Echoes of the Snake by straykneazle

Summary: Ginny Weasley is returning to Hogwarts after a disastrous first year. People keep whispering in hallways, she doesn't know what to do around those who were hurt by her actions, and strange things are happening at Hogwarts. There's only one person who truly seems to understand, but she can't even manage to speak to him.
Rating: PG-13 starstarstarstarhalf-star
Categories: Pre-OotP
Characters: None
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2023.07.10
Updated: 2023.07.10


Chapter 1: The Uninvited Passenger
Chapter 2: A Whispered Truth
Chapter 3: The Defence Professor

Chapter 1: The Uninvited Passenger

Author's Notes: Thanks to GreenHatWayfarer for the beta reading! Intending for this story to go up through the end of GoF. Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction using characters from the Harry Potter world, which is trademarked by J. K. Rowling. I make no claim to her creation or her world. Also, transwomen are women and TERFS are deadly. Unaltered book dialogue appears in bold, that is of course the work of the author.

September 1, 1993

The Hogwarts Express clattered along the rails, racing up the Scottish countryside, as Ginny Weasley brooded to herself in a compartment full of her giggling classmates. He had smiled at her. They had shared that, laughing at her brother’s attempts at romance. If only she could be that casual all the time, maybe even talk to him properly. He was always so kind to her. Even before May, Harry never said a word as she made a fool of herself time and time again. Ginny let out an audible groan as memories of butter dishes and poorly costumed dwarfs flashed past. But things were different now, and Ginny couldn’t quite figure out why he was still so nice to her. He knew, knew even more than the rest of the school, knew the true extent of her stupidity, of what she had invited into herself.

Now Hayley Towler was looking at her from across the cramped compartment with “the look”, that judgmental knowing look. Prat. Imagine if she actually knew just how stupid Ginny had been. How was it that Harry could still smile at her? When everyone else who barely knew what had happened down there was avoiding her, he had pulled her aside for many late-night games of Exploding Snap during the last month of term. They hadn’t talked much, but he had been there when nobody else was. Of course, her brothers had promised their mother that things would be different, but they were somehow suffocating in their presence.

Harry was different. He didn’t try to say anything, he was just there, sitting in the knowing silence of understanding. The simple presence of Harry Potter sitting with her, of all people, in front of the fire had the effect of students no longer giving Ginny the wide berth they had been giving her in the initial days after- after Tom. Harry had even pulled Lavender Brown aside when she had made a glib comment about doubting certain students’ “Gryffindor values.”

Why couldn’t she talk to him? Despite everything, he had never been anything but caring and kind. She knew he had noticed her awkwardness; they had locked eyes at breakfast last summer when she’d managed to put the elbow of her nightdress in the butter dish, but he had never given her even the slightest grief for it. He would just smile and continue talking to her as if she hadn’t just done something mortifying. If he mocked her feelings to her brothers, she never heard- and there was a lot to hear at the Burrow. Harry, he saved her, even though she had almost gotten him killed. He deserved to hate her the most.

And then there was the matter of her pig-headed brother. Once inseparable, Ron had barely talked to her for the past two years. The year she was left home without any siblings had started all right. For once she had the Burrow practically to herself, and Ron had written her all the time with the wildest stories about adventures with Harry Potter. At the time she hadn’t believed half of them, but they kept her amused and gave her a glimpse of him. Then Ron had started writing more and more about his new friend Hermione Granger, who had sounded quite bookish and annoying, she couldn’t quite see what he saw in her. Now, she had started to view Hermione as almost a friend, swot and all, and she had become quite sure of what Ron saw in her. But last year, he had hardly acknowledged her existance, leaving her to be bullied around by Percy or alone to write to Tom. At least the twins sometimes used her as a decoy for their mad schemes. She didn’t need a minder like her mother had in mind. She just wanted her brother.

‘Go away, Ginny,’ Ron had said as they boarded the train. A clear dismissal, but when Harry had asked for a private word as they boarded, his eyes had lingered on her in a way that didn’t feel like a dismissal. If only her dunderhead of a brother had just kept his mouth shut. Harry knew she could keep secrets. What were they talking about? Dad had pulled Harry aside, right after they had shared that smile over Percy, and spent several minutes whispering intently with him. Tom must have come up because Dad had flinched violently at something Harry said. Voldemort. Ginny reckoned she must get comfortable with that name too, but Tom somehow still felt less threatening after everything.

‘Oh, sorry. Hiya… you lot have a good summer?’

Ginny pulled away from her thoughts to notice the door to the compartment had slid open, revealing a small, mousey-haired boy looking up at her, wearing Muggle clothes and clutching an old folding camera. Colin Creevey. Another near-death she was responsible for. Ginny had been avoiding his enthusiastic attempts at conversation since the mandrake draught had awakened him from nearly seven months petrified in the hospital wing. He had missed almost his entire first year because of her. As she added her own pleasantries to the chorus of responses, Colin caught Ginny’s eye.

‘Would you know where your brother is?’

Ah yes, of course. He was looking for Harry. Stalking Harry. If he held an ounce of concern for Harry, he would know Harry hated that kind of attention.

‘No, I don’t know, he went off to find a compartment with Hermione Granger and Harry Potter. I don’t really keep track of them,’ said Ginny sharply.

‘Oh… okay then. See you around,’ Colin stammered as he retreated out of their compartment.

‘Maybe Slytherin’s monster could have done a better job with that one,’ Hayley scoffed as she closed her book and reached into her trunk for her school robes.

 Ginny froze. All eyes were suddenly on her.

‘Oh don’t. He’s really quite fun if you get him off the topic of The Boy Who Lived.’, groaned the usually-bubbly Demelza Robins.

She was right. Colin was nice. He didn’t deserve anything that had happened to him. Tom had attacked him as a ‘favour’ for Ginny. She had been annoyed with his non-stop chatter about Harry after that awful match with the cursed Bludger and had snapped at him to go ask Harry about it. Ginny had vented her frustrations to Tom as Colin had crept through the portrait hole. ‘Oh, how insufferable that must be,’ he had written. ‘And Harry doesn’t deserve that now, does he? Let’s see what we can do about that.’ The next thing Ginny remembered was waking up to Demelza’s sobbing. She’d had a lie-in apparently and missed most of breakfast, so the dorm had been empty except for the inconsolable girl. When she made it down to breakfast, she had known. That was when she should have gone straight to Dumbledore, or McGonagall, or Harry, or Ron, or even Percy.  But she hadn’t. She had been so worried about her own skin she had hesitated. When she had confronted Tom, he had turned quite nasty and told Ginny that he would kill her and tell all her secrets to Harry if she said anything. So, she had kept quiet and plotted her own way to fix that mess.

Growing tired of the bickering girls rehashing the far-too-personal tragedies of last year, Ginny hastily threw her robes on over her Muggle clothes and stalked out of the compartment. She intended to find Colin and apologise. For everything.

Having worked all the way to the back of the train, Ginny still hadn’t seen Colin. Thinking she must have missed him, she started to turn around to head back when an icy chill blew down the aisle as the train shuddered to a halt. The lamps were suddenly extinguished, and Ginny gasped as she found herself the coldest she’d been in three months. As her eyes began to adjust to the dim light cast by the setting sun, the windows began to frost over, blocking even that.

The familiar yelp of Neville Longbottom as he accidentally tripped into her startled Ginny, transporting her back from the memories that lingered just below the surface of her thoughts so often these days. He quickly ducked into the last compartment, and hearing the sound of something boarding the train, paired with a rising sense of dread, Ginny rushed to follow. Sliding open the door, she collided with a mane of bushy hair headed out of the compartment, knocking Hermione to the ground with a thud.

‘Who’s that?’



They were here at least, but someone was coming.

‘What are you doing?’

‘I was looking for Ron- ’

‘Come in and sit down-’

Ginny quickly slid into the compartment, careful to step over Hermione and took a seat.

‘Not here! I’m here!

The sudden yelp that came as she realised she’d sat down on Harry’s lap made the heat rush to her face. Leaping up, Ginny trod on the hand of someone sitting on the compartment floor.

‘Ouch!’ yelped Neville.

It was getting even colder, and somehow, she knew he was coming. Tom was on the train. Shaking, Ginny squeezed into the far end of the compartment bench next to Harry and clung against the wall, holding her breath.

‘Quiet!’ a tired, hoarse voice hissed, as someone shuffled from the other side of the compartment.

Suddenly a man came into sight as blue flames glowed in his hands, dimly illuminating the compartment with dancing light. His face was worn and tired, but he looked alert. He knew who was coming. Ginny gripped her wand, not even sure what she would do, but she had to do something to keep Tom away from Harry.

‘Stay where you are,’ the man breathed as he walked toward the door of the compartment, the glowing flames in his outstretched hand.

Before the man could reach the door, it slid open of its own accord.

But Ginny was not looking at the tall, handsome figure of Tom Riddle in the doorway. Instead was a great towering figure, cloaked entirely in black with its face obscured by its hood. The only part of it she could see was a glimpse of bony dead hand visible in the flickering light of the flames before disappearing under the cloak. The spectre’s breath came in shuddering raspy bursts that made her feel sick. She felt Harry slump onto the floor from next to her as an all too familiar laugh filled her ears.

‘Stupid girl. You have led your precious Harry Potter right to Lord Voldemort. I’ll make sure he gets to watch your death before I kill him. I suppose I should thank you for enabling my return, for I have gone farther than anyone in defeating death and it wouldn’t have been possible without your most willing assistance.’ Ginny was screaming at Tom, as the cold drained her soul away from her on the cold stone floor.

‘None of us is hiding Sirius Black under our cloaks. Go!’ A silvery vapour shot from the man’s wand, bathing the room in bright light, as Ginny was rocketed back to reality.

She had been back on the floor in the chamber, and now she felt so cold it took some work to convince herself she wasn’t still there. Ginny almost became sick as the cloaked figure fled. Harry was on the floor beneath her, sprawled next to a very white Neville, with Ron and Hermione kneeling over him. The train shuddered back into motion as the lamps returned.

‘Harry! Harry! Are you, all right?’ Ron was frantically slapping his face as Harry came to, shaking, his face beaded with sweat.

Ginny curled up into a ball against the compartment wall as Ron and Hermione heaved Harry back onto the bench.

‘Are you OK?’ Ron frantically asked.

‘Yeah, what happened? Where’s that “ that thing? Who screamed?’

‘No one screamed.’

She had screamed. Ginny Weasley had screamed herself hoarse, or had she? She locked eyes with Harry.  He gave her the kind of deep searching stare that she hadn’t felt since they were-- in the chamber.

‘But I heard screaming-’

At that moment the man began cracking pieces off of a huge slab of Honeyduke’s Finest and handing one to Harry.

‘Here, eat it. It’ll help.

‘What was that thing?’ stammered Harry, chocolate still in hand.

‘A Dementor,’ said the man as he placed an equally large chunk of chocolate into Ginny’s palm. ‘One of the Dementors of Azkaban.’

A memory swam before her of her father coming into the kitchen of the Burrow one day, cold and clammy after a day visiting Azkaban on ministry business.

She bit down on the rich chocolate and a bit of warmth returned to her, as the man repeated ‘Eat, it’ll help. I need to speak to the driver, excuse me.’

‘Are you sure you’re OK, Harry?’ pleaded Hermione. Of course, he wasn’t okay, not after that.

‘I don’t get it. What happened?’

As Hermione and Ron began recounting the horrors that had just happened, Ginny swallowed more of the chocolate and began to feel more like herself again. Or whatever ‘herself’ was now.

‘It was horrible,’ cried Neville. ‘Did you feel how cold it went when it came in?’

An almost equally shaky voice came from her brother. ‘I felt weird. Like I’d never be cheerful again…’

Oh, was that all he experienced? Lucky him. She met Harry’s searching gaze again. She knew they had experienced something much more horrifying. She tried to say something, but words failed her and only a most pitiful sob escaped her lips as she held her knees to her chest. Suddenly Hermione was next to her, wrapping her smaller frame in a tight warm hug that Ginny didn’t realise she needed so desperately.

‘But didn’t any of you- fall off your seats?’ said Harry, as if searching for someone to understand.

‘No,’ said Ron, looking anxiously at Harry again. ‘Ginny was shaking like mad, though…’

That thick-headed insensitive bastard. She might have stayed on the seat, but that was only because Neville had been at her feet. But she didn’t trust her voice to speak as Hermione cast a knowing look at her.

‘You were back in the chamber.’

Ginny could only give the slightest nod as Hermione continued to hold her in the embrace. She had never known the girl very well, despite sharing a room at the Leaky Cauldron with her last night, but suddenly she was very glad to have someone who felt this close to a sister beside her.

After a few minutes, the man returned to the compartment, looking around at their faces with the hint of a smile. ‘I haven’t poisoned that chocolate, you know… We’ll be at Hogwarts in ten minutes.’

As Harry began to eat the chocolate and regain a bit of his colour, the man knelt beside him. ‘Are you all right, Harry?’

How had he recognised him? Sure, Harry was famous, but very few people outside of Hogwarts knew him on sight without a close look at the scar creeping out from under his hair. And it was rather odd for this man to be on a first-name basis with him. Harry muttered a quiet affirmation and looked down at his remaining chocolate as Ginny looked up at Hermione, who was watching her. The compartment remained quiet until the train shuddered to a stop looking out over Hogsmeade station, which was difficult to see amid a downpour of freezing rain.

As they stumbled off the train and towards the carriages, Ginny felt a bit of trepidation creep back into her. They were back at Hogwarts. Her first year had changed her, it had introduced her to real horrors that a year ago she couldn’t have imagined. This castle held no pleasant memories, and she did not feel welcome. She suddenly felt very alone as Hermione hugged her before re-joining Harry and her brother. The man held open the door of a carriage and she climbed in behind Neville. She guessed this year couldn’t possibly plummet any lower than last.

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Chapter 2: A Whispered Truth

Author's Notes: Thanks to GreenHatWayfarer for the beta reading! Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction using characters from the Harry Potter world, which is trademarked by J. K. Rowling. I make no claim to her creation or her world. Also, transwomen are women and TERFS are deadly. Unaltered book dialogue appears in bold, that is of course the work of the author.

Ginny gazed up at the great big doors of the entrance hall as the carriage came to a halt and the man who had introduced himself as Professor Lupin, their new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, opened the carriage doors. On the steps up ahead was a rather strange sight. Draco Malfoy was standing on the steps facing Ron, blocking Harry and Hermione from advancing, and they looked as if they were deciding between wizard and Muggle duelling.

‘Did you faint as well, Weasley? Did the scary old Dementor frighten you, too, Weasley?’

Malfoy leered as Professor Lupin stepped out of the carriage behind Ginny. 

‘Is there a problem?’ Lupin inquired in a quiet but firm voice. 

The smirk on Crabbe and Goyle’s face was not lost on Ginny as Malfoy mockingly called back ‘Oh, no- er- Professor,’ and fled up the steps into the castle.

Ginny trudged up the steps, but once she reached the entrance hall a hand fell on her shoulder.

‘A word, Miss Weasley?’ Professor Lupin asked. 

He motioned towards a secret corridor hidden behind a tapestry that Fred and George had shown her in her first term. She was surprised that a Professor would know such secrets of the castle but followed him.

‘Are you all right? I’m sorry I neglected to ask earlier,’ he continued.

Professor Lupin’s warm voice was comforting, but the searching eyes told her what she feared. He knew. 

‘I’m fine, Professor,’ she said without inflexion.

Ginny did not want to discuss this any more. It was done.

‘I’ve had some correspondence with Professor Dumbledore over the holiday, regarding the events of last year. Cursed artefacts, possession by Slytherin’s heir, and a near death experience in the fabled Chamber of Secrets? You really must be quite a remarkable young witch to have resisted his effects as much as you did,’ the Professor paused as if sizing her up before continuing. 

‘None the less, moving on from such exposure to dark magic is a tricky matter, as I’m sure you know better than most.’ Lupin paused, as if lost in thought, before continuing hesitantly. ‘You said that you’re fine, but we both know it’s messier than that don’t we? I find the dementors really bring out the worst in one’s life, and I know reliving some of what you’ve experienced would shake me.’

 His eyes met hers with warmth and Ginny trembled, as if she was about to start sobbing like a child. What was wrong with her? Why was she like this now? The only teacher who didn’t know her and she was already embarrassing herself.

‘Yes, professor,’ she breathed.

She made every effort to make her voice sound strong, but it still had that hint of shakiness that was so often there these days. 

‘Look, after the war we saw a lot of very brave witches and wizards struggle greatly with a form of shock that comes about when you experience something horrible. There’s nothing to be ashamed about, from what I’ve heard about the Chamber of Secrets, it’s remarkably brave you even returned to school,’ he said.

His eyes looked so caring and oddly sad, that Ginny summoned her courage.

‘I don’t feel brave,’ she paused, searching, ‘if it wasn’t for Harry I’d be dead. And a lot of other students could have died. All because I was too scared to get help.’

Lupin smiled like he understood and slowly mused, ‘Sometimes, Miss Weasley, the best of people is shown by how they handle their mistakes and not their triumphs. You had a friend there to make sure you survived that nightmare, but nobody experienced what you went through.’ He paused again, ‘I have been told the students are unaware of your involvement, though I suspect Hogwarts hasn’t changed enough since my days here for that to be the case.’

Ginny grimaced, no things definitely had not changed. 

‘I think the ship’s certainly sailed on that, Professor,’ she quipped, putting effort into a carefree voice. She wasn’t sure why she was speaking so cheekily to a professor, but Lupin grinned reassuringly.

‘So, what do you do now?’ he asked before continuing. ‘In Defence Against the Dark Arts, we learn that having a plan for how to confront dark magic is the key to overcoming it. I think that’s the same for such painful memories. They aren’t going to go away, but what are we doing to do now?’

‘Not write in books that write back,’ she said, examining the stone wall behind him.

‘Well, yes, but also make sure you’re not defining yourself by what has happened in the past,’ Lupin paused. ‘Your life is still unwritten and full of promise, never forget that. I once told that to your mother, when she was pregnant with you I believe, and having a rather hard time dealing with the loss of Fabian and Gideon.’

‘Professor, you know my mother?’ Ginny asked in surprise.

‘Not very well, but I was friends with your uncles. We worked together in the resistance, back in the war. If Dumbledore’s account is correct, it seems their fighting spirit lives on quite well in you. So, if nothing else: remember that. If you’re not all right now, you will be,’ said Lupin.

Ginny paused to consider this before the echoes of her peers surfaced in her head. ‘They all hold me responsible. That much was clear at the end of last term. I was so excited to go to Hogwarts, the friends I’d make, the adventure’s I’d have- I’ve been waiting for that practically my whole life. Now that’s never going to happen. I just have to keep my head down and try not to cause more trouble,’ she finished. She had said it, she hadn’t meant to do that. But it was true, they did hold her responsible.

Professor Lupin looked at her with a strange expression. After a long pause, he began, ‘My first few years at Hogwarts were quite lonely. I was rather shy and didn’t have an easy time fitting in. But the few friends I managed to make never failed to stick up for me and encourage me, even beyond Hogwarts. Having people I could trust made all the difference, and those last few years at Hogwarts are the happiest of my life. Seek out friends who understand and have stuck by you despite what happened last year.  Those who will stand up for you and be true friends. And I’m quite sure you will find them if you haven’t already, it seemed like the group you were with on the train seemed to enjoy your company..’

Ginny felt a blush creeping up her cheeks, and stammered out ‘They’re just my brother’s friends. They usually want nothing to do with me,’ even though she knew that wasn’t quite true. 

Hadn’t Harry had made a point of spending time with her last term while everyone else was whispering behind her back?

Lupin continued positively, ‘Well, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of friends and adventures in the years ahead of you. Perhaps even some learning too. Now, I believe the feast is about to begin so we should probably go before we’re missed.’

He motioned Ginny back into the entrance hall, and at the doorway of the now almost full Great Hall, she turned to him.

‘Thank you for that, Professor,’ she whispered.

‘You’re most welcome Miss Weasley, and I look forward to seeing you in class. If you ever want to chat, I keep an open-door policy in my office for anyone seeking a cup of tea,’ the Professor said warmly as he departed for the staff table.

Ginny headed for the Gryffindor House table, looking for room to sit. Haley and Demelza closed the gap between them as she began to approach, and Ginny paused awkwardly looking around. Harry and Hermione were notably absent, leaving Ron sitting alone with Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan. Colin waved enthusiastically at her. She guessed now was as good as ever to make amends. However, before she had finished making up her mind two arms grabbed her under the shoulders. She immediately tensed before recognizing them.

‘Sister, don’t you know that if you stand around like that you’re sure to fall in with the wrong sort of people?’ whispered Fred.

‘You might wind up all boring like Percy. I don’t think we could live with that shame again,’ chimed in George. Percy was eyeing them intently, with his head boy badge gleaming proudly at the head of the table.

‘Can’t have that, quick let’s grab a seat before the worst can happen to you,’ Fred agreed.

They frogmarched her over to a rather squished space that appeared between Lee Jordan and Angelina Johnson just as Professor Flitwick entered the Great Hall leading a group of terrified looking first-years. There was a sizeable lot of first years, much bigger than her year or the one before hers. Plenty of kids who didn’t know about last year.

‘So, Ginny. We have a proposition for you.’ George whispered barely above the din coming from the Ravenclaw table as Derrick Chambers joined them.

‘We have decided that you are a much more promising candidate than Ronald to serve as our apprentice,’ continued Fred.

‘Oh really? And what precisely does that entail?’ said Ginny suspiciously. She had been the pawn in too many of her brothers’ schemes to be easily fooled.

‘Your lack of trust is so disheartening. It wounds us.  We merely thought you’d be interested in aiding us as we develop new means of bringing joy and entertainment to our fellow students,’ said George.

‘Truly disgraceful. And you think you can trust your own flesh and blood,’ agreed Fred.

‘What’s in it for me?’ she asked.

Fred considered his answer for a moment.

‘Well, we thought you could use some more healthy ways of learning the secrets of the castle-’ he paused as if waiting for her to tear up but continued when she remained impassive. She didn’t mind them talking about Tom directly, they never walked on egg-shells around the subject with her like so many others. ‘Can’t have our sister embarrassing us by not even knowing how to steal snacks from the kitchens,’ he finished.

‘And what better way to make friends than showing up with a bunch of Butter-beers and spare puddings. Rotten old snake be damned,’ said George with a smirk.

‘Gold is also a pretty good motivator,’ replied Ginny.

‘I think you’ll find we can compensate you for your aid in ways that will interest you quite satisfactorily,’ grinned Fred.

Their conversation died down as ‘Vane, Romilda’ headed towards the Gryffindor table. The doors of the Great Hall creaked open again as Flitwick was stowing the sorting hat and stool away in a side room, and Harry and Hermione quietly entered in front of Professor McGonagall. A sea of whispers broke out in the hall as they made their way over towards Ron.

Professor Dumbledore rose to address the students, silencing them. ‘Welcome! Welcome to another year at Hogwarts! I have a few things to say to you all, and as one of them is very serious, I think it best to get it out of the way before you become befuddled by our excellent feast-‘ he cleared his throat. ‘As you will all be aware after their search of the Hogwarts Express, our school is presently playing host to some of the Dementors of Azkaban, who are here on Ministry of Magic business.’ He paused here, and Fred placed an arm around Ginny in comfort. She hadn’t realised she was shaking. ‘They are stationed at every entrance to the grounds,’ Dumbledore continued, ‘and while they are with us, I must make it plain that nobody is to leave school without permission. Dementors are not to be fooled by tricks or disguises- or even Invisibility Cloaks. It is not in the nature of a Dementor to understand pleading or excuses. I therefore warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you. I look to the Prefects, and our new Head Boy and Girl, to make sure that no student runs foul of the Dementors.’ At this, Percy popped up in his seat like a rabbit, ridiculously showing his head boy badge off. ‘Embarrassing fuckwad,’ Fred grunted.

‘On a happier note,’ Dumbledore continued, ‘I am pleased to welcome two new teachers to our ranks this year. Firstly, Professor Lupin, who has kindly consented to fill the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.’

Ginny was among the very few who clapped enthusiastically.

‘As to our second new appointment,’ Dumbledore continued, as the lukewarm applause for Professor Lupin died away, ‘well, I am sorry to tell you that Professor Kettleburn, our Care of Magical Creatures teacher, retired at the end of last year in order to enjoy more time with his remaining limbs. However, I am delighted to say that his place will be filled by none other than Rubeus Hagrid, who has agreed to take on this teaching job in addition to his gamekeeping duties.’

The Gryffindor table erupted in applause. She beamed up at the friendly gamekeeper who had been her only true friend last year. If anything good had come from that, Hagrid’s name being cleared was it. With a flourish of his wand, Dumbledore signalled the start of the feast and the plates before her were suddenly filled.

After a lengthy night of Quidditch discussion with the twins, Lee, Angelina, Katie, and Alicia, Ginny’s eyes were growing heavy. It had been a long time since she and Hermione had woken up at the Leaky Cauldron that morning. As Dumbledore dismissed them, Fred whispered ‘We’ll be in touch’ into her ear. They followed Percy as he strutted up the castle’s staircases towards Gryffindor Tower, announcing the new password as they arrived in front of the portrait of the fat lady. Despite the memories it held, she was looking forward to the warmth of her four-poster bed in the smallest girl’s dormitory. She bid the twins good night, as they nestled snugly in front of the fire with the trio of chasers, and she trudged up the spiral stairs.

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Chapter 3: The Defence Professor

Author's Notes: Whew, no this was not abandoned, just backburnered while I came to terms with planning the scope of what I was biting off. Have a few more chapters nearly done that should keep a reasonable upload schedule for the summer, and feel like I'm in a good place for where I'm going. This will continue through the end of GoF. Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction using characters from the Harry Potter world, which is trademarked by J. K. Rowling. I make no claim to her creation or her world. Also, transwomen are women and TERFS are deadly. Unaltered book dialogue appears in bold, that is of course the work of the author.

Ginny woke up early the next morning, after a surprisingly restful night of sleep. Sleep had not come easily to her lately, but she supposed yesterday’s events had been enough to ensure deep sleep from the moment her head hit the pillow. She showered and headed down to breakfast before any of her dorm mates had stirred.

She was greeted with four almost empty tables when she made her way into the Great Hall. The only other second-year present at the Gryffindor table this early was Colin. She trudged over to him, no sense in putting this of any longer.

‘Hiya Ginny, have a good holiday?’ he said, beaming, as he passed her a large serving dish of scrambled eggs. Ginny blinked, stunned that  that he could even consider it a 'good holiday' after the events of the past summer. 

‘Yeah,’ she stammered out as she sat down, ‘went to Egypt and saw a bunch of old wizard’s tombs. How ‘bout yours?’ This was not quite what she had expected. Her summer had been lousy. She had barely left her room, unable to sleep without being plagued by nightmares.

Even in Egypt, she hadn’t found anything to be excited about. Plus her mother wouldn’t let her out of her sight or allow her to see anything interesting. So what point was there in even getting excited? She had seen more than enough of damp, smelly underground tombs. Really the only highlight had been Bill sneaking her out at night to play one-on-one quidditch and talk. Bill always understood what was on her mind.

‘…And then I swear I saw a vampire on the ferry home, but, of course, I couldn’t ask him, being out in the muggle world and all, coming from an island full of holidaymakers.’ Colin had rambled about his family’s holiday to the Isle of Wright for almost a full minute and Ginny had heard none of it.

‘Colin, I need to talk to you about something, about last year.’ His face faltered for an instant before he looked at her curiously.

‘Oh? You mean, about Slytherin’s monster? I’m so glad you’re okay. I guess it’s really lucky that Harry managed to reach you in time.’

‘Colin, I opened the Chamber of Secrets.’ 

His smile faltered.

‘What do you mean? You wouldn’t do that. Dumbledore said it was a dark wizard who went here decades ago.’

‘I still opened it. He left a cursed diary that I was foolish enough to write in, and he took control of me. He used me to open the chamber of secrets.’

‘Oh’ Colin said thoughtfully, and after considering it continued ‘Well, if he was controlling you, it’s hardly your fault. It could have happened to any of us.’

‘I should have known better,’ Ginny interjected regretfully.

‘We all make mistakes, and that sounds really scary, terrifying, being possessed like that. You didn’t do anything because you wanted to.’

This was it, time to come clean.

‘But he listened to me sometimes. He was trying to impress me.’ She fidgeted with her robes in her hands. ‘I was annoyed that you wouldn’t shut up about Harry when he was hurt. I told him about that, the night you were attacked after I had told you to go find someone else to answer your questions about Harry Potter. He did it to impress me.’

Colin stared at her, pale-faced, for a long minute before responding. ‘Did you want me to be petrified? Or killed?’

‘No! Of course not!’ Ginny almost shouted, ‘I was sick to my stomach. Horrified. That was when I realised T- the diary wasn’t my friend, that he was evil. I tried to get rid of him.’

Colin suddenly was quite interested in the remaining bacon on his plate for a long while before responding.

‘You didn’t mean it. You were just as much a victim of it as we were. You almost died. I forgive you.’

Ginny didn’t expect it to be that easy, ‘Thanks… and I’m truly really sorry’ she stammered out before starting to eat.

If there was anything more to be said, it was cut off by the appearance of the twins sliding onto the bench next to her.

‘Hey, shrimp, what do you have first?’ Fred asked, gesturing towards pile of timetables in the centre of the table.

Ginny grabbed a second-year timetable and examined it while she chewed ‘Defence with Lupin.’

Fred looked up at the staff table ‘I wonder what he’s like, can’t get much worse than the last few.’

‘He’s nice.’ Ginny responded, ‘He knew what to do on the train yesterday without any hesitation. Drove the dementor away. He said he knew Uncle Fabian and Uncle Gideon.’

‘Well, that’s interesting… maybe Dumbledore actually managed to get us a competent teacher for the Dark Arts post this year,’ said George.

‘You can’t say ol’ Quirrell wasn’t competent. He knew You-Know-Who like he was in his own head,’ argued Fred with a grimace.

A burst of laughter from the Slytherin table interrupted them as Draco Malfoy began doing a sickening impression of Harry fainting on the train. Ginny reached for her wand, but George placed a hand over it to stop her. ‘Easy now, not in front of the staff table. You gotta be smarter than that if you want to get away with hexing that foul fucker.’

At that moment Harry, Ron, and Hermione entered the Great Hall. Harry blanched when he noticed Malfoy but didn’t break his stride as he continued the Gryffindor House table and sat next to George looking crestfallen.

‘What’s up with you, Harry?’ George asked.

‘Malfoy,’ said Ron with disgust as he sat down next to Ginny.

‘That little git. He wasn’t so cocky last night when the Dementors were down our end of the train. Came running into our compartment, didn’t he, Fred?’ George asked.

‘Nearly wet himself,’ said Fred with a wicked grin directed at Malfoy.

Ginny briefly felt a flicker of empathy for Draco Malfoy, which was immediately extinguished by Malfoy feigning another collapse. She shivered at the memory of the Dementor, and without missing a beat George put an arm around her shoulder.

‘I wasn’t too happy myself, they’re horrible things, those dementors…’ he said as Fred picked up on the cue. 

‘Sort of freeze your insides don’t they?’ Fred mused. 

Ginny felt warmer knowing they had a sense of what she had felt, but it was like Ron: only a sense. They hadn’t heard the all too familiar voice of the most murderous mage in many decades. She glanced over at Harry, who had his face fixed down on his porridge. He knew what their true horror was.

‘You didn’t pass out, though, did you?’ he said quietly, with a slight tremble.

The twins looked at each other before George put on a smile and said ‘Forget it Harry, Dad had to go out to Azkaban one time, remember, Fred?’ George said nonchalantly, while Fred nodded gravely ‘And he said it was the worst place he’d ever been. He came back all weak and shaking.’

Ginny remembered that day; she hadn’t understood at the time, but now she knew. What did her father see? Harry remained passive.

They suck the happiness out of a place, Dementors. Most of the prisoners go mad in there.’ George explained solemnly.

‘Anyway, we’ll see how happy Malfoy looks after our first Quidditch match. Gryffindor versus Slytherin, first game of the season, remember?’ said Fred.

As they delved into quidditch strategy with a much cheerier-looking Harry, Ginny grabbed her bag and set off with a wave to the rest. She headed towards the first-floor corridor and grabbed a seat near the front of the still empty defence classroom. 

Slowly the rest of the Gryffindor and Slytherin second-years took their seats. Colin settled himself right next to Ginny, throwing her an earnest smile. She did her best to return it.

Crawford Harper, a rather short but heavy-set Slytherin settled into the seat on her opposite side. As soon as Ginny looked over at him, he feigned a dramatic pose of one petrified. She locked her eyes straight ahead, locked on the blackboard. 

‘But really, what we all want to know is why Slytherin would choose a filthy blood traitor like you for his heir?’ he whispered just loud enough to make the rest of the Slytherins snicker as Professor Lupin closed the door.

‘Good morning everyone, I am Professor Remus Lupin, and I will be teaching you the basics of defensive magic this year.’ he said as he sat on the desk at the front of the classroom, his legs swinging freely.

‘Professor Dumbledore has unfortunately been unable to provide me with Professor Lockhart’s syllabus or your coursework from last year, or for any of the classes as a matter of fact, so let’s start by talking a bit about what you covered last year and then we’ll get to have some practical demonstration. I understand some students had a highly disrupted year, so I’d like to encourage anyone who has any questions or wishes to further discuss any of the coursework to come see me at my office. I believe in an open door policy so we can work together to help ensure your success in my class,’ he said.

‘Now, I believe last fall you should have covered the basic definitions of dark magic, dark creatures, how we classify dark creatures, and basic steps to protect yourself from an encounter with them long enough to escape.’ he read off of a piece of parchment on the desk.

Demelza’s hand shot up as Lupin continued to squint at the note. 

‘And in the spring term you should have covered the fundamental definitions of hexes, jinxes, and curses; defending yourself from non-magical threats, some 1st level jinxes and hexes, and basic duelling wand work,’ he finished reading as some of the boys broke out in a chorus of chuckles. Lupin looked around the room bemused.

‘Miss… second row?’ he said looking at Demelza. 

‘Demelza Robins, sir. And Professor Lockhart taught us some of that stuff, but he mostly taught using examples from his books. You know, how he protected a muggle village from a Yeti with the curse of the bogies, and how he tricked a werewolf into eating a chicken and garlic pie to save the Armenian wizarding community. Killed him on the spot.’ 

Lupin nodded with a strange expression. 

‘He seemed to believe the best way to teach was to use his accounts of his adventures rather than textbooks. And we really didn’t do much practical spell-casting, more reenactments,’ she finished.

‘That’s because Lockhart couldn’t even handle teaching the Jelly-legs jinx, now could he? Managed to hit himself on his first demonstration and then he dropped his wand and fell over into the desk. Knocked him out cold,’ interjected Haley from the back to another wave of chuckles.

‘We all have our bad days, it could happen to anyone,’ said Demelza.

‘Yes, well, that’s definitely… definitely concerning that you may have some catching up to do, but we’ll work through that. I have full confidence in all of you. Now, before we begin our practical section of today’s review, let’s make sure we all remember the essentials of safe and effective wand work. An auror I know used to tell us “Don’t stick it where you aren’t willing to destroy what it’s pointing at,” and I think that’s a pretty good starting place. Technique and mechanics can be corrected, but basic safety comes first so always be mindful of where your wand is pointed.,’ Lupin said.

He waved his wand and a wooden mannequin sailed out from one of the classrooms cupboards and assumed a duelling stance in the front of the classroom.

‘Now I want you to form a queue down the middle. You are going to show me your best casting form as you stand at the front row and cast a knock-back jinx on this mannequin. In case you don’t remember, the incantation is flipendo. Make sure you emphasise the middle syllable to give the jinx adequate force’ Lupin instructed with an encouraging smile.

The class queued up and Ginny held out for the back. Bridget Fawley, a tall Slytherin girl with olive skin and short brown hair wearing an expression of boredom approached the mark first, casting lazily only to be corrected by Lupin on how her arm posture limited her effectiveness. One by one the class worked its way through the challenge, with most students managing to knock over the mannequin who immediately stood back up like a muggle’s jack-in-the-box toy.  As Ginny’s turn came nearer, she frantically tried to visualise the passage in ‘The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 1’ discussing the technique for the jinx. She had no memory of practicing this last year, yet everyone else seemed to be doing so well.

The classroom was suddenly silent as she realised Claire Yaxley had already finished her demonstration and all eyes were on her. She stepped up to the mark, trying to keep her hand from shaking, and swished her wand violently as the jinx stumbled out of her lips. The hex shot wide over the dummy and knocked a row of books off a shelf at the front of the classroom.  

Immediately the class burst into laughter, and Elizabeth Pucey’s shrill voice cut through the rest, ‘Maybe she’d do better if it was a mudblood? Put Creevy up there.’

With a forceful bang the books returned to their shelf, and Lupin’s voice echoed loud and stern throughout the room. ‘Enough! Detention Pucey, for a week, and fifty points from Slytherin for your foul bigotry and cruel harassment of both Miss Weasley and Mr Creevy. That is not tolerated in this classroom, or in this school.’ 

Lupin stormed over to his desk, pulled out a piece of parchment, and began writing quickly as the class took on a sudden hush. He folded the parchment, and tapped it sealed with his wand and quickly approached Pucey’s desk.

‘You will apologise to Weasley and Creevy for your disgusting outburst. Then, you will bring this note to Professor Snape and explain to him what you have done. I will be writing to your parents and speaking with the headmaster about this.’ 

Lupin then turned to the rest of the class, ‘Last year you all experienced a series of traumatic attacks aimed at scaring muggle-borns out of Hogwarts. This is a kind of evil that many of you grew up without direct exposure to. A new generation raised in peace after the time when dark magic and the violence of blood purism threatened to take over our society. And yet the muggle-borns of Hogwarts are still here, because they’re made of stronger stuff than that. In the Great Wizarding War, many young muggle-borns gave their lives fighting to defeat those who wished to eradicate them. They fought while too many stayed silent, and it is their sacrifice has allowed all of us to live without that fear for this last decade.’ 

Lupin looked back at Pucey with a contorted face. ‘Mr Creevy has as much right to be here as you do, and Miss. Weasley was as much a victim of the dark wizard responsible for the attacks as he was. We must not tolerate the rhetoric of blood purity, and no student should ever fear for their life within this castle.’

He stepped back towards his desk at the front of the classroom, as Ginny wavered awkwardly still on her mark, then gazed out at them with a much quieter, almost mourning voice. ‘Defence Against the Dark Arts is a defence of all who dark wizards wish to eradicate from our society. Never forget that, what we learn in this classroom is about protecting lives and building a society that advocates for the rights of all, regardless of blood status or kind. That is why we are here, for those who couldn’t be, and for those who will come after, to not be silent. To build a safer world. Now, Miss Pucey?’

Ginny’s stomach churned as Pucey grabbed her bag and before turning to leave looked at them and muttered ‘I shouldn’t have said it.’ 

She walked quickly out the door, and the class held its silence. 

Lupin was suddenly next to Ginny, addressing the class still. ‘I’m sorry we had to experience that, now let’s finish this up so I can get you all off to your next class.’

He turned towards her, and spoke in a reassuring voice. ‘Alright, the key here is a clear pronunciation, fli-PEN-do. Now, let’s see your stance.’

Ginny took a breath and then raised her wand-arm towards the mannequin.

‘Yes,’ he continued, ‘now loosen your grip a bit so its not so tight, and let your elbow swing freely. If you’re so tight, you will overshoot your target. Try that.’

She let her arm swing lightly as she cast the incantation. Her spell shot out out from her wand-arm and struck the dummy right in its chest, knocking him right ofter. For the first time all day, she felt a warm grin reach her face.

‘Excellent, that is exactly the kind of form you want to use for defensive spell-casting. Five points to Gryffindor.’ He beamed at her and returned to his desk. Ginny took her seat and reciprocated Colin’s waiting high-five.

‘That’s almost all the time we have, so I’ll let you head to your next class. For Tuesday, you will read Chapter 1 of Essential Defence, covering the basic defensive choices a wizard has, and write me a concise six inches on the decision to disarm an opponent versus shielding yourself while preparing to flee a threat.  Now, as I said before, my door is always open if anyone has any questions or wants to discuss anything, have a wonderful rest of your week,’ Lupin finished with a hesitant smile.

Ginny mouthed ‘Thank you’ at Professor Lupin before following her classmates up to the the third floor for Charms. Despite it all, this had been the best lesson she could remember at Hogwarts.

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