The masked-man’s voice was loud and booming, boisterous beyond belief. When he spoke, the walls shook as if in fear, causing a few of the portraits and paintings hanging on the wall to fall to the ground. Their glass coverings splintered, littering the ground as they did so. Frames cracked into jagged pieces, leaving the contents scattered unprotected on the floor. The men inside the room recoiled, taking as many steps back as they could in order to save themselves from the man’s wrath. He was rarely the victimizer but his wrath was infamous nonetheless and any sensible being knew never to cross him.
Greyback, too, understood this. He had witnessed the outcome of the man’s anger many times – fiery deaths; slow torture; immense pleasure to the point of pain. He had watched as one of their very own cloaked men was tortured to the point of ultimate insanity. He had seen for himself a woman lose her limbs one-by-one all because she had not wanted to give her virginity nor her loyalty to their leader. It was all sickening and insanely horrific yet highly intriguing to him and, being the sadistic being that he was, immensely gratifying all the same.
But now that he was on the receiving end of the stick, his feelings were no longer the same. For the first time in his entire life, Greyback was at the mercy of someone else, quivering in fear and terrified at the fierceness of the man’s voice. He lay on the ground in the middle of the room. His clothes were nothing but scraps, pieces of cloth remaining after his transformation earlier that night. His bodily scent reeked heavily of dirt and blood, affects from the tumultuous murder he had just committed a mere five hours ago – a murder that did not sit too well with his boss.
“I sent you after two specific people.” The masked-man walked closer to Greyback, towering over the werewolf. “Yet, it would seem that someone other than those targets has been attacked and killed.”
Greyback closed his mouth, unable to formulate a proper sentence. He had thought it was a good idea at the time, had even ditched his partner, Draco Malfoy, so that he could go through with it. His hope was that by attacking one of the Weasleys, the possibility of them being discovered would lessen. It probably worked. Knowing how Arthur Weasley thought, his suspicions would automatically rest on the Potters.
Taking a deep breath, the werewolf tried to organize his thoughts and eventually began to explain his reasons. Once he was done, the masked leader turned away, clamping his hands behind his back in thought. The room remained silent, watching him as he began to pace back and forth, a look of pure concentration on his face. Feeling that he was safer than before, Greyback shuffled to his feet and took a step back. Just as he did, the man turned to look at him.
“Your reasons, Greyback are understandable.” He unfolded his arms and shook his head. “But they also go against our goal and, therefore, look incredibly stupid on your part.”
“I just thought-”
“ENOUGH!” The man’s voice had risen again. “I don’t care what you thought. You were given instructions and you went against them, defiantly. Do you really think that was a smart thing to do?”
Greyback shook his head as he watched the man remove his wand from his pocket. He closed his eyes, trying to brace himself for what was to come. The Cruciatus curse hit him hard. Although he was a massive man, inhumanely bulky and strong, the force and anger laden behind the curse was enough to make him writhe in pain. He hated moments like this, when he was weakened and made to seem like every other being. People feared him greatly yet, here he was, being tortured and made to look like a fool. Loyalty definitely came with a price.
After a few moments, the curse was lifted. Greyback moved to his knees and then shakily stood. He blinked a few times, trying to dispel the haziness in his eyes. After a few seconds, his heavy form began to prove its worth. The jerking in his limbs waned and shortly thereafter, he began to feel as he did before the torture.
“You are one of my most valuable assets, Greyback.” The man’s voice had returned to the eerie calmness expected from him. “I cannot afford to lose you but if you disobey orders given to you once more…” He paused and gave a stern piercing look that was unmistakable, even through the opaque material of the mask. “I’ll be forced to get rid of you.”
Greyback finally spoke and said, “I understand, sir.” His voice was raspy and he cleared his throat to remove the feeling.
“No, I don’t think you do.” The man walked away and sat at his desk. When he looked up, he waved his arm. “Go get to work, all of you. Leave us alone.” One by one, the other men inside the room began to exit, eventually leaving the two participants alone.
Then, the man sighed and continued. “With another Weasley dead, the war will continue. And that’s all well and fine but what happens when the truth that you attacked both a Potter and a Weasley comes out?” He paused, staring at Greyback again, who looked down, feigning remorse. “What will happen is that there will be an inquiry, and all tracks lead to you which will eventually lead to this operation. We can’t have that, can we?”
“No, we can’t.”
“So, what do you think needs to be done?”
Greyback looked up. “I’ll fix it, sir.”
“Too right it will.” The man regained his footing. “But by Draco. How you got away from him I have yet to understand but at least that leaves him with the opportunity to fulfill his duties and do some damage control.”
“Is there anything you want me to get done?”
“Just keep a sharp eye. When your expertise is needed, then you’ll be summoned.”
The werewolf nodded and then turned, staggering out of the room. When he disappeared, the man sighed and grabbed a bottle of fire whiskey off of his bar table. Pouring a shot glass, he took a huge gulp and grimaced from the burning. Then, he grabbed the entire bottle and hurled it against the door, causing it to shatter and the amber liquid to spill over the floor. Just as he cleared it with a wave of his wand, a tiny voice echoed from behind the door.
“Sir, you’re wanted at work. An owl was just sent explaining why.”
Cursing under his breath, the man walked towards the door and yanked it open angrily. Without even pausing, he pushed past the house-elf, barely managing to grab the scrap of parchment explaining why he was needed. He read it over quickly and then rolled his eyes. It was such a shame that a man like him was still holding up pretenses. Here he was a powerful and influential wizard and yet he was still at the beckoning call of others.
‘Not for long’ he quickly admonished, a sinister smile creeping onto his face. He shed his mask and then removed his heavy cloak, his long blonde hair appearing suddenly. He need only keep up his pretenses for a little while longer before things changed and he was in his rightful place. Only a matter of time.
Bill Weasley’s body was being held in a small room located in the lowest level of the house. It had taken Ron and Ginny close to ten minutes to navigate their way to the floor from Arthur’s office and they were now making their way down the hall towards the last room. The place held an old, musky scent, one that made Ginny’s nose wrinkle in displeasure. It was also fairly cool, kept so, Ron had said, in order to preserve Bill’s body. Much to his dismay, cobwebs and recent spider webs lined the walls and hung from the ceiling. He shuddered every time they passed one and would mutter underneath his breath whenever he accidentally bumped into one.
Ginny would have normally tittered at the display. She always found her brother’s severe arachnophobia slightly amusing. But not tonight. Instead, she remained completely quiet. She had her arms wrapped around herself in an attempt to both keep warm and comfort herself. She was sad, nervous and scared to see her brother. The last time they had talked had been almost six months ago. It was under amicable circumstances but it was not a moment that would make it into the category of strong, meaningful conversation. She was also feeling angry at her father and at Percy’s ignorance. They were being so rash and incompetent that it boiled her blood. Then, on top of all of that there was her slight worry about what she was doing. Teaming up with Harry might not have been the best decision. He was marked as an enemy for one thing but it was their sudden attraction that frightened her; something as complicated as a relationship with him could not bode well. It made her anxious and added to her present vulnerability.
“Are you sure you’re up to this, Gin?”
The red-head was shaken out of her musings and she looked up, meeting the blue eyes of her brother. She nodded in response to his question. “Yes, I’m fine.”
“Alright, well, we’re here.” He gestured to the door they were now standing in front of.
“H-how does he look?” she asked, her voice small and unsure.
Ron sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “Not…not that great,” he confessed honestly.
“I guess I should see for myself,” Ginny replied, unfolding her arms. She reached for the knob and turned it. Before she could open it, she felt a pressure on her arm and turned to look at Ron.
“Listen, sis,” he said, dropping his hand, “I’m glad you came back. Dad…well, actually all of us have missed you.”
She nodded. “I’ve missed all of you, too, Ron. And I’m sorry I’ve been so estranged. I just, I just really wanted to get away from the craziness.”
“You don’t have to explain anything to me,” her brother said, kissing the top of her head. “I completely understand.” He turned and stared down the hallway. “I’ll be just down the way when you’re done.”
Ginny nodded then turned back to the doorway. Taking a deep breath, she pushed it open and stepped over the threshold. Immediately, a wave of chilly air welcomed her and she shivered involuntarily from the sudden rise in temperature. Once she was adjusted, she closed the door behind her and leaned against it for a few moments before advancing further into the room. It was dark, eerily so and far cooler than the hallway. The room was bare save for a few adornments. Thick cloths hung over the few windows and a few candelabras were lit, casting dreary shadows on the wall. She blinked her eyes rapidly, trying to adjust to the dim setting. When she was finally able to see, she registered the table that had been constructed in the middle of the room.
She approached it slowly, stopping once she was directly in front of it. She knew it was Bill’s body but she was apprehensive nonetheless. The bottom of his feet protruded slightly, hanging over the edge of the table by a few inches, while the rest of his body was covered in a thick, plain cloth, matching that of the mock-curtains. The material was darkened a deep crimson in some places, stained by his blood. The top of the sheet where his face was covered was caked the heaviest amount of blood.
Ginny swallowed when she noticed it and reached her hand towards it. Her fingers trembled as she grabbed the edge of the sheet and she had to take a few more calming breaths before gently pulling the cloth down. In some places, she had to tug a little harder where the material had stuck to his skin and seeped into a few of the deeper cuts. Finally, after a few moments Bill’s face and the top part of his chest was exposed.
She felt a choking sob escape as she took in the sight. He was scarred beyond recognition. One half of his face looked as if it had been burned away while the other half was littered in deep scratches and teeth marks. His chest was discolored and bruised a sickening shade of purple mixed with blue. Dried blood covered every inch of his skin.
Ginny covered her mouth to quiet the sobs and then lightly touched her dead brother’s shoulder. His body was cold and she could trace the scars perfectly because of how deep they were. A few traces of blood came off on her finger but she ignored it. Her mind was too busy reeling, trying its best to accept the fact that her brother was dead and gone. She had never gotten to tell him goodbye, never told him how much he meant to her. It was like the day of her mother’s death all over again – the horrific death and the gut-wrenching guilt.
“I’m so sorry, Bill.”
Ginny felt hot tears build in the corners of her eyes, temporarily blurring her vision. She blinked to dispel them and felt as they trickled down her face. Soon, more followed and she removed her hand from over her mouth, resting it on his arm.
“I can’t believe it. I never even…never imagined…that you of all people would -” She stopped and inhaled, her voice getting shaky. “W-we’ve been th-through so much you and me. You were my f-f-favorite big br-brother. You always stood up for me when-whenever Ron or-or Fred and George tried to bully me.”
She took another deep breath and allowed the ghost of a smile to take over as memories flooded her.
“I remember that one time when Fred and George were practicing the hover charm and tried to dangle me over the lake.” She let out a tearful chuckle. “But it backfired and they dropped me into the water. It was you who came rushing to my rescue. You were a whole lot angrier than mom was that day.”
She sighed. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, now. With all this mess, this war is probably only going to get worse.” Ginny shook her head as she felt tears start to fall again, this time from frustration. “Dad refuses to see reason. He just won’t listen to anyone but himself. And then there’s Percy. He’s acting like the usual prick, of course. I don’t understand how they can be so cruel and vindictive.”
Then, she bent down and whispered, “I’m so scared, Bill. I just can’t shake the feeling that this war is going to end with everyone dying. I’m trying my hardest to stop it.” The feeling of worry seeped in again and she shuddered, trying to dispel the notion. “You of all people would understand my desperation. I know I shouldn’t be working with him but Harry understands my plea and wants this war to stop just as badly as I do.”
She paused and stared at her beloved brother. “I wish you were here, Bill.”
Ginny rested her head on Bill’s shoulder, closing her eyes and sighing. She was trying greatly to accept that her brother was dead but it was proving quite hard to do. He had been there for her entire life. She had never even thought twice about it. Bill was just someone that would show up at the right moments, who always had the hugs and the kisses that could comfort anyone. He was such a great person, but now he was gone.
She squeezed her lids shut and exhaled. Just then, she felt a prickle on her neck and a soft voice whispered, “Ginny.”
She shot up quickly and looked around. The voice whispered again but she didn’t see anyone. The door was still closed and the windows were still blocked. She straightened and took a step back from the table. A strong gust of wind blew past her, nearly knocking her over. She scrunched her eyebrows in total confusion. The windows were closed and the curtains weren’t even flickering as if they had been disturbed. Where the hell did the wind come from?
“How could you be such a traitor?!”
The sudden shout startled Ginny and she jumped, turning around. No one was there.
“He’s no good, Ginny.” Another strong burst of wind brushed her from behind, pushing her a few inches forward. She spun back wildly. But there was still nothing to see. “You’re a traitor, Ginny! A traitor! A TRAITOR!”
“STOP IT!” She looked back and forth, her ponytail whipping left and right as she did so. “Who are you?” she cried. No response. “Show yourself!”
Just then, someone gripped her roughly by the arm and she started. When she turned around, she found herself staring squarely into Bill’s dismantled face. “Bill?” she whispered under her breath as she felt tears prickle her eyes.
“How could you, Ginny?” His voice was hoarse, deep and eerily unfamiliar. “I needed you! But you were off with some git who’s using you!” Bill jumped off the table, still holding tightly on Ginny’s wrist. He shook her violently as he continued. “You betrayed me; you betrayed us all! You should’ve been there to help me! You could have saved me!”
“I didn’t know,” Ginny pleaded, tears streaming heavily now. “I swear! I’m sorry, Bill.” She fought against him but his grip was iron-clad and seemed to tighten with every pull she made.
“You’re a bloody liar!” He yanked at her wrist and pushed her down, causing her to crumble weakly to her knees. “You’re not sorry! You’re not sorry at all!” He pulled the sheet off of him, revealing his dismantled body. It looked even more gruesome than before and Ginny felt her skin crawl from the sigh. “Look at what he did to me! You could have stopped this, Ginny! You should have been there!”
Bill’s eyes went red and his grip tightened even more. His entire body seemed to come alive and the numerous werewolf bites, cuts and teeth marks began to bleed, crimson liquid oozing from them as if they were fresh wounds. Ginny tried to recoil but couldn’t move. He was far too strong for her to fight and she couldn’t reach her wand. She felt her own skin start to tear at the spot where Bill was holding her and watched frantically as blood escaped and began to slide down her arm. She pulled against his hold but he only laughed and gripped tighter.
“Let me go!” she cried, her voice panicky.
“You’re not going anywhere, Ginny!” Bill’s voice mixed deepened and seemed to blend in with the other voices she had heard earlier as he repeated his previous words. “You’re a traitor! A traitor! A TRAITOR!”
The entire room started to get misty. Thick clouds of smoke seemed to seep in from every corner. Ginny’s fear rose higher and higher as the mist began to cover her. Desperate, she ignored the pain aching in her wrist and began to tug against Bill’s grip. She pulled and pulled, thinking only of getting away. Finally she managed to wriggle herself free and ran for the door. She grabbed the knob, turned it, and wrenched the door open. Without so much as a consideration of looking back, she ran out the room with so much force that she collided with the wall outside. But she ignored the sudden pain in her shoulder and kept going. The voices kept screaming in her head but she kept running. As she banked the corner she collided with something and fell to the ground, screaming as they grabbed a hold of her arms.
“No!” she shouted, fighting back. “Let me go! Go away!”
“Ginny! Ginny! It’s Ron!”
Her brother’s voice rose over her own frantic screams and she stopped struggling. Ginny looked up to see her brother kneeling in front of her, his face contorted into one of concern. She let out a loud sob and collapsed against the wall, breathing heavily. Tears continued to fall down her face, curving under her chin and dropping to the ground. Ron gently placed his hands on her shoulders and looked directly into her face.
She started ranting incoherently. “I didn’t mean - I’m so sorry – I didn’t want – Bill – and the voices – and I just -” Sobs continued to rack at her body and she just shook her head. “I don’t mean to be a traitor. I just want it to stop.” She broke down and started to cry, curling into a ball as Ron comforted her.
“It’s ok,” he cooed, rubbing her back. “Everything’s gonna be fi-”
She jumped up suddenly and started pointing, cutting off Ron’s words of comfort. “Bill. He’s not dead. He’s alive!”
Ron, still crouched on the ground, rubbed his eyes and said, “Ginny, I know you’re upset but there’s no way-”
“I’m serious!” she shouted, interrupting him once again.
Ron stared up at her. She looked unbelievably scared. A few strands had come lose from her ponytail and her clothes were rumpled. Her eyes were darting back and forth far too quickly to keep track of their direction. He sighed and straightened. Before he could say anything, Ginny grabbed his hand and practically pulled him down the hallway. They moved quickly and, once they were in front of the door, she raised a trembling hand and pointed.
Ron, keeping his eyes on Ginny, opened the door. Only then did he turn away from her and looked inside the room. It looked the same as it did when he had first gone to see Bill. The table, candles, the curtains, they were all in tack. He sighed and turned his head sideways so he could see Ginny out the corner of his eye.
“I only see Bill lying on the table.”
Ginny, who had been wringing her hands nervously, raised her head. “What?” She pushed past Ron and looked inside, only to see that Ron was right. Had she been hallucinating? Was it all just her imagination?
“Ginny, what’s going on?”
Ginny shook her head and looked down in confusion. She didn’t know how to answer her brother’s question. She could have sworn that something sinister had happened in that room. That some evil spirit had entered it and possessed Bill, causing him to come back to life and confront her, practically threaten her. Suddenly, she remembered something. Bill had been gripping her. She looked down at her wrist, expecting to see a cut and blood. But nothing was there.
Suddenly, Hermione burst into the room. She stopped beside Ron and placed her hands on her knees, panting heavily.
“I'm sorry for the intrusion,” she said in between huge gulps of air. “But we have to go. I contacted Mrs. Pompey to see if everything is alright and she is in a right state about the mess.” Finally catching her breath, she straightened and only then noticed the expressions on Ron and Ginny’s faces. “Is something wrong?”
Ginny looked at her and shook her head. “No.” Then, before Hermione respond and Ron could say something to the contrary, she spun on her heels. “We better get going, ‘Mione, before Mrs. Pompey has our necks.” She took her best friend by the arm and headed out the door.
“Just forget it, Ron,” she said, hugging him. “If there’s any news or anything, let me know. Bye, for now.”
Ron nodded, albeit reluctantly, and watched as Ginny and Hermione headed back down the passageway and disappeared around the corner. Jamming his hands into his pockets, he sighed and looked back into the room before closing the door. As he made his way back to his father’s office, he tried to figure out what could have possible spooked Ginny. She had been beyond hysterical and was talking gibberish – all of which was completely unlike her. And then there was the matter of Hermione’s message. What kind of mess could they have let at the studio to warrant such immediate attention? He shook his head and shrugged, knowing he would know eventually.
Ron never liked it when he didn’t know what was going on. And he always found a way to figure it out.
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