“All right, you son of a bitch,” I snarled, my wand pointed straight at where Snape had supposedly once had a heart, “tell me where the bloody Horcrux is, and I won’t shove it up your arse before I destroy it with one of that Basilisk’s fangs.”
The late headbastard’s eyebrows arched, but before he could answer there was a laugh behind me that sent me spinning. “Bloody hell, Ginny! He’s already dead—what’re you going to do, kill him again?” Fred stood there, big as life, smirking like the bugger he always was.
“Can’t blame a girl for trying though, can you, Forge?” Tonks leaned her elbow up on his shoulder; the last time I’d seen her, she’d been beautifully enormous, but now she looked the way she had the summer I’d met her: lean, grinning, and with hair that clashed painfully with Fred’s dragonhide coat. “Wotcher, Gin.”
“Well,” said Colin, who was standing at Fred’s other elbow, “if anyone could manage it, it would be Ginny.” He flashed a bright smile that hit me like a kick in the stomach.
“Believe me,” groaned Snape behind me, “she did her best to kill me all of last year. You made my already thoroughly unpleasant life an utter hell.”
“What...?” I spluttered, straining to pull together a coherent thought. Grabbing the hem of Harry’s robes, I turned back to Fred. “What are you doing here?”
Fred gave his Fred shrug—the one that always let me know he wasn’t George. “Oh, Harry-arse there wanted a palaver with us.”
“And with Professor Moody too,” added Colin.
Tonks snorted, “Yeah. But Mad-Eye wouldn’t stay if that prat there—” She flicked her chin at Snape. “—was here. So he scarpered off.”
“H... Harry? Summoned you?”
“Yes, Miss Weasley,” said Snape, with his usual, aggrieved air of having to explain the obvious to someone really dim—as if anyone could have swallowed what was going on there better than I was doing. “Rather than simply complete the task that he’d set for himself, the Boy Who Couldn’t Manage to Die Properly decided in a typical fit of Potter sentiment that he had to speak to each of us—or rather, all of us. It was bad enough to have my afterlife disturbed; but to be pulled back into this vale of dreariness in the company these... Gryffindors.”
“Oi!” barked Tonks, waving one hand. “Hufflepuff, thank you very much!”
“Hat wanted to put me in Ravenclaw,” Fred said to Colin. “Didn’t seem like enough of a challenge, though.” They both nodded solemnly.
“What...?” I could feel what little grip I still had rapidly slipping. I looked down at Harry, the Elder Wand in his hand jammed into that blinding light. Tucked between his palm and the wand’s handle was a small, black stone.
I could just see the silvery not-there-ness of that ever-so-useful Invisibility Cloak, shoved with the Marauder’s Map into his bag. And the wand. And...
I said some words my mother wouldn’t have stood for, even under extreme circumstances. Looking down at my fiancé’s slack face, I gasped, “He’s the Master of Death.”
“Fairytale nonsense,” spat Snape.
“Well, Professor,” pointed out Colin cheerfully, “he did call all of us back from the Other Side. You have to admit, that is pretty impressive.”
I’d never heard a sniff as dismissive as the one Snape answered with.
“Yeah, Severus, my old lad?” said Fred. “Got somewhere you’d rather be?”
“Anywhere,” muttered Snape, but not before Tonks had whispered loudly, “Lily still won’t talk to him.”
“Serves you right,” I growled at the late headmaster’s shade. “Between the way you treated her and the way you treated her son, I shouldn’t think you’d see her good side any time this century. And yeah, Harry and I don’t have secrets.” Which wasn’t, strictly speaking, true. “I know you helped him. Didn’t stop you from making his life hell.”
It was a kind of a nostalgic treat to see Snape reduced to scowling.
I touched my fingers to Harry’s throat. He was breathing, and his heart was beating. That was something, anyway. I looked back up at the solitary figure on the edge of the bright, magical light emanating from the tip of Harry’s wand. “You said he hadn’t finished what he was here to do. What? What’s happened to him?”
“Why should I tell you?”
“Because if you do, that century might not last so long, but if you don’t, I’m going to see just how much damage I can actually do to a conjured spirit.” I had my wand once again pointed at the middle of his chest.
“Hmm. A very Gryffindor approach.” Snape didn’t look particularly worried, but his eyes never left my wand. “I once thought you capable of more subtlety.”
“Believe me,” barked Fred from behind me, “she can be plenty subtle. Right up to the point where she hits you between the eyes like a Bludger.”
Tonks snorted. Colin said, “Harry was casting a Fidelius Charm.”
Bloody hell, I thought. Suddenly it all made sense: the evasiveness, the exhaustion: this was something he’d had to do alone: to hide the Elder Wand. To hide the Deathly Hallows. In the one place that just about no one could ever get into. Bloody hell.
“So much,” said Snape, “for not having any secrets.”
“Yeah,” I muttered, “but this is one I understand. I don’t like it, but I sure as hell understand it.” I looked down at Harry. Here we should have been up in our bedroom, playing with rope, and poor Harry was down here trying to save the world again. “What happened?”
“Your boyfriend there rushed in as always where he had no business treading. The Fidelius Charm is a notoriously difficult spell.”
I was going to bark at the bastard, but Tonks beat me to it. “Come on, Severus. He’d done a great job on it. You said so yourself, before—”
Snape crossed his arms tightly. “Before he bumbled into the most elementary error that can be made with the Fidelius Charm. If he hadn’t thought that the laws of magic didn’t apply to such a Chosen One as he, he would have realized that there was a reason that the caster of the charm can never be the Secret Keeper.”
Now Snape smiled—that smug, condescending smirk that he’d been torturing Weasleys with for at least the previous decade and a half. “It is one of the basic prohibitions involved in casting a Fidelius. As Potter ought to have known if he had done the research required actually to cast the spell.”
I ran my fingertips along Harry's chin. “I bet he was trying to make sure that if someone killed him to become the wand’s master, the secret died with him.”
“Nonetheless,” sniffed Snape, “a typically arrogant, typically sloppy mistake.”
I started to reach for the Elder Wand, to pull it out of that blinding, dimensionless point of brilliance. Why? I can’t tell you. Maybe I thought if I dispelled that light—
“Don’t.” Snape and Fred said it together. I stopped. Fred continued, unusually serious: “He created a paradox; when he started to cast the last bits of the Charm to place the Chamber under the Fidelius, it started to rip itself out of the real world. Harry was only able to stop it by jamming the wand in there.”
Colin chuckled. “Like the Dutch boy sticking his finger in the dyke.”
I had long ago got used to him and Dean and Hermione—and Harry—saying things that made absolutely no sense unless you’d been told some Muggle story as a kid.
Tonks peered at my brother. “How d’you know so much about the bloody Fidelius? It’s beyond the level of most of the Aurors I ever knew. Remus understood the theory, but he never felt he could manage the actual spell, more’s the pity.”
When Fred shrugged, I answered for him. “Fred was always good at charms. So… he’s holding the Chamber in the real world?”
Fred shrugged again, but nodded.
“And is that why he’s… passed out?”
“Yeah,” said Tonks. “He was able to get the Patronus off; he knew you were the only one with a chance of getting down here. But then he fainted.”
“Be that as it may,” said Snape, “unless he can awake, he cannot complete the spell. And if he does not wake soon, the effort of holding the fissure together will claim him. A ridiculous waste of his own life. As I said: sloppy and arrogant.”
I looked down at Harry; he was pale and clammy, and it felt as if each heartbeat was fainter than the last. Bloody hell, Harry, I found myself thinking, can’t you go even one year without almost dying? Of course, in that moment, I wasn’t at all certain that there was any almost in the offing.
I shivered, and it was a moment before I realized that it wasn’t because of the cool air or the prospect of Harry dying—again. The deformed ghost-child was standing just inside of the entrance to the Chamber, snarling at us like a rabid dog.
“Shut up, Tom,” said Fred.
I blinked. “Tom?”
“Yeah,” said Tonks. “he doesn’t like us invading his lurk.”
Tom. I remembered the story that Harry had told me of his conversation with Dumbledore in the ghostly railway station. The gibbering thing… “Stay,” I hissed. “We will go.”
The thing slinked into the shadows.
“Ginny could finish it,” Fred murmured, his voice still low and serious as I had so rarely heard it in life. “She could be the Secret Keeper.”
I waited for a sneer or a comment from Snape, but none came. When I looked up at him, he was standing, a finger to his lips, considering. “She could detach the fool boy’s hand from the wand, leaving it in place. Take him outside. Complete the spell. Yes. That might work.”
“Once the stone was out of his hand, we’d have to go,” pointed out Tonks.
“At last,” said Snape with a sigh, “a silver lining.”
“What’s the spell?” I asked as I once again began to reach toward Harry’s wand hand.
“Simple,” Fred said. “The wand movement’s just a Caracker loop, just like—”
“—the Shield Charm,” Tonks, Colin and I said together. It had been one of the first things that Harry had taught the DA.
“And the incantation,” added Snape, “is Fidelias occultis. You must concentrate—and this is essential—on hiding the Chamber of Secrets. Do not forget this.’”
“Right,” I said. “Got it.” I wrapped my fingers around Harry’s.
“Good luck, Ginny,” said Colin, clearly saying goodbye.
“Give Teddy a hug for me,” said Tonks, her voice warm and sad.
In spite of the urgency of the moment, I felt myself start to tear up. “S-so sorry, Tonks.”
“Don’t be. I’ve seen you and Harry and my mum with him. He’s a lucky boy to have you lot.”
I just nodded and started to pry Harry’s hand away from the wand and the stone. Snape was standing there, a nostril raised in eloquent disgust. “Professor,” I said, because I knew I needed to, “you were a right bastard and a terrible teacher. But I know you weren’t as hard on us as you might have been last year, and I know you helped Harry. So thank you for that.”
“Just promise me,” he said, turning away and beginning to disappear as Harry’s grip loosened, “that you won’t name any children after me.”
“Professor, I swear that no child of mine shall ever, ever have the given name Severus.”
He gave a grunt in acknowledgment, and then he was gone.
I gently twisted Harry’s hand and it released the wand, which remained hanging in mid-air from the rift.
The Resurrection Stone slipped from his palm; I caught it before it hit the ground.
“Bye, Ginny,” said Tonks and Colin. Like Snape, they turned and faded like shadows in a dream.
Fred stood there still, smiling again. “You didn’t say anything about middle names, now did you?”
“Funny,” I said, smiling as I stood and cast a quick Mobilicorpus on Harry, “it must have slipped my mind.”
“That’s my sister,” he chuckled, and it’s funny: the chuckle was more devastating than anything else he could have done. “Listen, Ginny: tell George to have a good time, okay?”
“Okay.” I checked Harry’s pulse at his throat again; it was already stronger.
“And tell the Boy Who Bonked here not to have too good a time, thank you very much.”
“Nope.” I looked over at the wand, suspended six inches in the air in a seam of starburst. “I won’t be telling him any such thing. Prat.”
“Well, all I can say is I don’t want little Albus Severus showing up any time soon, you know?”
“Albus Severus?” I looked at him again, and I couldn’t help it: we both started to laugh. “Merlin! They’d both be… I mean, imagine their faces!”
We both howled some more.
Then the light at the tip of the wand flared and the floor beneath me shook.
“Go, Gin,” said Fred.
“We miss you.”
“I’m always right here.” He smiled.
I nodded and put down the Stone. He faded away as if he’d never been there at all.
As I Levitated Harry out the door, the noxious presence was suddenly nearby again. As soon as we were back in the tunnel, Tom Riddle’s ghost—or I guess, what was left of Tom Riddle’s ghost—was in the door, doing its best to hiss menacingly at us. It was pathetic. If ever anyone was too scared to go on to the Other Side, it was you, I thought, but I simply hissed the order, “Stay!” and then “Close!”
The shade of what had once been the greatest Dark Lord in centuries looked relieved as the doors swung shut between us. The Chamber of Secrets was sealed.
I lowered Harry to the floor, thinking through the steps of the spell that I needed to perform.
The walls rumbled again; sparks of that bright netherlight where flaring from the edges of the doors.
I stood, my wand raised, and visualized Harry’s Invisibility Cloak covering the whole of the Chamber—of the whole structure disappearing entirely. When the image was clear in my mind, I performed the wand movement that I’d learned from Harry a lifetime before, and spoke: “Fidelias occultis.”
I looked up, expecting the doors to have disappeared. But of course, they were still there—they would be, since I was the Secret Keeper. Even so, the sparks of light and rumbling had stopped.
I turned my wand on Harry. “Renervate.”
He groaned once, and then his eyes flew open. “Ginny!” He sat up and clutched his head. “Bloody hell. Must have… Must have… hit my head.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time,” I said, kneeling down to him.
“Thank god you came,” he said, his hand cupping my cheek. “I was trying to hide…” He frowned and then started to look around. “The Elder Wand. The Resurrection Stone. What happened to them?”
To test the spell, and out of sheer curiosity, I pointed at the carved doors of the Chamber. “They’re right over there.”
“There?” He scowled in the direction of the doors, and then blinked up at me again. “That’s… There’s nothing but rock there, Ginny.”
It worked. “Cave-in. That’s how you hit your head. I got you out just in time.” Which was, in a way, close enough to the truth.
“Wow.” He stared at where I could plainly see the intricate stonework serpents guarding the Chamber that would finally be truly Secret. “Thank you, Ginny. I… I could have died.”
“No, you couldn’t have,” I said. “Because then I would have to kill you.”
He grinned at me, and pulled me into a kiss.
Just at the point where the snogging was starting to get interesting, he stopped. “We should get out of here. In case of another cave-in.”
“Besides,” he said, pulling me to my feet, “I seem to remember some sort of promise about tying up…?”
“Ah,” I said, “well, I had to use the rope to get down here, so I suppose we do need to head back up after all if I’m going to administer your punishment for being a naughty boy.”
“Naughty? Me?” The poor boy actually had the decency to look ashamed.
“You’ve been keeping things from me, Harry. For that, you get punished. Mind, I don’t think you’ll mind this punishment too much.”
“I bet not.” He grinned sheepishly. Adorably. “I… I’m sorry, Ginny. I needed to hide the Wand and the Stone.”
I nodded, but there couldn’t keep the annoyance out of my voice as I said, “But I’m leaving on Friday. And the Harpies camp is going to be shut up as tight as…” As the Chamber of Secrets. “We aren’t going to be able to see each other for months. Didn’t that matter to you at all?”
“Ah,” he said, once again looking like a boy who’s been caught sneaking sweets. “See, I got my first assignment. It starts Monday.”
“So you thought, since we’d both be busy, it didn’t matter if we didn’t spend these last few weeks together?” In spite of my relief that he was okay—in spite of everything—I felt my anger rising.
“See…” He stopped. “Erm… See, I was going to have kind of a surprise for you.”
Oh. “Well, that’s very nice, Harry. But I was getting worried. Thought you might be off snogging Romilda. Or Myrtle.”
“No one but you,” he said, taking both of my hands in his.
My fury melted away, but I wasn’t willing to give up entirely. “Fine. What about this surprise, then?”
“Well, see… My first assignment?”
“Susan and I… We’re the security detail for the Harpies’ training camp.” He peered at me, fidgeting.
“You mean… You’re going to be making sure no one else gets in?”
“Yup.” Now he was starting to smile again.
I was too. “And you’re going to be stationed in Holyhead?”
“Yup. Twenty-four, seven. Housed in the training facility.” He bounced his eyebrows. “I’m going to be the only wizard in the whole compound.”
“And how many witches will be under your special protection, Potter?”
Now he was grinning. “Just one. She’s more than enough for me.”
“Glad to hear it!”
We snogged again for a bit. But honestly, tunnels aren’t my favorite places when it comes to romance. Well, when it comes to anything. "Come on," I said. "Let's go."
Soon enough we were back at the bottom of Madam Coraline’s satin rope. “Very nice,” said Harry.
“Thank you. I hope you’ll enjoy it even more later.”
“I’m sure I will.” He squeezed my hand. “I’m sorry, Ginny. No more secrets.”
I nodded, looking back down the tunnel. “No more secrets.”