Chapter 18 : Chapter 18 The Right Direction
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The light was fading slowly as he sat by the flowing creek, resting his elbows on his knees as he tried to focus on what Hermione and Ginny were doing further down. A painful red rash had sprung up over Ginny’s arms, legs and neck as they slept the day through, and they were both waist deep in the cool water, trying to soothe the discomfort. She looked worse now than she had before, the cuts and bruises that covered her body becoming more defined, though the slight swelling in her face had been reduced under Hermione’s care. Still, she was in far better shape than Ron, whose right arm was badly broken for sure. Unable to do anything other than apply a splint, his pain had become so bad he hardly moved out of his bed that day, feeling too unwell to do much else. What worried them most was that he wouldn’t eat, not taking more than a mouthful of the sandwich Harry had prepared.
Though his friends were hardly Harry’s biggest problem at the moment. Taking a deep breath to steady himself he focused his attention on Ginny, watching as she held onto Hermione for support, remembering the way he held her as they slept that day, and the comfort it had brought him. He had to think of something, of anything. He could hear Voldemort’s low voice in the back of his mind, and it took all his effort to keep him at bay.
At this thought Harry felt a surge of smugness that wasn’t his own, and he redoubled his efforts to focus on something that Voldemort couldn’t, but it was becoming harder and harder. Falling onto a bad habit Harry slipped his knuckle into his mouth and bit down hard, the pain helping him concentrate and to keep his thoughts grounded.
Since the first visions he witnessed early that morning, the surges of strange emotions and flashes of Voldemort were becoming more frequent and intense, constantly waking him from what had been a comfortable sleep. He hated the way Ginny looked at him each time he had accidentally awoken her, the desperation to know and understand what was going on was clear on her face. He couldn’t understand why the connection had suddenly become active again. After all, Harry hadn’t felt this kind of attack since his fifth year, and he wondered if Voldemort was intentionally encouraging it.
Despite trying to keep his mind empty, the visions he was experiencing kept raising questions, particularly about Bellatrix Lestrange. How long had it been since her highly secretive trip to Gringotts? Was a small golden goblet among the valuables that she had deposited, or was Sirius mistaken? It certainly raised furious debate inside Harry’s mind, fuelled by what he had heard early that morning, when he had first accidentally slipped into Voldemort’s mind, hearing only flashes of conversation.
“I give you my word, my Lord,” Bellatrix’s voice echoed through Harry’s mind. “It is still safe.”
Was it Hufflepuff’s cup to which she referred? Harry heard little else that morning, and had focused on keeping his head clear, but the temptation to simply relax and delve further into Voldemort’s mind was difficult to resist as he imagined what else he might discover. Perhaps if he focused enough he might discover more about the remaining Horcruxes, even how to destroy them, but even as he smiled at this thought Harry knew it was stupid.
Voldemort would know. He always knew these things, similar to Dumbledore in that way. Harry remembered the Occlumency classes he took with Snape in fifth year, and how he could see flashes of everything that Snape could when he attacked, and knew even attempting Legilimens could cause irreparable damage.
With a low groan Harry lay back onto the ground, picking up the radio beside him and resting it on his stomach as he fiddled with the dials, trying to tune into something. As it was before, he heard nothing but static across all the frequencies, and he felt a surge of justified anger towards Mr Weasley, who had sent them on the run with nothing but his word that it would be safe. He anticipated the look on his face when they eventually reunited, when he would see what had befallen his children.
Sirius wouldn’t be happy, that much he was sure of. Harry doubted he would approve of the current arrangement, knowing that his godfather would want him at his side no matter what, and a small part of him agreed. Although being free of adult supervision did have its advantages, Harry longed for the comfort of not having to make the crucial decisions they were faced with. Their first night alone had not gone so well if Ron and Ginny were anything to go by, and Harry wondered what would be different if someone like Sirius had been with them.
Still turning the dials on the radio Harry twisted his head to watch Ginny and Hermione who still stood in the water, Hermione trailing small handfuls of water over Ginny’s shoulder and neck. Words couldn’t describe how relieved he was to have her by his side, despite the enormous danger he was putting her in. It would drive him crazy not knowing where she was, if she was okay or not. At least now she was by his side, and he knew she was alright.
At this thought Ginny looked up and caught his eye, smiling before turning her attention back to Hermione. Her attempts to apologize to him had not gone unnoticed, and he was definitely in agreeance with her, willing to listen to almost anything she had to say. It was just a matter of getting her by herself, and Ron’s bed bound condition gave them a little more opportunity. If only he could get Hermione away from her, maybe they could talk, though he wondered what he would say.
His scar was burning painfully, and he thought of the way Ginny touched it when she thought he was asleep. Her touch hadn’t startled him, he had been expecting something like that from her their entire relationship, knowing how often she had tried, and he didn’t quite know why he had never allowed her to. The lightning bolt scar could hardly be considered private anymore, especially after how much information Ginny and the public had learned over the past few months, and he worried about how much more she would want to know. Though there wasn’t really much more to tell Harry thought.
Snape passed through Harry’s mind for a moment, and he now knew without doubt that it had been he who had saved them at Hogwarts. There could be no mistaking the perfectly cast Sectumsempra curse that had killed the Auror and the Snatchers who had he and Ginny cornered, and Ginny’s inability to actually spit his name out only confirmed his suspicions. Harry was now more confused than ever about Snape, unable to keep up with the apparent changes of allegiance the man had shown Harry over the last few months. First he was Dumbledore’s spy, then a Death Eater, then he turned a blind eye on Harry’s presence in the forest and saved him from Veritaserum. Then he was violent again, leading the other Death Eaters in belting and drugging him into unconsciousness. And now he had saved Harry again before disappearing without a trace. Had he followed them through Hogwarts and her grounds, protecting them as they fled to St Ottery Catchpole where they ought to be safe?
At times like these when Harry grew the most confused, he only had to remind himself of Dumbledore’s murder, and he no longer gave debate to Snape’s allegiance. He had been there, he had watched as a man pled for his life, and would never forget.
Harry could feel himself slipping into an uneasy doze, but felt completely aware of himself as he slipped into Voldemort’s mind, unsure of why he stopped fighting it. Snippets of conversation was all he could hear, he saw nothing of what Voldemort was doing, and against his better judgement he allowed himself to continue, growing curious as to what was happening. An array of strange emotions were seeping through Harry’s very bones, and his scar was burning sharply in the back of his mind as a smile that wasn’t his own crossed his face.
A moment later he was at Hogwarts, standing before the students in the Great Hall as Voldemort addressed them with a smirk. With great satisfaction he noted how bare three of the house tables appeared after the removal of all students unworthy of magical education, and was even more pleased to see that the house of Salazar Slytherin remained unchanged. Behind him Severus was seated at the head of the staff table, having taken his new position as Headmaster. When he was finished he smartly strode down the centre of the Great Hall as Severus rose to finish addressing the students, and then the scene changed abruptly.
The thoughts Harry was hearing were his own, fear and desperation from the night before exploding through his body as images appeared in his mind’s eye, and he knew Voldemort could hear and feel it too. He could see he and Ginny running through the Hogwarts Greenhouses, and could hear the desperation in their voices as he pulled her under one of the tables. The vision escalated quickly, the entire night played out in his mind in short flashes as Harry desperately tried to gain control before Voldemort saw too much.
Panicking now, Harry abruptly sat up and opened his eyes wide before clenching them shut again, trying to clear his mind from Voldemort. The pain in his scar grew exponentially and he clutched his scar and groaned, breathing deeply through his nose as he opened his eyes and focused on the ground before him, his vision growing even more blurred as Voldemort attempted to delve further into his mind. He knew he couldn’t block Voldemort out completely, and instead focused on drawing his attention to something he had already seen, and he for the first time he solely focused on the eleven days they had spent together.
It wasn’t working. Remembering the great pain Harry had endured at his hands, Voldemort only grew more determined to probe deeper. Hastily collecting himself Harry stumbled to his feet and hastened towards Ginny, knowing that only she could drive Voldemort from his mind. Swaying a little on his feet, the pain in his scar continued to intensify as he walked. Miraculously his thoughts didn’t stray to the Horcruxes as kicked off his shoes and removed his jacket at the river’s edge, fumbling over the rocks as he entered the cold water. His jeans were soon laden with water, and he struggled to keep walking as he slipped on the slimy creak bed, but he knew he didn’t have time to waste.
Watching his approach with a small smile, Ginny remarked, “Harry, those jeans are going to weigh you down.”
With Voldemort in his head, Ginny’s voice sounded like heaven, and he felt his heart swelling and matching Voldemort’s strength. “Hermione, can you give us a minute?”
“What’s wrong?” she questioned sharply, seeing the pain on his paling face. “Are you alright?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Harry asked nonchalantly, moving closer and extending his arms to Ginny. He looked at Hermione pointedly, silently willing her to leave quickly. It was becoming harder and harder to keep his face passive, and he instinctively wanted to press his hand to his scar.
“Okay,” Hermione replied slowly, seeing the looks she got from both Harry and Ginny.
She let go of Ginny’s arms and Harry moved to take her place, resting his hands on Ginny’s waist and helping her stand steady. He could feel Hermione’s eyes on them as she carefully waded towards the shoreline, and didn’t make his move until she was well on her way back to the tent.
“Is the water helping?” he asked Ginny in concern, the pain making his hands and voice tremble, though being in her presence alone had begun to ease the pain it. He could feel Voldemort’s hold over his mind weaken. He caught up some water in his cupped hand and gently allowed it to trickle over Ginny’s neck and shoulder, but the rash did not appear to have faded.
Ginny nodded, resting her hands on Harry’s arms. “Yeah, it’s nice. Hermione said I might have had a reaction to the gloves the muggle doctor wore…I don’t really know how else I could have gotten it.”
Harry nodded in agreement, but was not really paying attention. Raising one hand out of the water he carefully caressed Ginny’s face, sliding his fingers through her hair before tilting her face towards his own. Moving closer towards her there was no hesitation when he finally kissed her, his lips moving over hers with comforting familiarity, and he forgot all about Voldemort and Snape, forgot all about Death Eaters as his mind became blank, caught up in the bliss of holding her against him again.
She was kissing him back, and his arm about her waist was the only thing holding her upright in that moment. They kissed like never before, the way they should have weeks ago, and he sighed against her lips as his head began to spin, but he couldn’t stop.
Finally breaking away, Harry rested his face against hers, feeling her unsteady breaths against his cheek as her shaking hands clenched the material of his shirt. With his eyes closed Harry could relish in the familiar smell of her hair, of the way her body felt against his hands, and he never wanted to let her go. He thought he could stay like that forever. Collecting himself, Harry lightly kissed along her jaw, briefly pressing his lips to hers again to hold her attention. He knew what he wanted to say, knew what he had been feeling for so many months, and only wished he had known earlier exactly what it was. “I love you, Ginny,” was his whispered confession, while his fingers caressed her face again. “I’m so in love with you.”
There was nothing she could do except smile, her breath hitching before she gave a nervous laugh. Kissing her again Harry could feel the relief in her body as she melted even further towards him, still depending on him to hold her up. “I’ve waited so long to hear that. I love you, too.”
Voldemort was completely gone now, his heart swelling with his declaration so much that he couldn’t stand to be a part of it anymore, and the pain in Harry’s head was reduced only to an aching reminder. “I mean it,” he added, wanting to make sure she completely understood. “I’d give anything, Ginny…anything for you.”
He was dimly aware of her brief nod before she brought his lips back to hers again, and he had little opportunity to speak again for the longest time. Her kiss was intoxicating, and he could think of little else other than her and the soft sighs she made against his mouth, her hands freely moving about his stomach. The shivers and chills running up his spine were not from the cool water, but from the way her hands touched as much of him as she could reach, pressing and trailing along the stitches and tickling his skin before clutching his hips as the running water threatened to unsteady her. Harry broke apart from her breathlessly.
“We, err…” he panted, trying to think. What was it he was going to say? “We should probably…umm-”
“We should get out of the water?” she supplied, equally breathless.
“Yeah,” he hastily agreed, making himself focus on where to place his feet as they carefully made their way back to the shore. They both hissed in discomfort as they began to rise from the water, the air and their wet clothes making them even more cold, and they quickly dried before Harry helped Ginny sit by a close by tree. Holding his wand by his side he checked their surroundings one more time, glancing towards the tent before he sat down beside Ginny and slipped his arm around her.
It was much more comfortable here, and not having to hold her upright gave his hands much more freedom to touch her as he peppered soft kisses along her throat, relishing in being able to hold her like this again after so long. Her skin was salty as he gently ran his tongue along her jaw in between kisses, and she was just as he remembered her, if not better, and he couldn’t hold back the soft moan that rumbled deep in his chest. She seemed to laugh at this as his hands skittered along her waist and up her bare arms, stopping when he felt the swollen and bruised skin.
Pulling away from her Harry looked more closely at the blackened skin of her arm, his happiness disappearing fast as he looked at it and began to feel sick. Feeling the change in his body language Ginny opened her eyes and followed his gaze, kissing him on the cheek before she raised her arms high above her head in a stretch, laying down on the ground and extending her legs as if to show him how little it hurt, but he was not fooled. Naturally his gaze followed the length of her body, falling on the wound on her leg, no longer covered by the muggle bandage. It seemed even worse in the day light, the red blotchy rash around it only adding to the effect. Harry slowly ran his fingers down skin alongside the wound, counting the stitches, eight in all.
There was no stopping the fear that was still biting away at him, exaggerated by the honest words he had spoken only minutes ago. Never had he anticipated he would feel this strongly about anyone, that he would develop such need and dependence for another person, and he wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. It was like giving Voldemort even more leverage over him, greater opportunities to hurt him in ways that he could never recover from, and he remembered how much sense it had made when he had broken up with Ginny and Dumbledore’s funeral. Feeling her hand resting on his lower back Harry turned his head and looked down at her.
“What is it?” she asked, her voice confident and unsure at the same time.
The fear he felt must have been evident on his face because a moment later she raised herself up, slipping her arm around his waist. Harry didn’t know what to say, how to express the strange feelings he was experiencing, and instead twisted around to rest his head against her shoulder while his fingers played with the collar of her shirt. Thankfully she didn’t rush him to answer, giving him time to think, to make sense of what was going on.
“Ginny, I…please,” he began, not entirely sure what he was pleading for. “I need you…I need you here when this is all over.”
“I’ll be here,” she promised, stroking his head before forcing him to look at her. “Nothing’s going to happen to me.”
“We don’t know that,” he insisted, treading very carefully with his words. He didn’t want to debate whether or not she could look after herself. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. Please, I’m gonna need you when this is all over, I won’t be okay without you.”
“And what about you?” she challenged. “Can you promise me you won’t put yourself in danger? Can you promise that you won’t get hurt?”
“You know I can’t,” he replied nervously.
“Then neither can I.”
“Yes, you can,” he insisted, wishing she would understand. “I’m already involved, but you…you don’t have to be a part of this, you don’t have to be in so much danger.”
“So you don’t want me to fight?”
“The risk it too big, we saw that last night.”
“I thought you loved me.”
Harry’s eyes widened at her statement, gaping at her in disbelief for a moment. How could she say that? Wasn’t that what this was all about? “I do,” he corrected her.
“Tell me again.”
“I love you,” he repeated without hesitation. Caressing her lips with his he hoped to distract her as he trailed his fingers along her collar bone, and he felt the shiver it caused her.
“I don’t believe you,” she said evenly, her voice hardly hitching. “If you loved me you wouldn’t ask me to stay behind, you wouldn’t want me to be someone I’m not.”
“If you loved me, I wouldn’t have to ask you,” he retaliated.
She looked at him defiantly for a long moment, her brown eyes sparking dangerously before her face softened. Shaking her head Ginny glanced down for a moment before slipping her hands around the back of his neck and then kissing him softly. “We’re as stubborn as each other,” she commented against his lips.
“Mmmhmm,” he replied, unable to resist the invitation to kiss her again.
“Harry….” she continued, trying to break away so she could speak. “I won’t let you do this alone.”
“Yes, you will.”
“No,” she shook her head. “I won’t let you fight alone, you know I won’t.”
“You will,” he repeated. Seeing no other way, Harry kissed her deeply and gave her no opportunity to contradict him again. Not breaking the kiss his hands slipped down to her shoulder and waist, and he carefully pushed her down to the ground and leant his body across hers, his hand slipping under her shirt. His fingers ghosted over her stomach, brushing the bruises and welts she bore in attempt to distract her, to distract himself, and the shiver that ran up her spine told him it was working. Her fingers mimicked his own, her hands pulling him down and closer until he was startled by the soft material of her bra underneath his fingers, and he quickly changed their direction, not daring to reach any further at the moment. She was breathless beneath him when he pulled away. “You’ll do it for me,” he added.
“Why?” she panted. Looking up at him, her hand ran through his hair before passing over his scar, now pain free.
Harry kissed the corner of her mouth. “I’m scared, Gin. I can hardly feel anything else anymore.”
“It’s good to be scared,” she commented. “It means you still have something to lose.”
“Yeah,” he agreed readily. “You.”
Ginny sighed beneath him, and her hand trailed through his hair and along his jaw. “I’ve said all I’ve got to say, Harry. There’s no point debating it again.”
“You know how I feel about you.”
“I do,” he promised, and was surprised when she placed her hand on his chest and pushed him away from her. Her hand didn’t waver as she awkwardly sat up, ushering him onto his back before lying alongside him as she rubbed her hand up and down along his side. They kissed tenderly for a few moments, but Harry knew she still had something more to say.
“Why are you making it so difficult for me to help you?” she whispered against his cheek.
“Because I love you too.”
“I love you more.”
“Not possible,” he smiled, pulling her body closer to his and kissing her deeply.
“What makes you say that?”
“I just know….I love you more.”
Shaking her head Ginny chuckled slightly, returning her lips back to his own. Harry could hardly think anymore, his mind so comforted and at ease as he held her close again, kissing her again, and he couldn’t seem to hold her close enough, to touch her enough, and he got the sense she felt the same way. In the back of his mind he prayed that Ron and Hermione wouldn’t come looking for them, that they could stay as they were for hours on end, leaving Ginny’s side only when he could hardly stay awake. The idea sounded wonderful in his head, and he couldn’t help but sigh mournfully when she straightened up, readjusting herself to sit astride his outstretched legs with her hands resting on his stomach.
“I’ve missed you.”
He smiled, sitting up and putting his arms around her waist. Unable to wait any longer he kissed her again before replying. “I missed you too, so much.”
Nodding as he pressed careful kisses along the welts on her neck, a delightful shiver ran down her spine. “I’m sorry, too.”
Harry paused, not sure of what to say. Pulling away he looked her in the eye. “Ginny, I don’t want you to apologise.”
“I think you deserve my apology,” she continued regardless. “I’ve treated you badly the last few weeks.”
“Maybe so,” he agreed. “But you’re allowed to have doubts.”
She shook her head. “I never doubted you,” she promised sincerely. “No matter what I said, I’ve never doubted who you are. There’s just so much that I don’t understand.”
“Do you think I do? I’ve got no idea what’s going on half the time, and don’t even bother asking me what we’re going to do next, because I have no idea.”
Chuckling to herself softly Ginny passed her fingers through his hair and pressed her lips against his, kissing him deeply once again. “Thanks,” she continued. “But I’m still sorry.”
“Whatever you say,” he muttered, turning his head as she kissed along his jaw and down his neck, her fingers tracing the stitches that ran down the side and down past his collarbone. His eyes fluttered closed as she continued kissing him, her tongue tasting the stubbled skin on his neck and he shivered beneath her as his hands gripped her waist firmly. He longed to pull her even closer, but doubted it was a good idea considering the way she sat astride him, kissing his neck so intently.
Her hand slipped around the front of his neck and her fingers spread wide, pressing lightly for a moment as his heart began to pound uncomfortably. He hated it when she touched him that way. Pulling away from her slightly Harry watched her curious expression as she continued pressing his neck. “We have matching bruises,” she commented.
Looking at her own neck properly now, Harry could make out the finger like bruises and welts she bore, and in turn he placed his fingers over them, rubbing gently in what he hoped was a soothing manner. “Just as long as we don’t keep getting matching injuries.”
Ginny laughed as she removed her hand, and the sound was reverberated through Harry delightfully. “Okay, we’ll try to avoid that.
They kissed again, but it was short this time as Harry looked into the sky above them, realising how quickly it was growing dark. Clutching at Ginny’s hips Harry ushered her to move off him, and a moment later he helped pull her to her feet, holding her close to his body and kissing her again, more intently this time. “We should get inside the tent, it’s not safe out here.”
“Whatever you say,” she agreed reluctantly, taking her last opportunity to slide her hands under the back of his shirt.
He laughed against her neck as he did the same to her, glad for the fact that her injuries would soon heal, even though his wouldn’t. Helping her walk back to the tent Harry didn’t want to go inside, remembering how Hermione wanted one of them to sit outside and keep watch of the wards. He considered taking the first watch, having Ginny there with him to keep him company, but he knew she would only be a distraction
“Harry?” Ginny caught his attention before he opened the tent flap. “Thanks.”
Smiling at her Harry pulled the hair off her face, his hand lingering as they kissed. “I love you,” he repeated, comforted by the ease of which the words rolled off his tongue. After months of confusion, one thing had finally started making sense.
A sharp beeping from her watch awoke Hermione from her sleep, and she fumbled to turn it off as it began shouting at her, making certain that she was awake. Finding the button she pressed it and breathed a sigh of relief when the noise stopped, relaxing back into her bunk bed as she listened for the sound of her friends awakening. Upon hearing nothing she sat up and looked at the bed beneath hers, seeing that Ginny was still asleep, and then looked across the room to see Ron’s eyes fluttering open.
Hermione groaned slightly, having not wanted to awaken Ron, not when he so badly needed rest. She stayed still for a few minutes until Ron closed his eyes again, and only then did she carefully climb down the steel ladder and head for the bathroom. Looking at her watch she saw it was half past one in the morning, and she had half an hour until he had to relieve Harry from his watch outside, and was determined to be properly awake for him. She washed her face and brushed her teeth furiously, tying her hair back and changing her shirt, feeling refreshed and awake when she sought out something to eat back in the kitchen. Rummaging through the bags Mrs Weasley had packed she hungrily opened a jar of biscuits, making a careful choice before choosing one and taking a bite.
“I hope you’re gonna share that,” Ron commented from his bed.
Stifling her shout of surprise Hermione spun around to look at Ron, who only moments ago appeared fast asleep. As he heart slowly descended back into her chest she chewed the biscuit and swallowed quickly, wincing slightly. “Ron,” she choked out. “I thought you were sleeping.”
“How can I sleep with your bloody watch screaming at you to get up?” he asked with a slight smile, blinking lazily. “So are you gonna share that biscuit, or are you gonna make me get up?”
A warm feeling of relief spread through Hermione at these words. Only a few hours ago he had refused any offerings of food, lying in a daze as he fell in and out of sleep, and the return of his appetite was a great comfort to her. Pressing the biscuit she held she considered it’s softness before turning around in search of something more suitable, knowing how it hurt Ron to chew. Opening a second jar of biscuits she chose one suitable and removed it, closing the jar and approaching Ron’s bed. “Sit up?”
“Nah, just give her here, thanks,” he answered, gingerly extending his uninjured left arm and taking the biscuit. He chewed the biscuit slowly before he swallowed, quickly finishing it. “Hmmm, I have to say, not quite up to Mum’s usual standard. Although, I could be convinced otherwise.”
Understanding his hint she withdrew her wand and summoned another biscuit, warming it slightly before handing it to him. Laying down she settled herself alongside him, finishing her own biscuit as he groaned in appreciation for his. They lay in comfortable silence as they ate, Hermione studying Ron’s broken arm, wondering if there was anything she could so besides the sling she had applied. She knew there was no point in suggesting he go see a muggle doctor, though his reply to that would be quite comical.
“What’s up with Harry?” Ron asked.
“He’s been seeing visions,” Hermione replied softly, conscious of Ginny who slept across the room.
Breathing deeply, Ron replied. “About what?”
“I’m not sure…”
“He wouldn’t tell you?”
“I didn’t ask.”
“You didn’t ask? Why the hell didn’t you ask?”
“I just didn’t” she answered, feeling a little affronted.
Ron tutted, breathing through his nose in annoyance. “I’ll ask him.”
“No you won’t,” she rebuked him sternly, rolling onto her side to look at him properly. “If you go at him like a raging Hippogriff he’ll clam up and won’t say a thing.”
She received a stern glare. “Are you saying I don’t have tact?”
Hermione laughed shortly. “Ron, you have many talents, but tact is not one of them.”
Another glare. “You’re very mean when you’re tired.”
“Sorry,” she replied obligingly, making herself comfortable by his side. Sitting up she pulled her legs towards her chest and slipped them under the blankets, moving closer to the warmth of his body. He winced slightly as she shifted, but he too quickly settled, reaching out his good hand and tentatively taking hers. He smiled at her shyly for a moment, accentuating the cuts and bruises on his face before the moment passed.
“So, erm…how do you know he’s been having visions?”
Forcing herself to withhold a frustrated sigh, Hermione wanted to clench her fist in frustration. Did he really have to bring up Harry again when she lay so close to him in his bed? Did he have absolutely no clue? “Uh…he just had that look on his face, all day really.”
“And you really didn’t ask him about it?”
“No, Ron,” she ground out through gritted teeth. “I didn’t ask.”
“Right,” he responded hastily, seeing her slight hostility. “Right, well…it’s err, been a nice day today, hasn’t it?”
She raised her eyebrows. “You haven’t been outside.”
“Well, it’s err…” he fumbled, not sure of how to respond. “I could see out the flap, looked like a nice day.”
“It was,” she replied patiently.
They fell into silence for a few moments, lying by each other’s sides with their hands intertwined, and for a moment Hermione considered pulling her hand away before she thought better of herself. It was so frustrating trying to get through to Ron, giving every opportunity she could find for him to kiss her. She wasn’t exactly sure when her new feelings for him had developed, but she had suddenly found herself wondering what it would be like to kiss him. Perhaps it was during the time that Harry was missing, when she saw a new and different side to Ron, who had held her together through the devastating days.
So often she would find her eyes wandering aimlessly towards her friend, watching him intently for no apparent reason as she tried to work up some nerve to do something about it. Other times she was certain she felt Ron’s eyes following her unnecessarily, as though he were giving her the same longing glances that Harry used to direct towards Ginny. Was she imagining those glances? Perhaps it was just blind hope that he felt the same way, the only thing she knew for certain was that she really wanted to kiss him.
Many times had she seen an opportunity to make an uncertain move, and they had always been interrupted by something or someone, and the moment was gone, and she would spend the next few weeks impatiently building up for the next moment. She noted to herself that she would have to relieve Harry in only fifteen minutes. If she was going to do something now, she would have to do it soon.
“So I was thinking,” Ron interrupted her thoughts. “Well, was wondering really…about how those Snatchers or whoever they were managed to catch Ginny and me.”
“Ginny and I,” she corrected him automatically.
“Whatever,” he grumbled. “But I was wondering if they managed to track us, because of Ginny’s trace.”
“Oh!” Hermione gasped softly, glancing over towards where Ginny slept. “She’s only sixteen.”
“Yeah….how exactly does the trace work?” Ron asked. “Isn’t it like…any time an underage wizard does magic, the ministry knows?”
“Yes,” she pondered softly. “Something like that.”
“Right, well when we left the hospital she conjured one of those flames in a jar…kind of what you do…except yours are always a bit warmer…so do you think that’s how they did it? They tracked her magic?”
“Yes,” she answered uncertainly, ruefully glancing back over at Ginny. “Oh Merlin, if that’s how they’re following us, she’s not going to like it when we tell her she can’t do magic anymore.”
“I’m not telling her.”
“Neither am I!” Hermione agreed. “I’m far too scared to tell her something like that, we’ll leave that up to Harry shall we?”
“Bloody good idea.”
Hermione chuckled at Ron’s enthusiasm before sobering again, reality cutting her smile short. Once again she checked her watch, and saw it was almost time to swap places with Harry. Turning her focus back to Ron she studied the hand that held hers, her smile returning as her thumb caressed his soft palm before tracing along his fingers and carefully skimming across the cuts and bruises. She wasn’t exactly sure why, but she loved looking at Ron’s hands, so large and rough in comparison to her own small ones. Her fingers trailed up past his wrist and rub along his forearm, feeling the scars left from their venture into the Department of Mysteries in fifth year. No longer visible, Hermione had forgotten about them until she recently brushed a stray beetle off his arm, and she could feel the distinct circular welts the brains had left. She had kept looking for them after that, and sometimes in the right light she could just make out the small shadows that marked his skin. It was strange to think of her own body in comparison to her friends. So far, she was the only one who hadn’t physically suffered at the hands of Death Eaters, the only one who bore no physical scars. It was ridiculous to think along these lines, but it made her feel strangely left out, unequal to her friends.
“A picture will last longer,” Ron commented, watching the path of her hand with great interest.
“Sorry,” she apologised quickly as she began to blush, and she removed her hand.
It was his turn to chuckled now, but Hermione quickly recovered, his laughter reminding her of exactly what she wanted, of what she was determined to do. Taking a moment to steel herself she reached out and gently caressed his fiery red hair, her hand coming to rest on the back of his neck as she propped herself up and leant her face towards his. An instant later Ron knew what she was doing, and his eyes fluttered closed as she drew closer and licked her lips before kissing him clumsily. To her great relief he kissed her back immediately, her own eyes drifting shut as she instinctively opened her mouth to him before they broke apart.
They lay by one another’s sides, Hermione’s hand still at the back of Ron’s neck as they tried to catch their breath, their eyes wide and a little shocked as they looked at each other. Hermione could only pray that her breath was still minty fresh.
“Bloody hell,” Ron panted, his good hand apprehensively stroking her hair. “That was….brilliant….”
She laughed nervously, beyond relieved that he hadn’t rejected her kiss. Her relief increased as Ron struggled to move closer to her, before instead pulling her back to him and kissing her again. Her heart pounded ridiculously fast, her hands shook as they kissed, and a bout of nerves threatened to overtake her as Ron began to deepen the kiss. She wondered what on earth she was supposed to do with her tongue? Was there some kind of unwritten etiquette in that regard? With their kiss deepened Hermione’s breath hitched as she felt Ron licking his lips eagerly, and the skin of her neck underneath his hand seemed to burn at his touch. She clutched at him almost desperately until she had to break away, gasping for breath.
“Still brilliant,” Ron mused, a goofy grin on his face as he gazed at her. “It was….erm….it was.…”
“Wicked?” she supplied, speaking for the first time since their kiss. Her voice sounded deep and hoarse with nerves.
“Yeah….blimey, I’ve wanted to do that for….erm, a while now,” he admitted, and her heart soared. “I’m glad you’ve got more guts.”
His hand moved to her shoulder and began rubbing in earnest as they kissed again, and this time it felt like the most natural thing in the world to do, and Hermione finally began to relax, still trying to stop herself from giggling with relief. Her hands still trembled as she rubbed his neck, and they soon broke apart again, resting their foreheads against one another. Lying by him she never wanted to get up, but the alarm on her watch began to beep again, pulling her back to awful reality with a heavy thud. She fumbled to switch it off and saw the time again before looking up at Ron with wide eyes.
“I’ve got to go,” she blurted out, startling him.
“Where are you going? Ron asked, sounding slightly hurt as a frown crossed his face.
“Just outside,” she promised, slipping out from the covers before the look on his face kept her there all night. “Do you want another biscuit?”
Ron raised his eyebrows at her, clearly answering her question. Opening the jar she left on the bench she chose another biscuit, warming it again before moving back to the bed. As he accepted the biscuit she swooped down on him, hesitating before kissing him again, smiling at the pleased look on his face as she straightened up and crossed the tent, not trusting herself to look back.
Emerging into the cool night Hermione clasped her hand across her mouth and giggled to herself, overjoyed that she had finally found the nerve to do something about her feelings for Ron, and relieved that he appeared to return them. Removing her hands she carefully touched her surprisingly swollen lips before touching the place on her neck where Ron had touched her, the skin still warm from his hands. She didn’t bother to hide the grin that had crossed her face, relishing in her good fortune.
“What’s got you so pleased?”
Hermione jumped a foot in the air at the sound of Harry’s voice from behind her, and she made an embarrassing squeal in the back of her throat. “Harry! What are you doing out here?” she asked, remembering a moment later. “Oh, right…you can go inside now.”
“Not until you tell me what put that silly grin on your face,” Harry teased, standing up from the ground and slowly stretching his tired muscles.
“Mind your own business,” she quipped with a furious blush. Sitting down in Harry’s place she drew her wand and held it by her side. “Go to bed.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Harry joked, ducking inside the tent with a short laugh. He calmed himself down as he closed the flap, not wanting to disturb Ron and Ginny who he expected to be fast asleep, yet as he approached the bunk bed where Ron lay Harry heard no sign of his usual snores, and squinted through the darkness into the bed. Kicking off his shoes he could just make out Ron’s face, who was licking biscuit crumbs off his fingers as he lay wide awake.
“Hey, mate,” Ron mused, staring at the bunk bed above with a strange look on his face.
“Hey,” Harry responded absently, pulling off his socks and jacket and dropping them on the floor. He rubbed his eyes wearily, feeling exhausted. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothin’,” he replied, finally looking at him properly. “Reckon you can grab us a biscuit, eh?”
Nodding shortly he trudged towards the kitchen in search, seeing a lone jar of biscuits sitting on the bench. Retrieving a biscuit from inside, he warmed it as he knew Ron liked, considering one for himself. He was hungry after all, but he was too tired, and simply replaced the lid before handing the biscuit to Ron.
“Good night,” he muttered, handing over the biscuit and reaching for the ladder to the top bunk.
“Thanks, mate,” Ron said gratefully, sighing as he took a bite.
Halfway up the ladder Harry hesitated, leaning back to look at his friend. “Are you right? Do you need to go to the bathroom?”
Ron considered this carefully, chewing his biscuit before he shook his head no.
“Are you sure?” Harry prompted, climbing another rung on the ladder. “Once I’m comfortable, I’m not getting up.”
“Nah, I’m good, thanks…I’m really good.”
Without further response Harry ascended the ladder and collapsed onto the top bunk, not remembering that there were no blankets or pillows. He didn’t care though, he was too tired to even give it much thought as he made himself comfortable on the mattress, surprised by how similar it was to those at the Burrow, and for a moment he longed for the comforts of home, or a pillow at least. He glanced at the bunk above Ginny, seeing the pillow Hermione had been using, but couldn’t be bothered to summon it. Closing his eyes Harry’s body went limp, too exhausted to roll onto his side when his back grew sore, but his mind was still reeling, unable to clear for even a few moments. His entire head was spinning uncomfortably, the whisper of Voldemort’s voice in the back of his mind growing louder and clearer with each passing minute he lay.
Harry opened his eyes and stared at the tent wall beside him, trying to avoid the flashes that appeared before his eyes as though part of a dream. It was the visions and errant flashes of emotion that had caused his exhaustion, tearing through him all afternoon and all night as he sat on watch. Only Ginny seemed to keep it all at bay, even talking to Ron and Hermione earlier that evening had relieved him. Rubbing the side of his head he could hear the echo of conversation that wasn’t his own, but it was too difficult to fight this time, he was too tired and he fitfully slipped into a restless doze.
He knew he was dreaming the entire time, and walking through the atrium of the ministry Harry could hear Voldemort’s thoughts as clearly as his own. An entire day had passed without problem, but Voldemort knew better than to allow his guard to slip. Rebellion would come swiftly and likely from the last place expected, though he depended on it, he welcomed it as part of his plans. Actions against his reign would be dealt with swiftly, and those involved would become an example to others.
The only downfall of the invasion was Potter’s escape, though he wasn’t as nearly concerned as he had been in the weeks previous. Perhaps now it would be easier than ever to capture him, to finally rid himself of the threat posed. Through his escape, Voldemort had learnt more about the boy than he had in years. Upon hearing of the imminent threat, Potter’s first thoughts had not been to fight and defend his school, nor had it been to protect himself. Potter’s first and only concern had been for Ginny Weasley, and he had fought hard to protect her and to ensure their escape. This was prime knowledge, allowing Voldemort to understand what must happen next in order to eliminate Harry Potter. The boy was too evasive to be caught while in hiding, and far too smart to come out of hiding without good reason, which is why his attentions would now be focused on finding Ginny Weasley. Only she would bring Potter right to his feet.
In the back of his mind Harry could hear a different voice growing clearer, urgently repeating his name as a small hand shook at his leg. Blinking rapidly Harry opened his eyes, trying to focus on the person at the foot of his bed, their concerned voice softening as they saw he was awake. He groaned as he sat up, his head spinning as he looked around the dark tent in worry, realising that his scar was burning again. When had that begun?
“Ginny?” he croaked out, placing his hand over hers. He fumbled to find his wand in the waist of his jeans. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m just waking you up,” she answered quietly, glancing at Ron on the bed below before climbing the ladder and sitting awkwardly by Harry’s feet. “You were talking in your sleep, were you dreaming again?”
His heart sank at her answer, and he mentally kicked himself for allowing himself to fall so deeply back into Voldemort’s mind. The atrium at the ministry was completely gone, he no longer could hear Voldemort’s thoughts, but his hands shook uncomfortably as he felt the cold sweat all over his body. “Yeah, must have been. What was I saying?” he asked, wondering how much he had given away.
“I’m not sure,” she shook her head, rubbing the cold skin on his exposed feet. “You were just mumbling something. Are you alright? You’re bloody freezing without blankets.”
Harry didn’t answer, holding her hand tightly as he considered what Voldemort had been thinking about, clearly recalling his plans to find Ginny. Voldemort was right, everything he had feared was coming together despite him. If Voldemort had Ginny, it would be the end, Harry would do absolutely anything necessary, putting at risk everything Dumbledore had set in place. Holding Ginny’s hand in his, he remembered just how easily she could be taken away from him.
She pulled her hand from his and lightly kissed him on the cheek, climbing back down the ladder and moving back towards her bed. Assuming she was going back to sleep Harry lay back down on the mattress in disappointment, hating the loneliness he was often left with when she would leave him so suddenly. He closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep as something soft landed on his feet, and as he looked up in surprise to see an old pillow lying across his feet. A thick blanket was then clumsily thrown up onto the bed, the frame creaking slightly as Ginny hastily climbed the ladder and carefully crawled to lay alongside him. She arranged the pillow before pulling the thick blanket over them both, nudging Harry to move over more before he slipped his arm around her, and they simultaneously moved to be closer to one another. Until now he hadn’t realised how cold he had become, and he held onto Ginny’s warm body as her feet clumsily rubbed up and down on his, trying to warm them.
A moment later they kissed, desperate and scared as they held one another, not knowing what would happen to them next. Harry knew his luck had to run out soon, how long could they continue to evade capture and death when they so often found themselves in danger? Voldemort’s thoughts of Ginny rang through Harry’s mind again and again, and he almost couldn’t bring himself to take his lips away from hers. She allowed him a moment of heavy breaths against her neck before they kissed again, and it was only a robust snore from Ron below that broke them apart. Recovering from the surprise Harry kissed along her cheek and down her jaw, muttering incoherently as his hand slipped under the back of her pyjama shirt.
“I love you, too,” Ginny whispered against his hear, echoing what he must have said.
Their movements slowed, the sudden desperation and urgency fading as Harry relaxed with his head against her shoulder, their arms intertwined. This time sleep came easily, his body succumbing to its exhaustion as Ginny ran her fingers through his hair, and there was no unnerving voice lingering in the back of his mind that kept him uneasy. With his arm firm about her waist Harry could feel the pounding of her heart, and wished that he had something to tell her. He had no idea what the four of them would do next, what their plan was to find the Horcruxes, and there was only one thing he knew for certain.
Ginny must be protected, no matter the cost.
A/N Well I hope all the H/G and R/H shippers out there are pleased once again! Please leave me a review, especially let me know what you would like to see from the next chapter when things finally start progressing properly. I'm definitely struggling so far, so I'd love your reviews.
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