Disclaimer: The characters and situations of Harry Potter depicted in this story are the legal property of J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury, and AOL Time Warner, and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. Chapter titles and lyrics are the property of Evanescence.
No profit is being made off this story. It is for entertainment purposes only.
Warning: This story contains sexual content and implied drug use. If that bothers you or you are under age, please do not read.
I'm going under Drowning in you I'm falling forever I've got to break through So go on and scream Scream at me I'm so far away I won't be broken again I've got to breathe – I can't keep going under
Ginny stood by the tree for a full two minutes trying to gain control of her beating heart. She had just shared the best kiss of her life with the boy she had loved for as long as she could remember and he had rushed away as if she repulsed him. It just wasn't fair.
She could kick herself for her audacity. What had she been thinking? Harry didn't want her. He hadn't shown any sort of romantic feeling towards her for several years now and she had forced herself on him like a desperate, wild dog. She should be ashamed of herself.
The problem was, she wasn't ashamed – she'd do it again in a heartbeat. And again, and again, and again. The feeling of his lips on hers, his mouth open and willing, his hands in her hair – it was better than she remembered. If anything, his technique had improved since their relationship had ended abruptly at Dumbledore's funeral.
Harry's condition since that final battle with Voldemort had weighed heavily on everyone's minds, but especially on hers. She remembered visiting him in hospital hours after he had been brought in. The look in his eyes had been frightening. There was no sparkle there, no twinkle. His green orbs were deadened and empty, and not much had changed in the year since. Whenever she tried to touch him he recoiled and it hurt her so much that she had stopped trying to reach him, especially after the cruel things he had said to her. But tonight she had not thought of that. He was in pain and she had responded without thought. And he had responded to her, she was sure of it. Could it be possible that deep down he still harboured feelings for her? If so, then why had he run away?
The answer was simple really. He was Harry.
Collecting herself, she took out her wand and Apparated directly to her room. Quickly brushing her mussed hair and reapplying some lip gloss, she straightened her clothes and then popped back downstairs, almost running into her mum who was still looking for her.
"There you are, Ginny, dear," she said somewhat crossly. "I've been looking for you everywhere. Where have you been?"
"I had to use the loo," she lied.
Molly Weasley paused and Ginny thought she'd been caught out. Instead of pursuing it any further, however, her mother sighed and held her at arms length. "You look lovely tonight, Ginny darling. Did I tell you?"
Ginny shook her head and smiled back at her mum, feeling so lucky to have her.
"So grown up," she said, sounding choked. She sniffed. "I can't believe my baby's eighteen today. Soon you'll be married and have a family of your own."
"Mum," Ginny said, exasperated. "I'm not even dating anyone right now." She started to move off but her mother caught hold of her hand.
"You may be able to fool others, but you can't fool your mother, dear. I know you too well." She gave her daughter a significant look.
Ginny knew she could lie but it was pointless because her mum always had an uncanny knack for seeing through her, especially on this subject.
"Maybe I do," she admitted reluctantly, "but so what? It won't change anything."
Molly's expression softened and she reached up to smooth a tendril of hair on her daughter's head. The simple act strangely comforted her like nothing else could.
"Don't give up on him yet, darling. Keep trying. You may be the only one who can reach him now."
She looked at her mother intently, trying to read her thoughts. Did her mum know about the interlude with Harry behind the tree?
Molly smiled warmly, putting Ginny mind at ease. She gave her daughter's arm an affectionate pat and pulled her in for a hug. "Now let's go make your birthday wish and blow out those candles. A good birthday wish may be just what's called for in this case."
Ginny nodded her head mutely. She had the perfect wish in mind.
Hours later, when Harry did not return to the party, Ginny began to get worried. Most everyone had left but Ron and Hermione remained to help clean up the mess, and still he did not come back. Hermione was trying her best to engage Ginny in conversation as they cleaned the dishes, but Ginny found it difficult to concentrate.
"… so Ron and I were wondering if there's anything you'd like to tell us."
Ginny snapped out of her thoughts of Harry and his current whereabouts to attend to the conversation taking place at her side, her stomach doing a nasty lurch. Hermione paused and looked at her expectantly.
"Are you and Dean back together?"
Ginny sighed silently in relief, her heart returning back to its normal rhythm.
"Not bloody likely," she said irritably, drying a dish and placing it back in the cupboard. "Dean and I are friends, Hermione. That ship sailed a long time ago." She flicked her wand and sloshed water violently as an image of Harry came into her mind. Until two hours ago she might have said the same of him, but now everything had changed.
"Is anything else bothering you, then?" Hermione asked tentatively. Her shrewd brown eyes held Ginny's, searching for an explanation.
"Now that you mention it, yes, there is something that has me distracted," Ginny said, turning towards her friend and stopping her work on the dishes. "Is everything all right with Harry?"
Hermione looked sad for a moment, clearly troubled. "As well as ever, Ginny," she answered slowly. "...You know how it is."
Yes, she certainly did. "How is he getting on in training?" she asked conversationally, hoping to glean some information.
The older girl sighed, picking up a dish. "Not well, I'm afraid. At Hogwarts, Harry was always the top of the class in Defence Against the Dark Arts. The year we went looking for the Horcruxes... well, I've never seen him in such top form. Now he struggles with even the most basic spells. If it weren't for his name and reputation, I think he'd have been dismissed from Auror school by now. Ron is doing loads better and, if you ask me, it's really bothering Harry."
"Hermione," Ginny said, looking at her future sister-in-law seriously, "you're the smartest witch I know. What do you think is wrong with him?"
Hermione bit her bottom lip nervously. "I can't say for certain..."
Ginny's eyes narrowed. "But you do know something, don't you?"
Hermione shook her head yes and her eyes watered. "I blame myself, really. If only I hadn't found that spell…" A tear slipped down her face and she sniffled, clearly distraught. "There had to be another way."
"What spell? What are you talking about?"
Ginny was confused but she felt hope stir in her heart. Could there really be more to Harry's odd behaviour than she had thought? Perhaps a botched spell that could be reversed...
"When we left after our sixth year – after Dumbledore died – we were in the thick of the war," Hermione explained. "Harry already knew that he was destined to be the one to vanquish Voldemort. The problem was, he had a plan but no idea how he was going to accomplish it. He wanted to go alone but Ron and I swore we'd stay with him. We knew we had to destroy the Horcruxes in order to make Voldemort mortal, but that still left Voldemort himself. It would take something extraordinary to defeat him. So in my spare time, I searched until I finally ran acoss something I thought might work." She bit her lip nervously.
"Like a spell?" Ginny prompted, hardly daring to believe that Hermione was giving her this information so freely. The three of them had been strangely tight-lipped about the details up till now.
"Yes," Hermione said gravely. "A very Dark spell. I warned Harry that the Dark Arts were not to be trifled with, but he wouldn't listen. He didn't seem to care. All he cared about was finding a way to get rid of him for good before the people he loved were hurt or, worse, killed."
Hermione paused to take a breath. "The spell wasn't perfect, but it was a place to start. It involved killing a sworn enemy with all sorts of negative thoughts, making them suffer until they finally died from despair."
Ginny sucked in her breath. "Harry did that to Voldemort?"
Hermione shook her head. "No, he didn't. It's more complicated than that. We knew that he thrived on Darkness but hated anything related to the Light, so we adapted the spell to work in reverse. I reworked it so that Harry could focus all his positive thoughts and feelings into the spell, essentially incapacitating him with everything that he hates – love, happiness, joy, exhilaration… all the emotions that make life worth living."
"And obviously it worked," Ginny whispered. "That is what finished him, I'm assuming?"
"Well, then Fawkes showed up with Gryffindor's sword. Harry somehow found the strength to finish him by driving it through his heart," Hermione said. "But after that… well, Harry's never been the same, has he?"
Something finally made sense. "So that's what he meant," she whispered, horrified.
"What?" Hermione asked, confused.
"Harry," Ginny said. "He said tonight that he was spent. To quote him, he said, 'He took it all and now it's gone.' At the time I didn't know what he meant. Now I think he meant Voldemort stole his ability to feel those things."
Hermione looked at her friend wide-eyed. "He really told you that tonight? When?"
Ginny blushed just thinking about the kiss behind the tree, and immediately knew she could tell Hermione anything but that.
"Before he left, I rescued him from Luna. For a moment, everything seemed normal. Then I made a thoughtless comment and he got angry. Well... more hurt than angry. And he looked at me so lost, Hermione, it broke my heart. He left soon after that. He's really in pain, Hermione." She shook her head sadly. "There must be something we can do to help. Maybe a counter-spell?"
Hermione sighed. "I've researched it as completely as I possibly can. The problem is, there are no documented cases of anything like this. Up until we developed it, the spell did not exist, and there's never been a documented case of this happening with the original spell. I don't know what went wrong, and he refused to tell anyone who might be able to help because I could get in a lot of trouble for developing a new spell and using it without going through the proper channels. There's a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy involved in new spell development, as I'm finding out in my job at the Ministry. Harry's case is so unique, there isn't anything we can do but hope he finds a way through this or pray we stumble upon something that helps. Ron and I are doing what we can for him. For awhile, I thought it was getting better, but now…"
"Do you think he'll ever recover?" Ginny asked, her breath catching in fear. "Is it possible this is permanent?"
Hermione squeezed Ginny's hand, her expression earnest. "We haven't given up yet, and deep down I don't think Harry has either. Neither should you."
Ginny hoped with every fibre of her being that whatever hold this spell had on Harry was resolved soon. If not, she was afraid it might do what Voldemort couldn't – destroy the man she still loved with all her heart.
After wishing her mum and dad goodnight and thanking them for the party, she trudged tiredly up the stairs to her room, still haunted by Harry's sad eyes as they had looked earlier. What was she to do with herself? It had taken her almost three years to get over her infatuation with him. When she finally had a chance at a relationship with him, he broke it off to go after Voldemort. She had understood at the time, but when he didn't come back to her when it was over she thought her chance was gone forever. After a time, she had tried to move on with other boys, but no one compared to Harry. No one ever did and no one ever would. She thought she had accepted it, but now here she was falling for him all over again. It seemed her life was destined to revolve around Harry's.
The memory of their interlude burned in her imagination. She remembered him as a brilliant kisser, but this kiss had surpassed anything they'd ever shared. She'd dreamed of how lovely it would be to kiss him again, but she never imagined it to be so full of raw passion and unbridled need. Of course, it had always been good between them, but this… this was different somehow.
Ginny sighed as she threw herself on the bed in frustration. What did she feel for Harry?She struggled to make sense of her feelings. What was it about tonight that had her so barmy that she could think of nothing else? Closing her eyes she recalled every intimate detail from the first contact to the minute he pushed her away.
Harry kissed her like he was holding on for dear life. He kissed like he lived, desperate and passionate yet tender and sweet, and that was bloody sexy. Tonight Harry's kisses were bold. He ignited the fire in her soul, the woman underneath the little girl screaming to be set free. That was it. He kissed her as a woman, not as a girl. Nobody had ever kissed her like that before. She blushed as she remembered how she had responded to him. What must he think of her boldness? She had kissed him first, after all.
She needed to see him, to show him what he had done to her, but she had no idea where he might have gone. Ginny held her pillow to her mouth and screamed into it. How had she allowed him to have this kind of a hold over her? As she flung the pillow back into place, her hand brushed up against something she knew had not been there before. She pulled back and fumbled around until she found it – a small black pouch from Bluefield & Baker's Fine Gifts and Jewellery Shoppe in Diagon Alley, an upscale store full of things her family couldn't afford. The only time she had been in there was with Harry the last summer he had stayed at The Burrow to pick out a wedding gift for Bill and Fleur.
Who would give her something from there? And why was it up here, under her pillow?
Maybe her mum and dad, or someone else in her family? Ginny wrinkled her nose. No, not likely.
Hoping the present itself would hold some clues as to the identity of the benefactor, Ginny carefully opened the pouch and slid out the contents. It was a delicate silver charm bracelet with links to hold charms. One had already been added to it – a Golden Snitch.
She looked at it in wonder. He had remembered.
The sky was pouring buckets of summer rain, making it difficult to get from shop to shop quickly. Only one more place to go, and then they could head on over to the Leaky Cauldron and meet Ron and Hermione for a nice refreshing butterbeer.
Harry and Ginny gratefully pushed their way into the gift shop and removed their soaked cloaks, Remus and Tonks not far behind. The older couple wandered off immediately on their own, probably to give them some privacy. Despite the chill in the air and the rain, they had been having a wonderful time. It was nice to see Harry so happy and carefree for a change.
Harry had been determined to get Bill and Fleur an nice gift for their wedding, so they had browsed the gift section for a bit until the jewellrey caught his eye.
"Ginny," he said carefully, "I've been thinking about getting something nice for your mum this year for Christmas. Do you have any ideas?" He walked over to the case and peeked inside intently.
"I don't know, Harry," she said doubtfully, walking over to join him. "She's never owned much jewellery except her wedding rings and a few heirloom pieces from the Prewett side of the family."
"All the more reason to get her something nice," Harry insisted. "Excuse me," he said loudly, motioning to the small man behind the counter. "Could you help us here?"
The funny clerk had wrongly made the assumption that they were a couple and began to try to sell them everything geared towards young couples in love, including engagement rings. The attention grew worse when the man recognized Harry. He wouldn't seem to believe that he wanted to buy a gift for his best friend's mother.
Finally the two wandered off on their own when another, more prominent customer made a timely appearance. They freely browsed the cases, looking at all the extravagant jewellery… diamonds, pearls, sapphires, dragon tears, and pixie dust in small glass capsules. They perused the choices until they came to the charms.
"These are lovely, Harry!" Ginny said excitedly. "Mum would love something like this."
He looked at it critically, clearly not sure. "You think so?" he asked doubtfully.
"I'msure of it," she said confidently. "You could start a tradition."
Intrigued, he asked curiously, "What kind of tradition?"
"Well," she said patiently, as if explaining it to a clueless three-year-old, "there are all sorts of charms for all sorts of occasions. You see here?" she said, pointing to the case laden with charms of every kind imaginable. "These charms represent interests like stargazing, runes, knitting – all kinds of things. These are birthstones and zodiac signs, and those over there can be charmed to say whatever you want. They represent important things or events in your life, and a full bracelet or necklace can tell a story all on its own. It's like a reminder of what's special about that person. Giving Mum something like this is very personal, and women like it when a gift is thoughtful. You could add one charm every year. She'll love it because you put a great deal of thought into the gift – it could turn into a tradition."
"There are so many," he complained, frowning. "How am I supposed to choose?"
"I can't decide for you, Harry. Then it would be my gift, not yours."
"But…" he said, hesitating. Then a slow smile spread on his boyishly handsome face. "If you were going to choose one for yourself, which one would you choose, then?"
"Clever, Harry," she said, smirking. "I see where this is going."
"Come on, Ginny," he whinged. "Help a bloke out. I'm not asking what your mum would like, only what you would choose. It might give me a clue."
"All right," she said, exasperated. "Fine!" She hated giving in so easy, but she never could resist him.
Then a brilliant idea struck. "How about this…" she said coyly, "which one do you think I'd like?" It seemed like an intimate question, for some reason, and she immediately wished she hadn't asked it. She had promised herself that she would give him the space he had asked for, after all.
His eyes seemed to bore right through her, however, as he studied her seriously. "I'd know if you'd tell me," he said slyly.
She shook her head. "No, sorry... you have to guess."
"Is this a test?" he asked, frowning.
Ginny laughed, a michievous glint appearing in her eyes. "How well do you know Ginny Weasley? Not hardly! Don't worry, Harry..." she assured him, "I'll only Bat-Bogey you a little if you guess wrong."
"Right then, no pressure." He looked down at the display carefully. "Well… you're a good student, so maybe a book?"
Ginny wrinkled her nose. "Hermione would like a book, but me? Try again."
"Hmmm… You're good at Quidditch. What kind of Quidditch charms do they have?"
Harry blushed. "Good to know," he muttered. He surveyed his choices, separating a broom, a Quaffle, and a Golden Snitch.
"Why those?" Ginny asked, dying to know.
"I just liked them," he said. "And they reminded me of you."
It was Ginny's turn to blush. Suddenly the air between them seemed charged. More serious than silly.
"You're doing well, Harry," she said quietly, hoping the man at the counter wouldn't interrupt them. "I'm impressed. Now for the final test. Of those three, which one would I choose?" she asked. She raised her eyebrow, daring him to guess wrong.
He studied the three charms for a moment, and started to reach for the Quaffle, but hesitated and chose the Snitch instead. "I'd pick this one for you," he said shyly.
She tried to hide her surprise. It was the very one she would have picked. The Golden Snitch. "Why that one and not the Quaffle?" she asked.
"Did I guess wrong?" he said, clearly disappointed. "Should I have picked the Quaffle?"
"I didn't say that," she said patiently. "I'm just curious. What made you choose that one?"
Harry shrugged. "The Quaffle seems like something you would buy yourself. I just remember what a great job you did when you replaced me after Umbridge kicked me off the team. You saved the Cup that year."
"But Ron–" she started to protest, but he cut her off.
"Ron helped, but without your catches it couldn't have happened. I never told you then how much I admired you for that, did I?" He seemed very nervous, but charmingly so.
"No, I guess not," she said.
"Just for the record," he asked, "which one would you have chosen?"
Ginny didn't hesitate. "The Golden Snitch," she said confidently.
"Really?" he asked, surprised. "Why?"
She smiled. "Because it reminds me of you."
Instead of smiling like she hoped he would, he had frowned. They left the jewellery shop soon after without buying a gift, and he ended up giving her mum a nice scarf instead of a charm. Her mum had been happy enough with the gift, but in all honesty she could have easily knit one herself. It didn't make a bit of sense to Ginny why Harry hadn't got her mum a charm after all that. Silently they trudged to the Leaky Cauldron where they had met Ron and Hermione. For the rest of the day Harry had remained distant and in a bad temper, although for the life of her she couldn't understand what she had done to upset him.
Ginny didn't see Harry again for two days after her birthday party. She knew he was fine, though, because she had owled Hermione and her friend had informed her Harry was home when they had returned the night of the party, although he had retired early. He seemed like his old self for a change, she wrote – laughing and joking – so whatever Ginny had said to him must have helped.
The letter gave her hope that maybe she had got through to him. She was sure he would come by and see her soon, but after two days she began to grow frustrated and decided to take matters into her own hands. Nervously, she Flooed to their flat, taking care to wear the bracelet with the Golden Snitch prominently on her bare arm.
But, to her great disappointment, Ron and Harry were in night training – neither were home.
Hermione was ecstatic to see her, though. They made small talk, discussed books and Hermione's upcoming trip until Ginny grew restless. Without even realising she was doing it, she began to pace, looking towards the fireplace and the door as if expecting someone to come through them any minute.
After a while, Hermione seemed to grow tired of watching her. "They're not due back for another hour, you know. You'll wear yourself out long before then if you don't relax," she said.
Ginny looked startled. Had she been that transparent?
"I just need to see for myself that he's alright," she sighed.
Her friend clearly knew better. "Is that the only reason?" she asked.
"Well… no," Ginny admitted reluctantly. She showed Hermione her bracelet. "I think it's from Harry," she explained. "It was under my pillow the night of the party, but there was no note."
"What makes you think it's from Harry?" Hermione asked.
"Just a feeling," she said. She really didn't feel like recounting their trip to the jewellery store. It seemed too personal, and she somehow felt that if she said it out loud, some of the magic surrounding that moment might disappear. "I just know in my heart that it is. Does that sound stupid?"
Hermione shook her head. "I've learned a thing or two from Ron and Harry about gut instincts. I don't think the heart ever leads you wrong."
Ginny nodded seriously. "Do you think I should say something?"
Hermione seemed to ponder the question, and then shook her head. "I think the fact you're wearing it is enough. If he doesn't mention it, I wouldn't either. His face is like an open book, Ginny. If he did send it, you'll know."
"Maybe your right," Ginny said uncertainly. "But he's got much better at hiding things recently."
"Who's hiding things?" Ron's booming voice said, startling them. They had been so involved in their conversation they hadn't even heard the boys come through the fireplace. Ginny looked up just in time to see Harry appear and her stomach did a flip.
"Dad," Ginny said, lying smoothly. "He's hiding all his Muggle things around the house again and Mum is having a fit. I had to get out of there for awhile. The tension is driving me mad! I hope you don't mind?" she said, looking the two of them over innocently. Hermione looked amused, impressed, and disapproving all at the same time but Ginny was too focused on Harry to care. She avoided looking at him directly, although she was very careful not to act as if she were doing it on purpose.
They looked sweaty and dirty. Ron seemed to be in a really good mood, Harry less so. Both looked tired, as if they had just gone through a very gruelling phase of training.
"What else is new?" Ron said, accepting her lie at face value. "You're always welcome here, you know that, Ginny." He grinned widely. "Good on you for showing up. I'm in the mood to celebrate, anyway."
"What are you so cheerful about, then?" Hermione asked suspiciously. "Did something happen at training?"
Mockingly, Ron put his hand over his heart and looked hurt, but it was obvious he was playing. He addressed Hermione happily. "Did something happen?" he repeated, almost giddily. "Did something happen, Harry?"
Harry looked exasperated but willingly played along. For some reason Ginny thought he looked angry, but was trying to put a good face on it for Ron's sake. "Yes, Ron," he said wearily. "I'd say something did happen." He sounded disgruntled, but refused to elaborate. He busied himself with his gear and did not look up. Ron didn't seem to notice.
Hermione appeared ready to strangle them both. "One of you needs to start talking now, or I'll start throwing hexes," she warned. She reached for her wand, just for good measure.
Both Harry and Ron seemed to straighten up a bit and exchanged wary glances; Hermione knew some wicked hexes and Ginny assumed neither wanted to test her patience.
Ron looked at Harry. "You tell her."
"Ron," Harry said, a hint of a warning in his tone, "this is your news. You should tell her."
"But I want to see her face when you tell her," Ron pleaded. Harry looked ready to argue when Hermione interrupted.
"Someone had better tell me very soon," she advised, "or I won't be responsible for my actions."
Harry sighed. "All right. You win. I'll tell her. Tonight we had a training mission," he began.
"Yes, yes," Hermione said impatiently. "I know that."
He shot her an annoyed glance, but continued. "It was a test. You know… to wrap up our sections on strategic planning and hostage negotiations. Anyway," he said irritably, "Ron's plan... it worked. Our team won. We rescued all the hostages first with only," he grimaced, "minimal causalities." He turned back to his gear and made himself busy again while Ginny and Hermione congratulated Ron.
"Ron! That's wonderful!" Hermione said, giving him a big hug. "I'm sure you really impressed your instructors."
Ron blushed. "Yeah, I did. Captain Greenhorn even said he'd consider me for his next advanced class."
Ginny looked at Harry, who was not joining in the celebration. "And what about you, Harry? How did you do?" she asked kindly.
The question seemed to make him angry. He did not look up but became slightly rougher with his belongings, stuffing them a little too hard into his rucksack. "Dismally," he said tightly.
"I'm sure–" Ginny said, beginning to reassure him.
His simmering temper finally had an outlet; he cut her off by jumping up suddenly and throwing his gear across the room.
"I failed, all right, Ginny! Is that what you wanted to know?" His voice changed abruptly from rage to tightly controlled, cold steel.
His face spoke volumes – a mixture of pain and intense self-loathing – as he turned and fled the room angrily, slamming his bedroom door behind him.
Ginny and Hermione stared at Ron, who avoided their eyes guiltily.
Ron's eyes finally met theirs and Ginny saw deep regret etched there. "Remember the minimal casualties we mentioned earlier…?"
Hermione gasped, horrified. "Harry?"
Ron nodded glumly. "He was just too distracted. He's been a wreck all week," he said, biting into an apple he snatched up from the table. Chewing thoughtfully, he looked at Ginny, giving her a funny look. "Since your party, in fact."
"I thought you said he was fine," Ginny said, looking at Hermione, confused.
"He was fine," Hermione assured her, just as confused. "In fact, better than fine. He seemed almost happy for a change. I've been so busy since then that I haven't seen him much." She turned to Ron questioningly. "You've been with him this whole time. What happened?"
"I know he seemed okay for a bit," Ron admitted, "but... well, I found an empty potions bottle in the bin yesterday when I took it out."
"What?" Hermione's shocked voice cried. "Why didn't you tell me he was using that stuff again?"
Ginny looked between them totally lost. "Using what?"
Ron and Hermione exchanged glances and Ron nodded his head to her silent question.
"Harry's been taking illegal potions," she said softly. "We begged him to stop and we thought he had, but obviously he's at it again."
Ginny's blood ran cold. "Illegal potions?" she repeated, not believing what she was hearing. "Are you serious?"
"Yeah," Ron said quietly. "If anyone finds out he'll be kicked out of Auror school for certain. What I can't figure out is what'd make him go back to using. Did something happen that I don't know about?" He turned to look at Hermione.
"Nothing out of the ordinary that I know of," Hermione answered. "Ginny, can you think of anything?"
Ginny, who had been staring at Harry's closed door and contemplating going after him, jumped.
"No, nothing that I can recall offhand," she said nervously. Controlling her emotions, she added smoothly, "He seemed pretty normal to me that night. Although he was a little hacked off at Fred and George over their new Potter's Pickles product."
"They showed me that," Ron said. "That's probably it."
Changing the subject, Hermione asked him about the mission. Ron excitedly began to recount the mission for her, giving a detailed blow-by-blow account as he opened the refrigerator, looking for more food. When his back was turned, Hermione unobtrusively motioned for Ginny to go and talk to Harry while she distracted Ron. Gratefully, Ginny complied. Slipping away, Ginny didn't even bother knocking. She just quietly opened the door, surprised to find it unlocked. He either wanted someone to come find him, or was too angry to think about locking it. She stepped inside the darkened room, closing the door quietly and silently muttering a powerful locking spell. She didn't need Ron bursting in here, even if he did have the best of intentions.
Once her eyes adjusted to the dark, Ginny saw him huddled in a corner, hugging his drawn up knees, his head back and resting against the wall and his eyes shut tight. He looked very young and utterly defeated, an almost tangible pain present on his pale face. His glasses were still on but they had slipped down on his nose, slightly askew.
She knelt down and joined him on the floor, gathering him in her arms as her mother had always done for her when she was upset. He jumped slightly as she pulled him close, wrapping her arms around him snugly, but by some miracle he allowed her to hold him, leaning into her tiredly and resting his head wearily on her shoulder. To Ginny, it felt the most natural thing in the world and she breathed in his freshly showered scent greedily. She'd missed him desperately.
"Are you okay?" she asked gently after several long moments of silence.
"Do I look all right?" he mumbled wearily.
She couldn't bring herself to lie. "No, you look terrible."
He opened one lazy eye to look at her and said in a defeated voice, "Just another reason you shouldn't be here." Pulling away, his jaw tensed and he banged the back of his head against the wall, hard. "Why don't you just go?"
"Where should I go, Harry?" she asked, her stomach churning with anxiety and frustration.
"Far away from me," he answered, his voice as dull as the look in his eyes. "I'll only drag you under with me, Ginny, and I couldn't bear that. I'm drowning in misery and I don't want that for you."
"Harry," she said gently, "haven't you learned by now? I'm tougher than I look. I can be strong for both of us."
He looked up at her, lost. "Why would you even bother?"
She answered from her heart. "For this," she said, touching her hand to his heart.
"And this," she said, brushing those same fingers over his soft lips.
A low guttural sound escaped from his throat at the contact, and she knew she was getting through.
"A-are you certain?" he asked, his voice wobbling as he searched her eyes for doubt. "I have no strength in me to fight you, Ginny. You have to be certain."
She wedged his denim-clad legs apart and crawled over so that she was planted in front of him. Leaning in closer, she hovered just over his mouth, planting her hands on the wall behind him so that he was trapped. There was no escaping her.
"I've never been more sure of anything in my life," she said honestly.
He flinched when she brought her lips to his and tried to pull away at first. But, like the last time, she wouldn't let him. She'd make him understand if it bloody well took her whole life to do it. He was all she wanted – all she had ever wanted.
Before she knew it, he was responding, tugging her closer, and she willing gave herself over to him. She breathed a sigh of relief as he caressed her lips tenderly and explored the curve of her neck. Closing her eyes, she lost herself to the sensations, feeling sexier than she could ever remember feeling. It felt so right to be here with him like this. She knew she was made for him and him alone.
In no time they ended up on the rug, entwined, with Ginny pinned underneath him. She raised a leg and wrapped it around him possessively, so close they could be one person. Their kisses turned desperate, like a roaring inferno raging out of control – she felt sure she would burn up with the heat of it. It was a long, tortured dance full of unleashed passion and sweet tenderness. Underneath her fingers she could feel him shaking.
"Something's happening to me, Ginny," he whispered, leaning his forehead into hers. His glasses had long since been discarded, as had his shirt. "I'm feeling things I never thought I'd feel again. It's all there and it's wonderful... and at the same time terrible, but beautiful. You're doing something inside me. Can you feel it?" He looked up at her and his eyes were so dark they looked black; the energy radiated off his body.
She nodded, holding his gaze. Tears slid down her cheeks but she smiled, hoping he wouldn't question her anymore. Some things were better left unsaid.
Willing to live with the consequences, she opened up fully to him, feeling the shadow of Darkness creep into her soul. It was like a dam had burst inside of him and now it was spilling over into her. She could feel it coming and it terrified her. Part of her knew – had always known – that he had the power to destroy her, but at that very moment it didn't matter. She would take it all from him if she could. As she looked into the deep wells of his eyes, she found herself tumbling headfirst into the Darkness, unable to stop. She was drowning in him. Then and there, an infinitesimal seed of doubt planted itself in her mind. If he chose to discard her after all this was over, it would devastate her. She had kept him safe in her heart for so long without one word of encouragement from him. Maybe he was just playing with her… using her.
"Ginny?" she heard him whisper uncertainly. "Should... should we stop?"
She shook her head, tears falling freely down her cheeks. Whatever happened, she would willingly do it. Her very soul was his to take.
"We don't have to do this, you know." His voice was vulnerable and hesitant.
Accepting her fate with open arms, she whispered back, "I love you, Harry. I'm yours, if you want me."
It was all the invitation he needed. He crushed his lips to hers, kissing her so completely she thought she might faint. They made love for the first time, exploring each other's bodies with reckless abandon and intense passion. He didn't say a word to her, but it was all there on his face. She knew the spell had changed and he no longer had to bear all of it alone. She had taken some of the burden off his shoulders and the more they were together like this, the less he would have to suffer.
When they were both sated, Ginny followed him into sleep, dreaming of Tom and the diary and other troubling things. Her dreams were Dark, but when she awoke she was lying beside the man she loved and he had a smile on his face.
She smiled, too, love filling her heart. It had been worth it.