Charming Ginny by lilyevans_Jan30
Summary: Impetuous Decisions made in childhood are meant to stay there, but Ginny's first year at Hogwarts was more life-threatening than most. She swears never to do anything to put Harry at harm again, but never is a long time. Voldemort is dead, but will echoes of the Chamber prevent her and Harry from ever finding happiness?
Categories: Pre-OotP, Post-DH/PM
Chapter 1: The End and the Start
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Chapter 1: The End and the Start By the time Draco's Imperius Curse had worn off completely, Ginny was far down into the tunnel leading to the Chamber. If light from the bathroom above had made it into any part of the passageway, Ginny couldn't see it now; the space she stood in was almost pitch black.
"Lumos," she whispered. A spark guttered at the tip of her wand for a moment and then flickered out. She tried again, forcing herself to concentrate on nothing but the light. This time, her wand glowed faintly with a weak yellow that revealed only the stone walls immediately to her sides and a foot or so of the path ahead. It was halfway blocked with fallen stones, and from the scratches on her hands and the ache in her arms, Ginny suspected that this was not the first obstacle she had encountered down here.
There was a strange prickling on the back of her neck and she whirled around, holding her wand high to try to see back the way she had come. But only darkness greeted her, and her wand's light seemed even less able to pierce the blackness behind, so Ginny turned around again and began to lift the rocks out of her path.
She had no idea how long she walked, tripping over stones in the silence. A rockslide caught the edge of her robes and as she tugged at the cloth, more came loose from the wall. She shrugged out of the garment right there and let the rocks fall where they may, not caring that beneath it, she was only dressed in thin pajamas. How long ago her casual Sunday breakfast seemed now.
She pushed aside yet another pile of rocks blocking her path, wishing yet again that she could just blast them away with her wand, or at least charm them to weigh less. The prickling on the back of her neck was getting stronger and she suspected she was finally getting close, even though her memories of the last time she'd been here were murky.
She didn't want to continue. Her worst nightmare was coming true, the chanting in her head was getting louder that once again, this was all her fault, her fault, her fault.
But even louder was Draco's voice, warning her that Harry was going to die. Again.
So Ginny plodded on.
The tears would not stop flowing, and Ginny was not a girl who cried easily. Her personality was much the product of her six older brothers, and she had certainly never seen any of them cry. Sitting in Dumbledore's office after it was all over, Ginny's emotions veered from shock and horror to embarrassment, from pain and fear to guilt, and only briefly to relief. She had no idea what to do with what she was feeling; until this year the biggest complication in her life had been how to get her brothers to let her use their brooms to practice flying. And now look what she had done.
"Ginny, how many times have your mum and I told you, never trust something that can think for itself if you don't know where it keeps its brain?" Her father looked exhausted, the fear of the past hours only now beginning to be replaced with whatever came next after fear was extinguished.
"Seriously, Gin. That's something a Muggleborn might do. You really should have known better." The chiding from her brother Bill was even worse. Parents were supposed to lecture, but Bill, her adored oldest brother, had always been Ginny's champion and protector. She bowed her head as the tears began again in earnest.
"I'm just relieved to know that Harry will be all right, that poor boy." Ginny's mum had hugged her daughter fiercely, looked her over to make sure she was truly all right, and then, uncharacteristically sat quietly while the others in the room discussed the events of the day. That her first comments in almost an hour were about Harry spoke volumes to Ginny.
"Ginny is lucky that Harry didn't just let her stay down in the Chamber, you know, as payback for that singing Valentine."
Ginny shuddered. Lucky indeed, she had been. What if Harry really hadn't wanted to come? Logically, Ginny knew that was ridiculous; her brother Ron was Harry's best mate. But there was no question that all of this began, and continued, and got much, much worse, because Ginny had fancied Harry Potter pretty much since she was out of nappies. Everyone knew it; the family had teased her for years. Lucius Malfoy had clearly seen how her crush caused her to defend Harry that day at Flourish and Botts — why else would he have given her the diary? And Tom . . . Tom saw it immediately, how her feelings for Harry could be so easily used to manipulate her actions. Ginny couldn't remember much of what she had done while possessed, but she certainly remembered what she had written to a diary-boy she thought was her friend.
She fancied Harry and Harry had almost died because of it.
Ginny was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't realize at first that her family was gathering their things to leave the Headmaster's office. "Come on, Gin," Bill said. "Mum and Dad need to get you back to the Burrow and I need to get a Portkey to Egypt. You are all still coming to visit me next month."
Bill's voice had none of the teasing her usually reserved for his little sister and Ginny heard his unspoken thoughts — they were all still coming to visit despite the mess Ginny had made of things. She sighed and followed her family.
Look, I'm really sorry about that telephone call. I hope the Muggles didn't give you a hard time. I asked Dad, and he reckons I shouldn't have shouted.
It's amazing here in Egypt. Bill's taken us around all the tombs and you wouldn't believe the curses those old Egyptian wizards put on them. Mum wouldn't let Ginny come in the last one. There were all these mutant skeletons in there, of Muggles who'd broken in and grown extra heads and stuff.
Ginny was really mad at Mum for treating her like a baby, but she has been kind of a pain this whole trip anyway. The first tomb Bill took us into had all these snakes and things painted on the walls and she got all upset. Mum and Dad have been lecturing her a lot about making better choices at school this year. Honestly, they tell all of us the same thing — especially Fred and George — but Ginny seems to be taking it personally or something. She spent half of yesterday crying in the bathroom at our hotel. Mum told us it was none of our business what was wrong.
Your birthday present is attached to this letter — it is a Pocket Sneakoscope. If there's someone untrustworthy around, it's supposed to light up and spin. Bill says it's rubbish sold for wizard tourists and isn't reliable, because it kept lighting up at dinner last night. But he didn't realize Fred and George had put beetles in his soup. I told Ginny I was sending it to you so you'd be sure to know if she was going to cause you problems again this year but she just burst into tears again. I told you — mental.
I couldn't believe it when Dad won the Daily Prophet Draw. Seven hundred galleons! Most of it's gone on this trip, but they're going to buy me a new wand for next year. We'll be back about a week before term starts and we'll be going up to London to get my wand and our new books. Any chance of meeting you there?
Don't let the Muggles get you down!
Try and come to London,
P.S. Percy's Head Boy. He got the letter last week.
It was a relief to get back to England. Ginny spent most of the week in her room, thinking and packing and getting ready for school. Her family seemed to have finally decided that they had lectured enough and she was mostly, blissfully, left alone. She even managed a few secret night-flies on the old broom Charlie had left in the shed. It didn't go very fast, but it was better than nothing and being up in the air relaxed Ginny like nothing else.
Her nerves bloomed a bit again when they all went to stay at the Leaky Cauldron. Harry would be there. From the whispers between her parents and a few stolen peeks of the Daily Prophet — her mum had taken to burning it immediately after reading for some reason - Ginny concluded that they were concerned about him. She didn't know what exactly was wrong - she hoped he wasn't still suffering from getting bitten by the Basilisk - but it sounded serious.
As it turned out, Harry looked to be perfectly fine when she saw him at the Leaky. He was sitting at a table with her brothers and they were all in absolute hysterics over a story Harry was telling them, something about blowing up his aunt. Fred and George seemed particularly interested in the exact series of events that had led to the poor woman's inflation and Ginny feared they were going to try to recreate the scene with the next Muggle they came across.
"Ginny, hey, how are you?" Harry jumped up from the table and came over to give her a hug. She froze for a second but then muttered hello and hugged him back, mentally berating herself for the stupid swoop in her stomach. Harry looked like he was about to sit back down with her brothers, but then suddenly turned and frowned at the sight of her parents, talking to each other across the bar. Her mum was shaking her head and looked upset. Every so often one of them glanced at Harry.
Harry took a deep breath. "Something is going on," he said.
"Nothing about the . . . you know, the Chamber, don't worry," said Ginny quickly.
"That's good," said Harry. "I've had enough of the Chamber for a lifetime."
Ginny bit her lip. "Me too," she said quietly.
"I'm sorry, Ginny, I didn't think . . ." Harry looked embarrassed. "Ron wrote me that you had a hard time in one of the tombs in Egypt. I didn't mean to remind you."
Ginny wanted to throttle Ron for telling Harry about how she cried in the tomb of the serpent, and she said as much to her brother in no uncertain terms, pointing her wand at his nose while she threatened him. She was gratified to see Harry grin, his earlier worry replaced by mock fear that his best mate would soon be sneezing bats. But a second later his eyes flicked again to her parents.
"It's something serious," agreed Ginny. "I've heard Mum and Dad talking."
"Serious . . ." said Harry. "D'you think they mean Sirius Black?"
Ginny shrugged. "Hmmm, maybe that's what they meant. He sounds horrible. No one has ever escaped from Azkeban before."
Harry looked at Ginny's parents again. "I wish I could figure out what's going on," he said.
Ginny started to say something — maybe an offer to help — when she bit back her words. I'm the last person Harry would want help from. She jerked a nod instead and made a weak excuse about finishing her packing before running up to her room.
They were still more than an hour from Hogwarts when the train began slowing down, and then stopped. All along the corridors students were sticking their heads out of their compartments, trying to figure out what was going on. It got colder and colder, and when the lights abruptly went out, Ginny stumbled through the dark into the compartment where Ron and Harry were. She had a sense of foreboding she could not explain; she only knew she wanted to sit with family.
And then, a horrible black —cloaked and hooded figure entered the compartment and invaded Ginny's brain. Suddenly, she was back in the Chamber, watching from afar as Tom Riddle ordered his Basilisk to kill Harry and this time, Fawkes did not come to save the day.
Your fault, your fault, your fault, your fault chanted in her head. Even the sight of Harry falling to the ground of the train and convulsing couldn't entirely erase the words in her brain and she stared, horrified, at what she had done.
Even after the lights came back on and the horrible thing had disappeared, Ginny couldn't get the images of the Chamber out of her head. She let Hermione fuss over her and accepted a piece of chocolate from the new professor — Lupin, she heard his name was — and was starting to feel the tiniest bit better when suddenly Draco Malfoy appeared in their compartment with his constant companions, Crabbe and Goyle.
"Potter, is it true? Did you actually faint?" He and his stupid cronies laughed and mimed falling down. Draco caught sight of Ginny and his grin leered. "Maybe next time your girlfriend can save you from your little nightmares. You know, return the favor for last year."
Ginny froze. Everyone knew she had almost gotten Harry killed.
"Shut up, Malfoy." Ron had stood up and looked about to draw his wand.
"Anything I can help you with, boys?" Professor Lupin spoke mildly, but there was something under his tone that made Ginny pause.
Draco and his friends muttered that they were fine and left quickly, and Ginny breathed a sigh of relief. That is, until she looked at Harry. He was still eating chocolate and his color was better, but the haunted, confused look hadn't left his face. "What . . . what was that thing?" he asked shakily.
"One of the Dementors of Azkeban," said Professor Lupin. "Among some of the nastiest creatures that walk the earth. Among other things, they eliminate all feelings of joy and cause you to relive your worst experiences. I suggest trying to avoid them as much as possible. Now if you will excuse me, I need to speak with the conductor."
Harry leaned over and rubbed at his eyes. "That was horrible," he muttered. "I didn't think I'd . . . I mean, I don't remember . . ." he stopped, looking around helplessly.
Ginny knew how he felt. She wanted to comfort him, to let him know that he was not the only one who still had nightmares about the Chamber. But Draco Malfoy's leer still rang in her ears and Harry was very determinedly not looking at her. She swallowed hard and stood up.
"I'd . . . I'd better go change into my robes," she said quietly. She heard Ron and Hermione say goodbye as she left the compartment.
The halls and classrooms of Hogwarts were more unfamiliar to Ginny that she cared to admit. She knew she had spent the entire previous year there, had gone to classes, eaten in the Great Hall, even performed more than adequately on tests and homework, but her memories felt more like looking at photographs of someone's else's life than recalling her own experiences. She had really hardly been present, that entire year.
Her room was the worst. The bed was fine, but as soon as she caught sight of her desk, that damn desk where she had sat, day after day, writing her deepest thoughts and feelings straight into Tom Riddle's mind, her stomach flipped and a cold sweat broke out on her skin. It was like the feeling she had gotten in that pyramid in Egypt; there, her mind had transported her back to the Chamber. She had been able to see herself, lying on the cold stone floor, waiting for Harry Potter to save her. But this time, Fawkes did not arrive to save him, and the two of them died there, while Voldemort's soul floated out into the world. Your fault, your fault, your fault. She had heard.
Now, staring at her desk, all the things she had written in the diary came flooding back. All the stupid, childish, things she had told Tom about Harry Potter and how wonderful he was had made Tom powerful. He had stolen Harry's own power straight from Ginny's thoughts and heart and used it to become stronger, until he was strong enough to nearly kill Harry and Ginny both.
She shuddered and shook her head. This had to stop. With the greatest of effort, Ginny forced her mind away from memories of the desk. She heaved all her new schoolbooks onto its surface and dumped some quills and blank parchment there for good measure until the top was nearly covered. Ginny was usually a very neat person and the desk's messiness calmed her bit.
Ginny's roommates' arrival helped too. They hadn't known her well enough a year ago to realize that her mental and physical absences were more than dreaminess or disinterest, and all had been properly shocked and horrified at the thought of living just feet from Ginny's possession and not realizing it. Now Demelza turned to Ginny and smiled.
"All right there, Gin?"
Ginny took a deep breath and smiled back at her roommates. "All right," she nodded. She was determined to put the Chamber behind her and make this a good year.
It wasn't as easy as Ginny had hoped. Being completely conscious of her surroundings at all times was a relief, of course. Everything seemed to be sharp focus as she moved through her classes, talked to her friends, did her homework. She knew with absolute certainty that she wasn't being possessed or missing moments.
But the clarity made her more aware of what those around her were doing and saying too. Despite not having any classes with the second years, Draco Malfoy seemed to be ever present in Ginny's day. He never passed up the opportunity to make a snide comment, and Ginny soon grew tired of trying to ignore his remarks about snakes, little girl crushes, and getting rescued. She had no idea why the boy seemed to want to relive an experience in which his own father had come off looking bad, but that particular detail did not seem to bother Draco in the least when he teased her.
Just that morning, it had happened again as she walked by that bathroom. It appeared to be flooding again, water spilling out from under the door. Ginny skirted the puddle, but slipped a little. As she steadied herself on the wall a leering voice rang out.
"Watch it, Weasley. Potter's not around to save you right now if you fall on your arse." She heard several people laugh and she lowered her head and walked swiftly away, cheeks burning.
"And they are going to add a new section to Hogwarts, A History about the Chamber!"
Ginny's head jerked up from her breakfast. Down the table, Hermione was talking rather excitedly to Harry and her brother. Ron, predictably, was ignoring her in favor of shoveling food into his mouth. Harry, on the other hand, looked distressed. Our names will probably be in the book, and the fact that it was my fault, my fault, my fault. Harry said something to Hermione, too quiet for Ginny to hear, and Hermione shook her head. Ginny looked away, not wanting Harry to know she was watching him. Still.
Ginny's heart no longer skipped a beat every time she saw her desk, but even so, she much preferred to do her homework in the common room or library, or elsewhere. She was slowly repairing her relationship with her roommates and enjoying the camaraderie of living with — finally — other girls instead of all her brothers. Today, quite predictably, they were talking about boys.
"Colin Creevey?" Demelza's incredulous voice carried into the stairwell as Ginny walked towards their dorm just before curfew.
"What about Colin?" she asked as she entered.
"Vicky here thinks he's rather adorable," said Demelza with a snort.
Ginny snorted. "He barely reaches your armpits!" She collapsed onto her bed.
Vicky shrugged. "I dunno, I like his enthusiasm for life or something." She looked over at Ginny.
"What about you? Anyone you fancy?"
Before Ginny could respond, to say that no, she hadn't really noticed any of the boys at Hogwarts in that way, Demelza broke in.
"It's Harry, isn't it? I heard that you've had a crush on him forever."
"Yeah, and he really is adorable," added Vicky. "I thought after all that stuff last year that the two of you would make a cute couple." She spoke casually, as if talking about the fact that Harry had merely helped Ginny with her homework or something.
"No, definitely not," said Ginny quickly. The warm feeling from chatting with her girlfriends disappeared and she suddenly felt cold. "That . . . that crush on Harry, it was from when I was really little." Her voice rose a bit and her roommates looked at each other. " I haven't fancied him for ages and ages," she said forcefully.
"Sorry Ginny, I didn't mean to bring the Chamber up again." Demelza at least seemed to grasp Ginny's discomfort.
Ginny shook her head. "It's okay," she said. "I'm fine. It's not a big deal." Despite the fact that she had just returned to the dormitory, she stood up again. "I uh, I think I left a parchment in the library. I'll be back." She fled down the stairs.
It didn't help her state that Harry, Ron, and Hermione were all sitting around the fire when Ginny reappeared. She walked rapidly towards the portrait hole, not wanting to talk. Of course, it didn't work.
"Hey Ginny, it's almost curfew. Where are you going?" Ron looked up.
"I forgot a parchment in the . . . uh . . . the library," she said quickly. She kept walking.
"You probably can't make it there in time." Harry stood up. "If you really need it, I can go under my Invisibility Cloak."
"No!" the word burst out of Ginny much more violently than she intended. Harry looked taken aback and she rushed to explain. "I mean, thank you. But you don't need to risk getting in trouble over me. Really. I don't need it." She turned back to the steps leading up to her dormitory again. "I didn't realize it was so late. No one needs to get the parchment. It will be there in the morning." She wrung her hands. "Please. Don't go. It's really okay." She fled up the stairs without waiting for Harry to reply.
The entire time she was getting ready for bed, Ginny's thoughts were swirling about the close call. She really hoped Harry wouldn't decide to go try to find her missing parchment anyway, especially given that it didn't really exist.
Not surprisingly, Ginny had a nightmare that night. Once again, she was back in the Chamber. Tom was stepping out of the diary and talking to Harry, sharing every intimate detail that Ginny had written about him, laughing that Harry would waste any time trying to save stupid, lovesick little Ginny. "It's her fault that you are going to die," Riddle said. "She should have known better than to fancy you. Should have known better than to put you in such danger. It's all her fault. Her fault, her fault, her fault . . ." And the Basilisk slithered over and bared its fangs and Ginny awoke with a start, sweating and shaky and feeling like she wanted to vomit.
It took her two days to figure out how to ask and then to get him alone, but Ginny finally knocked on Professor Flitwick's door after the end of classes a week before Halloween. He looked at her with a curious expression.
"Miss Weasley," he said, ushering her into his office. "How can I help you? Are you having trouble with the Cheering Charm we worked on today?"
Ginny shook her head. "No, no, nothing like that," she said. "I was wondering if you could help me with something a little more important."
Swiftly, she explained her dilemma. "And I have nightmares about it all the time," she concluded. "If I don't get rid of it, I know it's only a matter of time before. . . before . . ." she couldn't finish.
Professor Flitwick looked thoughtful, and then nodded. "That is actually not a difficult problem to solve for someone your age," he said. "Have a seat and close your eyes. This won't take very long, and I think you will feel much better soon."
Half an hour later, Ginny left Professor Flitwick's office feeling much lighter. She closed his door carefully and thus missed his soft sigh. Ahh, young love is never easy. What is the harm for a couple of months if it makes her happy?
"Ginny, Ginny, wake up! Are you okay?" Ginny came slowly to herself, to see Demelza standing over her bed with a worried expression.
"Wha . . What happened?" she asked sleepily. "There was a snake . . . an enormous snake."
"I think you had a nightmare," said Demelza. Vicky was awake now too, watching her.
"I . . . did," said Ginny shakily. She realized she had forgotten to set silencing charms around her bed. "About being back in the Chamber. " She closed her eyes and shuddered, remembering. There had been an enormous snake, a Basilisk, slithering around her. And Tom Riddle coming out of the diary to tell her she was going to die. And there was pain.
"I dream about snakes a lot," she said quietly. That was all they needed to know.
The next morning, Ginny walked blearily towards the Great Hall for breakfast. It had taken her a long time to fall asleep again after her nightmare and she was later than usual. She wasn't paying much attention to where she was going when an arm reached out and grabbed her.
"Watch out, Ginny, you almost walked into a wall there."
Ginny looked up to see Harry peering at her with concern. "Are you okay?"
Ginny nodded through an enormous yawn. "Y. . .yes, just tired," she said. "I had a nightmare last night."
"Ahh," said Harry. "I'm sorry. I know how bad those can be."
Ginny yawned again. "I don't know how I'm going to get through my classes. And the Halloween Feast tonight. I think I need a nap." She peered at Harry. "You get nightmares too? I guess I'm not surprised to hear that." She noticed him slowing his steps to match hers as they walked into the Great Hall. "What are they about? If you want to tell me, I mean."
Harry shrugged. "I don't mind. They've been worse since the Dementor on the train. I hear screaming. I think it's my mum."
Ginny made a low sound of sympathy. "Ahh, yeah. I can imagine why the Dementors would bring that out. I'm sorry. That is not the kind of thing that is easy to get over."
Harry nodded. "It's not," he agreed. "And watching Malfoy pretend to faint every time he sees me doesn't help."
"Malfoy's an arse," said Ginny shortly. "Remind me to Bat Bogey Hex him next time he walks by."
Harry chuckled. "That hex is one of the first things Ron told me to watch out for when I visited the Burrow last summer," he said. "I'd love to see it — on someone else."
"Sirius Black is still on the loose," said Ginny lightly. "I'll keep an eye out for him."
Harry snorted. "To stay out of his way, I hope. He sounds nasty."
They had arrived at the entrance to the Great Hall and Ginny frowned. "I didn't realize how late I was," she commented. The large room was almost empty.
"Ahh, yes, well, it's Hogsmede for the third years and above." Harry sounded uncomfortable all of a sudden. "I suspect most people ate early."
Ginny remembered Ron ranting about Harry's horrible relatives and that they refused to sign his permission form. "Right," she said casually. "I hear it's overrated." Next to her, Harry sighed.
"Thanks, Ginny," he said quietly.
Ginny shrugged. "Want to play Exploding Snap or something after breakfast?"
"Yeah, that would be fun. I um, just have to see Professor Lupin first. Find you in a couple of hours?" He touched her lightly on the arm. "And . . . thanks."
The entire school was on high alert in the months after Halloween, once it was discovered that Sirius Black had broken in. Students walked around in clumps and the teachers talked in low voices.
Ginny's nightmares, which had eased for a while, roared back with a vengeance after the horrible Quidditch Match between Gyffindor and Hufflepuff. As the Dementors had swarmed onto the field, she was pulled under, back to the Chamber, back to the enormous Basilisk coming to kill her and kill Harry and allow Tom Riddle to escape.
No one noticed her distress; everyone's attention had been focused on Harry as he fell off his broom. As soon as Ginny had come back to herself, she went to the Hospital Wing to visit him.
He was lying glumly in bed; the rest of the team having just left. A pile of sticks lay on a chair next to him. Ginny couldn't help but gasp. "Is that . . . is that your Nimbus?" she asked, unable to keep the shock out of her voice.
"Was my Nimbus," nodded Harry. "Now it's firewood."
Ginny sat weakly down. "Wow," she said. "I'm so sorry."
Her distress at the loss of his broom seemed to cheer Harry a bit. "Thanks," he said. "Everyone else seems more upset that we lost the game."
"And no one is upset about the Dementors?" Ginny didn't realize her voice had risen. "I'm surprised everyone didn't fall of their brooms. I almost . . ." she broke off, embarrassed.
"You almost what?"
Ginny sighed. "I almost passed out," she admitted. "I felt like I was about to get bitten by a giant snake."
"The Dementors affect you almost as much as they do me," said Harry thoughtfully. He was quiet for a second. "Professor Lupin said he could teach me a way to try to fight them. We are going to start after Christmas break. Would you umm, want to learn too?"
Ginny smiled. "I'd like that."
In the end, it was difficult for Ginny to match her schedule to Harry's, and he visited Professor Lupin on his own. But Harry's success in producing a Patronus during the match against Ravenclaw (never mind that there had never been a real Dementor threat), Harry made a point to teach her the spell too.
It wasn't easy, Ginny was working mostly on her own to practice, but there was something about learning how to protect herself from the Dementors that just made her feel better. It was just before June, after Gryffindor had won the Quidditch Cup, that Ginny was first able to cast something that might, in the right light, be called a Patronus. True, it was mostly silvery smoke, but she was proud nonetheless. She jumped up, wondering where Harry was. She wanted to show him what she was able to do, what a good teacher he was. The light from the full moon shown through the window of the classroom where Ginny had been practicing and she started. She would have to find Harry in the morning.
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Chapter 2: Chapter 2
She was unaccountably excited about the Quidditch World Cup. This was the type of thing her family had always considered her to be “too young” for in the past and it seemed like they had finally decided she had learned her lesson about the Chamber. Even having to wake up in what felt like the middle of the night could not completely dampen Ginny’s enthusiasm, and she couldn’t help but grin at Ron and Harry as they stared blearily over their breakfast before they set out to walk to the Portkey.
The chilly morning air seemed to wake everyone up a bit, and Ginny found herself walking next to Harry as they climbed a particularly steep hill.
“Have you spoken to Sirius recently?” she asked as they panted along the path.
Harry jerked his head around at her question and then, realizing they were the only ones around, relaxed. He nodded. “We send owls back and forth,” he said quietly. “But call him Padfoot.”
“I know not to talk about him around other people, Harry,” Ginny said patiently. “It must be nice to have found out that your godfather is not the Dark Wizard everyone thinks he is.”
Harry nodded again. “It is,” he agreed. “I just wish we could figure out how to clear his name so that he can come out of hiding.” He looked at Ginny. “How is your Patronus coming along? Have you been able to practice it?”
Ginny shrugged. “A little bit. Not as much as I should be, probably. Now that the Dementors are gone from school I’m not as worried.”
“And your nightmares . . .?” Harry asked.
“I still have them occasionally, but not as often. What about you?”
“Better for me too,” said Harry. “I think knowing that Sirius — Padfoot — is out there worrying about me has helped. He’s been telling me stories about my mum and dad in his letters.”
“Hurry up kids, we can’t miss the Portkey!” Mr. Weasley was already at the top of the hill, looking down at them. Behind them, Ginny heard Ron groan.
“I’m going to need a lie-in by the time we get there,” he grumbled.
Harry laughed. “Go on ahead and tell them we are coming,” he told Ginny. “I’ll deal with your brother.”
The match was one of the greatest things Ginny had ever seen. She and Harry passed his Onomoculars back and forth, talking excitedly about the moves and maneuvers each team used and debating with Ron about whether Viktor Krum was going to be able to carry the entire Bulgarian team on his own against the nearly seamless Irish Chasers.
Afterwards, Ginny could only remember snatches of what had happened; Fred and George had grabbed her and marched her, lockstep, through the fleeing crowd. She had been startled, frightened even, but not anymore than anyone else, at first. She ran easily with them, trying to stay out of the way of the masked figures until they could make it to the edge of the field. But then she caught sight of the sky, at the enormous skull and snake floating above the campground, and her nerves failed her for a minute. The twins had to practically carry her to the meeting point; she was shaking too badly to walk. It was only when she heard that Ron and Harry and Hermione were still missing that she was able to shake off her stupor.
And once she knew they were safe, Ginny was rather dismayed with her behavior. Everyone else was properly worried about the riot; apparently the Dark Mark had not been seen in nearly thirteen years. Harry had seen a mysterious figure and everyone was talking in hushed tones about Death Eaters. And she got upset at an image of a snake? This had to stop.
Back at the Burrow, she sought out Harry as he helped her mum set the table. He smiled as she walked into the kitchen, balancing a number of plates in his arms.
“Will be easier when I can finally do this by magic,” he said. “Ron’s out chasing gnomes with Hermione if you want to help them.”
Ginny snorted. “No thanks,” she said. “I still haven’t recovered from being bitten the last time. Anyway, I wanted to ask you a question.”
Harry put the plates on the table. “Sure, what is it?”
“Do you think a Patronus can protect against more than Dementors?” Ginny spoke quickly. She still felt a little embarrassed about falling to pieces the day before.
Harry looked thoughtful. “I don’t really know,” he said slowly. “What are you looking for protection against?”
Ginny sighed. “Snakes,” she said. “I . . . I saw that one yesterday in the sky. The Dark Mark. And it made me . . . remember things.”
Harry nodded in understanding. “Right. Snakes. Hmm. Well, the Patronus is supposed to feed on positive energy and memories. I know that I cast my best ones when I’m thinking really good thoughts. I don’t see why casting one wouldn’t make you less upset.” He held up his arms. “But, I don’t think it would actually make a snake go away. It might just make it easier to bear, you know? Can’t hurt to keep practicing anyway.”
Ginny nodded. She was a little disappointed that there was no easy fix, but what Harry said made sense. “I’m going to keep practicing,” she agreed.
“I can help you,” Harry offered. “I finally figured out the knack for casting them at the end of the school year; I think I could teach you now.”
Ginny couldn’t help but smile at Harry’s understated explanation for what, exactly, gave him the “knack” for casting a Patronus. “Yeah, nothing like being swarmed at by dozens of Dementors to help you pick up that skill particularly quickly,” she quipped.
“Actually, it was something different altogether that helped me,” he said. “The swarm of Dementors should have gotten me and Sirius and Hermione. Have I never told you this story? About seeing my dad?”
“Your dad? How did you see your dad?”
“I didn’t, really. That’s what was so amazing.” Harry grabbed her arm. “Let’s go outside and practice. I’ll explain on the way. Can you think of a really good memory?”
“Watching the World Cup,” Ginny said promptly. “Before . . . everything else, of course. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I’d love to be able to play like that someday.”
“Let’s try it and see what happens,” agreed Harry.
Ginny really wanted to smack her brother. Anyone who had seen Harry’s face when Dumbledore had called his name would have no doubt that Harry was telling the truth, that he had no idea how his name had gotten into the Goblet. She had watched Harry trip dumbly up the aisle of the Great Hall to mutters and jeers, and it hadn’t really registered until later that Ron was muttering loudest of all. She was rather annoyed with herself; maybe if she had said something to him right away she could have made him see reason before things got out of hand.
But she hadn’t said anything and Ron and Harry had gotten into an enormous fight, leaving Ginny and Hermione to navigate between them. The older witch probably had it worse, having all her classes with the two boys. They were her best friends and she really couldn’t choose sides. Although Ginny suspected that Hermione had some kind of inexplicable feelings for her brother. She definitely did not want to examine that too closely, but it made things more complicated.
Ginny, on the other hand, had no trouble telling her brother he was a git at every opportunity; since Hermione had to play more evenly, Ginny found herself spending more time with Harry than she might have otherwise; the poor boy really needed a friend.
She didn’t really know what to do about the teasing and grief he seemed to get from all corners of the castle for being the “false” Tri-Wizard champion. She wasn’t good enough at Transfiguration yet to do anything about those stupid buttons everyone seemed to be wearing, and she was too well known already for her Bat Bogey Hex to be able to use it without getting caught. Instead, she tried to seek Harry out as much as possible for idle talk or company doing homework; it was the least she could do. More than once, he assured he was used to being stared at for one reason or another. And indeed, to look at him, Ginny had to admit that Harry seemed to be letting it all roll off his back.
She realized that some of Harry’s bravado was an act when she came upon him late one night in front of the fire in the Gryffindor common room. He was alone, talking to Sirius through the Floo. Ginny couldn’t say what had gotten her out of bed to come downstairs, and she knew she shouldn’t eavesdrop, but the loneliness and worry in Harry’s voice made her pause.
So Harry is worried about the first task. I should have suspected.
She just managed to jump back into the shadow of the staircase when her brother Ron came down from the boys’ dorm. Their snapping words to each other broke her heart a little but she forced herself to stay hidden so she didn’t make it worse.
But Harry’s interrupted conversation with Sirius wouldn’t leave her. She remembered how happy he had seemed, telling her about the letters he and Sirius wrote to each other, and that gave her an idea. She just needed to find some parchment.
It was the loss of Ron’s support that was eating at Harry, Ginny knew. But getting her stubborn brother to see reason was a lot harder than she had thought. It didn’t stop her from trying though.
“You can’t really think Harry would want to be in this competition, can you Ron?” This was not the first time Ginny had asked him, and her patience was wearing thin. But she had decided to try a different tactic, and now, late one afternoon she and Ron were walking down to the Quidditch pitch to go for a fly; with no games this year, the pitch was more often empty. Maybe getting him alone would help Ron see reason.
Ron shrugged, a mulish look on his face. “He gets attention for everything. Why wouldn’t he want it for this too?”
Ginny huffed with exasperation. “Exactly. He gets attention for everything, and it’s never his doing. And you know better than anyone how much he hates it.”
For a second, Ron looked uncertain. But just as quickly, his face closed up again. “It just figures he gets the glory.”
“Glory? Really? People die during this thing and Harry is three years younger than the rest of them! No one has any idea what the Champions are going to face. It could be anything, cursed fire, giant spiders, dangerous spells . . . Charlie!”
“They are going to have to face Charlie?”
“No Ron,” Ginny grabbed her brother’s arm. “Look, isn’t that Charlie, walking into the Forbidden Forest?”
Ron peered into the deepening gloom. “What is he doing here? And why didn’t he tell us he was coming?”
Ginny started to jog towards her older brother’s retreating back. “Come on, let’s catch up to him. I have a feeling I know why he’s here, and what the Champions are going to be facing in the first task.”
They caught up to Charlie, but he wouldn’t tell them outright what he was doing at Hogwarts. “I can’t say anything, it’s got to be a secret until the first task,” he explained. At Ginny’s piercing look, he sighed. “But yes, I assume you can guess what it relates to. Just don’t tell anyone you know anything.”
“But Harry is only a Fourth Year, how is he going to be able to handle a . . . you know?” asked Ginny. She noticed that even Ron looked a little troubled.
Charlie did too. “I have my orders. I can’t say anything. But if I know you, Ginny, you can figure out a way around it. You have a lot of Fred and George in you.” He gave his brother and sister a hug. “Now get out of here before I get in trouble. I’ve got a lot to do to get ready.”
Ginny and Ron walked slowly back to the castle, all thoughts of flying forgotten. “We have to warn Harry,” Ginny said.
“You heard Charlie, we can’t tell anyone,” said Ron. “It wouldn’t be fair. Harry’ll be fine. He always is.”
“Facing a dragon, Ron? You think Harry will be fine facing a dragon?” Ginny was gratified to see her brother go quiet. Finally, he spoke.
“Maybe . . . maybe we could get Hagrid to say something to Harry. You know how bad he is at keeping his mouth shut. And if there are dragons anywhere around, I’m sure Hagrid is going to be involved. Just . . . just keep me mostly out of it.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Of course, Ron.
After the first task was over, and Ron had finally come to his senses, Harry sought out Ginny.
“I heard you were the first one to find out about the dragons and you made sure Hagrid told me,” he said. “Thanks. I don’t think I would have survived if I hadn’t known ahead of time.”
“Ron helped too,” Ginny said. Now that her brother was speaking to Harry again, she wanted to make sure it stayed that way.
“I know,” Harry nodded. “I guess I understand why he got upset. I’m just glad he’s speaking to me again.”
“Not as half as glad as Hermione, I bet,” said Ginny with a grin. “Have you and Ron joined SPEW yet?”
Harry groaned. “Don’t talk about it. She’s being totally mental about the house elves. Even Hagrid refused to join.”
“Hagrid should know,” Ginny agreed. “Have you figured out the clue for the second task yet?”
Harry frowned. “Not yet.” He sat up and looked at her. “Hey, that reminds me, you wrote Sirius, didn’t you?”
Ginny wiggled uncomfortably under his gaze. It had seemed a good idea at the time, reaching out to Harry’s godfather and asking for advice about how to help Harry with the tournament. But now that Harry and Ron were talking again and Harry had survived the first task, she wondered if he would think she was being intrusive. “Umm,” she began.
To her relief, Harry grinned. “That was really nice of you,” he said. “And you did a good job of keeping the letter from being intercepted. ‘Padfoot’ said he could barely open it himself.”
“Yeah, well, I figured you need all the help you can get,” she teased. “He didn’t write me back, and I was worried I messed up.”
Harry shook his head. “Sirius thinks you are, to use his word, ‘charming.’ He will probably write back to you soon.” Harry looked at the clock on the wall. “I have to go in a minute. Cedric told me he needed to talk to me about something, something about the next task. I told him about the dragons, so I guess he wants to make it up to me.” He huffed. “He owes me double, actually. I told him about the dragons, and then he went and beat me to asking Cho Chang to the Yule Ball.”
Ginny laughed. “This dance is really making you all crazy, isn’t it?” Her voice grew sly. “So, Cho, huh? I guess you Seekers have to stick together. She’s really cute.”
Harry sighed. “Yeah. I was just too slow in my ‘seeking’ this time. Hey, do you want to go with me? Third Years aren’t invited otherwise, right?”
“Right. Sure, I’ll go with you. It would be fun.”
“Maybe we can get your brother to ask Hermione. I know he has no idea what to do about a date.”
Ginny snorted. “That’s true. But Hermione has already been asked. She told me this morning.”
Harry looked surprised. “She has? By who?”
Ginny waggled her eyebrows at him. “I can’t tell you, you will need to ask her yourself.”
People seemed to make a bigger deal than Ginny expected about the fact that Harry was taking her to the Yule Ball. She couldn’t exactly understand it, but from the snatches of conversations she heard, she finally surmised that certain girls must be jealous that she was going with Harry, or else still angry that Harry was getting more attention as a Champion. Why else would their conversations choke to a halt when she approached?
She and her roommates spent hours discussing what they were going to wear, who everyone else had paired up with, and how far some of those couples might go. But after Ginny finally convinced Ron to ask Demelza, there seemed to be an unspoken agreement in the dorm to stop talking about their own dates; it would have been too awkward.
Meanwhile, Sirius had, as Harry predicted, written Ginny back. The letter had apparently been written before the first task; Ginny was heartened to see how accurate the man’s advice and predictions had been.
I very much enjoyed your letter; as I’m sure you can imagine, it gets rather lonely here. Harry is very lucky to have a friend as caring and lovely as you are, particularly at a time when his friend Ron is being less than supportive. But I guess you know Ron as well as Harry does, don’t you? I hope you agree that Ron will come to his senses sooner or later — and probably sooner, if his tough little sister has anything to say about it, right?
In the meantime, I don’t have any specific advice about how to help Harry, but definitely keep your ears open. There is always interesting information to be learned when people don’t know you are listening. And keep practicing your Patronus! Yes, Harry told me he taught you the charm. It’s a mighty useful spell to have when you are feeling down. As dark as things are feeling right now, I can’t help but think we are going to need all the cheering up we can get.
Take care, and please write me again!
Ginny smiled every time she thought of the letter; she could not begin to imagine growing up without her parents and she was happy to know that Harry finally had someone looking out for him, even from afar. She vowed to do what Sirius asked, keep her ears open and keep practicing her Patronus. Her latest happy memory was from just the night before, sitting with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, listening to them take the mickey out of each other about the Yule Ball. Hermione was still being tight-lipped about her date and it was driving Ron crazy. Harry and Ginny had been cracking up, egging him on, a tactic that worked well until Ron had turned on them about the fact that Harry had asked Ginny.
“We’ve been over this like a dozen times. She couldn’t have gone otherwise.” Harry was still chuckling over Ron’s latest guess about Hermione’s date. It’s not Hagrid, Ronald!
“And this way, I can watch Cedric’s moves with Cho. Figure out what works and what doesn’t for when Harry moves in,” Ginny teased.
Harry groaned. “It had to be Cedric, didn’t it? I don’t have a chance.”
“It’s more likely than Fleur Delacour saying yes to Ron,” Ginny giggled.
That had set them off completely, Ron had spilled ink all over his Potions essay, and the conversation had generally ended there. But it still caused Ginny to dissolve into laughter at the memory, and she was pleased to be able to produce thicker silvery smoke this time. The Ball was likely to be a lot of fun; maybe she would get still more happy memories from it.
Dear Red (I think you need a nickname too).
Yes, I heard all about the Yule Ball. I’m glad Harry didn’t step on your feet too much while dancing; I imagine it was hard for the poor bloke to pay attention to you while mooning over Cho at the same time. Thanks for keeping him in line. More importantly, the conversation the two of you overheard was quite . . . enlightening. I won’t say more now, but I have made contact with several other people who will be interested to hear what old Severus had to say.
I’m going to be on the move soon; I think I need to get myself closer to Hogwarts. Tell Harry not to worry, I’ll be fine.
In the meantime, have him look up the properties of a plant called Gillyweed. I think it is just what he is looking for.
As Winter faded into Spring and the third task approached, Ginny couldn’t shake a vague sense of unease. She, along with her brother and Hermione were helping Harry learn and practice jinxes and hexes during every free moment; it seemed that finally, his three fewer years of magical education was going to be a real detriment. Ginny had seen Percy at the castle several times; he was pompous as ever, but she thought there was also something odd about his behavior but she couldn’t put her finger on it. And she continued to keep a close eye on both Professor Snape and Karkaroff; if Sirius had been concerned about their conversation, it was likely something to worry about.
She tried to keep her concerns mostly to herself so she didn’t distract Harry from his practicing. It mostly worked, until late one afternoon when they were in an empty classroom. Harry was flipping through a book of advanced jinxes and Ginny, Ron, and Hermione were throwing them at him as quickly as they could. It was hard work for all of them, involving wand and spell work not usually taught until Sixth Year. Hermione sent a new hex at Harry and two enormous snakes flew out of the end of her wand.
Ginny screamed, feeling like she was about to pass out. The snakes were slithering everywhere; one reared up to bite her and she couldn’t raise her wand to protect herself. She barely heard Harry’s voice or saw him move; the next thing she knew, she was sitting on the ground with Harry’s concerned green eyes looking down at her.
“Ginny, are you okay? They are gone, don’t worry. No one was ever in danger. Snakes are something I’m good at, remember?” Harry’s voice seemed to come from far away.
“Ginny, I’m so sorry. I had no idea there would be two of them. I didn’t mean to upset you.” Hermione was speaking too.
Ginny shook her head as it slowly cleared. “I’m fine,” she said shakily.
Harry helped her to her feet and gave her a hug. “By the time this is over, I think all four of us will be ready for that damn maze,” he said with a small laugh. He peered more closely at her. “Want to try a Patronus? It would be good practice while you are feeling upset.”
Ginny shrugged. “I’m not sure I have a happy memory right now.”
Harry smirked. “How about thoughts of kissing? I seem to recall seeing you and a certain Ravenclaw bloke enjoying each other’s lips before curfew the other night.”
“Wha. . . what? Kissing? Ginny, who were you kissing? Ravenclaw?” Ron sputtered, his head moving rapidly back and forth between Harry and Ginny.
Ginny sighed. “Thanks, Harry. If you didn’t realize, I hadn’t told my brother yet.” She turned to Ron. “Yes, I am dating Michael Corner. Yes, we have kissed. And no, it is none of your business.” She looked at Harry. “I don’t know that I’m feeling up to a Patronus right now. Maybe later.”
The group broke up after that and Ginny walked slowly back to her dorm. Her fear of snakes didn’t seem to be getting better; she was going to have to try harder. She just hoped that none of them made an appearance as part of the Third Task.
Ginny leaned heavily against her brother Bill, trying not to cry. To say the mood in the infirmary was shocked and tense was an understatement. The arrival of Professor Moody with the news that the man who had been impersonating him all year was a Death Eater had pushed everyone nearly to the edge. And now they were waiting, silently, for answers.
Harry’s arrival with Dumbledore did little to ease Ginny’s mind. He appeared exhausted and nearly shell-shocked, leaning on a large black dog that Ginny realized with a start must be Sirius. Harry fell heavily into a bed and the dog rubbed his head against Ginny’s hand with a comforting motion before curling up on the floor. Ginny relaxed a fraction, knowing Harry had his godfather to watch over him while he slept.
It was just getting quiet when Professor McGonagall burst in with Cornelius Fudge and news that Barty Crouch Jr. had been kissed by a Dementor. Harry woke up and began arguing with the Minister, his face pale but determined. Ginny unconsciously moved closer to him as he spoke, and noticed that Sirius was also there; his head resting against Harry’s side. Harry gave them both a small smile and Ginny put her hand on Sirius’ back. Everything was about to change. She didn’t know what it meant, but she knew that Harry was going to need her support even more than ever in the coming days.
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Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Author's Notes: Thanks to those who are reading and reviewing - I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and New Year!
You have to promise to destroy this letter as soon as you get it; I’m not supposed to be writing you anything important. You’ve likely guessed that from the news-free notes from Ron and Hermione, but what can I say? I think letting you know what’s going on is more important than Dumbledore’s rules.
I can’t actually tell you very much — I can’t even tell you where we are right now. I want to, but . . . I literally can’t. You will find out soon enough, I suspect. Not much is going on. At least, they don’t tell us anything important. We are mostly doing manual labor. It’s exactly as fun as it sounds. There are a lot of adults here, mostly who you would expect. Some are greasier than others, if you know what I mean.
The good thing is that I get to see Padfoot. He’s pretty furious about you not being here and he’s trying to change that as soon as possible. He and mum don’t really see eye to eye on a lot of things. It’s fun to watch and try to predict who is going to come out on top in their arguments.
I have been working on my Patronus charm; this . . . where we are, has some of my ‘favorite’ friends, if you know what I mean. The happiest thing I can think about right now is getting you here with the rest of us. Wish me luck! I’m supposed to be telling you to stay out of trouble and let the grownups take care of everything, but I’ll save that sort of rubbish for Ron and Hermione’s letters.
Your friend, Ginny.
Holy shit — Dementors! Are you really okay? Mrs. Figg says you are, but still, that must have been horrible. I just can’t believe it. Padfoot almost went mental; it took the efforts of Bill, my dad, and Remus to keep him from Apparating straight to you. Even now, they are keeping a close eye on him.
Hermione says not to worry about the hearing; I’m sure she has a million reasons she read in some book that you are going to be fine. I hope she is right.
Anyway, I suspect I’m going to see you really shortly. In the meantime, trip Dudley for me.
Your friend, Ginny.
She didn’t know until after everyone had left that this was the day some of the Order was going to rescue Harry. For the first time, Ginny felt a little twinge of nervousness about writing him over the summer. What if she had told him something she shouldn’t have? Granted, none of them who were underage knew much of anything, but still, she paced silently in the bedroom she shared with Hermione until she heard Mrs. Black screaming downstairs and knew they had all arrived.
Ginny walked down the hall to the room Harry and Ron were to share; her brother and Hermione were there waiting. Harry appeared seconds later, looking mulish. Ginny only had a moment to give him a look that she hoped conveyed his need to keep their correspondence quiet before he started yelling.
He was angry at Ron and Hermione about their silence all summer and listening to him rant, Ginny finally felt some relief about her decision to give him information in her letters. Harry wasn’t dumb; he included her when he berated them all about the unfairness of keeping things from him, and Ginny had to bite back a grin. She added her apologies to those of Ron and Hermione.
“We are so, so sorry,” Harry. “Dumbledore made us promise not to tell you anything,” she said in the most serious voice she could muster. She didn’t think she could manage near tears like Hermione, but her voice sounded properly upset, she thought.
“Yeah, well, the least one of you could have done is write me a letter telling me you were all together and what you were doing!” Harry had his back turned to Ron and Hermione and he gave Ginny a tiny wink. She put her head down in apparent shame, but really, she was trying not to laugh.
Around the time Fred and George showed up with Extendable Ears to try to eavesdrop on the Order meeting, Harry decided that her brother and Hermione had suffered enough. Her mum had put an Impeturbable Charm on the kitchen door, but when they finally were allowed in for supper, things got more interesting. Unfortunately, it meant that Ginny was sent to her room without any of the others, and she stomped upstairs angrily. Little Ginny, not able to handle the important news again.
But her misery was short-lived and ended with a knock on her door.
“You weren’t lying, Ginny, your mum and Sirius are fun to watch.” Harry was standing there grinning at her. “Can I come in? I think of everyone, you deserve to have me tell you what’s going on.” She motioned him into the room and then listened with growing concern about Voldemort, his attempts to recruit more followers, and his apparent desire to find a weapon this time, something that would be effective against the opposition.
“But that’s all horrible!” Ginny said with a shudder. “Does the Order know what the weapon is?”
“It didn’t sound like they do,” said Harry heavily. “But it sounds bad. It’s something they didn’t have last time.”
“What’s different from last time?” Ginny mused. “I’ll have to think about that.”
Harry grinned. “Right. You get on that and let me know when you figure out what even Dumbledore doesn’t know.”
Ginny swatted at him. “Prat.” Then she turned serious. “They can’t find you guilty of that Dementor attack, can they? Hermione says . . .”
“I know what Hermione says,” said Harry with a sigh. “I dunno. I told Sirius that if I’m chucked out of Hogwarts, I’ll come live with him.”
Ginny’s reply was interrupted by the arrival of Hermione informing them that Mrs. Weasley was on her way upstairs and everyone had better be in their own bedrooms before there was hell to pay. Ginny gave Harry a small smile as he left. That night, she stayed awake for a long time, thinking about what kind of weapon Voldemort might be trying to get that he didn’t have last time.
A week later, Ginny came down to the kitchen early, to find her mum bustling nervously and Sirius pacing.
“So they’ve already left for the hearing?” she asked, feeling disappointed. She had wanted to see Harry before he went. Sirius nodded tersely.
“It doesn’t start for a couple of hours, but Arthur thought it might be a good idea to . . .” his comment was broken off by the appearance of a silvery weasel dropping out of the ceiling. Ginny squeaked in surprise.
“Shh,” said Sirius, as the weasel began to speak.
“Hearing moved earlier. Just barely made it on time. Harry there now. More news when I have it.” The weasel faded away.
“That, that sounded like dad!” said Ginny. “Was that a Patronus?”
Sirius nodded. “Something the Order developed. Damn useful for communicating across long distances.”
“Harry has been teaching me to cast a regular Patronus,” said Ginny with some pride. “I’m not that good at it yet, I’ve only made silvery smoke, but I’m getting better. I can’t wait to find out what my animal is.” She had spoken without thinking and a crash from across the room startled her.
“And why would you need to learn such advanced magic?” broke in her mum. She had dropped a cup into the sink and now she turned around to look at Ginny. “I don’t expect you will be spending too much time around Dementors, now will you?”
Ginny groaned to herself. She should have been more careful. Until then, Harry teaching her the Patronus charm had been a secret between them. She should have realized her mum would take it wrong.
“The Patronus can be used for more than repelling Dementor’s, Molly.” Sirius spoke mildly and Ginny remembered that Harry had already told Sirius about their lessons; it made her feel warm inside to have Harry’s godfather stick up for her. “It’s a projection of all that is good in your heart and your mind; that is powerful magic that can fight against all sorts of dark thoughts and forces. Not to mention the usefulness of the talking Patronus we just saw.”
Ginny gave Sirius a grateful smile. “I was just helping Harry with his practicing, Mum,” she said. “It’s not a bad thing to learn — I’ll be ahead when we get to that lesson in DADA.”
Her mum didn’t look entirely convinced, but the arrival of Ron and Hermione in the kitchen and Ron’s plaintive request for breakfast took precedence over her desire to continue lecturing Ginny about her Patronus lesson.
They all celebrated that night when Harry arrived back home with the news of his acquittal. He was happy and relieved, but Ginny saw him mutter something to Ron under his breath, and by his expression, she suspected that not everything had gone well at the hearing.
It was late before Ginny learned more, and it had required a lot of silent sneaking up and down the stairs before she was sitting with Hermione in Harry and Ron’s room.
“Dumbledore was there, he gave testimony on my behalf. I think that is what convinced everyone not to convict me.” Despite the fact that his words should have boded well, Harry was wringing his hands.
Ron seemed to notice as well. “So what’s wrong with that, mate?”
Harry took a breath before answering. “It’s silly, really, but . . . he didn’t stop to talk to me afterwards. He wouldn’t even look at me. It was like he didn’t even want to acknowledge I was there.”
“Maybe he had someplace to be?” asked Hermione hesitantly.
Harry shrugged. “Maybe. But it didn’t seem like that.” He winced suddenly, putting his hand to his forehead.
“Harry?” asked Ginny. He looked pale all of a sudden.
After another minute, Harry’s face cleared. “Happens all the time now,” he said with forced casualness. He gave Ginny a look that she interpreted to mean she had something else to think about, in addition to what Voldemort might be using as a weapon: why Dumbledore was ignoring him. She gave him a tiny nod back and the huffed in agreement with Ron, who was blustering about Harry’s report that he’d seen Lucius Malfoy chatting up Fudge after the hearing. She would have to talk to Harry more later on.
The last few days before they left for school passed in a blur. Ginny finally had the chance to show Harry how far she had gotten in producing her Patronus; it still didn’t have a real shape, but the mist was so thick you couldn’t see through it. “What is your happy thought?” he asked her after applauding her effort.
“The fact that you get to come back to school and that it makes Fudge angry to have to let you,” she said with a grin.
Harry chuckled. “He certainly wasn’t happy.” But then his face grew serious. “I can’t believe he’s being so stubborn about Voldemort coming back. Doesn’t he know how many people are likely to die because of his refusal to see the truth?”
“It’s hard to admit you are wrong, even when the evidence is staring you in the face,” said Ginny. “Look at Percy. Bill reckons Percy knows that You-Know-Who is back, but he is too stubborn, or proud, to admit he was wrong. So instead, he’s sticking with the Ministry’s story.”
“I remember the Boggart your mum saw,” said Harry. “I know she’s thinking about Percy a lot.” He took a deep breath. “Enough of this,” he said briskly. “I expect that the next time you show me your Patronus, it will have a real form. Maybe Gryffindor’s fabulous success in Quidditch will be just the happy thought you need.”
“I’m counting on it,” said Ginny.
Ginny watched as Harry’s shoulders slumped when he realized that Ron and Hermione had prefect duties on the train; she didn’t think he had ever traveled to Hogwarts without them. He agreed with her suggestion to find a compartment. They ended up sitting with Luna Lovegood and Neville, chatting aimlessly and then dodging Neville’s Stinksap plant when there was movement at the door of their compartment.
“Uh, hi Harry.” Ginny thought Cho Chang sounded a bit hesitant to interrupt them. And Harry looked mortified to have her see him covered in Stinksap goo.
Ginny thought quickly. “Scourgify!” she said, waving her wand. As soon as the mess was gone she pointed at Harry. “Cho wants to talk to you — go find her,” she told him. Harry looked blankly at her.
“Uhh, what? She does? How do you know?”
“Because I’m a girl, Harry. Go ask her how she’s doing. Be sensitive about Cedric. Offer to buy her a licorice wand. Talk about Quidditch, anything! Just go!”
Harry stumbled to his feet. “Umm. Right. Okay. Quidditch.” He looked back at them. “I’ll just umm . . . “
Ginny was gratified to see Harry take her advice and leave the compartment. The poor boy needed a distraction, and given all the muttering about him Ginny had heard on the train, he was also going to need as many friends as possible. Cho was pretty and popular. Dating her could help people decide to support Harry, despite what the Ministry was saying. Ginny stood up too.
“I’m going to go find Michael,” she said.
Over the next few months, Ginny thought privately to herself that the only time Harry looked anything close to happy was when he was with Cho. Ginny had been right; getting Harry to date her had eased some of the pressure he was feeling being surrounded by people who thought he was a nutter, a liar, or worse.
He stumbled into the Gryffindor common room just before curfew looking particularly disheveled one night in October and Ginny bit back a snort. “Looks like you had a good night, Potter,” she said.
Harry smirked at her. “I could say the same for you, given what I saw in the third floor secret passageway,” he said under his breath.
Ginny grinned back. “Maybe we can go on a double date or something next Hogsmede weekend,” she said.
Their whispers were interrupted by Hermione’s huff of frustration. This time, Ginny had to agree with her about the sad state their DADA education had taken, and the conversation turned, not for the first time, to what they all might do about it. The four of them talked late into the night, planning. It felt good to finally be doing something.
I hope you are staying warm; the weather here finally feels like winter is coming. I hope this school owl finds you well. I picked a particularly drab looking one because for some reason, white owls are getting attacked in the sky! It has people rather spooked. But no one seems particularly interested in what a stupid Fourth Year girl has to say to her sweet doggie.
We’ve had quite a time here. Did you hear that I’m the new Gryffindor Seeker? The original one had to take a break. He’s working especially hard on DADA lessons in preparation for his OWLs — they have given him an ‘army’ of homework. I hope he can teach me and some of the others what he knows; he is especially good at that class. I did get the chance to fly with him so that he could show me some tricks; I think it really relaxed him to get back up in the air.
Speaking of the former Seeker, did you know he has a girlfriend? I’m sure he’d want me to tell you, haha. She is in Ravenclaw and she’s very pretty. I think he is teaching her DADA too, if you know what I mean.
I’m looking forward to Christmas next month when I finally get to see you again. I’ll bring you a new bone as a gift.
Ginny looked critically at her letter. After Hedwig had been attacked and Hermione figured out that Umbridge was trying to read Harry’s mail, Ginny had decided to write Sirius herself; it was true that no one seemed to care who she was sending owls to. She hoped he could somehow understand her cryptic message about what Harry was up to in teaching the DA; those secret lessons had rapidly become Ginny’s favorite thing to do at school. Playing Seeker was wonderful too, but the fact that she only had the position because Harry had been banned from the team dampened her enthusiasm a bit.
Ginny sealed the letter shut with a tap of her wand and left to go find a sufficiently boring-appearing owl. She was meeting Michael to practice some of the spells Harry had been teaching them in the DA. It annoyed Ginny a little bit that Michael got cranky every time she disarmed him; Demelza had suggested just letting him win once in a while but Ginny had refused. Letting a boy win just to massage his ego was definitely not her style.
Thank you so much for your letter; I just wish you could have put some kibble in there as well. Congrats on being named Seeker! I am sure you will be just as fabulous as the original one. It’s too bad he had to take a break, but it sounds like things are very busy for him.
Tell me because I forgot; when do they teach the Patronus charm at Hogwarts these days? It’s a dead useful spell to know for many reasons. And once you master the regular spell, did you know there is a way to make them talk? Maybe I can show you the spell when I see you over Christmas. It would be a good thing for some of your friends to learn too.
I hear from reliable sources that there seems to be a number of Gryffindo-Ravenclaw relationships right now. I hope you are all enjoying yourselves. Within reason, of course.
Take care and write me back soon.
The next DA session was their best yet. Everyone had mastered disarming spells and was making good progress on their shield charms and a introductory hexes such as Stupefy. Ginny sidled into the room just as Harry was quieting everyone down so he could introduce their next lesson. He raised his eyebrow at her hand, still clasped in Michael’s but said nothing. She huffed to herself. Snogging had been fun, but what they were doing with the DA was more important. She wouldn’t let Michael distract her as much next time.
At Ginny’s suggestion, Harry had decided to teach everyone the Patronus charm. Everyone was excited; it was advanced magic usually not taught until students’ 6th year. He explained the theory behind the charm and its utility for battling Dementors.
“It also can be used to help fight other types of bad feelings; fear, sadness, stress, things like that,” Harry said. He closed his eyes and smiled to himself. A minute later, his stag shot out of his wand to the collective amazement of the group.
“It took me a long time to learn,” he said modestly. “And I had a bit of extra incentive, what with the Dementors breathing down my neck.” He grinned and gestured to Ginny.
“Want to demonstrate?” he asked. “I know you haven’t quite got a full Patronus yet, but you are really far along. I think it will be helpful to see.”
Ginny nodded and walked to the front of the room. She closed her eyes and thought of the day she and Harry had snuck out to go flying after he had been kicked off the Quidditch team. He had been near shock at Umbridge’s decision — furious and depressed all at once. Ginny had cajoled him into the air so that he could teach her a few Seeking moves and they had spent a wonderful half an hour flying, just the two of them. They had landed with the promise to try to do it again, but so far, hadn’t been able to find the time.
Even before she opened her eyes, Ginny knew the charm felt different this time, a fact that was confirmed by the collective oohs and ahhs of the assembled DA members.
“It’s a horse! Ginny, you made a horse!” Harry sounded almost as excited as she was. Ginny watched fondly as the horse cantered around the room before disappearing. The DA surged to congratulate her before spreading out to practice on her own. It only occurred to her later that Michael had not said anything about her achievement.
While everyone was working, Ginny sought out Harry.
He grinned at her. “That was amazing, Gin,” he said.
She shrugged. “You’re a good teacher.” She lowered her voice. “Snuffles told me that over Christmas he wants to start teaching me the speaking Patronus charm. It could be useful for all of us.
Harry nodded, eyes now half trained on Cho. “Good idea, Ginny. You ask Sir . . . I mean, Snuffles about that.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “I will, Harry.”
She was jerked awake suddenly. Professor McGonagall loomed over her bed and Ginny shook her head in confusion. “Pro . . . Professor?” she asked uncertainly.
“Get up, quickly, Miss Weasley. I can’t explain now. Don’t take time to dress. We need to go to the headmaster’s office immediately. There has been an . . . an . . . accident. Harry saw you father get injured.”
Ginny barely remembered the walk to Dumbledore’s office. She latched onto Harry’s white face when she and the twins arrived. Harry looked awful, sweating and shaky as if he had just been sick.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Not now, Miss Weasley,” said Dumbledore. He gestured to an old teakettle on his desk. “If you would all touch this please. We need to get you to Gimmauld Place.”
Ginny was standing next to Harry. At the very second the Portkey activated, she felt Harry jerk next to her and make a tiny, hissing sound of anger. Ginny’s stomach dropped. It sounded like a snake.
Things did not get better when they arrived in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place. The hissing was gone, and Ginny hoped she had imagined it. But then Harry started speaking, telling them that he’d had a vision of her dad being attacked; that he actually had been attacked. By a snake. Ginny’s stomach turned over again. Her dad had been bitten badly, he was bleeding somewhere, and a snake had done it.
She gave a low moan and staggered over to vomit in the sink. Everyone jumped up. Harry was the closest; out of the corner of her eye, Ginny saw him take two hesitating steps towards her. She couldn’t stop herself from recoiling and he stopped, a tortured look on his face. Ginny forced herself to take a deep breath, trying to will away the vision of her father.
Sirius stepped up with a towel and a glass of water. “Sit down,” he said gently, guiding her to a chair. Ginny sat heavily and put her face in her hands.
“Could you, maybe . . .?” Harry was speaking. It sounded like he was still across the room.
Ginny looked up.
“. . . . try a Patronus?” Harry was saying. “You know, since it helps when you are sad or scared or . . .”
Ginny shook her head quickly and Harry quieted, looking upset.
Sirius jumped in. “It’s okay, you may not have a happy thought right now, but I’m sure we are going to get good news soon.”
Harry slumped at his godfather’s words. “Sorry, Ginny,” he said quietly.
“It’s okay,” she quickly assured him. “Really. I’m fine.” Oddly, lying to reassure Harry that she was okay (when she wasn’t), did more to make her feel better than anything else. Her stomach settled and the dark thoughts of snakes swirling in her brain slowly evaporated.
“I’ll try a Patronus later,” she said to Sirius. “Right now I just want to hear about dad.”
He nodded, putting his hand gently on her shoulder. “Of course you do.”
Fortunately, the good news that her father was going to be okay came only minutes later. Amidst the happy tumult of the kitchen Ginny noticed Harry slip unnoticed out of the room. She thought about following him, but stopped. Despite knowing that her father was going to be okay, Ginny wasn’t convinced that she was completely over her earlier panic. It wouldn’t be fair to lay that burden on Harry when he apparently still felt guilty about being the one to see her dad get hurt. As daft as Harry was being — if he had not seen the attack, her dad likely would have bled to death before being found — he obviously felt he had done something wrong. Ginny vowed to set him straight as soon as she was sure she wouldn’t make it worse.
Later, when Ginny learned exactly why Harry felt so guilty - He thought he ‘was’ the snake! — she felt even worse for not going right to him. The poor boy assumed he was being possessed, something Ginny knew more about than most. “Next time, just ask me, Harry,” she told him. “I’m the only one here who has actually been possessed, remember?” She didn’t exactly roll her eyes at him, but the intent was certainly there.
Harry looked sheepish. “I’m so sorry, Gin. I didn’t mean to forget.”
Ginny waved him off. “You’ve had a lot on your mind.” She let her expression grow sly. “And on your lips, I think, right?”
“You should talk, Miss ‘late to a DA meeting’ Weasley,” retorted Harry.
Ginny was happy to see him becoming more himself as the days went by. And while she had stopped hearing hissing snakes in her head every time she was alone, Ginny knew her nerves had not settled completely. After finally getting to visit her dad at St. Mungos, and being reassured that he was actually okay, Ginny had sought out Sirius.
“I think I’m ready to start learning the talking Patronus,” she said. “I know Harry has a lot on his mind right now, but hopefully I’ll be able to learn it first and then teach him.”
Sirius hadn’t questioned Ginny’s motivation, but had reiterated the importance of banishing bad thoughts for the spell to work properly. “It both requires positive thoughts and, if successful, creates them too,” he explained. “Now, let’s try again. Focus on your dad’s recovery.”
It was harder than Ginny had thought, to learn how to make her fledgling Patronus speak. By the time they were all ready to return to Hogwarts, Ginny had finally succeeded in sending a message from her room down to the kitchen. Five minutes later, Ron appeared, looking rather disgruntled. “Here’s your tea,” he said. “Next time, just come down and get it, okay?”
“Thanks Ron,” said Ginny. “I’m glad you got the message.
“Yeah, well, it’s pretty cool that you figured out how to do it. You should start helping Harry teach the DA or something,” he said.
Ginny shrugged. “If Harry wants me to help, I will. I might just teach him though. He’ll be a lot better at showing all of you. His Patronus is much stronger than mine.”
But as it turned out, Ginny didn’t have a lot of time to see Harry outside of DA meetings when they returned to school. Now that Owls were getting closer, the Fifth Years were working harder than ever. And Ginny was was happy to see that Harry had apparently stopped brooding about being the one to see her father get hurt. He was spending a lot of time with Cho and seemed to be enjoying himself.
Over Valentine’s Day, she and Michael even joined them at Madam Puddifoot’s They were careful to speak of the DA only in hushed code but had a much better time when the discussion turned to Quidditch. Cho was an ardent Tornados fan and she chided Harry gently about his dedication to Puddlemere United. It was obviously a discussion they’d had before and soon, all four of them were laughing, particularly when Ginny revealed her brother’s dedication to the Cannons.
Eventually, Harry had to leave — reluctantly — to go see Hermione and Rita Skeeter. He and Cho “said goodbye” for so long that Ginny considered sending a stinging hex at them. The other three walked slowly back to the castle. Michael and Cho kept up a running conversation about Quidditch, but Ginny was thinking again about the DA, and when she would have time to teach Harry how to make his Patronus speak.
In the end, Ginny never got the chance to teach Harry. Only a couple of weeks after Valentine’s Day, Marietta Edgecomb told Umbridge about the DA and she and Cho got into a loud and public row in the Great Hall. Cho went crying to Harry and everyone was in an uproar over rumors that Dumbledore had escaped Ministry arrest by disappearing in a puff of smoke and flame.
Things were getting darker at the school and with the disbanding of the DA, its former members were too scared to talk in anything larger than groups of two or maybe three; Umbridge remained firmly determined to catch one of them in something illegal. Ginny desperately wanted to talk to Sirius — she knew Harry’s visions had been getting worse — but her fear of getting caught prevented her from doing anything. Still, she couldn’t shake the terrible feeling that something bad was going to happen.
It came when the Fifth Years were taking their OWLS. Ginny had been hanging around the doors to the Great Hall, ostensibly waiting for Michael to finish, but in truth, even more concerned about Harry.
And when he stumbled out of his final exam before it ended, his face white as a ghost, Ginny’s heart dropped. Something has happened.
But before she could even approach, Harry had bolted in the direction of the hospital wing.
Ginny grabbed Ron and Hermione when they left their exam ten minutes later and the three of them sat tensely, soon joined by Luna and Neville.
And when Harry returned with the news of Sirius’ capture and torture by Voldemort and the fact that no members of the Order remained at Hogwarts to warn, Ginny felt her knees give way. Only Hermione’s quick thinking to conjure a cushion for Ginny to fall on prevented her from crashing to the stone floor.
Conversation swirled around her but Ginny couldn’t focus. She could only see Sirius in her mind, in pain at the hand of Voldemort. She had come to care for him almost as much as Harry did over the past year, and the thought of him being tortured was almost too much for her to bear.
But falling into her familiar panic would not help. She shook her head, trying to clear it, and listened to Harry and the others try to figure out how to confirm if Sirius was really in trouble.
It came to her in an instant. “I can . . . I can sent a talking Patronus,” she said shakily, feeling five sets of eyes suddenly looking at her.
They snuck off to the Room of Requirement where it was quiet. Ginny closed her eyes and focused as hard as she could on the particularly nice snog she and Michael had shared just the day before outside the kitchens. When her horse appeared, Ginny closed her eyes again and focused on the feel of Michael’s lips on hers while she spoke the message to Sirius, begging him to contact her immediately.
She couldn’t tell if it was working, but she didn’t want to say anything. Harry was counting on her. Sirius was counting on her. Better to be wrong and try to save someone who didn’t need to be saved than to fail to go and let Sirius be tortured.
The horse was gone by the time Ginny opened her eyes.
Sirius did not respond.
It was only when the six of them arrived at the Department of Mysteries and very definitely did not find Sirius there that Ginny allowed the little bubble of doubt to break into her thoughts. Harry tore down the aisle in the room full of glass orbs, so certain that he’d find his godfather at any second that Ginny couldn’t bear to admit that maybe her Patronus had never reached the man. Hogwarts was a long way from London . . .
And then, suddenly, they were all fighting for their lives against the Death Eaters and Ginny knew it was all her fault. Buying herself only a few seconds of time with a well-placed Reducto curse, she ducked behind a shelf and forced herself to focus. This time, unbidden, an image of Harry laughing on Valentine’s Day rose into her mind. It was the last time she really remembered him laughing.
Her horse felt stronger, and when she sent it to Sirius, this time begging for help, she knew it would reach its mark. He would be there soon, she knew. She only hoped it was soon enough.
White hot anger overflowed inside Ginny, so strong that for a moment, it even masked the pain. She chased after Harry and Bellatrix, ran faster than she had ever run before, as if catching the woman before she left the room could somehow reverse things, somehow make it so that Sirius wasn’t really dead.
He had come to their rescue, just as Ginny had known he would. And he had brought members of the Order too. The tide of the battle had turned and Sirius had even had time to give Ginny a quick one-armed hug before moving to battle next to Harry against Bellatrix and the others.
And then, suddenly, he was gone and Ginny had watched as Harry’s face had gone white with shock and pain.
I killed Sirius Black! I killed Sirius Black!
The voice would not leave Ginny’s head. And then suddenly they were in the Atrium of the Ministry. And Dumbledore was there. And Voldemort.
As soon as Ginny saw him, saw his snakelike face so different from that of Tom Riddle, she couldn’t remember anything else. A statute had moved to keep her back much as it was doing for Harry across the room, but Ginny was barely aware of it. She may have screamed, she may have gotten sick, she may have collapsed. But all the while, she felt forced to watch as the snake battled and swirled and slithered and hissed and got closer and closer to Harry. And then he was gone and Ginny heard Dumbledore’s voice calling, sounding more frightened that she ever could have thought possible.
She saw Harry. He was still trapped behind a gold statue and his face was etched with a mask of pain like nothing Ginny had ever seen. She was certain he was going to die and all she wanted in that moment was for it to happen quickly, for Harry not to be in pain a minute longer. Death itself would be better than what she saw. She just hoped that Harry would be joined with Sirius and his parents again.
And when it was over, truly over, and she knew that Harry was not going to die, Ginny ran. Healers and Aurors were pouring into the Mininistry and Ginny found one and begged the man to send her back to Hogwarts, to let Madam Pomfrey fix her injuries. For certainly, Harry would go to St. Mungo’s. Certainly, she wouldn’t have to see him and see the blame in his eyes. His godfather was dead and it was her fault.
What Ginny did not expect was that Harry and the others would also be sent back to Hogwarts, or that Dumbledore himself would soon return. She didn’t know when Harry came into the infirmary, only that he was suddenly there, talking first to Neville and Luna, and then checking on her brother, whose tussle with the brains had been particularly harsh.
And then there was a weight at the end of her bed and a hand on her side and Ginny knew she couldn’t hide anymore. She pushed herself into a sitting position and didn’t even try to hid her tears as she apologized over and over.
“Ginny, stop.” Harry’s voice was firm but gentle. “It wasn’t your fault.”
“But I told you I could send a Patronus to Sirius and I couldn’t!” she said. “I should have known it wasn’t strong enough to make it all the way to London. We should have found some other way to . . .” she couldn’t continue, grief and guilt mingling again.
But Harry was shaking his head. “Your Patronus did make it to London,” he said. “Both of them. But Kreacher, he was waiting. He intercepted the first message before it every reached Sirius. I don’t know how, house elves have special magic. He was waiting to make sure that Sirius never knew we were trying to reach him, no matter what we did. We were meant to go to the Ministry that night, and it’s all my fault.” He looked tortured as he spoke.
Ginny started to open her mouth but Harry shook his head.
“If I . . . if I had just studied Occlumency like Dumbledore asked, Voldemort wouldn’t have been able to put the vision in my head in the first place. Or I didn’t have that ‘saving people thing’, maybe it would have occurred to me that Voldemort would do anything to lure me away from Hogwarts.” He shook his head. “If anything, it’s my fault Sirius . . . died.”
Ginny sighed and took Harry’s hand in his. Her fear and panic had faded at Harry’s distress and now she strived to find the words to make him feel better. And she knew she would, if it took her all summer. Harry simply had to stop feeling guilty.
“There’s something else too,” he said quietly, so quietly Ginny almost missed it. “About the prophecy. I . . . I need to tell you and Ron and Hermione. It’s important.”
“But the prophecy smashed . . .” Ginny started to say.
Harry shook his head, but whatever he intended to say next was interrupted when Cho flew into the infirmary and threw herself into Harry’s arms, crying hysterically. Harry gave Ginny a quick goodbye before turning his attention completely to his girlfriend.
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Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Author's Notes: I never intended this story to be a retelling of canon, so this chapter jumps ahead by a year. Please enjoy and review!
It seemed almost unbelievable, to be sitting again outside the Burrow mourning the loss of someone so important in his life. Dumbledore’s death at the hands of Snape was completely incomprehensible still, and even Ron and Hermione’s constant apologies for not believing the worst about Malfoy didn’t alleviate the sting.
It was probably a good thing that he and Cho had finally broken up the month before Harry and Dumbledore had gone off to the cave to retrieve the Horcrux-that-wasn’t. She had never hidden the fact that she was uncomfortable with Harry’s fight against Voldemort, never mind the fact that he really didn’t have a choice. But in the final month before their break up, Cho had revealed how much it all actually scared her; she really did not want to be around to watch Harry go the way of Cedric. Harry couldn’t fault her for her fear; he was still constantly amazed that Ron, Hermione, and Ginny hadn’t gone running the same way.
It had felt both a little odd and very normal to have Ginny sitting next to him at the funeral. Her breakup with Dean had been somewhat less amicable and Harry wasn’t quite sure if Ginny needed a shoulder to cry on or if he was in any position to provide one. But Ginny had taken measure of the situation immediately and quietly told Harry that she wanted to help him in any way he needed in the coming year; she knew without his saying that he would not be coming back to school.
And now it was real. Two days until Bill and Fleur’s wedding and then Harry, Ron, and Hermione were leaving to hunt Horcruxes and Ginny was going back to school.
She was still upset, Harry knew, about his refusal to tell her what he and the others were doing. Ron and Hermione had taken the news of the prophecy with predictable shock and horror. Hermione had started researching — what, Harry didn’t know. Ron had blustered on and on about how it wasn’t fair. Harry had come very, very close to including Ginny in their plans but had held back at the last minute. Dumbledore had told him he could include Ginny when he told the others about the prophecy and the Horcruxes, but Dumbledore had expected that he would still be Headmaster and helping guide the search too. It was probably safer to keep Ginny unaware for a little bit longer. Instead, Harry had told her vaguely to keep her eyes and ears open at school for “anything susipicious.” It was the best he could think to do.
Now she joined Harry on the rock where he sat looking out over the pond.
To her credit, she didn’t ask how he was doing. Instead, she plopped herself down beside him with a sigh.
“Has my mum tried to hide your things yet?”
Ginny nodded. “She seems to think that if you can’t find your rucksack and camping things, you won’t be able to leave.”
“Ahh, umm, no. I don’t think so. She hasn’t said. Anyway, I think Hermione already took care of packing everything for us. I don’t know where she’s put it. I probably should ask her.”
Ginny rolled her eyes at him. “Yes, Harry, you probably should.”
Harry chuckled and they sat in companionable silence for a few minutes. But he knew he had a few things to say to her before the parted, and now seemed as good a time as any.
“I umm, think it’s great you are going to be helping us,” he said. “As much as you can.” He tried to bite back his growing desire to blurt everything to her; to ask her to search for Horcruxes in between her classes.
“Of course I want to help!” Ginny sounded almost fanatical. “I know I can’t come along with you, not with the Trace still on me, but I’ll do whatever possible from school.”
“That’s great, Ginny. Thanks. I have some ideas I want to share with you. I just want to make sure it’s not too much or anything.”
Ginny shook her head firmly. “I need to do this, Harry. I know I haven’t always been . . .”
“THERE YOU TWO ARE!” Mrs. Weasley’s voice interrupted whatever Ginny had been about to say. Seconds later, the woman herself appeared. “Ginny, I need you in the kitchen helping me. Harry, there are a few last gnomes that need tending to in the garden. Hermione is polishing silverware and Ronald had better be clearing the path from the Apparition point. The Delacours will be here this afternoon!”
“Here we go,” Ginny said in an undertone. They both stood up quickly.
Harry still had things that needed to be said to Ginny. “I’ll, umm, find you later,” he muttered as they went off in opposite directions.
I know I can’t send this, but it makes me feel better to write to you anyway. I hope you all got dad’s Patronus, wherever you are, and I’m sorry we never got the chance to properly say goodbye. We are all fine here, I mean, as fine as we can be. The Ministry stayed here forever, questioning the people who didn’t Disapparate from the wedding. It’s kind of scary that the Ministry and the Death Eaters are the same people now.
I really, wish I could contact you, though. I go back to school in a month and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing until then; if there is anything I need to do, I mean. Tell Hermione that I’m actually reading Hogwarts, A History right now. I seemed like a good idea to learn as much about the school as I could. Next I think I’m going to try to learn how to disillusion myself. It will come in handy if I’m out after curfew.
Harry, please be careful, all of you. The stories we’ve been hearing, they have been getting worse. I wish I could let you know not to use “You Know Who’s” name anymore; it’s been cursed. Hopefully you will hear that news while out doing whatever you are doing.
Your friend, Ginny
Ginny read over the letter, nodded to herself, and then carefully lit the parchment on fire, watching her words burn into ash.
You were right not to tell me anything before you left; they gave us all Veritaserum before we were allowed into our common rooms! I’m pretty sure they took a lot longer questioning the Gryffindors than anyone else — some horrible Death Eater named Alecto Carrow questioned me for almost an hour. She was not happy that I did not know where you were or what you were doing. But now I’m at Hogwarts and I wish there was a way for you to let me know what you need me to do to help. I guess I’ll just have to keep my eyes and ears open.
No Quidditch this year, which is not a surprise, but not being able to fly is going to make me crazy. They aren’t even letting us take brooms out for fun or exercise. I guess it’s too difficult to keep track of students in the air.
Neville, Luna and I are spending a lot of time together. We miss our “fearless leader” but we are doing our best to keep morale up. We’ve been practicing our Patronus charms; I think of you having great success at whatever it is you are doing and that makes me happy enough to cast my horse.
Be care and give my brother and Hermione my love.
Your friend, Ginny
Burning the letter was more tricky at school than it had been at home, but Ginny managed to create a contained fire on the floor of her dorm. She looked at the tiny pile of ash and sighed to herself. The lack of communication with Harry and the others was difficult. She knew it was for their own safety, but Ginny felt rather impotent, stuck at school and not being able to help more.
A bell rang and Ginny started; it would not do to be late to class, not this year. She only hoped she could make it to Potions without seeing Draco Malfoy. That boy suddenly seemed to be everywhere she was, leering, and it was creepy. He seemed to be trying to look right into her thoughts.
Not for the first time, Harry missed Grimmauld Place. Funny how much one could long for the simple luxuries of being warm, dry, and fed when they were taken away. No matter how depressing the physical surroundings had been, Sirius’ old house had provided those creature comforts in spades, and the place had felt secure to boot.
Now they had found another Horcrux, true, but at the expense of a home base, regular meals, and any feelings of safety.
He was wearing the locket as they sat around the campfire, trying to stave off the feelings of despair and worry that seemed to creep even closer than normal with the Horcrux so near. The tinned pasta they had managed to obtain from a small local grocer had helped a bit; indeed, Ron was looking rather cheerful. But Harry couldn’t shake the feeling that they needed to be doing more.
“There must be one at Hogwarts,” he said petulantly. This was not news to his companions; Harry mentioned trips to the school and Godric’s Hollow with regularity; so far, Ron and Hermione had managed to talk him out of both excursions.
“We know,” said Hermione patiently. “But it’s more likely that he’s got someone watching Godric’s Hollow, and I have no idea how we might sneak back into the school right now.”
“Ginny!” Harry spoke so forcefully that Ron whirled around, as if he expected to see his younger sister standing in the tent with them.
“What? Where?” he said in confusion. “I think maybe that locket is making you see things, mate.”
Harry shook his head impatiently. “No, not here,” he said. “But she’s at the school, she could search for us. I think it’s time that we tell her . . . ” Hermione and Ron were already shaking their heads and Harry felt his enthusiasm fading away.
“Harry, even if we could figure out a way to get a secure message to her — which we can’t — I don’t think it would be safe to having her searching the school like that.” Hermione spoke too reasonably, and it only made Harry’s ire grow.
“But it could shorten the hunt . . .” he began, but then Ron interrupted.
“You heard what those wizards were talking about at the Ministry,” Ron said. “They gave all the students truth serum when they got to school, to make sure they didn’t know where you were. What if they do it again?”
“They won’t,” argued Harry, although deep down he knew he had no proof he was right. “I know Ginny would want to . . .”
“Of course Ginny would want to, but that doesn’t mean we can put her in danger like that,” said Ron. “Hogwarts will have to wait.” He spoke with finality and Harry sagged, too tired to continue the discussion.
“Fine,” he said sullenly, unwilling to let Ron have the last word. “But I know there’s one there.”
I can’t believe how much has changed here. I knew it would be different, but I guess I pictured it as being more like the year Umbridge was here, with stupid rules and unfair policies. I thought it would still feel like Hogwarts. Instead, this place feels . . . evil. The professors, if you can call them that, don’t care at all about teaching, unless it’s teaching the Dark Arts and how to do Unforgivables.
Last week, Draco Malfoy used the Cruciatus Curse on me just because “I once fancied Harry Potter”. Can you imagine anything so silly? Luckily Neville was walking by and “accidentally” tripped him. He also stopped me from jinxing Malfoy back. I know Neville’s right that we need to watch ourselves, but I swear, Malfoy would have looked great with bats flying out of his nose.
Since I don’t know how to help you with . . . whatever you are doing right now, Neville and Luna and I are trying to be subversives here on our own. Most of the students are too scared, but there are a few who are still trying to keep up the memory of Dumbledore’s Army. Some days, it’s the only thing that keeps me going.
I hope you all are staying safe and having a lot of success. Give my love to Hermione and Ron. I’d better end this now so I have time to burn it before class.
Your friend, Ginny
This time, Hermione had Apparated them far north; it was much chillier here than their last campsite near the coast. But it wasn’t until the sun was fully up the next morning that Harry realized why the large lake down the hill from their tent looked so familiar.
“Is that . . . the lake by Hogwarts?” He came back into the tent and walked immediately to the stove to warm his hands.
Ron sat up in his bunk. He had just begun his 12 hour shift wearing the Horcrux and was already looking mutinous. “Hogwarts? Why are we at Hogwarts? Isn’t that dangerous?”
Hermione shrugged. “I don’t know. It just . . . felt right,” she said hesitantly. She fumbled with the tea kettle on the stove before getting it lit.
“Is that all there is for breakfast again? Tea?” asked Ron peckishly. “Maybe you want to Apparate to the castle and ask a house elf for some breakfast or something.”
“You can’t Apparate in Hogwarts, Ron.” Hermione sounded nearly as cranky as he did.
“So Hogsmeade then,” Ron shrugged. “There has to be food there. And we know our way around and they take Galleons. His voice clearly indicated that he didn’t care where they went next, as long as there was a way to get a meal.
Harry gave in. Truth be told, the thought of seeing the familiar streets of Hogsmeade was irresistible. And maybe once they were there, he could convince the others to sneak up to the castle to search.
Of course, they would have picked a Hogsmeade weekend. They stood under Harry’s cloak on the small path that cut across the hill just above the main road through the village. They could see students swarming the shops while they discussed what to do. At least, Harry and Hermione discussed. Ron, still wearing the locket, simply muttered about ‘how were they going to sneak into Honeydukes now that it was full of people?’ Harry and Hermione ignored him.
“There’s Ginny,” said Harry suddenly. She was walking just below them, more or less with Neville and Luna and Harry thought all of three of them looked tense. They weren’t speaking, or even looking in the same directions, just plodding along, apparently without a destination. Before he could think, Harry picked up his wand and shot two spells in their direction. Immediately, Neville and Luna turned and walked back the direction they had all come from, heading towards Zonko’s joke shop. Ginny stumbled for a second before looking dazedly around and then walking into the alley between a cottage and the Hogs Head. Harry couldn’t see her for a second, and then she appeared a few feet down from them on the path, looking confused.
“Ginny!” Harry hissed in a whisper. She looked around, wand out, eyes wary.
“Harry, I don’t think . . . ” Hermione began quietly.
Harry ignored her. As soon as Ginny had taken a few more steps forward, Harry began casting the privacy spells they had been using on their hunt, creating a small circle of quiet around the four of them.
“Salvio Hexia,” he finished, and then pulled the Invisibility Cloak off. Ginny’s eyes went wide. A second later, she launched herself into his arms.
“Harry!” she cried. “Ron, Hermione! I can’t believe you are all here!” Her smile was at once happy and . . . kind of relieved, Harry thought. Now that she was close, Harry thought Ginny looked tired.
“What are you . . .” he began, but then Ron interrupted.
“What the bloody hell were you thinking, Harry?” he said. “Anyone could have seen her!” His face had gone red and he stepped closer to Harry.
“Relax Ron, no one saw me,” said Ginny. She frowned. “What’s that around your neck?”
Harry put his hand on Ginny’s arm. “That’s a long story. But before I start, any chance you have any snacks with you?”
Once Ginny produced a packet of sandwiches and cookies from the pocket of her robes and Harry made Ron remove the Horcrux, the atmosphere in their little circle relaxed a bit. They sat and listened first to Ginny tell them about all the horrible things happening at the school, about her’s and Neville’s and Luna’s attempts to keep the DA going, about how Draco had actually hexed her with the Cruciatus Curse until Neville had stopped it. At that news, it took both Harry and Hermione’s efforts to keep Ron from marching off to find Malfoy himself.
“No one can know we are here, remember?” Harry said.
“Ginny knows,” Ron pointed out.
“Yeah, but Ginny isn’t going to tell anyone,” said Harry.
Ron shrugged. Despite the sandwich and removal of the Horcrux, he still looked irritable. “Malfoy put the Cruciatus Curse on her. What’s to stop him from trying the Imperius next? Or one of the professors?” He shook his head. “Thanks for the food, Gin. But you need go.”
“No,” said Ginny in a dangerously calm voice. “Not until you tell me what’s going on and how I can help.”
“Ginny,” said Hermione. “Be reasonable. This is to keep you safe.”
“I’m not safe already,” she pointed out. “And by the looks of things, you lot need my help.” She pointed at the locket lying on the ground between them. “For a start, what is that thing? It makes me feel horrible. Actually . . . “ she suddenly scrunched up her eyes and waved her wand. Her Patronus shot out of the end and settled on the ground, between her and the locket. “Ahh, that’s better,” she said.
“Brilliant, Gin,” breathed Harry. “That never occurred to me.” He looked to the others. “We have to tell her.”
Over Ron and Hermione’s continued protests, Harry quickly explained about the prophecy, the Horcrux, hunt, the difficulty they were having trying to figure out how to destroy them, and finally, his suspicion that one was hidden in the school. At the end, Ginny’s eyes were wide with shock, but her face set with determination. She nodded.
“I can search the school,” she said.
“Absolutely not,” said Ron. “You said yourself, they aren’t punishing you with things like lines anymore. “One more trip under the Cruciatus Curse and you are going to tell them everything you know.”
Ginny crossed her arms and glared at her brother. Then she looked beseechingly at Harry. “Please, will you talk some sense into him? You need me to help and you know it. Anyway, it’s too late. I already have the knowledge.”
Harry sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, warring with himself. He knew they needed Ginny’s help, but a fat lot of good it would do them if she got caught and forced to tell what she knew. He looked at Hermione. “Could you . . .?” he began.
Hermione nodded. “Already on it,” she said, lifting her wand. Quickly, she performed a variation of what Harry recognized as a memory modification charm. Ginny’s eyes grew fuzzy for a minute and then cleared.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get to see you today,” Ginny said softly. “I’ll search the school for artifacts to remember you all by, since I haven’t seen you since August.” Her voice had a floating quality and she looked over their heads as she spoke. Slowly, she walked over to her brother and gave him a hug, and then Hermione.
Finally, she walked to Harry. Her hug was stiff and perfunctory, but he couldn’t stop himself from holding her tighter for just a second. Her hair smelled flowery and sweet and homey and he had the sudden urge to bury his hair in it. That thought alone was enough to make him pull away, feeling confused. He watched as Ginny walked through the wards he’d set without looking back. She disappeared down the path, and a couple of minutes later, they could see her on the road below, walking back towards the center of Hogsmeade.
“Thanks, Hermione,” Harry said quietly. “That was brilliant.”
“Putting a memory charm on my sister was brilliant?” Ron had put the locket back around his neck and his voice was tight with anger. “If something happens to her, Harry. It’s all your fault.”
“Nothing will happen to her,” said Harry with more conviction than he felt. “And I think she will be a big help, even if she doesn’t know it.”
I hope you and Ron and Hermione are not as far north as Hogwarts; it’s gotten to be quite cold. Last week was a Hogsmeade weekend and I had to wear my heavy jumper under my robes. It was not a lot of fun; half the shops in the village are closed and I dropped my sandwiches so I didn’t have anything to eat. I wandered with Neville and Luna for a while, but that was about it. My legs are tired from all the walking I did.
I had a great idea, though. Since I miss you all and how Hogwarts used to be so much, I’m going to try to collect things to help me remember how it used to be. Nothing big, just little trinkets and such that are meaningful to the school. Isn’t that a good idea? Maybe someday we will all be able to look at them together.
I’m sorry this letter is short. My head is feeling rather fuzzy right now. I think I need to get some sleep as soon as I burn this.
Take care and be careful.
Your friend, Ginny
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Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Author's Notes: I'm sorry I got behind in my uploading of this story - I'm going to try to get caught up. Thanks to everyone who voted to give it a Silver Trinket!
Things were uneasy between the trio after their trip to Hogsmeade. Ron was upset that Harry had told Ginny so much. Hermione didn’t like that she had had to modify Ginny’s memory to keep her safe, even though Harry had been the one to tell her too much in the first place. Harry himself was frustrated that the others couldn’t see how useful having Ginny at Hogwarts could be.
He’d started watching her dot on the Marauder’s Map whenever he could, hopeful that he would see her in places that seemed likely hiding places for a Horcrux. Instead, he became increasingly concerned to see that, wherever Ginny’s dot happened to be, Draco Malfoy’s was not far away. Practically the only place he wasn’t near her was Gryffindor Tower; Harry even saw him standing near Moaning Myrtle’s loo once while Ginny was inside. Harry knew Draco was a tosser; that he was likely just enjoying throwing around his newfound power at the school, but he would have felt less unease had he ever seen Draco lurking around some of the other dots too. Instead, he seemed nearly chained to Ginny.
Harry didn’t say anything about it to Ron or Hermione. It was tense enough already, and Harry did not need to give Ron any more reason to think that Harry had done something to put his sister in danger. But it weighed heavily on his mind, and he’d started hinting to the others that it might be a good idea to visit the Burrow over Christmas. It was dangerous, to be sure, but that way Harry could question Ginny himself and hopefully put to rest his fears about what Draco might be doing.
“Harry, just stop. You know we can’t go to the Burrow. I don’t want to have to modify the memories of everyone in Ron’s family.” They’d all taken a break from wearing the Horcrux and Hermione was speaking to him fairly reasonably. She turned to Ron. “Don’t you agree?”
“Well, umm . . . .” Ron looked uncomfortable. Harry knew he wanted to agree with Hermione, but also that the thought of getting one of his mum’s home-cooked meals was tempting enough to make him forget the danger. And Harry had been slipping in mentions of some of Mrs. Weasley’s best dishes into conversation as often as he could.
“We wouldn’t have to modify any memories,” said Harry quickly. “We could sneak in, have a proper wash and a bowl of stew with that homemade bread Ron’s mum always makes to go with it, and then quickly check with Ginny about whether she’s found anything. We’d be in an out in less than a day.” He looked at Hermione as if something had just occurred to him.
“And didn’t you say that you wanted to visit the Lovegoods to ask him about that symbol he wore to Bill and Fleur’s wedding? They live right near by, don’t they?”
“Yes, but . . .” she began. She looked at Ron. “It could be dangerous for Ginny, to question her under a memory charm.”
Ron’s face, which had opened up at the mention of his mum’s stew, shut back down. “Well then, we won’t be going.”
Harry sighed to himself, but dropped the matter for now. But he knew he was going to get them to the Burrow somehow.
Ginny shook her head to clear it as she walked to Transfiguration. Ever since visiting Hogsmeade the week before, she’d had a dull headache she couldn’t seem to shake. It wasn’t so much painful as disorienting, and the disorientation, in turn, was making her nervous. Without telling anyone, she had taken to tracking the hours in her day again, to make sure she wasn’t losing time. Now, she frowned at the parchment she was holding.
8 am: Great Hall for breakfast
8:30 — 9:00 am: Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom
9:00-11:00 am: Double Potions
11:00-11:45: Trophy cases
12:00-12:30: Great Hall for lunch
12:45-1:15 Seventh Floor Corridor
Ginny hadn’t lost any time; she was not going to be late to her 1:30 Transfiguration class, but the thirty minutes in Myrtle’s bathroom and forty-five examining the trophy cases for things to remember Harry and Ron by seemed a little excessive. It wasn’t like she was really going to forget them right?
So lost was Ginny in her thoughts that she forgot to keep on her normal lookout. She didn’t even notice Draco approaching until he was close enough to snatch the parchment out of her hand.
“What’s this, Weasley?” he drawled. “Your family so poor it needs to recycle parchment now?”
“Give that back, Draco.” Ginny fingered her wand inside her robes but didn’t pull it out. Hexing a Slytherin could get a student a trip to the Carrows, and the Carrows liked using the Cruciatus Curse. Stupid Draco bugging her in a crowded hallway wasn’t worth the risk.
“Not yet, let’s see what secrets you’ve been writing.” He looked down at what was written and smirked.
“Trophy cases? What, you were hoping to see your name on one someday? Or did the shiny gold color help you pretend you were looking at Galleons. You’ve probably never seen any, right?” Malfoy’s tone was obnoxious, but not threatening and Ginny just rolled her eyes. It wouldn’t be the end of the world to lose that parchment. She didn’t bother to respond.
“And half and hour in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom? I know it’s probably the nicest one you’ve ever see, but really, that seems excessive.” Draco opened his eyes in fake understanding. “Oh wait, I know. That bathroom is where Ha.. . .” he broke off, looking confused for a second. “I mean, were you planning to . . .arggh.” This time, Draco seemed to choke on his words. He looked suddenly nauseated as he thrust the parchment back at Ginny.
“Whatever,” he said. “Don’t do it again.” He turned and hurried down the corridor.
Ginny stared at Draco’s back, confused at his behavior. But it whatever had happened, at least it had gotten his attention off her. Ginny shrugged and put the parchment back in her bag. She wasn’t going to complain.
A week later, she wasn’t so sanguine about Malfoy.
She lay on her bed, shaking at her latest encounter with the Slytherin. That she’d been able to throw off his curse, barely, was probably nothing more than the luck of Malfoy not expecting it. She’d have to be more prepared next time. Maybe her Patronus would help ease her nerves. She lifted her wand, searching for a good memory. Maybe Harry, giving her that hug? Where had that been?
Ginny wasn’t sure where the memory came from, but it made her feel good. She was about to cast the spell when Demelza came into the room.
“What’s up, Ginny? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Ginny shrugged, the unspoken rule not to talk about what was going on at Hogwarts this year prevented most conversations.
“Just Malfoy again,” she said. It would do no good to tell her roommate exactly what Malfoy had tried to do this time.
Demelza nodded. “He’s an arse, that one. Better to stay away from him.”
Ginny got up slowly, thoughts of her Patronus and Harry’s hugs forgotten. “Yeah,” she said. “He seems to be everywhere, though.” She picked up her bag. “Actually, I think I’ll stop by Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom before class. Draco seemed nervous about that place for some reason.” In the back of her mind, it occurred to her that it might be a good place to practice her Patronus. Maybe the memory of Draco running away from her would be a good enough memory.
“Myrtle’s bathroom?” Demelza interrupted Ginny’s musings. “I didn’t think anyone used that loo anymore, especially you. You know, because Harry . . .” her voice broke off and an uncomfortable look crossed her face.
“Because Harry and Ron might have left a trinket there for me to remember them?” Ginny shook her head. “I don’t think that’s it.”
Demelza swallowed hard. “I have to get to class,” she said quickly. She rushed out of the room.
Ginny picked up her bag, frowning. She had the same class as Demelza next. Why hadn’t she waited?
Harry didn’t know if it was Ron’s increasing hunger or the fact that they hadn’t been making any progress on either finding more Horcruxes or destroying the one they had, but he was slowly becoming more amenable to the idea of going the Burrow over Christmas.
“No memory charms,” he said firmly. “On anyone. But maybe Bill will have an idea about how to destroy this thing.” Hermione was wearing the locket and Ron waved vaguely in her direction.
“Are you pointing at my chest, Ronald? Show a little restraint please,” said Hermione testily before flopping down on her cot. “Fine. We’ll go to the Burrow tomorrow. I think term ended today.”
They arrived late the next afternoon at the Weasley’s apparition point; Hermione had thought it safest to appear under cover of darkness. They could see lights on in the kitchen and all seemed calm, but Hermione insisted on performing a number of spells before she would let them approach. After one incantation, she frowned.
“Harry, I don’t think you can enter the building. I think there’s a detection ward for you on the doorway.”
“What about you and me?” asked Ron.
“You are definitely okay,” said Hermione. Your blood matches the wards here and the Death Eaters think you are upstairs dying of Spattergoit anyway.” She looked pensive. “I’m not sure about me. I . . . I think Harry and I should go wait in the garden. Why don’t you go get Ginny and ask her to meet us there.”
“And don’t stop to eat first,” said Harry. “Bring food with you.” He suspected Ron needed to be told outright.
Ron made a rude gesture at him and started to walk away.
“Wait,” Hermione said suddenly. “Maybe we should disillusion you first. In case anyone is there that shouldn’t be.”
Harry pointed his wand at the Burrow. “Homonem Revilio” he said. A second later, his wand vibrated three times. “Your parents and Ginny,” he said. “I think it’s okay.”
When Ron and Ginny finally appeared in the garden, it was obvious he had not listened to Harry about waiting to eat. But he threw down a basket of meat pies and cookies and butterbeer and Ginny was there, and those combined things made Harry’s annoyance evaporate.
It was great to see her. It felt great to hug her, and Harry was relieved to see that the memory charm didn’t seem to have left her any worse for wear. Mindful on the limits on their time, Harry jumped right into questioning her.
“Have you found anything interesting at Hogwarts?” he blurted out around bites of a lemon biscuit.
At Ginny’s confused look, Hermione quickly added, “to remember us by, he means. You know, trinkets. ” She gave Harry a meaningful look.
Harry swallowed the biscuit. “Right, trinkets,” he said. “Where have you been looking for trinkets?”
Ginny frowned. “Well, I looked through the trophy case, and I tried to get into the Room of Requirement, but I couldn’t get it to open up to anything but that big room of junk.” She leaned over the basket and looked over the cookie selection before selecting something chocolate.
That gave Harry an idea. “Maybe you should go back . . .” he began, when Ginny interrupted him.
“Oh, and I went to Myrtle’s bathroom, of course.”
Ron sat up. “Why’d you go into Myrtle’s bathroom?” he asked. “The only thing in there is the entrance to the . . . and you . . . you . . . he . . . isn’t . . .” Ron choked as if he’d swallowed something the wrong way. Hermione thumped him on the back; she looked distressed.
Harry took a deep breath against his own sudden feeling of unease. “Ummm,” he began.
Next to him, Ginny frowned. “You lot too?”
“Us lot, what?” said Hermione earnestly. She leaned forward and peered in Ginny’s eyes. “How are you feeling? Is this about trinkets? Or . . . snakes? Are you still afraid of them?”
Ron gave Hermione a sharp look but didn’t say anything.
Ginny shrugged. “I’m still afraid of them, but there are worse things to worry about right now.”
That reminded Harry of something. “Malfoy’s been following you, hasn’t he?”
Ron put down this third meat pie. “What? Malfoy?”
Ginny looked surprised. “How did you know?”
Harry flushed. “On the Maurader’s Map,” he said, hoping she wouldn’t question why he’d been watching her.
But Ginny just nodded. “That’s useful to keep an eye on things,” she said. “And yeah, Malfoy’s been following me around. Mostly just being a prat, but last week he thought he’d be smart and try to Imperius me.”
“What?” Ron yelped. “That’s an Unforgivable! You have to tell someone, a professor!”
Ginny laughed without humor. “Where do you think he got the idea? All the professors from before can’t really do anything to help. The Carrows and Snape are in charge now. With regular visits from other Death Eaters they refer to as ‘guest lecturers.’” She shrugged. “I threw it off before he could make me do anything,” she said nonchalantly.
“But what did he want you to do?” asked Ron in a dangerous voice.
Ginny looked uncomfortable. “N . . . nothing,” she said quickly. “He never had the chance to ask me to do anything.”
Ron didn’t look convinced and started to say something else. Harry interrupted him.
“That’s amazing, Gin, that you were able to throw off the curse so fast. I’m glad to know you can protect yourself.” He wished they could stay and talk longer; there was so much Harry wanted to know about Hogwarts and how Ginny was faring there. But the shadows were deepening and their warming charms were wearing off. It was time to go.
The next three days were rather pleasant; Harry suspected it was because they still had leftover food from the Weasleys to eat. He had taken on the burden of wearing the Horcrux more than the others simply out of a desire to keep the peace, and while he was relieved to see the other two getting along, Harry’s own mood grew blacker. Every day they did not find another Horcrux was a day wasted, and he became silently angrier with Ron every for not letting him remove the memory charm from Ginny so that she could search Hogwarts properly.
He gave up wearing the Horcrux the same day Mrs. Weasley’s food ran out; in retrospect it was a bad time to ask Ron to take his turn wearing the locket again. They were camping in a desolate wooded area far from the Burrow. Without the locket around his neck, Harry was able to think more clearly about their visit with Ginny. He brought it up while they were sitting around the stove, eating a “meal” of ground nuts and a packet of crisps Hermione had found outside a schoolyard near their last camp.
“I meant to ask Ginny to keep searching the Room of Requirement; I really think there is a Horcrux in there,” he said around a gulp of tea.
Ron frowned. “She said the Room kept showing her that place where people leave their junk; why d’you think there’s a Horcrux in there?
Harry shrugged. “I just know there is, I can feel it. It would be just like him to have assumed he was the only one who knew about that room. If we could just tell Ginny a little more about what we are looking . . .”
“Absolutely not,” interrupted Ron. “You both have messed with my sister enough.” He turned on Hermione.
“And what was that all about, asking Ginny if she was still afraid of snakes? Does she really need to be reminded of them?”
“I wanted to know how the memory charm was holding up,” said Hermione hotly. “That was a pretty big thing we asked her to forget, and I’m not sure if it is affecting other parts of her emotions.”
“Her emotions are fine,” said Harry. “I could tell. She really wants to help us. And . . .I think she can.” The thought came to him suddenly and he blurted it out without thinking. “She was able to throw off Malfoy’s Imperius Curse, I know she can protect the secret.” He jumped to his feet. “We need to tell her more.” He pulled out his wand. “I’m going to send her a Patronus; she’s still at the Burrow so it’s a good time to tell her.” He looked at Hermione. “Do we need to do anything to loosen the memory charm first or can we just tell her the information again, like it’s the first time she’s heard it?”
“I, umm,” Hermione began. “I think we could just tell her again, but Harry, are you sure. . .”
“Of course he’s sure, can’t you see? He doesn’t care if Ginny gets tortured, as long as she helps find another Horcrux first!” Ron had gotten to his feet too, and now he walked up to stand in front of Harry, a mutinous look on his face.
“Relax Ron, I don’t want Ginny to get hurt either,” said Harry. “I just think that it might be safe now to give her more information.” Harry thought he was being reasonable; but Ron’s face grew red.
“Just because she was able to throw off Malfoy’s curse? What if it’s not Malfoy next time? How can you be so callous about members of my family — oh, I know, it’s because the Weasleys have so many kids, what wrong with one of them getting hurt, plenty more where that one came from!”
Ron looked rather deranged. He poked his wand into Harry’s chest, ignoring the sparks that shot out of the end.
“Ouch,” said Harry.
“Ron, that’s not fair and you know it,” said Hermione. “Harry doesn’t feel that way.”
Ron turned on Hermione. “Oh, take his side, why don’t you? Just like you were so quick to help him modify my sister’s memory in the first place!” He paced angrily around the tent. “It’s not like you even have a clue about what you are doing,” he said to Harry. “Your only plan is to put members of my family in danger. Well, you know what? I’m not having it anymore!” He pulled off the Horcrux and tossed it on a cot. “I’m out of here.” He looked at Hermione. “Are you coming? Maybe you can fix Ginny’s memory without putting her in more danger.”
Hermion looked close to tears. “Ron, I don’t think I can . . . and we promised to help Harry.”
“Fine,” spat Ron. “Take his side.” Without another word he strode out of the tent. A second later, they heard the crack of Apparition.
Harry and Herimione looked at each other. “Do you think he’s gone back to see Ginny?” asked Harry?
Hermione didn’t answer. She threw herself onto her cot with a sob and pulled the blanket over her head.
Harry knew he probably should comfort her but he couldn’t make himself move over to her. Instead, he slowly put the locket back around his neck and picked up the Marauder’s Map before remembering that it was still the holidays. Instead, he lay back on his own cot and thought about ways he could contact Ginny. Whether he wanted to talk to her about helping them or because he really needed a friendly face right now, Harry was not sure.
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Chapter 6: Chapter 6Ron’s departure only made Harry more determined to use any means he could to find another Horcrux. He and Hermione barely spoke, other than when she rejected — yet again — his idea to visit Godric’s Hollow. Aside from the remaining Horcruxes, they still needed a way to destroy them, and Harry was certain that the answer to at least one of these problems lay in his birthplace.
But until he could convince Hermione otherwise, Harry decided to let the issue of Godric’s Hollow drop. He wasn’t so naïve to think he could manage a visit there himself.
Intercepting Ginny on her way back to Hogwarts was a different matter.
Harry knew Hermione was going to be angry; he just hoped that she wasn’t so angry as to follow Ron’s lead and leave him. He suspected she wouldn’t; unlike Ron, who could return home or back to Hogwarts, Hermione had no place else to go.
He left before Hermione woke up, an apologetic letter that included the promise that he’d return by noon and bring food with him on the table. He disapparated under his cloak to the alleyway near King’s Cross Station where Mr. Weasley had once parked his Ford Anglia. It was still dark in London, and after an hour in the cold, Harry snuck into the station behind a crowd of tourists with a lot of luggage and hid in a loo near the entrance to platform 9 ¾.
He hoped they weren’t running late. He wondered if Ron would be with them, going back to the safety and warmth and comfort of Hogwarts, protected by his blood status.
But it was only Molly and Ginny that appeared at the barrier, twenty minutes before the train was to leave. Harry carefully followed them through and then snuck up behind Ginny to whisper by her ear.
To her credit, she didn’t scream. After a frozen moment, she bent down as if to tie her shoe, and then told her mum she needed the loo before walking casually over to an empty waiting room alongside the platform. It had always been there, Harry thought, even though no one seemed to use it.
Harry pulled the Invisibility Cloak over Ginny and spoke rapidly. “Ginny, there’s something I need you to do for me — for us — at Hogwarts,” he said urgently.
Ginny’s eyes sparkled. “Of course, Harry, whatever you need,” she said immediately.
Quickly, Harry explained about the Horcruxes and his suspicion that one might be in the Room of Requirement. This time, Ginny seemed less horrified and disgusted than when he had told her the same story in Hogsmeade and Harry wondered privately if they memory charm hadn’t held as well as they thought. He didn’t tell her about the prophecy - there wasn’t time - but after swearing Ginny to secrecy, Harry found himself reluctant to just let her go.
“Promise me that you will watch out for Malfoy?” he asked quietly. “I know you can fight his Imperius Curse, but try not to give him reason to use it on you again.”
Ginny nodded. “I wish I knew why he was so interested in me all of a sudden,” she said.
“Probably thinks you can help him find us,” said Harry. He started to ask where Ron was, but stopped. He really didn’t want to know if he was going back to school or not. He focused on Ginny again.
“I umm, I’m glad you’re going to help us,” he said. It was warm, under the Cloak, but standing there with Ginny, Harry felt inexplicably safer than he had in months; for just a moment, he felt like they were the only two people in the world. Without consciously thinking about it, he put his hand on her arm. “It’s going to make a big difference, having you involved,” he said seriously. He took a step closer to her and Ginny looked at him curiously.
“Like I said before, I’m glad to help,” she said. She took a step back. “But now I think I need to get on the train before my mum comes looking for me.”
“Oh, right,” said Harry. “The train.” He lifted the bottom of the Cloak. “I’m, umm, just going to stay here,” he said.
Ginny nodded. “Right,” she said. “Umm, the next Hogsmeade weekend is on Valentine’s Day; why don’t you and Ron and Hermione meet me there. I can let you know if I found anything.”
“Ron’s not . . .” Harry started to say. He stopped, feeling a twinge of unease about Ron’s whereabouts. No need to worry Ginny. “Right, he nodded. “We’ll see you in Hogsmeade. On Valentine’s Day. In the meantime, please be careful of Malfoy. You know things now.”
And then Ginny was gone and Harry stood still under the Cloak until long after the last sounds of the train leaving died away.
As Harry had suspected, Hermione had not left their camp. She was angry but resigned at his antics; there was really nothing she could do at that point. They sat in almost total silence the rest of the day; Harry kept his eye on the Map and didn’t relax until he saw Ginny’s dot finally come to rest in her dorm, where Malfoy couldn’t get to her.
Harry made a point of being extra agreeable and solicitous to Hermione for a few days as they criss-crossed Britain, trying to think of another Horcrux hiding place. One night, he risked her ire again by mentioning that Ron had not gone back to Hogwarts; Harry had examined the Map carefully and Ron’s name wasn’t there.
Hermione shrugged. “I bet he went to live with Fred and George,” she said casually. She sat up straighter from her position on her cot. “I’ve been thinking,” she said cautiously. “That we need to go to Godric’s Hollow. It’s the only other logical location I can think of for something to be hidden.”
I know I won’t be able to send this to you, but I wanted to write anyway. So far, I’ve had no luck with the . . . activity you gave me to do. Twice, I got followed through the hallways and couldn’t even make it to the Seventh Floor. Another time, I asked to be taken to the place where a “you know what” was hidden, but all it showed me was a huge room full of junk. You don’t think it’s in there, do you? I’m not even sure I’d know where to start looking, but I promise, I won’t give up until I have better news for you. Hopefully by Hogsmeade, I’ll have more to tell you.
I’m trying to be careful; it’s not easy. Luna didn’t come back after the Christmas holiday and no one knows where she is, or at least, they aren’t talking about it. I mostly hang out with Neville.
I think I know when the Seventh Years have double Potions; I’m going to use that time to do some more exploring. I know I won’t be interrupted then.
Your friend, Ginny.
The only positive thing about the disastrous trip to Godric’s Hollow is that Harry and Hermione were talking again. She felt horribly guilty about Harry’s wand being destroyed and he felt guilty about insisting they visit the village in the first place, and their combined feelings mended most of the bad feelings between them.
And then Ron returned and saved Harry’s life, and they had Gryffindor’s sword and destroyed the locket, and suddenly Harry felt a glimmer of hope that they might be back on track.
He didn’t want to risk the tentative peace that was building between the three of them, so at first, Harry kept quiet about his plan to meet Ginny in Hogsmeade. He knew he’d have to tell them eventually, in time to get them to join him there, but he kept telling himself he just needed to find the right time.
But after they visited the Lovegoods and learned of Luna’s disappearance, Harry himself began to question the wisdom of the scheme. Instead of trying to figure out how to get Ron and Hermione to come to Hogsmeade with him, he began thinking about whether it would be dangerous to put another memory charm on Ginny so she couldn’t remember what he’d told her.
He was still watching Ginny on the Map every chance he got; it was second nature to him to find her name and then immediately seek out Malfoy, to see how far away he was from Ginny. Twice, she disappeared from the Map completely, but instead of feeling exhilarated at the thought that she was in the Room, looking for the Horcrux, Harry couldn’t keep his eye off Malfoy and where he was in relation to the seventh floor corridor where Ginny would eventually emerge. He only allowed himself to relax when he saw the Slytherin head back to his own common room and Ginny appear back on the Map, shortly thereafter. It was late; almost curfew at Hogwarts by Harry’s reckoning, and he watched her dot with a small smile on his face as it made its way to Gryffindor Tower and then to the girls’ dorm.
Ginny would be getting into her pajamas, maybe joking with her roommates. Good thing she avoided Malfoy; she’s likely to be in a good mood. I hope she didn’t skip dinner to search.
Harry was musing to himself as he pulled on his own pajamas and climbed into his cot, the wand Ron had gotten from the snatchers at his side. Ron was keeping first watch tonight and Harry noted with satisfaction that Hermione was keeping him company at the front of the tent. He burrowed down in the blankets against the chill and closed his eyes.
Ginny’s pajamas had little Quaffles and Snitches flying all over them. Harry was laughing with her about them, asking why there were no Bludgers too. He was trying to catch one of the Snitches in under his hand to see if he could get it to stop moving, and she was giggling. He ran his hand up her leg, chasing a Snitch, and then pressed his palm to her stomach. She wriggled and groaned under his touch and Harry moved his hand higher; his own pajamas felt tight . . .
And Ginny’s face suddenly contorted in pain. She wasn’t wiggling with pleasure, she was moaning because someone had her under the Cruciatus Curse, and a raspy voice was asking her what she was looking for when she disappeared, how was she trying to help Harry Potter. They could curse her all day until she told them what she knew . . .
“Harry, Harry! Wake up!” Someone was shaking him and he could still hear Ginny screaming, but the sound was fading away. Harry jerked awake to Hermione and Ron’s worried faces. He ignored them and wordlessly grabbed the Map, looking it over until he found Ginny, still in her dorm. Malfoy was in his room and another quick search revealed that the Carrows were also far from Gryffindor Tower. Only then did Harry allow himself to take a breath and look at his friends.
“Why were you yelling about Ginny? Is something wrong? Did you see something?” Ron’s voice was rather frantic.
Slowly, Harry shook his head. “Just a nightmare,” he said. “At least, it was mostly a nightmare.” Now that he was awake, bits and pieces of his earlier dream were coming back to him as well. He shifted in his bed, suddenly aware with a start that his pajamas were sticky. He tried to hide his flush; he hadn’t had one of those happen since his early days of dating Cho, when her idea of how far she and Harry could go did not always match up to what his body wanted.
But he’d not been dreaming about Cho; he’d been thinking about Ginny.
Harry rubbed his hand across his face. “Ginny’s fine,” he managed. “I can see . . . I can see on the Map she’s fine.” He took a deep breath. “But there is something I need to tell you. Go back to your watch. I’ll, umm, put on some warmer clothes and join you both.”
To Harry’s relief, neither Ron nor Hermione seemed to find this request odd. They both went out to sit at the tent opening again and Harry cast a quick Scourgify before pulling on his warm trousers and two jumpers with his socks and boots and going to sit outside too.
“Are you sure you’re okay, Harry?” Hermione was looking at him carefully; she had sat through a number of his nightmares as he recovered from Godric’s Hollow.
He plopped down next to Ron. “Yeah, I think so,” he said. He looked at Ron. “I assume she told you I went to see Ginny at the train?”
Ron nodded. “What the hell were you thinking, mate?”
Harry sighed. “That’s just it. I wasn’t.”
In the end, they decided that Ron should go alone to Hogsmeade on Valentine’s Day. He was the least likely to get in trouble if caught and he would be able to tell Ginny to stop putting herself at risk looking for Horcruxes. He refused to do another memory charm on her, though.
“I’m pants at them anyway, probably send her the way of Lockhart if I tried,” he said. “She’ll just have to work extra hard to keep her nose clean.”
This did not sit well with Harry at all but he kept his mouth shut. He was the one to have put her at risk in the first place; there was no way to fix things and worrying Ron needlessly would only make things worse.
Ron came back from his meeting with Ginny to report that he’d used guilt to try to make her obey. “Threaten her and she’s likely to hex you,” he explained around a mouthful of one of the sandwiches Ginny had brought with her. “So I told her that Harry was particularly worried about her getting hurt.” Ron snorted a bit. “I may have made it sound like you fancied her, mate. You know, to keep her safe.”
Harry didn’t respond. He’d had two more dreams about Ginny and both had required a Scourgify charm afterwards. He was becoming increasingly worried that he might start mumbling her name in his sleep or something, and had started trying to figure out if there was a way for him to slip away for a private wank before bed. So far, he’d not come up with a solution.
“What did she say about that?” asked Hermione curiously. “Do you think she still has that old crush on Harry? You know, the one from when she was little?”
Ron shook his head. “Nah, she didn’t seem interested at all, just rolled her eyes at me and gave me the bag of food. Didn’t even blush.”
For some reason, hearing that Ginny didn’t seem to care that he fancied her (even if it was just a made up story from Ron) made Harry feel oddly put out. True, he’d been having those dreams, but he’d never considered that he actually fancied Ginny, not in that way. Now, listening to Ron prattle on and Hermione muse about whether Ginny had a crush on anyone, Harry was suddenly less sure about his feelings.
And to Harry’s dismay, it didn’t look like Ginny had taken Ron’s advice; on more than one occasion, he opened the Map to find her dot missing, or else marching resolutely up to the seventh floor corridor. Twice he saw Draco standing practically on top of her, and both times, Harry had been so distressed he’d barely been able to think until the Map showed Ginny back in her room.
It got to the point that half of Harry’s mind was always on Ginny and whether she was safe, and only half on the task at hand. It was probably this distraction that caused him to forget about the curse on Voldemort’s name; that they managed to survive Malfory Manor was nothing short of a miracle. Harry’s guilt at Dobby’s death was assuaged only by the fact that Ginny had not gone back to Hogwarts after Easter holiday; she was now at Muriel’s with the rest of Ron’s family.
Another advantage of Shell Cottage was that, despite the long hours that he, Ron and Hermione spent strategizing about how to break into Gringotts, Harry also found time to be alone. Using the excuse of Dobby’s death, he climbed one of the dunes almost every evening, and, under cover of darkness and a few hastily set privacy charms, took care of his near constant arousal so that he could sleep without worrying about waking Ron.
It was not just a physical attraction, Harry now knew. It was true. He fancied Ginny. And letting anyone know would just put her in even more danger. Truthfully, Harry didn’t want to tell anyone else until he had the chance to tell Ginny herself. They were such good friends; she had been a near constant source of help and comfort for many years now. Harry hoped, and even maybe assumed, that Ginny’s feelings for him might have grown too.
To Harry’s surprise, he had the opportunity to find out only two days later. Bill retuned from checking on his family with Muriel bringing Ginny along with him. Apparently, she’d insisted on coming; insisted that she had news of vital important to Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
She blew into the cottage looking windblown, and more beautiful that Harry had ever realized. She gave them all perfunctory hugs before asking if there was a place they could speak in private.
“I’m taking Dean and Luna to Muriel’s after lunch; the wards are set to accept them now,” said Bill. “You lot can talk then.” His mouth was set in a thin line and Harry knew he didn’t approve that they were planning and talking in private. Bill opened his mouth as if to say more, and then closed it again. He’d already made his views about making deals with Goblins well known and Harry was sure Bill was even more concerned now that his sister was involved too. Harry wanted to reassure the man that Ginny would have nothing to do with their plans for Gringotts, but he suspected that Horcruxes and prophecies would not be any more reassuring.
While Ron hovered in the kitchen, ostensibly helping Fleur and Hermione prepare lunch, but really trying to nick tastes ahead of time, Harry and Ginny walked up to see Dobby’s grave. She listened in horror to his account of Malfoy Manor as they walked.
“Bill told us what happened generally, but I think he purposely kept the details from mum and dad,” she said as they stood by the stone Harry had carved. “It explains why Malfoy wasn’t around that last week of school at least.”
“Was he still bothering you?” asked Harry sharply. “Did he try an Unforgivable again?” His dream of Ginny screaming was still vivid in his mind.
Ginny shook her head. “He mostly followed me around muttering things under his breath. He cornered me again outside Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom but I was able to shake him off.”
Harry huffed. “I wonder why he’s so interested in that bathroom,” he said, half to himself. He turned to Ginny and put his hand on her arm. “I want to apologize. I put you in danger this year and there is no excuse for it.” He tried to ignore the tingle that went through him when he touched her. Ginny didn’t seem to notice. She rolled her eyes.
“I was in danger the second I set foot at school this year, Harry. You had nothing to do with that.”
“Yes, but . . . telling you about the Horcruxes. That was . . . thoughtless of me. I should never have told you, never have put you in a position to be tortured or put under the Imperius Curse. If something had happened to you, it would have . . .” Harry stopped talking.
“You put Hermione and Ron in just as much danger,” Ginny pointed out. “It made sense for me to know. Who else could search the school?”
“It’s different,” Harry muttered. “It’s different with you.”
“Why?” asked Ginny curiously. “Why is it different with me?”
Harry took a deep breath. “Ginny,” he began, “we’ve been friends, good friends, for a long time.”
Ginny nodded. “Since the end of my first year.” She spoke in a matter of fact voice but her words made Harry suddenly uneasy.
“Uhh yeah, right,” said Harry quickly. “Umm, but with you, it’s umm, it’s not the same as with Ron and Hermione.”
“Why?” she asked again. She looked down and seemed to realize for the first time that Harry still had his hand on her arm. Harry thought maybe she looked a little surprised, but she didn’t step away.
“Ron and Hermione, I think, fancy each other. I think they have for a long time.”
Ginny snorted. “I thought so. Just took my brother seeing her almost get killed to realize it.”
“Exactly,” said Harry. “That’s exactly it.” He closed his eyes, trying to gather his thoughts. “It’s different when you like someone as more as friends. Ron and Hermione, they are my best friends. I don’t want them to get hurt, of course.” Harry wasn’t sure he was making sense. He opened his eyes and looked at Ginny. “And you, you are one of my best friends too. And it’s great that you are helping us, that you are willing to do that. But lately . . . it’s been . . . different.” He spoke in a rush. “My feelings for you have been different.”
Ginny’s eyes opened wide. “Oh,” she said slowly. She took a tiny step back, just far enough that they were no longer touching. “Harry . . .” she began.
“It makes sense,” Harry interrupted. “We have so much in common, Quidditch, Gryffindor, learning the Patronus charm . . .” There were other things too, he knew, but his brain felt rather fuzzy. He wasn’t sure if it was because he was suddenly confessing his feelings to Ginny or not. But then she was shaking her head.
“Harry,” she said again. “You are one of my best friends. You know that. I . . . I don’t know that I could have made it through these past months at school if I hadn’t had you, and Ron, and Hermione, and how I might help all of you, to take my mind off everything else.” She took a deep breath and Harry suddenly felt a pit in his stomach. “. . . But . . .” she continued.
“Ginny, wait, let me explain more.” The words burst out of him, as if saying them would be able to negate the look on Ginny’s face and the tone of her voice.
“I’m so sorry, Harry,” she said quietly. “I . . . I don’t feel that way about you. I haven’t . . . ever felt that way about you. Other than that silly crush when I was nine.” She looked at him. “But you aren’t talking about a crush, are you?”
Harry shook his head. “No,” he said dully. “It’s more than a crush. I just thought . . .”
“I think, maybe,” said Ginny carefully, “that us being apart this year, not being able to talk all the time like we are used to, I mean. And you missing Hogwarts and Quidditch and everything. I think it might have made your feelings for me become a little . . . unrealistic.”
“They aren’t unrealistic . . .” began Harry. Ginny held up a hand.
“Okay, okay, maybe they aren’t.” She took a deep breath. “I just think that, if you and I were meant to be more than friends, if I was to have feelings for you, it would have happened before this.” She looked up at him, and suddenly there was a fierce light in her eyes.
“But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep helping you, however I can,” she said. “You need me. We won’t let this interfere,” right?
Harry forced himself to smile. “Right.”
“Really, Harry, I mean it. I’m going to help.” Ginny put her own hand on Harry’s arm, and try as he might, he couldn’t quite suppress a shudder. She frowned and quickly took her hand away. She shook her head as if to clear it. “I need to talk to the three of you,” she said. “I think . . . I think I have really good news for you. And I think there is more I can do to help.” She looked down the hill. “I’m going back to help Fleur before Ron eats all the food,” she said. “See you there soon?”
Harry nodded. “Yeah. Soon. I’m sorry, Ginny. I didn’t mean to . . .”
“Don’t worry about,” she said quickly. “Like I said, it’s been a strange year. I don’t think any of us can totally trust what we are thinking or feeling right now.”
Harry privately disagreed, but he nodded anyway and watched Ginny walk away. His thoughts were swirling and his body felt like it wanted to betray Ginny’s words. Harry groaned to himself and then set a privacy charm around Dobby’s grave. At least he’d be more in control before he had to talk to Ginny later.
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