Harry knew he had to track down two of the three people he needed help from, but he knew where to find Ron and that third bit would be done. Ron was in a controlled location, stuck in the hospital wing under the intense scrutiny of Madam Pomfrey since their return from the Ministry the previous night. Handling Ron would require a lot of delicacy, since his friend was so hot-headed and tended to react first and think second, but he was certain Ron would do his best to help. His overly intelligent friend would also be a good resource to bounce words and semantics off of, since he was going to have to get everything exactly right on the first try. With Hermione having created the magical oath parchment for the DA, Harry knew she was exactly the person he needed to get advice from.
In some ways, Harry felt that the audacity with which he was handling the fate bestowed upon him would make the Marauders proud, a dido worth notice from the other side of the Veil. He was beginning to understand that the pluck required to charge into the Ministry could be used in other ways, ways that he suspected his father knew all along.
Slipping out of the library after a gruelling day of research amongst the more boring volumes he had ever had the misfortune to read, Harry headed off to the Owlery to deliver his urgent letters. He would not be able to use Hedwig for this because he needed her later, but he knew his favourite girl would understand. It was with some trepidation that he was contacting not only the Daily Prophet but also the Weasley family and other groups. The decision to change everything in one fell swoop would undoubtedly have repercussions he could not anticipate, but with things headed towards a fateful push so soon, he would have to hope for the best in whatever replies might come with time.
After he sent three owls safely away carrying multiple letters each, Harry noted that it was approaching dinnertime as he headed back into the castle. Since that meant everyone would be away from the infirmary, it would be a perfect time to talk to both Ron and Hermione. Sneaking Ron out past Madam Pomfrey might prove to be a bit of a challenge later that night, but he was sure he could think of something. He would still need to find Susan and Neville, but at least he had options when it came to Neville. To find Susan, he really would need to catch her before she left the Great Hall, and that meant a fast conversation with Hermione to get the ball rolling.
As he approached the stairs, however, he heard the voice of his least favourite professor. Some hapless student had apparently set the man off again. "--should not be defending an arrogant rule breaker trying to get you all killed!"
Harry slowly stepped around the corner, careful to remain mostly hidden, to see little Ginny Weasley squared off with Snape. Dean was hovering in the background, a few steps behind Ginny. From Harry's point of view, her eyes were flashing and her face was flushed in anger, while Snape's back was ramrod straight. Dean looked alternately horrified and upset. Harry was glad the professor had no knowledge that Harry was behind him, as he knew that would make what was already a blatantly strained situation even worse.
"You've got it all wrong, Professor, but you've never been interested in knowing the whole truth about Harry, have you?" Her fiery retort would have won applause under other situations, but Harry knew that Ginny was just setting herself up for a ton of punishment from the bitter man.
"Oh?" Snape hissed at her. "It's not surprising you'd stand up for the likes of Thomas, but you'd still stand up for Potter? And after he killed his godfather yesterday, no less? You believe that ego-ridden boy?"
Ginny said nothing, but the look on her face said everything. Even Harry could tell that from where he stood.
"I see. And the little girl that writes in enchanted diaries while trying to kill her classmates would know what about the whole truth?" When her eyes shot wide and her complexion went ghostly white, Snape just laughed.
Ginny's face went from pale white to deep scarlet as the man laughed at her. "Go to hell!" Her voice was ringing in the corridor, an echo sweeping away and back again.
Snape abruptly stopped laughing. "All-day detention every day until the train leaves, Weasley."
Ginny shook her head violently. "No, I won't do it. You can go complain to Dumbledore, and I'll just let him know the whole truth of things, shall I? I'm not afraid of Voldemort anymore, so I'm not about to fear you."
Harry saw Snape mutter something that caused Ginny to flush beet-red all over instead of just her face. Then the man swept past her and stormed off down the hall.
"Ginny," Dean said slowly, "you're brilliant. I thought I was a goner with Snape breathing down my neck." Dean slowly stepped closer to the redhead. "Why'd you stick up for me, anyway?"
"It was the right thing to do," Ginny said quietly. Harry could tell Dean wanted to say something more, but Ginny quickly turned to scan the corridor. Almost instantly, her eyes locked on Harry's, and he knew that it was time to come out from behind the corner as she lost her flushed look and began staring at her shoes.
Dean saw Harry as soon as he stepped into the main corridor, and Harry could tell the other boy was embarrassed. "Sorry, Ginny, Dean. I was headed to the infirmary to go pick Hermione's brain, but I heard the end of your little tiff with Snape." Harry paused. Ginny and Dean were looking anywhere but at him. "Dean's right, Ginny. You are brilliant."
Ginny went red again, but this time it was not the beet-red of anger. Rather, it was a slow flush that gave her a rosy appearance. Her gaze came up, and she levelly held his own. For a moment, he was almost certain that there was a challenge issued in her look. Harry was unsure what that was about, but he had other things to worry over right now. He had known all along that getting Ron's help would be easy, but getting Ron to control his mouth and mind would to be very, very hard. There were words of wisdom that Ginny had just recently shared with him, and now he was confronted with a mixed blessing -- a Weasley with the cunning and audacity to do what he needed, but one that unfortunately lacked the history of immediate trust he needed. If he could find some way to be sure she held absolute trust in him despite Snape's recent innuendo and attack on such trust, she would be a much better conspirator for his plans.
"Dean," Harry offered hesitantly, "I hate to ask this, but I'd like to talk to Ginny for a few minutes. I need the help of someone from her family for something personal. Can you catch up with her later?"
Dean looked back and forth between them for a bit but finally nodded his head. "I'll see you tonight, and we can talk then, okay, Ginny?"
Ginny nodded but kept her eyes on Harry. As Dean continued to stand there, Harry nodded his head in the direction of the hospital wing. "Walk with me to the infirmary?"
Silently, Ginny fell in step with Harry as they moved down the corridor. Harry gave a half-wave to Dean as they went past, but his roommate just turned and headed off, presumably toward the Great Hall and dinner. As they walked on in a strange type of silence and came to the junction for the corridor down to the infirmary, Harry paused and motioned Ginny over to a bench facing the stairs. Harry was still trying to decide how to approach the redhead on the topic he needed to discuss when she spoke up, scattering his thoughts.
"I'm sorry, Harry," Ginny said slowly. "I wish we could have done more."
Harry looked away this time, uncomfortable with the line of thought he knew was behind her statement. He was completely unready to think about the events at the Ministry, not his involvement, the outcome, or the very end. He still had one focus, and one focus only -- neither can live while the other survives. In time, he could think about the rest, but until then, he needed to act now.
"You know," Harry started quietly, "someone recently gave me some advice that was better than she knew. She told me that if you have enough nerve, you can do just about anything." Ginny looked up from the toad hopping across the floor, her eyes meeting Harry's as he watched her turn red once more. "It's the best advice I've had anyone give me in a long time.
"Ginny, I need to ask you something." By the way she tilted her head slightly, Harry could tell that he now had her full attention. "I know you had a hard time with Riddle during your first year, as you so kindly reminded me this past Christmas." An uncomfortable look came over Ginny's face, but, since she said nothing, Harry pressed on. "I need to know if you think you can face him again."
"Why?" Her voice was quiet, but he could tell she was in the same frame of mind as when she offered to set up the diversion so that Harry could call Sirius over the Floo. Her all-business side was at the forefront.
"You know he showed up at the end of things yesterday?"
Ginny shook her head slightly, her red hair falling loosely about her shoulders. "No. I guessed he might have based on some comments I heard, but no one told us."
Harry paused to look off into space and try to find a way to move forward. He needed to get her help, but he also needed to avoid thinking about things that would make him weak when he needed to be so much stronger. "Do you know why I didn't want you to come with us last night?"
"I'm Ron's little sister, so you don't want me to get hurt, right?" said Ginny matter-of-factly, although her voice sounded somewhat bitter to Harry's ears.
Harry sighed for a moment. "No, that's not it. You really are brilliant, Ginny, but you don't have the same history that Ron and Hermione do with me. I know that they'll back me up no matter what happens, and they won't give up regardless of the cost. They argue with me before we get into trouble, but once we're in it... well, your brother sacrificed himself for me, and Hermione has saved us from so many things I can't even try to count them." Harry looked back at the redhead. "Before yesterday, how many times have I seen you do that?" Before she could retort, he held up a hand in silent supplication. "I know, it's not really your fault or anything. We never gave you the chance to join us. We were used to doing it all on our own. Right?"
Ginny nodded, although Harry was certain it cost her quite a bit to make that admission.
"You can handle yourself. I've seen you in DA meetings, so I know the truth, Ginny. But what I need to know now is if you can face your tormentor again and do only what I say, when I say, keeping everything else in check. Can I trust you completely?"
"Why me? You said you need a Weasley. Why not Ron again?"
Harry chuckled slightly, despite the topic. "You know your brother, Ginny. Do you think he could stop himself from saying the wrong thing in front of Riddle? I need someone with enough nerve to know that anything is possible, not just hope for it. I was worried about how to get his help without having him muck it all up, but then I ran across the perfect Weasley for me."
Ginny had that look in her eyes once more as she matched his gaze, but Harry was content to let her decide whatever she needed to on her own. "I trust you with my life, Harry, and you can trust me with yours."
"Just to be clear, you think you can act in front of Voldemort? In person?"
The challenge in her eyes was still there, but somehow it was different. "I'll do it."
"Okay, then, let's go talk to Hermione for a while." Harry stood up and offered his hand to Ginny in case she wanted assistance. Ginny regarded his outstretched hand and his face for a long moment, and he realized he had seen that look on her before in DA practices. For a fleeting moment he thought he might be about to get the hexing of a lifetime, but then she just took his hand, pulled herself up, and moved past him down the corridor. Harry was uncertain what had just happened but knew it was probably wisest to just let it go. "I've been reading a bit about magic and vows, amongst other things. What do you know about magical contracts?"
oOo oOo oOo
Ron was deep in a Dreamless Sleeping Draught, oblivious to everything about him. Hermione, however, was staring at Harry as though he had grown a second head, or possibly a third, and all of the extras were express-delivered from where Fluffy originated. "You're not serious, are you?"
Ginny was also looking at him as though she had never seen him before, and it was becoming quite unnerving. Harry, however, had her solemn promise to help, and he knew she would appreciate it eventually. He just hoped it would be soon enough, as he wanted everything to happen in just a few hours.
"There has to be another way, Harry." Hermione had large tears slowly etching tracks down her face, and it pulled at Harry in ways that he had a hard time understanding. He knew how much he valued her friendship, but he also knew that he wanted his friends to survive. It was risky, but it was the best chance he could see to win.
"Look, you know the things he's done. The thing with the diary, do you think you could do that? Or figure out how to?" When Hermione slowly shook her head, Harry just waved vaguely at Ginny. "At sixteen years of age, he made something you can't even guess at. How am I supposed to fight him and win? This so-called power in the prophecy, Dumbledore says, is love. You know me. How well do I understand that?" He gave his best friend a wry smile, and he was happy to see her return it, despite the depressing nature of the topic. "I think this is the best solution. It's something we know he won't appreciate fully, and it's something that's at least kind of based on what Dumbledore said. And it's all thanks to... to Sirius, you know? From what he said to me? Besides, you don't really think I can just train for a year or two and then beat him in a duel, do you?"
Hermione slowly lost her smile and simply stared at him. Harry was concerned that she was going to start crying outright, and he knew that was always a bad sign. But Ginny stopped everything when she leaned over and took one of Hermione's hands in hers, and with her other hand, she took Harry's right hand. "The thing about growing up with Fred and George," she said solemnly, "is that you sort of start thinking anything's possible if you've got enough nerve."
Harry nodded, appreciating all over again the wisdom of such a simple phrase. Ginny truly was brilliant, in many ways he knew he did not really understand.
"Go find Neville and Susan, Harry," Ginny said quietly. "I'll help Hermione work out the magic involved."
oOo oOo oOo
The air was very crisp at three in the morning, Harry reflected. He wished he had thought to wear a jacket of some kind instead of the ill-fitting Muggle clothes he was in. Ginny was standing mostly behind him and had seized his hand when Voldemort appeared on the other side of the Hogwarts gates. She had kept her lying-to-Mum face on, but her shaking hand in his told him how much it was costing her to do so. He hoped she remembered his instructions and warnings, but he was unable to discuss it with her given the man in front of him.
Neville was behind Ginny, and Susan was behind Harry's other shoulder. Neither was happy to be there, that much had been made painfully clear, but they trusted Harry when he said he had a plan that would work, given sufficient time. Neville had agreed to help without asking too many details, a sign of trust and support that Harry valued greatly. He hoped Neville would forgive him for what was coming. Susan had been a little harder to convince, but when he promised her it would help to end the war much faster, she had relented. Having Neville with him when he talked to her seemed to help, and he was grateful that Susan responded well to Neville's presence, his friend offering the support that she apparently needed.
"It's all there, Voldemort," Harry said quietly. "You let us step out of the war, and we never oppose you. Nor will any children of ours, regardless of whom we marry. In return, you and your followers can never touch us or our families -- directly or indirectly. Since the Dark Mark enforces your will, you're the only one that has to know about the Vow, since it prohibits us from discussing it as long as no one has violated it."
Voldemort's thin lips parted into the faintest hint of a smile. "How atypical of a Gryffindor, Harry. I'm almost disappointed in you. I can understand your situation and claim for asylum, but what of them? Who are these children for me to care about at all?"
"These people are my price for cooperation. Without their inclusion, there's no agreement." Harry gently pulled Ginny up to his side, not letting her stand behind him any more, yet never releasing her shaking hand from his firm grip. "Ginny Weasley. Malfoy and Snape have already told you about her first year here. I think that's more than enough for someone to have to live with, don't you?"
Voldemort said nothing, but the calculation in his eyes told Harry that the man was listening, even if he was not necessarily agreeing. At a curt hand gesture from Harry, Neville slowly shuffled forward, Susan following immediately with one hand grasping Neville's arm. Both had eyes incredibly wide open, although Susan looked ready to faint. "Neville Longbottom. Bellatrix would have told you of what she did to his parents. He's been through rather as much as I have, although maybe in a different way."
Harry paused to let Voldemort clearly enjoy the shaking and trembling of Neville and Susan. Harry had deliberately told his other two accomplices for the evening nothing of his plans, as he needed their reactions for this very purpose. Harry would never cower to the enemy before him, and he somehow knew that Ginny would rather die than admit her fear to the man. "Susan Bones. You personally took care of her aunt this evening, as we both know. And you know what became of the rest of her family."
Harry paused while Voldemort held the parchment in one fist tightly. "These are the friends I have, the ones who have lost everything they ever valued or might have had. We are only four people. You let us leave, you let us live, swearing to never harm anyone of our blood, and you'll never have opposition from us. Should we live to have our own families, as that Vow states, none of our children or our children's children by blood shall ever strike at you or your followers unless you foreswear it. It's that simple."
Voldemort paced back and forth on the opposite side of the gates, and Harry kept his eyes riveted to the man. He could hear Susan crying quietly and knew it was a harsh way to learn of her aunt's demise, but he needed Voldemort to see their real reactions, their naked fear. Harry knew that Voldemort wanted power, absolute power, and that he would be willing to trade a generation or two of safety for their bloodline in return for unchallenged immortality.
"And finally, Harry, what of the Prophecy?"
"It's in the Vow. You sign it in blood like we have, and the bottom will reveal the whole thing as Dumbledore told it to me. And part of the Vow binds me to tell you the whole Prophecy, exactly as it was told to me, with no changes." Harry held up his empty left hand. "I know the only way you can be truly killed, and as that Vow makes it plain, I'll never try to use that information against you once you've agreed to our terms. After that, the only person that will be able to hurt you is yourself, should you strike against one of us."
The silence stretched out while Voldemort read the parchment, the man's casual indifference to their presence a testament itself to his self-confidence. Harry knew that he would be no real challenge to Riddle under the circumstances -- he lacked the training or ability to be a true threat. What he had just proposed to Voldemort was a binding neutrality, one with no loopholes to exploit, one with all of Hermione's intellect and Ginny's guile combined in a masterpiece of precision wording that would make Madam Pince jealous.
"Harry?" Neville's voice was a faint hiss on the cool breeze. "You're really saying you'll walk away and let everyone else suffer? That's what you got us to sign, some kind of thing so we can run away? You'll just let them destroy everyone else?"
Harry could hear the hurt in Neville's voice, and he knew that he would definitely be losing his supportive friendship if things did not go exactly the way he wanted them to in a few minutes. Voldemort was looking intently at Neville, and Harry suspected that his friend had no idea of the mental invasion that was taking place. Once again he sent a silent plea that Ginny was following his instructions to the letter. "Yes, Neville. If it means we live free of fear, I'll do this. We've each been through enough, and the magical world is due nothing but my contempt for how they've treated me."
Harry saw Neville turn away with disgust on his features, wrapping his arms around Susan, who kept weeping, soft sobs carrying through the night. Susan's face was a rictus of pain and no small amount of anger, but her eyes were screwed shut as she shook in Neville's grasp.
"You didn't even tell your friends what you were planning. That wasn't very nice, Harry." Voldemort's casual taunting was unpleasant but not unexpected. Harry shrugged slightly and watched the ground while Ginny gripped his hand even tighter, and she buried her head into his shoulder. Harry tried not to show his relief at her action.
"Very well, Harry Potter, I will agree to your terms." Harry immediately focused his eyes on Voldemort's hands, watching in horrid fascination as he leisurely drew a dagger and bloodied his finger, slowly writing both his real name and his assumed name on the parchment, exactly as Harry had required. When it was done, Voldemort extended the scroll, and Harry saw the wording of the Prophecy slowly materialise on the bottom of the parchment.
After a few moments of intense scrutiny, Riddle threw back his head and laughed. While he was laughing, Harry nudged Ginny, trusting that she would get the signal to Hedwig to deliver the letter he had prepared before summoning Voldemort. In a way, Harry felt bad for the Hogwarts owl that had carried the summons for Riddle, but there was simply no way that he would risk Hedwig for such a dangerous mission.
"Very Slytherin of you, Harry," Voldemort finally said, holding out the parchment like an olive branch. Fighting the queasiness he was feeling, along with fleeting sensations of doubt, Harry opened the Hogwarts gates and stepped through, beyond the protective wards, leaving Ginny behind. He took the parchment out of Riddle's hand while his former enemy smirked at him. "You've tricked me into saving your four lives and the lives of your children for a Prophecy that says nothing at all."
Harry offered a half-smile before it fledged into a full smile as Hedwig appeared and settled onto his shoulder. "I knew when I heard it that it was useless, but I also knew you really wanted to know what it said. Can you blame me for wanting out after hearing it, now that you've read it for yourself?"
Riddle smiled luxuriously at Harry, glancing briefly over Ginny, Neville, and Susan, before he focused on the doors of the castle behind Harry. "Ah, what excellent timing. Dumbledore is coming to see us, Harry, and he's bringing Severus with him. I believe it's time to put a stop to the nonsense about my fearing that old man, don't you? And then I shall have to see who Severus really works for. That shall be quite enjoyable, although you may not want to watch the show."
Harry stepped back slowly, trusting Ginny to stay where she was. He was happy that she was keeping her eyes on the ground, shifting nervously, but he was also sad that Neville and Susan were still standing off to one side, apparently ignoring the byplay going on about them. Both still showed their anger and unhappiness openly. "As you think best, Voldemort. I'm done either way."
"Indeed." Riddle laughed again, loud and long, a sound of delight that might come from a Blast-Ended Skrewt before it terrorized a village somewhere.
Dumbledore arrived somewhat out of breath, panting visibly as he kept his wand trained on Riddle. "Hello, Tom." The headmaster imposed himself between Harry and Voldemort in a manner that was quite obvious. Snape was standing back, hovering near Neville.
"Dumbledore," Riddle said with a smile. "It's so good to see you again. Harry and I have come to an agreement, you might say, and we're no longer interested in harming each other."
The silence was quite deep, with only Susan's sniffles audible now. "Oh?" Dumbledore flicked a glance over his shoulder, but Harry said nothing, which he knew was tantamount to an admission that Riddle was speaking the truth for once. Upon observing Harry's reaction, Dumbledore slowly backed away, putting even more distance between himself and Riddle.
"Oh, yes," Riddle said with a leer. In a motion almost too fast to see, Harry's one-time enemy lashed out with a silent incantation, which Dumbledore blocked effortlessly. Before any return volley was fired, however, the tall, thin, snake-like man was on the ground, having an incredible convulsion fit, moaning and whistling in pain.
Dumbledore made to approach Riddle, but Harry waved him off. "Don't bother, Headmaster. He's dead."
"What?" Dumbledore was obviously confused, and Snape did not appear to be faring much better.
"Sirius told me something," Harry said with a sad conversational voice. Ginny walked over to him and took his hand in hers softly while he continued talking.
"He said that all the pureblood families are related to each other, that they inter-marry frequently." Riddle was still having a fit of some kind, which was an entirely unexpected reaction. Harry could feel a distant part of his mind engage to ponder the mystery while he continued to explain his actions.
"I knew that Riddle didn't truly care about blood lines and relationships outside of his own quest for the Slytherin heritage. Since he's a half-blood and was raised in an orphanage, he wouldn't appreciate the complex linkages between magical families, but I also knew he hated Muggle things and would never study biology." It slowly dawned on Harry that Voldemort really had done some elaborate things to become nearly immortal in truth, and not just in his own delusions. That was why the body of his enemy was in convulsions.
"I took a gamble and bet that he wouldn't understand how the genes work when you inter-marry like that." It appeared as though a binding Unbreakable Vow really would kill you, and if you were immortal, or nearly so, then you just had an eternity of suffering death over and over and over again. The Vow bound the magical essence and the spirit, not the body, which was quite unexpected.
Harry looked up at the Headmaster, ignoring the presence of Snape now hovering near the thrashing body on the ground. "If you have enough nerve, just about anything is possible, sir. I tricked him into an Unbreakable Vow not to raise a hand against anyone sharing the blood of any of the four of us. I spent hours studying the genealogy trees, and I knew that the four of us represent over ninety percent of the wizarding bloodlines in England. It was all a ruse."
Harry stroked Hedwig's head softly for a moment. "I knew he would strike at you when he felt himself safe. So as soon as he signed the Vow, you received my note, and then he did what I expected. I knew you were distantly related by blood to both Susan and Neville, so that when he attacked you, he would die. Well, the Vow should have killed him, so maybe he really is immortal. That's a problem you can work out without me, though."
With a tug on her hand, Harry led Ginny over to Neville and Susan. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I needed you to not understand my plan, since your reactions helped trick him into the agreement. I'm sorry that I risked everything like that, but I honestly felt it was the best chance we had to end things now. I'm sorry for your loss, Susan, and for breaking your trust, Neville. I hope you guys can forgive me for it. I did it to keep everyone safe, not just us, but I knew the risk was justified -- sooner or later, he or his followers would have crossed the bloodlines we hold."
Neville slowly nodded his head, his unhappiness still evident, and Susan only gave him a watery, tremulous look that was still full of pain. Harry could tell from their reactions that they would forgive him given sufficient time, but it would have to be discussed later. He turned around once more to look at Dumbledore, knowing that now he had to finish what he had begun in the library when he dispatched the school owls.
"Headmaster." Harry's voice caused Dumbledore to pause and regard Harry, as well as his three friends, in the early morning light. "You should be aware that I've made a decision. So long as Snape, Umbridge, or anyone that ascribes to teach in a like manner is here at this castle, I shall not return. I've applied to other schools and will either go to one of them or obtain private tutoring -- along with covering the cost for any of my friends that may wish to join me in my exile."
Dumbledore's shock at the statement was evident.
"You, sir, did what was Easy. You left me in a home you knew was abusive because it was Easy for you not to step in and get involved."
Harry glared at Snape as he continued. "You let Snape heap abuse on many students, but none more than me. You let him abuse Ginny for being Riddle's victim. You let him abuse Hermione and others not of pure blood. You let that bitter man abuse every student not of his House because it was Easy not to get involved."
Harry ignored the look of outrage on Snape's face as he pushed on. "While I have some appreciation for the problems you were facing, I cannot believe you let the only place I have ever considered home be twisted to suit petty and vengeful people like Umbridge or Snape. The Easy choice is for me to just accept that and keep coming back to this place. The Right choice is for me to say No More to this tacit approval policy. So this is it: No More. I have no reason to expect change nor any right to demand it, so I doubt I'll return. If you wish to discuss this over the summer, Headmaster, you might find me at the Leaky Cauldron or perhaps the Burrow. I'm never going back to the Dursleys. Good night, sir."
Harry abruptly turned around and left, unable to stop his body from shaking as the adrenaline that had been furiously pumping through his veins suddenly ceased to flow. He hoped that, somehow, Sirius was out there, looking down upon the prank he had just pulled against Voldemort and laughing himself silly over it. But on that cold, windy morning, the only feeling of comfort and strength Harry could perceive was the small, warm hand still firmly ensconced in his.
Ginny was there, and, when she supported him as his steps faltered and his vision blurred with the tears he had been fighting all day, he was grateful for it. Maybe there was something more in those Weasley genes than he had ever considered.
oOo oOo oOo
This was written a long, long time ago. The closest date I can place is sometime around December, 2006. At any rate, it was written long before Book 7, so it makes no effort to be compliant. I was never particularly happy with it, as it never quite matched what was in my head. But I also do not want to look at it anymore, so... I hope you lot find it an amusing diversion.
Thanks, as always, to the betas. This time, it's a short list, as cwarbeck, Chreechree, Sovran, and Sherylyn did their magic work.