Taking Over Me
AU Deathly Hallows. Everything belongs to the good,
the great and the wonderful JK Rowling. (:
Mum's wailing is what woke me up this morning.
I sit bolt upright, my legs tangled in the thin blanket I use when it's hot and stuffy out, like it has been these last few days.
I need no time to awaken, my mother's cries have already done that for me. All I do is run downstairs, two steps at a time. I can tell from the footfalls behind me that Fred and George are hot on my heels, having been awoken by the same awful sound as I.
I know what has happened as soon as I enter the kitchen. My mother is wailing still, a piece of parchment that I know was once a letter scrunched into her fist. My father is not crying, but looks wet around the eyes. Bill is standing, a ferocious expression on his face, looking more wolf-like that I have ever seen him as he braces himself on one of the kitchen chairs.
They have gone.
Mum walks around in a trance for the next few weeks, unable to comprehend that her youngest son and two other children, who she loved like her own, have gone off to fight in the most dangerous war ever known to the Wizarding World.
And when you put it like that, I can see why.
Dad comes home from the Ministry each day looking more and more tired, more and more stressed. I know from Dad's hushed whispers to Mum that they are cracking down at the Ministry, on muggleborns and muggle supporters. I hear Mum choking on a sob and Dad reassures her that for moment, he is safe. His pureblood status is enough, for just now. But we all know it is only a matter of time before we are revealed to be Order of the Phoenix.
Bill comes for dinner one night with his new wife Fleur, and he says that the goblins have been talking - they believe that Voldemort has quietly invaded the Ministry.
Everyone is silent, until Dad nods his head. He agrees, although he says that it has been quiet, very quiet indeed. If anyone is suspecting anything, says Dad, they haven't spoken up about it. Fear, probably.
I know that business isn't going well for Fred and George, either. They come home earlier and earlier every day, and eventually the stop going in at weekends. A few more weeks pass, and they stop going in altogether, preferring to shut themselves in their room. Their mail order business is still going strong, even if their shop isn't. I'm grateful, and the explosions coming from behind those doors is reassuring that not all is lost to this mad, new world.
My sixteenth birthday comes and goes without much of a celebration. There is a cake, and a few presents, but Dad is haggard, Mum is lifeless and I can't say I feel any better. Bill looks okay when he arrives, but he doesn't stay for long. Charlie sends his best wishes from Romania, and Fred and George do their best to cheer me up with their latest inventions. It almost works.
The absence of him is overwhelming. At the dinner table, by my side on the sofa, in Ron's room, outside, everywhere, there is a large, empty space where he should be.
It's like a hole has been punched through my chest with an incredible amount of force, a force from which I'm still reeling. It leaves me breathless sometimes, like I can't quite catch my breath even though it's right there. Sometimes I feel like can't stand the pain of it any longer.
Mum starts talking about me going back to Hogwarts. I don't want to go. I don't want to walk all over the beautiful, ancient castle and be reminded of him.
When I try and broach the subject my mother just tunes me out.
"Don't be silly, sweetie. Of course you're going back to school," she says, in a sweet voice as she continues to make dinner.
She still talks to me like I'm eleven, but instead of fighting back I just turn away and go to my room. I'm so, so tired of fighting.
That's how I find myself boarding the Hogwarts Express on September 1st, my mother and father waving at me from the platform. Dad looks even more stressed, the worry lines on his face have become deeper every day. I wave back half-heartedly, as Neville, Hannah and Luna settle themselves into my compartment. They try and engage me in conversation but I can't be bothered to give them more than one or two word answers.
After a while, they give up, and they talk amongst themselves.
The final straw comes one crisp October night.
I have been doing everything correctly. I've been going to classes, doing my homework. Under instructions from Professor Snape, quid ditch has been banned until further notice. A flare of disappointment and anger had welled up in me at that. It was the one thing I was looking forward to about coming back to school. Should have know that Snape would have taken anyway the one good thing about this monstrosity of a school, where apparently it is okay to Crucio students now. I have been Crucio-ed plenty of times. I have found a new hobby in getting rises out of Alecto and Amycus Carrow. They are so easy to wind up, it's fun, seeing the expression on their faces. Until they whip out their wands and I brace myself for the pain. The bruises are scattered over my body as frequent as my freckles.
The day when I finally snap is October 2nd. I am sitting in the common room with my fellow Gryffindors, listening to Potterwatch on the wireless as we always do every night. It helps keep us sane, knowing whether our families are safe or not. Not all of them are like me, not all of them having siblings or parents fighting. Like Neville. He doesn't have anyone fighting, apart from his friends, but he listens with the same rapt attention I do. Sometimes I hear Remus, or Fred and George on Potterwatch, and a smile comes to my face. I feel proud of my brothers, and I mentally send them, and him, the will to keep fighting.
I don't see her until she is standing in front of the wireless, halfway through the broadcast, and she flicks it off with a triumphant grin.
"Now that's depressing shite is off, why don't we do something fun for a change? It's become bloody dull around here," she says, and smirks as she walks over to the middle of the common room, commanding everyone's attention. I stand up, and she just looks at me.
Before I know what I'm doing, I pick up the wireless, and I throw it at Romilda Vane's head.
It hits her, my Chaser's aim coming in handy. The wireless clatters to the floor and breaks; I barely hear it, all I can hear is my heart pounding in my ears. She starts crying and I realise there is a long gash across her forehead where the wireless struck, the blood pouring out of her head.
Everyone stares, and someone goes to help Romilda to the Hospital Wing.
"You shouldn't have done that, Ginny," Neville says to me quietly, as someone suggests they go get McGonagall.
"I don't care. Fucking bitch deserved it," I reply, venom lacing my voice. Neville bits his lip - I know he agrees with me, but Neville has always been a peacekeeper.
I hear Luna before I see her. She is humming to herself. She has taken to hanging out in the Gryffindor common room - along with Hannah Abbott - and no-one seems to mind. "You're leaving, aren't you?" she says. I look at her and smile sadly. Sometimes there is a clear reason as to why that girl is in Ravenclaw.
"Yes," I say, even though I hadn't decided until she said so.
There is no panic from my two remaining best friends.
"Where are you going to go?" Neville asks.
I turn to him and shake my head. "I don't know," I say truthfully, and I look around the common room. "Anywhere anyway from here. I can't stay here any more, Nev. I just … I feel … suffocated."
Neville sighs and takes my hand. It feels strange, his larger, slightly sweaty hands in mine, when I am used to slim, cooler fingers, nimble seeker's fingers. It is comforting nevertheless. "You will be careful, won't you?" he says, looking straight into my eyes. I look back, and I only see concern and kindness in them. He knows me, he knows he cannot change my mind. He knows how I'm telling the truth, that I will crack if I stay here any longer. He doesn't even try to change my mind, and for that, I love him a little bit more.
I squeeze his hand silently, then I let go as I go up the stairs to my dorm for the last time. I grab a bag of money, that I have tucked away in a corner of my trunk, and shrink it before putting it in my jean pocket. I take my wand and my travelling cloak from my trunk also. I fasten it around me - I am wearing muggle jeans and a t-shirt, and a jumper over it - and go back down the stairs. I hold my wand tightly in my hand.
Neville and Luna are talking quietly with Hannah when I get back down. Everyone else is talking amongst themselves, some shooting glances at me. I don't care.
I look around at the Gryffindor common room for the last time. "Take care of yourselves, okay?" I say, as I kiss Neville on the cheek and warmly hug Hannah and Luna. Hannah has become a good friend over the past few weeks.
"We will. Go, before McGonagall sees you. We'll cover for you as best we can," Hannah says, gnawing on her bottom lip nervously.
"Watch out for wackspurts on your journey!" I hear Luna call as I exit the portrait hole, and I know I will miss my friends more than they know.
Getting out of Hogwarts is easier than I imagined.
It does take me a while to figure it out, though.
I hide out in the Room of Requirement while I plan.
It takes a good three or four hours to think. I can't apparate in and out of Hogwarts, even if I do know how. They have taught everyone from third year and up how to apparate, 'just in case'. Fat lot of good that is now. And casually strolling out wouldn't happen either, considering the fact that the gates are locked tight apart from Hogsmeade weekends. Flying out isn't an option either. The wards are designed to keep students inside.
I start pacing the room, and my stomach rumbles with hunger. I lay one hand across it, and I wonder if I could sneak out to the kitchens and get Dobby to make me a sandwich. Dobby … Dobby can apparate in and out of Hogwarts!
I grin. "Dobby?" I say quietly, the way I have seen Harry do many times. A few heartbeats go by - in which I worry that he won't come - until a soft 'pop' is heard and Dobby stands before me, grinning all the while.
"Hello Miss Wheezy," Dobby says, bowing to me. "What can I do for Miss Wheezy today?"
"Dobby," I say, smiling. "Can you do me a favour? I need to get out of Hogwarts … undetected."
Dobby looks at me with a funny expression on his face. "Miss Wheezy wants Dobby to help her escape from Hogwarts? Oh, if anyone ever found out, Miss Wheezy, then Dobby would be in such trouble."
I sink to my knees, so I am the same height as Dobby. I stare into his large eyes - eyes that convey that he is frightened, frightened of being caught and being punished for this crime - and I smile. "It'll just be our secret, Dobby. I won't tell anyone that you helped me escape. Okay?" I say.
Dobby appears to think this over for several moments, before hesitantly nodding. "Okay, Miss Wheezy. Dobby shall help. Please, hold on to Dobby. Where would Miss Wheezy like to go?"
I grab onto Dobby's hand, and I only think for a moment. "Diagon Alley," I say, and Dobby nods.
There is a crack, and a feeling of being pushed through an airless rubber tube, and when I open my eyes again I am in a quiet, shadowy corner of Diagon Alley. Dobby lets go of my hand and looks up at me.
"Dobby has to go back to Hogwarts before they realise Dobby has gone," he says quietly, looking down. "Please, Miss Wheezy, be careful."
I smile down at the house-elf. "I will, Dobby," I say, and he smiles sadly before he apparates away. (I don't know that this is the last time I shall see him alive.)
I keep to the corner of the alley at first. There is not many people about - people are too scared to wander around shopping these days. The official line is, if it's not absolutely necessary, then stay indoors.
I look down at myself. I have dressed so that I could blend in anywhere; be Wizarding World with my cloak, or I can whip my cloak off and blend in in Muggle London. The only problem is my hair. I know that someone, somewhere will recognize me. After all, the Wizarding World is a small place, and there is not many people will red hair like mine about. They do not call is a Weasley trait for nothing.
We had done glamour charms before I left Hogwarts, in Transfiguration, with Professor McGonagall. 'For protection', she had said. So basically, just in case we ever get caught. I smile as I finger my wand, and I say the correct incantation as I hold my wand to my head.
I lean out slightly, and catch my reflection in a shop window. I am now a dirty blonde, similar to Lavender Brown's hair. I look so different that I doubt I need much more glamour charms, but I charm away the majority of my freckles and I charm my eyebrows the same colour as my hair. I look like a completely different person, and I almost don't recognize myself. I smile. This is the effect I wanted.
I stride out from the shadows, not that there are many people around to see me. But it is late, and I need to place to stay for the night, and food. I decide to try my luck with the Leaky Cauldron.
The bell chimes when I open the door; the once bustling pub is now dead. Tom pokes his head out from behind the bar, and looks shocked. I doubt many people have been coming in these days.
"I need a room for the night," I say. Tom nods.
"Of course. Right this way, Miss -?"
"Miss Brown," I say, smiling. "Hannah Brown." The lie comes easily, and Tom smiles. It hurts slightly, lying to the kind man. Get used to it, Weasley.
"Miss Brown, your room," Tom smiles, as he shows me to room number eleven. "Do you want any food or drink brought up to yourself, Miss Brown?"
I turn to Tom, and grin. "But of course," I say. "Um, a sandwich and a cold butterbeer would be amazing, Sir."
"It's Tom, Miss Brown," he says, as backs out of my room. "Your food shall be right up."
He closes the door behind him, and I sit on the edge of the bed. The reality of what I've done hit me full force, and I can't think of where I'm going to go, what I'm going to do.
And it scares me more than anything else in my life.
I wake up one morning to my mother's wails.
It takes me a moment to realise that I'm not at home.
I sit bolt upright on the bed at the Leaky, almost paralyzed with fear that my mother had found me. I hear her through the door, screaming at Tom. It was only a matter of time, after all, until they realised I had run away. I hadn't expected it this quick, or her to come here. I walk slowly over to the door, careful not the stand on any creaky floorboards, and press my ear against the door.
"Ginny! Ginny Weasley, have you seen her? Looks like this?" I can hear the rustle of parchment and I know my mother is holding up a picture of me.
"No, ma'am. I haven't." I hear Tom reply, his voice apologetic.
My mother chokes back a sob, and I almost run from the room, just to let her know that I'm alive and well.
"C-can you put this up, then?" I hear my mother ask.
"Of course, Ma'am," Tom replies, and I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding. I find myself collapsing against the door, sliding down so I am sitting on the cold stone floor, my back against the door.
I feel like the wind has been knocked clean out of me, and I know I can't stay here any longer. I've already stayed here long enough. I must leave the Leaky Cauldron - now.
I shut the door quietly behind me. The click I hear is satisfying, and I walk away from the muggle hotel room I have been staying in for a week. I am in a muggle town, so I do not bother with the glamour charms. No-one is looking for me here.
I am in muggle clothes. A pair of jeans, that sit low on my hips, and a longer top that comes over the waistband. A jumper sits over that, and my winter coat is slung over my arms, ready to be put on when I get outside. Wellington boots are on my feet, ready for the thick snow that is outside. I am in Scotland - a small, seaside town named St Andrews - and the temperature is at it's lowest in a long while, says the Scottish news.
While I was in this hotel room, I celebrated Christmas. It is December 28th. I didn't do much for the holiday. I had sent a letter to my mother, letting her know I was alive and well. Hopefully that was a decent enough present for her.
There was a large Christmas tree in the lobby of the hotel, and it reminded me so much of the Christmas tree back home that it was like a physical punch to the gut. Like in a Pensive, I recalled memories from Christmases long ago with perfect clarity, wishing more than anything that I was there, surrounded by my family, the threat of danger nothing more than whispers on the wind.
I smile at the young man who stands behind the desk when I check out. He is clearly flirting with me, but I pay no attention. All I can see is what he isn't. His hair isn't dark enough, his eyes aren't green enough, he isn't thin enough, he isn't tall enough, his eyesight isn't poor enough. He isn't him. No-one could ever be him. I smile enough that I pass for normal, but the man behind the desk becomes another nameless face that I pass on this journey. My confundus charm works, and he bids me good day and Happy New Year without realising that I haven't paid.
I walk out the door of the hotel, and I immediately go to put on my winter coat. This is how I have been living for the past Merlin knows how long - liberal uses of the confundus charm, apparition and disillusion charms. I learnt early on to ignore the voice within me telling me that this is wrong, that I shouldn't be doing this. I reply to the inner voice. This is war, my friend. All of this is wrong. We shouldn't be doing any of this. Yet here we are. My morals have certainly taken a battering over the past two months.
I walk into the village, and apparate away. I appear on a small hill in Kent, but I find that I am not alone. I am surrounded by hooded men, and one of them lowers his hood. He is about twenty-five, with an acne-ridden face and bad teeth. He is smiling, but it is not full of warmth, or happiness, but rather elation, the same elation that I have seen on my father's face when he was completed one of his muggle projects, the same face I see in myself when I have scored a point in Quidditch, the same face he wears when he catches the snitch.
He has caught something he was after. Me. He raises his wand and leather ties spew from it, binding me, and I fall to my knees.
"Ahh. I know you," he says, coming closer to me. He crouches down and breathes in my face; he has bad breath. "A Weasley," he says, and I eternally curse my stupidity. I should have applied the glamour charms before I left Scotland. The man continues. "I went to school with your brother. Charlie. Stocking lad but a right idiot. Always fascinated with dragons."
My rage boils at this man calling my brother an idiot, but I stomp it down. This is no time for the Weasley pride to come out.
"I don't know what you mean. My name is Hannah Brown," I say, the lie slipping out easily. The men are having none of it. There is another hooded man that has removed his hood, and this man is blonde, his hair spiky. He is grinning widely and holding up a poster, a poster that has my face on it. Ginerva "Ginny" Weasley, missing from Hogwarts since October 2nd.
I know I am done for. The toothless man grabs my hand, and I know I am being side-along apparated. The sensation of being in an airless tube is unmistakeable.
I land roughly on my knees, my eyes closed. I feel myself being dragged upright and moved as best as I can; I am still binded. I feel myself being forced to my knees again, and I open my eyes.
I am kneeling in front of Voldemort.
He is smiling down at me, but again, it isn't one of happiness, but instead one of elation.
"Oh, if only Harry Potter could see you know," he breathes, and I feel a stab of pain at the mere mention of his name. I keep my face indifferent as I look up at Voldemort.
"I don't care," I say, shrugging one shoulder. I must continue the act he started.
This throws Voldemort, and he looks down at me. I imagine that if he had one, he would have been cocking an eyebrow at me. "Whatever do you mean? Surely Harry Potter would hate to see his little girlfriend hurt."
Again, I shrug. "I ain't his girlfriend anymore. He broke up with me. He was a bit of a prat, if I'm honest with you," I say, smirking a little. I was starting to enjoy this, playing with Voldemort. "Was a little preoccupied with saving the world. Also, he kinda had a saving people thing. Got really quite annoying, actually. I needed a little bit more attention that he was willing to give."
Voldemort motions with his hands, and suddenly I am forced upright. "Dumped, you say?" He asks, and I nod.
"And how does that make you feel?" He asks, and he begins to circle me. This, I can answer truthfully, and it makes me deliriously happy that I can tell the truth for once in what seems like forever.
"Hurt. Angry. Upset. Unloved." With every word I say, I feel the binds around me getting looser. "Spiteful. Bitter. Hate." With the last word, the binds completely fall to my feet, leaving me standing in front of Voldemort unbinded. I do not move an inch.
"Do you wish to get revenge on Harry Potter?"
The tone of his voice takes me a minute to place, and I find myself watching as Voldemort becomes gleeful. He looks as though he is about two seconds away from squeeing and clapping his hands.
"More than anything in the world," I say, looking straight into those blood-red eyes.
He smirks in front of me, reaching out a hand to me. "Then join me, Ginny Weasley. Join my Death Eaters and I, and we shall get revenge on Harry Potter. You will be my secret weapon," he says, and I let my face break out into an enormous grin.
"I would like nothing better," I say, and I take the cold, outstretched hand of Lord Voldemort, shaking it twice, and bowing.
When I get up, he is smiling.
I do not take part in Death Eater attacks. Voldemort says he cannot let any of the Order know I am with them, so I am confined to the house I was brought into when caught by the Snatchers, which I later discover is Malfoy Manor.
However, I am present at all meetings, sitting at the long dining table at the place of honour, next to Voldemort. I can feel Bellatrix Lestrange shooting daggers into the side of my face whenever I sit there. I have taken her place at the table, and she hates me for it. She cannot show this hate. This makes her hate me even more, and it makes me smirk.
After the Christmas holidays, Draco Malfoy starts turning up to the meetings. To say he is shocked to see me sitting there, with standard Death Eater black robe, is an understatement. He sprays his pumpkin juice all over the table, and if looks could kill, Lucius Malfoy would have murdered his own son ten times over.
One day, after another meeting, I am sitting alone in my chair, watching the dying embers of the fire. All of the others are out on an attack. Draco is sitting across from me, watching me, as he has done all evening.
"What the blazes are you doing here?" he finally asks, looking me directly in the eye.
I return the eye contact lazily. "I am here to get my revenge," I drawl in a nonchalant way that I have learnt to do, and if he notices that I don't say his name in that sentence, then he doesn't say so. He just assumes, and he assumes correctly.
There are a few more moments of silence. "When you ran away from Hogwarts," he began, twisting his fingers, "Did you immediately come here? Because I was here from Christmas Day, and I didn't see you."
I shake my head. "No. I was in hiding. I was caught by Snatchers three days after Christmas and brought here. The Dark Lord offered me an opportunity for revenge, and I took it."
"Did he give you a Dark Mark?" he asks, and he seems curious.
"No," I say, my voice filled with disappointment. "The Dark Lord said that if anyone saw me with one, then it would ruin the whole point of me being a secret weapon. I have a feeling he may send me back into the throng of the Order, to gain information. Can't exactly do that with a stinking great Dark Mark on my arm, can I?" I say, gesturing to my left forearm where my Dark Mark would be, if I had one. Draco seems to think this over, and nods. He gets up from his seat at the dining table, nods to me once, then leaves.
I stay in my seat until the last ember is gone.
At the next meeting I go to, my feeling is proved correct.
"Ginny," Voldemort says, turning to me. I smile at him, leaning forward slightly like I have seen others do. It amuses me that Lord Voldemort and I are on a first-name basis now. I wonder what he would say if I called him Tom. I stifle down a laugh at that thought, and engage eye contact with him.
"Yes, My Lord?" I say, both my elbows on the table in my eagerness to hear what he is saying.
"I feel that the time is ripe to send you back to where you came from."
Everyone at the table - inducing me - gasps, apart from Severus Snape, who is sitting opposite me and down a few seats. He had almost dropped his glass of mead when he first saw me sitting there. I had smirked at him, and Voldemort had told him the story of my recruitment to the Death Eaters. Of course, Snape's face had stayed impassive the whole time, but I couldn't really help but wonder what going on inside his head, or what side he was truly on. Then it occurred to me that we were just as bad as each other.
"Do not worry, my fellows. I am merely sending her back to gain information from the Order of the Phoenix. Since Severus has been compromised with the death of Dumbledore, I need a new spy. You say you will have access to the headquarters of the Order?"
I nod enthusiastically. "Yes, My Lord. They believe that because I am under the age of seventeen, and since I cannot fight, any information I hear is meaningless to me."
They all laugh, and I join in. In a twisted kind of way, it feels good, doing something other than sitting, waiting, listening for news. I'm so sick of feeling useless.
"Then you shall go back to the Order. Tell then you ran away, and that you are back. You shall absorb as much information as you can. Don't ask direct questions that may arouse any suspicion. You shall return in a week."
I left that night.
I find myself on the hill, looking out over the Burrow. No doubt by now there has been an alarm that someone has apparated into the area. I remember it well, from my days there in the summer. They seem so long ago now, so much has happened since then.
I see two men of identical height emerge from the house, presumably to check the area and see who has apparated. I know, even from this distance, that it is Fred and George.
My heart swells at seeing them, but I keep my pace steady as I walk down the hill towards them. They turn in my direct, and they see who it is. Their faces light up, and I just want to hug the living daylights out of them. One turns around and bellows back to the house, and even from my distance, I can hear what they are saying. Mum.
My mother comes running out of the house, and I am about a hundred yards away from the house. I know my expression is sheepish, but my mother runs at me anyway, bursting into tears at some point during the run. My father is not far behind her, and he is crying too. My brothers join in, but none of them cry. I find myself in the midst of a Weasley family hug, but it feels hollow. There is one person who isn't there, calling me a selfish prat. I miss Ron, and I can feel the space in the family that his absence causes.
It is only a matter of time though, before my mother pulls away from me, wiping tears from her face, and points her finger in mine. "And where the bloody hell have you been?" she yells, and it is the first time in my life I have heard her swear. I laugh, and hug her again, and I think she is so relieved that I am here that she just hugs me back, stronger than she has ever hugged me before.
I briefly think that coming back was a mistake, because now it's going to be harder for me to leave again. But I push that thought to the back of my mind, because we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, I just want to be with my family, no matter how difficult they are being.
I don't get let off lightly, for my little 'escape stunt' as Bill put it. I get interrogated by each and every Weasley.
I tell them the exact same thing every time, that I needed space and time to myself. It's a bit lame but I when I stick to it, even through my father's sighs, my brother's yells and my mother's tears (and yells) then they (somewhat reluctantly, in some cases) believe me.
Of course, I am invited to the next Order meeting. Well, not so much as invited as naturally expected to come along. Well, not so much come along as come downstairs, as since the Headquarters is not longer being used, the Order must use our house as temporary Headquarters.
I sit at the scrubbed, wooden table on my childhood home, my feet tucked under me and a cup of tea in my hands. I sit, and I watch, and I listen.
They talk about Hogwarts, about Alecto and Amycus Carrow. They talk about Snape. They talk about various raids, and they talk about the possibility of giants, trolls and vampires being on Voldemort's side. They have got two out of three right - Voldemort is still working on the vampires - but I keep my mouth shut and my head down.
The meeting transfers to the living room, where we all sit around the Burrow's raging fire and listen to Potterwatch. I hadn't tuned in since that fateful night at Hogwarts. There is no news, but as Charlie puts it, 'no news is good news'. I smile, and accept my mother's hot cocoa that she pushes into my hands. They talk freely about their plans, and I stay up and listen well into the night, before my eyes almost shut of their own accord. Next thing I feel is Charlie, asking if I should be carried or levitated upstairs. I tell him that I can manage just fine, and I tumble into my childhood bed, asleep before my head even hits the pillow.
It is the day I am due to return to Malfoy Manor, and I know I will have to run away again. There is no way my mother, or any of my family, would let me go willingly.
I will leave in the dead of night. It has been all arranged, I shall walk until I reach the Burrow's ward boundaries, and then I shall apparate to Malfoy Manor. They will be waiting for me there.
But there are still hours to go before I leave, and my family has no idea that I'm leaving again. I am sitting at the kitchen table, calming eating cornflakes as if nothing is wrong with the world.
"Where is your father?" My mother asks, and I'm not really sure if she's addressing me directly or if she's just voicing her thoughts aloud. "I bet he's in that silly shed again. That's all he ever does nowadays. Tinker with his muggle things."
Dad had left the Ministry sometime before I had arrived back home. The stress had got too much, Bill had whispered to me, and since they had pretty much eradicated all the muggleborns from the Ministry it had been time to start the Dumbledore sympathisers. Dad had got out before he'd been caught out, Bill had continued.
"I'm going to go and speak to him," I say, pushing my cereal bowl away from me. "I haven't really had a good conversation with Dad in a long time."
This isn't true. Me and Dad had had a conversation - about things like the weather, and school, and very briefly the war - earlier in the week, when we had passed each other in the kitchen during the dead of the night. Both of us hadn't been able to sleep, and he had sat with me and had talked to me until I couldn't hold my eyes open any longer.
My mother nods, and smiles. I get up and leave out the back door, striding over to the shed, trying to absorb confidence for what I was about to do.
"Dad?" I say, as I pull open the shed door. There is a slight tinkering noise, and then a bash.
"Ginny?" I hear my Dad's voice say, and he appears from behind a slim, sliver cylinder that I have no idea what is used for. "How can I help you, honey?"
I don't say anything, but I play with something small and metal on his work desk. He comes over, and there is a crease between his eyebrows.
"Is … is there something you want to talk to me about, Ginny?" he asks, and the corner of my mouth inches upwards. Out of both my parents, my Dad has always been the one that gets me. That sits with me and listens for hours on end. Some people say I look like my Mum, and act like my Mum, but really - and don't get me wrong, I love my mother to death - I always think that if I turned out like Dad in life, then I would be a pretty good person.
Dad pushes me down gently into a seat, and takes one beside me. "Tell me everything," he says, and there is a small smile on his lips. I take a deep breath, and turn to face him.
"Can I ask one thing of you?" I ask my Dad, and he nods immediately, not saying anything. "I ask you not to ask me where I was, or how I found this out. Okay? Just listen to what I have to say, and don't ask me any questions. I won't answer, for one, and two, it may get you - and me - into so much trouble that this situation we're in just now looks like heaven compared to it."
My Dad frowns. "Ginerva … "
I ignore the use of my full name. "Dad, please. Just promise me you won't ask questions. That you'll just listen."
Dad sighs, and the frown smoothes out. "I promise."
I sigh with relief, and I can feel a smile breaking out on my face. I turn to my Dad, who is looking at me with a funny expression of worry and curiosity, and I start to talk.
I arrive back at Malfoy Manor in one piece. It hadn't exactly been easy, sneaking away from the Burrow, and I had had to resort to climbing out my bedroom window in order for me to get away from the house.
I had left no note, nothing. I hoped they wouldn't worry too much, that they would know that I was okay. If anyone I hoped that after our conversation in the shed, my father would know that I was okay, and that I couldn't say anything.
I stride up to the gates of Malfoy Manor, where Bellatrix Lestrange and another man - Yaxley, I believe - are waiting. Both of their faces are blank canvases, impassive.
"Morsmordre," I whisper, so that they know it is me. Yaxley smiles but there is something in this eyes that is off; Bellatix's face remains stony, in the same mask it always is when she is addressing me. She still hasn't warmed up to me yet, but she opens the gates anyway.
I walk briskly, not dawdling. Voldemort hates dawdlers. He hasn't Crucio-ed me once yet, and I wish for it to remain that way; his curses would be the worst of all, I imagine, and not just because I can hear the screams from his victims, slashing like a knife through my skin.
"She is here."
I can hear Voldemort before I see him; his uncanny ability of just knowing is unnerving. I open the giant doors to the drawing room, and I scan the table. Every single one of their faces is turned in my direction apart from Voldemort's, who is still staring straight ahead, his back to me. My seat adjacent to him is vacant, and I walk to him to him, bow, and take my seat.
"Ginny," he says in greeting, and I hate the way he says my name. "I pray you have information for us."
He is not giving me an option; I know if I didn't, I probably would be killed, or at the very least tortured.
"Yes, My Lord," I say, bowing my head slightly. "They suspect giants are involved in our fight, but they do not know it for sure. They are still very hung up on the Ministry. They believe it can be salvaged."
As I suspected, everyone at the table - bar Voldemort - bursts into laughter at this, as if the Order could be so blind to not see that the Ministry has well and truly fallen into Death Eater hands now. Voldemort has had control for a long while now, pulling the strings through the puppet of Pius Thicknesse, who is coincidentally sitting three seats down from Ginny, a vacant expression on this face that can only come with the Imperious curse.
"Anything else, Ginny?"
"They are preparing themselves for a final battle. Drafting in everyone that has ever shown them any sort of mercy or support. They believe in strength in numbers."
"How admirable," Voldemort says, but he looks anything but impressed. "Any news of Harry Potter?"
The name still stings like a salt rubbed into a open wound. I push past it, and I shake my head. "No, my Lord. He is still in hiding." I spit the words out, as if they are too sour for my mouth to bear, as if they having been soaking in vinegar.
From his face, I can tell that this is not the news that Voldemort was hoping for. He seems to almost square his shoulders before speaking again. "My followers, my comrades. It is time. We shall initiate the final attack on Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
From my place deep in the heart of the Forbidden Forest, I can hear the war raging.
I can hear the screams, I can hear the shouts, I can hear the calls of joy and the calls of sorrow. I can hear the sounds of war.
I stand in a semi-circle around Voldemort, who is standing in the centre of our protective stance; we all have our hoods up, faces covered, apart from him. We are waiting.
We are waiting for him.
We stand, and we wait, the formation never breaking, our stares never faltering. On my left, I can hear Bellatrix's breathing get more and more laboured as time goes on. She is getting anxious. This is the one time I can sympathise with her; I am feeling anxious as well. I just want all of this to be over.
"No sign of him, My Lord," Yaxley says, taking his place in the semi-circle.
"Coward," Voldemort says, and there is a ripple of laughter amongst us; I join in, so that they do not spot anything amiss.
I can hear crunching, the crunching of leaves beneath the soles of shoes; I am not the only one who hears it. Voldemort's head whips in the direction of the noise, as does all the Death Eaters. It is him, but he does not come alone. The whole entire Order is with him, and I can tell from his eyes and his stance - he looks as though he is trying to protect everyone around him - that he is not happy about one iota of it.
The sight of himalmost makes me break rank, to run to him, to wrap my arms around him and tell him that I love him but I hold firm, knowing that my time will come, soon.
He stops in front of Voldemort, wand out, a hard look on his face.
"Is this it, Tom?"
The sound of his voice is overwhelming, like music to my ears, and for a very brief moment I let it sink into my pores, before I snap myself out of it and concentrate on the job at hand.
"Harry Potter," Voldemort says, and I can see the revulsion on Ron and Hermione's faces, and on my mother's. They have never seen Voldemort as the man he is today in flesh and blood before. I see them as they take in the blood-red eyes, slit like snakes, and the flattened nose. "The Boy Who Lived. Come to die," Voldemort continues, and I see him fingering his wand.
Harry raises an eyebrow. "Oh, you know me, Tom. I never go down without a fight."
"Hmm," Voldemort replies. "You will fight me, I have no doubt about it. But would you fight one of your own?"
Harry frowns. "I don't follow you, Tom."
Voldemort laughs, and it is so cold that it sends a shiver up my spine. "She did say that you were too self-involved to care about her. I see what she means."
I can see Harry getting slightly frustrated, although he wears his face in that same expressionless mask he has wore a thousand times before. I can see through it as easily as I can see through glass. "I don't know who you are talking about."
"You didn't even notice she was gone, did you?" Voldemort is taunting him now. I can hear the sudden edge that his voice has taken, one that wasn't there - or not as pronounced - before. "She has been missing, all this time, and you had no idea. Poor, poor show, Potter. She is faithful to me now."
My mother's small gasp tells me that she has figured it out. Harry doesn't seem to hear her. He grips his wand tighter, and Voldemort's hand makes a small motion. I am to come forward.
I take a deep breath and summon all the courage I can find within myself. I am a good actress, but would I be able to convince him of this? I doubt myself, but I push it aside. I need to be completely focused. There is no room for doubt, not now. Not after everything I've been through.
I make my walk smooth as I kneel in front of him, before standing. I walk beside him, plaster a cold smirk on my face, grasp the edge of my hood, and throw it back.
Harry's face instantly drains itself of all colour. My mother lets out a sob, and my brothers stare, unable to believe their own eyes. Hermione gasps, and makes a minute shake of her head. Ron's eyes bug out of his head. My father's face remains even.
"Hello, Harry," I say, keeping my voice even, not letting anyone know that just saying his name is like an icy dagger piercing my skin.
"This … this can't be happening," he stutters, and for the first time, I see him lost for words, so in shock at what he is seeing before him.
"Oh, but it is." My voice is ice cold and hard, and I stare straight into his green eyes. I can feel the stares of the Death Eaters on my back.
"You can't be doing this. No. It's Imperious, it must be!" Harry's voice is tinged with desperation, and I resist the urge to tell him the truth.
I smile, but it is cold and without feeling. "You know it isn't, Harry. This isn't the Chamber. You've seen people who have been Imperioused before. They are lifeless, dead behind the eyes. I, on the other hand, have never been more alive."
Harry's stance completely changes. He has recognized me as the enemy now, he knows that I am not Imperioused, and although it hurts - it hurts so much - I know it must continue.
"Why?" he says, and his voice is cold. It sends shivers up my spine the same way Voldemort's laugh does, but for an entirely different reason: while Voldemort's laugh is cold and plain evil, Harry's voice is out of place, plain wrong.
"You dumped me, remember? I wasn't good enough for the great Harry Potter. I'm sick of being useless, of being a spare part, of being little Ginny Weasley." I made my voice take on a snide tone when I said my name. "Well, I found someone who thinks I am good enough. Who thinks I'm not useless, who thinks I'm an asset, not a hindrance. The Dark Lord gave me shelter, and within that I found power, pure power, and I'm never giving it up." I inject as much passion into the last part of the sentence as I can, and I can see Harry physically flinch. I smile.
I shoot in a side glance at Voldemort, who is smiling at me in that cold, hard way of his. I can almost see a flicker of pride on his face. I turn back to Harry and the others.
"That will be all, Ginny," Voldemort says, and turns back to Harry.
"My Lord," I say, in the way I have been taught how over the past few months, and I bow, before returning to my space in the circle, directly behind Voldemort. I leave my hood down.
"Ginny has been feeding me information straight from the Order for months. We even arranged a little trip home for her. And you all were too oblivious to see. And it has cost you your lives," Voldemort says, speaking his words like they were his victory speech, as he raises his wand.
This is the moment I have been waiting seven months for.
Voldemort raises his wand, and points it not at Harry, but at Ron, then at Hermione. "Which shall you use as a human shield today, Potter?" Voldemort taunts, and before Harry even has a chance to react, he fires a killing curse straight at Hermione. Ron screams, but there is no need.
I have been there for all his plans. Voldemort is a meticulous planner. He knows what he is doing here, right down to the last detail. And that means, I know exactly what he is about to do.
I move my hand very slightly underneath my cloak, and Voldemort stumbles to the left, his killing curse missing Hermione and hitting a tree instead.
Ron pulls Hermione behind him as soon as he realises she hasn't been struck.
Harry has his wand pointed directly at Voldemort's nose - or where his nose should be. "Don't you dare, Tom." His voice is as hard as steel. "This is between you and I. No one else should be harmed."
Voldemort nods, ever so slightly, then fires a killing curse at Harry; again I move my hand so that the curse veers uselessly off to the right this time.
Voldemort is getting more and more flustered, and I can tell, and I can tell Harry can tell as well.
"Who are you going to use as a shield this time, Potter?" Voldemort taunts, and I can tell it is because he is stalling.
"No-one," Harry says calmly, his eyes never wavering and his wand never moving. "No-one else is going to die here tonight, but you, Tom."
I silently cast another spell on Tom's wand; he tries to cast a killing curse moments later, but all that falls from his wand is an ice block. It is a handy trick I have learnt over time, the freezing of one's wand so that every spell comes out as a harmless ice block. For humorous kicks, the ice block can turn different colours depending on the spell; this one is green, and I can see Fred and George laughing softly to themselves, while Ron joins in, even Hermione looks amused. The corner of Harry's mouth turns upwards.
"Wand not working for you today, Tom?" he asks, as if he's asking about weather. "Pity, that."
They still haven't realised it is me.
They are staring at each other now, and deep down in my heart I know, it is now or never. My father locks eyes with me, and nods very minutely. It's time. It's time to do what we talked about in that shed months ago, when I told him where I had been and what I had been doing and everything I had learnt over the past seven months. It's time.
Voldemort raises his wand, ready to cast another spell, and I make him shift again; this time, I do so everyone can see, and everyone gasps.
Bellatrix is beside herself. "Traitor!" she screams, a smug tone lacing her voice that she was the only one to see that something was up with me.
Voldemort is furious, I can tell. I smirk at him.
"Oh, come off it, Tom. Did you honestly think for one minute that I was on your side? Really?" I say, throwing off the Death Eater cloak and letting it float to the ground. My voice is incredulous. "I mean, come on, you attacked me in first year, you attack my ex-boyfriend on pretty much a yearly basis, and you hate my family and everything I stand for. Did you honestly not think for one second that I was acting to gain information? No?"
From Voldemort's fuming face, I can tell that he didn't.
"Idiot," I grin.
Fred and George are grinning, and my Dad looks proud. Harry looks dumbstruck, as if he has been struck by lightening.
I walk back towards my family, and I clap Harry on the shoulder as I pass. "Sorry," I whisper, before letting go. There would be time for all that later. He is frozen like everyone else. Ron pulls me in close to him, wrapping his arms around he in a brotherly hug. I wrap my arms around him right back.
I let go, and turn back to face Voldemort. "Poor show, Tom."
He screams, and throws a killing curse at me, and it misses me by mere inches. Bellatrix throws another one, and against it misses me and ricochets off a tree and hits Yaxley full in the stomach. He collapses, dead. Voldemort is raging.
"The time for games is over!" he yells, and he fires yet another killing curse at me. I conjure a brick wall that swallows the spell. He screams.
And in the end, most climaxes are the biggest anti-climaxes of all.
Voldemort lay dead on the ground, hit by his own rebounding killing curse, and I slip away into the darkness of the forest, unnoticed, to the sound of Bellatrix's screams.
The sky is on fire.
Not literally, I hasten to add. Just the sun is making the sky look on fire, so beautiful, with tinges of oranges and pinks.
It is almost as if the world knows that he is dead, and it is having a party of it's own. Possibly with too much firewhiskey. I like to imagine that is what is giving the sky it's orange colour tonight. And that the pinks are cotton candy, as if the sky is a fairground. I smile slightly at my own imagination.
I am sitting on the grass, on the hill that leads to Hagrid's hut. Everyone else is milling around, comforting the grief-stricken or celebrating with the joyous.
I find that I am neither, content to just sit alone in the silence for a minute. For the first time in about a year, I don't have to be anyone but myself. The mask is set aside, the pretence has fallen. Once again, I am Ginny, and I revel in the feeling.
I whip my head around, and he is standing at the top of the hill, arms crossed, an unreadable expression on his face. I just stare at him, drinking in the sight of him as he walks down to where I am sitting. He looks thinner, his hair is longer, he looks like he needs a shower and he reeks, but he is still beautiful to me. He takes a seat beside me, but puts a person-sized space in between us. I don't blame him. Last time we had met, I had been serving his nemesis. I can't fault him for being cautious.
"Why?" Harry repeats, and I take a deep breath.
"I don't know, if I'm honest," I say, and I look over to the Black Lake, calm with just the faintest ripple on the water. "I kind of fell into it."
"You fell into being a Death Eater?" His voice is incredulous.
"Pretty much," I say, smiling. "I was sick of being useless. Being on the sidelines. Being … swept under the carpet as if I was something bad that could never be talked about."
"So you ran away."
I nod. "Yep. Gave Romilda a giant gash on her forehead as a parting gift."
He almost smiles at that. "So I heard. Hit her on the head with a wireless?" There is a spark of amusement in his voice.
"She was being a bloody bitch." I shoot back, before I frown. "How did you find out?"
Harry's mouth quirks upwards for the shortest of seconds. "Neville."
"Ah," I say, and I make a resolve to go and see Neville as soon as I can. I have so much to thank him for. "She did deserve it though. But yes. I ran away after that. I couldn't stay at Hogwarts, Harry, it was suffocating me. Draining the life out of me. Literally."
If anyone should understand this feeling, then it's Harry. He nods like he does, and I find myself talking, talking so much. I haven't had a chance to talk this freely in a year.
"So I went on the run. Lived in the Leaky, then Wales, Scotland. Everywhere and anywhere. Applied glamour charms so people wouldn't recognise me. I went blonde for a good while," I say, and I notice Harry staring at me, as if he is trying to imagine me as a blonde. "Once … four months ago, I think … I had been staying in a Muggle town in Scotland. I didn't apply the glamour charms one day, I thought I was safe, that no-one would recognise me in a Muggle town. I apparated to Kent, and straight into a band of Snatchers."
Harry is still staring at me intently, listening to every word I'm saying. For once, my story is more important than his. He needs to listen to what I'm saying so that he had regain his trust in me - and for good reason. My trust in him has never wavered. But if the situation had been reversed, I would have a hard time trusting him until I had heard his side of the story.
"They recognised me from the posters my Mum had been putting up all over the place. One of them had went to school with Charlie. They took me straight to Voldemort, and I thought I was going to die," I keep my eyes steadfastly locked on the view of the Lake. "So I thought, well, I have nothing to lose, so why don't I trick him? Make him think that I could join him? What was he going to do, kill me? He would have done it anyway."
I look over, and Harry's jaw is clenched.
"Worked better than I thought it would. I went from being Ginny Weasley, schoolgirl to Ginny Weasley, Voldemort's Right Hand Man in a matter of weeks. Got to know how he works. Bellatrix was most pissed off that she'd been replaced."
"Did he - " Harry breaks off, and this is the first time he has interrupted me. He pulls at the grass. I know this Harry - this is the Harry that has trouble getting words out. "Did he give you a Dark Mark?" he spits out, as if the words taste funny in his mouth. I bet they do.
I shake my head, I can see relief flood his features. "No. He had plans, you see, to send me back into the Order to gather information - which he did. Couldn't really walk into the Order with a Dark Mark plastered over my forearm, could I? Someone would notice that I only wore long-sleeved t-shirts," I try to joke, but it falls flat. I show him my left forearm, clean of all Dark Marks or any other tattoos. "I would have made some excuse not to get one, anyway. After all, it was only a game."
"A game?" Harry's voice is sharp as a whip, and he seems angry. "A game where you could have died, Ginny."
"But I didn't," I say calmly, twisting a blade of grass through my fingers. "And before you ask, I wasn't involved in any attacks, either."
He looks slightly comforted by this information. I am a trickster, maybe, but I am not a murderer. I couldn't have done anything even if I had wanted to. I continue to speak.
"When I went back to the Burrow, to gain information, I told Dad what I had been doing."
Harry's head whips around.
"He didn't exactly take it well. Said he should have locked me high up in a tower when I was young," I laugh, amused by my father's relation to fairytales. "I told him everything that I had learnt from watching Voldemort. I learnt how to watch, how to take everything in. And that's what I did. I took everything in and I told my Dad. Who told the Order. I hope that it helped," I say, brushing the hair out of my face as the wind whips it around.
"Did you ever think that what you were doing was wrong?" Harry asks, and I bristle in anger, but I push it down. There is no time for anger.
"Yes," I say honestly. I turn my head and chocolate brown meets emerald green. "But then I thought to myself, this is war. Everything was wrong. The whole world was wrong."
I take a deep breath and continue. "When we went to meet you in the Forest, I took all of my courage to stand there and lie to you, you know that? But I knew I had to keep up the pretence. But it was so much harder to lie to you than it was to lie to Voldemort," I say, sincerely. Harry's eyebrows are at his hairline. "But Dad and I, we made a plan. That when that day came, that we were facing each other, I would distract Voldemort as much as I could before revealing myself. I wanted him to know that I was a traitor before he died."
"What if he had won?"
I frown. "That was never an option," I say, and smile. "You know, everything that I did for the past year was for you? Not for my family, not for Voldemort, not for the Order, for you and you alone. If I had gone through all of that and you hadn't beat him, then I would have bat-bogied you so hard you wouldn't have known what year it was," I say firmly.
He lets out a bark of laughter at my comment, and soon we are both laughing so hard tears are streaming down our faces as if he hadn't just beat a Dark Lord earlier today.
Sometime within that laughing fit he has moved closer to me, so that our legs are touching.
"You are a formidable girl, Ginny Weasley," he says, and he doesn't take his eyes off me as he speaks.
I smile at him, my eyes glittering in a way they haven't for a year. "And don't you forget it," I say, nudging his knee with my own. He laughs, and for the first time in a long time it isn't tinged with sadness, or guilt, or regret; he is just laughing as a free man, and if it's possible, I fall in love with him a little more. I know that it will take time, for wounds to heal and for bonds to reform, but it will happen.
And we sit there for hours, watching the sky get drunk on firewhiskey and cotton candy, and in my heart, I know that everything will be alright.