lundi 11 février 2008

chapter 3

This was the home of his best friend, the friend who’d opened his arms
wide and shared his family with a lonely boy who’d never had even a
glimpse of such a life. It was the home of the girl he loved, the girl
who loved him enough to let him go. It was the home of the family that
had stood by him and believed in him when no one else had, and he would
not allow it to be taken from them now.

Not if he could help it.

A loud surge of blinding light illuminated the meadow for a brief
moment, and Harry had to shut his eyes against the glare. A whoop of
joy that unmistakably belonged to one of the twins filled the air and
caused Harry to blink dazedly. Shouts of glee filled the night, and
Harry became aware that his body was no longer chilled. He could find
no trace of the Dementors.

He lay on the ground, panting, for a moment, trying to summon the
energy to stand. He could see Prongs cantering back towards him and
running with a small Jack Russell terrier Patronus that he knew
belonged to Ron.

Ron was all right! He was somewhere in this chaos, and hopefully that
would mean Hermione was all right, as well.

He recognized most of the faces remaining in the meadow and hoped that
meant that Mrs. Weasley had managed to help the other guests escape. He
fought against the dimness trying to encroach upon his vision, shaking
his head in an attempt to clear it. The motion caused his world to tilt
alarmingly, and for a moment he thought he might get sick. He had just
managed to control his nausea with a few deep breaths when Ginny
appeared by his side.

"Harry!" she shouted, dropping to her knees beside him and cradling his
head in her lap while gently running her fingers through his hair. "Are
you all right? Oh, you poor thing. Bill said you’d be exhausted. You
did it, Harry! You really did it. You were magnificent."

Harry grinned and leaned into her touch. "It worked then, yeah?"

"It worked splendidly," Ginny replied, her eyes bright with excitement.
"Not only did you strengthen the wards, but you somehow pushed them
even further back and forced the Dementors out, as well. I literally
saw one Death Eater’s body being flung through the air. You were
brilliant, Harry. Even Bill is impressed, and it takes a lot to impress
him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he offers you a job after you leave

"Yeah? Harry Potter, Curse Breaker, eh?" Harry said, managing a weak
smile. "Maybe if being an Auror doesn’t work out for me."

"Let’s get you back to the house where you can rest. Do you think you
can stand?" Ginny asked.

Harry tried to rise on his elbows but couldn’t manage to make his body
respond and flopped back onto the ground. "Right here is fine," he
said, fighting to keep his eyes open. Suddenly, he felt his world tilt
again as he was scooped up into thick, heavily muscled arms.

"Come on, Harry. Let’s get you out of here," Charlie Weasley said.
"Ginny can say thanks by snogging your brains out later."

"She said I was magnificent," Harry said, slurring his words.

"Yeah, well, don’t let it go to your head, mate. She said you were a
hopeless idiot yesterday. She’s always been temperamental, that one,"
Charlie replied, grinning.

"Hey!" Ginny cried, slapping her brother on the arm. "I’m right here,
you know."

Despite his closed eyes, Harry could tell Ginny was smiling. He was too
tired to care that Charlie was carrying him to the Burrow, so he just
let his body relax, and the dimness on the edge of his vision covered
his eyes completely.

The tinkling of glass, the drone of muted music, and the distant peals
of laughter were the sounds Harry heard as he slowly drifted back to
awareness. He was warm and comfortable and felt more secure than he had
in quite some time. He wasn’t willing to give that up by opening his
eyes just yet.

"Exactly how long are you going to pretend to still be asleep, Harry?"
Ginny asked. He could hear the amusement in her voice as that sweet,
flowery scent he always associated with her wafted across his nostrils.
"You’re not hurt, and being too tired is no excuse to deny me the
dancing that was promised me."

"We danced," Harry said, smiling but keeping his eyes closed.

"Barely! You’ll have to do better than that to keep me satisfied," she
said primly.
"Is that so?" Harry asked, enjoying the banter. He opened his eyes wide
as memories of the night crashed down upon him.

He sat up suddenly, glancing around the room and feeling slightly
panicked. He felt his heart rate increase as he recognized his
surroundings. He was back in the one place that he’d sworn he never
wanted to see again. He was back at Grimmauld Place…at Sirius’s house.

He was lying on a couch in one of the small sitting rooms off the main
hallway, and his head had been resting on Ginny’s lap. She rubbed his
back soothingly, apparently understanding his dismay.

"Why are we here?" he asked tightly, struggling to do anything but look
around at his surroundings.

Ginny moved closer and wrapped her arm around his stiff shoulders. "We
sent a lot of refugees from the wedding here, remember? Mum was too
uptight to leave anyone at the Burrow until the wards are thoroughly
checked, so we’ve moved in for the night. Bill and Fleur absolutely
refused to allow Voldemort to spoil their special day. They’ve
continued the party right in the ballroom; the band set up their
equipment and are down there playing right now."

Harry could hear the grudging respect for what Fleur had done in
Ginny’s voice.

"Bill’s all right?" he asked. If he felt as bad as he did, certainly
Bill couldn’t be dancing. He cracked his neck from side to side, trying
to judge if had the strength to dance. He felt as if he could sleep for
a week, and it galled him to think Bill was in much better shape.

"Oh, he’s just sort of propped up in a corner, watching Fleur dance. He
can barely keep his eyes open, but she wasn’t about to let him use up
all his remaining energy dancing. I’m certain she has other plans for
him this evening," Ginny replied, her eyes twinkling.

It took a moment for the full impact of what Ginny said to sink in, and
when it did Harry blushed crimson. "Ginny!"

Her words stirred images about what Bill and Fleur might get up to that
he really didn’t want to think about. Having Ginny pressed so nicely
against him caused his train of his thought to switch tracks to images
of her that none of her brothers would want him thinking about, and his
anatomy began to respond. He shifted uncomfortably, the collar of his
shirt suddenly becoming unbearably tight.

"That caught your attention," Ginny said, smirking as if she knew
exactly what she’d done.

She was right, too; he had been preoccupied with the idea of being back
at Grimmauld Place until she’d moved his thoughts to other things.

"Ron and Hermione," he said suddenly, staring into her eyes with alarm.
"I saw Ron’s Patronus, so I know he did turn up eventually, but-"

"Nothing to worry about," Ginny said soothingly, shaking her head and
placing her soft hand on his lips. "Hermione did get cursed with
something, but she’d already been tended to by Mum when I saw her. I
haven’t got the full story out of anyone yet, as I’ve been rather
preoccupied with you, but I believe it had something to do with an
altercation between Ron and Viktor Krum."

Harry groaned and dropped his head into his hands. Ron, what did you

"All three of them are here somewhere. Ron’s been by several times to
check on you, along with Fred, George, Charlie and Mum. Every ten
minutes or so one of them pops their head in. I think it’s a
conspiracy," Ginny whispered dramatically. Soft wisps of hair had
broken free from the intricate knot on her head and tickled his face as
she leaned near him. He longed to free the rest of her hair and let it
fall loose.

"Don’t they trust us?" he asked, grinning.

"Should they?" she asked, arching her brow.

"Well, we’d best live up to our as yet unearned reputation, shouldn’t
we?" he asked, quickly rolling over and twisting so that she was now
resting back on the couch, and he was leaning over her. More pieces of
her hair came undone as he pressed his lips to hers and lost himself in
the sweetness of the kiss.

It felt like only an instant later when there was a sharp clearing of a
throat from the entranceway to the room. Harry pulled back reluctantly,
to find Ron standing in the doorway, glowering, his lower lip swollen
to twice its natural size.

"Do you have to do that?" he asked, his speech oddly distorted from his
fat lip.

"Most definitely," Harry replied cheekily and quickly planted another
kiss on Ginny’s lips. "What happened to you?"

Harry and Ginny sat up and moved apart slightly on the couch, as Ron
entered the room and took a seat across from them.

"Well, if you hadn’t noticed because of all your snogging with my
sister…there was a battle with Death Eaters at my house a bit ago,
Harry," Ron said, disgruntled.

"You don’t say? That would explain why I’m flat on my back then,
wouldn’t it? Funny, I don’t remember seeing you during the battle,"
Harry said, cocking his eyebrow.

"You told him," Ron said, scowling at Ginny.

"Of course I did," Ginny replied, smirking and snuggling closer to
Harry again. He wrapped his arm around her and ignored Ron’s glare.

"What happened to Hermione?" he asked, torn between enjoying seeing
Ginny spar with Ron and wanting the details before it erupted into all-
out sibling warfare.
"Vicky tried to get me with a Reducto spell that ricocheted off Mum’s
hutch and hit Hermione. Mum patched her up, but she’s not talking to
me. As if it’s my fault," Ron said, crossing his arms across his chest
and scowling at the room in general.

"Why did he try to curse you?" Harry asked, suddenly feeling very tired

"He could have been provoked," Ron admitted grudgingly. "That’s not the
point, though. He curses her, and she won’t talk to me. How am I
supposed to ever figure that one out?"

Harry groaned. "What did you do, Ron? Why were you hexing each other? I
thought you’d told me earlier that you knew Hermione went to the
wedding as your date. I thought everything was okay between you."

"It was okay until that git tried to make his move on my girl," Ron
said angrily, and Harry suspected he didn’t even realize how he’d
referred to Hermione. "After you went off with Ginny, I knew you’d end
up snogging, and I didn’t want to see it, so I went to look for
Hermione. I found her cozied up with Vicky back inside the Burrow."

"But Ron, I thought we’d talked about this. She went to the wedding
with you, as your date. I thought you were okay with her and Viktor,"
Harry said wearily.

"I was okay with it when he was just an old boyfriend on the dance
floor, but I wasn’t okay with finding him chatting her up while she was
wearing that dress and looking like that and sitting in my house at my
kitchen table. No bloke would be okay with that, Harry," Ron finished
with a shout, his ears as bright as his hair.

He had a point. Harry hadn’t liked seeing Jean-Luc with Ginny, and
there wasn’t even a past between them. For the first time, Harry
understood and sympathized with Ron’s feelings about Viktor.

"So, what happened? And what do you mean you knew we’d end up
snogging?" Harry asked, suddenly realizing what Ron had said.

Ron rolled his eyes. "Come off it, Harry. You haven’t been able to keep
your eyes off of her all week, and Merlin knows she wanted to snog you.
She can’t seem to control herself."

"Hey!" Ginny cried indignantly.

"Neither of you were very discreet," Ron said, sounding remarkably like
Percy at that moment

"Obviously not, if you noticed," Ginny replied coolly, crossing her
arms over her chest.

"Well, obviously I was right if what I just walked in on was any
indication. Good thing I wasn’t Mum," Ron said, narrowing his eyes.

"Mum is so grateful to Harry right now that we could have been
shagging, and she would have allowed it," Ginny replied dismissively.
"Ginny!" Harry yelped, glancing quickly at Ron to gauge his reaction.
He sat stone still and gaped like a fish.

"Well, she is. You saved the Burrow, Harry. She’d look the other way
for just about anything right now. You really should use that to your
advantage and let her know that you’re not coming back to our house.
Get that out of the way," Ginny said, biting her lip in thought.

That’s not a bad idea, Harry thought, wondering how Ginny already knew
he wasn’t going back. They hadn’t yet discussed anything about the
future. He only knew that he wanted her in his.

"I can’t let her know my plans when I’m not even certain what they are
yet. Besides, I would have helped Bill no matter what," Harry said

"About that, Harry…I’m really sorry," Ron said, staring intently at the

"Sorry for what?" Harry asked.

"Sorry for not being there when the fighting started. I promised you
that I’d be at your side through this whole thing, and I let stupid
Vicky distract me at the first hint of trouble. I didn’t even know
about the Dementors because I was so busy rowing. Then, when Hermione
got hurt, I lost it. I couldn’t think of anything else but getting her
sorted. It wasn’t until you were already up on that hill helping Bill
that I got my arse into gear. I should have been right there with you
the whole time," Ron said, his shoulders slumping.

"We both should have done, Harry," Hermione said from the doorway. She
was very pale, and her eyes were shining bright with unshed tears as
she gazed intently at Ron.

"Hermione!" Harry said, relieved to see her up and walking.

"Are you all right?" she asked, her eyes darting to him for a moment to
do a cursory inspection.

"I’m fine. You’re the one who got hurt, from what I’m hearing," Harry

"Oh, it’s nothing. I need to take it easy for a few days and take a
potion for a few cracked ribs. Nothing too serious. You’ve been out of
it completely, and Ginny wouldn’t let anyone near you," Hermione said
with a disapproving sniff.

Ginny blushed, abashed. "He was sleeping."

"It looks like things are okay between you two. I’m happy for you. You
really were being silly, Harry," Hermione said, smiling fondly at both
him and Ginny.

Harry ignored her slight rebuff. "Speaking of being silly…" he said,
staring pointedly at her and Ron.
Hermione raised her nose slightly in the air. "As usual, Ron

"Overreacted, did I? When I walked into the kitchen he had his hands
all over you. What was I supposed to think?" Ron demanded angrily.

"All over me? He most certainly did not, Ronald Weasley. He asked if I
was happy, and I assured him that I was. We embraced and would have
ended the conversation there if you hadn’t stormed into the room as if
the hounds of hell were on your tail," Hermione said waspishly.

"He had his hands…wait…what? You told him you were happy? With me?" Ron
asked, suddenly sounding very insecure.

Hermione’s eyes softened. "Did it really worry you when you thought I
was hurt?" she asked in a small voice.

Harry immediately wished he were somewhere else. Anywhere else. Ron and
Hermione were his best friends in the world, but he really didn’t want
to be a witness to this side of their relationship.

"So, is Mum still hanging all over Percy?" Ginny asked. Obviously, she
was uncomfortable with Ron and Hermione’s conversation, as well.

"Percy? Percy is still here?" Harry asked.

"Yeah. He was still talking with Mum and Dad when the attack began, and
Mum just insisted we all stay together," Ginny replied.

"The git was shocked that Death Eaters would actually attack the
Burrow. It was as if he couldn’t believe they would ever actually take
notice of it…or us. I know Mum is happy to have him here and talking to
her, but I don’t trust him. I don’t think he should be here," Ron said

"I was wondering about that, Harry," Hermione ventured tentatively. "I
mean, there are a lot of new people here learning about headquarters.
Do you really think it was such a good idea to use this place as a

"Yes," Harry replied shortly.

"I mean, obviously it was imperative to get everyone to safety, but the
Ministry has safe houses and checkpoints for just such occasions,"
Hermione said.

"I think using this house as a sanctuary for anyone running from the
Death Eaters, or from the Ministry, is exactly what Sirius would have
wanted," Harry replied quietly. "Besides, I’m certain Mad Eye is
performing Memory Charms on anyone who leaves, and with the Fidelius
Charm in place, no one can reveal the location, anyway."

"They can’t reveal the location, but they can reveal who is here and
who they think is in charge," Hermione insisted.

"How come the Fidelius still works if Dumbledore is d…" Ron asked,
trailing off with a sharp glance in Harry’s direction.

"The Fidelius doesn’t end when the Secret Keeper dies, or else all
anyone would have to do is kill the Secret Keeper. It’s a slow, gradual
fade of the magic, and it leaves time to reapply the charm with a new
Secret Keeper. Professor McGonagall is ours, I believe," Hermione said.

"She is," Ginny said, nodding. "Percy isn’t the only potential security
risk here. There are several of Fleur’s extended family here that we
know nothing about."

"And I’d say Jean-Lucifer is too stupid to be a Death Eater, but they
took Scabbers, so you can never tell," Ron said, grimacing.

Harry had forgotten about Jean-Luc with all the chaos after the attack.
He glanced quickly at Ginny to see her reaction.

She simply rolled her eyes. "You weren’t very nice to him," she said to
the room at large, although she didn’t appear concerned over it.

"Harry hates him," Ron replied, as if that settled everything.

"None of us liked Jean-Luc," Harry said indignantly. "I think Fred and
George were planning to prank him, although I don’t know if they ever

"They didn’t," Ginny said, picking a piece of lint off the skirt of her

"How do you know?" Ron asked.

"Because Bill warned them off doing it. Jean-Luc was making Harry
jealous, and Bill thought it was the best thing to push him past his
nobility complex. Fleur put him up to it, actually," Ginny replied,
futilely trying to control her grin.

"So it was a conspiracy?" Harry asked, dumbfounded at the lengths all
the Weasleys would go in order to set him up.

"Of sorts," Ginny replied, shrugging. "Don’t mess with us Weasleys."

"What’s this I hear of Weasleys being messed with? That just can’t be
allowed," Fred said as he entered room.

His robes were torn and dirty, and he’d magically stuck flowers in odd
locations to mask the destruction. Of course, the plan had failed
miserably and only enhanced the ruin. Somehow, Harry suspected that was
exactly what Fred had intended.

"It’s wrong on so many levels," George replied in that odd way of
sharing the same thought with his twin.

"What are you gits doing here? I thought you were busy groping all of
Fleur's friends," Ron asked, sounding both disgusted and proud of his
elder brothers.
A wave of exhaustion flowed over Harry once again, and he leaned back
against the couch and shut his eyes as he listened to his friends

Fred sighed dramatically. "So many women…

"…so little time," said George.

"Why didn’t the two of you get your own dates for this wedding,
anyway?" Ginny asked. "I’m certain there must be some witches somewhere
who haven’t been warned off yet."

"Dates?" asked Fred in mock horror. "Why would we want to bring dates
to an event where there would be many beautiful French women…"

"French Veela women," George added.

"…who hadn’t yet had the pleasure of being introduced to us. We were
willing to sacrifice ourselves for their greater benefit," Fred said.

"Good grief," Ginny said, rolling her eyes and elbowing Harry in the
ribs. He’d started to drift off again. He opened his eyes owlishly wide
and tried to focus on the conversation.

"What about Angelina?" Hermione asked. "I’d thought that you two were
seeing each other."

"Angelina?" Fred asked, blinking. "We went to Yule Ball together back
in sixth year, but as far as I know it wasn’t a lifetime commitment. If
it were, technically you should be sitting on that couch with Viktor

Ron’s expression soured instantly, and Hermione’s cheeks pinkened.

"Oh, let’s not do this again," Ginny said with a tired sigh. "What are
you two up to, anyway? You had extremely guilty expressions on your
faces when you came in here."

"Us? Guilty expressions?" Fred asked in mock horror.

"We’ll have you know, sister dear, that we’ve perfected the art of
covering our guilt with expressions of nonchalance," George replied,

"We did not appear the least built guilty," said Fred.

"Uh, huh," Ginny replied drolly.

"We were merely avoiding Mum’s wrath. She’s quite put out at the
moment, because it appears the nightingales from the wedding ceremony
have not only followed us here, but have also taken an odd liking to
Percy’s head," George replied with a mischievous grin.

"They’re fluttering about in a most unattractive way," said Fred.

"And you know nothing about that?" Ginny asked.
"Well, I suppose it could have something to do with the reproducing
bird feed we sprinkled in his hair when he wasn’t looking," George
said, scratching his head thoughtfully

"With a disillusionment charm on it, of course," said Fred.

Harry, Ginny and Ron all sniggered, while Hermione tut-tutted her
disapproval. Harry’s eyes were itchy, and he tried unsuccessfully to
cover another yawn.

"Mum is over the moon that he’s here, but Moody is insisting he can’t
leave without a Memory Charm. They’re battling it out now. Moody is
handing out Memory Charms like Honeydukes chocolate," George said.

"Well, then, let’s go and get our last dances in before the party is
over completely," Ginny said brightly.

"I don’t think Harry looks up for much dancing, Ginny," Hermione said,
glancing at Harry. He forced himself to sit up straighter.

Ginny looked Harry over for a moment before nodding resolutely. "He’ll
be fine. We need one good night before we decide on what happens

Harry knew she was right. They hadn’t really discussed much of
anything. They’d spent most of the time since reuniting snogging each
other senseless. Not that that was a bad thing, mind, but he would have
to make some hard decisions on the morrow. For tonight, he wanted this
one last chance at glittering fairy lights and pretending the future
didn’t appear so bleak.

Leaning on Ginny and Ron, he followed the others from the room to have
that one last dance.

The next morning, Harry sat in Sirius’s old spot at the worn kitchen
table at Grimmauld Place. He sipped a steaming cup of coffee and tried
to figure out his next move, as he fingered the tiara that Fleur had
worn yesterday, which he’d found on the table this morning. He’d
planned on leaving for Godric’s Hollow today with Ron and Hermione, but
that was before Hermione got hurt, and Ron had had to abandon his home.
Now, he didn’t know what he was going to do.

And then there was the complication of Ginny.

Harry knew she suspected they had planned on leaving, but she was still
trying to piece together what they were going to do. He knew now that
he couldn’t cut her out of things entirely — he needed her. He found he
was far more focused now that he wasn’t worried about where she was and
what she was doing.

Still, he’d promised Dumbledore only to reveal the information about
the Horcruxes to Ron and Hermione. He hadn’t even told Professor
McGonagall when she’d asked what they’d been doing. He couldn’t break
that promise, and he hoped Ginny would see it that way. He did have to
tell her about the prophecy, however. He owed her that much. But the
He trusted her implicitly, of course, but a promise was a promise. He
supposed it was his own way of hanging on to his connection to
Dumbledore, but he felt he still needed that. He ran his hand through
his tousled hair and groaned.

"Things that bad, are they, lad?" Moody’s voice croaked.

Harry looked up to see the grizzled ex-Auror standing in the doorway,
squinting his one good eye as he scrutinized Harry.

"Things could be better," Harry replied wryly.

"Aye, that they could," Moody said, sitting down at the table with

"Can I ask you something?" Harry asked.

"Appears to me you just did," replied Moody.

"When an Auror is on a case, is there a spell he can perform to detect
if Dark Magic has been used?" Harry asked, thinking back to a cold,
dank cave on a chilly spring night.

"Of course there is," Moody said shortly.

"Can you teach me?" Harry asked.

Moody’s glass eye narrowed as he studied him. He was silent for a
moment before he waved his wand towards the open door. A moment later,
a small black case came zooming into the kitchen. Moody opened it and
pulled out what looked to Harry like a pair of theatre glasses.

"This is used by upcoming Aurors during training. It’s a Spell
Detector. When you wear it, you can see traces of a magical imprint
surrounding objects. Dark magic shows as red," Moody said, pushing the
glasses towards Harry. "As an Auror becomes more proficient with them,
some can even use their wand and a Revealo spell to detect the
imprints, but you need to be able to achieve a unique level of
concentration to detect the colors."

"Professor Dumbledore did it with just his hands," Harry mumbled, his
mind in the not-so-distant past.

"Well, that was Dumbledore, wasn’t it?" Moody said gruffly.

"It can have a feel to it, too, can’t it? Just enough to cause a
shiver, maybe?" Harry asked, searching for the words to relate his

Moody glanced sharply and appraisingly at Harry. Harry had the vague
feeling that Moody was somehow impressed. "Anyone able to feel a
magical imprint would have to be mighty powerful, indeed. That would be
a highly useful skill for anyone who wanted to be an Auror. One would
want to keep such abilities quiet. That kind of information should be
kept from the wrong hands."
"Indeed," Harry replied, his eyes widening. Had he really felt
something that night in the cave when Dumbledore was looking for the
traces of Voldemort’s concealment? Harry couldn’t be certain, but he at
least now had a way to attempt to find out.

"Can I borrow this?" he asked, holding the Spell Detector.

"I don’t think I’d notice if it went missing," Moody replied,

Harry nodded and tucked the black case into his shirt pocket. "Where is
everyone this morning?" he asked.

Moody slowly poured himself a cup of coffee. "Avoiding me, most
likely," he said at last. "None of the Weasleys are too happy with me
right now."

"Because of Percy?" Harry asked. He knew Percy had finally managed to
leave headquarters the previous evening, and he could tell that Mrs.
Weasley hadn’t been happy about whatever arrangements had been made.

"I understand he’s Molly and Arthur’s boy, but he’s a liability. It’s
my job to concern myself with liabilities," Moody said gruffly.

"You used a Memory Charm, then?" Harry asked.

"No, but I still think we should have. Molly was adamant that he be
allowed to remember reconciling with his family. Memory Charms are
tricky business, mind, so I couldn’t promise her that. We finally
settled on an Unbreakable Vow. Arthur agreed to it, but Molly was
livid. I don’t envy being in Arthur’s position this morning," Moody
said with a grimace.

Harry sniggered over the idea that battle-scarred Mad-Eye Moody was
intimidated by Molly Weasley. Not that Harry wasn’t, as well, but

"She probably won’t speak to me for days before she lets loose again,"
Moody said. "I’ll miss the meals. I haven’t eaten this well in years."

"I don’t know. I don’t think Mrs. Weasley could let anyone go hungry,
no matter how angry she was," Harry said.

Moody chuckled. "Let’s hope you’re right. She doesn’t have a soft spot
for me like she does you."

Harry grinned and said cheekily, "Lucky me, then."

The kitchen door swung open again, admitting Ginny and Hermione. Both
girls looked rather disgruntled and only half-awake. Harry poured them
both cups of coffee, and they accepted gratefully.

"Morning, ladies," Moody said.

Both merely grunted.

"Why did you get up if you’re still so tired?" Harry asked.

Ginny rolled her eyes. "Do you know my mother? She’s on a rampage this
morning about cleaning this place up before we go back to the Burrow."

"She is rather adamant about leaving," Hermione said sleepily. .

Ginny took the tiara from Harry’s hands. "This belongs to my Auntie
Muriel. There is a great story behind it. It–,"

"She wants us busy so we don’t look around too much," Hermione said,
suddenly wide-awake.

"Pardon?" Ginny asked, frowning and placing the tiara back on the

"Your mum. She doesn’t want us looking around here too much," Hermione
said, raising her eyebrows significantly.

Harry suddenly remembered the conversations about a guest staying at
Grimmauld Place.

"Good morning," Remus said, entering the kitchen with Tonks following
closely behind him. "You’re all up bright and early today. I would have
thought you’d all have wanted a lie-in after all the dancing last

"Who else is staying here?" Harry asked sharply, his eyes locked on
Remus. Remus lowered his gaze to pour a cup of coffee.

"The Weasleys and the Delacours are here until the wards at the Burrow
can be checked," Remus replied calmly.

"This is m-my house," Harry stated with a slight tremble in his voice
that he hoped no one else heard. "I may have agreed that the Order
could use this house, but I want to know who this mystery guest is; I
want to know why he is here, and I want to know now."

Remus looked at Moody, who shrugged. "It is his house, and he appears
to know more about what Dumbledore was up to than any of us."

Remus’s shoulders sagged. "I know," he said. "And Harry, we need to
know what you’re planning in order to help you. We want to protect

"You can’t. No one can. I can’t tell you what I was doing with
Professor Dumbledore, Remus. I promised him I wouldn’t. If he’d wanted
the Order to know, he would have told you himself," Harry said firmly,
feeling slightly uncomfortable in denying Remus.

Beneath the table, Ginny took his hand and squeezed it slightly. He
gave her a weak smile, appreciating her support.

"Of course," Remus replied, and Harry could easily read his conflicting
emotions. He trusted Dumbledore implicitly, but he also wanted to
protect Harry. When would they ever understand that it was beyond them
to do that now? It always had been.
"Who is the Order protecting?" Harry asked again.

"Draco and Narcissa Malfoy," Tonks said, speaking for the first time.
Her face contorted into an ugly scowl. "My family."

Harry’s jaw dropped open. He wasn’t certain what he’d been suspecting,
but that wasn’t it. Draco Malfoy? Here? Malfoy, the one who’d plotted
Dumbledore’s death all last year? The one who’d led the Death Eaters
onto school grounds in search of a little glory? And Narcissa! The one
who’d plotted with Kreacher to get Sirius killed? Here? In Sirius’s

"What?" Harry exploded, pushing back his chair and causing it to
clatter to the floor. He was at the door in two strides, ready to mount
the stairs and strangle Malfoy with his bare hands.

Remus grabbed him by the shoulders and held him back. "Listen to me,

"What in Merlin’s name is he doing here?" Ginny demanded, her eyes
blazing in fury.

Hermione’s face had turned chalk white, as she stared back and forth
between Harry and Remus.

"He’s supplied us with some valuable information," Remus said,
struggling to hold Harry back.

"Whatever it is, he’s lying," Harry snarled.

"He’s not. It’s information that has been confirmed," Remus said. "We
were able to stop several deaths because of it."

Harry stopped struggling, breathing heavily. "Why would Malfoy give you
any information? There has to be something in it for him."

"Of course there is. He has strong survival instincts. Voldemort
ordered his death for failing to complete his orders. According to him,
Snape helped him and Narcissa escape. They were trying to go into
hiding when we caught them," Tonks said.

"Snape?" Harry snarled, seeing red again. "Why would he help them?"

"He’s always had a soft spot for Narcissa. Voldemort ordered her death,
as well, for asking Snape to help Draco," Remus said softly.

"He killed Dumbledore, and Malfoy helped him do it," Harry said. He was
physically shaking with fury.

"He got in over his head, Harry," Remus said, sighing wearily. "Look, I
don’t believe he’s helping us out of any great desire to right past
wrongs, but he does want to live. His only hope of being able to do
that now is if we win; otherwise he knows he’ll be hunted for the rest
of his life. And it won’t be a long one. It’s a forced partnership with
mutual benefits for both sides. He doesn’t want to die, and he does
want to protect his mother."
"She helped kill Sirius; I don’t want her here. She has no right to
seek refuge in this house," Harry said, a hard lump forming in his

Remus hung his head and answered in a strained voice, "I know, Harry.
Believe me, I understand how you feel, but we have no choice. We no
longer have our spy among the Death Eaters. Both Draco and Narcissa
were heavily involved in some of Voldemort’s plans. They understand how
the minds of the Death Eaters work better than we do. We can use their

"And in exchange they stay alive," Harry said bitterly.

Remus nodded, still keeping a hand on Harry’s shoulder. He could see
Hermione fearfully watching him, waiting to see what he was going to
do. Ginny’s expression was fierce; she didn’t like this any better than
he did, but she was prepared to follow his lead.

"I hate this," he whispered, taking a deep breath.

"I know," Remus said sadly.

"That little ferret better stay out of my way. If I so much as see him,
or hear him make one snide remark, he’ll never see the hex coming. And
no one better stop me this time," Harry said fiercely.

He took one last look around at the pale faces of the others before
storming from the room.

Harry spent the remainder of the day stewing over the fact that Malfoy
was here, in Sirius’s house. His reaction could be called tame compared
to the howl of rage Ron bellowed when he learned of the arrangement.
Mrs. Weasley had been informed that they’d all have to remain at
Grimmauld Place for a few days before anyone could inspect the Burrow.
Mrs. Weasley hadn’t been pleased at all.

As he paced in his room, Harry came to the conclusion that he needed to
get out. He needed to set his plan in motion, and something told him
that his plan needed to commence at Godric’s Hollow. Something was
drawing him there.

He’d promised Ron and Hermione that they’d work together to find the
Horcruxes, and he still needed to figure out how Ginny fit into all
this, but Godric’s Hollow was his own. This was his private quest. He
wasn’t certain why he needed to go there so badly, but he knew that he
did. And he knew he wanted to do it alone.

That night, as everyone slept and all was quiet in the house, Harry
packed a light rucksack and took along the address Aunt Petunia had
given him. He left a note telling Ginny not to worry and that he’d be
back, there was just something he had to do first.

A/N: This chapter was written before JKR clarified how a Secret Keeper
worked, so I left it as is. I do need others able to get into Grimmald
Chapter Six

Godric’s Hollow

The steady hum of the train lolled its few scattered passengers to
sleep as they traveled from England into Wales on a cool summer night.
After his unannounced departure from Grimmauld Place, Harry had headed
directly for the train station. While staying at the Burrow, he’d
arranged to have some of his gold converted to pounds, thus enabling
him to purchase a train ticket.

He was still underage and unable to Apparate legally, and he’d also
been concerned that the Order would have been able to trace him if he
used any magic. He was certain Ron and Hermione would deduce where he
was going, but he hoped that they wouldn’t reveal his destination out
of anger over being left behind.

He’d never shown them the slip of paper Aunt Petunia had given him that
last morning at Privet Drive, but he reckoned that Lupin would know the
address if they mentioned Godric’s Hollow. There was nothing to be
done for it now; he could only hope they’d hold their tongues.

He didn’t plan on being gone very long and fervently prayed they’d
understand by the time he returned. He still wasn’t certain what was
drawing him to the place where it had all began for him. He was unsure
what his own reaction would be on seeing the spot where his parents
were killed, and his life had been irrevocably altered. It all felt
sort of surreal to him as he stared unseeingly out the train’s window.

Ever since Dumbledore’s funeral, the idea of seeing his parents’ final
resting spot had obsessed Harry. He’d agreed to allowing Ron and
Hermione come with him, but the more he’d thought about it, the more he
wanted to make this journey alone. He knew his friends cared about him
and only had his best interests at heart, but he didn’t feel up to
answering Hermione’s unending questions or dealing with Ron’s
awkwardness over any show of emotion. He needed to do this alone.

Luck had been on his side when he’d reached the train station. He’d
managed to catch the evening’s last train to Swansea with only ten
minutes to spare. Even if they’d noticed him missing immediately, no
one could have figured out where he’d gone and caught him in time.
He’d have to switch trains when he arrived, but only for a short
distance. Then he hoped to catch a taxi that would take him to
Hillside Lane.

His stomach roiled at the thought. He had no idea what to expect once
he arrived. Try as he might, he could recall nothing of his life in
Godric’s Hollow. His earliest memory was of massive amounts of green
light. Hagrid had told him the house had been ruined, but he’d never
heard if it had been rebuilt, or sold, or what had become of the land.
He didn’t even know if it was a Muggle or wizarding area. He bounced
his leg on the ball of his foot anxiously as the train drew ever closer
to Wales.

He kept his wand at the ready, and his eyes scanned the train car
warily, but no one had bothered him since he’d climbed aboard and taken
his seat. It was as if he’d finally achieved the anonymity he’d always
desired while traveling amongst the Muggles. He wasn’t about to let
his guard down, however. The prickling sensation on the back of his
neck made him feel as if he were being watched.

There was no moon to brighten the landscape, so Harry could only stare
into the darkness and imagine it racing past. From the map he’d
glanced at back in the train station, he knew Godre’r-graig was near
the sea. He allowed his mind to wander over pleasant images of his
parents walking along the beach.

He pressed his nose against the window as thoughts of Ginny once again
filled his mind. She’d looked lovely in her wedding finery, and he
savored the memories of their shared kisses. He smiled as the thoughts
of their day together washed over him. She was a bright spot in the
cold, dismal murk that was his life at the moment. How had he ever
hoped to do this without her?

As dawn’s light crept slowly across the horizon, Harry tiredly rubbed
his itchy eyes. He collected his bag as the train pulled into the
station and stepped off and into Wales. It took him awhile to find the
connection he was seeking, but he managed without a lot of fuss and by
the time the morning sun was blazing and life was returning to the
sleepy holiday village, Harry was standing on Hillside Lane.

He’d asked the cabdriver to let him out at the end of the quiet street,
preferring to walk up to the house and give himself some time to
adjust. The nervous fluttering in his stomach continued and seemed to
increase the closer he got to his destination. It was a bright, clear
morning, and Harry was pleased to note that the street with its
secluded cottages appeared unique and so unlike Privet Drive. That
alone bolstered his spirits somewhat.

Godre’r-graig was a quiet Muggle village with quaint Birch-lined
streets of old stone cottages. It wasn’t located directly on the sea,
as Harry thought, but was set further back and was more woodsy than
he’d anticipated. Still, he could smell salt in the air and knew he
wasn’t far from the coast. As he trudged up the street, his heart
hammering in his chest, he clenched and unclenched his fist around the
fake Horcrux in his pocket. He found his hands were suddenly sweating
profusely, despite the coolness of the morning.

As Harry turned around the bend in the road, his breath caught in his
throat. The lots on either side of number sixteen were vacant, making
it appear that it was set on its own in the forest. Nature had
reclaimed most of the land and it was overgrown with weeds and vines.
In the midst of it all, Harry could see the remains of a stone
structure. Only one wall still stood amidst the rubble and stone in a
depressed crater.

Harry found something lodged in his throat, and swallowed painfully.
He had to drag his unwilling feet closer as his mind warred with the
conflicting desires to both see the destruction and to run away from
it. He had the oddest sense of familiarity, even though he knew that
was impossible. He’d been just over a year old when he’d left here;
there was no way he could remember this place. Still, the feeling
persisted as he trudged closer.
He again felt that prickling on the back of his neck and turned around
apprehensively. The wind ruffled the trees slightly, but other than
the droning buzz of insects and a few birdcalls, nothing disturbed the
peace of his surroundings. Harry kept his wand in his hand as he moved

It’s just nerves.

Thick clumps of lilies grew along the edge of the house foundation, and
Harry wondered if his dad had planted them for his mum. He swallowed
again, realizing for the hundredth time how little he actually knew
about his parents and their life together.

As he inched closer and closer towards the ruins, he wondered – if
things had happened differently – whether his dad would have put a tire
swing on a low-lying branch of one of the garden’s many trees. There
was a swing at the Burrow that appeared to have seen a lot of use, and
it had come to symbolize a happy family home to Harry. He would have
liked to see a swing in his own yard.

He wondered if he might have had younger brothers or sisters who would
have swung with him or maybe demanded that he push them. He thought he
would have liked being a big brother.

The persistent lump in his throat grew in size as he imagined both his
parents taking him to King’s Cross on his first day of Hogwarts and
actually accompanying him onto the platform. Everything could have
been so different…

Rage and loss filled Harry’s heart as he stared at the destruction
around him with deadened eyes. Voldemort did this. He stole whatever
chance of happiness and a normal childhood Harry had ever had. It
wasn’t fair!

It doesn’t do to dwell on dreams…

Dumbledore’s voice echoed in Harry’s head as he stepped over the
threshold and inside what would have once been his family’s home. Harry
shuddered; there had been entirely too much death already. He could
feel a tingling sensation under his skin that made him uneasy, and he
glanced warily at the street once again.

Nothing disturbed the peacefulness of the morning, and Harry scolded
himself for losing his nerve. Being here was making him jumpy. In his
mind’s eye, he could vaguely imagine how it would look if all the walls
had remained intact, and thanks to the memories the Dementors had
evoked in him, he could hear the echo of his parents’ voices.

He inched forward, pushing random pieces of rubble out of the way with
his foot, until he came upon a piece of blackened, scorched earth. It
appeared as if there had been a fire on this one small bit of ground.
Harry knelt down and ran his hand in the dirt. It felt decayed,
lifeless, as if nothing would ever grow in that spot again.

A chill ran down Harry’s spine. This was where his father stood when
he’d been murdered. Harry knew it with the same certainty that he knew
his own name. He shut his eyes tightly and took a deep, shuddering
breath. He continued walking through what once was his home, staring
without really seeing. He kept hoping for some stray memory to
surface, but there was nothing.

An overwhelming sense of despair and hopelessness washed over him as he
sank to his knees and sat amidst the ruins, uncertain where to go or
what to do next.

What am I doing here?

Suddenly remembering his conversation with Moody the previous morning,
Harry removed the Spell Detector from his rucksack and placed it on the
end of his nose. He inhaled sharply as pale images of blue, pink, and
green light emanated from every direction on the lot at number sixteen.
Harry frowned in confusion.

He walked back to the spot of scorched earth and stared through the
Spell Detector. The light he saw was vivid red and appeared to be
pulsating. Harry yanked the Spell Detector off his nose and backed
away as if he’d seen something indecent. This place – his familial
home – was virtually alive with magic.

It suddenly occurred to Harry that the entire area must be under a
concealment charm, otherwise the Muggles might have rebuilt it, or
worse, the wizarding population would have turned the spot into a
tourist attraction. He’d found the location very easily, but he’d
known where to go, or perhaps it wasn’t hidden from him since it was
his family. All of these uncertainties made his head pound.

He put the Spell Detector back on and continued to poke around. It
took several minutes before he saw more traces of red. They were
coming from a spot near the back of the dwelling, where much of the
rubble was piled. He wondered if perhaps there had been another floor
since there was so much debris. He moved some stones and dirt again
until he saw the same, deadened black marking. This was where his
mother had died, where he’d received the mark on his forehead. Harry
absently ran his fingers along the scorched earth, his mother’s screams
echoing in his head.

Putting away the Spell Detector, he reached out with his thoughts to
try and identify the magic on his own. He felt the same shiver he
remembered from the cave on that fateful night with Dumbledore. Still,
he didn’t know if that was simply coming from the maelstrom of emotions
this place was evoking in him.

Harry sighed heavily and stood upright. There was nothing here but
memories now, and he’d have to test his ability to feel the magic in a
less traumatic place. It was useless to attempt it here. As he turned
on his heel and took a single step, he saw a quick flash of a long,
wiry tail flicking behind some rocks. Harry drew his wand, aiming at
the pile of rocks.

“Reducto,” he hissed, blowing the rocks apart.

The rat squealed and scurried toward another pile of rubble, revealing
its telltale silver paw as it sprinted.
“Reducto,” Harry growled again, sending more dust and particles into
the air. “Hiding in cracks and holes again, Wormtail? I suppose a rat
can never change its spots, either, eh? Come out and face me man to

As the dust from his second blast settled, Harry looked around warily.
There was no sign of the rat anywhere.

“Come out, Wormtail. I don’t have time for your sodding little games.
You’ve been following me for quite some time now; you must have
something to say. Spit it out before I do what I should have done a
long time ago,” Harry said, his hand shaking. All the rage, fear and
pent-up emotion over seeing the destruction of his parents’ home
finally had an outlet, and Harry was nearly radiating fury. Here in
front of him was the stinking little rat who’d betrayed his parents and
was directly responsible for everything that had happened here. The
thought that Wormtail could still find his way here because he was
supposed to have been this home’s protector made his blood boil.

Harry was going to see to it that he finally paid.

“Where are you?” he snarled, enraged. A slight noise caused him to
spin and blast a spot on the ground, but still Wormtail didn’t

“You coward. You’ve always been a coward. You never deserved their
friendship,” he said, panting.

He was met with silence. He stalked around the area, chest heaving and
clenching his teeth as he tried to control his anger.

After several moments, a raspy voice from somewhere on the other side
of the one remaining wall startled him. “Will you put down your wand
and listen to me for a moment? If you won’t listen, then I can just
disappear once again.”

“What do you have to say that I would possibly want to hear?” Harry
asked, slowly inching along the wall and preparing to strike when he
reached the end.

“I want to discuss a common enemy,” Wormtail replied, his voice

“’A common enemy,’ is it now?” Harry asked. He was almost there, just
a few steps more. “Have you earned Voldemort’s disfavor, Wormtail?
He’s your enemy now, is he?”

“No! I didn’t mean the Dark Lord,” Wormtail squeaked, sounding
panicked. “I’m talking about Snape.”

“Snape?” Harry asked, stopping dead in his tracks. “What about him?”
He momentarily forgot his rage and hatred of Wormtail as he heard the
name of the man he loathed above any other, save Voldemort. Snape had
killed Dumbledore in cold blood, and he’d helped to kill Sirius. There
was no doubt in Harry’s mind, and he was going to see to it that he
“Yes, I thought that might interest you,” Wormtail said as he slowly
scurried around from behind the wall and came face-to-face with Harry.
Both held their wands on one another, although neither made a move to
cast a spell. Wormtail’s eyes darted rapidly, and he appeared ready to
bolt at the first sign of trouble.

Harry was momentarily tempted to simply curse him anyway, but his
curiosity about Snape was overpowering that impulse. Still, Ron’s
words from long ago arose in his mind.

Throw your wand away and punch him in the nose.

Harry drew back his fist and did just that. Wormtail’s head snapped
back, and he fell to the ground, clutching his bleeding nose as he
scrambled away from Harry.

“Be glad that’s all I did,” Harry spat, shaking out his split knuckles.

“I thought you’d want to discuss Snape,” Wormtail said, sniffling.

“What about him?” Harry repeated.

“He’s gained great favor with the Dark Lord for killing Albus
Dumbledore. There isn’t a plan underway that he isn’t involved in or
at least aware. Where the Dark Lord once trusted many, he now trusts
only one,” Wormtail spat, bitterness unmistakable in his voice as he
dabbed at his still-bleeding nose and rose to his feet.

Harry watched him warily, seeing red when he so casually mentioned
Professor Dumbledore’s demise. “Voldemort doesn’t trust anyone.
You’re the fool if you believed that, and Snape is a fool now to think
he won’t turn on him in an instant when his usefulness has expired.
You’re not his friends but his servants, nothing more.”

“You underestimate the benefits of the Dark Lord’s favor,” Wormtail
replied reverently.

“I underestimate nothing. I know exactly what he’s all about,” Harry
said coldly.

“I once stood in that spot of great favor,” Wormtail said, puffing out
his chest and raising his chin defiantly.

“Yeah, I remember; you lost your hand over it. So what? Now you’ve
been bumped down a spot, Wormtail? Being replaced not sitting well, is
it? What do you want me to do about it?” Harry asked incredulously.

“I know you despise Snape as much as I do. I know you’d like him
brought to justice. I might be able to help you with that,” Wormtail
said, lowering his voice conspiratorially.

“And get him out of your way in the process?” Harry asked, finally
cottoning onto Wormtail’s agenda.

Wormtail shrugged. “Indeed. Snape’s capture could be mutually

“And after Voldemort’s fall, the fact that you turned Snape in couldn’t
hurt your own sentencing. Isn’t that true?” Harry asked.

“I honestly don’t see that happening, Harry, but it never hurts to have
all your options covered,” Wormtail said.

“How very Slytherin of you,” Harry said drolly.

“Some would take that as a compliment.”

“So, this is why you wanted to talk to me? You’ve followed me all the
way here from the train station for this? Hold on. Why were you at the
train station, anyway? How did you know I was coming here?” Harry
asked, raising his wand.

“Actually, I expected you yesterday,” Wormtail squeaked, his beady eyes
darting back and forth. “At the Burrow you said that you’d be here the
day after the wedding. I suppose the unexpected guests delayed your
arrival. My master was livid that you’d managed to get away. Snape
told him exactly how the wards at the Burrow were constructed. He
hadn’t expected them to be able to reinforce them against the

Harry’s mind reeled. Wormtail had heard him at the Burrow? How? But
of course! As Scabbers, Wormtail would know all the ways in and out of
the Burrow, and as a rat he could probably breech the wards, much as
Sirius had done at Hogwarts in Harry’s third year. Wormtail knew
everything there was to know about the Burrow, right down to the gnomes
in the garden.

Damn! Ginny had never been safe there, and he’d almost left her alone
and undefended.

“You’ve been at the Burrow all this time?” Harry asked, his throat dry.

“I was assigned there. The Dark Lord knows everything and doesn’t
hesitate to use anything to his advantage. You’d do well to remember
that, young Harry. He’s aware of my connection to the Weasley family,
and he knows of their importance to you,” he said, a hint of pride
showing on his pasty face. “Your interest in the Weasley girl has not
gone unnoticed by the Dark Lord. Severus specifically mentioned how
taken you are with the girl. He’s right that you do wear your emotions
on your sleeve.”

“So, you’ve been spying all this time,” Harry said, his voice deadened.

“You’d be surprised at the knowledge I can accumulate in my Animagus
form. Even those that know that I have the ability to transform forget
and speak openly without realizing I am there. I know more about the
Dark Lord and his plans than any of the rest of them. I know more than
even he’s aware I know,” Wormtail said, beads of sweat glistening on
his brow as he spoke.

“What do you know? I can’t imagine he’d trust you with anything
important,” Harry said, thinking quickly. He was purposefully goading
him, but he could see a resemblance to Dudley in Wormtail. Dudley had
always said too much if Harry merely showed the slightest skepticism in
his imagined greatness. Harry hoped the same ploy would work on

“I know plenty. I was there. I was the one who nursed the miserable
wreck of a creature he was. It was me who helped him prepare the
potion. It was me who helped him return. I was his most loyal
servant,” Wormtail shrieked plaintively.

“And he discarded you when he was done,” Harry said, feigning boredom

“I know about the Horcruxes,” Wormtail whispered triumphantly.

Harry’s blood ran cold. “What?” he asked numbly.

“I know about the Horcruxes. There are seven of them, two of which
have already been destroyed,” Wormtail said. “You destroyed the first

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Harry said unconvincingly.

“I think you do. I think the part you don’t know is the part only the
Dark Lord, Severus, and I know. I suspect Dumbledore had also at least
pondered it before he died,” Wormtail said mysteriously, obviously
relishing having something to hold over Harry.

“What are you on about?” Harry asked.

“I’m talking about the reason the Dark Lord will win in the end – his
Seventh Horcrux – the one you will be unable to destroy,” Wormtail
replied smugly.

Harry was perplexed. He didn’t want to reveal any of the Horcruxes if
Wormtail was only bluffing, but even as the thought occurred to him, he
discarded it. Wormtail was more certain of himself than Harry had ever
seen the man. He knew something, and Harry had to find out what it
was, despite every internal nerve and instinct that was screaming at
him that he didn’t want to know.

“After the Horcruxes are destroyed, he’ll be mortal. He can die like
any other man,” Harry said firmly.

“I’m not speaking about the bit that’s still in him. I’m speaking of
the Horcrux even he wasn’t aware of until two years ago. The Horcrux
he never intended to make,” Wormtail said, eyeing Harry speculatively.

“What are you on about?” Harry asked in frustration.

“Don’t you know, Harry? Haven’t you at least suspected?”

The pit in Harry’s stomach was growing heavier by the moment. “What are
you saying?”

“Didn’t you wonder why He left you alone all of last year? Why after
the Department of Mysteries fiasco he never made another attempt on
your life? Even during the battle at Hogwarts, all the Death Eaters
had strict orders not to harm you. You were to be left for him, he told
them. I know the real reason. I’ve heard him talking to Severus,”
Wormtail said, sneering.

Harry was momentarily stunned. He was right; Voldemort had been
unusually quiet all of last year. He should have come after Harry with
a vengeance for all the trouble he’d caused at the Ministry.

Why hadn’t he?

Trembling visibly, Harry forced himself to ask the question, “Why?”

“He possessed you at the Ministry. I heard him talking to Severus
about it. That’s when he realized the truth, and it shook him. It’s
you, Harry. You are his Seventh Horcrux,” Wormtail said, smiling with
a mad gleam in his eyes.

Harry’s throat was dry, and he suddenly felt very cold. “That can’t be
true,” he whispered hoarsely.

No. No, no, no, no, no.

“But it is true, and I can see by the look on your face that you know
it is. He intended to make a Horcrux that night he came here for you,”
Wormtail said raising his arm expansively. “It was his plan. He told
Severus that the spell to make a Horcrux is wordless, it takes the act
of murder and an intense amount of concentration, but there is no
incantation; the force of will powers the spell.”

Wormtail’s casual discussion of murder made Harry’s stomach churn.

“He believes that he got over-excited the night he came to kill you.
He thought he was going to eliminate the only obstacle in his path. He
was thinking of his final goal, already planning to kill you, when your
mother got in the way,” Wormtail said, and here his voice did waver

Harry’s heart pounded in his chest so loudly that he could barely hear
what Wormtail was saying. This can’t be happening.

“It was her death that caused the creation of the Horcrux, and when he
cast the Killing Curse at you, it rebounded on him but sent that piece
of his soul into you. You are the Seventh Horcrux, Harry,” Wormtail
continued unmercifully.

Harry stepped back as if struck. Of course! It made perfect sense, why
hadn’t he seen it before? Harry felt sick. Why hadn’t Dumbledore
prepared him? Had he been trying to protect him from the truth yet
again? For in his heart, Harry knew this was true. It was as if the
last piece of a puzzle finally clicked into place.

“That’s why he’ll win in the end, Harry, because the only way for you
to defeat him is to destroy yourself,” Wormtail said, shaking his head
with mock sadness.

“And what makes you think I won’t do that?” Harry asked, surprised by
how strong his voice sounded.
Wormtail frowned. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m speaking of dying. Why
would you sacrifice yourself? That wouldn’t make any sense.”

“Of course it wouldn’t make sense to you. You were the one who betrayed
your best friends to save your own neck. You couldn’t possibly
understand dying so that they might live. Look at that,” Harry
screamed, pointing at the spot of blackened earth. “That’s where my
father died because of you. He died right there, and nothing will ever
grow there again. You did that to him.”

Wormtail cringed and pulled away, refusing to look at the spot.

Harry’s head began to spin. No, no, no.

“He wants to get to you now, Harry. He wants to capture you and lock
you away where he can keep you safe. He won’t kill you, but he won’t
make your life pleasant, either. Snape will see to that. Snape hates
you and longs to see you suffer,” Wormtail said, sniffling. He was
sweating profusely and appeared suddenly agitated, his beady eyes
shifting in every direction.

“If you can’t destroy the Dark Lord, you can at least ruin Severus,”
Wormtail said, taking a step closer towards Harry.

Harry was shivering violently now, so much that he could barely hold
onto his wand. He couldn’t understand how it had got so cold. His
vision was blurring slightly, and he blinked to try and stay focused.

Wormtail inched closer again, but in his confusion Harry couldn’t seem
to care.

“Get away from him, Peter,” Remus’s sharp voice rang out across the

Harry blinked dazedly, uncertain how Remus came to be there just then.
Wormtail reacted much more quickly. He squealed and ducked behind
Harry, using him as a shield between Remus and himself.

Harry was too stunned to move and only stared at the two men

Remus glanced at Harry with a worried expression. “What have you done,
Peter? What did you say to him? Harry, move away.”

Harry turned to look at Wormtail and blinked. In that instant,
Wormtail morphed back into his Animagus form and sprinted into a pile
of debris, squealing in fright.

Remus immediately gave chase, running towards the spot where the rat
had disappeared and blasting it with his wand.

Unable to wrap his mind around what was happening, Harry stood numbly
as the two raced around the ruins. He felt oddly disjointed, as if he
weren’t really there and only witnessing something happening on the
Dursleys’ telly rather than real events. It was Remus’s piercing cry
of pain that snapped him out of his fog.
He hurried over to his former professor, who was crouched on the
ground, cradling his hand. Harry could see a thin trail of blood
running between Remus’s fingers.

“Damn it, he’s gone. He got me with that damn silver hand,” Remus
said, shaking his hand. “It’s only superficial, nothing Poppy can’t
fix. What happened here, Harry? Are you all right?”

Harry swallowed, unable to form any words. His mouth opened and closed

I’m going to die, anyway.

Remus grasped him by the shoulders and shook him slightly. “Stay with
me, Harry. Tell me what happened.”

Neither can live…

Harry tried to swallow, but his throat was too dry. “How did you find
me?” he asked in a raspy voice.

Remus stared at him thoughtfully for a few moments, but Harry couldn’t
decipher what he was thinking. Finally, he wrapped his arm around
Harry’s shoulder and led him over to a pile of broken stones that was
big enough to rest upon. He pushed Harry down and sat beside him.

“Hermione first noticed you’d gone missing and found your note this
morning. She was rather hysterical. You’re going to have quite a bit
of explaining to do upon your return, Harry,” Remus said with a hint of
amusement. “Everyone flew into panic mode trying to figure out where
you could be. To his credit, Ron remained stoically silent, even under
his mother’s tirade.”

Harry blinked. He heard Remus’s words, but felt as if he was speaking
about something distant and not really connected to him. He couldn’t
shake the fog that had enveloped his brain.

I’m going to die.

“Hermione finally caved under the onslaught from Molly. She told
everyone about your plans to visit Godric’s Hollow. She wanted to
follow you immediately, but Ron said it was most likely something you
wanted to do alone,” Remus said.

Harry looked away. He knew Ron would understand, if only because of
his own desire to avoid awkward displays of emotion. He found himself
wishing they had come with him, if only to help him wrap his mind
around this Horcrux business. Hermione would know what had to be done.

“Ginny had been quite livid with you, as well, until that point. She
evidently felt you’d promised not to exclude her and then went back on
it. She only softened when Ron explained your desire to see this place
alone. It occurred to me that she’s a remarkable blend of both your
friends, your Ginny,” Remus said mildly.

Harry smiled weakly. He’d never thought of it that way, but he
supposed it was true. Ginny did display a lot of the qualities that
attracted him to both Ron and Hermione. He shivered again. Merlin,
he’d give anything to see Ginny and be away from here right now. Why
was it so unseasonably cold?

He realized Remus was waiting for him to speak.

“Ron’s right,” he said, his throat very scratchy. “I needed to do it
on my own. I’d wanted to see their graves, but I haven’t found any
trace of them…just this,” he said, gesturing to the ruined structure.

“I see. I understand your desire to see it, Harry, but I wish you’d at
least taken someone with you. It isn’t something you should have done
alone,” Remus said quietly.

Harry shrugged. “Nothing to be done for it now.”

“Would you still like to see where they’re buried?” Remus asked, his
voice strained. A brief flash of sorrow crossed his face as he asked
the question.

Harry nodded solemnly.

Remus stood up, and Harry followed him, finding a detached amusement in
the fact that Remus still went through the now non-existent door. They
walked up a hill to the area behind the cottage ruins, almost to the
line of trees. Harry reckoned he could vaguely see the hint of blue
that indicated how close they were to the ocean. It was a calm,
peaceful resting-place. It was what Harry would have chosen for them.

Remus placed his hands on Harry’s shoulders and gave a slight squeeze.
“I’ll give you a few minutes alone, but I’ll be right over there if you
need me,” he said, walking back down the hill.

Harry looked down at the small stone marker baring the names of each of
his parents. It seemed somehow fitting to him that they should share
the same marker. He swallowed against the painful lump in this throat
and sank to his knees beside the stone.

“Mum? Dad?” he whispered. “I’m here. I came back.”

Harry swallowed again; he really didn’t know what to say. “I wish…I’m
sorry. I’m so sorry.”

He listened disjointedly to the sounds of birds in the trees, wondering
how they could sound so cheerful when his own world was falling apart.
He’d succeeded in finding one of the Horcruxes, but did he have the
strength to destroy himself? How could he tell Ron, Hermione and
especially Ginny? He stared hopelessly at his parents’ gravestone.

“I don’t know what to do,” he whispered brokenly. “I could really use
some help here.”

He waited for a moment, unmoving except for the increasing trembling of
his body. He didn’t know what he’d expected, but nothing had changed.
The sky hadn’t opened up with answers, and no great voice of wisdom
directed him on where to begin. There was nothing here. His parents’
bodies had been buried here long ago, but the only piece of them that
was left behind was Harry. He’d had them with him all along.

Tentatively, he reached his hand towards the grave marker and ran his
hand along the engraving of his parents’ names. The pressure of his
fingers tracing the letters was met with nothing but cold, unyielding
stone. Harry shut his eyes tightly and willed the tears away.

Suddenly, it had all become too much. Harry wrapped his arms around
himself and hung his head, as reality seemed to slip away.

Remus appeared next to him, but Harry didn’t know how he’d got there.
He wasn’t real, anyway. Nothing was real.

Remus, who appeared very concerned, was speaking to him, but he wasn’t
really there. Words didn’t mean anything anyway, because it was all
just an illusion. Why wouldn’t Remus stop calling his name?

He wasn’t going to answer someone that wasn’t really there.

He was walking now. Remus was leading him away – he couldn’t form the
words to tell him that he hadn’t found what he’d been looking for in
the first place. His legs felt heavy, and he could barely move them.
The sudden, crushing sensation of being squeezed hit Harry like a blow,
but he didn’t cry out because it wasn’t really happening.

Harry blinked and realized he was somewhere else. Headquarters, it
looked like, but he wasn’t really here. It was so very cold and there
was nothing he could do to get the warmth back in his body. He stumbled
but Remus caught him before he fell.

“Harry!” Remus’s voice was harsh and slightly panicked. Harry remained

Remus led him inside and into the main parlor. A great crowd of people
was there, faces he knew but couldn’t place. He didn’t know why he was
even trying, anyway. The room began to spin, making him feel nauseous.
Voices rang out, calling to him, but he couldn’t understand the words,
so he ignored them.

He saw Hermione move toward him, tears streaming down her face as she
spoke. He shrank away from her, and Ron held her back, whispering
something in her ear. She frowned at him, but stopped shouting and
instead stared at Harry worriedly. Harry turned away, not wanting to
answer her questions. His gaze roamed over the many faces, searching…

When he saw her, she was sitting alone in a chair in the corner of the
room, but to him she appeared to be the center of all the activity. Her
brown eyes were filled with concern as she slowly rose and simply held
out her arms to him. He was drawn to her as if she were a beacon on a
rough, stormy sea. He moved into her embrace, and although she was a
good head shorter than he was, he bent low and rested his head upon her
shoulder. She closed her arms around him and held him tightly as he
clung to her, not even caring that anyone else was there.

He could hear shuffling sounds behind him and thought Remus might be
clearing the others out of the room, but he paid no attention. Every
ounce of energy he had was focused on keeping his composure and not
falling to pieces. Ginny helped him to do that.

Images of his day, of Wormtail’s words and what they meant flashed in
his head, and he began to shake. Ginny tightened her hold around him
and began whispering soft, gentle words meant to comfort, and he felt
like a heel knowing he was going to break her heart.

He squeezed his eyes shut, wishing the world away. “Ginny,” he croaked.
“I’m going to die.”

“Don’t talk like that, Harry. Of course you aren’t going to die.
We’re in this together, and I won’t let anything happen to you,” she
replied fiercely.

Harry was unable to form the words. He’d have to tell her everything
but not just now. He just wanted to hold and be held by her right now,
feeling safe for the first time that day.

Standing there wrapped in the warmth of her embrace and smelling the
sweet flowery aroma of her hair, for one brief moment, he could almost
believe that was true.
Chapter Seven

Forward Progress

Harry slowly drifted awake, gradually becoming aware of a brightness
piercing his closed eyelids. He lazily rolled to one side, hoping to
doze again and nearly fell to the floor. He managed to catch himself
just in the knick of time, but was startled fully awake. He blinked
several times in confusion.

Dazedly, he glanced around the room and realized that he was sprawled
on the couch in the drawing room at Grimmauld Place with Ginny snuggled
close and sleeping peacefully at his side.

She shifted in her sleep, seeking the warmth from his body that had
pulled away from her during his near fall. Soft tendrils of her hair
tickled his nose and stuck to his lips as he pulled his head back,
trying not to wake her.

He had vague recollections of holding her in this very room the
previous evening, but he found it hard to believe that Mrs. Weasley had
allowed her to stay here with him all night. He wasn’t even certain how
he’d got back to Grimmauld Place in the first place, never mind how he
and Ginny apparently had spent the night together.

It was just his luck that the first time he’d ever found himself in
this predicament, he had absolutely no memory of how it happened. That
scenario seemed horribly appropriate for how his life worked, he
thought bitterly. He shifted slightly, and Ginny’s eyes fluttered open.

"Morning," she said groggily.

"Morning," he replied, smiling softly at her sleepy expression. He
pushed the hair out of her eyes and kissed her forehead.
"Are you all right?" she asked, suddenly sitting up straighter. The
memories of the previous evening were obviously coming back to her.

"Yeah," he said sheepishly, not quite meeting her eyes. "Thanks,

She’d been there for him when he’d needed her the most, but he couldn’t
put that into words. He didn’t yet want to confront what he’d learned
yesterday. He needed to work it out in his own mind before telling his
friends. It was even more difficult with Ginny since she had no
knowledge of the prophecy or the Horcruxes. This was too big to keep
from her, however. He just had to figure out exactly how much to tell
her, never mind how to say it.

"We were all really concerned about you last night," Ginny said
tentatively, and he was grateful to her for not demanding answers right
away. "Mum didn’t want to disturb you after you’d fallen asleep, but
she used a charm to alert her as soon as you woke. Expect her any
minute. She’d never allow enough time for any funny business."

Harry blushed deeply enough to do any Weasley proud and tried to
extricate himself from Ginny’s embrace.

"Don’t worry. It’s not you she doesn’t trust; it’s me," Ginny said,
grinning. She arched her eyebrow and looked him up and down
speculatively. "She’s probably right about that."

Her words intrigued him as his brain started thinking of all the
possibilities in that statement. He knew that any one of her brothers
would likely hex him for the thoughts in his head, but at that moment,
he didn’t really care.

He leaned over to kiss her just as Mrs. Weasley rushed through the open
door, wearing her dressing gown and looking slightly flushed. There was
no doubt in Harry’s mind that she’d sprinted from her bed and raced to
the drawing room the moment her charm had alerted her that Harry was
awake. He was happy Ginny had known about the charm so they hadn’t been
caught in a full-out snog.

Ginny lowered her head and rested it against his chest, giggling.
"Morning, Mum," she said, her voice muffled.

"Good morning, Ginny, Harry. How are you, dear?" Mrs. Weasley asked,
moving towards the sofa and sitting down between Harry and Ginny. Ginny
stood up and made faces at Harry behind her mum’s back as she spoke.

"I’m fine, Mrs. Weasley," Harry said, grinning at Ginny over her
mother’s head.

"Honestly, Harry," Mrs. Weasley said, sounding more stern. "I don’t
know what I’m going to do with you. Running off like that alone. What
were you thinking? You could have been killed. Now, I know you’ve
become used to handling things on your own, but there is really much
too great a risk for you to be running off without protection. I love
you as if you were one of my own, dear, and I couldn’t bear to see you
"Mrs. Weasley," Harry said, touched by her devotion. She really had
been the closest thing to a mother he’d ever known, but she had to
understand right now that she couldn’t stop him from doing what he had
to do. "Don’t think I don’t appreciate that you’re trying to protect
me, because I do. No one has ever done that, and it means the world to
me…but you can’t protect me from this. I’m more than involved in this
fight…I am this fight. It centers around me more than you realize-"

"I know you’ve suffered more than most in this whole wretched war,
Harry, but you’re still very young — too young to be fighting. You’re
still in school," Mrs. Weasley said, desperately. Tears filled her
eyes, and Harry felt like a heel for hurting her after all she’d done
for him, but he’d come this far. He couldn’t turn back now.

"It doesn’t matter, Mrs. Weasley. Professor Dumbledore gave me a job to
do. We were working on it the night he died, and I intend to finish
it," Harry said firmly, glancing at Ginny to gauge her reaction.

She’d silently watched the exchange, an unreadable expression on her
face as she stood behind her mother. She’d stayed in the room to offer
her unconditional support, but Harry knew she’d insist upon some
answers soon.

"What do you mean Professor Dumbledore gave you a job to do? Certainly
Albus didn’t mean for you to put yourself in harm’s way," Mrs. Weasley
asked shrilly. He watched as she swelled with indignation, ready to
unleash her outrage on a man who was no longer there to take it.

"We’re all in harm’s way, Mrs. Weasley, and I’m going to do everything
I can to stop it. I can’t tell you anything more right now, but I’m
asking you to please trust me on this," Harry said, staring intently
into Mrs. Weasley’s watery eyes.

"I’m not going to tell you I’m happy about this, Harry, because I’m
not, but I know I can’t stop you," Mrs. Weasley said, sniffling.
"Ginny, go upstairs and change your clothes. I’ll start breakfast."

Harry hung his head wearily as Mrs. Weasley bustled from the room. That
hadn’t gone as well as he hoped, and he wondered if he’d get a similar
reaction from the rest of the Order. He dreaded her reaction when she
learned that not only wasn’t Harry returning to school, but he was
taking Ron and Hermione with him.

Ginny squeezed his shoulder reassuringly as she left the room. Harry
got up and stretched. He had to talk with Ron and Hermione and begin
making some plans for finding the other Horcruxes, but now all he
wanted was a hot shower. He felt dirty and abused somehow, and
desperately wanted to clean the filth away.


As he’d suspected, the shower helped immensely. He had a clear head and
felt ready to confront Ron and Hermione with his startling news. He’d
sunk as low as he’d ever felt in his life the previous evening, and he
felt there was no place to go from here but up. He didn’t want to die,
but if that was the only way…
Ron and Hermione wouldn’t like it, but they were as committed to ending
Voldemort’s reign as he was; they’d do whatever it took. Perhaps they
could even help him figure out what would be the easiest way to….to…to
eliminate the seventh Horcrux.

Harry was doing better than he’d been when he’d first heard Wormtail’s
news, but it was still easier to separate the thing from himself, even
in his own mind. It made it easier to think about what he had to do,
anyway. He’d need to do it at virtually the same time as he killed
Voldemort. Perhaps Hermione could help him figure out a way to take
care of both things simultaneously.

After his shock had worn off, a new determination had settled over
Harry. If it had to be someone, it was better that it be him. He
couldn’t stand to have anyone else die for him, and his entire family
might be waiting for him on the other side. He knew his friends would
miss him, but it wasn’t as if he’d be leaving any family behind. Better
that it was him rather than one of them. That was his driving force at
the moment, anyway.

He was so lost in thought as he emerged from the bathroom that he
walked right into someone who’d been waiting for the shower.

"Pardon," he said, the rest of the words dying in his throat. He
blinked in surprise.

Standing right there in front of him, wearing an expensive-looking
dressing gown with a golden "M" emblazoned on the left pocket and an
infuriating self-satisfied smirk, was Draco Malfoy. His usually sleek
blonde hair was mussed as if he’d just awoken, but his eyes narrowed
when he saw Harry.

"Do watch where you’re going, Potter," Malfoy said, wiping imagined
dirt from his dressing gown. "I can’t believe I’m being forced to share
a bathroom, never mind having to share it with you."

Harry’s shock melted into rage. "Malfoy," he spat. "I may have said you
could stay here, but it doesn’t mean I’m happy about it, so stay out of
my way."

"You said I could stay here?" Malfoy said incredulously. "I’m staying
here because your precious Order needs me. I’m the only one who can
give them the kind of information they need. This house is rightfully
mine, anyway. It belongs in my family. I’m certain there is a will
lying around somewhere that will declare it as true; my mother will see
to it that it goes to me. Best be nice to me, Potter, or when that
happens I’ll have your own Order chuck you out on your arse."

"Here’s a bit of a news flash, Draco," Harry said, clenching his teeth.
"The will has already been found and confirmed. This house and
everything in it belongs to me. Imagine that. Me, owning all this stuff
that belongs in your family lineage."

Harry ignored Malfoy’s expression of stunned outrage, picked up an
ancient-looking vase that was resting on a display table in the hallway
and cavalierly tossed it in the air.
"Be careful with that," Malfoy hissed. "That’s been in my mother’s
family for generations. It dates back to the Blacks that were present
during the time of the Founders."

Harry looked at the vase intently, then raised his eyes to stare into
Malfoy’s gray ones. Tipping his hand over, he allowed the vase to fall
and shatter on the floor.

"Oops," he said tonelessly.

"You idiot!" Malfoy screeched, kneeling on the ground and trying to
scoop up the pieces. "My mother will kill you for that, Potter. How can
this house possibly be yours if you’d so easily destroy its treasures?"

"Sirius left it to me. I think it was his final prank on you sorry
lot," Harry said, raising his chin defiantly. It felt as if he were
giving Sirius the final shot against the family who had turned against

"Sirius," Malfoy said, disgust dripping from his words. "He never
should have been the heir. He had no pride, no family honor. Regulus
was the rightful heir to this house; he knew his proper place."

"Tell it to the Goblins," Harry said, turning his back on Malfoy. "I’m
certain they’d love to hear it."

He left Malfoy fuming in the hallway and walked back to his own room to
get dressed. Baiting Malfoy might have been childish, but it had felt
really good, and Harry’s heart was lighter as he ran down the stairs to
the kitchen. He found Ron, Hermione and Ginny all seated at the large
table waiting for him.

"Harry!" Hermione exclaimed, jumping out of her seat and rushing
towards him before Ron could stop her. "Are you all right? What
happened yesterday? What were you thinking running off and leaving us
behind? We’d talked about this, Harry. Ron and I were supposed to go
with you. We were all going to do this together. You can’t go around
changing our plans and singularly making these kinds of decisions. Why
did you do that? Why?"

"Hermione!" Ron said, grasping her shoulders and leading her back to
the table. "Give him a chance to speak. I’d like to hear this as well,"

Harry could see the telltale red on Ron’s ears and knew that Ron was
equally upset with him for leaving them behind.

Harry took a deep breath, trying to control his irritation. "I’m sorry
I didn’t tell you I was going. I just decided that I needed to see my
parents’ graves alone." He looked over at Ginny. "That’s where I went,
to my family’s home in Godric’s Hollow."

"Yeah. We’d worked that bit out ourselves," Ron said.

"But why?" Hermione cried plaintively. "It’s too dangerous to do these
things on your own, Harry. We’d already planned it,"
"Plans changed," Harry said, running a hand through his hair in
exasperation. "Look, I don’t know if I can make you understand this,
but it was just something I had to do alone. I won’t do it again; we’re
in this together, but I had to do that part alone."

"What happened while you were there?" Hermione demanded crossly. Harry
wasn’t certain which she was angrier about, the fact he’d gone alone or
that he’d altered her carefully laid out plans.

"Hermione," Ginny said warningly, speaking for the first time since
he’d entered the room. Keeping her eyes fixed on Harry’s face, she
said, "I think that might have been rather personal for Harry."

Harry felt bolstered by her defense, and he smiled weakly. "Thanks,
Ginny. It was difficult, and I do need to talk to you all about some of
it. Maybe we could go up to the drawing room where it’s a bit more
private." He’d been watching the door warily, hoping they wouldn’t be
interrupted. The kitchen always seemed to be the center of activity at

As they followed him up the stairs, Harry’s heart raced. He’d really
mucked up this time. He needed to talk to Ron and Hermione alone in
order to get his thoughts together before approaching Ginny. But how
was he supposed to ask her to leave without hurting her feelings, or
worse, getting hexed? Ron took the problem out of his hands.

"Beat it, Ginny," he said, turning in the doorway to block her

"What?" Ginny asked indignantly, surprise and irritation clearly
showing on her face. She placed her hands on her hips and glared at her

Ron crossed his arms across his chest. "We’ve got things to discuss
that you don’t need to hear. You can snog him later."

"You’re not getting rid of me that easily, Ron. I want to know what
happened at Godric’s Hollow, too. You don’t mind, do you, Harry?" she
asked, looking up at him, color rising on her cheeks.

Harry could see the trace of uncertainty in her eyes, and he cursed Ron
for his tactlessness. "Back off, Ron. Give me a minute," he said,
pushing Ron into the room and turning to face Ginny. Her eyes were
glistening slightly, and his stomach clenched.

"Ginny, I do want to tell you about Godric’s Hollow. There are things I
want to talk to you about that I can’t discuss with Ron and Hermione,
but there is also something that I need to discuss with them that I
just can’t share with you. I promised. Please understand," Harry said,
his heart dropping when he saw the determined glint in Ginny’s eyes.

"Oh, get over yourselves," she snapped, pushing Harry backwards into
the room and irritably casting the Muffliato spell as she stepped
through the door.

Ron and Harry stared at her, stunned, although Hermione was grinning

"Ginny, you used magic," Harry said stupidly.

"Yeah, what of it? You and I are the only underage people in a house
full of qualified wizards; they’ll never trace it back to me. Besides,
this house is Unplottable anyway," Ginny said, brushing her hair out of
her eyes with exasperation.

"What do you think you’re doing?" Ron bellowed. "I’m telling Mum."

"Yeah, why don’t you run along and do that, Ron? Meanwhile Harry can
tell us what happened in Godric’s Hollow, and what he plans to do about
the Horcruxes," Ginny replied calmly, sitting on the couch and crossing
her legs. She looked up at Harry expectantly.

Both Ron and Harry stared at her, mouths agape. Hermione, Harry
noticed, shrank deeper into the corner of the couch where she was

"What did you just say?" Ron asked, his voice coming out in a strained

Ginny ignored him and turned to Harry. "Well?" she asked, arching an
eyebrow. It was only down to how well he’d come to know her that he saw
the nervous tremble in her hand as she twisted her hair. Ginny always
twisted her hair when she was anxious.

He glanced between Ginny and Hermione. Hermione wouldn’t meet his eyes.

"You told her," he snarled, glaring at Hermione. "Dumbledore asked us
to keep this to ourselves. I gave my word."

Ginny leaped from the couch and stood in front of Hermione, glaring
right back at Harry. "Don’t be stupid — of course you wouldn’t tell me
— you were the one that promised, not Hermione. You couldn’t say
anything because it would go against that blasted nobility of yours. No
matter how infuriating it can be, we don’t want to mess with the kind
of person you are. It’s important for you to keep that integrity, I

"Of the three of you, Hermione is the logical one who would seek help.
She wants facts and data and will use any means necessary to get to the
answers she needs. Of course she told me, she knows I can help. She’s
also a good friend and knew I was going mad. I knew enough to be
terrified for you, but not what was real and I think my imagination was
making everything worse."

"Hermione?" Ron asked, shocked. Harry would have found the expression
on his face comical if he hadn’t been so angry.

"I’m sorry!" Hermione shrieked. "I wasn’t getting anywhere with our
research, and I needed someone who could sneak me some books from the
library here at Grimmauld Place. Ginny would come to the meetings with
your parents and wait for them in the library so she could sneak some
books out to me. I know you promised, Harry, but I honestly think
Professor Dumbledore would have allowed you to include Ginny if he knew
the stakes. You need her."

Harry swore violently and turned his head away. He wasn’t even certain
why he felt so angry. This was the solution he’d been seeking, a way to
share things with Ginny without having to betray his word, but damn it,
he’d wanted to keep Ginny out of this, and she’d been at the heart of
it all along. It was galling.

"How could you do that, Hermione?" Ron shouted, his temper finally
exploding. "She’s not getting involved. It’s too dangerous."

"Honestly, Ron. I realize you’re very protective of your sister, but-"

"My baby sister, Hermione. She’s too young to get involved in this,"
Ron said.

"Would you have followed Harry if all this had happened last year?"
Hermione asked. "Of course you would. She’s the same age as you were
then. The difference in her age and Harry’s is nearly the same as
Harry’s and mine. Do you think he’s too young to be involved?"

"What? Of course not; it’s not the same thing," Ron shouted, flailing
his arms in the air. "It’s his fight. Ginny’s not getting involved
because it’s too dangerous for her."

Ginny whipped her head around so fast that Ron took a step backwards
from her fury. "Don’t you dare say you want to keep me out of this or
it has nothing to do with me, Ron Weasley. It has much more to do with
me than it does with you. These Horcruxes are bits of sodding
Voldemort’s own soul. I had one of those bits in me, and I’m going to
make damn sure that never happens to anyone else! And as for being too
young; I’m older than you were when we went to the Ministry. As I
recall, I came out of that fight a damn sight better than you did."

She turned to Harry, determination gleaming in her eyes. "This, this is
my fight, and you’re not going to keep me from it. I have as big a
stake in this part of it as you do."

Harry thought she’d never looked more beautiful with her hair flowing
down her back in waves, looking almost as if it were standing on end
like an angry cat. Her gaze was passionate and fierce, and it occurred
to Harry that he’d never thought of it this way, from her point of
view. Of course she had a personal stake in this. She’d been possessed
by one of these very Horcruxes. If anyone would know how it felt to
have a bit of Voldemort’s soul stuck inside him, it was Ginny.

What was done was done. They couldn’t go back, and she was right. For
her, like him, this was personal.

"All right, quiet," he bellowed over the arguments of the other three
who were all bickering and snapping at one another. The tense
atmosphere in the room had dissolved into complete chaos. "This is
getting us nowhere. Ginny knows what we’re up against, but from this

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