“Finally, we’ll be putting together task squads whose goal it will be to cautiously collect intelligence on the Death Eaters’ next moves. Our best chance of forming a good defense, (and offense, for that matter), is being one step ahead of them as often as possible. Task squads will be put together based on performance in tactical drills and staged duels.”

The scratching of quills echoed off the high ceiling of the Room of Requirement. To an outsider looking in, the students bent over their notebooks looked to make up an especially attentive and well-behaved class, brows furrowed in concentration. The young women at the front of the class tapped her wand on her leg absent-mindedly, her red hair wrapped tightly in a bun at the back of her head. She too, bore a concentrated expression, an aura of determination surrounding her.

“Right then, you have your groups and your instructions,” announced Ginny, breaking the silence in the room as the quills’ scratching ceased. “For today, we’ll focus on tactics – that’s the basics, shielding hexes, casting stunners properly, and the like. Once Neville’s with us next meeting, we’ll break off into Theory and Dueling sections, and rotate around.”

Chairs scraped across the floor as students snapped their notebooks shut and scrambled after Ginny as she made her way briskly across the room to the gymnasium-like North corner. Excited murmuring followed her like a rolling wind.

“Break off into groups of two – one of you will attempt to stun the other and the defender will attempt a shield charm. Remember the key is to be concise and determined. Second-guessing yourself is not an option on the battlefield. Before we get started we’ll review the wand movements and the incantation so we’re all on the same page. Ready?”

Ginny moved among the students as they practiced their spell casting, raising an elbow here, correcting an angle there. When she was satisfied they were all casting the spells properly, she bid them to split off in their groups and attempt the exercise on their own.

“Remember, if the attacker is able to successfully stun the opponent, they can be easily revived,” Ginny called over the spell casting, “So no need to be concerned if your shield charm isn’t strong enough yet.”



Ginny moved through the crowd like she was walking through water, pausing to observe groups occasionally. Concentration emanated from the members of the DA. Teddy Burkass grinned in delight when his shield charm not only successfully blocked Alice Tolipan’s stunner, but managed to knock her back about a foot. A flicker of pride passed through Ginny, before a cold calm spread through her veins. A shield-stunner exercise was one thing. A battle against Voldemort’s followers was another. She winced as an echo of Bellatrix’s cackle snapped through her mind. They had so much work to do.

Lavender jumped and clapped in glee as Pavarti scrambled back to her feet, frowning, after having been knocked off balance by the other’s shield charm.

Ginny grinned in spite of herself as Lavender turned to her, “Did you see?”

Ginny nodded, “Very nice.”

The blonde girl’s eyes shone with excitement, “I used to be awful at shield charms. Harry was a really good teacher – not that you aren’t!” she added hastily as Ginny’s smile drooped.

“It’s okay,” she muttered.

“No, really, I mean it,” Lavender insisted, “I can’t imagine how hard it must be to direct everybody, especially since…” she trailed off.

“She’s right,” Pavarti added, walking up to them, “It’s a lot more structured this year, and that’s good. People will complain, but in the end, it’s what will give us the best shot,” Ginny nodded appreciatively. “It’s what Harry would have done,” Pavarti added, softly.

Quiet fell between the three girls, and Lavender shifted her weight before muttering, “Do you know… where he is?”

Ginny exchanged looks with each of the girls before shrugging, “I don’t, but I do know that when he shows up, he’ll need help”

Parvarti nodded, “You believe he’ll come back?”

The corners of Ginny’s mouth tipped up in a small smile, as she spoke softly, “I have to.”

Practice continued for an hour, as Ginny had the partners move into groups to practice blocking multiple stunners at once, and from different directions. The success rate for this exercise was much lower, as the tactics became more complex. Frustration began to emanate throughout the room of requirement as stunners cracked through weakened shield charms like a hot knife through butter.

When a poorly aimed stunner missed its target and shattered a nearby mirror, Ginny glanced at her watch and called the exercise to an end.

“Good work,” she called to the grumbling students, “This stuff isn’t easy, and this is likely the first time many of you have been faced with multiple attackers at once. We’ll pick up here next week.”

The grumbling ceased a bit, and Ginny smiled.

“We can only improve. One last piece of business before you can all head back to your dormitories,” she paused, and waited for silence to fall. She began slowly, careful to impress upon the young students the gravity of what they were dealing with.

“The DA is essentially Hogwarts’ last defense. We are responsible for protecting the people we love inside these walls, as well as the castle itself. In the interest of building the strongest army we can, I’ve decided to add a recruiter to each house. These people will be referred to as the DA’s House Leaders, and will be responsible for recruiting potential new members. Now, for Ravenclaw-”

“But we’re not Ravenclaws anymore, are we? I mean… the houses have been abolished.” Alice Tolipan brushed her fingers sadly over her black and silver Hogwarts crest that once bore the Ravenclaw blue and gold crest.

Ginny narrowed her eyes fiercely, “You are a Ravenclaw. You will always be a Ravenclaw,” Alice was now looking like she very much wished she’d never said anything at all.

Ginny raised her flashing eyes to address the entire group, “Your house is your home – your family." She motioned to the proud Hogwarts crest gleaming over them, provided by the Room of Requirement. "No one can take your house away from you, ever. As far as I’m concerned, I will be a Gryffindor until the day I die, no matter how much black they make me wear."

A murmer of agreement rumbled among the students. The fire ignited in Ginny blazed.

"I will not march as a faceless prisoner under Snape’s greyscale regime. I am a Gryffindor. And you,” she turned back to Alice, whose eyes shone with tears, “You are a Ravenclaw.”

A series of nods and cheers broke out throughout the crowd and Ginny raised a hand to silence them.

“Now, the House Leaders,” she clipped brusquely, “Michael Corner for Ravenclaw, Hannah Abbott for Hufflepuff, and Seamus Finnegan for Gryffindor,” Ginny glanced around, and the three named leaders nodded back at her confidently.

"What about Slytherin?" a small, second year girl asked, her brown eyes wide.

Ginny gave her a tight smile, "Unfortunately, we've yet to recruit anyone from Slytherin."

“In the mean time,” Ginny continued, turning back to the group at large. “Everyone is to read chapters one through five in Defense,” she waved the textbook in the air, copies of which had been provided fro the group by the Room of Requirement.

Jaws dropped across the room as Lavender squeaked, “Five chapters? You want us to read five chapters?”

“Whether or not you do the reading is up to you, though it’ll be your own fault if next week I send a two-way reflector spell your way and you find yourself completely blindsided,” Ginny shrugged.

“But five chapters?” a voice whined from another direction.

“Did you miss the part where I said this wouldn’t be easy?” Ginny raised an eyebrow.

“It’s just, it’s OWL year, when are we going to have the time-” a fifth year girl whined from the back row.

“You want to duel a Death Eater and live to tell the tale? Do your homework,” Ginny snapped. “I’ll let you know when the next meeting is,” she growled, flashing a gold coin at the group.

The students grumbled their way towards the exit, collecting their copies of 'Defense' on their way out and Ginny steamed, irritated. Seamus’ voice followed the DA members, shouting instructions…

“Remember to leave in pairs and take different routes back to your common rooms! Do not mention the DA outside of this room if you can avoid it, or at lease not by name. You all have the spell that will reveal the hidden ink in your textbooks when you go to do your reading for next week. Remember, for Merlin’s sake, to wipe your books if you’re carrying them around the corridors, or I expect you’ll have quite a lovely conversation with the Carrows or Snape as to why you’re carrying around a book full of defensive magic…”

“You’d make a good professor, you know.”

Ginny started at the voice beside her, shooting yellow sparks out of her wand. Luna stepped back, eyes flickering towards the wand. “Oh, Sorry,” she exclaimed, “I didn’t realize you were daydreaming.” She smiled dreamily at the redhead.

Ginny grinned, “No, I’m sorry, I’m just… tired…” she frowned at her wand, a curl of smoke twirling from the tip, “I don’t know why it keeps doing that,” she murmured, placing it on the desk.

“It was a good lesson,” Luna said softly, “They’ll be frustrated, you know, it isn’t easy. The transition to the DA was difficult for us, too, when Harry was leading it. You remember, don’t you?”

Ginny looked at her feet and murmured softly, “Yeah, I remember.”

Luna fell quiet, and squeezed Ginny’s hand. Ginny returned her squeeze appreciatively, smiling half-heartedly.

“Luna, you coming?” Michael called from the doorway.

Luna released Ginny’s hand, and with a parting smile, skipped towards the exit where Michael was waiting.

Ginny watched her go, meeting Michael’s eyes. She nodded, and he grinned at her before holding open the door for Luna, and then they were gone.

“Right then, just us left,” Seamus walked over to Ginny, still leaning against the desk. “You ready?” he asked.

“Actually, I have some stuff I want to do,” she said, “Just some preparation for next week,” she added, as he raised an eyebrow. “Go ahead,” she insisted, “I’ll catch up.”

He shrugged and bid her goodnight before jogging off to the door himself.

Ginny waited until she heard the stone door snap shut before allowing her body to sink to the ground, her back sliding down the smooth oak desk. Her wand rolled off of the desk and landed in her lap. It had ceased smoking.

Ginny sighed. She’d had no idea how difficult it was to lead people, having happily towed along behind Harry for the past few years. The DA obviously had yet to face anything this year, given that it was only the second day of term, but there was no doubt in her mind that this was simply the calm before the storm.

She grimaced, thinking of how frustrated Harry must have been when she, Neville and Luna had insisted on accompanying him, Ron and Hermione to the Department of Mysteries two years previously. From what Hermione had told her, if he ever got his own way, he’d have gone it all alone. The Philosopher’s Stone, the Chamber… all of it. Which could only mean he was less than impressed that Ron and Hermione had insisted on accompanying him on his current mission...

Where were they?

Ginny woke up plagued by the same question on a daily basis. Not knowing was suffocating her, a shadow of dread that followed her around. If only she knew, had the slightest idea, of where they were going, or even where they had been... She took grim solace in knowing that if Harry had indeed died, she had no doubt that Voldemort’s triumph emanating through the halls of Hogwarts would alert her to that fact.

Nightmares of a final, penultimate battle plagued her sleep, like a crushing weight on her chest. Spells shooting left and right as she sprinted through the corridors where students stood at the end, desperately fighting for their lives. Bodies fell, live ones tripping over the dead... they were all just bodies now. Black cloaked Death Eaters screamed in delight as students, who would never even see their eighteenth year of life, crumpled like ragdolls at their feet. Blood splattered the wall as slashing curses ripped through the air and Ginny ran, ran, ran, never reaching the scene in time. She ran faster, harder, and the scene slipped farther away from her, and then she’d hear it, in His voice, rattling the walls with sadistic delight, “My friends, Harry Potter has fallen…”

Ginny blinked, her eyes glassy with tears. “Greater and more terrible than ever before,” she recited, remembering her extensive conversations with Hermione during the summer months. Ginny sighed and rubbed her eyes, glancing at her watch. It was late – she needed to get going if she were to make it back to the common room before the next round of teachers started their patrol.

She placed her hands flat on the ground to push herself up and realized, with a jolt, there was no ground beneath her. Ginny yelped, shocked, as she realized she was levitating about five feet off the ground, and she wasn’t the only one. Textbooks, cushions, and even a desk were hovering at the same level, suspended in the air like puppets at a show. Ginny flailed stupidly trying to grip something concrete, her pulse beating hard in her neck.

“Hello?” she called to the empty room, “Is anybody there?” The panic began to subside as she whipped her head around, looking for the source of the magic. Swearing under her breath, she spotted her wand on the ground beneath her.

“Accio wand!” she snapped, and it flew into her outstretched hand. “Finite Incantatum” she growled, waving her wand hastily, and then let out a yelp as gravity took hold and the levitation spell shattered.

“Ow, what the bloody hell…” she grumbled as she got to her feet, rubbing the hip she had landed on. The books had returned themselves to their shelves, and the pillows landed softly in the box. Ginny scanned the room, thoroughly confused. Had Peeves found his way inside? She wondered vaguely, though she knew the magic surrounding the unplottable room would not allow him to find the DA’s hiding spot without an invitation.

Still puzzled, Ginny gathered her copy of Gateway to Defense, stuffing it into her pouch, and made her way towards the exit. Her mind swirled with questions… magic seemed to acting strange around her, but it’s not like she was doing anything differently now than she was before…

The stone door clicked shut behind the redhead and she watched the ornate gateway dissolve into the corridor wall. The hallway was dark, and she was later than she’d intended to be. She would have to be extra cautious heading back to the Gryffindor Tower. Pushing the strange magical event out of her head, Ginny murmured, ‘Lumos Minimus!’ dimly lighting the tip of her wand.

She crept soundlessly down the hall, retracing the steps she and Seamus had taken earlier. She cautiously turned the same corner Trelawney had, and passed the doorway in which she and Seamus had mysteriously gone unnoticed. She stopped then, and remembered their unlikely luck. Another magical anomaly, but how-

A scream sliced through the air, jolting Ginny out of her musings. Her grip tightened instinctively on her wand, her knuckles turning white. She stopped breathing as her blood turned cold where she stood. One of them had been caught.

Ginny took off like a shot, her robes billowing behind her. Sprinting towards the scream, Ginny thought blindly about rescuing the DA member who’d been caught out of bed after hours, leaving logic and reason struggling to keep up with her heroism.

The scream grew louder now as Ginny reduced her pace, creeping swiftly towards the door that was slightly ajar at the very end of an abandoned corridor.

“Please, no, oh please,” the male voice pleaded, broken with pain and regret.

“Crucio!” a delightedly deranged voice snapped. The boy wailed louder then Ginny had imagined possible.

Ginny’s jaw tightened as she crept along the shadows, imagining the pain eating away at the young boy’s skin, nerves, and bones.

A cackle erupted from the attacker, drowning out the whimpers of the young boy. “Now, Mr. Longbottom, it is your turn,” Alecto Carrow said sweetly.

Ginny stopped dead in her tracks, hardly daring to breath. She had nearly run straight into Neville’s detention.

“I won’t,” Neville’s haggard voice shot back, determinedly.

The sweetness slipped out of Carrow’s voice and was replaced by a menacing evil drawl, “You will, and you will do it NOW!”

“I WON’T!” Neville screamed adamantly, as Ginny grimaced, and shut her eyes briefly, still flat against the stone wall. She inched closer to the doorway, attempting to catch a glimpse through the open crack.

Carrow unleashed a sound of fury and cast a curse Ginny did not recognize. The room was lit with a pale blue flash like lightning, and Ginny bit back a cry as she heard a body crash into the desks.

After a beat, Neville groaned angrily and Ginny felt relief rush through her, knowing that he was still alive.

“Well then, you’ve signed your classmate’s death warrant,” Carrow snarled.

“NO!” both Neville and Ginny screamed, but only Neville’s cry was heard, as curses flew through the air. Now, Ginny glued her eye to the scene through the crack in the door.

Carrow raised her wand wickedly, her deranged smile accented by the shadows in the room, “Avada Kedav-”

“PROTEGO! Cofundo!” Neville screamed desperately, but he was weakened from his beating, and the incomplete green curse shot through his shield charm. Carrow brushed away his Conjunctivus curse like it was an irritating fly.

The incomplete killing curse hit the young boy, sending him flying across the room, his small head cracking against the masonry like a shotgun, before his lifeless body crumpled to the ground among the rubble in the room.

Neville screamed in outrage, and Carrow rounded on him, “YOU, BOY, DO NOT PLAY BY THE RULES!” Neville cried openly for the boy as Carrow hurried towards him ominously, a gleam in her eye. Her back was to Ginny, with Neville facing the doorway.

She snarled, “But you will learn,” before screaming “Sectumsempra!” and slashing her wand violently through the air.

There was blood everywhere, and as Ginny choked back a sob, the scars on her back and torso tingled with dark memories. Tears flowed freely down her face as Carrow threw her head back in laughter, and the gash across Neville’s face gaped as he yelled in pain, blood rushing over his cheek bone and jawline.

It was then that Neville’s eye caught Ginny’s brown one hovering through the gap in the door. He looked at her, hard, and Ginny understood it to mean she must leave, and quickly.

Tearing herself away from the door, Ginny bit her arm to prevent herself from sobbing as she tore down the corridors back to the Gryffindor Tower, Carrow’s evil cackle filling the halls she left behind. Through sheer luck, she encountered no teachers on their rounds, and screamed “FOGWORM!” at the snoozing Fat Lady, who swung open the portrait looking quite offended (“I never!”). Ginny hurled herself through the portrait hole into the abandoned common room and slumped down on the floor, her body wracking with silent sobs.

She’d known it was bad. She’d known it wasn’t Hogwarts anymore. But this was different. For all that talk about the war coming their way, she knew now the truth. The war was already here, lurking in every shadow.

A boy lay dead in the West tower classroom, a casualty of war before war had even begun. The image of him crumpling to the stone floor, loose as a ragdoll, like a puppet whose strings have been clipped, was vibrant in Ginny’s mind. She would hear the crack of his skull against the stone masonry for the rest of her life.

Breathing heavily, she scrambled to her feet and reached hastily into her extendable pouch, ripping medical contents from it. She thanked Merlin for Hermione’s preparation and the training she’d given her this past summer. Once she’d laid out a bowl of Essence of Dittany, water, gauze bandages and her medical textbook, she turned a chair towards the portrait opening, sat and waited. She stared, unblinkingly at the tunnel, wringing her shaking hands, her body trembling as she waited, and hoped.

The longest ten minutes of Ginny’s life passed, and at long last, the portrait slid open. Ginny flew from the chair to the tunnel, as Neville’s bloodied body struggled to pull himself through, using one arm only. Ginny reached for his broken body as he slumped into a pile on the floor.

Tears flowed freely down Ginny’s face as she heaved Neville to his feet, and helped him into the chair by the roaring fire.

“Y-you need dittany – I mean, I h-have dittany here, so we can fix your wounds as best as we can. Then y-you should g-go to Madame Pomfrey” Ginny rattled off, her hand shaking so violently as she dipped the gauze in dittany she splattered the table, “She won’t ask t-too many questions, especially not now, I imagine, as her patients are likely to show up w-with m-m-more injuries like this if t-tonight’s any indicator-” Ginny continued to rattle on a mile a minute, trembling, and Neville grabbed her wrist, hard. She dragged her eyes to meet his – only one was open.

He gazed at her, his expression furious. “You hold it together. I’m gonna be fine,” he growled.

She froze, tears falling unbidden down her cheeks. His right eye socket was swollen shut, and the gash across his face needed to be sealed as quickly as possible. His left shoulder was dislocated and bent at an awkward angle, and then rest of him was drenched in blood and grime. Ginny had no idea how he was still conscious. Ginny let out a shaky breath, as tears continued to roll down her cheeks.

Neville released her wrist and made an annoyed gesture, “Right, get on with it then.”

“It’s probably going to hurt,” Ginny warned, then felt immediately stupid.

He made an indiscriminate grunt.

Attempting to steady her breath, Ginny raised the soaked gauze to Neville’s face, tilting his head back gently. Drops of dittany slipped from the gauze into the gash torn by Carrow’s slashing curse, each settling in the groove, and saudering his wound closed. Steam rose from where the dittany spread, and apart from a grimace, Neville did not make a sound. He sat through the procedure, his jaw set angrily, his eyes dulled.

“We’ll have to cut off your shirt to get to the wounds on your chest… and your shoulder…”

“Can you fix it?” he grumbled.

“I-” Ginny stammered, “Hermione taught me a spell, but I don’t know if – wouldn’t you rather go to the hospital w-”

“Just do it,” he snapped.

Ginny blinked, and bit her tongue. Reaching for the scissors, she began to carefully tear off Neville’s blood-soaked shirt, discarding it into the fire. The flames licked at the soiled fabric greedily.

Ginny returned to her pattern of applying the dittany onto the gashes that patterned across Neville’s torso. His left arm appeared mostly unharmed, save for scabbed and broken knuckles, which Ginny had no doubt he’d incurred from angrily punching the wall after…

She shook her head.

“He was a first year,” Neville choked, angrily.

Ginny’s eyes snapped up to meet his.

“I could tell you’re thinking about it. I’ll never stop thinking about it, either,” he spat gruffly, “Eleven years old. He hadn’t even learned how to disarm someone yet.”

Tears pooled again in Ginny’s eyes as she busied herself analyzing Neville’s broken shoulder.

“We have to make sure they know how to defend themselves,” Neville said suddenly, grabbing Ginny’s arm once again. She met his eyes as he continued, determinedly, “Promise me we’ll do that. They have to know. They have to know something, anything.”

Ginny covered his hand with her own and nodded. “I have to fix your shoulder now. It’s going to hurt,” she whispered, handing him a ball of gauze.

Neville glanced at the gauze, snatching it from Ginny’s hand and biting down hard on it. He nodded at her.

Standing, Ginny raised her wand. Closing her eyes, she tried to push the events of the night out of her mind. Finding this impossible, she instead focused all of her outrage on fixing Neville’s shoulder. Taking a breath, she opened her eyes and jabbed her wand in the air like a spear, ‘Depactum Contundo!’

Neville screamed in agony through the gauze buffer and Ginny dropped her wand and hastily gripped his good arm apologetically.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I told you I’d never done it, I only know the theory that Hermione taught me-”

“It’s good, it’s good…” Neville muttered faintly, panting, having spat out the gauze. “That Hermione’s one hell of a teacher,” he panted breathlessly, beads of sweat having broken out across his forehead.

Ginny stared, incredulous, as Neville rotated his arm around, relocated and good as new.

“Just a little stiff,” Neville mumbled as Ginny’s mouth hung open, “You could work on that”. She tore her eyes back to the bloodied young man in front of her. Neville began to laugh before he doubled over, coughing. He wrapped a hand around his middle.

“I think you may have some broken ribs,” Ginny mumbled.

Neville leaned cautiously back against the chair, muttering a sarcastic "Yeah, thanks."

“The swelling on your eye should go down in a couple of days, and the wounds on you torso should heal quite well. The gash she gave you on your face was especially deep. I suppose so she could display her work to everyone,” Ginny snarled, before saying a bit softer, “You’ll have a scar from that curse.”

She stood up and started clearing the medical supplies. Shoving her discarded cloak onto the couch next to Neville.

Neville grimaced, “How do you know about that curse?”

Ginny paused, and replaced the bowl she’d been holding onto the table. Reaching for the fringe of her shirt, she pulled it up, revealing the long white scars that criss-crossed her front and back. “The Lestranges paid us a visit during my brother’s wedding this Summer,” she said, flatly.

Neville’s expression darkened.

“Oi, it’s midnight, what in Merlin’s beard are you do-” Seamus appeared dragging himself down the boy’s dormitory staircase, rubbing one eye with his fist. He stopped in his tracks at the sight of his two, mostly-shirtless friends.

He grinned hugely, wiggling his eyebrows, “What are you doing-”, the smile slipped off his face like stinksap as his eyes came to rest on Neville’s beaten and bloodied state.

Ginny rolled her eyes, pulling her shirt back down as Seamus rushed towards the two of them, “What the bloody hell happened to you?” then, noticing the scar quickly forming across his face he mumbled weakly, “Did you fall headfirst onto a sword?”

His eyes met Ginny’s morose expression, and he grew more serious. “So this is detention, then,” he scoffed angrily, “Un-bloody-believable.”

“An eleven-year-old boy is dead” Neville stated gruffly. Seamus gaped, outraged, and Ginny shut her eyes at the painful memory. “We need to take the Carrows down.”

“Right then, so we need to form an exit strategy,” Seamus announced, beginning to pace the carpet in front of the fireplace.

“An exit strategy?” Neville asked, confused.

"To get everyone out - home - to their families," Seamus barked.

“He’s right,” Ginny remarked, tears threatening again to slip down her face, “It’s too dangerous. This is worse than anything we could have imagined. It isn’t safe for the DA, we can’t ask people to put their lives in jeopardy.”

“That’s exactly what the DA has always done,” Neville retorted angrily, “and this,” he motioned to his bloodied face, “is all the more reason to train harder, prepare more, and fight back.”

Ginny’s lip trembled as Seamus roared, “People are dying! You could have died tonight, mate, and it’s only September!” he paused, exasperate, “Early September!”

“I’ll count myself among the lucky so long as I still have the capacity to feel pain,” Neville said, determinedly, “Harry needs us to keep this going,” Neville continued angrily, “And people die in wars, Seamus, that’s how this works.”

“And when did you become so brave and stupid all at the same time?” Seamus retorted, scoffing.

“Enough!” Ginny exclaimed, exasperated. “Sit down!” she snapped at Seamus, who reluctantly flopped down on the sofa. Ginny took a tentative seat beside him.

“We need to regroup. We need to make a better plan – a more careful plan. I need to catch you up on tonight, as it is, Neville, but we can do that tomorrow. We need to remember our goals here.” she sighed, turning to Seamus, “You’re right. People are dying. Defenseless people, which makes it so much worse,” sincerity etched into her voice, she dragged a hand hastily across her wet cheek, “But we need to be there to defend them. Like Neville was tonight. Better yet, we need to help them learn how to defend themselves.”

“I couldn’t save him,” Neville choked.

“And I stood, frozen in the doorway like a scared child,” Ginny snapped.

“She would’ve killed you.”

“Maybe. But she didn’t kill you.”

Silence stretched between the three friends, the gravity of the night’s events settling like a layer of dust.

“You could’ve died,” Seamus said softly.

“But I didn’t.”

“You need a shower, mate.”

“Thanks, Seamus.”

A little while later, Ginny dragged herself up to the girls's common room, her feet feeling like they were made of lead. Collapsing onto her four poster, she drew the covers up to her chin, hugging her knees in close. 

In the wake of tonight's horror, her thoughts drifted to Harry, her brother, and her best friend. If they had already encountered this much carnage at Hogwarts... she felt her blood chill at the thought of what Harry, Ron and Hermione must be facing, all alone. 

Where were they?

She closed her eyes, shaking her head gently.

They know what they're doing... and they have each other.

She drifted off to sleep, clinging to hope, and telling herself that wherever they were, they were all in one piece.  

... Blood drenched the whole of Ron's left side and his face stood out, grayish-white, against the leaf-strewn earth.

"What's happened to him?"

"Splinched," said Hermione, her fingers already busy at Ron's sleevve where the blood was wettest and darkest. 

Harry watched, horrified, as she tore open Ron's shirt...

© JK Rowling, Deathly Hallows (p. 269)

A/N: On character development...

I really like Seamus a lot. I think he’s excellent comic relief and I love writing him. He reminds me of the Ron to Neville’s Harry in this case. Hopefully I’m striking an okay balance between the darkness of this story, and the occasional addition of a bit of humour here and there.

For those wondering about the timeline, this marks the end of the evening of September the 2nd. Seamus was not wrong when he said it was only "Early September!"

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