The World Will Die Screaming
Ten words. Just ten words divided the Before from the After.
Ginny could remember the tickle of stolen champagne bubbles against her nose. It had been Fred to slosh it into her goblet with a smirk, and she’d squealed when the foam began overflowing. She hadn’t seen the silver lynx land, but she’d heard it speak those ten words.
The Ministry has fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming.
Pushing against the current of the stampede, guests disapparating in swirls of dress robes all around her, Ginny had kept her eyes fixed on the young ginger boy across the marquis. Harry, disguised by Polyjuice. Harry, taking Hermione’s hand. Figures in robes and masks descended like while shrieks and shouts tore through the wedding party.
Just as soon as Ron took Hermione’s other hand, they were gone.
And Ginny was left behind.
She remembered grass staining the knees of her golden bridesmaid robe, fingers laced together at the back of her head. Bootfalls landed heavy as the Death Eaters roved among the remaining guests, questioning. A wand point pressed into her neck—
“Have you seen Harry Potter?”
And she hadn’t. The last time Ginny had seen Harry, he was a ginger muggle from down the village. She didn’t even have a final glance of unruly black hair or light glinting off glasses to hold on to. Just an unfamiliar boy across the dance floor. There and then, gone.
Ginny could feel a bruise blooming on the small of her back. She could
feel the squeeze of being transported by side-along apparition, and
thick fingers coiled around either arm. But she saw nothing and heard
nothing. Only blackness, and her own rapid breath through dry lips.
Time became impossible to track. It might have been minutes or hours since the Death Eaters dragged her back to the Burrow, so she clung to each new sensation grasping at clues for where she might be and what might be happening.
And then—soft, textured cushions beneath her. She was lying down on her side but she couldn’t remember when that had happened. They must have knocked her out and she’d only just come to. The shock of it brought panic as she groped, blind, around her new environment.
The rattling of the walls against her fingers and the trembling carpet under her shoes were familiar. They brought memories of chocolate frogs, excitement, and chaos. The Death Eaters had dumped her on the Hogwarts Express.
Tugging at the black bag over her head she felt a thrill of relief that she could now remove it. The glaring lights came as an assault to her long deprived eyes and the world was a deafening roar outside the silence of the bag. Train wheels seem to screech along the tracks and the jangling crystals of the chandelier above sounded piercing.
As the bright compartment swam into focus, she was relieved to find that she was alone. A small relief. Ginny hadn’t wanted to go back to school.
“Ron’s not going!” She’d said it almost everyday since Bill and Fleur’s wedding. “Why can’t I just go into hiding as well?”
“Because as far as the Ministry is concerned, he’s still here!” her mum had seethed through gritted teeth, stabbing one finger up toward the attic and the hastily disguised ghoul. Even inside their own home Ginny’s parents had taken to whispering. “We can’t risk them poking about and getting a closer look!
“But it could just be me on my own!” Ginny had cried, voice fierce but brittle. “I could go to France before the borders close—I’d probably be safer on my own or with the Delacours anyhow!”
“If you don’t turn up to Hogwarts it will come down on your father. If you run, then we’d all have to, and your father has to be here for the Order.”
So while she bitched and moaned and threatened to just run away, she’d had no choice but to sit by and watch her mother pack her trunk. Listen to her father’s nightly lectures about following all the rules while picking at scars on the scrubbed kitchen table.
If only they’d had another ghoul.
It must have been hours that she’d been unconscious, because the sky beyond her compartment was fully dark. She wiped a robed fist against the fogged window to get a clear view outside. Fingers of mist crept over the moors, beyond which lay the castle. Jagged black towers and windows like yellow eyes blazing with torch-light. Ginny imagined its gates opening like a great stone mouth and breathing fire.
The steam engine took its last breath and shuddered to a stand-still. The air caught in Ginny’s lungs. It just couldn’t be. It couldn’t actually be happening. There was no way she could bear months on end stuck under the tutelage of Dumbledore’s murderer. It was ridiculous, absurd, a bad dream…
Somehow, she’d been so sure that something would happen and she wouldn’t need to go back. They’d win the war quickly, or You-Know-Who would have a change of heart about muggles.
Or, Harry would come back for her and she would join him wherever he was.
She tried to avoid thinking about him but it was like a scab she couldn’t help but pick. No news is good news, no news is good news, no news is good news. The mantra had been stuck in her head since the wedding. A song without a melody.
Ginny rattled the handle to the compartment door only to find it locked. Peering outside again, she saw a fleet of silhouetted Death Eaters snaking toward the train. The seconds ticked by while she waited alone in her compartment, uneven breath fogging the window. The longer she waited the more she felt like her resolve might not last. Like she wouldn’t be able to go through with spending the next year at Hogwarts. But if so, then what? Would she do a runner? The small army of cloaked figures outside were surely there to intercept escapees. Horror like ice-water dripped down her back as she realized that there was nothing, nothing, she could do. Even if she wasn’t brave enough or strong enough to endure what was to come, they’d already dragged her back kicking and screaming once.
It hadn’t been her intention to run that morning, but she hadn’t known why the Death Eaters were there. If she had, she might not have tried to make a break for it.
Maybe. Then again, if she were being honest, she’d been waiting for an excuse to try.
“Sixth years!” a amplified voice barked and she jumped. “At attention.”
The lock on her compartment door clicked open. With one last deep breath Ginny stood and pulled it open. Beside the train door an unmasked Death Eater considered a clip board.
Well, she figured. They hardly need anonymity now.
Glancing down the thoroughfare she was surprised to see how few students had returned. The whole of Ginny’s year fit in just one train car, and she counted less than twenty people standing at attention.
Victoria Frobisher and Demelza Robins would have gotten the summons but their families had fled to the continent earlier that summer, and Barbara Stimpson was muggleborn. No one knew what had happened to her.
“Harper, Runcorn, Urquart, Vaisey,” the Death Eater rattled off the names of the Slytherin boys in rapid fire. “Down to the carriages if you will.”
It turned Ginny’s stomach to see the smirks they wore as they hopped off the train.
“Harkiss, Mockridge, Rookwood, Selwyn.” The Slytherin girls perked up and Sabine Harkiss spared Ginny a superior sneer. Ginny had to repress the urge not to trip her as she passed.
The other Houses were not so populous as Slytherin. After all of three Hufflepuffs had been sent on their way, Ginny began to realize that the guard were excusing students based on their relative flight risks. While the Slytherins had been free to skip down to the carriages unaccompanied, Luna Lovegood was sent down separately from her fellow Ravenclaws, flanked by two hooded escorts. Soon the Gryffindor boys had been called, and Ginny was left standing alone in the passage. She’d been the only Gryffindor girl in sixth year to have returned.
“Ginevra Weasley,” the wizard said, his voice a satisfied purr. Ginny just kept her eyes trained on the half-distance and began walking to the door. “Nuh-uh-uh.” He threw an arm in front of her chest.
Surprised, her eyes snapped upward. And then she recognized him. He’d grown a goatee and plucked his unibrow but he had those same ice-chip eyes that had leered out from wanted posters after the mass breakout at Azkaban. And again, shining behind his mask at the Department of Mysteries. Walden Macnair—her new caretaker.
“Step back, girlie,” he growled , then hooked two fingers into his lips to give a wolf whistle. Hooded wizards flooded onto the train, the smell of rain and cold and sweat clinging to their cloaks. Mulciber, Dolohov, Avery, Nott—Ginny stopped counting once she caught the wild, mad eyes of Rabastan Lestrange. Almost every Death Eater she’d battled at the Ministry had been called upon to escort her from the steam engine.
She had to bite her lip not laugh at their pettiness. Congratu-fucking-lations, you beat a sixteen year old.
Rabastan Lestrange seized her from behind and a moment of panic clawed at her chest. The Death Eater began searching her, waving a wand and muttering incantations, while his companions tore apart her trunk.
“Concealed magic,” Crabbe shouted from her compartment. Ginny winced to see that Rookwood was going through her knickers.
“Let me see,” Macnair said, and Crabbe tossed over a shampoo bottle. “What’s this then, girle?”
“Shampoo,” Ginny said.
Macnair gave the dry, hacking laugh of a heavy pipe smoker. “I can see that. Why’s it that it’s setting off the alarm, eh?”
“I dunno, I got it new.” Ginny tried to remain composed. “The rules said all hygiene products had to be new, so…”
Owl upon owl had been sent to the Burrow outlining every new rule. More restrictions than ever before had been adopted to prevent students smuggling anything into the castle. Everything from toothpaste to face potions had to be brand new and unopened, and there was a blanket ban on any and all Wizard Wheezes merchandise. The worst of it had been the specifications on school supplies—all students were to have the same brand of quills, the same type of parchment. The Weasleys usually bought things used or at a discount, and Ginny’s parents hadn’t been able to afford everything on the new list. She knew how much it had hurt their pride to ask Fred and George for a loan to acquire it all, especially as everyone knew that the twins would never accept repayment.
“Give it here,” Nott said, seeming frustrated, and waved his wand over the shampoo bottle. “It’s an undetectable extension charm,” he announced. “It’s probably got about a gallon of shampoo in here. You know these Weasleys—they’d be the type to buy in bulk.”
The Death Eaters muttered amongst themselves before deciding that her shampoo and conditioner weren’t cleverly disguised weapons. Ginny covered her laugh as a cough.
“Alright, clean that up.” Macnair waved a hand at her belongings hanging ramshackle out of her trunk. All of her mother’s thoughtful organizing and packing of her luggage had been destroyed and Ginny wasn’t sure she could make it all fit again. Kneeling down on the carpet she got to careful work re-folding.
“Are you a witch or aren’t you?” Macnair barked, brandishing his wand. All at once her things flew pell-mell into the trunk, and she tugged her hand away just in time to keep it from getting caught by the lid crashing shut. The overstuffed trunk latched and she heard the sound of crunching glass.
Excellent, she thought, taking a steadying breath and hoping that her bottles of potions ingredients hadn’t broken.
Tired, angry, and still mildly hysterical, Ginny was in a daze as the gaggle of Death Eaters led her into the night. The other students were long gone by the time she arrived at the shore of the lake. Dolohov used a binding spell on her wrists before shoving her into a carriage and, to her disgust, Macnair climbed in after her. He reeked of rancid meat, and she soon discovered why. The otherwise silent journey was punctuated by the sound of him gnawing on a roast chicken carcass.
The other Death Eaters had boarded the remaining carriages and she watched them traveling in a tight formation around her own. The village retreated into the distance as the castle loomed nearer. Macnair sucked and smacked at the chicken bones and Ginny tried not to meet his eye.
“You could turn things around for yourself, you know.” Strips of flesh had become entangled in his moustache. “You’re a quiet sort of girl, aren’t you? Don’t say much.”
‘Quiet’ was not a word usually used to describe Ginny Weasley. Only pragmatism kept back the tide of everything she wanted to say to the Death Eater.
“That’s the thing about quiet people, though,” he went on. “They tend to hear things. People don’t notice them around and get to talking. Have you ever heard anything interesting, Ginny-gin? Ever hear your family, or their friends maybe, say something interesting?”
Ginny leaned her head against the cool glass of the window and closed her eyes.
“We know a good lot about your family. A good lot,” he mused. “Did you know we’ve got wizards stationed out in the woods beside your house?”
At that, she couldn’t help but start.
“Ah, I guess you didn’t know that. Which means your parents don’t know that. Quiet girl like you, you’d have heard something about it if they did.”
Macnair studied her face and Ginny tried to control her features, careful not to make eye-contact lest he use legilimency. She doubted that he was capable of such complex magic, it wasn’t worth taking the risk.
“I bet you’re wondering why I’m telling you this. See, I can tell you all sorts of things, because you won’t be able to tell your family anyhow.”
Though she tried not to react her muscles tensed despite herself.
“Ah, I guess you didn’t know about that either.” He grinned. “You won’t be able to write your parents. Didn’t anybody tell you?”
A lump rose in Ginny’s throat. She knew that correspondence with her parents would be monitored, that she’d have to be guarded about anything she wrote to them. They’d gone over the Do’s and Don’ts and devised an innocuous-seeming code word in case she found herself in real danger. She had no idea that her owl privileges had been revoked entirely. Tears like needles threatened the corners of her eyes.
“Bad luck,” the Death Eater sighed and gazed out the window. “It seems like you don’t have that many people left to talk to.” Then he leaned forward and the fetid smell of flesh overwhelmed her “But you could always find more people to talk to. You could talk to me.”
The carriage jolted to a stop.
“No thank you,” Ginny finally spoke. She was almost relieved to see Lestrange’s deranged face as he opened the door for her. One more second stuck in that carriage, and she would have certainly been sick.
Ginny’s footsteps echoed as Avery and Nott frogmarched her to the Great
Hall, and she was surprised to see that the feast was already underway.
No one spoke. Even the Slytherins kept their eyes downcast as hooded
Death Eaters roved between the tables or glowered from the corners.
Soon, the clanking of silverware sounded somehow louder than any
boisterous start of term feast she could remember. The night sky
glittering in the enchanted ceiling above no longer looked beautiful,
“Hey, budge up,” Neville whispered down the Gryffindor table as Ginny approached. “How many Death Eaters did you get?” he asked, leaning forward once she’d descended into her seat.
“You too?” she asked, surprised. “I guess it’s all of us then—Luna only got two, but they had everyone from the Department of Mysteries bring me from Hogsmeade.”
“Well, not everyone,” Neville murmured.
“No,” Ginny agreed in an undertone. “I guess she ranks somewhere above ‘babysitter.’”
“No.” Neville shook his head. “She was with me.”
A mix of cold terror and fury rumbled in Ginny’s stomach. Harry had told her, in strictest confidence, about what the Lestranges had done to Neville’s parents. Ginny wanted badly to seize his hand, or leap across the table and hug him, but more than breaking the rules she didn’t want to let on that she knew.
“I’m sure Harry told you,” he said, and Ginny was shocked to see him give a breezy shrug before taking a hefty bite of mashed potato. “I had Rodolphus and Bellatrix—I guess Rabastan was with you?”
“Students!” McGonagall called out from the head table. “A reminder that meals are to be spent in reflective silence.” Each word came sharp and enunciated, as though she were spitting out something vile. When she retook her seat, Ginny saw McGonagall give an almost indiscernible roll of the eye. Clearly, she took no pleasure in enforcing the ‘No Speaking’ rule.
The remainder of the feast passed in tense silence, fear swelling every time the footfalls of a passing Death Eater drew near. Down the table Ginny saw a handful of terrified young faces. First years. A pang shot through her chest and she gulped down the lump in her throat. This was their first ever night at Hogwarts. A tiny girl that looked closer to seven than eleven had silent tears collecting at her chin, and Ginny saw the way her fork trembled in her hand.
It felt like ages before the plates finally cleared. Checking her watch, she saw that the feast had actually been shorter than any other by almost an hour.
She had been avoiding looking at the head table, not wanting to see their new ‘Headmaster’ sullying Dumbledore’s chair. They’d never get the slime out. If the Order won the war, they’d be in the market for a new fancy-golden-throne-thing.
When, she corrected herself. When the Order wins the war.
“Attention students.” His oily voice rang out and she finally let her eyes wander toward him. He raised his arms like some exalted king quieting his adoring public. “I’m happy to announce this year’s Head Boy and Girl: Draco Malfoy and Tracey Davis.”
Only the Slytherin table offered much applause. Neville’s hands didn’t even left his lap.
“As the population of so many Houses has reduced,” Snape went on. “We had to make some adjustments to the prefect system. Hogwarts’ new prefects are as follow: Blaise Zabini, Pansy Parkinson, Theodore Nott, Daphne Greengrass—”
“So far so Slytherin,” Neville muttered.
Snape continued listing names until nearly every Slytherin student years five through seven had been named a prefect. Even more time was spent outlining their now-expanded authority, leaving Ginny with every impression that Snape had revived Umbridge’s Inquisitorial Squad in everything but title. It came as an immense relief when the students were finally dismissed.
McGonagall made swift work crossing the Hall to meet her standing students and Ginny had to suspect that the professor was keen to get them back to Gryffindor Tower. The much-shortened line of Gryffindors trailed behind as they climbed the stairs in silence. Even the Fat Lady looked sullen as they arrived.
“The new password,” McGonagall sniffed. “Is ‘obedience.’ ”
Neville’s laugh was so quiet it might have gone unheard, but the silence hung so thick around them that any noise at all seemed to echo. McGonagall’s eyes flashed at him, face inscrutable. Then, she said nothing.
The portrait swung open and Ginny followed the other students in on shaking legs. It felt perverse to be in a place so friendly and familiar. The worn, squashy armchairs and threadbare carpet whispered with the ghosts of happy memories. It was as if these things had died, and only their corpses remained.
“Now, I have an announcement of my own,” McGonagall called out and Ginny couldn’t help but note an apologetic chord in her tone. “It is my duty to inform you that socializing is prohibited between classes. The dormitories are to be used for the sole purpose of sleeping, and the common areas for quiet and individual study. That all said,” she paused. “I will now be retiring to my own chamber. I trust you all to follow the rules, as I won’t be here to enforce them… Goodnight.”
The professor turned on her heel and departed and the Gryffindors waited a whole thirty seconds before erupting into chatter.
Cries of “this is madness!” and “what bollocks!” rang out and the tension she’d been holding in her back for so many hours finally broke. When Neville scooped her into a tight hug, she nearly burst into tears.
“I’m going to get the D.A. back together,” he whispered into her ear. “McGonagall’s clearly on our side, and I bet we have allies in Sprout and Flitwick as well. We can fight back.”
Ginny couldn’t understand where his enthusiasm was coming from. She suddenly felt very tired and very sad. “Listen, Neville, I’m sorry but… I think I’d like to be alone right now.”
“Sure, of course.” He nodded, releasing her, but looked dejected. “So now we know Gryffindor Tower is safe, it might be smart to wake up a few hours early before lessons. The ‘prefects’ have our password so the Common Room’s out. But you can get up the stairs to the boy’s’ dorm, and Seamus is D.A. so that’s a good option.”
“Yeah, great,” Ginny said simply, turning up the stairs to her own dorm. After everything, she didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was hopeless.
“Ace, so see you, say, five tomorrow?”
“Five, good,” she said without looking back.
Four vacant beds were waiting for her when she arrived and Ginny realized that she hadn’t wanted to be alone after all. Not really. Collapsing down onto her four-poster she felt a violent pain begin to consume her. No news is good news. No news is good news. No news is good news.
She couldn’t even imagine Harry; where he might be and what he might be doing. And whatever he was doing mattered so fucking much. But even more than that…
Ginny Weasley would let the world die screaming if she could just have him back.