Tallies of the Dead
“I’m going to stay on the Floo until Akers gets here,” Remus told them, “go, get dressed, get your things, hurry!”
Harry glanced at Ginny, but she grabbed his hand and tugged him back towards their bedroom before he could say anything. With that cold lump still in her chest, Ginny waved her wand over the room, desperately just shouting: “Pack!” All the things they’d unpacked and put away the day before flew out of the drawers and into the bags they’d left on the floor; they grabbed clothes from the air and threw them on, drying themselves with their wands as they did. In less than a quarter of the time it had taken them to unpack, their things were repacked and ready. They grabbed their bags and ran back out to the sitting room, where Remus was still on the Floo.
“What happened?” Harry asked him, desperate to know.
“I don’t know,” Remus said, his voice tight. “Dumbledore called Sirius and I only just a few minutes ago, told us we had to get you back to Hogwarts right away. He would have called himself except he had to report to the Ministry, the Wizengamot’s being called in for an emergency session. Sirius is trying to get us access to an International Floo right now, we’re still in Paris.”
“Mr. Potter! I’m here!” a voice from the first floor shouted and they jumped; Akers had arrived.
“Go!” Remus told them. “Go straight to my office and wait for us there, call your mother and let her know you’re okay, but don’t go anywhere.”
“Yes, Remus,” Harry said, already grabbing up their bags again. “We’ll see you soon.”
Remus just nodded, and his head vanished from the fire. Harry grabbed Ginny’s hand and the two of them took to the stairs; Akers was standing in the kitchen, his wand drawn and his sunglasses gone. He opened the door and ushered them out to the car, slamming the kitchen door behind them. Once in the car, Akers started the engine and revved it, backing rapidly from the driveway and taking off down the dirt road.
“We’ll Apparate from the guest cottage,” the Australian Auror told them, and even he sounded anxious. In barely a minute, he stopped the car and jumped out. Harry and Ginny exited the car quickly, taking the Auror’s offered hands. He twisted on the spot, and they were sucked into a pinprick, squeezed through until they reappeared with a loud CRACK in an untidy cubicle.
“Eh? Who’s that?” called an unfamiliar voice. Akers dropped their hands, then shrank both of their bags as if just realizing they had them. Harry shoved the shrunken bags into his pockets, then grabbed Ginny’s hand again.
“It’s Eli,” Akers called out.
“Eli?” came the answer, and a balding man with a thick mustache appeared at the cubicle’s doorway. “Why — Is that Harry Potter?”
“I’ve got to take them up to Transportation,” Akers told the man, already waving them forward. “Emergency, they’ve got to Floo back to the UK.”
“Eh?” said the man, now following them; Akers was leading them through a nearly empty office room filled with cubicles. Ginny held tight to Harry’s hand as they followed their guard, her eyes roaming, catching on everything from the faintly swinging lights to the paper airplanes whizzing through the air.
“I said it was an emergency, Tegan,” Akers repeated. “Go tell the boss, the whole UK’s about to be in uproar.”
“What happened?” Tegan asked. “Did the queen kick the bucket or something?”
Akers yanked open a glass paneled door, gesturing for them to go through. “Massacre at a train station, and the Dark Mark appeared,” Akers said bluntly; Tegan’s face went slack as Akers ushered them into another corridor.
“This way,” Akers told them, starting off down towards a bank of elevators at such a brisk stride that Ginny had to nearly jog to keep up — Harry’s longer legs could match the Auror’s stride, however. “Transportation’s the floor below,” he said, smashing a button to call an elevator. He was bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet, looking back and forth down the long corridor with quickly shifting glances. The elevator dinged and he waved them in, stepping in behind them. Ginny squeezed Harry’s hand. There was soft music playing above them, an upbeat tune that was completely inappropriate for the currently grave situation.
The music cut out in a ding and the doors opened. Akers stepped back so they could pass him, then followed them into the corridor. “Straight ahead,” he told them, though it was somewhat unnecessary; they had entered into a large, open room, done almost completely in marble, a large sign above them reading: Department of Magical Transportation.
“Hey, Vicky!” Akers shouted. A blonde head of curls popped up from behind the long reception desk; the woman blinked blearily and rubbed at her eyes.
“What?” mumbled Vicky, her voice gravelly from sleep.
“I need an emergency International Floo trip,” Akers said. “Two, Harry Potter, and Ginny Potter, from here to Hogwarts in the UK.”
“Hogwarts?” she said, frowning. “What for?”
“Don’t ask, just let me through,” he snapped and she raised her hands in defense.
“Fine, fine,” said Vicky, and Ginny wondered how lax they really were in Australia if a receptionist could authorize them the use of an International Floo. She waved her wand, and a sudden wall of shimmery gold light appeared across the corridor to their right, then just as quickly faded. “Go down to the Floo Network Office and talk to Trager, he’s the office head.”
“Thanks, Vicky,” Akers said, not as harsh this time, then turned and started marching down a hallway to the right, Harry and Ginny on his heels. He turned and opened a door, leading them into a very long room, filled with marble fireplaces. “Trager?” he called, stopping at desk dividing the room.
A door opened and a man stepped out. Akers said briskly: “Emergency, I need an International Floo trip to Hogwarts for these two.”
The man, Trager Ginny guessed, stepped forward and frowned. He looked up and glanced between Harry and Ginny, then jerked his gaze back to Harry. “Wait,” he said, his frown intensifying. “Is that —”
“Harry Potter, yes; the Floo,” Akers cut him off.
“What happened?” asked Trager cautiously.
“There’s been a massacre at a train station,” Akers said, “the Dark Mark was spotted.”
Trager’ s eyebrows shot up. “Dark Mark like the Death Eater’s Dark Mark?”
“Yeah, like the Dark-Lord-who-was-vanquished-by-Harry-Po tter’s Dark Mark,” Akers said. “These two have to get back to Hogwarts, immediately.”
Tra ger pulled out his wand and waved them forward, a gate blocking their entry swung open. Harry glanced up at the Auror, who nodded; he and Ginny stepped forward, the Auror coming up behind them, and were led down the long room to a fireplace marked: For Approved International Use Only. Trager tapped it with his wand, and a fire burst into life at the grate. He took a jar from the mantle and held it out to them, saying: “Make sure you enunciate, kid, you don’t want to end up lost somewhere halfway across the world.”
Harry nodded, stepping forward. Then he glanced at Ginny, his eyebrows raised in a silent question.
You go first, she thought. He clenched his jaw and looked back to the fire, taking a fistful of powder from the jar. He threw it into the flames, which turned green immediately.
“Defense Against the Dark Arts’ teacher’s quarters, Hogwarts,” Harry called clearly, then stepped into the grate and vanished. Trager held the jar out to Ginny, his eyebrow raising. She took a handful, moving forward, and repeated Harry’s words. She stepped into the fire, and felt heat surging around her, she spun faster and faster, glimpses of sitting rooms and parlors flashing before her rapidly until they all blurred into streaks of colors; she felt sick, she was still spinning for twice as long as a normal trip, then she tumbled out of the grate onto a hearth rug in Sirius and Remus’s sitting room at Hogwarts. Harry was in the kitchenette, leaning over the trashcan.
“Did you throw up?” Ginny asked him, then quickly covered her own mouth. Harry shook his head, his cheeks flushed and lips pale. She stumbled towards him, then grabbed the counter to hold herself steady and tried to breathe deeply through her nose. Harry half retched and she went for her wand, but her husband was already shaking his head, straightening up.
“I’m okay,” he muttered, pushing his hands through his hair. “Bloody hell, it’s so much worse going internationally.”
Ginny just nodded, then remembered she knew a spell to fix the nausea and touched her wand to her own chest. “Remedium Nauseae,” she murmured, and the churning in her stomach ceased. Harry waved to himself, asking her wordlessly to use the spell on him, and she did; he sighed and unclenched his jaw in relief.
“Mum,” he said abruptly, looking back at the fireplace. Ginny nodded and crossed back to it, grabbing Floo powder from the mantle and tossing it back into the grate. She dropped to her knees and called out: “The Burrow!” then stuck her head into the green flames. There was a second of swirling green flame, then her mother’s sitting room came into view.
“Ginny!” came a sudden shout and her mother dropped to the ground in front of her. “Oh, darling, are you alright?”
“Yes, Mum, we’re fine,” Ginny said. “We’re back at Hogwarts, waiting for Remus and Sirius.”
“Oh, thank Merlin,” her mother murmured, clutching a hand to her chest. “When I heard — never mind, I’m just so glad you two are safe.”
“We’re fine,” Ginny repeated. “Taking the Floo from Australia to Hogwarts is much different than it is from home to Hogwarts, though.”
“Oh, yes, if you’re nauseous —”
“We were, but I fixed it,” Ginny assured her mother. Mum nodded, falling back on her feet, her face still relieved. “I think Harry’s godfathers should be coming through soon, though, I don’t want to be holding up the Floo.”
“Oh, of course not, go on,” Mum said. “Thank you for calling, dear, I love you.”
“Love you too, Mum,” Ginny said, then pulled back; her ears almost popped, and she was kneeling on the floor back at Hogwarts again.
“What did she say?” Harry asked.
“Just that she’s glad we’re alright,” Ginny said and Harry nodded. She stood up and walked back over to him, opening her arms. Harry lifted himself off the counter and stepped into her embrace, dropping his forehead onto her shoulder. Ginny held him tightly, one hand in his hair and one at his back, feeling just as relieved as her mother had looked that they were alright.
We don’t know how many are dead yet… Massacre at a train station, and the Dark Mark was spotted. Her reflection that looked less like herself and more like the picture’s she’d seen of Harry’s mother, panicked and shouting at her. WATCHOUT, U KNOW WHO, ATTACK. They’d been given warning. Why had nothing been done?
We’re okay, Harry reminded her. We weren’t there.
Ginny just nodded into his shoulder, wondering how many were dead.
Remus and Sirius didn’t arrive for almost another hour; he and Ginny had taken seats on the sofa, she curled up on his lap and he with his head buried in her hair, with the radio on the coffee table. They’d tried for ages to find a station that was playing news, but the Nightly Soothsayer wasn’t active or they couldn’t find it, so they’d stopped trying. It was switched off just then, as they’d both grown sick of the jazz it kept defaulting to.
When the fire flared and Sirius stepped out, both Ginny and Harry jumped up from the couch. Sirius hesitated at the hearth, until the green flames shot up again and Remus took stumbling steps from it. Remus staggered into Sirius’s shoulder, his hand covering his mouth.
“What happened?” Harry said immediately.
“What took you so long?” Ginny added as the two men dropped onto the wide armchair. Remus shook his head, his face pale.
“All we know,” Sirius started, then paused. “All we know is that there was an attack at King’s Cross and that the Dark Mark has been seen.”
Remus clapped his other hand to his mouth, then jumped up and ran for the bedroom. Sirius darted after him, then Ginny followed, already taking out her wand to charm away Remus’s nausea, but their professor was already bent over a toilet and retching; Ginny stepped back quickly, a hand going to her mouth, feeling nauseous herself again. The door shut and a sudden hush fell over the room, leaving nothing but the sound of Harry tapping his foot. Ginny absently bit at a nail, then hastily pulled her hand away from her mouth. After a long moment filled with tense silence, the bedroom door opened again and Sirius stepped out.
“Remus is lying down,” he said quietly, shutting the door even more gently. He checked his watch, then gestured to the couches they had just vacated. “Dumbledore said he’d call as soon as he knew more, but for now, we’ll just have to wait here.”
Ginny dropped back down onto the couch. “How did this happen?” she questioned as Harry’s godfather folded himself into the armchair. “Why did anyone see it coming, why wasn’t anything done?”
Sirius was covering his face with a hand, sending shadows over his eyes that made him appear, once again, as the gaunt and sickly man from Azkaban. It took him almost a full minute to answer her, and when he did, his voice was hoarse.
“Voldemort is smart,” he began. “He waited months to do anything to lull us into a false sense of security, and it worked. He did things like this last time, he attacks when and where we least expect it.”
“But why —”
“I don’t know why, Ginny,” Sirius snapped. “I’m not Dumbledore, I’m not Voldemort; I can’t tell you what either of them were thinking.”
Ginny drooped. Sirius lowered his hand from his face, then sighed and leaned forward in his chair.
“There were maybe ten Death Eaters,” he said. “No more. We already knew he had a small handful of followers outside Azkaban, but there’s no way any of the Order could have expected something like this to happen with only ten or so people backing him up.”
At the mention of the still elusive Order, Ginny glanced at Harry, who was silent still. His brow was furrowed, his lips thin and face wan. Even with their minds connected, she wasn’t sure what he was thinking.
“We have to wait for Dumbledore,” Sirius said quietly.
Ginny drew back against the couch, her arms crossing over her chest to hug herself. She wasn’t sure what to do.
“I hate having to wait, too,” Sirius said. “It never gets easier.”
Ginny gave a small nod, even if his words made her feel no better. She wished they knew something, could do anything, but Sirius was right. They had to wait for Dumbledore.
It took ages. Ginny’s eyelids began to droop soon, but each time she felt her head lolling, her brain gave her a jerk that made her look up. Her thoughts bounced around her head wildly as she tried to comprehend, to rationalize and to understand. Beside her, Harry sat with his arms crossed and his fists clenched. While she was confused, he was angry. His anger mixed with her confusion, creating a meld of fear between the two of them.
A bright flash of flame interrupted the monotonous silence at half past 11. All three sat upright and Sirius lunged to grab the piece of paper fluttering down from where the flame had deposited it in the air. Ginny sat on the edge of the couch as Sirius unraveled it with shaking fingers, watching as his eyes darted over the paper.
“There are dozens of Muggles dead,” Sirius said. “So far, they’ve identified twenty witches and wizards.”
“Twenty what?” Harry demanded. “Injured…?”
“Dead,” Sirius said, his gaze never lifting from the paper. “Most of them were adults but…”
“But what?” Ginny asked.
“There were at least five Hogwarts students found dead.”
Ginny raised a hand to her mouth, covering it not in nausea but shock.
“The Muggle police are calling it an accident,” Sirius said, “Obliviators have already treated the few survivors.”
“Few survivors?” Harry gasped as Ginny spat out: “Obliviators?”
“Yes, Obliviators,” Sirius said. “The Wizengamot is calling this an act of terrorism and a massive breach of the Statute of Secrecy.”
“Who gives a fuck about the Statute of Secrecy right now?” Ginny demanded.
Sirius shot her a look, and she shut her mouth, clenching her jaw. “Frankly, Ginny, I give a fuck about the Statute of Secrecy. Maintaining order in our society largely depends on maintaining the Statute of Secrecy. It’s rather a big deal when wizards do things like this, not only does it risk our exposure but the exposure of every wizard around the world. There are still countries where witchcraft is explicitly banned and punishable by death, if you’ll recall the three weeks Tonks spent in America helping them deal with witch-hunters.”
“But the priority should be the fact that Voldemort is back and killing people!” Ginny insisted.
Sirius looked back to the letter. “Dumbledore says they won’t let him talk long enough to mention Voldemort. They’re busy focusing on how to cover this up, and they’ll worry about who did it later.”
Ginny’s jaw dropped incredulously. “Worry about who did it later?” she repeated. “Are they mad?”
“No,” Sirius said. “Lucius Malfoy, among others, is being particularly vocal about the Statute of Secrecy.”
“Wait,” Harry said, and Sirius looked up. “Malfoy is a Death Eater. Why does he have a seat on the Wizengamot?”
Siri us dropped the letter onto the coffee table, leaning back in his chair and rubbing his face with his hands. “Binns needs to cover more than just giant wars,” he groaned into his hands.
“What?” replied Harry.
“The Ministry is run by a democratic oligarchy,” Sirius said. “In addition to the elected officials, such as the Minister, there are seats for companies, old families, schools, such and such. Especially, there are seats for the old Pureblood families. The Sacred 28.”
“The Sacred 28,” Sirius interrupted. “Twenty-eight Pureblood families, but by now it’s been whittled down some. The Weasleys or the Prewetts don’t have seats anymore, for example. But the Malfoys do.”
“There are Death Eaters in the Wizengamot?” Harry reiterated. “Just because of their family name?”
“Yes,” Sirius said. “Your family has a seat, my family has a seat — except neither of us will be asked to come in because you’re underage and I’m an ex-convict —, the Malfoys, the Greengrasses, the Parkinsons; they’ve all got seats. And right now, they’re all clamoring to ensure the Muggles don’t know what happened.”
“To distract from Voldemort,” Ginny guessed.
“Most likely,” Sirius sighed. “They did this last time, too; made noise about something else so the seedier business can go undetected. Dumbledore is doing his best to get them to focus on who could have done it.”
“But he’s one of the most respected wizards in Britain, in the whole world!” Ginny said. “Why won’t they all shut up and listen to him?”
“I haven’t got a clue,” Sirius answered. “He doesn’t say.”
Ginny fell back against the sofa with a scoff. “Do we just sit here, then?”
Sirius checked his watch. “No,” he sighed again. “It’s lunch time, and I imagine you two will be tired. So, you can eat first and then get some sleep, or you can sleep and then eat.”
“Eat first,” Harry said. “And tea.”
Sirius nodded. He pushed himself up from his armchair, then pointed to the other bedroom door. “You can sleep there until further notice,” he told them. “I’d rather keep you where I can find you easily.”
Ginny only nodded as she and Harry rose; she didn’t feel like arguing with him on that. “Do you want me to go wake up Remus?” she asked as Sirius opened the ice chest in the small, attached kitchen.
“Might as well,” Sirius replied. “I can’t cook.”
Ginny felt her lips curve involuntarily at the light attempt at humor as she turned away, going to the closed bedroom door. She knocked lightly, then leaned in and pressed her ear to the door. Hearing nothing, she gently opened it; immediately, she heard Remus snoring softly. The room was likely charmed, she figured.
“Remus?” she whispered. Harry’s other godfather was lying on his side on the double bed, his body covered by the duvet. There was a trashbin sat at the edge of the bed, which, as she walked over, she noticed had a layer of vomit in the bottom. Wincing slightly, she drew her wand and aimed it at the bin. “Evanesco,” she whispered. The bin and the vomit vanished with a light pop; she’d only meant to vanish the vomit, but it didn’t matter.
Ginny gently prodded Remus’s shoulder. “Wake up,” she said quietly. The professor waved a hand vaguely, so she shook his shoulder. “Sirius told me to wake you up.”
“What for?” Remus mumbled.
“Because it’s lunchtime and he, apparently, can’t cook.”
Remus’s mouth curled in a smirk, and he opened one eye to look at her. “He is not allowed to cook,” he corrected quietly, then covered his eyes with a hand as he shut his mouth with a snap.
“Are you still nauseous?” Ginny asked.
Remus gave a faint nod, and Ginny directed her wand at him. “Do you want me to try the nausea remedy?”
“Have at it,” Remus mumbled. Ginny wiggled her wand and muttered the incantation. A bit of color returned to her professor’s cheeks within seconds, and he lowered his hand. “That’s so much better,” he sighed. “Thank you.”
Ginny nodded, stepping back and stowing away her wand. “Dumbledore sent a note not too long ago,” she said.
Remus sat up, tossing aside the duvet. “And?” he asked, almost cautiously.
“Dozens of Muggles and at least twenty witches and wizards dead. At least five Hogwarts students, too.”
Remus shut his eyes again, his hands going to cover his face, and for a second, she worried that he was nauseous again. But then he rose from the bed and gave a weary nod, as if the information had added physical weight to his soul.
“Malfoy and a bunch of other people are trying to keep Dumbledore from talking about Voldemort,” Ginny went on. “So far, they’ve been focusing on the breach of the Statute of Secrecy too much for Dumbledore to bring up the subject.”
“Like last time,” Remus murmured.
Ginny nodded. “That’s what Sirius said.”
Remus set a hand at her shoulder, then gently guided her from the room and back to the sitting room. “Sirius?” he called out, stepping past her towards the kitchen. Ginny followed behind, going to stand by the counter where Harry was cutting up carrots.
“Are you feeling better?” Sirius asked Remus, setting down his own knife.
“Yes,” Remus answered, letting Sirius check his forehead for his temperature. “What are you doing?”
“We’re making chicken soup,” Harry declared. “Grab some vegetables and start chopping. You too, Gin.”
Ginny raised an eyebrow. “Chicken soup?” she asked.
“Yes,” her husband answered her. He picked up a pile of celery stalks and set them on the counter in front of her. “Here.”
Any particular reason?
Ginn y looked at him, her gaze shrewd. His brow was furrowed as he concentrated on the carrots, and as she peered into his thoughts, she saw fear and anger being restrained in favor of the carrots and a recipe for chicken soup.
We can’t do anything else right now. Might as well.
Ginn y picked up a knife. She liked his coping method better than hers.
“There’s chicken stock and canned chicken in a cupboard somewhere,” Remus said.
“I know, I found it already,” Harry said. “The stock’s on the stove with some noodles. Would you mind cutting up the chicken into smaller pieces?”
“Of course,” Remus answered. After that, there was silence for a while; the rhythmic thumps of the knives cutting through the vegetables and the soft sound of the stock boiling was all to fill the air. Even as they began to speak again, it was in quiet tones with few words, small requests and questions that took very little vocal effort. Ginny began to feel tiredness seeping back into her mind, but as the menial tasks ran out and Harry began properly cooking, she found herself leaning against the counter, not brooding, but listening to the soup boiling.
Somehow, it was a comforting sound.
Eventually , Harry brought the soup down from a boil and served it in bowls. They sat at the small table in the kitchen, spoons clinking against the ceramic bowls, glasses thudding softly on the table, eating in silence. When her bowl was empty, Harry rose and took it from the table along with his own, going to the sink where he turned on the tap and pushed up his sleeves.
“You don’t have to do to that,” Remus spoke, making Harry pause. “I’ll magic it clean later.”
Harry stood at the sink, then looked back at the bowls. “Right,” he said, turning the tap off. “Of course.”
Ginny knew that he’d forgotten that. She could tell that in his mind, even if subconsciously, he had reverted back to being the one who washed up after every meal. He was feeling helpless, like he was a child again. The Ministry were dancing around the real problem of Voldemort, and he felt like there was nothing he could do but wash dishes.
“You should get some rest,” Sirius told him. “We’ll wake you up when we get more news.”
Ginny rose from the table as Harry nodded. She held out her hand to him, squeezing his when he took it. Come on, she thought softly. She pulled him away, into the spare bedroom, then just as gently shut the door behind them. They flopped onto the solitary bed in the room, not bothering to pull back the blankets.
Wha t are we going to do?
We’r e going to sleep, Ginny thought. And when we wake up, we’re going to talk to Dumbledore.
Harry didn’t reply, at least not coherently. She touched a soft kiss to his cheek, then pressed close to his side.
Ginny didn’t think the color black suited her just then. She blended in with everyone in the room, the woman dressed all in black beside her, the man on her other side wearing a crisp black suit, the people around them dressed entirely in black; black shoes, black veils, black dresses and black ties. The only one not wearing black was the occupant of the coffin. She was wearing a pale green dress and had flowers in her hair. She looked painfully pale, her hands lying gently over her stomach and her face sunken.
Now that she thought about it, eight-year-old girls didn’t belong in coffins. Children did not belong in coffins.
No one noticed as she rose from a pew. There was a sea of flowers between the mourners and the child, and as she approached, the petals reached her knees and then her hips, and she had to start swimming. The flowers smelled sickly sweet, until they simply smelled sickly. She rose from the sea, having finally reached the coffin, and turning back, she saw that it was an bloody ocean filled with more dead. All children. Some wore play-clothes, some wore suits, some wore uniforms, some wore robes, but each and every one was a child.
She turned back to the coffin. Her clothes of black were dripping with blood, staining the ground as she stepped closer, leaving bloody footprints behind her. She reached out and touched the coffin, leaving streaks of blood on the wood. She brushed a strand of hair from the child’s face, and blood dripped onto the child’s face. The blood shimmered for a second, then seeped into her face, vanishing and spreading color. The child’s eyelids fluttered, then her lips curved in a slight smile. The flowers wilted, then turned to ash and the girl aged until her skin was wrinkled and sunken not with death but longevity. Her eyes stayed shut, her clothes still girlish, her smile content. And she too, turned to ash. As she stepped back, a breeze picked up the ash and carried it away.
“the body breaks but the soul stays forever young. the soul can be taken but if you try, the soul can stay forever free.”
She stepped back, until her feet touched water again. She turned, and saw crystal clear water. The shore of the Black Lake. The sun was setting in the distance, and all she could hear was quiet music, some soft trilling that made her think of eight-year-old girls lying in coffins with flowers in their hair.
“Ginny, Harry, wake up, Dumbledore is here.”
Ginny sat up quickly, then pressed a hand to her temple as her head spun. Remus was standing in the doorway, waiting expectantly. “Right,” Ginny murmured. Harry was already up and walking towards Remus as she slipped off the bed and followed.
The Headmaster was seated on the sofa, resting on his knees with one hand covering his face and the other dangling by his side. He looked exhausted.
“Professor?” Harry said.
Dumbledore raised his head, then nodded to them. “Sit down,” he said quietly. Ginny glanced at Harry, not liking their professor’s weary tone.
“What happened?” Harry asked, not sitting. “What is the Ministry doing? What is Voldemort doing?”
“The Ministry…” Dumbledore paused, hesitating. He sighed, then pushed his spectacles up and rubbed at his eyes. “The Ministry is reacting worse than I feared they would,” he said. “The draft of a new proclamation was read aloud this afternoon.”
“Proclamation?” Harry repeated.
“If it passes, and I fear it will,” Dumbledore began, then paused again. Ginny could tell from even across the room that her Headmaster was feeling just as helpless as Harry was. “If it passes, the use of magic will be forbidden in all Muggle places, and will be punishable by law.”
There was a heavy silence after Dumbledore’s words. Ginny stood, her mouth agape, trying to comprehend what he had just said. “Forbidden?” she whispered.
“Forbidden,” Dumbledore repeated. “No exceptions.”
“But — but what about self-defense?” Ginny spluttered. “What about protecting people?”
“There are no proposed exceptions,” Dumbledore told her. “I questioned this, but the proposed solution to this is to recommend learning non-magical means of defense.”
“What, like karate?” Harry asked. “A roundhouse kick will do no good against Death Eaters!”
“What about the Death Eaters, what are they doing about them?” Ginny demanded.
“They’re all dead,” Dumbledore said.
“What?” came the voices of all four. “Dead?” Harry repeated.
“There were twelve men and women found at the station that have been identified as the terrorists,” Dumbledore said. “They are all dead by their own wands.”
The words hit Ginny in the stomach hard. “They were sent on a suicide mission?” Ginny said.
Dumbledore nodded. “And thus, the Wizengamot is convinced that we are dealing with some new extremist group. No Death Eater attack ever ended in suicide last time.”
“He’s changing tactics,” Sirius grunted.
“Indeed,” Dumbledore said. “The Wizengamot is tied up in policy and legalities, I was not permitted to take the floor once to speak about Voldemort.”
“But you’re one of the chairmen!” Remus spoke; glancing back at him, Ginny saw his face slack with shock. “You’re one of the Mugwumps!”
“I was,” Dumbledore said. “My term ended and after the disaster in America, I was not invited to return.”
“What the — What does America have to do with this?” Ginny demanded.
“Lucius Malfoy has suggested that our involvement with the Scourers in America has given room in Britain for negative retaliation,” Dumbledore said heavily. “He claims that we should have never involved ourselves with their problems and now it has led to angry citizens making a point.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Harry said.
“Lucius made a good speech,” Dumbledore told them. “He, unfortunately, has had much more time to prepare than I.”
“Because he’s in Voldemort’s inner circle, he knew,” Harry said.
“Indeed,” Dumbledore answered.
“So… So, you couldn’t say anything?” Ginny asked.
Dumbledore shook his head. “Each time I tried to speak, one of the Pureblood families would cut me off, tell me to wait my turn. Voldemort clearly warned them.”
“What are you going to do?” Harry asked.
“We reconvene this evening to put Malfoy’s proposed law to vote,” Dumbledore answered. “I’m going to make as many calls as I can, gather sympathy to delay the vote.” Dumbledore leveled his gaze on Harry. “Then, I would hope that you would come with me and give your testimony to the Wizengamot.”
“Testimony?” Harry repeated, faltering.
“You are as much proof as I have for what happened in June,” Dumbledore continued. “Without your testimony, I fear my words will be dismissed in favor of Malfoy’s more reasonable explanation.”
Gin ny looked to Harry, who was staring at his feet, a frown lining his forehead. Then he sighed and nodded. “Okay. I’ll go.”
Dumbledore nodded, rising from the couch. “I thank you,” he said. “We leave for the Ministry at six.” The Headmaster touched her husband’s shoulder as he stepped past him, then Ginny’s. In the brief second that his hand fell upon her shoulder, she had a sudden feeling of internal panic masked barely by a façade of strength. It was gone as soon as it came, as the professor lifted his hand from her. Ginny turned, watching as the Headmaster left the room.
Even Dumbledore is afraid, she thought, and she didn’t even know what her point was supposed to be.
“You should start preparing,” Sirius said, turning to Harry. “For this evening.”
Harry glanced at his watch, then frowned. “Erm, what time is it here?” he asked. “My watch is still set to Sydney time.”
Ginny glanced at her own. “Half past four,” she answered, looking back up and waiting as Harry reset his watch. After he’d finished, he lowered his wrist, pulling a sleeve over it. For a second, he stared at the ground, his lips turned downward. Sirius and Remus watched him as well, both men looking pensive.
“Erm, what should I say?” Harry asked.
Sirius pointed to the couch. Where he had ignored Dumbledore, Harry took his godfather’s invitation to sit. Sirius and Remus dropped into their armchair, much as they always did, but with stiffer shoulders and tenser knuckles. “They’ll ask you to tell the whole story first,” Sirius said. “They’ll likely interrupt you several times, but you should be prepared to speak uninterrupted. Try on us, just to practice.”
“Start at the beginning,” Remus told him. “Act like we don’t know anything about what happened that night.”
Harry nodded. “It was the 24th of June. This year.”
Sirius nodded encouragingly.
“I was participating in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. I hadn’t put my name in, it turns out Voldemort had.”
“Try starting with the Tournament,” Remus suggested.
“Right,” Harry said with a nod. “The Tri-Wizard Tournament. Someone put my name in, it wasn’t me; somehow, the Goblet of Fire was enchanted to think there were four schools instead of three, and someone put my name in for the fourth school. At the third task, there was this maze with a trophy in the very center. The trophy was a Portkey, and I was supposed to get there first. Ludo Bagman, Professor Sinestra, and Barty Crouch were working for Voldemort; they’d tampered with it.”
“Crouch was in disguise, though,” Sirius reminded him. “It was actually his son.”
Harry gave another nod. “Barty Crouch, Jr., then. They’d enchanted the Portkey, and Professor Sinestra was in the middle of the maze guarding it to make sure I got there first. I didn’t, though. Another student, Cedric Diggory; he got there first. She — she killed him. Used a knife,” he gestured absently, making a motion reminiscent of stabbing. “Me and this other champion, Viktor Krum, we got there just in time to see it. She dueled Krum then, and cut off his arm. After that, I dueled her, but she managed to get me to touch the Portkey. It took us to this graveyard. There was another Death Eater, her brother, and a man they’d forced to help them; he had this potion that he used to summon Voldemort.”
Harry stopped then, his hands clasped together tightly. Sirius gave Harry an encouraging smile.
“That’s good,” Sirius told him. “You’ll do fine.”
Harry just nodded. Ginny reached over and set her hand over his, squeezing his hands gently. He didn’t like thinking about what happened that night, she knew. He was thinking about Diggory’s body falling to the ground.
Stop dwelling on it.
I can’t help it.
She squeezed his hand again, unsure of how to help him.
“I feel like we ought to do something,” Remus said. “While we wait.” Remus glanced at Sirius, then back at her and Harry. “What do you think?”
Harry shrugged. “Dunno.”
“Radio?” Remus suggested. “A game, perhaps?”
Harry raised his shoulders again. Remus looked disconcerted, but leaned forward and flicked his wand at the radio on the coffee table. It switched on, then tuned itself.
“… Our source refused to give their name, but claimed to have been in the room as Lucius Malfoy proposed what we are calling highly controversial, and he calls the Wembley Act of Caution. Named for eight-year-old Jamie Wembley, daughter of a Diagon Alley alchemist James P. Wembley, who was brutally murdered alongside her mother and father by the terrorists at King’s Cross this morning, the Wembley Act of Caution proposes a full ban on magic outside specifically Wizard townships and homes or where any Muggle might see, and by that I truly mean full — as of right now, our source claims that there are no exceptions to the ban, not even for self-defense.”
< p> Ginny covered her eyes with a hand, wishing that it would all just stop.
“No wizard, of age or not, would be allowed to use any magic in the presence of even a single Muggle, even if they are family or otherwise already aware of the existence of wizards and magic. This ban is being referred to as Britain’s Rappaport's Law, Wizarding America’s law forbidding association with Muggles that was repealed in 1965, and its subclause requiring all wizards to carry wand permits with the distinction that there are no permits given under the Wembley Act allowing any wizard to perform magic in the presence of a Muggle. The Wizengamot is in recess at the moment, however they are meeting again tonight at seven o’clock to vote on Malfoy’s Wembley Act.”
“The Wizengamot won’t pass it,” Remus said, but he sounded more like he was trying to reassure himself than anyone else.
“Another anonymous source claims that Hogwarts Headmaster and former Mugwump Albus Dumbledore is attempting to start a filibuster amongst the Wizengamot in hopes to delay the vote long enough to present some unheard evidence about the terrorist attack at King’s Cross. He tried several times this morning to speak, but a few hours into the emergency meeting of the Wizengamot, Minister Fudge ruled in favor of Mr. Malfoy to have the floor, citing Conduct Rule 19 to force Professor Dumbledore to take his seat, which essentially silenced him for the whole of the session. This order lasted only until the session disbanded for recess, so it is likely Professor Dumbledore will attempt to take the floor again when the Wizengamot reconvenes this evening.”
“Just turn it off,” Harry said, and Remus waved his wand; the radio cut to static, then fell silent. For a moment, the silence permeated the entire room, until the beating of her heart in her ear became too loud for her to bear. Ginny stood up and started pacing, her arms crossing her chest and a hand going to her mouth, biting down on a fingernail. She glanced at the clock, seeing that it wasn’t even five o’clock.
“I feel like we should be doing something,” Harry said. Ginny turned around to face him, dropping her hand as she did.
“What?” Sirius said. “What is there to do?” He sounded tired, she thought, traces of exasperation lining his exhaustion.
Harry opened his mouth, looking around, then sighed and fell back against the sofa. “I don’t know.”
Ginny walked back to the sofa, dropping down beside him and setting a hand on his knee. She squeezed it gently, her gaze on the floor.
“Eight years old,” Remus murmured.
Ginny wondered if Jamie Wembley was the girl she’d dreamt about.
“Come on,” Sirius said abruptly; he jumped to his feet, jostling Remus and nearly knocking him off the armchair. “Let’s go.”
“Where?” Harry asked, looking up.
“Room of Requirement,” his godfather answered. “You want to do something, we’re going to do something. Come on, get up.”
Harry shrugged, pushing himself to his feet. “What are we going to do?” he asked.
“Just follow me,” Sirius said shortly. Ginny rose from the couch, following as Sirius, Remus, and Harry went for the door. She took Harry’s hand as they exited the teacher’s quarters, lacing her fingers through his. He squeezed her hand gently.
At the seventh floor, Sirius began pacing back and forth before the blank stretch of wall where the door to the Room would appear. At his third turn, a door did appear, resembling that of a broom closet door. Sirius opened it, then gestured for them to go in. Harry strode through, pulling Ginny along behind him, into the room where they trained with Tonks every morning. Ginny wondered if Tonks was going to keep training them now that she was pregnant.
“Stand over there, Harry,” Sirius said, pointing to a circle drawn on the dark wood floor.
“What am I doing?” Harry asked as he crossed to the circle, dropping Ginny’s hand as he did.
“I’m teaching you,” Sirius said flatly. “I want to throw a Tickling Charm at me.”
Harry frowned, hesitating. “A Tickling Charm?”
“Just do it,” Sirius ordered. He took a stance opposite Harry, his wand raised and his other hand clenched at his side. Ginny stood by Remus, watching carefully. Sirius didn’t want Harry to practice Tickling charms, he was up to something different.
“Rictusempra!” Harry cried.
“Protego Reditum!” Sirius barked in reply, jerking his wand in a downward, slashing motion.
Ginny’s eyebrows shot up as Harry’s jinx struck the translucent blue wall Sirius had conjured, bounced off and flew back to strike a startled Harry directly in the gut. Ginny clapped her hands to her mouth as she abruptly giggled while her husband dropped the floor in a gale of laughter. She glanced at Remus, who hadn’t seemed to notice.
“Finite,” Sirius called, almost lazily, and Harry stopped laughing. “That was the Major Ward of Returning, Protego Reditum. As you can guess, whatever spell strikes it is returned to its caster, which is why I told you to use a Tickling Charm.”
“Thanks,” Harry said, rubbing at his bum; he’d apparently hit the ground hard. “How does it work?”
“Watch carefully,” Sirius said, “I’ll do the motion slow.” He raised his wand again, resuming a fighting stance, then rose his wand up, turning it so the back of his hand faced the ground, then he twisted his wrist again and slashed his wand downward. “Got that?”
Harry nodded, raising his wand, he copied the motion, a bit more sloppily, but Sirius made no comment.
“Ginny, you were paying attention?” Sirius asked.
“Yes,” Ginny answered.
“Good, pair up with Remus, we’ll cast Tickling Charms and so you can practice on something simple.”
Ginny nodded as Sirius and Harry resumed their stances, turning away to take a few paces away from her professor. She faced Remus again, raising her wand.
“Ready?” Remus said. Ginny held up a finger, then tried the wand movement quickly. She tried again, this time feeling more satisfied with her attempt.
“Okay,” she said, stepping into her stance.
Remus raised his wand. She tightened her grip on hers. “Rictusempra,” Remus said easily.
“Protego Re — ah!” Ginny felt her wand drop from her grip as she fell to her knees in a fit of giggles, feeling a thousand fingers tickling her. A second later, the charm was lifted and she stopped to catch her breath.
“A bit faster next time,” Remus said.
“Right,” Ginny muttered, grabbing her wand and rising to her feet again. “Got it.”
“Again,” Remus said. “Rictusempra!”
“Protego Reditum!” Ginny cried, slashing her wand. Remus’s spell struck the ward she’d conjured, then both dissipated.
“Better,” Remus said. “Make sure you flick your wrist correctly, otherwise that’ll happen again. Ready?”
Another two tries, and Ginny successfully sent Remus’s charm back to him, albeit leaving it weak. Another four or five, and Remus switched to a stronger jinx, which broke through her ward and sent glued her feet to the floor.
“You’ll get it,” Remus promised some time later. Ginny only nodded.
“We’ll have to try more later,” Sirius called. “You’ve got to get to Dumbledore’s office, Harry.”
Ginny lowered her wand, turning towards her husband and his godfather. “What time is it?”
“Five forty,” Sirius answered. “Come on.”
Ginny took Harry’s hand as the two Defense teachers led them from the Room of Requirement. They were quite all the way to the fourth floor, where Sirius gave the password to the gargoyle guarding Dumbledore’s office. He stepped back, looking at them expectantly.
“Go on,” he said, jerking his head towards the spiral staircase.
“Aren’t you coming?” Harry asked. Sirius shook his head.
“I won’t be welcome at the Ministry,” he said. “Best you go without me.”
Harry glanced at Remus, who shook his head, taking a step closer to Sirius. “The same goes for me, really,” he said. “Go ahead.”
Harry glanced at his feet, then shrugged. He gave Ginny’s hand a squeeze and pulled her gently towards the staircase leading up. She threw Sirius and Remus wave as she and Harry climbed the stairs up.
They knocked at the headmaster’s door, then waited. Dumbledore’s voice called, “Enter,” and Harry pulled the door open.
Dumbledore waved them over to him, standing in the midst of the room. “You’re just on time,” he said. “We’ll take the Floo there in just a moment.”
“Yes, sir,” Harry said. Dumbledore drew his wand and, pointing it at the fireplace, conjured a spout of flames that filled the grate and began to flicker more merrily than was possibly appropriate for the situation. Then again, Ginny wasn’t sure how a fire could be gloomy.
“Have you prepared to speak?” Dumbledore asked, to which Harry nodded. “Good. Expect that you will be interrupted by questions, but do not let it irritate you; there will be many members who will want to upset you in order to discredit you.”
“Yes, sir,” Harry repeated.
“Focus on Voldemort, give specific details as to what happened,” Dumbledore continued, as if Harry hadn’t spoken. “Don’t bother with talking about Bagman or Sinestra, both have already been jailed for separate crimes, though Barty Crouch, Jr., has not yet been apprehended.”
“What about Crouch, Sr.?” Ginny asked abruptly.
“Dead,” Dumbledore said. “The official report says it was likely assisted suicide due over a chronic illness. More likely, however, is that his son killed him and made it look like suicide. Regardless, his son is still at large.”
Harry gave a nod, and Ginny echoed it quickly. Dumbledore checked his wrist watch, then cross over to a corner and donned a travelling cloak. “It is cold in the Wizengamot chambers,” he said, then waved his wand. Two more cloaks shimmered into existence over his outstretched arm, which he handed to them. “Let’s go.”
They pulled the cloaks around them as Dumbledore pulled Floo powder from the mantle. “Ministry of Magic, Atrium!” he called, then stepped into the green flames.