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Chapter 1: Yearning to Live
When she was just a girl
She expected the world
But it flew away from her reach
So she ran away in her sleep
The castle had become a prison.
The Death Eaters, working under the authority of the despicable traitor who now occupied Dumbledore’s throne, had made certain that no student would enjoy their year at Hogwarts. Alecto and Amycus snuck around in the shadows, listening to professors’ conversations for hints of sedition and firing stray curses at any students who turned up late for mealtimes or classes. Though the Slytherins happily occupied all eight Prefect placements for the year, even they were not immune to the cold glares and unjust punishments of the Carrows, and they received double the censure from the other teachers, who had all but set aside any semblance of respect for them.
She was the first student to chance a midnight respite this semester.
It had taken her only an hour of watching to identify the patterns of travel the Carrows kept as they monitored the dark corridors and stairways of the castle. After inwardly thanking her Weasley blood, which enabled her to learn the secret passages of the castle from her brothers in lieu of the original source, she had quickly crept up to the only place without stale air.
As she placed one quiet footstep after another on the stone stairs, she worried she’d been seen. But the gust of evening wind, mostly warm with just an edge of the autumn cool that was beginning to come out, caused her to direct her attention back to the destination before her.
Ginny placed her hands delicately on the stone railing, tracing the place where she imagined he had fallen over it at the close of the previous year. The September breeze, which smelled like an impending rain, caught the edges of her red strands and blew them back over her small shoulders. Her eyelids closed over her brown eyes, and she seized the moment, focusing with all her might on the feeling of her feet standing on the solid, seemingly secure floor of the tower.
What had it been like for Harry up here? She’d wondered time and again; the banning of extra-curricular activities at the school and her infuriatingly incomplete knowledge of where Harry, her brother, and Hermione might be had made her a prisoner of her thoughts in recent days. She tried to imagine where he might have stood, how he might have felt watching Draco struggle with his doomed mission. She felt rage bubble up in her stomach as she imagined him being close enough to grab the edge of Snape’s robes, interrupting his slow ascent into his place as the executioner.
Snape might come up here sometimes, she thought suddenly, her eyes snapping open. But even with the man’s ability to hide in the shadows, a glance about her told her that she was alone.
She vaguely remembered having pleasant days at Hogwarts, but now, standing in this forbidden place and daring to think forbidden thoughts, she could scarcely recall even the events of last year. Had she really enjoyed her classes, gone to Quidditch matches, and kissed Harry Potter?
Harry, where are you?
Though her mouth steeled itself in a thin line of resolve, warm, wet tears still formed shallow pools under her bloodshot eyes. Why couldn’t they have just taken her with them? She had been left out of matters her whole life, but this was different, more hurtful. She was hardly any different from Hermione. She wasn’t incompetent just because she was a girl and a year younger.
But no, it wasn’t them. It was him. Harry. He was the one who told her not to come with him.
Her desperate fingers gripped the railing even more firmly. Where are you?
Didn’t she have a right to be upset? She didn’t understand how he couldn’t see that he’d left her to the wolves while claiming to keep her safe. Hogwarts was no longer the haven they once knew. The professors had no power except the small allotment that Snape occasionally extended to them. To her knowledge, the Carrows had not yet made good on the punishments they’d threatened at the term’s beginning, but with Snape in power, they’d likely have a chance soon.
You’re supposed to save me, she thought angrily, recalling the fairy tales she’d loved as a child.
She couldn’t help but think of Lee Jordan’s broadcasts, which told anyone listening about the death toll accumulating day after day while He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named reigned supreme. It was hard for her not to say the name. She felt like a coward using a substitute phrase, like a true Gryffindor would take Dumbledore’s advice and speak the name confidently despite her fear. But she had heard what happened to those who were bold enough to use the man’s name, and with Death Eaters crawling about the castle where she slept, she feared what she would face.
Even as she mentally railed against Harry, unleashing a wave of fury against him for not attending to the corpses that fell all around him, she prayed he would not speak the man’s name.
Her tears got the best of her at last, and she closed her eyes again, turning away from the shadowy grounds that stretched out below her viewpoint and wiping pitifully at the wetness.
She was never left crying in any of her dreams these days. Harry always appeared smiling, alive and in one piece, and he always scooped her up into his arms before she could even detect him. His arms were warm and smelled of faint evergreen and the light sheen of sweat on his skin, and then, just when her heart slowed to a normal rhythm and a smile graced her softly painted lips, she would realize that the scent of the forest meant he was not here, not trapped in the dank castle. She would wake bathed in her own sweat, and then she would feel the cold sink in again.
Now she stretched her fingers over the stone railing and stared out into the woods before her.
Where are you? Where is the life we’re supposed to live together?
She re-played those dreams in her mind when sleep escaped her, when another Gryffindor girl in her dormitory returned late at night with tears staining her eyes and scars marring her flesh or when one of her real professors engaged in a loud verbal altercation with an imposter or dared to challenge the Headmaster’s rule, their defiant voices seeping into the walls of the common room. She passed the tense hours by mentally arranging the flimsy fabric and delicate jewels of her dream wedding gown, imagining her father getting fingerprints on it as he embraced the bride. When no more changes could be made, she turned to the house she’d always wanted, populated with the carefree laughter of the children she begged fate to let her create one day with Harry. She had built a whole existence in her mind, so when he came home at last, she would be ready.
The sky was beginning to lighten up with the first stirrings of the impending dawn. Even in her concentration, Ginny couldn’t ignore the subtle sound of footsteps patrolling down below her. She needed to find her way back to bed so that she could begin the grand illusion all over again; eat a breakfast she wasn’t hungry for, go to classes that taught lies, do meaningless homework.
She took one hand gently from the balcony, turning to go, and then she paused in her footsteps. Facing the approaching morning one more time, Ginny Weasley closed her eyes for a heartbeat. She couldn’t remind Harry of his duty to her, but she could still remind herself that he had one.
You’re supposed to save me.
For a moment, she clung to it for dear life. Then she disappeared, just another fading shadow.