This is the FINAL CHAPTER of this story. A million thanks to SNB hugs. Many thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed so far. I will respond to all the review comments when I can – things were crazy last week.
Chapter 9: In which it is the end of the beginning
The current sight of Harry was sore to the flame-haired girl's eyes, but nonetheless, she walked up to him and placed a hand gently to his left cheek. "You are covered in blood. Let's get you cleaned up and then we can talk."
The words were simple, and on their own lacking in any depth of meaning, but to Harry, Ginny's voice was like a warm breeze on acool summer's evening, the smell of freshly baked pies, wafting across a garden, or the soft, calming trill of aphoenix's song. He nodded slightly in response to her words. Ginny withdrew her hand, and saw blood from Harry's many cuts upon her palm and fingers. With a silent thought, sheasked the Room of Requirements to get rid ofany trace of the stone statues that Harry had been venting his anger on. In a heartbeat, the rubble, stone fragments and dust vanished, leaving a much cleaner Harry, notwithstanding the red and brown of both wet and dried blood that streaked his face and hands.
Next, Ginny requested a bowl of warm water and a soft cloth, which materialisedon the ground beside them. She guided Harry to his knees, knelt before him and began to bathe his wounds. She started with his left hand, slowly, gently and deftly taking time to wash each finger, his palm, the back of his hand and up his bare wrists. The cloth was quickly stained, and the water soon became a dull red. Once the whole of Harry's left hand had been cleansed lovingly by Ginny, she held the hand between her own and healed all the tiny wounds, in the same way Harry used to heal injured animals he would find in the forest. With Harry's left hand finished, she silently and diligently repeated the process on his right hand.
Harry did not notice that the phoenix had been in the treetops of the magically created woods, and had been singing a tune of hope and comfort until it stopped and flew to Ginny's side. Before Ginny began to wash Harry's face, with a third clean bowl and cloth, she had the phoenix cry some tears into the water. She began to wipe softly at his neck, working carefully from one side to the other. Every fraction of his skin was touched by the cleansing and healing water, as the soft material glided warmly across his cheeks, his nose, ears, eyes and forehead. Finally, after nearly an hour of careful, loving attention, Ginny banished the bowl, water and cloth with a thought. She cupped his face between her hands and planteda soft, passionate kiss on his lips.
"It's time to talk."
As her voice floated around him, sights and sounds and smells of the make-believe forestmelted away, leaving behind the warmth of a cosy room, furnished with a plump and inviting sofa, which was placed before a flickering log fire. Harry allowed himself to be guided to the seat on to which he fell back with carefree abandonment. Ginny sat beside him, her feet tucked up underneath herso she was facing the young man she adored.
Unsure of how to get Harry talking, Ginny asked a question that she hoped would draw him into a discussion. "The statues. Who was it?"
"How do you…?"
"My dreams. I see him in my dreams."
After a few minutes of silence, it was Harry who spoke next. "Did you see the Prophet this morning?"
"No, I slept late and missed breakfast," she said, grinning sheepishly. "Grace found me in the library after first period and told me that something happened between you andMalfoy and that you seemed really mad. She didn't say anything about the Daily Prophet though."
"It seems that Voldemort is scaling up his attacks and becoming more confident. In Diagon Alley yesterday, having sent in Death Eaters to subdue thestreet, he appeared himself and made a little speech. It was all in the Prophet today"
Ginny sensed thatHarry was beginning to tense up as he spoke, so she shifted slightly and rested her right hand on his arm. "Whatever it is Harry, it can't affect us in here. Try to stay calm."
Harry took a deep breath and forced himself to relax, at least a little bit. He looked into Ginny's beautiful brown eyes, and seeing nothing but compassion, he continued his explanation. "He said that because Harry Potter is dead, there's no-one who can oppose him. The world is going to kneel before him and call him master, and there's no-one to stand in his way. I know it's not rational, but I feel like he's killing in my name. I'm afraid it does affect me in here, because I feel sick like I've never felt before. I'm angry, confused and scared all at the same time. I don't know what to do, Ginny."
Ginny was thoughtful as she tried to digest everything that Harry had just told her. Not knowing what she could say at the moment that could possibly help, she settled instead for physical comfort, and climbed round onto his lap, put her arms around his neck and hugged him for all she was worth.
"How do you always know exactly what I need?" Harry mumbled into the top of her head.
"I didn't know what to say, so I went with a hug."
"Sometimes, it's best to say nothing at all."
The pair held onto each other for a long time, neither speaking, but both drawing comfort from the other. Finally, Harry realised he was ready to talk again. Ginny moved off his lap and retook her spot at the other end of the sofa, facing him.
"I've spent ten years convincing myself that Harry Potter no longer exists. The Boy-Who-Lived was a fantasy, killed off by the very society that was trying to keep him sheltered. But the moment someone uses that name, takes advantage of it, it's made my blood boil and filled me with desire to set the record straight.
The trouble is, Gin, that then my Slytherin side kicks in, and reminds me that the people out there think Harry Potter is some kind of incredible hero. A saviour. If I come forward they'll be expecting a warrior who will lead them to safety. Who's going to want me? A fifteen year old Slytherin kid. The world needs and wants a hero, something I don't want to be."
"But you are a hero already, Adam. To me. To all the birds and animals in the forest who you've healed when they werehurt. You're their champion. You're my champion and I believe in you."
"So what would you have me do? Put myself on the line for a society that will revere me one moment and cast me down the next should I not meet their expectations? Should I continue to live my own life, as Adam Black and let Voldemort slowly take over the world?"
"I think you know in your heart what you are going to do. You may not see it but you are special. You do so many things that most wizards and witches don't even realise are possible. You are far stronger than you think, and I don't just mean physically. Your true strength lies in your head and heart. I have no doubt that you can be who you were born to be and not disappoint anyone. You'll show the world how to fight for their beliefs. How to do the right thing."
"You really believe that I'm strong? That I can stand up to Voldemort?"
"I believe you can be the people's hope, that you can lead the fight."
"What if I am not strong enough?"
"Then I will be strong for you. I give you my promise." As Ginny spoke these last five words, and held on to Harry's hands, a faint golden glow surrounded them.
"You just made another bond between us…"
"I know. I'll always be there for you, Harry."
The pair spent time alone together in the room, talking some more, eating food that the Room provided when they got hungry and to a certain extent, being affectionate with each other as teenagers are known to be. At around four o'clock in the afternoon, Harry untangled himself from Ginny and looked pointedly at his watch.
"So, Gin, seeing as you're a girl and all, I guess it'll take you hours to get ready for the ball."
"Pratt. Are you saying that once I put on my robes I will need hours of further work to make myself beautiful?"
"I should think not," Ginny teased. "But I would like to have a shower and watch my dorm-mates run around like headless chickens looking for the perfect shade of lipstick."
"OK…whatever makes you happy," laughed Harry. "I'm going to stay here a bit longer, though, and think through a few things. Our robes are in Moony's office, OK?"
"Thank you. I'll meet you in the Entrance Hall then, at seven?"
"Yeah. I can't wait to see how amazing you'll look."
They got up from the sofa and Harry walked Ginny towards the Room's magical door. "Ginny?"
"Thank you. Thank you for being with me today. You made me strong when I felt weak. You gave me hope when I feltonly despair. I…" Ginny was staring deep into his bright green eyes; she was the only person who could really manage to do so. "I love you."
It took a few moments, but Ginny's look of surprise quickly transformed intoa wide grin. She flung herself into his arms and squeezed him as hard as she could, reaching up and whispering into his ear. "I love you, too."
Somewhere, perhaps in another plane of existence, in an alternate universe or somewhere else equally incomprehensible, the being known to its peers as Love whooped triumphantly and danced a short victory jig. Not far away, another being, known as Hate, grumbled and cursed.
"Now now, Hate. That's not really appropriate language for a supreme being, is it?" Love called down the table, around which these beings stood.
"And gloating is?" Hate retorted.
Across the table, another being watched the eternally bickering pair, an amused smile gracing her lips as the tattoos of thousands of creatures moved silently across her body.
As soon as those four magical words escaped Ginny's lips, Harry gasped for breath and slumped against her. The smaller girl could not manage the sudden weight upon her and did her best to lower her boyfriend to the floor. Harry's head span as he struggled for breath, and he slowly slid sideways from his sitting position against the door, to the floor. Within a few moments, he was unconscious.
Ginny was generally a level-headed young woman, but faced with an unconscious boyfriend whose body was slumped against the only exit caused her alarm. Unable to rouse the boy, with a single thought, she dispatched her phoenix to find Remus, completely disregardingwhat the werewolf might currently be doing. Within a few seconds, although it seemed far longer to the distressed girl, a flash of flame signified the phoenix's return, only now its talons were grasped firmly onto the robes of Harry's guardian, who knelt down immediately next to him and gently lifted his upper body into his arms.
"I was giving him a hug when he just gasped for breath, all of a sudden, and slumped onto me. I sat him down but he continued to gasp. After a few moments he keeled over." Tears were rolling down the girl's cheeks and the Professor spoke to her gently.
"I can't see anything wrong. We'll have to take him to see Madam Pomfrey."
"But he's blocking the door," Ginny cried, not really thinking rationally anymore.
"It's OK, Ginny. I can carry him."
Barely a few minutes later, Remus Lupinrushed into the Hospital wing, banging open the double doors, his precious ward cradled in his arms.
"Poppy! Poppy!" the wolf called as he tenderly placed Harry on the first emptybed.
Ginny, who had trailed along behind her Professor, sat in the chair to the left of the bed, and continued to sob quietly. Hearing Remus' cry, the matron swiftly bustled out of her office at the far end of the ward. With surprising speed for a woman of her age, she was at Harry's bedside in no-time, wand in hand.
"Can you tell me what happened, Remus?" the nurse asked as she cast diagnostic spells over Adam's still body.
"According to Ginny, he just suddenly began struggling to breathe, and lost consciousness in a few minutes."
"I see," said the Healer, without taking her eyes off the patient. "Miss Weasley, had the two of you been engaged in any kind of strenuous activity prior to this incident?"
"No, Madam Pomfrey. We'd been mostly talking since this morning. I was just giving him a hug when…" Remus moved a little so he could place a comforting hand on Ginny's shoulder.
"What's wrong with him, Poppy?" heasked, his voiced laced with concern for his adopted child.
"As far as I can tell, Remus, there's nothing wrong at all."
"I don't understand," Ginny cried out. "He couldn't breath. He's unconscious."
"Please child, let me explain," Madam Pomfrey said kindly. "Mr. Black is perfectly healthy, from a physiological perspective. Something appears to have triggered a growth in his magical core, and his body has shut down so that it can recharge this new core. Do you understand?"
"I think so," Ginny replied, with a sniff.
"When will he wake up?" Remus asked the Healer.
"It's hard to say. It's not unheard of for this to happen, but it is rare, especially in teenagers. Usually the growth of the magical core is gradual, and takes place from around age eight to sixteen, so it goes by unnoticed. The last time I saw this happen, the girl awoke after about an hour, if I remember correctly."
"Thank you, Poppy. It's a great relief to know he'll be fine in a little while."
"I expect he'll be more than fine, Remus. He'll be bouncing off the walls!"
As Ginny moved from the chair and perched on the edge of the bed so she could stroke Harry's black hair out of his eyes, Remus followed Madam Pomfrey to her office.
An hour later, Ginny was still sitting on the side of Harry's bed, holding one of his hands and caressing it lovingly. In the chair beside her was Sirius Black. Remus had gone to his office a while before, but he now was walking up to the bed.
"It's been over an hour now, Moony. He should be awake, shouldn't he?"
"It was only a guess, Padfoot. You know Adam...he never does anything by half, does he?" The two Marauders shared a chuckle, as they each recalled Harry's antics over the years.
"Will you tell me about him?" Ginny asked the two men suddenly. "What was he like as a child?"
It was well after eight o'clock when Harry finally awoke from his coma. As his eyes cracked open, the bright light of the sterile Hospital ward took him by surprise, and he quickly closed them again. From somewhere close by, he could hear the beautiful sound of Ginny, laughing heartily. Listening for a few minutes, he heard his Godfather's voice telling his girlfriend stories of his childhood, to her extreme amusement.
"Did you tell her how I beat you in a duel when I was only ten years old?"
"To be fair, Adam, I did have…ADAM? You're awake."
Ginny's growing reflexes and speed meant she moved to hug Harry far quicker than Sirius. "Thank goodness. I was so worried."
"I'm OK now, Gin. Actually, I feel great." Harry struggled up into a sitting position, and continued to hug the red-haired girl. "What are you doing here, Padfoot?"
"Well, kiddo. Moony Flooed to the cottageand told me you'd fallen into a coma. I thought it'd be the right thing to pop in and check up on you."
"And tell my girlfriend embarrassing stories about me?"
"Why look a gift horse in the mouth, kiddo?"
"So, are you really OK? Do you know what happened to you?" Ginny asked Harry, sounding really concerned).
"Actually, I had the weirdest dream. Let's go to the Room of Requirements and I'll explain it." Harry got off the hospital bed and headed out of the infirmary.
"Should we get Professor Lupin?" Ginny asked.
"I'll get him," Sirius said. "He wanted to stick his head in on the Ball."
"Oh, crap!" cried Harry. "We're missing the Ball. We can play with my new power another time…"
"Hang on, kiddo. How do you know that's what happened? You've been unconscious for hours," Sirius asked, confused by Harry's knowledge of what had come about him.
Harry stopped marching down the corridor, and turned to Ginny, who had been desperately trying to keep up with the excited boy. "Ginny. It's up to you; do you want to go to the ball, or hear my story?"
"The story will keep until tomorrow. Let's go to the Ball."
"Fine. The robes are in Moony's office. Do you need to go back to Gryffindor Tower or can you get ready in Moony's rooms?"
"So long as he's got a shower we can use…not at the same time, Sirius...Professor Lupin's quarters will be fine."
"Come on then," Harry encouraged, before whispering to his Godfather. "I can't believe you were thinking of that, Padfoot."
"How did she…?"
"Trust me, you old dog, she always knows."
Under the masterful direction of Professors Flitwick and Dumbledore, the Great Hall had been transformed into a truly incredible sight. What was previously a large, drab room with stone walls and floors, had become a glittering palace of silver and white. Four enormous Christmas trees lined each side of the hall, and each was beautifully decorated with everlasting candles, tiny glowing snow-fairies along with traditional baubles and tinsel. Every surface in the hall had been coated with a magical twinkling frost effect, so that every table, chair, suit of armour and tapestry looked as if they had been left outside in the freezing night's air.
The four house tables had been removed for the evening, and in order to promote a more intimate atmosphere, round tables, each with ten places, were laid out in their place. Each table was draped with a crisp white damask cloth, with silver threads running through it, whilst the formal chairs, in place of the usual wooden benches, were upholstered with the same fabric. The front portion of the Hall, in front of the raised platform where the staff table stood, had been laid with awhite marble dance floor.
The tables had been dressed with fine silver and white china, shiny pewter goblets and exquisite goblin-wrought silver candlesticks. In the middle of each table was a centrepiece of perfect white roses, arum lilies and Singapore orchids. Each and every couple that entered the Great Hall that night was struck by its grandeur.
Harry and Ginny held each other's hand tightly as they approached the double doors that led into the Great Hall. They could hear the tinkling of silver, the scraping of chairs being moved, the merry laughter and thumping of music; it was after nine o'clock by the time they had gotten dressed, and the formal post-dinner music had already given way to something more appealing to the contemporary tastes of the older student population.
Their robes were magnificent, and would surely attract people's attention. This, combined with the closeness that the pair was intent on displaying, meant that the usually private couple would face close scrutiny tonight. Steeling themselves, they stepped through the doors into the Hall and both gasped in amazement at the majesty of the scene.
As the pair slowly made their way through the maze of small round tables, haphazardly-strewn chairs andchatting or otherwise occupied couples, all who saw them stopped to look in amazement. Reaching the dance floor, the throng of dancing teenagers moved apart, stepping back in awe at the couple who arrived late to the ball. The band played on, and Harry and Ginny, aware of the attention they were receiving but fighting with all their might to ignore it, held each other close and began to dance.
Professor McGonagall had noticed a disturbance on the floor, and had stood in her position at the head table, to try and see what had caused the disruption. In a space alltheir own, she saw them.
Ginny Weasley was dressed in a robes of the deepest red– if passion had a colour, this would be it. It toned perfectly with the girl's hair, which fell simply and elegantly down her back. The hems and cuffs and collar were trimmed with black, and all the material was of the finest silk money could buy. Harry's robes was made of the same fine silk and apart from the cut, was of the same style as Ginny's, although the colours were reversed. The robe was black as the dead of night. As black as shadow. On the back of Ginny's robes, emblazoned in bright fire-coloured embroidery, was the image of a spread-eagled phoenix. Although only Harry knew it, it was an exact replica of the tattoo on her left arm. On Harry's back, embroidered in the same colour as Ginny's robes, was the face of the panther, a copy of the image that adorned Harry's back.
As magnificent as these robes were - the obvious quality, the perfect colours and the incredible embroidery needlework – it was something else that made them extraordinary. Around the bottom of each set of robes were flames, in Ginny's case black, flawless black, and Harry's were the same fiery red as Ginny's phoenix. The astonishing thing about these flames was that they were flickering and dancing around the fabric as if burning an invisible source of fuel.
After a time, the excitement over the pair's robes died down and the partying students continued dancing, talking and all else. Ron and Hermione, who were attending the Ball as a couple, were sitting at one of the smaller round tables, when Ron surprisingly started talking about fashion.
"I've been to a few parties and whatnot, at the Ministry mostly, but I've never seen robes like theirs before."
Hermione nodded in agreement."I can't begin to imagine the charms that must have gone into making them. I wonder if Ginny knows."
"No, she doesn't."
"How do you know?"
"Adam's relative arranged it all. Sirius Black; do you remember him?"
"Of course, Ronald. It's not as if you haven't mentioned him before, or what happened in the summer."
"I'm just proud of what I…" The red-head broke off when he noticed thathis date was deliberately winding him up, and was sittinglooking at him with a big grin on her face. "Ha ha! Those colours and the flame patterns, they just look so perfect on them, don't they?"
"Yeah, you're right," Hermione agreed.
"Black as shadow and red as fire. Yes, suits them perfectly," Ron continued, talking to him self more than anything.
"What did you say?" Hermione asked suddenly.
"Err…that the colours suit them perfectly."
"No, before that; the words you said about black and red."
"Um…black as shadow and red as fire. Why all the…?"
"Shadow and fire," the girl whispered to herself. "Shadow and fire."
"Mental!" the red-haired boy mutteredunder his breath.
"Come on!" said Hermione suddenly, jumping up from her seat and starting to tug on her date's arm.
"Where are we going?" Ron asked, allowing himself to be pulled to his feet and half dragged out of the Great Hall.
"To the library," the bushy-haired Gryffindor called back over her shoulder. "I know where to find the answer."
"The answer to what?" demandedRon, who was still more than a little confused.
"Boy in black and girl in red. I remembered where I read about it before."
Back in the Great Hall, the ballcontinued, unaffected by the swift departure of two Fifth Year Gryffindors. Those who saw them leavein such a hurry most likely assumed they were rushing off to find a quiet alcove or unoccupied broom cupboard. As the Gryffindor couple exited through the Great Hall's main doors, a new arrival, even later than Harry and Ginny, staggered through the small door behind the staff table. The door led into an antechamber, a room through which the staff could access the rest of the castle, without having to wade through the throngs of students using the Entrance Hall.
The latecomer to the party was a woman rarely seen about the castle. She wore strange clothes, even for wizards, had large glasses and smelled strongly of cooking sherry. As she tottered precariously towards the staff table, she headed towards the headmaster, who stood and greeted her amiably.
"Sybill, this is unexpected. How nice of you to join us."
"Thank you, headmaster. I was gazing into the mists of the crystal ball when my Inner Eye showed me to be here in the Great Hall. Naturally, I came as…" The airy, affected voice trailed away. The Divination professor's eyes glazed over and her voice had an ethereal, rasping edge to it when she spoke again. "The ancient prophecy is being fulfilled; they have united..."
Deep in the heart of the Forbidden Forest, a phenomenon that hadn't occurred in many years was taking place. Hundreds of centaurs, male and female, young and old, were gathered to hear the words of the Council of Elders, whichhad been summoned by two of the Forbidden Forest's native herd. Finally, the waiting was over. The case had been presented by the two centaurs called Firenze and Magorian and the Elders had ruminated. The eldest of them all addressed the assembly.
"Fellow Guardians of the Forests," he cried. "Firenze and Magorian, from this ancient forest have presented compelling information…"
"Man of black shadow; woman of red fire…"
Ron slumped into his usual chair at the table in the library where the group of friends sat to study during the evenings and weekends. Hermione, whom he had now officially certified as 'mental', was swiftly scanninga shelf filled with especially large and old tomes. After a minute's searching, she found the one she needed and brought it to the table.
"I know it's in here somewhere…" she muttered to herself as she thumbed quickly but carefully through the ancient pages."It's an old Centaurean legend…"
"A what?" Ron asked, slightly more interested now that the search was nearly at an end.
"Centaurean – made by the Centaurs," she explained without looking up. "Yes! I've found it…"
"Joined in word, soul, magic and destiny…"
Dumbledore listened to the strange woman deliver her second real prophecy, his mind whirling as his aged ears took in the words. Ancient prophecy…united…black shadow…red fire…prophecy…shadow…fire…
Suddenly, the Seer's words made some semblance of sense in the brilliant mind of the headmaster. According to Sybill Trelawney, the ancient legend of the Centaurs was coming to pass; the Shadowfire Prophecy.
"All who oppose them will perish…"
"OK, Ron, listen to this. 'Since before the founding of Hogwarts, perhaps even before the existence of Merlin, the Centaurs of the world have believed in a myth, known as "The Legend of Dark Flame". The legend tells of a witch and a wizard with an entwined destiny, who will unite and brutally purge the lands of ne'er-do-wells. The woman shall be associated with the colour red, through love, passion, honesty and blood. The man shall be associated with black, through despair and darkness. The pair shall be lovers, and will cast aside any who stand against them. In wizarding folklore, the legend is also referred to as "The Shadowfire Prophecy".'"
"Bloody hell!" exclaimed Ron. "You think Adam and Ginny are…?"
"Yes. And although I don't like to say it…" The girl paused.
"Those in their way shall be brutally swept aside…"
"…behold, fellow Guardians of the Forest. Look up to the cloudless night sky. See how Mars burns in the darkness, with the brightness of fire, yet no other star can be seen this night. This is the sign, written by the Centaurean soothsayers of ancient times. The Legend of Dark Flame has come to pass. The awakening of Shadowfire has begun."
"The ancient prophecy is fulfilling. They have united."
As Sybill Trelawney finished her proclamation, she slumped into the seat that Albus Dumbledore had risen from to greet her. His eyes were frantically scanning the studentshim; desperately searching for two people in particular. It could only be them. The way they carried themselves, the way they were with each other. The way they looked. The power they clearly possessed. Finally, in a corner of the Great Hall, after a few minutes of searching, he saw them. There was no doubt in the wizened educator's mind that these two youngsters were indeed, united.
Completely oblivious to what was happening around them, and totally unaware of the Divination professor's oratory, Harry and Ginny were locked together in what could only be described as a passionate embrace while a faint red glow pulsedaround them.
A/N - Btw, I will be writing a sequel!