It had been three months - three months on the run, living in forests and under hooded cloaks, so as not to be spotted. They were tired, and he grew restless.
One would think that, with all of his misfortunes, Harry Potter would have been sick and tired of running by now, but he wasn’t tired of seeking the Horcruxes. He was a born Seeker, after all. He was just sick of running away, with every step leading him from a dream that had lasted only a few weeks. For it seemed a dream, out of reach - a memory so far away from the present, that it became fuzzy.
His memory was of a life, someone else’s life as he had sometime ago said to her…and she had accepted it. But by doing that, she had accepted him as well, and this knowledge could not leave him in peace, especially at night.
Ron, Hermione, and Harry had left their homes three months ago and now, by the fire, near the edge of a Scottish forest – not far from Hogwarts – they sat silently, each lost in thought.
Harry had a purpose--to destroy Voldemort--but now he had a reason, too: Ginny. For between all the ugliness in the world during his sixth year, she had shown him beauty, like an oasis in the desert. And he wanted that again. That was his reason for destroying Voldemort. He needed that oasis again, her again.
Harry thrust his hands in his pockets to protect them from the chilly autumn wind, and looked over at Ron and Hermione. Their innocent touches during the day - however much they wanted to hide them - always made Harry's mind drift off, drift to the one he left behind. Ginny. Right then, Hermione was leaning against Ron who had his arm draped around her while she dozed off. Ron kept vigil, watching the tree line nearby for any sign of movement. Harry knew he should be doing the same. Though it might not be the Forbidden Forest, they knew that magic beasts - or worse - could still dwell within it.
They were close now, close to one of the Horcruxes. The friends had found Hufflepuff’s Cup with difficulty, but with the help of Hermione’s knowledge, they had retrieved and destroyed it: another piece of Voldemort’s soul was gone. Now they were close to finding Ravenclaw’s Golden Quill, but that could wait for tomorrow. Night had fallen upon them before they reached their destination: Sage’s Creek, the town where Ravenclaw had been born.
Ron turned to Harry. “Want to take the first watch?” he asked in a hushed voice, speaking over Hermione’s shoulder.
“I can do the second watch. Let Hermione have the morning one,” he replied, knowing full well that Ron was reluctant to leave him guard during the most dangerous hours of the night.
“No. I was just saying…well…I’d like to be…hem - alone with Hermione a bit, before she falls completely asleep,” said Ron, casting guilty looks between Harry and the fire.
“Oh, okay. Sorry. Go on then,” said Harry, feeling quite guilty for his outburst.
Ron gently shook Hermione then, and she got up and with sleepy eyes bade Harry goodnight. Beside the fire, Harry sat watching Ron leading his girlfriend towards the magical tent that was home - the very tent they had stayed in for the Quidditch World Cup.
Harry glanced at the bluebell fire and, after making sure the charm that was sustaining it was in place, he stood up to stretch. He walked around the clearing where they had set up their small camp, scanning the tree line for any sign of danger. Satisfied from the lack thereof, he sat again and stared at the fire.
Before he could lose himself to his usual Ginny-filled daydreams, a sound reached his ears. Someone was in the forest. He was sure it was someone because no beast of any kind could swear - except for Jarveys, which were not dangerous. He didn’t make a visible move, hoping that whoever it was – friend or, more probably, foe - would not be alerted to his awareness. He turned his hand towards the direction of the noise, though. Wandless magic - as Harry had painfully learned - had many uses. He heard the branches of some bushes to his right part.
The ‘intruder’ was close. A Death-Eater? No. Voldemort could not be on to them; Harry had felt him earlier that day. Voldemort had tried hesitantly to enter Harry’s mind once again but, fearing Harry’s emotions, he had leaked thoughts out of his mind too. So now Harry knew that Voldemort was currently at the Riddle House, unaware of Harry’s quest.
The bushes parted and a hooded figure, hidden from the shadows of the night, peered his way. Harry’s heart raced and he gripped his wand tighter as the person came closer. When only a few feet still separated them, Harry jumped from his seat and whirled to stun the newcomer. The person dodged the spell and, with feline grace, rolled on the ground while drawing his wand at the same time.
Before his opponent could react, Harry kicked the wand out of the other’s hand and pinned the person to the ground. Only then did he realize that his opponent was a woman.
Harry pointed his wand at her throat. “Show yourself,” he demanded.
She lay frozen beneath him. Without lowering his wand, Harry raised his other hand and flung the hood from her head. His heart stopped for a moment, but then cold anger filled him.
“Harry.” Whoever looked like Ginny spoke breathlessly.
“Who the bloody hell are you? Tell me or I swear I’ll kill you,” he commanded in a louder voice, his hand pressing hard at her throat.
“Harry, it’s me,” she said, with tears in her eyes, and Harry’s temper flared once again.
“You’re not. What did you do to her?” Harry felt his insides freeze with a panic mixed with anger. He started searching the woman frantically-nearly violently- for a vial of Polyjuice Potion, for anything that would tell him who was below him. In her pockets were only a few Galleons, a crumpled letter, and a photograph: Of him and Ginny together after the Quidditch Final last year. He had one too, Colin had taken it.
His heartbeat was racing again, but he couldn’t even begin hoping that it was her, to begin thinking that it was really Ginny below him, then and there.
She was watching him intently as he skimmed through his findings, with one hand still pointed at her throat.
“Harry?” she asked uncertainly.
“You can’t be her…you can’t,” he murmured, his eyes looking hungrily at her face.
“Harry. Please. It’s me. Really,” she pleaded.
“Prove it,” he demanded, staring deep in her eyes.
“You…you don’t have a tattoo of a Hungarian Horntail across your chest,” she said smiling slightly at him.
He remained where he lay as though Stunned, but a thought broke through his daze. He had to be sure. “Not good enough,” he said evenly, not lowering his wand.
She glanced at the fire before pinning him with her stare, her eyes holding the same hard-blazing look, like when he first kissed her. “I never gave up on you. Never,” she stated, but it was not her words that persuaded him. It was her eyes. They were clear, innocent and loving - Ginny’s eyes.
“Ginny?” he whispered, lowering his wand at last. They stepped forward at the same time - seemingly drawn by an invisible force - and hugged each other. Holding her tightly, he stood up, not letting his grip on her slip.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, inhaling deeply the scent of her that – he now understood - he had always related to safety and happiness.
“I was searching for you. I found you,” she replied, her voice muffled in his robes.
He pulled away to look at her, and with the elation of seeing her subsiding, dark thoughts penetrated his mind. “Is anyone hurt? Why are you here?”
“No. No one’s hurt,” she replied quietly, uncertainty coloring her voice again. “I needed to see you. I found you,” she repeated, hanging her head.
Harry’s face darkened immediately. His insides churned inside him and a debate started in his head,His insides churned one that had occurred once before. If she stayed, she would be in danger, but he needed her. But no: he decided once again that the pain if he lost her would be unbearable.
He broke their embrace and turned from her. “You found me. See? I’m fine,” he said flatly, trying not to betray his emotions in his voice.
“Yes, you are. Harry, don’t do this again…”
“Ginny, we talked about this before. I told you-“
“And I told you. I don’t care. I nearly died once, Harry, and you saved me. I lived. Don’t you think that I qualify for being with you, beside you through this even more so than Ron or Hermione?”
“They’re my best friends. We’ve been through everything together. You’re-“
“I’m what?” she demanded, and Harry thought she was really angry now. “I’m what, Harry? Or I was? I was just a snog, right? You came, you snogged, you left. No harm done, right?” She laughed hollowly.
“No Ginny. You’re- you’re different,” said Harry, turning to face her.
“Yes, I am different. I’m not part of the Golden Circle, am I? It was always you three. I was just little annoying Ginny, right? Well, I thought that I wasn’t little annoying Ginny anymore, Harry, not to you!” she shouted, making his temper flare once again. “I thought I was-I thought I’d still be just Ginny to you. No different from you three. I thought I’d be-“
“You’re mine!” he shouted, unable to control himself any longer. “You’re mine and he can’t have you. I won’t lose you to him too. Don’t you get it?”
She just stood there, staring at him dumbly.
“You said it yourself: you nearly died once. He nearly killed you. Don’t you think that if he finds out about us, he’ll try to kill you again?” he finished, panting slightly.
“Where’re Ron and Hermione, Harry?” asked Ginny pleasantly, her expression impassive.
He was taken aback for a few moments by her change. “In the tent,” he replied, wondering what to make of her question.
“Are they together?
“Yes,” he replied apprehensively.
“So you are selfish enough to risk the lives of your two best friends that are in love, but not mine,” she said flatly.
“Ginny, no, that’s not the point at all,” he said, exasperated.
“You’re denying me the right to stand by-“
“We aren’t going anywhere with this,” he muttered.
“-the right to stand by the man I love,” she said louder, as if she hadn’t heard his last comment.
He froze in place, staring at his feet wide-eyed. Panic filled him. His pulse quickened, and he wouldn’t dare look at her. She had said it. The one thing she shouldn’t have, the one thing that would probably seal her fate. The one thing, he realized, that he had wanted and feared more than anything to hear her say.
He felt a warm hand rest against his cheek and he closed his eyes. “No,” he moaned, “Please no…”
“Tell me to leave. Now that you know, look into my eyes and tell me to leave and I will,” she stated.
He tried to open his eyes, to put some distance between himself and her, but he couldn’t. She had rendered him unable to move by uttering only three words.
“Let me, Harry. Please let me fight with you, for you, for me, for us…please. We were all together in this from the start. You, Hermione, me and my whole family. Don’t make yourself face this alone. I need to be here and you need me to be here, too.” She stepped forward so that their bodies touched.
At last, he opened his eyes and looked at her. “Why do you do this to me? Don’t you know that it’ll kill me if anything happens to you and it’s my fault?” asked Harry with a pained grimace.
“I told you why. Now tell me to leave and I will,” she replied, placing her free hand on his other cheek.
He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, savoring her touch. “No,” he whispered, and felt her hands moving to leave his face, but the next moment he covered them with his own and turned her palms to kiss them gently. “Please, no.”
He opened his eyes looking straight into hers. A moment later, a small smile graced her lips.