She found Harry about thirty minutes later. He sat on the beach, back against a pier mooring, watching the sunset. He stood as she approached.
"Ginny, before you say anything. I don't expect anything from you that you haven't already given me. I value your friendship above anything else. If you … "
Ginny interrupted him with a kiss. A kiss both of them had longed for. She poured her soul into the connection between them, and felt him doing the same. It seemed like coming home to a comfortable house and curling up in front of a roaring fire. It felt right, it felt good, and mostly, she felt herself sinking into his embrace, never wanting to surface again.
When they reluctantly came up for air, she whispered, "Harry, I never gave up on you. Never." She hugged him again, and it felt almost as if she could wrap herself up inside him and be warm and safe from the outside world.
He looked kind of sheepish. "I was kind of hoping, but when you started going out with Colin, I didn't know for sure. And even if you didn't return those feelings, or they had changed while we've been apart, I had to let you know. I didn't want to keep any secrets from you?"
"No more secrets, Harry. And no more waiting, right?"
"Well …" Harry said. "I do need to take care of a couple more things. Would you like to help?" He looked her over. "It will probably be dangerous." He Transfigured his clothes into a dark pair of trousers, black shirt and black shoes.
Ginny looked at him, pulled out her wand, and Transfigured her clothes into a matching outfit. "I'm not leaving you, Harry. Danger isn't an issue, you taking risks without me IS an issue."
Harry chuckled at her and passed her a piece of paper that looked suspiciously like a bar napkin. "This is the 'special delivery' that Dhugal gave me tonight." Ginny looked at the napkin. On it were written six barely legible words: "The prince is in his lair."
"The prince?" Ginny said, thinking furiously. "The Half-Blood Prince? Snape?"
"Yes. Albus' murderer will finally face justice tonight. I've been waiting for a chance to take him. I could use some backup, and since you're obviously not going to let me go alone, you're elected."
"What do you need me to do?"
Harry conjured a small piece of paper and drew a couple of diagrams on it. "I got his address while 'questioning' some of his 'Brethren.' Between that, and some scouting, I've got a pretty good idea of the interior." He pointed to the map he'd just drawn and showed her the house. "The entrance is here, but he's got a couple of windows he could possibly escape through. We need to go in the back and try to close off the escape paths before he has a chance to use them."
They planned their assault for an hour or so, with some give and take from both on the best plan. Ginny realized that she belonged with Harry, working to rid the world of the evils that plagued it. Not because they wanted the danger, but because they could make a difference.
They Apparated to a position about 200 yards from Snape's house. Harry reached into his cloak and pulled out two pairs of sunglasses. "Here, put these on," he handed her one. "They're Charmed to be something like the Muggle night-vision goggles, so you can see perfectly clearly even in pitch dark. They'll also help keep him from using Legilimency to read your surface thoughts. The effect is similar to Occlumency, but you don't have to put effort into it."
Ginny put on her sunglasses. The effect wasn't the same as putting on dark glasses on a sunny day. It was more like she'd suddenly been cut off from the world. Almost like she was living inside a shell watching as the world carried on without her. She unconsciously reached out to Harry. He took her hand, "It's kind of disorienting when you first try them on."
Ginny nodded. "It feels like I'm all alone, just watching without actually participating in the world."
"Yeah, it takes some getting used to. I picked up the charm in Asia, and found a wizard optician in the States to integrate it into the glasses. I can explain everything when Snape's gone and we're back home."
He put on his own glasses and they crept towards the house. They moved cautiously, communicating only in gestures and making no extraneous noise at all. When they reached the back of the house, Ginny whispered, "I'll seal the doors and windows, you put up the Anti-Disapparition and Anti-Portkey jinxes."
Harry nodded and started applying the jinxes to the structure. They worked methodically around all sides of the building, repeating the process on each side. They didn't want any chance that Snape could escape.
Finally, they were ready to move in. Ginny kissed Harry. "Be careful, Harry, I just got you, I don't want to lose you now."
Harry smiled and cupped her face. She turned into his hand and closed her eyes. "I'll be careful, Ginny," he said. "But you be careful, too. Ok?"
She took a deep breath, kissed him again, and nodded.
They didn't want Snape to know there was a second person there unless it was absolutely necessary, so Harry Disillusioned Ginny. That way, she could stay out of the line of fire and provide him some backup in case something went wrong.
When they were ready, Harry crouched by the front door. A Blasting Curse later, and the door shattered into the house. Before the splinters had managed to settle, Harry was spraying the area with Disarming Spells. He then moved through the doorway.
Snape, who'd been calmly sipping tea, knew exactly what was happening when his front door imploded. He moved out of the way and drew his wand, casting a shield well before the Disarming Spells arrived. He quickly located the crouching figure in dark clothes with drawn hood and sunglasses. Even without distinctive evidence, he knew exactly who had invaded his home. "Potter." Snape snarled and cast a Cutting Hex at the figure near the floor.
Ginny followed Harry into the house, moving to his right. She saw the Cutting Hex fly towards Harry, and was just about to cast a shield when Harry dodged left. She breathed a sigh of relief and began to inch around the right edge of the room. Harry cast another volley, this time three Stunners. Snape dodged one and cast a shield to reflect the second and third, then followed with another Cutting Hex.
The second Stunner ricocheted off the shield into a lamp which shattered, the oil bursting into flames. Ginny fought a momentary panic when the flames headed towards her and quickened her pace, breathing a sigh of relief when they engulfed the bookshelf she had just passed.
Ginny saw that Harry wasn't doing quite so well, though. He had dodged the reflected Stunner, but moved himself right into the path of the Cutting Hex. She levitated a book into the path of the hex, where it exploded into tiny bits of paper.
Snape circled in place, trying to discern where Harry's accomplice was hiding.
Harry Banished the paper towards Snape. The ex-professor shielded his eyes as the paper storm enveloped him. "Confetti, Potter?" he drawled as the storm moved past. "This is a most inappropriate time for a party, and you're not a surprise."
"Perhaps, Snivellus. Perhaps. On the other hand, look behind you."
Snape glanced involuntarily behind him in the direction of the paper storm. His eyes widened in shock at the flames crawling up the wall of his home. The fire, started by the burning oil, grew when the confetti hit it and now consumed the entire wall. As he turned back to Harry, a fist impacted with his jaw, momentarily stunning him. When Snape regained his orientation, Harry, still on the other side of the room, had cast a Binding Spell.
Unable to counter in time, Snape felt the ropes bind themselves around him, immobilizing his arms and legs.
"Damn! That felt good!" Ginny said with a little cough. Her Disillusioned form shimmered in the smoky room.
Harry chuckled and walked over to Snape, ignoring the flames now lapping across the ceiling. He kicked the wand from Snape's hand, picked it up and snapped it into two, then four, pieces before throwing it in Snape's face.
"Goodbye, Snivellus," Harry stunned Snape then cast Sticking Charms on his arms and legs. "Say 'Hello' to Peter when you see him."
"Ginny?" Harry rasped, coughing a little.
"Right here, Harry. Are you ok?" she asked, putting a hand on his back.
"I'm fine, let's get out of here. If the smoke doesn't kill him, the fire will."
"Yeah, it's getting kind of thick, now," she said through a cough.
He put his hand on her back and they moved to leave. As they reached the doorway, however, a voice cried, "Sectumsempra!"
The impact of the Dark curse spun Harry around. His face contorted in agony from the wound that had just opened up on his back and he could barely move his wand hand. He looked up and saw Draco Malfoy emerging from the hidden door in the bookcase.
Ginny had one foot out the door when Harry's hand jerked violently away from her. She turned back into the house and heard Draco taunting Harry.
"Well, well, well. Fancy meeting you here, Potter. And Severus thought it impossible that anyone would know about his house in the hinterlands of this Muggle city."
"Malfoy!" Harry said, coughing weakly. "Somehow it doesn't surprise me that you'd be here."
Ginny looked at Harry with concern. His back was slashed and bleeding and he didn't sound good. She fought down the panic that threatened to take over and thought of what she could do to help.
"Severus and I thought we'd lay low for a while. The way you've been systematically exterminating the Dark Lord's loyal supporters, it seemed wise to go to ground. Now that you're dead, though, we can start again. I think maybe you shall be my first Horcrux, Potter. It seems such a fitting way for a Malfoy to embark on the road to immortality."
Ginny had heard enough at this point, she didn't have a plan but she wasn't going to let Draco hurt Harry. She removed the Disillusionment Charm and stood between Harry and Draco. "Over my dead body, Malfoy," she said, lowly.
A large, overstuffed, smoking armchair moved erratically towards her, arriving just in time to shield Ginny from the curse. The impact spun it away, narrowly missing Ginny and careening into Harry, who had already collapsed to his knees from blood loss and the effort of levitating the chair. She watched in horror as the heavy piece of furniture crashed on her boyfriend.
Malfoy smirked at Harry, now unconscious under the smouldering wreckage of the chair. "Excellent! You should be as good as dead now, Potter,"
"Harry!" Shock and fear propelled Ginny into action. She began a barrage of spells at Malfoy. The fierce duel matched the two of them more evenly than either would care to admit. Spells of various colours, sounds, and intents flew around the room as they cast and dodged. Parts of the house which hadn't yet been burnt by the fire took incredible damage from ricocheted spells and the walls creaked ominously as they shook and sagged. Smoke billowed about the room, making it difficult for them to see each other. Suddenly, a groan from under the chair distracted Ginny, and Malfoy hit her with a Full-Body Bind. Her body stiffened like a board, and she toppled backward.
Malfoy walked to her, laughing. He pointed his wand at her head. "Goodbye, Weasley."
He began to pronounce the incantation, but stopped as the house started to groan loudly. "On second thought, I think I'll let you die with Potter over there."
He strode to Snape, enervated the fallen man, and removed the Sticking Charm on his hands. He helped his mentor sit up and started to cancel the remaining Sticking Charms when he saw Snape's eyes widen in dismay. Turning, Malfoy narrowed his eyes at the bloodied head of his enemy lifted slightly off the floor, and then he caught sight of the wand sticking out from under the chair.
Malfoy's eyes froze in shock and his mouth gaped open, then his head rolled forward to hit the floor without his body.
"Accio!" Malfoy's wand shot over to Harry, just barely missing Snape's outstretched hand.
Harry struggled to get out from under the chair. The throbbing wounds in his back and falling debris made getting up nearly impossible. He almost made it when a beam fell from the ceiling onto the chair. He couldn't move.
In desperation, Harry pointed his wand at a pile of charred debris that had fallen over Ginny's body. "Finite Incantatum!"
He croaked again. "Finite Incantatum!"
He heard a weak cough.
"Ginny! Come on, love, can you move? You need to get up. We need to get out of here!"
The pile of debris started to shift as the house groaned again, almost fully engulfed in flame now.
Ginny crawled to Harry, trailing burnt boards, plaster, and ash behind her. "Harry?" she croaked before collapsing as her body was racked with coughs.
"I'm sorry I brought you into this, Ginny," Harry choked out before he too, started coughing.
"Don't be, Harry. I'm right where I belong. Fighting at your side."
"Oh, how cloying can you get?" came from across the room. She looked up to see Snape pulling at his feet, trying to free himself from Harry's Sticking Charms. He'd managed to free one leg and had almost freed the second before her Stunner knocked him out.
"Malfoy?" she asked.
She nodded in acknowledgement, and started to push to try to get the chair off his back.
"No time," he coughed. The smoke was almost impenetrable now. "Grab the band on my wrist and say, Sand T…" Harry passed out.
"Sand what, Harry?" Ginny asked. She rocked him trying to wake him up. "Harry?"
Ruthlessly squashing the waves of panic setting in, Ginny wracked her brains trying to remember anything that had anything to with sand. Nothing. She thought, where would he go? Someplace safe. Someplace where he could get help. A place with someone he could trust.
Trust? Dhugal! Harry's friend in the pub. The light clicked on in her head. She grabbed the band on his wrist and cried out, "Sanda Tavern!" just as the roof beams collapsed on them.
One more to go. Thanks to Tante for all the help. One of these days, I'll stop writing in passive verbs and her betaing will be much easier, I expect. ;)
No dragons were harmed in the writing of this work of fiction.
Harry Potter & co. belongs to JK Rowling, Warner Brothers, Scholastic, and others.