I had enough to make it to the final ballot. That's so awesome! If you want to vote for Protection, just go to Dobby section on the Forums. There will be a "best plot twist" thread. :-D


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