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Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling and Warner Bros. I in no way claim ownership of any rights to the Harry Potter Universe.

Author's Note:

Chapter 27: The Return
Severus turned as the door to his office opened. “Shut the door behind you.”

The boy did as he was asked and strutted into the office. The action reminded him of James Potter after one of his silly pranks and served to stoke his rising temper. “Sit!” he commanded. His tone would terrify most students but left this particular one unfazed. A superior smirk adorned the boy’s face as he lowered himself into the seat.

“Explain yourself.”

The brat sneered. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Your stunt in the Great Hall,” Severus hissed. Playing spy to both sides in the war was difficult enough without foolish school children getting involved and mucking things up.

The boy waved his hand dismissively. “I don’t have to answer to you.”

“Watch your tone,” Severus spat. How he wished he did not have Lucius to contend with, else he would have taught this impudent brat a lesson in manners long ago. “Now just what were you thinking with that foolish display?”

“None of your business,” Malfoy retorted.

“I am making it my business,” Severus returned, quickly losing what little patience he possessed.

“What do you care?” the boy asked. “Our Lord set me this task - Potter served to him on a silver platter. I’ve given him what you should have a long time ago, and our Lord will reward me for it.”

“Idiot boy!” Severus seethed. “You did not give him Potter but his whore!”

Draco’s face paled. “Not Potter?”

“No,” he stated as if talking to a particularly dim-witted child. “And your obvious display in the Great Hall will lead all fingers pointing squarely at you. You act with all the subtlety of a Gryffindor.” The last word was spat with malice.

“But I did as I was told,” the boy whinged. “How was I to know Potter’s bitch would drink from his goblet?”

“Your plan was so full of holes that it’s a wonder you did not wind up kidnapping some house-elf instead,” Severus rebuked. “The Dark Lord does not look kindly upon failure, but, idiotic as you are, you still have some hope.” Draco’s eyes lit up as he waited with bated breath for him to continue. “Potter disappeared from the castle following the girl. Nobody knows where he was headed or how he was travelling.”

Malfoy slumped in his seat. “Thank Merlin; I still have a chance.”

“You’re a fool if you think you have any chance,” Severus hissed. “What do you think Dumbledore will let you just walk out of the school? Even if Potter manages to get himself caught, you’ll be lucky to make it out of this castle.”

“The Dark Lord will come for me,” Malfoy stated.

Severus laughed harshly. “The Dark Lord cares nothing for you, only your worth to him, and with your cover blown and Potter out of the castle, you are worth nothing.”

“You’re lying,” the boy stated. “I’m a Malfoy…”

“And your father has failed the Dark Lord one too many times,” Severus interrupted. “He at least still has some worth, but you? The Dark Lord would use you as punishment for Lucius.”

That seemed to strike a chord as Malfoy’s countenance turned from the proud Pureblood to a scared child. “You can help me,” he said, a pleading quality creeping into his tone.

He must have heard something similar from either his father or the Dark Lord himself to put that level of fear in him. “Why should I help you?” His face was a blank mask, though he was internally pleased.

“Please, I’ll do anything.”

Just the words he wanted to hear. Dumbledore had been on his case about the boy’s situation all year. He feared the boy’s father would not give him a choice in following the Dark Lord, and he wanted Severus to offer him that choice. The old man thought he could save everyone. Severus was not so naïve. The boy had no idea what he was getting himself into, and until he found that out firsthand, he would be all-too-eager to join the Dark Lord. But now he could exploit Malfoy’s vulnerable position to please both sides – if the boy can manage to pull this off.

“Here is what you will do…”


Remus looked from one face to another in frustration. Huddled up in the sky on their brooms, the members of the Order were all at a loss for what to do, and this ceaseless arguing was getting them nowhere.

“Even if we continued on our current course,” Remus stated, “chances are we would never find Harry. As much as I hate to say it, continuing this search right now is futile. The best thing to do is to regroup at Headquarters and try to find some more information, come up with a different strategy.”

No one was pleased with his words, himself included, but it was the only sensible option available to them. Heads nodded reluctantly, and they quickly decided to meet back up at Grimmauld Place. As the group was preparing to Apparate, a white blur in the distance caught Remus’s eye.

“Hold on a second,” he said to the others. “I think that might be Hedwig.”

The heads all turned as one to where Remus was looking. And as the white flier became more distinct, it was clear that Remus was correct. Flying towards her, Remus held hope that Harry had included a letter letting them know his situation, his location, something - anything - for them to go off of, but as he drew near the owl, he quickly noticed the lack of parchment and felt his heart sink. Nevertheless, Hedwig flew right up to him as though she held a delivery.

When Remus neglected to hold out an arm, the owl perched on the shaft of his broom and surveyed him with an intense and intelligent gaze. Remus stared right back wondering what secrets the owl held. He was dimly aware of the other Order members gathering around him, but he kept his attention fixed solely on Hedwig’s amber eyes. After a minute of staring, Hedwig hooted loudly and flapped her wings in what appeared to be agitation, though she remained perched on his broom. Remus frowned at the bird.

“Maybe she’s trying to tell you something?” Tonks asked in a dubious voice, clearly doubting her own suggestion.

It was all Remus needed for the gears in his mind to click into place. Hedwig was trying to tell him something. Harry had informed him that he learned of his ability to mindspeak from talking to Hedwig. That meant, she actually could tell him what she knew, if only he could understand her, but he had only ever used the ability in werewolf form. Furrowing his brow in concentration, Remus refocused solely on Hedwig, staring into her eyes with such intensity as if the secrets of the universe were locked away in the amber orbs.

When her voice finally permeated into his mind, Remus was treated to a string of words he never thought he would hear from an owl. Suppressing the wince at her colourful language, he tentatively attempted to speak to her. Hedwig?

Finally! Hedwig proclaimed, her voice laced with irritation. You must hurry. My Human Harry instructed me to lead you to him.

You know where he is? Remus questioned. How?

He could swear he heard a huff of annoyance. I flew with him to find his Ginny. He’s asked me to bring you if they have not yet escaped. I can no longer sense him, so I can only assume he is with his Ginny, for good or bad.

Remus swallowed his other questions and said, Well, lead the way.

Hedwig took off from his broom and began flying back where she came from. Remus turned towards the others who were all staring at him in wonder. “I can’t be sure, but I think she wants to lead us to Harry.”

Without another word, Remus leaned forward on his broom and shot off after the bird. In the distance he heard a shout of, “Remus, wait!”

Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the others flying to catch up to him with Tonks in the lead. He nodded his head to her and then turned his attention back to Hedwig. Maybe it was not too late. A short time later, Hedwig pulled up, and Remus was surprised to have so quickly reached their destination. She turned around and flew back towards him, and he caught her words, He is home, and he has brought his Ginny with him. They are safe.

Remus felt his stomach unclench and an enormous weight lift off his shoulders. They were safe. He did not know how Harry had pulled it off, nor was he happy with him at the moment, but for now, Remus cared only for the fact that both Harry and Ginny were safe. With her message conveyed, Hedwig began a leisurely flight to the Southeast, presumably to Harry’s house.

“What’s going on, Remus?” Kingsley asked. “I thought the owl was going to lead us to Harry.”

He turned to the Auror and shrugged his shoulders as if he had no idea what was going on. “Damned if I know, but she clearly seems to know something we don’t.” Turning and quickly surveying each of their faces, he added, “She was clearly agitated and in a hurry before, but she seems fine now and is content to take a more leisurely pace in the opposite direction. If she does in fact know where Harry is, I’d say she thinks he’s safe now.”

“That bird’s mad as a hatter!” Mad-Eye scoffed. He brandished his wand and attempted the Tracking Charm only to be met with failure. “I say we stick to the original plan and Apparate to Headquarters to regroup and formulate a new strategy. We’ve already wasted enough time following that mad owl. Hopefully Albus will have new intelligence.”

As much as Remus wanted to tell the others to go on without him so that he could go and check up on Harry for himself, he knew he needed to maintain his cover with the others. Nodding his head, he said, “Agreed.”

Mad-Eye turned to survey the others to make sure everyone understood the order before disappearing with a crack. The others began to follow, and he was about to Disapparate himself when he felt a hand grip his arm. Turning, he found Tonks giving him a strange look. When the last of the Order had Disapparated, leaving them alone, she let go of his arm and asked, “What’s going on, Remus?”

“What do you mean?” he asked evasively.

“A few minutes ago, you were as tense and worried as I’ve ever seen you,” she replied. “Now you just look relieved. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you know something the rest of us don’t.”

Remus met her eyes for a long moment before he nodded his head. He knew that lying to her was pointless. “Harry and Ginny are safe,” he stated simply.

“How do you know?” she demanded. “And if they’re safe, where are they?”

Remus shook his head. “I can’t answer those questions.” When she drew herself up to protest, he hastily added, “They are not my secrets to tell. I’m sorry.”

She glared at him in silence for a long moment before asking, “How long have you known?”

“A few months,” he answered, silently pleading with her to understand why he had kept this from her.

“So all this time you knew it was Harry?”

Remus nodded his head. “Well, I was not certain until St. Mungo’s.”

“Why didn’t you just tell me?” Tonks asked, her anger giving way. “I would’ve kept the secret.”

Remus frowned and drifted forward until he could cover her hand with his. “I wanted to. I hated keeping this from you, but they are Harry’s secrets, not mine. He placed his trust in me, and that is not something I ever intend to take for granted.” Seeing the look of hurt on her face, he added, “Listen, when things calm down, I’ll talk to him. I don’t know what he plans on telling Albus and the Order, but I’m sure, if you’re willing to promise to keep his secrets, that he’ll trust you. If I’m not mistaken, he’ll be relieved you know who he is now. Harry is very fond of you, and I think he was disappointed that you disliked Jim.”

She cracked a small grin at him, and he let out a breath he had not realised he had been holding. Gently squeezing her hands, he softly said, “Thanks for understanding.”

She shook her head and smirked at him. “No, you were right; I probably would have done the same had he asked me. Come on Wolfie, we better follow the others before they wonder what’s keeping us.”

He pulled away his hand, and she gave him one last look before Disapparating with a crack. Remus turned in the direction Hedwig had left in his keen eyes locating the white speck in the distance. His eyes rested on her for just a moment before he followed Tonks, Apparating to number twelve Grimmauld Place.


Harry shut his eyes tightly as the flames fully engulfed him. Even though the flames did not burn him, there was something altogether disconcerting about staring into flames that were literally covering your eyes. As the light beyond his eyelids dimmed, he chanced opening his eyes and was marginally surprised to find himself in the master bedroom of his new home. Granted, that was where he had wanted to go, but he had assumed that Fawkes would be in control of their destination. He greatly preferred the privacy of his home as opposed to say Grimmauld Place or the Headmaster’s office where they would no doubt be immediately inundated with a barrage of questions that neither he nor Ginny would be in the mood to answer.

Ginny continued to cling tightly to him, and he guessed that she had not yet fully realised the change in their location. Running a hand in her hair he urged her, “Open your eyes. We’re safe now.”

The room was barely lit by the moonlight shining in the windows, so, with a slight gesture with his finger, he turned on the electric overhead light. The light flickered a moment before turning on, and he could feel Ginny tense at the change. When she took in her surroundings, however, her entire body sagged in relief, and Harry quickly tightened his hold on her to prevent her from slumping onto the ground. He felt her head lift off his chest as she began to fully take in their surroundings. “Where are we?” she asked in a voice barely above a whisper.

“Home,” he answered. “My home, that is.”

“How – how did we get here?” she asked, her voice beginning to return to normal. “You said there were wards.”

“There are wards,” he responded, giving her a light squeeze. “Fawkes brought us here.”

“Fawkes?” she questioned with a note of alarm in her voice. She took a step back from him, and Harry reluctantly released her from his hold. “But if he can get here, that means he could bring Dumbledore here, right?”

Harry shook his head. “I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t worry about it. If Fawkes wanted Dumbledore to find me out, he would have done so before now. I don’t think he would bring Dumbledore here unless I was in serious danger.”

Ginny nodded absently in acceptance of his explanation. For the first time, Harry really took in the state she was in. More than anything else, her ripped blouse stood out prominently. Frowning, Harry burned with the desire to ask her who had done it, but he felt that asking her to relive the experience would be rather selfish of him. Instead, he stepped towards her and reached his hand out to grip the edge of the material. He could see the buttons were all torn off. Rather than conjure a whole bunch of new buttons and attempt to reattach them, he simply began to mend the two sides together.

Ginny nearly jumped out of her skin when he began, causing Harry to stop and look into her wide, panicked eyes. Internally, Harry was seething in anger as his mind filled in various scenarios for how her blouse was torn, and he burned for the chance to find the Death Eater that did it and make him pay. One look into Ginny’s eyes, however, and Harry’s anger died away, replaced with concern. The Death Eater could wait. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “Just thought you might like to have this fixed up a bit.”

She nodded her head, turning her gaze to the side and refusing to meet Harry’s eyes. Suppressing his desire to take her back into his arms to comfort her, Harry quickly finished the job, mending the two sides all the way up a little past her chest, knowing she usually preferred to leave a couple buttons undone for comfort.

When he had finished, he barely heard her mumbled, “Thanks.”

Harry nodded, though she did not see it as her gaze was still averted. Taking another step closer, Harry ran his hand through her hair, letting the hand rest comfortingly on her back. Ginny allowed herself to be pulled into his loose embrace, and they stood there that way for a long moment. Harry could only imagine what she must be feeling now. His brain was working a mile a minute trying to come up with some way to offer her comfort, but he came up empty.

They stood that way for a long time before Harry finally asked, “Do you need anything? Are you hurt at all?”

She shook her head against his chest, and Harry squeezed her a little tighter. “Do you want to talk about it?” he asked in a whisper. Again she shook her head. After another long moment, he finally suggested, “You should get some rest, Ginny.”

His statement only caused her to hold onto him more tightly. “It’s okay,” he whispered to her. “I’m not going anywhere. We’ll lie down together.” She did not reply, but she did not resist when he led her to the bed. Very carefully, Harry drew her onto the bed with him, never letting Ginny out of his embrace. Harry was not sure exactly when it happened, but he soon noticed that Ginny had begun quietly crying against his chest.

For a long time he lay there with nothing but the sound of Ginny’s muffled sobs breaking the silence. Any comforting words that came to mind sounded hollow to Harry, so he simply held Ginny tightly against his chest as she worked through her demons. When her tears began to subside, Ginny started in a shaky voice, “He tried to enter my mind. I f-fought him off, but he wouldn’t stop. He t-tortured me and forced himself into my mind.” Harry felt her body shudder, and he held her tightly as he rubbed soothing circles on her back even as he seethed in his mind at the thought of the torture she must have been put through.

“I tried to push him out, but it kept getting harder and harder,” she admitted with a choked sob. “When he was inside, I could feel him – Tom – stir. He’s still inside me.” He could feel her fight against the tears as she struggled to continue. “He never left me, even after you destroyed the diary.”

Harry stilled at this admission, his hand that had been rubbing her back stopped as he held her to him. What did it mean? He thought he had ended Tom’s influence on Ginny once and for all when he destroyed the diary. Had she really gone the past few years with that lingering presence of Tom inside her without anyone noticing?

“I feel so d-dirty,” she whispered so softly that Harry barely caught the words.

He pulled her more tightly against his chest as her quiet sobs resumed. “Shh,” he comforted. “You’re not dirty. You were never dirty.” His mind was working a mile a minute as he processed this new bit of information, but he knew that explanations would have to come later. Right now, the most important thing was giving Ginny the comfort she needed. “You’re the most wonderful person that I know,” he told her. He needed her to know what she meant to him. He screwed his eyes shut as he gathered his courage. “You won’t go through any of this alone. I promise you. I – I love you, Ginny.”

He felt as well as heard her breath catch. Harry was overcome with emotions as he held Ginny against his chest. He knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that his words were true, that he loved Ginny with all his heart. “I love you, and I’ll always be with you. You’ll never be alone. I promise.” Silently, he made another vow to her that he would help her through this and that he would make sure she never felt dirty again.

Unseen by either, a soft golden glow enveloped the couple, and, as the events of the day caught up with their bodies, the two slowly drifted off to sleep.


Albus sat alone in his office, having just returned from yet another meeting with the Order. He was unsure how to take this latest news. Albus was aware of Harry’s close relationship with his owl, and if Hedwig went from agitated to calm in a matter of moments as they said, it was likely that Harry was safe – and probably Ginny as well. However, if they were safe, their whereabouts were still unknown. His advanced tracking charms had failed prior to the meeting. He had returned to his office with the hope that the charms would now work. They did not. Wherever the two were, they remained untraceable. This brought him no comfort and only served to add to his mounting headache.

Fawkes trilled a comforting note, and in it held the promise that his students were safe. He rose from his chair and showed his appreciation to his loyal companion, scratching behind his neck just where he knew Fawkes liked it. His hand froze when, a moment later, green flames sprang to life in his fireplace. “Albus,” called a voice he immediately recognised as belonging to Arthur Weasley.

Walking in front of the fireplace, Albus answered, “Arthur. What is it? Have you heard from them?”

“No,” Arthur said, shaking his head sadly. “We haven’t heard anything, but Ginny’s hand has moved on the clock. It’s the strangest thing,” he said quietly, almost to himself.

“What is strange, Arthur?” Albus questioned.

“Well, when we first noticed the change, it pointed to Unknown,” Arthur explained. “We were relieved, of course, that it no longer read Mortal Peril, but it was only a small comfort.”

“Understandable,” Albus interjected, wondering where this was going.

“But now, this is the strange thing. While we were watching the clock, trying to figure out what Unknown might mean, her hand moved again. Only this time, it came to rest on Home.” He paused a moment and shook his head. “We tore the Burrow apart looking for her, but she’s not here,” he added in a defeated tone.

“That is curious, indeed,” Albus replied absently as his mind turned over this latest sequence of events. He eyed Arthur for a long moment, noting how the Weasley patriarch appeared emotionally exhausted. “I fear we will not know precisely what this means until our wayward students have returned. For now, though, I think we can rest easy that she is, in fact, safe for the time being. We will, however, continue our efforts to find both her and Mr. Potter.”

“Thank you, Albus,” Arthur stated. “We really appreciate everything you’ve done…”

“You need not mention it, Arthur, but you are very welcome all the same. I know this has been a trying evening. You and Molly should try to get some rest,” Albus suggested.

Arthur frowned. “I don’t think sleep will come so easily.”

“I understand,” he replied with a nod of his head.

“Good evening, Albus,” Arthur said.

Albus regarded the Weasley patriarch with a fond smile. Arthur’s head disappeared from the fire a moment later, and Albus turned back to Fawkes. “Why do I get the feeling that you know a lot more about these events than you’ve told me?” he asked the phoenix. An amused trill was the only response he received.


“You were a fool to think you could escape me, Ginevra.”

Ginny turned and ran in a desperate attempt to get away from her tormentor, but as she turned, she found herself face to face with him, his handsome features marred by his sneer. Before her stood the young man whom she had once considered her only true friend, Tom Riddle.

“Run all you like,” Tom mocked. “I am a part of you. Wherever you go, there I am.”

She could not help the whimper that escaped her. She knew his words were true. Nothing she could do would ever free her of him. When she had given herself to his diary, she had given Tom a place inside of her.

“You are not welcome here, Tom,” another voice bellowed. She would know that voice anywhere. She spun around to see him approaching from behind.

“Potter.” Tom spat the name as if his mouth was offended to form the word. “How did it feel to learn that I still reside in your precious girlfriend – that she still belongs to me? How does it feel to know that she is damaged goods?”

“The only damage is your continuing presence, a problem I intend to rectify,” Harry calmly countered.

Ginny moved towards Harry, but Tom grasped her arm and pulled her sharply back, wrapping his arm around her waist to trap her against him. “I don’t think so, Potter. While you ignored her very existence, little Ginny Weasley poured her heart out to me, offering me her very soul.” Ginny shuttered in disgust as he trailed a finger down her cheek. “She is mine.”

Ginny struggled against Tom’s hold as Harry answered, “Not anymore.” Turning his attention to Ginny, Harry encouraged, “Don’t let him control you, Ginny. You’re stronger than he is. You can defeat him.”

Ginny shook her head as she continued to wrestle with Tom. “I can’t!” she screamed at him. “He’s too strong.”

“He is only as strong as you let him be,” Harry responded. “Don’t give into him, Ginny. His strength comes from your insecurity and uncertainty. You need to be strong. Stand up to him.”

“I can’t do it alone,” she called out to him desperately.

“You’re not alone,” Harry replied. “I’m with you now. We’ll do it together.”

Ginny felt tears brimming in her eyes at Harry’s simple statement. She heard the determination and honesty in his voice and knew that she would not fight this battle alone. “Together,” she agreed.

With a new surge of confidence she turned back to face the young man who had long been the source of her nightmares. She saw fear in his eyes. Bolstered, she ripped her arm away from him and stated, “It’s time for you to go, Tom.”


Harry slowly blinked open his eyes and immediately squinted against the bright sunlight shining in through the window. It took a moment for his mind to catch up with the previous night’s events as he noticed the sleeping girl in his arms. Ginny. He was a bit surprised to find the sun up. Between the two of them, he expected one of them to have woken the other with nightmares or, in his case, a vision. Nevertheless, he was not about to question his luck.

He gazed at Ginny’s face, buried in his shoulder and felt his heart clench. He had nearly lost her last night. She had told him a little about her time there, and Harry wondered how she would feel today after everything she had gone through. She had been in shock last night. He hoped she was able to gain some semblance of normalcy, but he was not holding his breath. He hardly expected her to bounce back from this as if nothing had happened.

He leaned over and pressed his lips to her forehead as he gave her a light squeeze. She burrowed in closer to him with a small smile on her relaxed face. However she might react when she woke up, at least she was at peace in her dreams, and he could not deny the warm pleasure of having her cuddled up so close to him.

He looked around the room and immediately regretted the action. He had spotted the bathroom door, and thinking of the bathroom only brought forward a rather urgent need to relieve himself. That created a bit of a predicament with Ginny. She was half lying on top of him and had her arms wrapped around him. Extricating himself from her without waking her from her peaceful slumber would no doubt be difficult to manage, but he really had to go badly. He realised that he had not actually been to the bathroom since well before he had left Hogwarts the previous night. That had to be well over twelve hours ago by now.

He gently and carefully rolled slightly towards Ginny. The action caused Ginny’s body to slowly droop down onto the bed and off his body. He pushed a pillow in under her chin as he pulled his shoulder out from underneath her. Finally freed of her, Harry lifted himself off the bed and took a step towards the bathroom. He felt an inexplicable need to jump right back into the bed with Ginny, but he fought off the urge. He really needed to use the loo.

He quickly took care of that need and entered back into the room. She was still sleeping soundly. He could not help but smile at her, nor could he help the urge to rejoin her. He very carefully crawled back into the bed and lay down beside her. He reached out and traced a finger down her arm. She shivered at the action, and he felt that odd feeling lessen within him.

He inched his way closer to her until their bodies were centimetres apart. He let his head rest on the pillow directly in front of hers where he could watch her sleeping face, and he wrapped an arm around her back. The bit of tension that had overtaken his body when he left the bed vanished completely, and he let out a contented sigh. His smile grew as Ginny unconsciously cuddled closer to him. One of her legs became intertwined with his, and she threw an arm around him.

Their faces were maybe an inch apart, and Harry could not help his eyes from dipping down to stare at her lips. They were parted just slightly as if daring him to kiss her. Not entirely cognizant of his actions, Harry leaned forward slightly and very lightly pressed his lips to hers. Ginny let out a small sigh of contentment, and Harry grinned. Everything would be all right. He could feel it.

He lay there with her for a long time – he was not sure how long – just holding her in his arms and watching her sleep. He would have stayed that way all day if given the option, but Ginny eventually began to rouse from her sleep. As her eyelids began to flutter open, Harry kissed her on her forehead and murmured, “Good morning, Gin.”

Ginny groggily mumbled a reply that did not sound English to Harry’s ears and burrowed even closer to Harry, pressing the entire length of her body against him. He attempted to suppress the rush of heat to his face as he realised that their closeness would make Ginny all-too-aware of the effect her body was having on him, but in her sleepy state, she either did not notice or did not care. “Don’ wanna ge’up,” she muttered sleepily into his shoulder.

Harry smiled down at her. Kissing the top of her head, he softly responded, “We can stay in bed as long as you like.”

“Good,” she replied, letting out a contented sigh. For a long moment they simply lay there together until Ginny lifted her head off his shoulder. “Harry?” she asked, a hint of anxiousness creeping into her tone.


“My parents and brothers, do they know what happened last night?” He could tell from her voice that she was both fully awake and not looking forward to his answer.

“Er – probably, yeah,” Harry replied uncertainly. As he went over the details of the previous night in his mind, he continued, “I told Ron you were kidnapped on my way out of the castle.”

Her head dropped back down to his shoulder as she emitted a groan. “They’re probably going spare worrying by now,” she said a moment later.

“Probably,” Harry agreed with a slight frown. “I sent Hedwig to Remus last night. Assuming she managed to get through to him, Remus at least should know that we’re all right.” Harry’s mind drifted to her parents for a moment as he imagined her mum’s reaction to her disappearance. She probably did not get any sleep as she stared at her special clock all night. The clock! “Your mum’s clock,” he began a moment later. “That should let them know you’re okay, right?”

Her head popped back up at his last statement. “You’re right. I hadn’t thought of that.” Shaking her head slowly, a frown marred her face. “Won’t matter much to Mum though. Unless she knows exactly where I am, she’ll worry.”

“Does that mean you want to go back?” Harry asked, surprised at how much he dreaded hearing her answer. After the fear and panic of the previous night, he desired nothing more than to spend a quiet day at home with Ginny, just the two of them.

“I don’t want to, no,” Ginny replied. “But it’s not fair to keep everyone waiting.”

“I think that given the circumstances, you deserve a bit of time before having to face everyone,” Harry stated.

His eyes were drawn to Ginny’s lower lip as she captured it between her teeth. When she freed her lip and started speaking, it took Harry’s brain a moment to catch up to her words. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to stay here a little while, then?” she said hopefully, her voice lilting into a question at the very end.

Harry smiled. “No, it won’t.”

She tilted her head up towards his and captured his lips in hers. They kissed for only a short moment before the sound of her stomach growling broke them apart with a snort of laughter.

“Right,” Harry said. “If I didn’t know any better I would say you were Ron.”

“Doesn’t say much for you considering what we were just doing,” Ginny retorted.

Harry made a disgusted face eliciting Ginny’s laughter. “Breakfast?” he asked. When Ginny nodded, he continued, “What would you like?”

“Do you have bacon and eggs?” she asked hopefully.

“I don’t have anything right now,” Harry told her with a frown. “Didn’t think I’d need any food until term ended. There’s a shop just a block down, though. Bacon and eggs shouldn’t be a problem.”

She smiled her thanks and inquired, “Would it be all right if I get washed up?”

“Of course,” Harry replied. “My home is your home.” He slowly untangled their legs and crawled out of bed, holding out his hand to her to lead her out as well. “The bathroom is just through here,” he said, swinging his arm in the direction of the door. “I’m going to run out and pick up the groceries and get started on breakfast. How do you want your eggs?”

“Scrambled and with cheese, please.” she replied.

“As you wish.” He leaned in and pecked her quickly on the lips before letting go of her hand and allowing her to head into the bathroom. As he watched her go, he acutely felt a sudden loss and wanted nothing more than to rush after her. As she turned her head and looked at him over her shoulder, the feeling only intensified. The fear of losing her must have hit him even more deeply than he realised if he was having such irrational thoughts after separating from her for just a moment. He shook his head and forced himself to move towards the front door.

Luckily he had some spare pounds in his trunk to pay for the groceries, and he quickly returned to the house and started cooking breakfast. He had made both bacon and eggs enough for the Dursleys that he could probably manage it with his eyes closed. He learned as a child that good food would often put his relatives in a better mood. It rarely allowed him a break from their cruelty, but he had found that it could help temper it. So Harry strived for perfection in his meals, leaving the eggs and the bacon cooked just right to allow the maximum flavour.

He heard the taps turn off as Ginny finished her shower. He flipped the bacon and knew it would be ready in just a moment. The eggs were nearly there as well. The bacon came off first, and the eggs immediately followed. He dished it all onto two plates and set one for himself and the other at an open seat at the table for Ginny. He seated himself and had to wait only a moment before the door to the bedroom opened and Ginny walked out. She was wearing the same clothes as yesterday including the blouse that he had roughly mended for her.

“It smells delicious,” she commented as she was led seemingly by her nose to her place at the table.

As she sat down at her place to Harry’s left, he reached under the table and rested his hand just above her knee. He felt a small knot in his stomach unclench at the contact. She smiled at him before turning her attention back to the meal. Harry waited until she had taken her first bite until digging into his own meal. He had not realised just how ravenous he was until he polished off the plate in a time that would impress even Ron. Surprisingly, Ginny did not take much longer to finish her own. She licked her lips as her fork dropped onto her plate, and she commented, “I could get used to this sort of treatment.”

Harry could not help the pleased smile that tugged at his lips. “I always used to hate having to cook for my relatives,” he commented. He noticed a frown mar her features as he continued, “But I enjoyed cooking for you. I’m glad that you liked it.”

Ginny’s frown quickly turned into a smile as a companionable silence fell over the two. After a moment, Harry collected their plates and took them to the sink where he began to wash them. Once he completed the task, he set them in a drying rack and turned around to face the still seated Ginny. He retook his seat and reached out to grasp her hand; he felt a warm tingle in his hand as soon as he made contact. Swallowing the sudden lump in his throat, he asked, “How are you feeling?”

He was surprised when her smile widened. “Good, actually,” she replied. “I feel great.”

His disbelief must have shown on his face, for she laughed lightly and proclaimed, “Honestly, Harry. Okay, so my whole body is sore, and I know I should probably feel pissed off and violated, but I just don’t. What happened yesterday was horrible, but it’s over now. I’d rather just move on.”

Harry nodded his head. “That makes sense.”

“It’s strange, though,” she continued almost to herself.

“What’s strange?” Harry prompted with a frown.

“It’s nothing,” Ginny replied, shaking her head. “I must have just slept really well or something last night. I feel better than I have in a while – not since….”

Harry’s frown deepened as Ginny trailed off. Furrowing his brow, he inquired, “Not since what?”

Ginny lifted her eyes to meet his and asked, “Do you remember when I told you how ever since the Chamber I always felt like I was carrying around a piece of Tom with me? It always made me feel tainted.”

Harry squeezed her hand and nodded as he recalled what she had told him last night. It was more than just a feeling. Tom was still there, and he intended to find a way to remedy that situation.

After pausing a moment, she continued, “It’s the oddest thing. Ever since then, I’ve always felt him. I learned to suppress the feeling and ignore his presence, but I always knew he was there. Only, when I woke up this morning, I no longer felt him. I just felt lighter, as if a weight had been lifted off me. I couldn’t figure out what it was until just now. I haven’t felt free of him since before I started writing in his diary.”

Harry could not help but mirror Ginny’s smile. He was not sure what it all meant, but he was content just to see her so happy. It was with great reluctance that he interrupted the silence. “We have to go back.”

Ginny nodded, her smile dimming only slightly. “I know,” she replied with a small sigh. “My family must be so worried. I can’t even imagine Mum’s reaction.” Shaking her head, she met Harry’s eyes, “What do they know?”

Harry frowned as he thought back to the previous night. “Well, as I mentioned, I ran into Ron on my way out of the castle and told him that you were taken by Portkey and that I was going to bring you back.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I’m guessing he probably told Dumbledore.” Harry dropped his head into his hands as he came to a sudden realisation. “McGonagall probably told Dumbledore everything. She warned me that if I did anything she considered too reckless that she would go straight to him.”

Ginny squeezed his hand. “I’m sorry, Harry.”

Harry shook his head. “Don’t be. It’s not your fault. I wouldn’t have done anything differently. The only important thing is that you’re safe. The secret would have come out over the summer anyway.”

“So what are you going to do?” Ginny asked.

“I don’t know,” Harry answered. “What can I do?”

“Your exams are finished,” she stated. “You could just stay here. There’s no need for you to return to Hogwarts.”

“But what about you?” Harry questioned.

“I’ll be fine, Harry,” Ginny deadpanned. “I don’t need you to watch over me.”

“I’m not going to let you face their inquisition for me,” Harry stated. “I’ll go back with you, and I’ll deal with Dumbledore. I’ve been hiding from him for nearly a year now. Even if he tries to stop me, he can’t keep me from coming back here at the end of term.” Though he was confident in his claim, Harry could not help the doubt that crept into his mind.

“Are you sure?” she questioned.

Harry nodded determinedly. “Positive.” He frowned as another thought entered into his mind. “We need to decide what we’re going to tell them. They obviously can’t know about this place,” he said, sweeping his free arm around in front of him, “and I don’t think we should tell them about Fawkes helping us.”

Ginny nodded, and they spent the next several minutes going over what they intended to tell everyone about what happened. When they were finally satisfied, Harry said, “I guess we should head back then.”

“I guess so,” Ginny agreed. They stood up from the table, and Ginny pulled him into an embrace. “I just wanted to say thank you. For everything,” she whispered in his ear. Harry just squeezed her more tightly. They stood there in their embrace for a long moment before Ginny pulled back, leaning in to give him a brief peck on his lips before stepping back.

Harry pulled her back to him for a deeper kiss. He smiled as he released her. “I’ll always be there for you. Whenever you need me.”

“I know,” Ginny replied with a smile. She reached up and cupped his cheek, and he leaned into the contact.

He reached up to her hand and clasped it, giving her knuckles a brief kiss before asking, “Are you ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.”

With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Harry reached out and drew Ginny close to himself. Just as he was preparing to Disapparate, Ginny softly said, “Harry?”

He paused and looked down at her. “Yes?”

“I love you too,” she said, lifting her eyes to meet his gaze. “I just wanted you to know.”

A wide smile split his face, and he leaned in to capture her lips with his own. It was several minutes later that the two finally disappeared wearing matching grins.


For the first time that year, Ron was the first of his dorm-mates out of bed – or at least, first of those who had actually slept in their dorm. His eyes settled uneasily on Harry’s four-poster. He had barely slept. He had tossed and turned for most of the night and had only slipped into a fitful sleep just after the first light of morning. Now he was awake again at some Merlin-forsaken hour. His mind would not allow him rest – not while his little sister and best mate were both missing. Shaking his head, he threw on a robe and stumbled out of the room and down the stairs. He just needed to get out of there.

He wandered out into the corridors aimlessly, too lost in his thoughts to pay attention to where he was going until he suddenly found himself at the entrance to the Great Hall. The room was nearly empty, with only a few scattered students present and about half of the staff. His feet carried him to the Gryffindor table out of habit, and he sank onto the bench. There were only two other students at the Gryffindor table, and they were at the opposite end, leaving Ron in solitude.

He loaded his plate without much thought and began to mechanically eat breakfast. After a few bites, though, he let go of his fork, causing it to clatter noisily against his plate. He could not even taste the food, and his stomach revolted at the idea of trying to eat any more. Sighing in disgust, Ron stood and marched back out the door and into the entrance hall. The doors leading to the grounds caught his eye, and he strode towards them.

The wind whipped through his hair as he walked towards the lake. He walked along the path for a bit before settling down at the base of a tree. He sat with his back to the trunk and faced the lake, looking without really seeing. He continued his mental struggle against his subconscious which attempted to conjure increasingly dire and morbid circumstances that his little sister and best friend might be in. For several minutes he tried to stymie the images flashing before his mind’s eye. Unable to take it any longer, he growled in frustration and shot to his feet.

He began walking again, nearly stomping as his feet carried him at a fast pace. He wished there was something he could do – anything. In the Chamber, when he had been separated from Harry, he had latched onto the task of moving the pile of stones so that his little sister and best friend could escape. He knew Harry was special. He had always seen it in him. He had refused to even consider that his friend would not come back with his sister, and so he had set about the task of ensuring that they could get the hell out of that Chamber as soon as possible.

Now, here he was again, left behind while Harry went to rescue his sister. Only now he had nothing, no task to ease his mind or conscience. As he blindly trudged along the well-worn path, a distant voice registered through the haze clouding his mind. He heard it again and recognised his name being called. Without even lifting his head, he continued along, not in the mood for company at the moment.

“Ron, you great prat!”

Suddenly, he realised that the voice sounded familiar. He looked up, and in the distance he could see two forms walking towards him, one with a black mop of hair, the other with long, Weasley- red hair. He stopped short, nearly tripping over his feet. “Ginny?”


It was with a wide smile that Harry Side-Along-Apparated Ginny to the gates of Hogwarts. He was surprised at the amount of energy the relatively simple task sapped from him. Looking Ginny over, he shrugged it off. He had used a considerable amount of magic last night. Given a day or two of relative rest, he was sure he would bounce back. As he looked up at the castle, a sense of foreboding settled over him. He was walking into what he knew would be an interrogation.

As he felt Ginny take his hand, he shook himself out of his thoughts and looked over at her, his smile returning to full force. It was amazing the amount of comfort he could take from such a small form of physical contact. Just last night he had been wondering if he would ever see her again. He knew now not to take anything for granted.

“Why does it feel like we’re walking into enemy territory?” Ginny asked with just a trace of amusement lining her voice.

Harry chuckled. “You have nothing to worry about. Your family will be so thrilled to have you back safe and sound, and your mother will no doubt rush you off to the Hospital Wing to have you checked over. Leave Dumbledore to me.”

“You don’t have to do it alone, Harry,” she admonished.

“I know,” he stated, squeezing her hand lightly. “This is my battle, though, and it’s been a long time coming. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it, but this is something I need to do.”

They continued walking along the path towards the castle. Harry took as much enjoyment out of the peaceful environment as he could because he was sure that as soon as they entered the castle, chaos would reign supreme. It was not long before they spotted a familiar, lanky figure lumbering down the path towards them. Ron appeared not to notice them as his head was downcast. From beside him, Ginny yelled, “Ron!”

The boy in question gave no response. Ginny tried three more times before he finally looked up. He was too far away for Harry to take in his facial features fully, but even from that distance he could see that his friend’s jaw had dropped. Ron had stopped walking as he stared at the two of them, before he ran towards them at a dead-sprint. As he approached, Ron barely slowed down as he ran straight into Ginny, whose hand was tugged out of Harry’s as she gave out a grunt of pain. Ron lifted her bodily off the ground and swung her around while babbling incoherently.

Harry could not help but laugh at her predicament as Ginny scolded Ron and demanded to be put down – though Harry noticed that she was holding her brother just as tightly even as he complied. He mumbled an apology as he let her go, but he sounded far from contrite. Before Harry knew what had hit him, Ron turned to him and pulled him into a hug. The slaps to Harry’s back rivalled those he would expect from an over-emotional Hagrid. He suppressed his wince as Ron said, “I don’t know how you did it, mate, but thank you.”

Ron’s voice was thick with emotion, and as he was released from the embrace, Harry noticed Ron’s eyes were shining a bit with unshed tears. Ron took a moment to wipe his sleeve across his eyes before he asked, “What happened? Are you both okay?”

“Probably should have asked that before assaulting us,” Ginny commented in amusement, though Harry guessed the words were not entirely meant in jest.

“Sorry. It’s just I’ve been worried sick,” he gushed, before paling suddenly. “Bloody hell, everyone else is still going spare! What are you waiting for? Come on.”

With that, Ron turned and set a pace that Harry was hard-pressed to match. Ginny was practically jogging at his side as they trailed behind the tall red-head. Having had enough, Ginny yelled at Ron to slow down, and they finished their journey at a much more reasonable pace. Soon enough, they were ascending the steps to the front door of the castle. Ron led the way through the entrance hall, and Harry felt his stomach squirming as he realised exactly where Ron was leading them.


As he surveyed the students passing whispers and furtive glances around their meals, it became clear to Albus that something would have to be said. Miss Weasley’s mysterious disappearance from the library was no doubt common knowledge by now among the castle’s occupants. Mr. Potter’s absence was all-too-apparent as well. It was always best to dispel rumours before they could spiral out of control; however, he doubted any tales currently circulating were much worse than the truth. Two of their number were missing, likely having engaged with Death Eaters the previous evening.

Miss Weasley’s status, at least, still registered on Molly’s clock as ‘Home’. It was a curious circumstance. He was not familiar with the exact charms employed on the clock, so he could only speculate on the true meaning of such a distinction. In any case, it gave him hope that she, at least, was safe. If they were lucky, Harry was safely at her side. It was almost too much to hope for.

The hall was about as full as he expected it to be this morning, so he stood from his place at the head table. Tapping his fork to his goblet, he called for the attention of his students. “Good morning to you all. Many of you have no doubt heard disturbing rumours being passed since last night. If you might humour an old man, I’d like to take a moment to shed some light on the situation.”

His gaze swept the hall, knowing he had the students’ full attention. As he opened his mouth to continue, the words hung in his throat. Walking into the Great Hall was a determined Mr. Weasley, and behind him were his two missing students. Excited chatter broke out as the students noticed the new arrivals. “As you can no doubt see, Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley appear to be no worse for wear. Now, if you’ll excuse me….”

With an agility that belied his age, he made his way around the head table and towards the entrance hall. His twinkling eyes meeting each of theirs in turn, he addressed them, “If none of you require immediate medical attention, I’d ask you all to follow me to my office.” Pausing just a moment to verify that his initial impression of their state of health was correct, he proceeded to lead them into his office. As he welcomed them all into their seats, he approached the Floo.

Before he even collected a pinch of powder, green flames roared to life in the grate. Molly Weasley’s head appeared in the fire a moment later, “Albus, the clock says she’s at school. Is she there? Have you seen her?” the frantic witch demanded.

“Molly, your timing could not have been more perfect. I was just about to contact you. Miss Weasley and Mr. Potter are both in my office at this moment.”

Her head disappeared before he had even finished his statement, and a moment later the witch strode out of the fireplace determinedly. Arthur followed a moment later, but by this time, Molly already had Ginny locked in a bone-crushing hug as she sobbed out her thanks to various past wizards. Albus nodded to the middle-aged wizard who walked towards his daughter and wife.


Harry watched with a wistful smile as Ginny was embraced by her parents. Seeing the dark circles around the eyes of her parents, Harry felt bad about not returning sooner, but he did not regret the decision. The truth was that he needed that time, and he suspected Ginny did as well. He turned and noticed the headmaster smiling fondly at the scene. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry caught sight of the red plumage of Fawkes.

He walked over to the phoenix’s perch and reached out his hand, allowing Fawkes to lean into it as he began to scratch along his neck. Thank you, Harry mentally stated. I don’t know what would’ve happened without your help.

Fawkes trilled a joyful note that brought a bright smile to Harry’s face. He felt someone’s eyes upon him, so he turned to find Mr. Weasley’s standing a few paces from him. Harry opened his mouth, but he had no idea what to say.

He was spared the trouble when Mr. Weasley raised his hand to stop him from speaking. Harry watched as he removed his spectacles and rubbed away the accumulating moisture from the corners of his eyes. Putting his glasses back on, he began, “I don’t know how we can ever thank you. It was a very foolish thing you did, but you brought my daughter back to me. Again. Thank you.”

Harry was stunned when Arthur suddenly hugged him. His arms remained at his sides for a moment before returning the embrace. When he released him, Arthur met his eyes for a short moment before turning to his daughter and wife. It took a bit of doing, but he managed to extract Ginny from her mother and pulled Ginny into a hug.

Mrs. Weasley’s gaze lingered on her daughter for a long moment before turning towards him. “Harry Potter,” she began, and he could tell from the tone that he was in for a tongue-lashing that would make the twins proud. “Of all the stupid, reckless…” she stopped her tirade abruptly and burst back into tears as she pulled him into her crushing embrace. Amidst her tears she uttered a myriad of thanks.

When she finally let him go, Harry knew that he was blushing from the heat in his face. She began looking back and forth between Ginny and him asking a slew of questions. “What happened? Are you hurt? Where were you? Why did it take so long for you to get back?”

Mr. Weasley approached his wife and laid a hand on her shoulder as he turned to address them. “Perhaps we should start with the most important. Are either of you hurt?”

Harry turned to look at Ginny who did not appear ready to open her mouth, so he offered, “I’m fine.” He noticed more than one set of eyes rolling at his comment. “No, I really am fine. Wasn’t hit with a single curse.” That seemed to allay some of their fears, but he noticed a few eyebrows rise as well.

All eyes turned to Ginny. She shrugged her shoulders, “I’m okay.” Mrs. Weasley’s glare alone was enough to make her elaborate. “I’m a little sore is all.”

Harry noticed as Mrs. Weasley opened her mouth to speak, but it was Mr. Weasley’s calm voice that asked the question. “Sore from what, Ginny?”

Ginny cringed at the question, no doubt knowing what the response would be. Harry took a step towards her and squeezed her hand comfortingly as she said, “The Cruciatus Curse.”

Harry watched as each of the Weasleys’ faces turned ashen. “My baby!” Mrs. Weasley cried, rushing forward as if to envelop Ginny in another hug but seeming to think better of it. “Let’s get you to the Hospital Wing and have Poppy take a look at you.”

“An excellent idea, Molly,” the headmaster agreed.

Harry met Ginny’s eyes and could see her desire to stay with him, but Harry shook his head slightly and gave her hand one last squeeze before letting go as her mother ushered her out the door. Mr. Weasley and Ron both hesitated a moment before following the two out the door. In that moment Harry wanted nothing more than to reclaim Ginny’s hand and accompany her to the Hospital Wing, but before he was even able to contemplate making a move towards the door, Dumbledore’s voice stopped him. “I’d like a moment, if you will, Mr. Potter.”

Harry turned to face his headmaster. There was no twinkle in the man’s eyes as he gazed at Harry. Nodding, Harry answered, “Of course, Headmaster.” Harry could feel his stomach tying itself in knots at what he knew was to come.

Before either man could speak, Fawkes trilled a note that radiated comfort, and Harry could not help but smile at the phoenix.

“It appears Fawkes is also quite happy to see you safe and sound, Harry,” Dumbledore said softly.

Harry walked back to the perch and gave the phoenix’s feathers a few strokes before turning around to face the headmaster. “What did you wish to speak with me about?” he asked, hoping to move past the pleasantries and get on with it.

“You know as well as I do. Take a seat, Harry,” the wizened man replied, waving towards the chair opposite his desk. “Or do you prefer Jim?”

Harry grimaced as he seated himself. “You’ve been speaking to Professor McGonagall, I take it?”

“Imagine my surprise when she had a most interesting tale to tell me,” Dumbledore stated.

Harry shrugged his shoulders. “I can’t say I’m surprised. She did warn me that she’d tell you if I did anything foolish or reckless.”

“Ah, so you too consider your actions last night foolish and reckless?” the headmaster inquired.

Harry nodded his head. “You could say that, Professor. I wouldn’t change a thing though. There was no time. I barely made it to Ginny in time before her trail went cold.”

“And how did you manage to follow Miss Weasley?” Dumbledore queried.

Harry leaned forward in his chair and conspiratorially whispered, “Magic.”

The headmaster frowned at him. “Mr. Potter…”

“You don’t expect me to just spill all my secrets, do you, sir?” Harry interrupted.

“What purpose does it serve to hide such things from me?” retorted Dumbledore.

It was Harry’s turn to frown. “I’ve given you ample opportunities to stop treating me like a child. You won’t even let me sit in on Order meetings, let alone actually get involved. You may think I’m too young for this, but it’s not your choice. It’s not even my choice. Voldemort will come after me. He’s going to keep coming until one or both of us is dead. Whether you like it or not, I’m involved in this war. You’re only deluding yourself if you think you can keep me out of it now.”

“You are still young, Harry,” Dumbledore countered. “It is the greatest mistake of youth to grow up too quickly. You’ll never get your youth back. This is not the time for you to be fighting wars. Take what joy from it you can before it is too late.”

“That’s rich coming from you,” Harry fired back, shooting to his feet and beginning to pace in front of the desk. “How much joy do you think I took from my childhood? How much joy was there to be had sleeping in a cupboard under the stairs? How much joy was I to take from living with people who thought of me as nothing more than a freak? Was I supposed to enjoy all those years of abuse? Was I supposed to enjoy being worked like a slave for them? Or perhaps being locked in a cupboard for days at a time is your idea of fun? Or maybe spending every day trying to avoid your cousin whose favourite game is to beat you up? Tell me, Headmaster,” Harry demanded, stopping his pacing and slamming both hands on the man’s desk. “I’d really like to know where exactly the joy of youth is because I have yet to see it.”

Harry stared at the man for a long moment before reining in his emotions and bringing himself back under control. After a moment, he backed away and reclaimed his seat. The headmaster had averted his gaze, and Harry stared at him, waiting for him to speak.

Harry was shocked to see a tear roll down his headmaster’s cheek. The man did nothing to stop the course of the tear as he finally turned back to Harry. “What would you like me to say, Harry?” His voice was soft, almost defeated. “That I’m sorry? I fear that I’ve caused as much harm against you as your own enemies. But if you’re asking me to regret my actions, I’m afraid I cannot. I wish I had done more for you, made your childhood more bearable – even enjoyable, but I do not regret placing you with your relatives. Happy you may not have been, but you were safe.”

Harry sighed. This argument was pointless. “I’m not asking for apologies, Professor. The past is the past. But do not sit there and tell me that I’m young and should try to enjoy it while it lasts. I don’t have that luxury – that’s why you stuck me with the Dursleys to begin with. The prophecy states that I’m the one that can beat Voldemort, but I somehow doubt he’s just going to roll over and die for me. There’s no time for me to laze about. People are dying out there; I’ve been forced to watch. How am I supposed to act like a normal kid when I know that I’m the only one who can put a stop to it?”

Dumbledore massaged his temples for a moment before responding. “Now, Harry, you see why I was so reluctant to share with you the prophecy. It has placed a great weight on your shoulders, one you should not have to bear. I could see it in your character, even at age eleven. You took it upon yourself to save the Philosopher’s Stone, a responsibility which was not yours. You take the problems of the world upon yourself. The prophecy may state that you are the one with the power to defeat Voldemort, but nobody expects you to fight this war alone, nor do we expect you to fight at your age. This war has been fought since before you were born, and we will continue to fight it until you are ready. Do not feel, Harry, that you need take on the responsibility to shield others from this war.”

“You need every capable fighter you can get,” Harry responded. “And I need all the experience I can get. Some of my actions have been rash; I can admit that, but I’ve survived. More than that, I’ve walked into battle and proven myself more than capable. Pit me against the best fighter in the Order, besides yourself, and I guarantee that I can at least put up a good fight if not win.”

“It is not a question of whether or not you are capable,” Dumbledore replied. “I dare say you have proven yourself most capable, but think for a moment what you are risking.” He paused for a moment before continuing. “The prophecy states that you are the one with the power to defeat Voldemort. Your life is more important than any other right now, and yet you risk it without thought. Have you given any consideration to what would happen to the world should you fall in battle? We do not know if anyone else could ever have the strength to take your place.”

“So my life is worth more than others’?” Harry asked. “You want me to stand aside and watch others die when I could save them?” His hands were gripping the arms of his chair forcefully, turning his knuckles white. “Had I not acted as quickly as I did last night, Ginny would still be in the hands of Voldemort, yet you would have me do nothing and allow her to be tortured and eventually killed because my life is too important.”

“I realise it is difficult…”

“No,” Harry interrupted, pounding the arm of the chair with his fist. “You don’t realise.” He was breathing heavily as he struggled to maintain his anger. “When I asked you what power I could possibly have that Voldemort doesn’t,” Harry continued in a harsh voice. “You told me that power was love.” He stood up from his chair and gave the man a cold stare. “There’s only one person in this world whom I can say that I love with absolute certainty, and I would rather die than leave her to that fate.”

Sending one last glare, Harry turned on his heel and strode toward the door, which slammed shut before he could reach it. “We are not finished here, Mr. Potter.”

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