Rating: Strong R
Content: Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters
Summary: The Wizarding world thinks Harry Potter is dead and now the search is on for his Secret-Keeper, Ginny Weasley.
A/N: This is going to be a dark, not-nice story. Death, torture, all that good stuff. I love angsty Harry/Ginny. What can I say?
Feedback: I would greatly appreciate it.
There is a pain between his eyes. Sharp, searing, like a hot brand puckering the skin, creating blisters that spread to the curves of his face, making his watering eyes burn and boil in their sockets. He can't focus them; everything is strangely blurred. Dark shapes waver in and out as he squints through the pain, gritting his teeth in agony, his head feeling as if it were nearly split in two.
He tastes the coppery tang of blood on his tongue, feels it dripping down his cracked, broken lips and down his chin. With a push of his tongue, he feels the give of one loose tooth and the well of more blood. He grimaces as the pain sharpens and blurs like his vision, then spits out a mouthful of blood and thick saliva.
Eyes squeezed tight against the throbbing in his head, he tries to move his limbs, testing for more aches and wounds. He finds them easily enough as his shoulder gives a tight twist and a shudder. Dislocated. His wrists feel raw and he feels the dull burn of thick rope wrapped around them, tethering him to something--a chair. He's sitting upright; the black robes on his legs are slashed and torn, a pair of equally abused trousers beneath them peaking through, and below that, his legs. There are burns and cuts on the skin, up and down and everywhere he can feel. Some bleed sluggishly, indicating that most are shallow.
Nothing life-threatening, then. He doesn't relax though. He squints into the dark room, trying to locate anything that will tell him where he is. There are dark humps grouped around the room and even darker shadows beyond them. A tentative sniff of the air brings the smell of something acrid and metallic to his senses. There are no windows. No sounds penetrate the small room.
He is utterly alone here and he knows it. He struggles to remember how he got here, why he's hurt and bound to a chair in a dark room. An explosion, a flash of red, laughter, a woman's breath on his neck as he struggles, these are the only details he can pull through his pain.
It is enough for now.
Harry Potter takes a rattling breath, discovers more injuries in the form of broken ribs, and slowly sinks back into the darkness, his scar burning hotly on his forehead...
A piece of smoldering, broken wall bursts apart in a miniature explosion, revealing the charred mess of glass and melted metal beneath it. Ron Weasley kicks at the rubble, breathing hard against a stitch in his side, sweat pouring into his eyes. He breathes in and coughs on a mouthful of ash, smoke making his eyes water.
Number 12 Grimmauld Place has been reduced to a smoking pile of rubble. Small fires dot the burned out husk of the ancient house, making red and gold shadows flicker across Ron's vision. His hands are cut and bleeding, caked with black ash, his robes covered in soot and grime. He doesn't care, nor notice.
His heart is full to bursting and panic rises with each minute that goes by.
Harry can't be here. He couldn't have been here when it blew. This stubborn thought flies through Ron's head like a mantra even as he digs harder, blasting ash and broken bits of wood out of his way to search beneath. Tears well in his eyes and he fights them off as he digs deeper.
He hears the shouts and the blasts of the other Aurors and members of the Order of the Phoenix around him as they too search, hearts heavy. There isn't much left that isn't burnt and blackened and nothing much larger remains other than random bits of wall or a support beam that wasn't incinerated by the blast.
If Harry were here, he'd have been burned to death in an instant. Bile rises in Ron's throat as he tosses a bit of crumbling plaster over his shoulder. He can't think, doesn't want to think.
"Why wasn't I here?" he mutters aloud, feeling the sting of more tears threaten his eyes. He'd told Harry that he and Hermione would come by for dinner tonight, but he'd been late...
Because of Ginny. Another blind thrust of panic enters his chest as he thinks of his sister. She was supposed to be on a special mission for the Ministry, curse breaking in Ireland, but she'd never showed up. They'd been ready to leave for Harry's when Kingsley Shacklebolt's head had appeared in their fire and told them the grim news.
Ron gives a sob, forgetting himself and not caring who is near enough to hear. Not an instant later, arms encircle him, drawing him tight against an equally dirty but warm body. He knows this embrace better than even his mother's and sinks into it willingly, fisting his filthy hands in her long, bushy hair.
"Hermione...he couldn't have been here when it blew...he couldn't have!" Ron says into Hermione's shoulder as she shudders against him, holding in her own grief as hard as she can.
"He said he'd be here, Ron...we can't know that he wasn't!" She's speaking sensibly--he's always loved that about her--but he wants her to lie, to tell him that Harry flooed out of the house, that he was safe and sound, somewhere with Ginny maybe. Somewhere not here; not in the burned husk of Grimmauld Place. "We have to keep looking, Ron..."
"I know...I know..." he says softly, swallowing his grief as much as he can and drawing away from her arms. Her face is tear-streaked, bright pink paths in the soot coating her face. He squeezes her hand, feeling the tremble in it and then turns back to the ruins.
Hermione digs beside him, desperate for anything, a clue that will tell them what has happened. It comes several minutes later as Tonks' voice rings clearly across the ruins.
"His wand! Oi! I found his wand!"
Ron leaps to his feet, Hermione on his heels. Together they tear across the burning debris, stumbling and ripping their robes as they make their way toward Tonks' dirty, downtrodden form standing atop the largest pile of blackened support beams. He sees a wooden object balanced in her fingers, dirty but unharmed.
He knows that wand as well as he knows his own and there is no doubt that it's Harry's. His stomach plummets to his toes and as he snatches it from Tonks, who is white-faced and somber.
"Its his. I know it's his. He wouldn't leave the house without his wand--which means..."
"He was here when it blew," Hermione supplies in a gutted, hollow voice. She takes a sharp breath, her hand finding Ron's in the flickering darkness. Other Aurors surround them, bowing their heads. Ron looks down at his feet and sees the dull glimmer of glass beneath the toe of his boots. Stooping, he picks up the object and feels his bile rising again.
"Or his glasses," he says, holding up the twisted metal frames, the cracked glass dark and dim. He touches a jagged red stain upon the cracked glass and groans like a wounded animal. There is a hush as Hermione takes them from him and examines the spectacles.
"Its blood...the blast cauterized it..." Hermione says shortly and looks away, closing her eyes, another fat drop steadily tracking down her cheek. A murmur goes around the battered, defeated group. Ron takes a shuddering breath, smoke burning his esophagus.
"So that's it, then? Harry Potter is dead," Mad-Eye Moody says in a deep voice, his magical eye rolling around in his skull, an expression of deep sorrow on his scarred face. He has said the thing no one has wanted to hear or even think since the night began, since Ron and Hermione had found Grimmauld Place in flames.
Harry Potter is dead. Ron swallows hard, fighting the urge to hit something, to scream, to curse the nearest thing to him. Instead, he lifts his head and glares at Mad-Eye Moody, brown eyes intent and deadly, jaw clenched.
And he says the very thing everyone is thinking now, has been afraid of since the night before.
"Where is his Secret-Keeper?" Ron says in a dangerous, sharp voice, his eyes dull points of light in his dirty face. The Aurors exchange terrified glances but don't respond. "Where is my sister?"
No answer comes. No one knows where Ginny Weasley has gone.