|SIYE Time:10:33 on 23rd March 2018|
Category: Pre-OotP, Post-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Nymphadora Tonks, Other, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Drama, Romance
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Sexual Situations, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Sequel to Darkness Within. This story begins the night before Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts. Canon couples accurate to JKR. The romance between Harry and Ginny will develop slowly due to their ages. Please note rating and warnings.
Hitcount: Story Total: 18689; Chapter Total: 556
Awards: View Trophy Room
Tremendous gratitude goes out to my beta, Arnel! I would also like to thank everyone who has been reading and reviewing! It was a wonderful surprise to see the Silver Trinket Award for this story!
A tawny owl swooped into the Great Hall, its strong wings shifting gracefully as it descended towards the Gryffindor table.
“That’s Mista.” Ginny set her fork down and reached forward to stroke the neck of the familiar bird.
Most mail was delivered at breakfast, so she was surprised to see her friend’s owl arriving at the end of dinner. The Great Hall was slowly starting to empty as students finished their meals and headed towards the library or their common rooms.
“What are you doing here so late, my sweet girl?” Anna cooed at the bird as she removed the letter.
As Anna pushed her goblet of pumpkin juice towards Mista, the air was suddenly rent with the sound of a woman’s scream. Startled students dropped their utensils, rose from their seats, and headed towards the doors to the Entrance Hall. A few even pulled their wands as the sound was repeated. Ginny exchanged an alarmed glance with Anna and the two girls rose and joined the other students.
Ginny stopped abruptly as she reached the Entrance Hall. Professor Trelawney was swaying in the middle of a wide circle of students. She held her wand in one hand and an empty bottle in the other. Professor Umbridge advanced upon the frail witch with a look of malicious glee that infuriated Ginny. How could someone take such pleasure in the fear and humiliation of another?
Umbridge seemed like a predator circling its prey as she stalked around the broken figure of the Divination professor. Her words were condescending and heartless as she fired the teacher and ordered her to leave the castle. The broken sobs of the distraught witch were interrupted by the sudden appearance of the Headmaster.
“Professor McGonagall, would you please escort Sybill back upstairs to her quarters?” Professor Dumbledore requested.
Ginny was relieved that the Headmaster had stepped in and halted the vicious scene. She was not a Divination student and had never had much contact with Professor Trelawney, but no one deserved to be treated that way.
“Come on.” Neville gently took her arm. “Let’s go up to the common room.” He had his other arm wrapped protectively around Anna.
Ginny walked with them quietly up the stairs. The students were all understandably subdued after witnessing such an event between their professors. Around them, Ginny heard the murmured comments about the empty bottle of alcohol in Professor Trelawney’s hand. Many were curious about the centaur, Firenze, who would be taking over the role of Divination professor. Everyone seemed shocked by the extraordinary cruelty of their Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.
Once in the common room of Gryffindor tower, they settled on a sofa near the fire.
“Do you think Hagrid will be next?” Neville asked.
Ginny shrugged and shook her head slightly. “I don’t know. That woman is so evil. Are we really certain she is not a Death Eater?”
Neville chuckled softly. “I’m not sure. I know what Remus would say though.” He looked at Anna and smiled.
She nodded. “He would say that the world is not made up of black and white, not just Death Eaters and those who are good. Many shades of gray exist between that are neither Death Eater, nor good.”
Ginny laughed. “That sounds like Professor Lupin. I wish he was here with us this year.”
“Don’t we all,” Neville replied. “Anna, was the letter Mista brought from Gran or Remus?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Anna rifled through her pockets. “I’d forgotten all about it.” She opened the letter and began to read, her eyes widening as she covered her mouth with one hand.
“Anna,” Neville said.
She wordlessly handed the letter over to her cousin.
Ginny turned from one to the other as she tried to read the looks on their faces and desperately wondered what could possibly be in the letter to have them exchanging such astonished looks.
“I’m going to bed,” Anna murmured. She carefully removed the letter from his hand. “Good night, Ginny. Neville.”
He stood and engulfed her in a tight hug. His lips moved as he whispered in her ear. She seemed to be nodding in response to his words.
Ginny chewed her lip as she watched her friend ascend the stairs. “Is everything okay?”
Neville rubbed his forehead. “Gran sent word that she received two more betrothal letters.” He closed his eyes briefly before focusing on her. “Would you…would you be willing to go and see if she wants to talk about it at all?”
“Of course.” She tried to smile reassuringly as she patted his arm and left the common room.
Entering the fifth-year girls’ dormitory, she saw that Anna was changing into a nightgown. Ginny sat on the edge of her bed. “Neville told me there were two more. Do you want to talk about it?”
Her friend nodded as she held out the letter. Ginny took it and gasped as she saw the two family names, Zabini and Weasley. Reading the note a second time more carefully, she paused at the words Charles Weasley. A mix of emotions flooded her system as Ginny tried to process what she was seeing and understand what it meant.
“Will you tell me about Charlie?” Anna bit her lip. “I mean, I know I’ve met him a few times, but…will you tell me stories about him? Tell me what he’s like?”
Ginny nodded and tried to smile. Her thoughts were bouncing everywhere at once in her mind. How had she not noticed her brother’s interest in her friend? Charlie wouldn’t be doing this unless he was seriously interested in Anna. She tried to remember any moment when he could possibly have ever been alone with her and came up with nothing.
Anna’s hand squeezed hers. “Please, tell me about him. Anything at all.”
The girls lay down next to one another on Anna’s bed as she cast a Silencing Charm. Ginny began telling stories about Charlie. She talked about how protective he was of her when she was a small child. He had played games with her and taken her on long nature walks, often pretending to find evidence of several magical creatures along the way. Ginny giggled as she recounted Charlie and Bill teaching her how to swim in the pond by The Burrow. She spoke of his fascination with dragons and his determination to earn the O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s required to work on a dragon reserve. She praised his flying skills and Seeking ability, comparing him to Harry as a truly gifted Quidditch player. Smirking, she mentioned Charlie’s difficulty in learning how to Apparate and his dislike of that form of travel.
“Has he had many girlfriends?”
Ginny paused, not exactly wanting to admit what she had overheard from Bill and the twins. “Kind of,” she replied. “I know he only briefly dated a couple of girls at Hogwarts, but…honestly, I think he has had…well, several girlfriends since he moved to Romania.”
Anna smirked at her friend. “Are you trying to subtly inform me that he has sowed more than his share of wild oats?”
“I think he and Bill both have to tell the truth,” Ginny admitted with a slight blush. “I mean…I don’t believe they’ve been irresponsible or reckless, but…”
“They’re grown men living on their own with professional jobs and solid incomes.” Anna smiled. “It would be odd if they didn’t enjoy that. It’s nothing I would hold against him, Ginny.”
She nodded thoughtfully. “I probably shouldn’t be asking, but…are you considering accepting Charlie?”
“I truly don’t know,” her voice was whisper soft.
Ginny sat up. “I should go on to my own room.”
“Thank you, Ginny, for telling me about Charlie.”
“Anytime.” She walked down the stairs with a hopeful smile on her face.
Ginny focused on a wonderful memory, something powerful just as Harry had explained. She closed her eyes for a moment allowing the happy emotions to pour over her and drown out the sounds of the others in the Room of Requirement. She focused so intently on her memory that she could almost feel Harry’s lips on hers, his hand in her hair, his breath on her cheek.
Opening her eyes, she rotated her wand. “Expecto Patronum!” A silver horse emerged from the tip of her wand and pranced around her.
“That’s brilliant, Ginny!” Harry exclaimed loudly. “What memory did you use?”
She flushed but forced herself to meet his eyes. “I was thinking of something rather pleasant that happened a few nights ago,” Ginny replied softly.
Harry blinked and then blushed. “Well, that’s…um…that’s really great.” He touched her arm with his fingertips briefly before he was called away by another member of the D.A.
Ginny glanced about the room and was proud of her fellow classmates. She observed Hermione’s shining otter swimming through the air, Ron’s Jack Russell Terrier leaping about, and Luna’s hare bounding all around them. Cho’s swan Patronus glided over as Seamus produced something rather hairy she was unable to identify. Most of the class was at least managing the occasional thin mist of silver.
“Dobby, what’s wrong?” Harry’s voice betrayed his concern at the house-elf’s sudden appearance. Patronuses rapidly dissolved throughout the Room of Requirement.
Ginny edged forward to hear what was going on and was met with Hermione’s wide, angry eyes. She seemed to be glancing rapidly around the room.
“Is it Umbridge? Is she coming?” Harry asked.
Dobby nodded, and tried to throw himself to the ground. The house-elf’s distress helped to reinforce the danger they were all in.
“EVERYONE RUN!!!!” Harry bellowed.
The D.A. members bolted for the door, grabbing at each other’s arms, and fleeing as quickly as they could. Ginny didn’t even realize who had her hand until she was led into the library. Hermione forced her quickly into a chair, shoving a book into her hands.
Her eyes searched the room frantically for Harry. He wasn’t with them, though several other D.A. members had also sought refuge in the library.
“Who was it?” Neville murmured to Hermione. “Who betrayed us?”
The witch seemed to be staring into space, and Ginny could almost imagine her seeing the list of members in her mind and comparing it to those who attended the meeting this evening.
“I don’t know with certainty yet,” Hermione continued to gaze into empty space. “I think perhaps it may have been Marietta Edgecombe.”
Neville nodded slowly. “She definitely wasn’t at the meeting tonight.”
“What will happen now?” Anna asked quietly.
“Well, if Marietta is the sneak we will all know,” Hermione replied viciously. “She won’t be able to hide it.”
The news of the Headmaster’s escape from multiple Ministry employees, including a couple of Aurors, spread rapidly throughout the school the next day. Neville and the other fifth-years listened intently to Harry as he explained the details of the exchange between the Minister and Professor Dumbledore.
“So, we’re not in trouble?” Ernie asked.
Harry shook his head. “No, the Headmaster took full responsibility for Dumbledore’s Army and claimed the names on the list just showed who was invited to come to the first meeting. He made it sound like the first meeting was to see who was actually interested in joining the group.”
Hermione sighed in annoyance. “I hope Marietta carries the sign of her betrayal for a very long time.”
“Knowing your skill with a wand, I imagine she’ll be lucky to have clear skin before the train ride home,” Anna smirked.
“Well, I can’t imagine Dumbledore being gone for too long,” Ernie stated. “Once the Ministry admits the truth about You-Know-Who’s return, we’ll have our Headmaster back at Hogwarts.”
“Yeah,” Ron muttered. “I just wonder how long that will take. My dad reckons Fudge is a bit of a power-hungry idiot. I think the Minister would actually have to see You-Know-Who in the flesh to believe he’s back.”
“I just wish we weren’t stuck dealing with Umbridge in the meantime,” Neville commented. “She is rubbish enough as a teacher without having full control of Hogwarts.”
Ernie sniggered. “According to the Fat Friar, she doesn’t have full control of Hogwarts. The gargoyles won’t even let her into the Head’s office.”
“You’re kidding!” Hermione smiled with glee.
“The Fat Friar told me she had a bit of a temper tantrum right there in the corridor!”
“I just wonder what she’ll do now,” Harry said quietly.
“What do you mean?” Ron asked.
Harry looked around at the others. “Well, it’s like Neville said. She has almost complete control over Hogwarts. A person with that much power can be dangerous enough when they are calm. A person who is angry and spiteful with that much power…”
Anna nodded. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, or I suppose in this case, women.”
“That sounds familiar. Who said it?” Harry looked curiously at Anna.
“Sorry,” she shrugged.
“It was Lord Acton, a Muggle politician,” Hermione supplied.
“Well, let’s hope things don’t get any worse,” Ron muttered.
In the weeks that followed, life at Hogwarts became far more restrictive. The Inquisitorial Squad, led by Draco Malfoy and consisting only of students from Slytherin House, took points away from members of the other Houses for a large variety of infractions. They also had the responsibility of opening and reading all owl post. This not only significantly delayed the mail, but also made privacy a privilege of the past. The Floo Network was monitored, and students could not make Floo calls without the express permission of Professor Umbridge. Professor McGonagall had quietly spread the word among Gryffindor House that parents were being made aware of the situation.
Fred and George rebelled against the new regime to a startling degree, causing a level of mayhem previously unattained. It started with the pair releasing fireworks inside the castle which continually exploded for several hours one day. It ended with them creating a Portable Swamp in one of the corridors before Summoning their brooms and flying out of the castle.
The departure of the Weasley twins inspired many students to continue the rebellion they had started. Numerous pranks were occurring daily, most of them directed towards Professor Umbridge or a member of the Inquisitorial Squad. Interestingly, the other professors often ignored these antics or even quietly encouraged them.
Anna slipped silently from the castle early one Saturday morning just as the sun was rising. Making her way quickly to her favorite spot just inside the Forbidden Forest, she cut the palm of her hand with her wand and practiced the blood ward. The ritual was familiar and comforting. She placed her bleeding hand on each of the four tree trunks used to anchor her magic, murmuring as she moved her wand continually. The power rose, surrounding her in a protective cocoon.
Sinking to the forest floor, she took several slow, deep breathes. Aunt Augusta had encouraged them to not worry about the betrothal letters and to focus on their O.W.L.s. She assured them they would discuss the situation over the summer and decide then. Somehow that had seemed easier a couple of months ago. Now that the end of the school year was so near, Anna was feeling the stress of the coming decision. She was seriously considering refusing all four of the offers. Neville had promised her that he would support her. He had hinted that he would be very happy if she remained single and continued to live with him at Longbottom Manor after they finished school. The idea was certainly tempting.
Running her fingers through the sparse patches of grass surrounding her, she looked out at the lake. The dark water was easily visible through the trees this close to the edge of the forest.
Malfoy, Macmillan, Zabini, Weasley.
Ruling out Malfoy and Zabini was simple. She neither liked, nor trusted Malfoy and never would. The fact that he had been seeking her out regularly in recent months to spend time with her made no difference. While his behavior had been perfectly correct since the Macmillan Christmas Eve party, her feeling of uneasiness in his presence had not abated. Fortunately, Zabini had made no effort to spend time with her. She wondered if he was even aware of the letter his mother had sent to her aunt. Perhaps not, or perhaps he simply didn’t care.
Her thoughts turned to Ernie. While she did not believe Aunt Augusta would try to force her into an agreement, she strongly suspected that her aunt would be very pleased with that choice. Ernie was the grandson of one of her oldest friends. He was from a wealthy pure-blood family. It would be quite natural to form an alliance between the two families with a betrothal agreement. Ernie was kind, smart, and only a bit younger. She frowned. Would kissing him be like kissing Neville? Thinking about the complete lack of any romantic feelings she had experienced when kissing her cousin made her smile. She reflected on her feelings for Ernie. He felt like a friend, but that was all. He seemed to like her, but did he like her in that way? Anna wasn’t sure. He had been too much of a gentleman to try to kiss her.
Then, there was Charlie. In the case of the other three, Anna was certain that the parents were behind the offers. They were the type of traditional pure-blood families that approved of formal betrothals. The Weasley family was not. Charlie must have requested that the letter be sent. She recalled every interaction she had ever had with Charlie. There weren’t many. The couple of days at The Burrow and at the World Cup, the hour or so with the dragons after the first task of the Triwizard Tournament, and the night of the sleepover with Ginny at Grimmauld Place. They had never been alone. Closing her eyes, she groaned.
Anna stood up feeling suddenly restless. She canceled the ward quickly and began to walk towards the lake, almost bumping into Draco Malfoy.
“Anna, what are you doing out here?” he asked. “Were you in the forest?”
She swallowed. “I was taking a walk around the lake. It’s such a lovely morning!” She smiled nervously. “I thought I heard something, an animal in distress perhaps, but when I realized I was getting too close to the forest, I turned around.”
He cocked his head. “I don’t hear anything.”
“I don’t either anymore.”
Malfoy took a step closer to her. “This is actually quite fortuitous - us meeting this way.” He pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. She froze at his touch.
“I should get back to the castle.”
“Nonsense,” he took her hand gently. “You were going for a walk around the lake. I’ll come with you. There is nothing inappropriate about it. This will give us an opportunity to talk freely.”
She chewed her lip. They were at the far end of the lake, just about as far from Hogwarts as they could possibly be. “Of course,” she nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Mal…thank you, Draco.”
He smiled hearing her correct herself. He always seemed annoyed when she failed to call him by his given name. Tucking her hand on his arm, he led her slowly around the lake. As usual his conversation was perfectly polite, almost painfully correct. It set her nerves on edge so much that when her owl landed on her shoulder, she gasped.
Pulling away from Malfoy, she transferred her owl to her arm. “Mista, you startled me!”
“She’s a beautiful owl. Have you had her long?”
Anna smiled. “Yes, Aunt Augusta let me buy her just before third year. She is a lovely friend.”
“Your letters to your aunt and Remus Lupin have been very brief and dull of late,” Malfoy observed. “Why don’t you write a better letter to them now and send it off?”
She looked at him uncertainly. “We’re not allowed.”
“I’m the head of the Inquisitorial Squad. I will approve your letter sight unseen,” he promised.
“That’s very kind of you, but I don’t have…”
He opened his bag and pulled out a piece of parchment, quill, and ink. He set his bag flat on the grass creating a writing surface for her to use. “I’ll wait just over here,” he indicated a fallen log nearby. “Perhaps, Mista will even allow me to pet her. She truly is a beautiful owl.”
Malfoy walked over to the log and sat down. Her owl immediately flew over to perch on his knee, and he stroked her carefully.
Anna glanced at him uncertainly for a moment before picking up the quill and writing a long, detailed letter addressed to both Aunt Augusta and Remus. The lack of honest communication with them had been difficult, and she reveled in the ability to write a lengthy letter again. Finishing her letter, she called Mista to her and quickly sent her off.
She watched her owl fly for a minute before turning to Malfoy. He was standing now and slowly approaching her.
“Thank you,” Anna said. “That was truly very kind of you.”
He nodded. “You deserve the opportunity to send a proper letter to your family.”
He picked up his bag and offered his arm. She quietly took it, and they continued their walk towards the castle.
Author’s Note: Disclaimer — Part of this chapter comes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
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