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SIYE Time:15:03 on 30th July 2021


Through Shadows
By hp_fangal

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Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:All, Harry/Ginny
Genres: Angst
Warnings: Mental Abuse, Mild Language, Violence/Physical Abuse
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 106
Summary: When Harry goes missing from Privet Drive without a single personal possession, the worst is assumed by the Order of the Phoenix and the magical community of Britain at large. Upon his rescue, Ginny and the others find that everything they thought they knew from the moment Harry returned from the maze with Cedric's body in his arms must be called into question. Will Harry be able to heal from a traumatic ordeal that has left scars too deep to see?
Hitcount: Story Total: 9198; Chapter Total: 554
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
So the last chapter was rough. Wasn't hard to write, in all honesty. I was in a very dark headspace when I wrote it a year ago. Anyway, I thought I'd share the next chapter early since it's a bit lighter! Or well, as light as is possible given the entire premise of this story. We're picking up pretty much right after where chapter 7 left off; Ginny has figured out how Voldemort's deception worked. Enjoy!




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Chapter Nine: Knowledge



Sirius said they shouldn’t share what Harry had told them until Remus returned the next day, so Ginny kept her silence. Hermione pestered her that evening for more information when she came downstairs at her mum’s insistence for dinner (“You eat up there all the time, you can at least give us dinner as a family every once in a while”), but Ginny wouldn’t budge on her need to stay silent. “I’m not about to betray his trust,” she finally snapped when Hermione wouldn’t leave her alone as her mum set an apple pie on the table.

“But we’re his friends and we want to help!”

“YOU CAN’T!”

The entire room fell silent. Fred and George gaped, Bill closed his eyes, and her mother froze, the knife in her hand inches from the pie.

“Ginny…” her father whispered.

Ginny glared at Hermione and then then looked at Ron. “Have either of you ever gone out of your way to betray Harry’s confidence?” she demanded, ignoring the rest of the family.

“No,” said Ron softly. “We haven’t.”

“And yet you expect me to do just that,” Ginny told Hermione angrily.

“Ginny –” said Bill.

“No!” Ginny cut him off. “Pestering me makes it seem like you believe that because you were his friend first, it gives you the right to know everything about him!” She shook her head. “It doesn’t.”

“Ginny, please –” Bill tried again, but Ginny shot him a look of pure venom, and he fell silent.

“I know you’re hurting right now,” she told Hermione. “Harry doesn’t trust you, and I expect that must sting something fierce, but…” She ran a hand through her hair. “You can’t push him into trusting you,” she finally said. “It’s got to be done on his terms, not yours.”

Hermione had tears tracking down her face, and Ron was pale. He sighed heavily. “His terms,” he said. “Not ours. Okay.” He met Ginny’s eyes. “Tell him we’re sorry, but we’ll wait,” he told her. “Whenever he’s ready.”

Hermione nodded and fled from the kitchen. Ginny sighed and dropped her head onto the table. “I seem to bring out that reaction in her a lot lately,” she said to the wooden surface.

“Eh, I do it on a weekly basis,” said Ron dismissively, and Ginny heard the twins chuckle in agreement. “She’s just used to having all the answers and such. This isn’t –” He broke off and Ginny lifted her head to see Ron glancing at the rest of their family before shrugging. “I was his first friend,” he said quietly. “His cousin always chased off anyone who might have tried before Hogwarts, but then he had me, and now, to have gone from that to not real – it’s hard to wrap my head around it.” He shook his head. “I know I was an idiot for a bit there this past year, but this is – well, this hurts more.”

Ginny nodded. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“Not your fault, is it?” said Ron. “It’s all You-Know-Who’s, really.”

“Yes,” said Ginny sadly. “It really is.”

“This is a difficult time for all of us,” said Arthur, pulling off his glasses and rubbing at his face. “We all care a great deal about Harry. It would be a lie to say your mother and I don’t think of him as a seventh son.” He put his glasses back on and met Ginny’s eyes. “I won’t pretend to understand how it is that he is able to trust anyone at all right now, but... I remain unendingly grateful that he maintains that ability, and that he has bestowed his trust upon you.” He reached out and placed his hands over Ginny’s.

Ginny swallowed hard and smiled tremulously at her father. “I truly believe,” he told her, “that out of all of us, you have what it takes to bring him back home.”

“Thank you, Daddy,” she whispered, blinking back tears.

There was a moment of silence.

“Can it be pie time now?” asked Fred.

“Fred!” Molly reprimanded him.

“What?” said George. “You’ve got a perfectly good knife just waiting to slice into one of your best creations!”

Molly opened her mouth, but Ginny beat her to it.

“It’s fine, Mum,” she said, forcing a happier smile on her face. “I would love a slice of apple pie right now.”

Bill caught her eye as their mother sighed, nodded and began to slice up the pie. He leaned in closer. “All right?” he asked her.

Ginny nodded. “You?”

Bill shrugged. “Been better, I suppose. I know I haven’t known Harry as long as the rest of you, but it was clear to me from the moment he stumbled out of the Floo last summer why it is Mum and Dad care about him. Not being trusted by someone who matters to us so much...”

“It’s painful?” suggested Ginny softly.

“Incredibly so,” agreed Bill as Molly set plates of pie in front of them both. “I still keep thinking back to that night, and the next day, and it kills me that I couldn’t see the truth.”

In that moment, Ginny wanted more than ever to explain the truth of the matter, to share what she had only known herself since that morning, but she had promised Sirius to keep her silence. “I know,” she said instead, and turned her attention to the warm piece of pie before her.

Hermione was already curled up under her covers when Ginny entered their bedroom fifteen minutes later; the older girl was clearly feigning sleep. Ginny had no idea what to say to her after that confrontation in the kitchen, so she kept her silence, instead sliding under the covers of her own bed and doing her best to relax. She drifted off into a fitful sleep filled with cold laughter.



“Good morning,” murmured Remus when Ginny stepped out of her shared bedroom the next morning.

“Hullo,” yawned Ginny. “Glad you’re back.”

“It’s good to be back,” said Remus. “Your mother should have breakfast ready. I’ll be up with Harry and Sirius.”

Ginny nodded as Remus gently patted her shoulder and slipped up the stairs.

Sirius fed Harry his breakfast once Ginny had headed downstairs to collect the tray from her mother. Hermione had already been in the kitchen when she arrived, but said nothing, instead staring blankly into her mug of tea, her breakfast plate untouched. Ginny felt awful about the dejected look on her face, but as she had no idea what to do or say to make things better, she kept her silence, accepting the tray from Molly and retreating back upstairs as quickly as possible.

They got Harry up and moving that morning for something other than trips to the bathroom. Harry wanted to see the photograph on the wall of Sirius, Remus, and his father, and he walked over to it slowly, but without trembling as much as he had the day before. He lightly touched the photo and smiled. “You look happy,” he said.

“We were,” said Remus. “Some of the best days of our lives.”

Sirius smiled and nodded. “I’ve got a box in here somewhere of letters I received from James. Lily, too.”

Harry looked around at him. “Want to see them,” he admitted softly.

“I’ll see if I can find them,” promised Sirius.

Harry wasn’t able to manage walking independently for too long, but that he’d been able to manage at all was a testament to the good being done by the food and potions. Harry’s face seemed less gaunt, at least.

Remus had brought an old copy of the Tales of Beedle the Bard to pass the time. Harry hadn’t heard of it, so Ginny volunteered to read the stories out loud to him. She settled down in the chair and decided to start with Ron’s favorite, the Tale of the Three Brothers.

Harry proved a confused audience. “Wait, Death spoke to them?” he interrupted her at one point.

Ginny laughed. “That’s the nature of children’s stories, Harry,” she told him. “Things happen in them that couldn’t occur in real life.”

Harry frowned. “Muggles have children’s stories like this, don’t they?” Ginny asked him.

Harry nodded. “Didn’t really get to hear or read them,” he said. “The Dursleys –” He broke off awkwardly. “They didn’t like anything to do with magic.”

Ginny looked around at Sirius, remembering him telling her about Harry’s comment of having been a “waste of space.”

“And that included you,” Sirius said quietly. Harry looked down at his lap and nodded.

“He killed them because of that,” he said. “Killed a Muggle the very first night after Cedric. Killed… parents.” He swallowed. “Too much death,” he said. He pointed at himself. “All because of…”

“Harry, none of those deaths were your fault,” said Remus, sitting down next to Harry and placing a hand on his shoulder. “Not one of them.”

Harry shook his head. “Prophecy,” he said, pointing at himself again. “Killed parents because of it.”

There was a shocked look on the faces of both Remus and Sirius that Ginny didn’t quite understand. “Prophecy?” she said. “What d’you –?”

“You know about the prophecy?” said Sirius. “Did – did he tell you?”

Harry nodded. “First night,” he said. “Used penknife to escape, tried to get help from a Muggle.” He looked away. “He killed the man. Talked about prophecy.” He shook his head again. “No escape after that.”

Ginny stared at Harry, aghast at what she was hearing. A prophecy was the reason for why Voldemort had killed the Potters and attempted to kill Harry, as well?

And then to know that Harry had tried to get away, only to be caught and see someone else die?

“Cedric?” she asked before she could stop herself.

“He said to ‘kill the spare,’” was Harry’s quiet reply. “He shouldn’t have been there. Told him to take the cup, got him killed.”

“You couldn’t have known what would happen,” said Sirius. “None of us knew who couldn’t be trusted until it was far too late.”

Harry shrugged. “He didn’t like the Dursleys,” he said, completely sidestepping Sirius’s comment. “Didn’t like their attitude about magic. Wanted to undo everything Dumbledore ever did.”

“That isn’t your fault, either,” said Remus. “Every last one of those deaths, Harry, none of them were your fault. You know Voldemort is evil and cruel. You know he manipulates and lies. Lily and James knew what they were getting into when they joined the Order. We all did. And the prophecy…” Remus hesitated a moment, then said, “Voldemort doesn’t even know the entire thing. He acted on partial information, which was, again, nothing to do with you.”

“There… there’s more?” said Harry, looking shocked.

Sirius nodded. “We don’t know what it says, only that the spy who overheard it didn’t hear the entire thing. Dumbledore’s the only one who knows what it says in its entirety.”

“Oh.” Harry blinked and looked down at his hands.

“There’s a prophecy?” Ginny interjected. “That’s why he killed them?”

Sirius and Remus both started, and Ginny realized they must have forgotten she was even there. Harry, however, looked at her steadily and nodded. “Could’ve been Neville instead,” he told her. “The one with the power to vanquish him was going to be born at the end of July to parents who had defied him three times.” He pointed at himself once more and gave her a sad smile. “Two boys. Made his choice.”

Ginny gaped at Harry. She hadn’t taken Divination after hearing Ron and Hermione’s complaints about the subject her second year, not to mention the way every third year Gryffindor student that year had worried about the constant predictions that Harry was going to die, but this… this went beyond what she had ever dreamt possible.

Sirius looked at Remus. “There’s a copy of it in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry,” he said. “We’ve been guarding it so he can’t hear the whole thing.”

“Sirius –”

“There’s no point concealing the truth, Moony,” snapped Sirius. “He already knows.”

“You know Molly wouldn’t want Ginny to be hearing any of this,” said Remus carefully.

“I don’t care what my mother wants,” said Ginny hotly. “I can’t help Harry get better if I don’t know everything. We’ve got to be on the same page here!”

Remus sighed and put his head in his hands. “Ginny…”

“I’m glad I know,” said Ginny. “Please don’t take that away from me.”

Remus looked up, shocked. “I’m not about to Obliviate you,” he said. “I would never do that. But you’re entwined in a great deal more than your mother would want. You’re only thirteen!”

“That’s the age Harry was when he took on over a hundred dementors and saved Buckbeak so Sirius could escape,” snapped Ginny. “He was twelve than when he faced that basilisk and the diary to save my life. He was only eleven when he faced Voldemort to keep him from getting the Philosopher’s Stone.” She glared at the adults. “Setting aside the fact that I’m almost fourteen myself, does age really matter? I think it’s fair to say Harry and I have already been through more than most adults.”

She happened to glance over at Harry to see him smiling at her. “She gets to know,” he said.

“I think that settles it, then,” said Ginny firmly. Remus sighed and straightened, stepping away from the bed, but Sirius was grinning.

“I knew I kept you around for a good reason,” he said. Ginny rolled her eyes, but smiled back.

“So there’s a copy of the prophecy in the Ministry,” she said, forcing them back on track. “That’s what you’ve all been guarding.”

“We had a guard shift on Privet Drive, as well,” said Sirius, grin fading. “Did Crouch supply more Polyjuice Potion on his shifts as Moody?” he asked Harry.

Ginny watched as he nodded. “Voldemort had the Dursleys under the Imperius Curse,” he added.

“But what about the day he killed them?” asked Remus, turning back to look at the rest. “We had a member of the Order standing guard and she noticed nothing out of the ordinary.”

“Crouch Obliviated her,” said Harry with a shrug. “Took less than five minutes.”

“And you watched Voldemort kill the Dursleys,” said Sirius quietly.

“Saw everything,” answered Harry softly.

Remus frowned. “What does that mean?”

Ginny and Sirius carefully explained what they now knew; the use of Snape’s potion, what Harry was forced to do, all of it. The expression on Remus’s face was nothing short of heartbreaking.

Harry stared at the bedspread through the entire explanation, shoulders stiff. Ginny knew it was painful to have to discuss it again, but Remus was real and therefore deserved to know, just as she deserved to know as much as possible about the prophecy. She carefully reached out when silence fell in Sirius’s bedroom and placed her hands over Harry’s. “None of it was your fault,” she told him gently. “You know that’s what he does, twisting things until we don’t know which way is up.”

Harry nodded a bit, but wouldn’t meet her eyes. “He – he’s –” He broke off with a gasp of pain, pulling his hands away from Ginny and slapping them over his scar as his eyes slammed shut.

No, Ginny thought in horror, no, not again.

“Harry, shut the door, now!” she told him urgently, cupping his jaw in her hands. “Lock him out!”

Harry was gritting his teeth as he hunched over. Sirius and Remus gathered in on either side of him, hands on his shoulders. “C’mon, Harry,” whispered Sirius, “you can do it.”

Harry tensed even more, shaking his head so forcefully Ginny’s hands were almost dislodged. “Hurts,” he forced out through a clenched jaw.

“I know,” said Ginny, voice tight, “but he doesn’t get to do this to you. Shut him out and lock that door.”

Harry had begun to shake, from the effort of getting Voldemort out of his mind or from the pain, Ginny didn’t know, but she wasn’t giving up on him.

“Harry, he doesn’t get to do this to you,” she told him fiercely.

Harry nodded against her hands. “Get out,” he whispered. “Don’t want you in here, get out, get out, GET OUT!” He ended on a yell before slumping forward, Ginny catching him against her chest with a grunt. She wrapped her arms around him and felt him doing the same, breathing harshly as he clung to her.

“I’ve got you,” she told him softly, lifting a hand to the back of his head and scratching at the back of his scalp the way she had come to know he liked. Harry’s breathing slowed along with his heartbeat the longer Ginny held him, and his grip on her became less desperate. She could feel his breath on her collarbone and marveled at how wonderful it was to be this close to him.

“Tired,” Harry finally whispered.

“I’d be surprised if you were bouncing with energy,” said Sirius shakily. “Let’s have you lie down, kiddo, rest up a bit.”

Ginny allowed Sirius and Remus to guide Harry onto his side. He drifted off almost at once, clutching at Remus’s hand. “What he has endured,” he whispered as he gazed at Harry’s sleeping face. “My God, I can scarcely believe he maintains the ability to trust anyone.”

“Yeah, that about sums up the last twenty-four hours for the both of us,” said Sirius with ill-humor. “But this still tells us next to nothing about those last two weeks before we found him.”

Ginny watched as Remus nodded slowly. “We can’t push him more,” he said. “What we already know is monumental enough.”

“Do we tell everyone else?” asked Ginny.

“No,” said Remus, shaking his head a bit. “Or at least, not until necessary. We’re still waiting to figure out the full impact of Crouch’s arrest, among other things.”

Ginny frowned. “What’s happening with that, exactly?” she asked. “I haven’t paid attention to anything but Harry the last few days, to be honest.”

Remus raised his eyebrows. “What about your boyfriend?” he asked her. “Michael Corner, wasn’t it?”

Ginny felt her face heat up and looked away. “Ah, there’s that blush Harry described as being ‘like the setting sun,’” laughed Sirius.

“When did Harry say that?” asked Remus, an amused smile lighting up his tired face.

“When Ginny woke up from a kip yesterday,” said Sirius, grinning widely. “And she just grinned so stupidly at him –” He broke off to duck the pillow Ginny launched at him.

“You are incorrigible,” she hissed at him, knowing her face was positively burning.

Sirius shrugged. “And yet, you’ve not written your boyfriend in how long? I’m only pointing out the obvious –”

Ginny glared, and he broke off with hands raised in surrender. “I think I’ll go write to Michael right now,” she hissed and stalked from the room, completely forgetting to grab the empty breakfast tray as had been her custom since Harry’s arrival.

Hermione was not in the room they shared when Ginny entered, which she couldn’t help but count as a small mercy. Calling Sirius some of the rudest names she could think of under her breath, she snagged the unopened letters from Michael off the top of her dresser and dropped onto her bed to read them.

It took less than three sentences into the first one before it hit her:

It was boring. More than that, Michael was boring. He talked about his family, their trip to Spain, his baby sister’s accidental magic, all perfectly normal things, but not one bit of it piqued Ginny’s interest. None of it felt important. He had been so nice at the Yule Ball and after, he treated her kindly and paid attention to her, and he made her feel happy.

And yet... the happiness she felt with Michael paled in comparison to every moment of Harry’s smile and laughter. And what was more, she was the one bringing out every smile and laugh. He responded to her as he did with no one else. He trusted her.

Ginny squeezed her eyes shut and tilted her head back as the truth hit her: she still fancied Harry, and it was worse than before.

“I’m supposed to be moving on,” she groaned, flopping onto her bed as Michael’s letters fluttered to the floor. “I’m happy with Michael!”

You’re happier with Harry, her traitorous mind whispered.

And it was true. She knew it was true. She wanted to be with Harry, no matter how badly hurt he currently was. But how could she do this when his trust could only mean a new level of friendship? She knew he fancied Cho Chang, someone who was sweet, played Quidditch, and was very popular. Someone everyone liked.

Ginny knew she was sweet enough, but her sense of humor and sharp tongue were quite different from Cho. She also knew she was more than capable of being an excellent Quidditch player, but there was yet to be an opportunity to prove herself. As for popularity… she had friends, a good deal more friends this last year than her first or second years combined. Did she even have a hope of measuring up to Cho?

Stop it, she told herself firmly. You’re with Michael. You like him. He’s nice and pays attention to you. Stop thinking about Harry. Resolving to do better for Michael, she forced herself to sit up and read through the letters he had written her. Her response to him wasn’t the best, but respond to him she did.

Ginny had to move on. Having Harry’s trust didn’t mean she could allow her personal feelings to get in the way. Like her father had said, she was likely the only one who could help Harry regain his ability to trust those she knew he cared about, and she was determined to do just that.

It was close to lunchtime when Pigwidgeon set off with Ginny’s letter to Michael, so Ginny headed down to the kitchen to retrieve the lunch tray her mother had made up. “I don’t suppose you or Sirius will be joining us in cleaning out the rest of the drawing-room?” Molly asked in a would-be casual voice.

Ginny shook her head. “I don’t think so. I can ask Sirius about it, though.” She seized the prepared tray and quickly left before Molly could ask her anything else. In truth, she was wary of staying too long and being asked uncomfortable questions that could lead to her revealing the horrible truth of Harry’s time in captivity. It didn’t matter that she didn’t know all of it; just those first weeks alone was awful enough, never mind whatever had happened after the end of Voldemort’s deception.

Harry wanted to try feeding himself the soup Molly had made for him, and he managed all right for about the first third before he was trembling too much to manage anymore. Sirius fed him the rest, handed over the potions, and then settled down with a box from his wardrobe while Harry laid down again to conserve his strength. “The letters I mentioned should be in here,” he explained at the curious looks both Harry and Ginny gave him. Then he snorted. “This is the only kind of ‘de-junking’ I'm interested in,” he added.

“Mum wanted to know if either of us was going to come help out in the drawing-room again,” sighed Ginny. “I don’t think she’s made the others do much the last few days.”

Sirius snorted again. “Plenty of time for Kreacher to go digging around for things he doesn’t want thrown out,” he said with a scowl.

Harry shot bolt upright. “Kreacher?” he said, eyes wide and face horribly pale.

Ginny exchanged a bewildered look with Sirius and Remus. “He’s Sirius’s house elf,” she said. “Nasty little thing, you should’ve seen the way he stared at that locket we couldn’t open the other day –”

“Kreacher’s dead,” said Harry. “He killed him.”

Sirius stared at Harry, confusion written across his face. “Kreacher’s been a part of my family longer than I’ve been alive,” he said slowly. “He’s very much alive, much as I might wish otherwise.”

“No,” said Harry. “No, he needed an elf and he used Kreacher. He left Kreacher to die on the island in the cave.”

Island? Cave? Ginny was completely baffled by this. Sirius frowned and then called out, “Kreacher!”

There was a sharp crack! and the ugly, wrinkled elf appeared. “Master called for Kreacher?” he asked in a derisive tone of voice.

Harry gaped at Kreacher. “No,” he said. “No, you died that day.”

“Harry, what are you talking about?” asked Ginny, feeling more and more alarmed at the look on Harry’s face.

Harry swallowed hard and looked at her. “Voldemort made Kreacher drink a potion to hide a locket. Years ago. Saw it in his mind.”

Ginny sucked in a surprised breath. So did Kreacher.

“Master Regulus said never to tell,” he croaked in his deep voice. “How does the Potter boy know about the potion and the locket?”

“What’s going on?” asked Remus. “Harry –”

“Where’s the locket?” Harry demanded. “It’s supposed to be in the cave.”

“Kreacher does not have to answer the question of the filthy half-blood, no he does not,” said Kreacher, staring at the bed rather than at Harry.

“Right, I have named and cemented Harry James Potter as the heir to the House of Black, so you’d best be telling him whatever he wants to know,” snapped Sirius. “Answer the question, Kreacher.”

Kreacher quivered, then abruptly broke into tears. “Kreacher failed Master Regulus, Kreacher cannot destroy the locket!”

“Where is it?” said Harry fiercely. “Of course you can’t destroy it, it’s supposed to be difficult!”

Ginny was completely confused by what was going on. Harry was speaking more than ever before, and seemed incredibly on edge. “What is the locket to you?” she forced herself to ask.

“It’s –” Harry broke off. “It’s his. It’s important.” His eyes wandered sightlessly around the room. “The diary,” he said, and Ginny started. “Dumbledore saw, he might know –” He looked at Sirius. “The locket needs to go to Dumbledore,” he said. “It’s like the diary. Tell him that. He’ll understand.”

Sirius stared at Harry. “Please,” said Harry urgently. “It’s important.”

Nodding slowly, Sirius turned to Kreacher. “I order you to bring me the locket,” he said. “Whatever it is, Dumbledore will take care of it. After that, you’ve got some explaining to do about my brother and what happened to him, because I think you know.”

Kreacher nodded through his tears and vanished with another crack! He reappeared moments later holding the locket Ginny had tried to open several days earlier. Harry glared at it in revulsion before looking away, one hand drifting almost unconsciously to his scar.

“What is it, Harry?” Ginny asked him, but he shook his head and quickly dropped his hand back to his lap.

“Evil,” he finally said. “Just… evil.” He didn’t say another word, but listened along with the rest of them as Kreacher spun a dark tale about doing Voldemort’s bidding by drinking a terrible potion on an island in a lake set inside a large cave by the sea; returning to Regulus and telling him of what he had done before hiding for a few days at the younger Black’s command; and taking Regulus to the cave where he died at the hands of Inferi in the lake.

Sirius was white as a sheet when Kreacher finished. “What is this thing?” he said, looking at the locket Kreacher had handed him. “Why did Voldemort go to such lengths to protect it?”

Harry shook his head again. “Take it to Dumbledore,” he repeated. “Sorry about Regulus,” he told Kreacher. “He – Voldemort doesn’t know it’s gone. It worked. Dumbledore can destroy it.”

Kreacher, still hiccupping from crying, nodded. “You didn’t fail,” Harry added quietly. “Please believe that.”

“Harry’s right,” said Sirius, still staring at the locket. “Whatever this is, bringing it to me was exactly what I think Regulus would’ve wanted, given the circumstances.” He swallowed hard and looked down at the old elf. “Thank you, Kreacher,” he told him. “I always feared my brother got cold feet and ran for it – knowing he died to get this away from Voldemort – whatever it is – it seems much more like the brother I thought I knew.”

Kreacher nodded. “Master Regulus hoped never to see his brother in battle,” he said croakily. “He didn’t think he could ever hurt Master Sirius.”

“And nor could I,” said Sirius. “We disagreed on so many things… but he was always my brother, first and foremost. I hope he knew that.”

After a moment, Sirius rose. “I will ensure Dumbledore gets this,” he said. He dismissed Kreacher, and the shaking elf disappeared with another sharp crack.

“Harry,” said Remus softly, “are you sure you won’t tell us what it is?”

Harry shook his head. “Can’t risk it,” he said quietly. “But Dumbledore – he would know. Sure of it.”

Sirius nodded and sent off a Patronus a moment later. Ginny watched the large silvery dog go, then turned her attention to Harry as he picked at a stray thread on the comforter. He looked exhausted. “I think you need to rest, Harry,” she said softly. Harry met her eyes and nodded.

“Stay?” he asked her.

“Always,” she replied, sitting next to him and taking his hand in hers. “I’ll be here when you wake.”

Harry smiled at her, set aside his glasses, and drifted off. Dumbledore’s phoenix Patronus arrived shortly after informing Sirius that he would be there within the hour, and Sirius left Remus with Ginny and Harry to await his arrival.
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