The Sugar Quill
Author: Hazel Whinlatter  Story: The End Has No End  Chapter: The End Has No End
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The End Has No End

The End Has No End

 

by

 

Hazel Whinlatter

 

Spoilers: Up to and including Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Disclaimer: Characters and settings are from the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling. Lyrics are from ‘The End Has No End’ by The Strokes, from their Room on Fire album.

 

~*~

 

“One by one, ticking time bombs won,

It’s not the secrets of the government that’s keeping you dumb,

Oh it’s the other way around, wait, what’s that sound?

One by one, baby, here they come.”

 

Four heavy oak tables. They had been the centre of centuries’ worth of noise and cheer but now were gone – supplanted by an arrangement of foldaway beds hastily put up in the centre of the vast room.

 

A raised platform, standing aloof from the rest of the Great Hall, was now barred from view. Black drapes were shrouding away all but the very tips of the fingers on a pale, limp hand.

 

It hadn’t always been like this.

 

Piles of blankets and freshly laundered sheets awaited use on the spot where her black and yellow wearing classmates had held sway, restraining giggles as neighbours in silver and green suffered another comeuppance. More, sporting blue and bronze, regarded such scenes with an air of resignation from their own vantage point – now a row of beds with occupants so weak that the quietest moans of pain were beyond them.

 

There had been party decorations. The tempting smells of feasts cooked by the army of faithful house-elves. Excited chatter on the morning of a Quidditch match. Nervous contemplation as exams approached.

 

Now members of both the magical and non-magical communities  were fighting for their lives.

 

How had it come to this?

 

The consequences of the Ministry’s denial and incompetence surrounded her like a flood as she negotiated her way through the doomed and dying. In his war against the rest of the magical community, Voldemort had destroyed the lives of many people like these once they had proved to be of no value to him. Lying here were the ones lucky enough to escape immediate death or torture at his or the Death Eaters’ hands. Lucky enough to be holed up in Hogwarts and await an uncertain end? How could that be luck? she thought to herself.

 

The indignation Ginny Weasley felt at the sight of these people was a bitter pill to swallow. Since the withdrawal of many students from the school by their anxious parents – Hogwarts was no longer considered an impenetrable fortress since the invasion of the Death Eaters and the murder of Dumbledore – the Order of the Phoenix had used the extra space to house the injured. Ginny was bewildered at the thought of anyone being depraved enough to show such disregard for humanity, and her anger had driven her to do whatever she could to fight back.

 

She wasn’t a Gryffindor for nothing. Yet once more, as it had almost done nearly two years previously when she had joined a rescue mission to save Sirius Black, her age held her back and she was restricted to helping the now ever-present Healers on their rounds. She told herself frequently that this was no less noble than being out there and fighting the Dark Lord and his followers. The Order needed all the help it could get, and if there was no one to help the injured recuperate, what kind of world would be left when those on the front line had managed to save it?

 

Not to mention that the Ministry of Magic was hardly any help. It was weak, and the Minister himself was weaker because of his own stubborn refusals in the past to trust the Order and its leaders.

 

Voldemort preyed on the weak.

 

Order members constantly patrolled the grounds now, protecting the students who had chosen to remain. Never alone – that was too dangerous – and never in pairs, but always in threes. That way, in the event of an attack, one could send for help as another defended themselves and the injured party.

 

The problem with this was that the witches and wizards of the Order had become somewhat jumpy. The slightest twitch of the undergrowth or ripple of breeze upon the surface of the lake was enough to convince the over zealous amongst them to leap into action, resulting in more than one instance of frightened youngsters being accosted for crimes no more serious than a spot of hand holding. “They wandered away from the castle!” exclaimed their captors. “It looked suspicious, and anyway, we can’t do our jobs when we lose sight of that lot instead of keeping it.”

 

They may well have been right. Still, it said it all when even simple, innocent displays of affection had to be stopped because of higher things. It was a perfect mirror reflecting upon the world at large.

 

Ginny’s restless steps finally brought her to a stop next to the bed of a girl no older than herself, who shared the same flag of red hair. Currently, however, strands of it were plastered to her face with cold sweat, bearing more of a resemblance to one of Filch’s mops. Surprisingly, even Filch had been roped in by the newly appointed Headmistress – McGonagall – to help the war effort. Hogwarts’ station as an additional hospital meant that all available staff members were needed to care for the vulnerable in addition to their teaching duties. Some things never changed, of course, and the cantankerous caretaker could often be heard roaming the corridors, muttering under his breath as he dragged around his bucket and sponge. Even he, however, stopped his complaining as soon as he entered the Hall. There was something about the place now, a feeling of fear contaminating the air and tainting the happy memories of Hogwarts years past – a feeling ever more palpable to the youngest Weasley as she worked where her own house table had once stood. Shadows of maroon and gold, lingering shouts of joy at House Cup victories, both broke through the painful scenes being played out around her. There was nothing to be helped by complaining.

 

Moving closer to the patient, Ginny noticed the fresh beads of sweat on the girl’s forehead, her slight body overcome with shivers. Leaning downwards to take a damp cloth and wipe the skin, lines from the report taped to the side of the bed jumped from the page and caught her eye.

 

“Leg broken in fall when running away from Muggle house, the family having been attacked by Death Eaters. Pneumonia caused by twelve hours spent outside at night having been unable to reach shelter. Found by Aurors who arrived to search the scene. No surviving relatives.”

 

No surviving relatives.

 

The words wounded Ginny deeply, pathos for the young girl tugging at her heart. Attacks like these were becoming more common as the followers of You-Know-Who became bolder in their attempts to gain a hold on Britain. Perhaps the similarities between helper and patient were what pained the former so. They may have had different upbringings, but for a stroke of fate it could have been Ginny herself lying unconscious on a rickety camp-bed in a foreign place, unaware that she had been robbed of her family by people she had no hope of defending herself against. It made her weep.

 

Overwhelmed by a sudden onset of nausea – almost as much emotional as physical suffering – Ginny had to grab one of the cold metal supports to steady herself, and sat down on a low stool next to the bed in an attempt to hide away. Distressed as she was, it would have benefited no one to see her cry.

 

Gazing up at the walls of the Great Hall, Ginny attempted to calm herself by looking at the gold-framed portraits now hanging there. They were staggeringly beautiful not just in the depictions of their subjects, but in what they represented. Only McGonagall herself, who had commissioned the paintings of these victims of the Second Voldemort War, knew the exact reason for their prominent display. Despite this, looking at them now, Ginny had a shrewd idea. She sat there, feeling helpless and pathetic, when up there were reminders of people whose lives had been given or taken away because of a man who was the biggest threat to humanity that there had ever been!

 

Yet these paintings were not sombre, funereal images that merely captured the looks of their subjects, placed here to depress onlookers. They were joyous glimpses into happy moments of their lives – couples on their wedding days, sporty youngsters in Quidditch uniforms preparing for their first games and siblings standing in front of the homes they had fought so hard to protect. They were paintings placed here to remind the viewer of blissful times that had been and hopes of good times still to come – before that future had been denied them.

 

These paintings were to remind everyone of what they were fighting for.

 

Ginny stood, turned to the beginning of the nearest row, and read. Names, dates, occasions, and any other information she could glean from the portraits.

 

The Bones Family. Seventh year Hufflepuff Susan Bones’ cousins, uncle and two of her aunts had been murdered because they were brave, true and would not join a cause they did not believe in.

 

Frank Bryce. An innocent Muggle, symbol of all those caught in the crossfire during Voldemort’s violent return to prominence. They deserved to be honoured.

 

Lily and James Potter. Ginny’s heart swelled as she saw the picture of Harry’s parents – parents of the boy she’d gone out with and fallen for – on the day of their marriage. A handsome, smartly dressed James kissed a contented Lily’s cheek, his face full of love. “That was what they died for”, she thought to herself. Love for each other, for the son they vowed to protect… and why not? If dying is inevitable, it may as well be for love as opposed to any other human emotion. It was a noble thing that Lily and James had done on that awful night, better than dying for hate as the fallen Death Eaters had done. If push came to shove, Ginny wanted to do the same, and protect the people she loved best or the values she held most highly.

 

Sirius Black. Godfather of the boy who’d now abandoned his education, and gone out into the world to try to save it. The time she had joined a mission to try to rescue Sirius, the night that had ultimately led to his death, was the first encounter she’d had with You-Know-Who’s followers. It had been her first taste of danger in this new climate, and yet she would still do it all again if it meant she could save a life.

 

Stephanie Abbott. The mother of another seventh year who’d been found dead in her home, a place where she’d thought she’d be safe.

 

Emmeline Vance. A warrior on the front line who’d been murdered in a bloody battle to the death just yards from the seat of Muggle authority – the home of the Prime Minister. Her demise was proof that war wasn’t glamorous or exciting, but instead was cruel and fraught with unfairness.

 

Stepping back to get a wider view of the Vance portrait, Ginny realised that it was the last. Her deepest wish was that there would be no more.

 

The paintings meant three things above all else to Ginny Weasley. The depiction of Lily and James Potter strengthened her own desire to come out of this mess alive and live a secure life with Harry, experiencing the same love that his parents had shared. The Bones’ had the same familial solidarity that she wanted the Weasleys to have for always. Frank Bryce was a reminder of the innocents who needed to be protected from the world’s evil tyrants.

 

She would fight to achieve all those things in a scarier and increasingly more dangerous world.

 

She would carry on towards a better future.

 

She would remember them.

 

 

 

 

 


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