“In order to best break the boy, we must destroy everything he loves.” The voice sounded menacing, even as a memory in his head. “Start small. He will not last long.”
Antonin Dolohov grimaced as he sniffed the bubbling goblet. Trying to delay the moment he had to swallow the vile, gooey substance, he checked for the poisoned dagger. It was placed neatly on top of the folded black robes, the jeweled hilt gleaming darkly in the candlelight.
This mission was the utmost of importance for his Lord’s new plan to work. He had been hand selected for this secret mission, and only he and the Dark Lord knew of this task involving the use of the Polyjuice Potion. If he were to be successful in this task, it would be the first of many steps towards his rise in status within his Lord’s band of Death Eaters.
His eyes shone with excitement as he thought of the power and prestige he would soon possess.
He held his breath as he brought the goblet up to his face.
* * *
Ginny was delightfully giddy as she followed the raven-haired boy down the darkened hallway. Her hand was enveloped in his much larger one, and she reveled in the feeling of his warm, quidditch-roughened hand on hers.
He had caught her on the way back from the library, whispering excitedly that there was something he wanted to show her. A little puzzled, and with just a touch of excitement, she had agreed to his odd request. It was close to their curfew, and the thrill of being out after hours combined with the delight of being in his company impaired her judgment.
There had been a glint of something wicked in his emerald eyes when she had given her consent, but before she could study it further, she was encircled in his arms. The hug had effectively thrown her off balance, all thoughts of examining anything flying out her mind. Unfortunately, before she could hug him back and fully enjoy the experience, he pulled away.
After a few minutes of hurrying down corridor after corridor, she had started to lag behind. Immediately, he had appeared by her side, giving her a warm smile before capturing her hand, leading the way a little slower than before.
Ginny sighed quietly as they went up another staircase – the third set within the past five minutes. She was beginning to wonder where Ron and Hermione were. This type of after-hour escapade was usually conducted in their company.
“Harry, can’t you tell me what it is you want to show me?” Ginny whispered as they turned another corner.
“We’re almost there,” he flashed her a tight, unnatural smile. “I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise for you.”
Falling silent once more, they turned a few more corners before Harry came to a stop. They were at a dead end in the more deserted part of the school. Only one torch was lit at the end of the corridor, bravely fighting away the darkness that tried to consume its light.
“Look,” Harry whispered and pointed to the end of the corridor. “Do you see it?”
Ginny was confused. She didn’t see anything except an ordinary stonewall. Wait. Was that a… no, it was only a flickering shadow cast by the lone torch.
“Erm…” Ginny stared hard. “No, I don’t see anything, Harry.”
“It’s there, Weas-… Ginevra. Maybe you’ll see it better when you’re closer to it.”
Ginny threw him a strange look, and slowly made her way to the wall until she was standing right in front of it. She looked up and down, trying to make sense of what Harry was trying to show her. Was this some sort of puzzle or game?
Ron had a worried look on his face.
“Have any of you seen Ginny?” He flopped onto the couch next to Harry where he was promptly offered a puke green jellybean. Ron popped it in his mouth without even blinking, and immediately made a face.
“She was in the library, last I saw.” Hermione glanced up from her homework. “Why are you so anxious to see her?”
“She said she wanted to talk to me about something tonight.” Ron rubbed his hand against the back of his neck before looking up at the ceiling. “I have a really bad feeling about this.”
“You think we should look for her?” Harry popped the last of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavored Beans in his mouth.
“What exactly is it that I’m supposed to see?” Ginny was getting exasperated. Why couldn’t Harry just tell her what it was? She started to turn towards him.
“This,” Harry’s voice was harsh and cruel.
Ginny felt a pain rip through her midsection. Shocked, she looked down to see the jeweled hilt of a dagger protruding from her middle. She looked back up into Harry’s emotionless face, tears of pain and disbelief glittering in her eyes. She stumbled back against the corridor wall, the waves of agony stealing her breath and strength.
She slid to the ground, desperately trying to dislodge the object that was torturing her. Blood coated her hands, making everything slippery. She couldn’t get a firm grip on it.
“Harry,” she gasped, trying to think past the all-consuming burning sensation in her torso. “Harry, help me.”
He stood over her with a smirk, watching her writhe in a pool of her own blood. Shadows from the sputtering torch danced over his face, giving him a mad demonic quality. After a few moments of drinking in the sight, he crouched in front of her and deftly removed her wand from her pocket. With a practiced flick of his fingers, it snapped.
“Why?” her voice was hoarse as she gazed up at his cold visage, the pain of betrayal almost as strong as the physical suffering.
He took hold of the hilt of the dagger and looked deep into her tortured eyes. With a sneer, he wrenched it to the side, wringing a sharp cry from her.
She almost passed out from the pain.
With a swift jerk, he pulled out the dagger, blood gushing quickly from the deep gash, covering his hands in a warm slickness.
Slowly, Ginny slid from her sitting position against the wall until her head was resting on the ground. She had her two hands pressed weakly to her wound, desperately clutching at her midsection.
“Harry…” she whispered again, getting weaker as each moment passed.
“Don’t worry, Weasley,” Harry’s voice sounded distant. “Even if someone does find you in time, you won’t live. This dagger has been laced with a rare poison, and the antidote is even harder to make.”
She could see his shoes stop in front of her face.
“Destroy his loved ones to break and defeat him,” Ginny heard Harry distantly.
The shoes left her field of vision, and hazily, she heard his steps fade away.
The chill of the stone floor was stealing through her body.
She could feel her heart pulsing, with more of her life’s blood escaping with each beat. She lay there helpless and bleeding, slowly dying.
Tears dripped down her face as she called for help. Her voice was feeble, and she knew that no one would hear her. There was a reason why Harry had led her so far away from the more trafficked corridors.
“Ron…” she wheezed out. “Ron, help me…” she gasped, desperately hoping that her overprotective older brother would find her, knowing that he didn’t have a chance.
Ron stiffened imperceptibly next to Harry and Hermione as they huddled together underneath the invisibility cloak.
“Why would Ginny be all the way in the North wing of Hogwarts?” he heard Harry vaguely in the background, his glowing wand held above the Maurader’s Map. They had just stepped out of the Gryffindor Common Room, ready to start their search for Ginny.
“We have to get to Ginny,” Ron was pale, his voice shaking. “Now.”
“Wha…” Hermione trailed off as she saw Ron snatch the Maurader’s Map from Harry and dart out of the invisible cloak at a run.
Little by little, Ginny grew lightheaded from all the blood she was losing. Her thoughts were becoming more disjointed.
She thought of how grief-stricken her mother would be at the sudden loss of her only daughter. She thought of all her older brothers who would no doubt blame themselves for not being there when she needed them. She thought of how lost her father would be now that his little girl was gone.
Memories of her life started to replay themselves before her eyes. The many family birthdays celebrated with so much gusto, the pranks Fred and George pulled, the day when she received her Hogwarts letter, the trip to Egypt, and her first kiss.
Her vision was starting to fade now, and the pain, although still there, was felt less keenly. The only thing she could hear was her own raspy breathing, growing fainter by the moment.
She felt so weak.
She felt so cold.
Slowly, the darkness consumed her vision until all she could see was a pinprick of light.
Ron kept his illuminated wand over the map, following each turn as fast as he could, the sounds of Harry and Hermione’s footsteps echoing behind him.
She struggled to keep her breathing steady, but instead, gave a weak cough.
The heavy weight of dread was dragging him down, pumping fear through his veins.
“Ron…” she breathed out.
“Ginny!” his mind screamed in panic. “Hold on, I’m almost there.”