Chapter 5 : Vengeful Motivation
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Bill Weasley kept moving forward, kept his pace up, kept running for his life. His breath was heavy, panting from the physical exertion. Sweat beaded his forehead and slid down his face, temporarily obscuring his view as the salty substance landed in his eye. He wiped at it frantically, stumbling for a few moments before regaining his balance. He had no idea where he was going or how far he had gone already; he just knew that he had to get away.
He stopped suddenly, a loud howl piercing through his concentration. He looked around wildly, left and right, but saw nothing. Although it was early evening, the dense patch of woods located on the outskirts of the Weasley household was such that any light was obscured and visibility was greatly hindered by the suffocating darkness. He couldn’t make out anything beyond a few feet in front of him and felt his heart rate escalate at the danger that lurked behind the trees. Then, as if confirming it, another howl erupted and Bill felt his body react, resuming its flight through the forest.
As he continued to run, his mind tried to register what the hell had happened to bring him to this point. He had been on a routine scoping of the grounds with his brothers, Ron and Charlie. Their job was to ensure that the perimeters were safe and that threats, if any, were taken care of. Normally, their searches proved fruitless; spells kept their house well protected, such that their scoping was more of a precaution than an actual necessity. But this time, things had gone completely different…
Ron walked a few paces behind, his wand in his hand and his head swiveling from left to right. His shoulders were tense, his walk steady and his senses alert. Next to him, Charlie imitated his movements, keeping his eyes trained on their rear while Bill moved ahead, keeping an eye on the front. It was their normal tactic, ensuring that they had eyes on all sides.
“I don’t know why father makes us do these,” Ron mused, straightening his back a little. “The spells he has over the property are pretty damn strong.”
“It’s just a precaution, Ron,” Charlie admonished with a sigh. “Besides, spells can be breached.”
“Has it ever happened?” Bill turned to look at Ron with a raised eyebrow but Ron just repeated his question. “I’m being serious. In all the years that dad’s used the spells, have they ever been breached?”
“How do you think those men got in to kill mom?” Bill asked, folding his arms across his chest.
Ron stopped walking and looked at his brother. “I thought dad didn’t start protecting the place until after that happened?” he questioned, looking from Bill to Charlie.
The latter shook his head. “Dad’s been protecting this place with spells from before Fred and George were born.” Charlie tilted his head sideways and cracked his neck, the sound making Bill and Ron grimace. “Sorry.”
“So, is that why dad makes us do these?” Ron asked, rubbing at his own neck.
Bill nodded. “Mom’s murder made him realize that magic wasn’t really enough.”
“Do you think something like that could happen again?”
Almost as if answering Ron’s question, the boys felt a jolt of electricity shoot through the air, making their hair stand on end and their skin tingle. They looked around, suddenly alert. Ron and Charlie backed up to stand beside Bill. All three of them were nervous, slightly afraid of what could have happened. But they all had an idea, some inclination and all because of their conversation. They knew that, somehow, their protective barrier had been breached. But, by what they didn’t know.
Then, quite suddenly, something stumbled out of the darkness of the forest and the trio swung their wands towards it. A man stood before them, taller and stockier than all three of them put together. His hair was matted and wild; his eyes were haunting and, as he watched the three of them, his chapped lips curved upward into a menacing smile, revealing sharp, jagged teeth. Charlie muttered an indistinctive curse and his grip tightened on his wand once he realized who it was.
“Greyback,” he breathed, his eyes narrowing as he said the name.
The man laughed. “So perceptive of you, Weasley.”
“How the hell did you get in here?” Bill questioned, his voice revealing the disgust he felt from the man.
Greyback tut-tutted and shook his head. “A magician never reveals his secrets.”
“Magician?” Charlie spat with a bitter laugh. “You’re nothing but a crazed werewolf, Greyback.”
The man snarled and narrowed his eyes. “Werewolf you say? That sounds like a pretty good idea.” Greyback looked up into the night sky and reached his hands into his pockets. The gesture caused all three boys to release a stunner each; the red lights were easily dodged and Greyback let out another laugh. “My turn.”
He lifted the object he had removed from his robes- a potion vial – and uncorked it. With his eyes trained on the brothers, he dipped the liquid into his mouth and then flung the container aside, causing it to shatter on the ground. At first nothing happened but a sense of foreboding crept into the air and the trio of red-haired men stepped back. Just as they moved, Greyback hunched over as his body began to transform. His back lengthened, huge bumps of vertebrae columns popping up one by one. His mouth stretched forwards, jagged teeth becoming huge fangs and his nails expanded into yellow talons.
It was a gruesome scene to watch a man become a werewolf and the sheer horror kept the three brothers rooted in their spots. Confusion made them stationary as well. It was not a full moon night so the question of ‘how’ plagued their minds. It was undoubtedly the potion that did it; some vile concoction that provided the already malicious man with the ability to become the horrific creature he was more than once a month.
Once the transformation was complete, the werewolf reared his mouth up to the sky and released a dark pitched howl. The sound seemed to shake the boys from their stupor and they began to step backwards. The motion drew the creature’s attention and he started towards them, his lips curving into what could pass for a smile, a highly malicious one at that.
“We have to split up,” Bill breathed, already separating from his brothers.
“What? Why?” Ron asked, his gaze never wavering. Greyback seemed to be enjoying their fear because his pace was slow and deliberate. It was almost as if he had his full human senses mixed in with his werewolf strength and tendencies, not a very good combination.
“It’s better than him getting to all of us,” Bill answered, talking as quickly as he could. “If we split up then there’s more chances of at least one of us escaping and alerting someone else to the problem at hand.”
Ron and Charlie nodded. Then, with one fleeting glance at Greyback, the three brothers broke off into three different directions. They didn’t bother to look back to see if it worked. They just kept moving, kept running…
Now, for what felt like an eternity, Bill was still running for his life. He wanted to stop; he wanted to rest but he knew he couldn’t. That was because, unfortunately, he had been the one Greyback trailed. He hadn’t known at first because it all seemed quiet around him, save for the pounding of blood in his ears. But then, Greyback had appeared out of nowhere, zooming across Bill’s path. Somehow, he had gotten away but now the werewolf was still tailing him and Bill didn’t want to risk stopping because he had no idea where Greyback was.
Just then, the sound of heavy steps echoed behind him. They grew louder and louder, closer and closer; and with it, his heart began to pump harder in his chest. He knew he shouldn’t but he couldn’t help it when his pace slowed. He was exhausted; the adrenaline in his veins was slowly waning and he resigned himself to having to duel if need be. It was his only choice right now because, at this snail pace, Greyback would undoubtedly catch him. Then, almost immediately the werewolf surfaced, his howl louder and more forceful than ever.
Bill spun on his heel and, without hesitating yelled at the top his lungs, "Incarcerous!"
The spill hit just as Greyback had lunged into the air. The thick ropes erupted from Bill’s wand and wrapped around him, entangling and forcing him back to the ground with a loud impact. Bill’s heavy breathing was replaced with the strangled cries. For a split second – a tiny, miniscule moment – Bill thought he had managed to best the beast and was readying himself to encage the creature. But the feeling was short-lived as Greyback’s strength overtook the ropes. He yanked and snarled, pulling the ropes apart and shredding them into bits of thread. It happened so quickly that Bill didn’t even notice until after Greyback was back on his feet and growling at him.
Bill was unable to react. Fear gripped him, immobolized him. Before he realized it, Greyback had him pinned to the ground, his weight bearing down on him. He felt something snap underneath him and knew without a doubt that it was his wand, useless now even if he could get to it, which he couldn’t. The realization hit him like a ton a bricks and heightened his fear. His resolve broke next and tears stung at his eyes. He hadn’t cried in years, not since his mother had died; and it was ironic that after tearless twenty-years, they would precede his inevitable meeting with his deceased mother. For he knew that he was helpless; knew that there was no hope for him to survive beyond this point. He was fighting against something far more powerful than him, and was doing so without any weapon.
With saliva dripping from his mouth and his teeth bared, Greyback howled and snarled. He could sense that Bill was slowly giving up and he wasn’t sure he liked it. He preferred a struggling victim and so decided to provide false hope. When Bill, trying to pool all of his strength and push against Greyback’s weight, the werewolf let him. He could see the surprise that lit in the man’s eyes as he slid away. The two remained in a locked gaze; then Bill stood up to run. Greyback felt that rush hit him and he lunged. Bill hadn’t gotten very far so when Greyback moved, the side of his face was impacted and he fell back to the ground, everything slowly going black.
“Are you positive you don’t want any food?”
Ginny shook her head, her eyes never wavering from the window. Hermione sighed and looked at Harry who just shrugged and slumped in his seat, closing his eyes. Realizing that her efforts were in vain, Hermione turned and walked into the kitchen, giving up on even trying. She and Harry had been attempting for the past few hours to get Ginny to talk, but she refused to budge. Ever since she had broken down into tears, she had become reclusive, curling up into one of the single armchairs and staring out of the window.
When Hermione left, Ginny released a tired sigh and laid her head against the back of the armchair. Her gaze was still fixed on the window, her eyes following the slow progression of the sunset. At the current moment, the sky was a rich, dark pink. But the majesty was lost to Ginny. Instead, the memories of her mother’s death plagued her thoughts. Her earlier recounting that fateful day had been the first time she had done it in a long while; not since she had told Hermione almost two years ago. She hadn’t been prepared for the onslaught of memories and grief because she had tried so hard to repress all of it and move on with her life. Yet, despite that feeling, she had divulged it all to Harry; told him the truth about that horrendous and unforgettable day. Now, she could not erase the visualization; it was all clear in her thoughts, replaying over and over – her brother’s panicked face; Libby’s lifeless eyes; her mother’s fatal sacrifice. The image of her mother’s body being crushed under the shards of glass and broken lights caused tears to swell up in her eyes and she blinked them back, determined not to break down again. The time for crying had long been gone.
“You sure you’re alright?” Harry asked, suddenly standing in front of her with two full glasses in his hand.
Ginny looked up at him, a slight annoyed face on her face. He and Hermione had asked her that very same question about a gazillion times and she was getting tired of it. She couldn’t really blame them, though. She would have been worried, too, if it was one of her friends in her current state of grief. She nodded and then looked back out of the window, finally taking notice of the sky.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she mused aloud, her voice full of awe as sky darkened right before her eyes. Harry turned his gaze to the heavens as Ginny continued, “The way the colors mix is just magnificent; a perfect blend of pink and purple.”
“You artists never quit do you?” he teased, resting the glasses on the coffee table before sitting on the edge of it.
The red-head shrugged. “You just develop a true appreciation for beauty when you’re an artist.” She turned to look at Harry, her eyes immediately locking on his emerald orbs. The lighting from outside reflected off the side of his face and the corner of his left eye, intensifying the color and deepening his gaze on her. She took a deep breath, her reaction confirming her own statement because Merlin knows she had a deep appreciation for the beauty of his eyes.
“I know you said you didn’t want anything but I brought you a drink.” He picked up one of the glasses, his eyes never leaving hers, and held it in front of her.
She took it and mumbled, “Thank you.”
He then took his own glass. “It should help you to relax.” When Ginny gave him a skeptical look - the glass raised halfway to her lips - Harry chuckled and took a sip. “Don’t worry, it’s only butterbeer.”
She took a small taste and then nodded. “I have to make sure,” she said, looking down into the glass as the warmness from the drink seeped through her. “For all I know, you could just be tricking me in an attempt to get me drunk or do me in.”
“If I wanted to ‘do you in’, as you say, it definitely wouldn’t be in the form of killing you,” Harry replied in a husky voice, long before he could stop himself from saying it. When he realized that his mouth had moved quicker than his brain, his eyes bugged open and he stammered, “Oh, er, I’m…shit…I’m sorry, that was, er, just….inappropriate. Sorry.”
Harry released a nervous breath and hung his head, silently berating himself for his callous remark. How the hell did he let that one slip out? He had been having thoughts like that almost all day but had managed to keep them in check. Why did his will decide to let him down all of a sudden? He mentally shook his head in an attempt to clear his mind. He had absolutely no idea why Ginny was doing this to him. He knew she was beautiful – anyone with eyes could see that – but he had just met the girl yesterday for Merlin’s sake. But obviously time had no bearings on his human desires.
Ginny’s giggle redrew his attention and he stared at her. Her cheeks were flushed – from the laughter or embarrassment at his remark, he didn’t know – and a small dimple was visible in the corner of her lips. He found himself smiling at how cute it looked.
“And just what is so funny?” he asked, placing his glass back onto the table.
Her giggles subsided and she managed to choke out a response. “Are you sure that your remark isn’t just the Potter way of flirting?” She took another sip of butterbeer, making sure to keep her eyes fixated on his. “Getting straight to the point, and all that?”
Harry’s eyes darkened suddenly and Ginny’s laughter ended completely. In that moment, as he stared at her, she remembered her painting back at the studio and her heart skipped a beat. She wasn’t sure why but the feeling lit something inside of her that had been dormant for years.
“So what you’re saying is that I’m fast?” Harry’s voice was low and it sent a shiver down Ginny’s spine. He playfully poked her in her side and it wasn’t until then that she noticed he had moved to the direct edge of the table, bringing his body closer to hers. “Is that it Weasley?”
She cleared her throat that was suddenly dry and took a sip of her butterbeer. “Well, you’re the one who was so quick to team up with me and then you go and make a comment like that.” She matched his gaze with a challenging one. “What else is a girl supposed to think?”
“I really don’t know.” He gave a small shrug and gently tapped her nose. “Because I was under the impression I was talking to a woman, not a girl.”
Harry’s expression was serious and it gave Ginny butterflies. She took a shaky breath as she felt her cheeks heat up. Given the rise in her bodily temperature, she wouldn’t be surprised if her entire face was the same color as her hair. She had no idea what had happened in the few minutes of their exchange but, all of a sudden, the two had gone from simple conversation to pernicious flirting. Harry was feeling the same way. He had no idea how it had happened or what had changed but he was starting to feel unusually comfortable around her and completely drawn to her. It was a well-known fact that he could be quite the smooth-talker with the ladies whenever he wanted to but never once had the lines slipped out involuntarily. And never once had they held such meaning and actual promise. And, what was even stranger was the fact that they were both enjoying it.
For what seemed like an eternity, the two remained in silence, locked in the gaze of the other. Everything seemed to disappear around them. Because of this, they did not hear the front door slam shut, nor did they hear the footsteps heading in their direction. They also didn’t see when Neville stopped in the entrance of the living room, watching them with a curious expression. He cleared his throat and then raised his eyebrows, quite surprised when neither one of them moved. He shook his head and walked into the room, flinging his keys on top of the coffee table. Even the vibration did nothing to stir Harry, who was seated on the same table.
“If you two stare any harder, you might just end up burning a hole in each other’s face,” Neville said, finally shaking the two out of their reverie.
Harry stood up quickly and spun around. “Nev, hey, you’re back early,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck.
Neville folded his arms and raised his eyebrows. “No, I’m not.” He nodded at the clock hanging on the far wall. “It’s after six, Harry.”
“Er, right.” Harry let out a shaky laugh and slipped his hands into his pockets.
Neville shook his head at him, trying desperately to stop from laughing. Instead, he turned to look at Ginny who was biting nervously at her lips and staring into her mug. “So, who’s this lovely lady?” he questioned, causing Ginny to look up at him.
She gave Harry a fleeting glance before answering, “Ginerva Weasley. But everyone just calls me Ginny.” She stood up and extended her arm. “It’s nice to meet you, Neville.”
Neville shook her hand but his eyes remained on Harry, giving him a questioning look. “Weasley, you say? How er -” He paused and cleared his throat. “- interesting.”
The three fell silent, Neville watching Ginny with a calculating gaze. So, this was the girl Harry had told him about? It was also the same girl he had specifically told Harry to leave alone. Obviously his friend’s insistence that he would was just a way to appease Neville. He shook his head. Leave it to Harry to do the extreme.
Just then, Hermione walked into the room. “I really think you two-”. She stopped short, the rest of her words dying on her lips when she spotted Neville. “Neville Longbottom?” she asked, looking at him questioningly.
Neville looked at her, confused, before finally registering who she was. “Hermione Granger?” Neville jogged over to her and pulled her into a hug. “I haven't seen you in ages.”
“Three years, to be exact,” she told him, smiling a friendly smile, “ever since I left the Ministry.”
“Er, you two know each other?” Harry and Ginny asked, simultaneously before looking at each other and smiling shyly.
“Um, yeah,” Hermione replied, taking notice of the exchange. “We worked at the Ministry together a few years back before I got the job at the art studio,” she added, giving Ginny a knowing look before switching her gaze to Harry.
“You never said anything about that,” he said.
“I didn’t realize it was this Neville you were talking about,” Hermione replied with a shrug. “Besides, ‘Neville’ is not an uncommon name, you know.”
“You were talking about me?” Neville asked with a playful glare.
“It’s not like that,” Harry tried to explain but Neville just laughed and waved it off.
“I was only joking,” he said. “So, why exactly are you all here?”
“Remember what we were talking about this morning?” When Neville nodded, Harry continued, “Well, I’ve decided to go through with it and Ginny has agreed to help, along with Hermione.”
“Huh.” Neville took a seat on the couch. “So, you three are going to work together to stop this war?”
“You do know you’re included in this right?” Harry told him, more of a statement than a question.
His friend laughed. “Yes, I know. I brought all the stuff I told you about. I just meant that I’m not doing any dirty work. That,” he added, pointing a stern finger at Harry, “is all you buddy.”
“Hey, is that an owl coming this way?” Hermione asked suddenly, pointing out of the window.
The other three in the room all turned to look out of the window. They stared for a few moments, not really seeing anything. Then, sure enough, a brown speck appeared about a hundred feet away, getting closer with every second. Only when it had gotten about five-feet from the window did Ginny, who had kept quiet ever since being introduced to Neville, stepped closer to the window. She stared, feeling as if she knew the owl. Its small size; the crooked way it flew and the hyperactive way it flapped its wings all seemed so familiar to Ginny. Then, she recognized it.
“It's Pigwidgeon,” she said, as though she expected the others to know what she meant.
“Who?” the remaining three asked, their faces scrunched as they looked at her.
Ginny, however, did not answer. Instead, she unlatched the window and slid it open. The tiny owl that Ginny accurately recognized as Pigwidgeon flew inside. It made a wide circle around the room, hooting loudly and then scurrying back and forth. Ginny rolled her eyes and grunted at the owl’s behaviour before calling him down. Pigwidgeon landed on the edge of the couch, near Harry and Ginny quickly removed the letter. When the owl hooted and flew away, Ginny stared down at the messy scrawl. A sudden sense of apprehension crept up her spine. Quickly opening the letter, she read it through quickly, her heart sinking with every word and her instincts being confirmed. She read it through a second time, silent tears stinging at her eyes and she could not manage to read it through a third time. She was pretty sure that the words on the page were real. The sudden drop of her face drove the others into worry. They just looked at her, thinking that she would return their gaze with an explanation. When she didn’t, Hermione took a small step forward.
“Ginny?” Hermione approached slowly, her words a mere whisper. “Is everything alright?”
Ginny shook her head and looked up at Hermione. For the second time that day, her eyes were filled with tears. When she replied to Hermione’s question, her words were whispered almost inaudibly. “My brother’s been killed.”
Hermione gasped and covered her mouth in disbelief while the two men remained silent, their eyes widening in shock. Neither of them knew Ginny’s brother but they felt the sting of hearing about someone’s death nonetheless. Slowly, Hermione reached her hand forward and slid the letter from Ginny’s grip. When the red-head made no objections, Hermione began to read the letter out loud.
I know that the last thing you want is for us to step back into your life or for you to step back into ours. But we need you right now, now more than ever. Dad really needs you.
Things are starting to get bad again, worse than last time. Bill has just been killed. It happened only a few hours ago but dad is not taking it well. I really think you should come because, like I said, we need you now more than ever, Ginny.
Please, come home, sis!
Love always, your brother
Although she had never known any of Ginny’s family, Hermione still felt a slight pang in her chest as she read the short but meaningful note. Ginny’s brother wasn’t just dead; he had been killed, intentionally taken from this world. Hermione through her arms around Ginny’s neck and her friend accepted the hug, wrapping her arms around Hermione’s back. She sobbed into Hermione’s shoulder, her heart weakened. She had lost yet another family member; another person she loved was dead.
Is it ever going to end? she thought bitterly. Then, she resolved herself. Yes, it will. And I’m going to make sure of it!
Ginny pulled away from Hermione’s hug and wiped at her eyes, sniffling as she did so. Both Harry and Neville had gotten to their feet and were now standing beside the two females.
“Ginny…” Harry started.
But the red-head just shook her head, and removed the letter from Hermione’s hand, crumpling it. “I have to go to my family. I have to see…for myself.”
Harry nodded in understanding. “Of course.”
Ginny linked her arm with Hermione’s and together the two exited the living room, heading towards the front door. Harry followed them, silently wondering if they would be returning. He had a feeling that her family was blaming his father for this. Because of that, Ginny might want to pull out. As if reading his mind, Ginny turned back to look at him as Hermione opened the door and stepped outside.
She gave him sad smile and said with conviction, “Don’t worry, we’ll be back. I want this to be over now more than ever. It’s time we end this feud, once and for all.”
Then, without another word, she and Hermione walked to the end of the driveway and Apparated with a soft ‘pop’.
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