He closed his eyes, taking in a deep breath as he did so. His head was reeling and it was as if he could feel the colour draining out of his face. He was swaying slightly, he knew so, and voices around him were certainly speaking his name; checking if he was okay and that the news he had been dealt hadn’t destroyed his world. He wasn’t listening… it was all so far away. The blackness was all-consuming. He welcomed it gratefully and consciousness deserted him.
“Ron, wake up,” a soft voice said to him from his bedside. Ron blearily opened his eyes to see Tonks sat next to him, looking particularly unhappy. She had even changed the colour of her hair to be a deep black that shimmered in the light. “You were out for three hours, we were getting worried.”
Ron was unable to speak and merely nodded to show her that he’d heard. Apparently she’d been warned that he would not be the most responsive of people that day by someone or other, and she didn’t press him for words. Behind her hovered a meal on a tray; it was some kind of stew though it didn’t look like it had been made by his mother. He wondered suddenly where she and the rest of his family were.
“I brought you dinner,” Tonks told him upon seeing his eyes on the tray. He gave her a slightly dubious look, and she sighed and added, “Dobby made it.”
She left him then, though with the promise that she would be back not long afterwards. Ron didn’t doubt that she would and for a few short moments, he contemplated locking the door shut somehow. It would only have made him look foolish once she easily removed the locking spells however, and he decided not to bother.
The stew seemed fine; a tolerable, not unappetising meal, yet Ron couldn’t eat it. His stomach was not going to cooperate with him in the slightest and he felt a terrible lurch each time he attempted to get his fork anywhere near his mouth. Unbidden, a memory of Ginny eating a similar meal at their home so many years ago entered his mind. She had been young then, she hadn’t been to Hogwarts. None of them had at that stage, apart from Bill and Charlie. In his memory he had been helping to feed her, though he could barely feed himself in reality.
His eyes were burning horribly and a painful lump had risen in his throat. Keeping calm and in control of himself and his magic, Ron levitated his meal onto the floor with his wand, which had been lying on his bedside table. He couldn’t eat it and he didn’t want to try any longer. He just wanted to sleep… sleep and then perhaps he could wake up in a world with Ginny. One where his only sister, his only sibling younger than himself, hadn’t died. He pulled the duvet over his head and hid in the darkness from the world, and from the reality he had to face.
Half an hour later, Tonks walked silently into the room and took the tray from the floor and left the room. She didn’t disturb Ron; there was no need to and he would need all the sleep he could get. The next few weeks and months would be hard on all the family, and they would all need to be there to support each other through it. She had been told as much by a fatigued and distressed Remus upon her questioning him on the best way to deal with Ron.
Downstairs there was a distinctly subdued atmosphere. Moody and Minerva were talking quietly in the hallway, though they stopped as she passed with a slight smile on her face and a nod of respect to them. She didn’t care what they were saying between them any longer; there had been many conversations around the house such as these with various members of the Order, and some of the children who were still too young to even join.
She found Kingsley in the lounge who informed her quietly that the rest of the family had retired to the Burrow, and that once Ron had recovered enough to Floo then he too would be travelling over to his home. Harry and Hermione were sat in the corner of the room, the latter absorbed in a book whilst her companion stared at the fireplace.
“Things would have been better had the Ministry not demanded to do an autopsy on her to see how she died,” Kingsley grumbled under his breath, keeping his voice well out of hearing from Harry and Hermione. “I don’t care that it only took a few minutes, her body should have been returned to her family immediately.”
“I know, Kingsley,” Tonks soothed, “but there’s nothing to be done about it now. We’ll just have to prepare for the funeral now, I suppose… Has a date been named for it yet?”
“Minerva says she thinks two weeks today. She’d have it sooner but the family wouldn’t be able to take it so soon after Ginny’s death,” he sighed. She had only been a young girl… She’d had her whole life ahead of her and it had been snatched from her in an instant. What a waste. A waste of a life which was so needlessly and ruthlessly taken for no real reason except an old family feud that had gone back generations. It had been passed down from Weasley to Weasley, Malfoy to Malfoy and it had come a long way; from competitive exams through theft, blackmail and Merlin only knew what else to killing. It had been the final act, one which had shown the sides of the two families in the war. It was truly personal for them all now, it was no longer about good against evil. It was Gryffindor against Slytherin. It was Weasley against Malfoy, and only one of the families would come out of this victorious.
Rain drummed on the windows loudly, distracting Harry, though he looked up when he caught Kingsley leaving in the corner of his eye. His mind was numb and he felt sick to his stomach. The news had come through of her death and it had been he, Hermione and Ron who had received it first. Then Remus had arrived and the chaos had been calmed somewhat. Harry and Hermione had been directed from the room by him as Ron fainted to the floor but they weren’t allowed back in. Not until the whole family had left the overbearing building at any rate.
“It wasn’t your fault, Harry.” It had been the first thing that Hermione had said to him once they had sat down in the quiet of the lounge, disbelief overpowering them.
It had been his fault though, hadn’t it? If he hadn’t broken up with her then Ginny would still be alive admonishing him for being so stupid about the whole thing. He had tried though, hadn’t he? He’d told her to come back, and they’d all warned her about the letters between herself and ‘John’ many a time… Who would ever have thought that it would have been Malfoy of all people? The young Death Eater who had been unable to kill Dumbledore, but who could toy with Ginny Weasley’s heart and then murder her cold-bloodedly in the middle of a large Wizarding area. He had no doubt that it was simply to get back at him and he voiced this to Hermione.
“It isn’t always about you,” Hermione replied quietly as Tonks left after Kingsley. “Blood is thicker than water, and Malfoy followed in his family footsteps. The fight between the Weasleys and the Malfoys has gone on for almost two centuries. I heard Arthur telling Moody last week.”
Harry nodded and stared down at his hands. Ginny was dead now and he felt like his heart was going to be torn through his chest. He had deeply cared about her, and he had split up with her to try to ensure that she didn’t get hurt, though ultimately, in the end that had been her end. If he felt so awful, he couldn’t imagine what Ron and the rest of the family must feel like… He closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands, thankful for the coolness of them against his face.
It was a nice day, and it contrasted cruelly against the reason for their presence in the silent graveyard. The sun was shining brightly, flowers were beginning to spring up here and there, and a group of darkly clad people walked solemnly past, ignoring the scenery around them.
They didn’t want her buried at Hogwarts. They wanted a private, quiet funeral, the Weasleys had decided. The graveyard was a small one, not too far from their home at the Burrow, and the entire family had turned up along with much of the Order.
It would not be anything like the one they had attended, all too recently, for Dumbledore. This was silent and filled with family and close friends only. No centaurs would be present, nor students, at this funeral. They almost wished that it would rain, so that they could hide themselves under black umbrellas, and disguise their tears with the raindrops. It was not to be; the sunlight stayed as strong as ever and made the party feel even more melancholy than they had already felt.
Ron had recovered enough to stand with his family two weeks later, though it was with difficulty that he held back his tears. Molly didn’t even try – her cheeks were damp before they reached the site of her daughter’s grave and upon seeing the small coffin lowered into the ground she sobbed so hysterically that Arthur was silently afraid that she might have had some sort of fit.
All the remaining Weasleys looked tired and drawn, their faces never wore smiles anymore and their conversations were rare and stilted. It was Remus who had been the only one in the Order who had had any kind of interaction with any of them, though even that had not been for long periods of time. Perhaps it was only because of the losses he had experienced in his life that they allowed him this intimacy, or perhaps it was the gentle way he conducted himself around them without seeming pitying or particularly overbearing. Everyone else kept their distance and learned of their relative conditions through Remus.
A Muggle vicar was speaking though the words barely passed through the mind of anyone present, and the lingering feeling of horror that the incident had caused kept coming back to them all. Nothing had been seen of any of the Malfoys since the incident though no one would forget that it was they who had caused them so much pain. It was they that would pay and each one of the Weasleys had made a silent vow right then. There would be no mercy, not after this.
Six long weeks passed since Ginny had been killed in Diagon Alley. There had been a shocked outcry from the Wizarding world, letters of condolence had been sent to the Weasleys from everyone who knew them and even the Prophet had said good things of the talented Gryffindor girl. It did nothing for the Weasley family who were so terribly struck by the death of their youngest member and Molly was so inconsolable that she cooked constantly. There was never an empty stomach in Grimmauld Place for the six weeks, nor was there a happy face either.
“I regret to inform you that, after the tragic death of Ginny Weasley, there will be no more trips into Diagon Alley,” Minerva said to the assembled sixth and seventh year Gryffindors in the common room on Saturday 12th February. It was almost Valentine’s Day. “You may travel into Hogsmeade today with the rest of the third years and above but you may not go further than that. Most of the staff will be present for security.”
She left the room and talking broke out immediately.
“I still can’t believe what happened to Ginny,” Neville said sadly to the other Gryffindor seventh years.
“I know, who would bother to do something like that?” Lavender said. “They said that the Death Eaters had been writing her love letters and she wrote back. Mum was always warning me about things like that on the internet but I never thought it would happen in the Wizarding world.”
“What’s the internet?” Seamus asked interestedly.
Dean shook his head. “Never mind. At least we’re going to Hogsmeade today, they’ve not banned that yet!”
“Yeah, maybe Harry’ll be there!” Lavender said. Dean shrugged but Neville looked like the idea appealed to him, so did the fifth year girls hanging about them as well. Perhaps he wouldn’t be there. “Or Parvati maybe.”
She missed her friend who had been pulled out of the school by their parents when Ginny had been killed. Not that she could blame them; people were dying, but Hogwarts seemed like the safest place to be… even if Dumbledore had been killed there.
“Come on,” Seamus said and got to his feet. Dean was already pulling on his cloak and Neville was wrapping a scarf around his neck. Parvati summoned her own cloak from the girls’ dormitory and the four of them set off towards the entrance hall.
“Mr Filch, that is enough!” Professor McGonagall hissed at him after he almost reduced a third year Hufflepuff to tears whilst jabbing her with the sensor in the doorway.
Their head of house gave them a slight nod as the remaining Gryffindor seventh years passed past Filch without any problems and then, at a distance, she followed the four of them into the town herself. There would be no lapse in protection of the students that day; she had half the Order present along with a large portion of the staff.
“Harry!” Lavender squealed when she caught sight of him wandering along the main street with Ron and Hermione on either side of him. “How are you?”
“I’m… uh, okay thanks,” Harry answered, feeling slightly disconcerted by the way her gaze was concentrated entirely on him and didn’t so much as flicker to either Ron or Hermione. Dean winked at him before the seven of them made their way down the street.
Whilst they walked, Harry noticed people around him, choosing instead to observe them rather than partake in the conversation with his friends. Remus gave him a fleeting smile as he walked out of Zonko’s and was greeted with a cheer of “Professor Lupin!” from several sixth year Ravenclaws. Mad Eye walked confidently down the street, scoffing at the Valentine’s Day decorations and complaining loudly about manufactured holidays whenever anyone was close enough to hear him.
“Mother, would you care to take a drink in the Three Broomsticks?” Harry saw Kingsley say to an old woman carrying a bag from Zonko’s. She could only have been Tonks, and Harry heard a thud from behind him after they’d passed the couple. A glance behind him found Kingsley doubled over in pain and the old woman looking rather victorious.
“‘Arry!” called Fleur through the crowded town and soon Harry found himself pulled to the side by Bill and Fleur whilst his friend wandered on, Ron not wanting to pause to see Phlegm again. Even the remembrance of the name that Ginny had given her caused him pain.
A short conversation followed, during which Bill kept glancing around him for other members of the Order and students straying away from Hogsmeade in any direction. He was paranoid not only for their safety but for his own recognition. Though Kingsley had spent some time creating his disguise, he still feared it being seen through by anyone who might alert the Ministry. He could not stand too close to Fleur nor look like he was particularly attached to her. It had taken all his power to prevent Kingsley from making him into a woman for a while; he would not be caught just so that he could look suitably smug on the other side of the Azkaban bars.
“Hestia’s keeping an eye on the road back to the school and Minerva says that you can Floo from there, since there are anti-Apparition wards around the town,” Bill said to Harry who nodded and bid him good-bye before walking off after his friends.
They had not trailed too far ahead and were walking past the Shrieking Shack. Several third years were running away from the old house screaming and laughing, and Harry smiled at them as he passed the house.
It was a good day weather-wise, cold but clear and sunny. It was the nicest weather for the best part of a fortnight and the charms of the day had blinded the Order slightly to their task, it had blinded the younger people in the town also. Harry was jerked backwards and something cold and sharp was pressed against his neck; an Invisibility Cloak was thrown over him and he was no longer visible to the world around him. No one noticed as he was pulled away from them and forced to walk up to the Shrieking Shack. He could fight but he would almost certainly end up with his life’s blood streaming through a gash on his throat. He had no choice but to do what the man behind him wanted.
The house loomed over him and a muttered word from the man behind him opened a hidden door. It was not an entrance that Harry had been aware of previously and Remus had told him that the one way out of the building was through the trapdoor to Hogwarts. Evidently this was a new entrance, and the knowledge of that only made Harry less at ease than he already was.
He was pushed forcefully up the stairs and into the small bedroom on the first floor of the Shrieking Shack, the screams of the third years meeting his ears once more. He was thrown roughly to the floor, the knife pulled back from his neck and he turned to see his attacker emerge from underneath the Invisibility Cloak.
“You!” Harry yelled in disbelief. The man in front of him smirked slightly and Harry saw what it was that had been pressed against his neck. “You held me at spoonpoint?”
“Far more humiliating to be taken hostage with a spoon than a knife, surely?” Severus asked with a definite sneer in his voice. Harry’s expression darkened and he dragged himself back to his feet, fingers reaching for his wand. Severus merely watched him cautiously, knowing what an aptitude the boy had for escaping impossible situations in the past.
Severus pulled another wand from his pocket and twirled it between his fingers. “Why would I allow you to keep something which could ensure your escape, Potter?”
Harry opened his mouth in fury and turned to attack him physically but Snape was not going to be taken down so easily. He waved his wand and Harry was instantly bound in ropes on the floor, his body writhing and struggling but the vines only tightened more painfully.
Severus managed to catch incomprehensible sentences muttered as Potter fought the bonds that held him. “…murdering bleeder… kill him… where the Order are…”
“The Order are incompetent fools, no doubt wondering where the hell their young saviour has got to by this time,” Severus said mildly as he watched Harry fighting still. “I would suggest that you stay still. The vines will only tighten the more you fight.”
Harry gave up, collapsing and allowing his body to relax, the cords around him doing the same. “What the hell do you want with me?”
Severus sighed as he walked past him and peered through a window in the house. Though there was no semblance of one on the outside of the house, the sunlight streamed in through the window and gave Severus a very good view of the street. As of yet, the Order did not appear to have noticed the loss of their golden boy.
“Probably not what you think I want with you,” Severus said to him, turning back from the window. Harry was grinding his teeth and staring out at him with fury burning in his gaze. Still, he did nothing. Perhaps he had learnt some semblance of control from being around Lupin so much, Severus reasoned. It had come to the attention of Voldemort that Harry had not been within Hogwarts for some time and was untraceable to him. Evidently he had dropped out of school and was living in Grimmauld Place. “You and I are going to work together.”
“No we bloody well are not!” Harry yelled at him, his control gone. “You murderer, traitor, coward, Death Eater basta—”
“That is quite enough,” Severus snarled. “Murderer perhaps, but I am no traitor, nor am I coward and you would do very well to hold your tongue when being held by someone with the ability to kill you with a flick of a wand!”
“Go on then! What’s stopping you?!” Harry yelled and began to fight with the cords which held him once again until he could barely breathe.
“Like I said before,” Severus said, levitating Harry off the floor so that they were at the same level. “You and I are going to work together.”
“I’d rather die!” Harry spat and Severus dropped him unceremoniously to the floor again, shaking his head in disbelief. It was going to be a very long time and, despite the charms which were around the old house, if a search began for Potter then Mad Eye would find them, and fast.
“Oh yes, follow in the footsteps of your parents, Black and Dumbledore,” Severus sneered. “Such a commendable act of loyalty, I’m sure. You are no good to the Wizarding world dead, Potter, so get that through your thick skull. I am not out to hurt you, I am trying to help you. Merlin knows you can’t do this alone!”
“What have I been doing so far then?!” Harry demanded. “And there is nothing you can do which will make me trust you, nothing!”
“Not even questioning from your own Veritaserum?” Severus asked, an eyebrow raised. Harry froze momentarily, eyeing him suspiciously. Snape smiled slightly and continued, “I am no idiot, I know how to spy on people. It is my job after all. You are not difficult to follow about, and the wards you put over your questioning session with Slughorn last night were hardly worthy of you.”
Harry stared at him then, his mouth lolling open slightly. He had been questioning Slughorn the night before with Hermione, Kingsley and Mad Eye. They were desperate for any knowledge the man may have had to destroy the Horcruxes but he had none; he only knew how to make them and that was of little use to them. It was also true that he had been the one to put the wards on the doors and windows which would have supposedly ensured that no one would overhear them. Apparently his charms had been extremely poor. It was also true that his Veritaserum lay in his inside jacket pocket still. He hadn’t moved it and Snape clearly knew of it. However, Snape could also have removed it and swapped it with something of his own.
“You are a failure of an Occlumens,” Severus sighed. “An entire year of mind magic, and what do you have to show for it? An impressive inaptitude at closing your mind. Even if you had managed to close your mind, you may as well have had the thoughts written on your face!”
“Give me a reason to trust you,” Harry scowled at him.
“I have no need to supply you with reasons,” Severus said in a mild tone which was becoming increasingly more annoying to Harry. “I am trying to assist you but if you don’t want it then I’ll leave you here. You aren’t dead, I haven’t harmed you and I haven’t transported you directly to Voldemort which, as a loyal Death Eater, I really ought to be doing.”
He flicked his wand and the small vial appeared in his hand from Harry’s jacket pocket. Snape marched over to Harry and knelt beside him. Harry instantly started to struggle again once he realised what Snape was about to do but there didn’t appear to be any way he could escape the situation he had managed to get into.
“How else am I meant to test this Veritaserum?” Severus demanded as he gripped Potter’s face with one hand and with the other, forced three drops of the clear potion into his struggling mouth. Harry instantly fell limp against him and Snape shoved him back. “Name?”
“Harry James Potter,” Harry answered automatically.
“How do you destroy the Horcruxes?”
“I do not know.”
“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”
“Got Sirius killed,” Harry replied emotionlessly, and Severus knew that the potion must have worked.
“The Weasley girl brought about her own death, wouldn’t you agree?” Severus asked finally, the last test he would give the potion.
“Yes,” Harry answered, though it was clear he was trying to fight what he was saying and failed miserably; no one could fight off the truth serum once correctly administered. “She died from her own foolishness in blindly trusting the letters.”
“Proof enough for you?” Severus asked as he dug his hand into his robe pocket and pulled out the antidote. Harry answered automatically with a “yes” though he had not expected a response.
Severus untied Harry with a quick wave of his wand, and handed over the bottle of antidote and the boy’s own wand. There really was no point in taking the potion without someone to administer the antidote, or else Mad Eye would have been up there fast with half the Order behind him.
“I’m going to take the truth serum,” Severus told Harry firmly. “You are going to question me about the Horcruxes and I am going to tell you what you want to know. Be brief.”
Severus had nothing to lose from this. If the Order caught him then he would be questioned anyway, though he would lose his status by Voldemort and therefore the only real weapon they had against him.
“Fine,” Harry muttered and watched Snape carefully as he took the potion, wary for any sleight of hand that he may have missed, though he didn’t believe that there was anything committed.
“Severus Thomadius Snape-Prince,” he said dully, feeling Harry pressing against his mind gently with his own, looking for any sign of deceit. He found little resistance and for once Snape let someone else into his mind, if only because it seemed to be the only way that Potter would ever trust him. Waves of urgency met Harry’s mind once he entered and a fleeting image of Mad Eye bursting through the door kept coming back to him so he pulled back and concentrated on the questions to be asked.
“Half-blood.” Harry imagined that Snape would have been grinding his teeth together from annoyance at his questions were he able to, so he pressed on.
“How do you destroy the Horcruxes?”
“There is a potion which will enable them to be destroyed,” Severus told him. “I do not know it by heart.”
“Can you give it to me?”
“I will find it and owl it to you when I am able,” Severus replied numbly and again his thoughts raced back to Mad Eye and his damned eye after which he was nicknamed. The Order would have noticed that Harry had gone by now, surely.
“Is Nagini a Horcrux?”
“I believe so.”
“Will you feed her the potion for me?” Harry asked, hoping the man would do that one small thing for him.
“Yes,” Severus said after a momentary pause. “It will be later on this year. I will be discovered and killed afterwards.”
Harry paused, his fingers on the antidote before he looked back to Snape and asked one more question, “Why did you kill Dumbledore?”
“I had no choice,” Severus answered. “Had I not then I would have been killed by Voldemort.”
“Then you should have died!” Harry yelled. “Did Dumbledore know what you were doing?!”
“Yes, he knew exactly what I was doing,” Severus said simply, his face remaining in its passive state though his heart began to quicken. He didn’t know how long the two of them had been there but it was too long. Every moment that the boy remained missing would tighten the security around the small village, which would mean he would be unable to return to Voldemort. “It was he that ordered me to kill him.”
“You’re lying,” Harry said disbelievingly, shaking his head slowly but never taking his eyes from Snape who stared back.
“I am not. I am under Veritaserum.”
“Why would Dumbledore tell you to kill him?!” Harry demanded. He was close to losing his tether yet he didn’t want anything to happen to Snape. If he really was still working for the Order, as contrary as his actions seemed, then Harry wanted him to be alive and helpful.
“I made the Unbreakable Vow,” Severus explained. “I vowed to complete Draco Malfoy’s task to kill Dumbledore if he was unable to. Malfoy did not kill Dumbledore so I had to, or the Vow would kill me.”
“You should have died,” Harry said bitterly for what seemed like the twentieth time that day. “Why would Dumbledore want you to live and him to die?”
“He said I was more use in the Death Eaters than he was in the school,” Severus answered.
Harry opened his mouth to ask another question but shouting from outside caught his attention. He poured more than the necessary amount of antidote down Snape’s throat and ran to the window. Severus shook his head to rid himself of the sluggish feeling that excess antidote had given him and followed him. Outside, the third years were still running to and from the house, which the Weasley twins had charmed half-heartedly to wail every now and again. There was a small congregation of Order members down the street however and Mad Eye was clearly searching the area around them.
“I believe we have lingered for long enough,” Snape muttered as he turned and left the room, Harry walking quickly behind him down to the hallway. “I will send you instructions for a potion I want you to brew for me. I do not have the necessary ingredients to do it myself and it would be easier for you to send me the finished product. A shrunken, subtle container will be necessary and your letter will be sent by an inconspicuous owl, not that obvious thing that you have.”
“And why will I be doing this?”
“Because this potion will be necessary to supplement the one which will destroy that blasted snake,” Severus said grimly. “Without it then it will not work. I will begin that potion tonight; I have the ingredients for that. You can expect the instructions to destroy the Horcruxes at a later date.”
“Why don’t you just go and tell the rest of the Order what you told me?” Harry asked him dubiously.
“Because I am well aware that the entire Order does not know all that you do,” Severus said grimly. “Besides, Mad Eye would kill me on sight, you know that, and how would I go about getting the entire Order in here? Shall I drag them all under that Invisibility Cloak?”
“All right, all right,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. “You’ve made your point.”
“Good, now get out there and tell only those you trust what happened here today,” Severus told him. “And for the record, your Occlumency is appalling and your trust is gained far too easily. What if I was going to kidnap you and take you to Voldemort?! Keep your mind shut and your guard up!”
With that he left the Shrieking Shack through the same small door that he had entered through. Harry followed him quickly but the man had already disappeared. Knowing that the Order was looking for him, he quickly ran out towards the street, but not before summoning the cloak to him so that he would not be charged down by them all.
“Property of James Potter,” Harry read from inside it and not for the first time he wondered just how good a spy Snape really was. Screams met his ears from further down the street, green and red flashes could be seen and Harry raced out to see Hogsmeade under attack.
A/N: A long chapter to compensate for my lack of writing in a while. Things are moving quickly but, though Ginny has died, her death shouldn't be dwelt on for too long at this point. Next chapter coming on Sunday. (It's pre-written, don't worry!)
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