Chapter 11 – Love and Fear

Harry felt Ginny go limp as they were rocketed out of the chamber and into the air. The water split around them and formed a sphere that encased their bodies. Then they started to fall. Just before they touched down, the bubble burst apart.

The spent air in Harry's lungs was forced out as he hit the ground, his legs buckling underneath him. He managed to rotate slightly to take the brunt of Ginny's fall, but she was unconscious. As soon as he could manage it, he took in as large a breath as he could, desperate to taste the dusty, life-giving air again.

Dirt clung to their sodden robes as he extricated himself from their position on the ground and still panting heavily, Harry checked Ginny for signs of life. She was breathing again – but only just – and was still unconscious.

Harry called out to her. Ginny. But he got no reply.

He felt something pulse inside of him as he knelt over Ginny's prone body and realised that although he could see her breathing, he knew she was alive in a way that he had never felt before. He just knew. Their bond was open to him so that it was impossible for him to not feel everything about her. Ginny's whole soul was laid bare – from her heart beating slowly in her chest, to the blood flowing in her veins. It was almost overwhelming.

The water that clung to their skin, robes, and hair was seeping into the ground around them as it fell and pooled. It seemed to soak into Ginny's skin as well and for the first time, Harry noticed that Ginny seemed to be...glowing.

A great rushing sound filled his ears and he suddenly became aware of the battle that was going on around him. Spells shot back and forth across the courtyard of the Hog's Head, bouncing off trees and every so often, connecting with witches and wizards. Harry was vaguely aware of there being two sides to the battle, so unstructured were the attacking and defending knots of duellers.

An errant spell crackled towards him and without thinking, Harry held up a hand, batting away the hex like it was a particularly pesky fly. The person who cast the spell was unaware of him, however, and continued to duel with a black-robed and white-masked man.

Harry stood next to Ginny as she continued to sleep and saw two wizards that seemed much more powerful than the rest. One was adorned in a simple grey robe and had a long, white beard tucked into his belt. He had an aura of calm and peace that was not found elsewhere on the battlefield.

His opponent, however, appeared as a black void to Harry's eyes – completely absent of anything resembling good and right.

Their wands moved with a speed that would have astonished anyone had they seen it, but Harry found he could watch them and almost predict what was going to happen next. Fire, water, stone, and light came from their wands as they battled, but neither yielded.

Harry felt drawn to the duel and found himself walking away from Ginny. Soon, the rest of the fighters ceased their own struggles and watched their leaders fight each other instead.

As Harry approached, he could hear them speaking.

"You're a foolish old man who hasn't got the power or the nerve to kill me," Voldemort spat, deflecting a beam of orange light from Dumbledore and parrying with his own hex.

Dumbledore's face never broke from its solemnity. "Your knowledge of the full prophecy should tell you that although I may not have the power to kill you..." He stopped to dodge a burst of flame that leapt from the ground where he had just stood. "There exists one here who does."

At that moment, Harry realised that Dumbledore was looking at Harry. The elderly wizard nodded and turned back to his opponent. "If you strike me down, Tom, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

The duel stopped and then Voldemort threw his head back to laugh. "Death for you would not grant you anything but pain and suffering to your people. Harry Potter is a weak child and hasn't got any more power than a Kneazel."

They regarded each other for a moment before Dumbledore winked at Harry and lowered his wand. "I've always thought that death, to the properly organised mind was merely the next great adventure. There is only one way to find out, isn't there?"

A sickeningly green curse shot out from Voldemort's wand and struck Dumbledore in the chest. Time seemed to slow as the old man pitched backwards toward the ground and Harry found himself running to catch him, screaming at the top of his lungs.

Dumbledore's limp body hit the ground and Harry knelt next to him, his body racked with shaky breaths. The face of his Headmaster was lifeless and his eyes staring without sight at the sky above, but their ever-present twinkle was gone once, and for all.

Seething in anger, Harry stood and whipped out his wand. "You'll pay for that, Tom. I may be just a boy, but I will not stop until you've paid for every single life you've destroyed."

Harry advanced on Dumbledore's killer, his wand pointed to where Voldemort's heart should be. Electricity arced between them and Voldemort jumped back to avoid the spark.

With narrowed, red eyes, Voldemort took up his duelling stance and Harry struck. An angry purple curse shot at Harry, who did not dodge, but absorbed it with his hand. Harry fired a complex array of curses that sent Voldemort dodging around the courtyard. As one came particularly close to hitting him, he vanished.

I sense your anger, Potter. Harry whipped around to where he though the voice had emanated from and saw nothing. You want to kill me for revenge now. Good, the voice drawled slowly. Good.

Harry closed his eyes and sent his feelings around the trees and buildings. There. A blob of darkness hung from a tree behind him. Harry whirled and shouted a spell, but Voldemort must have known it was coming, for he Apparated behind Harry with a crack and yelled, "Crucio!"

The spell caught Harry unaware, knocking him to the ground and sending ripples of pain across his body like a jolt of electricity. Still, it wasn't nearly as bad as at the Department of Mysteries. In fact, as Harry let his anger fall away, the pain left him completely. "No," Harry said and stood, casting the red light away with a sweep of his hand.

Voldemort recoiled and flames leapt from his wand. Harry dodged this time, still winded from his bout with the Cruciatus Curse. Then, to his horror, Voldemort was standing over Ginny's still-prone body, aiming his wand directly at her torso.

Harry froze.

"Did you think I wasn't serious when I said I would kill her, Harry?" The Yew wand flicked and sent a spark of electricity to Ginny, causing her to convulse. "Hand me the vials of water in your pocket and I'll let her live."

The vials! Harry's eyes flicked from Ginny to Dumbledore's body and then to Voldemort. "All right," Harry replied, taking a step towards the fallen Headmaster even as he extracted one of the glass tubes. "First, you step away from Ginny, and I'll throw one to you. When you're by the Hog's Head, and I'm by Ginny, I'll toss the other one."

Voldemort sneered. "Do you think I'm stupid? He shot another bolt of electricity at Ginny, and Harry watched her body lift off the ground, so violent were her spasms. "I could kill her now and still take them from you."

While he didn't think Tom could take the vials from him, he didn't think risking Ginny's life was worth finding out. Gritting his teeth, Harry tossed one of the vials towards Tom, who caught it with his left hand.

"Good. Now the other one."

Harry looked back towards Dumbledore, who was only a few feet from him now, and took out the other vial. "How do I know you'll keep your word?"

With a high squeal of laughter, Voldemort shook his head. "You don't; but what other choice do you have, Harry? Ginevra is important to you, isn't she?" He paused and closed his eyes; Harry felt his mind being probed again, like a thick finger jabbing and prying around his brain. "Yes... I can feel it."

"STOP IT!" Harry yelled, clutching at his head and willing the presence to leave him. Visions were appearing now. Ginny in the Chamber, Ginny flying as Seeker last year, Ginny singing at the Burrow, Ginny kissing him on the Dursley's sofa...

"ARRGGHH!" Voldemort screamed and the pressure left Harry's head.

Just then, Ginny's wand was in her hand and a blue light connected with Tom. The Dark Lord flew through the air and landed with a thud by a splintered oak tree. Something else landed just a few feet from him. Harry took that moment to extend his hand and call to the vial in the dirt. It flew through the air and was almost at his hand when it stopped.

A beam of dark orange light connected the vial to Voldemort and it slowly started to make its way back towards him. Harry grunted and mentally pulled harder, remembering the night Voldemort was re-born and the connection between their wands that had saved him. Instead of wanting their connection to force something away, this time he wanted the thing they were fighting over to come closer.

Soon, the vial was shaking and spinning madly in the air as Harry and Tom fought for control over it. It wasn't moving in either direction, when a blast of red light shattered it and sent Harry sprawling to the ground. Ginny stood between them, her wand aimed at the air where the vial had just been.

Voldemort cursed and sent several spells at Ginny. Harry ran to her defence and together, they fought back all of his advances.

"You have not beaten me, yet, Potter," Voldemort spat. He cast a powerful shield spell, which gave him time to Apparate away.

As soon as the Death Eaters saw him leave, they, too, popped out of the battle and an uneasy silence returned to the courtyard.

Harry, still gripping the remaining vial in his hand ran towards Dumbledore's prone body.

Ginny seemed to have read his mind and helped by propping open Dumbledore's mouth. Harry poured in the water and helped him swallow. Then, they waited. Ginny found Harry's hand and they squeezed as the seconds slowly ticked by.

The rest of the Order gathered around their fallen leader and hung their heads. Arthur Weasley, singed, bleeding, and slightly green, reached down for his daughter. "Come, on, Ginny. He's gone now."

She resisted and violently shook her head. "No," she sobbed. "We just need more time."

Harry looked at Arthur and nodded. "She'll be all right," he whispered. He could tell Ginny's father was pained to let her linger in hope that Dumbledore would live, but he knew, as Harry did, that it was better to let Ginny choose her own path of mourning.

"Come on, Dumbledore," Ginny whispered fiercely. "You can make it."

Ron and Hermione ran down the path from Hogwarts with Madame Pomphrey in tow. They huffed and puffed as they drew nearer to the circle around Dumbledore, and then stopped breathing altogether when they saw the Headmaster.

Madame Pomphrey had no such limitations, however, and pushed through the crowd with practiced ease. "Oh, dear," she said as she began to examine him with her wand. "What got him?"

"Avada Kedavra," said Tonks, who was nursing a broken arm.

"That can't be right," the nurse replied. "He'd be dead if that was the case."

Harry blanched, but it was Arthur that spoke next. "You mean...he's not?"

"Well, he's not going to be running around the castle any time soon, but his heart's beating normally and his brain seems to respond to stimuli."

She pointed her wand at Dumbledore's head and muttered an incantation. His left arm jerked skyward and then fell to the ground. "See?" Madame Pomphrey said with some measure of satisfaction. "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to transport my patient to the Hospital Wing." After standing, she conjured a stretcher and levitated the Headmaster onto it. "Any of you that were injured in the battle will please follow me."

There was a mumble of voices as she led the line of wounded back to Hogwarts. Harry looked to Ginny who had shining eyes. In a second, they were hugging and crying. "He's going to be all right," he said into her hair.

"I was so scared," she replied, kissing his cheek and letting go. "If Dumbledore were to ever die..."

"Don't," Harry said warningly, holding up his hands to stop her. "We can't think that way. He's going to live and we'll be there when he wakes up."

Ginny bit her lip and nodded. Then, she was smothering him again, and crying.

"You might as well get used to that, Harry," Ron said from beside his dad. "Blubbering and girls are as inseparable as grease from Snape's hair."

Ron howled as Hermione's hand found his shoulder. "That's nice, Ron."

"What?" he cried indignantly. "It's true, you know."

"Comparing girls to Snape's hair." Hermione huffed and planted her hands firmly on her hips. "You ought to be more sensitive. It's not like you've never cried before."

"Now wait a second," Ron replied hotly. "You promised you'd never tell anyone about that!"

Hermione turned away from him and stuck her nose in the air. "And I won't, so long as you stop comparing me to greasy hair."

There was a moment where Harry could hear Ron's teeth grinding together. Ginny's eyes were dancing, even though they were still a bit damp, and Arthur seemed on the verge of a breakdown.

"It's..." Ron began. "You're... Fine," he relented in a rush of air. "Just don't ever bring that up again."

Hermione swung around and smiled. "It's a deal. Now," she said, looking down at Harry and Ginny, "you two had better get up to the infirmary. Knowing how you like to hurt yourself to get out of exams, Harry, I'd wager you've got at least five broken bones and some blood-loss that needs attending to."

Harry looked to Ginny for support, but her tears had come on again; this time for a completely different, and much happier reason. Seeing he wasn't going to get any help from his girlfriend, Harry sighed and stood. "Hermione, I'm..."

"FINE!" everyone chorused.

"Yes, we know, Harry," Hermione said reproachfully. "Since you're fine, you won't have to spend so long in your bed, now will you?"

The smirk on her face belied the hidden threat of more revising, so reluctantly, Harry let her lead them back to Hogwarts.