…..And I see no chance of release
I know I’m dead on the surface
But I am screaming underneath….

- Coldplay, ‘Amsterdam’ 

Ginny, Neville, Luna and Seamus slowly shuffled toward one of the seemingly horseless carriages that would be pulling them up to the Hogwarts castle. Ginny stretched out her hand as she neared it, wanting to feel it. She couldn’t see them, but she could feel the scaly flesh of the Thestral beneath her fingers and she smiled softly. 

“Come one,” Seamus said, a muscle moving in his tense jaw. “Let’s just get in the carriage. Quickly.” 

Ginny could see why Seamus was so tense. The scene facing them was unlike it had ever been before. A cold mist hung thick in the air and the sky seemed blacker then black. A lone yellow light post glowed in the fog, helping to guide the shivering students into their carriages. An air of fright seemed to hang over them all, as students, clutching their friends close and their wands even closer, scurried out of sight into the safety of the coaches. Ginny could see why they were feeling this way: two towering Dementors stood not far ahead up the road, waiting. Ginny scrambled in after Neville, holding her breath. The last thing she needed to do tonight was face Dementors. 

Luna shut the door of the coach behind them and it slowly began to move forward. None of them spoke, their eyes fixed on the upcoming Dementors, waiting for the feelings of cold and despair to wash over them. Luna clutched Neville’s arm as it came. 

Ginny gasped for air as suddenly, she was transported back to her most horrible moments: 

She lay on the cold stone floor of what seemed to be a cavernous and ornate cave. A gigantic stone statue towered over her, casting shadows across the face of the older boy who stood before her. He was handsome and tall, but something wasn’t quite right. He laughed a high pitch and bitter laugh and Ginny felt herself fading away…
No, she wasn’t in the Chamber of Secrets, she was on her way to Hogwarts- 

She screamed as a masked Death Eater pulled her backward by the hair, slamming her to the floor. He laughed cruelly at her mangled ankle as she tried to get up, but it was in vain. Taunting her, he dodged out of reach of the stunning spells she shot his way. Oh, God, she thought, I am going to die here…. No, she wasn’t at the Ministry of Magic- 

Harry rounded on her, tears sparkling behind his glasses. Suddenly Ginny knew what he was going to say. She wanted to leave now, before he had the chance. But she seemed glued to her seat, her eyes transfixed on his pale face. And now he was talking, saying the things she did not want to hear but yet knew she must…. 

“Ginny!” Seamus’s voice broke her from her memory. She could feel tears dripping from the end of her nose and she had broken a sweat. The carriage had pulled to a halt.  

“Are they gone?” She asked. But at that moment, the door opened. Standing just outside the carriage stood one of the Dementors. It paused for a moment before sweeping inside. Luna let out a terrified scream. 

Ginny couldn’t take this anymore. Instinctively she reached for her wand. The image of the boy who had taught her this spell burst into her mind and she cried out, “Expecto Patronum!” 

A glowing silver horse exploded from the end of her wand. The Dementor instantly recoiled from the carriage. Ginny held on strong until the Dementor had left and the door swung shut behind it. Finally the carriage started moving again. Ginny collapsed into her seat, panting and sweating. 

“Wow.” Seamus said in shock. “How the hell did you do that?” 

“Just something Harry taught me,” Ginny said, still short of breath. She put a hand on her forehead, her face flushing. “I can show you how, you know, if you want to learn.” 

“I never quite got the hang of it,” Neville shrugged sadly. 

“Never mind about that,” Ginny said. “Just a little more practice and I’m sure you’ll get it. God, how close are we?” She was eager for some good food and her warm bed in her dormitory. 

“Soon, we’ll be there soon,” Seamus said, patting her leg and giving her a small smile. She tried to return it, but she was still caught up in all her thoughts. 

All too quickly, the castle was towering over them as the carriage pulled up in front of the heavy wooden doors that lead into the Entrance Hall. From the outside, the castle seemed unchanged, but Ginny had a sense of foreboding as she stepped out onto the wide stone steps. Luna and Neville stuck close by her as they followed the other students up the stairs, through the Entrance Hall and into the Great Hall. 

It still looked as it had when Dumbledore had been Headmaster, Ginny was happy to see. The house tables still glowed under the floating candles, and the teachers still sat at the head table in front of the room. The only difference was the enchanted ceiling, which had once been beautiful and bright. Now it was murky and grey. But other then that, it seemed untouched. She had almost been expecting flags wielding the Dark Mark or something to that effect. Now that she knew Death Eaters were in control of the school, she felt anything was possible. 

Luna waved goodbye to Ginny and Neville as she shuffled over to the Ravenclaw house table, where Padma Patil immediately scooted over to sit by her. Ginny noted the slightly shocked look on Luna’s face. Luna, who was so accustomed to being an outcast, was not used to having friends or, even more, people wanting to be her friend. 

Ginny and Neville settled at the Gryffindor table, surrounded by Seamus, Parvati, Lavender, the Creevey brothers and Demelza Robins, one of the chaser’s on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Ginny smiled at Demelza, whom she hadn’t seen since the last match the previous year. Demelza waved to everyone else, her usually cheerful smile somewhat dampened. Her eyes fell on Neville and she paused, trying to place him. Neville seemed equally transfixed, smiling shyly. Finally, Ginny cleared her throat and they both looked away, faces reddening. 

“Who’s that?” Neville whispered quietly to Ginny. 

“Demelza Robins. She’s in my year.” Ginny said, amused. “She was a chaser for Gryffindor last year, don’t you remember?” 

Neville shook his head, biting his lip. 

“She’s very pretty, isn’t she?” Ginny said, laughing a little and winking. Neville flushed, grinning. 

“Can you see him? Is he up there?” Dennis Creevey squeaked from next to Seamus, who sat on Ginny’s other side. 

“See who?” Ginny asked. 

“Snape! Or the Carrows, can you see them, Seamus?” Colin replied eagerly. The Creevey brothers had enlisted Seamus, the tallest of the bunch, to play look-out for them. 

“No,” Seamus shook his head, giving up. “All the other teachers are there, I think. Except for Trelawney and that muggle-studies witch, you know, the one with the puffy hair?” 

“Professor Burbage?” Demelza said, her face whitening. “Oh no! She was my favourite teacher, so kind….” 

“Don’t worry, she’s fine. She just resigned, no idea why though…” Neville told Demelza bashfully. Ginny almost barked out a laugh at how cute Neville’s little crush was. 

“That seems kind of strange,” Lavender said quietly. “Why would she just resign like that? I met her once and she seemed quite happy here.” 

“Want to know what I think?” Seamus said, leaning in. The group all followed suit, curious. “I’ll bet You-Know-Who’s targeting her and she went into hiding.” 

“Why would You-Know-Who want Professor Burbage?” Parvati asked, skeptical. “I mean, she teaches muggle studies, she’s not exactly a top-notch witch-“ 

“Exactly,” Ginny stepped in, comprehension dawning. “She taught muggle studies. You-Know-Who isn’t going to want impressionable young children being taught that muggles are nice and good. So he took her.” 

The group was silent for a moment, exchanging looks of fear and anger. There was a bang behind them as the doors to the Great Hall flew open. The room fell silent, all eyes on the figure in black that strode menacingly up the aisle between the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables. 

Severus Snape’s cloak billowed like the wings of an oversized bat behind him. His pallid complexion accentuated his dark eyes that boar into the face of every student as he scanned the room. Dennis whimpered a little, grabbing Seamus’ arm. 

“Get off me!” Seamus hissed, shaking Dennis’ sweaty hand away. 

Snape reached the front of the hall and turned to look at the tables full of students. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could make a sound, the doors at the back of the hall swung open again with a bang, revealing two very troll-like figures. 

“Sorry we’re late, Professor Snape,” the male heckled as he and his female 
companion hurried up to the staff table, ogling the Hufflepuffs. Snape nodded warily, scowling all the while as they took their seats behind the long wooden table. 

“Look at McGonagall!” Seamus whispered, laughing bitterly. Indeed, Professor McGonagall looked as if she had just swallowed a lemon as the new woman sat down next to her. 

“I do not want to hear a single voice in this hall while I am speaking.” Snape spoke up suddenly. An eerie, almost frightening silence filled the hall. Ginny curled her hands into fists, making half-moons on her palms with her fingernails. Just the sight of this man, the man who had murdered Dumbledore, filled her with rage. This was Dumbledore’s school! And his murderer was his successor? It just wasn’t right. 

“As you all should be aware, there is a new order in the ministry as of the election of Pius Thicknesse for minister of magic. This explains the absence of the mudbloods and other filth that had infested these halls for far too long….” Snape smiled nastily at the crowd, who all seemed horrified, with the exception of the Slytherin’s, who all seemed amused. Crabbe and Goyle were busy trying to set Millicent Bulstrode’s plait on fire and Pansy Parkinson was painting her fingernails a dark forest green to match her Slytherin house scarf. The other houses seemed to glare even more forcefully then ever at the Slytherin table, insulted by their lack of dismay at Snape’s new ‘order’. 

“There will be changes at Hogwarts this year, all for the better. First off, we have two new teachers, Professor Alecto Carrow and Professor Amycus Carrow. Miss Carrow will be the new Muggle Studies professor, while Mr Carrow will be taking the position of Defense against the Dark Arts professor. They will also be taking control of discipline in the school….Dumbledore was much too forgiving.” Again, the cruel smirk played on Snape’s thin lips. “Why don’t you say a few words about the new disciplinary code, Professor Carrow?” 

Amycus stood up, rubbing his hands together as if he was an overeager child on Christmas morning. 

“Right!” he said, nodding to Snape. “Alecto and I, we run a tight ship. We’re taking no nonsense, you hear? You do what you’re told and we don’t want to hear about any little incidences….and trust me, we will find out. And you will pay.” Amycus looked simply delighted at the idea of punishing students. 

“Oh, God,” Parvati whispered. “They’ll kill us all!” 

Alecto stood up next to her brother. “Just for a little demonstration of what to expect….Bring him in, Argus.” 

Filch, the old caretaker, excitedly went out into the chamber off the Great Hall and returned pulling a boy by the ear. It was Michael Corner, a Ravenclaw in Ginny’s year, as well as a long-forgotten ex-boyfriend. The students seemed to gasp collectively. 

“Oh, no, not Michael!” Demelza moaned. 

Filch dragged Michael in front of Snape and the Carrows. 

“Thank you, Argus, you may go,” Snape dismissed him. 

“Now,” Alecto began. “Mr. Corner here was caught performing a Cheering Charm on the train this afternoon. Mr. Corner, is magic permitted on the train?” 

Michael shook his head, his face a mixture of fear and defiance. 

“So, let me show you what happens to students who choose not to obey the rules, then.” Alecto barred her yellow teeth, practically jumping with glee. Amycus raised his wand. 

Nobody heard the spell, for suddenly Michael was twitching and turning on the cold stone floor and the hall exploded with noise. Lavender burst into noisy tears and Ginny couldn’t hear Michael’s howls over the earsplitting roars of the students, though his face was screwed up in pain. 

“Stop it!” Ginny screamed as loud as she could, though her voice was lost in the crowd. Amycus grin widened as Michael’s body continued to contort itself. 

“Please, please stop!” Demelza begged, her face white and shaking. More students were screaming. A few young Hufflepuff girls were sobbing to go home and Seamus was up on his chair, shaking his fists at Amycus. 


Professor McGonagall had leapt from her seat at the staff table and hurried to Michael, knocking the Carrows out of the way. Her hands were clenched and Ginny had never seen her look so angry. 

“Get back to you seat, Professor, we are in charge of punishments-“ 

“I said, enough!” Professor McGonagall interrupted fiercely, helping a trembling Michael to his feet. Nobody said a word as she led Michael out into the Entrance Hall.
“Right.” Amycus smacked his lips. “So take your lesson from Michael. Don’t make us hurt you.” 

Snape roughly shoved Amycus back to his seat, clearly annoyed that McGonagall had won the power struggle. 

“Now that we’ve taken care of business, Hagrid will bring in the first years for sorting.” Snape seemed more irritated then usual as he flung himself back into the Headmaster’s seat at the center of the table, glaring at the students before him, who glared back with unmasked hatred. 

Ginny tuned out the sorting and mumblings around her. Her head seemed to be spinning and she felt physically ill. She had though it would be bad, but not like this. They would be using the Cruciatus Curse on students? It was cruel and nasty and horrible, and Ginny just wanted to run away back home. She closed her eyes, trying to think of happy things, like Christmas and sunshine and Quidditch. But she couldn’t help feeling that happy times were long gone.

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