AUTHOR’S WARNING/NOTE/DISCLAIMER: This fic is a Valentine’s Day story for the rest of us. It is guaranteed 100% anti-fluff. If you are a sensitive H/G shipper, you may want to think twice before reading. That said, although this story is A/U, its position in the canon is post GoF. This was written a couple of years ago, before Ginny’s character was fully developed and before we knew Harry was not supposed to throw dark curses. It was originally intended for Gryffindor Tower’s last Valentine’s Day contest… Heh. (Author grins evilly.)
I would like to thank my betas, Nancy and Sonic Dale; Nancy for the positive feedback and encouragement and Dale for all the hard work he did editing when he was just supposed to be skimming and giving a go/no-go. I would also like to thank Promethean Alchemist for the Brit pick and further encouragement. This goes out with heartfelt best wishes to everyone for a Happy Valentine’s Day, especially Jamie and Nicole.
Ginny stared at the image in her vanity’s mirror and watched as a few more tears fell from her eyes. She examined the image again, the horror of everything that had happened still fresh even though it was almost a year later. She blinked more tears out of her eyes and continued to stare into the mirror. She looked so different from how she used to look — it was a wonder she recognized herself at all.
After all, nobody else did anymore, except those in the Death Eater circle.
She stared at her face. Where once she had looked into pretty brown eyes, she now looked into the yellow, cat-like eyes that stared out from the mirror. Her once bright red hair was now black and her pink lips had been changed to black as well.
Freckles no longer dotted her face because she rarely if ever went out into the sunlight. It just made the depression worse. It was best just to hide, and truth be told, she wished she were dead.
She cried some more and struggled to remember how she had fallen so far. Only a year had passed since she left Hogwarts. So much had happened in just a year.
She tried to blame Harry for it all, but deep down she knew it was her own fault. She had been tired of being pushed away by Harry. He had tried to explain it to her, how he planned to become an Auror and hunt Voldemort down,and that due to the path he was on it was best that no one got close to him. It would just give Voldemort more ammunition to use against him and he didn’t want her to get hurt.
She knew he was probably right, but she refused to accept it. To goad Harry, she had started dating Draco Malfoy. She plunged deeper and deeper into a relationship with him because it suited her purposes. She was mad at Harry, and she was mad at the world, and she wanted to get even with both of them.
How could I have been so stupid, she thought.
She had lost everything: her friends, her family, everything that mattered most in her life. Ron and Hermione had gone on to follow Harry and become Aurors. Together the three of them were almost unstoppable. Almost. Hermione had become pregnant, went into hiding, and left Harry and Ron to carry on.
To get even with Harry, she had become a Death Eater. Her anger at him had known no bounds, but all it had taken were a few missions and she knew she had made a mistake. Her conscience never let her forget.
From then on, she avoided the torturing and the killing as much as she could. She was grateful to God that she had never been forced to kill anyone. At least, not yet.
Apparently Voldemort had sensed that, too. When the circle gathered again, he asked her about her loyalty. He demanded proof. She told him she would submit to anything he wanted. After she agreed, Voldemort performed a curse on her that left her looking somewhat like an animal. He asked her if she wanted to go back on her word and had provided a mirror for her to review what he had done to her.
It almost killed her to say no, but then again, if she hadn't agreed, Voldemort would have killed her. At that point in time, she still wanted to live. Now, she wished she had said yes. At least that would have spared her the pain, for this life she was leading was a living death.
Draco wouldn’t touch her anymore, not that he ever had done much of that anyway. He told her that she would be more powerful if she remained pure. Yeah, right, thought Ginny. She saw the loathing in his eyes every time he set eyes on and she knew about all the affairs. Theirs was a marriage in name only.
“Ginny,” barked Draco, “quit your bawling and get ready.”
Ginny sighed again and closed the enormous book that was open on her lap. It was the most complete work on dark curses that she knew of and she had pulled it from the manor’s library. It had confirmed her worst fear. The only thing that could free her from her curse was the kiss of her true love — whoever that was, and it was not like anyone would kiss her anymore, anyway.
“Come on, hurry it up,” commanded Draco as he looked at Ginny from across the room. “It’s the most important mission yet.” He grinned as he saw the curious look on her face. “We’re going to kill Neville Longbottom and take out his family, too. We’re going to remind those weaklings who’s in charge.”
“Neville?” asked Ginny, almost laughing.
“Yes, Neville,” replied Draco curtly. “While you’ve been sitting there and feeling sorry for yourself for the past year, word is that Neville’s been working in conjunction with Dumbledore and the Ministry to develop a means of resisting the Avada Kedavra.”
Ginny sat up in surprise.
“And we’ve been tasked by the Dark Lord with taking him out before he finishes. Now get moving or there will be hell to pay.”
“Did it work, sir?” asked Harry as he stood in front of Dumbledore’s desk. Harry held a commanding presence in his black senior auror’s robes with the badge of the MLES displayed over the right side of his chest. The only thing looking amiss was the haunted look in his eyes and a touch of gray that was beginning to show in his hair, despite his only being twenty years old.
Ron Weasley stood by his side, attired in the same black robes, displaying the same badge. His presence was also commanding, and like Harry he had a haunted look in his eyes, but his hair was even grayer.
Then again, Harry didn’t have to go on every mission worrying that he might have to kill his little sister. As Harry spoke, Ron was wondering if it had been the right thing to do, marrying Hermione as he had in the middle of the greatest wizarding war in several decades, although he wouldn’t have changed it if he could. Hermione meant too much to him.
Dumbledore smiled. “As the Americans are rather fond of saying, they swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.”
Ron shook his head. “As if Neville could ever do anything like that,” he commented. He started as he felt Harry’s elbow catch him in the side.
“He’s doing a sight more than anyone else would,” said Harry quickly, “allowing us to use him and his family as bait for Death Eaters. Could you imagine what they would do to him if they found out all of this was a ruse?”
Ron shivered. “Sorry, Harry,” he muttered.
“Gentlemen, since you do not have much time, I would suggest you get cracking,” said Dumbledore.
“Yes, sir,” said Harry and Ron in unison.
“Good luck, Harry,” said Dumbledore as he stood up from behind his desk and walked around as if to shake his and Ron’s hands. Instead of just shaking Harry’s hand, however, he embraced him in a fatherly manner. Lately it had become a common practice, as he never knew if the current mission would be the last time he saw them.
The war had changed so many things and Dumbledore was careful to let those he loved know it as often as possible. “Good luck, Ron,” said Dumbledore as he embraced Ron. “Goodbye and God speed,” he said as he watched them leave.
“Harry, how much time do we have to prepare?” asked Ron as they descended the spiral staircase.
“A few hours at the most,” answered Harry. “We’re going out first to make sure they don’t get the jump on us. Moody is going to follow with a tactical team as soon as he can get one ready.”
Ron nodded as the two of them strode quickly through the halls of Hogwarts, not bothering to notice the curious stares of the students as they passed by, cloaks billowing behind them due to their rapid pace.
Harry listened to their boots as they clicked on the hallway floor. Neither he nor Ron enjoyed being at Hogwarts anymore. It brought back too many memories of the mistakes they had both made. It hurt Harry the most because he had always considered Hogwarts his home, but now, every time he went back, he was haunted by the images of a little red-headed girl who had gone bad all because of him.
Or at least, that’s what she claimed, not that it made any difference to Harry. He still blamed himself, and the sooner I'm away from Hogwarts, the better, he thought, wondering if the dreams would haunt him again.
Harry looked at Ron and saw the strained expression on his face. He knew what he was going to ask. He had heard it often enough before. “Don’t worry Ron,” he answered. “I won’t kill her if I can avoid it,” he added, thinking if she behaved like she normally did, it would be easy.
“Thanks, mate,” answered Ron as they started the long journey out of the castle to the Apparition point.
Harry paused in his thoughts for a moment. Ginny’s behavior as a Death Eater had always been strange. He wondered if her conscience had gotten to her at last. She always held back from the torturing and the murders, participating only in the general mayhem. He wondered for a moment if her heart was really in it, and then he remembered what she now looked like. ‘The Bride of Voldemort’ is what the rest of the field agents in the MLES called her, although not to Ron’s face — nor his.
Harry shuddered as he thought about it, wondering what could have possessed her to do that. He dismissed her from his thoughts quickly as they reached the front doors and went out onto the castle grounds. He had other things he needed to worry about.
“Harry, where are they?” demanded Neville, pacing nervously in the parlor of his small cottage.
“I don’t know,” repeated Harry for the umpteenth time, himself beginning to get nervous. So far, he and Ron were the only two Aurors on site and this trap had been baited too well for Voldemort to send just a Death Eater or two. He quite expected half the inner circle to show up, and maybe even more. After all, that was the whole point of this exercise.
He was becoming just as nervous as Neville, and he didn’t have a wife and a baby to worry about. He looked at the clock above the mantle. It showed eight o’clock. They should have been here hours ago.