AYNIL: Chapter Twenty-Three: Voldemort’s Little Game

“NO!” Harry screamed, falling forward onto his hands and knees. The barrier he had been fighting against vanished when Voldemort disappeared with Ginny. He stretched out his hand to where Ginny had been just before. Nothing was there but thin air. It had been a hopeless attempt to undo what had just happened.

Harry was unable to prevent the thing he most wanted to avoid. He had told Ginny time and time again at the beginning of the summer that they shouldn’t be together. If he had just stuck to his own decision she wouldn’t be in the situation that she was in now. What was going to happen now? He hadn’t been able to keep her safe when he was standing a foot away!

“DAMN IT!” Harry shouted again, to no one in particular. He had to do something. He needed to find Ginny; he was going to find her, even if it meant scouring the whole country. Harry looked around for the first time, as though looking for a place to start in this hopeless search.

The Death Eaters that had been present disappeared just after Voldemort. The dozen Order members seemed a little worse for wear, but not mortally injured. Maybe something had been mentioned in passing, some clue, during the fight that would tell Harry where Voldemort had taken Ginny. He ran around to each in turn asking them if anyone had said anything. The reply was always the same. No one had said anything.

“COME ON, THEY HAD TO HAVE SAID SOMETHING,” Harry yelled at everyone in the yard, who were all now watching him, as he stood in the middle of their circle.

“They didn’t Harry,” Lupin said. “Come inside. We need to regroup, and work out some sort of plan. We’ll get her back.”

“NOT BY SITTING AROUND DISCUSSING IT,” Harry roared. He struggled out of the grip that Lupin had on his arm.

They didn’t have time to sit around talking tactics. They needed to start looking for Ginny. The Riddle house! Voldemort had a strange affinity for that house. It seemed just the sort of place she would be taken

“Never mind, I’ll go myself,” Harry said angrily when no one made any move.

“You’re not going anywhere,” Fred said, repeating the grip that Lupin had on Harry, but much tighter. “You got her into this mess, you’re going to get her out of it, but not until we’ve planned this thing properly. You’re not going to go blundering this up and get her murdered like you did Sirius!” There wasn’t even the faintest trace of a joke in his expression now. The look he was giving Harry was of fury. That look, coupled with the mention of Sirius was enough to calm Harry down to consent to come into the house, where Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were sitting, absolutely stunned. Mrs. Weasley looked up. Harry’s first inclination was to start yelling at her. Hadn’t she swore to him that if there was even the tiniest whisper about Voldemort making a move on the Burrow that they would come straight back to headquarters? But there was such a desperate look in her eyes that he didn’t do it.

“Where’s Ginny?’ she asked.

“Gone, Molly. Voldemort — he took her,” Lupin said, choking on his own words.

“Did you two hear anything — anything at all about where he might have taken her?” Harry asked the two Weasleys. Quite apart from his own grief, anger, sorrow and guilt, he now felt some of Mrs. Weasley’s too. And he felt more than ever that they needed to act now, not stand around chitchatting.

“No,” Mr. Weasley spoke up. There was no emotion in his voice whatsoever. He sounded a lot like Barty Crouch Jr. when he had been force fed Veritaserum. “We were sitting down to dinner when we heard the stealth sensors go off. The Order members were battling with Death Eaters in a matter of seconds. They told us to stay inside, which we did. But it was pointless. You-Know-Who waltzed right in, as though there was nothing guarding this place. Naturally we tried to hide Ginny behind us, but he just waved his wand and we were forced out of the way. Then he started talking to her. ‘Ginevra, how long I’ve wanted to meet you. Ever since I learned that you were the one that opened the Chamber for me five years ago,” he spoke only to her ‘What do you want?’ she asked him. He just smiled at her and said ‘I want you to get Harry here for me, of course.’ ‘I will not,’ she told him. She probably would have refused until he killed her, had he not threatened Molly and myself. It was then that she reluctantly pulled out that mirror.”

Everyone in the room was staring at Harry. He shifted guiltily. Yes, this was all his fault he knew that, but blame and guilt were of no use here. They needed to rescue Ginny. They needed to make sure she returned safe.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Harry said to the room at large. He didn’t know whom he was talking to, her parents, her brothers, the other Order members, or to Ginny herself. “I will find her,” he said and made to leave again. There was nothing that they could do from here. They were again wasting valuable time.

“Harry you can’t go, not like this,” Lupin replied. “We need information, intelligence. You don’t even know where he’s taken her.”

“I have a few ideas,” Harry stated still walking. He was going to the Riddle house. Ginny might be there. He would do whatever it took to get her back, anything at all. He didn’t care about costs, all he wanted was to get her out of the situation he had put her in.

“You’re walking into a trap. It won’t do you any good, and it won’t do Ginny any good. Harry, I know this is hard for you to accept but there is nothing that you can do right now,” Lupin advised.

“Snape,” Harry said suddenly and stopped walking. He turned to face Lupin. “He’s on our side, so you keep saying. He’d know. He’s right in Voldemort’s inner circle.”

“We can’t,” Lupin replied, shifting a little. “Snape hasn’t been in contact with us for over two months. Not since after that article came out.”

“Damn it,” Harry fumed again. He was running out of options. Like hell was he going to sit here and wait for who knew how long until the Order developed some sort of action plan. He couldn’t just sit here while Ginny was in the clutches of the Dark Lord who was doing god knows what to her!

“Harry you can’t go,” Lupin said again, grabbing his arm for the second time that night.

“Let go of me,” Harry tried to wrench his arm from Lupin’s again, but wasn’t as successful as before. He continued to struggle. He was going to get out of here and start looking. But next thing he knew everything had gone black.

When he woke up, it took a moment for everything to sink in, and for Harry to realize he was back at Grimmauld Place. He sat up and immediately felt dizzy. There was also a throbbing pain on the back of his head probably from where he had hit the ground after being stunned. He ignored that and jumped up.

Why were they back here? How much time had elapsed? Had they heard anything from or about Voldemort’s whereabouts, or where he had taken Ginny?

“Good, you’re awake. I was worried Moody might have overdone it with that Stunner,” Hermione said in a frantic voice.

“Why are we back here? What’s going on?” Harry asked quickly.

“We all came back for safety’s sake. We don’t want anyone else in danger,” Lupin said. “Least of all you Harry. You were being nonsensical.”

“Voldemort’s got Ginny!” Harry shouted at the room, which he now noticed was full of people. Ron, Hermione, Lupin, Moody, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Tonks, Bill, Fred, George, and others that Harry didn’t take the time to notice. “You don’t just expect me to sit here when —“ He still had his mirror and just then felt it heat up. Dreading what he might see, Harry pulled it out.

Hopes of seeing Ginny on the other side saying she had somehow managed to escape, or that it was just another of his nightmares were dashed quickly. It was Voldemort.

“Ah Harry, I’ve been trying to reach you for hours now.”

“What do you want?” Harry asked furiously.

“How rude Harry. I was extending you a courtesy, letting you know that your precious Ginevra is still doing well.” Voldemort’s face was gone from the mirror. In its place was the same dungeon that Harry had dreamt about not so long ago. Ginny was lying there. She looked relatively unscathed, but when the mirror turned to her and she looked at it, Harry saw she was wearing that same scared expression.

“You know, I really do have to admire your taste Harry, she is quite pretty,” Voldemort said in the same calm and sinisterly saccharine voice that made Harry’s blood turn to ice. He ran a finger down Ginny’s cheek again, as he had done back at the Burrow.

“Don’t touch me,” Ginny shouted, and spit on Voldemort’s hand.

“Oh Ginny, no,” Harry moaned quietly. He saw Voldemort’s face disappear from the mirror and then a wand tip appeared in its bottom left hand corner. Not wanting to see what was going to happen, but powerless to stop it, Harry heard Voldemort say ‘Crucio.’

As he had seen and experienced so many times in his life, Harry saw Ginny writhing on the floor, in agony. He could hear her pleading with Voldemort to stop. He was silently begging for it to end too. This was the worst thing that he had ever witnessed. The only thing he ever wanted for Ginny was to love her, and for her to be safe, yet she wasn’t safe at all, and was probably going to die there in that dungeon, another victim of Voldemort, just because of her relationship with him.

The spell was lifted rather quickly.

“Well now that was fun wasn’t it?” Voldemort’s face was back in the mirror wearing a rather pleased and triumphant look. “But of course we’re just getting started. Until later Harry.” With the promise of another round, the mirror went blank.

“NO,” Harry shouted so loud that the silence was rent with the all-too-familiar voice of Mrs. Black. He didn’t listen to her though. Now he was awake, and quite aware of what Ginny was going through, Harry was freshly determined to get out there and find Ginny.

As though waiting for him to do just such a thing, Ron, Lupin, Moody and Kingsley blocked the door.

“Why are you keeping me from doing this?” Harry fired at them. He was quite ready to curse someone and would have, if they hadn’t taken his wand away. “Are you in league with Voldemort or something? Is this your idea of a joke? Letting me watch while he tortures her?”

“Torture?” cried Mrs. Weasley. “Oh dear God.” She had her hands wrapped around a cup of tea, which fell to the floor and smashed. Then she ran over to Harry. “You have to save her Harry, you have to,” she cried, grabbing the front of his shirt and shaking him, while Fred and George tried to pull her back.

“That’s what I’m trying to do,” Harry burst out furiously, pulling free from her grasp.

“Harry, it’s a game. He’s trying to lure you out unprepared,” Lupin explained in a calm voice, still blocking every attempt Harry was making to push past him. “If you go running off like this all you are going to succeed in doing is getting yourself killed along with Ginny. We need to find out where he is and what type of offense they have before we go charging off.”

“But —“ Harry started to protest again.

“You want to save Ginny right?” Lupin asked, still in that calm, but now firm voice. Harry nodded. “Then please listen to us Harry, we’re working as hard and fast as we can, and as fast as we can. When we find her —“

“It’ll be too late,” Harry said, in a furious, yet dejected way.

“No, it won’t.”

He wanted to believe Lupin, he really did, but Harry knew there was too much truth in Lupin’s words. Voldemort had taken Ginny so that he could have a little fun; this was Voldemort’s little game. He was going to torture her to death, or just enough through the mirror to drive her or Harry mad.

When everyone was assured that Harry wasn’t going to take off on a kamikaze mission to find Ginny they all decided to try and get some sleep. When the news came of where she was they were going to need to be alert. Harry wouldn’t hear of it though. He oscillated between lying on the couch, his hand pressed convulsively over the mirror, and pacing up and down the room.

“You really should try and get some rest,” Hermione said without much conviction twelve hours after Ginny was taken, and six hours after Voldemort’s message. “I’m sure we’re bound to hear something soon. You’ll want to be fully alert when we go.”

“I’m fine,” Harry replied. He had stopped pacing just long enough to answer Hermione’s question.

He had given up trying to contact Ginny or Voldemort in the other mirror. It seemed that the Dark Lord had put some sort of blocking spell in place, so that communication could only be initiated from Ginny’s mirror. Voldemort wanted to be in total control, and so far he was, Harry thought bitterly ten hours later. It had been twenty-two hours since Ginny had been taken. Why had there only been on message? Was it possible Ginny was . . .?

The sun had just sunk behind the houses in the square that held Grimmauld Place when Harry felt the mirror heat up for the second time. Again fearing what he was going to see, but needing news of Ginny, he hastily removed it from his pocket.

He was certain that he was going to see Voldemort, but he didn’t. It was Ginny, lying there on that dungeon floor. She looked a little worse for wear, but still relatively unharmed. Her hair was messy, her face bruised, she was panting, and looked exhausted.

“You mother fu —“ Harry was halfway through cursing Voldemort when a sudden movement from Ginny made him shut up.

‘HARRY DON’T LET HIM PLAY WITH YOU! JUST LEAVE ME AND GO AFTER THE ONE WITHIN! LEAVE – She was hit with another Cruciatus curse and her shouts of warning turned into those of pain. Then the mirror went blank again.

Harry shook the mirror in frustration. Twenty-four hours! Twenty-four hours he had been forced to sit here and do nothing. He didn’t know how much more of this that he could take. They, Voldemort and the Order, were going to keep him locked up here until he went mad.

“I’ve got to do something. I can’t just sit here and let him do this to her,” Harry yelled at Ron and Hermione. He raced out of the drawing room. They pelted after him, and reached him just as he started to climb the stairs. Harry was so determined that it took both of them to tackle him to the ground to get him to stop moving.

“I know how you feel Harry,” Ron said, pinning him to the stairs, and having to shout over the portrait again.

“No you don’t. You’ve never had to watch a friend die; your parents were always there for you. You weren’t there when Dumbledore was murdered. You’re not the one that’s had to sit there and watch as the person you love most in the world is being tortured because — because Voldemort thinks it’s funny. You don’t have to hear her screaming at you just to — to leave her — to let her die.” Harry choked out these last few words, trying to fight back the well of emotions that were threatening to burst through, but uttering these words made Harry realize just what Ginny had said, what she was willing to do for him. She was really willing to let Voldemort kill her rather than chance Harry suffering the same fate.

This was never a choice that Ginny should have had to make. If only he, Harry, had been able to keep to his resolve to stay away from her. “Oh God Gin, I’m so sorry,” he said, tears streaming down his face. Ron and Hermione had backed away, allowing Harry to sit up, and bury his face in his hands.

It was always those closest to him that Voldemort went after. Harry knew that. He had known that ever since Sirius had died, if not before. He had told Ginny they needed to stop seeing each other for that very reason. He knew Voldemort was going to use her to get to him. He was going to torture Ginny until either she or Harry broke. Why had he not listened to Dumbledore and absolutely demanded that the Weasleys stay at Grimmauld Place? What did it matter what her parents thought. She wouldn’t be facing death or insanity right now.

“I should have stayed away,” Harry said more to himself than to Ron or Hermione.

“Harry, this is Voldemort. You know that he would have got to her another way, even if you two weren’t together,” Hermione said, putting her arms around him in an attempt to console him. “You can’t blame yourself. Just try and think about where she might be. That’s what’s going to be useful to us right now. Once we can find out where she is, we can go and get her.”

“How can it not be my fault?” Harry asked. “This is Voldemort’s idea of a game. He uses those we’re close to.”

Neither Ron nor Hermione had an answer to this.

Harry took Hermione’s advice and thought long and hard over every single detail that he had seen in his dream and the two brief glances he had of that dungeon. There was nothing unique about it, there never really was with dungeons. Even if there had been, they wouldn’t have been much better off, unless it was a famous dungeon that one of the Order members knew about. All he knew for certain was that it was not a dungeon he had ever seen at Hogwarts, so that ruled one place out of several hundreds out. They briefly wondered whether it might have been Malfoy manor, but discounted that as well when thinking of Lucius and Draco’s failing of late.

The mirror remained silent for the whole of the next day. Harry, having exhausted his limited resources about that dungeon, sank onto the couch, the mirror held in his lap. He wanted to be ready for the next time that Voldemort contacted him. Maybe something would click, or Voldemort would slip up somehow and reveal a clue as to where he had taken Ginny. But as the hours ticked by and the mirror remained just a mirror, Harry began to get cagey, and very angry.

The Weasleys had said they would come straight back to headquarters if there was even the slightest indication that Ginny was in danger. Yet here they were, all of the Weasleys except the one that needed protecting. No, she was the one that they were still looking for, with no luck. It had already been two days.

“I don’t think they’re doing a very good job,” Harry fumed that evening. He was again pacing up and down the threadbare rug in the tapestry room. “We haven’t heard a single thing. They’re probably keeping things from us again.”

“They wouldn’t do that. It’s just, with Snape not feeding them information anymore —“ Hermione started.

“This was probably his plan right from the bloody beginning,” Harry raged. “To get in good with the Order so that he could get all of this information to feed to Voldemort, then pull out when we really need him. He was the one that told Voldemort about Ginny and me anyway. I bet you someone here told him that we were back together.”

“Harry, it was in the newspaper. Snape didn’t need to tell Voldemort anything.” Hermione reminded him.

“And you two,” Harry rounded on them. He was exhausted both physically and emotionally, not having slept for more than two days, and was becoming completely nonsensical. “You’ve been helping them all along. Keeping things from Ginny and I. Wanted to get her captured did you?”

“That’s my sister you’re talking about,” Ron fired back at Harry. “How could you even think that I would want her anywhere near You-Know-Who? If this situation is anyone’s fault it’s yours. You should have stayed away from her if you knew that she would end up getting murdered.”

Nerves already stretched to the breaking point over this situation, Harry and Ron were about a nanosecond from attacking each other. Hermione intervened and stopped them though.

“That’s enough!’ she snapped. “We’re all working as hard as we can here Harry, you know that. And you —“ she turned to Ron, “ — know better than anyone that Harry’s always done what’s best for Ginny, well excepting a few minor missteps at the start of the summer. You’re both letting Voldemort do what he’s best at. You’re letting him divide you.” Harry and Ron glared at each other for a minute and then stalked off, each still angry with the other for their accusations, but also realizing they didn’t really believe them.

It was shortly thereafter that Harry sank back into his stupor and stared at the mirror. He was really starting to worry now. It had been over twenty-four hours since the last message. As he had been with Sirius, Harry was quite certain that Ginny was still alive, but what sort of agony she was in he didn’t want to think.

As the hours progressed and there was still no news he switched from melancholy to anger quicker than the flicking on of a light. Half the time he was scared about what he would see the next time the mirror connection was established. Maybe Voldemort had grown bored of this little game and-. He was letting Harry stew because that was more fun. Every time this thought came into Harry’s mind he would become enraged and start pacing around the room.

The Order was of no help. They would come in every few hours to tell Harry, Ron and Hermione that they had no news. That, Harry thought, was quite obvious. Tonks, who had come in to deliver this waste of breath information, had barely disappeared beyond the door when Harry felt the mirror heat up for the third time.

It had been two and a half days since Ginny was taken, and thirty-six hours since the last message. As with the second message, Voldemort didn’t appear, but Ginny did.

Harry held his breath as he looked over her limp form. Was she even still alive? She looked battered and bruised, even more so than the last time. Her face was barely recognizable, it was covered in blood, some fresh, some congealed. Her eyes and lips were nearly swollen shut. She opened them just a fraction so that her chocolate brown eyes, now looking bleary and out of focus.

“Harry . . . “ she said in a barely audible voice. “So sorry . . . couldn’t stop . . . “ Her breathing was shallow. But Harry didn’t have time to dwell on that, because the mirror stopped showing Ginny, and Harry was once again looking at that white, snake-like face with those pitiless red eyes, now alight with glee.

“What have you done to her?” Harry demanded of Voldemort.

“Oh, nothing that you haven’t Harry,” Voldemort was smiling again. He was far scarier looking when he did that. “I really do have to reiterate that she is such a sweet young thing, wouldn’t you agree?” That sinister smile increased. The innuendo in his voice took Harry by surprise for just a second. Voldemort was griming from ear to ear. Realizing what he was insinuating, Harry felt a hatred such as he had never known, boiling inside him. He threw the mirror so hard it hit the wall opposite and shattered.

“THAT’S IT!” Harry yelled. He could feel the blood pounding in his ears. “I’ve had enough of this. I’m going to find her. Don’t you two dare try to stop me!” He rushed out of the room before they could. He charged up the stairs he charged, once again causing the curtains that hung over the foul-mouthed portrait to burst open. He reached his room kicked open his trunk, grabbed his Firebolt and raced back downstairs.

Ron and Hermione had just started climbing the stairs when he joined them, his broomstick in his hand.

“I’m going after her,” he told them again almost daring them to try and stop him.

“And where exactly are you going to go Harry? We don’t know where Voldemort’s holding her,” Hermione tried to interject some reason into him.

“I don’t care. I’ll search every building in Britain if I have to. It’s better than sitting here and watching Voldemort —“ he stopped. Just the thought of what that monster had done was making him want to either retch or explode.

But then quite unbidden he thought of the mirror again. He shouldn’t have broken it. It might still come in handy. He ran quickly into the drawing room. Pointing his wand at the shards of glass he yelled ‘Reparo.” The mirror again looked good as new, but wouldn’t be enchanted anymore.

Harry spun around and saw Ron and Hermione in the doorway. Mirror in hand he ran to Hermione and shoved it at her. “Fix it,” he demanded.

Hermione was looking scared at his erratic behaviour but said in a small voice, ‘no.”

Harry took a few steps closer to her. “I’m not playing around here Hermione, fix this thing.” He spoke in a very calm voice; it was taking all of his energy not to leap at her.

“No, Harry,” she replied again, backing away a few paces, moving closer to Ron.

“This isn’t a joke. I want you to fix this thing right now,” Harry said, in a voice of dead calm.

Hermione whimpered and backed right up against Ron, but still said, “I’m not going to do that Harry. He’s playing with you. Don’t let him.”

Harry drew out his wand. He held the mirror in one hand and his wand in the other. Glaring at Hermione he gave her one last chance. “Fix this thing now and I won’t hurt you.”

Two things happened so close together that they could have been simultaneous. Harry felt that same sense of pure hatred that he had felt once in Dumbledore’s office, and Hermione let out a high-pitched scream.

Harry’s scar was on fire. He barely registered that Hermione had backed right out of the room. He now knew exactly what was going on. Voldemort had dispensed with Occlumency and was pushing thoughts through their connection. It was him that had wanted Harry to get the mirror fixed. It was him that wanted to continue this game. Harry was ready.

“No, I’m not going to do it!” Harry said through clenched teeth. With every ounce of concentration that he possessed he pushed back against Voldemort’s connection. For a while he thought his head might explode, but then the pain started to lessen. Finally Harry knew that Voldemort was gone completely. His scar was still aching, but livable.

“Hermione, I’m so, so, sorry,” Harry called to her, having to take great gasps of breath between his words.

Ron and Hermione inched their way back into the room. Hermione’s face was white as a ghost and she was holding onto Ron so tightly that it was highly probable that his whole body was going numb.

“What the bloody hell was that?” Ron asked in a shaky voice.

“Voldemort. He was inside my head like before. You know, through the connection.” Harry stated. “When I realized it I just sort of pushed him out. I dunno how.”

Hermione had chanced a glance at Harry and, when seeing he was back to normal, let go of Ron. “Y — you know, I t- think you just used Occlumency.”

“Brilliant timing,” Harry muttered. He grabbed his broom again, Ginny back on his mind. “See you,” he said hastily. He exited the house mounted his brook and kicked off without even waiting for the door to close. He hadn’t made it much farther than the tops of the houses though when he heard a whoosh of wind and Ron flew up beside him.

“You’re not going without us,” he said. Harry noticed Hermione clinging to Ron, not daring to look down. She did hate flying. “Ginny’s my sister.”

Now they were in the air Harry was at a loss for where to start. He supposed that they should start in Little Hangleton, at the Riddle house more specifically. He motioned for Ron and Hermione to follow him, which they did.

They had been flying at breakneck speed for about an hour when Harry saw something ahead of them. It was someone else on a broomstick, and they were flying to collide. He pulled out his wand. He would rather be prepared in case it wasn’t someone friendly.

The moon peaked out behind a wispy cloud and shone on the approaching figure. It was someone with white blonde hair. At this distance Harry could make out the stature of this individual. It could only be one person — Draco Malfoy.

Harry tightened his grip on the handle of his wand. He would knock Malfoy out of the air if he had to. There was no way that he was going to get detained by this fool.

Thirty seconds later they were almost upon each other. Harry raised his wand and shouted “Expelliarmus.” Malfoy deflected it.

“POTTER DON’T! I KNOW WHERE YOU CAN FIND HER!”

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