13 June 1998
The Elder Wand clattered to the floor, and Harry Potter fought the sudden urge to follow it. Voldemort's last taunts still echoed in the marble entry hall of Malfoy Manor; the visions he had sent Harry before he'd died still held his mind in their grip; he leaned over and vomited. The seconds passed slowly. Fifteen seconds. Thirty seconds. Not even a full minute.
The sick fear and repulsion did not abate. His stomach curdled with it; hot blood continued to flood his brain, and he dreaded what came next. There was a small whimper behind him, and he suddenly wished there were more Death Eaters to kill. I'm not ready for this. I can't do this.
But Harry was not a coward, and he exerted massive effort and turned to look at her. Ginny Weasley huddled on the floor. Blushing, stammering, laughing Ginny with long red hair and bright brown eyes was an emaciated version of herself. She curled up against the wall, hands clasped around her knees to hide the fact that she was naked. She had long, deep scratches on her arms, and he knew that her hair and posture hid others. Her wrists and ankles had deep, ugly furrows in them that oozed fluids and smelled badly.
He took off his robes, and draped it over her. He didn't know what to say. She was Ron's little sister. She was only fourteen years old, and he didn't even want to think about what had been done to her, and she'd had to live through what had been done to her. The words I'm sorry stuck in his throat, choking him.
"I'll -- Healer..." he said. He touched her arm. She flinched away.
"Don't look at me," she said. Her face was hidden in her arms.
"I won't," he promised. "You need to -- St. Mungo's." He'd never had a hard time talking to Ron's little sister. He'd known her since she was eight, after all, and he never would have guessed that he would be here, in this position. I should have guessed. He stared down at the wall just behind the top of her head (he didn't want to break his promise) and realized that he had never, ever felt this type of horror. He tore his eyes away from that point and looked around. Rodolphus Lestrange, Greyback, and the Malfoys were dead. And despite the fact that he had never before killed, and that just an hour ago he had tried to prevent the death of the man who betrayed his parents, he suddenly wanted them alive so he could kill them again.
He felt a tug on his pants.
"Please don't tell," she said in a low voice.
"I won't," he said again. He wished there were more enemies to take care of, that it was not already over. This moment, this feeling was so much worse than battle fury or fear. His own teeth were chattering in the aftermath. I'm so sorry, he wanted to say. Harry had seen loved ones die; he'd seen people be tortured by the Cruciatus Curse; he'd seen a dementor almost suck out a man's soul.
Still. He just didn't understand how a young girl could be treated like that; his stomach turned over. Because of me. He wiped sweat off his suddenly clammy brow. She was taken because of me. Tom Riddle's body drew his attention again. I killed him too late.
"I have to take you to a Healer," he said in a stronger voice. How long had she been there? Why hadn't he known? Why hadn't Mr. Weasley sent another patronus to Ron, telling him that his little sister had been taken by Death Eaters?
"You said you wouldn't tell!" she said wildly. She looked at him for the first time. Her eyes were wide and staring.
"I'll just tell one person," he said. "Just one. But you're hurting -- I never learned the spells to make it better."
She shook her head. For one awful moment, Harry thought he was going to have to pick her up and force her to come with him, and he didn't want to have to touch her because he'd seen the way her entire body had flinched away from his touch. But her attention was caught once again by the bodies on the floor and, breathing heavily through her nose, she heaved herself to her feet. She walked as though she was on a ship: awkward and bow-legged.
I'm so sorry.
Once they were outside, she permitted him to touch her elbow. She looked very small and young; she was swimming in his robes. Her hair looked like blood against her pale skin; it used to look like fire.
17 June 1998
HARRY POTTER DEFEATS YOU-KNOW-WHO, DISAPPEARS
It has been confirmed that the dark wizard known as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was defeated at last. "He's gone," said Interim Minister For Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt. "He's dead. I've seen his body." This event occurred on the 13th of June, 1998 (see "A Year of Terror" in tomorrow's issue of the Daily Prophet) after nearly a year of living in You-Know-Who's shadow (see "Pius Thicknesse: Imperius or Free Will?" page 5). The final altercation took place at Malfoy Manor two days ago. The details have not yet been released: when pressed, Minister Shacklebolt says, "Isn't it enough that he's dead? He was defeated by Harry Potter. That's enough." No other facts can be corroborated, other than the bodies of Rodolphus Lestrange, Fenrir Greyback, Peter Pettigrew, and all three Malfoys were found beside You-Know-Who. Harry Potter, 17, is unavailable for comment. He was briefly seen at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies late that evening and requested the assistance of a Healer. The Healer, who prefers to remain unnamed, admitted that she treated Ginevra Weasley, 14, for unknown injuries. He has not been seen since, nor has he responded to the flocks of owls requesting more information (see "Harry Potter: Twice Savior" page 2). The Weasley family, long-time supporters of Harry Potter, have likewise been reluctant to speak to the press. "We have no idea how it happened," says Ron Weasley. "We were there up until Dobby got us out of there; we thought Harry was right behind us. I had no idea my sister was even there. And Harry isn't talking to us either, even though we just want him to come home. It isn't his fault." Mysteries aside, it is a very joyous occasion for all witches, wizards, and Muggles. The Auror Department has already been reformed, and Death Eaters are being rounded up and sent to Azkaban as this is written (see "Dementors Driven From Britain" page 6). Once more, an age of freedom will be enjoyed thanks to Harry Potter.
The final altercation took place at Malfoy Manor two days ago. The details have not yet been released: when pressed, Minister Shacklebolt says, "Isn't it enough that he's dead? He was defeated by Harry Potter. That's enough." No other facts can be corroborated, other than the bodies of Rodolphus Lestrange, Fenrir Greyback, Peter Pettigrew, and all three Malfoys were found beside You-Know-Who.
Harry Potter, 17, is unavailable for comment. He was briefly seen at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies late that evening and requested the assistance of a Healer. The Healer, who prefers to remain unnamed, admitted that she treated Ginevra Weasley, 14, for unknown injuries. He has not been seen since, nor has he responded to the flocks of owls requesting more information (see "Harry Potter: Twice Savior" page 2). The Weasley family, long-time supporters of Harry Potter, have likewise been reluctant to speak to the press. "We have no idea how it happened," says Ron Weasley. "We were there up until Dobby got us out of there; we thought Harry was right behind us. I had no idea my sister was even there. And Harry isn't talking to us either, even though we just want him to come home. It isn't his fault."
Mysteries aside, it is a very joyous occasion for all witches, wizards, and Muggles. The Auror Department has already been reformed, and Death Eaters are being rounded up and sent to Azkaban as this is written (see "Dementors Driven From Britain" page 6). Once more, an age of freedom will be enjoyed thanks to Harry Potter.
Ginny Weasley wasn't stupid. She knew exactly where she was. She was in her own room at the Burrow, huddled under the covers, and the lamp cast a soft glow around the room. But sometimes she knew that she was still at Malfoy Manor. She could hear the squealing of Pettigrew when he was being tormented; the click of the door was Lucius Malfoy's cane tapping toward her, closer and closer. And the cool breeze through the open window was Fenrir Greyback's breath hot on the back of her neck. And sometimes even though her eyes were open and the lamp was lit, she felt like it was totally dark, like it had been when they put her away.
The first night was the worst.
She'd been so cold, and she thought that Draco Malfoy might have made good on his threat to bring in a dementor, and she screamed before she could stop herself.
"It's the shock," someone said. "And I've already given her a potion; she'll sleep soon."
"We thought she was at school," her dad kept saying. Though he might've only said it the once, and Ginny just kept hearing it. "She was sending us letters!" Someone was sobbing. At first she thought it was her mum, but it was her dad, and that just made it worse. Mums cried, not dads.
Something heavy pressed down on her chest, and it grew heavier with each passing moment. It made her sick. "STOP CRYING!" someone shouted; it took Ginny a few moments to realize it had been her.
A while later.
"What the hell happened?" It was Ron.
"She w-w-was at Malfoy Manor," her mum said.
"We were just there," he sounded so confused. Ginny wanted to reassure him that he couldn't have seen her; she'd been chained to the table and in another room. "I didn't -- are you sure -- where the hell is Harry?"
She remembered a flash of green light. "He's dead," she whispered. "He's dead, he's dead--"
"--distressed again; I wouldn't normally have used this potion with the... complications, but her injuries were severe enough to need it," said the Healer. "And, Miss Weasley, Harry Potter is most certainly not dead. He's the one that -- er -- got me from the hospital."
And Ginny was suddenly frightened. She'd checked the bodies again and again -- Harry had told her they were dead and they had to get out of there -- but what if they weren't dead either? They are, said a small, firm voice. They're dead. Deader than dead. Fear receded. Anguish rushed in. Why did it have to be Harry of all people that had seen her like that? What he must think of her...
"I'm sure he still likes you just fine," Hermione said in a thick voice. Ginny realized with a start that she had spoken out loud. "He wouldn't -- Harry would..."
"Harry did," said Ron. Ron been gone for a while, but he was back again. He'd been gone since Bill's wedding, but he was back again now. Her brother. "He killed them, Hermione, he must've gone ballistic when he saw her; Voldemort's gone, too... I found the snake's body with all the rest. Kingsley was already there. Said he'd seen Harry. Blimey..."
"Harry killed--?" Hermione said in disbelief.
"I wish I'd been there too," Ron said darkly. Ginny flinched. Harry had seen her like that. Harry. She'd fancied him forever, and he'd seen her. She'd asked him not to look--
"If you asked him not to look, I'm sure he didn't," Ron said. Ginny could tell that he was crying, and it just made everything worse. "I can't help it, Ginny. If any of the fuckers who touched her are still alive, they won't be for long."
Harry had checked just to make sure. Yes, it had just been three of them, though Wormtail had tried. Yes, she was certain.
Words faded away. Ginny did not know how long the potion gripped her. It muddled her thoughts and made time pass in strange ways; sometimes the hours flew by while she blinked, and other times she lay awake in the well-lit room while the clock ticked off the seconds once a minute. But as her injuries healed, the potion left her longer stretches of clarity. You're safe. You're home. You're safe. You're home. They're dead. That fierce certainty was what she clung to.
Harry never returned, and a part of her was so relieved that it made her feel ill. Sometimes she had a dream and she would wake up thinking that he was gripping her elbow and taking her away, and she'd break out into a cold sweat. He knew everything. He'd seen everything. He'd seen her like that. But the best part of her was worried along with the rest of her family, because Harry had always felt guilty about everything, and he was certain to blame himself for this, too.
But she didn't want him to look at her, and maybe he knew that, and that's why he stayed away. He'd seen her naked. He'd seen her chained up like a dog, and after he'd broken her out, she probably hadn't remembered to always cover herself with her arms, even though she'd never even been able to wear her bathing suit in front of him. But she didn't want him to blame himself; it wasn't his fault. He was a hero. She just didn't want him to look at her.