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SIYE Time:21:32 on 24th October 2021


Blood in the Moonlight
By Potter47

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Category: Haunted House Challenge (2004-5)
Characters:None
Genres: Angst, Drama, Tragedy
Warnings: Death, Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 39
Summary: ** Winner of Best Scary/Haunting in the Haunted House Challenge **
Brown eyes staring...hair cascading...black blood pouring...stained rope pulling...bare neck snapping...frail heart breaking.
Hitcount: Story Total: 4019



Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.





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Disclaimer: You all know I’m not JKR, otherwise I would have laughed a very long time after getting ‘best overall’ on the Canon Challenge for ‘Someone Important’ and would be very, very rich and would not be putting a disclaimer on this story. Or would I? ‘Cause that’d be a great way to make people think I wasn’t JKR – you know, by telling them so – and then I (JKR) could expose the ending of book seven without anybody knowing it was her! I mean, me! I mean...oh, what’s the use? I’m not JKR, I’m not either of the Warner Bros., I’m not Scholastic though I am scholastic and Bloomsbury’s English, which I wish I were but am not. Good day.



Author’s Note: Okay, this is a bit unusual for me, putting an author’s note at the beginning of the story, but I felt that it was necessary here. I thank you in advance for reading and hope dearly that my accomplishment of ‘best overall’ in the last challenge doesn’t count against me in this one. I mean, I put a lot of hard work into this fic (it has to be one of my personal favourites), and I don’t want any points off right off the bat. I mean, that’d kind of be like a sports team being disqualified at the start of the season after they win a championship, wouldn’t it? And that would be bad. Unless it’s the Yankees...oh no! I’ve just gotten points against me haven’t I? Please, if there are any Yanks fans doing the judging, let me say that that joke was entirely inapropriate, as was my misspelling of ’inappropriate’, and that I’m deeply sorry.



(GO SOX!)



Anyway, thanks again, in advance, for reading, and I do hope you tell me what you think. Please. Oh, and one last note; do not be fooled by the tone of this author’s note!



Enjoy!




Blood in the Moonlight
Potter47






Harry knew that Dumbledore was speaking–he had seen the man stand and could now see him gesturing wildly–but he could not hear the words Dumbledore spoke.



Harry knew that he should have been hungry–he hadn’t eaten a bit since breakfast at the Burrow, and even then he had only picked at his food–but he didn’t take anything off the trays that sat before him.



Can you hand me that dish?



Harry acknowledged the existence of the vague muffle but did not really hear it. He certainly didn’t pass the dish–who would he pass it to? He hadn’t the faintest idea who it was that had spoken.



Harry, are you all right? said the voice, and now Harry felt a hand grasp his shoulder lightly, turning him.



Harry, what happened?



What happened? What was that supposed to mean? Harry was perfectly fine–nothing had happened!



I’m fine, Harry tried to say, but no sound came out, save a soft coughing noise.



Harry! said the voice, panicked. You’re bleeding!



What? He couldn’t have been bleeding–I’d know if I were bleeding–I am bleeding!



Despite no words coming out of Harry’s mouth, something else did–blood, to be exact. Blood splattered his empty dish and all he could feel was a vague numbness as his head tipped back. Falling backwards off the bench, Harry found himself laying with a soft pillow beneath his head.



His eyes snapped open.



Harry’s first thought was What happened to all the blood? for it had been everywhere and surely it could not have been cleaned up that fast. But wait–he had been in the Great Hall. So why would there be any blood here, in the hospital wing?



“You’re awake!”



Harry heard the excited whisper from his left, and he turned his head. In a chair slept Ron, snoring loudly with his upper half drooping over the arm in an uncomfortable-looking way. Next to him was Hermione, dozing peacefully in her chair, petting a purring Crookshanks in her sleep. And then there was Ginny, who had spoken, leaning on the back of Ron’s chair with her arms crossed, looking fully awake.



“How do you feel?” she asked.



“Great,” said Harry, which was not at all the truth. The back of his head ached awfully; he had thought his throat would be sore as well, but it wasn‘t. Ginny narrowed her eyes at him.



“So you’re dreadful then,” she concluded. He didn’t protest.



Neither spoke for a moment. Then Harry voiced his thoughts.



“What happened to all the blood?” he said, pushing himself up so that he was sitting. He noticed that Neville was asleep in a chair on the other side of the bed.



“Blood?” Ginny echoed. “What blood? You fell backwards and hit your head–pretty hard, I reckon–but there wasn’t any blood.”



“Wha–no,” said Harry shaking his head, which he immediately regretted, for obvious reasons. “I was coughing up blood all over the place, that’s why I fell–”



Ginny shook her head. “You must have dreamt that, Harry. Merlin knows you’ve had enough time to–you’ve been out for over a day, you know. You missed all your classes–Ron was furious with you for making Hermione face Snape all alone in Potions.”



“How do you mean?” Harry asked, not comprehending.



“Well, you and Hermione are the only Gryffindors in NEWT-level potions this year, and Ron thought Snape would be mean to Hermione even more this year and he didn’t like her being alone.” Ginny paused, considering. “Mind you, Hermione didn’t like Ron not liking that one little bit. She didn’t...‘appreciate the insinuation’ or something. Don’t think Ron had a clue what she meant by that.”



“What did she mean by that?” asked Harry.



“Don’t have a clue,” Ginny said, grinning.



They sat in silence for another while before Ginny remembered something else to say.



“Dumbledore was worried about you,” she informed Harry. “When he saw you fall back, he stopped mid-word and went to make sure you were all right and take you here. The feast ended early, you know. Dumbledore never even finished telling us about that haunted house thingy...”



“What haunted house thing?” Harry asked.



“I dunno–“ Ginny smirked “He never finished telling us about it.”



“Oh, right.”



Neither said anything for a long time–ten, twenty minutes at least–and Harry felt that sleep was near once again. Just as he was about to drift off, he heard Ginny speak.



“What happened that night?” said Ginny softly.



Harry, drifting off, didn’t answer, nor would he have had he been fully awake. Ginny frowned.



“So I suppose you’re not going to talk again for another month, right?”



–|–



“Ginny .”



Her scarlet head snapped up from watching her reflection in the pond. Looking over her shoulder, she smiled at him. “Harry,” she said, nodding. “What are you doing here?”



“I felt like talking,” Harry said. “You told me that whenever I wanted to talk, I could.” He took a breath. “I felt like talking,” he said again.



Ginny smiled briefly again and gestured for Harry to come sit next to her. She saw his approaching reflection in the water.



“So what did you want to talk about?” she asked, pulling a blade of grass out of the earth and tossing it into the water. The resulting ripples were nearly imperceptible, they were so small and brief. But they were there, just the same.



Harry‘s lips quirked a bit. “I’d been hoping you’d tell me.”



Ginny chuckled. “You mean you’ve come out here to talk–for the first time in ages, I might add–and you don’t have a clue what you want to talk about?”



“That’s about it,” Harry said, nodding. “What do you want to talk about?”



“Something that’ll keep you talking,” said Ginny. “We’ve all missed you.”



Harry frowned. “I’ve been here most of the summer–I was only at the Dursleys for–”



“You know that’s not what I meant,” said Ginny. She took a breath. “But that’s not what you want to talk about, so I’m not going to talk about it.”



Silence. Ginny tossed another blade of grass into the pond.



“So, you’re of-age now,” she said conversationally. “A fully-grown wizard. How d’you feel?”



Harry thought for a moment. Ginny reckoned he wouldn’t say “Swell!” but she hoped he was doing all right. She knew it was a foolish thing to hope; he had hardly said two words during his whole seventeenth birthday, and those had been “Thank” and “You”, both of which were to be expected from him.



Ginny watched his face as he came up with a reply.



“Like I jumped from a moving train,” he said finally.



“I’d thought as much,” said Ginny, nodding. “You don’t have to go back to the Dursleys at least.”



Harry shrugged. “Don’t be so sure. If Dumbledore had his way, I’d be there until I was older than he is.”



“No he wouldn’t,” said Ginny. “You know Dumbledore cares about you; he wants you to be happy.”



“I’m finding that harder and harder to believe,” said Harry, and he didn’t say anything more.



“What happened that night?” Ginny softly. Harry said nothing, staring into the water.



The two sat by the pond in silence for a long time, Ginny occasionally tossing blades of grass onto the surface, sometimes a few at a time. The ripples collided with each other and thinned out, miniature ocean-waves, crashing together. It wasn’t until the sun had fallen low beneath the mountains that the two walked back to the Burrow.



Harry didn’t feel like talking anymore; Ginny understood.



–|–



Harry left the hospital wing the next day, Madam Pomfrey finding nothing wrong with him–physically, at least–save a mild concussion, which she had put right at once. He didn’t feel all right, of course, and Ginny had been right; he didn’t feel like talking in the least.



Harry had been dismissed just before dinner, so that the Great Hall was empty when he arrived. Making a point to avoid his usual seat, Harry sat down and stared at his plate, waiting for everybody to arrive, dreading the questions that would arrive with them.



It turned out that nobody said much of anything to him when they did arrive. He found it peculiar, frankly; usually everybody had something to say when he had been to the hospital wing.



Harry contemplated the trays in front of him, wondering if he felt hungry. He supposed he should have known whether he was hungry or not, but he didn’t.



“Could you pass the blood–”



Harry started, jumping inches off his seat. He calmed down, however, when he heard Seamus finish his statement with “–pudding?”



Taking a deep breath, Harry nodded, sliding the pork sausage down the table towards Seamus, who said “Thanks,” blissfully unaware of the fright he had given Harry.



Harry was now positive that he was not hungry. There was no way he could eat with...that on his mind again. No, no, no. Not a chance. Harry tried to push all thoughts of blood away from his mind, but only succeeded in giving him the disgusting mental picture of a hand wiping blood off of a brain, cleansing it, and placing it back into Harry’s head...



Breathing deep, Harry decided now would be a good time to leave the hall. Just as he prepared to go, however, he saw Dumbledore stand up at the teachers’ table, and gesture for silence in the hall. Harry decided to stay for another minute or two.



“Good evening, Hogwarts,” said the headmaster. “As you all know, I was in the middle of an announcement, two days ago, when we were interrupted. I do believe you all want to know what I meant by ’This year we will be having a Haunted House–Sweet Merlin!’ because I doubt any of you have ever heard of a Haunted House Sweet Merlin before, correct?”



The students were silent, and Dumbledore decided not to try to joke again for a while.



“Well, this year we will be having a Haunted House, though not haunted in the same way as the Shrieking Shack, of course. Haunted in a most decidedly Muggle way, in fact...”



What is he on about? Harry wondered, wishing Dumbledore would get to the point so he could leave and be miserable somewhere else.



“Let me explain,” continued Dumbledore. “This Halloween, the Quidditch pitch will be adorned in a vast tent, beneath which will be a maze of eight rooms, two per house. Each house will decorate their rooms in secret, without the other houses knowing how they are proceeding. The object is to create obstacles that only those in your own house will be able to pass, obstacles that will lead those from other houses to seek an alternate route.



“On the night of Halloween, every student will enter the maze from the start; on one side of the Quidditch pitch. They will start in one of the rooms that is not their own. At the other side of the maze (and there will be a unique exit for each house) will be something of a Halloween ball, with refreshments, a dance floor, et cetera. If you get dreadfully lost, you may start again fresh, but remember this; the House with the most members across at by the time the clock strikes midnight, wins two hundred fifty points.”



Each student stared at the headmaster, not knowing what to think. Sure, it was an opportunity for House points, and dancing, but a Haunted House? Surely the old man’s age had finally caught up to him?



But Harry didn’t really care in the least. After all, what was the point of a Halloween celebration when...he would not think about it. He wouldn’t, he wouldn’t, he wouldn’t...



That’s it, thought Harry. I’ve had enough.



And with that thought, he got up and left the hall. No one appeared to take notice of him, and he didn’t mind the anonymity one bit.



–|–



“So,” said Ginny, “what should we do for the rest of the afternoon?”



“I dunno,” said Harry, shrugging. “What do we usually do when Ron and Hermione are busy with Prefect stuff?”



“Homework,” reminded Ginny. “But there’s no homework on the last day of term.”



“Oh, right,” said Harry.



“So what should we do?” said Ginny, looking out over Hogwarts grounds, pouting with boredom.



Harry’s eyes fell on the Quidditch pitch. “We could go for a fly,” he suggested.



Ginny’s face brightened instantaneously. “Brilliant idea, Harry. Why didn’t I think of that?” And she set off back inside the castle for her broom. Harry had to jog to keep up with her.



“Hey, there’s no rush, you know,” he said, catching her up by the marble staircase.



“Yes, but I really, really want to fly,” said Ginny. “I don’t know why, but all of a sudden I need to be up in the air...”



Harry didn’t have a reply, and soon they were both back outside the castle, brooms in hand.



“Race you to the pitch!” Ginny shouted, jumping on her broom and taking off.



“Hey!” yelled Harry, following suit.



They flew laps and loops, low and loftily, for quite a while before a familiar glint caught Harry’s eye.



“The Snitch?” Harry said aloud, bewildered.



“What?” called Ginny from ten or so feet away from him, slowing her broom.



“What’s the Snitch doing here?” Harry asked, pointing.



Ginny followed his finger. turning her broom. “What do you mean?” she called back. “I don’t see the Snitch...”



Harry flew towards the golden ball. “What do you mean?” he asked. “How can you not see it?”



And with that, he reached out and clasped the ball in his hand, and promptly disappeared.



“Harry?” Ginny asked, spinning about on her broom. “Harry, where are you?”



–|–



Harry lay silently in his bed, listening as his fellow seventh years, one by one, drifted to sleep. Harry himself either couldn’t sleep, or didn’t want to, or both.



He stared into the blackness above him, wondering if it would ever stop.



If what would stop? said a voice in his head. The blood?



No, Harry answered himself.



No?



Well...yes. And no. And...everything.



You know how it can stop–how it has to stop. You know, yet you still lay here in bed talking to yourself.



What am I supposed to do?



You know what you’re supposed to do. But you can’t do it, can you?



No. No, I can’t. So what am I supposed to do?



I just answered you.



You are me.



Yes, and you are still lying here in bed, talking to yourself.



Harry sat up, shaking his head as if to clear it. He opened the curtains of his four-poster, and stood up, looking out the window. He saw the crescent moon in the sky, glowing down upon the grounds. Harry glanced over the grounds themselves, spotting the Quidditch pitch in the distance, where it started, last June.



Shaking himself, he looked at the ground directly in front of him.



Is that a person? he thought suddenly, pressing his face against the glass to see.



Yes, it was–it was Ginny. He could see the red of her hair, reflecting in the moonlight. What was Ginny doing out at this hour, at–midnight?



He watched her walking–no, running–across the grounds. What could she be doing?



Suddenly, she stopped in her tracks. Turning round, she looked up, right at him, and he could see it wasn’t Ginny at all, but...her.



Her hair wasn’t red at all, but black. Her face was black as well, black as it had been that night, that fateful night. She smirked at him, and he saw the drips dripping from her once beautiful face, the drips of blood. The blood appeared black in the moonlight, giving her the look of a demon rising from hell.



Harry violently pushed away from the window, falling back onto the cold floor, except the floor wasn’t cold at all and there was a pillow beneath his head and he was asleep now, for better or for worse.



–|–



Cold. Dark. Cold and dark. Dark and Cold. Frigid and black, another way to put it.



He felt the ground beneath his cheek; cold, dark, frigid and black. Yes, the ground was not comfortable, pressing against his face, so perhaps he should sit up?



Harry sat up, only to find he could not do so. Where was he?



Where am I? he thought.



Harry couldn’t see a thing, nothing but darkness. Blackness. Frigid cold. Where were his robes?



Where are my robes? he thought.



Harry tried to sit up once again, but he seemed to be stuck. His legs felt as if they were packed into hard, cold, dark dirt.



“My legs are packed into the dirt!” said Harry aloud without even meaning to do so, when he felt that his legs were indeed packed into the hard, cold, dark dirt.



But wait...



Hang on, thought Harry, what is that?



For Harry felt something crawling beneath his back, and one of the most dreadful feelings in the world is the sense of something slithering beneath you as you lay immovable. Pray you never need experience it.



“A snake!” Harry whisper-yelled, unable to do anything else the snake had wound itself up to his face, and Harry was far too terrified to say anything else.



The snake, on the other hand...



“What else would I be?” the snake hissed. “Do you expect a Hippogriff when you feel a slither beneath your back?”



“No, I–” Harry blinked. “Where am I?”



“You can speak as well?” the snake hissed, before proceeding, “Where does it look like you are?”



“I don’t know. I can’t see a thing.”



“Exactly. You are under the earth.”



“What?” asked Harry, uncomprehending. It then clicked that the hard, cold, dark dirt that his legs were in was also around the rest of him, only looser.



“You understand,” hissed the snake. It paused, as if considering. “When do you plan on dying? My family could use this space.”



“I don’t plan on dying!” exclaimed Harry, making him realise that he would indeed die, if he didn’t have air soon. And of course, whenever one comes to the realisation that they are about to suffocate, they take great, gulping gulps of air, which only helped get soil


into Harry’s mouth.



–|–



The month of September seemed to somehow not exist for Harry, who remembered absolutely none of it, after the first few days. With October came the feel of autumn, the smell of Halloween. Harry wondered how long it was until Halloween. He didn’t really like Halloween very much, he thought.



Harry only realised that Halloween was really coming soon when the day was nearly upon him–the day before, in fact. The cause of the realisation was Ginny, who was now standing in front of his perfectly comfortable chair, glaring.



He looked at her for a few minutes, wondering if she would give up and go away.



“What?” he said once he determined she would not.



“You, Harry Potter,” Ginny said, “are going to get off your bum this instant.



Harry surveyed her shrewdly. “I am?”



“You certainly are,” Ginny informed him. “Because I am sick and tired of you sitting here, day in and day out, watching, never saying a word. I believe now’s the time to get you out of this little funk, particularly because I’ve gotten three words out of you already.”



“Why?” he asked.



“Four,” she amended.



Harry blinked. “Why shouldn’t I sit here if I want to? I sleep, I eat, I do my homework. Why should anybody ask anymore of me? I’m sick and tired of doing everything.”



“Goodness, full sentences,” said Ginny disbelievingly. “Are you sure you’re Harry Potter?”



He glared.



“Yes, well you’re right,” said Ginny, nodding. “You’re sick and tired of doing everything. So, now you’re going to do something you’ve never done before.” She grabbed hold of his hand resting on the arm of the chair and lugged him out of his seat.



“What would that be?” he asked, still glaring in her direction as she pulled him towards the portrait hole.



“Decorate a haunted house,” she informed, tugging.




Eventually Harry let himself walk without her pulling him, sentencing himself to actually doing this...decoration. Why was he doing this? Why didn’t he just turn back now that he had the use of his arm back?



He didn’t know.



Ginny led him out onto the Quidditch pitch, which was very different-looking from the last time he had seen it, before–just...before.



T here was a giant tent above them, which in the back of his mind he remembered hearing about, but couldn’t for the life of him remember when or where or who had said it. On the pitch itself there was a large, stone-looking structure which he assumed was the maze, even though he couldn’t remember when he heard about that either.



He followed Ginny towards an opening in the maze wall, about half-way down the right side. It wasn’t so much an opening as a semi-transparent section of stone.



“Only Gryffindors can come in here,” she informed him. “The whole thing’s set up like that, entrances along the edges for the houses to get in. Nobody has a clue what the other houses are doing–Hermione suspects the teachers have charmed us all so we can’t talk about it to non-Gryffindors, but nobody wants to anyway.”



“How exciting,” Harry muttered. Ginny turned sharply and glared.



“If you’re not going to do this happily I’ll leave you in here,” she said, “and I don’t think you’d want that.” She walked through the opening.



“Why?” he asked, walking through after her. “You don’t think I could–”



Harry’s world disappeared.



Ginny lay on the ground, eyes closed, her robes sprawled around her in a familiar way, her pale face contrasting the brightness of her hair, giving her a picturesque look of pure innocence. Pooling out from under her was the deep scarlet of blood.



–|–



Someho w, Harry managed to make it to the surface–he hadn’t the faintest idea how he did it, but he did, and now felt the brisk night air seep into his lungs. It felt wonderful and horrible at the same time.



Harry felt an odd sensation in his nostrils, as if he had smelt something unbearably horrible-smelling, yet he couldn’t actually smell it. It made him slightly dizzy and he couldn’t place it until he felt the drip.



Drip...drip!



I t was blood, dripping from his nostrils. He...he had a nosebleed. He actually smiled, chuckling. Only a nosebleed, after all.



However, he was becoming dizzier by the moment, and he tried to block the flow with the back of his hand, but that only proceeded to cover his hand in the blood, the dark blood that appeared almost black in the dim moonlight.



“Hello again, Harry Potter,” said a soft, female voice. Harry turned round to see...



“You!” he shouted, as best as one can shout after being buried alive and narrowly escaping death.



–|–



“Harry, are you all right?” said Ginny worriedly, as Harry opened his eyes suddenly, noticing he was lying on the ground, with Ginny above him.



“You’re OK,” he said disbelievingly, reaching up and poking her cheek, as if to see if she was real.



“I’m fine Harry,” said Ginny, smiling slightly at his poke. “It was fake blood–not real. Make believe.”



Silence but for the sound of Harry‘s breathing returning to normal.



“I honestly didn’t know you’d react like that,” Ginny said quietly.



“Of course you didn’t,” said Harry, not making any move to stand.



“And you’d seen me only a moment before–what could have happened to me in two seconds?” She sounded reassuring, but it couldn’t prevent Harry from thinking exactly what could have happened to her in two seconds.



Silence once again. Harry noticed that Ginny was still leaning over him and he wondered if she minded him staring at her. He didn’t feel like moving and she was directly in his line of vision so yes, he hoped she didn’t mind. And she shouldn’t mind, he reasoned, as she was staring at him just the same.



Ginny finally spoke, looking directly into his eyes.



“What happened that night?” she said softly.



Harry couldn’t seem to remember how to breathe, and it wasn’t because of the way she was looking at him – though that was certainly unfamiliar – or the way she was kind of cutting off the circulation to his right arm, the way she was leaning – though that was certainly painful – but because of the memory that struck him full force.



“You don’t want to know,” he said finally, shifting his gaze from her eyes.



“Yes,” said Ginny, surprising him by taking hold of his chin and turning his head to face her again, “I do.”



He smirked briefly, icily. “You don’t,” he said, “But I’m about to tell you anyway.”



Neither moved as he began his story.



–|–



“Yes, me,” said Bellatrix Lestrange, grinning evilly, which Harry thought would have to be the only word that could describe her doing anything, except perhaps ‘wickedly’, which meant basically the same thing.



The witch had her wand to Harry’s throat now, and he didn’t understand what was going on. Had the Snitch been a Portkey that took him...underground? But where was he, and why was Bellatrix Lestrange there too? And where was his wand?



“Where am I?” he said suddenly, and he felt that his throat was sore, perhaps from what had happened, perhaps because of something Bellatrix had done with her wand. But either way, it pained him to speak.



“You are exactly where I want you to be,” said Bellatrix.



Oh, that’s wonderfully specific, Harry thought sarcastically.



“I see you’re bleeding,” noted the witch, pointing to his nose with her wand.



“Yes, I’ve noticed thank you,” said Harry, wiping the blood with the back of his hand again.



“Have you ever seen blood in the moonlight, Harry?” Bellatrix said in a sing-song voice, smirking. “It appears quite black.



“Don’t you dare,” said Harry suddenly, without thinking, “...say that name.”



“What, Black?” Bellatrix feigned unknowingness. “Why shouldn‘t I speak the name of my fathers?”



Harry practically growled, causing blood to spurt out violently from his nostrils. He did not speak however, eyeing the wand in the witch’s hand.



“Oh, but of course,” said Bellatrix slyly. “Because of your precious little godfather...”



Harry glared but couldn’t find the strength to speak again. He felt unusually weak, in fact. And he was having difficulty catching his breath.



“You’re wondering why I buried you,” said Bellatrix, reading Harry’s mind. “Yes?”



Harry made no motion to indicate an answer, which she took as a ’yes’.



“I was having a little fun,” said Bellatrix. “You see, I was wondering if the prophecy – I believe you know the one? – was correct, and that you could only be killed by my Master.”



Harry looked up curiously, yet trying to hide his curiosity as did so. She saw it, however, and continued.



“It is,” she told him, smirking. “You were under there for hours, you know – and yet here you are, alive and well.”



Harry would hesitate before calling his current condition ‘well’, and he didn’t feel very alive at the moment either.



“Where is he anyway?” Harry asked suddenly, surprising even himself with his tone. He sounded quite bored, actually, and he couldn’t reason why.



“He?” Bellatrix inquired heatedly. “You dare disgrace the name of Lord Voldemort by assigning him a mere pronoun?”



“I guess,” said Harry weakly. “Why isn’t he the one torturing me?”



“Torturing you? I’ll show you what torturing is, Potter.”



And Harry turned round and tensed, expecting the Cruciatus Curse. But no pain came.



–|–



Harry paused in his narration, looking up at Ginny warily.



“I can’t feel my arm,” he said regretfully.



“Oh!” she started, standing up suddenly. He stood up as well, slightly dizzy after being horizontal for so long.



“It’s all right,” he said, taking a deep breath and flexing his fingers. “I didn’t really notice ‘til now.”



“How long have we...been here?” Ginny asked, looking in vain at her wrist, which had no watch on it.



“A long time,” said Harry, looking round. “What is this supposed to be?”



“Oh, it’s a graveyard,” said Ginny. “Us Gryffindors are really going for that ‘bravery’ thing. We figured not many people like to cross graveyards in the dark.”



Harry swallowed. “No, not many. He looked closer at the room. The ground was grassy, but the grass looked dead, not at all the vivid brightness that was the norm on the Quidditch pitch.



There were variously-shaped gravestones every few feet, and Harry didn’t want to read the names on them, but did anyway. They turned out to be Slytherins, each with an accompanying, unflattering limerick.



“Doubt if Malfoy’s gonna like that,” he said.



“He’s not supposed to like it,” said Ginny obviously.



“But it’s not going to scare him, will it?”



“It’s Hermione’s opinion that he’ll ‘be far too angry to continue on, and will undoubtedly turn back and try a different room.’”



Harry looked round in silence, noting the ancient-looking tree that swayed in a nonexistent wind.



“It doesn’t seem very scary,” said Harry.



“Yes, well it’s not turned on, is it?” said Ginny. “Ignitio!



The room was now black but for the cracks of lightning erupting overhead, the sound of thunder quaked his ears, and suddenly the tree seemed to reflect the light, giving it an ethereal glow.



And then Harry noticed what he hadn’t before–hanging from the tree by its neck was a body. Looking closer, Harry saw it was himself. He was dying–or was he already dead? Blood poured from the neck, as if the throat was slit before the hanging. Harry stared at it for a moment, shaking.



“It looks like whoever looks at it,” explained Ginny. “Hermione’s spell.”



Harry was numb–he felt as lifeless as his hanging counterpart. “Fitting,” he said dazedly, unable to blink, to look away, “but the blood’s too bright.”



“Is it? I’ll tell Herm–fitting? How do you mean?”



“Let me finish,” said Harry, tears leaking, and Ginny turned off the room.



–|–



He looked up. Where had she – where had Bellatrix gone? For the witch was nowhere to be seen. He hadn’t heard the crack of Apparation, but what else could she have done? And why would she leave him alone?



For the first time, Harry appraised his surroundings. He appeared to be on a field, and no one could be seen for miles. His lone companion was a tree, old-looking and leafless, despite Summer. It looked almost like a spidery hand, reaching out of the ground, flexing in the wind.



And then he noticed the movement.



The branches swayed back and forth, and there was an inexplicable brightness on the side opposite. Harry pushed himself up off the ground, walking slowly, painfully towards the tree.



He coughed again, blood spattering the ground, but he paid it no mind.



Standing precariously, Harry wiped his face, and covered his glasses in blood in the process. He took them off, flung them to the side, and looked up dazedly.



His breath caught.



Brown eyes staring–hair cascading–black blood pouring–stained rope pulling–bare neck snapping–frail heart breaking.



The lifeless eyes gazed at him, her long robes giving her the appearance of a floating spirit, as Harry stared back, feeling just as lifeless as she.



“Ginny...” he said miserably, “Ginny what are you doing here?”



He continued to stare at her, and suddenly her lips quirked. The dead frown was replaced by a raucous smirk. And it wasn’t Ginny any longer, but Bellatrix, and she wasn’t in the tree but standing in front of Harry’s crumpled, sobbing form.



She grabbed him round the throat, and pressed him into the ground, smirking all the time. He couldn’t breath–he was dead. He had to be. How could he survive this? No air could reach his lungs, which were flailing about inside his chest, seeking oxygen. And then suddenly air rushed in, causing him to cough blood through his mouth and nose, and Bellatrix was gone.



“A warning,” he heard a faint whisper, disappearing so that he wasn‘t sure if it had ever existed to start with.



And he collapsed, sobbing.



–|–



Harry couldn’t speak another word–his throat was as hoarse as it had been since that night. And he didn’t have to. Ginny didn’t impose any questions upon him, and he was thankful. She was taking deep breaths, contemplating his story.



Finally, she did ask the question on her mind, if only because she was mentally unable to delay another moment.



“Why did she...” She tried again. “Why did Lestrange...”



Taking a deep breath, she got it all out: “Why did Bellatrix Lestrange make herself look like...me?



Harry said nothing for a moment, just looked at her. Then he spoke, “You know why.”



After a moment, she nodded hesitantly, shivering suddenly with cold. “But...”



He shook his head. “We have to go back–it’s...getting late.”



Unable to look away from him, she nodded, breathing deep, in and out, cautious, hesitant.



Harry tentatively put his arm round Ginny’s shoulders, part for stability, part for something else. She welcomed the warmth, for it felt unusually cool for October, and they left then, taking no notice of the dark figures, huddled in shadow outside the Gryffindor entrance to the maze.



–|–



Neither Harry nor Ginny spoke to each other again that day, or the next morning either. Both knew that there was nothing to say, nothing to be said, and that the other would speak when ready.



Next morning at breakfast, Hermione arrived at the Gryffindor table late, smiling at her housemates. She whispered: “It’s ready,” and the message was soon passed along the table.



She turned to Ginny and Ron, looking puzzled. “I can’t understand why, but there was a stain on the ground in the Graveyard Room. Looked like fake blood.”



Ron answered: “Somebody probably had it on their shoe from the Pool or something.”



“No,” said Hermione, “it didn’t look like a shoeprint, and the Blood Pool’s been done for days–nobody’s been in there.”



“Did you make that change I mentioned?” Ginny said nonchalantly, turning her kippers round her plate with her fork.



“Yes, I darkened it a bit,” said Hermione, narrowing her eyes at Ginny. “But why did you want me to?”



“Well, blood looks black in the moonlight,” said Ginny offhandedly, taking a bite of her breakfast. “Everyone knows that.”



Nearing the end of breakfast, Dumbledore rose at the teachers’ table, gesturing for silence.



“The Haunted House is to be unveiled at sundown. Houses will take care to make sure everything is perfect within before noon. The teachers will be patrolling, keeping all students out from that time on.



“I do hope you all have a good time,” said Dumbledore, smiling. “Perhaps we will make this a yearly tradition, if everything turns out all right...”



The rest of the day passed rather uneventfully, save a few Gryffindors running down to the maze to retrieve a mop that had been left in the Blood Pool – which, Harry had heard, passers-by had to swim through to exit the room – and noon soon was long gone, with sunset approaching.



Harry was not what one could call ‘excited’ to go through the maze. More likely, he was ‘anxious’ or perhaps ‘apprehensive’ or maybe ‘terrified to the point of trying to find the proper word to describe his feelings’ would be better.



Taking a breath, Harry rubbed his eyes, wondering if he could get away with simply going to bed. But he knew what he would meet if he let himself drift off today, and he frankly almost preferred the maze.



Suddenly, Ginny was next to him, in the next seat over by the common room fire. She was silent.



“Hello,” he said hesitantly.



She smiled slightly, greeting him in return. She looked him over and concluded “You don’t want to go in the maze.”



“Right in one,” said Harry grimly.



“Then don’t.”



“I have to,” said Harry. “Or Gryffindor’ll lose. Everyone has to get across.”



“No, everyone doesn’t,” said Ginny. “Just more than the other houses.”



“I have to,” repeated Harry, and Ginny put up no argument this time.



They sat in silence for another few moments.



“I’ve been thinking,” said Ginny.



“About what?” said Harry.



“You know.”



“Yes?”



Ginny took a breath, and said: “I feel the same way.”



Harry closed his eyes briefly, opening them again, wondering if she’d still be there; she was, of course.



“You do?”



“Yes.”



Silence.



“Good.”



They sat there, looking at the fire, and neither spoke for a long time. In fact, they were silent until Hermione came up behind them to say that sunset was exactly ten minutes away, and that they’d better get down to the pitch.



The two left behind their friend, and Harry noticed that Hermione wore dress robes. Why though? He looked to his side and saw Ginny had a Muggle dress on, orangey-white, in the spirit of the holiday. He couldn’t fathom why.



They reached the tent eventually, and ducked inside to where the students were gathering. Harry noticed that nearly all the girls were wearing dresses or dress robes, the only exceptions being the youngest years that didn’t have them.



Why? Harry thought again, uncomprehending.



The front maze entrances were opened after a few words from the headmaster, and students entered either a Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw room. Harry kind of zoned out, tagging along with the crowd, not really caring about the great flapping eagles that were swooping down and taking students back to the start.



He really zoned out after that and wouldn’t have even been able to tell anyone what was in the rest of the rooms. He passed through the Graveyard with his eyes closed, holding Ginny’s shoulder.



He didn’t awaken until they were in a Slytherins’ room. And he only did so because he no longer felt Ginny’s shoulder beneath his hand.



Harry appraised his surroundings. He appeared to be on a field, and no one could be seen for miles. His lone companion was a tree, old-looking and leafless, despite the usual Hogwarts magic that kept the trees alive. It looked almost like a spidery hand, reaching out of the ground, flexing in the wind.



And then he noticed the movement.



No...



The branches swayed back and forth, and there was an inexplicable brightness on the side opposite. Harry pushed himself up off the ground, walking slowly, painfully towards the tree.



No, it can’t be...



He coughed again, blood spattering the ground, but he paid it no mind.



Standing precariously, Harry wiped his face, and covered his glasses in blood in the process. He took them off, flung them to the side, and looked up dazedly.



His breath caught.



Brown eyes staring–hair cascading–black blood pouring–stained rope pulling–bare neck snapping–frail heart breaking.



The lifeless eyes gazed at him, her long robes giving her the appearance of a floating spirit, as Harry stared back, feeling just as lifeless as she.



NO!



“Gin ny...” he said miserably, “Ginny, where did you go? Why did you leave me?”



He continued to stare at her, and suddenly her lips quirked. The dead frown was replaced by a raucous smirk. And it wasn’t Ginny any longer, but Bellatrix, and she wasn’t in the tree but standing in front of Harry’s crumpled, sobbing form.



She grabbed him round the throat, and pressed him into the ground, smirking all the time. He couldn’t breath–he was dead. He had to be. How could he survive this? No air could reach his lungs, which were flailing about inside his chest, seeking oxygen.



I warned you,” Bellatrix hissed, “and you did not heed my warning. You instead fell in love with the girl that will be your downfall. Why should I not kill you now?



“Because you can’t,” said Harry, surprising himself with the power of speech.



Can’t I? I was lying before–you were only under the ground for a few moments.



“No,” said Harry, sobbing. “No, you can’t.”



I can. And I will. But first I shall dispose of your precious Ginny.



“NO!” shouted Harry, pushing back. He reached his hands up and caught Bellatrix’s own neck in his fingers. He squeezed, and a wheeze escaped from her mouth.



You cannot fight, Potter,” wheezed the witch. “You are dying.



“No,” he said, squeezing, pushing harder. Bellatrix coughed blood into his face.



You will pay, Potter,” said Bellatrix, relenting, pulling back. She disappeared silently. “Just you wait.



And he collapsed, sobbing.



–|–



“Harry, are you all right?” said Ginny worriedly, as Harry opened his eyes suddenly, noticing he was lying on the ground, with Ginny above him.



“You’re OK,” he said disbelievingly, and this time he didn’t poke her cheek, but sat up and kissed her full on the lips.



Taken aback, Ginny kissed him back hesitantly.



“I’m fine, Harry,” said Ginny, smiling slightly as she pulled back. “It’s you I’m worried about.”



“Great,” said Harry, which was actually pretty much the truth. The back of his head ached slightly; he had thought his throat would be sore as well, but it wasn‘t. Ginny narrowed her eyes at him.



“So you’re dreadful then,” she concluded.



“No, really,” he protested. “I’m doing all right. It doesn’t seem like I should be, but...I am. Now.” He leaned up and kissed her again, and this time she was expecting it.



“You want to go on to the dance?” Ginny asked, pulling back after a while.



“Dance?” Harry echoed, and then remembered that Dumbledore had mentioned a Halloween Ball, which would explain the dresses.



“Oh, I–I guess,” he said, and she helped him up.



Harry realised suddenly that they were out of the maze, and he wondered how that had happened. He decided not to ask, however, and let Ginny lead him out onto the dance floor.



“I’m not the best dancer,” said Harry.



“No, you’re an absolutely horrible dancer,” corrected Ginny, grinning. “But we’ll manage.”



For a long time after that, Harry’s memories blurred and he couldn’t recall any individual moments, only a constant feeling of contentment. He didn’t feel awful, which was unusual for him, especially this year.



“Thank you,” he said to Ginny.



Most probably would have asked what for; Ginny didn’t. She just smiled at him, and they continued dancing, her arms round his neck, his round her waist, even after the slow songs had ended, and Malfoy was making fun of them and Ron was glaring at him and Hermione was glaring at Ron and everyone seemed to be mad at somebody, except for Harry and Ginny, who paid no mind to anything but sinking into each other’s eyes.



Finis



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