Harry bent over the road, trying not to throw up his breakfast. Ron, his yellowish green face clashing with the brilliant, slightly untidy red hair leaned again a tree, looking equally unhealthy. Hermione tsked, "I told you to take some of those No-Mo motions sickness pills, but oh, no, you're all too manly. Humph. The Knight bus would make an astronaut ill."
"All right, all right, next time I'll try some of your muggle medicine, ast-norats or no." Ron sighed. It was best to stop Hermione before she really got into lecture mode. "You were right and I was wrong."
"As usual!" Hermione cackled. Ron suddenly grabbed her and started to tickle her unmercifully, and as she giggled, even Harry started to feel better. They had just gotten off the Knight bus, about half a mile away from Godric's Hollow. The realization that they were so near sobered him instantly. He would be closer to his parents now than he had been in sixteen years, at least physically. The memory of their faces as their images erupted from Voldemort's wand arose in his mind's eye, and he blinked back tears. He straightened, and looked over his shoulder at Ron and Hermione, who by now were kissing, again.
"Harumph!" Harry cleared his throat, and they broke apart guiltily. "Honestly you two, I'm very glad you finally got together, but…" They blushed, "Oh, nevermind, have a great time snogging, life is short." He trudged down the road, and they followed close behind. That seemed to be his mantra lately…life is short. Too bad he couldn't apply it to his own life. He would like nothing better than to sweep Ginny off her feet, find a nice little cottage in the mountains or by the sea, and live a nice peaceful little life making a family for himself, away from the world. He remembered her soft lips, her beautiful eyes, and the tantalizing sensations of her body pressed to his. But he couldn't escape, except in his daydreams; the world needed him, whether or not he thought he could do any good. The most he could do is try to protect the people he loved from getting hurt.
They turned a corner in the path, past a small rise in the moors, and suddenly they came upon the ruins of a cottage, just like he had been dreaming of. He closed his eyes, mentally preparing for what he would have to face. He realized his parents must have had the same dreams he did, a simple life together. With Voldemort in the world, that was impossible. If he, or anybody else, planned on living out their dreams, first Tom Riddle would have to be destroyed. Harry heard Hermione gasp, and turned to look toward her. She was standing in front of the gravestone.
Harry walked over, and looked down at the grave. They were covered with flowers, lilies and roses, which bloomed even though they didn't usually grow together. Someone had taken a great deal of care to make the site beautiful, and whether it was the Marauders or Hagrid or Dumbledore, he knew his parents had been loved. It was a single wide grave for the two of them, and a single headstone, with their names, and the words, "They gave their lives so all could live in peace." Harry gave a shaky sigh, and Hermione moved to touch him, but he strode away, toward the cottage that had been his childhood home.
He had been so young, he had almost no memories of the house, other than the screams of his mother that haunted his dreams. The roof had long since fallen in, and the furniture was dusty, fabric and wicker rotted away, despite protection charms. But still, it seemed a peaceful place. The whole of the little valley in the moors surrounding the cottage and the grave was peaceful, with no obvious memory of the horror of his parents' deaths, or the miracle of his survival. He pushed his way into the cottage, and there on the floor was a stick, he knelt down to look at it, and suddenly was filled with memories. It was a broomstick, a child's broomstick, a birthday present that he had dragged around constantly as soon as he could walk. He could remember his mother playing with him, helping him to try and balance on it on tiptoe as he scooted around the house on his "bo-tik" as he had just started to say. Harry started to cry, his body shaking as he mourned the happy wizarding childhood he had lost.
Suddenly, he was wrapped in a fierce hug from behind, and a scent he remembered fondly engulfed him as long red hair fell in front of his face. Her turned toward her, and her lips were suddenly on his, her hair surrounding him. He kissed her with passion, and she threaded her hands through his unruly black hair, surrounding him with the love he so deserpately needed. The house creaked in the wind, and he startled, and the present came back to the forefront of his mind with a vengeance. "Ginny?" he asked, pushing back, and getting up off the floor. "What are you doing here? You should be back at the Burrow, with your parents! Who knows who could come here, what could happen…"
"You prat, you can't get rid of me that easily." She stood, hands planted on hips, the image of her fiery mother. "I'm not standing around waiting to be saved like some damsel in distress this time! Once was enough. The safest place I can think of is fighting by the side of the bravest, strongest person I know and that's you! Even if you don't want me as a girlfriend, you need all the help you can get, and I plan on staying!"
This speech stunned Harry speechless. "How could I not want you?" he whispered under his breath, but she didn't hear, and raised an eyebrow in question. Instead he asked, "How did you find us?"
"Mom and Dad decided to come looking for you at Grimmauld place, to try and persuade you to come back to Hogwarts at the start of the term, or at least come to the Burrow for your birthday. The wedding's the next day you know."
"Don't change the subject, how the bloody hell did you find us?" Ron asked darkly, as he and Hermione strode up to the house. "What are you doing here anyway?" Harry was relieved they had missed the kiss, he didn't want to aggravate Ron now that he thought Harry and Ginny weren't involved anymore. It was still a touchy subject.
"I was just getting to that," Ginny glared at her brother. "Moony convinced them that you needed to 'Finish some family business' and since Ron already owled Fred and George about Dudley's fall, I figured this was the only other place you would be."
"Great deduction!" complemented Hermione, which earned her a glare from both Ron and Harry.
"Ron's not the only strategist in the family. I'm the only one who can beat him at wizard chess."
"Only half the time!" defended Ron.
"That's better than anyone else." muttered Hermione. Ron crossed his arms, both annoyed and pleased by Hermione's comment.
"If you're so smart, how'd you get here?" Ron quizzed.
"Easy, flooed to Aunt Myrtle's, which is about 5 miles from here, and flew the rest of the way. It's mostly wizard country anyway." Ron grunted.
"I wish we'd thought of that, saved us a trip on the dammed Knight Bus. We all practically lost our breakfast." Harry admitted sheepishly. He was nervously running his hand through his hair, part of his brain trying to think of a reason to get her to go home, while the other half tried to think of a reason she absolutely had to stay.
Ginny smiled, filling her eyes with Harry. "I've been here for a couple of hours actually. I wasn't sure when you'd show. I was just about to leave, but I found something very interesting. I think you should see it."
Harry, Ron and Hermione left the ruined home, and followed Ginny across the small valley, following a small creek that ran behind the house. Harry couldn't remember anything precisely, but a haunting feeling of familiarity surrounded every view, every smell. He distracted himself by watching Ginny's hips sway in front of him, her jeans hugging her curves, her hair bouncing as she picked her way along the creekside. Through a small copse of tree, they came upon a stone monument, heavy and granite, but not imposing, almost friendly and comforting in it's design.
Hermione's sucked in a breath as she read the inscription. "Godric's Hollow. Of course. Godric Griffindor must have lived here, it mentions in 'Hogwarts, a History', that he grew up in a small village in Yorkshire, near the moors, and often returned on holiday. This must be it." The inscription read:
For Godric, In memory of happy times, Rowena.
It was a simple plaque set it a granite boulder, which included a carving of heather and thistles around the edges. It was a wizard carving, as the plants seemed to undulate in the wind. A large chunk seems to have been removed from the right corner of the plaque, were a relief carving once stood.
Harry reached out a hand to touch the scar from the missing rock, and was overwhelmed with a memory that shouldn't be his. He screamed and his hand flew to his forehead, his scar throbbing with the vision that engulfed him.
James Potter stood in front of Rowena's Stone, standing between the most feared wizard of the age and his goal. He stared into the red slitted eyes that had cowed so many, and suppressed a shiver.
"I don't know how you found it, but I know what you want this for. Sirius told me, and I won't let you have it without a fight."
"You are stupid boy, for all that you are brave. You will not save yourself or your family tonight, and you will not keep me from my due." With that, Voldemort raised his wand, pointed it at James and chanted, "Stracciare"
James silently screamed, as he felt his soul torn from his body. A blast of energy encompassed the stone behind him, and as the world grew dim, his last vision was of a sickly green orb traveling from the hand of Vordemort to settle in the relief carving on the stone, a raven riding on the back of a lion."
"Harry!" Ginny screamed and caught Harry as he slumped forward. She began to shake him, trying to get him to open his eyes.
He stirred, and brought his hands to his head, the memory of pain of his father's soul ripped from his body still fresh. Tears filled his eyes as he realized that his father's death had fueled the creation of one of the six Horcruxes, and his and his mother's death was most likely to have been for yet another.
"It's a Horcrux. For both Gryfindor and Ravenclaw, a Lion and a Raven together."
"How…." Hermione started. Harry shook his head.
"My father's death, the memory of it is embedded in the stone. He gave his life to try and keep Voldemort from taking it, he knew what it would be for, but I don't think he knew how a Horcrux was made."
"Oh Harry." Ginny held him close, both of them still on their knees.
"But Harry, how would he even have known what a Horcrux was?"
"He said something about Sirius, Sirius knew. He told Dad."
Silence reined, as the four of them contemplated this revelation. Ron added his thoughts, "Then whoever R.A.B is must have been trying to stop him with help, or he thought he wouldn't be able to before he died. R.A.B might have been the one to tell Sirius."
"We need to get back to Grimmauld, we need to find out who R.A.B. is." Ginny stood and helped Harry, who was still a bit shaken, to his feet.