Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowlings, I am merely playing in her universe
Ginny Weasley stumbled her way down to the Dining Chamber where her best friend Aimée Fournier was waiting at their usual table.
"Bon jour m'amie, you're late. I didn't think you would make it down to breakfast."
Ginny smiled. "I didn't think I would make it either. I just couldn't wake up this morning."
Ginny grabbed some toast, fruit, and yogurt from the table. "I am so glad that exams are over. Can you believe that at Hogwarts, they take their O.W.L.s at the end of their fifth year? I'm so glad we have another year before our exams."
Ginny and Aimée were finishing their fifth year at Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. Ginny loved Beauxbatons. She had been taught at home for her first year, but then she was offered a scholarship to attend the prestigious French school. It had been a little intimidating at first. She'd never been away from home before, she couldn't speak any French, and she had missed her brothers; but now she couldn't imagine anything different. She and Aimée had become great friends.
Aimée laughed. "I agree, I can't imagine taking such important exams right now either."
The girls looked up as the morning owls came flying into the chamber. Ginny smiled as she saw her family's owl, Aston, flying towards her. Aston skidded to a stop in front of her and Ginny removed the letter from his leg. She offered the bird some juice and croissant before looking at the letter, it was from her mother.
"Come on Ginny, what's your mum have to say?"
Ginny smiled as she began to read out loud, Aimée loved listening to the letters from all of the Weasley family.
I hope this letter finds you well. I wanted to write to you before any untrue stories reached you. A small group of Death Eaters managed to infiltrate Hogwarts. We were able to counter the attack and prevent much damage. Bill was injured, it looked bad at first – he was attacked by a werewolf, but the werewolf wasn't transformed at the time. Remus thinks he will be fine.
Ginny felt the letter drop from her fingers. Aimée reached across the table and grabbed her hand, "Ginny."
Ginny felt the burning in her eyes before she realized that she was crying. She was so worried about her family. Her parents and four of her five oldest brothers were involved in the Order of the Phoenix, a secret organization to fight Voldemort. Her brother, Percy, had broken with the family two years ago when he sided with the Ministry of Magic over his family. Her youngest brother, Ron, who was a year older then her, was very vocal in his support of the Order and Harry Potter. It was Ginny's biggest fear that she would lose one of her family members to this war.
Ginny managed a watery smile for Aimée. "I'm okay. It just took me by surprise, let me finish the letter."
Professor Dumbledore was attacked as well he is also expected to recover. I'm sure you remember your father's friend, Mad Eye Moody, I'm sorry to say he was killed in the attack. Those behind the attacks, Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape, were killed in the attack. None of the other Death Eaters were captured in the attack. I am thankful it was not much worse.
I know Bill and Fleur were supposed to come get you when school is over. I was hoping that you would be able to stay with Aimée until Quidditch camp starts. Your camp ends only a week before the wedding, so after camp you can join us at the Delacours.
I will write more when I have the chance. Dad and all the boys send their love.
Ginny looked up after reading this. Aimée smiled. "Of course you can stay with me. I will write to maman after breakfast."
"Thanks, Aimée," Ginny replied gratefully.
Harry Potter jogged through the still silent dark streets of Little Whinging. The sameness of all of the houses surprising after spending ten months in the wizarding world. This was his favorite time of day, before sunrise. He used this quiet time to get his thoughts in order.
Last summer had been the worst of his life. After the death of his godfather, Sirius Black, he had been stuck in Little Whinging until school started again. The only good part of last summer was his deepening friendship with Remus Lupin. After Sirius's death, Remus had stepped into that void and he and Harry had spent a lot of time together.
Harry's fears of his friends abandoning him after the fiasco at the Ministry and hearing about the prophecy had not come true. Ron, Hermione, and Remus had all supported him through his grief and they had become closer this past year.
Sixth year was much better than fifth year. Harry had been named captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team and they had once again won the Quidditch Cup. He had started both physical and magical training with Remus and Tonks. Professor Dumbledore had started private lessons with Harry training him in advanced magic and sharing what information he could about Tom Riddle, aka Lord Voldemort.
Harry turned onto Magnolia Road and jogged towards the park. He was supposed to meet Remus in the afternoon. He was going to spend the day at Grimmauld Place. It would be the first time he'd been there since Sirius's death. Although Harry had inherited Grimmauld Place along with the rest of Sirius's estate and Remus had been living there for the past year, Harry had not been able to face up to the memories and had not gone there last summer. At Christmas, when Ron and Hermione had each gone home to be with their families, Remus had come and spent the holidays at Hogwarts to keep him company.
Harry's thoughts turned to the battle that had been fought at Hogwarts just last month. He and Professor Dumbledore had been finishing one of their private lessons, when the alarm had been sounded. Death Eaters had breached the castle.
Harry and the Headmaster started running towards the Astronomy Tower, where Tonks's Patronus told them the fighting was taking place. Harry's heart was pounding as he rounded the corner and saw Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape running towards them wands raised. Although he'd always suspected the two of them, it was shocking to see them openly fighting for Voldemort. Draco was wearing the same Death Eater robes as his mentor although neither of them were masked. Harry thought they were trying to make a statement and openly declare their loyalties.
Harry dodged a stunner fired by Draco and started firing hexes. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Dumbledore and Snape engaged in a duel as well.
Snape sneered at the Headmaster. "I am tired of living this lie and I am tired of being a spy for you. What do you have to offer? What are the chances that Potter can defeat the Dark Lord? No, I serve only one master now."
Harry's attention was drawn back to Draco as a cutting curse hit Harry along the chest. Harry sent more hexes in Draco's direction, hitting him several times and Draco was bleeding in several places and bleeding heavily. Harry dodged another cutting curse when Draco suddenly yelled, "Crucio!"
Harry was knocked to the ground. While it hurt for a moment, Harry was able to easily shake it off. "What's the matter Draco?" Harry taunted, "Didn't your Aunt Bellatrix ever tell you? You have to really mean an Unforgivable Curse."
Harry danced out the way and sent a blasting curse hurtling towards Draco. Draco was sent flying into the wall with a loud crunch. He struck his head and crumpled to the ground unmoving.
Harry whirled as he saw the Headmaster stumble. Snape raised his wand and yelled, "Crucio!" Seeing the state the headmaster was in, Harry dove in front of the curse taking the brunt of it himself.
White hot knives of pain stabbed Harry's body. While Draco might not be able to cast an Unforgivable, Snape had no problems doing so. His face lit with delight when he realized he had Harry under his wand. Snape broke the connection after several long minutes. No matter how much he wanted to destroy the boy, his orders were clear - no one killed Potter except the Dark Lord.
Harry raised his head as the pain from the torture curse receded. He could see the headmaster lying a few feet away. He was covered in blood and not moving, but looked like he was still breathing.
"So Potter, you decided you wanted to play?" Snape laughed as he sent a bone crunching curse that slammed through Harry's shield and snapped his right leg as though it was a twig. In a haze of pain, Harry tried to evade the curses that were raining down on him, but due to his broken leg was unable to move easily. Harry sent a few stunners and cutting curses which Snape easily evaded.
"Come on, Potter. Is this the best Dumbledore's champion can do? You are no match for the Dark Lord."
Harry was almost unconscious by this time. He looked up as Snape started to cross the corridor. As the wizard passed under one of the many balconies in the tower, Harry sent another blasting curse that brought the balcony down on Snape burying him in the heavy rubble, killing him instantly.
The starting of a car brought Harry out of his reverie. The sun was coming up and Little Whinging was starting to come to life. He turned down Privet Drive towards his aunt and uncle's house. He needed to shower before going to meet Remus and Tonks.
Ginny and Aimée settled on the back Porch at the Fournier family home. The view from the back of the house looked over the formal gardens and the Quidditch pitch. While the home was very different from the Burrow, Ginny loved spending time here.
"So have you heard anything else from your family yet?" Aimée asked.
"I got a note from Fleur telling me Bill was improving. He was slashed pretty badly and they don't think the scars will ever go away, but he won't turn into a werewolf. Mum said that everyone else is doing well." Ginny stared off over the Fournier estate. "It doesn't seem real, does it? I mean here we are going to school and going to camp, when in England people are fighting for their lives. I hate being stuck here sometimes."
"I know what you mean," Aimée replied. "Remember last year when we all read that interview with Harry Potter, when he described You-Know-Who being reborn? It seems like another world."
"I know I hear the stories that my brothers and Hermione tell about forming defense groups and fighting Death Eaters. It seems so fantastical that something like that is happening whilst we are going to classes and playing Quidditch. Sometimes I wish I was at Hogwarts, I want to make a difference."
"What would you do in England, ma cherie?" asked a voice from the doorway.
Ginny turned to see Luc Fournier, Aimée's older brother and Ginny's former boyfriend walking out onto the porch to join them. She had really hoped she would have very little contact with him. She and Luc had dated for most of her fourth year before she had broken it off. He had graduated from Beauxbatons this year and kept hinting to Ginny that they should get back together. That was not what Ginny wanted. She'd grown up and he hadn't.
"I could be helping, Luc," Ginny replied.
Luc laughed. "Ginny you are not even sixteen years old, how could you help?"
Ginny's temper started to ignite. "I don't know, but my whole family is involved in fighting You-Know-Who. I'm sure there is something I could do. After all Harry Potter is only sixteen years old."
Luc rolled his eyes. "Yes, I'm sure there is a lot for sixteen year olds to do to help the war effort." Dismissing that topic, he asked, "So who are you taking to the wedding?"
Still angry with his dismissal of her abilities, Ginny replied in a frosty voice. "Who said I was taking anyone? It's my brother's wedding, I want to spend the time with my family not entertain someone."
Ginny stood and announced, "I'm going to practice." Turning towards Aimée she continued, "I'll be ready to go shopping after lunch."
As Ginny strode off towards the Quidditch field, Aimée turned angrily to her brother. "Do you have to pick an argument with her every time you see her?"
"Ginny is living in a dream world if she thinks she can make any difference in this fight. She should be concentrating on Quidditch and shopping, not politics," he replied dismissively.
Aimée turned her back on her brother. "No wonder she broke up with you. You really are an idiot."
Harry laughed as he took down Tonks for the second time that afternoon.
"That was great, Harry. You've really made a lot of progress."
"Thanks, Tonks." Harry helped her up. "Tonks…have you ever killed someone?"
Tonks looked over at Harry. She had been wondering if was going to come up. "Yes, last year when I was on a mission for the Order. We intercepted a group of Death Eaters torturing a Muggle family. The Death Eater I killed was only a boy, Marcus Flint. I've been trained to kill people, but it wasn't how I thought it would be. I had nightmares for weeks afterwards. I relived the fight over and over trying to figure out what I could have done differently, trying to see if there was a way I could have avoided killing him."
Harry started at the name; he'd played Quidditch against Flint. He looked over at Tonks and nodded. "I just keep going over the fight in my mind, trying to see if there was any way I could have ended it without killing them…I mean I hated both of them. Malfoy was a racist, bigoted coward, but I didn't really think of him as evil. I thought of him as a annoyance, not someone dangerous. Snape tormented me from my first day at Hogwarts. He mocked me, he loved to take house points from me, and I never really trusted him." He paused a moment. "How could Dumbledore have been taken in like that? He always said he had a reason for trusting him."
Harry started pacing in the parlor they had set aside for dueling. "I never trusted Snape or Malfoy, but I never imagined I would actually kill them."
"Harry, you can't keep second guessing yourself." Remus's voice came from the doorway as he entered the parlor. "They were both throwing Unforgivable Curses and neither of them would have hesitated to kill you or Dumbledore if the situations were reversed. I'm not saying that killing should ever be done lightly, but you did what had to be done."
Harry had looked up when Remus came into the room. "So you don't think I'm a murderer?"
"No Harry. Yes, you killed them, but it was not murder. They both died with their wands held on you. If you hadn't killed them, they may very well have killed you. They were certainly trying to."
"You had no choice, Harry. We are at war. I hate the fact that I had to kill someone, but I know in my heart I did the right thing," Tonks added. "They made the decision to become Death Eaters. I realized that yes, maybe I could have done something a bit differently, but then maybe he would have killed me. We didn't strike down innocent men. We were fighting for our lives and for our way of life."
Harry stopped pacing and looked at his mentors. "Thank you. I think I needed to hear that."
Tonks hugged him briefly. "Now go hit the shower."
After Harry left the room, Remus turned to Tonks. "That went a lot better than I expected. I have to say I've been worried about him."
After his shower, Harry wandered down towards the kitchen. After Sirius's death, Remus had taken over the cleaning of Grimmauld Place. Kreacher, Sirius's house elf, had died after betraying his master. Some of the Hogwart's house elves had come to help with the clean up effort. The house was much quieter than it used to be as the portrait of Mrs. Black had finally been removed from the wall. Harry looked for Remus in the room he was using for a study when he saw something shining next to the fireplace.
Harry went to see what had attracted his attention. He remembered Remus saying they had gotten a lot of cleaning done and had uncovered all kinds of portraits and carvings that had been obscured by years of dirt and grime. On the wall next to the fireplace; set on a slab of marble, there was an ornate carving of two entwined snakes with large emeralds for eyes.
Harry stared at the carving, he knew he'd seen it before; but where? He tried to dredge up any memory of a carving like the one in front of him, but there was nothing. Suddenly Harry felt a white hot pain sear through his brain; he staggered back from the carving clutching his head. He could hear screaming in the background, and then Remus and Tonks were there with him. As Remus reached his side, suddenly the world went black.