Harry held his breath as he looked behind the wall to behold the fray. At seeing that most of the members of the Order of the Phoenix were present and accounted for, his heart lifted, but many were not without some injury. Apparently Professor McGonagall had been hit with some sort of curse that left her unable to control her transformation into a cat, but it seemed to work to her advantage as she pounced on a Death Eater’s head only to return to human form a second later and crush him to the ground. Mad-Eye Moody fought with unexpected stealth and dexterity despite a wound in his right arm, and Harry gaped as Moody felled three Death Eaters with a swift flourish of his wand. Noticing a bright flash of pink hair, Harry found Lupin and Tonks back to back, repelling Death Eaters that had formed a circle around them. To his relief, they were as yet unharmed.
The only severe malady Harry could identify befell Mundungus Fletcher, who dragged behind him a quivering jelly-like leg, which Harry suspected had lost all its bones. Been there, done that, Harry thought, wincing at the memory of Skele-Gro’s acerbic flavor.
Once Harry felt he’d seen enough, he disappeared from behind the pillar with a loud crack.
“Where’ve you been?” Hermione scolded as Harry apparated next to the sliding door. “I thought you were right behind me!”
Harry strode quickly over to the seat across from her. “I had to see what was happening. They’re all okay so far, nothing too horrible to report, but the Order is outnumbered,” he explained. “We have to do something.”
“Well, Mum, Dad, Bill and Charlie are on their way,” Ron piped up. “No word on Fred and George yet.”
“They are? How did you guys even know where to find me?” Harry asked.
Hermione and Ron exchanged looks. “Better start from the beginning,” said Ron. “Just after you left, Hermione and I got on the Floo Network from the common room to talk to Lupin. Dobby told him he heard Malfoy telling Kreacher to stop you from coming here because there was something really important hidden on the Hogwarts Express. Dobby nearly beat himself senseless for spilling that information, you might imagine. Anyway, we figured it was bad news if Malfoy knew about it, so then we thought you should have some backup – especially if you were going to try and find Voldemort next.”
“So we contacted Ron’s family before heading out on our own,” Hermione chimed in. “Otherwise, only Neville knows where we went. When we arrived, we saw the Dark Mark and knew you must be on the muggle side of the platform entrance. Everyone else must’ve seen it too, because we all seemed to show up at the same time.”
“You've got to be kidding..." Harry’s head was spinning. “And what’s your excuse?” he asked Ginny beside him, sounding angrier than he meant.
She looked him levelly in the eyes. “I heard your row with Ron and Hermione, and quite frankly, it sounded like you were about to walk into a trap. So, I slipped out while they were using the fireplace,” Ginny muttered.
“You could’ve gotten us before you left!” Ron scowled at her.
“Oh sure, because you lot have been so keen on including me in all your adventures this year!” Ginny spat sarcastically, shooting an angry look at Harry.
“That’s only because Voldemort would use you against me,” Harry retorted. “Much the way he did tonight!”
A fire seemed to ignite behind Ginny’s eyes, and she looked at Harry in a way he had not seen since Dumbledore’s Funeral. “I’m not the one who wanted to go off on a suicide mission by himself! As it is, I go sodding mad every time you three disappear, never knowing when or if you’re ever coming back!” she said fiercely, her eyes filling with tears. “I thought you of all people would know how infuriating it is to be left in the dark, Harry!” Looking away, she dabbed at the welt on her face as Harry felt his insides turn to lead.
For barely a moment, they sat speechless amidst the muffled sounds of fighting before Ginny snapped them out of their guilty reverie.
“Now,” said Ginny resolutely, “does anyone want to tell me what in bloody hell a Horcrux is?”
Harry froze. “That reminds me,” he muttered shakily, “there’s something I have to tell you guys.”
Harry gave Ron and Hermione the abridged version of all that happened from the moment he arrived at Platform 9 ¾ to when the Decoy Detonator went off, detouring from his story long enough to explain the definition of a Horcrux to Ginny. Ron interrupted him once to ask how 'a lousy git like Malfoy ever decided to switch loyalties' while Hermione tried not to faint at the news of an invasion on London. Harry saved the worst bit of information for last and, once he had finished, each of his friends looked appropriate to having just been visited by a Dementor. Ron’s eyes were roughly the size of dinner plates.
“Blimey,” breathed Hermione, stealing the word right out of Ron’s mouth.
“All this time, you’ve been a Horcrux,” Ron said, horrified. “This is bad… this is very, very bad…”
Ginny was in a panic at everyone’s expressions. “There’s a bit of Voldemort’s soul in you? But… but how do we get it out?” she inquired frantically. “You got rid of all the others, didn’t you?”
Harry looked morose. “We destroyed the others, Ginny.”
“Destroyed,” she whispered, clasping her hands over her mouth.
“But Snape said you could survive, didn’t he? There must be a way you can come out of this alive,” Hermione declared, squinting at the floor as though the answers were written upon it.
“Hermione, I can’t even decide whether Snape wants me to survive.”
Her eyes snapped up from the ground. “You said he gave you an incantation, Harry. Quick, give it here.”
He quickly shuffled through his pockets and produced the rumpled piece of parchment, dropping it in Hermione’s outstretched hand. She studied it for a moment before shaking her head and saying mournfully, “it’s no use. I’ve never seen it before. I can’t even tell you how to use it.”
Suddenly the train car rocked from the force of an explosion somewhere nearby on the platform, and Ron and Hermione fell forward into Harry and Ginny. Around them, the battle was escalating and time to think of a plan was rapidly running out.
“We don’t have time to worry about me,” Harry said, helping Ron to his feet. “Our friends are out there – we have to fight!”
“There are only four of us,” Ron argued, lifting up Hermione. “We’ll never make it against that many Death Eaters!”
Ginny leapt to her feet. “What we need are reinforcements!” She turned to Hermione. “Do you still have that fake Galleon we used to use for the D.A. meetings? I know at least two people who will come to our aid!”
Hermione’s eyes lit up. “Of course!”
“Hold it-,” Harry tried to interrupt, but his tongue had turned to sandpaper. He had not intended for any of this; his friends were supposed to be safe at Hogwarts, not here fighting an army of Death Eaters, and his heart raced at the thought that he could be leading them to their deaths. He fought to push it out of his mind. “It’s so late,” he croaked. “Are you sure Neville and Luna will come?”
“Sure they’ll come,” said Ron under his breath. “The question is whether they’ll be more of a danger to the Death Eaters or to themselves- Ow!” Hermione elbowed him hard in the ribs.
“Neville knows where to go. They’ll be here,” said Hermione confidently as she touched her wand to the Galleon. Once the signal was sent, she said, “Let’s go.”
“Wait!” Harry exclaimed before they could disapparate.
Harry stood dumbly before them, his mouth opening and closing as he struggled for words that could aptly capture his gratitude that they had come – anything that would say just how much their fearlessness meant to him. Did such words exist?
Finding nothing appropriate to say, he muttered, “Let me go first. The Death Eaters won’t kill me. Voldemort means to do me in himself, and seeing as he’s not here…” His voice faded.
He was turning to go to the sliding door when he felt Ginny’s hand in his. Harry looked at her, feeling a warm tingle travel up his arm from where she held him. “It’s okay, Harry,” she whispered. “We’re behind you.”
Emboldened by her gesture, he threaded his fingers in hers and squeezed her hand. “I know, Ginny,” he said with moistened eyes. “I know.”