A/N: This is it, the LAST CHAPTER! A lot of this is copied directly from DH or is pretty close. So, disclaimer: I don't own it!
Chapter 10: Today's the day I'll do something right for once
As Harry approached it, the Patronus turned and began to walk deeper into the woods. I saw Harry hesitate for a second, glance back at the tent, and then turn to follow it. I opened my mouth to call out to him, but decided against it at the last second. Probably be a bit of a stupid move. He's not expecting me to be here, and if I heard someone unexpected call out behind me in the dark, I'd probably send a curse at them without thinking. Then again, when he does realize I'm here, he still may want to curse me.
I followed Harry at a distance as quietly as possible, half-expecting him to turn at the sound of my pounding heart. Once, I accidentally snapped a twig beneath my feet, and immediately ducked behind a tree. But when I peered around it, Harry was still following the deer, oddly intent upon it. I had a feeling he hadn't even heard the twig snap.
After several minutes of walking, the doe stopped at the edge of a clearing. Harry began to run towards it, but before he could reach it, the doe vanished. Suddenly, the forest was plunged into darkness. A few seconds later, Harry was illuminated once more by light shining from the tip of his wand. He was staring at something near his feet, and soon began to pace around in a small circle. As his wandlight rippled over the ground, I realized he was circling a patch of ice. I frowned, confused. But Harry continued his pacing; a couple of times he pointed his wand at the ice and muttered something. Finally, he stopped, and I saw rather than heard him sigh, his breath emerging in a misty puff.
If I had been confused before, it was nothing compared to my bewilderment as Harry began peeling off layers of clothing, until finally he stood in the chill wintry air in only his underwear. Shivering uncontrollably, he lifted his wand and pointed it at the ice. I jumped as a sound like a gunshot ricocheted around the clearing. Then I realized that the ice patch had in fact been a frozen pond, for now chunks of ice were floating on a small pool of water. I winced in sympathy as I understood what Harry was about to do. Sure enough, he stepped to the edge of the pool, laid down his lit wand, and jumped. Seconds later, he emerged from the water, gasping with cold. He treaded water for a moment, and then his head disappeared below the water once more. I watched the pool intently, wondering what could possibly be worth such agony.
The seconds ticked by, but Harry didn't reemerge. Suddenly, a single, horrifying thought pierced me: he wasn't going to come up. Before this thought had fully formed in my mind, I was sprinting across the clearing, tossing my rucksack aside as I went. I thought I saw movement out of the corner of my eye as I neared the pool, but I sure as hell wasn't going to stop for a closer look. Without hesitating, I dove into the icy water.
The cold was more of a shock than I'd expected, but I quickly ignored it as I spotted Harry near the bottom of the pool, floating above the sword of Gryffindor. With a thrill of horror, I realized that he was wearing the locket Horcrux around his neck, and that the chain had tightened around his throat. Harry was clawing frantically at it, but as I watched, his hands went slack and his arms began to float out from his body. Oh, no you don't! Don't you DARE die on me Harry! With the same weird sense of clarity that I'd felt when the blue light had appeared outside my window, I grabbed the sword of Gryffindor and sliced through the Horcrux's chain. Dropping these, I wrapped an arm firmly around Harry's chest and used my free arm to drag us both to the surface of the pool.
As soon as Harry's head broke the surface, he began to cough and splutter. Relief flooded through me as I pushed him unceremoniously out of the water. Then I dove once more to retrieve the sword and locket, before climbing out myself. I remained on all fours for a moment, breathing hard and shaking with cold. I struggled to my feet and saw Harry raise a shaking hand to feel his throat; the skin was red and shiny where the chain of the Horcrux had cut into it. Suddenly I was angry. What could possibly have possessed him to leave the thing on?!
"Are you insane?" I yelled.
Harry staggered to his feet, staring at me as though I'd sprouted an extra head.
"Why the hell didn't you take this thing off," I held up the Horcrux, "before you dove?"
Harry didn't answer, just continued to stare at me. He snatched up his clothes from the edge of the pool and began to pull them back on, his gaze never once leaving my face. I cleared my throat awkwardly, wishing he would say something. I looked down and was slightly surprised to find myself holding the sword of Gryffindor.
"Oh yeah, I got this out," I said unnecessarily. "That's what you went in for, right?"
Harry nodded slowly, pulling on a final sweater and picking up his wand. Then, "What are you doing here?"
I had hoped this would be obvious. "I—er—well, I've come back. You know, if you still want me."
"But how did you find us?" Harry said, a small frown appearing between his eyes.
"I'm not too sure myself," I replied. "Anyway, I've been looking for you for about a day. I'd just Apparated here when that doe appeared, and when I saw you follow it, I decided to follow you."
"Did you see who cast it?"
"No. I thought at first you had, but it didn't look like your Patronus."
"Mine's a stag," Harry said, a little shortly, as though offended that I hadn't remembered.
"Right," I mumbled. Then I remembered the flash of movement I'd seen on my way to the pool. "I think I saw someone over there," I pointed to two trees at the edge of the clearing. "But as you hadn't come back up yet, I didn't stop to investigate."
Harry ran over to the trees and started searching the ground around them. "Nothing," he said as he trotted back towards me. Another awkward silence fell between us.
"Well, I guess we should get rid of it," Harry said finally, indicating the Horcrux.
"You think this is the real sword?"
"One way to find out," Harry replied, walking over to a large flat rock a few feet away. "Come here." He waved me over. I joined him by the rock and passed him the Horcrux. He laid it on the rock, the green-jeweled snake glittering in the light from his wand. But when I tried to hand him the sword, he shook his head. "You're going to do it."
I'm sorry? "What?"
"You're the one who got the sword out of the pool," Harry continued. "I think it's supposed to be you that destroys it."
Like hell it is! I shook my head frantically and backed away from the rock. "No way."
"Why not?" Harry asked.
"Because I can't! That thing's bad for me; whenever I put it on, I couldn't help thinking—well, stuff I was thinking anyway, but it made it worse! I'm not trying to make excuses for how I acted, but I'm serious, Harry, I can't do it!"
"Yes you can! I know you can; you got the sword out, and I know it has to be you that uses it! Please, just do it, Ron."
I bit my lip. Did I come back just to disappoint them again? I took a deep breath and let it out in a whoosh. "Okay."
Harry smiled. "Right, so when I open it, stab it straight away, alright?"
"How're you going to open it?"
"I'll ask it to open in Parseltongue," he said, as thought this should have been obvious.
I gripped the sword with two hands, staring apprehensively at the locket lying placidly on the rock. Harry opened his mouth and spoke in the weird, hissing language of snakes. Then he stepped back, and I took a few steps forward, peering at the open doors of the locket. Two scarlet, slit-pupiled eyes had appeared, one in each side.
"Stab it," Harry said.
I raised the sword above my head. Suddenly, a high, cold voice began to issue from the Horcrux.
"I have seen your heart, and it is mine." As if in response, my heart began to pound wildly. "I have seen your dreams, Ronald Weasley, and I have seen your fears. All you desire is possible, but all that you dread is also possible."
"Don't listen to it, Ron! Just stab it!" Harry yelled, his voice echoing around the clearing. But I barely heard him; that cold voice had me rooted to the spot. I was strangely entranced by the fierce red eyes and couldn't turn away.
"Least loved, always, by the mother who craved a daughter." My breath caught sharply in my throat. "Least loved, now, by the girl who prefers your friend . . . Second best, always, eternally overshadowed." I was shaking now. It was worse than what the voice that had whispered to me when I'd worn it, because everything it was saying now was true.
As though he read my thoughts, Harry yelled, "It's not true, Ron! Stab it now!"
I raised the sword once more, but before I could bring it down, two figures began to rise from the locket's glass windows. I yelled and jumped back as the figures resolved themselves into Harry and Hermione.
"Ron!" Harry's voice seemed to come from far away as the Horcrux-Harry began to speak.
"Why return? We were better without you, happier without you, glad of your absence. . . . We laughed at your stupidity, your cowardice, your presumption—"
"Presumption!" Horcrux-Hermione repeated scathingly. "Who could look at you, who would ever look at you, beside Harry Potter? What have you ever done, compared with the Chosen One? What are you, compared with the Boy Who Lived?"
"Stab it, Ron, STAB IT!"
It hurt to breathe; I wanted to run, to escape the horrible scene before me, but I couldn't. I could only stare, transfixed, as Horcrux-Harry spoke again.
"Your mother confessed that she would have preferred me as a son, would be glad to exchange. . . ." he sneered.
Horcrux-Hermione laughed callously. "Who wouldn't prefer him, what woman would take you, you are nothing, nothing to him!" The figures' faces twisted toward each other, moving closer until their lips met.
Horror filled me, accompanied by a cold fury. I turned towards the real Harry, and our eyes met. His widened with fear. "Ron?" he said uncertainly.
I raised the sword . . . and plunged it into the Horcrux. With a terrible scream, the figures of Harry and Hermione disappeared, and the locket lay on the rock, shattered and harmless. Tears were falling freely from my eyes, but I made no move to wipe them away. Harry's hand flashed into view; he picked up the destroyed Horcrux, and I heard him move away. I let the sword fall from my hand and dropped to my knees, exhausted. I covered my face with trembling hands.
I felt Harry place a hand on my shoulder and stiffened briefly. He cleared his throat, and said in a low voice, "It was horrible, after you left. I don't think Hermione stopped crying for days. We hardly spoke to each other; with you gone . . ." his voice shook on the last word, and he took a deep breath before continuing. "I've never thought of Hermione as anything more than a sister, and I know she feels the same about me. I thought you knew that."
I shrugged. Apparently not. Harry got up, and I watched him walk over and sling my rucksack over his shoulder. I wiped my eyes on my sleeve, sniffed loudly, and pushed myself to my feet. Harry stopped a few feet from me, and I forced myself to look him in the eye.
"I'm sorry," I said, my voice raw from crying. "I should never have left, and I'll understand if you never want to speak to me again."
Harry smiled and raised an eyebrow. "I have spoken to you already. Besides, you kinda made up for it just now: you got the sword, destroyed the Horcrux, and . . . you saved my life."
"You make it sound a lot cooler than it was," I protested.
"Stuff like that always sounds cooler than it really was," Harry replied. "That's what I've been trying to tell you for years."
We both moved forward and hugged, and as we broke apart, I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from my chest.
Harry grinned at me. "Now, let's go wake Hermione."
A/N: Well, that's it! I hope you liked it, and thanks for sticking with it till the end! And for all those who reviewed, THANK YOU!!