AYNIL: Chapter Nineteen: Succour & Sneak

At the same time that Harry, Ron and Hermione were struggling to get out of Glastonbury Tor, Lord Voldemort was once again at the Riddle House. He had to admit that the place had a certain charm. Or maybe it wasn’t charm at all, but fond memories. It had been here after all that he had done away with the idiotic Muggle that was too cowardly to stay with his wife. But he was a Muggle, so it was no waste for the great Lord Voldemort to dispose of him. Then of course there had been the tricky task of implanting that memory of murdering the Riddles into Morfin Gaunt, the imbecilic brother of the blood traitor.

He really was becoming sentimental after all these years. Lord Voldemort was reliving some of his grander achievements. It had been a near spotless list of accomplishments. The one huge blemish, of course, had been Harry Potter. But no matter, the boy would be done away with in due course. The time was drawing near for the Dark Lord’s plans to come into action. This time he would not fail. Dumbledore had been a thorn in one side that had finally been removed, the boy, by way of wearing his heart on his sleeve, would be the thorn in the other side that he was finally going to pluck out.

But he mustn’t get ahead of himself. Things were going to be done properly this time. The death of Marjorie, Vernon and Petunia Dursley meant that Harry Potter had no expendable relatives left. Every one else that he was close to was too well guarded for the Death Eaters, or the Dark Lord himself to get to easily. The girl, this Ginevra Weasley, would surely be the most closely guarded of all. That was why this little game was going to be so much fun.

The moon was just starting to rise when Voldemort saw the blond head of Draco Malfoy moving up the hill towards the house. At least he was on time tonight.

Too much time elapsed between Draco’s appearance on the grounds, and his entrance into the house for the Dark Lord’s liking. He had big plans for Draco though, so he was willing to overlook this one last time.

“Good evening Draco,” Voldemort said, appearing suddenly behind the teen, who jumped.

“G — Good evening master,” Draco replied bending to kiss the hem of the Dark Lord’s robes. Proper respect, maybe he really would be useful after all.

Voldemort was far too anxious to get this plan underway. He wanted to ascertain as much information as possible about Harry Potter’s relationship with that pretty redhead. Therefore, he cut right to the chase.

“You have yet to provide me with useful information on Harry Potter as I requested in June.”

Draco looked up at his master for the first time since entering the house. It was clear that he wanted to say something, but seemed quite frightened of the man standing before him. He opened and closed his mouth for a minute, as though trying to form the words, and then let his head fall, and shook it in agreement with Voldemort’s assertion.

“Very bad service Draco, I must admit. You failed to get rid of Dumbledore, and now you have failed this task as well. What shall I do with you?”

Voldemort allowed the silence to stretch on indefinitely. He was rather enjoying the kaleidoscope of emotions that were playing across the boys face. Fear was always the most exhilarating though, and there was an overabundance of that in the boy.

“Calm yourself, Draco. I will be merciful one last time. I have a task for you to perform. Are you a match for it?”

Draco, once again feeling relief flood through him at avoiding death, felt quite ready to agree to nearly anything the Dark Lord would ask of him. He rather hoped it had something to do with Snape or Potter. The comments of the former regarding Dumbledore’s death, and his mother’s distrust of her own son, had been the last straw for Draco. He would quite willingly take part in destroying Snape. The latter, of course . . . well he could spend hours on that topic.

“I am pleased that you are not shirking your debt. However, I need not tell you that should you fail in this plan, your life will be at it’s end. Are we understood?” Voldemort asked.

Draco nodded, showing that he understood. He was standing at his full height now. It was taking all of his concentration not to start trembling again.

“Good. You are to perform your actions covertly. You are to alert no one. If I find that you have made someone aware of this plan, I shall have to expedite the end of your life. Is that quite clear?” Voldemort said all of this as he stared out of the window. He spoke as if he was discussing the weather.

“Yes master,” Draco replied.

“Excellent. Now pay close attention. This is what you are to do.”

* * * * * * * * *

Ginny had listened to Harry for once, and waited for him to contact her. It was driving her mad. Never one to sit around and wait for things to happen, she had half a mind to grab a broomstick and take off looking for him, much as she had done the day after Bill and Fleur’s wedding. Ginny grudgingly admitted that, aggravating as it was, Harry had her best interests at heart. And, given everything else that he was going through these days, she didn’t want to add to his worries.

Trying to keep her mind off what her brother, good friend, and boyfriend might be getting up to out there Ginny spent much time helping her mother around the house. She didn’t have anything else to do after all.

It was around dinnertime when she started to get a really bad feeling. It came to her very suddenly, and she couldn’t explain it. Molly and Arthur noticed it and commented, thinking that she was coming down with something. Ginny disagreed, yet she didn’t argue when they suggested that she have an early night.

Escaping to her room, Ginny lay on her bed, staring at the paperback sized mirror. All that was visible in it was her pale face. She kept her hand on it, but closed her eyes after a while. That bad feeling was increasing, and it was driving her mad. Where was it coming from? And why had it come on so suddenly?

She had just started to fall into a light slumber when the mirror heated up in her hand and Ginny jerked awake. It could only be one person.

Ginny noticed that moonlight was streaming into her window as she tried to focus her sleepy eyes on Harry. She was going to make some chiding comment about the late hour, but the words died before they even formed.

Ginny had seen Harry go through a lot of painful things, Cedric’s death, Voldemort’s return, Sirius, Dumbledore, his Aunt Marge, just to name a few. Never had she seen such a haunted look on his face though. He was staring into his mirror, but looking almost as though he couldn’t really see her. He looked tired and wan.

“What’s wrong? What happened?” Ginny asked at once, dreading the answer. Seeing Ron slumped in Grimmauld Place the day before came back to her vividly. Had something happened to Ron or Hermione?

“Voldemort,” Harry said in a flat voice. It seemed like he had shut down. Whatever it was that had happened must have been so horrible, that Harry couldn’t bear to think about it. Ginny wanted to know what it was, she wanted to help him. She didn’t know how she could though. Words were not going to be enough that was quite obvious.

“Was it something with Ron or Hermione?” Ginny asked, trying not to show how worried she actually was about all of them. Harry shook his head.

“No . . . It was —“ he stopped abruptly, and shuddered. Then quite suddenly his face disappeared from the mirror. It was such a sudden change that Ginny sat there for a full minute before she even realized that he had gone. What was it that had happened that was making Harry look that way? She needed to know.

Forgetting all about her promise to Harry, Ginny leapt of her bed, dashed out of her room, down the stairs, through the kitchen, where her parents were chatting quietly over a cup of tea, despite the late hour, and out into the yard. She hadn’t made it more than three-dozen frantic steps towards the broom shed when the sound of someone Apparating made her turn around.

Harry was standing mere feet away. Ginny ran and threw her arms around him. She hadn’t expected to feel him trembling. When she did, she pulled him a little closer. Yes, whatever he had been through must have been completely awful. Curious though she was to know what would have caused Harry to act in such a way, Ginny would not ask him. If he wanted to tell her, she would listen, but she was not going to pressure him into it.

“It’s OK,’ she told Harry as she felt him embrace her too. “Everything’s OK now.”

“No, it isn’t. That’s the problem,” Harry replied in that same quiet voice. “It’s far from OK. We —“ he stopped, let go of Ginny, and looked around.

Ginny felt it too. She turned her head this way and that, but there was nothing there. Yet it seemed like they were being watched. How could they be? There were wards all around The Burrow to prevent people entering by stealth. Even if someone were using an invisibility cloak or Disillusionment Charm, they would know long before that person was able to get near the house.

“I shouldn’t have come,” Harry said, backing away a few more steps. He was going to leave as suddenly as he had arrived. Ginny wouldn’t stand for it. She didn’t care if he didn’t say another word that night, but she was not going to let him leave her sight until the morning.

“Yes you should have,” she stated. “C’mon, you’re staying here tonight.” She grabbed his hand and led him into the house.

“Harry?” Mrs. Weasley’s stunned voice was the first to sound when the two teens came back into the house. “This is a pleasant surprise, what are you doing here?” She too noticed the pained expression on his face. “What’s wrong?” she asked, some of that franticness making an appearance.

“Mum. I’d really rather —“ Ginny started, but was cut off by Molly’s scurrying over to where they stood.

“What happened? Is it Hermione, or Ron? Are they hurt? Are they — they dead?’

“No, mum listen I’d —“ Ginny started to say again, but her mother, always one to shoot first and ask questions later, was bustling frantically about the kitchen, wringing her hands and muttering to herself. Then, seeming to finally realize that she hadn’t got an answer as to what was actually wrong, she hurried over to Harry, put her hands on each of his arms and started questioning him rapidly. Ginny tried unsuccessfully to intervene. Finally it was Mr. Weasley, after a pleading look from his daughter that pulled his wife away from Harry. He convinced her to come to bed with him.

“Here, come and sit down,” Ginny said quietly to Harry, steering him into one of the chairs around the scrubbed wooden table. She watched as he took his glasses off, and then put his head in his hands. She ran her fingers through his tousled hair, hoping that it would comfort him as much as it did her. “Did you want to talk about it?’ she asked gently. Harry shook his head.

“OK, I’ll just make some tea.” It was what her mother always did when someone needed comfort, and surprisingly it worked. Harry said nothing as Ginny walked away and got the hot liquid. She did notice that he wasn’t watching her though, like he had when she had been doing this exact thing the night before the wedding.

A minute later she was pulling a chair closer and setting down two cups of tea on the table. Harry hadn’t moved.

“Here, drink this, it’ll help,” Ginny stated, pushing the cup a little closer to Harry. He made to do so, but his hand was trembling a little and he knocked it over, spilling the contents. “OK, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea then,” Ginny said, a small smile on her face. She hoped that this would lighten the mood at least a little, which it didn’t. Harry was still not looking at her. She pulled out her wand and cleaned up the spill.

“Let’s just go to bed then,” Ginny suggested. She didn’t really know what to do, or why Harry was here, except that he wanted to be with her. She stood up, taking Harry’s hand in hers and started to pull him to his feet. He resisted though, instead pulling her down into his lap.

“Voldemort murdered my aunt and uncle,” he told her. He said this in that same emotionless voice as he had used when first contacting her through the mirror. This time however she could detect a tiny trace of the overpowering sorrow that he was trying to hide.

“Oh my god, Harry I’m so sorry,” Ginny whispered as she threw her arms around him. So much death surrounded Harry. He had now lost every family member he had left, plus a friend, and his godfather. It was no wonder that Harry was looking as he did. “When did you find out?’ she asked.

“Tonight, but he did it yesterday, after we Disapparated. Dudley was at headquarters when we got back. The Order went to check on them this morning, and found my aunt and uncle dead and Dudley cowering somewhere in their flat. He said that Wormtail was there too sometime last night. He was muttering something about how Voldemort had ordered him there to make sure I got the message. They were dead because of me.” Harry said all this in that same flat tone.

“That foul git,” Ginny burst out savagely. How dare Voldemort do this to Harry! Why did the evil man need to destroy everyone around Harry in such a flippant way? She didn’t have an answer to this at all. All Ginny could do was cuddle a little closer to Harry. She wondered if this had redoubled his fears about their relationship. Was he perhaps there to tell her that he had again changed his mind and thought they needed to stay away from each other? Ginny was not going to let him do it again. Not this time.

Harry actually smiled weakly at her outburst, and squeezed her back when she clung to him.

“Yeah, Ginny listen . . . “ Here it was, he was going to do it again, say they had to stay away from each other. Ginny prepared herself for a battle. “I need to tell you something. A few things actually . . . stuff that I didn’t want to tell you before. But now . . . I need you to know,” Harry said quietly. He was looking at her, an intense expression on his face, “about why it has to be me and not someone else.”

Harry pulled out his wand and said “accio bag.” The rucksack he had dropped by the door upon entering the Burrow flew over to the table and Harry caught it. He rummaged around in it for a minute, and then pulled out a small golden cup with two beautifully crafted handles. As he placed it on the table the light caught the engraving. Ginny leaned closer to it and saw that it was of a badger.

“Where did you get this?” she asked, backing away a little and turning to look at Harry. Something about that cup, and why Harry had it, and pulled it out just now was causing the hairs on the back of Ginny’s neck to rise. This couldn’t be here for any good reason.

“It’s a Horcrux created by Voldemort,” Harry told her.

“A what?”

“It’s one of the reasons for my lessons with Dumbledore this last year. It’s also the reason Voldemort didn’t die the first time he tried to kill me. It contains a piece of his soul. He created six of these, or so we believe.”

“W- what?’ Ginny asked, flabbergasted.

“That’s what we’ve been looking for. We’ve found this one, and one was at Order headquarters.” Harry told he about how they found the locket.

“So, you’ve found two. What about the other four?” Ginny asked, backing a little farther away from the cup that was sitting innocuously on the table. It seemed even creepier than it had done before she knew what was in it.

“No, actually we have two left. Dumbledore found and destroyed one before the start of last year, that’s what caused that black and withered hand.” Both Harry and Ginny shuddered at the recollection. “Then I destroyed the other one in second year.”

“Second year?” Ginny only had to think for a second before she thought she knew what it was. She gasped. “The diary?” Harry nodded. Ginny shrank even further away from that cup at the memory of what had happened to her in her first year. It wasn’t something that she thought about if she could help it.

“That’s what we were getting tonight,” Harry explained, gesturing to the cup. He told her about how they had found it, how they had been trapped in that tower for a few hours, how they had got out and came back.

“ . . . But when we got back they were all . . . dead,” he finished, ending in that same flat voice that he had been speaking in when he first arrived. He had buried his head on her shoulder.

“It’s not your fault,” Ginny told him, stroking his hair again. She understood that he felt guilty, and wanted to take that away from him. This was all Voldemort’s doing.

“Hermione said she thinks that Voldemort made it so the magic would only work while someone magic was there. If one of us had stayed they would still be alive. I thought that just before we all left too.”

“You could not have known what would happen,” Ginny told Harry firmly. “You didn’t set up those spells to kill Muggles. You shouldn’t blame yourself for this.” Even as she said it, Ginny knew her words were not going to make a single ounce of difference to Harry.

“I should have known. It’s what always happens. The same thing happened to Cedric, and Sirius because of me,” Harry said, still with his head buried on her shoulder. “I’m so scared it’s going to happen to you too,” he admitted, looking at her.

Overdue, but Ginny was certain this is what Harry had been building up to. He was going to tell her that he wanted to stay away to keep her safe, while he was searching for the Horcruxes. He was going to let go of her and leave again.

“I still don’t understand why it has to be you. Surely anyone could track down these things and destroy them,” Ginny said, hoping to delay the inevitable fight they were going to have because of his need to play the martyr.

“There’s more,” Harry didn’t let go of her, much to Ginny’s relief. “Voldemort came after me because of a real prophecy made by Professor Trelawney before I was born. It said that he would mark me as his equal, and that one of us will have to be defeated by the other in the end.” Ginny could see that he added this last part a little reluctantly.

Her worst fears were confirmed. Harry was indeed walking right into an inevitable battle with Voldemort. He had been lucky so far, in being able to escape relatively unscathed, but luck only went so far. Ginny was terrified that Harry’s might be close to running out. And she was even more scared that he was going to want to go this last leg of the journey without her, Ron or Hermione.

“It could have been Neville too,” Harry told her. “Dumbledore told me that the prophecy could have meant either of us, but Voldemort singled me out.”

“Neville wouldn’t have stood a chance,” Ginny stated.

“I agree.” They didn’t say anything for a minute, and then Harry spoke again. “Why are you even with me?”

“I love you,” Ginny replied immediately.

“Why though? After all of the horrible stuff that I cause.”

“You don’t cause it. It just happens around you.”

They sat there together, in the kitchen of the Weasley home, not speaking. Neither could really think of anything to say after everything that Harry confessed. Finally, feeling drowsy herself, and sure that Harry was probably exhausted after everything he had been though just today, Ginny got up and pulled Harry to his feet, bringing him upstairs with her.

“Can I ask you something?” Ginny asked as she snuggled close to Harry in her bed.

“Hmm?”

“Why did you decide to tell me all of this? You said before that Dumbledore asked you not to tell anyone but Ron and Hermione.”

“Because I want you to understand why I don’t want you with us. Just tonight, what happened to those people . . . that could have been any one of us. I couldn’t keep it from you any more anyway. I don’t want to hide anything from you, ever,” Harry stated.

“Oh,” was all Ginny could say.

She watched as Harry drifted off to sleep. When he was here with her he always slept well, she knew that. Ginny was glad of this, especially now knowing what he was facing. And things were only going to get worse before they got better. Something big was coming she could feel it.

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