Chapter 1 : Killing Me Softly
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Disclaimer: I do not own Harry potter, though I wish I did so I would know when the next book is coming out…back to the point, I only own the original characters and the plot, but that can be compromised at times.
Ginny Weasley’s seventh and final year at Hogwarts was beginning. As she looked around the Great Hall, she realized that faces she had seen so many times before were gone and the ranks were thinned among all the tables.
*But then, that’s what war does: it kills and takes people…good people away from the world,* she thought to herself and attempted to concentrate on the Sorting. Things just weren’t the same, though.
The whole hall was subdued and seemed darker than before. The light that always came from Professor Dumbeldor was nonexistent. The poor old man had passed away that horrible day Voldemort had, finally, been imprisoned in the small black marble that had been thrown into the ocean just days before the beginning of the new semester.
“Ginny, did you hear me?” Collin Creevy demanded, looking at his absent-minded friend.
“No, Collin, I’m sorry. Do you mind repeating?” she said, snapping back to herself.
“I said, ‘has anyone seen Harry yet?’”
“No. There hasn’t been a whisper. Why?” She raised an eyebrow at her friend.
“I was just wondering. Can’t trust everything one reads in the paper, can one?” He turned to his kidney pie and dug in with enthusiasm only a teenage boy could have for food.
“I’ll be sure to keep you updated, Collin,” she muttered and began picking at her own food. “As soon as someone decides to update me.” With a vicious stab, she skewered a potato and shoved it into her mouth. The first years sitting nearby looked at each other nervously. Then they ducked their heads to concentrate on their own food.
At last, everyone was too stuffed to do more than sit and talk and Professor McGonnigal stood to give the first speech of the year.
“It saddens me to see this hall so empty, but it is a relief to see those of you who have returned to begin and finish your magical education. We feel the loss of three professors this year, including our Headmaster. They did great things for this institution and they will be sorely missed.
“I have been named Headmistress, so was upon me to uncover replacements for the open positions. Professor Marks has agreed to take on Transfiguration. She is supremely pleased to be joining us this year.” A tall woman with steely gray and brown hair stood and smiled at the students. “Professor Marlon will be taking on the Care of Magical Creatures class, seeing as how Hagrid has moved to France with his wife.” A slight man in robes two times too big stared stonily at the congregation. “And, finally, Professor Blake will be taking the Defence Against the Dark Arts Position. Hopefully, he will last longer than previous professors.” A tall and handsome young man lurched to his feet. He was devastatingly handsome. All the girls swooned. “I do hope that all of you enjoy this year.
“And one more thing. There will be a masquerade ball on Christmas this year, but only fourth-years and up are allowed to attend. Please keep this in mind, younger students, when making plans for the break. Now, off to bed with the lot of you. Classes start in the morning.”
“Hey, Ginny, what’s the new password?” Rose McCowen asked with a smile as they climbed the Grand Staircase.
Ginny herself scowled slightly; wondering how she was supposed to know when she remembered the Prefect Badge pinned to her chest. She laughed softly to herself and thought for a moment. “Bat Wings, I think. It’s hard to remember after all this time.”
The other two sniggered and continued their climb. “You’re just getting too old, Ginny-girl. Too old,” Collin said, clapping her on the shoulder.
“I do believe that I’m six months younger than you are, spindle-legs,” Ginny reminded him with a playful shove. “It’s only a matter of time before you’re affected, too.”
The three tumbled into the hallway leading to painting of the fat lady in her pink dress.
When Ginny fell into bed that night, she laid awake thinking about who would have the courage to ask her to the dance. There was no Neville this year, to ask her out of desperation. It would have to be someone who didn’t mind that she had been in the final battle.
One hand strayed across her stomach and she could feel the scars through the thin fabric of her worn shirt. She had nearly died, but she had been awake when Harry had blown Lord Voldemort’s new body into nothing and had, somehow, imprisoned his spirit in the marble that had been in his pocket. He had been playing with Charlie’s youngest child just hours before the battle had broken out.
“Hey, Ginny, are you awake?” Rose’s soft voice wandered across to room to Ginny’s ears.
“Yea. What’s wrong?”
“When…when you were fighting, were you afraid of dying?”
“Then, why did you fight?”
“Because I love my family and he did not deserve to command the world. It was just wrong and that meant more to me than my fear.”
“Oh.” There was a long silence before saying, “Ginny, I’m glad you fought, because I couldn’t do it.”
Tears formed in the corners of Ginny’s eyes. “I understand, Rose. I wouldn’t do it again, given the chance. There was blood everywhere and there were so many dead…I never want to see that again in my life.”
“I’m sorry to make you remember,” Rose whispered.
“Sometimes, things need to be remembered, so you can over come them.”
“Were you hurt during the battle, Ginny?”
To this, Ginny had no answer.
“Welcome to another year at Hogwarts, class. Today, we will study the bubble head charm. In our next class, we will go down to the lake to practice. Take good notes, or something may go horribly wrong,” Professor Flitwick said the next afternoon. The Griffindors were having double Charms. There were scattered groans around the room at the thought of having to take notes on Bubble Head charms for two hours, but, otherwise, there was no other protest.
“My hand is cramping,” Collin hissed softly as they scribbled on their parchment. Ginny glanced out the window and guessed that there was thirty minutes left in the class. “How much more can there be?”
“Professor, I’m sorry in interrupt, but Madam Promfy has asked for Ms. Weasley’s presence, if you can spare her just now.” Everyone looked up at the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. Somehow, he had made it into the room without anyone noticing his presence.
“Of course. Ms. Weasly, I trust you will get the rest of your notes from one of your classmates.”
“Yes, Professor,” she groaned, stuffing her things into her bag and weaving through the desks to reach the door.
“Ms. Weasly, she’s waiting for you in Professor McGonnigal’s office. It’s this way.”
“Do you know what they want?” Ginny demanded, huffing slightly with the effort of keeping up with the professor’s strides.
“No idea, and it isn’t any of my business.” He came to an abrupt halt in front of a gargoyle. “Wiggle Fig,” he growled and the gargoyle hopped aside. A doorway appeared with a rising staircase inside. The two magic users stepped on and rode the dizzying stairs to the top.
Professor Blake knocked sharply on the door and opened it for Ginny. He shut it firmly behind her and Ginny was trapped with the three professors.
“Ms. Weasly, we have been informed of your recent…wounds and Madam Promfy was worried that there might be something magically wrong with them. Do you mind if we have a look?” Professor McGonnigal looked at Ginny imploringly.
“Why is he here, then?” the fiery girl demanded sharply, motioning to the young professor at her back.
“Professor Blake has is well known for his research on the Dark Arts. He would know a curse when he sees one.”
“Fine, but I’ll tell you that they’re just battle wounds,” Ginny sighed and removed her robe, then she untucked her shirt and vest from her wool slacks and pulled it up. The room filled with silence. Ginny knew her stomach was laced with a net-like map of angry red and purple scars.
“What did this to you?” Professor Blake demanded, coming close to lay one cool finger against the largest one and trace the length. “I don’t recognize these marks from anything I’ve studied about curses.”
“Humans weren’t the only things fighting in that battle. There were other things, too, evil things. They killed so many in just a matter of minutes…” Ginny shuddered.
“Perhaps I’d best take over, Professor.” Madam Promfy shoved the young man aside and peered closely at Ginny’s abdomen. “Ah, my dear, you were attacked by a unicorn.”
“I was WHAT?” Ginny demanded, thinking of the dark thing that had clawed her to pieces.
“Not a unicorn. She means an Anicorn, an evil unicorn. They sided with the Death Eaters. They have sharp, cloven hooves, and they sharpen their horns until they are more like daggers than horns. Poor girl. You haven’t had an easy time these past few weeks, have you?”
Ginny didn’t look at any of the adults. She could feel Professor Blake’s burning questions, but she didn’t want to answer them. Ever.
“Ms. Weasley, would you like to share with the class why we do not go near the Venomous Tanticula?” Ginny snapped back to herself in the middle of a Herbology lesson later that week with Professor Sprout’s question.
“Because of it’s tentacles, Professor. The plant has been known to grab unsuspecting victims and eat them. Whole.”
“Very good. Five points to Griffindor. And why, Mr. Harris, do we not want that to happen?”
“Because you’ll have to write a death-notice to our parents?” someone in the back of the class whispered loudly. Everyone giggled and James Harris turned bright red.
“Ten points from Griffindor, Mr. Trewlin. You may be new to Hogwarts, but you should be old enough to know better.”
Patrick Trewlin’s table partner, Colin Creevy, smacked the boy in the back of the head when Professor Sprout wasn’t looking. Ginny turned at the sound of a heavy body being thrown against the table behind her and gave both boys a look that shamed them.
After the lesson, the Griffindors were headed inside to do some of the load of homework that had been piled on them during the week.
“So much for a good night’s sleep,” Ginny sighed to Rose as they commandeered a table in the library. “I’ll be up ‘till midnight working all this out.”
“I know…I know, please don’t remind me,” the other muttered, scrubbing her face. “You’d think seventh year was supposed to be the easiest of them all, but they seem convinced to drown us in our own ink. My CUTICLES are stained black, Ginny. My *cuticles *.”
Ginny sniggered softly to herself and pulled out the beginning of the nasty essay on transformation potions and got started.
After over an hour, Ginny’s eyes were beginning to cloud over and her hand was cramped. She was forced to stop and rest for a while. She glanced around the library and found, with some surprise, that it had filled up while she had been working.
“Hey, Gin, do you think you could help me out with my Arithmacy?” Collin asked, plopping himself down at the girl’s table.
“No way, Collin. I may be stupid, but I’m not insane. You’re just going to have me do all your problems and change them to your handwriting when you think I’m not looking. You’re on your own this time.”
“Oh…Collin, you’ve been shut out of GIR,” Rose said with a smothered laugh.
“I’ve been shut out of *what* ?” Collin demanded.
“The Ginny Intelligence Ring. GIR. Get it?” Rose turned her attention back to the redhead. “So, what do you think of Patrick?”
“What do you mean?” Ginny demanded, turning back to the Potions essay.
“What do you *think* of him? Do you think he’s cute, ugly, smart, stupid? What do you think of him?”
“He reminds me of Bill when he was younger,” she said simply without even looking up from the essay.
“Whose Bill?” a voice demanded behind Ginny. She flinched and ended up with a large blot of ink in the middle of the parchment.
“Speak of the devil,” Ginny whispered under her breath, scowling at the unseemly blot.
“Her oldest brother. He’s a curse breaker for Gringotts, isn’t he, Ginny?” Collin piped.
“Since he left Hogwarts,” she muttered, blotting at the ink blob with the sleeve of her robe.
“How many brothers do you have?”
“Six, and seven if you count Harry, but he isn’t blood.”
“Harry who?” Patrick seated himself beside Ginny and pointed his wand at the page. Ginny was about to stop him, when he muttered a spell that lifted all the ink that was still wet off the page. This included two paragraphs before the inkblot.
“Thanks, Patrick,” Ginny muttered sourly, scowling at the lost lines as if her stare would bring them back.
“Don’t mention it, Ginny. Harry who?”
“Harry Potter.” It was Rose that chimed in this time. “He’s best friends with her youngest brother.”
“If he’s still alive,” added Collin.
“Everyone’s just helping tonight, aren’t they? Well, if you would just help yourselves out the door, I might be able to remember what was in those two paragraphs that I just lost,” Ginny snapped.
“Ginny, what’s wrong?” Rose whispered, looking alarmed at the red head’s sudden show of anger.
“Nothing. Everything’s just bloody fine. Never better,” Ginny snapped, stuffing her things into her bag. “I’ll see you all at a later time. Maybe when I stop seeing red.”
As she walked away, the last wisps of their conversation followed her. “What did I say?” Patrick demanded.
“It’s Harry. No one knows what happened to him and she’s worried.”
“She’s carrying a candle for him?”
“Not for a long time. No, he’s just another brother now and she worries about him like she worries about all her brothers…”
“Just a brother,” Ginny muttered and shoved the library doors open. The hallway was blissfully empty. No one saw the tear that slid down her cheek and splattered on the floor as she walked toward Griffindor Tower.
“Hey, Ginny, are you going to Hogsmead this weekend?” Collin asked a few weeks later. She was back on speaking terms with her friends and the two were happy to have help with their homework again.
“I don’t know. I doubt it,” she said, staring into the flames of the fire in Griffindor’s common room.
“Why not? It’ll be fun!”
“I’ve got…stuff to do.”
“What could you possibly have to do that’s more interesting than going to Hogsmead?” Rose demanded, scowling at the red head.
“Just…stuff, all right?” Ginny snapped and that was the end of that.
But that Saturday, Ginny did leave for Hogsmead, but without her friends. She made her way up Main Street and slid into the Three Broomsticks without anyone noticing her. She slipped to the back of the establishment and sank into the other chair at a table for two.
Her table partner was dressed in a black cloak with a hood that was pulled up, over his head. Ginny didn’t need to see his face to recognize the slouch in his shoulders. This was the Boy Who Lived.
“Hi, Harry,” she whispered, examining the wall.
“Hullo, Ginny,” was her soft reply. “How are you?”
“I’m all right. You?”
“Horrible. He haunts my dreams, even now. I hope he never escapes that prison.”
Ginny reached out and covered Harry’s white hands with both of her own. “He haunts all of us, and he always will. There’s nothing new about that.”
“You’re lying to me. You’re sick,” he said after a long silence.
“No, I’m not,” Ginny breathed, recoiling her hands. It was almost like he had sensed her state of health though their touch.
“You always were a horrible liar. You have a poker face, but everything else you do gives you away. How bad is it?”
“Bad enough. Where have you been, Harry?” Ginny knew her flimsy attempt to change the subject would not distract Harry Potter.
“Thinking. What’s happened?”
“I’m just tired. Don’t worry about me.” There was another long silence. “Have you seen Ron or Hermione, yet?”
“No, not yet. Don’t tell them I’m back, yet, will you? I’ll get to it in my own time.”
Ginny nodded. She knew why he was taking his time visiting everyone. In his position, she would have been stalling as long as she could, because people have a habit of asking awkward questions when you don’t want to answer them. “So, why did you owl me first, then?”
“Because I knew I could depend on you to understand what I’m about to do.”
“What’s that?” Ginny demanded with a scowl.
“I’m going to work for the Ministry.”
“I can’t tell you, but I won’t be seeing anyone for a long time.”
“You’re going to hunt Dementors, aren’t you? They are paying you to hunt down the dementors and destroy them, aren’t they?” Ginny’s voice rose slightly.
“How did you know?”
“My dad and two brothers work in the Ministry, remember? They tell me everything that's happening.”
“Don’t be mad at me, Ginny. I’m the only one that can do it.”
Ginny sighed, her panic fading. She knew her adoptive brother would do whatever he wanted, despite anything she would say against it. “I know, just be careful, all right?”
“I always am. Get some sleep, all right? You look like a gust of wind could blow you over at any moment.” Harry stood and bent one last time to kiss Ginny on the forehead. Then he Appirated out of the bar, leaving Ginny wholly alone.
“Miss Weasly, would you please tell me why you are sleeping in my class?” Professor Blake demanded after creating a loud ‘bang’ with his wand. Ginny jumped and looked around with bleary eyes. The nightmares were increasing with their intensity so that she could barely nap in at night. “Better yet, don’t say a word, I think I know why. You should be sleeping at night, instead of meeting a young man in your common room.”
The class sniggered and Ginny’s face turned a flaming red. “Please join me for detentions for the rest of the week at six o’clock sharp. Class dismissed.”
“Ginny, you need some sleep, seriously. Rose said she’s heard you talking at night. What are you dreaming about?” Collin demanded, catching the witch in question’s sleeve on her way out the door.
“It’s none of your business, Collin, just leave it, all right?” Ginny said, pulling out of his grip and disappearing up a staircase to who knows where.
“But it is my business, Ginny. You’re too sick to be loosing sleep,” he muttered, watching her go.
“Miss Weasly, you will be cleaning the floor. There is the scrub brush and the bucket. Move the desks against the wall before you start and sweep the floor,” Professor Blake said without humor that night. Ginny felt her entire body sag at the thought of the floor. This was by far the largest classroom in use in the entire school. It would take her hours to finish!
“That wasn’t a request, Miss Weasly. Get to it. I have too many papers to grade. I don’t have time to supervise you.”
Ginny cringed at the professor’s tone, but said nothing. She just began moving the desks across the room and stacking them under the windows. Then she worked for what seemed like eternity. The entire time, she could hear Professor Blake’s quill scratching on parchment, but she could, also, feel his eyes drilling into her back.
“Professor, I’m finnishhhh…” Ginny’s words trailed into a hiss as pain shot through her abdomen. She dropped the bucket of dirty water on the ground and wrapped both arms around her middle. Then she doubled over and fell to her knees on the wet floor.
She felt cool hands pull her tightly clenched arms back from her stomach and icy winter air hit her skin, making it painfully cool. A slight whimper escaped her lips. “I thought so, Miss Weasly. You have been fighting this poison for months now. You’ve lasted a lot longer than most people who have been scared by an Anicorn have, but you are very sick.”
“I’m fine,” she grated out through clenched teeth and fought her way to her feet, driving the pain from her mind like she had so many times before.
“You’re dying, Miss Weasly,” Professor Blake said, giving Ginny a hard look. “You are dying slowly and painfully.”
“It would be like that, anyway, Professor. My only hope of salvation is running wild across the Black Planes by now. There is no way to make a cure without the horn of the Anicorn that wounded me,” she snapped, tucking her shirt into her pants and rebuttoning her vest. “So I shall die for the deeds I have done.”
“What have you done, Miss Weasly, that makes you so deserving of such a fate?” the Professor whispered, staring the girl in the eye. He was struck, suddenly, by how odd such old eyes looked in such a young face.
“I killed men and women without remorse for their loss of life, Professor. I reveled in their pain and their ends. Now, it is their turn to revel in my pain and death. Goodnight, Professor. I will see you tomorrow, I suppose.” And with that, the young red head walked from the room, anger rolling off her in waves.
The professor sighed and sat back at his desk. Then he pulled out a sheet of clean parchment and began to write a letter.
Several weeks later, the first snows had come and gone from Hogwarts, leaving behind a heavy blanket of white that engulfed the school, settling it into a peaceful silence as the holidays approached.
The first day of the vacation struck and most of the students under fourth year left the school in droves, cutting trails through the show to get into the carriages pulled by threstles. Ginny watched from a window in the upper castle as the large lizard-horses pulled the carriages away.
She hated seeing them. She hated what seeing them meant. She hadn’t thought herself innocent for a very long time, but she didn’t like the fact that the veil between death and herself had been lifted forever. She sighed and closed her eyes against the blinding white of the snow in the winter sun.
“Ginny, come away from the window, we have things to do!” Rose said from the door. The witch in question turned from the lovely morning and looked at her friend.
“What could I have to do on a day like this?” she asked with a smile.
“We’re going to Hogsmead, remember? To shop for dress robes and Christmas Presents.”
“Oh, yea,” Ginny muttered, her smile fading. Her favorite thing in the world to do was not shop, but she had made a promise.
“I requested a carriage to the village so we don’t have to slosh through the snow. Come on.” Rose pulled her friend away from the window, picked up both their cloaks, and ran out the door.
“This is ridiculous, Rose, I can’t believe you talked me into buying these robes, let alone wearing them to the ball tonight. I’m not coming,” Ginny said three days later, on Christmas Eve.
“Yes, you are. Get out here.” Rose banged on the door to the bathroom. She was about to retrieve her wand when the door clicked and swung open.
Rose smiled at her friend as she stepped into the light shed by the torches that ringed the room. The robes were deep blue. They were cut into a law v that showed the redheaded witch’s pale skin. Ginny’s unruly hair had been woven into a net and hung loosely down her back.
“Just a few adjustments,” Rose muttered and retrieved her wand. Muttering spells as she went, she ran her wand down the sides of the robe, making the fabric bunch into four darts in the robe. “There, you look amazing. They would be insane not to look at you now.”
“Maybe I don’t want to be looked at,” Ginny muttered, eyeing her reflection in the mirror. She noticed that her right hand had strayed to her abdomen and forced it down. “No need to protect something that’s not there,” she whispered and followed Rose from the room.
The hall glowed under thousands of candles. The light winked off the masks that the students and teachers alike wore. Not long after the dinner, Ginny had slunk into a corner with a soft chair to sit on. She didn’t like so many people in one place at once. The wariness was from the time she had spent in the war. Large numbers of people meant danger.
“Would you care to dance?”
Ginny looked up at a young man in deep green dress robes. She could see his smile under his mask. “I don’t think so.”
“What’s to think about? I asked you to dance, not marry me.” She smiled and relaxed. Then she took his hand and allowed herself to be led onto the dance floor.
The young man’s arms were warm and almost a comfort to Ginny’s cool body. She found herself thinking of how much she would have been enjoying this dance if she weren’t so afraid of throwing up blood again, like she had that morning.
“What are you thinking about?”
“Nothing…I’m not thinking about anything,” Ginny lied, closing her eyes and gave herself into the dance.
Sometime later, without warning, a crippling blow went to her stomach. “Ahhh…” Ginny gasped, falling to her knees. All around her, couples stopped to stare at her. “It hurts…” The words came as a groan.
Then she screamed and her voice brought silence to the entire hall as heads turned toward her. Another scream was torn from her body when a second wave of pain hit her brain.
“Shh…it’ll be all right,” the young man that Ginny had been dancing with bent and scooped her up. An aisle split through the students and the young man carried Ginny from the hall with a great deal of care.
He went up the Grand Staircase and to the third floor where Madam Promfy waited in the Hospital Wing.
“Professor Blake, what happened?” the nurse demanded, taking Ginny from his arms and conveying her to the nearest bed.
“It’s the poison. It’s, finally, starting to kill her,” the professor said, removing his black mask and tossing his dress robes aside.
“Poor girl. There’s nothing we can do, either. I’ll go owl her family. They’ll want to be here for to comfort her.” The old nurse left the girl’s bedside for her own office.
“I’m not dead yet,” Ginny hisses, wiping the tiny trail of blood from the corner of her mouth.
“I know. You’ve got some time left. Professor McGonnigal and I agree that you should stay here. You can no longer function properly with the poison starting to take over,” Professor Blake said, staring into her eyes.
“I’ll be the one to decide that,” she said, starting to sit up, but the young professor was faster. He put his hand on her chest and, without any seeming effort, pinned her to the bed. “I’m dying, but I’m not dead yet. I refuse to stay here.”
“You go out there, while your immune system is so weak and you will catch something that WILL kill you, Miss Weasly. You’re staying here. Professor McGonnigal will arrange for your lessons. The teachers will come to you. You will not go to them.”
“My friends…” she began.
“They are being informed of your condition as we speak, I suppose. We have been preparing for this for a long time. Now, get some rest, Miss Weasly. You have a long year ahead of you.”
Ginny relaxed into her pillows and gave the professor a look. “Why did you want to dance with me, Professor?” she whispered, giving into weariness and closing her eyes.
“Because you are not afraid to fight when all others turn away. Rest Miss Weasly.” Ginny’s breathing relaxed into regular patterns and she slipped into sleep.
“How is she?” Professor McGonnigal asked quietly from the door.
Professor Blake looked up, startled. His cool demeanor descended once again and he straightened his dress shirt. “She’s asleep right now, but you know what’s going to happen.”
“Yes, we all know. She fought well in the war. Sometimes I had to remind myself that she was, still, very young.”
“I don’t think she’s been young for a long time, Professor.”
“No, I don’t think she has. We all aged so much during battle. The youngest most of all.” The Headmistress ran her hand over Ginny’s red head like a mother or an aunt would.
“I’m leaving, Professor.”
“Where are you going, Nathan?” she asked, looking him in the eye.
“I have to save her. She says it’s on the Black Plane. I’m going to search for it.”
“You knew her before, didn’t you?” Professor McGonnigal whispered as Nathan Blake walked toward the door.
Nathan stopped with his hand on the door. “She saved me in the Final Battle. She killed the Death Eater that was using the Cractius Curse on me. When she looked at me…it was like she was looking straight through me, to my heart.”
“She does do that, doesn’t she?” McGonnigal asked, with a slight quirk to her lips that would have been a smile at any other time. “If you’re going to leave, then I must urge you to look quickly. She is nearly ready to give up. I’ve seen too many people give up to death this year. I don’t want to see this girl as one of them.”
Nathan said nothing as he slipped out the door and walked down the hall toward his office to pack.
AN: This is the end of this chapter. I revamped the story. I hope you guys like it. I hope you all r&r, please.
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