Chapter Seventy




Harry stalked forward with purpose. His thoughts indignant and righteously furious as he clutched the Marauders Map tight in his fist. He'd have to magically smooth out all of the wrinkles from it later but in that moment he couldn't be bothered by the damage he'd inflicted on the priceless parchment heirloom.

He wasn't daft. Ginny had been distant after their tiff in the alcove behind the tapestry. Where they'd… gotten off.

He supposed that all of his secrets were really starting to take their toll where Ginny was concerned. She'd been so amazing, always so patient with him and his holdups on the matter even after he'd promised her that he'd tell her everything soon. And how does he repay that patience and understanding? He's still hesitant to tell her anything even after he promised… even after he made her promise in return to stay out of the war when it came down to the fight.

He was an arse.

He didn't deserve her.

Harry huffed. He felt the overwhelming urge to hit something. Which was exactly the reason why he'd gotten the Marauder's Map in the first place…

To find something to hit.

Or, rather, someone to hit.

To better get his bearings on where he needed to go, he once again opened the map, creases marred all over the page. With his keen attention, it didn't take him long to find exactly what he was looking for, and Harry strode out through the front door of the castle. With his abrupt stride,he made it out to the snowy grounds in no time at all, the map directing his way to the tree by the Black Lake. His eyes never strayed from the dot on the page as his feet blindly led the way without the help of his ocular senses.

It was as he got closer to his objective was when the creature in his chest reared its ugly head, wanting to claw its way up his throat in order to roar in its fury. Harry looked up from the map, seeing out in front of him for the first time since he left the castle walls.

"Malfoy!" Harry thundered as soon as he spotted the white-haired git just as he was preparing to toss a flat rock at the dark water - Crabbe and Goyle were standing by and shuffling their feet, looking either bored or confused.

Malfoy's head whipped in his direction at the sound of his name. When he saw that it was Harry who had called him, he sneered and looked slyly over at Crabbe and Goyle. "Well, if it isn't Scarhead Potter, gents. I wonder if-"

But he wasn't able to finish. As Harry stepped right past Crabbe and Goyle and shoved Malfoy roughly, nearly making him fall backward into the freezing water.

"Oy!" Goyle's deep voice yelled as he made a grab at him but Harry simply waved a hand in his direction and his meaty arm froze straight in the air before it could even touch him. He didn't care that he was showing an unnecessary amount of unforeseen power as his gaze never left from the ferret in front of him. Harry wanted Malfoy to see his magical power. He wanted Malfoy to be terrified of him.

Harry was determined to get what he wanted.

He grabbed at Malfoy's cloak with both fists and pulled him closer menacingly. "Where do you get off, Malfoy?"

Draco glared up at him, his grey eyes looked murderous. He would've looked every bit of the Death Eater that Harry believed him to be if he wasn't in such a sorry state. "What could you possibly be referring to, Potter?"

Harry tightened his grip on the fabric of Malfoy's cloak. Harry could see it in the ponce's eyes… he knew exactly what Harry was referring to. He was just biding for time, trying to find a way to slither his way out of this, just like the snake that he was. "Don't play daft, Malfoy. Ginny told me what you asked her to do."

A hint of amusement coloured the git's features. Harry hated the sight of it. "Told you, did she? And did that make you insecure, Potter? To know that she gave my offer serious consideration?"

Despite himself, Harry's grip loosened slightly in his surprise. He'd been prepared for Malfoy to continue denying the truth, not own up to it. And worse, the confidence that Malfoy spoke with… did Ginny really give Malfoy's offer a second glance? Did she think for a second that money was worth leaving him for? Did she- Wait, no… no, what was he thinking? This was Ginny.

"You're lying…"

Malfoy's smirk only grew. "And why would I lie about that? When it is so obvious to everyone that Ginny Weasley deserves far better than the likes of you."

Harry was frozen.

"I mean, have you seen her? Great Salazar, her looks alone outmatch you but then add in the fact you're only a half-blood," Malfoy shook his head in both dismay and disgust. "Then you have to account for her natural power, intellect, and wit… all of which you do not possess, Potter."

His words were adding fuel to the flame that was Harry's deepest insecurities when it came to his relationship with Ginny… he knew that his blood status wasn't even a consideration when it came to Ginny, she simply didn't care about that. But… Ginny was so beautiful. Far out of Harry's league. And she was so smart and passionate and… she was good with other people, a social butterfly when others allowed her to be. While Harry was just… awkward. There were so many talents that Ginny possessed that outmatched Harry's own ability in every way. And in his most brooding moods, when he was feeling particularly down, he wondered what it was exactly that she saw in him. It was one thing to think these things in private, tucked away in his own thoughts, but it was an entirely other thing to actually hear them spoken at him aloud.

Harry shook his head against the creeping doubt. But one look at Draco distracted him from his self-deprecating thoughts. It was something in the gleam of Draco's eyes that struck Harry - something that he saw in himself when he looked in the mirror... He gasped as he recognised it. "By Merlin… you fancy her!"

Harry felt as though he could laugh if the idea wasn't so horrendously awful to think about. Here, this entire time, Harry thought that Draco was merely messing with Ginny for nefarious reasons - to try and get to Harry. He even suspected that Malfoy lusted after Ginny and was trying to worm his way into her head.

Never before would he have guessed that Malfoy actually liked Ginny.

The thought was just… mad. But here was the evidence, right before his eyes.

Draco Malfoy fancied Ginny Weasley.

It was written all over his face.

And to his credit, Draco didn't deny it. Instead he jutted out his chin and glared defiantly at Harry. "So what if I do? We are obviously a better match than the likes of you with her. Add on to the fact that you could never take care of her the way that I could."

"What the bloody hell are you going on about Malfoy? You always forget to account for Ginny's choice in all of-"

"Ginny's 'choice' won't matter if she is dead. Which she will likely end up being if she stays together with you."

For the second time in the matter of minutes, Malfoy rendered him speechless. This wasn't going at all to how he planned it. He wanted to knock Malfoy's teeth in, not listen to Malfoy speak to Harry's doubts and insecurities in his relationship with Ginny.

When Harry didn't say anything, Draco continued. "You are Dumbledore's man. The figurehead for the light. Ginny… she can't afford to be associated with that. You are putting her at risk, Potter."

A low buzzing sound burned in his eardrum as the words replayed themselves in his mind. He was suddenly nauseous. It striked at his deepest fears since the start of his relationship with Ginny. Draco was vocalizing every concern that Harry had ever had when it came down to her safety. It was daunting to hear them pass through someone else's lips other than his own, especially from Draco Malfoy - whom Harry heavily suspected was already a Death Eater. It made the words all the more real.

Was Harry really putting her at risk? Or was Malfoy speaking out of his arse? But no… it seemed as though Malfoy knew what he was talking about. His eyes, as much as Harry wanted to deny it, seemed earnest as he relayed this information. As though he were desperate for Harry to understand since Ginny had already denied him his request. Was there something that Draco knew that Harry didn't? Did it have something to do with what he was up to in the Room of Requirement? Was the reason there was fear on Malfoy's face was that he could feel himself losing his grip on time? The only question was, what happened when the timer was up for Draco? Can Harry expect to stop it? And even more, how did Harry get Ginny out of the middle of it? He wanted her name out of Draco's mouth. He wanted her out of the git's brain.

Without any more thought, Harry reared his fist back and punched Draco right in that awful mouth of his.

"Agh!" He cried as his head jerked back in a snap from the impact. Crabbe and Goyle both struggled against their invisible restraints.

Harry tightened his hold on Draco's cloak to bring him close once again.

"Stay away from Ginny if you know what's good for you, Malfoy," Harry seethed out his threat before he released his hold on him, where Malfoy then fell to his knees. His lip was now torn on the bottom and was rapidly swelling. Harry didn't take the time to stick around. The git has already taken up too much of Harry's time and energy. He turned and started stalking off toward the castle, leaving Malfoy's sputtering behind.

"You're engraving her tombstone, Potter!" Draco yelled at his back, in between spitting out the blood that flowed from his broken lip. "You're killing her as though you used the killing curse on her, yourself!"

The only response that Harry gave was the insurmountable tightening of Harry's scraped fist and he continued his stride up the hill. Harry didn't need to hear any more of what Malfoy had to say. Because the seed of doubt was already planted…long before this encounter. Draco just happened to water it as reality hit him square in the face.

Harry knew what he had to do.

He just hoped that Ginny would understand.


Tap. Tap. Tap.

The end of her quill faintly sounded as she tapped it against the hard wood of the library table. Her eyes were surveying her written work so far, squinting in order to better see against the dull candle-light in their corner of the library. They were quite lucky that Nathanial was able to find such a private part of the library during its busiest hour. They were better able to chat back here away from the ears of Madam Pince and her incessant need for complete silence. And they needed to talk as a group in order to catch Ginny on the assignment that she missed.

So far, she could easily tell that without the help of the three Slytherin boys sitting around her, she wouldn't have gotten very far on the assignment at all. All due to Harry and his distracting tendencies…

After some time away from him, Ginny came to understand that she may have overreacted before when she got put out with him. Which was one of the reasons why she couldn't wait for later that night when she could sneak up to his dormitory so that she could make things right between them. Well… that as well as get up to some other new aspects of the physical side of their relationship.

Ginny pressed her thighs together underneath her skirt.

"You remembered to apply the casting theory to your thesis?" Finley piped up from his seat across the table from her. His words jarred her from the randy thoughts she was having of Harry's sweaty abdomen and she dropped the quill that she had been absentmindedly tapping in her freight.

"Wh-What? Oh, yes, I did. Thanks for better explaining it to me. How it was described in the text was rather muddied, wasn't it?"

Finley flashed her a wide, goofy smile at that and Ginny couldn't help but notice how young and boyish it made him look. "It was my pleasure! Anytime that you need help with your assignments, be sure to come my way."

Internally, Ginny frowned. Did he expect her to be this clueless with all of her assignments? Outwardly, she just gave him a tight smile.

Nathaniel scowled slightly as he looked at Finley and Mason chose that moment to pipe up, "O-Or, if we find that we need help with anything, uh, m-maybe we can come to you?"

Despite herself, Ginny found herself softening. Mason was a naturally shy boy and in many ways, he reminded her of Neville. "I guess it would depend on what you would need help with. I'm right rubbish at potions and Muggle studies."

All three boys immediately shook their heads but it was Nathanial that spoke. "I doubt it. I bet you're brilliant at whatever you put your mind to. I've seen the look of determination you have while riding a broom! I'm sure that if you applied that everywhere, then you'd-"


Nathaniel's comment immediately cut itself off as they all turned to see Harry approaching their table. All at once, the three Slytherin boys stiffened and Harry's eyes narrowed slightly as he surveyed the scene before him. Ginny recognised the look in her boyfriend by now…

Really? Harry was jealous? He knew that they were only working on a class assignment together.

Despite the deep tension that she felt in the air from the rising levels of testosterone, Ginny beamed at the sight of him. "Harry! What are you doing in the library without Hermione?" She teased.

A bit of surprise at her pleasant attitude overtook that suspicious gleam that he still held for the other three boys that sat in this library corner. Guilt gnawed at her as she was reminded of how unnecessarily harsh she was with him earlier.

"I was looking for you," Harry responded and was about to carry on some more but was cut off by the blonde boy that sat beside her.

"How did you even find us back here?" Nathaniel piped up, for some reason his voice was stressed and thin sounding. "I didn't think that anyone knew about this spot besides us."

Harry frowned even further at that comment as he stuffed a piece of old parchment paper into his back pocket that Ginny didn't notice before now. She immediately recognised it as the Marauder's Map.

"Knew she was in the library…" Harry said smoothly as he stared down Nathanial, both level and cool. Shivers went down Ginny's spine. "It honestly didn't take me long to find your secret hideout."

Nathaniel's cheeks flushed at that, it was as though Harry had admonished him like an authority figure to a child and everyone picked up on it.

Harry didn't waste much time continuing his stare at the boy and turned his gaze to Ginny, his eyes turning imploring. "You just about done, Gin?"

Ginny blinked. She could tell that something was off… wrong. It was in his stance. It was the withheld emotion in his deep green eyes.

"Uh, yeah. I can be."

In a rush, she started to pack her things. A bit too sloppily gathering everything and throwing it all in her knapsack. She'd sort out the mess of it later.

"Wait! What about making sure that you include-"

"I'm sure it will be fine." Ginny said breathless as she stood from her seat and rounded the table immediately, where she took those few strides right up to Harry and latched onto his hand tightly. She was reassured when he squeezed back. The tightness in her chest that she hadn't been aware of until then relaxed a bit. "Thanks again for all of your help."

Then, she left them. Let Harry drag her away. Let him lead her to wherever it was he deemed was necessary to go. She could tell that he was grateful for her immediate compliance, and she was glad that she was already helping to put him at ease with whatever stress he was dealing with.

He led her through the library, which was not nearly as crowded as it was hours earlier when she first arrived. He brought her out into the castle halls where she quickly found herself being brought to the nearest hidden alcove with a window to the outdoors that displayed the illuminated half-moon in the sky. The glow dispelled the need for the Lumos charm. There was also a built-in stone bench that sat up along the window. Ginny immediately went to take a seat but Harry hesitated behind her. She soon found out the reason why as she heard him mutter the muffliato charm wandlessly under his breath.

The charm gave her pause once again.

So it was that serious, huh?

She stared as he shuffled forward and sat stiffly next to her. His eyes were closed tightly underneath his glasses as he seemed to be in some sort of intense meditation. She let him work his way through it silently as her mind bustled with a million thoughts per minute.

She was worried. It had hit her the moment she was able to take in the hesitation that was palpable on his face earlier. But she knew that pressing matters has never gotten her anywhere in the past… she wasn't sure how to proceed. Definitely with caution… but what to say?

As she thought this, Harry finally released a heavy breath that he seemed to have been holding within him for some time. Some of the tension was released from his shoulders and he opened his eyes. There was both determination as well as resolve displayed there, at least, from what she could tell from the side-profile of his face. He wasn't looking at her. He continued to stare straight-forward. As though the open air was helping to organise his thoughts.

Then, finally, he spoke. "I-I think that I'm ready to talk to you about something…"

It was the gravity within his voice that told her exactly what it was that he was referring to. Her breath hitched. She didn't dare speak in order to not deter him. But she hoped that her eyes surveyed that he please continue, which he would see if he only just looked at her...

Harry swallowed heavily and looked down at his wrist. Her eyes followed his focus subconsciously. He let out a heavy sigh before he undid the button on his shirt sleeve and rolled it up his forearm. "I want to talk to you about this."

He turned his arm to face her and bleak understanding immediately overcame her as she came face to face with the mark that was scorched to the inside of Harry's wrist. It was an hourglass, that much she could determine. And she could tell that a bit of the sand has passed through the small opening to signify that time has passed…

What happened when the time was up? When all of the grains of sand had passed through the tiny opening? Her mouth felt suddenly dry, as though she had stuffed her mouth full of the wispy, cotton-feathers of a newborn Hippogriff.

That was when she felt his eyes on the side of her face. She forced her gaze away from the mark and up to his gaze and she realised that he was waiting for her to say something… to get her permission for him to share?

"You can tell me anything," She whispered unnecessarily. They were under the muffliato charm in a hidden alcove, after all.

"I know I can…" Harry muttered back, still seeming uncertain as he looked away to stare down at his wrist. His fingers came up to trace the shape of it in an absentminded manner. "But I'm almost wondering if you'd even want to know, you know? Isn't it better sometimes, not knowing?"

Ginny had to physically bite her tongue from the outburst that wanted to fight it's way through from deep within her chest. It wanted to scream, 'Of course I want to know! I love you! I want to know everything about you! The good, the bad, and the horrifying!'

Instead, she took a deep breath to calm herself. Her being calm usually helped allay his own anxieties. That she learned from experience so far from their relationship. "I suppose you're right… there's a chance that it could be better… depending on one's perspective. But for me, ignorance isn't bliss. It is it's own form of torture."

Harry frowned at the open air. "I don't want to cause you pain…"

Ginny scooted closer and grabbed a hold of his arm, wrapping herself tightly around it as she curled into his side. "Then tell me. Free us both from this madness. Once you get this off of your chest, it will make us both feel better, I just know it."

He was silent for a moment, staring out at nothing.


His entire body froze for a second before it sagged in complete surrender.

"...D-Do you remember Death from the tale of the three brothers?'"

Then, he told her everything.

He recounted to her what happened on the night after she left Potter Manor during the winter hols.

How Death came to visit him, how it wanted to take his family away from him while citing that Harry stole from Death.

How Harry came to the sudden idea of striking a bargain with Death - she very nearly cried out in protest that he shouldn't do such a thing, though she suspected it was too late…

How Death was intrigued by the offer and asked which souls Harry was willing to bargain for the lives of his family...

"...I told it I would only trade it one soul." Harry continued on, his voice sounded quite dry.

Ginny was squeezing tight onto her hold of his arm. She knew where this was going… perhaps it was better not knowing. She could hardly bear the thought of it, let alone hearing him confirm it aloud.

"I told it I would deliver it Voldemort's soul in exchange."

It was her worst fear being verbalized out in the open. She wanted to scream - in agony, in rage or in fear… she wasn't sure which at the moment. Nor did she think it was worth the effort on trying to figure out her most dominant emotion at the moment.

Harry seemed unaware of the internal battle that was waging within her, either that or he chose to ignore it, as he continued on as though he hadn't completely turned Ginny's world on its axis.

"It gave me a deadline in order to deliver. By my nineteenth birthday at the witching hour, Voldemort has to be dead by then or my parents and Sirius will be taken in his place. It then grabbed my wrist and burned this hour glass on me. As a reminder, I'm guessing… as if I could ever forget."

His voice sounded forlorn and bitter towards the end causing Ginny to subconsciously grip his arm tighter. She could feel the stress and worry coming off of him in waves, pouring over her as though those waves were a part of a hurricane. She could also tell that he was trying not to show this. He was always trying to protect her, even from his own anxiety. She wished that he wouldn't do that. He needed to confide in someone. This sort of thing was too much for one person to hold onto for themselves. It then dawned on her as she started counting…

It had been many weeks since the winter hols… since that fateful day Death came knocking at Harry's door...

"You've been keeping this secret all this time?"

She couldn't even imagine keeping this burdensome secret to herself for so long… How had he kept from going mad by not talking to someone about this?

But then, Harry shook his head. "No. I told Ron and Hermione."

It felt as though she had been kicked in the stomach. The hurt in her eyes must have been open to read on her face because immediately, Harry rushed to reassure her.

"I'm sorry. I know how you feel about that but you have to understand, I've confided in both of them for so long that it's just automatic at this point. We've stood together through so many life and death situations, I tend to rely on them. A bit too much, to be honest."

"I wish that you were able to rely on me in that way."

Harry sighed but then he reached forward to pluck her hand out of her lap before he set about placing it carefully on his own thigh. Then, he traced patterns on her fingers, causing gooseflesh to break out up her arm.

"You bring out a different side of me, Gin. A… protective side. Which was why for so long I wanted to keep you in the dark. It was for your protection."

This would normally set Ginny off but… at this point, she was just so tired. How many times had she fought against the very notion that Harry was speaking of now?

"I also wish that you knew that I don't need constant protection…" Ginny sighed.

A sigh escaped Harry as well as he picked her hand up to place a kiss on her palm before placing it back tendlerly on his thigh. "I know you do… that doesn't stop me from worrying though, Gin. I can't just turn it off no matter how much I try."

She met that with prolonged silence, not really knowing what to say to that. She couldn't very well ask him to stop worrying about her. Not when she had worked so hard for many years to tear down pieces of that wall he hid such emotions behind… asking him to do so would be like asking him to shut her out once again. And if she were honest with herself, she liked that he worried after her - even if he tended to take it too far for her liking.

"Do I sicken you?" Harry asked suddenly, breaking the silence, his voice was devoid of all emotion.

The shaking of her head was automatic. Unknown to her, she didn't seem surprised that this came from him. She didn't even have to think before answering the ridiculous question. "No. But I'm scared for you."

Harry scoffed and turned his head away from her, frowning at the cold, stone wall. "How can you not be sickened by me? I'm actively planning murder-"

"The murder of Voldemort," Ginny hissed, anger touched at her tone as she glared at him. She couldn't help getting a tad bit exasperated when he got in these self-deprecating moods. Why couldn't he just accept that she would always look at him in a positive light? That no matter what he had to do to get through this war, she would always love him. For some reason, the tosser can't get it through his thick - incredibly sexy - head. "And all in the name of saving your family. If given the chance, I would do the same. Without hesitation-"

"Don't say that, Gin," His eyes blazed with pain at just the thought of her having to make the same choice as him. "Don't even think it."

Ginny scoffed before her eyes roamed him critically. "You keep forgetting that he's been inside of my head, too. I know how much of a monster he is. The world would definitely be a better place without him but I just hate that it has to be you to do it. I… I'm protective of you, too."

It suddenly dawned on her by what he meant about always wanting to make sure that she is safe… that she stays out of things. Because what she wished for more than anything in the world was that he would stay out of it, too.

But her wish was a silly, childish fantasy... Because Harry, he was right smack dab in the middle of all of it by no choice of his own. But as for her? Harry's desire for her to stay out of it could still come true… that is, if she chose to cooperate with it.

They were silent after her outburst. Both lost in thought… wishing for unrealistic dreams to become a reality… for peace that seemed impossible to come by.

Then, Harry swallowed thickly and took her hand in his, his thumb rubbed slowly against her palm. "I confronted Draco…"

Her eyes widened significantly. "So soon?"

Harry nodded, his movement jerky and awkward.

Was he nervous? If so, then why?

"Eh, yeah… you were busy so I thought, uh, no time like the present."

She cradled his face in her hands, turning it to her inspecting eyes. "You don't see to have a black eye, at least…"

This seemed to crack some of the tension in the air as Harry let out a short, breathy laugh. "As if I would let him lay a hand on me."

Ginny chuckled to herself as she let her thumbs trace lightly against his cheeks. "All the girls in school will be jealous to know that I have the most macho he-man for a boyfriend."

Instead of laughing like she thought he would, her comment caused him to stiffen before he pulled away from her hold. "Er… about that. H-How would you feel if, uh, that weren't the case?"

Alarms went off immediately in her head. Ice spread through her veins as her blood ran cold. Her tongue felt as though it swelled to twice its size and her mouth stuffed full with feathers again. She was frozen in place. Unable to speak.

Harry continued talking , seeing her reaction. There was an apology in his eyes before he looked down again. "You see… Draco and I exchanged some words before I hit him in the mouth and told him to mind his own. But he did make me realise one thing… the Death Eaters know about us. They know that we are together in some capacity, whether they think it's only for snogging in corridors or not. And if the Death Eaters know… then he knows."

Harry swallowed thickly and finally glanced her way again. "I-I want to try to make that a distant memory, Gin. I don't want them to think of you at all, let alone in association with me. So, uh… I was hoping that you would be open to, uh, sneaking around."

Her eyes widened at his implication.

"No!" He rushed to correct himself as his hands came up in a sign of surrender. "Wait, that's not quite what I meant. I mean, date in secret. Make it seem like we aren't together in public."

She could only stare at him in shock as he swallowed nervously again and tugged at the tightness of his shirt collar. "So, uh, what do you say?"




A/N: Hi… So sorry for the long time away. A big thanks to my loyal readers out there as well as all of the new ones who just discovered this story. Please leave a review and let me know your thoughts.