Things always look darkest before it gets pitch black...
Acknowledgements - Thanks as always to the members of Alpha Fight Club. Kokopelli's on vacation, so Zanymuggle stepped in for beta duties. Special thanks for that.
Chapter 35 - The Hero Always Gets the Girl
Sunday September 15th, 1996
Neville looked up from the Potions textbook that he wasn't studying that hard. He had taken a quick breakfast and then returned to the Gryffindor common room, making certain that he was in plain sight. He greeted Hermione warmly and asked if she'd look over his assignment to see if he had missed any important points. He hadn't, but that was the beauty of an alibi. She'd remember speaking to him this morning and so would the anxious-looking Ron Weasley. Neville's ruse was costing Ron precious time which could be spent with the boy feeding his face.
"Neville, I'm impressed. Normally, I'd say it's worth an O, but your great uncle seems to have some very high expectations, so I'd probably say you'll earn an E. Still, it's a solid essay." Clearing her voice slightly and casting a glance at her boyfriend, she continued. "In fact, it's much better than some other people I know."
"C'mon, Hermione! Breakfast is half over!"
Secretly, Neville hoped he'd be there for the day that Ron's metabolism failed him. It would be nice to eat everything in sight and not have to worry about being chubby or fat. It was wrong to enjoy Weasley's squirming, but he just had to tweak him a bit more.
Fishing around in his bag, he pulled out a sheaf of parchment and held it out to the smiling witch. "You don't suppose you'd mind looking this over?"
"Oh, you've already got that done. Look Ronald, there are other people in this tower who actually get things done a day early. I do believe you wagered me at some point."
"And you refused the bet."
"I merely snorted derisively; I don't recall ever actually declining the bet. So, I do believe that you'll be carrying my bag for the rest of the week."
"No. You didn't bet. I'm not carrying that library you're always lugging around."
She smiled slyly at Neville, "Well let's let Neville decide. Neville, whose word would you take, a dutiful Prefect and exemplary student like myself, or Mr. 'Far From' Prefect over there?"
Despite himself, Neville chuckled. Carefully, he weighed his reply, "I'd have to go with Ron." Ignoring her pout and Ron's laughter, he finished, "You'd never gamble, plus you're dating him, so you must be delusional at times."
"Oh, good show Neville! Do you mind if I take it down to breakfast and look it over?"
Neville smiled and watched her as she followed a perturbed Ron out the portrait hole. His little /sessions /with Pansy had given him a new appreciation for the curves of a young witch. A little smile played across his face as he imagined Hermione doing the same things to him that Pansy did. He couldn't help but imagine that pretty necklace around Hermione's slender neck.
"Neville! Are you okay?"
He hadn't even noticed Ginny coming into the common room and cursed himself for his inattentiveness. "Oh sorry, Ginny, I was just thinking."
"We need to talk."
Her voice dropped to an urgent whisper. "Not here - in private!"
"The rest of the guys are down at breakfast. We can go to my dorm room."
Neville was slightly worried. Ginny might have seen something on her morning run. He followed her up the steps, while evaluating his options. So far, he hadn't been able to do a proper memory charm. He did make Pansy drool for five minutes the last time he tried it on her, but the effect was only temporary.
Once inside Ginny cast a weak privacy charm. "I saw Pansy this morning in the loo. Why is Harry using that necklace on Pansy? Is he using her to spy on the Slytherins?"
Neville froze for a moment, like a deer caught in the headlights. It took a second for his brain to start processing this. She thought Harry was behind it. It probably made sense from her standpoint. He opted to play along. "I can't really talk about this."
She smiled triumphantly, "I knew it! You're not really dating her. You're just meeting with her to get information and passing it to Harry! Why her?"
"Um, since she's a Prefect, she's got the run of the castle and her parents are Death Eaters. If Davis or Greengrass was going into a cupboard with me, it wouldn't be believable for a second, but everyone thinks that Parkinson's trying to make Malfoy jealous. You know you have to keep quiet about this."
Ginny paled. "I won't say anything, but I sure as hell am not swearing any more oaths!"
"Don't mention to Harry that you know either," he warned.
"I won't. He'd probably Obliviate me to 'keep me safe'. I'm guessing the Headmaster doesn't know about this either."
Neville shook his head and leaned closer. "Harry said there'd be no way he'd approve, so this is just between the two of us."
"She looked upset. You're not hurting her, are you?" Ginny looked repulsed by the idea of possession. Neville knew from her experiences both past and recent that she wouldn't be very agreeable to this type of magic.
"That's why Harry recruited me. I'm not that kind of bloke. Imagine what Seamus or Dean would do with a girl under their complete control! That would be just - wrong. I could never do that." He lied convincingly.
"So you don't do anything with her?"
"Not really, we mostly just mess up each other's clothes and hair after she gives me her report." Ginny immediately flung her arms around him.
"I just knew there was no way you were really with her. She's so awful and you're such a great guy!"
He was much taller than the tiny witch. Neville relished in the feel of her arms willingly around him and the scent of her hair. She pulled back slightly and stared at him. He leaned in and kissed her. Ginny seemed startled at first, but then responded back. Neville had always liked her. The fact that her brothers hadn't given him any grief over taking her to the Yule ball had been a sign of approval.
Breaking, he looked at her. "I'd much rather be in a closet with you instead." The compliment earned him a blushing smile.
"But your cover - we can't!" he smiled when she sounded disappointed.
"I know, but maybe we don't have to run all those laps. If we stopped a little early we might have some time out there by ourselves. Besides, it's starting to get chilly. There'll be less and less people out that early in the morning."
Ginny flashed him an impish smile and kissed him. Her wand vibrated telling them that someone had entered the perimeter of their privacy ward and heard footsteps going down the steps. He watched her bite her lip in a cute way before saying, "I'd like that. I'd better go grab a shower and change. Since today is Sunday, maybe we can fit an evening run in before sunset. I think that's a great idea, don't you?"
Neville smiled as Ginny turned and walked out of the room. There was no doubt in his mind anymore - he was a hero. The hero always gets the girl.
"You deceitful little Jezebel, I do not approve of you! I'm warning you, you stay away from my son!"
"Personally, I don't care if you approve or not. When Charles comes out of this, you can freely express your opinion to him. I doubt that I or even common sense could stop you. If he's the man I believe he is, he'll listen to your concerns and make his own decision."
Susan and Tonks sat at the edge of Harry's bed just outside of the silencing charm with the privacy curtains drawn listening to the argument rage. The Mediwitch had been summoned away rather urgently and it was the trigger for the two women to begin arguing - Narcissa Black's sharp icy words versus Molly Weasleys fiery maternal anger. Ten minutes of females posturing over a comatose wizard and it was continuing to escalate. Were it not for Charlie Weasley's condition, the situation would have been completely laughable.
"I'll not have another of my sons led astray by a harlot! It's bad enough he's injured because I let him go with you. When he wakes up, he'll be with family and you'll not be disturbing him if I have any say so!"
Tonks started to draw a 'point' in the air with her wand and Susan shook her head no.
"Be that as it may, /Molly, /I will be here and there is precious little you can do to stop me."
Both witches agreed to add a point to Narcissa's tally. The current score stood at seven to three in favor of Narcissa.
"We've suffered enough already in this war because of people like you!"
As Tonks used her wand to spell out the word 'Denial' in the air, the shrill matron of the Weasley clan continued, "You're nothing but a cheap, opportunistic whore. The moment your side was losing, you switched sides. You'd even abandoned your own child to serve your selfish goals. You are nothing, and we Weasleys will have nothing to do with you!"
"Unlike you, I'm not entirely certain which side is winning. Furthermore, I would be careful about how casually you toss out words like 'abandonment' Molly, or was Percival basking in the love of his family when he met his unfortunate demise? Before you go for that wand remember this - the man that dared hurt Charles, I killed him. You might even recall his name - Antonin Dolohov. I believe he was partly to blame for Fabian and Gideon. Your son knows who I am and accepts me. His decision is the only one that matters to me."
Susan watched her Auror friend's face get serious. The argument had taken on a menacing tone. Wands could be drawn and in an infirmary, that was never a good thing.
Tonks opened the curtains and stepped out. "Aunt Narcissa, Molly, perhaps you should take this elsewhere. Your fighting is disturbing Harry, and I don't really think either of you are helping Charlie recover at the moment. So why don't one or both of you leave? To make matters easy, I'll go ahead and make the decision for you - both of you leave."
Several angry glares were exchanged, but the quarrelling women left. Tonks unfurled Harry's copy of the Marauder's Map and ensured that the two of them weren't heading in the same direction. A series of three loud gongs reverberated through the castle. It was the emergency alarm, indicating to all students to immediately return to their dorms.
"Tonks! Should we try and find out what's going on?"
The Auror stared intently at the Map in front of her, "No. My responsibility is to Harry. The Death Eaters know that he's under some form of attack. They could be setting this up as a diversion. Several instructors and Aurors are at the greenhouses, and so is Dumbledore. Whatever's happening is probably there. They wouldn't sound the alarm unless it was serious. Keep your eyes on the passageway outside the infirmary. Shout out when you see anyone coming this way, and I mean anyone. They could use someone under the Imperius curse. I'll disillusion myself and be to the right of the door."
"Should we wake Harry?"
Tonks looked back at Susan, "Not yet. I'm not sure he'd be any use in a fight right now anyway. Anyone threatening comes through that door and you banish these beds right at them. While they're busy dealing with that, I'll take them out."
Susan shivered. At first she thought it was involuntary and due to Tonks' bluntness, but then she realized that the room was really getting colder. Looking back at the bed where her husband lay, she saw instead the body of a raven lying on the bed and sucking the warmth from the room.
Casting a warming charm and feeling the tendrils of panic she associated with the presence of Dementors, Susan stepped back. "Should we do something?"
"We stay away from him for now. I don't want to do anything until the Mediwitch gets back. Besides, Harry might have figured out a way to fight whatever's in his nightmares."
Harry dodged again trying to stay one step ahead of his parents flailing arms. Knowing this was a battle in his mind helped him focus.
"So you're a coward as well," James Potter's voice hissed. "Somehow you ended up in our house."
"James, perhaps you should show our spawn what real speed is like."
Harry shifted nervously as his father's shape blurred and elongated becoming an enormous stag. Prongs barreled into him, knocking Harry to the ground. The antlers stabbed at him, drawing blood.
"Aw my poor baby, are you trying to tell yourself that it's all in your mind. It sure feels real, doesn't it? Hold him there darling. I'd like to join in the fun."
Lily Potter's foot slammed repeatedly into his side. After the third blow, he felt a ribs cracking. "Oh, didn't you want a mother's loving touch? I can see Petunia was too soft on you. I'd thought they would have toughened you up, but once again, I was wrong!"
Grimacing in pain, Harry dodged the next assault from his father and rolled out from underneath. His father could transform, so why couldn't he? "Here's something you should be proud of Dad!" Bleeding from his wounds and clutching his right side, Harry transformed into his Raven form. Flying was still difficult for him, but once he was airborne, he was out of their reach.
Still, he felt weak. Being unable to get any decent sleep had taken a toll out of him. He could feel the warmth and energy surrounding him. He didn't want to use it, but there wasn't much choice. If his Animagus form worked in his mind, would the Dementor aura work on these things masquerading as his parents?
The woman and the stag circled below him - one shouting insults and the other howling in animal rage. There was a part of Harry that hoped that if these truly were his parents, they would find a way to break this hold Riddle had over them and free themselves, but the rest of him remembered Peter's silver hand. Riddle wouldn't create a weapon that could be used against him. He made his decision and focused, drawing the warmth and energy to him. It slaked a ravenous thirst from within him - a hunger he didn't know existed.
He felt the creatures below him; they were drawing on his energy. That was wrong and he was certain he could right it. He sensed the tendrils of power leaching away at him. Taking one in his beak, he pulled at it causing the woman below him to scream in shock and anger.
The silvery thread of energy was too rigid and strong for him to break, but it was the brighter of the two. Harry feared its strength. Like the weeds Petunia would let grow all spring until he returned, it was impossible to remove, but he could tell it was causing her pain. He dug his clawed feet into it and pecked at it with his beak.
Her gasping voice called out to him, "Harry, you mustn't do that! You're hurting us. Haven't we already suffered enough because of you?" He cawed angrily in reply to her.
The weed was too thick. He could damage it, but it was too strong. Harry released it and saw the damaged tendril already starting to strengthen and heal itself. Instead, he turned his attention to the link to his father. The stag roared in rage as the raven's claws sank into the tendril. This one was more supple and squirmed in Harry's grasp. He began rapidly working his beak against it and slashing it repeatedly with one of his claws. Tiny bits floated away from the connection as Harry drew more warmth and energy to him, buttressing his failing energy. The link was trying to heal the damage, but he bored into it like a bird seeking an elusive insect.
"Stop it Harry! You're hurting him! Without your strength, he'll wither and die. We gave our lives for you and this is how you repay us! I knew you were a mistake. You should have never been born."
He was better than halfway through. The insults only served to make him work harder. The stag fell to the ground and resumed his human form. "Harry, if you break the connection, I'll be gone for good. I don't want to die again. You can save us. You can keep me alive. Don't you want to rescue us from Voldemort?"
For some reason Harry could only picture the face of Snape mocking his father's pleas to spare his life. It was barely holding on now and Lily was now supporting her husband's weight as he stretched his arm towards Harry.
"You can't, Harry! Damn you to hell! If you do this now you'll never ..." James Potter never finished these words as the tendril snapped and he faded from view leaving only Lily clutching at the empty space where James had been.
Harry hoped that wherever the real James Potter was, he was grateful that Harry had ended that mockery. Without the drain from the creature that had been his father, he attacked the link with his mother with renewed vigor. It still held.
"You're not getting rid of me that easily, Harry. Our connection is too strong. Enjoy your little victory. Before I was only commanded to torture you, but after what you've done to poor James, I want to hurt you. I'll make you suffer."
Harry landed and changed back into his human form, but his mother had already disappeared. He sank to the ground in exhaustion and let sleep claim him.
Lord Voldemort felt the pull against him. It was only one of them, not both. He needed to investigate.
He Apparated to the makeshift Headquarters. He hoped Peter would soon have a suitable replacement soon. The warehouse was a bustle of activity, with dozens of animated bodies pushed behind hastily erected chain link fences. Immediately, he felt the drain increase.
'/That would be Lily,' /he thought to himself. He had the raw power to spare, but it was still an annoyance to him.
The creatures were kept in a locked closet. If only he could find the proper manner to inform young Harry of this. From what little he had learned of Potter's upbringing, the irony might actually infuriate him even more.
He motioned to the guard, who was responsible for this room and the room where the vegetable known as Frank Longbottom was being kept, to leave. He opened the door.
The red headed perversion of humanity stared at him. "You are the Creator?"
"Yes. Tell me what has happened."
"The little raven broke the tie to my James. James is very weak; something is wrong. He hurt my James. I will stalk the boy now."
"No! You will stalk the boy when I command it. Can he break the link to you?"
"He tried, but tie is too strong. Please, Creator, let me stalk him now. I want to hurt him - to rip his flesh with my claws."
"No. You will continue to go to him and prey upon him, but it appears James can no longer ...."
Lord Voldemort considered his options as the female begged for him save her mate. Again, the irony of Lily Potter begging for something was not lost on him. Perhaps James could still physically attack Harry, but the energy to provide the elder Potter with a faux-life must now come from Voldemort. He might need to consult with the Jamaican Witch.
The answer became apparent as the misshapen creature on the bed began thrashing and soundlessly screaming. The female leapt to his side as the body stilled and cradled his head. Voldemort felt the pull on his energy weaken and knew that one of the revenants was gone. The female howled in rage and vented her frustrations on the empty wooden crates. Free of the magic sustaining it, the husk began to rapidly decompose.
"Do not worry. We will avenge your mate. When the time is right, I will let you stalk the betrayer."
The distorted creature ran a clawed hand across the skull of her twice dead husband, "Do you hear that, James? The Creator will let me avenge you!"
Voldemort wished that the creature had retained more of an intellect. From what he knew, the thing before him once possessed a formidable mind, enough to waylay him on his path to domination. Now, only in Potter's dreams can it use his mind against him and sound like something more than a troll.
"Good, I will send for you soon. Until then, continue to punish him for destroying your mate. You called him the Raven. Tell me why."
Albus Dumbledore felt his age as he watched the bodies being floated into the infirmary. Professor Vector and two Aurors were already investigating the Slytherin Dormitories. The other Aurors were examining the Greenhouses.
He was faced with a problem. Most of the parents of these children were openly active as Death Eaters. Perhaps, he should turn the bodies over to St. Mungo's and let them deal with the headaches involved with returning the bodies to the families. Unlike with Mr. Crabbe or Mr. Travers, where Minister Scrimgeour had moved too slowly, this time the Minister would no doubt attempt to leverage the bodies against the families. The Headmaster had little fear that the Ministry would close the school. Fudge would, but Scrimgeour was more about symbols of resistance. Unfortunately, Dumbledore knew that there would be more Aurors in this school shortly.
Part of the solution to his problem was heading towards him.
"You sent for me, Headmaster." The Head Girl approached him.
"Indeed I did, Miss Carruthers. First I must ask you to prepare yourself for some terrible news. This morning seven of your housemates were exposed to the screams of a fully grown Mandrake. I am truly sorry. We are investigating how this tragedy occurred."
Dumbledore had found that delivering bad news was never easy. Some of the previous Headmasters had pawned off this duty on their Deputies or left it to the individual Heads of House. The young woman in front of was clearly stunned, but quickly recovered her composure.
"Who was it?"
"All seven of the fourth years, I am afraid. We do not have the details yet, but when we have the facts, I will brief the staff first and then the Heads and Prefects. Our resident Aurors have already informed their superiors and I will be contacting both the Minister and the Board of Governors shortly."
"How can I help?"
"I would like you to send an owl to your father and make him aware of the situation. Since many of the parents of these children are known Death Eaters, it is unlikely they will be directly reachable by owl post. Tell him that I will resist any efforts by the Minister to use the bodies as bargaining chips against their parents and that those who come to the castle to claim them will need to be free of the Dark Mark. However, I've heard rumors of widespread grave robberies in recent weeks. Inform your father that I will be most displeased if these children's bodies were to be defiled in such a manner. I would hold him personally responsible in that regard."
The Head Girl nodded, "I will tell him."
He dismissed her and watched her head towards the Owlery. Turning he saw Minerva approaching him. "The Aurors just informed me that Director Dawson will be here with a full team shortly. They're asking for you to meet them at the Greenhouse."
"I will be there as soon as I communicate today's tragic events to both the Minister and the Board of Governors."
"I still do not understand why you chose Miss Carruthers over the other candidates for Head Girl. Perhaps it is time to strip her of that title?"
"I loathe using a child as a go-between, but by placing her in this position, I have inundated her with responsibility. Were I to strip her of that title, it would allow her far more opportunities to gather information for her father. I allow her enough access to information that she does not pry for more. Have I ever told you about one of the benefits of being Headmaster?"
His deputy looked at him with a raised eyebrow, "What are you talking about, Albus?"
"There are charms on the badges for the Head Girl and Boy. I can locate them anywhere in the castle at any time. I can track their movements, should the need arise. Now, please greet the Aurors on my behalf and tell them I will be with them as soon as circumstances allow."
Dumbledore cast a look in the infirmary at the bodies covered with sheets. He had failed those children. Since dueling on school grounds had been outlawed in 1585, there hadn't been this much death. There was nothing more he could do for these poor souls. Seeing Harry asleep in his avian form piqued his interest. Perhaps the Animagus in him would be less susceptible to whatever influence Tom attempted to exert. He would investigate later. For now, he must speak to the Minister and the Board of Governors.
Two days later, Harry was finally getting released from the infirmary. He was still weak, but now only his Mother infested his dreams and she was easy enough to avoid in his bird form. Unfortunately, Harry's sleep still wasn't that productive. She continued to accuse him of killing his father.
He didn't like the world he returned to. More students were dead and the story about one of them killing the rest just didn't sit well with him. Eight Slytherins and one Ravenclaw had died in less than a month. To say that things were on edge was an understatement.
Of course, this coincided with his stay in the infirmary, so naturally there were rumors that all seven of them had attacked Harry and he had been injured killing them. He didn't know what he thought of that particular rumor, but Susan already had Parvati working the gossip network to dispel that one. Could he actually take seven fourth years at once? Without whatever Riddle was doing to him - definitely. Right now, Harry settled for 'maybe'.
The Slytherins were now being escorted to and from classes by various teachers and the Aurors. Dumbledore had at least turned the situation to his advantage and used it as a reason to provide additional supervision. There was even talk that Professor Vector would be moving in to the now vacant dorm to provide the students with the added feeling of security. Oddly, that move was meeting some resistance from the Board of Governors, who seemed to frown on the idea of students and teachers occupying the same general living area.
All of the students were a bit nervous. Dumbledore had asked them to not travel alone in hallways with only the Prefects and the Heads immune to this request. Narcissa entered the room and acknowledged him and sat down next the Charlie's bed. Harry walked over and sat next to her.
"How are you feeling today, Harry?"
"Still run down. How about you? How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?" she replied slightly defensively.
"Susan hasn't spoken to you yet?"
Narcissa shook her head and looked at Harry suspiciously. "What is this about?"
He cast a privacy charm surrounding them and was disgusted at how much effort it required. "The Black Family tapestry - we have it hidden in our quarters. Look I don't know any other way to say this, so here goes. It says that you're having Charlie's baby . . . I guess you didn't know."
Narcissa stared at him blinking rapidly and not saying a word for a minute. Finally, she started, "I thought it was just the stress of all this getting to me. It's been so terrible lately . . . Are you certain? Silly question, of course you are, the tapestry never lies! Oh my! This is all very - unexpected. I need to sit for a . . . Oh wait, I'm already sitting."
Harry managed a small smile at her reaction. Apparently, Narcissa could be surprised and forfeit her composure. "It said you're having a boy."
"A son! Oh dear, Draco will think I'm trying to replace him, and I don't even want to imagine the horrible things Molly Weasley will say about me."
A weak, raspy voice interrupted from the bed next to them, "You'd better let me handle Mum. She'll go spare for certain, but it can't be much worse than when I told her I was giving up Quidditch for to work with Dragons."
"Charlie! You're awake." Harry heard Narcissa say as she shed the last of her rigid mannerisms and literally squealed throwing her arms around him. That made Harry smile. It was nice to see something good and right in the world for a change.
"Good to see you again, Charlie. I'll go get the Nurse. On second thought, why don't I give you a minute or two and then go get her."
"Thanks Harry." Charlie answered as he sipped at the water Narcissa was holding to his lips. He smiled at the woman in front of him. "Hey, you just called me Charlie . . ."
"Nonsense, Charles. You've been out for several days and I'm certain you must be imagining things."
"No, I'm pretty sure I heard you call me Charlie."
"Oh shut up and kiss me."
"You need to pay more attention to your stirring, Miss Carruthers. Such carelessness is dangerous. Despite recent events, you must keep your focus in the Potions Lab. Do you understand me?"
The rest of the NEWT Potions class beat a hasty retreat as the Professor berated the Head Girl. Her position allowed her and the Slytherin Prefects to travel without an escort.
"I'm sorry sir. It won't happen again."
"See that it doesn't." He leaned close enough so that even if someone were trying to hear them they would not. "Tell your father that I have agreed to a certain generous offer and would like to make arrangements as soon as possible."
"Good. Now go."
Coedus knew the noose was tightening. He would need contingency plans in the event he needed to escape. The school was positively thick with Aurors after the deaths of the seven students. Despite Neville's denials, Coedus saw the boy's signature all over it. The killing was going to the boy's head and Coedus doubted the deaths would stop here. He would need to tread carefully from here on out. Should his nephew's house of cards collapse, the authorities will blame the vampire. From what he had read, they could use Frank Longbottom's body for the ritual, but Neville was a much finer choice. Why settle for the body of a forty-ish man who hadn't been active in fifteen years when he could have the body of a sixteen year old just coming into adulthood?
Fortunately, Coedus was a long-lived creature and that life had brought with it patience. He resisted the urge to lash out at the little liar and accepted the whiny platitudes. Originally, he had hoped to give the boy the right direction for his anger and live vicariously through him.
Now, he regretted starting the boy down his path of revenge as it might interfere with his own opportunities to give the world the payback it so richly deserves. He would need to prepare a scapegoat to serve up to the authorities when Neville's luck ran out. He needed someone who could be believably seen as a killer and had a grudge against Slytherins in general. He needed someone like - Draco Malfoy, the little fallen angel of Salazar's house. The little ponce would be perfect for the role.
It would take a week for the necessary potions to be prepared. Combined with his Vampiric gift of hypnotism, the Malfoy boy could be turned into a thrall, but it would take time. Coedus cringed at the irony; for once, time was not on his side. Time was rarely a concern for the dead, but now it was working against him.
The second year students began to file into the room for the afternoon session. Four more hours to be wasted teaching the useless blood bags. No! When the first one melts their cauldron, he'll dismiss the class for the day. Then he can get started on a suitable subjugation elixir.
Things were finally looking up for Ginny Weasley. The cloud that had hung over her life since the beginning of the school year had lifted. Her brother Charlie was well on the road to recovery. Even Fred looked upbeat for a change.
A week had passed since Neville had kissed her. They'd altered their morning schedule to include periods of 'rest' between their laps. Surprisingly, Neville was much better than Michael Corner.
She had overslept this morning finishing her assignments so she'd have the whole day free. Looking out her window from Gryffindor Tower, she didn't see him running laps. So, she threw robes on to get breakfast instead.
Entering the Great Hall, she didn't see him either only the few other early risers which included Harry and Susan. It was still odd to think of them as the Potters. Ginny still felt mixed about the two of them. Had she been less of an idiot, that could have easily been her sitting there, but Harry's recent actions made her wonder if that would have made her happy? Truth be told, Susan hadn't look terribly happy this month - even less so with Harry's recent stint in the infirmary. Both of them looked haggard and worn.
Since Neville wasn't here, or outside exercising, and Seamus had said that he wasn't in the dorms, that meant he was either with his undead relative or with Pansy. Ginny found herself grimacing in distaste at the thought of Neville and Pansy in a cupboard.
She made a snap decision and headed towards the seated trio. "Good morning, everyone. Tonks, would you mind if I looked at the map? I was hoping to find Neville."
The Auror quickly scanned the map and looked up at her shrugging. "Well, he's in the broom closet nearest to the Prefect's Bath with Pansy Parkinson, so you might not want to interrupt him."
"I see," she said scowling at Harry. Here he was enjoying a breakfast while Neville did his dirty work. She was losing more respect for him by the second. Spinning on her heels, she left the three of them staring at each other in confusion.
Her mood, which had been cheerful, was now angry as her footsteps punished the steps below her. Ginny's mood swings were legendary. She wasn't sure who she was really angry at.
One who didn't know how much she had been exercising lately would confuse the redness of her face with being winded after her rapid ascent. They would be wrong. She didn't care about bloody Harry Potter's secret spy network. She wanted some time with her new boyfriend!
It took three times to defeat the locking charm on the closet. Either Neville was getting quite good or he made Pansy do it. She opened the door and was shocked at the site in front of her.
Neville was backed up against the wall with a shirtless, braless Pansy on her knees in front of him bobbing up and down as if her very life depended on it. Open mouthed, Ginny tried to process the scene in front of her. As if this wasn't traumatic enough, Pansy had a red coloring charm applied to her hair! It was probably only five seconds with the only sound being the wet slurping of Pansy's mouth, but it felt like an eternity before they noticed her.
"Ginny! Shit! It's not what you think!"
"You bastard! I believed you!" Had she been capable of more coherent thought, she might have asked exactly what she was supposed to think? Instead, she hurled her bat bogey hex at him.
"Ow! Shit, Pansy! Get off me, you stupid bitch!" Unconcerned, the Slytherin girl had continued her rhythmic movements until she was commanded otherwise.
"We're through, Longbottom, and I'm going to the Headmaster right now. Fuck you and Harry Potter!" With tears of hurt and betrayal in her eyes, she spun and slammed the door.
Neville smacked away at the tiny magical creatures clawing at him as he grasped his wand and started to work the counter. "No, Ginny wait! Pansy, don't just sit there! Stop her!"
Still without a top on Pansy rushed out the cupboard and saw the Weasley girl already on the staircase. Neville wanted the little bint stopped; Pansy would stop her all right. "Exosossis Opprimo! Percuito!"
The bonecrusher caught Weasley in the hip with a powerful snap, sending her plunging down the stairs. The piercing curse lanced through the witches' lower back, sending a spray of blood and pieces of flesh misting into the air. The girl's shriek of pain became a strangled gasp that ended when her head slammed into the cold unforgiving stone. The Gryffindor landed roughly three steps above the landing and slid bonelessly the remaining distance - settling in a tiny, barely moving heap of bleeding flesh. Ten seconds later, Neville burst out of the closet still only half dressed. "Bitch! What have you done?"
She smiled vindictively at him. "You said to stop her. Does she look like she's moving, /Master/?"
Author's notes - Seems like Neville's little plan is unraveling. Poor Ginny, right when things were finally starting to go her way. I'm rather harsh to the poor girl. Originally, I intended for this to be Hermione on the steps, but as the story went on, Ginny became a much better choice for this scene. Of course, Hermione's not out of the woods yet. With the final five chapters all bets are off on who lives and who dies. Visit my discussion threads on fanficauthors and dlp for more discussion.