A great whooshing sound sped past Ginny’s ear as the three bodies banged against each other, pulled inexorably through space. She tried desperately to yank her dress free from the Death Eater’s grip, but it was no use. At length, they tumbled from the air and landed in a heap on the ground. Ginny could hear the air rushing from the dark cloaked man’s mouth as Harry landed on top of him. She focused on their captor and a burning hatred boiled up inside. This man had assaulted her family and taken her and Harry from them, probably to the Dark Lord himself.
With a primal scream, Ginny launched herself at the wheezing man, recently freed from Harry’s body. Her foot shot out and struck his torso, just above the hip. The man tried to roll away, still struggling for breath, but she was too quick for him. Another blow from her foot knocked the wand from his hand and he howled with pain. Finally, she grabbed the front of his robes and pulled his hooded face up to her own.
“You tell Tom that when I see him again, I’m going to kill him personally,” she said with a voice of cold steel. His eyes widened through the slits in his mask as she dropped him roughly to the ground and finished with a solid punch to his face. The Death Eater didn’t move again.
“Wow,” said a clearly shocked Harry, gently rubbing his left shoulder.
“What?” asked Ginny, resuming her cheerful demeanor.
Harry winced as he moved his hand to gesture at the prone form on the ground in front of them. “You kicked the arse of a fully-trained Death Eater,” he said, awe clearly evident in his voice.
Ginny waved her hand in the air to dismiss the compliment. “He just really pissed me off, that’s all. Besides, I don’t think ‘fully-trained’ would apply to this buffoon,” she said with disdain, kicking him again for good measure. She looked around at their new surroundings and noticed that they were alone. This surprised Ginny, as she expected to be brought directly to Voldemort.
Harry was following her eyes and he seemed to pull himself from similar thoughts. “Well, remind me to never get on your bad side, then.”
She flashed him a wide grin and said demurely, “Just do whatever I ask, without question and I’ll not hurt you too badly.”
“Yes, ma’am!” Harry yelled, with a mock salute, but winced again as his shoulder tensed.
“Oh, Harry. Are you hurt?” Ginny moved to his side to inspect the affected joint.
“It’s nothing,” he said through gritted teeth.
Ginny arched her brow at him, but made no comment as she moved his hand away to look at the shoulder properly. It was shaped oddly, with the arm moved out from the socket, creating a depression where the bone would normally be.
“I think I dislocated it when we landed,” said Harry with a glance to the fallen Death Eater.
“Well,” said Ginny with genuine concern, “It’s certainly not ‘nothing’, but I think I can fix it.”
Harry tried unsuccessfully to pull back from her grasp, wincing again with the foolish action. “When did you study to be a mediwitch?” he asked jokingly
She looked into his eyes and said, “Madame Pomfrey showed me a couple of things is all.”
“’Pompous Pomfrey’ showed you a couple of things?” he asked incredulously. “She’s never taken on an apprentice before!”
“I know...I never asked her to show me anything, but when you fell from your broom and were in hospital...” she stopped suddenly, heat rising in her cheeks with the memory.
“Go on,” prodded Harry gently.
“I...I went to visit you and she was in the middle of fixing you up....” Ginny paused in thought, a distant look in her eyes. “Then she just started snapping orders at me. I was so shocked that I just did what she asked and before I knew it, you were healed.”
Harry stood before her, a perplexed look on his face. “You...you healed me once before?”
Ginny’s eyes shot to the ground and her hair fell around her face. “Not exactly....”
“You mean that was the first time, but it wasn’t the last,” Harry stated plainly, somewhat to himself.
Ginny’s head shook softly, hair still dangling across her brow. Harry’s finger gently pulled her chin up until their eyes met and he brushed the hair from her face. “Thank you.”
She slowly sucked in a breath and tried to control her heartbeat. The intimate contact was almost too much and made it difficult for her to concentrate. “Don’t worry about it,” she said with a quiver in her voice. “I’m sure lots of people would have done as much.” She moved to tend to his shoulder again, but he stopped her.
“No, Gin. I’m not thanking you for healing me...I’m thanking you for caring enough about me to be there when I needed you.” He reached out to touch her hand but pulled back at the last second. Clearing his throat nervously, he said, “So what about this shoulder? Think you can still fix it?”
Ginny blinked, confused by the sudden change in Harry’s demeanor. With a slightly trembling hand, she grabbed her wand from the ground where it had landed from their fall and went about fixing Harry’s shoulder.
Harry flexed his shoulder after Ginny’s healing spell was complete, still wincing a bit with the motion.
“Are you sure it’s fixed?” asked Ginny, concern mingled with a small portion of fear.
Harry glanced around again in the dim light and nodded. “It’ll have to do.” He tore his eyes from the small stand of trees to the north and looked at Ginny. “We need to get moving before someone comes looking for him,” he said, gesturing at the still unconscious man on the ground.
Suddenly frightened, Ginny grabbed Harry’s hand. “Do you think dad will be able to find us?”
Harry’s eyes softened and he squeezed her hand slightly. “I’m sure your whole family is trying, but I don’t know if they would be able to track where we went.”
“What can we do to help them?” she asked, looking towards the forest.
“Well, first of all, let’s try to use the Portkey to get back.” Harry shrugged at Ginny’s questioning look, explaining, “It worked for me before.”
They walked over to the fallen Death Eater and searched for the Portkey. As they turned him over, an old shoe fell out of his robes. “That must be it,” said Ginny.
“We need to touch it together,” explained Harry. “On three.” They knelt down and each reached out with a finger, still clutching their hands together. “One, two, three.”
Their fingers touched the shoe but nothing happened. “Damn,” muttered Harry under his breath. Ginny’s hope deflated and she was about to start searching through the man’s robes again.
Standing suddenly, Harry pulled on Ginny’s hand until she was upright, then he put a finger in front of his lips to indicate they should be quiet. Ginny squinted in the direction Harry was looking, but the waning twilight was just too dark to make anything out. A snapping twig and deep gravelly voice announced the approach of another person.
The voice carried on the still night air across the small meadow where they were standing. “...Muggle lovers could have fought so well?”
“I don’t know,” came another voice, impatient and nasal. “I wouldn’t put anything past those Weasleys.”
Images flashed in Ginny’s mind of her first trip to Flourish and Blots. A tall man, well dressed, with platinum-blonde hair. It was the way he entwined hatred with the name Weasley that was forever ingrained upon her mind. Lucius Malfoy was the epitome of hatred and loathing.
All the pain and torture of her first year swelled up inside her like an infection, drowning out her natural control and confidence. This was the man that had caused it, the Dark Lord’s chief lieutenant, the one who gave Tom Riddle’s diary to a naïve eleven-year-old girl.
“Gin,” came Harry’s harsh whisper.
“Huh?” she asked, shaking her head to clear the horrible memories.
“We’ve got to get out of here!” Harry was pulling at her hand, and she found her legs following without her telling them to.
They ran for a half-hour, diving into another small thicket and following it until they came out on the far end, where a small set of cliffs dominated the southern edge of a large valley. Harry was breathing hard and his eyes pierced the darkness ahead. The sun was long set and only the light of a quarter-moon lit the landscape in front of them. A shiver ran involuntarily up Ginny’s spine as she struggled to find her breath.
“There,” said Harry... “We can stay there for the night.”
Ginny looked at him, drinking in his form, from the perpetually messy hair that was now windswept from their dash through the woods, to the tattered trainers on his ever growing feet. It was at this moment that Ginny Weasley fell completely in love with Harry Potter for the second time.
The sight of him next to her, rescuing her from Malfoy again made her dizzy and she collapsed against him. The fear of being discovered was distant as the presence of Harry Potter’s protection and strength filled her senses. She could stay in his arms forever.
When she opened her eyes next, she was laying on a soft bed of pine straw underneath a low tree, its thick branches veiling a splash of twinkling stars in the night sky. Harry appeared next to her and lay down awkwardly, shivering in the cool air.
“You can come closer, Harry,” said Ginny with a slight croak in her voice. “I won’t bite.”
He turned to face her and a small grin appeared on his lips. “I thought you were still asleep.”
“Did I fall asleep?” she asked through a yawn, turning over to face him. “I don’t remember lying down....”
A warm chuckle sounded in his chest. “That’s because I carried you for a hundred yards before I put you in here.”
“Oh,” she said sheepishly. “I guess it’s been a long day.”
“Yeah,” he said softly. “I’ve been thinking that we’re probably still in England, or at least the U.K.” He scooted closer to Ginny and lay his head down on the pine straw next to her.
“How is that?”
“Well, the weather is about the same and we’re in the same time zone,” he reasoned. “Then I was looking at the stars and they’re in pretty much the same position as before...”
Ginny let out a giggle, and Harry sent her a stony look. “What’s so funny?”
“You...” she said stifling the laughter as quickly as she could. “...have been hanging around Hermione too much.”
“Hey,” he cried indignantly, though softly. “Being intelligent has its benefits, and if it’ll get us out of the spot we’re in, you’d be smart to thank me for it.” He was clearly trying to be serious, but failed miserably.
Ginny giggled harder. “Right, mister smarty-pants. I’ll be sure to bow before your greatness, just as soon as your noodle has saved us.” Ginny didn’t know why she was ribbing him like this, but it seemed to take the edge off the fear that had controlled her earlier. Being this close to Harry made her feel safe, and safe was exactly what she needed.
Harry huffed and folded his arms over his chest, still keeping the somber pretense. “Fine then, have it your way. See if I save your butt from another Basilisk.”
“Hah,” Ginny exclaimed. “You owe that one to Fawkes, not your wit.”
With an exaggerated sigh, Harry turned to face her and said, “Can’t a knight in shining armor get any credit?”
Ginny grinned full and long, enjoying being on the giving end for once in her life. “I’ll tell you what,” she said, poking him in the chest. “If I ever get myself captured or possessed by an evil wizard again, I’ll let you be the one to save me.”
“Let me!” he shouted. Ginny shushed him and he repeated more quietly, “Let me! See if every Death Eater in the world could stop me.”
The ferocity of his tone surprised her. It was deep and passionate, born of some feelings that Ginny had never seen in Harry. His eyes relaxed and a warmth passed between them. “I won’t let anyone hurt you again, Ginny.”
A tear escaped her eyelids and spilled onto their makeshift bed. “That’s very sweet, Harry. Thank you.”
He tentatively wrapped her in a hug, one arm underneath her head and she grinned into his chest, content to be safe and warm in the arms of Harry Potter.
The distant hooting of an owl echoed through the still valley, waking Ginny, still enfolded in Harry’s arms. A brief surge of panic gripped her, but quickly ebbed as she listened to her companion’s rhythmic breathing. His face was nestled in the hollow of her neck and his warm breath heated her chest.
A chill ran up her uncovered leg and she realized how cool the night had become. The side next to Harry was warm and comfortable and she longed to be swallowed up in his embrace. The mental image of Harry on top of her, trying to shield her from the cold air caused her heart to beat faster and a flush crept up her face. Well, that’s one way to warm up, she thought sardonically.
Fighting back that mental image, she turned her attention to the boy next to her. While their friendship had blossomed quickly over the past two days, she couldn’t help but long for something more. She could feel him moving closer to her, but there were times she sensed him holding part of himself back. She also knew that Harry was the kind of person that reacted poorly to being pushed, so Ginny resolved to continue giving him the space and time he needed. If only she hadn’t been waiting so long already.
A sigh escaped her lips and the sounds of shuffling feet came from her right. “Lumos,” said a barely audible voice.
It was hard to tell how far the person was from their position under the tree, but she felt Harry tense up beside her and hold her closer. His eyes reflected in the dim light as they both strained to hear anything from the wizard that was obviously searching for them. Ginny struggled with wanting to run out and yell for help and huddling deeper in the shadows of the low pine they were hiding in.
A flash of light swept across their position, and then disappeared. Twice more it seemed to pin them against the ground, hesitating for the briefest of moments, and then it moved on. After what seemed like an hour, the light was extinguished and a faint cracking noise announced the wizard’s departure.
Still on edge, Ginny fought the urge to let out her breath and instead, buried her head in Harry’s shoulder, blocking out the world and letting him take the burden of worry from her.
Ginny blinked her eyes and found herself alone under the tree. Sunlight filtered through the canopy of pine limbs above, swaying slightly in an early morning breeze. The chill of the night had gone, but so had Harry and she once again fought away the fear that so easily seemed to capture her.
Swallowing down a lump of anxiety, she sat up awkwardly under the lowest branch and brushed pine straw from her skirt and blouse. A movement caught her attention and she froze, staring at the form until it approached her hiding place. Harry walked cautiously over to the tree and expertly ducked under the branch.
“Oh, hello,” he said with a wide smile. “I was hoping that you wouldn’t wake up until I got back.” In his hands were two cracked, but functional mugs. “I’m sorry if I frightened you.”
“I wasn’t scared,” she said unconvincingly. “It’s just that...”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said, handing her a mug.
She was pleased to discover it full of warm oatmeal with a small wooden spoon sticking out the top. “Harry? Where on earth did you get this?”
“Oh...about that...” he said, rubbing his head in thought. “I, uh...found this cabin about a mile from here...”
“A cabin? Wasn’t there anyone inside?”
“Not exactly...” he said with a shrug. “You see, there was someone there, but they left; so I borrowed these mugs, and some oatmeal, and the spoons, and...”
“Harry?” interrupted Ginny, smiling at his rambling. “It’s wonderful,” she said as she took a heaping spoonful of the delicious food and began gulping it down.
“I was just afraid of taking too many things and having them notice,” he said, licking his spoon clean. “It would be just our luck to get caught by the Muggle police for burglary and have the Death Eaters be the first ones to catch wind of it.”
“Well, they shouldn’t miss a couple of old mugs and spoons, right?” said Ginny with confidence.
Harry grinned sheepishly and took another bite of oatmeal.
After they finished, Harry took her mug and spoon and offered to help her out from underneath tree. “Did you get the backpack from the cabin too?” she asked, pointing to the bag he was putting their dishes into.
“Er...yeah,” he said with a shrug. “And the water bottles and apples....”
Ginny put her hands on her hips and cocked her head to the side. “I think they’re going to notice that something’s missing, don’t you?”
Harry zipped up the pack nervously after pulling out the water bottles. He handed one to her and said, “You know you look just like your mother when you do that?”
“Do I?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye, unscrewing the cap on her bottle.
“Absolutely,” he said, taking a swig of water. Then wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt, said, “We needed the supplies and I only took what I had to.”
Ginny pulled at her bottle, savoring the cool water and put the cap back on. “Well, if we get caught because of your little bout of kleptomania, you can’t claim superior intellect as part of your rescue technique.”
“Hah!” cackled Harry. “I’ll have you know that everything I do is carefully calculated to get us safely back to the Burrow.”
A twinge of sadness passed over Ginny with the mention of her home. It seemed like an age since she’d been there, and she realized for the first time how wonderful a safe home was. Breaking free of the melancholy, she quipped, “I’ll believe that when I see it, Harry Potter.”
He screwed his face up in mock hurt, stabbing at his heart dramatically. “Thou woundest me, fair maiden.”
“Right,” she said with a laugh. “So what’s the plan for getting us saved then?”
“I saw a phone book in the cabin from the Taunton region, so I assume we’re somewhere in that area.” He looked around the sky, as if to gauge the sun’s angle and said, “So if we head west, we should run into the M5, or the A358, depending on which side of Taunton we’re on.”
“Taunton?” said Ginny, a surge of hope running through her. “We should go south, not west,” she said, pulling on Harry’s hand. “It’ll take us towards Churchstanton and if we’re lucky, Ottery St. Catchpole.”
Harry pulled a little on her hand to get her to turn around. “And what’s so great about Churchstanton?”
“My aunt lives there,” she said, flicking her tousled hair out of her face. “At the very least, we could use her place to Floo back to The Burrow.” Ginny pulled her arm again and Harry fell into step behind her.
“All right...but I just hope that Voldemort’s crew hasn’t already thought of that...”
Ginny pushed that thought out of her head as they trudged south. As much as she liked having Harry in the lead, this was territory that was at least somewhat familiar to her. Aunt Jeanie was her favorite aunt and as the sun climbed higher into the sky, Ginny smiled as her thoughts drifted to memories of playing in the River Culm with charmed flowers floating around her head.
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