|SIYE Time:23:20 on 17th September 2021|
Category: Pre-OotP, Post-DH/PM
Warnings: Mild Language
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?
Hitcount: Story Total: 9870; Chapter Total: 1397
Awards: View Trophy Room
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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