- 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: 11/27/2004Updated: 07/12/2005Words: 244,604Chapters: 33Hits: 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 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 my wonderful beta, Mistral. Thanks also to all you wonderful reviewers with your inspiring comments. You rock!
The atmosphere in the castle remained subdued for several weeks after the death of Professor Dumbledore. As February turned into March, and Ron celebrated his eighteenth birthday, some things began to return to normal. Life in the general wizarding world mirrored life at Hogwarts. No one quite knew what to do, and everyone lived on pins and needles, waiting for something else to happen.
Harry had felt as if he were walking around in a trance for several days after Professor Dumbledore's service. He would momentarily forget until some stray thought or memory would remind him, and the truth would crash down upon his heart. Still, he owed it to Professor Dumbledore to do what he had to do and not let Voldemort win.
He threw himself into his training with a vengeance. Fawkes had appeared unbidden at each training session, and Harry felt his powers throb with new energy. Magic coursed through his veins and strengthened, as each day would pass. It didn't matter what the Ministry was doing; he needed to be ready, because Voldemort wouldn't wait forever.
Fudge had received a Vote of No Confidence and had finally been removed from office. Too little, too late, most - Harry included - thought bitterly. Voldemort had been surprisingly quiet in the wake of Professor Dumbledore's funeral, and it had everyone in the Order on edge. Harry's scar had burned intensely for several days after the Ministry gala, and Snape had reported that Voldemort was taking out his fury over Harry's escape on his followers. After the funeral, however, Harry had felt nothing.
It was disconcerting, and Harry wasn't the one only who felt it. People were skittish, suspicious of everyone and anything. There had been more than one panic riot resulting in several deaths from the stampeding masses, yet no Death Eaters had actually appeared. Harry didn't know what he was waiting for, but Voldemort's silence was causing a widespread panic.
Amelia Bones had been elected Minister of Magic. Harry didn't know her well, but Tonks had said she was fair, and she had to be an improvement over Cornelius Fudge. Her first act had been to give more power to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Aurors were trying both to keep the peace, as well as capture and contain the Death Eaters. She was much more receptive to the Order than Fudge had been and left no doubt that she would accept their aid. What pleased Harry the most was that a lot of the media attention had been refocused towards Madam Bones and away from him for a moment.
The Hogwarts Board of Governors had officially appointed Professor McGonagall as new Headmistress, with Professor Flitwick taking over the Deputy Headmaster position. It was done quickly and without much fanfare. Harry suspected that no one wanted to deal with the problem right now, so they gave the job to Professor McGonagall, who was doing it, anyway. Harry thought it was rather unfair to Professor McGonagall.
Professor McGonagall had also been keeping Harry informed about what was happening within the Order. They hadn't appointed any one leader, instead each member utilized their own particular strengths to keep things moving. Professor McGonagall said it wouldn't work forever, but it was working at the moment. She was Harry's contact to the Order within Hogwarts, so she was the one he went to with his questions and concerns.
Students had been listless when classes had first resumed, but as the reality of NEWTs and OWLs approached, the teachers began giving homework in earnest. Hermione - the only student who hadn't taken a bit of reprieve with her revising - handed out study schedules to both Ron and Harry. Although they rolled their eyes, they knew she'd see to it that they at least passed. Harry knew that no matter how much she complained about their study habits, Hermione enjoyed their dependency upon her.
Harry had been uncertain how to act around Professors McGonagall and Snape following the memorial service. He'd seen a human side to them that most students never would, and he wasn't certain how to respond in class. He'd spent a lot of time with Professor McGonagall discussing the Order, and the awkwardness vanished quickly. If he caught her in unguarded moments, she'd even grant him a faint smile on occasion.
Professor Snape was another matter entirely. In Harry's first Defense class after the funeral, Harry had been caught talking to Ron during class. Snape made a snide comment on the fact that he'd never be ready to duel the Dark Lord if he couldn't even stop discussing his press clippings long enough to learn some proper dueling techniques. Harry's temper rose, but he kept it in check. One thing he'd noticed since Fawkes had joined him in his dormitory was that whenever his temper stirred, he'd hear a brief, calming trill of song and his temper became easier to control.
Quidditch practices had resumed, and Gryffindor's match against Ravenclaw at the end of the month was rapidly approaching. Harry, Ron and Ginny had all thrown themselves into the practices to take their minds off of everything else that was happening around them.
The morning of the match dawned cloudy, but unseasonably warm. Both Ron and Harry were out of bed extra early and dressed in their Quidditch gear to await the arrival of Fred and George in the entrance hall. The twins had said they were coming to the match, but they wanted a chance to speak with Percy first. Ron had insisted on being present, and Harry thought he should join them, just in case.
He hadn't seen Percy since that night, and he still wasn't certain what to make of him. He'd most likely saved Harry's life that night, but he'd also almost cost Ginny hers on the day of their Apparation tests, so Harry's feelings were torn. He wanted to see Percy and talk to him in person before making any decisions.
The Weasley brothers weren't feeling nearly as forgiving as Harry. Ron had been furious to know that Percy was taking sanctuary at Hogwarts when he had been ready to throw Harry to the wolves only months earlier. Fred and George hadn't stopped coming up with ideas on how to even the score with Percy, but it was Bill's attitude that had surprised Harry the most.
Bill was livid with Percy. He'd even refused to go with his parents that first night to speak with him. So far, only Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had had any kind of communication with the errant Weasley brother. Both had told the others that Percy was sorry and that he'd realized the error of his ways, but none of the others were ready to forgive him.
Until Ginny reminded him, Harry had forgotten that Percy had tried to blame Jacqueline for the attack at the Ministry in which Ginny had been hurt. Harry felt guilty that he hadn't even thought about Jacqueline in quite some time. So much had happened since then. Ginny told him that although Jacqueline hadn't got any memory of what had happened to her back, Bill had said that she muttered in her sleep about lunar cycles. Harry had no idea what that could mean, but remembered Remus going out as an envoy to the werewolves around the same time.
Professor McGonagall had told Harry that Professor Dumbledore had arranged it so that Percy used the floo directly into Professor Dumbledore's office each time he had attended one of Harry's training sessions. That way, he'd had a few moments each visit to talk with Percy and try to guide him towards the truth about what was happening. He'd said that after the attack at the Ministry where Ginny had been hut, Percy was shook. He wasn't ready to abandon everything he'd so staunchly believed in, but Professor Dumbledore had sensed a weakening, and so he pressed it.
The thought that Professor Dumbledore was quietly trying to reunite the Weasley family behind the scenes was so like him, and Harry had to blink to clear his vision.
"Morning, little brothers," Fred said as he and George entered the castle.
"And how are you lot doing this fine morning?" George asked. "Are you ready to show Ravenclaw how it's done?"
"They won't know what hit them," Ron said, grinning.
"I think everyone is looking forward to this match," Harry said.
"Yeah. People need a good distraction, so don't let us down," George replied.
"And remember - we're always good for a distraction. Anything you might need can-" Fred said, before Ron interrupted.
"All right, all right. So, why do you need to see Percy?"
"Percy seems to have Mum and Dad thoroughly convinced that he's on the up and up. We want to decide for ourselves if he's pulling anything over on them. I don't want to see Mum hurt by that git again," George said.
"So, we thought we'd talk to him on our own; we can be very persuasive when we need to be. Besides, I think Bill might actually kill him when he finally sees him, and I want to know how much I should cheer him on," Fred replied, and Harry wasn't certain how serious he was.
"I know that he's staying in the faculty wing - we saw him on the Marauder's map - but I have no idea how to get there," Ron said.
"Not to worry, little brother; we do," Fred said.
"Why doesn't that surprise me?" muttered Harry.
Fred and George grinned evilly and led them to the second floor, where they stopped at a portrait of an aristocratic-looking witch carrying a parasol and sipping a cup of tea. She regarded them coolly from behind lowered lashes, but didn't speak.
"Cornish Pixies," George said, and the portrait swung open.
Harry merely shook his head as he followed the twins inside. "Do I even want to know how you got that password?"
"Probably not," George answered.
"In fact, as Head Boy-" started Fred.
"Which we're still so disappointed in you about, Harrikins," George interrupted.
"You'd probably have to deduct points from yourself if you knew. Of course, being the concerned, older almost-brothers that we are, we'd never dream of getting you into trouble," Fred said with a wink.
"So, we think it would be best if we just kept that secret to ourselves," said George.
They had arrived at a door without a nameplate. Fred banged on it, hard. "Open up, Percy. We know you're in there."
After Fred banged again, the door creaked open, and a very gaunt-looking Percy peered out into the corridor. Fred and George didn't give him the choice of whether or not to let them in the room. As if by unspoken agreement, they both pushed on the door, and Percy stumbled back a few steps when the door swung open wide.
He pulled himself upright and glanced at his brothers warily. "What can I do for you?" he asked, sounding somewhat shaky. He must have known that he didn't sound confident, for he stuck out his chest and raised his chin in defiance.
"Aww, Perce, is that any way to welcome your family?" Fred asked, sounding anything but like family.
"Yeah. You've been here for a few weeks, and we haven't even been invited over for tea. Right inhospitable of you, Percy, and I know you were raised better than that," George said, plopping down on an overstuffed chair and conjuring a bowl of popcorn. He proceeded to toss the kernels in the air one by one, catching them in his mouth as they fell.
"Look, I've spoken with Mother and Father, and we were able to come to an understanding. They told me that you lot weren't ready to reconcile, so if you're only here to row, you can just leave," Percy said. He tried to sound pompous, but the dejected slump of his shoulders tugged at Harry's consciousness.
"Yeah, well, Mum and Dad would have forgiven you no matter what you've done; we're not that blind," Ron said angrily. Of the three brothers, Harry could easily see that Ron was the angriest.
"And I think a little rowing is more than overdue," George snapped. Harry hadn't seen him that genuinely angry since that time on the Quidditch pitch in fifth year, when Umbridge had banned them for fighting with Malfoy.
"What do you lot want me to say?" Percy demanded. "You aren't going to let go and move on, no matter what I say."
"How about starting by telling us how much of an idiot you've been," Fred said.
"And how you can barely live with yourself when you think how you treated your family, particularly since they were right, and you were wrong," added George.
"And what a git you were, writing me that letter saying all that horrible stuff about Harry. He read it, you know," Ron said, scowling and crossing his arms across his chest.
Percy's eyes flickered briefly over to Harry, who remained silent. He'd had the chance to work out a lot of his aggression towards Percy while dueling, and he thought that Percy's brothers deserved the chance to do the same. Besides, he still wasn't certain what to make of Percy getting him out of the gala the night Dumbledore died. Even if the Weasley brothers decided to forgive him, he deserved a bit of grief for his actions first.
"Yeah, and then I think you owe Ginny an apology for letting her get hurt at the Ministry when you were supposed to be escorting her," Fred snapped.
"Wait just one minute," Percy said, finally losing control of his temper and whirling on Fred. "I never meant for Ginny to get hurt. Merlin, do you know how much I...the Ministry was supposed to have been secure, and they were only going to the checkpoint. Despite how far estranged we've become, you can't believe that I would ever willingly let anything happen to Ron or Ginny."
"I don't know what to believe when it comes to you anymore, Percy," George said. "What I do know is that you were supposed to keep an eye on them, you dropped the ball, and she got hurt."
Percy looked like he was going to answer back, but then his shoulders slumped, and he dropped his head. "I know," he whispered, agonized. "Believe me, I've gone over every possible scenario in my head...and it always comes back the same way. Ginny got hurt, and I wasn't there to help her...again. You were," he said, looking right at Harry, "again."
"'Bout time you noticed that," Ron said, rolling his eyes.
"Well, I did finally notice. Is that what you wanted me to say?" Percy shouted. "It still doesn't change the fact that he did drag our whole family into this thing. They never had to be right on the front line, and they never would have been if it weren't for him. I tried to warn them because I thought it was the right thing to do at the time, but they wouldn't listen. They wouldn't even hear a word against him."
"And did it ever occur to you that it was because he was right?" asked George. "Didn't Dumbledore tell us a long time ago that we'd have to choose between what was right and what was easy? You chose what was easy."
"I chose what I thought was right at the time," Percy snapped, a bright flush staining his skin.
"Really? You thought belittling Dad was right? You thought returning Mum's Christmas jumpers without even opening them was right?" Fred asked, the venom in his voice growing with each question. "I think you were always a little jealous of how fond Mum is of Harry, Perce. Didn't it tread on what you thought was your spot just a little?"
"You're mad," Percy said, although he refused to meet Fred's eyes.
"Is he? Maybe the reason Mum is so fond of Harry is because he treats her so well; he gives her what she craves. She starts working on those bloody jumpers in July. Did you realize that? She puts every free minute she has into them, and she's so proud to give them to us. Most of us roll our eyes or complain about the color," George said, looking at Ron, who turned away, abashed. "Or stuff it in a drawer and pretend she hadn't sent it," he said, his eyes turning back to Percy. "Harry always has a genuine look of sheer delight on his face when he opens one."
George turned away from Percy to look at Harry. "Now, Harry, I know those cretins you lived with never gave you much, but even so, you give her that reaction that she's always wanted from us. You show her that you appreciate her. Of course she's going to have a soft spot in her heart for you."
Harry didn't know how to respond. He was always pleased to get a Weasley jumper; he liked that she thought of him, but he didn't think there was anything special about his reaction. A vivid flashback of his first year, when Fred and George forced Percy to wear his new Christmas jumper, sprang into his mind. Maybe Fred and George were a lot more thoughtful than they let on.
"Mum does want you back. I don't know why, but she does. But so help me, if you hurt her again...I'll make certain you don't live to do it again," Fred said.
Percy looked over at Harry. "What about you, Harry? I know I've treated you despicably, and I have no right to expect anything from you, but...do you think you could ever...try and forgive me?"
Harry swallowed and looked Percy directly in the eye. "I want to, Percy. I know it would make your parents happy, and I think it would make Ginny happy, too. But you have to win her over first. I believe that you're sorry, and I certainly know a lot about regretting your actions after the fact, but Ginny got hurt. I can't just let that go until I see some effort on your part to repair the rift between you. She's already lost one brother; I don't want her to completely lose another."
Percy remained silent for what seemed like a long time, staring at Harry intently all the while. Harry wouldn't back down and held his gaze, until Percy finally said, "When did you two fall so completely for each other?"
"I've already spoken with Ginny. She came down here to visit with me last week," Percy said.
Harry was surprised. He hadn't known that, and she hadn't mentioned it. He noticed the stunned expressions on the faces of Ron, Fred, and George, as well. "And?" he asked.
"She said she wanted to forgive me, but she couldn't until I'd apologized to you. She said you'd been through enough and didn't deserve disbelief from someone who was supposed to be family. Families stick together, is what she said," Percy replied.
"She's right," all three of the other Weasley brothers said in unison.
"Well, if that's the case, I reckon it's up to me," Harry said, stretching his open hand towards Percy.
"Harry! I can't believe you're just going to forgive this git," Ron said hotly.
"Ginny and your mum have been through enough. You're Weasleys, and Weasleys stick together. I was always so envious of that, and I won't be the reason you don't all pull back together," Harry said earnestly.
"Come on, Harry. You're as much a Weasley as the rest of by now - and you will be officially when you get around to marrying that sister of ours," George said, causing Harry's face to blaze a bright pink.
"Merlin help you," added Fred.
"If we have to accept this pillock back into our lives because of you, you deserve to suffer right along with us," George said as he grabbed onto Harry and Percy, while Fred grabbed Ron and pulled them all into an overly-exaggerated group hug.
"Well, wasn't that just special," Fred said perkily. "Of course, you're going to have to go through it all again with Bill. Mum will be happy, though."
"And don't think you're completely off the hook," Ron said gruffly, still not willing to let go completely. "You're forgiven, but we won't forget, and we'll be watching you real close for a while."
"And now, little brother, don't you have a Quidditch match you're supposed to be playing in today?" asked Fred.
Ron's face paled. "Shite, Harry! We were supposed to be on the pitch ten minutes ago. Come on!"
As he ran out the door after Ron, he heard Fred say, "Sorry you're under house arrest, Percy. It should be a great match. Beautiful weather outside, too, but...you do have to serve some punishment for your crimes. Pity that."
Harry and Ron raced to the Quidditch pitch and into the locker rooms, skidding to a stop on the slippery floor in front of an enraged Ginny Weasley.
"Where in the name of all that is magic have you two been?" she demanded, sounding eerily like her mother. "The rest of the team has been here for ages. You've no time to make a speech, Ron. We're barely going to get on the pitch in time. I don't know where your priorities are this morning. What could be more important than this match?"
"Sorry, Ginny," Harry said, while Ron merely pushed her out of the way and rushed into the boys' changing room.
"Where were you?" Ginny asked again.
"We went to see Percy," Harry said, causing Ginny's eyes to widen. "You didn't tell me you'd been there, as well."
Ginny shrugged. "What did he say?"
"We sort of called a truce. I mean...he's your brother, right?"
Ginny flung herself into his arms, causing him to stumble backwards. He caught himself and wrapped his arms around her while she kissed him soundly.
"I love you, Harry Potter."
"I love you, too, Ginny Weasley. Let's go win us a Quidditch match in Professor Dumbledore's memory."
"You got it," Ginny said, grinning.
They made it outside just in time to join the team line-up as they soared out onto the pitch as their names were called. Ravenclaw's young new Seeker looked positively terrified to be flying against Harry. Harry flashed his teeth in a lopsided grin, causing her to blush and dart away toward the other end of the pitch.
"I saw that, Potter. No tormenting the competition with that killer charm," Ginny said, giggling as she flew past him.
"I have that effect on women," Harry bluffed confidently before having to duck his head low to dodge a Bludger that nearly beheaded him.
"Get a grip, Harry. She's a third-year," Ginny shouted, her hair streaming behind her in the wind.
The same Bludger had curved and was aiming towards him again before Jack Sloper rammed it with his bat and sent it the other way.
"No problem, Harry."
Harry enjoyed the match; it was a warm day, and the sun even poked through the clouds on occasion. The Chasers were keeping Gryffindor in the lead, and Harry was aware of Ravenclaw's Seeker keeping a close eye on him rather than searching for the Snitch herself. A fatal error, as far as Harry was concerned.
He kept his gaze sharp and attuned to the field around him while still enjoying the bits of the match he could catch. He inhaled deeply, enjoying this taste of spring. Ron appeared to be having a really good match and wasn't letting many goals through. Watching his friend closely, Harry could see the relaxed set to his shoulders and the easy way Ron swerved from hoop to hoop. Setting things to rights with Percy had done Ron some good, as well, even if the stubborn prat wouldn't admit it.
While Harry was watching, Ron made a spectacular save, and Harry could hear the whoops and catcalls from the twins even from the height at which he was presently soaring. Harry grinned. For the first time in a long time, things seemed right; he always enjoyed when the twins came to call.
He watched as one of the Ravenclaw Chasers hurled the Quaffle towards one of his teammates. Like a shot, Ginny tore between the two of them, grabbed the Quaffle, and sped off in the opposite direction.
Harry whooped for her brilliant steal; the Ravenclaw players never even saw her coming. Ginny threw the Quaffle to Holly, who easily scored again. Gryffindor had a comfortable lead. Now, if only Harry could find the Snitch. A small glitter of gold directly above the head of one of the Ravenclaw Chasers caught his attention. He narrowed his gaze and began to fly towards the Chaser almost lazily.
He didn't want to alert the other Seeker, since she was much closer. The Chaser - a sixth year named Todd-something - was busy keeping an eye on the Gryffindor Chasers and hadn't noticed the Snitch above him. The murmur of the crowd soon alerted him; they'd spotted the Snitch moments after Harry.
Ravenclaw's Seeker turned in the direction the crowd was pointing, and the race was on. Harry flattened himself against his Firebolt, hoping for just that little bit of extra speed that he needed. He could see the potential glory of beating Harry playing on the other Seeker's face, and he was determined it wasn't going to happen.
Todd the Chaser looked up and then tried to maneuver his broom to block Harry's approach and make it easier for his own Seeker to catch the Snitch. As if aware it had been seen, the Snitch suddenly plummeted towards the ground.
Harry pushed his Firebolt into a steep nosedive and followed its descent, Ravenclaw's Seeker rapidly giving chase.
As the Snitch neared the ground, it leveled out and just barely skimmed the surface of the grass. Harry kept his dive almost to the point of impact before pulling up sharply, the Snitch in hand. The Firebolt struggled, and for a moment Harry wasn't certain he'd be able to pull out of the dive. Ravenclaw's Seeker had already pulled back and was watching Harry with a look of mixed awe and horror.
Harry finally managed to pull the Firebolt up; he'd lost his pads and both of his knees were skinned, but he had the Snitch. Gryffindor had won. As he was rising back upwards, a Bludger shot directly into his path and nicked the edge of his Firebolt, causing it to spin in a circle. Harry still hadn't caught his balance from the dive, and he crashed back down with a thump. Fortunately for him, he hadn't been too high, so the fall didn't result in any broken bones, just some additional scrapes and a bruised ego. Through it all, he managed to keep the Snitch in his hand.
"Amazingly after that dive and fall, Harry Potter still has the Snitch," Luke Donovan's voice droned over the pitch. "Gryffindor wins again."
Harry sat up, shaking his head, and immediately reached for his Firebolt. He ran his hand up and down the length of it to ensure there was no damage, as the rest of his team flocked towards him.
"Harry, are you all right?" Ginny asked with concern. She began running her hands along him in much the same way he was doing to the Firebolt.
"Sorry about that last Bludger, mate. I tried to catch it, but I just wasn't quick enough," Andrew said apologetically.
"Don't worry about it," Harry said, waving his hand. "No damage done."
"Blimey, Harry," Ron said, finally joining the rest of the group. He'd had a longer flight, all the way from the Gryffindor hoops. "I thought you'd finally broken your streak."
"Nah, just a few cuts. I don't even need to see Madam Pomfrey. I'm still on a roll," Harry replied, grinning. He hadn't had to make a single visit to the hospital wing this year, and he was determined to make it through to the end.
"Are you positive?" Ginny asked, her eyes sparkling brightly. "Maybe she should just look you over. That looked like some fall."
"He said he was fine, Ginny. He wants to go one year in his Hogwarts career without sleeping in the hospital wing. It's nearly April now; if Quidditch hasn't put him there yet, it'll take something pretty big to get him to go," Ron said.
"I'm okay, Ginny," Harry said reassuringly, scowling at Ron. He rose to his feet and bent his knees several times. "See, no damage. Hey, we won!"
"Yeah, and I saw Ron's brothers in the stands. There's bound to be a good after-party," Jack said, grinning. "And I'm old enough to stay for it this year."
Harry grinned. Fred and George did always make the parties more exciting. "Excellent. Let's get cleaned up and head inside, then."
After an extra-long, refreshing shower, Harry changed back into his jeans and a T-shirt and left the changing room. He found Ginny waiting for him just outside the door.
"I told Ron that I'd wait for you; he went up with the twins to get things started and make certain Hermione didn't interfere too much. How are you feeling?" Ginny asked, her eyes scanning him for any hidden damage.
"I'm fine, Ginny. Don't worry about me. It was nothing more than a little fall. I've had worse playing with you and your brothers."
"I know. It scared me, that's all. I felt powerless, being so far away and unable to help," she said, sighing.
Harry took her in his arms and gave her a gentle hug. "You've been working too hard. We need a night off. This celebration will do us all some good. I feel ready for a party."
She linked her arm with his. "Then I claim you for my date."
"Any fringe benefits go along with being your date?" he asked, quirking one eyebrow.
"What kind of fringe benefits would you like?" she asked, waggling her eyebrows.
"I'll think of something," Harry said, grinning wolfishly.
"I'm certain you will."
They continued their playful banter all the way up the castle steps and up to Gryffindor tower. Lunch was just being served in the Great Hall, so the noise level was high as they passed the doors. When they reached the tower, Harry gave the password, and they entered to find the common room deserted. Despite the emptiness, the room was obviously being prepared for a party. Dean had designed a banner that read, 'Gryffindor for the Cup...Again', and it hung above the stairs to the dormitories.
After Harry and Ginny stowed their brooms in their dorms, they returned to the common room and sat on the couch near the fire. They watched the banner with amusement as the little figures zoomed around on brooms and knocked Bludgers at all the other Houses. Harry stretched his legs out in front of him and inhaled deeply, enjoying the calm and utter peace of the day. It had been a long time since he'd felt this way.
"What are you thinking?" Ginny asked, breathing huskily in his ear.
Harry grinned. "You're going to drive all the thoughts from my head if you keep doing that," he said, turning his head to catch her lips in a gentle kiss. "I was thinking about Percy."
"Yeah. He said you wouldn't forgive him until he apologized to me."
"He owed you an apology, Harry," Ginny said, scowling.
"He owes his whole family an apology at the very least, but I really think he knows that."
"Me, too," Ginny said softly. "I can't speak for the others, and I think it'll be a long time before he ever really gains everyone's trust again. But...I think he's finally on the road there."
"What's going to happen with Pricilla? Did he say?" Harry asked.
Ginny frowned and caught her lip with her teeth. "I don't know. Isn't that awful? I never even thought to ask."
Harry stared, distracted by the way she kept running her teeth along her bottom lip.
"Harry!" Ginny said, poking him in the stomach. "I think I'll have to go back and talk with him again, especially since he did as I asked. I can ask him then. Should we go get some lunch? I don't know what Fred and George are planning, but I can't imagine they're not going to stay for the party tonight. Still, seems like they'll be missing a lot of business on a Saturday."
"Yeah, but I'm certain they've thought of that. They don't usually miss an opportunity," Harry said, holding the portrait hole open for her to climb through.
"You're right about that," she said, giggling.
They entered the Great Hall and made their way over to Ron and Hermione, who were just finishing their lunch.
"What took you so long?" Ron asked around a mouth full of steak and kidney pie.
"Ron, don't talk with your mouth full," Hermione scolded.
"Where are Fred and George?" Ginny asked, serving herself some of the pie.
"Dunno. They sat down with us, inhaled some lunch, then said they had something they had to do and hared out of here before we could ask what they were planning," Ron said.
"I really do hope they're not causing trouble," Hermione said, glancing around nervously. "They can be so incorrigible."
"Yes, Mum," Ginny snickered.
Ron choked on his pumpkin juice while Hermione glared at both of them. They were all distracted when Professor McGonagall stood to make an announcement.
"As you are all aware, we feel that due to present circumstances it would be inadvisable to allow you to visit Hogsmeade. Before you all begin bemoaning how unfair it is, what we have managed to do is bring a bit of Hogsmeade to you. Several of the vendors have set up small concession stands out on the Quidditch pitch for your perusal. The Three Broomsticks will be offering chips and butterbeer, and Weasley Wizarding Wheezes will be giving a demonstration of some of their products. You may all head outside when you've finished your lunch."
The volume in the Great Hall rose to a fevered pitch, with the vast majority of students pushing away their plates and rushing for the door. Excited first and second years, who had never had the opportunity to visit Hogsmeade, anyway, led the charge toward the doors.
"Ah," Ginny said. "Now we know what Fred and George were planning. Still, this could be fun."
"I think it's fantastic," Hermione said enthusiastically. "It'll do wonders for morale."
"Hurry up and eat, you two," Ron said to Harry and Ginny. "We're going to miss all the good stuff, and I want a butterbeer."
"Leave it to you, Ron, to tell us to hurry up and eat so we don't miss out on getting food," Harry said, chuckling and shaking his head.
"Just shut it and eat, Harry," Ron said impatiently.
A short time later, Harry followed Ron, Hermione, and Ginny back out to the Quidditch pitch, which was bustling with activity and a carnival-like atmosphere. Fred and George had the largest area, and were demonstrating some of their products to the huge crowd that surrounded them. Fireworks lit the sky, and the twins both seemed in their element amidst the chaos.
Butterbeer flowed freely, and several of the other shops in Hogsmeade had set up tables and were selling their wares. Hermione was immediately distracted by a stand selling parchment and quills, while Ron tried to steer them towards Honeydukes' grand display.
Harry didn't really care which stand they visited and simply followed along, taking in the sights and sounds. He was distracted when he saw Abe walking alone and looking at some beads at a jewelry stand.
"I'll be right back," he said to his friends.
Ginny looked up and saw Abe. She nodded her understanding. "Take your time. We'll just be looking around. Find me when you're through," she said, giving his hand a squeeze. Abe and Harry had continued their training, but their sessions had been lackluster and subdued.
"I will," he said, brushing his lips across her forehead. "I won't be long."
He left them to walk over to where Abe wandering. He appeared to be looking at everything, but seeing nothing.
"Hullo, Abe," he said, walking up beside the older wizard.
"Harry, lad, how are you?" Abe asked.
"Fine," Harry said. "Are you looking for anything special?"
"Nah. I've already got everything I need, just poking around, really. Minerva asked if I could help keep an eye on things. If you pay attention, you'll see a lot of the Order is here, keeping a watch on things."
"Yeah, I did notice a few familiar faces."
"Good. I'm glad to see you're paying attention. How are you doing, lad?"
"Fine. How about you?" Harry asked. He knew what they were each trying to ask without coming right out and asking. It somehow seemed easier to dance around the subject.
Abe squinted and gave Harry an appraising look. "He was quite proud of you, you know."
Harry picked up a little silver instrument that reminded him of the things Dumbledore had kept in his office. He played with it so he didn't have to look in Abe's eyes. "Yeah. We had a chance to talk about some things not all that long ago," he said very quietly.
"You did? He didn't tell me that. I'm glad. What's happened to you had always weighed heavily on his conscience. He always did what he had to do, but that didn't mean he enjoyed it."
"I know. I'm sorry, Abe," Harry whispered.
"You have nothing to be sorry about, Harry. Al played his role in this war, just like you - just like all of us, really. We all have to do what we have to do, and feeling guilty over any of it is just a waste of time. Keep the blame focused on where it belongs."
"What are you going to do now? Are you going to stay here at the castle?" Harry asked curiously. He hoped Abe would stay; he didn't want to lose him, too.
"Of course, I am. I won't abandon you before this is over, laddie. That's a promise. Besides, I think Cordelia has become very fond of that teaching job of hers. I don't think she'll want to give it up, even after the term is over," Abe said, ruffling Harry's hair fondly.
Harry grinned. "She's good; the student's are lucky if she stays."
"Well, it keeps her close to the Hog's Head, so it works out well for both of us."
Abe and Harry spent some time poking around the shops and simply enjoying each other's company. Harry had never had an adult to do something like that with before, and he found he enjoyed it immensely. When Cordelia came out to join them, Harry said it was time he got back to his friends. He bade them farewell and went in search of some familiar faces. He spotted Ron and Hermione walking hand in hand towards the Three Broomsticks stand, and he hurried to join them.
"Hi, Harry. We're going to get a butterbeer. Care to join us?" Hermione asked.
Harry joined in step beside them. "Okay. Where's Ginny?"
"What do you mean 'where's Ginny'? I thought she was with you," Ron said, turning to frown at Harry.
Harry stopped walking and turned to face Ron. "I left you all near Honeydukes when I went to talk with Abe, remember?"
"You've been with Abe all this time?" Hermione asked. "Is everything okay?"
"How long since you've seen her?" Harry demanded, feeling the first prickle of fear run down his spine. Neither Ron nor Hermione seemed all that concerned, and Harry supposed he was probably overreacting. It was a crowded market here, really, and Ginny did like to shop. There really wasn't any reason to become alarmed. Really.
"I dunno, half hour, maybe," Ron said, shrugging.
"I'm certain she's fine, Harry," Hermione said, picking up on his anxiety. "There's lots to see and do here. Why don't we just take a walk around the stands; I'm certain we'll spot her."
Harry, Ron and Hermione began strolling up and down the rows of vendors, trying to elbow their way through the crowd. The longer they went without finding that flash of red hair, the more Harry's tension increased. He spotted Neville coming around the corner and ran up to meet him.
"Neville, have you seen Ginny?" he asked, short of breath. He hadn't really run very far, but the panicky feeling was beginning to take hold.
Neville turned towards him and shrugged his shoulders. "No, not since we got here. Why?"
Harry didn't answer; instead, he turned and sprinted up the row, asking Parvati, Seamus, and Colin Creevey in turn if they'd seen her. None of them had.
Harry's heart beat rapidly in his chest, and he was beginning to have trouble breathing. He had an unrelenting fear that something was very wrong. He raced up and down the rows of vendors, first searching any that he thought Ginny might find remotely interesting, then turning to all the shops out of sheer desperation. He had to find her.
Percy! She had said she wanted to talk to Percy. Maybe she'd grown tired of waiting for him and gone back to the castle to have a chat with her other brother. She hadn't told him that she was going to visit the last time she saw Percy. Harry sprinted for the castle, Ron close on his heels. He vaguely saw Hermione turn around and begin retracing their steps along the Quidditch pitch, but panic was overwhelming him now. He felt nausea rising in his stomach, and he forced it down. He'd find her, and she'd be fine. It was all a silly overreaction. It had to be.
He raced back to the professors' quarters and pounded his fist on Percy's door. Percy opened it slowly, a bemused expression on his face at finding Harry back so soon. "Harry-"
"Percy, have you seen Ginny?" Harry asked, panting.
Percy shook his head. "Not today, except through the window. I saw her enter the castle with that funny girl with the blonde hair and vacant expression. Why? What's wrong?"
Luna! She was with Luna. Harry hadn't realized that they hadn't seen Luna outside, either. He tried to gulp down the panic, but for some reason, it refused to subside.
"Nothing's wrong. I just need to find her," Harry said, already racing back down the corridor and through the portrait hole.
"If she visits, tell her Harry's looking for her," Ron shouted, quickly taking off after Harry.
Harry ran through castle, resisting the urge to scream her name. He ignored Ron's attempts to gain his attention and kept running. As much as he didn't want to talk with Ron just then, he was immensely glad to have him with him. He had to find Ginny. He had to see for himself that she was all right. She must have gone back to the common room; she had to be there.
As he reached the grand staircase and started to head towards the third floor, he stopped suddenly. An unwanted thought was taking root in his mind and causing a dread to rise within him so fast that it was like a tidal wave. He turned on his heel and headed back in the direction from which he'd just come, running along at breakneck speed.
"Harry!" Ron shouted. "What the bloody hell are you on about?"
He ran down several corridors until at last he reached a nearly deserted one - one where he'd first discovered a message written on the wall, years before. He ran down that final corridor at top speed, although it felt like slow motion.
There - on the wall between two windows - the writing still so fresh it was dripping, were the words Harry had dreaded he would find:
'And now, her skeleton will finally lie in the Chamber forever...as it was meant to be.'
Author notes: Dun Dun Dun...okay folks, here we go! I'll give you fair warning, the next few chapters have some cliffys involved - but you expected that, right?