Destruction and Hope
It was destroyed. The castle. The grounds. Her world.
Ginny Weasley tried to block it all out, the broken building behind her, the bodies, oh, god, the bodies, that she knew were being moved as she walked, moved to a place where they would be safe, where they would come to no harm.
In some part of her, she couldn't help but think it unnecessary. If the body came to harm, if the empty shells was destroyed, would it really matter? The dead were beyond caring.
She was recovering the injured, and the dead. What else was there to do? She couldn't stay in the hall, where the smell of death clung to the lungs, the sight of it burned the eyes. So she moved along the tattered ground, seeking more, more dead, more lost, and all the while wishing for something, something to take away the pain. Something to fix everything.
She was sixteen. She was barely more than a child, and she had seen much more than any child should. She was old enough to understand there was no way to reverse what had happened, to save the people already lost.
She was young enough to hope that there was. That something would happen and everything would be OK again. That she would wake up and it had all been a dream.
She wasn't crying. She hadn't yet shed tears tonight, not even when presented with the bodies of her brother, of her friends. Oh, she'd come close. Her eyes had filled, clouded, her vision had blurred. But the tears had always dried before they could fall.
Maybe crying would make it all too real, too final, to permanent.
"Ginny." Fleur was walking towards her, quickly. "Come on, inside. The hour's nearly up." Ginny checked her watch, felt the quick stab of fear, panic.
"Harry?" She asked as she let Fleur take her arm and lead her back towards the castle.
"I - no one knows where he is." Fleur said, her voice shaking. Ginny felt another quick stab of fear, told herself it was OK, he was OK. He had a plan. He was doing...something. Something that would end this.
The dead had been moved from the hall, the living gathered by the front doors. Ready. Waiting.
She knew she was facing death tonight. Her friend's. Her family's. Her own.
She knew, she understood, and every fibre of her being was braced, was prepared, and was ready to fight. Fight until the bloody end if she had to. Not even a small part of her wanted to run, to hide.
This, some part of her was sure, was her end, and her purpose. If she died fighting, she wouldn't care. She'd read somewhere that no war was worth fighting for. At this moment, she disagreed completely. They were fighting for their freedom, for their lives, and, yes, for revenge. Their enemies had taken, destroyed, killed, and no one could deny that part of this fight was revenge.
They were all braced, all with wands out, their faces set, she saw. Some looked scared, some were crying, some seemed to be in shock, their faces and eyes blank and empty. Some, like her, were ready to die.
And then, ringing in the silence, was his voice.
"Harry Potter is dead."
Noise erupted, terrified sobs, disbelieving whispers. Ginny stayed silent, numb, even when she felt Hermione's hand grip her arm painfully.
"He was killed as he ran away, trying to save himself while you lay down your lives for him."
Now the whispers, the buzz of noise, were angry. All heard the lie. All knew that Harry would never have ran, have left.
"We bring you his body as proof that your hero is gone." Fear stabbed again, hard, sharp, through the numbness. Some part of her mind was saying the word "No", over and over and over again. It was ringing in her ears even all Voldemort's voice rang throughout the school.
"The battle is won. You have lost half your fighters." And the rest, the remaining half, would fight and die, too, if they had to. "My Death Eaters out number you, and The Boy Who Lived is finished."
Some detached part of her accepted this, put it away and prepared to finish this, one way or the other, even while the rest of her swamped with misery, hopelessness, disbelief.
"There must be no war. Anyone who continues to resist, man, woman or child, will be slaughtered, as will every member of their family. Come out of the castle, now, kneel before me and you shall be spared. Your parents and children, your brothers and sisters will live, and be forgiven, and you will join me in the new world we shall build together."
Their was no hesitation, no discussion. As one, the fighters moved forward, spilled out of the castle. Not to kneel and join, not to surrender, but to fight. To die.
She was near the front of the crowd, having joined it so late, and she was right behind Professor McGonagall. And the sound her teacher made caused her heart to trip.
"No!" It was a desperate sound, a scream, of pain, of terror, of emotions Ginny couldn't define. And then she saw the cause.
Hagrid, the huge, bloodied, form of Hagrid, was stood amongst the mass of Death Eaters and their leader. Hagrid was sobbing, his face screwed up with pain and the effort of trying to break away from the control of Voldemort.
Ginny didn't see Hagrid's face, however. She saw his arms, and the body cradled in them.
Still, lifeless, the eyes close, the mouth open. For a moment, she didn't breathe, didn't think, didn't feel. She just stared.
Ron and Hermione's cries jolted her to life.
"Harry! HARRY!" She screamed it, louder than she'd ever screamed anything, and a part of her really thought he would hear, he would answer, he would stir and sit up and grin at the crowd. She could almost hear his voice. I'm OK. We're going to be OK.
Maybe she should have had the life sucked from her. The energy. Maybe she should have fallen to the ground.
But she didn't. She doubled her grip on her wand, stood straight upright.
"Silence!" Until the cry, Ginny hadn't even realised the students around her were making noise. But Voldemort's spell had then all unable to speak, to sob, to shout. "It is over! Set him down Hagrid, at my feet where he belongs."
She noticed the jerkiness of Hagrid's movements, burned with anger when she realised he was being controlled. It was probably ridiculous that, out of everything, that small fact made pain and fear dissolve into anger.
"You see? Harry Potter is dead! Do you understand now, deluded ones? He was nothing, ever, but a boy who relied on others to sacrifice themselves for him."
No. That wasn't true. He was prepared to fight, she knew. She knew he must have walked into the forest, through the trees, to die, to die for them and save them and end it all.
It was stupid that a part of her wished he had just ran and saved himself, but she couldn't help it.
"He beat you!" Ron's voice, and sound erupted around her again.
"He was killed while trying to sneak out of the castle grounds," Voldemort cried. "Killed while trying to save himself."
And Neville was suddenly running forward, stupidly, bravely, running towards evil, for reasons only he truly knew.
And then a bang, and flash, and Neville was disarmed, and Ginny knew she was about to watch him die, too.
How many more? How many more would she have to see, die, dead, before she too, left all of this behind?
"And who is this? Who has volunteered to demonstrate what happens to those who continue to fight when the battle is lost?"
"It is Neville Longbottom, my Lord!" Bellatrix Lestrange laughed. "The boy who has been causing the Carrows so much trouble! The son of the Aurors, remember?"
"Ah, yes, I remember." He looked at Neville thoughtfully, and Neville, despite being unarmed and surely seconds from death, faced him, looked him in the eye, stood straight, with dignity. "But you're pure-blood, aren't you my brave boy?" Voldemort asked him.
"So what if I am?" Neville, the boy who, when she'd first known him, had been awkward, nervous, and, in truth, quite close to being a wimp, stood and faced the dangerous, dark wizard, insult in his voice.
"You show spirit, and bravery, and you come of noble stock. You will make a very valuable Death Eater. We need your kind, Neville Longbottom."
"I'll join you when hell freezes over." Neville replied. "Dumbledore's Army!"
And despite the silencing charm, she, and others, many others, sent back an answering cheer.
"Very well." There was confusion as well as fear as Voldemort raised his wand and nothing happened. And then the sorting hat was in his hand. "There will be no more sorting at Hogwarts School. There will be no more houses. The emblem, shield and colours of my noble ancestor, Salazar Slytherin, will suffice for everyone, won't they, Neville Longbottom?"
And then Neville went rigid, and the hat was on his head, and on fire, flames, dancing and she knew that Neville couldn't scream, that he was dying, right before them, painfully, slowly, and others were screaming for him, and she couldn't draw in the breath to add to them.
And then...confusion. Mayhem.
Grawp, the centaurs, and more wizards, including, she saw, Charlie, and the battle was beginning again.
And then the Hat was off of Neville, and he was free and he was holding something silver, something glinting with rubies. It all happened so fast after that.
Neville raised the sword, and every eye was drawn to him somehow, and all movement stopped as Neville brought the sword down with a sound she couldn't possibly have heard, but she was sure she had, and the snake's head was flying through the air, and the snake was dead, and Voldemort screamed.
She didn't know why he'd killed the snake. He, himself, didn't, but somehow, everyone seemed to know that it was crucial, important. And somehow, that beheaded snake gave them all hope.
As the battle began again.
She cast curses and dodged others, and the crowd was slowly moving back into the ruined castle for no apparent reason. And then Hagrid's voice cut through the noise, much like the sword had cut through the snake.
"Harry! Harry - where's Harry?"
She turned, she couldn't help it, and she saw, the spot where he had been, where he should be, was empty.
And she knew. She knew he was alive, he was alive, and he'd used his cloak, and she knew he was going to end the war. And suddenly, she was determined not to die. Her eyes met Hermione's through the moving bodies, and she smiled, despite it all, she smiled.
And Hermione smiled back and nodded. Because she knew, too.
She'd never know how she got into the hall alive, not when curses and jinxes were flying from all directions. But she did.
She sent a curse out to the nearest death eater, who turned when the white-hot light grazed her. And Ginny caught the madness in Bellatrix Lestrange's face a second before the witch sent a curse back at her.
It barely missed her, and then she was duelling, desperately, instinctively. Hermione joined her, the two of them battling for all it was worth, and then Luna, too, and she was determined to win.
Bellatrix, the woman who'd killed and tortured, the woman who'd killed Sirius, who she was sure had killed Tonks, the woman who's almost killed her brother almost a year ago.
The curse was heading towards her, and she, in that instant, was sure it was all over for her. But Bellatrix's aim was off, and it missed her. And then Ginny heard her mother's cry, saw her striding towards them.
She watched, fearful, as her mother battled Bellatrix.
Not mum. Not mum too.
And she was desperately waiting for Harry, for Harry to reveal himself, to stride through the crowd. And then all thoughts of Harry were gone as Bellatrix fell to the floor. Dead.
Voldemort turned with an angry cry, and Ginny stepped forward, with no idea how she was going to save her mother, and then...
"Protego!" And then Harry was there, the cloak on the floor, and his wand raised.
His eyes were on Voldemort, and Voldemort only, and her eyes were on him, him only, as the crowd shifted back against the walls.
He didn't meet her eyes, although she was desperate for him to. But she knew, in that instant, knew that they were minutes away from being saved. Knew that it was all going to be over, Voldemort was going to die.
And so she watched, waited.
The castle was destroyed. The grounds.
But maybe, just maybe, her world was still intact.