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A Horcrux’s Fate

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Molly and Arthur Apparated to Shell Cottage after they were cleared by the nurse at St. Mungo's Hospital. They were followed by Percy and Hagrid who had been talking to the Minister.

The Minister himself rushed to the hospital when he heard about the commotion created by Yaxley, and he immediately dispatched Aurors who patrolled the building, searching for Death Eaters who could still be casing the hospital in disguise.

After all the work, the three Weasleys and Hagrid went straight to the cottage to catch up on some rest, but they were immediately assaulted by the sound of Harry's screams. Bill, who had been looking over Harry took them straight to Harry's room where they stayed for the better part of the night.

The occupants were nowhere near relaxed and in good spirits when Harry double over in bed, screaming again and again; his eyes were bloodshot and puffy from crying, he was panting for what felt like long hours, his throat had gone dry and soar and his hands had turned numb. He was bone-tired and just about ready to give up.

"No more… please…" cried Harry. He writhed in pain, clenching and unclenching his jaw. From the corner of his mouth came a trickle of blood. He must have bitten down hard on his tongue. Molly desperately wanted to help but didn't know how to. How much more could his body handle before it gave out altogether?

Harry's friends had already administered several Healing potions and Calming Draughts, but they couldn't give him more for fear of overdose or the potentially harmful side effects of each potion.

Dawn had broken over the horizon, and the bright rays emanating from the gold rim of the dazzling sun cascaded towards the opened windows of Shell Cottage. Waves crashed against the shore, creating a smooth and soft sound, but it was shattered as cries of pleading and screams of pain echoed around the house once more. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, along with the others were sleep-deprived, as they battled their exhaustion in helping to bring comfort to their ill friend. They had sent an owl to Professor Slughorn updating him on Harry's condition.

Slughorn had decided to come down to Shell Cottage and start brewing the potion straight away as they had already gathered all of the ingredients.

Harry felt his consciousness pulling away. He fought hard to try and stay awake. Even with his vision blurred, Harry could make out the faint silhouette of Dobby's grave and he wished that the loyal elf could be here with them before he closed his eyes, and sleep claimed him.

Mrs. Weasley reached for the blanket draped at the foot of Harry's bed and wrapped Harry it around him. She tentatively sat down beside him and looked at her husband whose arms were crossed over his chest, eyes looking far away at the corner. The same could be said about Hagrid who hadn't spoken a single word. His eyes misted over, and he stared wistfully ahead, lost in his own thoughts.

"How did all this happen?" she whispered in an anxious voice, looking uncomfortable. "The attack at the Burrow..."

Arthur sighed. He looked up and saw the exhausted face of his wife. Percy was standing beside the bed, most certainly thinking and asking the same question in his mind when Arthur spoke to him. "Back at St. Mungo's, you told us that you were attacked in your office." Percy nodded.

Arthur continued, "And then after that, the impostor went to the Burrow…" He added, muttering thoughtfully, "but how could he have known that Harry was there and broken past our wards?"

"Did you remember telling anybody else?" asked Molly, watching her husband closely.

"I don't think I did," he answered, his brow furrowed in concentration as he tried to recall. "I mean, I ran into you." He gestured to Percy. "And I told you that Harry was sick."

Percy nodded again. "Yeah, I remember. You were in a hurry that day."

"Yes... and then, later on, you asked me if Harry was in the hospital, and I said no; he's at the Burrow—"

"No—what? Wait," Percy held up his hand in confusion, trying to stop his father's train of thought. "I didn't ask you that."

Arthur frowned at him. "Yes you did, son. When I came back to the office, remember?"

But Percy shook his head. "No, I didn't. What are you talking about? I didn't see you come back. When did that happen?"

"The next day after, we talked at the Atrium," Arthur reminded him.

"But I wasn't in the Ministry at the time," his son replied. "I was out doing my fireplace inspections."

Molly gasped as realization struck. She shot a frightened look at her husband. "I think it wasn't our son who asked you where Harry was, Arthur. I think it was Yaxley disguised as Percy."

Blood suddenly drained from Arthur's face. He cursed under his breath. "We cannot stay at the Burrow unless Yaxley is caught... or else we'll all be vulnerable." An expression of genuine sorrow took over his features, and he added with a resigned tone, "I'm so sorry." He buried his face in his hands out of shame.

Molly gently laid a comforting hand on her husband's shoulder. "It's okay, dear. At least we still have this cottage." She thought of all the things she so badly wanted to whisper to him. "Don't worry, we'll work this out. We always do."

Arthur shifted his weight and looked at her. "I should have been more cautious about who I was talking to. I can't bear the thought of any harm befalling us on my account." His eyes glistened with unshed tears. Molly could see the strong wave of emotion hit him, and she hated to see him so defeated.

"But you didn't know that it wasn't our Percy." Molly reasoned with a tender voice. Her sad brown eyes flickered up to meet his. "We were attacked, yes, but we're all safe now and that's what matters."

Arthur shuffled his feet, avoiding eye contact. "It could have been worse," he said in a low voice.

A sudden knock startled everyone inside except Ron, Hermione, and Ginny who ran up to open the front door. They had been expecting Slughorn to come around at this time, they knew it was him the moment they heard the knock. As safe house Secret-Keeper, Bill had given him permission to enter Shell Cottage.

Horace Slughorn stood calmly outside, carrying an empty cauldron with brewing equipment inside that made clanking noises whenever he moved his hands.

"Professor," called Hermione. Ron reached over his hands to help Slughorn with the cauldron and set it on top of the dining table where the rest of the ingredients were, along with the Anima book.

Slughorn peered sadly at the people in front of him as they closed the door behind him. Slughorn was informed once again of the state Harry was in as the Weasleys filled him in, and he couldn't express how deeply distressed he was by the terrible news. As soon as he saw Harry lying listlessly on the bed, concern flooded his face. He covered it quickly with feigned cheerfulness. Molly could see from Slughorn's expression his guilt and his intense desire to help Harry.

"I brought several other potions that I'm hoping will help Harry get through the day." He took out one vial of a purple coloured potion he had been carrying. "I brewed this draught in my lab last night. It is a very powerful healing potion that I dearly hope will help Harry in the meantime. If this doesn't help, then I don't know what will." Ginny took the vial from him and ran to Harry's room. Slughorn set the stacks of potion bottles on the table.

"Now," he said. "The potion that we're about to brew will only take around one hour, but—" He held out a finger when he saw Ron sighing in relief. "Constant stirring, and the number of times you have to do it—plus the way you do itvaries with each ingredient. One stirring mistake will immediately ruin everything."

Ron gulped. "I've ruined potions in class with Snape too many times." He added with a whisper in Hermione's ear, "I'm glad that I won't be the one brewing this potion for Harry or else he would've died in vain, waiting for eternity for a potion that will never come."

Hermione rolled her eyes at him, remembering all the brewing disasters that he has orchestrated. "Would you like me to help you with brewing the potion, Professor?" she offered.

Slughorn smiled. "I would usually gladly take you up on your offer, Ms. Granger, but as this is a very complicated and advanced potion, I should do the brewing myself."

Hermione looked somewhat offended, but she nodded her head in understanding.

Slughorn grabbed the Anima book and opened it to the right page. His face remained calm and composed as he read the instructions. He nodded with understanding and began taking out the things inside the cauldron and lining them neatly on the table in front of him. Ron and Hermione settled themselves on the chairs, watching their professor do the work. Bill would occasionally walk by to see what was going on. Even Ginny, who was worried at the rate at which Harry was losing energy checked up on Slughorn from time to time.


The fumes of the potion wafted inside the cottage. Slughorn had managed to add three ingredients successfully with the right stirring method for almost an hour and would now need Harry's blood to complete the process. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny went quickly to Harry's room.

The adults looked up from their positions at his bedside. "How's the potion?" Mrs. Weasley asked them.

"It's nearly complete," said Ginny with a smile. "We only need Harry's blood, and then it's done."

Hermione looked uncertainly at them before taking out a small knife from her bag. She gently grabbed Harry's hand who stirred. "Harry," she said softly. He slowly opened his eyes. "I have to draw some blood from you, okay? It's gonna sting a bit." Harry curtly nodded and looked away. With bated breath, Hermione made a small cut in his finger and blood quickly trickled out, she took a vial and let a few drops in before casting a Healing charm.

She ran back to the kitchen, the adults following behind her. Slughorn was finishing the last stirs when Hermione handed him the vial of Harry's blood. He poured a few drops inside the cauldron. The greyish liquid turned into silver the moment the blood made contact with its surface. It bubbled slightly as it thickened. The people inside the cottage waited silently as they watched Slughorn quicken his pace for the final stirs unlike with the other three ingredients. Ron, Hermione, and Ginny exchanged excited and nervous looks when Slughorn finally said, "It's ready."

Ginny hurriedly went to retrieve three goblets and set them on the table with shaking hands.

Mrs. Weasley eyed her daughter peculiarly. "Why did you grab so many goblets, Ginny?" she asked. "You only need one for Harry."

Ron, Hermione, and Ginny looked at her with dread. No one seemed to want to explain the matter to someone like Mrs. Weasley.

Trembling, Ginny said nervously, "It—it's for us, mum."

With a face clouded by confusion and the slightest hint of apprehension, Mrs. Weasley asked, "What—what do you mean?"

"The potion is for us, Mrs. Weasley," said Hermione, looking terrified. "It's what it said in the book. The one attempting to mend Harry's soul has to drink it."

Mr. Weasley frowned. "That's very odd. Are you sure that's the right instruction?"

"It's true," Slughorn said calmly. "Only those very close to Harry can attempt to perform the mending."

"And does drinking the potion guarantee to save a soul, then?" Mr. Weasley asked him.

"No. They have to cast the spell provided in the book to start the process."

"How do we know it'll be successful once started?" Bill queried suddenly.

"We don't," replied Slughorn, and when Bill's face fell, he went on, "The book states that it would be better to have more people close to Harry attempting it—as to why it requires more, I don't know... but it will be apparent if the ritual were successful."

"What happens during the ritual?" Hermione asked curiously. She had not read that part from the book yet, and it was already sending shivers down her spine from sheer anticipation.

"It says here that once the potion has been drunk and the spell has been cast by the single one who attempts it, their soul will enter the afflicted person's body, rendering both unconscious until the ritual has been completed. During this time, the ritual must not be interrupted or else it will fail."

"What happens if it fails?" asked Percy.

It suddenly became deathly silent inside the house and only the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks could be heard. No one made a move, not even Slughorn who looked as though that one question was the only thing that he was trying to avoid answering.

With a swift jerk of her hand, Mrs. Weasley reached for the book before anyone could react. Everyone's faces slackened, and their mouths formed the petrified shape of an 'o'. As her eyes darted back and forth and the book grew closer and closer to her nose, her hand flew to her chest, and she suddenly towered over the three teens in front of her who felt strangely small. Mrs. Weasley's well-known temper often arrived before reason and left only after the damage was done. Today would be no exception.

"Did you know about this?" she asked with a deadly voice, glaring at Ron, Hermione, and Ginny.

"What is it, Molly?" Mr. Weasley asked quickly. "What did it say?"

"It says that if they fail to fix Harry's soul, they will suffer the same fate as him," she answered with a quivering voice.

Gasps slipped from Bill and Percy. Mr. Weasley stiffened, totally paralyzed with disbelief. His mouth dropped half-open. He was clearly stunned and at a loss for anything to say.

"We couldn't tell any of you," said Ron.

Mrs. Weasley gave an exasperated sigh. "How could you not?" she asked hotly.

"Because that's exactly how you guys would react," Ginny admitted. "We wouldn't be able to mend Harry's soul if everyone were against it."

Mrs. Weasley turned her fierce look at the professor. "You knew about this too, don't you Horace? You knew all along and you never even told us?"

Slughorn appeared to be unperturbed by her outburst. "That is the terrible risks that come with saving a soul," he muttered sadly. "I'm sorry."

"That is preposterous!" yelled Mr. Weasley. His eyes flashed with grief and righteous indignation. The Weasley children looked at their father, terrified, having rarely seen him lose his temper. "That is the most ridiculous and reckless thing I've ever heard!"

"There must be another way to mend Harry's soul!" Mrs. Weasley said with defiance.

Slughorn shook his head. "No, Molly."

"How could you know that?" spat Mr. Weasley.

"I don't," said Slughorn calmly. "But I'm putting my trust in Dumbledore's judgement. He must've known something like this would occur, so he made his best effort to find a solution for this problem—this is the only way."

"I highly doubt that!" Mrs. Weasley bristled at the words.

"By all means," said Slughorn, his voice quiet and measured but somehow carrying an intensity that was chilling. "Go ahead and look for another solution… I would gladly help if you manage to find any, but please bear in mind that we don't have much time to save Harry."

"But this is just absurd!" Mr. Weasley fumed. "I have protected my children, saved them from harm and done my best to make sure they're safe. And now—" He couldn't finish his sentence, evidently out of the anger and frustration that showed in his face. He closed his eyes for a brief moment, and when he opened them again, he saw Slughorn staring at him.

"Arthur," said Slughorn, "whatever happens, I want you to know—"

"Don't," Arthur told him. "Just don't."

The minutes passed by in silence. The tension in the air was thick and filled with terrifying sorrow.

"Mum... Dad," Ginny finally said, breaking the overpowering silence. "I know it hurts you both that we're putting our lives at risk, but that's just it—it's our lives. I don't think that any of us would still be here if Harry hadn't risked his life for us as well."

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley didn't say a word—didn't even look at her—so Ron took it upon himself to say more on the matter. "I second that. Harry has always risked his life for our well-being without asking for anything in return. It wasn't his fault that his soul was damaged. He didn't ask for it to happen."

"I only ask that you trust us," said Ginny softly.

"I do, but I just…" Mrs. Weasley looked to be on the verge of tears. Mr. Weasley walked over and wrapped his arms around his wife. In the next second, she was sobbing her heart out in his shoulder. "I'm just s-s-so worried. P-P-Percy was attacked… the B-B-Burrow isn't safe anymore… and then this..."

"Yes," Mr. Weasley whispered sadly into her, caressing her back. "But we need to trust them. I know they're more than capable." The moment Mrs. Weasley was done crying, eyes dry once more, she saw Harry standing against the doorway of his room, pain and sorrow visible in the way he carried himself, exhaustion evident on his face; bags painted garishly under his eyes, face twisted up in a pained grimace.

"Harry, what are you doing out of bed?" she asked in surprise, narrowing her eyes at him accusingly. Everyone looked up at him. "You shouldn't be walking around. You're too weak." They all approached him.

Harry felt a deep well of sadness inside him. "I'm sorry," he stated with a low, hoarse voice. Hagrid had been behind him, holding his back so he wouldn't lose his balance. Harry was still trembling, and his breathing was laboured. Mrs. Weasley's expression softened. "I didn't mean for any of this to happen," he continued. "I don't want to put your lives in any danger because of me." He tried to walk towards them slowly, but every step took so much effort, and his energy was running thin, causing him to lean against Hagrid for support. "I am so sorry."

He felt his heart pounding fiercely in his chest as he closed his eyes. Quite suddenly, several arms wrapped themselves around him, giving him the much-needed comfort to carry on. He heard sniffs and muffled cries. Harry slowly opened his tired eyes and saw Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, their faces full of hurt and sorrow. and yet they held so much warmth and solicitude. They were like the family he wished he had. No words could describe their compassion. They didn't have to say what was on their minds, a moment like this was all he needed. They had understood him and his sufferings in life, and they had given him so much to make his life meaningful to assert that his life wasn't a waste, that he deserved a wonderful life despite all the things that had been happening.

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley let go of him, and Ginny put her arms around him next, hugging him tightly. Harry never realized just how much he needed the comfort that only she could give. "It's alright, Harry," she murmured while caressing his back gently. "You're gonna be okay."

Harry listened to her voice. He had never heard her talk like this to anyone but him and he smiled gratefully. He knew she was doing everything she could think of to make him feel at ease. He felt himself letting go of all the frustrations and pain as hot tears fell from his face. He was exhausted—knew he needed rest, but he clung to Ginny even more, burying his face in her warm and comforting arms. He had lost his source of comfort at the age of one. Seventeen years later, he had found it again in the young woman he loved and who loved him, too.

Still clinging helplessly to Ginny, Harry painfully shuffled back to his room. The rest of the Weasleys, Hagrid, and Hermione didn't follow, recognizing the fact that they needed space.

Harry sat in bed, leaned his back against the headboard and raised his head sadly to look at Ginny who sat beside him looking weary. Her face was paler than he had ever seen before and there were circles under her bright brown eyes. Her lips were pressed into a hard line. She looked forlorn, consumed by her grief, but she tried to hide it with a smile directed at him. He had no idea how to break the silence. He had no idea what to say, only that he wanted to spend as much time with her as he could.

"This may sound terrible, but I—I'm starting to... forget," he began in a weak voice. "There were moments when I didn't know where I was... who my friends were—" His voice broke, and he shuddered with anguish when he spoke the next words, "or who I was."

Ginny looked up at him slowly. Harry felt a cold lump of dread rise in his throat when she regarded him with a hesitant gaze that confirmed his situation. "I've noticed when we were at the Burrow," she said. "But it's not gonna get any worse now that Slughorn has brewed the potion. You'll get better, Harry."

He could sense that she was clutching desperately to any hope, however slim. He lowered his gaze to his hands. "Just now, I had no recollection of what has been happening to me... I don't know why I feel pain all over my body—why I'm sick." He struggled to keep his voice even. His eyelashes pricked wet with tears, but he brushed them away. "Mrs. Weasley was hovering in front of me and I couldn't even tell who she was—" He felt as if all the air had been sucked out of the room. Panic began to rise inside him.

Ginny scooted closer to him, and she flung her comforting arms around his shoulders, giving him a tight embrace. "Shhh..." She rubbed Harry's back. "You'll be okay."

Harry's mouth was a tight line, and he was fighting hard to control his painful emotions. "I'm scared. I don't want to forget—" His voice almost broke. He swallowed hard. "I'm sorry, Ginny."

She settled her gaze into his brilliant green eyes. "You don't have to apologize, Harry. I understand what's happening."

"I couldn't tell you how—how awful it was not to recognize you... or about us... I'm really sorry."

She looked away from him. "I know... I've seen how you look at me sometimes... as if you have truly never seen me before. I can't say that it doesn't frighten me."

Harry knew what she meant. "I'm so sorry," he muttered.

Ginny glanced back at him. "It's okay."

He gave her an apologetic look before asking, "Do they know?"

"Who?"

"Ron and Hermione. Have they seen me lose my memory?" He found himself terrified of her answer. A long pause stretched between them, and he waited with increasing dread for Ginny to speak.

"We all have..." she answered in a quiet voice. "Even mum and dad."

"I'm sorry," said Harry, turning his gaze upward in frustration. "I wish there was something I could do."

"There's nothing for you to be sorry about, Harry. You don't have to be worried about us. We all know what has been going on with you. It's—it's the reality that we just have to face ourselves, even if it's something we aren't expecting, you know."

Harry found Ginny's face and took it in his hands. She had kept her composure well, but her eyes were wet with tears, and when he touched her cheeks, he realized he had been crying silently, too.

"I can't stop thinking about the attack at the Burrow..." he said thoughtfully. It sickened him when he thought of what happened—of what Yaxley had done. "I wasn't able to protect your parents. You must've hated me for it." Both shame and guilt pressed on his chest. "I couldn't bear the fact that they were hurt fighting to protect me instead, and it was already too late for me to do anything else when he sent curses after curses—" He felt suffocated, reliving the scene in his mind. "I—I should've protected—" He couldn't take the terrifying regret and miserable emotion gripping him inside. His heart was pounding painfully. He trembled and felt light-headed. He held on tightly to Ginny who rubbed circles on his back for comfort.

"I don't hate you, Harry. I would never do that. Besides, my parents are here and well," she consoled him with a tearful gaze. "Nothing too bad happened to them, and I'm grateful."

Harry took a shuddering breath and sadly shook his head. "I could've done something. I feel so useless. Weak. I don't want any more deaths on my head. I can't live with that." He looked at Ginny with pain in his eyes. "This sickness—"

"Shhh... my parents are well. Don't think about it anymore. Let's just focus on what we've got right here and now. You're strong enough to fight this, and we're here for you. Will you do that? Fight for me?"

Harry gave a distant smile. "I'll try, Ginny."

"That's more like it." Ginny kissed the top of his head, and her arms held him close.

"But I want you to do something for me." Harry's eyes seemed brighter than usual. He was on the verge of tears. "If things don't work out the way we hope..." But the rest of the sentence disappeared in his choked throat.

"What is it, Harry?" she asked in an anxious voice.

"I know you're all doing everything you can to help me survive... but if I don't make it—"

"Don't say that." Her voice broke. "I don't want to hear it."

"I'm sorry, but I have to, Ginny. It already feels like I'm on the brink of—" He hesitated and took a deep breath. "I don't know how long I've got. We'll never know when it'll happen."

"We have the cure!" she exclaimed. Tears poured down her soft cheeks. "It's going to work—I know it will."

Harry gazed at her for a lasting moment, not saying anything. He reached over to touch her cheeks and brought his lips to meet hers. At that moment, there was nothing that could have lifted their spirits more. Harry knew his battles with his sickness weren't over yet, and he had to endure more suffering, but the thought of having someone care deeply for him—love him—was all he needed to stay strong. Right now, he didn't care that his future was uncertain and that everything could slip away in a heartbeat, for now, nothing was more important than being with her—with Ginny.

"I love you," he said simply, stating an unassailable fact. There was plenty more he could have said, but in that moment, it was all he needed to say. It was all that mattered. He didn't know how long the feeling of being utterly at ease would last, but he knew he wanted to savour it.

"I love you more, Harry."

For the first time in weeks, the worried lines Harry had seen in Ginny's forehead disappeared. At least for now, she looked happy.

 

To be continued...