As the attack warning was resounding through the castle, a group of students were gathered in the corner of the common room, doing their part to help Dumbledore with the research that was needed. Ginny, Colin, Parvati, and Lavender had completed their assigned task and were collaborating on the final report to be presented to the groups later that week.
Hermione, seated nearby, stood and carefully laid her book aside. Glancing over her shoulder as she went through the portrait hole, she saw that Ginny had begun assisting some of the younger students as they went to their rooms. She then joined the other prefects and Head Girl Katie Bell, making their way to the Entrance Hall as quickly as possible. They had all heard the warning about the attack, but Hermione was more fearful than most because she knew that Ron, Harry, and Neville should be coming back to the common room from their assigned detention of tuning the school brooms.
After everyone who had been summoned was gathered in the Entrance Hall, Dumbledore told them that there were two groups of Death Eaters, one of four and one of six, and that they were fighting with three students and two Aurors. When he told them the students' names they all made the decision to go and assist them.
"I cannot stop you from going, but I must insist that each of you remember that those you will be facing think nothing of killing innocent children, and are more than likely to harm you if you attack them." Dumbledore glanced to each person in turn then said, "Very well." Turning he conjured a rope and, pointing his wand at it, said, "Portus."
The rope glowed blue for a moment, then Dumbledore said, "This Portkey will take those who wish to assist to the bottom of the stairs. There, we will go to the aid of those trapped outside; the rest of you will be responsible for stopping these attackers if they get into the castle." Hermione, Molly, Arthur, McGonagall, Flitwick, Snape, Dumbledore, and seven other prefects, along with ten Aurors assigned to provide security took hold of the rope and quickly found themselves at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the Entrance Hall.
Looking toward the sounds of battle, Dumbledore saw something that had never failed to sicken him. One of the three students had stumbled and a Death Eater took the chance to end his life. As a flash of sickly-green light left no doubt which curse was cast at the stumbling boy, one of the two Aurors lunged to knock him down and appeared to have succeeded.
Dumbledore stood watching the destruction and fighting for only a moment before he started toward the retreating group, speaking to himself, "I did not expect Tom to be so bold this soon, but I guess he is testing the defences before a major attack. I should probably inform Scrimgeour."
To Harry's horror, the Auror who had just knocked Neville to the ground had been caught by the Killing Curse and was dead before he hit the ground. Harry saw an opening and took the offensive with a Blasting hex. "Bombarda!" The spell leapt from his wand and landed among three Death Eaters, including the one who had just killed the Auror. All three found themselves airborne without the aid of a broom and soaring away from the blast, landing and showing no signs of rising to continue their part in the attack.
The four remaining defenders continued their fighting retreat toward the safety of the castle. They had almost reached the group that was coming to their rescue when one of the Death Eaters managed to hit Harry in the chest with a powerful curse that launched him fifty feet into the air. Harry flew up and then descended to earth so quickly that almost no one had a chance to do more than scream his name.
"HARRY!" The scream was almost universal, with the exception of Dumbledore, who cast Arresto Momentum. Almost too late: Harry's fall slowed, but he still hit the ground with more speed than was good. The rest of the group, seeing that Harry was down, did their best to drive the remaining Death Eaters from the area, and after a few minutes, succeeded.
Taking a quick count of the casualties, Dumbledore moved to Harry's side and, retrieving a rock, quickly cast the Portkey charm on it and calling Ron and Neville to join them said, "Harry needs immediate medical treatment. The two of you are to accompany him to the hospital wing and Madam Pomfrey will determine if he can be treated here or if he will need to be sent to St. Mungo's."
Both boys nodded and grasped the Portkey while holding Harry's hands. Moments later they each felt the now familiar tug behind their navels and were whisked away. They appeared in the hospital wing and were quickly shooed aside by the Healer to allow her to begin assessing Harry's condition.
Two Mediwitches had Flooed in from St Mungo's and were there helping the school Healer. They each took one of the boys and began to heal the minor cuts, bruises, and spell damage they had suffered. Neville and Ron both were staring glumly at their fallen friend as they were receiving medical care themselves.
In all of the commotion, no one saw a grey rat sneaking into the castle during the fighting, using a secret entrance discovered by the Marauders when they were still in school. Wandering around unnoticed by staff and students, Wormtail managed to find a suitable hiding place and began to enact the plan his master had outlined.
~ * ~
Dumbledore had used the distraction provided by the attack to consider how to tell the Weasley elders exactly how they and their family were involved in the situation surrounding Harry. The next morning they returned to his office and resumed the conversation where they had left off the previous evening.
"Molly, Arthur, I am not certain how else to say this, but I think the entire truth would be the easiest now. You remember how we discussed about the prophecy that was given not long before Harry was born?" Dumbledore began. "Well, about a year after the attack on the Potters, a second prophecy was given. This one I must confess I was not able to discover the contents of until Voldemort ordered Severus to tell me what it said. Apparently, one of his Death Eaters either overheard it or managed to question the person who had."
Dumbledore took a sip of his tea before continuing, "On the third of this month, I received the worst possible news. This prophecy contained requirements necessary for Harry to achieve victory over Voldemort."
Molly spoke up, "Albus, what do you mean, requirements for victory? Was that what Hermione meant by 'This prophecy said that Harry had to do a certain thing with a certain person by midnight on New Year's Eve or You-Know-Who would win?'"
"I am sorry to say so, but yes. I find that I must tell you its content, so please be patient with me." Dumbledore recited the prophecy exactly as Severus had told it to him then continued, "I did not want to believe that what I had heard was the truth, but I knew of the prophecy in question, and thought it would be a good idea to check on it."
Arthur took a turn, "That is why you came to visit the Ministry on the third? You were checking to see if the prophecy was still there, and if it was still active. What did you find?"
Dumbledore nodded silently and said, "I found the prophecy exactly where it was supposed to be, but the orb was black. It had failed, and when I checked the most recent log, I found that it was still unfulfilled on the twentieth of December. The only thing that makes sense is for the first dawn to pertain to New Year's Day. How Voldemort learned of this Prophecy is unknown to either myself or the Order's spies among Voldemort's followers."
Molly and Arthur looked at each other, realizing at the same moment who the red-haired princess must be, but neither knew whether to hope they were right or wrong. Turning back to Dumbledore, Molly said in barely more than a whisper, "The girl referred to is Ginny, isn't it?"
"Yes, Molly, of that much we are certain. However, the fact that we did not find out until it was too late still remains the worst part of the problem. I can only hope that the course of action we are taking will result in a solution to this crisis to the benefit of all of us."
"True, Headmaster," Arthur spoke up for the first time since arriving in the office. "Is there any help the ministry can offer at this time? If not, then it would be good for me to be getting back to the office."
"No, Arthur that will just about settle everything. Again, I am sorry. I know that you both consider Harry as your son, and I think young Ginevra always hoped to make him an official member of your family." This Dumbledore said with a grim, resigned smile. "I am sorry it was my mistake that cost them the future that both she and he deserve. They have both endured more than any young people should ever have to."
Arthur nodded as he stood, "Thank you, Albus, but I need to get back to the office. Molly, I will see you this evening, dear." Turning, he then excused himself from the headmaster's office and left the school to Apparate to the Ministry.
Molly also excused herself, "Thank you for telling us what is happening. I will be getting back to Grimmauld Place to try and be of help. Arthur and I will be back later this week to visit Harry. And thank you for the tea."
~ * ~
Two days later the opportunity presented itself for Wormtail to take his first step in securing what his master wanted. The boy who came down the hall was alone and an easy target. Transforming into his human form, he quickly said, "Imperio!" Placing the dark-skinned boy under the curse, he removed a vial of potion from his pocket and, handing it to the boy, commanded him, "Drink this, now." The boy attempted to resist for a few moments, but then complied with the command and drank.
The potion made it harder for the victim to break from the curse, and more willing to be controlled. In this case, the boy was wearing the colours of Gryffindor and, if Peter remembered correctly, shared a dorm with Harry Potter. This would make his task so much easier. All he needed to do was send the boy to kill Harry in his sleep.
"What is your name, boy?" Peter asked.
"Dean Thomas," the boy replied.
"Well, Dean Thomas," Peter drawled. "I have a task for you."
Though he did not know why, Dean Thomas looked at the rat-faced man and said, "As you command, Master."
"Now follow me." Wormtail turned and led Dean down a little-used hall into a secret chamber. It was one he had found by accident when he was at school. "Now, tell me everything you know about Harry Potter."
~ * ~
On the fifth day after the battle, Harry lay in the hospital wing, still unconscious. The Weasleys, minus Bill, Charlie and of course Percy, sat discussing among themselves about Harry and the second Prophecy. As they talked quietly, the doors opened and someone entered and walked down the line of beds until he reached the one where Harry lay with the Weasleys crowded around it.
Dean, entering the hospital wing, saw Ginny seated by Harry's bed. With a deep frown, he walked up behind her, and grabbing her by the shoulder, he turned her around, yelling, "Where the bloody hell have you been? I have been looking for you everywhere!"
Caught by surprise, Ginny asked, "What do you mean by where have I been?" Glancing around to her brothers and parents, she continued, "I've been right here visiting with my family. Why have you been looking everywhere for me? I told you I would be here."
This only seemed to anger Dean more, and Ginny felt herself growing angry with him for his overly possessive attitude of late. She certainly did not want to have a row with him here, in front of her parents and brothers.
Hearing the raised voices, Madam Pomfrey entered the hall, saying, "Now see here, this is a hospital. If you do not know how to speak quietly then you can leave at once."
Glancing at Madam Pomfrey, Dean told Ginny through gritted teeth, "We need to talk, now!" and turned, leading the way out of the hospital wing. Ginny glanced at her family and saw their reaction to her boyfriend's actions. Ron was looking at the floor, slowly shaking his head while holding the bridge of his nose. Fred and George were looking like they would soon have something to test on Dean for his horrible manners. Her father glared after the boy who had spoken so rudely to his little princess, clinching his fist as if he were ready to give the boy a real lesson in proper manners. And last, her mum was pointedly looking at her while obviously holding her tongue.
Realizing her mum wanted to say something but was trying to let her handle the problem herself, Ginny said softly, "I will be back in a little while. Tell me if I miss anything. Okay?" Ginny walked toward the doors and exited the hospital wing. Angrily she glanced around and, seeing Dean standing in the hallway, she pointed to an unused room down the hall. Not trusting herself to say anything, she led the way while quietly fuming.
As they entered the room, Ginny closed the door, and turning around was grabbed by the shoulders by Dean who kissed her passionately. Without thinking Ginny brought her knee to his crotch, causing him to stop and collapse to the floor while clutching himself in great pain. Standing there Ginny drew her wand, and moved to open the door and leave.
Dean coughed and then whined, "What was that for?"
"What do you mean by asking what was that for? You scream at me about missing me when I told you exactly where I would be," Ginny backed away slowly reaching the door, and took the handle in her hand, before continuing, "then when I take the time to talk with you, you grab me and start trying to kiss me and Merlin only knows what else."
"But... Gin... I just wanted us to spend some time together, I've missed you," Dean whimpered.
"Missed me?" Ginny didn't know why but the tone of Dean's voice was making her nervous and just a bit angry. "You have been ignoring me for the last two days and come to think of it for most of the past few weeks. Now you have the nerve to yell at ME about being hard to find?"
Cutting Dean off before he could reply she continued, "Yes, I know that I've been helping Hermione with a research project, and doing school work, but I have made certain that I have set aside time specifically for you. And when I do, you are never anywhere to be found. I find it very difficult to spend time with someone who is never around."
Ginny paused for a breath and, narrowing her eyes, finished voicing her thoughts, "I should add that I heard some rumours that you have been seen in compromising positions with a certain girl from Hufflepuff."
Dean finally managed to get to his feet. "You're one to be talking," he shouted. "Wearing the bracelet Potter gave you every day, but you have never once worn that necklace I gave you for Christmas. That bracelet has all of those charms and only one is a flower, and it isn't even a rose." Dean stood there with a triumphant look on his face.
"Because Harry knows that I think roses are just too much of a cliché. I hate roses, and was trying to figure out how to tell you that I hated the necklace without hurting your feelings."
Dean stood with a gob smacked look on his face. "How can you not like roses? All my other girlfriends love roses," he said while reaching for his wand.
Ginny growled and whispered, "I didn't want to believe it, but apparently the rumours are true."
Dean, knowing that he would have to take action quickly, said, "Imperio!"
Ginny was unprepared for this, and thus was unable to dodge the Unforgivable.
"Put down your wand, and surrender to me."
Ginny hesitated for a moment and began to comply; then thought to herself, "Why am I obeying him?" Her anger was growing steadily as she started to resist.
The command was repeated, "Put down your wand, and surrender to me," with the added imperative, "Do it now!"
Ginny continued to resist, and seeing herself move to put down her wand only made her more determined to fight. Still the wand fell from her fingers and she began to approach Dean.
Seeing this, Dean smiled and, in a command both verbal and mental, said, "Now, take off your clothes."
Ginny unwillingly felt her self begin to undo the buttons of her blouse, and then a voice like Hermione's said, "Remember you promised yourself, that you would only allow Harry, or the one you marry, to touch you like that."
Again she resisted, forcing her hands to her side with her blouse only half unbuttoned. After a moment, her right hand twitched and her wand jumped back into it. Seeing this, Dean was about to use the Full-Body bind hex when he was hit in the face by a yellowish light and began to stumble and cry out as huge bat-winged bogeys began to struggle out of his nose.
"Mucosu Awingus," Ginny spoke the hex almost unthinkingly. Then with more confidence, she continued, "You worthless, self-centred, egotistical piece of rat dropping! How dare you use that curse on me!!" Punctuating each word with a kick to his ribs, she then turned to leave as she finished. Shaking her head, she said, "How could you use that curse on anyone? Professor Dumbledore is not going to be happy to hear about this. Also, how could you possibly think that I would continue to be your girlfriend when you can't even take the time to get to know what I like and don't like."
As Ginny reached the door, she turned her head and glanced over her shoulder to see Dean lifting his wand in a last attempt to stop her. He managed to fire a minor cutting hex which she barely dodged, still getting hit on her left elbow. She then responded with a Stinging Hex, followed quickly by four other painful hexes and curses. Ginny gave into her anger after that and hit Dean with one last Bat-Bogey hex, this one aimed at other mucus membranes than those in the nose.
Through the screams that followed, she found herself saying, "You deserve more than that, you worthless slime."
"Miss Weasley," Ginny turned, thankful to see Professor McGonagall. "What is going on here?" Then seeing Dean on the floor, she said, "You will remove those hexes from Mr. Thomas immediately."
"I'm sorry Professor, but I can't remove them. That one has never had a counter-hex," she replied, smirking at the movement in Dean's trousers and under his robes.
Dean chose that moment to lose consciousness, and Professor McGonagall, with a thin-lipped expression, conjured a stretcher and moved him to the hospital wing. After having allowed Madam Pomfrey to deal with his injuries, her head of house said, "Miss Weasley, there is never a reason to cause such harm to anyone. I am very disappointed in you."
Dumbledore entered at this moment and quickly took over as McGonagall finished her speech. "Miss Weasley, I find that I must ask you what your reasons are for doing as you have done." Both professors stood quietly, waiting for Ginny to respond.
"Umm," Ginny began, "I had planned to leave the room that you found us in, and was doing so when Dean drew his wand and cast the Imperius Curse on me..." She told them what had happened and about what he had ordered her to do; Dumbledore and McGonagall paled at hearing the events of the last twenty minutes.
Ginny continued, "I reacted originally without thinking. I hit him in the face with a Bat-Bogey hex, but as I again turned to make my escape, he caught me with a cutting hex." Showing them her left elbow as she said this, she continued, "After he cut my arm, I can't really remember what I did, but judging from his screaming it must have really hurt." This last bit she said with just a slight hint of pride.
Dumbledore turned to McGonagall and said, "Minerva, would you mind if I took responsibility for assigning this particular punishment." At her nod, he turned to Ginny and said, "I understand that you originally intended only to defend yourself, but then you ceased to and began to attack rather than trying to find help and this should be discouraged. Miss Weasley, I find myself in a very deplorable position. While Mr. Thomas had no excuse for his actions, you continued to attack rather than escape. And for that reason I am forced to take ten house points from Gryffindor for your actions, and while I would not normally assign you a detention considering what has happened, I feel that I must. For the next four weeks, you will be assisting Madam Pomfrey and your mother, here in the hospital wing, everyday when you are not in class. You will have to eat your meals and sleep here as well, and you will still be required to attend all of your classes and finish all of your school work and assignments." Stepping close to whisper to her, he said, "I am doing this to allow you the chance to assist in caring for Harry without having to explain your constant presence in the hospital wing, either to professors or other students." He winked conspiratorially to her and stepped back.
Turning back to McGonagall, Dumbledore continued, "Minerva, I think that I shall send by the Aurors in my office to pick up Mr. Thomas and escort him to the Ministry for a hearing concerning his actions, where I think he can recover from his fight with Miss Weasley." And finally to Pomfrey, "I trust you can find plenty of work for this young lady when she has any time free from school work, Poppy."
"Of course I can, Headmaster. I will get her to work immediately."
Dumbledore turned back to Ginny, "I think you have been through enough for today, Ginevra. You should spend the rest of it with your mother, and trying to relax." Turning to Madam Pomfrey again, he said, "I think it would be best to assign Miss Weasley to watch over Mr. Potter along with Molly Weasley. That will allow him to be monitored continuously and leave you to care for the rest of the students while not missing anything important."
Molly stood nearby, smiling at her daughter, but with a sad look about her as well. Then turning to the Headmaster, "Albus, may I ask why you felt it necessary to take house points for Ginny's actions?"
"Well, Molly. I took them because Ginevra should have left the room immediately after hitting Mr. Thomas with that Bat-Bogey hex of hers. Instead, she stayed and fought an unnecessary battle. Taking points is my way of teaching her to use common sense when placed in such dangerous situations as she faced today," Dumbledore concluded. Then in a quieter voice so only Molly, Minerva and Ginny could hear him, he continued, "It is a far less painful lesson than she could have learned." Then louder to the group, "Now we need to get to the meeting today. I believe that Miss Granger may have found the answer we have all been seeking."
With that said, Dumbledore, McGonagall, Arthur, and Fred and George, left the hospital wing and went to the Headmaster's office. Molly stayed behind to sit with her daughter, saying, "Arthur, I need to talk with Ginny for a few minutes, and will be along as soon as I can."
Ron got up and said, "I'm hungry and think I will go to the Great Hall to eat. Maybe I will go to Gryffindor Tower and see if I can get Neville to join me."
~ * ~
Elsewhere at around the same time
Hermione sat contemplating a stack of books, which she hoped would be of assistance in the present situation. The other groups had failed and she was almost out of hope. "There has to be an answer; I refuse to believe there is no solution. Then the spine of a book from the Black family library caught her eye and she retrieved it from the stack. It was entitled:
A Master's Thesis Concerning Chronomancy and the Consequences Thereof By Horace James Potter
"Surely this is not one of Harry's relatives," she muttered to herself. She opened the book to see if it had an index or a table of contents. She was lucky and began searching for keywords she felt would lead to the answers she was looking for. Finding one of them, Hermione excitedly began to read, starting with the introduction:
With the recent discovery of the Time-Turner time travel device and their effects on causality, the question of whether or not longer trips back in time are possible has become a topic of great debate among learned scholars and laymen alike. This study of Chronomancy is an attempt to understand what is required in the performing of rituals for the movement through one's own history. Though a few have tried, it is now evident that all attempts to travel outside one's own lifetime will result in such chaotic magical discharge that the ritual will fail immediately, and the person will be immediately wiped from said timeline.
Time Magic, or Chronomancy as it is more commonly termed, can be very unpredictable and travel within one's own lifetime is not always guaranteed.
Hermione immediately began taking notes as she read onward. The information about the ritual involved was enough to make her ill, but she realized that it might be the only way to fulfil the requirements of the solution.
"Harry would most certainly go through with this if it meant that he could get a chance to destroy that monster. I think if he had the chance he would try to go back and stop his parents from dying, among other things."
Continuing to read, she realised her fears were the only thing that kept her from jumping from joy. "I am going to have to get Professor Dumbledore's opinion, but I think I have found what we are looking for," she said to herself.
She gathered her materials and began to sort through the notes she had made, along with the reports from the other groups. Glancing at the book she had just been reading, Hermione noted that the other option of sending a message back in time had been determined to be impossible many years previously.
She glanced at her watch. "Just enough time to get to the meeting," she said. Rising to her feet, she started toward the door just as Ron came through the portrait hole.
"Hermione," Ron nodded a greeting but did nothing else for a moment. Then he continued, "Just thought you would like to know that Ginny and Dean have broken off their relationship, rather violently, at that." Pausing for a moment he continued, "Harry's condition hasn't changed since last evening. Madam Pomfrey is still hopeful that he will wake up in the next few days though."
"Thanks Ron." Hermione smiled then nodded to the doorway and said, "I need to get to a meeting with Professor Dumbledore and I am already late. Could you help me? If Lavender doesn't mind, I mean."
"Why would it matter if she minded?" he asked. Then, seeing her surprised and somewhat confused expression, he said, "Um, she and I broke our relationship off a few days ago. I can help you any way you need me to."
As he helped Hermione with her notes and reports while they walked toward the headmaster's office, Ron filled her in on the news concerning Ginny and Dean, "I knew Dean was in for it when he started acting like he owned her. He never stood a chance once she felt he was a danger to her. McGonagall and Dumbledore both told her off for placing herself in unnecessary danger, but I must admit I am glad that it wasn't me that got to find out her Bat-Bogey hex works so well on places other than the nose." Ron involuntarily grimaced at the thought of being on the receiving end of that hex ever again.
"Well, I think that was the right thing to do," Hermione said.
"Who," Ron asked, "Ginny, Dean, or the Professors?"
"Ginny, and the Professors," Hermione said. "Dean deserved exactly what he got, if you ask me. And even if you don't, he still got what he deserved."
"Umm, I am certainly in agreement there. I only wish she had let Fred, George and I get the chance to hurt him also," Ron said as they reached the Gargoyle. "Well, umm, here," he said as he handed her the things he was carrying, and turning to go, said, "I think I will get something to eat. See you around."
"See you later, Ron," Hermione called as he turned to go. And watching Ron walk away, she turned to the Gargoyle and said, "Potter solution." That was a special password given to the groups to allow them to speak with the headmaster whenever necessary.
Hermione bit her bottom lip as she considered how to approach the fact that her best friend, indeed brother even, would have to pay such a high price in order for him to win the war. That was just the least of her worries: waiting for her in the headmaster's office were the people who most considered Harry to be family. Dumbledore and McGonagall were like a grandfather and a great-aunt, while Mr. and Mrs. Weasley considered him to be a son in all but name. Remus Lupin was like an uncle to him; even the Weasley brothers and Nymphadora Tonks considered Harry to be their younger brother.
"How am I going to tell them that the only answer I could find will cost Harry such a high price?" Hermione thought to her self. "Are they even willing to allow such a course of action?" Hermione was drawn from her reverie as she reached the top of the stairs. Pausing for only a second, she reached for the door handle and entered the room.
"Welcome, Miss Granger. We have been waiting for you," Dumbledore said as he motioned her to a chair. "I hope you have something for us."
"Yes, sir," Hermione said. "After reading and organizing everyone's notes, I found nothing of consequence to our situation. However, as I was doing some final reading, I came across two books," she said while pulling the tomes out of the bag she was carrying with her. She passed them around, and as she did, she asked, "Professor Dumbledore, was Horace Potter a relative of Harry's?"
"Yes, I believe that he was a second cousin to Harry's fourth great-grandfather," answered the headmaster.
Returning her attention to the circle, Hermione continued her report. "I found the following information in this book written by Horace Potter." She pointed it out. "I know it is the answer we are seeking, but I am afraid that no one will be pleased by what will have to happen."
Molly Weasley and Remus Lupin spoke simultaneously. The former asking, "What is that?" while the latter only wanted to know what would have to happen.
"Well, the first thing is that while the ritual can be performed anytime, certain dates seem to improve the chance of success. The first of these dates will be in March and we should have plenty of time to prepare the needed materials in this particular type of time travel ritual. We will only get one chance to succeed."
"That doesn't sound too bad," said Mr. Weasley. "We should be able to work with that."
"The second thing is the price that must be paid in order to complete the ritual."
"And what is that?" McGonagall asked.
"Harry's life," Hermione said in a matter-of-fact voice.
Realizing the eminent outburst that was coming, Dumbledore immediately replied, "I was afraid that this would be the eventual price for victory in this war. However I had hoped that we might find another solution. If there is no other way, then we should calm ourselves, and resolve to finish what work we can in order to help Harry prepare for this trial he now faces."
Arthur looked over at his wife and suddenly realized that she was quiet and had been since Dumbledore had finished. He had expected some type of reaction by now, yet there had been none but silence. Arthur had learned long ago that if Molly was silent for an extended period of time, especially after hearing something of this magnitude, what was probably about to happen would not be good for anyone within this room or for Hogwarts for that matter; the fuse had been lit and the explosion that was to occur would be worse than he had seen in many years.
Hermione looked around at the people gathered. The general uproar she had expected never came, though it was obvious that no one liked the answer they had found. Mrs. Weasley quietly said, "Hermione, are you absolutely sure there is no other way? We should not have to ask such a sacrifice of him. It cannot be done. There must be another way." Turning to the others she continued, "We need to find another solution. Certainly we can achieve success. How can we ask this of him after all he has been through?"
Hermione stood firm, "Mrs. Weasley, I know what I am asking of him; I only hope he can understand it. I am afraid it is more complex than Harry simply dying. But all the other options have been tried in the past, and they are not what we are in need of."
Remus then spoke up, "I understand that you do not like this option, Molly. Frankly, neither do I, but we have been backed into a corner and must now choose. As Albus has said many times before, we must choose between what is easy and what is right. I have a feeling I know which option Harry will choose. I think he never really thought that he would survive the war. Actually, I think he always felt that even if he killed Voldemort, he would die too. That's why he has tried to distance himself from everyone. He knows that there is a good chance he will die and he doesn't want to put any of us through that, but he also wants to know that none of us will die with him."
After a few minutes, Dumbledore managed to restore a semblance of order to the assembled group, and then calmly said, "I had little doubt that this would be the outcome, but I had hoped to be proven wrong." Stilling each person with a glance, he continued, "None of us can be happy with this result, but I think that we should prepare for the ritual as soon as we can."
Turning to Mrs Weasley, the headmaster continued, "Molly, please remember that we must make allowances for the possibility of not being happy with the result. In this case, it is okay if Harry dies in this ritual, as it will send him back, and if I remember what that book says correctly, this timeline will cease to exist from the moment he returns onward. He will not need to face death again if we plan this correctly, at least until he is a very old man."
Arthur let the information that he had just heard from Dumbledore and Hermione process in his brain for a couple of seconds. It was a lot to take in. To find out that in order to save everyone and finally kill Voldemort, Harry had to die and be sent back in time while everyone here would just cease to exist. Arthur now understood the reason why it was best not to know when one would die.
Just then Tonks said, "Hermione, what was the other book?"
"It is entitled 'Fate's Debt' by someone named 'Intromit,'" Hermione said with a half-smile. "It is a very interesting story about a young man who wanted to send a message to his younger self in an attempt to spend more time with the woman he loved instead of possibly taking many years to first meet her.
"Anyhow, even if it were to work, we could only send back a short message of maybe two or three words, and nothing more," Hermione finished, "but it will still end with Harry's death. And from what I was able to understand, it is considered to be a hopeless attempt. There are no recorded successful occurrences, and while it might make a great story, I am afraid that it will not be of any use to us."
"I see," said Dumbledore. "Then we will need to make all of the preparations; Miss Granger, I am certain you have already determined what day will be the best for the ritual to be preformed."
"Yes Professor..." Hermione began.
At that moment, the fire burned green and Madam Pomfrey's head came through the flames. "Headmaster, come to the hospital wing right away, and bring any Aurors you have there with you. Mr. Thomas is not who we thought him to be. It appears that someone was impersonating him effectively until his argument with Miss Weasley."
Dumbledore rose and moved toward the door calling everyone to come with him. "Nymphadora Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt will be arriving by Floo in a moment, and the rest of us will be there momentarily, Poppy."
Tonks and Kingsley took the Floo and arrived in the hospital wing to see a short balding man with a rat-like face cowering in a corner with Ginny Weasley standing over him, growling something about bat-bogeys and worthless Death Eaters who did not know how to keep their worthless hands to themselves.
Upon closer inspection, they saw bat-shaped things flying around his head, attacking him at random. Their presence was unnoticed by Ginny who was still holding her wand aimed at her prisoner. Tonks approached her, startling her by grabbing her wand, and after a brief struggle disarmed her.
"Ginny, it's me, Tonks. Calm down!" At those words, the young redhead burst into tears and Tonks tried to gather her into a tight hug, but Ginny continued to fight for a few moments as the younger Auror worked to calm her. "Ginny, it's me, Tonks. It's okay, we have everything under control."
After a minute, she managed to get through to Ginny that she was safe. At that point, Ginny collapsed against her and she hugged the young redhead tight as she sobbed into her shoulder. Tonks led Ginny to a chair beside Harry's bed.
As Kingsley took pity on the retched being curled up in the corner and stunned him before placing him under the Full-Body bind, Ginny remembered to warn them, "He is an Animagus and has faked his death at least twice in the past to escape Azkaban. At least that was the story Ron, Harry, and Hermione told me about that traitorous being there in the corner known once to his friends as Wormtail."
Tonks and Kingsley both nodded as Madam Pomfrey moaned from where she had been hexed, by the fireplace. As Kingsley walked over to see about her, Dumbledore and the others entered; Lupin proceeded to identify Wormtail while Molly went to see about her daughter, who wrapped her arms tightly around her mother and refused to let go.
"Well, what do we do with him?" Arthur asked.
"We should turn him to the Ministry, but I think it might be best if we found some way to quietly dispose of him," Lupin said. Then, looking around, he continued, "It is doubtful that Voldemort knows that we have him. Perhaps we can get some information from him and then make him disappear."
"He needs to be questioned by the Ministry in order to determine what crimes he should be charged with," Kingsley put in.
At that moment, Snape entered, totally unaware of what was occurring. He had brought some potions to stock the medicinal potion cabinet. Looking at the scene before him, he stood shaking his head at the body in the corner.
Dumbledore noticed Snape's presence first and said, "Severus, we need Veritaserum as soon as you can bring it."
"Of course Headmaster," Snape replied. Setting the potions on a table by the door to Madam Pomfrey, he turned and sprinted from the hospital wing.
"Professor Dumbledore, Sir," Kingsley started, "I think we should take him to the Ministry."
"And we will," Dumbledore replied. "But first, I feel that we should know what he was doing here, why he was impersonating a student, and where that student is now."
"Yes," some of the others agreed.
The discussion lasted for a few minutes and the opinions expressed by all sides led to the decision that he would be turned over to the Ministry for trial and public spectacle after being held until the ritual could be preformed. "Just in case," the people who wanted him to face justice said.
Lupin noticed that Ginny was visibly upset by the fact that this monster had disguised himself as Dean Thomas, who had been, until earlier that day, her boyfriend. And she had still to get over her near attack at the hands of that monster barely an hour ago.
After giving Wormtail the potion, awakening him, and confirming he was under its effect by asking for his identity, Dumbledore began with the question everyone was thinking of at the moment. "Where is Dean Thomas?" Though he did not know for certain, it was expected that the boy was probably dead.
"He is in a secret room in the north wing of the school," was the reply.
"Why are you here?" Dumbledore continued.
"My master sent me here to carry out his instructions."
"And what are those instructions? Why did he send you?" That was from Remus.
"Because he trusts me to obey him," Peter smiled. "I am here to cause as much hurt as possible and to kill Harry Potter." He looked at Ginny, and then calmly said, "He knows about your first year, and wanted the prediction to come true..."
At this, Dumbledore turned to Ginny and said, "Miss Weasley, I apologize for my earlier assignment of detention, but I wanted you to have an excuse to stay here with your mother to help care for Harry. The assignment of 'detention,'" Dumbledore made an air quotes gesture with his hands, "was a technicality which would allow you to remain in the hospital wing for the rest of the time Harry has to stay here..."
He was cut off by a shout of "Imperio!" and turned to see Wormtail holding a wand pointed at Ginny. The spells that hit Wormtail were many and varied, but effective.
Turning to Ginny, Dumbledore took note of her facial expression and said, "What did he command?"
"He commanded me to kill Harry Potter," she said as she broke into tears of frustration and fear.
~ * ~
Ginny lay on her bed in the hospital wing, wondering what had awakened her. She glanced at the clock on the bedside table and saw that it was five thirty on the morning of February sixteenth, four weeks since the attack that had put Harry in hospital. After taking a few moments to consider whether or not she should get out of bed, she decided she would try to go back to sleep.
Drawing the blanket to her chin, she settled back into the warmth of the bed. Just as she managed to find a comfortable position, she heard soft voices discussing something they were obviously trying to keep secret. She quickly recognized the voices as her mother and Madam Pomfrey, and they obviously thought that she was still asleep.
"I really wish there was another way," her mum was saying. "He has been through so much and now to be asked to give his life." Ginny fought to stifle her gasp but failed miserably. "Ginny dear," her mother said, "are you okay?"
Realizing that she should give up all pretence of sleep if she was going to get the answers she now wanted, Ginny rose from the bed and wrapped her dressing gown around her against the chill. She quickly joined her mother and Madam Pomfrey.
"Sorry to awaken you, Miss Weasley," Madam Pomfrey said.
"I was already awake," Ginny replied. Then, turning to her mother, she asked, "What was that about someone being asked to give his life?"
"Nothing, dear," Molly Weasley said.
"Please don't lie to me, Mother," Ginny groaned. "I know what I heard. You said someone was going to have to give his life, now who is it?"
Mrs Weasley and Madam Pomfrey exchanged a dismal glance before Molly said, "Ginny, dear. You really should get back to bed and get some more rest. Let the adults…"
Ginny interrupted, "Let the adults do what? Keep me from knowing what is happening? Is that what you were going to say?" Ginny was struggling not to shout, and was gritting her teeth in order to do so.
"Please just tell me who it is." Ginny was becoming exasperated with what her mother was saying.
"Okay, Ginny. If you must know, we are talking about Harry," Molly said.
Ginny found her self at a loss for words. Quietly, she looked at both adults and then walked away. Not toward her own bed, but to Harry's. Here she lay down, and cuddled around him snuggling as close as physically possible. Finally the only words she could think of came to her, "No, please dear Merlin not Harry. Please not Harry. Please."
Two and a half hours later...
Ginny still lay on Harry's hospital bed and wept bitterly into his shoulder. What right did they have to take him away from her? She had fought, struggled, and worked hard to place herself in the position of being Harry Potter's woman.
She was just beginning to realize that something was different when she heard a gruff voice whisper, "Ginny, I... what's happening, and... why are you crying? And when did I… end up in the hospital wing… again?"