Author's Note: This is The Collapse of the Wizarding World revised. I rewrote the ending, but the beginning is a lot like before. I may have added a few sentences here and there and my betas (Ash, Jay, and Amy) helped me with spelling and awkward paragraphs. One scene that has changed a lot is the first one between Harry and Ginny when they're at her apartment. You know which one I'm talking about ;)

This fic is rated R for mature themes, a few things about sex that are stated bluntly, and for some dark scenes. If you don't like alternate universes, you may not like this. I'd like you to take a try, but I'm forewarning that this fic is so out there that it would never, ever happen.

Thank you sincerely for getting this far and I hope that you get down to the very end and leave me a nice review.

~Haley

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Hermione's eyes darted nervously about her as she crossed the pitch black street. Just the looks of the neighborhood made her long for the days when she could apparate. She sighed and in result a piece of hair that had been in her eyes unknowingly floated upwards and then onto her cheek once more. In frustration she pushed it behind her ears, while looking out for anything dangerous.

What an idiot she'd been to try and take the short cut home. She'd been worried Ron, her husband, would once again go crazy after she'd worked late and forgot to call home to let him know. Last time he'd been convinced she had been murdered, raped, or skinned alive, and he had been trying to convince the police of his theory when she walked in the door, looking quite intact.

She simply wanted to get home quicker so that another incident like that wouldn't happen. But, Hermione was sure; she would rather have her husband simply worried about all those things when walking down this neighborhood might just result in one or more of them.

A smile cracked to Hermione's lips as she tried to think of the good part. Always after Ron spent a fretful evening waiting for her arrival he would scoop her up and take her to the bedroom once she walked in the door. Everytime this happened he would kiss touch her as if it were their first time all over again. He was always so sure that she'd come back dead in this Muggle world; that she wasn't safe.

Bitterness swept over Hermione's petite body and she stiffened with anger. Ron would never worry; none of the wizards would live in fear, if it hadn't been for Lord Voldemort. At Dumbledore's death, the black wizard had had a grasp of everything within hours. Wizards who were not evil or dead fled to the Muggle world to try and make it as common folk. Still, though everything appeared safe, they knew in the back of their minds that Voldemort would never let so many get away with no attempt to hunt down or murder any of them. So inevitably there was forever a sense of foreboding, no matter how cheerful and optimistic the former wizards seemed.

Hermione's eyes found a slim, womanly figure on the street corner up the street. As she grew closer she felt her cheeks burn and her eyes were trying to be downcast. Although she'd thankfully never met a prostitute before, she knew that this woman was one. And despite herself she was curious as to what a prostitute really looked like.

The woman spotted Hermione, much to her dismay, and walked forward in a silky, cat-like walk. "Hey, gorgeous, you look lonely tonight."

Hermione felt as though the voice was somewhat familiar, but she shut that thought quickly away. A hooker was hitting on her! Panic came to her body and she wanted to run screaming. Rational thought made her realize that that if she did that, druggies might wake and shoot her for disturbing their sleep.

"I can make you scream for a fair price. I'm told that I'm the best lay around here."

"No!" Hermione's jaw dropped as she came right to the streetlight and looked passed the makeup piled heavily on the woman's face. "Ginny?" Hermione whispered in disbelief.

The woman's eyes flashed, unreadable, and suddenly the presumed Ginny ran before Hermione could catch her arm. But the terror in her eyes had told Hermione everything. Ginny was alive!

The walk home didn't seem to last long as her head was filled with thoughts of Ginny. Nobody had heard from her since the move to the Muggles. After a long while of contemplation, Hermione began to doubt that it had even been Ginny. Just wishful thinking. Ginny was so . . . innocent and young, her mind pure and immune to evil . . . well, except for her second year, of course, but Hermione, Ron, and Harry had all assumed that she'd long since forgotten that traumatizing year.

"Hermione, that'd better be you!"

Hermione's head snapped to attention as she heard Harry's voice, sounding annoyed, coming from her doorstep.

"Harry," Hermione greeted.

"Ron called me over. Worried sick about you," Harry said gruffly.

"Well you'd better leave before you get a show. Ron . . . well, you know how he gets when he's found that I'm still alive and breathing. He has to assure himself that all of me is there."

Harry looked a little disgusted at hearing his two best friends' love life, and he gave Hermione a brief kiss on the head and a farewell as he walked down the street in the general direction of his own home.

Hermione had barely opened the door when she was attacked by a strong force that she called her husband.

"Are you okay?" Ron asked breathlessly, breathing in the scent of her hair as he ran a hand down her body.

Hermione thought back to her trip home and to the girl she presumed Ginny. Something told Hermione not to mention it.

"I'm fine, Ron."

It wasn't as if she was lying. Telling him about the girl was pointless because if it where Ginny, she didn't want to be found. And if Ginny had gone unnoticed for this long, she could very well slip from Hermione's brief glance of her once again. No use getting Ron's hopes up. She couldn't let Ginny hurt Ron or Harry again. They still hadn't gotten over her disappearing the first time.

* * * * *

Despite trying to stop herself, the next day at lunch Hermione was in the same street corner her confrontation with Ginny had been the night before. Shivering in a mix of anticipation and coldness, she waited for Ginny to appear again. She hadn't dared to mention to Ron what, or whom, she'd seen, and she frankly wasn't planning on telling him. The Weasley's would rather Ginny dead than . . . well, than what she had become.

"Why are you here?"

Hermione jumped, then turned around and smiled at Ginny, looking at her with dead eyes hidden beneath the same layers of makeup that Hermione had noticed the night before.

"I thought I saw you last night . . ."

"Did you tell anyone?"

"No. Why? Should I have?"

"No."

"Ginny . . . They-they think you're dead," Hermione finally said, her voice catching. "I did too. Why did you go? And to here of all places? No contact- -"

"Please, spare the lecture," Ginny said. She paused a second before replying to Hermione's questions. "I got a taste of something better than magic."

"S-sex?"

"No," Ginny scoffed. "I do that to make money." She paused then began again, "I doubt you've tried since you're such a goody goody . . ."

"Drugs?"

Ginny nodded. "You have no idea what it's like, Hermione."

"Of course not! Drugs are-are bad--"

"Have you ever noticed that when something is deemed bad it always feels oh- so-good?" Ginny smirked at Hermione. "Oh, wait. I'm talking to Hermione Granger. Tell me, have you ever stepped out of line? Ever broken a rule?"

Hermione bit her lip and didn't answer. Ginny laughed cruelly.

"You've had it made. You can adjust easily to the Muggle world, you grew up in it." Ginny paused and licked her lips, a movement of nervousness. "But for me it's different. I didn't know what to do."

"You weren't alone," Hermione said. "And others have resisted these . . . urges you're revolving your life around. Ginny, it's sick."

Ginny's eyes flashed. "You think I don't know that? I'd rather be back in the old, safe days then here on this street corner. You don't know what I go through every day. I lost my virginity for twenty dollars."

Hermione's eyes clouded with tears, but Ginny's seemed all the more hard. "Ginny . . . please, you could come live with Ron and I . . ."

"So you and Ronniekins live together?"

"We're married," Hermione said a bit defensively. "You would have come to the wedding but you were probably too busy getting some vile drug injected in your body."

Ginny shrugged. "Probably."

Hermione shook her head at Ginny. "You aren't this. You're so much more. Why do you do it?"

"For the money. For the pleasure." Ginny cracked a smile. "Not in the sex of course. I haven't had an orgasm in a long time. But I'm excellent at faking it. The pleasure of the drug is what I'm talking about. I've tried them all and . . . they may be hallucinations, but to me, for that one moment, they're real. I can be the old Ginny again. Then I come down from the high and realize that I can never be who I was."

Hermione fully agreed with Ginny. "Ginny, come home with me."

"No."

"At least . . ." Hermione hesitated, then blurted it out: "At least let me be your friend. You so obviously need one. We can talk."

Ginny was silent for a long time. "I can do that," she finally said after Hermione began wondering if she'd ever answer. "But don't tell Ron. Or anyone."

"I wasn't planning on it," Hermione said truthfully. "I know how Ron would react. Ginny, it would be easy to get a job. And I'm sure the wizards will defeat Voldemort soon. Harry and--"

"Harry?" Ginny asked sharply. "I'm surprised he has the guts to show his face after he let us all down. Tell me, does he feel any guilt?"

Hermione's eyes flashed angrily. "That wasn't Harry's fault and you know it, Ginny."

"Does he know it wasn't his fault?"

"No." Hermione sighed. "Look, just give me your phone number."

Ginny scribbled the number on a piece of paper. "Has Ron mastered the telephone yet? Or does he still break people's ear drums on it?"

Hermione smiled despite it so obviously being an insult to her husband. "He's still testy. Speaks a little louder than normal though I've explained to him it's not necessary."

Ginny nodded and began to walk away.

Hermione shut her eyes tightly. That was emotionally draining, she thought to herself as she began to hurry out of the neighborhood and back to work. She just hoped that Ginny had actually given her a valid phone number.

Of course, she was sure that it was correct. There had been a cry for help that shown in Ginny's eyes every once in awhile, and Hermione was sure that she could answer the cry and comfort the innocent girl that was trapped beneath Ginny's harsh exterior.

* * * * *

Later that day Hermione could be found rushing home after work, she had taken off work early so that she could take the long way and still get home early. She wanted to call Ginny, but wondered if it was too soon. She grinned to herself as she realized that she sounded like a guy after a first date.

Hermione walked into her house to find Harry, George, and Fred sitting with her husband at the kitchen table, eating cereal.

"It's five thirty," Hermione pointed out.

"Then what are you doing home?" Ron asked.

"Maybe I should just go on back to work then . . ." Hermione grinned and kissed Ron hello, then sat herself in an empty seat. "Is there any cereal left or did you guys eat it all?"

"You're eating cereal and you're home at five thirty?" Harry asked incredulously. "What's up, Hermione?"

A brief image of Ginny flashed threw her mind. She couldn't tell anyone about Ginny. Not just because Ginny had told her not to . . . but Harry, Ron, and the twins had their memory of the innocent Ginny. She couldn't spoil that for them.

Hermione stood suddenly. "I feel sick," she lied. "I'm gonna go up to my room and rest."

She did feel sick, and she was going to her room . . . but it was simply to get away from these people. She felt as evil as Ginny, keeping from Ginny's friends and family that she was indeed alive and indeed well. It was the best thing not to tell Ron, though. Or anyone else for that matter. Maybe if she got Ginny to be her old self . . . but no, Ginny had even said herself that she could never be the old Ginny again.

But Hermione received a bit of a shock as she realized suddenly that she had no idea what was going to happen. Obviously, she had been hoping to help Ginny, to get Ginny a different job. A normal life. But what if Ginny didn't want those things or didn't apply to them? Was Hermione supposed to keep secret her whereabouts forever?

* * * * *

Ginny waited in her bedroom after a long night. Usually she pocketed the money from the guy's pants and left early in the morning, but she hadn't even felt like getting her extra pay and settled for the fifteen dollars offered up front. She'd had no energy to steal the money and left as soon as the guy had gotten what he'd paid for.

Seeing Hermione yesterday had hit her like a Bludger. In their last couple years at Hogwarts, she and Hermione had become pretty good friends, almost best friends, and Ginny had finally got her dream come true -- getting to be part of Ron, Harry, and Hermione's little team. Of course, Ron had always been overprotective and tried to keep her from helping with anything serious, but usually Hermione told him to shut up and they got into a fight that distracted Ron from Ginny.

It was the previous friendship with Hermione that was making her wait by the phone, wondering when Hermione would finally call. Of course, she reassured herself it wasn't desperate and passed the time while smoking a cigarette.

No matter what Ginny had told Hermione the day before, drugs really weren't that great. Ginny didn't base her life on them either. They were simply an escape from reality. A harsh escape. That was the only reason Ginny had gotten into them, and the only reason she continued to use them in her crappy apartment with her crappy job, if you could even call it that.

The phone finally rang and Ginny waited a couple of rings before picking it up, not wanting to seem as if she'd been waiting by the phone. "Hello?" she answered in her sexiest voice. It was different from the one she'd grown up with; Ginny even wondered when the last time she'd used her normal voice was. She cleared her throat. "Er . . . I mean, hello?" she said in a voice that she assumed was the way she used to talk. At least it wasn't the throaty voice she had first talked with.

"Ginny? Oh, so you did give me the right number!"

"Hermione," Ginny acknowledged. "What is it?"

"Well, I know we just talked yesterday and it's, like, nine in the morning, early for most people on a Saturday, but I wanted to know if you wanted to go somewhere with me."

Ginny hesitated. "Where?"

"Oh, maybe for tea or pancakes or something," Hermione suggested.

"That sounds nice," Ginny said casually. "Where should I meet you?"

"Oh, I'll meet you at the street corner," Hermione said.

"You sound like a client."

Hermione got really quiet after that comment before saying a low, strained voice, "So, I guess I'll see you in about ten minutes?"

"Whatever," Ginny agreed, then slammed down the phone. She rubbed her temples as hard as possible to keep away the headache she was sure she could easily acquire.

* * * * *

To both Ginny and Hermione's utter surprise, they ended up having a nice time. Ginny had dressed normally -- or as normal as she could dress with the clothes in her closet -- and Hermione had been cheerful, not at all the way she had sounded during the phone call.

Ginny was giggling more than she could ever remember. "So then what'd Ron do?"

"Well, he was drunker than an Irishman, as I told you, and at a strip club with your twin brothers and Harry, who was also drunk. So Harry couldn't help Ron when--," Hermione continued, grinning, "--when the twins dared Ron to find me and declare his love for me with a song."

Ginny burst out laughing again. "I can only imagine! What song?"

"We'll get to that. So I was at the church doing last minute preparations with my mum, Mrs. Weasley, and the pastor when . . ." Hermione paused for effect. "Ron comes barging in, singing at the top of his lungs in a slurred voice some pop song. It might have been the Spice Girls, I can't remember."

"Spice Girls?"

"It's a Muggle band that was popular a long, long time ago. 'Course, they went out fast, and I have no idea how Fred and George learned the lyrics, but though I'm laughing now I didn't think it was funny at all then. Ron claims my face was redder than his hair, and I grabbed his arm, pulled him out of the church, and threatened him with divorce, no sex, no honeymoon, and many other things." Hermione sighed. "But he just looked so innocent there, staring at me with his big eyes, not understanding why I was punishing him when he thought he'd done something romantic."

"What'd you do?" Ginny asked eagerly.

"Well, I decided that it really wasn't Ron's fault since he was drunk, so I hunted down Fred and George when Ron and I came back from our honeymoon . . . and, well, I got a little carried away while they were sleeping and shaved off their eyebrows and hair."

Ginny and Hermione both burst into new fits of laughter, tears of mirth, staining their tears as they both imagined a very pissed off Hermione using a razor to shave Fred and George Weasleys' heads, a wicked smile on her face.

When they finally calmed down, after receiving looks from several waitresses, quiet fell upon them.

"I really wish I could have been there," Ginny said quietly. "I should have been your bridesmaid, I should have been there when Ron came in."

Hermione didn't disagree.

"So tell me, Hermione, was your honeymoon your first time?" Ginny asked, winking at Hermione with a devilish grin on her face.

"Well, don't tell anyone, but no," Hermione said in a whisper. "Actually, our first time was at Hogwarts."

"No!"

"Yes! I snook into the boy's dorm and we got carried away. I think Harry might've heard us, he acted funny around me and Ron for awhile after that, but he never did mention it."

Ginny leaned forward slightly, a serious look on her face. "More about Harry. How did he deal with . . . everything?"

Hermione sighed and looked like she didn't want to answer. "He didn't. He's pretty normal though. Basically, he only talks to Ron, your family, and myself."

"Not the lady's man he used to, then?"

"Why so many questions about Harry?"

"I'm intrigued. What happened to the famous Harry Potter after his defeat?"

Hermione's eyes widened and she stood abruptly. "Ginny, we may have a good time, we may become friends, but not if you ever mention Harry in that manner again you'll have to forget about becoming my friend. Everybody put too much faith in him and he was only 20-year-old! It's not his fault--"

"Dumbledore said--"

"I don't care what Dumbledore said, Ginny, even he knew that Harry might not make it out alive."

"Then Harry should have died in the battle. I sure wish I had."

"What?"

"I said I sure wish I had died in that battle. It beats trying to become a Muggle when I am not a Muggle and never will be. How did you survive in this world as a child?"

"I wasn't a hooker when I was a child," Hermione answered haughtily. "That says a lot. You could have a life similar to your life at the Burrow if only you'd stop what you're doing and returned to your family who are grieving your death! Everybody thinks you *did* die in that battle, including Harry himself. And I'm not blind, Ginny, you're asking about him because you still care for him. Just like you still care for me and Ron and your brothers and parents."

"Excuse me, miss . . ."

"We're leaving, we're leaving," Ginny snapped at the woman who was obviously the manager that had come up to the table timidly. Ginny jumped out of her seat and rushed out of the restaurant, Hermione hot on her heels.

"Look, Ginny . . . I'm sorry," Hermione said hesitantly when Ginny had to stop for traffic and Hermione finally caught up with her. "It just gets me like that when people talk about Harry that way."

Ginny closed her eyes as she remembered that night. "I can see why. I still think it was his fault. If he really put his mind to it, he could have defeated You Know Who. He had a better chance than any other wizard did. But he didn't, that's why we all blame him. He was capable and he didn't."

(Not sure here, but would they actually still say Voldemort's name, or just You Know Who? Just pointing out.)

Hermione's eyes narrowed. "Why don't we just not bring Harry up? Ever."

Ginny shrugged. "Fine with me."

* * * * *

And talk they never did. At least, not about Harry Potter. Which is the only reason their friendship grew to resemble how they'd been back at Hogwarts.

Hermione was beginning to spend more and more time with Ginny, which had started to alarm Harry. He suspected that Hermione was cheating on Ron, but he didn't want to mention it to anyone. What if he was wrong? But he was sure he couldn't be -- she wasn't spending a lot of time away from home, out with "friends". Weren't those all classic signs that someone was cheating?

His conscience flickered back and forth. Hermione was also his friend; he was betraying her trust. Besides, he knew Hermione as well as he knew Ron and he was pretty damn positive that they were madly in love and neither would ever cheat on the other. The signs, however, were pointing in the opposite direction.

So that was why he was following Hermione. (A valid excuse if you asked him)

His heart beat faster as he saw her enter a quiet little tea and pastry shop -- very elegant. Of course she would only go there with a lover. What was he supposed to tell Ron? How could he confront Hermione?

His eyes fluttered over a small figure with red hair entering the shop only seconds afterwards. She seemed familiar, and his eyes trailed her automatically . . . then he realized where she was headed.

Great, he thought. Not only is Hermione cheating on Ron, she's cheating on Ron with another woman. Another woman, who . . . looks . . . a lot like . . . bloody hell, is that Ginny Weasley?

Harry pressed his nose against the glass, eyes wide, as he looked closer at the girl. It was Ginny! Ginny was dead, though.

Wasn't she?

But . . . if Hermione was there too, that meant Hermione knew Ginny, knew where Ginny was. And that meant that Hermione had been keeping it from Ron, the Weasleys, and himself.

He was about to go inside and confront her, but something told him not to. He wanted to know why Ginny hadn't let her presence known. Unless Hermione had known since the beginning? No, she couldn't have . . . her heart had been broken in grief at Ginny's funeral.

It was a long time before Hermione and Ginny finally got up and paid their bill. Harry stayed at an unnoticeable spot to observe them leaving. Both said their farewells and Harry followed his sudden impulse to find where Ginny was going. It was his shock that she led him to one of the worst neighborhoods around.

Ginny stopped in front of an apartment door and Harry caught up with her. He placed his arm on her shoulder.

Ginny sighed, then turned around and, to the utter shock of Harry, pinned him up against the wall and kissed him. Not a tender kiss either, a full, hot kiss that bluntly said it was moving to more. Unwillingly, Harry got caught up in the kiss. He would never have known Ginny could ever act like that. She was always so shy . . .

Ginny led Harry into her apartment and he kept trying to get up for air and ask her what she was doing, but her hands were on the back of his head, effectively gluing his lips to her own. One of her hands immediately reached down towards his pants and began unfastening them.

Harry was more shocked than when she pinned him up against the wall, embarrassed too. He knew it was Ginny, that this shouldn't be happening, but other parts of him didn't seem to understand, as they grew hard at the promise her hands were evoking.

Ginny finally got his pants down his waist, while still kissing him, and she pushed him onto the bed as she dug into her drawer for a condom. She pulled it out, unwrapped it, and rolled it on with her mouth.

Everything she was doing was so rushed and seemed mechanical. Harry wondered not for the first or last time what the hell was going on.

"Ginny? What . . .?"

"How do you know my name?" Ginny looked up sharply and her jaw dropped in shock. She jumped off of him and backwards to the wall of her room. "What are you doing?" she shrieked at Harry.

"What am I doing?" Harry demanded, pulling the condom off and pulling his pants and boxers up. "The question is more like what are you doing? I just came to say hello and you-you attacked me!"

"I thought you were a client," Ginny said desperately. Her face turned stony. "Hermione told you where I was, didn't she? That bitch . . ."

"Hermione didn't say anything. Not to me or her husband," Harry said a bit angrily. "I'm sure you put her up to that. And what do you mean about me being a client?"

Ginny ignored the last question. "How did you find out, then?"

"I followed her."

"Stalking is never good. Especially with friends," Ginny tutted.

"What do you mean about a client?"

Ginny looked up at Harry, unblinking. "I think you know, you're just too afraid to say."

"You're not a--"

"Hooker?" Ginny shrugged. "Yeah. It's just a job."

"Ginny, what the hell are you talking about?" Harry demanded once his brain had caught up and told him that, yes, he had heard Ginny correctly. "It's not a job. Especially for you. What happened to you?"

"What happened to me?" Ginny asked defensively. "What happened to you, Harry Potter? You used to be my hero."

Harry sat down suddenly, the implied lines behind her words hitting him full force. He wasn't going to argue anymore.

Ginny took one look at the pained look on his face and guilt hit her. She sat awkwardly on the bed beside him and gave him a half hug. "Sorry. I-I lashed out."

Harry looked at her. "It's true, though. And besides, you did more helping than hurting. You aren't completely gone, you know. I thought you were. But the old Ginny is still in there."

"What do you mean?"

"You apologized."

Ginny looked taken aback. "What makes you think that means I'm still the same person? I merely apologized because I was in the wrong and I recognized that."

"Okay, then I was mistaken."

Harry stood up. "I'm gonna go. Let's pretend like what happened earlier . . . well, let's pretend it never happened." He glanced at the floor. "Sorry about that condom. Guess it's useless now."

"Kinda," Ginny pointed out. She sighed. "Just go."

"Fine, fine, I'm leaving," Harry said, leaving for the door.

Ginny walked after him after he shut the door. Seeing Harry Potter again was so different than seeing Hermione. Harry was completely different. She started to open the door, to tell him to come back, but she scolded herself quickly for the thought.

There was a knock at the door.

"Go away! I don't want any clients tonight," she shouted through the door. "Go home to your wife instead of me."

"It's me."

Ginny opened the door slowly for Harry. His eyes were intense as they captured hers and she felt herself melt, as she had in the old days, every time he looked at her. Ginny wrapped her arms around his neck just as he put his around her waist and their lips met in a fervent caress.

Neither were aware of anything but the fact that, for some unknown reason, they needed each other.

(Not sure about the sudden change, of Ginny saying that Harry used to be her hero, and then the defeat and then coming to this, but I'm just pointing out ((again)) but it doesn't really matter, I love H/G so of course I don't mind!)

* * * * *

Ginny didn't sleep much the night before, thanks to Harry, not to mention the confused thoughts floating in her head. She had . . . she had come to orgasm with Harry. This news baffled her and the feeling had felt so incredible . . . the many, many feelings had felt incredible. Before it was always business, but with Harry it had been different. Not lovers, but not friends either. It had been needed by both of them.

Ginny remembered the school girl crush she'd had on Harry for so long and nearly laughed at what the old Ginny would have done in such a situation. She had grown up, and that's what Harry needed. That was why he'd barely glanced at her as anything but Ron's little sister -- she was just a child back then. A child that blushed, was clumsy, and sent him corny valentines that embarrassed him in front of Malfoy.

Ginny felt Harry stir beside her and she glanced at the boy laying on the bed, the blankets not covering very much and giving her a full view of the chest her lips had worshiped the night before.

Harry's eyes opened and he sat up to put his glasses on. "Hey," he greeted, hoarse from the night they'd had.

Ginny rolled her eyes at him and climbed out of bed to put her dressing gown on. She went into the kitchen and began fixing herself some toast. A brief memory flashed through her mind of her mother cooking delicious sausages and mounds of eggs . . . Ginny shook herself mentally and forced the memory to go away. Harry was bad for her, he was making her feel things she wasn't supposed to feel and making her remember things she never wanted to remember.

"Can I have some?" Harry asked, coming in with his pants and boxers on. She really, really wished he'd put a shirt on . . .

Ginny nodded and grabbed two more slices of toast.

"So . . ." Harry paused. "Do I have to pay you or something? I've never slept with a hooker before."

Ginny didn't turn around as she pulled out her toast, put his in, and began to butter hers. "No. No paying." She winced . . . good money, down the drain. But then, he had paid her in those orgasms she'd had last night . . . she forgot how good sex was.

Harry seemed a little surprised. "So, just a favor for a brother's best friend, huh?" he asked, sounding a bit bitter.

Ginny spun around, eyes fearful. "Don't you dare tell Ron! Or Hermione!"

"I won't if you won't," Harry said, the same look in his own eyes. "Especially not Ron."

"I don't plan on ever speaking to Ron again."

"But you can talk to Hermione?"

"That's different."

"How? Hermione was your friend for a few years and Ron was your brother for most of your life. What about your mother? Do you ever plan on talking to her again? And your father? They had a funeral for you, you know. Your mother still cries whenever she thinks about you. I--"

"Stop it," Ginny interrupted shrilly. "I may have cared about them at one time, but now things are different."

"I won't deny things are different, but you still care about them," Harry said. "I've never met my mum and dad, but I care about them. I miss them. So you, with your parents, with what they've always done for you--"

"Stop!" Ginny said harsher now. She shoved the toast in front of Harry. "Eat that and get out."

"Kicking me out?"

"Yes."

"Because you're in denial and I'm making you come to reality?"

"No!"

"Right." Harry didn't look convinced as he scarfed (? Not sure this is the word you want,) down his toast. "And may I remind you, Ginny, of who attacked who last night."

"You were the one that came back!"

"You were the one that kissed me when I came back."

"You kissed me too. It was a mutual thing."

Harry shrugged and put his plate in the sink. He went back to Ginny's bedroom to pull on the rest of his clothes. "You do a lot of entertaining in here?"

"Shut up," Ginny spat.

"You know, making me stop talking is a good way to avoid hearing the truth," Harry said, patting her on the back. "Now I'm leaving. Remember, if you tell Hermione . . . just, don't okay?"

"I won't." Ginny rolled her eyes. "It's you I'm worried about."

"Right." Harry looked a bit awkward standing in the doorway. "So, bye."

"Bye," Ginny said, waving at him sarcastically as he shut the door. She hit her head with her hand and muttered to herself, "What are you doing, Ginny?"

* * * * *

Harry didn't want anybody to suspect anything unusual, so as soon as he had taken a shower he went over to Ron's house, as he did every day that they weren't working. But it was unbearably hard to be in the same room with Ron when he had just did things to Ron's baby sister that Ron should never, ever find out about. Although it was amusing talking to Hermione.

"Harry, why are you so stiff?" Ron asked, glancing at Harry out of the corner of his eye as they watched TV.

"No reason," Harry said quickly and tried to become more relaxed.

"You guys are pathetic," Hermione chimed in, coming out of the dining room with her nose in a book. "There's more to life than TV."

"What, like reading?" Ron asked sarcastically, giving her a grin as she glared at him.

"Harry, is something bothering you?" Hermione asked hesitantly.

Harry looked up sharply. "N-no. Why should anything be bothering me?"

"You're just so tense and you're not as chatty as usual. Did something happen?"

"Nothing that I can think of." Harry scolded himself afterwards. He was now lying to his friends. It was something I thought of, something that hadn't left his mind all day. He stood up. "You know, I'm kinda tired. Long night. Maybe I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Okay," Ron said.

"Harry, it's two o'clock in the afternoon," Hermione said shrilly. "Now what is going on?"

"Nothing. Mrs. Weasley just called up last night, she was crying about Ginny."

Hermione got a look on her face and she mumbled good bye and stuffed her nose back into her book. So Harry had found a way to shut her up -- guilt.

Harry then went off to Sirius's house, another place he spent a lot of his time.

"What's up?" Sirius asked, letting him into the house he shared with Remus.

Harry stayed quiet for a while. "Something's wrong."

Sirius was immediately on the defense and Remus came into the room, looking around. "What is it?"

"No, no, nothing bad. Well . . . something bad, but not the kind of bad you're thinking of."

"Well, what is it?" Remus asked calmly.

"I really shouldn't say."

"You can talk to us about sex--"

"No!" Harry paused. "I mean, yeah, it's partly that, but that's just a little bit of it. That's not the part I shouldn't say though. It's just . . . I don't even know how to say it without saying it."

"Maybe you should just say it," Sirius suggested, looking a little annoyed.

Harry turned around. "I think I'm gonna go home," he said miserably. "I should just keep this to myself. It's nothing compared to the things I should be worrying about."

"You shouldn't be worrying about anything, Harry," Remus said sympathetically, patting Harry's shoulder as he turned and escaped through the door. Remus turned to Sirius. "He keeps getting more and more like James."

Sirius got a pained look on his face. "I just hope he doesn't end up with the same fate."

* * * * *

"Hi."

Harry nearly jumped out of his skin when he finally recognized Ginny. "They call that breaking and entering."

Ginny seemed not to care. "You've got a nice place here."

"Thanks," Harry said uncomfortably.

Ginny looked straight into Harry's eyes and without blinking said: "Have you ever had sex on that bed before or are we going to have to christen it?"

* * * * *

A week or so later, Harry could be found in his bed, wide awake with a sleeping Ginny snuggled up at his side. Ginny was starting to take a toll on him, never before had he lied about something as serious as this to his two best friends. So he had begun to avoid Ron and Hermione, claiming having too much work to do. Which was a total lie. And, as he worked for Sirius, if Ron or Hermione happened to talk with his godfather, he would be found out.

But Harry couldn't help it. He was Ginny's puppet. Somehow she had done something to him, and he couldn't get enough of her. He couldn't ever remember feeling this way when they'd been at school together. Then she'd always been the girl with the crush on him; now she was different in more ways than he could count. She also seemed to be as addicted to him as he was to her.

Of course, that only went so far. Every morning Harry would wake up to find Ginny gone, but she would always be back that evening. It was almost as if . . . as if she were using him for the sex. Harry wondered again and again if this was what it was. Of course, it was great sex, and it had to be pretty good to Ginny too if she wasn't demanded fifty dollars from him every morning. None of his money seemed pocketed either.

Ginny's eyes opened suddenly and she sat up slowly in bed, and then glanced at Harry to see his eyes were open.

"Oh!" Ginny looked nervous. "Just wanted some water."

"Ginny, when are you going to stop this?" Harry sighed.

"Stop what?" Ginny asked defensively, holding the blankets close to her as if afraid he might see some of her skin.

"Stop this leaving before I wake up. Why can't you just admit to yourself that we sleep together instead of never talking to me unless you're saying 'oh, Harry . . . right there . . . yes'?"

Ginny seemed to get haughty at that. "For your information, I only leave so early because a girl's got to make money," she shot at him, getting up and searching for her clothes.

Harry had to admit that hurt. "You mean you . . . you just leave here and go back to doing -- what you do?"

Ginny turned and raised her eyebrows at Harry. "Why wouldn't I?"

"No reason," Harry mumbled.

"Wait a second." Ginny laughed and came up close to him. "You don't know, do you? Harry, we may have been friends before but . . ." She shrugged, laughed again, and was out before Harry could get a chance to say something back.

Harry got out to go take his shower, figuring that since he was already awake it might as well be best. Then it was off to Sirius's. That was good, perhaps. Sirius had been a lady's man from what Remus had said, and the way he heard others speak of Sirius. Maybe Harry could get some advice from him . . .

Only during work Harry couldn't seem to spit it out. "S-Sirius?" Harry blurted.

Sirius looked up from the car he had been working on. "Yeah, Harry?"

"Got a question . . ." Harry paused once more. "How do you know if a girl is using for the sex or she actually cares about you?"

Sirius looked taken aback as he stopped his work. "Wow. That's one to think about. Who is this girl? Do I know her?"

Harry turned around quickly to begin what he had been doing before. "Never mind."

"Harry, something is bothering you."

"You think?"

"What is it?"

"I just told you," Harry said, exasperated.

"So a girl is using for the sex." Sirius seemed awkward talking about this with his godson. "Well, what makes you think this?"

"She said so."

Sirius laughed, then caught himself at Harry's look. "I mean . . . well, are you using her for the sex?"

Harry considered. "At first."

"How long has this been going on?"

"A week, maybe a little more. It was this one night fling and we just ended up doing it again and again and--"

Sirius put a hand up. "I get the point, Harry," he interrupted, desperate for Harry to stop talking about his sex life. "Maybe you should talk to Ron- -"

"No!" Harry said quickly and sharply.

Sirius looked surprised. "Harry, just for my peace of mind, it's not Hermione, is it?"

Harry laughed and shook his head. " 'Course not. It's just . . . I don't think Ron would understand."

"Really? You think he's married and still a virgin?"

Harry snorted. "Fat chance. No, it's just that this particular person . . . well . . ."

"It's not Ron's mother, right?"

Harry gave Sirius a look. "If you're not going to be serious about this--"

"I'll stop, I'll stop," Sirius promised. "What's the sex like?"

"Earth shattering," Harry said truthfully. "But, see, she does it as a living so I don't know if she feels the same and--"

"By the whole 'she does it as a living' you weren't implying that she's a prostitute right?" Sirius joked.

Harry blushed. "Yeah, actually she is."

Sirius bumped his head against the head of the car. "Whoa, Harry, get out now. What the hell are you doing with a hooker? And you're falling for her too? Do you have *any* common sense? Or dignity? Or--"

"Stop," Harry interrupted. "Look, it wasn't my fault. She attacked me. What was I supposed to do, tell her 'down, girl' and go home to get rid of the hard on?"

"Harry, I know we're honest with each other, but for God's sakes!"

"Sorry," Harry said quickly. "I should just tell her to stop, but she keeps coming over to my house and as soon as I kiss her I feel like I'd do anything for her."

"As you probably would. A prostitute has to be very skilled in her -- er -- line of work."

"You aren't helping, you know," Harry said, annoyed.

"I'm afraid I wouldn't be much help. You really should go to somebody like Ron."

Harry ignored Sirius. There was no way he could talk to Ron about sleeping with Ron's prostitute little sister and the sex games they played each night. Ron would see right through the lie and wouldn't rest until Harry told him who it was.

* * * * *

So Harry suffered the next few weeks with Ginny by his side at night. But Ginny was getting better about staying, and sometimes she would eat breakfast with Harry.

Harry had simply to look into Ginny's eyes to know that he felt something for the red haired girl. When she laughed, he could pretend she wasn't what she was, but simply who she had been, and that was all that he wanted. He wanted everything as it had been, before he'd messed everything up.

It was getting harder and harder with Ron and Hermione, or any of the Weasleys for that matter, and at least Ron and Hermione knew that the reason for his sudden disappearance was a girl. Harry suspected talking to Sirius hadn't been the best thing. Sirius was usually cool about everything, but he got worried easily over Harry and he'd probably made Ron promise to keep an eye on Harry.

Ginny seemed to talk about Hermione as if they were friends again, and it made Harry himself happy to see Ginny chattering like she had before. It seemed as if she was acting a lot like she had before.

One of the main things Harry had felt guilty about at the loss of the war with Voldemort was Ginny. Now that Ginny was proved alive and breathing, he could feel easier about things, but still not perfect. Whenever he saw Ginny putting on scarlet lipstick, or whenever she came over in a very mini skirt the Ginny he had known would blush if she simply looked at, that's when guilt overcame him. Maybe Ginny was alive, but she wasn't who she was. Nor were many other old wizards.

The one thing, most of all, that he blamed himself for was Dumbledore's death . . .

* * * * *

"Harry, he wants to talk to you."

Harry looked up as well as everyone else in the hallway. Harry stood slowly, stiff from sitting so long, and walked quietly into the room, thick with sickness.

"Harry . . ."

"Professor Dumbledore--"

"Harry, you may call me Albus," Dumbledore said, smiling. "Harry, I need to ask you a favor."

"Anything, Prof--Albus."

"I need you to protect Hogwarts." Dumbledore was all seriousness. "Harry, you, Ron, and Hermione are the three greatest wizards and witch I have come across since Tom Riddle, Lily Evans, and James Potter."

"I'll protect Hogwarts. This doesn't mean you're going to die? Professor, doesn't your friend Nicholas have some Elixir left you could borrow? I'm sure we're almost in the tops of Voldemort, if you could just stay okay for a little bit longer."

Dumbledore smiled sadly at Harry. "Harry, I'm not going to make it. I'm trusting Hogwarts in your care. I believe in you."

Harry swallowed suddenly and tears choked at his eyes. "Professor, sir . . . please say--say hello to my parents for me."

Dumbledore's eyes clouded. "Harry, you can be assured that will be my first task. A matter of the most importance."

"And Cedric--"

"You need not apologize. Cedric knew it wasn't your fault."

"Still."

"I will do so also, Harry."

"Dumbledore, no matter what, I won't let Voldemort get Hogwarts. It's the only safe place left to our world, and I'll protect it with my life."

"I know you will."

* * * * *

You didn't though, did you? Harry said to himself bitterly.

"Harry?"

Harry looked up to see Hermione, who had obviously let herself into his apartment. "What?"

Hermione gave him a pained look. "Stop thinking about it," she said softly. There was a long pause, and then Hermione seemed to remember what she'd originally came for. "I talked to Sirius."

Harry remained silent.

"He told me some interesting news," Hermione said, pacing in Harry's bedroom as she gave him a piercing gaze. "Harry, how did you find out about her?"

"About who?"

"Ginny, you idiot! I'm not stupid, you suddenly have girl problems with some prostitute when I just recently found her. How did you find out where she was?"

"I followed you," Harry said after a reluctant pause.

"You *followed* me?" Hermione demanded harshly in disbelief.

"I thought you were cheating on Ron!" Harry said in defense. "You were spending all this time away from us and giving stupid excuses, so I followed you."

Hermione got really quiet. "Harry, I would never cheat on Ron. I thought you'd know that." She paused. "So, you followed me and found out I've been hanging with Ginny lately. How did you come to be her 'client' as she refers to them?"

"She attacked me."

"She attacked you?"

"Yeah."

"And you obliged?"

"Yeah."

"Harry, how daft are you?" Hermione shook her head. "I can't believe you'd do this to Ron."

"I'd do this to Ron? You've known where Ginny's been longer than I have!"

"But I haven't been fucking her," Hermione said sharply

She stomped out and Harry heard the front door slam shut. She had a point; he had to admit reluctantly.

* * * * *

Hermione was still breathing hard, angrily, as she came into her own home and slammed the door behind her without realizing it.

Ron came to her at once. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Hermione snapped, folding her arms and daring him to ask her again.

"Hermione, do you really think I'm going to shut up because you give me a look? You should know me better than that. Now, tell me what's wrong. I'm sure I can help."

"No. You can't. Trust me." Hermione started to walk away, but Ron caught her arm.

"Hermione," Ron said in a tone that told her she'd better tell him if she still wanted the privilege of his voice and presence.

"Fine." Hermione shook away from him. "But promise me you won't go ballistic."

"I can't make promises about that."

"Ginny is . . . Ginny isn't . . ." Hermione took a deep breath. "Ginny's alive and she's a prostitute and I've been seeing her for months now and didn't tell you."

There was a long silence that penetrated Hermione's very bones. Ron just stared coldly at her, only it was as if he didn't see her. "Ron?" she said timidly.

"Where's she at?" he asked, his voice low and threatening.

* * * * *

Ginny was lying on the couch when the knock came. The force of it scared her, but she quickly reminded herself that she didn't get scared.

"Who is it?" she yelled, putting the TV on mute.

She had no need to; however, the voice that answered was loud enough to have heard with the TV on. "Ginny Weasley, you open this door now!"

Ginny's eyes went wide. "Wh-who is it?"

"Your older brother."

"Shit," Ginny cursed, getting up and opening the door. She gave an angry glare to Hermione, who was cowering in Ron's shadow. "Thanks, Hermione, for keeping the secret."

"What the hell are you doing?" Ron shouted, lunging at Ginny. Hermione shut the door so the neighbors wouldn't hear, but it didn't really matter in the neighborhood Ginny lived in.

"I was watching TV before you interrupted me," Ginny shouted back.

"No, I mean about the whole prostitution story Hermione told me," Ron said, his voice deadly calm.

"Oh, that."

"Yes, that," Ron said sarcastically. "What on earth would possess you to have sex with men for money?"

"It's not just men," Ginny said back to him, eyes flashing. Ron looked taken aback. "And, besides, I haven't made Harry pay once."

"Harry?" Ron looked lethal.

"Ron . . ." Hermione said in a warning tone.

"Harry as in Harry Potter?" Ron asked Ginny, ignoring Hermione.

"How many Harrys are there?" Ginny shot back, arms folded. "Yes, of course, Harry Potter."

"You're telling me that you've been screwing my best friend and he didn't say anything to me?"

"Wow, Ron, guess I gave you too much credit in the brains area."

Ron turned around and began to leave the apartment.

"Ron, don't!" Ginny called to him. Hermione looked at her in surprise, but didn't have time to voice her shock, as she had to control her husband.

"Ron, don't kill Harry!" Hermione shouted, running to catch up with him.

* * * * *

Harry was depressed. Hermione had hurt him, deeply. Well, she hadn't hurt him; he'd hurt himself. He was beginning to realize how ridiculous the situation with Ginny was.

Ginny was a girl with no feelings of attachments to him . . . on the other hand he had Ron and Hermione. He had betrayed Ron, and Hermione would follow whatever Ron did.

The door to his apartment slammed open and he looked up. "Oh, hi, Ron. What's up? You look mad."

"Funny story, Potter," Ron said, his voice unusually low. Hermione came up behind Ron and put a hand on his arm as if in restraint. "I've just found that both my best friend and my wife have been holding some information from me."

"Damn," Harry swore, getting out of the bar chair he was in and backing to the kitchen to put the counter between him and Ron.

Ginny came up a second later, also breathless. "Ron, leave him alone."

"Shut up, you whore."

"You shut up, Ron!" Harry spit out before Ginny could defend herself. "She's not--"

"A whore? Are you lying to yourself or something, Harry? Look at her. Look at what she does. What she does with you. What, Harry, would ever make you think that fucking my little sister was okay? And then to top if off you kept it from me?"

Harry stared at Ron, not saying anything. Ron was right, of course. "Listen, Ron, I know I betrayed your trust but--"

"There are no buts," Ron interrupted. "I didn't come here to hurt or kill you as Hermione, Ginny, and maybe you think. I came to tell you that you'd better not ever let me see or hear you again or I will kill you. I can't even stand to look at your face. Hermione, let's go."

Harry stared at the door Hermione had shut quietly behind her, with one last sad look at Harry. Shutting the door as quietly as she had, saying the words that Ron had said . . . that was all more than Harry could take. He would have rather Ron take blows at him. Ron always took to blows when he got upset. The deadly quiet was something new and terrifying.

Harry turned to look at Ginny, who had been staring at him. "He's right."

"No, he's not," Ginny said, coming forward and swaying her hips seductively. Harry was glad for the counter. "I'm not a little girl anymore. We're both mature adults and if--"

"Ginny, am I just a client to you?" Harry asked quietly.

"What kind of question is that?"

"The kind of question I want an answer from. Ginny, this whole thing is sick and crazy. Do you know what it feels like to have you leave every morning to go do your 'work'? When I have to stay in bed and think about you with some other guy and--"

"Harry, what are you saying?" Ginny asked fearfully.

"You're not stupid, you know what I'm saying. But if you need the words you can have them. Ginny, I am, for some stupid reason, in love with you. Tell me, do you have any feelings whatsoever for me?"

"No. What makes you think I'd ever feel anything for you, Harry Potter?" Ginny asked viciously. "It's your fault that I am what I am! I could be an innocent girl like I used to, working at the Ministry of Magic, or any other career, and instead I'm a whore. And it's all your fault, Harry."

Harry stared at her, taking a step back at the verbal blows she'd just sent him. "Ginny . . ."

"You know it too! I can see. Well, Hermione and Ron and all of your other little friends may pretend, but it's your fault and nobody else's. Everyone knows you're the only one who could have defeated him. Dumbledore . . . you swore to Dumbledore that you would protect Hogwarts with your life. Do you know what that means, Harry? That meant you should have died. You vowed that you would die before Voldemort took Hogwarts. But Voldemort has taken over the school and you, you are still alive. How does that make you feel? Guilty? It should. Those of us left should have persecuted you. You still are the boy who lived, huh, Harry? Only now there's not much respect in that title."

Harry didn't even have time to feel hurt. All he could feel was guilt, crashing down onto the weight he'd held on his shoulder for as long as he could remember. Ginny had just voiced the thoughts that turmoiled in his head every day.

"You're right," Harry admitted quietly. He walked out of the room. Ginny felt the deafening silence through her bones and she began to regret her words.

Harry came back a second later and in his hand was his old wand. Before Ginny could say anything he had apparated. Ginny stood stock still, not believing what had happened. Nobody ever used magic anymore; for fear that Voldemort and the Death Eaters could find them. Ginny knew where he was going too, and she felt like crying. Crying wouldn't help though, and she knew it. So she ran out of Harry's place as fast as she could.

* * * * *

Harry looked around him in shock. He had apparated into Hogsmeade, knowing that he wouldn't be able to easily get to Hogwarts, so he planned on taking the Shrieking Shack. But shock was coursing through him. The buildings were in devastation, not a soul was anywhere.

This, Harry Potter, is your fault, he told himself bitterly. He tried to keep his eyes straight ahead as he went to the Shrieking Shack. He pulled his wand out and blasted the door open. Why not go all out if Voldemort probably already knew he was here?

It was ten minutes later before Harry finally reached the edge of the tunnel, the entrance to the Whomping Willow. He didn't hesitate as he climbed out and was out of the tree's way before it could hit him. But Harry looked back to see the Willow weakly try to lift a limb. This was what had happened to the tree.

Harry felt guilt press down him again, and he kept on going, passing by Hagrid's hut. Pain hit his heart as he remembered his giant of a friend. Hagrid had had the right idea; he died rather than let Voldemort take over the school. Of course, after Dumbledore was dead, Hagrid hadn't had much to live for.

Harry went inside the school, ignoring the nostalgia and heading straight for the Great Hall. This was going to be over soon, and the paintings seemed to realize Harry's death wish. They all gave him sad looks. Harry even passed by Nearly Headless Nick, who nodded at him. It seemed as if the whole castle knew what he was going to do. Silent recognition, silent good wishes. Harry nodded back at Nick and continued on his way. By this time he would have expected to feel fear, but all he felt was numb. There really wasn't anything to live for, was there?

Harry entered the Great Hall and wasn't at all surprised to find that the tables had been cleared out, the ceiling looked normal, and all that was in the room was a single desk, someone sitting in it. That someone stood and eyes locked with Harry. Voldemort. Suddenly black shapes appeared around the room, surrounding all of the walls. Death Eaters, of course.

Harry barely blinked; he walked forward to Voldemort, who instantly made the desk disappear.

"Harry Potter," Voldemort's cold, cruel voice said. "I'm surprised you can show your face with no shame. Come to let me finish you off?"

Harry turned to the Death Eaters to his right and the words came out of his mouth without a second thought. "Avada Kedavra!"

A Death Eater fell to the ground.

"Harry, Harry," Voldemort tusked. "Using black magic now, are we? I suppose we are to have a duel? After all, it is the only fair way. I do love it when the prey tries to be brave. Makes it all the more fun to kill."

Harry didn't answer. He held up his wand. "Avada--" His wand was knocked out of his hand and flew towards a Death Eater.

"This is my fight!" Voldemort yelled. He quickly killed the Death Eater and turned to Harry. "So you aren't going to play fair, then? Good. Fair is boring. Crucio!"

Harry fell to his knees, sudden pain as if all of his organs were enlarging, ready to burst. White hot pain flew in vibrations throughout his body and he tried to let out a scream. His body didn't answer though; all he could focus on was the pain. And the pain was everywhere.

Suddenly it was gone and he was gasping in a heap on the floor, looking up at Voldemort.

"Don't mess with the big boys, Harry," Voldemort said. "That's what your father--"

"Crucio!" Harry shouted, and now it was Voldemort twitching in front of him. It only lasted a second, however, before Voldemort was grinning.

"Feisty, aren't we, Harry? No, black magic won't work on me. I believe I am the sole person who can over come the three Unforgivable Curses."

Harry wasn't surprised to feel the pain again, and his mind this time focused on dying. Maybe if he wished very, very hard it would happen. That's what he came for, wasn't it?

The pain stopped again. This time for a different reason.

"Ah, I was wondering when you would show up. Loyal, aren't you?"

Harry turned around to see Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Sirius, and Remus. "No," he croaked. "Please, just go."

"No, I think I might like to try out--"

Voldemort stopped suddenly and looked down to see a glittering sword stuck inside of his body.

At the words Voldemort spoke, threatening his friends, Harry had acted without thinking. Words had come to his mind; a spell . . . he had spoken them without wondering what they were for and then the cool steel of the sword was in his hands. He knew suddenly what to do and struck Voldemort with it. All of this happened in a mere split second, and Harry just stared at the sword as quiet permeated the Great Hall. Then chaos suddenly broke out, curses being shouted from Death Eaters to Harry's friends.

Harry joined in on the chaos and pulled the sword out, then struck Voldemort with it once again, and then again and again. Voldemort was soon a pile of robes on the floor, his eyes rolling and blood spilling over his lips. Harry gave him a look of pure and utter hatred, then said in a low voice, barely audible, that this was for his parents . . . the sword in Harry's hands stabbed Voldemort in the throat and the Dark Lord's chest heaved one last time.

A coldness descended over Harry, and his mind seemed to be somewhere else. He was simply acting on instinct. He stomped on Voldemort's chest, as if to assure himself that the man was dead, then turned around. He had been lost in his own little world with Voldemort, unaware as to what was going on around him. When he snapped out of the daze, he wasn't at all surprised to see that his friends were losing. A few were shuddering with the Crucio curse.

Once again acting on instinct, Harry pulled his wand out and began pointing at Death Eaters, screaming Avada Kedavra until not one black robed human was still moving.

Completely drained of power, Harry seemed to collapse slowly himself. He fell to (not sure if this is the right word) his knees. Then, holding his hands out, he fell to the floor. The coldness left him and replacing it was stinging guilt. He had just killed at least a hundred men. More than likely more than that. How he had gotten the energy, he didn't know, but he had done it.

His name sounded around him again and again, but he didn't respond. He was left alone in his thoughts. He had just killed men . . . he had used the Unforgivable Curses. Granted, he had used them on Voldemort and his followers . . . but that was powerful black magic. They were called Unforgivable Curses for a reason.

"Harry Potter."

This time Harry looked up. He would recognize that voice anywhere. He wasn't at all surprised to see Albus Dumbledore, white and ghostly, standing before him, a grim look of triumph on his face.

"Professor, I-I tried," Harry choked out. "I am so sorry . . ." he let out an empty sob and felt tears springing to his eyes.

"You defeated him, didn't you?" Dumbledore asked quietly. "Harry, do you know how you defeated the Dark Lord?"

Harry shook his head. How was he supposed to know? His brain didn't seem to be functioning right. "Is it because of the mortal wound? Voldemort used plenty of curses to become immortal -- but did he think of someone attacking him without a wand?"

"That is part of it," Dumbledore said, nodding. "Harry, look at the sword."

Harry crawled to Voldemort's body and pulled out the sword with a sickening sliding sound. He recognized it instantly -- the sword of Gryffindor he had used it in his second year. "Dumbledore, I still don't completely understand . . ."

"You don't know why Voldemort wanted to kill you." It was a statement, not a question. Harry didn't utter a word, but shook his head no. "You, my boy, are the heir of Gryffindor. Just as Tom Riddle was the heir of Slytherin."

Realization dawned on Harry in the fogginess surrounding him. "I'm the only one who could kill him," he said softly.

Dumbledore nodded. He looked reluctant for a second. "Harry, I want you to know that I am prouder of you than you can every imagine. So are--so are your parents. And Cedric."

Harry's eyes snapped upwards, guilt underlying their depths.

"Cedric doesn't blame you, Harry. It wasn't your fault. But I know you will continue throughout life blaming yourself, so telling you otherwise is pointless. He wanted me to tell you though."

Harry nodded, attempting to show Dumbledore that he understood the words.

"I have to go now . . ."

Harry nodded again, not able to talk. He forced the words however; knowing this would be his only chance. "Good bye, Professor Dumbledore. You know I- I thought of you as a second father, right?"

Dumbledore's eyes filled with pleasure. Tears seemed to glisten. "I do now. Good bye, Harry Potter."

With that Dumbledore was gone. Harry found himself looking up at the faces of his friends again and suspected that only he had seen Dumbledore. He sat up, strength returning again, and ignored the pleadings from his friends. He went to Voldemort's body and once again pulled the sword out of his neck.

He gave one last look to Voldemort, the man who had caused destruction within Harry's life again and again, and then calmly did a spell so that all of the bodies disappeared. The Great Hall's floor seemed to glisten again, and with a satisfied glance at it he left the hall, everyone trailing behind him and continuing to try and get him to say something.

* * * * *

Harry finally did talk. He broke with Sirius and Remus, and then he repeated his story again to Hermione and Ron and the rest of the Weasley's. The one person he didn't talk to was Ginny. He was, of course, a little grateful of her for finally pushing him over the edge. But he was mad for the same reason. Ginny was vicious, cruel, and unbelievably bad for him. No matter how many times he repeated this slowly to himself, it didn't stop what he felt for her.

Only a week had passed since the former wizards had all found out that Voldemort was gone, this time for good. Harry had been hiding out in his apartment, which the press thankfully didn't know about. He knew that only people he trusted knew about his address, and the Weasleys as well as Sirius and Remus had stopped by too many times to count in the past few days, so it was no surprise when someone knocked on the door.

Harry rolled his eyes and opened the door. "I'm getting plenty of food and rest, thank you . . . oh." Harry stopped short when he saw who was there: Ginny. "What do you want?" he asked coldly, but didn't shut the door.

"I know I don't deserve it but--" Ginny sighed "--please, can you just hear me out?"

Harry didn't answer, but just left the door open as he backed up into the kitchen, placing the bar between himself and Ginny as he had before.

"I didn't . . ." Ginny faltered for a second, then nodded as if she'd just decided something to herself. "I'm not good at this, Harry, so please excuse my mistakes. I haven't talked civilly to anybody for a long time now, and I'm trying to get used to this."

Harry nodded. "Go on."

"I got scared," Ginny said, her voice low as if this was hard for her. "I don't like to admit it, I don't like to be weak, but I want to be honest with you because you deserve it. I was scared because I trained myself to not make any attachments. Harry, do you know the last time I actually enjoyed sex before you came along?"

Harry shook his head, but didn't say anything.

"I haven't had an orgasm since I became what I was. That has to mean something, right? That you managed to . . ." Ginny paused for a second, but Harry didn't say anything. "I lied," she blurted, then winced and closed her eyes.

"About what? The . . . orgasm thing?" Harry asked, blushing slightly.

"No, no. I lied. Before. When we were here . . . I do feel something for you," Ginny said, finished quietly. "But I had trained myself so well, I thought that I was safe from a real relationship and I was trying to tell myself that we didn't have one, that I was just using you for the sex. Then you had to go and blurt out that you had feelings for me and I got defensive because I knew that I cared for you, but I thought--I thought that I'd appear weak, that I should never let you know."

Harry took an involuntary step forward. "Gin," he murmured, putting his hand out as if wanting to touch her. He thought better of it and crossed his arms firmly.

Ginny stared at the floor and didn't seem to notice his movements. "I lied about a lot of things, Harry," she said.

"What else did you lie about?" Harry whispered, emotion choking his voice.

"After our first time, I didn't sleep with anybody else," Ginny said. "When I told you that I had other clients to tend to, that was a lie. I pretended not to be home when the usuals came by because I didn't want to sell my body anymore. When you asked, I knew if I told you you'd know that I cared about you."

Harry's mouth fell open a little and he felt his heart lurching as if she was squeezing it in her hands as she spoke. Everything that she said was what he wanted -- needed -- for her to say. But he'd resolved not to fall for her again, she was vicious and bad news . . . and all those other things he'd said earlier.

"Ginny, I don't know," Harry finally said. "I can't let you hurt me again and I'm sure that you will because that's what you've become."

"No!" Ginny said fiercely. "I want to be Ginny again. I don't want to be the person that I became whenever I got too close to you. I know that I won't hurt you. And if I do, then you have to know that I'm learning. That this is hard for me."

Harry leaned on the counter for support and just gazed at her, trying to decide what his answer would be. "I can't let you go," he finally decided.

Ginny could barely contain her glee as she rushed forward. "Harry! Oh, I know I don't deserve this. Thank you . . ." she brushed away a tear. "I'm so sorry for everything that I put you through."

Harry looked away, down at the floor, anywhere but her face. "You have one chance. Please don't blow it, Ginny. For my own sake as well as yours."

Ginny shook her head. "I have too much at risk to blow it."

Harry stepped forward and pulled Ginny close, to breath in the scent of her hair and bury his face into her shoulder. She placed her small hands at the nape of his neck and brushed the skin soothingly there.

They continued to hold each other, desperately clinging to one another; Harry finally letting out his emotions with all that happened as Ginny soothed him and assured him that everything was right now. Harry realized that she was right . . . no matter how bad Ginny had been to him, things were only right in her arms.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Woke up in New York City,

In a funky cheap hotel.

She took my heart and she took my money,

Must have slipped me a sleepin' pill.

~Ricky Martin, Livin' La Vida Loc

I only put that on there because I heard this song on the radio the other day and I thought those lyrics reminded me slightly of this fic. If you don't think so, then booo ya'll! (j/k, don't know where that came from)

Please review; I've been thinking about a few spin offs I could do (like that night Ron sang to Hermione) but I need reviews for encouragement! J