A/N: And we've finally reached the end! Thank you all so much for your wonderful reviews. I'll be posting the betaed versions of the chapters when I get the chance. 1-5 have already been posted. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it. :)
Chapter 16: Selfishness
Harry ran to the Gryffindor common room so quickly that his presence was not noticed by the students or professors he passed. He came to a halt outside the portrait and quickly said the password. It opened and he leaped inside, scanning the room for Ginny. He spotted her over at a corner table among a few other seventh years. She looked up, as if she knew he was looking at her, and smiled. Harry went over to her quickly, pulling her as gently as his haste would allow out of her seat and up the boys' stairs. The seventh years turned to gawk at them.
"Harry," she started worriedly, almost running to keep up with him. "What's going on?" He opened the door to his dorm room without answering. He led her to his bed where she sat down.
"What's wrong?" she said, a little more anxious now.
"I need you to stay in here until I come back for you."
"What?" she asked, alarmed. "Why?"
"Voldemort's coming." He glanced at his trunk and went over to it.
"Then we need to go! We have to fight!" she exclaimed, rising up off the bed.
"No," he said forcefully from his trunk. He grabbed his Invisibility Cloak and the Map and went back over to Ginny. He pushed on her shoulder slightly and she sat back down on the bed.
"Take these. Stay on my bed with the drapes closed. Cover yourself with the Invisibility Cloak. Watch the map to make sure that no one comes up here. You must stay here." His voice was quick and frightened.
"No! I'm coming with you," she said determinedly.
"Why not? I can fight. I can help."
"No." How could he explain this to her? The only way he was going to be able to get through this fight was if he knew she was safe. If he knew, then there was still a reason to live, to fight.
"Please," he said. "Stay here where you'll be safe. The wards I've placed on the room should hold long enough. Please, Ginny." He was begging now.
"I don't understand. I know magic. I'm good at magic, you tell me so all the time. Why can't I fight, too?" He sat down next to the bed and wrapped his arms around her. She leaned her head into his chest.
"I… If you went with me… I wouldn't know if you were safe. What if you—" he took a deep breath. "If you were… killed… then there would be no reason for me to fight. I have to know you're safe." They sat in silence a moment.
"Promise you'll come back," she barely whispered. Harry heard it easily. He closed his eyes. There was no way he could truthfully promise such a thing. It was very likely that he would be killed today. But if he could keep Ginny safe, keep her away from all of that…
"I promise." He kissed the top of her head and then stood up, pulling her up with him. "I love you," he whispered in her ear. She looked up into his eyes. Harry saw hers were filled with unshed tears. He vowed to do whatever he could to make sure he kept his promise.
"I love you, too," she said. She stared at him for a moment. "You promised." And with that she kissed him as hard as she could. Harry savored the feeling of her lips on his and reveled in the warmth she provided. His thoughts were becoming clouded and… she tasted so good. He ran his fingers through her hair, soft and silky like always. She moaned and her breath came more heavily into his mouth. He felt his lips start to raise up over his teeth and the venom leak into his mouth. He pulled away, holding her face in his hands. His hands were wet and he saw Ginny was crying. He wiped her tears with his fingers, tracing her lips before he pulled away completely. He walked towards the door and opened it. Right before he closed it, he heard her whisper,
Harry couldn't decide, as he ran through the school towards Hagrid's hut, if he should have locked the bedroom door or not. On the one hand, if he had locked it and for whatever reason Ginny needed to get out, there was no way for her to do that. But then again, Harry wasn't completely sure that she would stay in the room. Knowing, however, that when he left her she was safe in the room, he could pretend that that was where she still was, and would remain during the battle.
When he arrived at Hagrid's hut, his entire family plus those they were able to convince to aid them were there. Where Hagrid was he didn't know, nor did he care. Voldemort was coming.
"How many are there?" he asked immediately after entering the hut.
"We don't know yet. He's been really secretive about how many vampires he's told about the meeting. A lot is all I can give you," Aurora said wearily.
"What's the plan?" he asked as he turned to Adam.
"They're meeting in some clearing in the woods. There are lookouts spread out in the forest, protecting Voldemort and whoever he has with him. They'll have to wait for a sufficient number to get there. Aurora said that it was only Voldemort, the Cold Ones, and a few of the more talented newborns there at the moment. The rest were told to come at seven, right?"
"Yes," Aurora answered. "That's when the Death Eaters are suppose to attack the castle. Voldemort's using them as a distraction so that he can get to you more easily," she told Harry.
"Does Voldemort expect all the newborns to show up?"
"Joseph says that a lot of them won't."
"We should be thankful for at least that," Harry replied. Shouting cut off whatever he was about to say. It was far away, but the family could easily hear it. It was coming from the castle. The Death Eaters were here.
"I thought you said seven!" Harry exclaimed.
"That's what…Joseph told me," Aurora said, her eyes going wide.
Tamah turned to stare at Aurora for a long moment and then gasped. "I—I'm sorry, Aurora," she said sadly.
Aurora looked at the small girl with wide, fearful eyes that became more confident. "He still told me they were coming. So he might not…I can still…"
"Does that mean that he lied about a lot of the newborns not showing up, too?" Harry asked urgently.
Aurora just stood there, staring unseeingly at Harry.
"I don't know," Tamah answered in a small voice.
"Damn it," Harry growled to the silent room. "We have to take into account the fact that there could be at least forty newborns coming, along with Voldemort and his five. What should we do?" he asked the room in general.
"We should take down the guards first," Adam replied.
"We can watch and take down the newborns as they enter the forest," said Samantha, one of the vampires Jane and Adam had found in France, motioning to the large group behind her.
"And we'll find Voldemort," Tamah said as she moved closer to Harry.
"What about the people in the castle?" Harry asked.
"Once we search the forest for guards, I'll go up," Roger volunteered.
"And I'll go with him," Jane added.
"Aurora?" Jane asked kindly, coming to lay a hand on her arm.
"I'll help search for guards," she answered in a monotone, her eyes unmoving.
The group dispersed, and Harry followed Tamah into the Forest, his eyes and ears alert for anything unusual. A thought occurred to him, suddenly, and in the serious moment he felt like laughing. Harry was sure Dumbledore would call in the entire Order, so he'd find out eventually. Still… Harry's smile gave him away, and Tamah asked,
"The final battle is taking place and none of us told Sirius. He is going to be pissed."
The screams are what got to her. Ginny tried to keep her promise to Harry and stay in the room, but there was no way she could with her friends in danger…with Harry in danger. She had to go help. After her mind completely made up, she jumped out of bed and threw on her sneakers as fast as she could. She took a hair tie from her nightstand and pulled her hair into a tight ponytail. As she ran out of the room, she pulled her wand out of her pocket and held it tightly in her fist. The adrenaline started pumping through her, and her hand was shaky when she reached for the doorknob.
The younger Gryffindors were huddled together in the common room. Another scream sounded from outside the portrait hole, and although it seemed impossible, they squeezed even closer together. Taking a deep breathe that did nothing to help the sick feeling that was beginning to form in her stomach, Ginny walked past the children and opened the portrait slowly, wand at the ready. Not seeing anything, she slipped quietly out and closed the frame silently. Another scream. Ginny jumped and kept her back pressed to the wall, her eyes flicking back and forth down the hall. She wished she was invisible and then wanted to smack herself. She left the cloak and the Map in the room. Her feet started to move toward the portrait hole to go back and get them when the screaming started again…and didn't let up. It was coming from her right. Ginny left the wall and ran down the hall, stopping at the corner and peeking around.
A small boy, he couldn't have been older than a second year, was writhing on the floor. A figure in one of those horrible masks and black cloak was standing over him. Ginny leveled her want and whispered a Stunner. It hit the Death Eater in his side and he collapsed to the floor. Ginny ran over to the boy and recognized him as one of the younger Gryffindors, so she helped him up and practically ran him to the common room. After helping him through the portrait hole and making sure he was conscious, she ran upstairs and took the Cloak. She then ran back out the common room in order to…well, she didn't really know. She ran down the flights of stairs towards the sound of fighting.
What was she doing? Why was she going? Was it to fight? To help stop Voldemort from taking over? Or did she just want to find Harry, to make sure he was safe? Or did she want to help Harry fight? Because wanting to help Harry fight was completely different than just wanting to help fight.
The noise grew louder. There was more yelling and movement. She ran down the stairs, luckily drawing no attention. Once she got down there, however, curses started coming towards her. She needed to find Harry, she realized. That was where she needed to be.
Ginny looked frantically around the hall for Harry. She dodged to the side and threw herself up against the wall, barely missing a jet of green. She took a deep breath and continued through the fray, shooting Stunners at whichever Death Eaters she could. She didn't know how he was doing. For all she knew he could be… She wouldn't let herself think that. Lights danced in front of her face as she continued her path, the flashing was slightly distracting. She saw McGonagall ahead of her, dueling with someone she didn't know. Ginny move as close as she could without the Death Eater noticing then shot a powerful Stunner at him. It hit him dead on and he fell immediately to the ground.
"Professor," she gasped out. "Have you seen Harry?"
"I saw him go out the front door quite some time ago. Miss Weasley, it's safer in the castle. Please, say inside."
"I'm sorry, but you know there's no way I can do that." McGonagall nodded her reluctant acceptance as Ginny dashed passed her in a mad rush to the door. She slammed past Colin who yelled after her. She did not even turn her head.
She threw open the doors and was finally outside. Ginny surveyed the grounds, but the sun was finally setting and she couldn't make out the faces. Then she glanced over to the forest and saw lights flashing among the tress. Spells. She looked around the grounds that she could see and tried to find any people that weren't using magic at all. It was difficult, but from what she could tell, everybody fighting had a wand. She made the connection. Harry and his family must be in the forest. There was only one way that she was going to get there safely through the masses of Death Eaters that littered the expanse between her and the trees. She pulled the Invisibility Cloak that Harry had thrust into her hands. She wondered how he would react to her use of it.
She managed to navigate through the bodies without much hesitation. In a short amount of time that passed too quickly and not fast enough, she was at the edge of the forest. She walked slowly and deliberately, keeping the Invisibility Cloak over her. But then it snagged on a branch and made a rustling noise. Before she knew it, the cloak was pulled off of her and her arms were forced violently behind her. The grip was cold and intense. Her heart was frozen with fear and she tried not to tremble.
"Move," the rough voice of her captor commanded her. She obediently started walking forward. There was no way she was strong enough to escape. If there was a way to reach her wand though, then the playing field might be a little more leveled.
"Make one move towards that little stick of yours and I'll snap both your wrists in two," he growled. It left Ginny with no doubt that he would.
She stumbled along in front of him, but he soon tired of her slow pace. He picked her up and threw her head first over his shoulder, keeping his grip tight around her knees. Her hair was blown forward over her head as he started to run. The blood rushing to her face and brain was intensely uncomfortable, as was the feeling of the wind against her skin. When Harry ran with her, it was a freeing, liberating experience. This hurried sprint through the trees made her sick to her stomach. She didn't know if it was from the actual running or the impending feeling of death. There was no way that she could get out of this mess. But maybe he was going to where Harry was. The thought made her feel slightly better.
She felt them slow down and she was thrown to the ground. She landed on her wrist a funny way and she was pretty sure she heard a snap. A sharp pain shot its way up through her left arm.
"Get up," he commanded. Ginny finally got a look at her captor as she stood up slowly. He was not much taller than she. He wore all black, but they were Muggle clothes. His feet were bare. His skin was the same chalk color that Harry's was when he hadn't been hunting in a while. The main difference, though, was that his face was twisted into a sick sort of smile, and his blood red eyes had a hungry look in them. He didn't give her time to become more frightened. He grabbed her by the arm and dragged her through the trees to a small clearing. In the center of the clearing was a tall figured clothed in a black robe. Around him stood four others. All of them had pale skin and blood red eyes that turned to her when she approached. It was painfully obvious that Harry was not here. Ginny couldn't decide whether to be relieved that he was safe from these creatures at the moment or let down because now there was no one to rescue her. No one knew where she was.
The one in the center turned around and removed the hood he was wearing. Ginny gasped slightly. Even though she had never seen him before, she knew instantly that this creature was Voldemort. It was almost impossible for Ginny to believe that he was the cause of so much destruction. He looked just like all the other vampires she had met. Pale, graceful, beautiful. But there was an evil in his face that the Stewarts did not have. It marred his beauty. He held her gaze intensely with his crimson stare. She couldn't look away. She tried, struggled mentally against him, but somehow she couldn't make her eyes move. Finally, he glanced at the one standing behind her.
"Bring her forward Phillip." Ginny felt herself pushed from behind and she unwillingly moved forward until she was standing in front of Voldemort with the other four forming a half circle behind him. He gestured towards the trees and Phillip was gone in a white flash.
"So you must be the famous Ginny Weasley. I cannot express how pleased I am to have you here with us," Voldemort started off conversationally. Ginny could barely listen for the effort it took to keep standing. "Tell me, I am truly dying to know," he paused to laugh a little, "you have absolutely no fear of Harry Potter, even though you know what he is. Why is that?" Ginny kept her mouth shut and fervently hoped for Harry to come.
"Come on my dear, I really want to know. Why aren't you scared of he who has the desire to drink your blood?" As he said this, an invisible force lifted her head up so she was looking directly at him. Figuring she might as well get it over with, she said defiantly,
"He loves me." Voldemort smiled evilly down at her.
"And you think that this would stop him from killing you?"
"Yes." It was becoming easier for her to talk. Somehow, her fear was dissipating.
"Even if your blood was exposed to him?"
"He hasn't killed me before even though I've bled several times with him near."
"Really?" Voldemort actually seemed intrigued at this. He looked at the four standing behind him. "I wonder if they would have the same amount of self-control that your Potter seems to have."
Ginny watched apprehensively as four pairs of eyes turned hungrily to stare at her. It was obvious that they would not. Well, she wasn't going to do nothing while her death was planned. Now that her fear had gone down to a reasonable level, she tried to figure out how she could get her wand out of her pocket without anyone noticing. But then what would she do after that? Her scheming was interrupted when all five of the creatures turned their heads towards the trees to her right. She couldn't see what they were looking at. Whatever it was though, had even Voldemort looking slightly worried. Her heart skipped a beat at the thought. Perhaps someone was coming to save her.
Then their heads turned suddenly to her left. Maybe people were coming to them from both sides. She rejoiced at the thought. Her looked back over to her right and saw huge clouds of dark purple and black rising up from above the treetops. It wasn't that far from here.
Voldemort nodded to one of the vampires and then his followers all took off into the trees.
"It seems, my dear, that we must leave. It has been a pleasure talking with you, though."
Deciding this was as best of an opportunity as she was going to get, she pulled out her wand and said, "Avada Kedavra," with as much force as she could. The faint green light missed Voldemort by inches, and his eyes narrowed.
Ginny didn't even see it coming. Voldemort's hand struck out and she felt herself flying through the air, landing hard against a pile of jagged rocks near the border of the clearing. She felt a sharp pain in her arm, her back, her head…and then there was nothing.
Tamah motioned with her head to her left. Harry nodded and the two silently crept through the underbrush. They could no longer hear the others. Harry trusted they would be able to kill the guards. Tamah and Harry were going to find Voldemort.
In front of him, Tamah pushed aside a small branch. It stirred the air and Harry smelled the faint smell of Ginny. He froze mid-step. It was fresh. Tamah had smelled it too, for she looked back at Harry with wide, fearful eyes. Steeling himself, Harry moved forward with an intensity that he had lacked earlier. Tamah followed warily. For what seemed like an eternity, Harry weaved his way through the trees that made up the eerily silent forest.
The two came upon a scent that wasn't as fresh as Ginny's but unfamiliar to Harry. Tamah mouthed "Voldemort" at Harry. He took in a deep breath and memorized the disgusting smell. Tamah led the way, following the weaving scent through the trees. Deeper into the forest they got, and then they caught a whiff of a fresher trail on the wind. He was close. Harry took off through the trees, Tamah barely keeping up with him.
Sounds of fighting reached Harry's ears. Ripping. Screeching. He smelled the sickening smell of vampire burning. Voldemort's trail was leading him into the fighting, but then suddenly veered off into another part of the forest. Harry turned sharply and continued, wondering which vampires were the ones that were burning. The smell got stronger and stronger until another clearing and…
"I have been waiting a long time for this moment."
Excruciating pain was all Ginny felt when her mind returned. She opened her eyes and saw nothing but the inky black of the forest canopy. Ginny's sight wavered and she felt herself slipping back into unconsciousness. A feral growl brought her back to reality. It was coming from her left. She tried to move her head to see who it was, but realized with a jolt that she couldn't.
"Don't," she heard a familiar voice say.
Another growl was heard and then Ginny heard a sound that sounded like two boulders crashing into each other. Another snarl.
"Move," a deep voice commanded.
"No," the familiar voice answered again. "She is Harry's mate. I will not let you kill her."
"How can you jus stand there, with her blood all over like that?" the deep voice questioned, his sentence ending in a snarl.
"Because she's family. I love her. And you'll have to kill me to get to her."
The almost constant, low growling stopped. "I would never do that," the deep voice replied softly. Ginny could almost feel him pulling himself together. There was a dull pain in her arm that was growing more persistent. Her eyes were too heavy to keep open anymore. The pain was growing and closing her eyes seemed only to increase it. She tried to focus on the conversation beside her instead.
"That's why you never told Voldemort," the familiar voice said. Ginny knew it had to be one of Harry's family members, but which one? It wasn't Tamah, her voice was much higher. So it was either Jane or Aurora. It must have been Aurora; Jane wasn't connected to Voldemort or his vampires in any way.
"I knew he would kill you," the male voice answered.
The pain was beginning to get to her. It felt like her entire body was broken. Aurora said something, but it didn't register with Ginny's brain. The voice answered her, but Ginny didn't catch any of that, either.
"We're all better off without him. You don't have to take orders. We can be together without worrying about anybody else. No more babysitting, no more threats. Voldemort does not own you. You owe him nothing, especially not your loyalty. What has he done for you?"
The deep voice said something so fast Ginny couldn't understand.
"I love you. If not for yourself, do it for me," Aurora pleaded.
Ginny waited for the other voice to answer, but there was nothing but silence. She continued to wait, but Aurora never said anything else, either. Perhaps they had left. Ginny didn't have enough strength to open her eyes. She resigned herself to waiting. It was as if she could feel her life draining from her, but she wouldn't succumb. She had to hold on. For Harry.
Just the two of them. There were no Death Eaters, no Cold Ones, no Stewarts. It was just Harry and Voldemort, and one of them had to die. Harry focused all his senses on Voldemort, his prey. Voldemort's wand was in his hand and his arm streaked out and Harry sidestepped the green curse. Apparently Voldemort had yet to realize that Avada Kedavra could not kill vampires.
Harry didn't need to use magic. He launched himself at Voldemort, slamming his fist into his stomach. Voldemort buckled and immediately stood back up, sending another Killing Curse at Harry. There wasn't enough time to move, and Harry didn't want to give away his precious position so close to the enemy, so he let the curse hit him. Shock overcame Voldemort's face for a moment, and Harry used his hesitation to land a kick across Voldemort's back. There was a loud crack and Voldemort snarled. Harry went for his neck, but Voldemort ducked and threw a punch at Harry. It missed by centimeters, but Harry was able to grab the arm Voldemort had shot forward and he cast a severing charm on it. Voldemort screamed in pain as Harry took his arm and threw it aside.
Voldemort relied too much on magic. It was obvious that he did not have much experience in hand-to-hand combat. Harry—who had grown up without the use of magic to defend himself—had been taught by Adam the intricacies of fighting and had sparred against Roger constantly, especially after he had first been turned.
Frustration was evident on Voldemort's face as he tried, and failed, to hurt Harry. The sounds of his family approaching caught Harry's attention. This needed to end, now. The castle was still being attacked, and there were still newborns out in the forest if his family was still here.
With a snarl Harry charged at Voldemort again, catching him around the waist and throwing him face first to the ground, with his arm bent behind him. Harry slid his teeth over his neck quickly, a high squealing accompanying the severing. And then his head was off, following closely by Voldemort's other arm and two legs.
The Stewarts were standing in a protective circle around the clearing.
"Burn him," Harry ordered. Adam stepped up and piled the pieces, lighting them on fire. A deep purple smoke furled into the sky.
Harry expected to feel relief, relief that this was all over. But he didn't feel anything. He looked at Adam, who had been joined by Tamah. Both of them were staring at the charred remains of Voldemort. Harry turned to Jane.
She smiled. "All the newborns have been taken care of, the ones that came here at least. So has Voldemort's guard. Joseph and Aurora, they killed them all. Even Zeke."
"Joseph?" Harry asked astonished.
Jane nodded. "He changed sides. They're at the castle now, helping Roger." Her face turned serious. "Harry," she said carefully. Harry recognized the tone and braced himself for the bad news.
"It's Ginny. Voldemort…he—"
"Where is she?" Harry interrupted.
"Aurora found her. She said she was still conscious, but she had lost a lot of blood. She tried to find you, but Roger said he needed help at the castle so she told me to tell you. But you were fighting Voldemort…"
"Where. Is. She." Harry demanded.
"Back that way," Jane answered, pointing into the trees.
Harry took off, trying to catch her scent. It didn't take him long. Her blood seemed to be everywhere. In the wind, in the leaves of the trees, in the dirt on the ground…
And then he saw her, tossed aside like a broken rag doll, complete with red hair. Her freckles stood out shockingly from her pale face, half of it caked in blood. Her right arm was bent up behind her at a strange angle. Her shirt was thoroughly soaked with blood. It was a miracle she was still breathing. Harry was beside her in a heartbeat, asking himself over and over how he could have let this happen.
Now was the moment of choice. He had almost no time left. He had to make the decision. It had been easier to say no to her when she was standing in front of him, alive and healthy. He wondered why he had ever denied her such a thing. He was about to lose her. No. He was going to lose her. He knew enough to know that no amount of magic could bring her back from this state. Now that he was faced with actually losing her, he didn't find his next action as hard as he thought he should have.
He lifted her wrist to his mouth. The wrist that had tormented him all year. His lips placed a gentle kiss on it. Then he slowly, delicately, sunk his teeth into her flesh. He felt the poison seep into his mouth, mixing with the blood she was losing. Her blood. Harry had never tasted anything that could compare. He swallowed involuntarily and then couldn't stop. He watched in horror as he continued to drink her blood. But would it really make a difference if he stopped? She was practically dead anyway. Even if he didn't kill her, she wouldn't be alive anymore. She would be one of the damned. But she had said she wanted to be. If he stopped, she would forever be with him. If he continued, she would forever be lost. He wrenched his mouth away, angry with himself for dooming her to his life, and disgusted with himself for doing what he had long promised himself he would never do: drink her blood.
Ginny could not open her eyes. She felt pain in every inch of her body. She didn't know if she had enough strength to breathe anymore. She couldn't hear anything, she couldn't feel anything except pain. And then, more pain was added to it. Something was on her arm…or her hand maybe, she couldn't tell. And somehow, she knew what was happening. What would happen. Nothing Harry had ever told her could compare. The pain she had experienced earlier was nothing compared to this.
A burning fire consumed her, writhing through her veins, engulfing her senses. Suddenly Ginny felt something cool wrap around her hand. The sensation gave her a miniscule amount of relief. She tried to open her eyes to see him, as she knew he would be, sitting beside her with an anxious and pained expression on his face. Her eyes just wouldn't open though, and she focused on the feel of his hand covering hers, knowing that this wrenching, excruciatingly painful experience and everything she was giving up was worth being able to be with Harry forever.