The Weasley household was located on a piece of land far removed from any other signs of civilization. This was mostly done to keep the privacy Arthur Weasley so craved but separating the house from others was also a way to ensure that the majesty of the house – or, better yet, mansion – was fully exuded. With no other homes around, the five-story building (exclusive of basement and attic) looked far taller, as if it could touch the sky; the few adjacent towers and terraces added to this illusion. The surrounding yard was neatly trimmed and spread out so far that three games of Quidditch could take place simultaneously without any interference each other. A series of gazebos lined both the back and front gardens; these, when viewed from a bird’s eye perspective, formed a large ‘W’ with the house in the middle of it.
Even if no one knew the Weasleys and what they stood for, the sheer size of the place would still be enough to overwhelm them. From afar, the place seemed regal but from up close it was intimidating and imposing. What made matters worse was the fact that the sun had completely set; the darkness of the night just made the place look like something out of a Gothic novel - standing stark and quiet right before the mad heroine races out, the sudden clap of thunder and lightening masking her terrified screams and the eerie calls of some other-worldly being beckoning her from inside.
Hermione, who had been standing at the bottom of the front-porch-steps, shivered at the thought and shook her head to erase the image. She pulled her jacket closer to her and looked up the steps to where Ginny stood, quiet and unfocused. Her hand was balled into a fist, a few inches away from the door; the stance that meant she was about to knock but for some reason she hadn’t yet. They had been standing there for over fifteen minutes. Hermione had been fine during the first ten because she understood that Ginny had needed some time to compose herself. But, when she had lifted her hand to knock, she had paused and remained in that stance for five minutes and Hermione was slowly getting irritated.
When she saw Ginny’s hand move closer to the door, she raised herself up from leaning on the rail and moved to the next step, thinking that they were finally about to go inside. But then, the red-head shuffled her feet and dropped her hand a little. Hermione let out an aggravated sigh and stomped up the steps, stopping right beside her friend.
“Ginny,” she said forcefully, trying to shake her friend out of her revelry. “Are you going to knock anytime soon?”
“Huh?” Ginny asked, obviously out of it.
“Are you going to knock?” Hermione repeated slowly, stretching out each word. “We’ve been standing out here for like twenty minutes now.” Ginny still didn’t answer her, though; instead, the red-head bit her bottom lip and narrowed her eyes, still staring at the door. Hermione rolled her eyes and turned to the door. “Fine, then. I’ll do it.”
Ginny was knocked out of her reverie when Hermione’s arm brushed her shoulder in an attempt to raise it. Her eyes widened and she tried to scream, “Hermione, wait!” but her plea was far too late. Hermione had already knocked twice before she even managed to form the words in her brain, much less say them. She glared at her friend who shrugged.
“You were taking too long,” she said with another shrug.
“I was trying to prepare myself,” Ginny whispered harshly.
Hermione sighed. “I know that. But I have a feeling that if I had let you, we would have been standing out here ‘till thy kingdom come.”
“‘Till who?” Ginny asked, scrunching her face in confusion.
“Never mind, Gin.”
The sound of a lock clicking halted their conversation. They both turned just as the front door swung open and a tiny female house-elf stepped into the threshold, her neck craned upwards to look at them. She was dressed in a relatively clean white cloth with a red W sewn into the bottom hem. It was tied in a knot at both shoulders, giving off the appearance of a sleeveless dress. On her head was a matching tea-cosy from which her ears stuck out antennae-like. Her eyes were big, brown and rotund and Ginny recognized her at once.
The house-elf smiled up at Ginny and then gave a tiny bow. “Ms. Weasley has come home.” She stood up straight and stepped back to let the two friends inside. “It’s been a long time since Windy has had a chance to serve thee but she is very much delighted that Lady Weasley has returned.”
Ginny smiled and fell to her knees, pulling the tiny house-elf into a hug. Windy seemed slightly taken aback at first, looking at Ginny sideways with a frightened look; but eventually she relaxed and returned the gesture, wrapping her tiny arms around Ginny as best she could. Windy had been with the Weasley house for twenty-five years, working alongside Libby, so she knew that such affection was common.
“Your family is eagerly awaits your arrival, Miss.”
Ginny pulled away from the hug. “Where are they?”
Windy beckoned them forward and then turned, heading further into the house. As Ginny walked, she felt as if she was like a visitor, soaking in her surroundings. She looked around, soaking in the familiarity of the place and allowing her mind to register everything around her - from the moving portraits on the wall (“Hello, there, Miss Ginerva!”, “Oh, it’s so lovely to see you, dear!”, “Started on that next generation yet?”) to the many statues and giant figurines that lined the passageways. The tiles sparkled so cleanly beneath their feet that she could see their reflection in them (and noticed that Hermione was taking a gander, as well) and the patterns on the wall seemed to move in time with their movements.
“Your family awaits your arrival in there, Miss Weasley.” Windy said, drawing the two women’s attention. When Ginny nodded, she bowed once again and then disapparated.
Ginny sighed and turned to look at the door. She recognized it as the large oak door which led to her father’s office. She was never been allowed in any of the meetings that took place in there during her childhood so her visits to it were few and far between. She had only been inside once or twice, the last being when she had told her father of her decision to move out when she was seventeen.
“Are we going to go inside or do I have to knock again?”
The red-head looked at Hermione was staring at her with a raised eyebrow. When she didn’t say anything, Hermione sighed and raised her hand.
“Alright, Hermione, geesh!” She grabbed her friend’s hand and yanked it down. “Don’t be so impatient!”
“I was just ensuring that we don’t spend another twenty minutes in front of a closed door.”
Ginny shook her head and then reached for the door knob. She hoped it would be unlocked seeing as how her family was expecting her. Sure enough, it was. She turned the knob and slowly pushed the door open before taking a step forward. But, just as quickly, she jumped back over the threshold, trotting on Hermione’s foot in the process.
Shouts of, “Bloody hell, my toe, Gin!” mixed with, “What in the name of Merlin?” filled the hallway.
Ginny blinked her eyes before narrowing them and reclaiming her step. “Sorry about that, ‘Mione.” Then she turned to the occupants of the room and sighed, “I see you all still have those solid reflexes.”
At the sight of her and the sound of her voice, the five of Ginny’s brothers lowered their wands, which they had raised it when the door opened unexpectedly. They all mumbled quick apologies before Ron rushed forward from the pack, engulfing his little sister into a tight, bone-crushing hug.
“Ginny!” Ron exclaimed, his grip going even tighter. “I thought you wouldn’t come.”
“Hello, Ron.” Ginny managed to mumble, despite being deprive of oxygen.
At the sound of her strangled voice, Ron let her go and gave an apologetic smile. “Sorry.”
She lightly tapped his arm and then turned to the rest of her brothers. One by one, she hugged them all. “I missed you all so much.” She turned back at the door to see Hermione hobbling on her injured toe. She walked over to her friend and touched her shoulder. “I brought my best friend, Hermione, with me. I hope that’s ok.”
“Well -” Percy started but Ron interrupted him.
“Of course it’s ok.” He looked down at Hermione. “Are you alright?” he asked, gesturing to her foot.
“Oh, I’m fine,” she replied. “Just this old fatty here nearly broke my foot,” she laughed, poking Ginny’s side.
“That’s mostly our fault,” Ron said, ignoring Ginny’s protest. “We kind of startled her.”
“You were just being cautious,” Hermione said with a smile. “It’s no biggie.”
Ginny quirked an eyebrow at her best friend (who shrugged innocently in response) and then turned back to the look at the rest of her brothers. She noticed that it was only her brothers in the room. Her father was absent and a part of her was hoping to see him. As much as she hated to admit it, she worried about him on a daily basis and it would be good to talk to him after so long, reassure her fears.
When no one said anything, she cleared her throat and asked, “Is anyone going to tell me what happened to Bill?”
Before anyone could respond, the office door opened again and Arthur Weasley entered. He took no immediate notice of the new arrivals. His eyes were downcast, focused on the ground. His entire stature appeared weak with slumped shoulders and ruffled hair. He looked like a man who had been drained of all bits of energy. Finally, after the door was shut, he turned his gaze upwards and instantaneously spotted Ginny. Her stare drew him to a halt.
“Hello, Father.” Ginny moved closer to her father.
‘She still looks the same,’ he thought as he studied her. She was still dressed in her short, brown pants and halter-vest but her hair was now pulled back into a ponytail. For a split second, Arthur saw a younger version of his deceased wife, Molly, standing before him – from the way she walked straight to the color and shape of her eyes.
“Ginerva Weasley,” Arthur finally said, pulling his daughter into a hug. “I didn’t think I’d be seeing you again.”
She was completely caught off guard. Her father rarely hugged her and, when he did, it was never this…fatherly. Ginny gave in to the tight embrace and wrapped her arms around her father’s back. All the blame, all the hatred she had built up for her family and for their lifestyle disappeared in those few seconds and it truly felt like she was home.
“How did you know to come?” Arthur asked, finally pulling away.
“Ron sent Pigwidgeon with a letter,” Ginny replied, “and I came to see what happened.”
“There’s not much to tell,” Arthur said, walking away towards his desk. “He was attacked and killed, plain and simple. The Potter’s struck and won again. But not for long.”
Ginny felt all the emotions she had let go return full force in that moment. Her father’s voice had taken on a strict, almost uncaring tone – the same tone he used when he was discussing matters of business. Here it was, her brother had just been killed – murdered - and her father was treating the situation as if it was some other Gringott’s Bank merger or official Ministry dealing that could be solved with a few articulate words and one swish of a quill.
“Do you even care that your son is no longer here?” she asked before she could stop herself.
Arthur looked up at her. “Of course I care. As soon as I figure out how, I’m going to retaliate.”
“Retaliate?” she repeated, scandalized. “Is that how you’re going to handle your son’s murder? By going out and doing the same thing to someone else?”
“Ginny,” Arthur said, condescendingly. “Bill’s murder needs to be taught a lesson and the Potters must know that -”
“How do you even know it was the Potters?” Ginny shouted. Although she had only known Harry for a day, she strongly believed that his family was innocent and that there was some bigger picture to all this mess.
“Who else could have done it?” Percy asked, his words full of malice. “Who else would intentionally kill one of us?”
“Someone we don’t know maybe?” Ginny looked around but no one seemed to register her words. Hermione shrugged and took a few steps towards her, showing her that she was not in this alone. Ginny sighed and closed her eyes, rubbed at them. “Who was it exactly?” she questioned in a quieter voice.
The room was silent for a few more moments before Charlie answered, “Fenrir Greyback.”
Ginny froze in her actions and her eyes flew open, landing on Hermione immediately. Her friend’s face showed the same look of shock. Greyback?
“He attacked three of us actually,” Ron explained, not noticing the exchange between the two females. “Bill, Charlie and I were doing some patrols and then Greyback came out of nowhere. He turned into a werewolf and we ran, separated. Bill was the one he ran after and caught. He didn’t even have a chance to defend himself.”
“How do you -” Hermione started but Ron quickly answered, “We found his wand crushed under his body so it was highly unlikely that he managed to fight back.”
Hermione fell quiet and looked at Ginny, who wore a look of confusion on her face. She nudged her red-haired friend, and raised both her eyebrows, silently asking what she was thinking. Ginny stared at her a few moments before looking at Ron.
“How did he turn into a werewolf?” she asked. “It’s not the full moon.”
“He took some sort of potion,” her brother answered. “I don’t know what it was, though. He took it before i could see.”
“It was probably some form of Polyjuice Potion,” Hermione said, absentmindedly. “Sometimes the Potion can be altered or manipulated to turn the drinker into their alter-ego – like their animagus form, or, in this case werewolf - rather than just morphing them into another person.”
Ron looked stunned by her knowledge and smiled at her before turning to his brothers and father. They dived deep into a stimulating conversation, discussing other details about the attack.
Hermione took this opportunity to talk to Ginny. She stepped closer to her and whispered, “Are you going to tell them about Greyback attacking us?”
“No,” Ginny whispered back quickly. When Hermione asked her why not, she continued, “They already think the Potters are behind this. If I tell them about Greyback’s attempt to kill us, it will only work them into a serious fit of rage and drive them to go after Harry and his parents.”
“But your dad’s already planning on doing that,” Hermione pointed out.
“Yes,” Ginny agreed, “but he normally takes some time to plan which would give us time to get some of our own work done. If they hear about the attack, they’ll want to act now and we won’t be able to stop them. It’s best to leave that little piece of information buried for as long as possible.”
Hermione nodded in agreement, understanding Ginny’s point. Their current aim was to end the war and if Ginny’s father and brothers knew about the assault then it would drive them insane and possibly predatorily bloodthirsty, the Potters being their prey. The last thing they needed to happen before they could even get their plan underway was another act of violence that could possibly turn into the world’s biggest massacre. The two finally tuned back into the conversation just as it ended and Fred turned to look at Ginny.
“I can’t believe you actually came,” he said, giving her a big grin. “I thought you wouldn’t want to come back -”
“After leaving the way you did,” George finished.
“Of course I came back. Just because I left doesn’t mean I don’t still care about my family.”
“That’s funny,” Percy spat, walking over to her. “I’d figure caring would mean that you wouldn’t abandon your family!”
“Excuse me?” Ginny retorted, looking at Percy angrily. “How dare you accuse me of -”
“I thought caring about your family would mean that you’d stay here and stick it out like the rest of us!” Percy shouted at her, continuing with his tirade. His voice was loud and booming and it drove Ginny over the edge.
“Stick it out like the rest of you, huh?” She put her hands on her hips and glared at him before continuing to shout. “Yeah, ok. I do that and then what, Percy? What? I get myself mauled and killed like Bill or like mom?” Percy kept quiet but she could tell that he was still fuming. “I walked out on this ridiculous war because all it’s done is made our lives miserable and take people away from us.”
“This war is something that we do to protect our family,” Percy retorted, the level of his voice rising again.
“This war is something that needs to stop!” she shouted back at him.
“If we stopped acting in this war, who’s to say they will too? They’ll probably love it and keep coming after us. If we stop this war it could very well mean the death of all of us, not just some.”
“You don’t get it do you, Percy?” Ginny shouted, throwing her hands up in aggravation. “You’ve never managed to understand anything beyond your blind duty. This war is going on because of us; there’s no threat. The only danger to us is ourselves.”
“This war,” Arthur interjected before Percy could respond, “is all because of the Potter’s jealousy and greed.” He stood up from his desk. “They started it, trying to take away what is rightfully ours. But we are going to be the ones who finish it, and finish them.”
Ginny stood staring at her father, her breathing slightly heavy from the row that had ensued. And she was still getting angrier and more ticked off by the second. She wanted to rant and rave; she wanted to get them to see reason; she wanted to knock Percy across his head with a cauldron. Maybe then he’d catch some sense! Why couldn’t they see how futile this war was? All her father was interested in was maintaining a reputation and status, nothing more. If he wanted to end the war he could. But Ginny knew he never would. The truth of the matter was that he just didn’t want to be the one who backed out, the one who held up the white flag. No, he was far too damn proud to do that.
She turned away from her father and folded her arms. She felt Hermione lightly touch her shoulder and took a deep breath, knowing her friend wanted her to calm down. After a few moments, she felt her anger subside slightly. She didn’t come here to argue. She came here to say goodbye to her brother.
“Where’s Bill’s body?” she asked without turning back around.
Everyone in the room remained quiet for a few seconds, caught off guard by the abrupt change of subject.
“I’ll show you,” Ron finally answered.
Ginny lightly touched Hermione’s arm to let her know she’d be right back and then followed Ron out of the room. She wasn’t entirely sure if she was truly ready to see Bill’s body just yet but she could not stay in that room a moment longer or else she’d have to find that cauldron. Besides she needed space to think things through some more. In the few seconds it had taken for her father’s words to sink in, Ginny had realized the first thing she needed to do. She had to break down her family, mainly her father. Break him down and the entire Weasley opposition would be halted; break him down, and the blindness towards the situation could be removed. They would then be able to discover the truth about this war. With that settled, they should eventually reconcile the animosity that existed between the two families.
The living room was completely quiet. On one couch, both Harry and Neville sat next to each other, fully engrossed in what they were doing. Harry was slouched and had one of his legs thrown over the chair’s arm, his foot dangling over the side. Neville’s feet were propped on the very edge of the coffee table – one of the few bare spaces on it. Hundreds of file folders which Neville had managed to get were arranged in tall stacks on top of the coffee table, the floor and in one of the arm chairs. They were all filled with information on the Weasleys and Harry was hoping that some clue about the past would be in them. But, so far, he was coming up short.
He sighed and threw down the folder he had been flipping through. It landed on top of a stack that was situated next to his chair and was just as tall. It was like the fiftieth file on the Weasley family he had examined and he had still been unable to find anything substantial. Everything so far was trivial stuff - financial investments, magical progress reports, school records, occupational records and a few copies of award certificates, many of them being Order of Merlin, First Class. There was nothing about law issues, infractions, or any behaviour that could be related to the war. It was as if that part of the Weasley life was stripped from all records.
“Nothing in this one either,” Neville announced, throwing a rather large binder on top of his own pile that was about the same height as Harry’s.
“This is just pointless,” Harry said, rubbing his eyes. “I thought there would be something in these files seeing as how the Ministry keeps information on just about everything a person and their family does.”
Neville nodded. “They do, we just haven’t come across anything useful yet.” He scanned the files that were perched on the coffee room table twice and noticed one on the far left side that had no label on it. He reached for it and picked it up, opening it with a questioning look. “This one is unlabelled,” he said, flipping over the first few pages.
“That’s not very helpful though is it?”
Harry yawned and leaned back, taking off his glasses before closing his eyes. He was getting tired from the monotony and the meticulous work. He knew it was necessary and could prove beneficial but it didn’t mean he had to like it. He was also fairly distracted. Ginny and Hermione had been gone for quite some time and he was starting to wonder if everything was alright. He knew her family would never do anything to her but the thought did little to squelch his desire to know if she was ok. Then, when he realized what that statement meant, he shook his head. What the hell is wrong with me?
“Actually, this one might be a start.” Neville paused and leaned towards his friend. “Look at this page.”
Harry opened one eye and stared at Neville. “How about you just tell me what it says?” he suggested, shutting his lid again.
Neville rolled his eyes. “Because you may very well fall asleep any second,” he retorted, dropping the folder in Harry’s lap. “Just look at it.”
Harry sighed and put his glasses back on before opening his eyes and picking up the folder. The heading on the indicated page was enough to draw his attention - ‘Deaths of 1987’. It was the same year his brother and Mrs. Weasley had been killed. He scanned the page quickly, going through the surprisingly short list before finally reaching Molly Weasley’s name. He traced a line across to the other side of the page with his finger but was shocked to find that the space next to her name – which was supposed to contain the cause of death - was empty.
“That’s odd,” he murmured out loud, sitting up straight and rereading it to make sure. “Why is the space empty? I thought they knew the cause of death.” He looked at Neville with a quirked eyebrow.
“I thought so, too,” Neville said with a shrug. “Almost everyone who knew about her knew she was murdered. Even if they didn’t know how, it should still say ‘murdered’ just for confirmation.”
Harry nodded and looked back at the paper. He traced the line again but saw that the space was indeed empty. He shook his head and then moved down, only to get another surprise. The name underneath Molly’s was not the one he thought it would be. Below hers was the wizard ‘Elvin Horatio’ and the cause of death marked as a ‘fatal broom accident’. Harry was expecting to see the name ‘David Potter’ and the cause of death as ‘murder’, but it was not there.
“What’s wrong?” Neville asked suddenly, noticing how Harry jumped to his feet and began flipping frantically through the thin file, a look of confusion on his face.
“It’s not here,” Harry said, after scanning the entire thing twice. “His name isn’t in here.”
“Who? David’s name?” Neville stood up as well, reaching for the folder.
Harry nodded as his friend took the file. “I’d think it would be in there seeing as how he was killed on the same damn day.”
“Are you sure you didn’t just overlook it?” Neville asked, going through the file at a slower pace.
“I’m positive. The name after hers is some Horatio character.” Harry leaned over Neville’s arm and traced his finger down the page again, pointing at the name he had read. “See. And David’s name isn’t on the next page either and the page after that lists the births of that year.”
“That’s very strange,” Harry commented, staring at the list for a few moments before he began pacing. “I mean, David was murdered a mere few hours after Mrs. Weasley’s body was discovered so his name should be there!”
Neville continued to listen to his friend list off reasons when a sudden thought struck him. He looked up and grabbed Harry’s shoulder to stop him from walking back and forth.
“Harry,” he said, his face contorted with confusion, “did they ever find David’s body?”
Harry nodded immediately. “There was a funeral and everything.”
“Are you sure?”
“Nev, there was a funeral,” Harry repeated, raising his palms upwards for emphasis.
“Are you sure a body was in the coffin?” Neville pressed, confusing Harry even more.
“Yes,” Harry replied, scrunching his eyebrows. “Neville, what are you getting at?”
“If there was a body and a funeral - meaning your brother would have been dead - why isn’t his name on the list?” Neville asked but Harry remained quiet, slowly cottoning on. “Folders like these,” he added, jiggling the file in his hand, “that mark deaths and births are magically altered; every time a person is born or dies, it’s recorded with a magic quill.”
“So if my brother died,” Harry voiced, his eyes going big. “Then his name should have been written and his death recorded.”
After a few moments, Neville asked quietly, “Harry, do you think there’s a possibility that David might still be…alive?”
Harry kept quiet, his eyes fixed on the folder. Could there be a possibility that his brother was alive? He had always prayed, held on to some kind of hope when he was younger but as he grew older, he came to accept that his brother was indeed dead. Now, it seemed as though that might not be true. Like Neville said, all deaths are magically recorded so if he did die, it should be there; but it wasn’t. So, since David’s name was missing, it could be a very great possibility that he was still alive. The thought only raised another question: if he was still alive, where was he?