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SIYE Time:2:20 on 18th September 2021


Harry Potter: To Love Is To Live
By _kb_

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Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Fluff
Warnings: None
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 94
Summary: What if Ginny really got over Harry during his fourth year, and then he fell for her and found love while she was with someone else? Can he get her attention and convince her to be his girlfriend? What happens if he can't and she is the secret to helping him defeat Voldemort? {post-GoF & Alt-OotP } COMPLETE!
Hitcount: Story Total: 57317; Chapter Total: 4913





Author's Notes:
{A/N: Happy new Year! We're getting close to the finale. To avoid spoiling the fun, there's another small A/N at that bottom, which both of my betas agreed with. :-) Enjoy -- kb.}




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Chapter 10: Mars Bringth Forth...

[Sat Oct 26]

Everyone got up early for a Saturday morning; it was a Hogsmeade day. Nobody had any hard and fast plans, other than the usual stop at Honeydukes, lunch at the Three Broomsticks, and window shopping. Still, they hurried to town as soon as they could get past Filch because they wanted to see something different than school.

Harry held hands with Ginny, Ron held Hermione's hand, Neville and Luna just walked together, quietly talking. A quick look back also showed Colin walking with Mandy, so Harry guessed Colin had found his courage and asked the girl to go with him. Ginny saw where he was looking and spying her friends, a big smile appeared on her face. "You don't know how long she's been waiting for him to ask her," Ginny informed him.

"As long as you waited for me before you gave up?" he teased her.

"Maybe," she said a little bashfully. "I waited until the end of my second year, so I gave you two whole years Harry."

"Sorry, Ginny." He pulled his hand from hers and put it around her waist to pull her close as they walked. "Well, I had to wait for awhile too, but it all worked out in the end."

As they came into town, they slowed down to look in the windows, even going into the occasional shoppe full of knick-knacks. In one shoppe, he saw what appeared to be hair accessories: a couple of combs, something that looked like it was for ponytails, and a larger band that he had seen a few girls wear on top of their head to hold their hair in place. They were all silver and a matching set to boot. Recalling Sirius' advice the other day when they had been discussing this trip, wherein his godfather had said it was good to buy your girlfriend little things from time to time "just because", Harry decided to purchase the lot. Even if she hated it, the set was only five Galleons.

Picking up the present, he went to pay for it. Ginny had been in another aisle with Hermione and Ron, and she joined him again when she saw him making a purchase. "Whatcha got?" she playfully asked him.

He picked up the hair accessories and handed them to her, "Something for you." He handed the money to the shoppe owner.

"For me?" she said excitedly. "What for? This isn't a special day I've forgotten about, is it?" she asked suspiciously.

Harry chuckled. "No, Ginny. It's a present 'just because', or rather just because you deserve one."

She gave him a long hug and a short kiss before pulling the pony-tail holder out. By slipping the stick out of the "U" shaped part, it was out of the packaging and ready to be put in her hair. Seeing Hermione walking their way, she called to her friend. "Hermione, put this in my hair for me." She handed it over and turned around.

"This is really nice, Ginny. What's it for?"

"Harry got it for me 'just because' he said." She seemed very proud of her boyfriend.

Hermione looked at Harry and gave him a smile and an appreciative look. "I'm impressed Harry; I didn't think you'd do something like this." As she finished, she dug a small mirror out of her robes and handed it to Ginny, who used it and a larger mirror on the wall to see how it looked.

"Yes, very nice. I like it," Ginny told him as she handed the mirror back to Hermione and grabbed onto Harry's arm for her to escort her.

For the rest of the day, Harry felt like Prince Charming and that he could do no wrong. He did see Ron looking at him sourly. "Thanks, mate, for making the rest of us look bad," the redheaded boy muttered. Harry merely laughed and went on. Ron would have to do something on his own.

***

They arrived back at the castle just before dinner, so they went straight to the Great Hall. Walking in, Harry saw it was almost filled; even Malfoy was already there. Thinking back to his last encounter with the Slytherin git made him smile, especially the fact that Malfoy had basically left him alone since then. He was not sure why the Slytherin boy was ignoring him, but Harry did like it. With Malfoy and Snape both ignoring him, life had been ten times better over the last month.

As Harry was dishing out some stew, a small gray owl, not much bigger than Ron's Pigwidgeon flew up to him with a small note. Detaching it, he read, "Meet me in my office at 8, alone. - AD" A quick glance up to the staff table revealed Dumbledore looking at him and giving him a small nod before the Headmaster returned his attention to his plate.

"What's that?" Ginny asked. He merely handed the note to her and resumed eating. "What do you suppose he wants?" she wondered.

"Haven't a clue," he admitted. "Must be something special though. He doesn't ask for me to come alone very often."

"No, he doesn't." She looked very thoughtful for a few seconds, then seemed to give up and handed the note back.

Looking back up again, he saw Hermione looking at him. While owls did occasionally come during the evening meal, it was uncommon enough it had attracted attention. Not really wanting to discuss it, he decided to hand her the note and let her draw her own conclusions, which were as empty as his apparently, because she handed it back without saying a thing.

After dinner, despite the fact they had almost an hour to wait, they did not return to the Tower. He and Ginny decided to start walking towards Dumbledore's office by themselves now, visiting more than a few alcoves on the way. By the time Harry reached the Headmaster's office at five minutes before eight, Ginny needed to fix his usually messy hair, as it was much worse than normal. He kissed her one last time and told her, "Don't wait up, there's no telling how late it will be." He was trying to be thoughtful, though he did not really expect her to follow his advice. He gave the password and was soon heading up the spiral staircase.

"Enter," Harry heard when he had politely knocked. Going in, he saw his godfather with the Headmaster. "Ah Harry, right on time. I have a special meeting for you tonight that I think you will appreciate. If you'll come over to my fireplace, we'll go to your house for a discussion."

That puzzled Harry as he could not imagine what they could talk about there that they could not discuss here. Still, he did as he was told and he Flooed to number twelve Grimmauld Place.

He had barely started to dust the ashes off of himself when he heard Mrs. Weasley ask, "Harry? What are you doing here?" He did not answer as Sirius and Dumbledore came out behind him in short order.

From in front of the stove, she now looked at the two older men and repeated her question. "What is Harry doing here? Why isn't he at school?"

Dumbledore fielded the question. "Harry is going to help us with a little something tonight before he returns back to school, Molly. Don't worry about it, he'll be fine."

"But Albus, we're supposed to have a meeting tonight and he can't be here for that." The tea she had been making was forgotten.

"I understand Molly, and I have the matter well in hand. Harry, would you come with me please. Sirius, perhaps you could help Molly with the tea set. I believe we'll need all the cups that you have tonight." The old man led Harry upstairs and into the library, where he closed the door behind him. They both stood looking at one another, and for the first time Harry realised he was almost as tall as the old man.

"Now Harry, Molly's objection is very real and will only be the first tonight; but when they come, it would probably be best if you let me handle it. I've asked you here for a reason. It is almost time for your destiny to be fulfilled, and they need to know that since they will be helping you."

Harry could barely breathe as he heard that. "You're going to tell them the Prophecy, aren't you?"

"Yes and no. I will tell them about what Voldemort knows, but no more. Rest assured that the Prophecy will not get out. I have plans to ensure this. You've been doing well lately in your training, I'm very proud of you. There's something about you, Harry, that makes me sure you will win."

"Aren't you being overly optimistic, sir? I mean, I know I'm better than all the other kids at school, but I couldn't beat you last time, and I know that Voldemort knows a lot of Dark Magic, a lot of which I haven't seen before." Harry felt worried now that it was getting close to time for the final battle.

"I understand, Harry." Dumbledore put a sympathetic hand on the young man's shoulder. "It's only natural to get worried or feel overwhelmed when you try to look at everything at once. But please don't worry, I'm doing my best to make it easy on you, and you will have other help as well. Some like Sirius are more obvious, but even your friends' support is of enormous help. Perhaps more than you think."

"If you say so, sir. I am ready to get it over with so I can live a normal life, and most days I think I have a good chance to win."

"That's the spirit Harry. Hopefully 'most days' will soon become 'everyday'. Now, I think sufficient time has passed for everyone to have arrived, so let's go in." Dumbledore turned and led Harry out of the library and into the dining room. Almost every chair was filled around the huge table. They went to two empty chairs near the head of the table and sat while the tea and coffee service was going around. Once Harry sat down and looked, he realised that he knew only about half of the people here, and more and more of them were starting to stare at him.

Albus Dumbledore rose and spoke a bit loudly to get everyone's attention. "Excellent, it looks like almost everyone is here. Let's get started, shall we?" Everyone settled down while Molly and Arthur Weasley came through the door and took the last seats.

Molly opened her mouth to say something, but Dumbledore began talking. "Now, I'm sure you're all wondering why we have a visitor tonight. For those who have not met him, this is Harry Potter. He has been an unofficial member of the Order of the Phoenix for the last two months, and tonight he is now a full member, though with very limited duties."

"Albus, you can't do that to him!" Molly objected. "He's not an adult, nor does he meet any of the requirements you yourself set forth for membership," she told him adamantly.

"An extremely valid objection, yet meaningless as you shall soon find out," he told her quite calmly, and so as not to give her a chance to object any further, he continued to speak. "Now, I need everyone to take a minute and examine yourself and your motive for being here in the organization. Basically, do you believe in the need, the imperative, to rid the world of Voldemort?" Harry noted there were no gasps at this table over His name, "Are you willing to do everything in your power to make that happen, even facing death? If you are, please stay. If you find any shadow of doubt, I must ask you to leave tonight, though I will not revoke your membership here. I will merely find other duties for you other than what we are about to discuss." With that ominous introduction, he sat down and poured himself a cup of tea and waited.

Harry noticed that most of the people in the room looked unconcerned -- Alastor, Kingsley, and Tonks among them. Of course, as Harry thought about it, he realised they made that decision every day when they went to work. Others seemed to have their heads bowed in quiet introspection. After a couple of minutes, he watched Dumbledore drain his cup and rise again from his chair.

"If you need to make an exit, please do so. No one moved, not even Fred or George, the youngest of the regular members. Very well then, due to the nature of the information you are about to receive, and the need for complete secrecy, I will require an Unbreakable Vow from each of you before we go further." Now there were gasps.

"You will swear to hold all information you learn tonight to yourself or communicate it only with those here, and not to any one who is not present, until the time comes that I either release you from the vow, or Voldemort is dead." He paused as he looked over the group of nearly thirty wizards and witches. "If anyone now wishes to have only lighter duties rather than embark on this adventure, now is the time to make that known." No one spoke and no one left either.

Dumbledore turned to his left, "Minerva, I guess you're first." One by one, he went to every member of the Order present, including Severus Snape, who took the vow very solemnly. Lastly, he came to Harry. "Harry, while I would like you to do the same, I'm afraid I can not, so I shall merely require a Wizard's Oath. I know you don't want your wand broken, so I believe that will be sufficient."

"Albus, that's a security hole," Alastor Moody objected.

"You are correct Alastor, and I shall explain in a moment. Harry?"

Harry considered a small problem: Ginny. "Professor, there will come a time when I must leave friends behind to do my duty. What can I tell my friends that will not violate the oath?"

"You may tell them that I require your immediate services for a short while, and that you will be happy to tell them all about it when you return," Dumbledore explained. Understanding, Harry raised his wand and swore his oath to secrecy.

With that done, the Head of the Order faced his troops. "Some have said that we have been fighting a defensive war, and I will admit to that being true. The same people have also said that you cannot win a war that way, and I will also agree with that. But we have been fighting the war that way for a reason, there were preparatory steps to be taken before our ultimate task was possible. I am very happy to tell you that all such steps have been taken, all needed obstacles have been removed, and we are now ready to go on the offensive and start down the road to final victory." The rousing speech was warmly greeted and most people had smiles on their faces.

"One of the last things we have been waiting for is for Harry Potter to become ready to assume his role, a role that was prophesied approximately seventeen years ago. A prophecy which many of you helped to guard. The Prophecy says:

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches; born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies; and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal.

There was much murmuring, and Harry noticed almost everyone was now looking at him. He did not know what to do under all that scrutiny. He finally settled on pouring himself another cup of tea as if Dumbledore had just announced they were about to have roast beef for dinner tomorrow; something of no importance and life was normal. He heard a quick sniffle and knew without taking his focus off of his cup that it had come from his girlfriend's mother.

"It's easy to see now, that Harry fulfills all of the qualifications." Dumbledore started ticking off the points on his fingers. "His parents did indeed live through three direct assaults from Voldemort. He was born in the correct year on the 31st of July. And finally, the Dark Lord marked Harry himself. To date, Harry has survived four encounters with Voldemort, and has been in intensive training for this task for the last four months."

"But he's not even seventeen," Molly complained in a voice that sounded like it wanted to break.

"Molly, he almost beat me in a duel a few weeks ago, and I believe that he might be able to beat me now." Harry noticed a number of raised eyebrows at Dumbledore's admission. "Does that make you feel any better?" She nodded slightly. "Molly, I know your fear. You love Harry as if he was your own son and you don't want to see him hurt. But please understand that Harry must do this, that Harry is the only one who can do this, and that if Harry doesn't do this, there can be no victory. That is why I exempted him from the Unbreakable Vow. If he slips and tells his friends, I can do Obliviation spells and I can get him another wand, but there is only one Harry." Albus looked at Mad-Eye who had made the security objection, and saw the retired Auror nod his understanding.

The Headmaster continued. "Now that everyone knows why the situation is as it is, I shall now tell you how we're going to accomplish our goal." Everyone leaned forward slightly, eager to hear the plan.

"I'm going to hand special assignments to most of you. You will need to learn the spell or skill in your free time, and away from where anyone will find out. If you don't have anywhere to practice, please let me know and I'll help you with a place in the Forbidden Forest." The old man's eyes twinkled mightily as he said the last part. For every critical task, there will be a primary person responsible, and also someone who is a backup, such that if the primary person cannot complete his or her task, hopefully the backup will be able to."

"First, Severus will inform us when a special meeting takes place. It will be special because Voldemort will be present, as well as a large number of His followers, or at least his most important core followers. When that situation happens, I will have a way for him to notify me and I in turn will notify the rest of you. When you receive the summons, you must drop whatever you are doing and be here in one minute."

Mundungus Fletcher objected. "Albus, that's almost impossible most of the time. There's usually not a Floo anywhere near me."

"Then I suggest you Apparate to the street outside and run in. I am extremely firm about this because we will get only one, I repeat, one chance at this." He paused and turned to his right. "Harry, when I return, I will set every fireplace in the castle to allow you to Floo to my office. When Sirius or I send you a Patronus message for this, run to the nearest fireplace and come to my office and then come here. The one minute time limit applies to you as well."

"I understand, Professor." Harry was impressed the Headmaster could that to all the fireplaces.

"When Severus thinks the time is right, after at least one minute of his first notification, he will activate a Portkey Homing Device and place it somewhere there is room for two people to portkey into. In addition, so he won't be seen doing a spell, he will activate a device I shall create that will release an Anti-Apparation ward."

"At the count of one, someone will go to Minister Bones. Molly, that will be you. After you have done that, you may join us." She nodded her acknowledgement. "I also have an Unbreakable Vow with her on this; she knows you will be coming, Molly, and will send the Aurors who will surround the area to prevent Death Eaters from escaping." Albus knew the task was extremely important, but it also fulfilled his promise to Arthur to limit Molly's presence in the fighting.

"At the count of five, Remus and Tonks," they looked at the Headmaster intently, "will portkey in, and one of you will fire off an Area Concussion spell, while the other shields you both."

"At the count of seven, two more people will portkey in and toss another Portkey Homing Device into an open area."

"And finally at the count of eight, or three seconds after chaos has started, the rest of us will portkey in, in a circle all facing out. I will activate an Anti-Portkey ward."

"Whoever is there and knows where Voldemort has run to, unless he's still in the room, will need to point Harry in the proper direction. Sirius will accompany him to help protect him where he can. Everyone else has one goal: protect Harry by capturing the Death Eaters. If you are free and there are no Death Eaters to capture, and you have a clear shot at Voldemort; then you may take the shot to distract him from Harry. Otherwise, help someone else fight a Death Eater. We must keep them away from Harry at all costs so he can fulfill his destiny. Are there any questions about the overview?"

The plan was pretty clear, yet Alastor spoke up. "I like the plan in general, but isn't it risky? You're putting all of your eggs in one basket, Albus."

"I'm afraid we must. We must take out Voldemort and we want as many Death Eaters as possible, but I see no way to accomplish the goal of the Order without being bold."

"This is bold, Albus," Kingsley agreed. "I do have one question though. Harry, can you do it now, or do you need more time to train? I think this is very important if we only have one chance at this."

Harry had many emotions running through him, fear being the easiest for him to identify, but he also knew these people, who had volunteered to risk their lives, deserved an honest answer. "I know there are no certainties, but I believe I am ready. I can promise you that I will either take him out completely, or if I fail, I will take him with me." He really wanted to enjoy life, but if he could not, Harry knew he wanted others to have a world where they could enjoy life.

A number of heads nodded at his answer, and he heard someone say "Good man" from down the table. Deciding he had heard enough, given his job was so simple in concept, Harry had his own question. "Professor, I don't believe I really need to hear any more details, and it might be best if I don't. May I return back to school?"

Albus looked down at him and wished he could take the task from the young man. Still, he was very proud of him for what he had accomplished at such an early age. "Yes Harry, you may. There will be at least one week for people to learn their parts, so you have that long to finish your preparations."

"Thank you, sir." He got up to leave. Most of the people he passed on the way to the door either told him "Thank you" or shook his hand. It was bewildering to him that they should, but he supposed he understood their thankfulness for his willingness to do the hardest task. As he reached the door, an unusual thought came to him that made him stop.

"Professor?"

The old man looked at him.

"I would like to take the knife that I found that's in your office." He left it at that, Dumbledore would know what he meant.

"If you think it wise, Harry. You will find it in the display case behind my desk. Take good care of it."

"Yes sir. Good night." Harry left the room and closed the door behind him. He walked as fast as he could. He wanted to be alone and did not want anyone to catch up to him. He succeeded.

Back at the castle, he took Gryffindor's knife out of the glass case and looked closely at it. It was a work of art. It was also magically sharp and not to be toyed with. It was about nine inches of jeweled handle, a sturdy finger guard, and about nine more inches of heavy blade. Laying it flat on one of his fingers near the finger guard, Harry noticed that it balanced perfectly on his finger. He decided he needed to learn to throw it. It was heavy, but he had acquired a lot of muscle in recent months. He saw that Dumbledore had a leather holder for it, as if the old man had anticipated it would need to be carried, so he grabbed that too. It all strapped nicely onto his right thigh. He put a Disillusioning spell on the leather scabbard, which also hid the knife. He was sure no one would know it was there. When he drew the knife out to look at it, it became visible -- perfect.

Leaving the office, he went down the steps and found a surprise: Ginny. "It's about time," she told him. "It's almost curfew and I was about to leave."

Harry pulled her into a hug. "I'm so glad to see you." His voice broke on the last word. He did not want to be alone anymore. He wanted his Ginny.

"What's wrong, Harry?" Concern was in her voice and on her face. Then her hand hit the top of the knife on his thigh, "And what's this on your leg?" She was looking for whatever her hand had hit but nothing seemed to be visible.

"That's the knife we found, it's disillusioned. Come on, let's get back to the Tower so you don't get in trouble." He slowly started walking her back. "Have you been waiting here the whole time?" He really wanted to put the meeting out of his thoughts for the moment.

"No, I went back and did homework for a little bit, but eventually I wanted a break and couldn't stay there any longer. Hermione is sort of mad at me for abandoning my homework," she told him with a soft giggle. Harry smiled at that and at her. She liked that smile, even if it was a little sad right now. Sensing he needed to talk about something else, she went on. "I also spent some time practicing finding my center. I still can't do it as fast as you can, but it only takes a couple of seconds for me now."

"That's really good. Can you sense the power in you now?"

"Yeah, you're right, there is a power there, like a caged power, an animal power. I also sense fur like you do too," she told him.

"Interesting, I supposed I might sense an animal power, but that wasn't what I was referring to." She looked at him quizzically. "When I say power, what I feel when I find my center, or myself, is more basic. It's more like my true essence, or maybe it's my magic. It's hard for me to describe, but when I find that essence in my center, I also find that my spells work better, or maybe my magic flows better. Does that make sense?"

"I don't know. Let me try." She stopped walking as they were about to go up the steps to the Tower. After a several seconds of concentration, she opened her eyes again. "Maybe, I do see what you mean by it's hard to describe. I do think I'm feeling my animal, but there is something else in there."

They started climbing the stairs. "Interesting, I've approached it the other way around. I found my magic first, and am now starting to detect my animal inside. 'The lion sleeps tonight'," he told the Fat Lady in the portrait, who opened up for them.

Walking into the common room hand in hand with Ginny, Harry found what he had been secretly dreading: his other best friends waiting eagerly for him. He tried to ignore them for the moment and walked towards a chair by the fire, but Hermione saw him and waved him over. Sighing in resignation, he made his way over to them. Once there, he heard the expected question: "What did Professor Dumbledore want Harry?"

Harry's voice was very quiet, as there were still some others in the common room. "He wanted to give me an update on one of his projects. And before you ask for more details, please understand that I had to give a Wizard's Oath not to tell, so please don't make me." Hermione's eyebrows seem to climb to the top of her forehead upon hearing that. "If you'll excuse me, I need some quiet time."

Still holding Ginny's hand, he led her to one of the high backed chairs that had its back to Ron and sat down. The knife pressed against him slightly, but it was easily bearable. Since he had not let go of her, she understood and sat on his lap. Harry pulled her close and buried his face in her hair and neck. He just sat there for a few minutes trying to relax in the feel and smell of his girlfriend. "Thanks, Gin," he finally whispered to her. "You don't know how good this feels. The burden gets so heavy sometimes."

Doing her best to hold him tightly, she whispered back, "Any time, Harry. You know I'm here for you." She really wanted to know more, but his answer to Hermione told her not to push. Harry always told her everything; she just had to be patient. Of course, a Wizard's Oath was serious and she wondered about that. If he broke it, his wand would snap itself in two. What was Dumbledore up to? Actually, she could readily guess as to what had happened tonight, and it both excited and worried her.

After a few more minutes of silence, she heard him whisper again. "It will be soon Ginny, the Prophecy will be fulfilled one way or the other soon. I want this over so badly, but I'm also afraid something will happen to you."

She tried to pull him even nearer. Her guess had been correct, something was being planned to end the war. Then she felt him starting to shake slightly, and realised he was crying. "It's all right Harry, I'm here for you; it will all work out all right in the end." She started running one of her hands through his hair, she knew he liked that.

"Hey mate, want to play a game of ..."

Ginny saw her brother standing beside the chair looking down at them. She had not heard him walk up she was concentrating on Harry so much. Harry had not raised his head, he kept it buried in her hair. "I don't think tonight is a good night for that Ron," she told him softly.

Ron stood there for a moment contemplating the sight of his best friend drawing comfort from his sister. There was something about that which finally made him understand the heavy load his friend really carried.

"Yeah, another time then," he mumbled. "Good-night." Ron walked away and headed up to bed. The memory of him Flooing in on Ginny kissing Harry during the summer, when she claimed that something more was happening between them than was first apparent, also came to mind. Ron wondered if it was almost time for Harry to fight You-Know-Who.

Hermione came over a short while later and saw them still holding each other. With a small encouraging smile and a soft touch on Ginny's shoulder, she too left.

Ginny soon noticed that the two of them were the last ones in the common room. Harry seemed to be breathing easier now, though his hold on her was still fairly tight. She could not believe his legs had not fallen asleep yet, but he had not complained. In fact, he had not said anything in the last half hour. Checking carefully, she finally realised he had fallen asleep. Ginny almost laughed to herself at the thought of being able to sleep with her boyfriend, but she also was happy he could relax enough with her to actually go to sleep.

"I love you, Harry," she finally whispered to him. There was no reaction, but she had not expected any. Still, she hoped he heard her in some way, like he had during his sickness.

Relaxing against the back of the chair, she allowed herself to take a nap. He would wake up in a few hours and she would send him to bed then.

***

[Sat Nov 2]

Feeling the cool breeze whip through his hair was one of life's best pleasures for Harry. If only he could figure out how to snog Ginny while flying, he would combine his two favourite pastimes into one. She was flying below him, getting ready for their game like he was. He was not sure how Ravenclaw was as a team this year, but it was his last year to fly against Cho Chang, who was Ravenclaw's Seeker. He was undefeated against her and he planned to remain that way.

Both teams settled into their initial formations and Madam Hooch released all the balls. The Golden Snitch instantly disappeared, as it was supposed to for the first minute of the game. Harry took that time to watch the Chasers; the long red hair was always a joy to behold.

Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he started searching for the Snitch, all the while trying to listen to the commentary in the background to keep track of the score. Cho was pacing him, but she was not flying as close to him as she had in past games.

Ten minutes into the game, he thought he saw something flash near the middle of the field. Watching carefully, he saw it again and this time his eye held the object. With a grin, he let his broom start to fall before he leaned over to go into a power dive. He saw a Bludger being hit his direction, but he knew it would not strike him; he was going too fast. The Snitch jerked around slightly, but he made small adjustments for it in his flight. With a speed that almost surprised him, the little golden winged ball smacked into hand, stinging despite his glove, and he pulled out of his dive easily. He still had another fifteen feet to spare. This had been one of the quickest games of his career.

There was much rejoicing among the Gryffindor housemates, though the Chasers were a bit put out they did not get to do more scoring. The final tally was 190-20, Gryffindor. It was still early afternoon, but that did not stop the Gryffindors from starting their celebration early too.

As dinnertime approached, Harry reminded Ginny of their special date. With a, "I'll be back in a few minutes," she left for her dorm room. Harry decided a quick trip to the bathroom was not a bad idea and also left the party. Another five minutes passed after he had returned before Ginny reappeared, looking nice and smelling great. He grabbed her hand and pulled her out the portrait hole. The party was still so rowdy he was not sure if anyone noticed they were gone, and he did not care.

The door for the Room of Requirement was already present, so they went in. It was a cozy restaurant setting, and Dobby was there dressed in the uniform of a waiter. Part of Harry wondered why that did not constitute giving Dobby clothes, which would have freed him; but Harry supposed that wearing a uniform as part of a job did not count. He decided not to ask.

"Master Harry and his Wheezy, please come in and have a seat. I have dinner all ready," the little elf told them.

Harry seated Ginny and then himself. Curiosity about what Dobby had filled both of them.

"Master Sirius suggested a steak dinner," Dobby told them as he started serving.

As they started eating, Harry realised the lighting had changed to only a few candles and a fireplace on the side. It was very romantic, he thought, except for one thing: a pair of large green eyes that always seemed to be watching them.

"Dobby, can you let us eat by ourselves? Having you stand there like that doesn't seem right." He was trying hard not to hurt the elf's feelings.

"Master Sirius said I was to stay with you."

A sigh escaped Harry before he could stop it. His godfather was getting to know him too well. Though annoying at times, it also made him feel very good. Sirius was not his dad, but he was making a great effort to be Harry's family, and Harry loved him for it. "I think Sirius meant for you to just to be in the room, not standing at my elbow. Why don't you go sit over there?" Harry pointed to the other side of the room, "Make yourself comfortable and read or something. If you'd like to go back to the house, that would be all right; I think we'll be fine as we are." He saw Ginny give him a provocative smile at that.

Dobby seemed to be thinking that through trying to decide if he could fit Harry's orders within Sirius'. After a few seconds, he agreed. "I'll be over there Master Harry. Please call if I may be of service."

Feeling a little more relaxed, Harry started on dessert, and the two of them continued with their conversation on Quidditch.

Finishing his pudding, Harry asked the Room for a high-backed couch in front of the fire and one appeared. Rising, he held out his hand for Ginny. He lay down on the couch, propped up somewhat against the arm. Ginny lay down beside him so she faced him. It was a very intimate position for conversation; it also made kissing easy, so Harry gave her a quick one.

"Thanks, Gin, I like spending time like this with you. We seem so busy at times, so this is very nice."

She kissed him back and teased him with, "You're very welcome, Mr. Potter." Then she became more serious. "You're who I like to spend my time with the most."

Brushing the hair back from her face, he stared deeply into her beautiful brown eyes. "What is it about you that makes everything seem right?" She gave him a mini-shrug. "It's like you make my world complete. It's like what I feel for Sirius, but a little different and there's more of it."

Ginny gave him a tender smile as she told him, "I'm only guessing, but normally it's called love."

"Love," he said the as if tasting the word. "Sirius has told me he loves me; in fact, he's the only person I can remember who has told me that."

Surprise came to Ginny's face. "But your Aunt, didn't she ever tell you?"

"No, I'm not sure she knows what it is either. None of them ever said it to each other like I've heard your family say it."

"Oh Harry, that's not right. You need to hear it more. Here -- I love you, Harry Potter. It's taken me awhile to be able to admit that to you, though I don't know why." She looked down as if afraid of what she would see from him. "You're nothing like any other boy I've ever been with." Hearing that out loud made her laugh slightly. "That makes it sound like I have lots of experience, but you're only my third boyfriend and honestly, there's no comparison. You're hands down the best I've been with. You make me feel wonderful like no else ever has."

"I feel the same way, you make me feel wonderful. When I'm with you, I feel like I can do anything, accomplish whatever I set my mind to. The world is right when you're with me." Harry considered how he felt about Ginny. He cherished her, needed her, desired her, adored her, and even lusted after her. Yet, the feelings they were discussing went beyond all of those things; feelings he had taken for granted and never labeled. "I think I'll call that love, so I love you Ginny." He kissed her again. He liked kissing her. He liked her being everywhere with him.

Suddenly, it all clicked in his mind. He knew he was not a seer or anything of that nature, but he suddenly understood the nature of himself and the events around him, at least in a special way. He knew he had to do something he strongly did not want to do. That realisation caused him close his eyes and lean backwards fully against the back of the couch, and therefore away from Ginny.

"What's wrong Harry? What's wrong with being in love with me? Isn't that what you've wanted all along?" She was confused because he looked like he had a problem.

"Nothing is wrong, and yet it everything is wrong. What am I going to do?" he asked with anguish in his voice.

"Tell me Harry. I'll help you fix it," she told him gently.

"Don't you see? I'm stuck. I can't beat Him without you there, but I don't want you there because I'm afraid something will happen to you. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. What am I going to do when that time comes?" he asked again with despair.

"You mean the final battle, don't you?" He nodded. "There is no problem Harry. I'll be there anyway."

"But you can't! What if I can't protect you and you get killed? And the plan ... I told Dumbledore ... Oh hell, that stupid bloody oath."

"Harry Potter, you listen to me. You are not leaving me behind, I am coming with you no matter what the plan is or what Dumbledore says. I was planning to come with you anyway to help protect you, and now that we know I need to be there for you to win, I'm definitely coming with you. I can take care of myself, thank you very much." The last part was said with a bit of heat.

He lay there for a moment, thinking. The longer he did so, the more he realised he really did not have a choice, just like he did not have a choice in fighting Voldemort. "I guess we'll have to figure out a way to get you to come with me," he finally said with some resignation.

She smiled and leaned forward and kissed him. "I'm glad you finally came to your senses," she sweetly told him when their lips parted. "Now, let's forget all this battle stuff and return to the good stuff, like you telling me you love me." She pressed forward even more and was almost laying on top of him now. Harry was happy to oblige.

Dobby interrupted them when they had fifteen minutes before curfew. With great reluctance, they broke apart. Though not a stitch of clothing had come off, Harry felt like he knew Ginny a whole lot better. Dobby was sworn to complete secrecy about the evening before they returned to their Tower.

***

[Wed Nov 6]

It was time for another practice session with Sirius, so they put off their other homework and went. Harry thought it amusing that the thing everyone wondered about but could not quite accuse him of was true: he got preferential treatment from Sirius. Sirius knew these lessons affected both his study and homework time, so his godfather had told both he and Ginny to always do their Defense homework last, so that if they had to skip something, it would be for his class. Sirius knew the two knew all the spells anyway, so he was not overly concerned about a missing essay or two. They did every spell in class perfectly and on the first attempt.

Unfortunately, their Occlumency lessons had not yet ended, so they still had very little free time. Ginny seemed to doing pretty well, but Harry was still struggling. He had mastered the basics, but no matter how hard he tried, he just could not keep Dumbledore out and he did not feel he was making any progress. In fact, he was starting to think he would never go beyond the basics. The mental attacks from Voldemort were pretty rare, but at least he had his necklace of stones holding the blocking spells.

On the other hand, the Animagus training was going well for both of them. Ginny had recently caught up with him so they both could find their magical center in less than two seconds every time now. Ginny was now agreeing with him that it helped when doing the harder spells. However, there was a frustrating part too. They could both sense something was there inside them, but neither of them could tell what the animal was. Professor McGonagall insisted they be able to do a partial transformation, which was the source of their frustration. Both of the students wanted to go for the whole animal. They were stuck doing it her way.

Arriving at the DADA classroom, they found their teacher waiting for them. "Get in here, you two, and loosen up." He closed the door and locked it, their standard procedure to avoid interruptions. "I'm going to skip our normal warm-up duel today. I know how it's going to end already. A great fight for about two or three minutes, but Harry will win in the end." Ginny stuck her tongue at him, but he was quoting the results from their last dozen or so training sessions.

"Hey, don't stick that thing out unless you're going to use it, and I don't want to be seeing any of that, young lady. It's bad enough knowing that you two snog. I certainly don't want to see it." All three of them laughed at his silly banter.

"All righty, Harry, you got close last time, chump. Do you think you can beat both of us this time and become a champ?" It was his usual joke for this part of their training. Sirius slowly drew his wand and stood about six feet from Ginny. Far enough apart that a single spell would not hit both of them, but close enough they could work together.

Harry left his wand in the holster, he wanted a second, only a mere second ... he was now at his magical center. It was clearer today, he could feel it. He could also feel his magic flow more freely than ever before. So he willed it to his hands and held it there ready to be used. This was a new feeling of power and he liked it. He slowly pulled out his wand to show he was ready.

Sirius watched his godson bow his head slightly and take on a meditative look. Being an Animagus, he knew Harry was finding his center, though he was not sure why he was doing it now as Minerva said they had not managed any change at all yet. He watched Harry shift slightly and get ready. The boy did not stand like most wizards. His feet were spread and he had his knees slightly bent. He also had one foot slightly behind the other so he was facing them from an angle. It reminded Sirius of one of those Chinese fighters who used only their hands from the Muggle movies Remus used to drag him to from time to time. He saw Harry look up and slowly draw his wand. He had never seen his godson look so dangerous before. There was pure concentration on his face.

The professor looked over at Ginny and saw a similar expression. These two were scary at times. He did not say a word; he merely whipped his arm around to start casting the first spell. That motion on his part was all it took to unleash Harry. Sirius was halfway through his Stunner when a bright light went off in front of his eyes.

Harry saw Sirius start to move and he reacted. With his bare left hand pointing between his opponents, he tried something new. He willed a Flash spell and literally dove forward and to the right. He was looking down with his eyes closed when the spell went off. As he came up he performed a Shield spell with his wand, which stopped a spell from Ginny, and then thought a Stunner at her with his left hand. A quick jab with his wand sent a Tickling spell at his teacher, who was shooting a Stunner at his original position. He lazily sent a Stunning spell at Sirius and double-checked his girlfriend, who was down for the count. "Yes!" he shouted to the room.

Deciding to have some fun, he conjured three nice comfy chairs, a table, and finally a tea set. Making himself comfortable, he poured himself a cup. When he thought he looked like he had been there awhile, though the fight had ended less than a minute ago, he sent an Enervate at his teacher to wake him up.

As the man raised his head, Harry, as casually as he could, asked, "How nice of you to join the party. Tea, old man?"

Sirius looked around and saw Ginny lying on the floor, he grinned at his charge. "You did it. With work like that, I know you can beat Voldemort now. And what is it with you and Tickling spells? You hit me with one every time." Harry smiled and lazily flicked his wand at Ginny to wake her.

She slowly got up and glared at him. "That flash of light was not nice, Harry, I swear I'm still seeing spots. Where did you learn that anyway?" She came over and sat in a chair, though she filled her tea cup with water from her wand.

"From a book from Dumbledore's shelf. Do you know how few spells there are that are useful for groups of people or have an area effect so you could use it on multiple people? It's really shocking how few there are."

"Thank you, Professor Potter," she mocked him.

Sirius claimed the third chair. "No matter how fun this all is, we still have a goal, Harry, and I think it's time we go for the last push in training, if you know what I mean." Harry nodded. "I think it's time for the rest of our training session to be just you and me. I'm sorry Ginny, but Harry needs to practice for something else for awhile."

"Yes, the final battle, the fulfilling of the Prophecy." He stared at her wide-eyed. "Oh please, you know I know about the Prophecy, and I know Harry found the last Horcrux. So what else is left but the actual dirty deed?"

"But you are wrong in this case, Sirius," Harry corrected him. "Ginny needs to be here to train with me because she's going too, as much as I don't like it."

"Harry, she can't go."

"I'm sorry, but she must go. I know I can't win unless she is there," Harry stated very matter-of-factly.

"How can you know that? Have you turned seer or something?"

"No, Sirius, but I know the same way you just told me awhile ago that you knew I would beat Voldemort. How do you know I will? Have you ever fought him to know how to compare me against him?"

"No, I've never fought him," the teacher said, "just many of his followers."

"But I know Ginny must be there. She made me well when I was sick. I was broken and couldn't do a spell to save my life when we had a fight and I thought she was going to break up with me. She makes me complete and gives me confidence and motivation. And now, don't ask me how, I know that with her I can win, and without her, I will not. I don't have an option in this, because if I did, she wouldn't be going because I don't know if I can protect her well enough." Harry stared at his godfather, who flinched after a few seconds of looking in the deep green eyes of his godson.

"Look, Harry, you know the reason Dumbledore was able to get you on all this don't you? What was the first thing said to you when you went home and who said it to you?" Sirius decided to try an appeal for fear of Molly Weasley he did not know what else would work.

"Yes, and it doesn't matter. Even Mrs. Weasley can't deny the logic, no matter how she detests the circumstances."

"Harry, you're ignoring the forest for the trees. With Molly and her children, there is no logic. The only reason she didn't hex Albus and stop you was because she knew you weren't officially hers. Ginny has no such way to hide."

Harry laughed, "You're making the assumption she knows Ginny is going beforehand. I suspect I'll have to tell the Headmaster, but there's no reason for it to go beyond the four of us. I have an invisibility cloak or I can Disillusion her. As soon as Mrs. Weasley is, ah, unavailable, then Ginny can come out. I know her dad will be shocked if he sees her, but by that time, things can not be stopped."

Sirius sighed and thought about it some more. He could not deny the logic the boy put forth, but there was going to be hell to pay when Molly Weasley found out. And no matter how much he protested that it was all Harry's idea and doing, he knew Molly Weasley was going to blame him, Sirius Black. "Then you're telling Albus at your lesson tomorrow night, not me." He blew out a deep breath and wondered how this was all going to work out.

Standing he Vanished his chair and the table. "Come on then, you two, get off your lazy arses. We have more work to do. And Harry, you said you've been learning to throw that knife, I want to see that before you leave tonight."

***

[Tue Dec 3]

Harry and Ginny trooped up to Professor McGonagall's classroom. They had come to a decision and had a plan. It was risky, very risky. You did not cross McGonagall lightly. Yet, that was what they were about to do.

"Good evening Mr. Potter, Miss Weasley. Have a seat on your cushion." They took their usual seats on the floor. Sitting was preferred in case a change did occur. "Now, how has your meditating been going?"

"Very good Professor," Harry answered. "It's like I can feel the magic in me now. I've also started doing some wandless magic as well."

Her eyebrows went almost all the way up to the brim of her pointy hat. "Really?! My, that is progress. Do you know what your animal is yet?"

"No Professor. I still only have a feeling of fur, well and something powerful."

"Hmm, that could describe a number of animals," the teacher replied. "Ms. Weasley, how about you?"

"I can find my center easily. I haven't tried wandless magic yet, but I definitely feel a powerful and aggressive animal inside, fur seems to be strong as well."

"Very good, I believe you are both getting closer. Now, it sounds like both of you will be a four-footed animal of some sort, so please meditate and concentrate on transforming your left hand into a paw or a foot."

They both quickly found their centers. Harry called up his magic and felt it flow through him, all of him. Opening his eyes, he saw Ginny looking at him so he nodded. He closed his eyes and slowly counted to three. At the magic number, with all the resolve he could muster, he willed himself to an animal.

Minerva was grading the first paper from the stack in front of her when a lion roared in her classroom, causing her to leap out of her chair and fall to the floor, which caused her hat to fall over her face. Just as she was straightening her hat to stand up, another lion's roar answered the first. Her wand was out as she peeked over her desk from behind it.

There in front of her was a full grown male lion, golden except a large black mane around it's neck. Next to it was a full grown lioness which was also golden, except for a reddish tinge to the fur on the top of her head which blended into the golden fur on her neck. Both were trying to stand and were a bit wobbly, but they were getting used to it quickly.

With as stern a voice as she could muster, she told the two animals, "Stay where you are, get used to just standing first." They complied. She could see them shifting slightly to get used to the muscle movements, but they were basically standing there, which was good as it showed the human mind was in control. "Now, think hard about your human form, what you looked like with all your clothes and other things on you, and change back."

It took maybe three seconds, but suddenly there stood her two students again, though on their hands and knees. "Yes!" Harry shouted, while Ginny started laughing.

McGonagall was impressed as she had never seen anyone complete the full transformation in three months before, but still, "What on earth did you think you were doing trying the full transformation at this stage? Have you forgotten your common sense, not to mention all the warnings I drilled into you when we started?"

Harry was grinning like it was Christmas morning. "I'm sorry, Professor," though he did not sound it, "but we just knew it was the right thing to do. We knew we could do it." Ginny looked just as happy and had an "I agree" look on her face.

The professor felt like she should be more upset with them, but it was incredible. "Very well then, change again. You must practice." She watched them change back to lions; it only took them a couple of seconds to do so. She noted that Harry had no scar shape on his forehead, but the green eyes would definitely be his identifying mark. Ginny had several small reddish spots of fur on her face, which would be her identifying mark. An hour later, they both could change in about a second and had learned to let the animal take care of the walking. They had also changed one at a time so each could look at and pet the other's head. It was amusing to see.

"Good job both of you. Five points each for you. I'd give you more, but you scared the wits out of me when you first changed." They grinned at her; their risk had been worth it. "Go on back to the tower and finish your other homework. Also, I'd advise you to practice only in private as this is a very real advantage to you in the war. I won't make you register until afterwards."

"Thank you, Professor," Ginny told her. Harry added his own thanks.

As they left to go back to the Tower, Mrs. Norris strolled into the doorway of the classroom. She walked up to Harry and paused to sniff him. Harry wanted to kick the stupid cat, but McGonagall was right there. He also never would have had the chance, because the cat hissed, arched its back, then turned around and ran. They saw it run to Argus Filch who had come up behind the cat. The cat extended her claws and ran up Filch's leg, chest, and shoulder, before jumping over his back and running away. Trying to rub his puncture wounds, Filch turned back to accuse the students of doing something to his cat when he saw McGonagall there. Growling, Filch turned and went after his familiar

The students heard McGonagall quietly laughing behind them. Turning to look at her, she said, "I never liked Mrs. Norris either." They laughed about it all the way back to the Tower.

Once there, they huddled in the corner and decided that they would get up a half hour early every day and find an empty classroom to practice being a lion in.

***

[Fri Dec 20]

Harry was pretty happy right now. He had finished his last exam for the first term less than half an hour ago and he was now heading off to dinner. The exam had been for Charms, which he had aced.

The written portion he had considered to be a joke, though maybe that was only because he seen it before, but all of his extra work made it just that much easier. The practical portion had not been difficult either. Like earlier in the term, Professor Flitwick made them animate a teacup, as well as change its colour twice - a solid color, then a second time to be two-toned. He had done both with ease.

Just because he could, he decided to have fun and asked the Professor if he could try something, though that was a bit misleading because he had already done this on his own; he only wanted to impress Flitwick. So he animated three teacups at once and had them chase each other, and then they played leapfrog. Flitwick was delighted. Harry then changed the color on all three simultaneously, which earned him a smile. For the big finale, he charmed all three to have new decorations, one a rose, the second a lily, and third a daisy, all changing simultaneously again. That got him applause from the teacher.

Flitwick was also ecstatic in his praise. "Most excellent! You do realise that after a few bonus points that your score becomes meaningless, don't you Mr. Potter? You can't go beyond Outstanding."

"I'll take what I can get, Professor," Harry replied. He turned around to go sit down and let the next person do their practical. The next person was Ginny, who after watching what he did, wiggled her head back in forth from side to side silently mimicking him. Her lips were obviously saying "I'll take what I can get Professor." She ended her mocking by sticking her tongue out at him.

"Don't stick it out Ginny unless you plan to use it," he smirked at her. He had come to love Sirius' line and used it on her as often as possible.

Ginny had also gone beyond the exam requirement, but was able to only do two teacups at the same time. Yes, it had been a fun way to end a term, Harry thought.

After they dropped off their books in the Tower, they had headed to the Great Hall for dinner, walking hand in hand, as usual. Just as they came down the stairs and were entering the large foyer, Harry saw what looked like a small phoenix ghost fly into him and he heard a voice in his head.

Ginny looked at him with wide eyes. "Was that what I think it was?"

"Yeah, we've got one minute. Damn! There are no Floos nearby either." Looking around him, the first familiar Gryffindor face he saw was Colin Creevey's. "Colin!" He shouted, "Get over here now!" Harry started yanking his robes off to leave him with his jeans, a long sleeve shirt and his school jumper. They had planned what to do. Ginny was also taking her robe off.

Harry was miffed for this to happen in the winter when he would freeze, but he supposed he could not force his battle to happen in the comfortable spring time. Warming charms would have to suffice.

Colin came running over at Harry's shout. It was obvious to Colin that something was amiss. "What, wrong Harry?"

"We've got an emergency and have to leave. Take our robes. Hang on to them until we get back." Harry had pulled out a miniature knife and expanded it. He continued giving orders while tying it onto his right thigh. Colin was mesmerized by the jewels in the handle. Ginny was using her wand to charm her jeans, jumper, and shirt black, then she did the same to Harry's clothes.

"If anyone asks, we're helping Dumbledore on a project on his orders." With the knife on, Harry Disillusioned it then pulled out his broom bag, from which he took out his broom. School rules did not matter to Harry now, nor did he care about the small crowd that had stopped where they were, and were watching and listening to the trio. The last thing Ginny did before getting onto the broom behind Harry was to charm her hair; she charmed it and her eyebrows black, as well as charming her long hair to go up into a large bun on top of her head.

When they had both mounted the broom, Harry took off and flew as fast as the corridors allowed him to. Fortunately, they had high ceilings, so he could go nearly five feet above the tallest of the heads and still not worry about the beams holding up the ceiling. As they came to the end of the corridor and flew over Ron and Hermione, whom they did not notice, flying became even more advantageous as he flew up two floors and did not have to worry with the moving stairs. The last stretch to the Headmaster's office was short, so they arrived quickly. Harry even flew them up the stairs there, ignoring the gargoyle such that they dismounted on the landing outside the Headmaster's door.

Ginny opened the door and ran into the office; Harry followed, putting his broom up as he ran. "You're almost out of time!" Sirius told them. He was standing by the fireplace waiting for them.

"Sorry, we weren't near a fireplace!" he rushed over and took some Floo powder from Sirius and shouted, "Number twelve Grimmauld Place!". The Floo Network seemed to take forever to get him there. As he came out, he noticed another person running out of the kitchen, which told him the Floo Network was overworked coming to this address right now.

He stood aside and waited. A few seconds later, Ginny came out. As soon as she did, he grabbed her right hand with his left, so he would not lose her, and cast a Disillusionment spell and a Deafening charm on her. The Disillusionment spell would not be perfect like his Invisibility Cloak, but it should be good enough -- except for Mad-Eye. He would have to warn the old Auror. He started running out of the room to head upstairs as Sirius came out of the fireplace.

Coming into the dining room, which had the big table and all the chairs shrunk and moved to the side, he found Mad-Eye off to the side and walked up to him. Mad-Eye turned on him and drew his wand as they arrived; his special eye had obviously seen Ginny. Harry stood in front of her and talked quietly. "Mad-Eye, yes I brought an extra person here, but Dumbledore has approved her and she can't hear anything right now. She must be here or I can't win. We're going to go into a silenced area over in the corner to wait." The old Auror growled but did not hex him, so Harry went over to the corner that Sirius said Dobby would make for them.

There was a white arc on the floor in one corner with a simple wooden chair in it. It stood a couple of feet from the wall, enough room for someone to stand in. Harry went over to it and let Ginny stand in the corner behind the chair as he sat down. When he crossed the line, all sound from the room went away; it was completely quiet except for their breathing. He cancelled the Deafening spell on her, but left the Disillusionment charm.

Looking around the room, he saw Remus and Tonks off in another corner, Mad-Eye and Hestia Jones still at the side, Molly and Arthur on yet another side hugging and talking, while most of the people where gathering around the edge of a white circular metal disk that was nearly ten feet in diameter in the middle of the room. The ring of people was mostly complete by now, everyone was waiting. The last special person he saw was Sirius, who came over to his corner and stood in front of him. It was Sirius' job to tell him when the countdown began and to protect them from anyone coming over.

"Time to find our center, Ginny. Are you ready?" Harry quietly asked.

He felt her hands on his shoulders; it was a very comforting feeling and he used it to think of her and relax.

"As ready as I'll ever be, Harry. And Harry? Don't forget that the most important thing in all of this is that I love you. I love you more than I can possibly tell you."

Harry felt more relaxed and more focused. He was where he needed to be. "I love you too, Ginny. I love you with all of my life." It was simple, but how he felt.

He sat and stayed at the center of his magic while reviewing the many spells he could use, or would have to deal with. In many ways, it was one of the most comfortable places he could be. That reminded him of his earlier thought of flying and snogging at the same time. He wondered if he could get into this state then do both of those things. He smiled and returned to thinking about Ginny, and how eager he was to spend more time with her. To spend the rest of his life with her, he suddenly realised. Yes, that would be the ultimate love, he thought.

"Harry, it's started. Let's go!" Sirius' voice entered his thoughts. Harry held out his hand and felt Ginny put her hand into his. He quickly walked forward through the gap in the circle of people to the center of the large metal disk. Everyone was facing the outside of the circle; their backs were to him.

As he reached his place and saw Sirius take his place in the gap he had just walked through, his brain recognized Dumbledore's voice saying, "Four ... Five ..." He heard a small whoosh behind him as Remus and Tonks left. "Six ... Seven ..." Another whoosh as Mad-Eye and Jones left, and when Harry tapped Ginny on the top of her head with his wand to cancel the Disillusionment charm. "Portare!" Dumbledore spoke and flicked his wand at the large disk they were all standing on. Harry felt the familiar hook behind his navel and the dining room of Grimmauld Place disappeared.

---

Severus Snape answered his summons. As he Apparated in, he immediately recognized Malfoy Mansion, a familiar gathering place. He was one of the last to arrive, due to the fact he could not Apparate out of Hogwarts. He had to Floo somewhere first, then Apparate from there.

Walking into the large ballroom, he realised there were nearly fifty other Death Eaters with him. This could be it, Snape thought. The chance to end it all and be done with the madness of leading a double life. He wanted to touch his watch to activate the Portkey, but he waited to make sure his Master was here first. He should touch it anyway as his Master was the only one who could activate the Dark Mark to call them, but he waited for a better confirmation.

He stood alone, off to the side. No one thought it odd, he had always done that. It was extremely convenient now. He also stood with his left hand in his pocket; a habit he had picked up a couple of months ago and one people were also used to. Then he heard a door open and a unique voice issue from it. He checked the time on his watch and pushed a button on it. The door closed and still they waited for their Master. This was good, Severus thought, while he rechecked his mental shields. A leak now would be disastrous.

In his pocket, he held two knuts in his left hand, held apart by a finger. He dared not play with them, as he had already pulled one of them out of the small bag it stayed in to keep them apart. How long had it been since the door had opened earlier? Five minutes, maybe seven? He could not check his watch again; that might look suspicious. Still, it must be getting close to time.

Looking around, he realised Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix LeStrange were not there. One of them must have gone through the door earlier; the door which was now opening. He had a preferred time, a time that would be perfect, if this meeting was like many of the others. It was getting close to time.

The two top lieutenants came in, together with their Master. "Let us assemble," his Master called. It was the standard greeting. Everyone gave the standard response, they knelt with their heads bowed to Him. No one moved, Severus barely dared to breathe. It was almost time. "Rise, my Death Eaters and let us plan for our first important step into the leadership of the Wizarding World."

It was time. Snape brought the two knuts together which stuck as if glued. As everyone rose, he quickly flicked the object off to his left so it landed in an open area near a corner and several feet behind a few of his brethren. The sound of many shoes and boots scraping the floor masked the sound of the device hitting the floor -- almost.

His left hand quickly went back into the pocket of his robe and found the quill in there that had never seen ink. Just as he found it, he heard his Master calmly ask, "What was that noise?" That calm voice was very dangerous, Severus knew. He very carefully curled the fingers of his right hand inside of his cloak sleeve to touch his wand, but he did not dare draw it yet. Snape silently counted as he watched his Master scan the room.

At the count of five, at the edge of his peripheral vision, Severus saw two people come into the room, off to his left side. As swiftly as he could, he snapped the shaft of the quill to bring up an Anti-Apparation ward; he hoped it worked as it had in practice. What he had not been prepared for was how loud it would be; the snap was very audible. He could only hope the sound would be attributed to the intruders.

Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks were only slightly facing the wrong way; that they did not have their backs completely to the assembled Death Eaters and could see their objective was a minor miracle. Snape saw Tonks toss something to the side as her wand started moving; Remus was also casting a spell. Severus quickly drew his wand and conjured a shield, a shield that faced the center of the room instead of the intruders. He did one more spell, right as Remus finished his own. The result was spectacular.

The area concussion spell Remus had cast ended up near the center of the room, which had been his target. Its blast had knocked everyone but the three Order members off their feet. Unfortunately for Tonks, Snape was not the only one to have a wand into his hand quickly. Several spells were shot their way, the one from the Dark Lord was a bright green one and took Tonks' shield down and kept on going.

Then Snape saw Mad-Eye appear right behind a Death Eater, along with Jones at his side. Moody grabbed the Death Eater and held him in from of himself with one hand while throwing an object towards the middle of the room. Snape heard a scream from his right and looked over to see Rookwood fall to the ground, his top half suddenly severed from his bottom half. The extra spell Snape had cast was effective; anyone who tried to Apparate now would be automatically splinched.

The metal disk Moody had thrown had barely hit the floor when the middle of the room filled with a ring of people and two more in the center of the ring. Severus took in the fact that Potter and whoever was with him had the good sense to dress in form-fitting black clothes. Now it was time to see if Potter could live up to his hype.

"Potter, behind you," Snape shouted. He saw Potter, with his wand already drawn, turn around just in time to see the Dark Lord turn and head back for the door he had come through a moment before. Apparently the Dark Lord was still a true Slytherin and want to run away to fight another day, as He had not planned for this battle.

Harry turned and saw his target, as he thought of Tom Riddle now, attempt to leave. He had a real problem in that there was a row of Order members and a row of Death Eaters between him and his target. He did not have time, nor did think he would be successful if he tried for his broom. Then another idea came to him and he did not bother to think any more, he just did it.

He took one step and transformed into his Animagus form while on the run, then took one more step in his lion form before he jumped over his fellow Order members. Landing, he took two more running steps before he came to the Death Eaters in front of him. These he did not jump over but instead jumped through, hitting them in the chest with his front paws and claws extended. As he came down on a Death Eater with long blond hair, he roared, which distracted a large number of people in the room. He did not break stride as he trampled the Death Eater and heard another roar behind him. With the animalistic joy of a good hunt, he continued towards his prey.

Damn! Sirius thought as he saw Harry transform and take off. That boy's got another trick up his sleeve he didn't tell me about. To make matters worse, or better, he was not sure which, he saw Ginny transform into a lioness and bound off after Harry. Those kids have a lot of explaining to do, he thought as he too transformed and started chasing after them. The large black dog knew this was faster than running as a human, but he was still slower than the lions.

Harry ran through the doorway and bounded on top of a long dining room table that could have seated fifty. He could see Tom at the other end of the room about to go through a far door. Harry could tell he would not make it in time, even as a lion. With a practiced small jump, he transformed back into a boy, wand in hand. As quick as he could, he sent a transfiguration spell at the door that turned the wooden door into a slab of solid lead while Tom was only a few steps from it.

As the spell hit the door, Voldemort knew someone else was in the room and turned to find ... "Harry Potter," who was standing near the middle of the room. "Is it time for us already? Well, maybe I shouldn't be in such a hurry to leave since you saved me the trouble of coming to you."

Suddenly there was incredible pain in his forehead and Harry had trouble focusing. Not knowing what else to do, he activated a stone on his necklace, which brought instant relief. That moment of vulnerability was covered by a lioness that came into the room, running on the table as well. Voldemort sent an Avada Kedavra at it, but the lioness had already jumped off the table before the spell went through that space. The animal turned into another student.

"Well, Harry, I see you brought a friend. I guess you want both of you to die." He started to fire another spell at Harry's friend when Harry started flicking his wand.

Spell after spell came out of Harry's wand as fast as he could cast them. He was mad, but he was also very focused. Fast spells were the first cast, Tickling and Tripping spells; these were stopped by a shield Voldemort put up. But the monster was also having to defend himself from Ginny, who was at an angle from Harry and so he could not use the same shield to defend himself from her. Harry tried to use that to his advantage and started casting harder spells that took longer to cast, but were much more devastating when they hit. He also animated a number of the chairs and sent them after Voldemort. They were not dangerous per se, but they were very distracting to the evil wizard, who had to destroy them one at a time.

Voldemort was actually having to work hard for the first time since his fight with Dumbledore in the Department of Mysteries. Potter was showing himself to be more capable than expected; and his friend was almost as good. A friend, who he just now realised was female. He should have realised the significance of that when he saw the lioness. She must be his girlfriend or someone equally special. She would be the boy's weakness. He would defend against Harry just enough to maintain parity, but concentrate his efforts on her.

Sirius finally made it into the dining room. His cousin Bellatrix had demanded his attention, which he was only too happy to provide. That she was bleeding all over the floor with a broken wand beside her did not bother him in the slightest.

Standing only a couple steps inside the long room, Sirius could hardly believe what he saw: devastation. Most of the dining furniture was destroyed, as was most everything on the walls as deflected spells had hit them. But the most important thing was Harry was still alive, as was Ginny, and they seemed to be holding their own. He smiled at the thought that he might be what tipped the scales in the good guy's favor.

Tom sent a bludgeoning spell towards the girl, but she deflected it and it broke up what was left of the large table. Side-stepping a Stunner from Harry, he summoned the girl, "Accio girl!" He watched her start to come to him when a large piece of the table came flying towards him and he had to stop the summons to defend himself again. "Accio Ginny!" he heard and saw the girl being pulled towards Harry as the boy tried to protect her. With a smile, he cast Avada Kedavra! at where the girl had landed knowing she did not have time to do anything to save herself.

Then Voldemort's wildest dreams came true: in an effort to push her out of the way and save Ginny, Harry stepped into the path of the Killing Curse and it hit him in the middle of his chest knocking him backwards. Voldemort, Ginny, and Sirius looked in amazement as Harry lay there unmoving. Finally, Voldemort broke the silence by laughing with delight. Then with an evil glint in his eyes, he summoned Harry's wand and with both of them pointed at Ginny, he shouted, "Crucio!"

{A/N: The Prophecy quote was from JKR's book 5. An evil cliffie there, huh? :-) For those who are wondering, there is a logical answer to the dilemmia I've created. If someone can correctly guess in a review, I will say so.}

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