A/N: Thank you so much for the emails and reminders about this story. I hope you enjoy. Thank you to my betas StephanieO and seekers_destiny as well as my Brit picker, Brennus. I stole Brennus' brilliant idea of having an Animagus retain it's form for a while after death. Ginny's story of her first black eye is how I got my first black eye curtsey of my sister.
October 29 – November 1, 1997
Ginny lay in the early morning darkness watching her husband sleep. Listening to his heart-breaking confession the night before had scared her as few things ever had. The thought that she could have lost him long before she'd ever had a chance to meet him was haunting. She hated his aunt and uncle for their cruelty. How anyone could treat a sweet little boy like that was beyond her.
She couldn't even imagine what his life must have been like for him to attempt such a drastic thing at such a young age. What must have they done for a little boy to think that drinking an entire bottle of poison was the only way out? The way he so casually talked about and accepted the abuse heaped upon him by his relatives was hard to hear, but Ginny would gladly listen to him if it would lessen his burden even a little. To beat and so purposefully hurt a child was something way outside her frame of reference.
As a little girl, she'd been cosseted and beloved by her parents. Yes, her brothers were annoying upon occasion and they wouldn't always let her play with them, but they'd never hurt her. Any injuries she'd suffered as a child were met with coddling and spoiling.
One afternoon when she was almost six, she and Ron had been helping their mother clean up the garden. Her mum had been trimming some of the shrubs in the front of the house and she and Ron were taking armfuls of branches to a pile in the back garden for burning later. She and Ron had collided as she had been running around back and Ron had been running around to the front. Because he was taller, when they collided he'd hit her in the face with his elbow leaving her with a black eye.
Ron had apologized numerous times throughout the day and had even played games with her for a whole afternoon without complaining. Ginny had been spoiled royally for the next few days. And all of that was for an accidental injury that her mother had healed within a few minutes of it happening.
To hear Harry's stories of being beaten, his arm broken and his being thrown into a tiny, dark, poorly ventilated cupboard were almost incomprehensible. It made her resolve that he would never suffer like that ever again. Their home was going to be a happy home, full of love and joy – she would make sure of it.
She closed her eyes and snuggled up against him. He would never, ever doubt that he was loved if she had anything to do with it. It was several hours later when she woke for a second time. Hedwig was sleeping on her perch near the window. The window had been charmed so Hedwig could fly in or out anytime she wanted.
After visiting the loo, Ginny crawled back in bed. She propped herself up on one elbow and watched Harry sleep. She ran her hand through his hair and he leaned closer to her. Slowly his eyes opened and his face lit with a smile that made her catch her breath.
"Good morning, beautiful," he said softly as he lifted a hand to caress her cheek.
"Good morning," she replied as she leaned over and kissed him gently. He smiled up at her and pulled her close.
"Thank you for listening to me," Harry said as he revelled in her closeness. "I sometimes forget that I can talk to people. My aunt and uncle would never talk to me or I guess I should say they would never listen to me. Even when I had friends, I was afraid to talk about certain topics."
Ginny ran her hand through his hair. "I will listen to any topic you want to talk about, my love. Anything. I don't care if you think it sounds stupid or foolish, I will listen to anything you want to say and I will never, ever think any less of you for anything."
Harry studied her carefully and smiled at the depth of her defence of him. "Thank you, love."
Sliding down closer to him, Ginny kissed him deeply. When they finally broke apart, she smiled up at him. "I think we should celebrate the fact that we are both here and in love."
He smiled down at her. "I think that's a wonderful idea."
Ron looked nervously over at Hermione. He desperately wanted to ask her to Hogsmeade for this upcoming weekend, but he was rather terrified of wrecking their friendship. He'd come to realize that he was really better when he and Hermione were talking. He couldn't believe that Harry had somehow gotten up the nerve to propose. How scary must that be? The thought somehow goaded him into speaking. If Harry could propose, certainly he could ask Hermione out.
She looked up at him as he cleared his throat. He tried to smile, but wasn't quite sure he pulled it off. "Hermione, would you like to come to Hogsmeade with me?"
To his relief, her face lit up. "That would be lovely, Ron. Thank you."
He relaxed slightly. "It will be just after Halloween."
"Halloween always makes me think of Harry," she said a bit wistfully. "Remember our third year when Harry couldn't go to Hogsmeade?"
He nodded with a smile. "He couldn't go because we were worried that the evil Sirius Black was out to get him."
She had to laugh at that. "That certainly isn't the case. I might not be Sirius's biggest fan, but I know he'd never knowingly hurt Harry." She smiled lost her thoughts for a moment. "I was so nervous when we went to the Hog's Head for our first DA meeting."
"Really?" Ron was surprised. "You seemed so confident."
"It was all an act," Hermione confided with a smile. "I was so nervous. I was afraid that someone would say something to Harry that would set him off. He was so volatile that year."
"Was he ever," Ron agreed. "He was a right grumpy git – jumping all over us for every little thing. He has a foul temper when he's upset."
Hermione sighed. "I wonder now if we did enough to help him. I had nightmares after witnessing that attack in Bannockburn so I can only imagine what sorts of nightmares he must have had after watching Cedric die."
"I didn't realize you had nightmares," Ron said in concern.
She smiled. "I don't have them much anymore, but I'd never seen anyone die before. It made me realize what Harry meant about facing Dark Arts. I always figured that I'm clever and I'd be fine if I was confronted with Death Eaters, but at Bannockburn they just Apparated in and started attacking. Before I even realized what happened at least one couple was dead. I couldn't even think about fighting back. For Harry to fight back against You-Know-Who like that after he'd been injured in the tournament and seen Cedric killed…it's pretty amazing if you think about it."
"I guess I never thought about it like that," Ron said slowly. "I haven't really seen anything like that and I'm rather glad. My brothers have all been involved in fights against Death Eaters and…it sounds horrid."
He gasped suddenly. "Does that mean you can see Thestrals now?"
She nodded sadly. "I could see them when we came back last year. It was rather creepy." She sighed. "Looking back, I can only imagine how Harry must have felt when he saw these creepy flying, reptilian horses and none of us knew what he was talking about. I keep thinking that I was such a poor friend. I remember saying I wished I could see Thestrals when Hagrid taught us about them. Now I wish I still couldn't see them."
Ron watched her anxiously. "You aren't a bad friend. I'm sure Harry doesn't think you are a bad friend. He asked about you and mentioned that he missed you and wished he could have seen you."
"Really?" Hermione's face lit up with a smile. "That's so sweet."
The commotion of other students entering the common room drew their attention. Ron smiled at Hermione. "Want to go get some dinner?"
"Of course, let me put my books up."
Ron walked down to the Great Hall feeling on top of the world. He couldn't believe he'd been so nervous about asking her out. Maybe Harry and Ginny were right, maybe a relationship with Hermione wasn't out of the question.
They arrived to the Halloween feast and found that once again the feast was amazing. There were bats fluttering around the enchanted ceiling and a rather large display of carved pumpkins near the head table.
Ron enjoyed the feast, but as the meal wore on he felt something wasn't quite right. He looked up and down the tables trying to discern what was bothering him. When his gaze hit the Slytherin table, he realized what it was. Draco Malfoy, Blaise Zabini, Pansy Parkinson, as well as Crabbe and Goyle were all missing from the feast. He scanned the Slytherin table and realized that a few others were missing, all of those who he suspected of supporting Voldemort.
"What's wrong?" Hermione asked.
"Malfoy and all of his junior Death Eaters are missing," Ron replied. "I don't see any of them."
Hermione looked over at the Slytherin table and frowned. "What do you think it means? Could they be celebrating in their dungeon? Maybe they are having their own party."
"Maybe," Ron said, but he didn't think that was it. He looked up at the head table and noticed that Professor Snape wasn't there nor Professor Dumbledore either. "I'll be right back."
Hermione watched with a troubled gaze as Ron approached their head of house. She couldn't tell what Professor McGonagall thought of his information, but she was surprised when the professor stood and hurried out of the room. Ron returned to the table looking rather troubled.
"What happened?" Hermione asked as he sat down.
"She seemed concerned," Ron reported. "She's going to talk to Dumbledore."
Ginny looked over at the couch in concern. Harry was resting with his eyes closed because he'd had a Voldemort induced headache most of the day. He'd tried working with Ginny and Sirius on some advanced Transfiguration, but his headache made it too difficult to concentrate.
"Is he any better?" Sirius whispered as he brought a tea tray into the room.
She shook her head silently. Sirius sighed. "I hate Halloween."
"I can only imagine," Ginny said sympathetically. "I wish we could give out sweets like the women at the gym were talking about. That just sounds like so much fun – handing out sweets and seeing the kids in their cute little costumes."
"It does," Sirius said. "Lily really loved Halloween. She wanted to take Harry trick or treating so badly. James kept telling me I'd have to go along as Padfoot – that could be my costume."
"That sounds really sweet," she commented. Walking over to the large window, she peered out. It was almost dusk and most of the houses had lights on to guide the children to the doors. It had surprised her to discover that some Muggles actually decorated their houses for Halloween as they did for Christmas.
"Mistress Ginny you needs to stay away from the window," Dobby spoke up from behind her. "The magic that hides the house won't work as well if theys can see you."
"Oh, I'm sorry, Dobby," she replied. "I know you went to a lot of work to hide our house."
"Of course," Dobby replied with dignity. "A house elf's duty is to protect his family's home."
"You do that quite well," Sirius commented.
"Thank you, Master," Dobby said bowing.
"Dobby, what did I tell you?" Sirius chided gently. "You don't need to bow."
"I is forgetting. Bad Dobby," Dobby replied upset that he'd forgotten.
"Dobby, please don't get upset," Ginny said as she moved over to the house elf. "You aren't bad; you are a very good house elf. We don't want you to bow, but if you forget it's not the end of the world."
"Thank you, Mistress," Dobby beamed up at her. "You are very kind."
A groan from Harry drew all of their attention. He was moaning and seemingly fighting against an invisible force. Ginny and Sirius raced over to him with Dobby not far behind. Harry was sweating and tangled up in the light blanket Ginny had laid across him earlier that day. His hair was sticking to his forehead.
Ginny sat on the edge of the couch. "Harry!"
Sirius was standing behind the couch and leaning over the back. "Harry! Wake up!"
After several long minutes of fighting, Harry sat bolt upright looking around in confusion. He leaned over the edge of the couch and vomited on the floor. Ginny just managed to jump out of the way in time. Dobby quickly and efficiently vanished the mess.
Harry shakily lay back against the couch. Sirius handed him a glass of water and a vial of potion, both of which Harry took gratefully. He closed his eyes for a minute to allow the potion to work.
Ginny conjured up a cool flannel which she pressed against his now red and inflamed scar. He jumped slightly, but opened his eyes briefly and smiled his thanks. Ginny exchanged a concerned look with Sirius. They had made no progress in discovering what exactly this link between Harry and Voldemort entailed. She hated that Harry had to suffer the emotions and hatreds of such an evil monster.
His headaches and nightmares had never completely gone away, but they seemed to be worse since they'd returned to England. They couldn't figure out if that was from a closer proximity or if Voldemort was simply more active now.
After several long minutes, Harry opened his eyes and looked at Sirius. "Dad, they're going to attack Godric's Hollow tonight. They had some kind of ceremony tonight and Voldemort branded more Death Eaters."
He shot a look over at his wife. "Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, Zabini, Pansy, and a few others I don't recognize. They're all Hogwarts students or, I guess, former students. He branded them and is letting them loose on Godric's Hollow tonight to practice all of the Dark Arts they've learned. Snape was there looking proud."
"Damn!" Sirius swore. He took out his wand and several silvery dogs bounded out of his wand going in different directions. "It's a variation of the Patronus Charm that the Order uses to send messages," he explained. "I don't like getting the Order involved, but I don't want innocent people killed and tortured if we can prevent it."
Harry stood up quickly. "We're going too."
Sirius looked from one to the other. As much as he didn't want them fighting Death Eaters, they'd been working hard and training hard. They'd earned the right to start fighting back. Plus if he didn't let them go, they'd probably sneak out anyway.
"Go up and change. Wear something black and easy to move around in," Sirius said as he headed for his room to change as well.
The three met back downstairs several minutes later. Both Harry and Ginny were wearing black jeans with a black shirt, a thick black jumper, and black boots. Ginny had a black cap on her head with all of her hair hidden. Sirius was similarly dressed.
He nodded approvingly when he saw what they were wearing. "Excellent. Okay, wands out. I want us to Apparate to the church yard. That should give us some privacy and we'll be able to see what is going on. Be careful! If you capture anyone – stun them, bind them up and break their wand."
With that the three of them Apparated into the eerily still and silent churchyard. Harry turned when Sirius swore softly under his breath. With a slightly shaky hand, Sirius pointed to several graves that looked as though they'd been freshly dug up. "Inferi."
Harry swallowed and automatically looked to the corner where he knew his parents' graves were. Thankfully they were undisturbed.
Seeing where Harry was looking, Sirius said, "Their graves are protected. Dumbledore put protections on them and I added to them."
"Thank God," Harry breathed.
"Most of the older wizarding families have protected their loved ones' graves," Sirius said. "I imagine in an old cemetery like this one there would not be a lot of unprotected graves."
He quietly led the other two through the graveyard and around the church. As they neared the front of the church, the sounds of yelling and curses being thrown became louder. Reaching out Harry squeezed Ginny's hand.
She looked over at him and he mouthed to her, "I love you."
She nodded and mouthed back, "Me too, be careful."
The three rounded the corner of the church and into chaos. There were dozens of robed Death Eaters gleefully causing damage and inflicting pain and injury. Harry was heartened to see some of the townsfolk fighting back, but he could see groups of people huddled in some of the shops.
Harry turned at that shout and was horrified to see a group of Death Eaters setting fire to the pub. He glanced at Ginny who nodded.
"Aguamenti!" he shouted as Ginny cast a shield to protect him. Together they quickly Apparated to the other side of the pub and repeated their actions. After they Apparated three times, the Death Eaters seem to have lost patience with them and had moved on. Harry cast a few protective spells on the pub. It wouldn't completely protect it, but it would help.
Taking shelter by the side of the pub for a moment, Harry surveyed the town square. He hadn't realized how many Death Eaters there actually were until that moment. He knew from his vision that this was just the newest crop of them.
He and Ginny cast Disillusionment Charms on each other and headed out into the square. Harry was glad for their communication bracelets letting him know where she was, he could feel her next to him. He felt like he was continually casting spells, but there didn't seem to be any lessening of Death Eaters.
His shield was holding, but he had to keep ducking and moving. Thankfully he hadn't seen the sickening green of the Killing Curse yet. At the far end of the square he heard an influx of noise and saw some flashes of red-hair – the Order must have arrived.
As he neared the centre of the square, he heard several voices yell out, "Expulso!" "Reducto!"
The spells hit the statue in the centre of the square and it started to crumble. Reaching out to where he knew Ginny was, Harry pulled her close and silently cast, "Protego!"
Large portions of the statue hit the ground and sent up a spray of rocks and sharp shards, injuring both those destroying the statue and those defending the square. Pulling Ginny a bit further from the site of destruction, Harry whispered, "Are you okay?"
She nodded. He hugged her close for a moment before turning his attention back to the square. One of the Death Eaters caught his attention and he crept closer.
He heard the Death Eater laugh to one of the others. "I wonder how Scarhead will like his statue now!"
Harry recognized both the drawling voice and the girlish, sycophantic laughter – Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson. He felt Ginny's hand on his arm and she silently counted down by tapping on his arm.
The two of them unleashed a volley of spells on Harry's former classmates, who turned and returned fire. Most of the curses Malfoy and Pansy were using were borderline dark curses, but to Harry's surprise neither were using any Unforgivables. Malfoy ducked behind Pansy who ended up taking the brunt of both Harry and Ginny's curses and she fell in a heap at his feet.
Malfoy leapt up and yelled, "Crucio!"
Harry and Ginny both dove out of the way of the Unforgivable. Harry rolled and jumped up shouting, "Reducto!"
Malfoy fell with a broken leg and Ginny quickly disarmed both Malfoy and Pansy. Harry cancelled his Disillusionment Charm and approached Malfoy who lay whimpering.
Leaning closer Harry said, "I don't like what you did to my parents' statue, you stupid ponce."
Malfoy's eyes grew wide as he realized who was in front of him. Before he could say anything, Harry's fist crashed into Malfoy's jaw. As Malfoy passed out, Harry looked rather sheepishly pleased with himself.
"What?" he asked Ginny as he bound them and snapped their wands.
"Nothing, love," she said with a smile. "I think he deserved that."
She cancelled her Disillusionment Charm as well. They wouldn't be able to maintain it and fight at the same time. The sound of screams drew them down one of the side streets. Hurrying towards the noise, they rounded the corner onto a horrifying sight. Half a dozen Death Eaters were torturing a group of Muggles. There were seven or eight costumed children huddling off to one side with a slightly older child trying to protect them. Two Muggle men were on the ground, one was obviously dead while the other was bleeding profusely.
Two of the Death Eaters seemed to be practicing the Cruciatus on the men while another was scaring the children. The remaining three were torturing the three women with the group. The Death Eaters had obviously been removing the women's clothing, but Harry didn't think the women had been sexually attacked.
The Potters sent curses flying at the pair practicing the Cruciatus. They didn't have time to shield themselves and quickly fell. Ginny started exchanging hexes with the Death Eaters tormenting the children, but she was having difficulty because she didn't want to hit any of the children.
Realizing her dilemma, he picked up one of the smaller children and held the little girl in front of him laughing at Ginny. In doing so, he turned his back on the children which turned out to be his undoing. The older child launched himself on the robed back of the Death Eater while one of the other children grabbed the little girl.
"Get off him!" Ginny yelled. The child complied and she quickly stunned and bound him. Silently summoning the wands of the three who had been felled, she snapped all of them before binding the first two men.
Harry was doing well with the remaining three. All of them had been caught off guard and none of them were particularly proficient spell casters, but still it was three against one. Harry's shield held against most of the spells, but a cutting curse made it through his shields slicing him along the ribs.
Taking advantage of his distraction, one of them yelled, "Crucio!"
Harry fell to his knees; the pain was bad, but not excruciating. Ginny immediately cast a Reducto at the caster who fell with his wand arm gone. Harry rolled to his feet and together he and Ginny duelled the last two Death Eaters. To Harry's surprise, they were able to quickly defeat their opponents.
While Harry was stunning and binding the last three Death Eaters, Ginny again summoned their wands and snapped them. Harry pulled the masks off of the fallen and recognized Zabini and Crabbe as well as a boy who'd been on Ravenclaw's Quidditch team Harry's first year. He shook his head in disgust, "What a waste!"
A noise had both of them wheeling around with their wands at the ready, but it was two witches who were obviously recognized by the children. The witches were a bit worse for wear and Harry thought they'd probably been in at least one fight already. He lowered his wand and the witches hurried towards the children who were now crying.
One of them went right to the children to soothe them while the other went over to Harry and Ginny. "We will help them from here. Thank you for your help."
Harry nodded. "You are welcome. Do you need help?"
The witch shook her head. "They are our neighbours. We can take care of them." She joined her friend and Harry could hear her greeting the children by name. As Harry and Ginny moved off the witch shot red sparks into the air, Harry was guessing that was a signal for assistance, he'd seen them several times that evening.
Harry and Ginny hurried through the streets which by now were mostly deserted. The Death Eaters seem to have done a lot of property damage, but Harry didn't see a lot of bodies which had been his worst fear. On this street at least, all of the pumpkins and decorations had been smashed and several houses seem to have had their windows shattered, but that could all be easily repaired. Harry saw some of the locals out cleaning up some of the debris and protecting the Muggles' homes.
They slowed down upon hearing a strange shuffling noise ahead. Harry glanced over at Ginny to see if she had any idea what it might be and she shook her head. He strained to see into the darkness and discover what might be hiding in the bushes when Ginny screamed.
Turning he realized the Inferi had made their appearance. There were four gruesome, decomposing corpses and one of them had grabbed Ginny. The creatures were moving in a strange jerking manner that Harry associated with Zombie movies with their arms outstretched. Their sightless eyes were searching for any sign of their victims. Harry vaguely recalled reading that the witch or wizard who created the Inferi could 'program' them for a certain task. He didn't know what these Inferi were programmed to do, but honestly he just wanted to get them off his wife.
"Relashio!" Fiery sparks flew from his wand and the creature released its hold on Ginny. "Accio Ginny!"
When Ginny was safely next to him, Harry cast, "Incendio!"
The Inferi burst into flames and Harry pulled Ginny close. "Are you okay?"
She nodded shakily. "I think they scared me more than anything else." She shuddered. "Merlin, that was gross."
Harry dropped a kiss on the top of her head and the pair hurried on. As they rounded another corner, Harry heard the cry, "Reducto!"
He brought up his shield a split second too late and he fell as his knee snapped. Ginny turned and started firing at their opponents, giving Harry a chance to pull himself together. There were several Death Eaters and while Harry was still casting spells, he wasn't able to hold a shield at the same time and he was hit with several cutting spells. Ginny fought hard and soon there was only one Death Eater left. He was a short, squat man who seemed more skilled than the other Death Eaters they had faced.
Suddenly he sent a Bedazzling Hex at them and when Ginny looked around the Death Eater was gone. The sound of angry barking caught her attention and to her shock Padfoot raced by them, obviously after someone.
"Sweetie, are you okay?"
"I think my knee is broken," Harry said quietly as he stifled a groan. Ginny helped him sit up, but she knew she would have a hard time getting him to his feet. "Was that Padfoot?"
Ginny nodded, but before she could say anything else Padfoot returned with something in his mouth. Ginny had to hold back a shriek as he dropped a dead and bloodied rat at her feet. "What the hell?!"
Padfoot changed back into Sirius and immediately retched.
"Dad! What happened?"
Sirius wiped his mouth and pointed to the rat. Harry gasped when he saw the silver paw. "Pettigrew!"
"I recognized his scent," Sirius explained. "I didn't even realize he was fighting you at first. I've been following him, he was working with this lot," Sirius said as he gestured toward the Death Eaters who had ambushed Harry and Ginny.
Ginny bound and stunned them while Sirius continued his story. "He's been causing havoc all over town and I stopped several times to help those he left behind. I saw him cast the Bedazzling hex and transform so I transformed and went after him."
Popping sounds made him look up. "I think it's over." He peered through the trees and nodded. "The Ministry is here so we need to get out of here."
He helped Harry to his feet, but when they tried to Apparate, they could not. "Shite!" Sirius swore. "They must have put up Anti-Apparition Jinxes. They do that when they want to speak to all of the witnesses."
"What do we do?" Harry asked. The pain from his knee was almost overwhelming and he was starting to feel like he was going to pass out.
Sirius aimed his wand at Harry's knee and murmured, "Ferula."
Bandages and a splint wrapped around his knee, and then Sirius cast a numbing charm on Harry's leg. "That should last a few minutes. Follow me."
The couple followed Sirius down a rather dark street that looked as though it led out of town. Ginny had Harry's arm wrapped around her shoulder and had hers wrapped tightly around his waist. He was leaning quite heavily on her which worried her quite a bit.
Sirius stopped in front of a house that looked as though it was long abandoned. Harry gasped when he saw where they were. "Is this my parent's house?"
"It is," Sirius replied. "I thought it would be a safe place to wait out the Ministry."
"Okay," Harry breathed. Honestly he was hurting so badly he just wanted to lie down. It didn't matter to him where they were.
Sirius opened the door and helped him into the small study that was towards the back of the house. It was a very masculine room with wood panelling on all of the walls and a moderately sized stone fireplace and hearth. On one wall was a well-used dart board and a map of the United Kingdom. James' desk was as neat and tidy as the last day he'd used it.
All of the Marauders used to tease James about his neat ways, but he wasn't swayed. Everything was neatly put away with pictures of Lily and Harry on top of the desk. Against one of the other walls was a long comfy couch which was Sirius' destination, he couldn't count the number of times he'd kipped on that couch after various parties, late nights, or mornings after the full moon. Over the couch were dozens of photos of James' family – his parents, Lily, Harry, and of course the Marauders.
Sirius settled Harry on the couch and covered him with a blanket. Ginny reached into her pocket and pulled out a shrunken rack of potions. He raised an eyebrow at her as she made them grow to normal size.
Blushing she said, "I figured someone would need potions before the night was out. I put unbreakable charms on all of them."
"Good thinking," he replied as she popped open two vials and got Harry to drink them.
"Those were pain and blood replenishing potions," she explained as she shrank the rack back down and put it away. "I wish I had some Skele-Grow, I think he will need some for his knee. Were you hurt at all?"
"Just a few cuts and bruises," he reassured her. "You?"
Grimacing, she turned her back to him and pulled her shirt up revealing deep scratches on her back. Sirius healed them and turned her around. He frowned at the bruising that was just showing up on her neck. "What happened there?"
"Inferi," she said shuddered. "Ick! The feeling of their hands on me was disgusting."
Sirius nodded, he'd had his share of run-ins with Inferi during the first war. They were truly nightmarish creatures. He ran his wand over the girl he thought of as his daughter-in-law. "Does your side hurt?"
Ginny nodded in surprise. "It does, I think I landed badly on something."
"You have a broken rib, sweetie." He explained. "Make sure you take a mild pain potion. I'm going to try to get Madam Pomfrey here in the morning before we leave. I imagine she'll be busy tonight."
"Sirius, did you see any of my family?"
He nodded. "I saw both your parents and the twins. The last time I saw them they were all well."
"Do you know if the water works here?" Ginny asked resolutely changing the subject. She was worried about her family, but she couldn't focus on that now. "I'd like to get some of the blood and dirt cleaned off of him."
Sirius went off to check on the water situation and Ginny pulled off her cap and cleaned the mud off of her shoes before doing the same for Harry. She carefully removed his shoes before vanishing his shirt and trousers, leaving him in just his pants and socks. She gasped at the number of cuts he had, he certainly hadn't indicated that he'd been injured like that. Casting a warming spell over the blanket, she carefully covered him up as she waited for Sirius to bring the water.
She heard the groaning sound she associated with old pipes followed by the sound of Sirius swearing. She chuckled slightly. Glancing down she could see Harry was still sleeping so she started looking around the room. The photos on the walls were amazing. James and Harry really did look alike and when she saw pictures of a five or six year old James, she imagined that was what Harry looked like at that age.
There were many pictures of Lily Potter and Ginny had to smile as she looked at them. Harry's mum was truly a beautiful woman. She appeared to be quite tall, she was only a bit shorter than James, with beautiful thick auburn hair and of course those amazing green eyes that she'd passed on to her son.
Ginny walked around the room, on the opposite side from the couch was a set of beautiful French doors that lead out into what appeared to be a garden. She imagined that when the Potters had lived here it must have been beautiful.
After making a circuit of the room, she settled back down next to Harry. This was the house he should have grown up in, not his horrid aunt and uncle's house. This was a house full of love and magic, the kind of house she hoped that she and Harry would someday share.
Sirius' return roused her from her musings. She had to laugh as he'd obviously fought with the water and lost.
"That's enough out of you, young lady," he admonished as he handed her a bowl of warm water with some flannels and towels. "You should have seen the first water that came out of the pipes; it was black and full of junk."
"Are you okay here?" he asked. "I'd like to set some protections and alarms and then take a quick shower. I want to get all of this grime and blood off of me."
"Can't we just have Dobby come get us? Do we have to stay here?"
"I'm not entirely certain," Sirius said, "but I know the Ministry can track house-elf movements under certain circumstances like through anti-Apparition spells. I don't want the Ministry to be able to track us. I've already put up mirage charms and such so no one will be able to tell we are here. I'm hoping that no one will think to look here. In the morning, I will see what's going on, but for now I just want us to stay safe."
Ginny nodded her understanding. "Okay."
As Sirius headed off to shower, Ginny gently began to clean up her husband.
Severus Snape swore under his breath at the number of student Death Eaters who had been captured. Some had escaped, but unfortunately the most prominent ones were still here. He wasn't really sure how the Order had known of the attack as he'd already been in Godric's Hollow when they arrived.
How could such a glorious evening have gone so badly? Tonight the Dark Lord had initiated almost twenty new recruits and this was their reward – a quick raid on this historic village. Snape knew the Dark Lord had chosen this night in Godric's Hollow as an anniversary of sorts. This was nothing like a real Death Eater raid, he'd seen some of the kids smashing pumpkins – it was just an occasion for them to celebrate and use some of the spells they'd been learning. He hadn't expected them to have to fight the Order.
He stuffed his Death Eater mask into his robes and quickly transfigured them to look like his normal school robes. As he neared the centre of the square he could see Draco and Pansy were among those captured, both appeared to be injured. Severus was surprised to notice that their wands were broken and left near them – that wasn't typical of the Order. Lucius was not going to be happy that Draco's wand was broken. He winced at the damage done to the statue; he'd always liked that likeness of Lily. The way the statue had them positioned, it was easy to ignore Potter and focus on her.
"Headmaster," Severus said quietly as he approached the man who was helping direct clean-up efforts.
"Sir, we need to get these students back to school before the Ministry gets their hands on them," Snape said urgently.
"Do you know how many students are here?" Dumbledore asked as he looked around the activity in the square. He'd been rather surprised and pleased at the response of the townspeople who hurried to help their neighbours.
Near the church the wounded were being triaged and treated, with a distressing number of still, shrouded bodies growing as the town was searched. On the opposite side of the town square were the bound and silenced Death Eaters.
Severus looked over at that group trying to ascertain who might be in with that group. Telling the Headmaster the minimum he needed to know was thoroughly ingrained in the spy. If he could hide some of the students, he would. "I believe there are four or five students here."
He gestured to Draco and Pansy who were still lying near the statue. "I especially need to get those two back to school," Snape said. "It appears as though they were injured."
Dumbledore nodded. "We can transport them to some of the unused dungeons near the Slytherin section to ascertain the extent of their injuries. I hesitate to get Madam Pomfrey involved."
"What are you talking about?"
Both men turned, rather startled at the unwelcome intrusion. Minerva McGonagall was looking at them both with a horrified look on her face.
"Minerva," Dumbledore began, but the irate woman cut him off.
"Don't Minerva me, Albus Dumbledore," she said firmly. "You cannot return these Death Eaters to school and tuck them into bed as though nothing has happened. I know you wanted to encourage them and give them options, but they have chosen."
She gestured towards the Dark Mark burned into Malfoy's arm. "He is not a lost child; he is a Death Eater now. I saw the spells these 'children' were casting and they were not benevolent charms. There were meant to scare, torture, and kill."
Gesturing towards the shrouded bodies she asked, "Do you really want people who think this is a 'fun' night mixing in with the rest of the students?"
"They are children," Snape defended them. "The way they were raised of course they will be interested in the Dark Arts, but that is no reason to punish them."
"I'm not advocating punishing them for reading a book," McGonagall returned tartly. "The spells they cast have earned them a ticket to Azkaban." She glared at Dumbledore. "Don't even consider their return to the school. I will not stand for it. I will go to the Board of Governors, I will go to the press, and I will do whatever is necessary including shutting Hogwarts down to ensure they do not return. You cannot let killers loose inside our school. They need to be punished. You were not willing to give Harry and Ginny a second chance when they truly deserved one, do not compound that error by giving second chances to those unworthy of the effort."
Severus glared at the stupid woman and barely restrained himself from brandishing his wand. "You will not stand for it? Lucius Malfoy will not stand for his son being expelled from Hogwarts."
'Severus," Dumbledore began.
The arguing trio hadn't registered the approach of Amelia Bones, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Arthur Weasley who were approaching with their wands out.
"There will be no covering this up or glossing this over," Madam Bones stated firmly. She looked over at Snape. "Severus Snape, you are under arrest for suspected Death Eater activity."
"Please, Madam Bones," Dumbledore spoke up, "Severus has been one of our biggest assets in this war. He doesn't need to be arrested."
She raised an eyebrow. "Did you receive a warning about this attack from Mr Snape?"
Regretfully Dumbledore shook his head.
"Did Mr Snape accompany you to the village?"
Again he shook his head.
"Then his actions need to be investigated," Madam Bones replied coolly. "There is no question that anyone bearing the Dark Mark will be arrested. If he was truly acting as a spy and not a Death Eater, he will be released. So far we have discovered no less than eight Hogwarts students with the Dark Mark and we don't know how many managed to leave before the Ministry arrived."
Minerva closed her eyes in frustration. "Eight students? Merlin save us. Can you tell me who they are?"
Consulting a sheet of parchment Madam Bones read, "Draco Malfoy, Pansy Parkinson, Blaise Zabini, Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, Kevin Entwhistle, Rupert Davies, and Zacharias Smith."
She speared Dumbledore with a cool look. "I expect that all of your students will be checked for the presence of the Dark Mark. There may be more who did not participate in this attack."
Kingsley quickly disarmed Snape and simply bound his hands in front of him before Disapparating and taking the man to the Ministry holding cells.
Arthur regarded Dumbledore coolly. "I know you have repeatedly told us you trust him, but consider that the warning about this attack did not come from him, but from Sirius. Snape was obviously here with the Death Eaters participating in the attacks."
"He needs to maintain his credibility," Dumbledore replied, "but I will admit to being shocked that Death Eaters were recruiting at my school and I knew nothing about it." For once he looked every year of his age. "I'm shocked that so many students chose to become Death Eaters."
"Albus! Madam Bones! You need to see this!"
The group turned to see Remus Lupin gesturing at them and hurried over to his side. Minerva gasped when she saw where he was looking. Peter Pettigrew was dead – with very peculiar wounds around his head and neck.
"Merlin, I knew he was a Death Eater, but actually seeing him," Minerva breathed.
Remus who was squatting next to the body nodded, he pushed up Peter's sleeve. "He certainly was. I can't help but wonder how long he had that Mark."
"How did he die?" Madam Bones asked.
"I can't tell," Remus admitted. "He has these strange wounds, but a quick scan shows his neck was broken."
The group turned to look at Minerva who actually coloured slightly under their combined gaze. "If he was a rat at the time of his death - that is how some animals kill a smaller animal, by shaking them and breaking their neck."
Madam Bones raised an eyebrow. "I will have our pathologists examine his body." She looked over at Remus. "Where was he found?"
Remus gestured down the darkened road. "It seems a group of Death Eaters set up an ambush, but although it appears they injured someone, there are only Death Eaters left. One is dead, two are injured, and the last one is merely stunned. They are all bound together and their wands snapped. Peter was next to them. A bit further down the road I found a huge pile of ash. One of the townspeople told me there were three of four Inferi burned by a young couple. I'm guessing this couple are the people who were ambushed."
Madam Bones nodded thoughtfully before turning to Dumbledore. "I need to finish the clean up here, but I would like to meet with you and some of your group tomorrow. I don't always agree with your methods, but we are both on the same side. We need to pool our resources and knowledge. I will have interviewed Mr Snape by then and will have more information for you."
"How is that, dear?" Madam Pomfrey asked solicitously.
Harry tentatively moved his knee and smiled in relief. "Much better, thank you."
"You are quite welcome," she replied with a smile. "I would like you to take the Blood Replenishing Potion twice a day for the next three days and the green potion once a day. That's a strengthening potion that should help with your healing. Make sure you take a pain potion if you need it."
Harry nodded in understanding. "Madame Pomfrey, did you hear anything about last night?"
Poppy Pomfrey paused for a moment, she didn't want to spread gossip, but she could see their need to know. "I understand that you are the one who gave the warning, Sirius."
He nodded from his spot across the room. "Yes, Harry had one of his nightmares or visions or whatever you want to call them."
The matron sighed. "Professor Dumbledore came by to let me know they were leaving in case my services were needed when they returned. There were only a few injuries among the Order." She looked over at Ginny. "Your parents and brothers are fine. George suffered a broken leg that I was able to fix and he's fine now."
"Thank Merlin," Ginny murmured. Harry squeezed her hand; he knew she'd been worried about them.
"The big news is that there were eight students inducted as Death Eaters last night and Professor Snape was arrested," Madam Pomfrey continued.
She smiled. "I know, that was rather shocking. It seems as though Madam Bones was furious that he'd seemingly been recruiting students as Death Eaters, but didn't give any type of warning to Professor Dumbledore or the Ministry. Professor Dumbledore is meeting with the Ministry this morning."
"Are they doing anything to look for other Death Eaters among the other students?" Harry asked anxiously.
"Yes, Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick have apparently been working on something that will detect the Dark Mark. This is a Hogsmeade weekend, that's how I was able to slip away so easily. Minerva told me they will have something in place on the school gates by the time the students return."
"That's good," Harry said with relief. "I always wondered about that. I guess with Snape on staff they couldn't do anything that would keep out those with the Dark Mark."
"They still could have been a bit more pro-active in regards to security," Sirius said. "It astounds me that one professor was possessed by Voldemort and one was a Polyjuiced Death Eater."
"Not only that, but Voldemort made it onto the property. I'm not sure how he got onto the school grounds, but he killed Umbridge himself," Harry said. He gestured towards his scar. He explained, "I saw it."
"Apparently the Floo in the Slytherin common room was an active Floo," Madam Pomfrey explained. "Madam Bones discovered that when she was investigating Umbridge's death. Professor Snape says it's been that way since he was in school. I've since heard it was You-Know-Who himself who changed it."
"I trust it's been changed back," Sirius said.
"It has," she replied. "It is rather scary to think that Death Eaters had free reign to enter the school."
Harry stood and walked around the room on his newly healed knee. "Thank you, Madam Pomfrey. It feels much better."
"Excellent," she replied. "If you two gentlemen don't mind, I would like some privacy to examine Mrs Potter."
Harry nodded and leaned over to kiss Ginny briefly before heading into the kitchen with Sirius.
Madam Pomfrey quickly and efficiently healed Ginny's wounds and healed her broken ribs. She smiled gently at the younger witch and sat down next to her. "I trust that Mr Black gave you the book and the potion."
Blushing Ginny acknowledged that was true. She thought this would be a very embarrassing conversation with the older woman, but she soon found that Madam Pomfrey had done this many times before. Ginny was able to ask some questions that she had no one to ask previously. Madam Pomfrey examined her and reinforced the information on birth control.
"Thank you," Ginny said at the end of the conversation.
Shedding her more proper persona, Poppy reached out and hugged the younger girl. "I am just happy I was able to help you."
"My mum never really explained much other than I shouldn't have sex," Ginny admitted. "Even once she found out we were married, she just wanted to make sure I had birth control. I don't know why she was so worried. I'm only sixteen. We want to have children, but not until we are older."
"That is quite responsible," Poppy said. She shook her head. "Unfortunately not all of your classmates feel the same way. We've had three young ladies withdraw this year due to pregnancy and I've heard that the black market abortion potions are being sold at a rapid pace. I've held several classes for young ladies so they know what their options are, but many of them think I am too old or too old fashioned to know what they might be thinking or feeling."
She sniffed. "This happened every time war threatens our world. During the war with Grindelwald, there was a huge increase in the number of student marriages and during the first war with Voldemort there were both – marriages and pregnancies."
"Can girls go to school while they are pregnant?" Ginny asked curiously.
Poppy nodded. "They can, but often parents feel they want their daughters closer during their pregnancy. As you might imagine wizarding families usually insist the young ladies get married, while some of the Muggleborn students have chosen to not get married. We also have accommodations for married students, but we haven't had to use them in years."
Glancing at the still closed door Ginny leaned in closer and asked quietly, "Madam Pomfrey, what do you know about children who were abused?"
A series of emotions crossed the matron's face. "Harry?"
Ginny nodded. "He's shared some things with me that…are so horrible. I can't understand how he's turned out as amazing as he is. He shared something with me recently that really shocked me and…I want to make sure that I am doing the right thing. I let him tell me what he's comfortable telling me, but I haven't been pushing him. He tends to shut down if he's pushed."
"It sounds like you are doing the right thing."
"Is there anything I need to look for or anything? I don't even know what to ask you, but I want to make sure he knows that I love him and will always be there for him."
"You and Sirius are doing the best thing for him," Poppy said gently. "You are providing him with a loving family and a safe environment. He is thriving under your love and encouragement. I can easily see the differences in him. I think you are correct in listening to him and reassuring him that things are different now.
"He might have concerns when you do decide to start your family. Abuse is often described as a cycle and knowing Harry as I do, I believe he will be concerned that he might be abusive."
"Harry would never hurt a child," Ginny said indignantly. "He is so gentle and sweet."
Madam Pomfrey raised her hands. "I know that, but does he?"
Ginny bit her lip as she thought about it. Part of her wanted to say that didn't make any sense, but she knew her husband. He would worry about something like that.
Seeing that she'd made her point, Madam Pomfrey said gently, "Just be patient with him and keep reassuring him. He has two great role models in your father and Sirius so he will be fine, you might just need to point that out to him."
"Thank you," Ginny said.
"You are quite welcome," Madam Pomfrey said with a smile.
After saying goodbye to Harry and Sirius, she headed back to Hogwarts. Once she'd left, Sirius summoned Dobby who returned them back to their flat in Cambridge without incident.
Severus Snape entered the interrogation room rather shaken by the events of the past twelve hours. He had never imagined that he would find himself in Ministry custody. In the past, Dumbledore's influence had always been enough to protect him. He didn't understand why that had now failed.
He watched as Kingsley Shacklebolt sat down across from him. Inwardly he rolled his eyes, but outwardly he watched the Auror impassively. The silence stretched on as the Auror looked through a file. Severus couldn't see exactly what was in the file, but he could tell there was a sheaf of parchment and several photos.
Finally the silence got to him. "Is there some point to this?"
Kingsley looked up impassively. "You are in a lot of trouble here, Snape."
"What does that mean?"
"Were you recruiting Death Eaters from among the student population at Hogwarts?"
Severus froze; he knew he had to answer carefully. "I never recruited any students."
Kingsley's eyebrow rose. "None?"
"Draco Malfoy was recruited by his father. He recruited the other students."
"Did you know this was happening?"
Severus shifted uncomfortably. "I did. I warned Draco to be more circumspect in his actions. After the incident with the Weasley boy last term I knew that he was in danger of being expelled. I know McGonagall tried to have him expelled, but Dumbledore overrode her and allowed him to return for his final year."
"Did you tell Dumbledore that Malfoy was recruiting students?"
"Not specifically," Severus allowed. "I told him repeatedly that I didn't think he would be successful in turning Draco."
"So you believe he wanted to turn Draco."
"Yes, Dumbledore is rather idealistic. He wanted to show the children of Death Eaters that they had another option other than to become Death Eaters themselves."
"So you promoted the other options?"
"Of course not," Severus said scornfully. "They would have reported me back to the Dark Lord if I even hinted that there was another way."
"So you didn't promote a more peaceful option, you didn't tell Dumbledore that Malfoy was recruiting Death Eaters, and you didn't warn Dumbledore that Voldemort was going to let his new Death Eaters attack Godric's Hollow. Is that correct?"
"Yes," Snape bit off.
"Is there any reason you should not be sent to Azkaban?"
"Is there any reason I should?" Snape countered. "I never encouraged the boys to become Death Eaters, I never encouraged them to recruit others, and I didn't attack anyone last night. I encouraged the boys to stick to destruction of property rather than raping and killing.
"It is an open secret that I am a Death Eater. I cannot act overtly against the Dark Lord. I try to keep Dumbledore informed, but I can't tell him everything or I would be killed."
"We recovered eight students: Malfoy, Parkinson, Zabini, Crabbe, Goyle, Davies, Entwhistle, and Smith. Are you aware of any other student Death Eaters?"
"Harper," Snape replied after a moment. "Draco has quite a following in my house and most of the students look up to him. You would be hard pressed to find any Slytherins who do not support the Dark Lord."
Kingsley stood. "Stay here."
Leaving the room, he looked at his boss who had watched the entire interview. "What do you think?"
"I think he's a supercilious prick who should spend the rest of his life in prison," Madam Bones replied evenly.
"But…" Kingsley prompted.
"But, in some ways he is correct. He has been much more cooperative since our last interview. He has warned Dumbledore of several raids and he warned him there was a plot in regards to Potter." Madam Bones peered into the one-way mirror to observe Snape. She swore violently. "As much as I don't like him, I can't say that he's done anything wrong and I have to admit having someone in Voldemort's inner circle can be invaluable."
"We actually probably helped his cover by arresting him," Kingsley mused.
"Send him back to his cell," she replied. "I will deal with him once we've met with Dumbledore.
Madam Bones nodded to Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, and Arthur Weasley as they entered her office. Kingsley and Tonks were already seated at a large conference table. Once everyone was settled around the table, Madam Bones nodded to Kingsley who began.
"Yesterday evening, Arthur, Minerva, Remus Lupin, and I all received a communication Patronus from Sirius Black informing us of an attack on Godric's Hollow by some new Death Eaters. Members of the Order of the Phoenix and the Ministry arrived in time to thwart some of the attack.
"There were minor injuries, but no deaths among the Order or Ministry workers. Unfortunately the townspeople were not so lucky – there were five townspeople killed outright with another fifteen injured. The Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes was on scene fairly quickly once hostilities ceased and were able to Obliviate those who had seen any actual magic. The cover story being used is disaffected youths going a little wild on Halloween."
"Not far from the actual truth," Arthur commented.
Madam Bones nodded. "The people of Godric's Hollow came out in force to meet the Death Eaters. I spoke to several townspeople who had protected their neighbours."
"Were there any other casualties among the Death Eaters?" Minerva asked.
Kingsley nodded. "In addition to Peter Pettigrew, there were six Death Eaters killed and several more injured including Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson. I spoke to Draco last night and he claims that he was attacked by Harry Potter."
"Harry was there last night?" Dumbledore spoke up for the first time.
"It seems he was," Madam Bones said. "Blaise Zabini also reports having fought with Harry Potter and presumably his wife. Zabini and Malfoy report that Potter was with a woman although neither of them got a good look at her. Two of the witches I spoke to last night described a young couple who attacked the Death Eaters torturing their neighbours. One of the Death Eaters in Pettigrew's group said that the last people they ambushed were a young couple. It appears as though they assumed the couple would be easy prey, but they were not."
"Did they know what happened to Pettigrew?"
"One of the Death Eaters was pretending to be stunned," Tonks spoke up. She shook her head in disgust. "Brave lot, aren't they? Anyhow, he said that they'd hit the man, but he was still fighting and he and the woman managed to disable everyone but Pettigrew. Pettigrew cast what sounds like a Bedazzling Hex and disappeared. As we had Anti-Apparition charms up, I'm guessing he transformed into a rat. The Death Eater said the last thing he remembered, a huge black dog went running by them."
"So if Sirius was transformed and caught Pettigrew…"
"I have already had Scrimgeour sign an emergency order stating that any actions taken in defence of Godric's Hollow will not be prosecuted," Madam Bones said. "It might cost him, but he willingly signed it and has already presented it to the press."
"Thank Merlin," Minerva said.
Madam Bones nodded. "I didn't want the Potters or Mr Black to be concerned about being prosecuted for helping out."
Exchanging a glance with her boss, Minerva said, "We have officially expelled the eight students involved in the fight last night as well as Mr Harper who also bears the Dark Mark. I have been working with Filius Flitwick on a method to detect the Dark Mark. He is applying it to the gates of the school, the Slytherin Floo, and the Whomping Willow so anyone attempting to enter the school by those means with a Dark Mark will be detained. Today is a Hogsmeade day and when we'd left the school, most of the upperclassmen had gone to the village so they will need to pass through the gates on their return to the school."
Madam Bones looked around the group and said, "I guess that brings us to the topic of Mr Snape."
Looking directly at Professor Dumbledore she said, "I do not trust Mr Snape, I do not believe he is on our side, but I also do not believe he is completely on Voldemort's side either. He is a wild card and he is dangerous. We have interrogated him and I believe him when he states that he did not recruit students, but he knew full well what young Mr Malfoy was doing and did nothing to stop him. He has encouraged the Death Eater philosophy to completely take over Slytherin House and had actually rewarded the budding Death Eaters over everyone else at school. I am concerned that you have never disciplined him and have allowed him such influence in your school."
Dumbledore looked down for a moment. "I will admit that I have allowed Severus more latitude, but I truly hope that he could influence some of this generation's Slytherins they did not need to follow in their father's footsteps."
"Instead you have allowed them to misbehave and escape punishment over and over," Madam Bones said. "I have just recently heard that two of these boys attacked Arthur's son last term and were allowed to continue at the school. They should have been expelled for that action. I do not understand how Harry Potter is persona non grata and cannot return, yet these boys whose personalities clearly indicated their beliefs, were given every opportunity. This must stop!
"We must be able to feel that our children are safe in our schools, not teaching them to protect themselves against their Death Eater classmates."
Dumbledore hung his head. "I completely agree. I am sorry that my inaction has allowed such a culture to flourish at Hogwarts."
Before any further discussion could take place, a loud explosion reverberated throughout the building. Kingsley and Tonks were on their feet instantly, but before they reached the door it flew open and an Auror ran in.
"Death Eaters are attacking the holding cells."
Hermione looked shyly over at Ron. It had really been a perfect day. They had gone to all of their favourite shops and had lunch at the Three Broomsticks. It was what they had done on virtually every Hogsmeade weekend since third year, but this time it was just a little different.
She and Ron hadn't really argued the entire day. It had been wonderful to talk about their future plans and pretend that there was no war going on. Their day hadn't even been marred by Malfoy taunting them.
While she'd rather hoped they might hold hands or something, she was hesitant to initiate anything herself. She had been pleased that he'd asked her to Hogsmeade and they had a wonderful day together, but how could she know if he enjoyed it the same way she did? Did he think they were just getting back to being best friends? Was there any way he could possibly feel the same way she did?
As they entered the Great Hall, she could tell something was wrong almost immediately. Scanning the hall, she could see Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick talking quietly up by the head table.
"That's Madam Bones," Ron said sharply.
Hermione focused on the rather stern woman. "I though she looked familiar. I wonder what she is doing here. That's Kingsley – what's going on?"
'I don't know," Ron said. "Where's Professor Dumbledore?"
"And Professor Snape," Hermione murmured. "I don't have a good feeling about this."
Food appeared on the tables and everyone started eating. Hermione ate mechanically as she tried to figure out what was happening. "Do you think this has something to do with whatever was happening at the gates?"
"I don't know," Ron admitted. Kingsley and Tonks had both been near the Hogwarts gates when they returned from town. "I think they added some sort of charm to the gates. That's what I assumed Kingsley and Tonks were doing, they were watching something on the gates as we walked through."
Hermione nodded slowly as she reviewed what had happened. "That is true. I hadn't realized what they were doing."
As the last golden plate of dessert disappeared from the tables, Professor McGonagall rose and faced the students. "I have several announcements to make. If everyone will stay seated, please."
The students quickly settled down, all of them notice something wasn't quite right.
"I have a lot to tell all of you, so I would appreciate everyone staying quiet until I have finished," Professor McGonagall began.
"Last night, there was a Death Eater attack on the town of Godric's Hollow. A group of Hogwarts students who had taken the Dark Mark were included in this attack."
She had to stop as the murmuring broke out. Shooting sparks from her wand caused everyone to settle back. "Those students have all been expelled, as was another student found to have the Dark Mark. This should serve as a warning that the Dark Mark will not be tolerated here at Hogwarts. We now have a charm in place that detects the Dark Mark here at the school."
Hermione leaned over and whispered, "What about Professor Snape?"
Ron shrugged, but grinned. "Maybe he's been fired!"
Professor McGonagall continued, "This morning, Professor Dumbledore and I were at the Ministry to speak with Madam Bones regarding the incident at Godric's Hollow. In addition to the students, one of our staff members, Professor Snape, was also discovered to bear the Dark Mark. We had thought him to be on our side, but are uncertain as to his allegiance. If you have any contact from Professor Snape, please let us know immediately.
"During our meeting, Voldemort and his Death Eaters attacked the Ministry to rescue their newest members. Professor Snape and the students all escaped during the attack." Professor McGonagall swallowed. "It is my very sad duty to inform you that Professor Dumbledore was killed by Voldemort during the attack."
As an audible gasp arose from the students. Hermione listened in growing horror, tears springing to her eyes. This was not possible. They needed Professor Dumbledore.
"We will not be having classes for the next week," Professor McGonagall said. "As I'm sure you understand, we have many decisions to make. After speaking with Professor Dumbledore's brother, it has been decided that his funeral will be here at the school this coming week. We encourage all students to attend, but it is not mandatory."
Hermione walked up to Gryffindor tower a few minutes later with tears streaming down her face. Many of the students were crying or talking in shocked disbelief. As they climbed into the portrait hole, Hermione let go of Ron's hand to climb through. She hadn't even realized they were holding hands.
Reaching out she hugged him before heading up to her room. What was going to happen to them now?