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This Devilry by academica
Chapter 8 : Chapter Eight
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4


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“Have you ever cast a Patronus?”

Ginny sank a little deeper into the plush couch, taking a deep breath and letting it leak out slowly past her teeth. “Yes,” she replied. That skill had been difficult to learn, at least compared to many of the other spells she’d been taught in school, but it had proven to be both pleasant and useful in the end. “Is this going to be like that?”

“Not really. Sort of the opposite, to be honest.”

Ginny closed her eyes tightly. She had been afraid of that.

“Okay, let’s practice first. Your job is just to stay calm and practice breathing like we have before. Slow, deep breaths. This way you’ll know what it feels like when I get inside your head and when I leave. You don’t need any extra stress.”

Ginny felt warm fingers tighten around her own. She glanced toward the other end of the couch, where Harry was perched on the edge of a chair, watching her intently. She thought she saw a flicker of fear pass in his eyes, but she tried to ignore it. Remember your breathing. In, out. In, out. Slow and steady. Calm. Strong.

Wasn’t she a Gryffindor? She had to be brave. It was in her blood.

Bree had obviously studied the skill of Legilimency closely, for she apparently needed no wand or words to cast the spell. Ginny wondered if she had disposed of them to try to make the process more bearable, more natural. That was the last thought she had before she relaxed back into the sofa, feeling her mind grow foggy.

Suddenly, her head began to burn with a searing pain. It was like someone had taken a scalpel and cut straight into her brain. She felt alternatively hot and cold, exposed, feeling unmistakably that Bree could see all of her private thoughts. There was pressure, like someone was digging with a shovel, uncovering all of Ginny’s secrets.

She sucked in air rapidly and clawed her way up from the couch, her breath heaving. She could make out Bree, still leaning forward in her chair, and Harry, moving to wrap his arms around her, worry etched into his expression. The pain was gone, but she could still feel its phantom shadow, still felt like she was on display for the world. Ginny stared at Bree and Harry, feeling tears welling up in her eyes.

“Are you all right?” Harry asked gently.

“I—I wasn’t ready,” Ginny said. “I mean, how do you get ready for that?”

“I don’t know that anyone can,” Bree said with a note of sadness in her voice. “But Ginny, I truly believe that your situation calls for desperate measures. If you can stick it out with me, we can improve your life. Don’t you want things to be better?”

“Of course I do. I just don’t see how this is going to help me.”

“Please trust me,” Bree said.

Ginny looked at Harry, who squeezed her hand again. “Try it one more time, Gin,” he said. “Now you know what it feels like, so you won’t be so surprised. You just need to let her in, just let it happen. I’m sure you’ll get used to it if you let her stay there.”

Ginny sighed. She was used to fighting from her days on a broomstick, starting at a very young age when she argued with her brothers about letting her play with them. Now she was expected to stay calm and let herself experience a painful invasion. It struck her as pure madness, but she decided to trust the others, just one more time.

When it happened, she felt the same searing sensation, but it seemed to lessen slightly as she worked to keep her breathing even and pretended not to care. Perhaps her husband had been right about the lack of surprise being helpful.

She curled up on the couch, feeling like she was being hypnotized. She fell asleep.

When Ginny next saw light, she was standing between tables in a French café. With a smile, she recalled that she had visited this place on a trip she had taken with the Holyhead Harpies for an international game. Her fingertips grazed the cool surface of a nearby table; she could almost taste the sweet pastries and warm coffee sitting there. The wind fluttered her hair and the hem of the sundress she was wearing—another smile as she touched the soft fabric. I have my pre-pregnancy body again.

“This is the pleasant memory you chose?”

Ginny turned sharply, her bliss forgotten. Bree walked toward her with a smile.

“No,” she replied. “It—I suppose it just sort of came to me.”

“Let’s have a seat,” Bree suggested, gesturing to the table in front of them. “I could definitely use an afternoon croissant and a cuppa.”

As Ginny took a seat across from her, a cup of tea appeared magically in front of Bree. Unsure whether to trust this food, Ginny took a bite of a chocolate pastry. Oh well, she thought. If this only exists in my imagination, at least it tastes good.

“Good,” Bree said, observing her. “Now, let’s have a little test. Watch.”

Ginny sat very still. Bree looked across the outdoor seating section, fixing her eyes on a lonesome chair beside another table. Without a word, she moved the chair outward, as if she were pulling it out to offer another acquaintance a seat.

“Perfect.” Bree looked back at Ginny, meeting her eyes. “How are you doing?”

“I’m okay for now.” The quiet was sort of eerie; the Paris she remembered had been teeming with people, full of women chatting over gourmet breakfast every morning and young men looking for adventure and exotic wine every night. But Ginny couldn’t help but notice that this was the first time it had been quiet in her mind for some time. She could stand to spend a little while enjoying this newfound peace.

Bree took another sip from her tea. “What do you say we go explore a bit?”

“Have you ever been to Paris?” Ginny offered with a small smile.

“Once, during my gap year,” Bree replied. “But I want to see your Paris.”

The two women wandered down the street, leaving their food behind, for who else was going to come by and steal it? The pleasant breeze fought them playfully, but they kept an easy pace, glancing around and commenting on the gorgeous architecture. Ginny marveled at how her mind could retain so many details.

Suddenly, the sky began to grow dark. The clouds closed in on them, causing the breeze to adopt a slightly chilly edge. Ginny looked around the area nervously.

“It’s all right, Ginny,” Bree said in a cautious tone. “I’m right here with you.”

Ginny reached for her hand, wishing Harry was there instead. At least she wasn’t alone. And yet Bree’s skin was icy cold to the touch, and her fingernails dug painfully into Ginny’s palm. Ginny turned to look at her companion and nearly fainted.

The young blonde therapist was gone. In her place was Bellatrix Lestrange.

Ginny screamed and tried to pull away, but the other woman’s grip intensified. “It’s okay, Ginny!” she cried in Bree’s voice. “Just concentrate! Think about James’s birth!”

Ginny woke up, bathed in sweat.

Bree and Harry were both staring at her, wild-eyed. Both of them bore red claw marks on their hands where Ginny had been trying desperately to rid herself of their grip. Ginny’s eyelashes were glued together in places with a mixture of mascara and tears, the remains of which trailed down her cheeks in blotchy lines.

She felt hot all over. It was too much. She tried to stand and collapsed on the floor.

“Ginny!” Harry cried.

“Here, put this under her head,” Bree instructed, handing him one of the throw pillows from the sofa. “I’ll just go and fetch a wet rag—”

“No!” Ginny shouted, hating herself for being too weak to get up off the floor. “Harry, don’t let her touch me! She’s—she’s—” She grabbed Bree’s arm, causing the other woman to cry out in surprise, and yanked her down to the floor. She pulled fruitlessly at the sleeve of Bree’s sweater, trying to expose the skin, the Mark…

“Ginny, no!” Harry pulled his wife away, moving back against the couch and holding her tightly. The three of them sat there on the floor for quite some time, panting.

Eventually Ginny trusted herself enough to look up again.

“Are you all right?” Bree tried softly. Her hair looked a mess, and her sleeve was hopelessly wrinkled, but she had managed to compose herself for the most part. She looked at Ginny intently, but there was not a hint of malice in her expression.

Ginny shook her head. With some prying, she was able to free herself from Harry’s tight embrace. “I’m fine,” she murmured, moving shakily toward the door.

“Ginny, wait, we need to process what just happened—“

“No, I’m finished.” Ginny glanced at Harry. “Thank you for trying to help.”

She didn’t care if cameras greeted her outside. She had to get away from that office.

*

She found herself in the cemetery.

Ginny kicked the leaves out of her way as she walked, ignoring the brisk November wind that blew through her hair. She didn’t know exactly why she had chosen this place, so out in the open and far away from her house. She wandered among the gray stones in the earth, searching like a little bird looking for food on the cold ground below. Finally, her steps brought her to a familiar, well-trodden patch of grass. She stared down at the simple, flat gravestone and the words carved upon it.

Frederick Gideon Weasley
April 1, 1978 – May 2, 1998
Beloved Brother, Cherished Son
Remembered with Love and Laughter

Ginny sank to her knees, clearing off some dirt that had accumulated around the edges of the stone. Look at me, turning into Mum, she thought. She looked down at the stone for a moment, contemplating the sense of calm she suddenly felt.

Fred? Are you there? Can you hear me?

She cleared her throat. “I really need you right now, Fred.”

Ginny paused. She wasn’t sure what to expect. She hadn’t spent a lot of time talking to deceased grandparents when she was a little girl. If magical people took death a little differently than Muggles—and the possibility was reasonable, at least—then Fred would be the most likely to cause a scene. But the stone remained silent. Her dead brother did not appear before her, laughing and telling her to snap out of it. Still, she couldn’t help but feel a change in the atmosphere. Maybe he was listening.

“Could you just tell me if you’ve seen them?” she tried. Now that sounded stupid. Wizards didn’t believe in good or bad versions of the afterlife; her mother spoke vaguely about people passing “beyond the veil,” and her father liked to recite complicated passages from someone named Shakespeare about a “mortal coil.” Everyone who died wound up in the same place, wherever it was.

He had to have seen them at one time or another. The population was only so large.

“I just—I need to know if Bellatrix Lestrange is there. And him—you know, Voldemort.” She spat it out uncomfortably. “I mean, you haven’t gotten so rusty than you can’t perform a quick charm to let me know one way or the other, have you?” Her feeble attempt at a joke fell on deaf ears, for nothing around her even stirred. She could vaguely hear the movement of the autumn wind a few yards away.

“Please, Fred?” she whispered, running a hand over the smooth stone before her.

Suddenly, the quiet around her was broken by a terrifying familiar sound. Ginny turned to face it as it continued, finding herself face to face with a camera. Snap.

She stood up, frowning at the reporters who had stumbled upon her private moment with Fred. She wanted to be strong, to tell them to go away. She’d fantasized about doing so ever since the false story about her marriage broke.

But she was tired. She had been brave enough for one day.

Ginny turned, pulling her sweater closer around her, and stormed out of the graveyard. She ignored the repeated cries of her name, the begging for her attention. Maybe if she kept walking and kept her head down, they would all starve to death.

*

When Harry got home, after spending half an hour discussing the session and making amends with Ginny’s embattled therapist, he found his wife in bed. Her face betrayed the fact that she’d kept crying, and he felt guilty about not immediately coming home to comfort her. Then again, she didn’t seem to have much use for him.

He moved into the office and sat down at her desk. It was decorated with a recent family photo: he and Ginny smiled and held one another close in front of the Burrow, a scene from their last anniversary party. James grinned at the camera, bearing his namesakes’ tousled hair and peaceful gray eyes. Albus slept quietly in Ginny’s arms, only a week old. Harry remembered how he had admired the way a girl who once came home covered in bruises and blood from a Quidditch match could hold a child with such tenderness, such sensitivity about keeping him safe. It had seemed like he found a new reason to love her every day. Where was she now?

He heard a faint scratching noise in the basement.

Lighting his wand, he ventured downstairs, carefully opening the door in case another family of rats was there to greet him. He peered out into the darkness, but his eyes caught no sign of movement, nothing to suggest that anyone was there. Sighing, he closed the door, going to check on James and Albus, all the while chastising himself. Someone needed to try to keep a clear head in this family.

The door clicked shut, and the intruder quietly padded across the floor.

The dog had only been looking for a bit of food; his owners had been delayed on their return from a vacation and his kibble had run out. He sniffed around the basement, hoping for a bag of garbage or a trapped raccoon or squirrel. His keen sense of smell came up with nothing, though inside the house had smelled good.

He walked toward the back of the house, poking at boards in the wall with his nose until he found the weak spot. The dog moved a few boards aside and uncovered a hole. It led into a tunnel, the daylight spilling into the other end signaling an exit. The dog hadn’t created this secret passage, but he had used it several times now.

His nose poked up above the surface as he climbed out of the dirt tunnel. He would tuck the knowledge of it somewhere in his brain, and it might come to mind once again the next time he was looking for a snack. For now, though, the cat food on the porch of the house across the street would suffice. The dog moved in that direction.

Inside the basement, the boards that exposed the hole fell gently back into place.



Author’s Note:

Thank you for returning for another chapter of This Devilry!

First, to business—the reference to a “mortal coil” comes from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, particularly a soliloquy in Act III, Scene I. The play was written somewhere between 1599 and 1602, depending on whom you ask.

I know several of you were highly anticipating seeing Legilimency actively used in a therapeutic context, so I wonder what you think about that scene. Did it work as you expected? What do you think of Ginny’s behavior?

Also, I’m just dying to know what you think of that cryptic ending scene :)

Please, won’t you leave a review? I’m going to start on chapter nine soon!

-Amanda


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