Chapter 1: Born to Die
Cold dread pooled in the pit of Harry’s stomach at the realization. It was enough to make him want to vomit, as if doing so could somehow cleanse himself.
But it was futile, nothing could cleanse him. He was a horcrux. It had occurred to him as a passing thought as he and Dumbledore were discussing the identities of Voldemort’s remaining horcruxes, yet Harry immediately knew, deep down, that it was true.
What was it that the headmaster had said in his second year? That Voldemort had left some of his powers in him? It made Harry want to laugh bitterly, did Dumbledore know, even then?
The wizened headmaster’s countenance grew weary as he no doubt saw Harry's inner turmoil.
“I have to die, don’t I?” Harry said simply.
“I’m sorry, Harry. I wanted to spare you the burden of this knowledge for as long as possible.”
He didn’t want to die. Especially not now when he’d found something worth living for. For the first time, he’d dared imagine what a future after defeating Voldemort would look like. A small house just for Ginny and him. Them lying in bed together, talking, kissing, and more. Going to dinner with Ron and Hermione. Massive family get-togethers at the Burrow. A child with Weasley red hair and emerald green eyes.
Harry’s eyes stung and his throat burned. Tears began sliding down Harry’s cheeks despite his best attempt to hold them back.
“Harry…” The headmaster trailed off, for once at a loss of words.
Without another word, Harry bolted.
Ginny found him first, holed up in the Room of Requirement, sitting on a sofa hunched over himself. She seemed to have a second sense about him. When he had once asked her about it, she told him, somewhat embarrassed, that years of ‘Harry watching’ were paying her dividends now.
She took one look at his tear soaked face and rushed to him, kneeling in front of him.
“Harry. What’s wrong?” She asked tenderly, taking his hands in hers.
She was so alive. And beautiful. And passionate. If he looked in her eyes, he knew he’d see love that could drive him to his knees. Tears returned. This is what you’re going to lose.
Ginny’s hand cupped his cheek, brushing his tears away. “Love. Please. You’re scaring me.”
“I’m going to die.” He finally managed to croak out.
She gave him that blazing look that he loved. “Harry, you can’t think like that. I believe in you. And you’re not going to be alone. You have people who love you who’ll be by your side the entire way.”
Harry’s smile was bittersweet as Ginny gave her impassioned speech, even as tears continued unabated. God he loved her.
And so he told her. He told her about how Tom Riddle split his soul into pieces in order to cheat death. He told her about the diary. He told her about what they thought the others might be. Then he told her about the final horcrux.
Watching her expression turn from determined to shocked to heartbroken would have been enough to drive him to tears, had he not already been at that state.
“No!” She gasped as tears appeared; her voice was as raw as he felt.
She choked back sobs, her face marred by grief the likes of which he’d never seen before. “I’m sorry.” He told her, but it felt hollow.
Suddenly, Ginny gripped his shirt, pulling her face level with his. “No! You’re not going to die!”
“NO! I’m not going to lose you! I CAN’T!” Her grip was painful as she shouted desperately “There’s another way. There has to be.”
“Dumbledore said there isn’t.”
“I don’t care! I’m not giving up on you Harry Potter.”
Even through the tears, the fire was back in her eyes, and it kindled the faintest spark of hope in Harry. Somehow, Ginny still believed.
And then she kissed him like her life depended on it. Ginny plundered his mouth desperately as she crawled onto his lap. Later, Harry would reflect how much better this was than the last teary kiss he had in the Room of Requirement, but at the moment he could hardly think of anything but the feel of her lips and tongue, the way her hands cupped his face, and the frantic little noises Ginny was making.
Telling Ron and Hermione was almost as hard as telling Ginny. Hermione had been inconsolable, bursting into tears and clinging to Harry. Ron hadn’t handled it much better. While Harry’s vision was obscured by bushy brown hair, Harry heard what had to be Ron’s fist connecting with the wall.
But amazingly, after the shock wore off, they followed Ginny’s lead. They vowed not to give up on him, and promised to try to find another way.
Hermione spent hours every day in the room of requirement. Ron and Ginny tried to help at first, but after a few days Hermione’s research had gotten far too advanced for them to follow. Harry had looked in once and saw that the walls (converted to chalkboards) were filled with scribbled arithmetic equations and runes that he couldn’t even begin to decipher. The tables were cluttered with thick tomes that would have taken him days to read, let alone understand.
The brunette witch now seemed constantly drawn and haggard. It reminded Harry of their third year, when she had overworked herself using a time turner. Harry couldn’t quite wrap his mind around the fact that Hermione was working herself into the ground for him.
Part of him felt like he wasn’t worth the trouble, though he’d never share that fact with his friends, knowing he’d get a supreme chewing out- especially from Ginny. Still, he couldn’t help the little voice in his head, the one that sounded suspiciously like Uncle Vernon, that told him that his friends would probably have better lives without him anyway.
Ron seemed to be trying to pretend everything was normal. There were times when Harry could tell it was getting to him, but his best mate was good at putting on a brave face, and using humor to mask dark feelings.
And Ginny… her reaction boggled him most of all. A small part of him had feared that Ginny would put distance between them once she realized he was a dead man (even if, ironically, Harry had considered doing exactly that after his realization), but she did the exact opposite. Their kiss in the Room of Requirement wasn’t a fluke.
Harry had spent a lot of time cataloguing the facial expressions of one Ginny Weasley, particularly the ways that she looked at him.
There was the blazing look she got whenever she was passionate about something. It wasn’t something strictly reserved for him, he’s seen it plenty of times at quidditch practice, or when she was up to mischief, and last year at the DA. It was perhaps his favorite look on her. She was such a passionate person, it was one of his favorite things about her, and to know that her passion was directed at him… it was indescribable.
Sometimes she would look at him so tenderly he thought his heart would melt. The sheer affection in her eyes was almost suffocating and he sometimes had to fight the urge to look away.
Then there were times when she looked with this hungry, predatory look, almost as if she wanted to devour him whole. This was often followed by Ginny pinning him to the nearest wall, or dragging him to the closest broom cupboard and snogging him senseless. Harry often caught flashes of this look from her in public- from across the table at lunch, during quidditch practice, or in the common room. While the thought of Ginny lusting after him throughout the day did make Harry slightly uncomfortable it was also the hottest thing he’d ever experienced.
She’d been directing all three of those looks at him much more often since he told her about the bit of Voldemort’s soul in his head. She’d also, when she thought he wasn’t looking, gazed at him with a tender expression tinged with sadness and pain.
And in truth, he knew he looked at her in the same way. ‘This is what you’re going to lose’ seemed to be an inescapable mantra. Even dreams offered no respite. The only time he seemed to truly forget about his fate was when Ginny had snogged all thought from him.
Dumbledore had made it more or less clear that he doubted Hermione would be able to find a way around it, and had advised him to try to accept that death was just the next great adventure. While Harry would lay down his life for his friends in a heartbeat, he didn’t think he’d ever be okay with leaving everyone he loved behind, and losing the future he might have had with them.
Some days, it was all Harry could do to crawl out of bed, or not hit the wall and scream at the unfairness of it all. He’d never had a chance. Since before he was born he’d been marked by prophecy, and since he’d been a year old, he’d been doomed to die. It just wasn’t fair! He’d finally found something- someone worth living for and now he found it out he’d been born to die.