Disclaimer- J.K. Rowling/Warner Bros. own all things Potter. This story is in no way intended as an infringement of that copyright.
A/N- Thanks to those who have taken their time to read this. Added thanks to those who've taken the time to review. You're thoughts and opinions are appreciated.
When Harry awoke later, he noticed right away that it was still dark. The rest of the house was quiet. He looked up and noticed that Ginny and Hermione were by his bed. It was Hermione who had been prodding him to wake up. Ron was near the door, "Muffliato," Harry heard him whisper.
"Whatzagoingon?" Harry asked tiredly. His eyes didn't want to open.
"We need to talk, Harry," Hermione told him bossily.
"What about?" he asked, coming more fully awake now. He looked around the room to see three anxious faces looking back at him. Harry sat up and put his glasses on.
"There's a lot going on," Ron told him as he came and sat at the foot of his bed. Ginny took up a seat next to Harry while Hermione remained standing.
"What do you mean there's a lot going on?" He asked as they all looked at each other.
"After you fell asleep and after...you know...what happened, anyway we were all downstairs and Mum kind of went a bit mental over...well over everything," Ron began. He ran his hand through his bright red hair nervously.
"What do you mean 'over everything?' What happened exactly?"
"Harry," Hermione began uncertainly, "When you...left as you did, it gave everyone quite a fright,"
"I'm sorry about that Hermione,"
"That's not my point though..." "Harry, Mum is demanding to know what the big secret is. I know Dad and Professor Lupin want to know too, but I don't think they're as keen to find out about it as Mum is," Ron told him.
Looking around the room, Harry suddenly realized that he'd really not done himself or anyone else any favors in going to Hogwarts. Sure, he'd been able to break the trace on Ginny, but what good was that when she was afraid to try magic for fear of bringing the Death Eaters down on her? He had also been able to get..."Hermione, I got them!"
"Got what, Harry?" Hermione looked at Harry quizzically.
"Basilisk Fangs! I've got two of them..." Realization struck Harry hard in that moment. Voldemort knew about the fangs! He'd read it in Harry's mind.
"Is that what's in here?" Hermione asked him as she fished under the bed and pulled out Harry's moleskin bag, "I wondered if that wasn't it,"
"Hermione! You're...you're amazing! Thank you!"
Accepting the bag from a blushing Hermione, Harry opened it up and pulled out the two fangs he'd managed to obtain. He set them on the bed and stared at them.
"Harry," Ron said as he looked down at the fangs, "This is all well and good but this doesn't do anything about Mum,"
"We can't tell them," Harry stated firmly.
Ginny, who until this point had been very quiet, looked at Harry and nodded her head, "That's what I said. Hermione and Ron said the same thing. But you know Mum. She tried to keep you lot from leaving before. What makes you think she won't try and stop you now?"
"I don't know, Ginny. I wish I did. There's a lot of things I wish I knew," Harry replied. He put the fangs back into his moleskin bag.
"Harry, we've got to tell them something," Hermione argued.
"No, we don't Hermione. Professor Dumbledore didn't say well, do this but if things get too bad or too dangerous then you better tell the others. I don't think he wanted them to know,"
"Then what do you suggest we do? We can't just continue on here like we were doing, they'll figure it out sooner or later!" Ron exclaimed.
"Then we leave. Your family can stay here where it's safe. They can stay for as long as they like, but I have a job to do," Harry was speaking to Ron in answer to his question, but he was looking at Hermione. The set of her jaw and the look in her eyes told him she was gearing up another argument, so Harry cut her off
"Look, if this has turned out to be more than you expected, I understand. But no matter what, I'm leaving. Voldemort is only getting stronger and it's up to me to stop him,"
"You mean it's up to us to stop him," Ginny corrected him.
"She's right, Harry. We're still with you. Even if I don't agree with what you're saying now," Hermione agreed with a worried look on her face.
Ron was looking at Harry seriously, nodding his head. It heartened Harry to have his friends respond so positively to him. Then another thought occurred to him, "Even if that means you end up having something happen to you, like what just happened to me?"
Ron's eyes widened as the reality of what Harry was telling him sank in. Then he nodded and said, "It doesn't change a thing, mate. We're still here,"
He looked from Ron, to Hermione, to Ginny. All three of them were nodding their heads slowly and with expressions that spoke of understanding and loyalty. They were there with Harry. They would be with him until the end. However that end might happen.
Neither can live while the other survives. That's what the prophecy said, Harry thought. He wondered if his friends, who all had heard the prophecy as well since he had been the one to tell them, knew exactly what that meant. Harry thought he had a good idea.
"Even so Harry," Hermione persisted, "I still think we should tell them something. Even if it's..."
"Even if it's what, Hermione? Don't you get it? If we say something to them, even just a little something, and one of them is captured, what do you think that means? They would be killed for knowing even a little bit!"
"They would be killed anyway," Ginny said, "We're blood traitors, remember?"
"I thought you agreed with me that we shouldn't say anything," Harry looked at her.
"I did and I do. But don't fool yourself into thinking that they won't be killed just because they know a little bit about what we're doing. Just the fact that we're a bunch of blood traitors is enough for them to find a reason. Look at Charlie and Percy!"
Her last comment stung a bit. He, no matter what anyone else said, still felt like he bore some of the responsibility for that. The only way to stop any more people from dying was to stop Voldemort. The only way to do that was to find and destroy his Horcruxes. Then came a startling thought: How much more protected would the Horcruxes be if Voldemort knew that Harry was hunting them?
"Then think of this," Harry said thoughtfully, "What happens if we tell everyone what it is we're doing, and then, by some miracle, they decide to go along with it? Then, what happens if Voldemort finds out through someone that we're after the Horcruxes? How much harder would it be to find them then? How much more protection would he put on them? Let me tell you, it would be a lot. Just the protection on the locket and the ring nearly killed Dumbledore both times!"
That was enough to silence Hermione's arguments. A horrified look appeared on her face and Harry only nodded.
"Harry..." Hermione said quietly.
"I know, Hermione. I know. But now that we have the basilisk fangs, we can start out looking for the Horcruxes. We just need a place to start," Harry sighed.
"Before we go on to that, Harry, I wanted to talk to you about a couple of other things," Hermione said steeling herself.
"You mentioned when you were seeing into Voldemort's..." Ron winced at hearing Hermione use his name, "Good grief Ron! It's only a name! Anyway, when you were seeing into his mind, you mentioned something about him looking for a new wand. A specific wand, do you remember?"
"Yes," Harry nodded, "The Deathstick or Wand of Destiny. It's supposed to be a..."
"...A wand that cannot be defeated." Hermione finished.
"The Wand of Destiny?" Ron asked looking from Harry to Hermione. Ginny just sat back observing the group as they spoke. Then she sat up suddenly.
"Was that the wand that Remus was researching? Only he didn't call it the Wand of Destiny, he called it something else,"
"The Elder Wand I think he said,"
"The Elder Wand?" Harry asked.
"I think that's what it was anyway," Ron nodded.
A wand that could not be beaten? If Voldemort was looking for a wand that couldn't be beaten, Harry thought, that must mean two things; He planned to meet Harry in battle. And he was making sure that there was no chance for him to lose.
This only seemed to feed a small spark that had started forming inside Harry's chest. It had begun the night he faced Voldemort in Dumbledore's (he refused to think of the office as Snape's) office. That spark had refused to die out over the days when he was recovering. Indeed it seemed to smolder and now this latest thing fed it even more. Harry refused to give it anymore life than he had already, he pushed the spark away and ignored it.
Hermione looked like she was deep in thought. Harry decided to focus his attention there; "What is it, Hermione? What are you thinking about?"
"I've heard that name before," She answered as she looked towards the bedroom door, "It was in..."
"A book," Ron and Harry said together. Ginny smiled knowingly.
"Well, yes it was. But it was in a book of children's stories," She looked at Ginny and Ron, "The tales of Beetle the Bard?"
"That's the book that Dumbledore left you in his will!" Ron realized.
"That's it," Hermione beamed at Ron. She seemed really impressed that he remembered this fact.
"What does a book of Children's stories have to do with this wand that You-Know-Who wants?" Ginny asked.
Harry looked to Hermione for an explanation which for once she wasn't entirely able to provide; "It's in the book which is downstairs. I don't want to chance waking anyone just now and I need the book to explain it properly,"
Nodding his head in understanding, Harry's next question was directed to Ginny even though he reckoned he already knew the answer; "Have you tried any magic yet?"
Ginny's face colored at the question which confirmed Harry's suspicion, "Not yet,"
"You don't think I really lifted the Trace?" Harry asked her. Ron and Hermione started looking uncomfortable.
"Well..." Ginny hesitated.
"That's fine, I'll do it again if you like. If anyone would know how to lift it, it would be Dumbledore and he's the one who told me how to do it,"
"How can you be sure you did it right though?" Ron asked.
"He's right, Harry," Hermione added, then quickly before Harry could say anymore, "You were just waking up after almost dying. You might have..."
"I didn't mess it up, Hermione."
"I didn't mean it like that!" Hermione said looking like she was afraid she'd hurt Harry's feelings.
In fact Harry was a little annoyed that his friends didn't have a little more faith in him. He'd escaped Voldemort again, hadn't he? He picked up his wand and pointed it at Ginny, "Finite Nathrach Vestigium Tricorum Incantatum!"
This time she didn't flinch and no one reacted like Harry was suddenly deranged. Again there was a silent shimmery wave that ran over Ginny and Harry lowered his wand and smiled at her.
"I promise you, you're fine to use magic. Try something, go on..."
"What do you want me to do? If it doesn't work..."
"Then the Fidelius Charm that keeps us safe here should still work, shouldn't it?" Harry directed his question at Ron and Hermione. Hermione nodded.
"Yes, it would work. The only time a Fidelius Charm can be broken is if the Secret Keeper reveals the secret. That's why those Death Eaters are still camped outside and haven't come bursting in. They must know we're somewhere nearby, but they don't know where..."
Distracted from Ginny for a moment, Harry looked at Hermione in bewilderment; "They're still out there? I used the Imperius Curse on them when I left to get them away from here! I even watched them go!"
"There's no need to shout," Hermione chided him, "Whether or not you used the Imperius Curse or not, there are still Death Eaters camped outside across the street."
This revelation really caught Harry by surprise. He got up out of his bed and went to the window. He pulled apart the old, heavy, moth eaten, curtains to have a look. Sure enough, there were two figures in dark cloaks standing across the street. Harry stared at them long and hard for a minute in shock. Then; "They're not the same ones I don't think,"
"What do you mean they're not the same ones?" Ron asked moving next to Harry to have a look out the window himself.
"The ones I cursed were more equal in size, these two aren't,"
It was true. One Death Eater was very tall and thin. Almost to the point of looking like he'd been put on a rack and drawn out to be made taller. The other one looked very short next to him though Harry thought he might be closer to average size. He sat back down and sighed.
"I wish I knew how they know to be out there,"
"How do we know that they aren't just still watching the place in case you show up?" Ginny asked.
"I suppose that's possible," Hermione said doubtfully.
Turning back to Ginny, Harry sighed. "Would you please just try something simple? You could levitate my pillow,"
Shaking her head doubtfully while Ron and Hermione exchanged alarmed looks, Ginny drew her wand, stood up and pointed it at Harry's pillow. With a well practiced swish and flick, she said, "Wingardium Leviosa!"
Immediately the pillow floated up into the air. Ginny made it dance around a little bit before letting it float down gently back onto the bed.
"Well done!" Ron exclaimed. Hermione was smiling nervously.
Ginny however was beaming with joy; "It worked! It really worked!"
"Happy Birthday!" Harry told her with a smug, satisfied smile.
"You remembered?" Ginny asked as she came forward to stand in front of him.
Ron started looking a little uncomfortable. Ginny didn't care however. She was all smiles as she reached up and took Harry's face in her hands. She then pulled him forward into a kiss.
"Hey now," Ron began.
"Ron, hush," Hermione whispered. Ron looked rebellious as he turned his head and studiously looked out the window again.
Harry meanwhile was enjoying the chance to kiss Ginny again while it lasted. There had been precious few chances to do that since the wedding. When he pulled away, he had the presence of mind to add, "Sorry I didn't remember any sooner,"
"You're forgiven," Ginny smiled at him.
The next day, Harry made his way downstairs again. Mrs. Weasley saw him walk into the kitchen and promptly tried sending him back upstairs again.
"Oh no you don't, young man! Back upstairs with you!" She piped up.
"Mrs. Weasley, I'm fine. I need to be up and moving around again," Harry tried arguing.
"You do realize don't you that you almost died?" Mrs. Weasley's voice broke at the end.
Harry saw Ron rolling his eyes at his mother's theatrics and felt a little rebellious too, but he also couldn't help feeling guilty over everything he'd just put her through. His mind racing as he tried to find some argument he could use, it was Mr. Weasley who stepped in.
"Molly, don't you think you're overdoing it just a bit?"
"Arthur, you saw how much blood he lost," Mrs. Weasley reasoned, "He needs time to get his strength back,"
"I'm sure the Phoenix Tears that Dobby gave him will work just fine for that," Remus added.
At that moment, the little house elf came walking into the room.
"Harry Potter! It's so good to see you up and around!" Then he started wail, "When Dobby heard that Harry Potter might die, he had to come and try to save his friend."
"Thanks Dobby, I'm glad that you did," Harry smiled at him.
"Dobby is too sir!" Dobby smiled back at Harry and then went on about doing his house work.
Turning back to Mrs. Weasley, Harry took a deep breath to speak. He was interrupted again by a flash of Green Flames in the fireplace. Bill and Fleur stepped out of it, followed by Fred and George.
"'arry!" Fleur exclaimed as she rushed forward and hugged him tightly, "eet ees zo good to see you!" Harry returned the hug only awkwardly. Ginny ground her teeth until Fleur let go.
"Alright there Harry?" Bill asked him quietly.
"Right as rain I guess,"
"Bloody Hell mate," Fred began
"You gave us a right good scare there for awhile," George finished.
"Language," Mrs. Weasley chided them.
"Sorry Mum, anyway, it's good to have you back Harry." Fred said as he sat down at the table.
Mrs. Weasley smiled sadly at her twin sons. Harry wondered if she was remembering the other two that had so recently died. He started to take a seat himself but Mrs. Weasley caught him,
"Harry, upstairs. Now!" Harry turned to leave when Remus stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.
"Now wait a moment, Molly. It's not going to hurt anything for Harry to be down here with the rest of us. He must be going mad up there by himself all day long. Why not let him stay down here with everyone else?"
"Fine, it seems that I'm the only one that cares for his welfare," Mrs. Weasley stated in exasperation.
"You may sit in the drawing room. Go on now, off with you," She waved her hands at Harry and he did as he was told. It was easier than fighting with her and if things went as he had planned, he'd be upsetting her again soon enough as it is.
Harry marched off to the sitting room, stopping only long enough along the way to grab a couple books for some light reading.
Ron was right behind him, followed closely by Ginny and Hermione.
"That went well, don't you think?" Ginny quipped as they sat down in the drawing room with Harry.
Ginny took a seat on the arm of the chair that Harry had taken. Ron and Hermione took up seats on the couch. They were looking at Harry expectantly.
"What is it?" Harry asked curiously.
"We're waiting," Ron said simply.
"Waiting? Waiting for what?"
"In about three minutes, Mum is going to come in here and start in on you. You just watch. She's going to ask you what it was that you were doing at the school and why there is such a big secret about it," Ron advised.
"You've got to be mental," Harry snorted.
Ginny was shaking her head, "She gave up too easily. Ron's right, you'll see."
And Harry did see, though it was not for some little while later. Every so often Mrs. Weasley would pop in and out of the room to check on them and, Harry assumed, to make sure he wasn't doing anything but resting.
The group had spent the entire morning doing nothing but talking and relaxing. There wasn't any cleaning to be done because Dobby kept up with it all. They couldn't go to school, and they couldn't go out because of the danger. They were bored.
It was Hermione who had the idea that they pick up one of the books that Harry had brought into the room with him and begin to study up and practice using what they found in the book.
Since Ginny had so recently discovered that she really was able to use magic freely, she was all for this idea. Harry couldn't help but smile at her enthusiasm and feel a bit smug about her desire to participate.
The book; Hugh Blocker's Guide to Defensive Magic and When to Use It, turned out to be a gold mine of ideas. Not just with new spells but new ways to use old ones too.
Hermione was reading the book and seemed a bit perturbed when not only Harry, but Ginny too, got most of the spells and techniques in using them down correctly before either she or Ron.
There was one jinx, 'Glaripoppum' that Harry felt would be particularly useful in a defensive magic situation. One just simply pointed their wand at the enemy and gave the incantation 'Glaripoppum'
The effect of the jinx was several seconds of bright flashing lights and loud popping sounds around the face and head of the intended victim. It was designed to disorient and confuse an attacker and give the one using the jinx time to escape.
The group took turns on each other with this jinx. When it was Harry's turn to be on the receiving end, he thought that maybe Hermione was a bit too anxious to use it on him. She had a kind of fierce determination in her eyes that Harry recognized immediately. It was the same look she wore whenever she felt that she'd been beaten at something.
Casting the jinx quickly and non-verbally, Harry's train of thought was suddenly blinded by bright flashing lights and loud popping sounds in his ears. It was several minutes before he could see or hear again. Harry kept shaking his head trying to clear out the last effects of the spell.
When he finally could see, his eyes were met with the sight of Hermione wearing a self satisfied smile on her face. His eyes were just clearing up and they were getting ready to move on to something new to try when Fred and George came into the room.
"Hey you lot, what's with all the racket?" Fred asked.
"Yeah, you'd think you were trying to do something productive in here," George added.
"We are trying to do something productive," Hermione told them patiently.
"Yes, we can see that," Fred retorted, "It looks like it too."
"That's why we came in here," George said turning to Harry.
"Harry, Mum is going to be coming in here any second to try and get some information off of you. Remus and Dad were trying to talk her out of it but she's really got her mind set,"
"Thanks," Harry told them,
"Well that's not all. See we have loads of experience in dealing with our mother," Fred told him.
"And we know what it's like to have to try and hide something from her when she's determined to find out what it is," George squatted down next to Harry.
"Look, don't let her catch you in anything. Just smile and nod and listen to her and let her know that you're really not up to anything rash,"
"Good start, Fred. Also you can't let her make you promise her anything. Otherwise she'll hold you to it."
"And don't let her try and make you feel guilty either,"
"Just hold your ground and she'll eventually..."
"She'll eventually what, Fred?" Mrs. Weasley asked with a touch of irritation.
He could see right away that Fred had been right. Their mother's cheeks were flushed and she had a fire in her eyes. These eyes which had now turned their gaze on Harry.
"Harry Dear, I wonder if I might speak with you a moment?"
Ron was giving Harry an 'I told you so' look as he stood up and left the room. Fred, George, Ginny, and Hermione following behind him.
"Sure, Mrs. Weasley. What would you like to talk about?"
Mrs. Weasley spent a few minutes tucking Harry's blanket around him and making sure he was comfortable. He tolerated this because he knew that if they talked about what Ron was saying she wanted to talk about, he would be hurting her feelings very soon. Harry didn't want to do that any more than was absolutely necessary.
When she was finished fussing over Harry, Mrs. Weasley conjured a chair and drew it up close to him. She took a deep breath as she smoothed her hair out of her eyes and then said; "I wanted to talk to you about what it is you have planned to do about fighting You-Know-Who,"
At least she wasn't mincing words, Harry thought. He looked at her for a moment and saw the love and caring she held for him in her eyes. He also saw a deeply felt sadness there. He felt sure that it was directly related to the sons she had so recently lost, but there was something more there too. Maybe fear? If it was fear, she was controlling it well.
"What did you want to know, Mrs. Weasley?" Harry replied.
"Well, Harry, I want to know what it is that you're supposed to be doing for Dumbledore," Mrs. Weasley asked.
Harry was shaking his head before she could finish speaking.
"I'm sorry Mrs. Weasley, I've promised him that I wouldn't say anything to anyone. I can't go back on that promise,"
"But Harry, you were nearly killed? Do you really think that Professor Dumbledore meant for you to risk your life to carry out this fool-hardy task?"
Harry looked at Mrs. Weasley and remembered the words of the prophecy. The same prophecy that was the reason why his parents were dead and he was an orphan. This thought gave him the strength to look Mrs. Weasley in the eye and answer her calmly.
"Yes, Mrs. Weasley, he did. He was fully aware of what it was he was asking me to do,"
Of all the answers that she might have been expecting to hear, by the expression on her face the one Harry just gave her clearly wasn't one of them. She jerked her head back and her eyes opened wide.
"Surely you're not serious? Professor Dumbledore would never knowingly let you risk your life, Harry. You must have misunderstood him."
"I am quite serious. There is no mistaking what he said and no mistaking the risks involved. This is the most important thing. This is our only chance to defeat Voldemort," Harry stated plainly.
Mrs. Weasley winced at his using Voldemort's name. She looked at Harry long and hard for a moment. Before she could go on, Harry decided to add something else.
"There's more, Mrs. Weasley. You weren't there that night he died. You weren't at Hogwarts and you weren't there with us in that...where we went that night. He nearly died then. I know, I was there. I had to help get us back to Hogwarts. When we got back, his last act before he died was to save me. He petrified me so that I couldn't move and try to save him when the Death Eaters arrived at the top of the Astronomy Tower," Harry paused for breath. He ignored Mrs. Weasley's tears as they fell, feeling horrible as he did so. However he wanted to make his point blatantly clear.
"He could have saved himself. He chose to save me instead so that I could carry on and do what it is that he has asked me to do. That is how important this task is. So you see Mrs. Weasley, he knew very well exactly what it is he was asking me to do. He knew it and made sure that I did too,"
"B-but what about Ron and Hermione? And Ginny? What about them?" Mrs. Weasley was crying now.
"I never asked them to come with me. I never wanted them to. Any of them. They chose to join me of their own accord. I just know what it is that I have to do."
"And you can't share this with anyone?"
"No Mrs. Weasley, I can't. In the end, what I have to do, I will do alone. I'm the one who has to face him. I'm the only one who can."
"B-but Harry, you might die!" Mrs. Weasley whispered now, tears free flowing.
"Very probably. But I'll make sure that he dies with me. No one else can do that,"
Mrs. Weasley looked at Harry for a long time. He could only return her gaze. She finally nodded her head. He didn't know if it was that she accepted what it was he had told her or resigned herself to the fact that he wasn't going to tell her what she wanted to know. But he would take it if it stopped the questions for now.
He had a hunch it might when Mrs. Weasley reached forward and pulled Harry into a tight embrace which Harry returned. He didn't begrudge her for wanting to know. He didn't begrudge her for wanting to protect him or her family. He knew that those were the main reasons behind her questions.
When Mrs. Weasley let him go, there was a respect in her eyes that he'd not noticed there before. Harry fervently hoped that, that meant that she had accepted what it was that he had to tell her.
That afternoon Harry was allowed off of the couch and out of the drawing room. He took this as further sign that Mrs. Weasley had accepted what he had to say about not revealing his task from Dumbledore. When he mentioned this to Ron and the two girls later, after he had explained to them what he'd told her, Ron took a different view.
"Don't bet on it, mate. She's not through yet,"
"Why do you say that?"
"You don't know, Mum," Ginny agreed with him.
"You guys weren't there in the room. You didn't see her,"
"No, but I've lived with her," Ron said back, "I'm telling you Harry, she's not done yet."
"She doesn't have to be. It doesn't matter anyway,"
Something in his voice must have tipped Hermione off that Harry was up to something. She cocked her head to one side and looked at him strangely. Ignoring this, Harry went upstairs.
Instead of going to his room he went up to the attic where he could be alone for a little while. With so much on his mind, Harry didn't notice the looks that Ginny, Ron, and Hermione were giving each other as he left the room. Nor did he notice Ginny's eyes watching him as he left or that she followed him long enough to see where he went.
In the attic Harry found a seat that faced the window that looked out over the street below. Looking outside he saw that the Death Eaters were still there even now. They seemed to be waiting for something but what it could be, Harry didn't have a clue. He watched them for a few minutes before sitting down and making himself comfortable.
There was just no other way to do it, he thought. No matter what, where I am people will be in danger. Mrs. Weasley wants to know what's going on and I don't want to hurt her feelings. That really leaves only one option. When Harry thought about it he realized that he'd known for some time that this was really the only option left to him if he was going to find and destroy the Horcruxes. He was going to have to leave Grimmauld Place. This time he would do it alone.
A sense of loneliness came over him when he thought of being out there alone in the world. He wouldn't have anyone but himself to rely on. But he also wouldn't have anyone else to have to worry about. Everyone else could stay here at Grimmauld Place, he didn't care about that. They would be safe and that would enable him to do what had to be done. Finding and destroying the Horcruxes. And then finding and destroying Voldemort.
The small spark of fear that Harry had felt earlier, the one that he had worked so hard to push away, worked itself to the surface again. Since that last time they'd met and Voldemort had wormed his way inside Harry's mind to discover the purpose of his visit to Hogwarts, it had done something. It had made him begin to fully realize what it was that he was up against.
Voldemort was by all accounts a powerful wizard. He wasn't like Gilderoy Lockhart who made his claim to fame on the works of others. Voldemort really had done most of the things that were credited to him. He had hunted people down. He had blazed his way through magical defenses. He had killed. In his quest for power there was nothing that he wouldn't do to obtain it. Harry's parents, Cederic Diggory, and many others were proof enough of that.
This fear wasn't enough to paralyze Harry. Only enough to make him acknowledge it and realize that sooner or later he'd have to face it. Just like sooner or later he'd have to face Voldemort himself.
It was a while later when Harry came back downstairs. He'd spent some time thinking and he had a plan. It was a tentative plan and a simple one. He hoped that maybe this plan would work. It was simple enough that he figured there was a good possibility of it anyway.
The plan was easy enough to work out. He would make sure he had only the necessities to take with him. His wand of course, his Invisibility Cloak, the Marauder's Map, the Basilisk Fangs, some food, and maybe one or two other things. This would allow him to travel light and move fast. Maybe if he stayed on the move and not in any one place for too long, then maybe he could avoid capture too.
Everyone was gathered in the kitchen together when Harry entered the room. The fact that everyone seemed to be acting nicer to him than usual, except perhaps for Ginny whose behavior seemed entirely normal, he suspected he had been a recent topic of conversation. Then Harry realized he didn't care. If his plan went successfully, it was sure to make him a topic of conversation anyway.
"Harry!" Mr. Weasley said genially, "We were wondering where you'd gotten off to,"
Looking over at his closest friends, Harry noticed Ron looking at him sheepishly.
"I just wanted some time to think," Harry answered truthfully.
"Everything alright?" Remus asked him.
"Fine," Harry answered plainly, "Never better,"
Hermione and Ginny were watching him closely, suspicion was clear on their faces. Harry knew that if he didn't go through with his plan, and soon, that they stood a very good chance at figuring things out. This was the last thing that he wanted to happen.
As unobtrusively as possible Harry watched his friends. He figured he had maybe a day at most before someone figured things out. That mean that he should act quickly.
As the day wore on, Harry made sure to gather those things that he would need. He would wait until dinner, excuse himself to use the loo and go. It would be a while before anyone tumbled to what he had done and by then he would be long gone.
One thing that Harry debated long and hard on was whether or not to leave a note. He had decided against it at first; not wanting to leave any clues as to where he was going. Then he changed his mind. After what had happened last time, he figured he owed everyone an explanation before he took off again.
He made note writing the last thing he did before dinner. It was a little difficult to get some parchment, a quill, some ink, and a little quiet space in which to compose the notes he wanted to leave. He wasn't entirely sure he was successful. There were some tense moments when he thought that maybe Hermione might have caught him sneaking some paper and quill out of her bag.
After thinking in depth about what it was he wanted to say, Harry decided to leave four notes. One each to the people he cared the very most about in the house hold: Ginny, Ron and Hermione, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, and Remus. He started with the one for Remus first.
The notes he wrote expressed his appreciation for their help, their support, and their friendship. For Mr. and Mrs. Weasley he thanked them for all the times that they had been there with him when he had no family of his own, and told them how they would always be the family he wished he could have had.
For Ron and Hermione, he had to work a little harder. He talked about the times they shared and thanked them for their willingness to support him as he went to hunt down the Horcruxes. He told them why it had to be him and him alone that went after the Horcruxes and faced Voldemort. Then he closed with his expressed hope and desire to see them again after everything was over.
Ginny's was the hardest note to write. He agonized the longest over each and every word. Finally he put down what he could and hoped that she would understand.
I'm sorry to have to do this. I have to leave you and this house to do the job that Professor Dumbledore asked me to do. This is something that only I can do and no one else. It's me that he wants.
This last year with you has been better than anything I could have hoped for. I could never have wished for someone better for me than you are. You have been more wonderful than anything. More wonderful than I had any right to expect.
Please Ginny, do me this favor. Stay here with your family and Hermione. Stay here and stay safe. Knowing that you are safe and sound will help me to have the courage to do what needs to be done.
Maybe, if things go well, then we can be together after all this is over, if you'll still have me.
I love you, Ginny.
The notes went into a deep pocket of his robes. When dinner came and he made his escape, Harry would take the time to leave the notes on everyone's pillows. He hated himself for having to do things this way but it really was for the best. The others didn't need to keep risking their lives needlessly in order to help him. They could have some time to be happy together. Even if that time was without him.
When it came time to sit down for dinner that evening, it was a somber affair. Remus had returned home to be with Tonks for awhile. Fred and George had left with Bill and Fleur to go back to shell cottage. The house already felt a lot emptier since they were gone. Mrs. Weasley put on a brave face about it, however Harry caught her looking at him with a strange expression on her face from time to time.
When they finally sat down, Harry was ready to go. He had his things by the door stashed out of sight. He had the notes in his pocket ready to put on everyone's pillows. He tried to keep up with the mood of everyone else so as not to tip them off that he was up to something.
Harry was one of the first to sit down at the table. He was preceded only by Ron and Mr. Weasley. Ginny came in next followed by Hermione several minutes later. If they suspected anything was afoot, no one said anything about it.
"You've been quiet today," Ginny commented as she sat down next to Harry at the table.
"Sorry, there's a lot on my mind," Harry replied with a smile.
Ginny leaned in and kissed his cheek which earned a tolerant smile from her father and a much warmer look from her mother. Harry just studied his plate.
"So Harry, what spells do we work on tomorrow?" Ron asked pleasantly.
"Spells? You lot are working on spells?" Mrs. Weasley asked.
"Molly, it's alright. It gives them something constructive to do. Leave them to it," Mr. Weasley reminded his wife.
"That's true, Mum," Ron added, "It's not like we can go to school and practice this stuff. We have to learn what we can now,"
Mrs. Weasley smiled at her son as she shook her head, "As long as it's just here you're practicing..."
Harry felt his stomach clench into a knot. He knew very well how upset Mrs. Weasley would be when she found out he was gone. But there was no getting by it. It had to be done. This whole business had to be done.
When Mrs. Weasley sat down, Dobby appeared seconds later with his arms occupied with platters of food that looked entirely too big for him to handle, yet he manipulated them with ease.
The dinner looked as wonderful as it smelled. There was a baron of roast beef, roasted potatoes and carrots, a tureen of a rich fish chowder, assorted fruits, jams, jellies, and a black pudding. Harry had large helpings of everything.
He figured he would need the extra food to stick with him while he was out there, hunting down Horcruxes. Thinking about the food led his mind on to the other things that he would be missing, such as a warm bed, fun with his friends, and just the safety of Grimmauld Place. Harry shook his head a little. Thinking of such things now was counter productive to the tasks that lay ahead.
About halfway through the meal, Harry decided it was time. Mentally wishing everyone well, he stood up and excused himself to go to the loo. There was a feeling of dread and doubt in his stomach as he ran upstairs and deposited the notes on everyone's pillows. He saved Ginny's for last.
There in the room she shared with Hermione, Harry stood there staring down at her bed. Not able to help himself, he reached down and picked up her pillow. He held it close to his face for a moment breathing in the smell of it; of her. After a long moment, he sighed and set down the pillow with his note carefully laid on top of it. He would miss her terribly when he left.
Harry swallowed hard as he turned and left her room. He ran back downstairs as quietly as he could, made his way to the cloak room where he grabbed his cloak and then looked for his bag of the few things he would be taking with him. It wasn't there. Harry could have sworn that he left the bag hidden under his cloak.
"Looking for this?" Hermione asked as she stepped out from behind the door.
Harry jumped at the sudden sound of her voice. He almost shouted out at being startled but Hermione covered his mouth in time. The look she was giving him could freeze water on a hot July day.
"Harry, shut it!" she ordered. She had never talked to him like this before. Harry was so stunned that his mouth opened in shock but no sound came out of it.
"I thought," She went on, her voice getting colder, "That after everything that just happened, not to mention what we discussed following that, that you would have given up on the idea of leaving to go off on your own. Did you really think that you'd get away with it again?"
Still not able to find his voice, Harry just looked at the floor and shrugged, "You don't understand..."
"Do NOT tell me what I don't understand Harry. Bloody Hell! You've been my best friend for eight years! Did you really think I wouldn't tumble to the fact that you were up to something? Did you?" Angry tears were in her eyes now. Harry realized that he'd really done it this time. He shook his head.
"Let's get back to dinner before people come looking," Hermione said angrily.
"Hermione, I have to do this. It has to..."
"Don't give me that tripe! I'm not going to listen to how it has to be you. Damn you, Harry! It doesn't all have to fall on your shoulders," "I'm sorry Hermione, maybe when this is all over, you can..." He never got a chance to finish his statement. Hermione had drawn her wand and had it pointed directly at his face.
"If you think I'm going to stand by and let you leave and put us all through another nightmare like the one you just did, for the same stupid reasons, then you just may as well think again! I imagine that when you wake up, you'll have a whole room full of people who are just dying to talk to you about why that would be a bad idea,"
The hurt in Hermione's eyes was more than Harry could take. He knew that he'd be hurting everyone when he left. There was no way to get around it. He'd accepted it. But the one thing he hadn't seen was how much pain he was causing those around him when he tried leaving them. Harry had never understood the depth of the pain he was causing those he loved. And still they forgave him for it. Except that there was no getting around doing what had to be done. Harry tried one more time.
"Hermione, I can't stay here. You heard Ron and Ginny, it's only a matter of time until Mrs. Weasley tries again,"
"I'm not saying you can't leave, Harry. I know that there's work to be done. What I'm saying is that when you do go, we'll go together. You're not leaving us all behind again,"
"But what about Ron and Ginny? Their family is here! They just lost two people in their family. They need to stay with their parents," Harry argued but Hermione was already shaking her head.
"They made their decisions already. They'll come too,"
"How do you know?" Harry couldn't help but asking.
Rolling her eyes and shaking her head at him, Hermione sighed; "Because while you were off plotting how to get out of here unnoticed, we talked about it. We have almost everything we need."
"What?" Harry exclaimed. The sounds of people dining in the room down the hall faltered.
Shrugging his shoulders sheepishly, he asked; "What do you mean?"
"I never really unpacked all that much from my little bag. It won't take long to add those things we need to it. Ginny's already given me a bag with her clothes in it, so she's ready. Which reminds me, don't let on to her that I caught you trying to sneak out, she was all fire and brimstone when I told her what I thought you were up to. She's liable to curse you for that one and it would serve you right too!"
"You'd better get back to dinner, Harry. You've been gone a little too long already,"
Harry nodded as he reached out for his bag.
"I'll hold onto this," Hermione told him snatching it back out of his reach and lifting her wand a little bit. Harry could tell she was still very tempted to use it.
He bowed his head as he turned and headed back towards the kitchen. He stopped at the foot of the stairs and took out his wand. He knew that Hermione was watching him as he used a summoning spell to call the notes he'd left to everyone back to him. As the last one flew into his hand, he turned and handed them to Hermione. She calmly took them from him and put them into her robes.
As he turned towards the door, Harry noted that the anger and pain he'd seen previously in Hermione's eyes was still very much present. He'd have to find a way to make this up to her and to the rest of them. He figured he owed them that.