Ginny Weasley/Harry Potter
Ginny Weasley Harry Potter
Drama General
The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Order of the Phoenix
Published: 11/27/2004
Updated: 07/12/2005
Words: 244,604
Chapters: 33
Hits: 95,778

Harry Potter and the Curse of the Damned


Story Summary:
Seventh-year sequel to Power of Emotion. Harry is recovering from his captivity, but he's hiding how much it's affecting him. With his powers increasing, and Voldemort now aware of the prophecy, can Harry find the secret to destroying him before Voldemort discovers what's in the ancient texts?

Chapter 17

Chapter Summary:
Seventh year sequel to Power of Emotion. Harry is recovering from his captivity, but he’s hiding how much it’s effecting him. With his powers increasing, and Voldemort now aware of the prophecy, can Harry find the secret to destroying him before Voldemort learns of the existence of these ancient texts? Would this be HP fanfiction if it were that easy?
Author's Note:
Thanks to Mistral for all her help and patience with me. You’ve been really great, and I appreciate all the help. Thank you also to you wonderful reviewers. I appreciate the response, look for replies to previous reviews in bold.

Chapter Seventeen


Throughout the following week, Harry continued his hectic schedule. He met with Aberforth three times each week, under Percy's watchful eye. Whenever Percy tried to interfere or interject anything, Abe used him as Harry's training dummy. In addition to the official schedule, Harry also met with Abe each weekend to train more specifically on the Curse of the Damned. Emmeline Vance had attended their last session, trying to prepare Harry for the energy that would be required to channel his magic into the curse. He had to be certain not to exhaust himself casting the curse, so that he'd be able to hold the connection while continuing the battle within their minds. Harry's love of his friends and family weakened Voldemort; he needed to concentrate on that while calling forth his loved ones wronged by Voldemort.

Since they weren't actually able to practice the curse, they practiced the incantation and wand movements, in addition to developing ways to increase Harry's stamina. Abe suspected that the battle of wills that would ensue once the spell was cast would be fierce. Each participant would literally be fighting for his life. He used the sword fighting a great deal, feeling it aided Harry's strength training for a long battle, as well as preparing him to fight and think simultaneously.

As Harry suspected, the first class with Snape after he had been denied Harry's approval for overseeing the DA was brutal. Snape's sneer seemed permanently affixed to his face with Spell-o-tape. He made repeated references to Harry's arrogance and his glory-seeking ways. Harry had gritted his teeth but refused to be drawn into an argument. Snape could say what he wanted, but Harry wasn't going to back down. Besides, his lack of response only seemed to irritate the crotchety Professor further. He'd made several attempts to ridicule Harry and make him look foolish. This wasn't Potions, however, and Harry could easily hold his own. More often than not, it was Snape who ended up looking foolish, which, of course, only enraged the man further.

The DA met again during the week, with Professor McGonagall still acting as a faculty sponsor. There were such a large number of students now involved that he had to use Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville and Luna as assistants in order to break the students into smaller, more manageable groups. Some of the students, those that had been with the DA for a while, were fairly advanced, while some of the newer students were exceedingly behind where they should be. Harry blamed their ineptitude on the residual effect of Umbridge.

He hadn't had an opportunity to spend much time with Ginny - both of their schedules were full - and Harry hoped once Quidditch season began, they'd at least get more than meals together. Ginny had a lot of extra work since she was trying to prove herself to her professors in spite of her OWL results. It left her very cranky, and Harry was never certain if he was supposed to sympathize or to fix something. He tended to lean towards solving a problem for her, but she usually got annoyed and snapped at him just to listen. Sometimes, he thought he'd never figure her out.

Ron and Hermione continued to drive everyone insane with their bickering. Harry thought both of them were behaving poorly and wished they'd just talk about the problem instead of dancing around one another. It was obvious why Ron was having difficulty, but Harry had begun to think that something was bothering Hermione, as well - something other than just her different career choice. She seemed less self-assured somehow, and he noticed she cried easier than she ever had.

She'd filled Harry in on the Institute and their offer to her. She equated them with a Muggle think tank. They did extensive research on spells and possible counter-curses. Harry thought it was the kind of environment in which Hermione would thrive. It would have him climbing the walls in no time, but Hermione always did enjoy research.

Harry tried desperately to balance his time between his two best friends, but he felt almost like they were competing for his attention in some odd sort of way. They rarely spent time with just the three of them anymore. When they split off, Harry was never certain with which one to pair. Ron used Quidditch to try and entice his interest, while Hermione kept having issues with the DA that needed to be discussed. He felt like he was being pulled apart, and it left him with a raging headache. He tried to ensure that if he did something with one, he also spent time with the other. All he needed was for them to turn their anger on him.

One afternoon, Harry sat with Ginny at a table in the common room, each immersed in their own revising, when Ron entered the room in a rage.

"I don't believe her," he said, slamming his books on the table and causing Ginny's parchment to scatter everywhere.

"Honestly, Ron! Those are my Transfiguration notes, and I've spent a long time working on them," she huffed as she picked them up and tried to put them back in the right order.

Harry had a fairly good idea who the 'her' in question was, but reckoned he hadn't been shouted at by either of them yet today, so he might as well see what was happening with them this time. "What are you on about, Ron?" he asked.

"Hermione is making revision plans right in the middle of the corridor. She's Head Girl; she should be keeping her eyes open for the younger students - constant vigilance and all," Ron said, plopping himself down in a chair next to Harry.

"What does making revision plans have to do with anything?" Ginny asked. She never looked up from her notes, and Harry could tell she was hiding a grin. "Hermione is always making revision plans."

Before Ron could answer, Hermione entered the common room with a murderous look on her face. Neville and Luna followed her inside. Neville eyed Hermione warily, but Luna merely gazed around the Gryffindor common room as if she'd never before seen it. She'd been here for several of the celebrations after Quidditch victories the previous year.

"Exactly what was that all about, Ronald Weasley?" she hissed, dropping her own books on the table and causing Ginny's notes to scatter again. "Sorry, Ginny."

Ginny huffed in exasperation. "Will you two please work this out before I ruin all my sixth year work, as well?"

"There is nothing to work out, aside from your brother bullying past people in the corridor and knocking their books everywhere, without so much as an excuse me," Hermione snapped, looking at Ron the entire time she spoke.

"The corridor was crowded; he was causing a blockage. You can't just stop traffic in the corridor; people need to get to class, you know," Ron said, glaring at her.

"Get to...Ron! Terry wasn't blocking anyone, and you were very rude," Hermione said huffily.

"Erm...what was it you wanted to talk to Luna and me about?" Neville asked, trying to redirect the conversation.

Harry smiled as Neville's eyes darted warily between Ron and Hermione. He was obviously nervous about their tempers and kept licking his lips as he watched them. Luna appeared unaffected, seemingly not paying attention to anything that was being said. Harry knew from experience that that wasn't the case, however. Luna was more aware than a lot of people; she simply chose to pay attention to different things.

Harry and the others had filled Neville and Luna in about a lot of what had been happening, but not the reason why Voldemort was after Harry. Harry had decided the time had come for full disclosure. Since Voldemort already knew the prophecy, and there was a chance Fudge could have it printed, there was no need to keep it secret anymore. Besides, Harry had decided he needed the DA as his backup, these five people had stood with him in the past, and he needed to have people he could trust completely backing him up. To do that, they needed to know all the facts.

Harry cleared his throat. "Professor Dumbledore asked me to change the sponsor of the DA from Professor McGonagall to Snape," Harry said. "I refused. I told him I needed to trust the members of the DA and know that I could depend on them. You've all been with me through a lot."

"Of course you can trust us, Harry," Luna said, her protruding blue eyes blinking rapidly.

"There's something I need to tell you both," Harry said, leaning in close so they wouldn't be overheard. "It's the reason Voldemort keeps coming after me...the reason he's going to keep coming after me. You need to know all the facts if you're going to commit to helping me."

Neville looked decidedly worried. "What are you talking about, Harry?"

Harry sighed and took Ginny's hand. She gave his hand a gentle squeeze as he repeated the prophecy to them. They were all silent for a moment.

"Born as the seventh month dies," Neville finally said. "Harry-"

"I know, Neville, but the marking as his equal," Harry said quietly, brushing the fringe from his forehead to reveal his scar. "He chose me, and I'm the only one who can stop him."

Neville nodded grimly. "So...you have to find a way to beat him, and I know if anyone can do it, Harry, it'll be you."

Harry's chest constricted. "Thanks, Neville. Actually, we think we might be onto something. It involves Old Magic and a certain spell in an ancient book we have. Some of the people Dumbledore has working with him are translating it."

"Well, I'm certain Emmeline is working hard, but Bill and Jacqueline seem busier with each other," Ginny sniggered.

"Love is like a compass needle," Luna said dreamily; Harry ignored her.

"Voldemort knows the whole prophecy, and there is a leak somewhere in his organization, or Fudge is involved somehow, because he knows, too. He's threatened to go to the Prophet with the story," Harry said.

"Maybe we could beat him to it," Hermione said. "Luna, would your father be willing to print another article about Harry in the Quibbler?"

Luna didn't look at Hermione, but continued to shift her eyes around the room. "I can ask him. Of course, he's quite busy with the latest sightings of Heliopaths at the Ministry. His sales haven't been as good since the Prophet started believing Harry. He's been having some difficulty with solicitors."

"I'm sorry, Luna," Harry said, feeling contrite. Luna's father had printed Harry's version of what transpired in that awful graveyard in Little Hangleton, and it had been a best seller. It had never occurred to Harry that her dad didn't have another story to follow it up to keep those sales high. The other stories the Quibbler printed tended to be rather...outrageous.

"People are fickle," Luna said airily before focusing her gaze on Ron. "You still look very angry, Ronald. You really should learn to control your temper; not only does anger wreak havoc on your internal organs, but it creates erectile dysfunction, as well."

Ron's ears, which were still red from his argument with Hermione, turned an even deeper shade as he goggled at Luna.

Ginny spat her drink everywhere. "Yes, Ron," she choked, "you really should watch that; it's unhealthy."

Harry snorted into his glass of water, his face burning.

"Shut it, Harry," Ron said, sounding very disgruntled.

"Or what, you'll knock my books all over the floor, too? I'm not going anywhere near the other side effects." Harry said, causing both Ginny and Neville to choke on their own laughter.

Ron scowled at a smirking Harry, who felt he owed Ron a lot of payback for all the Harry Potter Chocolate Frog cards that Ron had kept hiding everywhere at the end of last term.

"Oh, you're one to talk about controlling your temper...Quidditch ban ring any bells, Potter?" Ron asked. "You must be permanently affected from fifth year."

Harry raised an eyebrow and put his arm around Ginny. "I'm doing just fine, thanks."

Ron's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Watch it, Potter."

"You started it," Harry said.

Hermione rolled her eyes at the both of them. "Fine, we've established that neither of you can hold your temper. It doesn't solve the problem of what to do about the Ministry. If Fudge decides he should tell the world about the prophecy-"

"He'd be wrong," Ron interrupted.

"Ron, he's doing this for his own political gain...to pressure Harry into supporting him. If we can find a way to take that decision out of his hands, he loses his leverage."

"I don't care why he's doing it, Hermione, and I don't want to look at the logical reasons behind it. You just can't stand to admit that the Ministry could be wrong," Ron snarled, pushing back his chair as he stood towering over her.

Hermione jumped out of her own chair to glare back, her smaller body standing toe-to-toe with his. "What exactly is that supposed to mean, Ron? Why don't you just spit out what you're trying to say?"

"I would think that you would have learned your lesson last year about blindly trusting anyone in a position of authority. Didn't Diana Trent's deception teach you anything?"

Hermione raised her hand and slapped Ron's face with a resounding crack. Her lower lip trembled. "That wasn't Diana Trent," she said, stomping her foot before she turned on her heel and fled the common room.

"Ron," Ginny hissed, her eyes narrowed dangerously, "you two have to stop shouting and start listening to each other."

Ron still stared at the spot where Hermione had disappeared. "I'm going to bed. Good night," he said gruffly.

"I'm going to check on Hermione," Ginny said. "I'll be right back."

Neville looked at Luna. "You certainly know how to clear a room."

Luna smiled absently. "Walk me back to my dormitory, and I'll try to clear my own common room like that," she said slyly.

Neville blushed but jumped to his feet and followed Luna out the door. Harry looked around at the now empty common room. He cleared the books that were left on the desk and stacked them neatly. It didn't take long for Ginny to reappear. She wrapped her arms around his waist and squeezed him gently. "Hermione didn't want to talk. She's been feeling so guilty about what happened to you both last year. It's hard for her to admit that she was wrong about Trent, never mind that she was the one who told her that you were meeting Malfoy. She's so confused; it's like her whole belief system was shaken."

Harry nodded, making a silent vow to try and make Hermione feel better tomorrow. What happened to him and Ron wasn't her fault, but he knew how guilt could eat away at a person. Still, it wasn't entirely Ron's fault, either. Hermione did tend to trust most adults implicitly, and she refused to consider that she could ever be the one who was wrong.

"What are you thinking about?" Ginny asked.

He smirked and turned to face her. "Ginny, I'm seventeen and alone in a dark room full of soft, cushiony couches with my beautiful red-headed girlfriend, after a fairly risqué conversation. What do you think I'm thinking about?"

Ginny slapped him on the arm. "Prat."

He grinned and led her over to one of the soft, cushiony couches. They didn't get any more homework done that evening.

During Friday's lesson with Abe, Percy announced that he'd be meeting Ron, Harry and Ginny at the Ministry for their Apparation tests. Percy stressed how privileged Harry should feel for the special circumstances he was being granted. Harry didn't mention that it was the Ministry who'd cancelled the original date. Their visit was being kept very quiet. Harry, Ron, and Ginny would floo to the Leaky Cauldron and walk over to the Ministry under Order guard. Percy would meet them in the Atrium and lead them upstairs. After they'd received their licenses, they would use the Ministry Apparation checkpoint to Apparate back to Hogsmeade.

At dinner on Friday, Luna joined the others at the Gryffindor table, and Harry filled them all in on the plan.

"What?" Ron exploded. "We have to spend the afternoon with that git?"

"Shhh, keep your voice down," Hermione hissed. "Honestly, Ron, what part of keeping this quiet didn't you understand?"

All of them had opinions on or about how the day should go and how to handle Percy, except for Luna, who remained decidedly quiet. Then again, Luna was usually slightly off in her own world.

"I'm dreading having to tell Mum we saw him," Ginny groaned. "I hate the look that always creeps into her eyes whenever he comes up in conversation."

Hermione patted Ginny's back sympathetically. "It must be very hard for your parents. Maybe tomorrow he'll be decent, and you'll have something good to tell your mum."

"Not likely," Ron scoffed. "What time are we leaving?"

"Abe and Cordelia are walking us down to the Three Broomsticks at half one; we'll use the Floo from there," Harry said.

"Percy isn't going to be in the room with us when we take our tests, is he?" Ron asked. He looked a little bit nervous.

"Dunno," Harry said, shrugging his shoulders. "I suppose we'll find out tomorrow."

"Well, I need to get to the library. You three should try and finish up your homework so it won't be hanging over you tomorrow," Hermione said.

"Yeah, I'm real worried about it," Ron said, rolling his eyes.

"Maybe if you worried about it a little more you wouldn't be in this mess," Hermione snapped.

She and Ron had barely spoken to one another since their row in the common room. Harry rolled his eyes; he'd hoped that they would mend their rift, but that didn't seem likely. He hated that they were really at each other's throats these days, and he was endlessly cast in the role of referee. "Enough, enough," he said, interrupting them before Ron could retort. "We'll plan on heading out after lunch, okay?"

"Okay," Ginny said, leaning over to kiss him on the nose. "I need to talk to Professor McGonagall about something for class. I'll meet you in the common room."

Harry awoke with nervous butterflies in his belly the next morning. He wasn't certain why - he knew he could pass the test, and he had confidence Ron and Ginny would, as well. There was no reason to be nervous. He wondered if it would put more pressure on Ron if he went first, or if Harry and Ginny did. Harry decided to wait and let Ron make that call.

Ginny had a lot of revising to do, so he and Ron spent the morning on the Quidditch pitch tossing the Quaffle back and forth. They joined Ginny for lunch, then met Cordelia in the Entrance Hall. She was dressed in a bright yellow cloak.

"Hello, then, dearies," she said with a smile. "Abe is outside, waiting for us. We thought the fewer students to see him here the better. Are you ready?"

"Yes, ma'am," Ron muttered, openly staring at Cordelia. Harry sniggered; Ron was as bedazzled with Cordelia as Seamus was.

The walk to Hogsmeade took a while, and they enjoyed the bright fall day. When they arrived at the Leaky Cauldron, they were already running a little behind, so they had to sprint up the street to the Ministry. Harry had hoped to be able to sneak into Diagon Alley to buy a frame for his mother's picture, but it obviously wasn't meant to be.

They entered through the old Muggle phone booth, stating 'Apparation Test' as the reason for being there. Percy was waiting inside the lobby; he was obviously perturbed with their timing and started in on them at once.

"It's about time you arrived. You nearly missed the allotted time for the first test; one of you would have had to go home without taking your test. The Ministry is very busy and time is not to be wasted," he said without so much as a hello.

"It's nice to see you again, too, Percy. I heard you were engaged; it's a shame you haven't found the time to introduce your fiancée to your parents," Ginny said, snarling her words.

Percy ignored her. "Follow me, quickly now." He led them to an elevator, where they rode to the sixth floor. The door immediately across from the elevator read 'Apparation Testing Facility.' Percy pushed it open and strode up to the witch sitting at the desk.

"I have three subjects here to be tested. I have an important matter to discuss with the Minister," he said pompously. "Could you please send me a memo when they're finished, and I'll return to collect them?"

"Of course, Mr. Weasley," the witch replied.

Percy looked over at his siblings and Harry. "Have a seat, and they'll get to you in a timely fashion. Good luck," he said, nodding and adjusting the glasses on his nose before leaving. Harry could tell he was uncomfortable, and it saddened him to see how far the relationship between the Weasley siblings had deteriorated. Percy may have always been a bit fussy, but he was still a Weasley.

He didn't have long to dwell on that thought, because the witch behind the desk said, "Right, then, which one of you is first?"

Harry and Ron looked at each other before replying simultaneously, "Ginny."

"Hey!" Ginny said.

"Ladies first," Harry said, grinning sheepishly.

Ginny got up and walked over the desk. "Suppose I'm going first, since my brave companions just sold me out."

The witch behind the desk merely blinked, her facial expression not changing at all. "Ginevra Weasley," she said, speaking into a small, round disk on her desk. "Candidate for a License to Apparate." She turned to Ginny. "Please step through the door."

Ginny turned in confusion; there was no other door aside from the one they'd entered. Her eyes widened as a door appeared on the wall next to the desk. It was bright red with a shiny gold handle. Ginny turned towards Ron and Harry. "Cheerio, then."

"Good luck, Ginny," they chorused.

After Ginny entered the door, it disappeared into the wall once again. It gave Harry an uneasy feeling after seeing her vanish, and he stood up and began to pace. Ron stretched out his long legs in front of him, leaned his head back on the chair, and shut his eyes. Harry shook his head and continued to pace.

"Will you sit down, mate?" Ron finally said without opening his eyes. "You're making me nervous."

"How long did you have to wait the last time?" Harry asked.

"I didn't; I came on my own the last time, didn't I?" Ron said.

"Who is next?" the witch behind the desk asked. Harry decided he definitely didn't like her attitude.

"He is," Ron said, jerking his thumb towards Harry and still not opening his eyes.

"Are you certain?" Harry asked.

"Yeah. I'm fine, and your pacing is driving me barmy."

Harry punched Ron lightly on the arm and walked up to the cranky witch.

"Harry Potter, candidate for a License to Apparate." she said into the little disk. "Please step through the door."

With a final, tight smile towards Ron, Harry entered the red door. He found himself in what looked like a huge warehouse facility with rows and rows of shelving. Large letters hung from the top of each row, labeled A through K. A short wizard with a bushy black mustache stood waiting with a clipboard.

"State your full name," he said without looking up.

"Harry James Potter."

The wizard looked up sharply, his eyes doing the familiar upward glance towards Harry's forehead. Harry gritted his teeth and waited until the man asked his next question. "Right, then. Please Apparate to section H, on three."

Harry looked over at the row marked 'H' and formed the picture in his head.

"On three," the tester said. "One...two...three."

Harry opened his eyes and found himself standing beneath the large 'H', although he was no longer in a warehouse. He was outside in a field. He could smell freshly cut grass and hear the ripple of a brook nearby. He looked at the wizard who had accompanied him, with a question in his eyes.

"So...is it true you've actually seen You-Know-Who?" the tester asked boldly.

Harry nodded.

"What does he look like?" the wizard whispered in awe.

"Like the snake that he is," Harry replied coldly. He was getting tired of this place. "Look, is that it? Is the test over? I don't really want to talk about Voldemort."

"Shhhhh, blimey! What do you think you're doing, saying that here?" the tester asked, looking around frantically. "Keep your voice down and don't say the name, for Merlin's sake."

Harry had had enough. "I will say Voldemort, since that is who you're asking me about. You should, too. He wants you to be afraid of him; don't let him win."

The panicked tester was horrified, and he'd had had enough of Harry. "See that pond over there? Apparate to the other side." Harry did as he was told. He did two more tests before ending up back in the warehouse. The tester no longer seemed interested in talking to Harry. In fact, he appeared quite eager to be rid of him. He handed Harry a document with a Ministry seal under the word 'pass'. "Hand that to the witch on the other side of the door, and she'll give your license. Have a nice day."

Harry walked through a green door this time and found Ginny waiting on the other side. "How did you do?" she cried when he entered.

"Passed," he said, handing in his form. The witch at this desk had the same disinterested look as the witch on the other side. She handed Harry a small scroll with his name and 'License to Apparate' written on it.

"I got mine, too," Ginny said. "Now we just have to wait for Ron."

"He'll do it," Harry said confidently.

Ginny smiled and nodded before turning her head back to her book.

"What are you reading?"

"Just an idea for some extra credit work for Professor McGonagall," Ginny said, refusing to meet his eyes.

"Extra credit? What's that?" Harry asked with a grin.

Ginny scowled at him. "I have to do some extra work, Harry. My OWL results were terrible, particularly in Transfiguration. I need to do everything I can to boost my marks so when it's time for NEWTs, I can make up for the OWL scores."

Harry grimaced, feeling another pang of guilt. "So, what are you going to do?"

"Don't go feeling guilty about this, Harry. It isn't your fault, it just is. I've asked Professor McGonagall about learning to become an Animagus," Ginny said.

Harry was stunned. "An Animagus...wow, Ginny. That's going to take a lot of work, and you already seem overloaded. Are you certain you'll have time for this?"

"Of course I am," Ginny snapped. "I know it will take a lot of work, but it's nothing I can't handle. I'm going to do this, Harry."

Harry bit his lip; he knew the easiest way to set Ginny off was to tell her she couldn't do something. She'd go full barrel ahead, damn the consequences, to prove that she could. He knew he should stay quiet and let her think about it herself. He knew that. Just shut it, Potter.

"Ginny, you're going to burn yourself out if you're doing this much extra for all your classes," he said. You idiot.

He watched as the storm gathered on her face, her eyes narrowed into a fierce glare. "Who are you to tell me what I can and can't handle? You're undertaking NEWTs, Quidditch, DA, extra training, not to mention the fate of the world," Ginny spat, keeping her voice low enough so the witch at the desk wouldn't hear her, but still with enough heat to let Harry know he'd done it this time. "I'm doing this, Harry, whether you like it or not."

Harry listened to his inner monologue and held his tongue this time. He knew Ginny had only been considering the idea before he opened his big mouth; now he'd gone and goaded her into it. He hoped it wouldn't be a decision she'd later regret.

He was saved further argument when the door opened and Ron entered the room, a huge grin spread across his face. "No problem," he said smugly.

"Good show, Ron," Ginny said, beaming at him.

Harry clapped him on the back. "We've all done it, then. Maybe when we get back to Hogsmeade we can stop for some butterbeer to celebrate."

"I've sent a memo to Mr. Weasley; he'll be here to collect you shortly," the witch said, handing Ron his license. Ron admired it for a moment before putting it in his pocket.

The door banged open, and Percy shuffled in, glancing at their pleased expressions. "I'm happy to see you've all passed. The ability to Apparate is a privilege not to be taken lightly. Did you get your copies of the Ministry's Official Guide on the Rules and Regulations of Apparating Standards?"

Ron rolled his eyes. "Yeah, and I know just what to do with it. Let's go; I'm ready to get out of here."

"I'm afraid I can't leave right now," Percy said, puffing his chest out importantly. "I need to send an important owl that simply cannot be delayed. You'll have to go onto the checkpoint without me. I'll see you at your next training session on Monday, Harry. Ronald, Ginevra...congratulations. Good day."

"That...stuck up...pillock," Ginny stammered, at a loss for words.

"Forget him," Ron said, although his ears were colored a telltale red. "Let's get out of here."

The three took the elevator to the main lobby and walked across the street to the visitor Apparation checkpoint. As soon as they entered, Harry felt that something was wrong. The place was deserted, not even a Ministry guard at the desk. The silence was eerie, and he felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up an instant before he yanked Ginny to the ground and screamed at Ron, "Get down!"

He pulled Ginny behind the guard's desk as a barrage of spells flew towards the area where they'd just been standing. Ron had hurled his body the other way and now was trying to use some small fold-up chairs as cover. They were only a few steps from the Apparation point, if they could just reach it without being hit. The wards surrounding the Ministry wouldn't allow them to Apparate anywhere but in the designated locations.

Harry peered around the corner and fired off several stunning spells. He could see the Death Eaters now; they were huddled in groups on each side of the room. A jet of red light streamed towards him, bursting above him and Ginny. Ginny volleyed her own stunning spells back. Harry had time to register that, while some of the curses directed at them had been powerful, none had been killing curses. Whoever had organized this wanted them alive.

"Ginny, if I cover you, do you think you can make it onto the Apparation platform?" Harry asked, sending a Reductor Curse at the wall some of the Death Eaters were hiding.

"No," Ginny panted, her eyes darting wildly from side to side. "We all need to get out of here together, Harry. I'm not going through that again. Can we make it back out the way we came in? We could run back to the Leaky Cauldron."

Harry shook his head. "I don't want to lead them into a crowded pub," Harry said, frustrated that she wouldn't get away. He used his wandless magic to extend the shield he had covering himself over her, as well.

Ron yelped when the chairs that he was hiding behind blew apart. He rolled to the side and plastered himself against the wall.

"All right, Ron?" Harry yelled over the noise.

"Been better, Harry," Ron replied tersely, firing a Diffindo at his attacker.

"Potter, Weasley...so nice of you to join me," a female voice purred from the opposite sign of the room. Harry caught Ron's eye above Ginny's head; he knew that voice.

Narcissa Malfoy showed her face briefly, while the other Death Eaters held their curses. Her blue eyes glittered dangerously as she swept over the flimsy cover the Hogwarts students were using.

"What do you want?" Harry demanded, his voice bearing a confidence he wasn't certain he possessed. His eyes rapidly scanned the other Death Eaters. Although they were masked, their bodies appeared youthful, and they certainly weren't the experienced and lethal foes he expected from Voldemort's inner circle.

"I'm making the demands here, Potter, not you. The Dark Lord is interested in you; I'm not, and I'll leave you to him. It's Mr. Weasley, here, with whom I've a score to settle," she said, her eyes holding Ron's intently.

"So...you're settling your own debts behind Voldemort's back? That's very brave of you, Mrs. Malfoy. I wouldn't have expected you to be that reckless," Harry said.

Narcissa's eyes shifted slightly. "Shut up, Potter. Your big mouth isn't going to help you here. Lower your wands and come quietly, if you don't want your little girlfriend hurt."

"Touch her, and you'll die," Harry replied calmly. He felt Ginny's nails dig into his arm, although she held her wand trained on the Death Eaters.

Narcissa let out a sharp breath of air. "You're ridiculously confident for a school boy, Potter, and I've grown weary of you. Take them," she said to the Death Eaters accompanying her.

The Death Eaters began to fire again, and Harry stood up and fired a barrage of curses with such speed and intensity that it was nearly impossible to follow. He began using some of the more archaic, but extremely effective, offensive spells Abe had been showing him. At first, Ginny tried to pull him back down behind the cover of the desk, but once she realized he was holding his own, she turned back towards the Death Eaters and began firing her own spells.

Narcissa moved towards Ron, who continued to fire his own curses. Harry disarmed all the Death Eaters who were on their side of the room with quick precision, and turned towards several who were trying to flank Ron. Ron yelped when a Slicing Curse hit him in the shoulder. He slammed his hand to it, trying to stem the blood flow.

Harry fired a powerful, "Stupefy," at the offending Death Eater, who went down in a heap. The remaining Death Eaters had pulled back and were retreating from Harry's powerful spells towards the cover of the wall on the opposite side of the room. Harry wrapped his arm around Ron's waist and pulled him to his feet.

"Hang onto me - we're getting out of here," he said, dragging Ron towards the Apparation platform. He used one arm to drag Ron, while he held his wand poised towards Narcissa. He continued to use the wandless magic on the other Death Eaters, who were obviously confused by the spells that seemed to come from nowhere. He fired a Reductor Curse towards the wall that a number of them were using as a shield. The concrete splintered and cracked, sending dust and debris everywhere. Ginny covered their backs as they approached the platform.

Harry had just about reached it when he felt Ginny's body crumple behind him. In the confusion, one of the Death Eaters had flanked them on the side of the room that Harry had already cleared. Harry let go of Ron and blindly reached for Ginny, panic consuming him.

"I'm all right," she gasped. "Pay attention, Harry; Ron and I are right behind you."

Harry felt a fury like none other he'd ever experienced course through his body. He turned his cold, emerald eyes towards the Death Eater who'd struck Ginny and slowly pointed his wand. He paid no attention to anything else happening in the room and didn't even notice how the lights flickered and all the glass on the windows shattered.

"Diffendo," he snarled, watching the spell tear into the man's chest as he was blasted into the wall behind him. He collapsed to the ground as if he were boneless. Harry pushed Ron and Ginny forward, and the three literally lurched onto the platform. Harry sent one final Cutting Curse towards Narcissa Malfoy that hit her on the side of the face before Apparating away.

The three breathless teens appeared a moment later outside the gates of Hogwarts. Ron had stemmed the flow from the wound on his shoulder, but the front of his robes was covered with blood. Ginny leaned on Harry before her eyes rolled back and her legs gave out from under her.

Harry gently eased her to the ground, his hands running over her, trying to find the wound. She jerked when his hand touched her side, and he noticed the tear in her robes. He pulled up her T-shirt and could already see a bruise appearing on her ribcage. He scooped her up in his arms. "Can you make it to the castle?" he asked Ron tersely.

Ron was pale and swayed slightly on his feet. "Yeah, I can make it; take care of Ginny."

Harry gritted his teeth and tried to control his own impatience. "Lean on me," he said, adjusting Ginny's weight in his arms. She was a tiny thing, but she was dead weight in her unconscious state. Harry's stomach knotted. She'll be all right.

Slowly, the three made their way back towards the castle. They hadn't gone very far when Professor McGonagall and Cordelia came rushing down the path to meet them. Professor McGonagall's eyes raked over them, taking in their bedraggled appearance. "Kingsley Shacklebolt notified Professor Dumbledore about the attack at the Ministry. Why wasn't Percy Weasley with you? He was supposed to make certain you left there safely," she demanded, placing Ron's arm around her own shoulder. Cordelia supported Ron on his injured side, while Harry sprinted ahead with Ginny.

"You know Percy...important Ministry business," Ron said weakly.

Harry didn't hear the rest of the conversation; he was moving as fast as he dared while holding Ginny. He wanted to break out in a run, but was afraid of injuring her further, since he didn't know what kind of damage she'd sustained on the inside. "Stay with me, Ginny," he whispered against her hair. "I can't do this without you."

He burst through the doors of the hospital wing, startling Madam Pomfrey. "Potter! Put her here and stand back; let me work."

Harry laid Ginny on the bed and stood back helplessly. He chewed on his lip as the healer began work on Ginny. Harry wasn't certain how much time had passed before Ron and the others joined him.

"How's Ginny?" Ron demanded, as Cordelia settled him on another bed.

Harry shrugged, his eyes never moving from Ginny's prone form. Professor McGonagall came over and gently directed him to a chair. Her hands ran lightly over his face and shoulders. "Are you injured, Potter?" she asked.

Harry shook his head. Professor McGonagall squeezed his shoulder gently. She didn't say anything, but she stood by his side while he waited for the prognosis on Ginny. He was grateful for the silent companionship.

Author notes: You didn't think Narcissa was just going to let the loss of her precious Draco go, did you? SO, what do you think Voldemort will do to Narcissa for taking matters into her own hands?