Ginny fell deeper within herself, spiralling down within a swirling vortex of colour. Bright blues and greens, pale yellows and reds, and vibrant bursts of orange flared around her as she sank deeper into her subconscious. She was vaguely aware of the others following the blazing path her golden aura was creating in the black abyss.
She sensed the faint magical signatures of her five students and the much stronger presence of Harry’s magical essence. Ginny was certain the silvery glow mingling with her own in the void was his. She had already known he was a powerful wizard, but she had been uncertain if he would be able to immerse himself fully within the abyss, given his inability to loosen up earlier. However, her students’ auras of pink, lavender, blue, green, and yellow were already merging with his solid and strong presence in the void, establishing a clear anchor for her to latch onto.
She was surprised to feel Harry’s trepidation as she joined them, and felt a fleeting surge of triumph that at least on the astral plane she could sense him as well as anyone on the physical plane. It was definitely something she would like to explore further once they had attended to the more pressing matter of apprehending Dennis.
Ensuring she was securely attached to the others, Ginny ventured further out into the darkness surrounding them.
Be careful. Harry’s voice echoed in her mind and she smiled.
You can pull me back if things become too intense, she reminded him and her students. That’s why you all are here.
Just, don’t do anything foolish, he advised.
I won’t. I promise, she replied.
Returning her focus to the void, Ginny slowly reached out with her mind.
Dennis, she called and felt a faint pull to her left. Turning in that direction, she saw a tiny pinprick of light far off on the horizon. It was similar to the one her meditation group had seen the other day. Faint outlines of buildings sprang up in the distance as she walked. The darkened windows gazed soullessly out at her, causing her to shudder. Feeling vulnerable and exposed on the open plane, she pulled her robes tighter about her.
She nearly chuckled at her actions, as their bodies had no physical form to speak of on this plane. What appeared was whatever they chose to project, and naturally being new to the experience her mind had subconsciously chosen to appear in its natural form. Looking behind her, she watched as the others from the circle slowly coalesced into ethereal beings, as well. Their auras still sparkled brightly, encasing their bodies in a faintly glowing shield of colour. Shelly's, Jeanine's, and Victoria’s were pale pink, lavender, and blue respectively. Brian’s and Louise’s were green and yellow and Harry's silver, like his beautiful stag Patronus. It rippled like quick-silver through his hair and over his robes, and shone the strongest, like a beacon in the night.
Reluctantly, she turned away from the breath-taking sight and focussed her attention on the ghostly buildings before her. Taking a deep breath, Ginny gathered her courage about her and began walking towards them. She hadn’t been completely honest with Harry when she told him with confidence that nothing could happen to her on this plane. Actually, she was uncertain if that were true or not. She had no idea what effect, if any, the physical world could have on her in this state. However, there was one thing she was sure of: this was the only way they had to apprehend Dennis at the moment, and she was going to at least try.
As she walked, the void narrowed around her until she was walking down a quiet lane that ran through a sparse forest. The buildings solidified before her and the forest thinned out further as Ginny neared the lighted entryway.
With one final step, she entered the light and found herself standing at the edge of a small village. The late afternoon sun shone through the surrounding trees and buildings, dappling the ground with golden light. The tall modern buildings with their glass facades were interspersed amongst quaint turn-of the century cottages and shops. Looking down the short lane, she could clearly see the town square, at the centre of which was a small church. Its stained glass windows glowed a riot of colour in the late afternoon sunlight. A small green park surrounded it and a few people were sitting on benches enjoying the cool but bright fall afternoon.
People dressed in light sweaters and trousers or casual business attire walked along the pavement.Most were Muggle, but the few blue, green, pink, and yellow auras interspersed among them alerted Ginny to the fact that some were indeed magical instead.
A gilded wrought-iron sign on the corner informed her this was the village of Winterhaven, located in South Gloucestershire. While she had never visited it herself, she knew of it and that several pure-blood families lived on the outskirts of the town. One of those families was the Swanson family, and they had a daughter, Amina who had been a Hufflepuff in Ginny's year at Hogwarts. Amina had been a shy, pretty girl with snowy white skin, sparkling blue eyes, and raven black hair. While many had thought her beautiful, she had disregarded most advances towards her due to her quiet nature, preferring to keep to herself and her studies. Aside from looks, she couldn't be further removed from the likes of Bellatrix if she tried.
Stepping away from the verge, she moved into a narrow alley between two buildings and scanned the people in the park as well as those walking along the pavement on either side of the lane, but she didn’t see Amina or Dennis among them. All the same, she could feel his malice hanging thickly in the air, and knew he was still here.
Dennis, she called again and felt an uncomfortable stirring in the air around her. I know what you intend to do.
Glancing down the lane past the church, a white lorry pulled out from a side street, turning to head towards her. Ginny could just make the young man out behind the wheel, peering nervously left and right as he headed slowly out of town. She was certain he had heard her and her blood began pounding loudly in her ears. This was the moment, and now that she was faced with confronting him, she had no idea what she was going to do.
The lorry was approaching quickly, and Ginny could see that Dennis' knuckles were white against the black steering wheel. In moments, he would pass her by and disappear down the road and be lost to them. Without thinking, she stepped into the lane and the path of the oncoming lorry, uncertain of what would happen if it passed through her. She hoped she would somehow be able to latch onto the vehicle if that were the case. Then perhaps she could speak to him again and convince him to turn himself in.
However, she needn’t have worried because the moment she stepped into its path, Dennis slammed on the brakes, his mouth gaping open, his dark blue eyes wide with shock as he stared at her through the windscreen. Ginny silently stood her ground, glaring at him, and after a few seconds of collecting himself, he shakily opened the door to the cab, and stepped out of the lorry. He tugged on the light grey wool jumper he was wearing, pulling it down as he moved around to the front of the vehicle.
“I nearly hit you!” he exclaimed, before stopping mid-stride, his eyes alighting in recognition. “Ginny Weasley? What are you doing here?”
“You have to stop what you are doing, Dennis,” she stated without preamble, her eyes boring into his. “Turn yourself in before you hurt anyone else.”
“Are you a ghost?” he asked, still staring at her and Ginny realized, through her.
“Please, Dennis,” she pleaded, ignoring his question and taking a small step towards him. “Colin wouldn’t want this.”
His eyes hardened and his hands stiffened at his sides. She halted her approach when she saw his wand appear in his right hand. She was defenceless in this non-corporeal form and had no idea what a cast spell would do to her, if anything. She needed to tread lightly and somehow convince him to do the right thing.
"I can understand why you are upset,” she said sympathetically, “How Colin died was horrendous. He deserved better than that.”
"He never did anything to anyone!" Dennis said, his voice hard and emotionless. "All he ever wanted was to be a bloody wizard!"
"I know," she whispered, but the anger that filled Dennis' instantly told her it had been the wrong thing to say.
“What would you know?” he spat. "Did you know he fancied you?"
Ginny had known, but since she had not felt the same had quietly pretended not to notice when she caught Colin gazing at her longingly. She had pushed the strong emotion rolling off him aside, too caught up in the turmoil the end of the war had brought her and her heart sank. This had suddenly become much harder than she had anticipated, and she took an involuntary step backwards.
“You were no help in school! You were too immersed in your own self to worry about anybody else," Dennis railed on, moving menacingly towards her. “Colin suffered an agonizing death! At the hands of that witch, Bellatrix!”
"I know," Ginny said sympathetically. "I saw it last night when I discovered you were the murderer."
"Why didn't you see his death when we were in school?" he asked. "You could have changed it, made it better, but you didn’t!”
“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I can’t control what visions I see. I wish I could, but it’s whatever Fate chooses to show me; like you murdering innocent women who had nothing to do with Colin's death."
“No!” Dennis exclaimed. “They are cold-hearted, self-centred witches just like her. They need to suffer just like Colin did.”
“No, they don’t,” she firmly said. “Your current target, Amina, was one of the nicest girls at Hogwarts.”
"So were you, supposedly," he countered, giving her a calculating look. "Perhaps I need to add you to my list."
"I don't believe you really want to do this," Ginny said, ignoring the pounding of her blood in her veins, as fear gripped her. "This isn't you. Colin would hate to see the monster you've become."
"I watched my brother die!" Dennis bellowed, raising his wand and pointing it at her.
"So did I," she whispered, keeping her eyes locked on his cold, blue ones. "My brother, Fred, died during the battle, too, and there was nothing I could do to prevent it, no matter how hard I tried. Killing these women or me won't avenge Colin’s death."
“No, no, no,” he moaned, raising his hands to cover his ears, his wand still clenched tightly in his right hand. “I could have helped him, but I sat there and did nothing. I have to help him now, he’s calling for me to help.”
“You’re mistaken,” Ginny insisted, “Colin is dead. He’s moved on and he’s not coming back. He would not want you to do this, deep down you know what I am saying is true.”
Dennis continued to cover his ears, ignoring her and mumbling to himself. “No, I have to help him. He needs me and nothing can stand in my way. She’ll hurt him again. I have to help him and a ghost can’t stop me.”
His wand flashed in his hand by his head and red light shot towards Ginny before she had time to react.
She heard Harry’s shout moments before his form coalesced between her and Dennis, blocking her from the spell hurtling towards her. Paralyzed by shock, she watched as his ghostly form was enveloped in the red glare of the Cutting Curse.
“Harry!” she screamed.
She ran towards where his silvery form, now diffused with red still shimmered. He turned to her, his eyes alight with the same look of shocked surprise that she had seen when Voldemort had killed him and he reached for her. Ginny stretched out her hands to grasp his, but before their fingers could meet, his spectral image faded.
“No!” she gasped, looking desperately about her for some sign of Harry.
Dennis stood rooted to the spot, his mouth gaping open and staring at the place where Ginny was standing and Harry had briefly been. He lowered his hands to his chest to find blood beginning to seep through his grey jumper. It dripped over his fingers, puddling on the ground at his feet. A look of bewilderment crossed his face moments before his knees buckled and he crumpled to the ground.
She could no longer sense Harry's magical presence, and her students', crippled by the loss of his magical power supporting her link on the astral plane, faltered. Desperately, she reached out with her mind, trying to find a trace of him, but her grip was slipping and darkness swirled around her, blurring the lane and Dennis' still body. She screamed in hopeless terror as she felt her body yanked from the plane.
When Ginny opened her eyes, she expected to find herself sitting in the meditation circle in her classroom and discover that everyone was safe and sound, most especially, Harry. Instead, she saw a canopy of leafy branches far above her head and realized she was lying on the ground in a forest. Moving her hands along the ground, rough, dry grass scratched along her palms and fingertips, and pressing her hands firmly down, she slowly pushed herself to a sitting position.
She was surprised at how easily she did so, and the eerie quiet of the forest around her was enough for her to know she was still somewhere on the astral plane. She could no longer sense Harry or her students and the first tendrils of panic wormed their way inside her. She was lost with no anchor or mental compass to guide her back to the physical plane. Everything about her had a greyish quality, as if it were a distant memory, and before she allowed the panic to set in fully, she took stock of her surroundings.
She took note of the tall trees about her, with some rotten fallen trunks, thickly covered with moss scattered about at the edges of the clearing she now realized she was sitting in. Her breath quickened as she rose to her feet and turned a slow circle. She knew this place, as she had visited it time and time again since she was thirteen. Harry had died here.
She covered her mouth with her hand to stop the small whimper that slipped past her throat. Dennis’ spell had dispersed Harry’s magical essence as quickly and effectively as Voldemort’s Killing Curse had cut him down all those years ago. She wasn’t even certain how Harry had managed to transport himself to Winterhaven and intercept Dennis’ spell, but somehow he had. Perhaps he had a closer connection to the astral plane than either she or he had realized.
She finished her rotation and gazed back at the centre of the clearing. Mist was rolling in from the trees, and it swirled over the ground. As she watched, it began rising up in places, shifting and rolling as spectral figures began to emerge. Swallowing, she backed away from the centre of the clearing to the edge of the forest as the figures solidified into the embodiments of Voldemort and his followers. Their voices began to resonate about her, cackling and murmuring excitedly amongst themselves as the Dark Lord paced back and forth in the centre. Bellatrix stood just behind him, following his movement with her black eyes, while she held her lithe body in relaxed readiness.
A scuff behind Ginny made her turn and her face broke out in a smile before faltering and falling. Harry stood at the edge of the clearing just a few feet from her, but she could easily see he was younger and thinner; he still had the slight gangling air of late youth. His clothes were bloodied and covered in dirt and grime, and he had the grim expression on his face she had seen so many times in her dreams; the one that told her he wanted it all to end and he no longer cared how, as long as it would be over once and for all. She had always thought he entered the clearing empty handed, but she could now see he was holding the oddest thing she had ever seen in his right hand. Instead of his wand, he held the charred remains of a large snake, and upon its head sat an equally battered and blackened crown of some sort.
He stood there, gazing through her at the scene before him, and his jaw clenched.
“Voldemort!” he called, projecting his voice across the clearing, effectively silencing the Death Eaters present and gaining the attention of the pacing Dark Lord.
The evil wizard stopped mid-stride and turned to look for the source of the sound. Harry’s grim look melted as a cunning smile replaced it.
“Here I am,” he announced, taking a step into the clearing and flinging the dead snake at Voldemort’s feet, “with what’s left of your pet and the item you destroyed half of Hogwarts and wounded and killed over a hundred people for in the process. Message received.”
Voldemort gazed down at the remains of the snake, his face contorting in a livid mixture of rage, shock, and surprisingly enough, grief.
“What have you done?” he whispered so menacingly, Ginny found herself trembling with fear.
“I’ve become quite adept at handling Fiendfyre, thanks to you,” Harry calmly explained.
“You killed my Nagini!” Voldemort raged, the red slits for eyes burning with hatred as he glared at the boy.
“Consider us even then,” Harry declared. “You and your minions intercepted and killed Hedwig, and countless others, who never lifted a finger to harm you. Your Nagini attacked me. It was self-defence."
Upon closer inspection, Ginny could see Harry's left shirt sleeve was shredded, and his arm hung limply at his side, blood seeping from two long gashes where the snake had attacked him. He swayed on his feet, no doubt from the venom coursing through his veins and she marvelled at his ability to remain upright.
"Now it’s just you and me," he evenly stated.
“No,” the Dark Lord seethed, ignoring Harry to kneel before the slain snake.
“You spoiled little brat!” Bellatrix seethed behind her beloved master and without warning her wand arm shot out casting the Torture Curse. Harry fell to the ground, writhing in pain as the Death Eaters in the clearing impassively watched and Voldemort continued to lament the death of his pet. “I’ll make him pay, my lord!”
Ginny watched helplessly as Harry thrashed about, unable to prevent the low moans of pain from escaping as he suffered for what felt like hours to her under the onslaught of Bellatrix's brutal curse. Tears of fear, anger, and sympathy sprang to her eyes as she knelt beside him, even though she was nothing more than a spectre watching the scene unfold before her. The evil witch cackled as she gleefully revelled in Harry's agony.
"Enough!" Voldemort's command rang through the clearing, and Ginny tore her gaze away from the boy beside her to find the Dark Lord standing by his fallen pet, hatred filling his eyes as he observed the scene.
With one final jab of her wand, Bellatrix ended the curse, leaving Harry heaving on the ground.
"I was just beginning to enjoy myself, my lord," she pouted, turning to face her master.
"He is mine to deal with," the Dark Lord impassively said before casting his cold eyes upon Harry. "Rise and face me, Harry. We shall finally see who has the power to vanquish whom.”
Instead of rising immediately, Harry remained still on the ground, taking his time to catch his breath and steel himself. Bellatrix’s wand hand twitched threateningly as she coldly watched him from her spot just behind her master. Voldemort remained still as a statue, his red eyes boring into the top of Harry’s head, but despite the muttered threats from the Death Eaters around him, the fallen boy ignored them all as he gathered his wits about him. If she had physically been there, Ginny would not have hesitated to begin hexing them all for the amusement they were garnering from watching Harry’s abuse. Instead, she once again could only observe the face-off as she had done so many times before.
“Do I need to force you, Harry?” Voldemort softly threatened, raising his wand towards Harry’s prone body.
“No, but thanks for the offer,” Harry sarcastically responded, finally rolling to his knees.
He panted as he pressed his hands against the hard ground and pushed himself up. Stumbling to his feet, his jaw clenched in anger at the Death Eaters laughing at his misfortune, and Ginny could only imagine how he must have longed to curse them all. Finding stable footing, he lifted his head and looked directly at the evil wizard. His bright green eyes burned with intense loathing even as his shoulders slumped in resignation.
"Produce your wand, Harry," Voldemort commanded.
"I'm ready," he stated, doing nothing to reveal his wand. "Hit me with your best shot."
'I'm tired of fighting,' Ginny heard him utter under his breath, too softly for the Dark Lord and his followers to hear.
Voldemort raised his brow in surprise at the statement. "I want everyone to know that I offered you a fair fight."
Harry snorted. "Don't worry. I'm sure everyone will remember you for what you truly are."
"He mocks you, my lord!" Bellatrix spat. "Finish him!"
Voldemort observed Harry for a fraction longer before slowly raising his own wand higher.
"Avada Kedavra," he uttered dispassionately, watching the sickly green light shoot from the end of his wand and hurtle towards the boy, who did nothing to deflect it. The spell hit Harry squarely in the chest, enveloping his body in its pale green light, even as it ricocheted wildly back across the clearing. His eyes registered brief shock before he fell backwards, just as a piercing scream from the direction of the Dark Lord rent the air.
Ginny turned to see Voldemort crumpling to the ground, as well. Bellatrix instantly fell to her knees beside him shaking his limp body. His red eyes were as dead and lifeless as Harry's green ones and the dark-haired witch soon began making a low keening sound that slowly rose in pitch until she was screaming her master's name, tears streaming down her face. She began pounding on his chest, pleading for him to rise. Her fellow Death Eaters shifted uncomfortably around her, suddenly uncertain what to do with the unexpected death of their master. Some began to drift away when they realized that the Dark Lord was not responding to her ministrations.
As they parted, Ginny saw Harry standing on the opposite side of the clearing from her. In confusion, she glanced over her shoulder and saw that he still lay on the ground behind her. Turning back to the other Harry, she realized his silvery magical essence was rippling over him, as it had when they had first entered the astral plane.
The scene and sounds about them in the clearing faded until they were once again standing in the dark void of the plane.
“I’ve seen your death before,” she murmured. “It’s plagued me since I was thirteen, but after meeting you, I was never certain it was real until I saw it again today."
“It was real,” he whispered.
Ginny’s mind reeled at his confirmation. Her vision had been true, and yet he had returned from the other side. She had wondered at how easily he had been able to travel on the astral plane. Her advanced seventh years had only been able to touch down and link to her, allowing her the tether she needed to travel to Dennis.
After the tension he had exhibited when she had prepared him for the meditation circle, she thought he would have difficulty immersing himself in the abyss. Now she realized he had more than likely left a part of himself here when he had died, and that may very well explain why she could only read him here and not on the physical plane.
“How were you able to return?” she asked. “No one whose death I have seen has ever been able to cheat death. You know I’ve tried.”
“I didn’t want to return, Ginny,” Harry explained. “I wanted very much to stay.”
“Why didn’t you?” she pressed, trying to understand. “What happened?”
“After Voldemort killed me, I woke up in the most beautiful place,” he began. “I didn’t feel any pain anymore, or fear and doubt. I saw my parents and my godfather, Sirius, and they were smiling at me. I ran to them and Sirius pulled me into a tight embrace. It felt so good."
He swallowed before continuing, his eyes growing more distant as he remembered what he had felt and seen. "My dad hugged me for the first time. Before then I had only seen pictures of my parents, so to finally be able to meet them in person and have them hug me and tell me they loved me was the most amazing experience of my life.”
He stopped speaking and looked down at Ginny, studying her. Reaching out he lightly touched a long strand of her shimmering red hair and a smile played on his lips.
“My mum was beautiful, just like you. Long red hair similar to yours and green eyes just like mine. She hugged me the hardest, and I thought she was never going to let me go. She whispered in my ear how proud she was of me and that she loved me. Then her voice broke and she said I couldn’t stay. She held me at arm’s length and tears were steaming from her eyes. I didn’t think you could cry in heaven. She pushed me away and said I had to leave; that it wasn’t my time.”
“Harry,” Ginny began, her heart sinking at the thought of a mother pushing her own son away and shutting him out of heaven.
“I protested and begged her to let me stay, but she – she turned her back on me, and they all faded away with my mum’s voice whispering in my ear that one day I would understand.” Harry’s jaw clenched. “My mother condemned me to finish living out the hell that has been my life since I can remember.”
“Don’t say that Harry,” Ginny said. “She must have had a reason.”
His eyes widened in surprise as he suddenly gazed at something past her shoulder. “I’ll be damned,” he breathed.
His eyes were alight with happy recognition and with some trepidation Ginny slowly turned to see what he was looking at. A long corridor had appeared behind her and standing at the far end was a pearly white door with a golden handle. Golden light shone around its edges, sending bright beams of light to shine through the darkness.
Looking back at Harry, his eyes shone with a happiness she had never seen except in the dream she had had right after she had met him, and Ginny’s heart clenched painfully in her chest.
“Do you know what’s behind that door, Harry?” she whispered.
“Yes,” he answered simply. “It’s something I’ve been searching for since I came back to life.”
“What?” she asked.
“Heaven,” he said, and he took a step past her to begin walking towards the door.