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When they reached the Great Hall the last of the other groups were filing in as well. The desks that had been repaired had been cleared and returned to their rightfuls rooms. The long House tables had been arranged in their proper places. The hour-glasses for House point standings had been repaired, the emerald and ruby jewels back inside the glass. The chairs and benches were all standing properly. Everything about the castle looked as it should.

The Weasleys were grouping together near the head table with Professor McGonagall. Harry and his group walked over to join them. "Oh, there you are,” Mrs. Weasley said as they joined the rest. “We were wondering where you lot had gone off to.”

“We got caught up in a side project,” Ginny covered smoothly. Harry had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling. Ron wasn’t so inconspicuous and sniggered at Harry’s exspense.

As soon as everyone from all the groups checked in Professor McGonagall stepped up to the podium and made a short speech thanking everyone for their help and invited them to stay for a simple supper of stew and bread with chocolate mousse for pudding. They all sat at the House tables, Professors included, and mixed and mingled. The food was warm and hearty and Harry was thankful for that. Mrs. Weasley was still watching Ginny and Harry like a hawk but she didn’t look mad so that, at least, seemed like a good sign. Harry was only half listening to the conversation around him, in which McGonagall, Flitwick, Shacklebolt and Hermione were the key participants, about the problems they were having with the school’s web of protective charms. Harry was too distracted by Ginny and most of what they were discussing was beyond Harry’s knowledge. Harry did find it amusing that Kingsley was surprised to see Hermione was doing more than keeping up with the topic but also had some valid ideas on how to repair the fallen security. That was really the most Harry got out of the exchange because shortly afterward Ginny began to lick the chocolate mousse off of her spoon in a way that he found highly distracting.

“Professor?” Harry approached McGonagall when they were all done eating, had forgone the tables and gone back to mingling.

“Hmm? Oh, what can I do for you, Mister Potter?” McGonagall asked, turning around to face Harry.

“I was just wondering, well I noticed you had already fixed the gargoyle guarding the entrance to your office and I was wondering if, in your office you happened to find the memory in the Pensieve? I-I left it there so you could see, maybe to help you understand,” Harry rambled in run-on sentences. Minerva McGonagall’s face had turned grim. She gently laid a hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“Yes, Harry, I saw it. I figured that you had put it there when Kingsley had told me of your petition to have Severus’ portrait hung in the office. I knew it would take something as powerful as that memory to change your opinion of him.”

“Did you know?”

“Did I know the best of Severus Snape?” she asked and Harry nodded. “No, I never knew. It wasn’t his way. It was never Albus’ way to break promises either, when Severus asked him to keep his secret it was a promise that he knew would be kept.”

Harry nodded his head in understanding. “Do you think that I could, er, that is to say, do you think it would be better if we kept the memories in your office or…?”

“No, Harry, I think Severus meant for you to have it. You’re more than welcome to go up and retrieve it. It’s still in the Pensieve. Password is Fawkes.”

“Thank you, Professor,” Harry said as she gave his shoulder a squeeze then let him go. Her attention was immediately taken up by some of the other students asking questions regarding school in the fall. Harry turned to tell the Weasleys where he would be and that he would be right back. Ginny was just getting up to join Harry when someone else volunteered to accompany him upstairs.

“I’ll go with you, Harry. I wanted to talk to you anyway,” George added flippantly as he got up from the table. Most of the Weasleys exchanged worried glances. Harry, himself, shared one with Ginny.

“Erm, yeah, sure that’d be great,” Harry wasn’t sure what to expect. They walked through the throng of people in the Great Hall and were soon out into the quiet corridors of the castle. It was a walk in silence because whatever it was that George had to say was taking some time to build up the courage to say.

“Hello, fellow Gryffindors!”

“Hello, Sir Nicholas,” Harry and George returned the greeting.

“Say, have you seen where the Grey Lady is?”

“She’s in the Great Hall visiting the Ravenclaws,” George answered.

“Thank you very much!” the ghost said, nodding his head ever so slightly causing it to wobble dangerously on his severed neck. “Oh, by the way, I’d avoid the corridor by Charms, Peeves is flinging ink pellets at anyone unfortunate enough to happen by.”

“Thanks, Nick,” Harry said and they went their separate ways. It wasn’t until they were definitely out of earshot that George finally broached the subject that Harry knew was coming.

“Look, Harry, I, er, I’m sorry about what I said to you. I know it wasn’t your fault. Fred did know the risks,” George said, watching his feet as he walked. “I shouldn’t have blamed you, I don’t know why I did. If it wasn’t for you we’d probably all be dead. I don’t know what came over me,” George shook his head sadly.

“I do,” Harry told him which made George finally look at Harry. “When Sirius was killed I didn’t want to believe it. When I knew he really wasn’t coming back I was upset and angry. I was angry at Dumbledore for not telling me the truth, angry at Bellatrix for killing him, angry at anyone who’d dare call Sirius reckless even though I knew in my heart it was true; I was angry at Sirius for leaving me, but mostly I was mad at myself. I was mad that I couldn’t have saved him. I felt so stupid that I’d fallen for the trap. I couldn’t understand why it had to be him. Why couldn’t it have been me instead? I was so angry at myself I took it out on anyone around me. I felt guilty for having lived when he died. It felt wrong to live, wrong to laugh, wrong to find happiness. Why should I be able to when he no longer could? It all felt so wrong to go on living.”

“How, er,” George cleared his throat and wiped a stray tear from his cheek. They stopped walking, they were in front of the stone gargoyle. George took a shaky breath. “How do you…does it always hurt this much?” George pleaded to Harry as he began crying openly and unashamedly. George’s shoulders shook with grief, with the strength of his sobs. Harry put his hand on George’s arm to offer some kind of physical comfort.

“I can’t imagine how much you are hurting right now,” Harry really couldn’t. The closest he could come would be likened to losing Ron but so much worse because Fred and George were connected not just since they were born, but even before that. “The only thing you can do,” Harry went on, “is honour his memory. Think about what you would want for him if it was the other way ‘round. Think about what he would want for you. I can’t see Fred wanting you to lose your sense of humour or your penchant for mischief. He’d want you to find peace, he’d want you to be successful , he’d want everything for you that he’d wish for himself. He’d want you to be happy, George, I really believe that.” George nodded his head as he used the heels of his hands to blot his eyes. “Finding that happiness isn’t something anybody expects you to achieve overnight. It takes time, a little bit more every day until you feel almost like normal. Even then, sometimes you’ll feel okay and somebody will broadside you with a mention or a memory will be triggered by an object that reminds you, you have to try and not let the grief consume you.” George was gaining control over his emotions and was truly listening to Harry. “One of the hardest parts I had to convince myself of was that it was okay for me to enjoy life. That I could be happy and that I didn’t have to feel guilty about it. Ginny helped me understand that.”

“Speaking of Ginny,” George said after a sniff; Harry cringed inwardly and was sorry he had mentioned her, “what is going on between you two?”

“Er,” Harry wasn’t sure if he should answer or how to for that matter.

“I’m only asking because Mum was pestering me at supper,” George said stonily.

“Fawkes,” Harry gave the password and they went up the stone spiral staircase as Harry stalled to answer. “What did you tell her?”

“That maybe she should ask you two, after all, I haven’t been around. So, what is going on? Don’t say nothing because it’s obvious that something is. I saw it last year even when everyone was so busy planning for the wedding and all, it’s even more obvious now.” Harry was watching George for any sign of anger but his face only read as curiosity on the surface and beneath it a shroud of continuing grief.

“Well, it’s kind of complicated,” Harry wasn’t sure how to explain.

“It’s okay, Harry. I won’t be mad. What I said to you before, about staying away from her, I didn’t mean it. It was just that, well, Ginny’s always liked you and I guess I was only thinking that she would only get hurt.”

“That’s just it. I’m so afraid that she’ll be hurt by someone trying to get to me,“ Harry told him. “I mean, we dated for a bit at Hogwarts but then I knew it wouldn’t be safe so I broke it off so she wouldn’t become a target because of me. Now that Voldemort’s dead and the war is over I think we’re ready to make a go of it again. Breaking it off with her was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I don’t like seeing Ginny in pain, knowing that I was the cause of that pain was killing me, but the alternative was to put her in greater danger. If something happened to her,” Harry’s chest got tight at just the thought, “if she were to get hurt, if Death Eaters were to get a hold of her…it’s one of my biggest fears.”

“Weren’t you the one who was just saying we should live our lives the way the people who love us would want us to? You can’t live in fear, Harry. I know you’ll keep Ginny safe. Just answer me this; do you love her?”

“Yes, I love her so much just the thought of living without her pains me. I’m not complete without her. She’s my reason for living,” Harry answered. The last part brought a wry grin to his face. Ginny really was the main reason he was living, she was his reason for coming back.

“If that’s how you really feel then the other stuff shouldn’t matter. Concentrate on all the good things, not the bad stuff, the rest will work itself out. The good should outway the bad not the other way ‘round,” George said.

“Exactly,” Harry grinned. It took a second for George to realize what Harry had got him to say.

“Point taken,” George said shaking his head with a small grin at Harry’s cleverness.

“Mind if I ask you a question?”

“Technically you just did,” George said flatly but with a look of mischief in his eyes that Harry hadn’t seen in a while. “What’s your question?”

“Angelina?”

“Yeah, she’s really been there for me. I don’t know how I’d have gotten through any of this without her. She knows when to push me to get me to keep going on, she knows when to go easy on me, we’ve been a shoulder to cry on for each other. She’s been a real good friend to me,” George said trying to explain with words how Angelina was helping him heal and get through the grieving process. Harry nodded his understanding. “So, what are we here for?” George walked into the Headmaster’s office.

“A memory,” Harry said simply. He walked further into the office towards where the Pensive was. The office still contained most of Dumbledore’s magical instruments but there was definitely a touch of McGonagall in the office now. Harry was aware of the portraits of the past Headmasters on the walls, several were sleeping, some were pretending to sleep but most were watching and listening unashamedly. One of the Headmasters watching them quietly was Dumbledore. George was looking around curiously at all the whirring and clacking instruments and when he finally spotted Dumbledore’s portrait he stood looking at it agape.

“Dumbledore!” it was a statement of surprise from George, not a question or a greeting, but Albus’ likeness responded just the same.

“Good evening, Mr. Weasley,” he said in quiet but friendly voice, tipping his head to George. “I was wondering when you might find your way back here, Harry,” he stated, looking at Harry over his half-moon spectacles.

“Just came to retrieve something, sir,” Harry said calmly, casually, nodding in greeting. Then Harry spotted it. A new portrait on the wall a few feet from Dumbledore’s, it’s occupant sleeping soundly with their head resting on the lab table they were seated at. Should Harry wake him? If he did what would he say to him? Harry’s feelings towards the man were so mixed. Bitter towards each other until the end, it wasn’t until after he had died that Harry knew what kind of man Severus Snape was.

Complicated, he was complicated in every sense of the word. Snape had done a lot of bad deeds, horrible things, terrible actions and decisions. Severus, Harry reminded himself, had also saved Harry’s and several other’s lives; for that Harry would always be thankful. It didn’t excuse Snape for all he had done but in a way at least he had tried to atone for his actions, he repented, he remorsed. Harry now knew why Snape had treated him so spitefully, Harry resembled his father too much. That fact made Harry wonder how things would have been between them if Snape had seen more of Lily in him. Would he have hated Harry so much? Would he have saved Harry because he cared for him and not just because he felt obligated to protect Lily’s son? What strange twist of fate had made Severus Snape fall in love with Lily Evans and what had made her fall in love with James Potter? How would Harry feel if the love of his life fell for his nemesis? What would that do to his soul if Ginny fell for someone like Draco Malfoy? Then to lose her to the clutches of death? It would tear him apart, Harry knew. Would he have the strength to turn around from such a dark place to do the right thing? Would he be able to put his life on the line, his honour, his pride to walk the thin line of being a double agent after losing his heart? Harry knew he could never answer these questions. All of this crossed his mind as he stared at the portrait of Severus Snape. The portrait that he himself had requested be hung in the Headmaster’s office.

“Harry, hello, Earth to Harry,” George said waving his hand in front of Harry’s face. George’s voice was loud enough to wake some of the occupants of the portraits including Snape whose head shot up off the desk so quickly it was as if he’d been woken witrh a stinging hex. “Didn’t you say we came up here to retrieve something?”

“Yeah, erm, yes. Sorry, George,” Harry said shaking himself out of his reverie. Before he turned away Harry caught the full attention of Snape’s gaze. Snape said nothing, his eyes curious and inquisitive. Harry nodded his head and gave a half smile. It was all Harry could think of to do. Snape responded to the gesture with a nod of his own, albeit a very curt one.

Harry turned his attention back to George and the task at hand. When he reached the Pensieve Harry drew his wand and conjured a new flask to contain the collection of memories that were still swirling in their misty silver-blue form in the magical basin.

“Hey, isn’t that your mum?” George asked as he spotted a fraction of the memory by the lake.

“Yeah, it is,” Harry stated solemnly as he collected the swirling memories with his wand and deposited them into the flask. He stoppered it, wax sealed it, and put a protection charm on the bottle just in case. Without a backward glance they left the office.

When Harry and George returned back downstairs Ron and Hermione were at the base of the stairs. Most of the group of witches and wizards that helped with the reconstruction were milling about and catching up with friends. Harry looked around for Ginny, he didn’t spot her, or Mrs. Weasley for that matter, anywhere.

“Hey, guys,” Harry greeted his two best friends. “Where’s Ginny?”

“Actually we, er, when we couldn’t find her we thought she might be with you,” Hermione said with a blush to Harry, glancing cautiously at George.

“No, she didn’t come with us. When was the last time someone saw her?” George asked, concern evident in his voice, his brows pinching together in worry.

“I don’t see your mum either,” Harry pointed out, still scanning the crowd as they walked into the Great Hall. They did find Arthur and Percy talking with Kingsley and Minerva.

“Hey, Dad”

“Hmm, yes, Ron?”

“Did you happen to see where Mum and Ginny went?”

“They were escorting a group that were a little unsure of their way around the castle to the loo. They should’ve been back by now though,” Arthur began scanning the crowd as well.

“Should I raise the alarm?” McGonagall offered.

“Not just yet, Minerva. I think maybe they just--” Arthur’s words were cut off by a heart breaking cry.

“My daughter, they’ve taken her! Please, help! Let me go! I have to help her!” A panicked Molly Weasley was being carried in by Slughorn and Seamus. Her cries were like a stab at Harry’s heart. He rushed to her side right along with all the Weasleys and Hermione.

“Filius, Hagrid, guard the front entrance. Do what you can to get the wards back in place!” McGonagall ordered.

“Dawlish, Murray, go with them,” Shacklebolt ordered quickly and the Auror’s ran to catch up to the proffesors.

“Molly, what happened?” Arthur Weasley asked his wife as he sat beside her on the bench.

“Death Eaters, they came in from one of the corridors, rushed us. We barely had a chance to defend ourselves,” she said breathlessly between hiccups and sobs. Two wizards carried in Dean Thomas who was unconscious, a gash on his forehead trickling blood.

“What were they after? Did they make any demands?” Kingsley asked the group coming in.

“They didn’t make any demands, they just attacked,” Cho Chang said as she sat heavily next to a witch Harry could only assume was her mother.

“Did they say anything?”

“Not that I can recall,” Seamus said. “They seemed rather determined to get to us though.”

“Honestly, Minister, I don’t think they were expecting such a fight. It was as if they were waiting for a group such as ours to break off so they could attack. If these kids didn’t know how to fight so well we’d probably all be dead,” Slughorn pointed out as he sat on a bench still trying to catch his breath, the buttons of his waistcoat straining with each puff.

“We can thank Harry for that,’ Cho said, “he taught us. Dumbledore’s Army.”

“Who was closest to Ginny?” Harry asked, ignoring Cho’s praise.

“Dean,” Molly answered between sobs, “she was covering the back with him while Horace and I took the front. I should have been there to protect her! I should have-” Molly broke down in earnest burying her face in Arthur’s chest.

“Cho and I each took up flank. When they had us surrounded they came ‘round to the back. Ginny and Dean took the brunt of it. Ginny was amazin', she disarmed two of them and injured three 'fore they broke through our defenses,” Seamus explained.

“How many were there?” Harry demanded. “Did you see what they looked like?”

“Looked to be about ten of 'em, I can’t be sure, everythin' happened so fast,” Seamus said finally sitting down, his limbs shaking, the weight of what had happened finally sinking in.

“We couldn’t see their faces, they wore Death Eater’s masks and robes,” Cho said.

“What about their voices, did you recognize any of their voices?” Harry pleaded. He was grasping at straws, he knew, but there had to be something, some clue, that would help them find Ginny. He felt like his world was crumbling down around him. He had to do something. His wand was held firmly in his hand, twitching at his side, anxious for action.

Ennervate,” Kingsley revived Dean and they waited for him to catch his bearings. He started violently when he first awoke.

“Ginny!” Dean yelled as Seamus and Slughorn moved to restrain him. He looked around, panting, trying to understand where he was and who he was surrounded by. They told him he was safe and he calmed down.

“Mr. Thomas,” McGonagall addressed him, “it’s very important for you to tell us what you remember. Did you see or hear anything that would help us understand what the Death Eaters were after?”

“What they were after?” Dean said a little dazed still. Madam Pomfrey was tending to the gash on his head and he waved her off. “They…they were after her, they came for her.” Dean said it with such conviction it made Harry’s stomach clench and plummet in tandem.

“What makes you so sure that’s what they came for?” Kingsley asked.

“When they had us cornered the Death Eater in front of us said to the other ones, ‘it’s her, the one we came for,’ and they came at us so fast. I tried to-to…but there were so many and, and I tried, believe me, Harry, I tried,” Dean stammered.

“I know, Dean,” Harry heard himself say, his voice sounding rather hollow in his own ears. If only he’d been there he would’ve been able to protect her.

“I don’t understand,” Kingsley said, “why would they target Ginny?” Like a shot to the heart a terrible dread filled Harry, immense guilt beyond what he could deal with. Wasn’t this exactly why he had broken it off with Ginny last year?

“Me,” Harry collapsed, surprised to fall onto the bench he didn’t know he had backed up to, “it’s because of me.”

“No, Harry,” Hermione said, shaking her head with tears glistening in her eyes. “This isn’t your fault.” Harry wished he could believe her but he couldn’t.

“Yes, it is Hermione! Why else would they have taken her?! Why, specifically, would they take her?” Harry yelled.

“I-I…,” Hermione couldn’t answer, he didn’t expect her to.

“Minister, you better come look at this!” Flitwick called out from the doorway.

Harry was the first to make it to Flitwick who had returned to the Entrance Hall door. He looked up to the sky where Flitwick was pointing. Up above the grounds was the Dark Mark glowing vivid green against the now darkened sky. Then Harry saw why it was imperitive that Kingsley see the familiar symbol in the sky. Below the foreboding skull and serpent were the letters P.B.M.

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