Chapter 9 : Year 1: Light
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Because he was taller than the others, he saw her first. He didn’t – he couldn’t – stop to explain anything to them. Instead, he began running towards her while pulling out his wand. His mind was blank – it was as if everything around him stopped exisitng. The fire, the chaos, and the panic – all of it was gone. Every sound was gone and every movement stopped. His arm was heavy when he raised it, aimed his wand and opened his mouth to break the sudden silence that made a strong feeling of discomfort crawl under his skin.
“Expelliarmus! Stupefy! Pertrificus Totalus!”
The spells flew past the group of people, and their only effect was that one of the men turned around; it was Rabastan Lestrange. His lips curled into a smile.
“Well, if it isn’t another one of the Weasley children,” he said contentedly and raised his wand. “Avada Kedavra!”
Harry, who had caught up with his best friend, threw himself forwards to push him aside. Seyrod did the same thing, and even though Ron clenched his eyes shut, he could still see the flash of green light, burning through his eyelids. He held his breath, braced himself… And then Ginny screamed again. He opened his eyes. Rabastan Lestrange had raised his wand again, and he was just about to open his mouth when Harry shouted: “Expelliarmus!” and the wand flew out of his grip. Ron stunned him, forcing Rodolphus to stop torturing Ginny and turn around to defend himself. Ginny’s last cry still rang through the air when Harry flicked his wand and Rodolphus too fell to the ground, unable to move a muscle.
Harry practically flew over to Ginny and knelt down beside her. Her lower lip was trembling when she looked up at him with tear-filled eyes. The next thing she new, Ron was there too. He grabbed her hand and squeezed it tightly.
“Are you okay?”
Ginny nodded cautiously. Ron lifted his head and looked over at the spot where the Gryffindor stands used to be; now, there was nothing there but giant, savage flames. His gaze fixed at the students who were trapped within the high walls of fire, and he jumped to his feet.
“I have to go find Hermione,” he said.
“Harry, Ron.” Demelza Robins had walked over to Seyrod, who still hadn’t got back up since throwing himself forward to save Ron. “I think that this man is dead.”
Ron felt as if a pair of cold hands gripped his heart, but he shook his head vigorously and pushed them away. Seyrod had been his mentor, his friend, and if he had died for him… but he couldn’t think about it, not now. Hermione first, he thought. He did not even stop to check if Demelza had been right. Instead, he hurried over to the group of students who had clustered inside the burning walls, before anyone could confirm something that he did not need to hear just yet. Not until I’ve found Hermione and made sure that she’s safe, he told himself.
As the fire spread inwards, the students moved closer and closer towards the middle of the Quidditch pitch. Ron’s eyes swept over their faces as he searched for his girlfriend's bushy hair in the crowd. At the same time, he squeezed himself through the group of people, whose faces were either wet with tears or rigid with fear and shock. Suddenly, a familiar figure caught his eyes.
“Neville! Have you seen Hermione?”
Neville turned around. “Ron? What are you doing here?”
“The Lestrange brothers are here!” A few of the students around them gasped when they heard this, and Ron, who could almost feel the panic amongst them rise to the next level, quickly added: “But don’t worry, we’ve captured them!”
“Well, about Hermione…,” Neville said with an expression of guilt on his face. “I lost her in the crowd. We were sitting together, but then she was pushed and she fell… When I had finally made my way to the spot where she’d landed, she wasn’t there anymore.”
Ron couldn’t stop his eyes from turning to the wall of fire.
“Neville, were there… were there people who didn’t make it all the way through when the walls closed?”
Neville stared at his own feet, and Ron could feel his heart sink – he didn’t need any further confirmation. An image of Hermione’s charred body etched itself to his retina, and he closed his eyes. It can’t be true, don’t let it be true…
“Most people did make it through, though,” Neville said. “I’m sure she’s on the other side right now…”
It took a few lovely seconds for Ron to recognize the voice, but they passed by in an instant. Before he had even lifted his head, his mind had realized that the voice didn’t belong to Hermione, and his heart had sunk again.
Demelza Robins was heading straight towards them. “We have to do something,” she said. “The fire is spreading inwards over there.” She nodded towards the place where Harry, Ginny and the rest of the Gryffindor team were still standing. “If we can’t put the fire out, it’s going to… we’re all going to…”
“What about Seyrod?” Ron asked. He knew that if anyone would know what to do…
Demelza lowered her eyes and shook her head. Then she said:
“Aguamenti doesn’t work, so we’re guessing that it’s Fiendfyre.”
“How do we stop that?” Ron cried out. “Is there even a counter-spell?”
“Yes,” Neville nodded. “I saw Kingsley do it once. During the battle last year, after Crabbe had set the Room of Requirement on fire. I don’t remember the incantation, though…”
“Even if you did, I doubt that any of us would be able to perform the spell correctly,” Demelza said. “How long do you reckon we’ve got left before the fire will devour us? Harry said there were a few more Aurors coming, but he didn’t know when they’d be here.”
Ron looked around helplessly. "Where are all the professors? McGonagall could do something, I know she could. Or Flitwick..."
“We've got brooms!” said Neville suddenly. “We could just fly over the fire…”
Ron turned his head up and looked at the top of the wall. The flames threw themselves in every direction, and here and there long chains of fire broke loose from the wall and shot up into the air like burning spears, just to sink back down to its normal level in the next second. But before Ron could point the danger out to Neville, Demelza did.
“I don’t think that’s safe. We’ll probably end up getting hit by one of those things.”
Just some hundred feet away, Ginny was looking up at the smoky sky, feeling very dizzy. Despite lying still on the ground, she had the feeling that everything around her was spinning, and her hands fumbled in the grass, searching for something – anything – to hold onto. Harry had placed one hand under her neck, and the other one grabbed her hand and squeezed it tightly. It was nice to feel his presence, she thought as tears streamed down her face. This had been nothing like being tortured by the Carrows the year before – this was a million times worse. Here and there, she could still feel stings of pain under her skin, and she couldn’t shake off the horrible feeling that had pervaded her throughout the entire torture.
“Perhaps we should move her a bit closer to the middle.” Dean's voice came from somewhere above her; she didn’t find the energy to turn her head and look at him.
“Gin?” This time it was Harry’s voice. “The fire is getting closer. We’re going to have to move you, okay?”
Ginny wanted to ask why no one had put the fire out, but instead she sat up. Harry tried to hold her down, but she pushed his hands away.
“It’s fine,” she said. “I can walk myself. Just… hold onto me, okay?”
Harry gave in and she could feel him stand up next to her. Then he grabbed both her arms and pulled her to her feet. She stumbled groggily and put one arm around Harry’s neck for support.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Ginny nodded, and they started walking towards the central circle of the Quidditch pitch. “What are we going to do about the fire?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Harry admitted. “We think it’s Fiendfyre, and I don’t know how to put it out. I’m hoping that the teachers are on the other side of that wall right now working on that.”
“It looks like they figured it out!” Ritchie Coote said and raised one of his hands to point. “Look, there’s smoke over there, right? That’s got to mean that the fire is going out.”
He was right. Over by what had once been Ravenclaw’s spectator tower, the flames had begun to drop height and a cloud of thick, black smoke was rising towards the sky.
“It was about time,” muttered Caroline McLaggen snidely. Luckily for her, Ginny was still too shaky to steal Jimmy Peakes’ bat and throw herself at her. Andrew, however, snorted and mumbled, loudly enough for everyone to hear:
“Oh, if only they could have waited until the fire reached McLaggen…”
Ron was the first one to leap through the opening in the wall of fire. He ignored the gasps of the younger students when he threw himself forwards, and the call coming from behind: “Not yet, Ron, it’s too narrow!” He could feel the fire singe his already burnt skin. And then he had made it through; then he was on the other side. He fell to the ground, unable to stand on his leg for another second.
“Mr Weasley!” When Ron lifted his head, he realized that Professor Slughorn was leaning over him with a concerned look on his face. “That probably wasn’t your brightest idea… you should have waited for the opening to grow bigger… Didn’t you quit school two years ago, by the way?”
“Oh, Horace!” Professor McGonnagall rushed over to them. “Didn’t you hear what Kings… what the Minister just told us? They came here to stop the Lestrange brothers!”
Professor Slughorn looked confused, but then he nodded. “Right, right”, he mumbled as he bent down to check on Ron’s leg.
“Professor McGonnagall,” Ron extorted. “Hermione?”
“Oh, Miss Granger is over there,” Slughorn said. “I’ll go and get her for you, just hold on for a minute…”
Ron let his head fall back onto the grass while laughing with relief. She was alive. She was fine. She was…
“Ron!” He looked up to find Hermione kneeling down beside him, wrapping her arms around his neck and beginning to sob noisily. “Oh Ron, when… they said… you were… in there… I…”
“We were probably thinking the same thing,” Ron said.
She nodded and straightened up. The bare skin on his leg caught her eyes as she did so, and she gasped for air while her hands flew to her mouth.
“Ron, your leg! You have to ask Madame Pomfrey to take a look at that; she’s around here somewhere… Some Burning Bush should do the trick…”
Ron reached out his arms and pulled her close to him once again. She gently placed her head on his chest, and he shut his eyes. He remembered having a feeling, just after the war had ended, of finally being able to relax. They were safe now; they could live their lives like normal teenagers, without worrying about dark forces or evil wizards. But almost a year had passed since the final Battle of Hogwarts, and he had not fully relaxed yet. He wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to. Maybe that was a side effect of growing up in the midst of a war – maybe he would never learn to live in peace. At least, he thought to himself, it wouldn’t be long before Ginny and Hermione graduated from Hogwarts. And then they would belong to the same world again. Because truth to be told, living in peace was a lot harder when he didn’t know where they were, what they were doing or if they were safe. But that was about to change, Ron thought as he stroke Hermione’s back. It wouldn’t be long before they’d be together again.
The weeks that followed what the Daily Prophet had named one of the worst terrorist attacks in recent years were chaos, both at Hogwarts and the Ministry. Eight students had been caught in the fire and died; one additional died from her injuries two days later. All classes were cancelled, and transport was arranged for everyone who wished to go to the funerals. Harry and Ron had attended all of them, and had spent days watching mothers and fathers cry as not quite full-length caskets were lowered into grounds all over Britain.
It seemd strange, after all of that, to go to a birthday party, but exactly two weeks later, that was exactly what Harry and Ron were doing. They arrived at the house just after lunchtime, when the birthday boy would be up from his midday nap; they had been there once before – it had been a stop on the way the night that the Order of the Phoenix had moved Harry from the Dursley’s house to the Burrow, when his friends had drunk Polyjuice Potion to assume the form of him, in order to confuse Voldemort and the Death Eaters – but this was to first time Harry saw it in daylight. Plus, he thought to himself, he wouldn’t have seen much of the house anyway, given the fact that he and Hagrid practically crashed the flying motorcycle into the house that night. So even though he wasn’t looking at Tonks’ parents’ house for the first time, it felt like he was.
It was a neat little house, painted white with blue trim, and the wide front door was blue. Harry followed Mrs Weasley through the creaking gate that lead into the garden. Ron, Mr Weasley and George followed closely behind.
Harry had trouble setting his feelings straight; this was a happy day, his godson's first birthday - a time for celebration. Yet, he couldn't shake off the heaviness that had laid on his shoulder since the day at Hogwarts when Seyrod and all those children had died. Strangely, life never stopped, even when something so terrible happened - it always went on, sometimes a little to quickly for Harry's taste. He had wanted to pause, and breathe, and mourn his mentor, but once all the funerals were over, everyone had expected him to just move on.
But how could he do that, after seeing Seyrod's mother in the front row of the church, her hands trembling as she wiped the tears from her cheeks? How could he do that, after being pulled aside by the older Mr Seyrod afterwards, and being forced to tell him, once again, how his son had given his life? How could he let go of the image of Ron's eyes - Ron, for whom Seyrod had sacrificed himself - when he saw their mentor's wife, the widow, one of her hands placed over her chest, and the other resting on her bulging abdomen?
And even though Seyrod was dead, and would never hold his unborn baby, and those students would never finish school and travel the world and do whatever it was they had wanted to do, the world hadn't stopped spinning, and here they were now, expected to be happy, to forget, to let go.
Mrs Weasley interrupted Harry's thoughts when she knocked on the door. A few moments later later it opened, and Andromeda Tonks smiled widely at the sight of her guests. “Come on in, come on in,” she said, clapping her hands together in delight.
“Where is our little birthday boy?” Mrs Weasley asked and held up the gift box she was carrying.
“Mr Lupin’s got him, in the living room,” Andromeda said while stepping aside to let them in. “Remus’ father. They are so fond of each other, those two!”
“Are Bill and Fleur here yet? You have to see how big she is now, Andromeda!”
The group of people moved towards the living room. Teddy was sitting on the floor, surrounded by piles of blocks, and an old, grey-haired man was sitting across from him. Every time either of them touched a block, it changed colour, and Teddy’s hair colour seemed to change along with it.
With some effort, the old man stood up and turned to the new arrivals. “Ah, Harry,” was the first thing he said. “You look so much like your father.”
Harry smiled and reached out his hand. “It's so nice to meet you,” he said. “Let me guess? I look like my dad, expect for the eyes, which are copies of my mother’s?”
“Sadly, I never got to meet Lily,” Mr Lupin said as they shook hands. “But Remus spoke of her a lot. Sometimes I think he got along better with her than he did with James and Sirius. She was a lovely girl, from what I’ve heard.”
Harry nodded. “I’m so sorry about your son,” he said. “He was a great man. I really admired him.”
Mr Lupin’s eyes filled with tears and he nodded gratefully. “Well,” he then said, “if it isn’t Molly and Arthur Weasley? How long has it been?”
“Too long,” Mr Weasley replied. "It's good to see you, Lyall."
While everyone shook hands and introduced themselves, Harry bent down to wish his godson happy birthday. He had visited a few times since Christmas, but he was still surprised when Teddy’s face lit up – he actually recognized him.
“Ajjy!” he gargled with a beaming smile on his face. He picked up a blue block and held it out.
Harry took the block from the little boy’s hand and watched as it turned to yellow before his eyes. He smiled and ruffled Teddy’s now yellow hair. “Hi, buddy,” he said. “Happy birthday.”
A while later, the guests had huddled together at the dinner table. Andromeda conjured a stately, colourful cake with a single candle burning on its top, and everyone clapped their hands. Teddy, who refused to let go of his Aviatomobile – the flying toy car – that George had given him from his shop, made a humming sound and didn’t seem to notice what was going on around him at all. Harry nudged his shoulder, making him aware of the cake.
“Do you see that? That’s your cake! You have to blow out the candle, Teddy, and make a wish!”
“Eet looks delicious,” puffed Fleur, who had finally managed to sit down.
Harry was quite impressed by this, considering the fact that her belly was enormous. He couldn’t help but wonder if she could still but her own socks on, or if Bill had to do that for her every morning.
“As if I’m not fat enough,” Fleur muttered a few minutes later, when Bill cut a huge piece of cake and put it on her plate.
“As if you won’t eat that whole thing,” Bill retorted and chuckled.
“William!” said Mrs Weasley reproachfully, but Fleur simply laughed dismissively.
“Wow, she’s really changed, hasn’t she?” Ron whispered to Harry. “It doesn’t even look like she’s brushed her hair this morning!”
“If you notice something like that, you’ve changed too!” Harry exclaimed.
Ron shrugged and passed the cake dish on to Mr Lupin. Harry ducked when the flying little car came swooping towards his head, and George laughed loudly when it crashed into Mr Weasley’s plate, showering both Harry and Andromeda in whipped cream.
“George, didn’t I tell you that he was too young for a toy like that?” fretted Mrs Weasley as she leaned forward to clean up the mess.
“Oh, don’t worry about it, Molly, that’s what children do,” said Andromeda lightly. “You’ll get to experience it again very soon. And look how happy he is… I think that’s his favourite present, George!”
Harry had cleaned the whipped cream off the car, and he was now driving it across the table towards Teddy, making the little boy roar with laughter. Mrs Weasley’s face softened and she mumbled:
“Well isn’t that just the sweetest thing ever?”
As Harry watched the child's laughing face, the two tiny feeth sticking out of his gums, and the brown eyes - the last heritage of Lupin and Tonks - he felt truly happy. And he found comfort in the thought that a day would come when Mrs Seyrod would look at the last heritage of her husband and feel exactly the same thing.
A hoot, the flapping of wings and the murmur of voices brought Ginny’s attention the fact that the morning mail was arriving. She looked up at the flock of owls that was flying through the Great Hall, dropping a flurry of packages, newspapers and letters down to the students, who were in the middle of eating breakfast at the tables below. Ginny’s eyes swept over the flock of owls in search of Errol, the old family owl, hoping to get a letter from Harry. He had seemed so depressed in his last letter, and she desperately wanted to hear from again. Disappointed, she realised Errol was not there, though. She was so busy searching for him that she didn’t notice that another owl, a large, brown mottled one, was aiming for her, and she almost fell off her seat when a thick envelope landed next to her glass of pumpkin juice and nearly knocking it over. Quickly, she reached out and grabbed it. It was dark green, and when she took a closer look at the seal she realized that it was the logo of the Holyhead Harpies. She tore it open with a sudden eagerness and curiosity.
Miss Ginny Weasley,
Despite the unfortunate circumstances at the game that I came to see at Hogwarts, it was clear to me that you are a very talented Chaser – and a good teammate, judged by how well you handled your role as captain of the team. (I hope you are doing okay after that horrible, tragic day, or at least, as close to okay as one could expect.)
I don’t know if you read the Sport’s Section of the Daily Prophet. If you do, you might be aware of the fact that my good friend and fellow teammate Wilda Griffiths has decided to leave our team to join Puddlemere United. Disaster! This brings me to the reason that I’m writing this letter: I need a new Chaser. If you’re interested in becoming a professional Quidditch player, send me an owl and I’ll provide you with the details of the try-outs.
Hoping to hear from you soon,
Beater/Captain of the Holyhead Harpies
A/N: So it worked out! For everyone except for Seyrod, sadly, and those poor students.
After writing these last couple of chapters, I've come to the conclusion that writing action scenes definitely isn't my strong suit. I've struggled quite a lot with it, and I hope that you think that the result is okay. I'm more comfortable with what lies ahead in this story, and I hope that you'll find things improving from here!
I would really appreciate it if you'd leave a review after reading, just to let me know what you thought of this chapter. Any tips would be very welcome! :)
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