Harry was exhausted. His back hurt, his arms were sore and he felt like he hadn’t slept in weeks. He’d spent the last hour scouting the beach to the east of their new campsite, while the others had stayed behind to set up camp after six grueling hours of sneaking up the coast on broomstick. Harry’s scouting mission had, luckily, revealed that the beach to the north of their new campsite was blissfully quiet. When he saw the sun was threatening to creep up over the horizon, he turned back.
Traveling up the coast to Calais was much slower going than he’d hoped. Keeping track of each other proved near impossible with the disillusionment charms. It wasn’t until their third night of flying that Harry finally figured out a way to do it.
The lead flyer, who would be wearing the cloak, would use the Deluminator to keep a very dim light that the others would follow. All the while, the Quartet had to be exceptionally careful that they weren’t spotted. There was an almost constant flow of Inferi arriving by Portkey from England, being herded by Death Eaters. They’d toyed with the idea of seeing if they could use one of the return Portkeys to sneak into Britain, but wrote it off as too risky. There was no way to know where they’d end up.
Harry had taken the Deluminator with him on this scouting mission, that way Ginny wouldn’t have to wait up for him. He hoped she might take advantage of the opportunity to get some sleep. Hermione had figured out how to leave a small hole in the protective spells when anyone had to be away from their campsite; Harry’s Deluminator ploy had worked. Hermione’s usually the one that comes up with ideas like that…Harry shook his head in frustration. He needed the brightest witch of their age, not a lovesick schoolgirl too distracted to keep her mind on their mission.
Hermione didn’t seem to have had any breakthroughs with the Galleons. Sure, he’d seen her with her books open in the sitting room but she refused to let Ron out of her sight. And even then, it seemed she wasn’t doing any real research. Inevitably, Harry would hear a book slam shut and find his two friends snogging each other silly on the couch.
At least the watch was being kept during the day. But whenever Ron or Hermione had the guard, they always ended up doing it together. On more than one occasion, Harry had dragged himself out of bed only to find them both awake when one of them should have been sleeping. He was sure one or both of them had been asleep and only jerked awake when they heard him coming. He was starting to feel like a babysitter, or worse, Filch.
Every time this happened, Harry became more anxious. He knew it was only a matter of time before his friends’ distraction got someone hurt, or worse. But Harry’s worry was doing more than creating grey hair. It had started to keep Ginny from sleeping too. As Harry would lie awake, fearful of dozing off while either Ron or Hermione were supposed to be on watch, his anxiety would spill through the bond. And Harry simply couldn’t shut the link. The last time he suggested it, two days ago, Ginny had nearly bat bogeyed him.
As Harry stumbled toward the tent, he was relieved to find that Ron was sitting in the doorway. His relief evaporated when he saw Hermione awake, in the kitchen.
“Everything alright?” Ron asked.
“Brilliant,” Harry answered. “I’m beat. We’ll talk an hour before sundown.” Harry stumbled toward his bedroom.
When he opened the flap, he saw Ginny quickly fold up the Marauders Map and place it back in Harry’s nightstand.
She looked at him guiltily, then sat on the bed, casting her eyes at the floor. “I had to see.”
He felt his insides go cold. He sat next to her, gently placing his hand on hers. He peered into her haunted chocolate eyes. “Are they there?”
Ginny nodded, biting her lip. The waves of fear and revulsion coming from her were nearly overpowering.
The Carrows were at Hogwarts.
“They don’t know we’re here, love. No reason for us to even see them on this trip.” He coaxed her head onto his shoulder.
“I know.” Ginny pulled away from him as she rose and began to undress, leaving Harry sitting on the bed, unsure what to do. He kept catching alternating bouts of anger and fear radiating from his fiancée. Tired as he was, he tried to send a wave of love back to help steady her. It didn’t seem to be working.
As they curled up in bed, the first rays of dawn struck the tent. Harry fought to stay awake, but the rhythmic breathing of his fiancée and the exhaustion of the last several days got the better of him…
The stone wall was cold and damp as it pressed against Ginny’s swollen cheek. It was soothing compared to the agony of the manacles cutting into her wrists. Her eyes fluttered open as she heard the heavy door to her cell creak open and immediately winced as her eyes were dazzled by the light streaming through the doorway. The afterimage confirmed what she thought she saw: a wizard carrying a torch. She had no doubt he’d come to torment her again.
She’d been left hanging on the wall of the dungeons of Hogwarts for what felt like days. No food. No water. No light. She was afraid she’d begun to hallucinate as she lost track of time.
Amycus Carrow roughly grabbed her hair and pulled her face to his. “How’s our blood traitor today?” he hissed sweetly.
She dredged up what strength she had left and spat in his face.
“Bitch!” He backhanded her. “Where is he?!” he shouted.
“I wouldn’t tell you even if I knew!” she croaked; her throat was raw.
“We’ll see about that, now won’t we.” He backhanded her again. “Where’s Potter?!”
Ginny shook her head, defiance filling her eyes as blood ran down her chin.
He moved out of view. She heard the door open again. As she turned she saw Alecto walk though the door and hand something to her brother.
“Will she talk?” Alecto asked.
“She’ll talk,” her brother assured.
Ginny had no idea what had happened to Neville. They were split up not long after they were captured. We were so close!
For months the DA, lead by Ginny, Luna and Neville, had been living dangerously. They had hidden Muggle-born students before they could be taken away. They had rescued Muggles that had been kidnapped by the Carrows for purposes they could only shudder to imagine. But, her final mission was to be their crowning achievement. She and Neville had come within a hair’s breadth of stealing the Sword of Gryffindor when they were ambushed at the base of Dumbledore’s study. The DA refused to refer to it as Snape’s.
The Carrows had beaten her savagely for hours, refusing her the “honor” of the Cruciatus Curse; that was for the more respectable students, they’d told her. The next thing she knew she was chained to the wall of the dungeon. The rest had been pain, hunger, thirst and darkness for what seemed like an eternity.
“Muggles used to use these,” Amycus said to Ginny, matter-of-factly. “Since you’re such a Muggle-lover, I thought you might like a taste of how they used to interrogate their prisoners.” He walked toward her and thrust a bullwhip into her face. “Ever seen one? No? First time for everything.”
She heard him take several steps backward. Then, the seconds drew out, the anticipation grating her already frazzled nerves.
The whip cracked viciously next to her head, gouging a hole in the stone. Despite herself, Ginny screamed out.
Amycus loosed a diabolical laugh. “That was just a warm up. The next one’ll lay your back open.”
Then she felt her shirt being torn off and still there was that horrible laughter.
Gods Harry! Where are you?! She tensed, waiting for the blow to fall…
Ginny came awake with a start, wand in hand. She was covered in a cold sweat as she began to shake.
Harry pulled her into his arms, trying to soothe her. “It’s okay, love. It’s okay.” He gently rocked her in his arms. “You escaped. You got out. You’re safe now.”
Harry knew this history only too well. Before the blow could fall, the cell had gone black with Peruvian Darkness powder, hexes had flown through the air and the next thing Ginny knew a cloak had been thrown over her head and she was being whisked to Madam Pomfrey. Before she passed out, she could’ve sworn she’d seen a black cape and the stringy hair of her old potions master and heard a single phrase whispered by an agonized voice: “So like Lily.” But she dismissed it at the time as an hallucination. Only later would she learn that Severus had risked everything to save her from the dungeons that night. This was yet another debt Harry owed his father’s old nemesis.
As he rocked her, Harry tried to catch his breath. He cursed himself.
My fault. Harry gritted his teeth. My fault I wasn’t there for her then; my fault I wasn’t there for her now.
Ginny hadn’t had nightmares like this in years. It was the nightmares, among other things, that had finally made Ron understand how much Harry and Ginny needed each other. It was during the second week of the Month of Mourning when Ron and Hermione had become willing accomplices in what the Quartet secretly called the “nightly bedroom switch.” Once they started sleeping together, Harry and Ginny learned to spot the telltale signs of each other’s nightmares through the link and stop them before they progressed too far. But, this time, Harry had been sleeping too soundly and Ginny had paid the price.
“Harry,” she gasped, still shaking, “If I see them here, I’ll kill them.” The ice in her voice unnerved him.
Harry just continued to hold her, sending as much love through the link as he could. Slowly, she finally got back to sleep. But Harry stayed awake the rest of the day.
With a flourish of his Phoenix Feather wand, Harry found a hole in the wards. He whipped off the invisibility Cloak and put the light out on the Deluminator. This was the signal for the group to drop their disillusionment charms and land to see if they could find a place to camp.
Ron and Hermione descended toward the beach. Hermione shot a smile at Ron as she hefted her wand, and, non-verbally thought Portis Revelio. No one noticed that she flourished her wand too much.
Hermione gave the arm-wave that signaled the beach was clear of Portkeys. Finding a hole in the wards meant two things: an entry point for invading forces using Portkeys in Britain and a return-Portkey at the same spot. Because the Quartet had to use the holes in the wards to go inland far enough to camp, they had to be extremely careful they didn’t do so too near one of the Portkeys.
High sentry. I got it. We’re clear for at least a mile up the coast. I can see what must be the town of Dieppe from here.
Thank the gods for that, Harry sent back.
That meant only one more night of flying before they finally reached Calais. Satisfied, Harry grounded near Ron and Hermione as Ginny continued to circle overhead.
Harry had just put his Firebolt in its clutch when he tripped over something metallic. It was a Muggle fan. Then the ground started to rumble.
Oh, Merlin. NO!
Harry didn’t even have a chance to shout a warning to Ron and Hermione before an army of Inferi dropped on top of them, transported by Portkey.
“Shit!” Ginny heaved on the neck of her broom, evading the falling Inferi.
Harry was up in a flash and, for the first time since the battle with the Hit Wizards, he filled his hand with the Elder Wand. “CONFRINGO!” But they were too close; one had already grabbed his wand arm.
Ron and Hermione were only a beat behind him, spraying flames from their wands. But there were too many Inferi. In desperation, Ron drew his spare wand, fighting two handed. Taking his lead, Hermione, wielding both of Bellatrix’s wands, tried desperately to clear a perimeter around them. She didn’t dare cast Fiendfyre for fear she would burn Harry and Ron to a crisp; the Inferi were in and among them.
Ginny’s Firebolt screamed out of the night sky as she hurled Confringo hexes left and right. But it was no use; she could see Harry literally drowning in a sea of the animated dead. She dropped the nose of her broom into a Wronski-feint dive, hoping, praying that she could pull Harry out of the swell of Inferi that were threatening to smother him.
Just then, the Inferi’s Death Eater masters appeared on the beach. The curses they hurled at Ginny blindsided her, hitting her in the ribcage and catching her broom on fire.
“NO!” Harry screamed as he saw his love hurtle to the ground in flames just as the wave of Inferi broke over him. He felt his heart shatter; the link flickered out.
“THE STONE! RON, USE THE STONE!!” Hermione shrieked as she frantically cast shield spells around them.
In a flash Ron sheathed his spare wand and dug the Resurrection Stone out of his robes. Once in his hand, he realized he had no idea how to use it. In desperation he shoved his fist in the air and filled his mind with a single, all consuming thought.
The ground began to shake as lightning cascaded down from the darkened skies. The Inferi froze and, in a massive thunderclap, exploded into dust.
“EXPULSO!” Harry screamed, all of his rage loosed in the spell. The three Death Eaters that had attacked Ginny exploded in a blinding white flash.
Harry stumbled to his feet, running at a full gait to where he saw Ginny lying in a heap on the beach. “No, No, NOOOO!”
He dropped by her side, Ron and Hermione hot on his heels. “Ginny! Ginny!”
Ginny was coughing up blood, struggling for breath. She was trying to talk, her eyes wide.
“Don’t talk. Lay still.” Harry forced back his tears as he fumbled with the pockets in his armor, looking for the healing potions. His hands were shaking so badly he could hardly get the vial open.
Hermione tried to help. “Here, let me…”
“DON’T YOU TOUCH HER!”
Harry’s scream was an accusation, a curse. Hermione felt it like a blow.
With an effort of pure will, Harry steadied his shaking. Placing a hand gently under Ginny’s head, he poured the potion down her throat. Almost immediately, her labored breathing eased. The link flickered back; but it was dim. Ginny was deathly pale. Holding back his sobs, Harry cast “Diagnostio Corpus.”
Concussion, both arms shattered, her ribs had punctured both of her lungs. The potion seemed to begin healing the ribs and lung tissue, but didn’t have the strength to cope with the other injuries too. Thankfully, the armor had protected her from the flames.
Ron rested a hand on Harry’s shoulder, and said, gently, “Harry, we have to move her.”
Harry sobbed, “Can’t.”
“Brother, we don’t have a choice. We can’t risk staying here.”
Ginny gasped, “…have to...move me…love…” Her words were cut short by a fit of wet coughing.
Hermione hefted her wand to immobilize Ginny, but Harry clutched her wrist in a vice-grip as his eyes met hers. She had never seen that look before, not directed at her.
“I’ll do it mate.” Ron cast a petrification spell and levitated her off the beach. Harry walked along beside her, holding her hand.
Once they’d moved far enough away from the entry point, Ron and Hermione began setting up camp, in silence. Harry never noticed, not leaving Ginny’s side.
Slowly they moved her into the tent and then into her bed. Ron handed Harry another potion, which he gave her. Then, flourishing the Elder Wand, Harry cast several healing spells, including one that would make sure she slept. Only then did Harry, very gently, remove her armor and vanish her outer clothing. Removing the Sword from her charred broom-clutch, he placed it next to her nightstand.
Ron grabbed a chair from the kitchen, pulled it up to the bed and let Harry settle into it. Then, he ran his hands through his hair, Not this. Not her. Ron tried to steady himself before he spoke. “Mate, she’ll need to sleep for at least a day before we know anything.”
Harry didn’t move as Ron placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.
Hermione tried to speak. “Harry…”
He cut across her, his eyes never leaving his fiancée. “Until the Hermione I know shows up, I’m not interested in hearing anything you have to say. Get out.” His tone was deathly even.
Hermione began to choke up as she fled the bedroom.
Ron was torn.
“Go to her.” Harry’s eyes finally left his Ginny. He tried to steady his breathing and keep his voice in check. “Straighten her out, Ron. Straighten her out before I do something I’ll regret.” Silent tears leaked from Harry’s eyes as he finished, turning back to his broken love.
Ron nodded and closed the flap behind him.
Lucius Malfoy was relatively happy. That was because the Dark Lord’s vengeance had finally found another outlet. He didn’t even try to hide his smile as he looked up at the form dangling in the air of the Audience Chamber.
“There aren’t enough,” The Dark Lord hissed.
“My Lord, we’ve been rounding up Muggles as fast as we can,” the middle-aged woman dangling by her ankle croaked. Her head began to swim as Voldemort’s spell made her spin in circles.
“How many did we lose, Lucius?”
“Two-thousand; more than half of them during that inexplicable attack at Dieppe last night.”
“Two-thousand?” The Dark Lord seethed. “Replacing them will take time, Lucius. Time we don’t have.” Then he turned to the pink clad woman spinning before him. “To make Inferi, I need fresh corpses. And that, Dolores is what I have you for, is it not?”
“Yes, my Lord,” Dolores Umbridge said through a shaky voice.
“And if you aren’t providing me with the materials I need, what use are you?”
“It’s become difficult. There are no more Mudbloods to use. Too many Muggle’s disappearing could create…” Her explanation was cut short by the savage Crucio curse that Voldemort had bestowed upon her.
The minutes seemed to draw out into hours as Umbridge was wracked with unspeakable agony.
Then Voldemort turned to his chief lieutenant. “Lucius?”
“She still has talents, Lord. It would be a shame to waste them.”
“And what do you think, Dolores? Are you still useful?”
Umbridge tried to smile as she nodded. Her entire body still shook from the after effects of the brutal curse.
“Good.” Voldemort dropped her unceremoniously to the floor. “See to it.”
AN:I chose this scene to take place near the port city of Dieppe for a very specific reason. In 1942, the Allies staged an amphibious assault of the place and it was a complete disaster. More than fifty percent casualties. Throughout the war following the Dieppe Raid, merely mentioning the name of the town conjured images of calamity. From what I've read, it had a connotation similar, albeit much less strong, than "Hiroshima" does now. So, the chapter title and location were a bit of foreboding for you history buffs out there.
I don't own Harry Potter. The toys belong to JKR; she just lets us play with them.