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 28

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 beta-reading this massive piece of writing. I know what a time commitment it has been, and I really appreciate it. Sorry to make you sniffle, but if it works with you I’m always hopeful it will work with other readers, too.

Chapter Twenty-eight

Back in the Chamber

Harry stared in numbed horror at the words written on the castle wall. His heart hammered in his chest as he fought with his brain to focus. This couldn't be happening. Not Ginny. How could this be happening? What did Voldemort do to convince her to come this way? How had he enticed her? What trickery had he used? As Harry stared at the sickening words, nausea roiled in his stomach.

He was aware of Ron skidding to a halt beside him, and heard his sharp intake of breath as he read the ominous message. "Harry," he whispered, horrorstruck.

Harry suddenly became enraged; his nostrils flared, and his lip curled back into a sneer. How dare Voldemort lay a finger on his Ginny? Going back into that Chamber had to be her worst nightmare, and he was forcing her to relive it. Harry was going to make certain he paid for it. He was going to get Ginny out of there, now, and end this thing once and for all. He felt that now familiar surge of power that always happened when his emotions were stirred. His fingers tingled with pins and needles, and he struggled to contain the raw energy. The candles flickered around him as he felt the temperature plunge.

Setting his jaw, he turned towards Ron. "I'm going after her," he said tersely.

"We're going after her," Ron said firmly. "We need to go back to the dorm to get our brooms and tell Hermione. We also have to tell McGonagall what we're doing so she can send some back up."

Harry nodded, immensely glad that Ron was there. Ron was right; they needed to ensure that they had a way out of the Chamber and that some members of the Order were informed of what they were doing. He couldn't rush into anything haphazardly. Not again. This wasn't fifth year, and he wasn't going to repeat the same mistakes. He had to do things differently this time.

He strode down the corridor angrily; his emotions were swirling around inside him and so jumbled up that he wasn't certain how to feel. Fear, anger, resolution, determination, panic, desperation - they were all stirred and mixed together inside of him. One feeling gave way to another so rapidly that he thought he could easily lose his mind. If Ron hadn't been there to keep him focused, Harry was certain that he'd go mad. As he began climbing the stairs towards Gryffindor tower, his scar burst with excruciating pain, bringing him to his knees. One emotion clearly rose above all others - jubilation.

Ron knelt beside Harry and placed a hand on his back. "Harry, are you all right?" he asked, his voice tinged with panic.

"He's hurting her," Harry gasped. The pain was so intense that he saw spots, but he fought from blacking out. He had to get to Ginny; he had to help her. He tried repeatedly to get to his feet, but the pain and waves of emotion kept getting in the way and causing him to fall. He struggled desperately as his own panic began to override Voldemort's euphoria, but Ron held him down with a firm hand.

"Pull it together, Harry," Ron demanded harshly. "You have to be strong for her; don't panic, now. There will be plenty of time to panic later, and I'll be first in the queue. Take a deep breath and pull yourself together."

Harry took several deep breaths and tried to calm his racing heart. Ron was right; now was not the time to panic. Harry had never been prone to panic - but this was Ginny! Once Harry had regained his composure, Ron pulled him to his feet, and they resumed their climb to the tower. The pain in Harry's head had receded to a dull ache behind his temples. They moved in silence the rest of the way, each lost in his own thoughts.

Harry's mind raced. He had to get into that Chamber before Voldemort took Ginny from him, too. The terrible dream that had been plaguing him for months about Ginny turning into Voldemort while in the Chamber kept replaying in his mind, fueling his panic. He wouldn't let that happen. Ginny had to be all right. Even if he never made it out of that Chamber alive again, he was going to be certain of two things. One - that he'd take Voldemort with him, and two - that Ginny would get out alive. He cringed slightly, thinking about how she would feel going on without him. He knew how it felt to be the one left behind, and he knew how much it hurt. Still, he needed Ginny to survive. She represented his hope, and he was determined, even if he did nothing else, to see her through this. He couldn't stand the thought of Voldemort hurting her again.

As they reached the portrait hole, Ron must have noticed some of the emotions playing on Harry's face, for he took a deep breath and put a steadying hand on Harry's shoulder, as if determined - for once - to be the one with the cooler head.

"Harry, listen to me. This will be your one and only chance to defeat him; you can't rush into this one, mate," Ron said, with a sad smile. His eyes pleaded with Harry, and something about the raw desperation in his expression tore at Harry's ragged emotions. Ron was terrified of not only losing his sister, but losing Harry, as well.

"It's all strategy now; you have to get your pieces in place. Don't you think this all seems vaguely familiar? He did this on purpose, Harry. He sent you that dream repeatedly because he knows your fears and how you'll react. At least he thinks he knows. We have to change that and work this to our advantage. He wants you to rush in unprepared so he can catch you with your emotions running high. You have to calm down and think this through with your head - not your heart. He's expecting you to act on your heart - he knows you too well, Harry. You need to use your head now; using your heart will come later - in the actual battle. That's what you're good at doing. I'm good with strategizing, so listen to me and let me do my part now."

Harry stared at Ron's earnest face and was struck with a series of memories of the times he had shared with his friend since that first train ride, so many years ago. Ron was right - strategy was his strong point, and Harry would be wise to let him do it.

He'd never been one for a lot of words, particularly with Ron. They'd always sort of just bumbled their way through, but still been there for one another. This was different, however. This could be the last chance he ever had to say what he meant or regret it forever.

Steeling himself, Harry said, "This is really it, Ron. Once we're down there - I'm going to be otherwise engaged, so it's up to you to get Ginny out. You have to get her out and away, no matter what else happens."

"I will, mate. I promise," Ron said, his voice raspy. He swallowed several times in a row.

"Meeting you on the train in first year was still the best thing that ever happened to me, Ron. I never would have survived all this time without you. You took me in and shared your family, and I never could have asked for a better friend. I needed you more than you'll ever know," Harry said quietly, without meeting Ron's eyes, and both of them knew he was saying goodbye.

"Don't die, Harry. You'll break my sister's heart and hack us all off. We need you to be there after this is all over. I don't want to hear you talking as if you won't be there. Ginny would hunt you down and bring you back just so she could kill you herself, and I'd help her - so would Hermione and the twins. We need you, Harry. You're the glue that holds us all together."

Harry's eyes glazed, and an irritating lump the size of a Snitch formed in his throat. Try as he might, the lump just wouldn't go away; he was truly touched by Ron's words. "I'm going to do my best, Ron. I have some things that I want to come back for, things of my own for the first time in my life. But no matter what else happens - I'm going to take him out, today, even if I have to die to do it."

Ron shook his head, beginning to protest, but Harry raised his hand to stop his words.

"There is something you can do for me - if I don't win - and I don't come back out of there today. Just remember me, Ron. Remember Harry, not the Boy-Who-Lived. That was never me. You were my first friend...Harry's friend. You know me better than all the stuff they'll print. I want to know there is someone left who knew who I really was more than the stupid legacy.

"You tell them that I was messy and didn't like to do homework, that I got in more trouble than I should, and that I didn't follow many rules. Tell them that I had a temper and often acted before I thought. Don't let them gloss all that over, and I'll be watching to make certain you do." The lump in Harry's throat had grown so that it was now the size of a Bludger.

"I promise, Harry. If anything goes wrong today - it won't - but if it does, I'll be damned certain that everyone knows how much of a prat you really are," Ron said gruffly.

"Thanks, mate," Harry replied. "Are you ready?"

"As ready as I'm ever going to be. Let's go get Ginny, defeat a Dark Lord, and still make it back in time for a stunning feast in our honor. What do you say?" Ron asked, and Harry suspected he was half-serious.

"Let's do it."

As they climbed through the portrait hole, Hermione startled them when she came running up behind them in a state of near panic.

"Ron! Harry!" she gasped, nearly out of breath. "Oh, thank Merlin you're all right. Something dreadful has happened."

"We already know, Hermione," Ron said grimly. "We're going after her."

Hermione stared at them blankly. She shook her head as if trying to clear it. "After who? Did you see it? Professor McGonagall has taken all the teachers to guard the gates. We're supposed to see to it that all the students get back inside. She said to keep everyone in the Great Hall."

"The Great Hall won't help us; it's Myrtle's bathroom where we need to be," Ron said, exasperated.

"Hold on," Harry bellowed, distracting both of them before they descended into another endless row. "I think we're talking about different things. What happened, Hermione? Why has Professor McGonagall gone to the gates?"

"The Dark Mark!" Hermione shrieked. "The Dark Mark appeared over Hogsmeade. The village is being attacked. Professor McGonagall has already called the Order members and is leading all the teachers to defend the gates. The prefects are leading all the students back inside, but I had to find you. I was afraid it was a trap for you, Harry."

"It is," Harry said grimly.

"What is?" Hermione screeched, clearly panicking. Tears had sprung to her eyes, and she was wringing her hands in nervousness.

"It's a distraction," Harry said. "The Death Eaters are probably attacking Hogsmeade to keep everyone busy and away from the school. Voldemort is here; he's got Ginny."

"What?" Hermione asked faintly, leaning back against Ron's chest.

"He's got Ginny, Hermione. He took her back into the Chamber of Secrets. We're going after her; it's time," Harry said, raising his chin defiantly. His scar seared painfully once again, but he fought to keep his face neutral, as to not panic Hermione further.

Hermione continued to wring her hands, but Harry saw a steely determination enter her eyes. "I'm coming with you, then," she said decisively.


"Don't even waste your breath arguing with me, Harry. I was the one who discovered those protection spells, and I'm the one who can make them work. You need me there. Ron and I are going to watch your back," she said, leaving no room for argument.

"I'm going to send Pig to McGonagall to let her know what's happening," Ron said. "Get the brooms, Harry, and I'll meet you right back here." He climbed out the portrait hole and sprinted down the corridor.

"I'm going to go tell Susan Bones to take over in the Great Hall and to be certain that everyone stays inside," Hermione said, rushing out after Ron.

Harry hurried up the stairs to his dorm, grabbed both his and Ron's brooms, the Marauder's map, and - just in case - the Invisibility Cloak. An eerie calm had settled over him. This was it; one way or another, it was going to end today. Hang on, Ginny. I'm coming. He could still feel the raw power coursing through his veins, but by not giving in to his panic and rushing right after Ginny, it had had time to settle and grow without bursting from him in an uncontrolled rage, like had always happened previously. He was acting - not reacting - and he thought that might be what made the difference.

As he hurried down the stairs from the seventh-year boys' dormitory and into the common room, he saw Hermione climbing back through the portrait hole. Her eyes filled with tears when she saw him, and she ran across the room to fling herself into his arms.

"Oh, Harry. This is dreadful. I can't believe this is happening now, when Professor McGonagall isn't even here. You will be careful, won't you? You can do this, Harry; I know you can. You're still a very powerful wizard - even more powerful than you were all those years ago, and you can do this," she said, sniffling. Harry hated to see her feeling so much stress.

"I know it's up to you to save all our lives - to save everyone - and I know the burden that it has been for you for so long. But, you have to come out of it all right for us - Ron, Ginny and I can't live without you."

Harry patted her back and rested his chin on her head. He didn't want to upset her anymore than she already was, but this was his chance to say goodbye - just in case - and he had to take it. Having the chance to tell Professor Dumbledore what he meant to him before he lost him had helped so much. He wanted to give that closure to Ron and Hermione - just in case. He didn't want it to be as sudden and as devastatingly painful as it had been with Sirius.

"Hermione," he said gently, keeping his chin on her head so he didn't have to look into her eyes while he spoke. "You and Ron were the ones who saved my life first - way back in first year. I never would have survived until now without both of you.

"You two pulled me through it all - kicking and screaming, sometimes - but still whole. I'd be lost without you. Somehow, in some way that I never even realized it was happening, you two took on the roles of my family."

"How do you mean?" asked Hermione, still sniffling although Harry could tell that she was listening intently. Her eagerness made Harry feel guilty. She'd spent years trying to get him to open up, but it was something he just hadn't been able to do until Ginny had shown him how.

"Well, Ron was kind of like a sibling. Someone to have fun and cause mischief with - even some sibling rivalry to go along with it," he said, shrugging and trying to hold back a blush. "You, on the other hand, took on a parental role, actually." He smirked when he felt her body tense. She pulled back from him and glared with narrowed eyes.

"Don't look at me like that," he said, smiling. "It's true. You always made me do my homework, and you cared about my marks and any successes that I had. You also sympathized with my failures - I'd never had anyone to do that for me before I arrived here. I don't know if you'll ever realize how important it was to me. How important you are to me."

"Oh, Harry," she whispered, losing her disgruntled stance and letting her eyes fill with tears again.

"I think most people's conscience has a voice, and the voice usually belongs to their mother, or the person who taught them right from wrong. The voice of my conscience is your voice, Hermione. I never told you how much you meant to me, how much both you and Ron mean to me. You saved me and gave me that taste of family that I was so desperate to have, and I will be eternally grateful to you for that," Harry said, his voice cracking at the end. That Bludger-sized lump had returned, and he now expected it was reaching Quaffle-size proportions. He was extremely proud of himself for getting all that out. He didn't think he'd ever be able to do it again if someone asked, but he'd done it when it mattered most. That was enough.

Hermione had tears streaming down her face, and her lower lip was trembling. "You're going to come through this just fine, Harry. You have to; we've still got NEWTs to take!" she said, stamping her foot.

Harry threw back his head and laughed, something he wouldn't have thought possible given their situation. Only Hermione would be worried about NEWTs as they headed off to battle bloody Voldemort. He wouldn't trade her for the world.

"What's going on?" Neville asked, climbing through the portrait hole and walking towards them. "I was in the Great Hall with everyone else, but when I couldn't find any of you, I knew something was happening."

"It's time, Neville. We're going after him; he's got Ginny. In fact, I think he might have Luna, too," Harry said.

Neville's eyes went wide. "What?" he asked, a tremor in his voice.

"Luna?" Hermione said. "You didn't say anything about Luna."

Harry shrugged. "I'm certain that the message on the wall pertained to Ginny, but Percy said he saw Ginny enter the castle with Luna. Did either of you see her in the Great Hall?"

"I didn't," Neville said faintly.

"Me, either, although I wasn't actually looking for her specifically, so I could have missed her. It doesn't matter; we'll get both of them out," Hermione said, nodding resolutely.

"I'm going with you," Neville said quietly.

Harry shook his head, beginning to protest - there was no way he could keep his eyes on so many people, rescue Ginny, and still take on Voldemort.

"Yes, I am, Harry," Neville said, halting Harry's protests. "I've been with you on this for a long time, and I intend to finish the job. You need us to watch your back, and that's what I'm going to do."

Harry stared at Neville for a moment, struck by how far the shy, timid boy he'd first met had come. "Thanks, Neville," Harry said, and he meant it.

Harry, Hermione, and Neville climbed out the portrait hole and met Ron, Fred, George, and Percy climbing up the stairs. Harry stared at the Weasley brothers in surprise.

"What are you lot doing here?" he asked.

"I ran into them coming back from the owlry. They want to help, and I figured that we could use the back-up," Ron said, shrugging apologetically.

Harry shook his head adamantly. "No. There are too many of us; he'll just start killing you all at random. I can't keep track of this many people while dueling him."

"It's not up to you to keep track of any of us, Harry," George said firmly. "It's our sister down there, and we're going to get her."

"Besides, you need us to watch your back," Fred said.

"We let her down the last time," Percy said quietly. "This time is going to be different."

Harry sighed in exasperation; he didn't have time for this. The truth was that he could use the help, and he couldn't blame them for wanting to save Ginny. "Come on, then. The entrance to the Chamber is on the second floor. Did you get the note to Professor McGonagall?"

"Yeah. I sent one to Bill, too," Ron replied.

Hearing Bill's name reminded Harry of Jacqueline. "It's not a full moon," Harry muttered, thinking out loud.

"What that got to do with anything?" Fred asked.

Harry shook his head. "Ginny told me that Jacqueline had been talking in her sleep about lunar cycles. Somehow, I was expecting Voldemort to make his move on the next full moon. Now, I don't know what it means."

"Well, it's not exactly lunar cycles," said George. "She just keeps repeating lunar over and over and over again. We're only assuming it pertains to the lunar cycles."

"Lunar....lunar. I wonder?" Hermione mumbled.

"I can see your brain working, Hermione," said Ron. "What are you seeing that the rest of us aren't?"

"Oh, it's nothing, I suppose. Just...you said that Ginny was last seen with Luna, and now they're both missing. Luna sounds a lot like lunar," Hermione said tentatively.

"You think she was trying to tell us something about Loony Lovegood?" Ron asked incredulously.

"Well, I mean...Voldemort has been getting his information from somewhere...and it's all been very accurate," Hermione said.

"...and Luna has been in on everything that was leaked," Ron continued.

"But Luna would never betray you," Neville said firmly.

Harry shook his head. He didn't think so, either, but...then again...his parents hadn't believed it of Peter Pettigrew, either.

"She did say her dad was in some financial trouble," Ron ventured uncertainly.

"This is getting us nowhere. We need to get to Ginny and keep our eyes open for Luna," Harry said with determination. As they turned onto the final corridor on the second floor, Harry nearly ran smack into Blaise Zabini. The Slytherin wasn't wearing his familiar amused grin. In fact, he looked rather alarmed.

"Potter," he said, ignoring the others.

"What do you want, Zabini? I don't have time to argue with you right now," Harry said, trying to move past his classmate. Zabini grabbed his arm and forced him to face him.

"Potter...there's something happening. Something more than just what is going on in Hogsmeade, I mean."

Harry narrowed his eyes shrewdly. "What do you mean?"

"I don't know. My information is sketchy, but from what I've managed to pick up from certain parties in my house, something big is going down today...something that concerns you. It's a trap," Zabini said quietly.

"Why are you telling us this?" Ron demanded.

"Look, I've told you before that I don't want to be a Death Eater. If there is going to be a fight, I'd rather see you be the one to survive. If you repeat that, I'll deny it; I'm still watching out for my own survival, but...I thought you'd want to know."

Harry nodded. "I'm going to at least take him out with me."

"Don't say that, Harry," Hermione said, gripping his arm. "You're going to take him out, and you're going to be fine." Hermione's voice was very shrill, and Harry wasn't certain which one of them she was trying to convince.

"You know what we're up against; we could use some help," Ron said, challenging the Slytherin.

"And you know I can't do that. If Potter isn't successful, I need to keep my supposed indifference, or all my family will suffer for it. Sorry, Potter, but that's the best I can do. I will tell you that he thinks you'll come alone, so I'm glad to see you have reinforcements. Good luck," he said quietly, extending his hand.

Harry looked at Blaise's hand for a moment before shaking it. "Thanks. Good luck to you, as well. Go back to the Great Hall and keep the younger students calm. I'm certain you'll hear about the outcome."

"Yeah," Blaise said, shrugging uncomfortably. "I hope you'll let me know how it goes."

The others watched his retreating back for a moment before turning and continuing forward.

"Git," Ron muttered, but Harry didn't think so. Blaise went against his house to do what he did, and it was at personal risk, no matter how he tried to deny it. Maybe he'd been too harsh in his criticism that all Slytherins were evil. They might see things differently, but that didn't mean they wanted him to die. That thought gave Harry confidence, somehow.

When they reached the door of Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, Harry strode in first and headed directly for the sink at the end of the row. The others followed him inside, single file.

"Oh, it's you," Myrtle said from her stall. She was hovering above the tank and watching them all with morose curiosity.

"Hello, Myrtle," Harry said. "D'you think you could help me with something?"

Myrtle perked up immediately. "Me? You need me?" she asked, leaving her stall and floating in circles around Harry's head with glee. "I always knew you'd realize it one day."

"A fan club that reaches into the Netherworld - now that's power," Harry heard Fred mutter in awe.

Scowling at Fred, he asked Myrtle, "Has anyone else been in here recently?"

"Yes, not too long ago. It was a dreadful boy who banished me when I tried to ask him what he was doing in the girls' bathroom. It's not just any boy I allow to come in here, you know," she said coyly.

"This boy...was he alone?" Harry asked, holding his breath.

"No, there was a group of boys with him. There were some girls, too - including your little red-haired friend. He is a very powerful wizard, though. It's not easy to banish me from my own haunting spot," Myrtle said with a pout.

"Ginny wouldn't have been able to Apparate away from him since we're inside Hogwarts," muttered Percy. He was staring into space and kept adjusting his glasses repeatedly.

Harry's heart had clenched at the mention of Ginny. He turned back towards the sink and hissed in Parseltongue, "Open up."

The copper tap glowed with a brilliant white light and began to spin. There was a rumbling sound as the sink sank into the ground and a huge pipe appeared before them. Harry heard Hermione gasp in astonishment, while Fred and George muttered, "Wicked," simultaneously.

"The Ministry considers the use of Parseltongue highly suspect. It's nearly considered a dark art," Percy muttered absently. He shut his mouth abruptly under the combined glares of Ron and the twins.

Hermione peered into the pipe, her expression a mixture of curiosity and revulsion. Neville looked somehow terrified but resolute at the same time.

"Okay," Harry said, sliding his legs into the dark pipe. He figured that he'd go first so at least if the trap was waiting right as they entered, he could stop the others getting hurt. "I'm going."

"We're right behind you, mate," Ron said, and Harry was plagued with memories of doing this once before. He took a deep breath and slid his body into the pipe. He slid into the darkness through slime and muck at a furious pace. As the entrances to other pipes flew past his vision, he realized some of them had collapsed since the last time he'd been here. He slid through the mess for what seemed like an eternity - each second another moment that left Ginny in Voldemort's clutches - until finally the pipe leveled out. He was thrown from the end and landed in a puddle of murky slime.

He grimaced and quickly shot to his feet, getting out of the way just in time, before Ron flew from the pipe and landed in the same wet puddle. "Eww," Ron groaned.

Hermione followed Ron, landing beside him with a thud. She scrambled to her feet, staring warily at the damp floor. "This is disgusting," she said, brushing futilely at her robes, which were covered with the grime.

As the others emerged from the pipe, Harry took a good look around the cavern. The rocks from the part of the tunnel that Lockhart had collapsed had vanished or been destroyed, for the tunnel was now clear. Harry could make out wet trails of footsteps leading into the tunnel. One tiny set among the larger tugged at his heart. She had been still able to walk at this point. As the smudges led away into the tunnel, they became blurred and unrecognizable, almost as if a spell had been cast to create confusion about the number of footprints.

The hairs on the back of Harry's neck stood on end, and he had the uncomfortable feeling of being watched. His eyes rapidly scanned the dark corners of the cavern. Giant spider webs hung in every crevice, but other than that, Harry could detect no signs of life.

"Lumos," he muttered, and the others lit their own wands, as well, as they silently began the trek inside the dark tunnel. They walked single file with Harry in the lead, trying not to brush against the slime dripping from the walls. Something about this just wasn't right, but Harry was at a loss to put a finger on it.

Suddenly, a distant rumbling echoed from somewhere behind them that grew into a fierce roar as it approached. Cracks appeared in the ceiling as the tunnel shook around them. Harry saw Ron pull Hermione to his side and crouch against one side of the wall. Harry flung his arms over his head and took cover opposite them. Heavy chunks of rocks and debris appeared from nowhere, slowing their progress and pinning them inside the tunnel.

Harry realized that the collapsed tunnel hadn't disappeared; it had merely been disillusioned to lull them into a false sense of security. Voldemort was trying to slow their progress. Harry was certain that they were somehow being monitored, and a thrill of foreboding rushed down his spine. Voldemort knew how many of them there were. How was Harry ever going to get them all out alive? He owed it to Mrs. Weasley to keep all her children safe...but how?

"Is everyone all right?" Harry asked loudly, once the walls had stopped shifting. He was answered with a groan.

"Fred!" George shouted, trying to push away a heavy boulder that had pinned Fred to the wall. Harry leaned his shoulder into the rock and attempted to push it off Fred, but it wouldn't budge until both Ron and Neville joined in to shove.

Percy hauled Fred to his feet as the others let the heavy rock slide back into place. "Are you all right?"

Fred looked battered and winded, but for the most part he appeared unharmed. "I'm all right," he said, testing his weight on each leg and shaking out his arms. He winced when he put pressure on his left leg, but was still able to walk.

Harry nodded tersely. Voldemort still has Ginny. "Let's go."

As the others followed along behind him, Harry kept running over the dream he'd been having in his mind. Always in that dream, Ginny had already been dead when he'd reached the Chamber. He couldn't let that happen. The thought nearly paralyzed him, and he felt like he was dragging lead balls as he forced his legs to move forward.

As he rounded the final bend and saw the carving of the entwined serpents with emerald eyes, his knees began to shake. Taking a deep breath to steel his resolve, he approached the carving. He felt a hand gripping his shoulder and turned to find Ron staring at him with eyes full of sympathy and understanding. He didn't say a word, but gripped Harry's shoulder firmly and gave a squeeze of reassurance. Harry had forgotten that Ron had witnessed Harry's nightmares, too, and must be remembering the same horrific details.

Feeling less alone, Harry turned back towards the carving and hissed, "Open." The serpents parted, and walls slid open wide enough for all of them to enter the Chamber of Secrets. Harry's scar seemed to split along his forehead, as if a white-hot poker was being pressed to his skull. He gasped and raised his palm to his forehead, trying to force the pain back. He knew without a doubt that Voldemort was here. He tried to focus his thoughts on Ginny and only Ginny, since that seemed to make the pain more bearable.

Ron and George each grabbed one of his arms to hold him on his feet until he'd recovered sufficiently to continue. He shook them off when he could stand, and moved into the Chamber.

Torches lit the perimeter, casting long, ominous shadows along the walls of the Chamber. Harry's heart thudded as he scanned the room for any sign of life. He could hear the shuffling of his companions' feet as they followed behind him, all too awestruck to speak. It was the first time any of the rest of them had seen this place of legend.

As they passed the final pair of stone pillars and entered the center of the Chamber, Harry's eyes had grown accustomed to the dim light. There, huddled beneath the stone statue against the back wall, stood a group of Death Eaters, including Bellatrix Lestrange, Lucius and Narcissa Mallfoy, standing in a half circle around Luna. Luna's eyes were wide and slightly bemused as she stared at Narcissa Malfoy with apparent confusion.

"Welcome, young Mr. Potter," Lucius drawled, malevolence dripping from his words. "I'm so pleased you decided to join us. The master said you would, and the master always knows."

Harry followed Lucius's gaze to the opposite wall, where Voldemort stood, resting his hand with his long, spidery fingers on Ginny's shoulder. Ginny's eyes were filled with a strangely vacant expression. She neither moved nor registered Harry's presence in the room, but remained standing still at Voldemort's side.

Voldemort took a step forward, his cold, red, snakelike eyes flickering over the new arrivals dispassionately. Harry heard Hermione's sharp intake of breath and felt Neville shuddering behind him. Aside from Ron, none of them had ever even seen Voldemort before now.

An eerie calm suddenly filled Harry's soul, and he was able to focus all his attention on the task at hand. His eyes stared unflinchingly at the creature in front of him. The Dark Lord, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, You-Know-Who, Tom Riddle...Lord Voldemort had returned to Hogwarts.

Author notes: I know this chapter is slightly shorter than the others have been, but ending it here made sense before the real battle begins.
Thanks to all those who reviewed the last chapter. Sorry for the cliffy..I don't think this one is as bad, right?