Through Sorrow's Arms

Wormtail's hand moved in a blur and slashed viciously at Remus while Ginny and Harry looked on, their feet affixed to the floor with a powerful Sticking Charm. Their wands lay against the far wall of the room where they'd landed after Peter had caught the two teens unaware with a Disarming Charm. Remus managed to rip Peter's wand from his hand after Wormtail had stuck Harry and Ginny to the floor, and the fight degenerated into a contest of strength. Remus dodged his former friend's assault as best he could, but without his wand, he was nearly defenceless against the magical silver hand. Finally, that hand connected and a bright red stain appeared on the werewolf's stomach. The wound quickly turned brown and began to smoke.

Sinking heavily to his knees, mouth stretched open in shock, Lupin stared in wonder at the gash as the silver ate into his flesh. Then he fell.

Eyes wide in triumph, Wormtail turned on Harry and Ginny, raising his hand to strike again.

"NO!" Harry screamed. Then stretching his fingers at the raised arm, he shouted, "Diffindo!" Peter's silver hand dropped to the floor with a loud clunk and spray of blood; he shrieked and ran out of the hall, clutching at the stump that had held his magical hand.

Harry, amazed that he had used wandless magic at all, extended his hand towards his wand and Summoned it to him. He cancelled the Sticking Charm, rushed over to Remus and pulled him close. "Remus," he sobbed, knowing from his third year that he was helpless to stop the poison from spreading.

"Harry," Remus strained to say, putting one hand on the boy's face. "James and Lily would be so proud of you..."

Tears clouded Harry's vision. "Don't leave me, Uncle Moony. Don't leave..."

"Always remember that," Remus continued as if he hadn't heard him. "You're their son." Then with a final breath, said, "Remember – you are a Potter." His head slumped and then his body relaxed in Harry's grasp.

Racking sobs enveloped Harry and he buried his face in the older man's robes. "You bastard! You can't leave me, too!" he screamed through his tears. Then in a strained whisper, "You said you wouldn't leave me."

Strong but small hands broke Harry free from his old professor and stood him on his feet. Those hands pulled him into a shaky hug and he buried his face once again, this time in tomato-red hair. They clung to each other, weeping and sniffling until they were led out of the room.

Back at Order headquarters, the mood was sombre. Mrs. Weasley milled around the kitchen, bringing hot cocoa and warm Butterbeer to anyone who would take it. Fred and George had disappeared, and Ron was holding himself in the corner of the living room, staring unseeingly at a sobbing and muttering Hermione.

Ginny had seen her share of death in the war, but of all the deaths, this one had been the hardest. Remus had been there for her when no one else would so much as look at her. The year after the Chamber of Secrets, Ginny returned to Hogwarts with dread in her heart at what her classmates would say. When her suspicions were realized and she had been ostracized by everyone, Remus Lupin had taken her under his wing and brought a measure of happiness back into her life. Now, he was gone – forever.

Her sorrow couldn't match Harry's, however. She had been watching him; even when she'd convinced everyone, including herself that she wasn't going to watch him any more. She simply couldn't help herself.

He'd bounced back fairly well from his fifth year, and was on the road to some semblance of teenaged normality when this ambush occurred at the end of his sixth year. Just when he'd found himself, the last link he had to his parents was ripped from him, and Ginny was certain that this would be the thing that made him crack. She was determined to make sure that it didn't.

Moving past her mother, Ginny looked out the kitchen window at a lone figure sitting on a rock. Harry was out on a cliff that overlooked the beach where the new Order Headquarters had been established. It was another spectacular sunrise on Maidencombe Beach. Purple hues highlighted the low clouds on the horizon casting an ethereal glow over the whitecaps. Ginny hardly recognized the fact that she'd been up all night, and that it was a new day. The coming sun didn't bring her any of the comfort that she normally associated with dawn.

Shoving her hands into her jeans pockets, Ginny walked slowly over to where he sat, letting the wind tear at her hair without really caring where it blew.

"Hey, Harry," she said tentatively, sitting on the sand next to him. He shrugged in reply, wiping surreptitiously at his eyes.

The wind whipped both of their hair straight now as they faced the sea. The force of it seemed to give them a purpose other than dwelling on their loss, and Ginny now understood why he was here.

She looked at him again, turning just enough to see his profile. He shivered and pulled his arms close to his body. Ginny knew he didn't want to talk, and so she kept silent. There would be time enough for talking when Harry was ready. For now, it was good enough that he wasn't alone.

They sat like that for a long time, until Ginny's eyes drooped and she curled into a ball on the sand, using his leg for a pillow. The sounds of the distant waves and blowing wind lulled her into a fitful rest.

Harry stared at the darkening sky, letting the breeze pull at his overly-long hair and push it off his head in muddled torrents. He sighed and felt a single tear drop from his eye and trace a solitary path down his cheek until the wind licked the wetness from his face.

Why do the people I love have to die? he rhetorically asked the gulls circling overhead. Why me?

Ginny woke up then, her eyes scrunched in confusion and then she smiled as they landed on him. She had always been there for him, to comfort his pain; but he didn't want comfort now. He wanted the pain to consume his heart so he didn't have to feel anymore. Bearing the weight of Remus' loss was too much for him after enduring so much loss already. But somewhere deep inside him, Harry knew that Ginny would never let him succumb to his selfish sorrow and that her devotion would keep him from giving up.

He had been thinking about her ever since she fell asleep next to him. It was as if he had awakened to a new awareness of who she was, focusing his attention not on the past but on the here and now. As if all the times they had spoken before, all the time at school and the Burrow had become a distant memory and the reality of this Ginny Weasley, the one who had been sleeping on his lap, hit Harry for the first time. She was there with him by choice, and she wasn't going to let him be alone. Part of Harry was grateful for her presence, and it was while he was pondering that feeling that she blinked her eyes open and he became aware of the fact that he'd been staring at her.

She sat up, rearranging herself until her arm slipped underneath his and her head was lying softly on his shoulder. A piece of red hair would occasionally flip up and tickle his nose, but he didn't dare move to push it down. The cool breeze left his exposed arm covered in goose-bumps, but the one held by Ginny was warm and comfortable.

It was a long while before she spoke. "He's not gone, you know? Not as long as we remember him."

Harry took a second to respond, not entirely sure that she had actually said anything or if he had only heard it in his mind. "I-It's like with Sirius," he managed. "Right now, I'm past feeling." Then with a sigh, he hung his head and Ginny's straightened next to him. "It's too soon."

"In second year," Ginny said slowly, not letting go of his arm, "Remus was the only one who could relate to what I'd gone through after the Chamber. His condition cut him off from the Wizarding world and that's exactly what had happened to me." She paused as if searching for the right words. "I was a cast-off; tainted by Voldemort and no one wanted to be around me."

"I'm sorry," said Harry miserably into his hands as a fresh wave of guilt coursed through him. "If I hadn't been such an idiot..."

"Shh," soothed Ginny. "You weren't an idiot... Just a bit preoccupied is all."

He looked at her over his arms, that were now folded and propped on his knees, and saw the beginnings of a teasing grin on her face. Pleasantly irritated, he pushed at her with his elbow and tried to hide his smile. "I was stupid...and blind," he temporized. "You shouldn't have had to endure Tom in your head by yourself." He turned back to the waves and sighed. "No one should have to..."

Silence hung in the air as the sun dipped below the horizon behind them, turning the sky an electric blue. Now that his mind was back on his old professor, Harry couldn't find anything else to think about.

"He taught me how to perform the Patronus charm in third year," he said finally. "He told me more about my parents than anyone before or since and..." Harry's voice cracked and he fought a sudden surge of emotion that seemed to constrict his vocal cords. "He was the last of my parents' friends."

Against his will, a tear slipped from his closed eyes and he felt his body shake uncontrollably. Ginny's arms pulled him to her shoulder and he didn't hesitate to return the embrace as the dam finally burst and his emotions poured onto her through his tears.

When Harry recovered from his emotional bloodletting, a star-filled sky greeted him and Ginny had fallen asleep once more, this time in his arms. He reached around to his trouser pocket and grasped his wand. Remembering Professor McGonagall's lessons from the prior term, he conjured a pillow and blanket, placed them on the sand with some difficulty and eased Ginny off his shoulder. She murmured for a second and Harry took the liberty of pushing the hair out of her face.

"I wonder if you might need some rest as well, Harry," came a quiet voice from behind him that greatly startled him. Professor Dumbledore's normally twinkling eyes were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the powerful headmaster's solemn gaze caused Harry to blink in wonder. He hastily removed his hand from Ginny's face and turned to look at the black ocean.

"I'm fine," Harry lied, wanting Dumbledore to leave him be, to let him just stay here forever with Ginny.

The elderly wizard waved his wand and a leather bean-bag plopped onto the ground on Harry's other side. "You're quite lucky to have such a devoted friend," he said, motioning towards the sleeping girl as he sat.

Harry grunted, still a little embarrassed that he'd been caught touching Ginny's face.

With a sigh, Dumbledore continued. "You should go inside to get some rest. As yesterday was the end of term, you will be returning to your relatives tomorrow. I've made arrangements to have..."

"I don't think so," Harry said, cutting Dumbledore off. "I'm not going back there; not tomorrow, not ever again."

"Harry, I know you've had a difficult time losing Remus, but I must insist that you go back to live with your aunt. The protections..."

"I said no, Professor, and I mean it. I've had enough of them to last a lifetime and I'm not going to waste my time with them again." Harry's voice grew thick with emotion again but he fought it down. "It's too much to ask," he finished quietly.

Dumbledore seemed to hesitate and for a moment Harry thought he'd given in. But then his headmaster rose from the ground, dismissed the bean-bag and raised his wand. "I'm sorry, Harry, but this is for your own good..."

There was a crack and a flash of light as Dumbledore was thrown backwards onto the sand. Harry looked dumbfounded at his outstretched hand, and noticed the tip of his wand, which had been in his hand since he'd conjured the blanket and pillow for Ginny, was smoking.

Dumbledore got to his feet and brushed sand from his robes. "Harry?"

Remorse swept through him even as his will to stay on the beach increased. "I'm sorry, Professor, but I'm not going."

"And what will you do? Stay here forever?"

Harry shook his head in frustration. "I don't know. Maybe so. Maybe I'll waste away here and your precious hero won't save the world like he's supposed to. Maybe Voldemort will win and everyone I love will die anyway."

Dumbledore frowned. "Surely you don't hope for that, Harry."

"Maybe I don't," Harry retorted. "But I'm not going back to the Dursleys!"

Something stirred by Harry's feet and he realized that his shouting must have woken Ginny. "Harry, what's going on?" she asked with bleary eyes.

"Harry," Dumbledore pleaded, causing both of them to look in his direction. "It was never about you being a hero; it was about doing the right thing."

Dumbledore looked over Harry's shoulder and a snapping twig made Harry turn in that direction. Tonks was behind him, her wand held loosely at her side. "What's all the racket?"

In that second, another spell fired, this time from Dumbledore's wand. A beam of sparkling light flew towards him and stopped a foot from Harry's chest, before it ricocheted off into the night.

"Remarkable," Dumbledore said, clearly impressed, and he walked closer to Harry. "What nature of spell did you cast, Harry?"

Harry shrugged, annoyed that Dumbledore had been willing to take Harry by force to the Dursleys. "I dunno."

Dumbledore prodded the area where his spell had rebounded, revealing a shimmering blue sphere that completely surrounded Harry and Ginny.

"Well," Dumbledore said after making a few more probes with his wand, "it looks like you will stay here for a while regardless of what I intended. You've managed to cast some kind of powerful protective magic, Harry. No one will be forcing you to leave until you remove it."

Harry's mouth opened as he tried to reply, but nothing came out. Finally, he managed to ask, "How can I remove it when I don't even know how I cast it in the first place?"

With a grim smile, Dumbledore put his wand away. "That, Harry, is something you're going to have to work out on your own. For tonight, at least, I am honouring your request."

Dumbledore turned and walked towards the cottage, leaving Harry wondering how he could have cast a spell that could flummox the most powerful wizard in the world.

Ginny watched Harry carefully after Dumbledore left. Tonks was still there, looking oddly at both of them, so Ginny didn't pull Harry down to the sand for a thorough explanation like she wanted to. Instead, she stared at Harry as he slowly sat down and replaced his wand in his back pocket. Tonks and Ginny watched Harry's eyes droop and his body relax as thirty-six hours of wakefulness seemed to finally catch up with him. Soon, his head was in Ginny's lap, and he was fast asleep.

Smiling to herself as Harry's breathing slowed, Ginny was startled by a low whistle from her right. "That was some spell," whispered Tonks as she approached and conjured her own bean bag.

"What's the big idea about the Dursleys, anyway?" Ginny asked. "I never understood why Harry has to be with those blasted Muggles. Why can't he just stay with us at the Burrow?"

Tonks shrugged. "That's something you're going to have to ask him," she said, nodding at Harry. "From what I understand, there's some kind of ancient magic that protects him there. Only Dumbledore really knows anything about it, but I reckon he's told Harry, too."

Ginny frowned. "I don't care what kind of protection he's got there. If it destroys his will to live, there's not much sense in keeping him alive, is there?"

The older woman chucked softly. "You do have a thing for him, don't you? I've never even seen your mum act so defensive towards him. Merlin knows Hermione's mothered him enough, but you're the only one that goes beyond fussing and understands him, aren't you?"

Not grasping what Tonks was getting at, Ginny flushed with pleasure nonetheless and managed a weak nod. "There's a lot of people who love him."

"Not like you," Tonks countered. Ginny's face grew warmer. "Listen," Tonks continued, "you need to help him figure out how to deactivate this spell."

"How do I do that?" Ginny asked. "If Dumbledore can't undo it, how can I do anything for it?"

Tonks gave a maddeningly happy smile. "You'll figure it out. Maybe try to get Harry to talk about things. Get him to open up to you, and maybe the spell will go away all on its own."

Ginny shrugged and began to stroke Harry's fringe. "'Maybe' isn't very reassuring."

Tonks stood and, like Dumbledore, vanished the conjured beanbag. "I'm sure you'll think of something."

Ginny's mum visited a little while later, bringing a plate of roasted chicken legs and a flagon of pumpkin juice. It was Ginny's first personal encounter with the spell Harry had cast as she was forced to retrieve the food herself. There was a brief sensation of cold as her hands penetrated the shield, like when the shower is first turned on, and then it passed. Apparently, she was able to move in and out of the spell freely.

Two of the chicken legs fell victim to her hunger and as she went to pick-up a third, a movement in the air caught her attention. There was a swish of wind and she had to crane her neck to only catch a fleeting glimpse of a white blur before it vanished. All thoughts of food now thoroughly vanquished from her mind, she shifted Harry's head to a pillow and rotated her body in the direction the movement had glided in.

The next thing she knew, a pair of amber eyes were peering at her from across the spell's boundary. They bounced closer and the pure white body of Harry's owl appeared.

"Hedwig," Ginny scolded lightly. "You gave me such a fright."

The bird stared at Ginny for a moment and then hopped across a line in the sand that marked the shield's boundary. There was a small shimmer in the shield, but Hedwig was not propelled away like Professor Dumbledore had. Instead, she hopped over to where Ginny's two chicken bones were sitting in the sand and gave Ginny what she was certain was an agitated stare.

With her thumb and forefinger, Ginny snared one of the bones and dangled it in front of the owl. In a mark of restraint, Hedwig only glared harder, if it were possible, at Ginny. She flicked her wrist and the bone landed at Hedwig's feet. "There you go, girl."

The owl quickly grabbed the bone with her talons and began to strip away the remnants of meat and skin with her beak.

Ginny watched her for a while and when she was almost done, threw the other bone in her direction. Ginny grabbed another chicken leg and joined her feathered companion in their midnight meal. The third leg was now at Hedwig's feet, with a little more meat on it than the last two, when Ginny decided that there was more to Harry's pet than there seemed. "You understand him, don't you?" she asked with a glance at the subject in question to make sure he was still asleep.

Hedwig gave a contented hoot and began to preen her wings.

Sitting back on her elbows, Ginny sighed. "How am I supposed to help him deactivate this shield? I mean, it's not like I've had a whole lot of success with getting him to notice me, now have I?"

Hedwig chose that moment to tuck her head under her wing.

"Oh, fine," Ginny whispered. "See if I let you have any more of my chicken bones, then."

Tired and quite full, Ginny sipped at a cup of pumpkin juice before she, too, fell fast asleep.

A thin light filtered through Harry's eyelids and he willed his new awareness of it to go away. He'd not slept nearly enough to make up for his missed allotment in the last few days. Then, as he thought about why he'd not been sleeping, the weight of Remus' loss pressed heavily into him once more.

Something heavy was on his legs and when he shifted to look at it, he was reminded of his companion in grief. Ginny's legs were entwined with his, as she lay sprawled face-down on a tan pillow.

The sky was grey and stormy, as it had been for the past three days, and Harry's stomach groaned as he regarded it with detached interest. A nearby basket provided him with some cold chicken and pumpkin juice.

Soon, his motions stirred Ginny and he caught her eye as he wiped his hands on his filthy shirt.

"Morning," Ginny offered through a yawn.

Harry grunted; his self-loathing reaching new heights. "You don't have to stay out here, you know?"

"And why shouldn't I?"

"Well," Harry replied, scratching his head and getting a face full of his own scent. "I stink, for one thing."

To his surprise, she smiled. "Me, too. Besides, you need to be with someone at a time like this."

"Well, what if I don't want anyone around?"

She paused in the action of smoothing out her hair and gave him a stern look. "Don't get shirty with me, Harry. I'm here to help, not to fight with you. If you're going to be that way about it, then I may as well leave you to it."

He watched her stand, brush sand off her jeans and turn to leave before he realised what was happening. "Wait!" he cried. "Don't... don't go."

When she looked at him again, it was with one raised brow and crossed arms.

"I...uh, would really like you to stay."

She didn't make a move to sit and Harry began to fidget. He did want her to stay, but he wasn't going to beg her to do it.

"I have a better idea," she said. "What if we move this party into the cabin? I have it on good authority that the den is unoccupied and it'd be a great place for us to stay while you sort things out."

Harry considered her idea and when his bladder reminded him that it had been many hours since he'd last emptied it, he readily agreed. "Sounds good. First, I need to go to the loo."

The den was much more comfortable than the sandy cliff, with its squashy sofa and bright fire, but he felt unaccountably nervous when Mrs. Weasley kept offering to cook for him.

"Snap?" Ginny asked, breaking through his thoughts. She was holding out a stack of cards and began to shuffle them on the small table in front of the sofa.

Not really caring one way or the other, Harry nodded and let her deal. After about ten minutes, the cards were starting to shake in their hands and Harry was certain his were going to explode. A popping flash ignited on his right and Ginny's face was covered in soot.

The sight of her bright red hair and coal-black skin made her look like a match on fire. It was such an amusing sight, he laughed out loud.

Soon, Ginny joined in his laughter as she wiped the soot from her face and they dealt out another hand.

"So," she began and drew another card from the deck. "You going to the formal next year?"

Just before the end of year exams, and Ginny's O.W.L.s, Dumbledore had announced that Hogwarts would be having a formal dance the following year to, as he put it, "give reason for the witches to come back and the wizards to think about something other than food."

Harry shrugged. "I dunno. I guess it depends on if I can find someone to go with."

"There's always Susan..."

"Bones?" Harry finished incredulously. "Not a chance. She's..." he trailed off. He considered telling Ginny about Susan's annoying habit of staring at Harry's scar every time they were together and the star-struck look on her face that made it impossible to have any kind of conversation with her, but he thought better of it.

Ginny didn't let him off so easy, however. "What?"

"Nothing," Harry answered and when he saw her jaw set in determination to get his answer, he elaborated. "It's just that I've got this whole Voldemort thing hanging over my head. Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that I like a certain girl, who's been a good friend to me, and I'd like to maybe spend more time with her..."

"Who?" Ginny blurted.

"Never mind." Harry let out a breath and stared at the crackling fire, noticing how the Shield Charm distorted the flames. "Would it be fair to her to ask her out? Wouldn't it be better if I protected her by just leaving her alone, to keep her away from Voldemort's notice?"

There was a moment of emptiness that lingered along with his question. When the silence was broken, it was to Ginny's casual laughter. He jerked his eyes to her face.

"Oh, Harry..." she began. "Have you given up, then? Because that's exactly what Voldemort wants, you know. He wants you to be miserable, just like he is." She shifted on the sofa and locked her brown eyes onto him so that he couldn't turn away if he wanted to. "I know how wretched he is; how much he hates what he's become and how much he wants everyone to be just as depressed and dejected."

Harry wanted to believe her. For just a second, he wanted to just jump off the cliff and take a chance with someone. And then Remus and Sirius appeared in his mind and he lost his nerve.

"If you let Voldemort dictate how you live your life, Harry," she continued earnestly, "then he wins and everyone you love, whether you tell them or not, loses. Besides, we're all on his hit-list, anyway. Sooner or later, he's going to come after everyone that opposes him, and I assume you're not falling for Pansy Parkinson."

Unable to help it, Harry let out a little laugh. "Well, even if I liked someone, she'd have to put up with me being a thick-headed git."

Ginny laughed, too. "If she's worth your time, then she'll know, Harry."

Harry chuckled again, this time feeling the humour and the irony. "Oh, she knows all right," he said pulling a hand roughly through his hair. "She knows me better than most anyone..." He stopped suddenly before he let something substantial slip.

"So you do like someone!" Ginny declared triumphantly. "Who is it? Does she know you better than me?"

"No," he said. "Not more than you." As soon as he'd emphasized that word however, he knew he'd made a mistake.

"What?" she said softly. "Speak plainly – riddles are making my head hurt right now."

Harry abruptly stood, startling Ginny. He placed his cards on the table, walked over to the grate, and shoved his hands in his pockets. "I can't tell you, Ginny. I told you – if word got out, she'd go to the top of Voldemort's hit list."

"That means she's either part of a family that's fighting against him or...a member of the Order." Her eyes went wide and she stood. "You fancy Tonks?"

His face twisted in disgust. "No!" he said forcefully before chuckling. "Too old and too... eccentric for me. She had Remus pegged, I think."

She seemed relieved but she wasn't finished yet. "So she's your age, then?"

Not knowing why, he shook his head, seemingly compelled to answer. "Nah, younger."

"So," she said, ticking off a mental checklist. "It's got to be someone in my class unless you're really robbing the cradle, someone in a family fighting against Voldemort." Then confusion masked her face. "But, Harry... You said she knew you well and none of the girls in my class know you at all..." Her voice trailed off and her eyes flew open. She backed away from Harry, her hand clutching at her chest.

Harry continued to stare at her, trying to tell her without words how he felt, to convey them without having to force them out his mouth. The emotions were still too raw and the threat of losing someone that got close to him was too real for him to confess the truth, so he willed her to understand.

A pale, freckled hand flew to an open mouth. Ginny's breathing increased and she started to shake. "Harry?" she squeaked. "You're having me on, aren't you?" Her legs found the front of the sofa and she stumbled back into her seat.

He walked over to her and knelt at her feet, never breaking eye contact. Slowly, his head shook, answering her question as best he could. Her face lit up like a five-year-old's on Christmas morning.

"It's me?"

He nodded, dipping his head twice.

Then before he could blink, her arms were around his neck and they tumbled over onto the rug. Suddenly confused, he pushed her away and sat up. "What about you?" he asked as she sat next to him. "I thought you were with Dean?"

Pulling her hands free of his grasp, she whacked him hard on both shoulders. "You pillock! I broke up with him months ago!" Then, hugging him tightly again, she whispered into his neck, "It was always you, Harry."

Ginny smiled and kissed him. A herd of Erumpents could have been driven through the room and neither of them would have noticed. "Does that mean you'll go to the Dursleys'?" she asked.

"No," he said quickly, "but I might be talked into going home to the Burrow."

There was a popping noise and a sound like an electric motor winding down. When Harry looked at the fire again, he realised that the shield charm had ended itself.

Ginny smiled again as she placed her lips on his. "I think I can live with that. But first," she said, sniffing the air around him and wrinkling her nose in an adorable fashion, "you need to have a shower."