Disclaimer- J.K. Rowling/Warner Bros. own all things Potter. This story is in no way intended as an infringement of that copyright.
Author's Note- It is with no small degree of thought and hard decision making that I have to make this announcement. This story, and my other fan fiction story in progress, Twilight; New Moon, will be put on hiatus until further notice.
To those of you following this story, please rest assured that it will be finished. I promise you that. However, due to some recent changes in my life, I no longer have the time to write that I once had and having three stories to work on all at the same time is proving to be a little bit too much for me to undertake at this time.
I will be spending my writing time for the near future working on an original work of mine, currently posted on *writer name Gotimtim if you're interested*. When that story is finished, I will then return to this one and complete it.
While I know that there are those who would see this story finished first, please know that when I do return to writing on this story- it will be with my full attention. This will also mean that it will be with more regular updates instead of every month or every other month or so which is the schedule I'm publishing at right now. This is the silver lining to the cloud I've been writing under for the last several months.
Until we meet again, I bid you good health, and good reading. I'd love to know your thoughts on this latest chapter.
Ginny's eyes opened and she knew in that moment two things. That she was wide awake and that something was terribly, terribly wrong. How she was aware of that she didn't know, she only knew that something bad had happened.
Glancing out of the windows she saw that the sun was coming up. Normally she'd be one for sleeping in a little bit. That wouldn't be the case today however. Even the thick, grey clouds in the sky lent and air of foreboding.
Quickly she went through the events of the day before in her mind and as she did her thoughts turned towards Harry. Sure, he'd made a comment that had irritated her a little bit but that was nothing compared to the comment made by her stupid brother.
Just when things between he and Hermione had seemed to be moving forward a little (thankfully) he'd said something that had really upset her and now it felt like there was a bit of a setback.
Those two need to just be alone for a couple hours, talk, definitely kiss, and work things out. That would solve a lot of their problems, Ginny thought as she got dressed.
Looking over at her still sleeping friend, Ginny smiled. Hermione was as smart as they came. Smarter than any other student in school that Ginny knew of even, but when it came to matters of her own heart, she was as clueless as any third year boy. The whole situation between her and Ron was proof enough of that. This turned Ginny's mind back to the man who occupied her own thoughts.
Harry. She had to admit that her feelings for him were much stronger now than they ever were before. Strong enough that she felt a kind of iron bond with him. A bond that nothing could break. Her heart swelled at just the thought of him. However for all her feelings for Harry, she still couldn't shake loose the growing suspicion that something was drastically wrong. Could it be him?
Dressing quickly and quietly so as not to wake Hermione, Ginny stole down the hallway and to the room he and Ron shared. Quietly, as she had done many times before over the years, Ginny cracked open the door to the room. However unlike the sight that had previously greeted her so many times, this one was much more horrific.
Lying there with his mouth open in a ghastly, silent scream, was Harry. His eyes were open and staring at the ceiling but they were vacant. There was no life in them. His chest wasn't rising and falling with the breaths he took. His skin was chalky white.
A sense of dread flooded through her body as panic started. Was he dead?
"HARRY!" Ginny cried as she tore into the room and leapt up onto his bed.
"HARRY NO! PLEASE NO!" Her voice was raw from the volume of it.
Ron bolted upright in bed and was reaching for his wand when he looked at his sister. Absently, Ginny could hear Hermione as she came running down the hall.
"Ginny?" Ron asked fearfully.
Then he was silent as his eyes fell on his friend and the obvious was clear. There was something very wrong with Harry.
"Ginny, what's wrong?" Hermione's concerned voice called from the door as she appeared looking for any sign of trouble.
Moving around the bed to where Ginny and now Ron were roughly shaking Harry trying to get him to wake up. What she saw when she looked at her best friend was something far different than she had expected. It brought a lump to her throat and a knot to her stomach.
"Hermione," Ginny sobbed, "It's Harry,"
"Is...Is he…dead?" Ron asked uncertainly.
With a desperation that fueled her actions, Hermione, hands shaking and heart pounding, reached forward and tried to ascertain what was wrong with her friend.
"Please God, no! Don't let him be dead," She cried under her breath.
When she touched his skin, Hermione did a double take. It wasn't cold and clammy like she knew a dead person's would be. Harry's was still warm to the touch. She picked up his wrist and tried checking for a pulse thankful for the swimming lessons she'd taken as a child and the first aid skills it had taught her.
For two heart wrenching minutes she kept searching for a heartbeat until finally, mercifully, she felt something. At first she wasn't sure what it was, only an occasional, la-lump. Then a few seconds later another one. Then another, and another, and another. Timing them she found that it was every five seconds or so that she felt it.
"He has a heartbeat, so he's not dead," Hermione said roughly, trying to maintain some control of her voice, "But beyond that I don't know anything,"
The relief that Ginny felt was as profound as it was short lived. So he wasn't dead but what was wrong with him?
"Harry?" Ginny asked tentatively.
"I don't think he can hear you," Hermione said quietly.
"He looks like you did when you were petrified, Hermione," Ron observed.
"He what?" Hermione asked.
Her tone made it clear that she'd not yet forgiven Ron for his comment from earlier in the evening. Ron however seemed oblivious to this as he answered her.
"In second year, remember? When you were petrified by that Basilisk that Harry killed…"
"Yes, I remember second year, Ronald," Hermione said evenly.
Ron shook his head not wanting to carry the conversation on any further, "Forget I mentioned it,"
"What do we do for Harry?" Ginny asked, already tired of the couple's continued arguing.
"I don't know, Ginny," Hermione sighed heavily.
Her face was losing color and it was clear she was scared. Hermione wrapped her arms around herself and stared at her friend. Ginny climbed off of Harry and together the three of them stood and stared at him.
"I wonder what happened." Ron asked quietly.
He reached out and gently put his hand on Harry's arm as if to seek reassurance that he was still alive.
"I don't know, Ron. I wish I did," Hermione answered him in a softer tone.
Ron looked at Hermione. Ginny could see his face but couldn't read his expression. In that moment she didn't care. Her thoughts were centered on Harry and what could be done for him. For several long moments the three of them stood and stared down at Harry as he remained there, eyes staring unblinkingly at the ceiling.
"Do we call Kreacher?" Ron asked quietly.
"What could Kreacher do?" Ginny asked.
"I don't know. Maybe he knows something," Ron answered sounding very scared.
"Or how to find someone who does!" Hermione exclaimed suddenly, "Ron, you're a genius!"
Ron's face colored but Hermione was oblivious to it as she ran past him out of the room.
"Kreacher! Kreacher, we need you!" Ginny could hear Hermione calling the elf as she ran downstairs.
Standing there looking torn between staying with Harry and following after Hermione, Ron paused for a minute. Ginny heard him muttering under his breath something that sounded like, "…if you pull through this mate, I'm going to kill you."
He looked at his sister who returned his gaze only for a second before turning her eyes back on Harry. When Ron left the room, Ginny got back onto the bed with Harry.
She had never stopped crying since she'd first seem him lying there, looking so helpless and alone. Now she arranged herself awkwardly so that she was holding Harry in her arms.
His head was precariously placed so that it was lying on her chest. They faced the same direction which made it a little easier for Ginny to wrap her arms around Harry's chest, kiss his cheek and whisper in his ear.
Not able to bare seeing him so helpless, Ginny closed her eyes as she softly spoke the things that were in her heart. The things that she hadn't been able to tell anyone. Not her mother, or Hermione, or Harry, or even herself. These were the deepest secrets she carried about herself and her feelings for Harry. Her hopes, her dreams, and her fears.
She refused to let go even when the position became first uncomfortable and then unbearable. She held on tightly as she kept talking to him and professing her undying love for him. The love that had started at first sight one September morning when a young boy had politely asked for help onto a train platform and had grown in leaps and bounds every day since.
"I love you, Harry. Come back to me, my love. Harry, come back. Don't leave me here without you. I love you, please come back to me,"
Ginny was repeating this over and over when she opened her eyes to see Kreacher standing there looking at her as she held Harry. Behind him stood Ron and Hermione. She knew it had been a while since Ron and Hermione left the room. She had no idea how long they'd been standing there before she'd noticed them. She didn't really care. All that mattered to her in that moment was the person in her arms.
While the elf's eyes were curious and concerned, it was impossible to miss the fear in the eyes of the other two. Ginny knew that it would match the fear in her own.
"Master?" Kreacher asked reaching out to Harry.
There was no response.
"Master, Kreacher is here,"
"I don't know if he can hear you," Hermione whispered from behind him.
"Master is good and helped Kreacher obey his orders. Kreacher will help his master,"
"How can you help him?" Ron asked.
Ginny heard the terror in Ron's voice. This entire day was only just begun and already it felt like the worst of nightmares. She noticed that Ron and Hermione were both still in their bedclothes looking rumpled and disheveled. Absently Ginny wondered if she wouldn't wake up to find that this was indeed all a dream. Except that it couldn't be. The pain that she ignored in her hips and legs from sitting in one position for too long made that clear at least.
"Kreacher does not know. He will find a way,"
"But Kreacher, Harry ordered you not to reveal our location to anyone," Hermione commented, "How are you going to get past that?"
"Kreacher will find a way to help his master," The elf said.
With that he looked one last time at Harry and Ginny on the bed, snapped his fingers, and disappeared.
"Do you reckon he'll be able to find a way to help him?" Ron asked fearfully.
"I don't know, I hope so," Hermione said.
Through the entire exchange, Ginny remained motionless on the bed, holding Harry. Every now and again she would tighten her grip or bury her face deeper into his shoulder.
She missed the look that Ron and Hermione exchanged between them. Whatever it was that was happening to Harry, whatever it was that held him prisoner away from his body, it was affecting Ginny too. It was tearing her apart.
"Ginny," Hermione said carefully, "Are you okay?"
She could only shake her head. This was the second time in as many months where Ginny felt like she could be losing Harry. When he'd gone running off to Hogwarts and nearly gotten himself killed had been scary enough. At least then she'd known what had happened and could see what it was that was hurting him. This was something completely different.
Together Ron and Hermione came and sat down on Ron's bed. It was here that Harry's three closest friends spent their morning as they began their vigil over their friend.
Through it all Ginny continued her mantra. Saying over and over again how much she loved Harry and how much she wanted him to return to her. Her grip never loosened, her thoughts never wavered. All Ginny wanted was for Harry to return to her. To the others it was starting to feel like vain hope.
Harry's mind felt like it was frozen in place. He kept looking and searching for some way to escape that black, frozen void he found himself in. If only he could retrace his way or find something, anything, that might lead him out.
Right now he felt like he was crammed into a small box with no way to tell where the lid was that kept him in place. That he was prisoner here against his will went without saying. The other thing that was working against him was that he was scared. Panicked. There was no way that he could see out of the situation he found himself in and that frightened him greatly.
What was it that he'd done? He had only wanted to try and see into Voldemort's mind and determine what was going on. Where the Horcruxes were that needed to be found and destroyed. Maybe even find a way to destroy him with the little knowledge that Harry possessed of magic.
Had he touched Voldemort's mind? Is that where he was? Was he locked away until Voldemort himself felt inclined to attend to him? That thought was something that scared Harry even more than the situation he was in.
What if that were true? Voldemort must know loads more about magic than he did. What a fool he'd been to think that he even had a chance to stand against him. He was bound to know magic that Harry could only dream about. Yet Dumbledore had said that it had to be Harry who destroyed him.
Dumbledore. Why couldn't he have spent some time actually teaching Harry about magic? He must have had volumes that he could have taught Harry just in one of their lessons; why did they all have to be about learning about Voldemort?
It wasn't that those lessons weren't useful, they were. But to Harry's mind wouldn't it have also been useful to teach him more about what kinds of magic to expect and maybe even what he could do to defend against it?
An anger towards Dumbledore such as he'd never known before surfaced in Harry's mind. It had been simmering somewhat since his death last year but now it felt like there was fuel enough for a raging fire.
Looking back now it was easy to see that Professor Dumbledore had hidden a lot from Harry. They both were from Godric's Hollow for one thing. That meant that he probably knew Harry's parents. Why hadn't he ever said anything about that?
Why did he have his Dad's Invisibility Cloak to give to him in his first year? What was the story behind that? Was there one? Why all the secrets? What was there that Dumbledore didn't want Harry to know? There must have been something, Harry thought. What on Earth could that be?
The rage built and continued to grow as these and other, similar thoughts entered Harry's mind. Anger at Dumbledore was only the first emotion Harry felt. That anger, with the aid of a small, cold tendril from somewhere he couldn't tell, started boiling up and over into a white hot rage.
It hurt Harry that the man he'd looked up to and admired for so long had only seen fit to string him along like a child's toy. Was that all he was to him? A tool to be used and discarded?
This idea, as foreign as it felt, held the uncomfortable feeling of truth, at least in part anyway. This realization in the cold black depths of whatever prison it was that held Harry captive only served to plunge Harry deeper into his confinement. Never, in all his life ever, had he felt so utterly alone.
Again Harry's mind reeled at his situation and his sense of panic increased. If he'd had arms and legs he'd have been flailing them about in some kind of effort to get away. All he wanted, the one thing that meant the most to him, was to get back to the house on Privet Drive. To be able to see those that he loved again.
Harry hadn't felt this bound since he'd been captured and taken to the graveyard in Little Hangleton to be made to help Voldemort rise again. Thinking on those he loved only seemed to magnify the feelings of helplessness and captivity.
Whatever it was that Harry had done to be stuck here where he was, the thought of never seeing Ron, Hermione, or Ginny again tore at his heart like nothing else.
The feelings Ginny evoked in Harry gave him a moment of pause in all the frantic panic and desperate searching for a way out. He loved her. There was no end to the depths of his feelings for her. The love he felt was absolute. It encompassed his entire being.
The other thing Harry's feelings of love and compassion had done was serve as an anchor in an ocean of panic. No longer was he looking and not seeing. A sudden, tiny little glimmer caught him out of the corner of his eye. A little golden light that had disappeared as soon as he'd seen it.
That was enough for Harry to hold on to. He started trying to calm himself down. If he still had possession of his lungs, he'd take a few deep breaths. Immediately he cast aside his anger towards Dumbledore and his predicament.
Had he imagined it? Had it been real? Or was his mind playing tricks on him?
Just as Harry started thinking maybe his mind was playing tricks on him, he saw it again. Only the flash of light wasn't from a central point. It was from a tiny, thin string or tendril. A tendril so small that if you didn't look at it just right, you lost it.
It took Harry several more tries to locate the tendril before he made his first discovery. It glowed brighter when his thoughts were turned towards those he loved the most; his friends. It glowed particularly bright when he thought of Ginny. What could be causing that, he wondered.
It was very difficult to keep his mind on Ginny when all he wanted to do was see the tendril again. It was the first sign that he wasn't completely alone in this void after all. As a result it was some time before Harry was able to see it again.
He tried to clear his mind and empty his thoughts. However as is often the case when one tries to clear their mind, other thoughts came flooding into it. This time it wasn't angry thoughts as it had been before with Dumbledore. Even there the anger that Harry had felt had been born out of his love for the man and Harry's feelings regarding his treatment by him.
That led Harry to reminisce about others whom he cared for. Or would have if they'd lived. Sirius was the first person to come to mind. He regretted the death of his godfather even more than he'd let on, though he suspected the others probably already knew that.
How would it have been to have lived with him? How great would have been the times they could have shared? Harry was sure Sirius would have let Ron and Hermione come visit. He was also sure that Sirius would have loved to have been there for Harry as he figured out everything with Ginny. He wondered what advice Sirius would have had. What suggestions he might have made. Those things were gone now and Sirius with it. It was a loss that Harry still keenly felt.
For that matter Harry was certain his parents would have been much the same way. From what little he knew of them, he knew that the life he would have had with them would have been far different from the life he'd had with the Dursley's. He could have had Ron stay with him from time to time instead of him always having to stay at the Burrow, not that Harry had minded that.
Would his mother had been friends with Mrs. Weasley? He was certain they would have been friends. He was also positive that Mr. Weasley would have loved talking to her, what with her growing up with muggles and all.
What about his Dad? Harry didn't know a lot about him but from what he'd heard, he was the kind of person that the entire Weasley family would have gotten along with, particularly Ron and his twin brothers.
The Weasley's; they were Harry's favorite family. He loved them all so much. Ginny and Ron mostly, and their parents too of course. But he also loved Fred and George, Bill and Charlie too from what little he know of him. Except for Percy, whom Harry had developed a rather strong dislike for, the Weasley's were the family Harry wished he had.
That brought his mind back to Ginny. Seeing her again, even just one time, Harry would give almost anything for that. Even just the chance to hear her voice…
"…back to me, Harry. I love you…"
What was that? In his excitement, Harry looked around wildly, desperately. He knew that voice! He would know it anywhere! That was Ginny! Just then Harry saw the tendril as it was fading out of sight. It was the brightest it had been yet. That was when Harry made his second discovery. The tendril wasn't just some random, golden glowing string. It had been connected to him! Directly to him, right at the heart!
This time it had been clear and bright and not only had he seen the tendril, he'd heard Ginny's voice! The sound of her voice acted like a magnet for his heart and his mind. Harry chest constricted at the memory of the sound of her voice and that last kiss they'd shared.
"…back to me Harry. Harry, you have to come back. How will I go on without…"
There it was again! He'd heard it and this time he'd seen the tendril form. It was clearly there. It was brighter than the sun and hurt his eyes from its intensity in the otherwise absolute blackness. That was the third surprise. This time it didn't disappear. It faded a little, but it didn't go away.
Ginny, Harry thought wildly, I'm coming back to you. I don't know how yet, but I will come back!
No sooner had he thought that then he heard her voice again. Just a tiny bit louder this time and with it the tendril glowed even brighter. Not only that but he could feel a pull.
"…Love you, Harry. You are my everything. I need you,"
With that pull Harry felt himself drawn to the sound of the voice he heard. It felt like he was flying again and as he flew he felt the frigid blackness of the void pull away. It felt almost as if the void was repelled by Ginny, her voice, and the love Harry had felt for the ones he'd thought of. A love for Ginny most of all.
This realization pulled him even faster. He was leaving that ice cold barren place where he'd been trapped so absolutely and was returning to those that he loved. There was no way that the void could hold him now…
"Hermione! Ron! Come quick! Something is happening!"
They had been holding their hopes out for three days that somehow, some way, Harry could pull through what it was that had trapped him in his own mind. Ginny had never once left his side.
The sounds of feet on the stairs could be heard, their steps louder being powered by the sheer desperation of the situation they had found themselves in.
Kreacher had returned with Dobby. The two elves had spoken to each other and to Harry's three closest friends at length trying to figure things out. They had tried various things to bring Harry out of his frozen state.
Both creatures were beside themselves at the state Harry was in. They had been unable to do anything to help him and both felt bound by his words refusing anyone other than them knowing that they were hiding at Harry's family's home. There was nothing more that they could do.
Legillimency was attempted and quickly abandoned by Hermione who could only see and hear nothing but darkness. Potions of revival hadn't worked, nor had any other spells.
While Ginny wouldn't leave Harry's side, Ron and Hermione had started talking about going to find someone they could bring to Privet Drive for help. The question was who? And what would happen if they were successful? Would they have to leave again? Where would they look? Could they go back to Grimmauld Place? That would be a start at least. This was until they'd heard Ginny's cry for their attention.
Ginny, who'd had a good idea as to what it was they were talking about because she'd heard the occasional word, just didn't care. Nothing mattered more to her than Harry. She couldn't think of anything else to do for him except to hold him and hope that by some miracle he'd hear her and come back to her. The thought of anything other than that happening she quickly and viciously banned from her heart and mind.
It had been a moment of disbelief when she first felt the change in Harry's heartbeat. It had started to quicken at first and then it became stronger. When it started approaching normal and the color returned to his cheeks was when Ginny had called out to the others.
The tears of loss and fear she'd cried three days before and occasionally since had been replaced by tears of fierce love and joy at Harry's sudden improvement. When she saw Ron and Hermione enter the room, she noticed them do a double take.
"Harry, NO!" Hermione said as she dropped to her knees in horror.
"Hermione, he's not dead!" Ginny had cried, "He's coming out of it!"
Just as she said this, Ron looked up at her; "She's right!" He exclaimed looking very shaken, "Look at him. He looks like he could just be sleeping now,"
"He didn't look like that before. This is wonderful!" Hermione cried.
Ron helped her to her feet and she didn't let go of his hand as they approached Ginny who was still grasping on to Harry now as if she were afraid to let go. Ginny buried her face in Harry's neck and whispered encouragement to him.
Together the three stood and watched for a long, long time until…
First his eyelids fluttered a bit and then, gloriously, they opened. Just as fast as they opened they closed again.
"The light," Harry's voice was the softest whisper but it got stronger as he added, "It hurts my eyes,"
Ron took his wand and waved it. The light in the room dimmed drastically. Then he opened his eyes again. This time it was to see Ginny's eyes looking lovingly back into them. The tears she had fell unashamedly onto his face and ran down his cheeks.
"Ginny," Harry whispered, his hand reaching up slowly, almost painfully to cup her cheek.
She broke down completely at his touch. He had looked like he was dying for too long, she had felt his heart struggling with every beat and now it was over. Leaning down now she did the only thing she could since any words she might have had failed her. She kissed him.
When Harry kissed Ginny it was like the final piece of a puzzle snapping into place. He was firmly back in his body and he had no desire to leave it again for however long it might be.
"Bloody Hell, Mate," Ron exclaimed gruffly.
Harry pulled away from Ginny momentarily to see his two best friends standing there staring at him. Both of them looked like they had seen better days. Their hair was a mess and they looked like they could have used a couple good meals.
"Sorry," Harry muttered.
He was going to add more but Ginny pulled him into her arms again. That was fine with him. The experience he'd just lived through was the most horrifying one he'd ever had. There was no way to really describe it except as very cold, very dark, and very, very alone. To be in the here and now with Ginny holding onto him as if her life depended on it was nothing short of glorious.
His chest ached as he filled his lungs with air over and over. His eyes still were a little sore from the sudden light. Even his ears seemed to be a little sensitive to sound. Then something clicked in the back of his mind.
When Ginny pulled away again, Harry asked her; "How long was I gone?"
"Three days," Hermione answered him.
Her voice sounded funny. But that was nothing compared to what she'd said.
"Three days?" Harry repeated.
Ron's solemn nod was more confirmation than any word could have been. Harry looked down and noticed the iron grip that Hermione had on Ron's hand. No wonder why they looked the way they did. They probably had no clue as to what happened any more than I do, Harry thought.
"What happened, Harry? Do you know?" Hermione asked him.
This was one question Harry was hoping to put off. He remembered well enough what it was he was trying to do. He'd wanted to try and see into Voldemort's mind since it had been so long since it had happened last time.
Hermione however had made her thoughts on what happened when Harry was able to see into Voldemort's mind quite clear. He knew very well that hearing that Harry had gone deliberately looking to establish a connection was not going to sit very well with her. What's more, if he was out for three days, he didn't think it was going to sit well with the others either. That was a row he'd like to avoid just now. Thankfully it was Ginny who came to his rescue.
"Do you mind?" She asked, "He's only just woke up! Are you hungry Harry?"
Before he could do more than smile up at her, his stomach answered her question loudly and clearly. Yes, he was hungry. Though he doubted he would be able to eat much knowing what was coming when Hermione found out exactly what had happened to render Harry next to dead for three solid days.
"What do you think you can eat, Harry?" Ginny asked as she softly ran her fingers through his hair.
Looking up at her he noticed her eyes. While they were still wet, it was the expression in them that had his attention. It was a mixture of love, disbelief, and something else. Something he couldn't quite explain. He was losing himself looking into her eyes and trying to put a description to what he saw there when Ron cleared his throat.
"Oh! Err, sorry. Is soup okay?" Harry asked halfheartedly.
Ron grumbled under his breath but it was Hermione who answered; "Soup would be fine. Why don't we all go downstairs and have some? I'm sure Kreacher will be happy to…"
"Master?" The croak came from the door.
Looking over Harry saw his house elf looking back at him strangely. Like he'd just returned from the dead, which is exactly what Harry felt like he'd done. Harry smiled at the grizzled, old elf feeling genuinely happy to see him.
Strange, Harry thought, just a couple weeks ago I wouldn't have cared if I'd ever seen Kreacher again. Now I'm actually happy to see him. What's more, he looks just as happy to see me.
"Hello, Kreacher," Harry acknowledged the elf.
"Master is awake?" The elf took a tentative step into the room, his arm half reaching out for Harry.
"Yes, I'm awake if you want to call it that,"
"Master! Kreacher is sorry that he was not able to help you…"
Sensing some kind of elf-like outburst coming on, Harry tried to head him off.
"I'm sure you did what you could," Harry answered him.
"Kreacher tried. Kreacher asked Master's friend Dobby to help but we could not help Harry Potter. We failed to help him…"
"I don't think there's anything you could have done to help me, Kreacher," Harry said quietly.
Upon hearing that, he saw Hermione's head tilt to one side. The relieved, happy expression she had worn was now also had a tinge of confused curiosity as well. Seeing that, Harry knew that it was only a matter of time before she asked him about it. Then Kreacher burst into tears as he ran out of the room.
"Great," Harry said under his breath, as he turned his eyes back to his friends.
"So are we going to go downstairs or what?" Ron asked, "I'm hungry!"
"You're always hungry, Ron," Ginny replied with a smile.
Nothing could ruin her mood right now. Her Harry had come back to her. He was there in her arms and as far as she was concerned it would be a very long time before he moved away from them. Except to eat of course.
Ginny loosened her grip on Harry and allowed him to sit up. He made it as far as his feet before he started swaying on his feet.
"Whoops," Harry said sheepishly.
"Harry," Hermione chastised him patiently, "You've been on your back for three days. You need to take it slowly,"
"Right, take it slowly," Harry said as he shook his head.
He spent the next couple minutes doing nothing but sitting quietly and enjoying the sensation of Ginny's arms around his waist and her head on his back. Then it came time to try again.
Carefully, gingerly, he stood up. Again he took a moment to get his bearings before taking first one step and then another. By the time he reached the hall, he was walking normally again, if a tiny but slower.
The stairs were another easily surmountable challenge. He hesitated on the first two and then was descending normally by the time he hit the bottom. In the short hallway between the kitchen and the living room, Harry stood and looked around. He could smell the aroma of the soup Kreacher was making in the kitchen and heard his stomach as it growled loudly.
Knowing that food was coming soon, Harry turned into the living room and sat down. He was immediately joined by Ginny on the couch and followed by Ron and Hermione.
Looking at his friends one thing was clear, Ginny was happy that he was up and walking around with them again. Ron and Hermione were too but their faces held more concern than Ginny's did. Knowing full well that he could be starting a major row with his friends, Harry asked; "What is it?"
Ron started shifting around and looking uncomfortable. Hermione just continued to watch Harry and seemed content to observe him for now.
"Well, erm…w-what happened?" Ron asked quietly.
"Good Godric, Ron!" Ginny snapped, "Harry's only been up a little while and you want to know what happened?"
"Yeah, I guess I do,"
"Don't you think he's been through enough?" Ginny asked.
"It's alright, Ginny," Harry said quietly.
In truth he'd been waiting for this. He knew that sooner or later the subject was going to come up. Better to have it be now and get it over with.
"I'm…not sure what happened…exactly," Harry began uncertainly.
He knew by the frank, open looks on the faces of his friends that he had their attention.
"What's the last thing that you remember?" Hermione asked.
Harry looked at Ron and knew that his friend would not appreciate going over that discussion, so he edited a little bit.
"I was thinking really," Harry said as he formed his thoughts, "We had been talking about going to investigate where the Burrow was to see if it would be safe to meet someone there. You and Ginny got mad and went up to bed. Ron and I went to bed not long after that…"
"And?" Hermione asked.
Harry was looking at Ron. Sure enough the fearful expression on Ron's face was all it took to confirm what he'd suspected. Ron remembered that conversation he and Harry'd had about Ron kissing Hermione.
"Well, that got me to thinking…"
"What about?" Ginny asked from behind him.
"About…well…why haven't I seen inside Voldemort's mind again? It's been a long time and I had thought sure that things would have happened after he discovered what was happening to his Horcruxes…"
He paused at the expression on Hermione's face. He could see that she was starting to put things together. So he laid it out as carefully as he could. He went through the thoughts he'd had about Voldemort and how it would be nice if he could just see into his mind and know what he was thinking.
Harry described that as he fell asleep, he was thinking about what it would be like to see his thoughts and not have to suffer the pain from the connection or risk Voldemort finding out about it.
Then he went on to talk about how this was the last remaining thoughts in his mind as he went to sleep. Except that Harry never slept. That was when he was imprisoned in that…place.
"What was it like? You know, where you were?" Ron asked.
Harry described everything he could remember about how cold and dark and alone it was. He didn't hold back when he talked about how scared he'd been or all of the things he'd worried about.
The last thing that Harry told of was how he'd found his way out. Of discovering the tendril of gold that he'd found that led from his heart and that he'd been able to follow out.
Turning to Ginny now for the last of it, Harry went on to say; "…and I could hear you. You know, hear your voice. It was like you were calling to me. I couldn't believe it. I'd been so scared that I was never going to see you again, and there you were helping me to come home,"
The look in Ginny's eyes was like nothing he'd ever seen before. There was a depth of feeling there that went well beyond anything Harry had yet experienced. He recognized it because it was something he'd felt for her himself. Love was only the word that described his feelings for Ginny. The emotion and definition he put to that word was far and away more than anything that could ever be described by a simple word.
It was like being told to look up into the night sky on a clear night. He could look up and see the stars, but that was little in comparison with all that vision entailed. Such were his feelings for Ginny, and one could quite easily see, her feelings for him.
Much later that afternoon, after the meal had been consumed and Kreacher was busy upstairs changing the sheets on the beds, Hermione cornered Harry.
"You did it on purpose, didn't you?" She asked.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean, Hermione," Harry replied.
He and Hermione had been sitting at the kitchen table talking a little bit back and forth. Harry knew that she had been working up to this all day. He was thankful that Ron was dozing on the couch and Ginny was upstairs having a bath. The way Hermione had been watching him since they'd talked in the living room told Harry that sooner or later she'd be having some words with him. It looked like it was going to be sooner.
"Don't give me that, Harry! You know very well what I mean. You tried to go and find a way to see into V-Voldemort's mind, didn't you?"
The sound of thunder from outside seemed to underline Hermione's statement. Feeling guilty now, Harry looked at his friend and replied; "It's not like that exactly…"
"Then what was it like?"
"We need to find those Horcruxes,"
"And?" Hermione's voice was becoming shrill and Harry knew that she was getting upset, "You're not telling me anything that I don't already know,"
"W-wouldn't it be easier to destroy them if we knew where they were? That's all I was looking for, was to find out where the Horcruxes were so that we could find them and destroy them,"
"Harry, you know how much it hurts you when that connection is established! I can't believe you'd deliberately go and try to connect to him on purpose. What were you thinking?"
"I told you, I was trying to…"
"…And what's more," Hermione interrupted him, "You know that Professor Dumbledore wanted you to learn Occlumency to try and block out those visions!"
Harry made a face at the mention of Dumbledore's name which Hermione was quick to see. He still had so many feelings towards the man and he wasn't quite sure about them all.
"He only wanted what was best for you, Harry," Hermione said in a softer tone.
"Did he? If that's so, then…"
Her eyes were no longer angry and hard. She was looking at him now in genuine concern. However for all of that, Harry found it difficult to describe what he was thinking.
Those thoughts that had come to him so easily when he was trapped in that void, the anger, fury, and even disgust now felt foreign. Like the emotions had belonged to someone else, but were Harry's to feel for that time that he felt them.
"What is it, Harry?"
There was no anger left on her face. Only the love she had for him and concern for his wellbeing. Harry knew that he could trust Hermione with this, he had no qualms about that. His only question was did he really want to bring this up again just now? He decided that it couldn't hurt.
"How come he never told me anything?" Harry asked quietly, his eyes searching for understanding.
"What do you mean?"
"I heard, back at the wedding, Ron's aunt talking about how he was from Godric's Hollow. How come he never mentioned that? He must've known my parents too but he never said anything about them to me? Why not? Didn't he think that I'd want to know?"
The room was quiet for a long time while Harry mulled over his thoughts and feelings on the matter and Hermione thought over the things he'd said.
"I think," She began hesitantly, "That whatever his reasons were for not confiding any of this to you, they must have been important. At least to him,"
Harry snorted at hearing this, "I'm sure they were. I'm sure he had loads of important reasons for the things he did or didn't do,"
"He loved you, Harry," Hermione remarked.
"Did he? Did he really?" Harry asked.
He could tell by the look in her eyes that she thought it was true but he wasn't so sure himself.
"Harry, you didn't see him. You didn't see him and how he looked when you fell off your broom when the Dementors attacked you. You didn't see him and the worry on his face after the Tri-Wizard tournament when you came back and Cedric was… You didn't see him or hear his voice when he spoke to the school after that happened either. You yourself said that he made it clear to your Aunt and Uncle that he wasn't happy with the way they treated you over the years. So yes, Harry. I think he really did love you and I think he really did only want what was best for you. I know that you may not believe that right now, but I have to believe that it's true,"
The two friends were looking earnestly at each other now in the silence after Hermione had finished speaking. It was one of those comfortable, quiet moments that only two friends can share. He knew that Hermione was right of course. It was just hard to believe, especially after the thoughts he'd had while trapped in that void.
When Harry spoke again next, it was about a completely different subject.
"So, do you think we should still try and see if the Burrow is safe? Maybe set up a meeting with someone and get a feel for what it's really like out there?"
Far away from where Harry sat talking to Hermione in the kitchen of Privet Drive, there was another conversation that was taking place. One of a far different nature.
The house was large, ornate, and dark. From the outside, as lush and well-kept as the gardens were, the place still looked forbidding. White peacocks strutted around the grounds and atop the hedges and walls. The constant rain and mist did nothing to lend the manor home any kind of welcoming appearance.
If Harry Potter had seen the place, he would have recognized it as the place where he'd come to in his dreams. Right before he was trapped inside a cold, dark, and lonely void.
It was Malfoy Manor. It was here that Lucius Malfoy had raised his son, Draco. It was also here that Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters called home.
Inside the home, in the very room that Harry had been about to access before he was claimed by the void, there were three people standing there waiting to be called upon to speak by none other than Lord Voldemort himself.
Currently the Dark Lord was listening to one of the three giving a report on the state of Wizarding Britain. It was only with half a mind that Lord Voldemort was listening to his Death Eater, a man called Yaxley. The other half was preoccupied with other, more important and vastly more private affairs.
"We have the run of the Ministry, my Lord. Our efforts to locate and confine the mudbloods are meeting with some success. Our snatchers have located many of them including some friends of Potter's from the school,"
Hearing this earned Yaxley a direct, interested look of appraisal from Voldemort.
"Who is it?"
"A young Gryffindor by the name of Thomas," Yaxley replied.
Severus Snape looked up at the mention of the name, "Dean Thomas?"
"You know him, Severus?" Voldemort asked.
"He is in Potter's year at school," Severus replied, "They are friends. It was also rumored that he was dating Miss Weasley just prior to her affections for Potter being made apparent,"
"Indeed? That could be useful when the time comes. Where is he now?"
"We have him in the basement with a goblin we've captured and the wand maker,"
"You've done well, Yaxley. You may return to your duties," Voldemort said calmly.
The Death Eater bowed and left the room. There were now two others standing there with Voldemort; Severus and Bellatrix. Turning now to look out the window and ponder over this latest turn of events, Voldemort asked; "What of the Order?"
He heard Bellatrix's intake of breath. She seemed uncertain of what she was about to tell him. He smiled inwardly knowing that she craved his praise more than anything else. If he liked what he heard, then she would have what she wanted.
"The Order has gone to ground. We've not seen nor heard from them for some time…"
"But?" Voldemort asked.
"I've heard tell that there is a new program on the Wireless Wizarding Network, something called Potterwatch?"
He waited now for her reaction. He was well aware that she too knew of this program.
"W-we don't know where they're broadcasting from. The location changes between broadcasts and we haven't been able to find them,"
"It would stand to reason, would it not, that at least someone from the Order of the Phoenix is involved in this program? Maybe more than one?"
"I-it would, yes My Lord," Bellatrix replied, "We will find them!"
"Your reward will be great indeed when you do," Voldemort replied.
"M-my Lord is generous!" Bellatrix said, her eyes filled with joy.
"See to it that my generosity is not misplaced,"
"No My Lord. Never!"
Voldemort stood and stared out the window as he marshalled his thoughts. He knew full well that Bellatrix wanted to take her leave and was uncomfortable with not being allowed yet to do so. This was good. It would underline the importance of the next topic he wished to discus.
"And the item I requested from your family vault?" He asked quietly.
"Retrieved my lord, and currently in your chambers," Bellatrix answered immediately.
"And it took so long to remove…why?"
"I-I…I… What I mean to say My Lord,"
"You wondered why I chose to remove that item. Why I no longer wanted to entrust it to the safekeeping inside your family's vault? You wanted to know what its significance is, is that it?"
The eyes of the Death Eater found the floor and she said quietly, "Yes, My Lord,"
"You may rest assured, Bellatrix, that if it were important for you to know, then I would tell you,"
"Y-yes, My Lord," She replied.
He took a moment to let that statement sink in and could feel the fear emanating off of her in waves. Good, Voldemort thought, she should be scared.
"When next I set you a task, see to it that it does not take so long to complete. We will forgo the punishment this time,"
"My Lord is merciful!" Bellatrix breathed.
"You have your next task?"
"Locating the blood traitor family that sees fit to befriend Potter; The Weasley's. I will find them My Lord,"
"Then you may leave, Bellatrix,"
"At once, My Lord!" Bellatrix backpedaled out of the room and shut the blackened mahogany door behind her.
Voldemort remained where he stood, staring out of the window at the continuing rain in the gloom outside. A Dementor could be seen just through the mist, gliding silently by.
"I will need access to the school," He said finally.
"Of course, My Lord," Severus answered.
"You will see to it that the halls are empty. I do not wish for anyone, staff or student, to know of my presence there,"
"It will be as you wish, My Lord,"
"I will come tonight, late. We will speak after I have done what I need to do,"
"Yes, My Lord. I shall be awaiting your arrival," Snape answered easily.
"And the school? How are things there?" Voldemort asked after a moment.
"The students have learned to accept the changes we have put into place. Those that were reluctant have met with the disciplinarians who have seen fit to educate them as to the error of their ways,"
"And those who support Potter?"
"There are some we know who support him. As of yet we have not been able to find out who they are. There are some who we believe are in hiding at the school, but again, we've not been able to locate them. However they will pose no problem to you when you visit the school,"
"I have your word on this, Severus?" Voldemort asked.
In fact, he had no concern on this point. Any student who crossed his path when he visited the school this night would learn the folly of that mistake and find it a most grievous error.
"You do indeed, My Lord. I will see to it personally,"
"You have done well, Severus. You may return to the school,"
"As you wish, My Lord,"
With a short bow and a quiet step, Severus Snape left the room and Voldemort alone with his thoughts.
Thoughts that returned at once to where they had been before this meeting in Malfoy Manor took place. The Horcruxes were one matter, one soon to be dealt with. He had found what he had expected to find, the ring of Marvolo Gaunt was missing. It had been Severus who had told him that Dumbledore had taken to wearing a ring that matched the description of the one belonging to Gaunt shortly before his death.
It was therefore no surprise to find the ring gone. Just as the diary was gone. Just as the locket too was gone. That left the diadem, the cup, and Nagini. Since the Horcruxes that were still in existence were the ones that were closest to a large group of people, it stood to reason that, for now at least, they should be kept within the school.
While he had no trust for anyone in that school, he alone knew its halls better than anyone alive. He alone knew of places within the school that one could hide something they didn't want found. It was here that he would take the cup. The diadem was there already and he could check on it while he was there.
Now satisfied that the Horcruxes would again be safe, Voldemort turned his mind to another matter. One that had aroused his attention and one that he had yet to share with anyone else.
He had felt it when someone had tried to penetrate the magical wards set to guard the room from intrusion. The wards had been set by him alone; trusting no one else with a task so important. Except that it wasn't just the wards that were triggered.
There was no way to completely understand it as much as he'd tried.
When the curious, eager young mind had touched upon the barrier of the door, it had triggered the magic that bound the mind until he could release it to examine it and ascertain why it was there.
Imagine his surprise when the mind he had begun to examine seemed to be that of young Potter himself! Apparently the connection that he had thought dormant and locked was not so unusable after all. Potter seemed to have found a way to open it again.
Because of the magic that bound the room and kept prying spells and charms from entering in, he'd been able to use his skill at Legillimency to look into Potter's mind and to know and even to a degree guide his thoughts while his mind was held captive.
Voldemort smiled at the easy way he'd directed young Potter's mind to find anger towards Dumbledore. The very man he'd held so dear, Potter had seemed so ready to turn against him. He was just deciding how he wanted to go about that task when another emotion came. One that caused him to back away by reflex and thus break his hold on the mind of Potter. The emotion was love.
He had watched, angry and powerless as Harry's thoughts turned towards those he loved and cared for. He'd seen it when Potter found the one thing that could guide his mind back to his body; his love for another. He had been powerless to stop it as the golden line of love, hope, and joy had served as an anchor and guided him back.
His attempts to stop it were thwarted easily and effortlessly. He would not be resisted so easily again. He would see to it.