The Darkest Hours
Hermione closed the latest book she'd been thumbing through with a heavy sigh. "This is so pointless! I hate to admit this but these books aren't getting us anywhere. In the previous battles with Voldemort, so many Death Eaters came forwarding claiming to be controlled that the lines are all blurred. No one truly knows who was and was not cursed and those who were cursed had little or no recollection of the spell cast on them."
"And the Death Eaters aren't about to tell us," Harry agreed with a nod. Reaching across the table, Harry took Hermione's hand in his own and gave it a tender squeeze. "Don't worry, Hermione. We'll figure this out. Remember, it may be nothing."
"And at the same time, our own ignorance might be our undoing."
Their eyes met across the table in the Hogwarts library where they'd spent so much time over the last seven years. It was their first time in the castle during summer vacation and it seemed so eerie, felt so deserted. In a way, it seemed to increase the overwhelming feeling of helplessness they felt.
"Let's go, Hermione. Let's go and have a nice dinner, just the two of us and forget about everything for a few minutes."
Her eyes darted over the stacks of books they had yet to go through and frowned. "We can't, Harry. We still have so much more to go through. What about Ginny and the Order and…"
"Stop," Harry interrupted softly, standing up and moving around the table to kneel at her chair. He placed two fingers under her chin and gently turned to face to his. "Please stop. Of course I am worried about everyone too but what about you and me? Surely we deserve a small amount of time to ourselves, even if it is for no other reason then to maintain our sanity."
The words took a long time to filter into Hermione's already overexerted brain but finally she smiled and placed a soft hand to his cheek. "You're right. I'm sorry. Everything just feels so out of control right now."
"We've beaten this before, 'Mione. We'll do it again." Harry stood up, pulling Hermione to her feet and embracing her tightly. They held each other for a long time before she pulled back just far enough to look into his eyes.
"I love you, Harry."
"I love you too."
"Ginny, you were brilliant!" George shouted as the twins and Ginny made their way into the Burrow after a long day at the shop.
"Everything went well then, I trust?" Mr. Weasley spoke softly as he stepped into the hall to greet his children.
"Never better, Dad. Sales were up 50 today with Ginny at the door," Fred replied, patting his blushing little sister on the back.
"Nip upstairs and change, will you Ginny? You mother will have a fit if she sees that outfit."
The twins laughed but Ginny got upstairs just as Mrs. Weasley entered the hallway. "Hurry up and get ready for dinner, boys. Harry and Hermione won't be back until late tonight so once Bill gets in, we'll be ready to eat."
Ginny closed the bedroom door behind herself and quickly took off the short skirt and sheer shirt the twins now called her uniform. Hiding it in a back drawer where Mrs. Weasley was less likely to search, the young woman turned to the mirror to fix her hair and dress but before she could even pick up her brush, her hand force. The sight she saw in the mirror horrified her.
At first her own face was reflected in the mirror but then, before her eyes, the image changed. Her skin began to peel away from her face. Slowly layer upon layer of flesh melted from her face and shoulders until all that was left was a skull. A skull that looked dangerously similar to the dark mark. It wasn't until the skull in her mirror began to form an evil smile that she found her voice and began screaming at the top of her lungs.
Within seconds there was a series of loud pops and every member of her family was in her room, wands at the ready. Mrs. Weasley quickly wrapped her daughter in a robe the minute the fear of immediate attack was over but Ginny didn't dare look at anyone. Her face was buried in the blankets of her bed where no one could see. After a search of the room brought up nothing, all eyes turned to the girl lying on her bed sobbing.
"Ginny, what happened?" Mrs. Weasley asked sounding much calmer than she actually felt.
"A skull… It was a skull!" she sobbed.
"What was a skull?" Charlie asked exchanging looks or confusion and unease with his brothers.
"R-Reflection… My reflection. It was me but… changed… blood… death." Then her words broke down into incoherent sobs.
The twins sat down on each side of their younger sister protectively. "Look at me, Ginny." Fred said lightly, hoping to ease her fear.
"Come on, Ginny. You'll never know what you look like until you show us," George added in an equally cheery voice but if she could have seen the expression in the eyes of the twins, their light sounding voices would never have fooled her.
After a long moment, Ginny wiped her eyes and slowly raised her face to the twins. "Well?"
"What do you think, Fred?" George asked with a smile.
"Looks the same to me," his twin replied with an expression of relief on his face that was shared by almost everyone.
"Still as pretty as always, Ginny," Bill added trying to smile along with everyone else but not quite succeeding which is why it surprised him when Ginny met his eyes.
As everyone else spoke with a sense of obvious relief, Bill and Ginny shared a rather serious moment. Using nothing more than their eyes, Ginny knew Bill thought something foul was going on and at the same time, Bill knew Ginny thought so too. The fear in her eyes made him want to hug her protectively but he couldn't. He couldn't worry his family anymore right now. Not when they'd just gotten through this kind of a scare.
"Harry, I'm worried," Hermione said, sipping her water after the wonderful meal they'd shared in a quite pub in London.
"What is it?" He asked, taking her hand.
"Our wedding. I'm just worried that a gathering of our friends, so many of whom are in the Order seems to be a perfect environment for a Death Eater attack."
"So, what do you think we should do?" Harry asked with obvious apprehension as to how she'd reply.
"I don't know. … I want to marry more than anything else in the world but the only way to ensure everyone's safety would be to get married in total secrecy. That would mean running off without telling a soul but…"
"Why don't we?" Harry said suddenly with a sparkle of amusement in his eyes.
"What?" Hermione asked with a equal sparkle in her eyes as if they were two little kids trying to get away with something.
"Why don't we just run off and get married? I'm sure people will understand if we explain."
"When? Now?" Hermione asked, both of them nearly giddy with excitement.
"Why not? I want to marry you, 'Mione. Let's do it now, before anything else happens. I want to know that you're safe and if were married, you will be."
"You're serious?" Hermione asked, trying not to think about what Harry meant by his last sentence. The thought of losing Harry was just too much to think about right now.
"Right this minute?"
"If you say yes."
There was a brief pause while Hermione playfully took time to consider the proposal but slowly a smile slid across her face. "Okay then, yes."
Two minutes later, the bill was paid and two young lovers were making their way through London to find a place to get wed.
Harry and Hermione had still not returned to the Burrow when the Weasley's had gone up to bed that night but shortly after midnight, two were still awake and they met in the living room.
"Bill, I'm scared." Ginny said quietly from the couch, her legs tucked up under her chin. "Something is happening. I can feel it only I have no idea what it is or what it means."
Not knowing what to say, Bill sat down beside his sister in silence. He didn't want to admit how disturbing Ginny's own admission was. Frightening as the situation may be, this was the little girl who had dogged his heels as a child and still looked to him for help and support even now. He could not let down. He could not let her down. He'd already lost a brother and he's be damned if he was going to loose his only sister as well.