Chapter Twenty-Seven: The One Where All Hell Broke Loose
Ginny had a ton of homework, and Colin was waiting for her in the library, but first she was just going to run up to the Gryffindor Tower and spend at least fifteen minutes with Harry. They had spent some time together by the lake after lunch, and Ginny knew she shouldn’t complain, but she only wanted to see him.
Actually, she needed to see him. She was feeling an increasing pressure in her chest, which probably had nothing to do with Harry and much to do with her mountain of homework, but she knew she was not going to be able to concentrate until she had been able to see him.
She was already making her way toward the portrait of the fat lady when Ron and Hermione came out of the common room. One look at their faces and Ginny was not longer so sure that her increasing distress was caused by homework.
“What is it?” she demanded. “Where’s Harry?”
“He’s gone,” Ron said.
“Gone? Gone where?”
“He went out with Dumbledore,” Hermione explained, but it didn’t make any sense.
“Out…” she repeated, confused. “You mean out of Hogwarts? Why? Where?”
Ron and Hermione exchanged a look and Ginny knew they were deciding how much they should tell her.
“Come with us,” Hermione said at last, and Ginny followed them through the seventh floor corridor. She thought they were on their way to the Room of Requirements, but instead they got into a nearby classroom. “Ron, you keep watch,” Hermione added, and Ron went to one of the desks and opened up the blank piece of old parchment that Ginny knew was the Marauder’s Map.
I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good,” Ron said and concentrated on the map.
“Do you see them?” asked Hermione after a moment.
“Snape is in his office,” Ron said. “Malfoy is nowhere to be seen. He must still be in the Room of Requirements.”
“Keep watching,” Hermione said before turning to Ginny, who at this point was, if possible, even more confused.
“What is going on?” Ginny asked.
“Harry and Professor Dumbledore went out to look for and destroy one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes,” Hermione started hurriedly.
Was that supposed to be an explanation? Ginny thought frustrated. She might as well had been talking in another language. Ginny couldn’t understand a word she was saying. Before she could ask for clarification, Hermione put her hand up to stop her.
“There’s no time right now to give you all the details. Let’s just say that these Horcruxes are very powerful weapons that Voldemort has and they have to be destroyed before there’s a chance of defeating him,” Hermione let out a breath before continuing. “I’m sorry I can’t say any more now, but we thought you should know why Harry is not here. We won’t tell the others about the Horcruxes.”
“Others?” Ginny asked. This all seemed like a dream. “What others?”
“Whoever shows up. I called the DA, but I’m not sure how many are still carrying the enchanted Galleons.”
“Can’t be many,” Ginny said. “Mine is in the bottom of my trunk.”
“Neville and Luna are coming,” Ron said, looking up from the map.
“Good,” said Hermione. Then I can explain all of you what we need to do tonight.”
Hermione walked out of the classroom and a moment later she came back with Neville and Luna.
“Here’s what’s going on,” Hermione started. “Harry and Professor Dumbledore are not in Hogwarts. I can’t give you details as to why. But Harry asked us to keep and eye on Malfoy and Professor Snape. He thinks they are up to something, and that whatever it is, it’s going to happen tonight.”
“What could happen?” Neville asked.
“”We don’t know,” Hermione shrugged. “All the justification we can give you to ask you to risk getting in trouble is the fact that Harry asked us to do this.”
“That’s a good enough reason for me,” Neville said promptly.
“What’s the plan?” Luna asked dreamily.
“First of all we are all going to take a sip of Felix Felicis…”
“He didn’t take it?” Ginny interrupted.
“No. Harry wanted us to have it. He thinks we might be in danger.”
“Isn’t he in danger too?” Ginny insisted. “In bigger danger that we could ever be inside Hogwarts?”
“He’s with the Headmaster,” Hermione said as if that was explanation enough and gave Ginny a warning look. Ginny knew there’s no use in insisting.
“As I was saying, we are all going to take a sip of Felix Felicis and I’m going down to the dungeons to keep guard outside Snape’s office and you will stay here, watching the Marauder’s Map and waiting for any others that might show up.”
“You shouldn’t go alone,” said Ginny.
“I’ll go with her,” offered Luna.
“Then go,” said Ron. “Be careful and try to stay out of sight. We will be keeping an eye on you two as well.”
Before they left, Hermione came closer to Ginny and told her, in a low enough voice so only she could hear her, “Harry asked us to say goodbye to you from him.”
Ginny’s heart stopped beating. “What do you mean ‘goodbye’?”
Hermione shrugged. “I guess he would have wanted to see you before leaving.”
“Do you think he’s going to be okay?” Ginny looked at her friend square in the eye.
“What they are trying to do is very dangerous,” Hermione said, and Ginny could tell she was as scared for Harry as she herself was. “Probably more dangerous than we can begin to imagine. But he’s with Professor Dumbledore; I know he will be fine.”
Ginny nodded. At that moment both girls reached the silent agreement of hoping for the best. If something was indeed going to happen at Hogwarts that night, it would do no good to anybody to have their heads elsewhere. She would concentrate on the task at hand: keeping an eye on Malfoy.
Her heart was with Harry. She was worried-sick about him. But she had to believe that he would return to her safe and sound. Anything else was unacceptable.
“Let’s go, Luna,” Hermione said and with a last look at Ginny, Ron and Neville, the two girls left the classroom.
A couple of minutes after Hermione and Ginny left, Ron, who was still studying the map, looked up.
“There’s something definitely going on,” he said. “There’re people in the castle that shouldn’t be here.”
“Who?” Neville asked as he and Ginny came to look at the map as well.
“Professor Lupin, Tonks and Bill,” Ron showed them the dots moving around on the map. “By the looks of it they are patrolling the corridors with Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick.”
“So the Order is in full alert,” muttered Ginny. “On Dumbledore’s orders, no doubt. Harry is right; something may happen tonight.”
“We’re gonna keep guard in front of the door of the Room of Requirements,” said Ron, and Ginny and Neville nodded. “We won’t give Malfoy a change to get away.”
Ginny, Ron and Neville stood watch in front of the Room of Requirements. Ginny was doing her best to concentrate on the empty wall where she knew the door to the magical room would appear at any moment, but her thoughts kept drifting. She couldn’t help wondering where Harry was, what he was doing and most of all if he was safe. She was also thinking about Luna and Hermione. She didn’t particularly like the idea of being separated. Ginny could tell Ron was thinking the exact same thing by the almost obsessive way he kept glancing at the map.
About an hour into their watch, when the three Gryfindors were starting to get restless, the door appeared on the wall and Malfoy came out of the room. He was on his own, clutching what looked like an awful shriveled arm. He looked around as though making sure there was no one around, and as soon as he saw Ginny, Ron and Neville, he threw something into the air and it all went pitch black.
“What’s going on?” Neville collided with Ginny, who bit her tongue to avoid letting out a curse.
“Lumus,” said Ron, but nothing happened.
“Incendio,” said Ginny, but again there was no result. In the meantime she could hear people rushing past them. Obviously Malfoy had company and they could see where they were going.
“What is this stuff?” she asked, frustrated.
“It’s Peruvian Instant Darkness Power,” grunted Ron, who had tripped. “I can’t believe Malfoy is using Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes products against us,” he said as he got up again.
“We need to get out of this corridor,” Ginny said.
They grope their way out of the corridor. Ginny could hear people around. She tightened the grip on her wand, tempted to start shooting curses, but she restrained herself because she knew there was a big chance of hitting Ron or Neville in the darkness. They finally reached a corridor that was not dark, but when they looked around, Malfoy and whoever was with him were gone.
Without a word, they started running down the corridor and unexpectedly ran into Lupin and Tonks.
“Ron, Ginny, Neville,” exclaimed Lupin, who obviously was not expecting to run into any student. “Why aren’t you in Gryffindor Tower?”
“Tonks, Professor!” exclaimed Ginny at the same time. “We have to hurry. Malfoy is up to something and he’s got some people with him.”
“Who’s with Draco?” asked Lupin.
“We don’t know,” said Neville. “It all went dark. We could only hear them.”
“Ron, check the map,” said Ginny.
“The map!” exclaimed Ron. Apparently he too had forgotten about it in the confusion.
He swiftly took it out of his pocked and tapped it saying the magic words to make it visible. Remus, who was looking at the map over Ron’s shoulder, opened his eyes wide in astonishment and took the map to get a better look.
“Death Eaters,” gasped Remus. “Gibbon, Amycus, Alecto… Oh no!” he looked at Tonks. “Greyback is here as well.”
“Where are they?” Tonks asked in a steely, almost business-like tone. Ginny knew she was looking at the Auror now, not the silly, clumsy, funny girl who used to transform her nose just to make her laugh.
“For the looks of it, they are heading to the Astronomy Tower.” He searched the map once more. “Bill and Professor McGonagall are on the sixth floor, right down that flight of stairs. Neville, go find them and meet us there.”
Without a word, Neville took off as fast as his legs could carry him.
“Are you taking them?” Tonks asked, looking at Ron and Ginny.
“We are going,” Ron said, without waiting for Remus’ answer.
Remus looked at Ginny, who looked as determined as Ron, and he nodded. “Let’s not waste any more time,” he said taking out his wand.
They all ran toward the Astronomy Tower and found the Death Eaters just at the base of the stairs. As soon as they were in sight, Remus and Tonks started shooting curses. For a split second Ginny could see the surprise on Malfoy’s face. He obviously was not expecting more people to be on the watch. Ginny shot him an Impedimenta jinx that he dodged.
A fight immediately broke out and the Death Eaters scattered. Professor McGonagall, Bill, Neville and Professor Flitwick came to join the fight at the time Ginny noticed one of the Death Eaters running up the tower stairs. Ginny was fighting a female Death Eater. They were furiously shooting curses at each other and for a moment Ginny lost track of the others around her. She didn’t know how much time had elapsed, when she heard Professor McGonagall telling Professor Flitwick to get Snape.
Snape! A warning went off in Ginny’s head. Harry didn’t trust Snape. He was sure he was in with Malfoy. And then she had a more distressing thought: Luna and Hermione. Were they alright?
Ginny ducked. The curse missed her by inches. Probably Felix Felicis doing more than anything. She had been distracted. Felix Felicis or not, if she wanted to survive this, she would have to pay more attention.
Ginny heard the curse again, but this time it hadn’t been directed at her. The curse had barely missed Remus, and instead it hit the Death Eater that had run up the stairs as he was coming back down. One less to worry about, Ginny thought with a mix of revulsion and relief.
But then Ginny saw Neville fall. Please, let him be alive, she pleaded in her mind as she repelled a jinx. He stood up again, but he was limping. Ginny could barely see what was going on. It was dark, people were screaming, and there were curses flying everywhere.
Snape came running, but before Ginny could see which side he would join, she had to duck to avoid another jinx from a big Death Eater and when she looked up again Snape had vanished. That same Death Eater was shooting jinxes all around, they were bouncing off the walls and barely missing Ron, Ginny, Neville and the members of the Order.Ginny looked around, doing a hasty headcount. She couldn’t see Bill. Professor Flitwick hadn’t come back after he left to find Snape. Snape was nowhere to be seen. Malfoy was also gone and other Death Eaters as well. Then the big Death Eater fired off a hex that caused half the ceiling to fall in. Ginny saw Lupin, Tonks. Professor McGonagall, Ron and Neville run toward the stairs and she ran as well. They hadn’t reached them though when Snape and Malfoy emerged out of the dust.
In a blink of an eye the other Death Eaters and Greyback were back and the fight was back in place. Ginny’s heart did a somersault when she saw Harry running down the stairs, chasing the Death Eaters. He leapt the last ten steps of the spiral staircase and stopped where he landed, his wand raised. Ginny could hardly make out his outline because the dimly lit corridor was full of dust after half the ceiling had fallen in; and a battle was still raging, but she could tell he was alright.
In all the confusion, Ginny heard Snape’s voice.
“It’s over, time to go!”
She looked around in time to see Snape disappearing around the corner at the far end of the corridor; he and Malfoy seemed to have forced their way through the fight unscathed. She also saw Harry plunge after them, but then the werewolf, Fenrir flew at him. He was on top of Harry, and Ginny was running toward them, but before she could reach them, a lumpy Death Eater –Amycus, she had heard someone call him- closed her way. They were locked in combat and he was throwing hex after hex at her while she dodged them. Amycus was giggling, enjoying the sport.
“Crucio… Crucio… you can’t dance forever, pretty…”
“Impedimenta!” yelled Harry.
His jinx hit Amycus in the chest: He gave a pig-like squeal of pain, was lifted off his feet and slammed into the opposite wall, slid down it, and fell out of sight behind Ron, Professor McGonagall, and Lupin, each of whom was battling a separate Death Eater. “Harry, where did you come from?” Ginny cried, but he didn’t answer her.
He put his head down and sprinted forward, narrowly avoiding a blast that erupted over his head, showering them all in bits of wall.
“Take that!” shouted Professor McGonagall, and the female Death Eater, Alecto, sprinted away down the corridor with her arms over her head; Amycus was right behind her.
Ginny saw Harry launch himself after them but his foot caught on something, and the next moment he was lying across someone’s legs. That was when she realized Neville was lying on the floor. She ran toward Harry and Neville, but before she reached them, she saw Harry aiming a hex from the floor at the enormous blond Death Eater who was causing most of the chaos. The man gave a howl of pain as the spell hit him in the face: He wheeled around, staggered, and then pounded away after the others. Harry ran after them.
Ginny kneeled next to Neville; his pale, round face was flat against the floor. “Neville, are you okay?”
“M’all right,” muttered Neville, who was clutching his stomach, “Harry went after Snape and Malfoy.”
Calm was starting to settle around them. The rest of the order had been able to overpower the few Death Eaters left behind, Ginny could see as the dust started to settle.
“Ginny!” Ron came down to the floor where she was trying to help Neville up. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she said. “You?”
“I’m okay,” said Ron. “Have you seen Bill?” he asked and Ginny shook her head.
“He’s over here,” Remus called. He was kneeling on the floor next to a body lying on a pool of blood.
“Bill!” Ginny ran toward him. “Is he…?”
“He’s alive,” said Remus. “But he needs medical attention now. Greyback attacked him.”
“Did anyone see where Harry went?” Professor McGonagall asked.
“He went after Snape and Malfoy,” Ginny said, as she fought the tears, looking at Bill’s mangled face.
“Everybody, go to the Hospital Wing,” said Professor McGonagall. “I do not care if you are not injured,” she added when Ron opened his mouth to protest. “Wait for me there.”