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              The gang headed down to Hagrid’s after supper, taking with them some food for Keilana. They found Keilana lying in front of the fireplace with a large book and a white wolf.

              “Hey, Commodore,” Harry exclaimed, almost forgetting his half-sister. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”

              Keilana placed the book gently a nearby table. “He migrated with his mate.”

              “You have a mate?” Harry said in surprise, scratching Commodore behind the ears.

              “And three babies.” Keilana picked up a spotted brown and white pup and brought her into the light. “Ain’t she cute?”

              “Lily-Anne ....”

              Keilana blinked innocent hazel eyes. “Yes, Harrison?”

              “What happened to you?”

              “You’re the one who told me to use my Lily form.” Her dark auburn hair fell in glossy waves about her shoulders, glowing gold in the firelight. The gold in the green of her eyes sparkled impishly. She was slightly shorter, now a little closer to Luna’s size, and slightly less graceful-looking. “Don’t you like it?”

              “It’s different. Last time you tried it, you looked a lot more like Ginny. It’s definitely different from that.”

              Keilana’s face had clouded.

              “Different in a good way,” Harry assured her, laughing.

              Hermione offered the basket to the younger girl. “We brought you dinner. You know, just in case you couldn’t eat Hagrid’s food.”

              “Thanks,” Keilana laughed. Harry was taken off guard by the warm delight on her Lily-like face. She looked so much like their mother that Harry was obliged to turn his gaze away.

              “I guess this means that you’re showing your age now,” Ginny spoke up.

              “Whatever do you mean?”

              “You looked like a seventh-year before,” Luna said. “Now you look younger than us.”

              “I am younger than you,” Keilana replied, squealing over the caramel sponge cake in the basket. “I’m exactly a year younger than Ginny.” She closed her eyes in ecstasy as she chewed the cake. After a moment, she opened her eyes and looked around. “Where’s Draco?”

              “We don’t know,” Hermione finally said. “He hasn’t gotten back since he and Harry went to rescue you.”

              Worry immediately crept into Keilana’s expression. “Do you know if he’s all right?”

              Luna held up a vibrance crystal. “Well, he’s alive.”

              There was a flash of silver inside the crystal. Keilana winced and turned quickly to Luna with petrified eyes.

              “What was that?”

              “Transformation. Can you feel him?”

              Keilana closed her eyes and concentrated hard. While the face was different, the expression was very familiar. Harry relaxed a little in the presence of this new Keilana. Her eyes popped open and she headed for the door, saying over her shoulder:

              “He’s coming.”

              It was only a few minutes before Draco appeared, frantically flapping his leathery wings. He transformed back about fifteen feet in the air, and he landed in the grass at Keilana’s feet. He pulled himself up slowly, looking at her through slitted dragon eyes. He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed tightly, then collapsed in a heap at her feet.

***




              “Sincerely, Harry Potter,” Harry finished reading his letter of challenge aloud to his audience. The Hospital Wing was quiet. Draco was lying on one of the beds, holding an icepack over his eyes. Keilana sat close at his side, holding his free hand in both of her smaller ones.

              “ ‘Sincerely’?” Hermione said from where she and Ron were leaning against the window sill. Ron had his arm around her, and Hermione leaned into his side. Harry suppressed his jealousy and nodded.

              “Should I sign it differently?”

              “Well, Harry, he’s killed millions of innocent people. ‘Sincerely’ is hardly a way to sign off.”

              Luna was sitting on the bed opposite Draco and Keilana. She was leaning against the wall; Ginny was lying on her back next to her, staring at the ceiling. Tiffany and Neville occupied the bed next to them. Dean and Seamus were leaning against beds of their own. Parvati leaned against the wall next to Ron’s side of the window.

              “Just my name, then? Anything besides that?”

              “Call ’im a git,” Seamus crowed.

              Harry snickered. “Can’t. Too informal.”

              Laughter filled the Hospital Wing. Madame Pomfrey walked in with a fresh potion for Draco, and Harry opened the window to call Hedwig. Neville laid their plans out on the bed. He explained them and looked around.

              “Everyone understand what we’re doing?”

              Draco swung his legs over the side of the bed. “I’ll talk to my housemates.”

              “I’ll talk to ours,” Tiffany said, studying the empty bottle Poppy now held. They left together, discussing the potion Draco had just taken. Luna and Parvati left behind them, heading for the Ravenclaw dorms.

              “Harry,” Ginny said, getting up, “can I talk to you?”

              He picked his hat up off the window sill and stepped out of the Hospital Wing behind her. Ginny led him to a quiet courtyard before finally stopping to look at him. Her hand lay clenched at her breastbone. Harry recognized the chain as the one attached to the Shield Pendant. He stopped a good three feet away.

              “What is it, Ginny?”

              “You’re going to go out there tomorrow and challenge the most powerful Dark Wizard in the world to a one-on-one duel,” she said softly, “and you’re acting like it’s a tea party.”

              “If I acted terrified, wouldn’t that just scare you more?”

              Ginny looked away. “W-who says I’m scared? I just don’t want him to win. That’s all.”

              “Of course.” Harry wanted nothing more than to reach out and touch her cheek. But he couldn’t touch her skin, not when she was actually touching the Seeing Stone. “I’m not gonna lose, Ginny.”

              She looked back at him, her eyes brimming with The Glow. “How can I know that, Harry? How can I know that you’re gonna walk away tomorrow, unharmed and alive?”

              “What makes you think I’m gonna be unharmed?”

              Ginny practically stomped her foot. “Harry, you’re not helping!”

              Harry closed his eyes tightly, inhaling her honeysuckle scent. Oh, to Hell with it. He threw up a mental shield and wrapped his arms around her. “Ginny, I love you. Nothing in the world will change that. I will walk away from it tomorrow, and I will come back to you.”

              Ginny would have believed him. But she barely heard his words. His cold cheek was pressed against her warm one, and The Glow was swirling through them both. She screwed her eyes shut, trying to shut out the images. But it was no use.

              “I don’t love you. I’ve never loved you.”

              Hatred filled Harry’s face as he moved toward her. Ginny stood trembling, unable to respond. Tears dripped off her chin as Harry got closer.

              “Did you think I would save you if you followed me?”

              Ginny’s voice caught in her throat, a sob shook her body. “Harry, please ....”

              “What did you say?” he hissed quietly into her ear. “Hmm? Are you going to beg for your life?”

              He touched her cheek with the back of his hand. Ginny could feel the magic draining out of her. Harry drew his hand back and struck her across the face.

              Ginny’s knees buckled, and she fell to the stone pavement, sobbing. Harry was immediately on his knees next to her.

              “Ginny, what is it? Oh, Merlin, I’m so sorry. What did I say?”

              She grabbed at his robes, clutching desperately. She was sobbing loudly now, and Harry grabbed her by the shoulder, alarmed.

              “Ginny, what is it?” he asked more urgently, his voice growing high-pitched.

              “Just―” She gasped and swallowed hard and looked intently into his darkened green eyes. “Just win tomorrow, okay?”

          She got up and ran from the courtyard.

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