The Sugar Quill
Author: peachpicker  Story: Aftermath  Chapter: Chapter One - Curse
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Author's Notes:

Newbie, onstage: Um, shouldn't I bow towards Edinburgh or something? Isn't that where She lives?

Offstage voice: No, no. Just get on with it.

Newbie (clearing throat nervously): I'm so thankful that J. K. Rowling lets us use her characters without sending out phalanxes of battle-hardened lawyers to protect...

Offstage: No, no, no! Be positive!

Newbie: Positive. Right. (Takes deep, calming breath.) My gratitude goes out to J. K. Rowling for allowing us to play in her world and write stories about her characters.

Offstage: ...and...

Newbie: Er. Oh! Many heart-felt thanks to NightZephyr for expert beta reading of my novice steps into the world of Harry Potter fan fiction. (Don't blame her for these Author's Notes, by the way.)

(Awkward pause)

Offstage: Ahem. The story?

Newbie (blushing): This story begins near the end of what should have been Harry Potter's seventh year at Hogwarts. Harry and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger have destroyed the remaining Horcruxes. Ginny Weasley has recently joined them, to Harry's consternation and delight, and the four now are developing ways to defeat Voldemort.

Offstage: Good, that should do it.

Newbie: This story is complete in ten chapters, unless I get tempted to do more rewriting...

Offstage: (Sighs and closes the stage curtains, muffling further babbling by Newbie.)

More Author's Notes, Added After Writing Fleeing Hogwarts: While Aftermath was written and posted first, Fleeing Hogwarts should now be considered Part I and Aftermath should be considered Part II of the same overall story. Please read  Fleeing Hogwarts first.

Chapter One: Curse

Harry Potter always Apparated to the same place just out of sight of the small cottage near Godric's Hollow. He, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and now Ginny Weasley all stayed there when they were not searching for methods to defeat Voldemort.

Were the woods around their hideout just a bit too quiet for late spring? Shouldn't there be bird and insect noises at this time of day? Harry wished he had his invisibility cloak but Ron and Hermione were using it today. Cautiously Harry stepped behind a large tree, wand ready, and peeked at their hideout. As expected, from the outside it appeared to be an abandoned cottage in sad disrepair just out of sight of the wreckage of his parents' house. Then he noticed that the door was not quite closed, and a hinge appeared to be broken. A chill fell over Harry. Ginny was supposed to be there! Had Death Eaters found their hideout? Was Ginny hurt or in danger? Had he almost walked into a trap?

Harry had to check where the others were. He focused a mental command to his wrist watch.

WHERE'S GINNY? A ghostly outline of Britain appeared in the air above his watch, with a pointer to an unfamiliar part of the country.

The hairs at the back of his neck stood on end. He thought COORDINATES? at the watch, and Apparation coordinates for Ginny appeared. They were unfamiliar too.

WHERE'S EVERYONE? This time the other locations shown were familiar and expected. Ron and Hermione were at Hogwarts and Fred and George were at Diagon Alley. The glowing map faded, although if he chose he could bring it back with a thought.

Harry jumped in surprise as his watch began vibrating strongly.


There was only one thing to do. He concentrated a moment on where she was, and then Apparated, ready to fight his way to her.

* * *

The dark-cloaked figure turned to where the two had been placed on the floor near each other, petrified and unable to speak.

"Harry Potter, you were a fool to come looking for her after my Death Eaters captured her. But I counted on you being that sort of fool." Hatred filled his voice. "You would still be no match for me even with your little witch and your Hogwarts friends helping you."

The red-eyed, inhuman face looked at Harry and then at Ginny. "It is time to end this. I want you to watch her and hear the sounds of her death." His smile was mirthless, cold, hungry. "It will take some time, and there will be nothing you can do to stop it. Then it will be your turn."

Voldemort's wand pointed to Ginny. "Terminare Petrificum Vocalis!"

Ginny gasped, finally able to take a deep breath. She looked at Harry, and their eyes met.

"Cresendum Vivere Sectum Cruciatus!"

A thin, tight shriek of agony began, the worst sound that Harry had ever heard. And he could not reach her, touch her, take her away.

* * *

The Weasleys were waiting with quiet, fearful anxiety. Molly was crying again, and Arthur held her close, giving what inadequate comfort that he could as his own tears flowed unheeded. All that they had been told by Fred and George was that Ginny had been critically injured and that they should come to Saint Mungo's Hospital as quickly as possible.

When Ginny and Harry had arrived earlier at Saint Mungo's, it was obvious from Harry's appearance that he needed healing, but he had not allowed anyone to touch him until the healers had focused all their attention on Ginny. Only then could they persuade him to leave her side, insisting that they could not do their best work while he was there. Then he numbly allowed an assistant healer to perform what spells were possible while he sat in the waiting area as the Weasleys began arriving.

Ron and Hermione emerged from a healers ward, fiercely insisting on joining the rest of the Weasley family. The healers who had been working on the couple had given up and let them go, after making them promise to return when they finally had been given news about Ginny. Ron and Hermione could not yet bring themselves to say anything about what had happened other than they were certain that Voldemort had finally been obliterated. They had seen him die.

Finally Molly stood up and faced her family, hands on hips, fear and anger chasing each other over her face. "All right, you lot! It is time for some answers! Harry! Would you tell us what happened to Ginny?" Not giving Harry a chance to reply, she rounded on the twins and pointed in anger at them. "Fred! George! You know more about this than you have been telling us. Ever since Ginny disappeared you just told us 'It's all right, Mum. It's okay. Ginny's safe now. We just can't tell you where she is.' Ron! Hermione! You, too! You disappear from Hogwarts WITHOUT A WORD of explanation and don't leave a way for us to contact you. And now..." Her voice broke. She gestured helplessly toward the door to the ward where Ginny was. Then she turned to Arthur and he held her while she cried.

Arthur glared at them all. "You had better start talking. NOW! Fred. George. You two first. You were the ones that called us here to start with."

"Harry sent us a message that he had brought Ginny here."

"Said she was badly hurt and we all should be here."

"So we called you all."

"How bad is she, Harry?"

Harry shook his head. "I don't know. Voldemort used a curse on Ginny that I've never heard of. He was aiming to kill her and then me. We stopped his curse and threw it back on him. That killed him, I know that." Ron and Hermione nodded in agreement.

"But Ginny's hurt really bad. Internal injuries," Harry continued miserably. "There's a bunch of healers with her. They wouldn't let me stay with her any longer. Said I was in the way."

"You BOTH were fighting VOLDEMORT?" Arthur was livid. "How did that happen? How did Ginny get involved? And why did she leave Hogwarts?"

"Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Ginny was almost kidnaped at Hogwarts. Several children of Death Eaters went after her. So she flew her broomstick to where we were." Harry indicated Ron and Hermione.

"Wait a minute. How did Ginny find you, Harry? Fred and George said you were in hiding where no one could find you." Arthur was looking suspiciously at the twins. "You two. Spill it now! Were THEY your test group for our communicators?" Arthur tapped his wrist watch.

The twins looked very uncomfortable and nodded.

"Harry, Ron and Hermione were going off to fight Voldemort."

"To find a way to defeat him."

"With no way to communicate or anything."

"We couldn't stop them."

"They asked us for a way to communicate with each other. It gave us the idea for the talking watches."

"So we gave them early versions. So we could keep an eye on them."

"Ginny used her watch's direction finder to find Harry."

Arthur held up his hand. "Wait a minute, boys. You gave the kids samples of the voice communication devices that you were developing for the Order of the Phoenix?"

George shook his head. "Not exactly. We were developing the communicators before we realized that the Order could use them. We wanted to sell them after the war."

"We made six prototypes without voice. Fred and I had two, they had three, and we gave Ginny one because she was so worried about Harry... err... and Ron and Hermione too, of course."

"So that's why you wear a watch on each wrist?" Arthur asked. "One of each kind. Not because one might break, like you implied." He snorted.

Harry spoke up. "The watches saved our lives several times. We could track where each of us was. We could send messages to each other. They let us Apparate to each other."

"Theirs don't transmit talk, Dad." Fred resumed. "But they do send text."

"And the receiving watch vibrates when it gets a message. No sound or anything."

"That's an advantage when you need to sneak... um, send a message silently."

"Ginny sent us a message after she was kidnapped by Death Eaters. That's why we could call the Aurors in The Order so early. They passed the news to the rest of the Aurors."

"And that's why the Aurors could catch all those Death Eaters. It's the first time the Order or the Aurors had the location of Voldemort's latest hideout."

Harry spoke up again. "And that's how I knew Ginny had been caught by Death Eaters. When I Apparated to her, we had to fight Voldemort. He was using her as bait to catch me." Harry carefully avoided mentioning that he too had been trapped when he reached Ginny. Molly and Arthur were angry enough as it was, and he didn't want them to know yet how close Ginny and he had been to being killed.

A sound at the door caught their attention. Someone was coming out of the ward where Ginny was.

"We will continue this later." Arthur said. "There is still a lot you all need to answer for."

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