It had only been a few short months ago that the final battle had come to an end. Still fresh in everyone's minds as it was; now was a time to rebuild and come to some form of normalcy once more. Although Voldemort had been defeated there were some of his most loyal Death Eaters who refused to let him down and took it upon themselves to keep his name alive and carry out his plans. Lucius Malfoy was one of them; in fact, he was the leader of the rest of them. At the end of the final battle when he realized how thankful he was that his life was spared, he also realized that he felt embarrassed and made a fool of. Soon after when the Malfoy's returned to the Manor he immediately went back to his old ways, realizing that he could never live in a world in which he shared it with Mudbloods, Muggles and blood traitors. This infuriated him more than anything and soon an evil so great filled him and he became feared by many. He took pity on nobody, not even his own family. In his eyes everyone lived to serve him. Sure, he was thankful his wife and son were alive and himself as well, but Lucius truly only cared about himself and how much power he could have over people. Now that Voldemort was dead and he was his right hand man; he knew he could manipulate the remaining Death Eaters to work under him and that they did. Lucius was a lot more powerful than the remaining Death Eaters and had become even more powerful after learning first hand from the Dark Lord himself. To say this was an advantage for him was an understatement. Some Death Eaters were even calling Lucius the new Dark Lord and they would rant about the streets saying how the Dark Lord has risen again. As much as the world seemed to have been getting back to normal, nobody was aware of the evilness that was to come, that dark days would soon be upon them again. Right now there was just the occasional attack here and there on some Muggles, but there was something in the air; something that made your hair stand up, a sense of knowing that something bad was coming.
Hogwarts was finally open again to the students and the new year was just getting ready to begin. It had only been since the end of last year that the battle was raging throughout the school and across its grounds; even the forbidden forest had its share of violence strewn across it. The darkness that seemed to hang around the school seemed to start lifting as it started being prepped for the arrival of students again. Staff had arrived earlier than the students to go over lesson plans and student schedules. It was agreed that Harry, Ron, Hermione would return to Hogwarts to finish their seventh year as they weren't able to last year. Ginny would be in seventh year with them, since she had just about completed her sixth year when the battle broke out. She was very advanced anyway in all her subjects so it was fitting that she just started off in her seventh year. She was thrilled at the idea of sharing classes with the trio and she was so glad that they had the opportunity to actually graduate from Hogwarts. Some of the other seventh years from last year didn't come back like Neville Longbottom, Dean Thomas or even Seamus Finnigan. They, like Ginny, had almost completed their seventh year before the battle broke out and they had received their graduation awards through owl. In fact, Ginny had heard from her father at the Ministry that there may not be many students at Hogwarts at all this year. Many parents still feared to send their children to the school, even though Voldemort had been defeated. Knowing there was still active Death Eaters out there made it hard for many parents to trust that the Wizarding School was the safest place to send their kids to. No matter how many protective wards were put up.
Ginny was anxious to get back to school honestly. It had been very hard this summer at the Burrow. First there were all the repairs that had to get done to their small home after the Death Eater attack they faced last year. Then there was the fact that they were dealing with the death of Fred. Percy didn't live at home anymore and Charlie and Bill had lives of their own, so it was just Ginny, Ron, George and her parents left at the Burrow. Things weren't the same at all, there was just sadness and Ginny knew that Fred wouldn't want them to stop living their lives after his death, especially George, but Ginny had a hard time accepting this. Harry and Hermione had arrived at the Burrow a few days before they had to leave for Hogwarts and Ginny wasn't sure if it added to the sadness or lessened it. Hermione and Harry were dealing with things their own way also, although Ginny lost her brother there was so many other deaths that they all were trying to grieve. Ginny could tell her mother was trying so hard to bring the happiness back into their home, back to the days when the things you feared most was a verbal lashing from her Mom or a prank from Fred and George gone bad. She had found herself lost in her mind most of the time. She would lay in bed all night long awake just thinking of the events over the past few months and how things would be in the future. She was always over thinking it seemed. Sometimes so much so that she would cry with frustration. It was like she didn't know how or what to feel anymore and a part of her just didn't care.
It was the last night before they would be heading back to Hogwarts and Ginny knew her mom wanted to have a big family dinner before everyone left. She was packing the last bit of her stuff for school trying to fit as much as she could into her suitcase. She was holding it closed with one hand and trying to zip it up with the other when Harry walked by her room and noticed her struggle.
"Here let me help you with that" he said holding the other side down as Ginny zipped it up the rest of the way.
She grabbed the luggage off the bed and sat down on it letting out a long sigh while running her fingers through her hair.
"What's wrong Ginny?" Harry asked at the sound of her sighing.
"Oh nothing, just.....seeing if I'm forgetting anything I guess" she said halfheartedly like she wasn't going to even try and make it seem like nothing was wrong. She knew Harry would be able to tell something was on her mind. Her and Harry were just friends now, the whole relationship thing wasn't working out because they saw each other to much like a brother and sister and they both thought it best they just remained friends. Ginny thought things would be awkward between them because of this but it wasn't at all which she was really grateful for. If anything they had probably become closer by just being friends.
"What's really wrong?" Harry asked with a small smile.
Ginny looked at him and rolled her eyes playfully." Do you always have to see right through me?"
"Well become a better liar, then maybe you could fool me" he laughed.
Ginny gave a small laugh and then her smile faded and she looked deeper in thought. It became silent for a few moments before she spoke.
"It feels so weird going back to Hogwarts after everything. I keep feeling guilty because a part of me is excited to get back to school but the other part of me doesn't want to leave Mom, Dad and George."
"Yeah I know Gin..........I know." Harry sighed as he sat down next to her and gave her a one armed hug.
She leaned her head on his shoulder and they both got lost in their thoughts for a few moments before Mrs. Weasley's voice rang through the house. "DINNER TIME EVERYONE!! LET'S GO, GET DOWN HERE NOW! "
"Maybe I won't feel so bad after all leaving them behind" Ginny giggled as she looked over to see Harry covering his ears from her Moms screams.
By the time Ginny and Harry made it downstairs everyone was all gathered around the kitchen table piling food onto their plates. Ginny took a seat next to Hermione and Harry took one next to Ron. She noticed Hermione and Ron exchange a loving look at each other across the table. She was so happy the two of them finally came out with their true feelings. She smiled to herself at this thought and then looked at Harry and gave him a small smile. She made a plate for herself but only picked at it. Her mind was on the year ahead of her and how different things would be. She wondered if Hogwarts would still be the same school she came to know and love over the years. She wondered what new teachers would be there and thought about how Professor McGonagall was the new Headmistress of the school. She was quickly pulled from her thoughts when she heard her father speak up.
"So word at the Ministry is that not many Slytherins will be attending Hogwarts this year. Heard less than 20, not counting any new students who get sorted into the house" he said between bites. "I honestly think there won't be that many students in general going back this year. Many parents I've spoken to at the Ministry don't feel it's safe"
"Well I hate to say it but half of those poor kids had Death Eaters as parents. It's no wonder there's only a handful attending this year, especially after all that's happened" said Molly as she was frosting a cake she had made for dessert.
"I'm glad there's hardly any Slytherins this year, less crap we have to deal with from them, especially Malfoy" Ron spoke then shoved a fork full of food into his mouth.
Ginny looked at her brother as he said this, and then found herself getting lost in her thoughts again. She wasn't going to lie; having less Slytherins around this school year would be grand but somehow didn't feel right. Yes the fact that half of them had parents as Death Eaters and that they themselves were brought up to follow in their parents footsteps was concerning for sure, but what about the ones who weren't from families baring the Dark Mark? Slytherin has always been a good competitor when it came to Quidditch or winning house points. It was even the snide remarks and cunning ways that made them who they were. Ginny thought if she would actually miss that. Was that so crazy to think?
She suddenly felt her thoughts start to turn to anger and flashbacks of the final battle filled her mind. Was she actually sitting here thinking about Slytherins and whether school would be the same if they were there or not? After Fred was killed and so many others she loved. Why was she thinking so much? She wasn't sure what to think, she had become so quiet since the final battle. She had always found herself just swimming in a pool of thoughts and hardly ever shared any of them and when she did share any of her thoughts she wouldn't put it all out there. She wasn't really sure why she didn't want to ever talk about what happened or what she was thinking. Perhaps she was just numb still from the aftermath of the war; she was good at putting her mask in place. Was she over grieving? She thought she was. She thought everything was ok now but something was missing. There was no spark, no fire, she felt she had nothing to focus on, no purpose to go on. Then as soon as she realized she was feeling down like this she would push it all aside and be the strong one, for her parents, for her brothers, for her friends, she knew she would be ok.......well she hoped that she would be eventually. She was so far gone in her thoughts at this point she didn't even realize her mother had cleared the table and was calling her name.
"GINNY!" Mrs. Weasley shouted
"Huh? What?" Ginny responded shaking all traces of her thoughts from her head.
"I said do you want some cake, it's your favorite, Double Chocolate Fudge?" Molly said trying to hand her a slice she already took the liberty of cutting for her.
"Oh uh, no thanks Mom, I think I'm just going to finish packing and get ready for bed" she said then quickly got up from the table and headed upstairs.
Mrs. Weasley didn't pry further as to why her daughter was acting out of sorts, she knew she was struggling and coping with things her own way, she knew she was confused on how to feel. She saw how strong Ginny tried to be for the family but Molly knew better and while she herself is dealing with things she knew it was time to get things back to normal, for the sake of everyone's future and happiness. If there was one thing she could do to make sure Fred didn't die in vain it was to make sure this family's spirit didn't die out there on the battlefield with the rest of their loved ones. She gave her husband a small smile and started clearing the dessert dishes.
Ginny had just gotten out of the shower and wiped the mirror off of any fog clouding her view. She looked straight ahead at her reflection and just stared at herself. What happens now? She thought, how am I supposed to be feeling at this moment? She wished someone could just dictate to her how to feel so maybe her thoughts wouldn't overwhelm her so much. She glanced down at her arms and legs and ran her fingers over the light scars that were scattered about. She thought back to those darker days when she needed some kind of release but didn't know how to find it. She would never think of herself as someone who would stoop to such a low point in her life where she caused herself bodily harm. It had been so long since she was in that mindset and was glad she was passed that period of her life.......well she hoped she was. She didn't plan on ever going that far again. Now she was just stuck with the cocktail of thoughts and feelings always invading her mind. It was enough to drive her crazy and some days she thought it would. After shaking her head clear of all thoughts and feelings, she changed into her pajamas and had finished gathering the rest of her things to pack and then climbed into bed. She clicked on her side lamp and went into her side draw and pulled out a photo of her family away on vacation. Her eyes naturally went straight to Fred and there he was with George, laughing and acting like the goofball she remembered him as. Her eyes swelled with tears as soon as saw her brother so full of life. She then heard a soft knock on her bedroom door. She quickly wiped away any tears that may have escaped and tucked the picture under her pillow.
"Uh, come in" she said straightening out her blankets and wiping any tear residue off on her pajama pants.
"Hey Gin, mind if your favorite brother joins you for a late night chat?" said George popping his head in the doorway.
"Of course" she said giving him a small smile and patting the bed for him to sit down.
George immediately came over and gave an overdramatic plop down on her bed. "So tell me sis, what's going on in that mind of yours?"
"What do you mean?" she asked knowing exactly what he meant.
He gave her a knowing look "Come on Gin, spill the beans"
"There's nothing to spill George, honestly, just the normal thoughts about starting school is all"
"Alright, I guess since you don't want to-"
"How do you do it?" she asked suddenly cutting him off.
"Do what?" George asked also knowing what she meant.
"How do you go back to being George? How do you find yourself able to joke and laugh without him by your side?" Ginny asked hurriedly, like the words were burning her mouth and she just had to get them out already. She regretted asking this to her mourning brother but she couldn't help the pile of thoughts overflowing her mind. She watched George turn away from her, making her notice where his missing ear was, which made her feel even worse for asking such a touchy question.
"You just do it, you have to, because if you don't then what? You just sit and think about it all day? No, I refuse to do that, Fred wouldn't want that. I miss him more than anything in the world but I'm not going to let his death change me, I just can't let it. I have accepted him being gone and now I need to continue living." he spoke while shaking his head as if to avoid any other thoughts from entering his mind that may make him think otherwise.
Ginny hadn't realized some tears had escaped her eyes and were sliding down her face. She quickly started wiping them from her face before George turned back to look at her.
"If you ask me Gin, I bet that bloody bloke purposely went first as an extreme prank so I can get stuck running the joke shop by myself. He always was lazy that one."
They both laughed for a few moments remembering their brother at his funniest moments. George wiped a stray tear from Ginny's face and gave her a quick hug. He got up and starting walking out of the room. Just before he went to close the door he turned back to her.
"It's time to stop over thinking Gin and start living again, that's what Fred would have wanted"
She gave him a small smile and waited for the door to close all the way before she turned off her lamp, got under her covers and cried herself to sleep, as thoughts started to flood her mind again.