Girl Talk by sapphire200182
Summary: ** Winner of Best Adventure in the Girl Talk Challenge **
Three months into her fifth year at Hogwarts, Ginny Weasley starts having dreams with none other than Lily Potter, the mother of a certain green-eyed boy. Lily has plenty to offer in terms of extra lessons and advice, but as the Wizarding World falls under the lengthening shadow of the returned Lord Voldemort, perhaps the best help Lily can offer is friendship. Canon-compliant, written for SIYE Girl Talk Challenge 2010.
Categories: Post-OotP, Girl Talk Challenge (2010-3), Girl Talk Challenge (2010-3)
Chapter 1: Chapter 1: Sometimes
Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Lily
Chapter 3: Chapter 3: Christmas
Chapter 4: Chapter 4: Kiss
Chapter 5: Chapter 5: Beginnings
Chapter 1: Chapter 1: Sometimes
Author's Notes: Chapter one is a bit short, but the pace will pick up later on. I have lifted 262 words from Chapter 14 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; they are there merely to provide an idea of the timeline in which the story takes place. To a certain extent, the story is canon-compliant, and is structured to fit between and fill out chapters of Half-Blood Prince. As always, feedback is much appreciated, and I hope you enjoy the tale.
CHAPTER ONE: SOMETIMES
“Ginny, where're you going?” yelled Harry, who had found himself trapped in the midst of a mass midair hug with the rest of the team, but Ginny sped right on past them until, with an almighty crash, she collided with the commentators podium. As the crowd shrieked and laughed, the Gryffindor team landed beside the wreckage of wood under which Zacharias was feebly stirring; Harry heard Ginny saying blithely to an irate Professor McGonagall, “Forgot to brake, Professor, sorry.”
Laughing, Harry broke free of the rest of the team and hugged Ginny, but let go very quickly. Avoiding her gaze, he clapped cheering Ron on the back instead as, all enmity forgotten, the Gryffindor team left the pitch arm in arm, punching the air and waving to their supporters.
As he was ducking toward the drinks table, he walked straight into Ginny, Arnold the Pygmy Puff riding on her shoulder and Crookshanks mewing hopefully at her heels. "Looking for Ron?" she asked, smirking. "He's over there, the filthy hypocrite."
Harry looked into the corner she was indicating. There, in full view of the whole room, stood Ron wrapped so closely around Lavender Brown it was hard to tell whose hands were whose.
"It looks like he's eating her face, doesn't it?" said Ginny dispas-sionately. "But I suppose he's got to refine his technique somehow. Good game, Harry."
She patted him on the arm; Harry felt a swooping sensation in his stomach, but then she walked off to help herself to more butterbeer. Crookshanks trotted after her, his yellow eyes fixed upon Arnold.
- Excerpt from Chapter 14, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Price -
Despite a resounding Quidditch win for Gryffindor earlier that evening, Ginny Weasley was having difficulty concentrating on her Charms homework. It wasn’t excitement that was keeping her up, although today had been particularly successful, thought Ginny, smiling up at the ceiling of the common room as she sucked idly on her quill, basking in the firelight and the deliciously exhilarating total relaxation that accompanied total exhaustion.
Ginny had had a grand match today, still maintaining her status as star Chaser for the Gryffindor team, and she’d shown off again by crashing at the end of the match into the commentator’s booth from which that smarmy Zacharias Smith had been narrating the match in his usual disparaging tone. She grinned widely; that particular stunt would be something the first year girls would be talking about for a few more days to come!
And then of course, there was her brother, Ron. Ginny sighed. He really ought to have known that Lavender Brown had been after him for a while, but no, he was thick-headed as ever when it came to girls. Did he realise how foolish it looked to be snogging her quite that publicly and quite so… wetly? Ginny shuddered. She really didn’t need to know that much about her brother’s love life… or lack thereof. And that was not for lack of trying either, on Hermione’s part. Could there be no depths blokes would sink to in order to get a quick snog?
Speak for yourself, a nasty voice said inside Ginny’s head. Remember a certain pair of green eyes on a messy black head?
Ginny gulped, and nonchalantly glanced around the common room, although not without a certain amount of guilt. In a corner, the Creeveys and a few fourth years were gathered around a muted game of Gobstones. But there was no sign of that particular pair of green eyes.
And therein we get to the root of the problem, sighed Ginny to herself. Harry Boy-Who-Lived-To-Be-A-Prat Potter. She couldn’t pretend that, Dean or no Dean, there hadn’t been a very small part of her that had watched Ron and Lavender make exhibitionist fools of themselves without wishing (for a very short moment) that it was her and Harry in the corner - well, preferably without the rest of Gryffindor Tower watching, of course. If there’s one thing I’ll never, ever, ever do, thought Ginny resolutely, it’ll be snogging Harry Potter in front of the whole bloody Gryffindor House right after Quidditch.
Yeah, added Nasty Voice, Imagine what Dean would say to that.
Yes, she’d overheard some rather interesting remarks from the somewhat fascinated first years at their seniors’ display earlier. Mother would not approve.
As if on cue, the portrait hole swung open, and Harry stepped into the common room. He seemed to hesitate a bit, glancing around, then saw Ginny sitting by the fireside and smiled - he looks really good when he smiles, thought Ginny distractedly - and made his way over, picking through armchairs, couches and a few empty Butterbeer bottles from the after-match party.
“Hey Ginny,” said Harry, pulling up a chair. “Have you seen Hermione? I've been looking all over for her.”
“Went up to the dorms, already,” replied Ginny. “You want me to get her?”
“Er, I don’t think so,” said Harry uncomfortably. He sighed, running a hand through his hair. Ginny suppressed a very slight inner twinge at that action. “I think it’s best to just… let her be, yeah?”
Ginny nodded. “Ron really upset her. She wouldn’t even talk to me.”
Harry sighed. “Sometimes I wish those two would just get together already. I mean, I’ve been listening to their back-and-forth for the past five years, and if it’s not painfully obvious to them what’s going on it certainly is to me.”
“You’d think either of them would’ve got it after the Yule Ball and stuff, yeah?” said Ginny.
Ginny tried very hard to get back to her Charms homework - Professor Flitwick had set them to do a whole foot long essay detailing the theory of Summoning Charms, and here she was only at four inches and running out of things to write - but she couldn’t keep from glancing up every now and then as Harry sat there, staring broodingly into the fire. Finally, she said in what she hoped was a cheery tone, “Well, maybe you could try, er, talking to them…?”
Harry gave a start, and looked around. As her words sunk in he gave a rueful laugh. “Oh, I'm sorry, you're supposed to be working. It's just... I don’t know, it’s not as if I haven’t tried. I think… I think Hermione’s pretty uncertain when it comes to something she can’t quite read from a book, complete with coloured and labelled diagrams,” Ginny gave a snort at this, “while Ron is really quite thick-headed at times.”
“Not that my brother sports the usual signs that boys show when they fancy a girl,” said Ginny. “You’d have thought, Harry, that besides the times he rows with Hermione he’d be mooning over her, but no…”
Harry shook his head. “Everyone thinks they just quarrel all the time for the fun of it, but if you ask me all the rowing, well, it just shows that they care for one another, Ginny, otherwise they wouldn’t bother.”
“Isn’t it funny how,” said Ginny quietly, not looking up from her Charms essay, “despite how they seem to not get along with each other, two people might just fall in love, yeah?”
“Yeah,” said Harry quickly. “Er… yeah.”
“But more often than not, it’s only one who fancies the other…” continued Ginny, feeling very reckless.
“And the other one is just too blind or too thick or maybe both to see what she thinks of him, and fancies somebody else…” said Harry distantly.
Ginny shot him a glance. Harry was staring into the fire, running a hand through his hair nervously. Was it her imagination, or was he trying very hard not to look at her? Her eyes narrowed. “Until finally one of them gives up, and gets over him, and gets on with her life, yeah?” she said.
“Yeah, until… until that,” said Harry, finally looking up and meeting her gaze, and, Merlin’s beard, those green eyes were a sea of confusion and regret and anger and… and pure, suppressed emotion. With difficulty Ginny tore away from those mesmerising eyes and stared down at her Charms homework, reading the second word of the title over and over in her mind and not registering it. The Theory of Summoning Charms. Theory. Theory. Theory.
“And she goes out with other boys,” said Harry. Ginny chanced another glance and saw that some of the confusion had disappeared, replaced by a resolve edged with a sort of broken-hearted sadness. Her heart beat faster. It seemed to Ginny as if Harry wanted to get something off his chest, for his next words came in a rush: “She… both of them start going out with people they have absolutely no real interest in and they miss that chance with one another because he was too thick to see what she means to him, and it’s too late, and she’ll never look back at him, because she’s given up on him as a lost cause, never knowing that… never knowing that…”
Despite herself, Ginny finished the sentence for him, though probably not the way he had imagined it. “…never knowing that she’s just as confused about everything as he is, and waiting for him to say something…”
“And he’s waiting for her to say something, but neither of them say anything, and they’re just friends, and they’re just trying to make themselves happy with others, but every damn time he sees her with some other boy, there’s this thing inside that wants to hex him to blazes…”
“And at night, she thinks of him before she goes to sleep,” continued Ginny.
“And he wonders what could have been, dammit, if he’d said something earlier, and now it’s too late, and in the end…”
“And in the end nothing comes of what could have been something,” said Ginny with finality. “Long ago,” she added. And for good measure, “And they can’t go back.” She thought to add “Ever”, but decided that her meaning had been understood perfectly.
Harry stared at her. Ginny turned away from his frank gaze, picking nervously at a corner of the parchment and trying to conceal the sudden tears that stung at her eyes.
“Yeah,” said Ginny, not knowing what else to say.
“Yeah,” said Harry, and when Ginny chanced another glance at him she saw that his shoulders were now slightly slumped and defeated looking.
Silence. Silence in the wake of the exposure of a thousand heretofore unspoken truths. Silence as Ginny wondered whether she had said too much or said too little and what the boy sitting opposite her thought of her now and whether she could sink into the floor below or Apparate away. Silence as Harry thought pretty much the same thing.
The common room fire was lower than before, more embers than flames, and it was dying quickly. The common room was empty; everyone had gone up, Harry and Ginny were the only occupants.
“Er…” said Harry, standing up and gesturing vaguely upwards in the direction of the dorms.
“Er…” said Ginny, gesturing vaguely at her homework. “You go ahead.”
“Okay,” said Harry, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. “Er… see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” said Ginny, clutching her quill to her chest. “See you.”
The common room fire crackled, guttered, hissed and died. Ginny and Harry were plunged into sudden darkness. Both were thankful for the sudden concealing darkness. He turned to go, and it was not without regret that Ginny watched him leave and open the door that led to the boys’ dormitories. Suddenly, feeling reckless in the wake of the so recent exposure of deep, unspoken truths and safe in the embracing shadows of the common room, she called out, “Sometimes…” and then she stopped.
The dark figure that was Harry paused at the foot of the steps.
“Sometimes,” said Ginny, and now her heart was thumping so wildly she thought he must hear it from all the way over there, “sometimes… Sometimes, despite everything, it turns out well. Sometimes she searches her heart, deep inside, and finds that she never really stopped loving him. Sometimes she realises that he really is the one and only one that’s really dear to her. Sometimes he realises this too. And sometimes it’s not too late. Sometimes you can go back, and sometimes something really does come out of what was almost nothing.”
“Yeah,” said Harry. “Sometimes.”
“Yeah,” said Ginny, feeling at once elated that he sounded happier, but then the old fear was back, fear that he might misunderstand something that even she couldn’t quite completely fathom herself. “Only sometimes,” she added.
“It may not happen,” said Harry.
“But then again it might,” she replied, willing him to understand.
“It might,” repeated Harry.
Then he was gone, and the door to the boys’ dormitory closed with a click.
Ginny began gathering her things. She would pay for not finishing the essay today, would probably have to miss lunch tomorrow to get it done before Charms, but she felt at once elated and depressed. She mounted the stairs to her dormitory, and saw that her dorm mates were already fast asleep. She brushed her teeth and changed into her pyjamas very quietly before getting into bed and pulling the covers up to her chin.
Only then did she let out a sigh she didn’t know she had been holding in, and buried her face in her pillow as a single tear seeped through her eyelids.
* * *
The light was too bright, and burst through her eyelids despite all she did to close it out and burrow deeper into the bedclothes. Feeling thoroughly miserable, Ginny opened her eyes. Then she opened them wider as she registered what they saw.
She was no longer in her Hogwarts dormitory, but sitting on a couch in the Gryffindor common room. The common room looked slightly different, though; the squashy armchairs and couches were as patchy as ever, but not quite as patchy, while the positions of the portraits adorning the walls were changed somewhat, and the design of the lamps dotting the walls looked as if they were from a hundred years ago. The study tables and chairs were also arranged in a different manner.
“Hello,” said a voice behind her.
Startled, Ginny leapt to her feet and whirled around. Her eyes got bigger and her jaw dropped. A familiar-looking witch stood behind her in jeans and a tee shirt, her hands in her pockets. She was tall, slim and had dark, wine-red hair that went very well with her green almond-shaped eyes. Ginny raised a trembling finger. “You’re dead… Or am I…”
“No, no, don’t worry about that, it’s me, not you. Hi, Ginny,” said the witch, sticking out a hand. “I’m Lily Potter.”
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Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Lily
Author's Notes: Thanks very much for all the reviews! Your kind words were a direct encouragement and most of the reason why this chapter is up earlier than I had thought. This fic looks like it will go on for about 4 or 5 chapters, so stay tuned folks. I now present... Lily's first appearance.
CHAPTER TWO: LILY
“No, no, don’t worry about that, it’s me, not you. Hi, Ginny,” said the witch, sticking out a hand. “I’m Lily Potter.”
“I’m dead, aren’t I,” said Ginny fervently. The concept seemed too large for so simple a word as dead. “Oh, bloody hell, I’ve gone and died in my sleep, and I’m only fifteen.”
Lily laughed. “No, no, I’m really Lily Potter,” she said. “And you’re not dead, all right, you’re alive.”
Ginny paused. A sudden thought struck her and she pointed at Lily. “Time Turners. Hermione’s told me all about them. You’ve been messing with Time Turners, haven’t you? I mean, you’re here, in the future…”
Lily smiled sadly. “No, I’m afraid I’m well and truly dead, Ginny, and most unfortunately that can’t be changed. But you’re not dead either, you’re sleeping in your dormitory at Hogwarts at the moment. You know you’re dreaming, right?”
“Yes, you are.”
“But all this…?”
“Is the Gryffindor common room,” said Lily. “You know, back in my day that is, I daresay it’s probably changed a bit now. The surroundings in this dream are based on my memories, you see,” she said. Lily gestured in the air with her hand. “This is the Gryffindor common room when I was at school, how I remember it at any rate. I daresay I might have missed a couple of details here and there.”
Ginny looked around at the Gryffindor common room. “So, this is my dream… but Lily Potter is in it, and she decides how the dream looks.” She snorted. “A very likely story. It’s probably one of Fred and George’s Patented Daydream Charms. Maybe my dorm mates thought it’d be fun to pop one on me while I was sleeping.” She shook her head. “I am so going to hex the blue blazes out of them. I haven’t shown them my Bat-Bogey Hex for a very long while, you know,” she said to Lily. “My brothers know enough by now not to make me too angry.”
Lily wrinkled her nose and made a slightly disapproving face that was Hermione-ish enough to make Ginny smile. “You know you really shouldn’t hex your dorm mates or your brothers. I may not have had any brothers of my own, but my sister... well, suffice to say as unpleasant as she was at times I never hexed her.”
“Yeah, well, you never had six brothers who always teased you and stopped you from doing all the cool things they were doing and played pranks on you just because you’re the only girl in the family and the youngest one to boot,” said Ginny. “Now go away and don’t bother me. I’ll just sit down here and wait for the Daydream Charm to wear off.” And she plumped herself down on the couch, crossed her arms behind her head and closed her eyes.
“You’re really adamant in thinking that this is a prank?” said Lily.
“Well, yeah,” said Ginny, opening her eyes to see Lily standing beside her and looking down, “Though for the life of me I can’t figure why they made a Daydream Charm involving Harry’s mum. I mean, that’s hardly the most tasteful thing to do, yeah? Enough to warrant a hexing for Fred and George too.” She ticked off two fingers with a satisfied grin. “So many hexes, so little time. Whatever have I done lately to be given the great pleasure?”
“Your brothers didn’t make a Patented Daydream Charm involving me because it’s not a prank, Ginny,” said Lily. “It’s a dream.”
“Exactly what I’ve been saying.”
“It is not a Patented Daydream Charm, it’s a real dream. Well, as real as a dream can get anyway,” said Lily, waving her hands impatiently. “The point is, Ginny, that I really am Harry’s mum, and I want to talk to you about some things.”
Silence. Ginny thought back to her… conversation with Harry earlier. Could it be that somehow, Lily Potter had come back from the afterlife to… No, that was impossible. Nobody could come back from the dead. Still, she couldn’t help but wonder…
“Talk to me? About what?” said Ginny. “That is, if you really are Lily Potter.”
“Yes, I am,” insisted Lily. “And I want to talk to you about lessons and about my son.”
Ginny flushed red. “What about Harry?”
“Well,” said Lily, rolling her eyes, “you know. You. Him. Why you’re currently snogging Mr. Thomas instead of Mr. Potter.”
“Now I know you’re really not Lily Potter,” said Ginny. “If Lily Potter walked into my head right now, she’d probably hex me for what I’m thinking in my head half the time about Harry Potter.”
“I can’t read your mind, Ginny,” said Lily. “Well, not exactly anyway. That will be the first solid indication you’ll have that this isn’t a dream, and no, I won’t hex you. In fact, James and I think you two are rather cute, actually, and part of why I’m here is to talk to you about your feelings for Harry.”
Ginny sat up angrily. “I don’t have any feelings for Harry! Whatever I thought of him in my first year, that’s over and done with. It’s a stupid schoolgirl crush that never went anywhere, and I’m doing perfectly fine with Dean right now, thank you for your concern!”
Lily lifted an eyebrow. “Really, now? Then what was all that blather about this evening? ‘Sometimes she searches her heart deep inside, and finds she never really stopped loving him?’” mimicked Lily, although not in an overly mocking way.
Thunderstruck, Ginny fell backwards against the couch as she stared up at the young woman. How in the world did she know that? A Patented Daydream Charm wouldn’t include anything that recent… “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Ginny evenly. “Harry and I are over and done with. In fact, ‘Harry and I’ never even got off the Quidditch field. Harry and I was all just… a silly schoolgirl’s dream.” It was not without a pang of sorrow inside her that Ginny said these unfortunate truths.
“Rubbish.” Lily stepped forward and pointed vaguely in the direction of Ginny’s chest. “You know exactly what I’m talking about, Ginny Weasley. You can feel it in your heart, that you really do love him — and I’m saying love, not a silly schoolgirl crush — and every time you two are together, you feel deliriously happy that you’re with him, infinitely sad that you’re not together, not in that way, and you try to drown out that little voice inside telling you that you weren’t meant to be and going out with Dean so that you won’t have to think about…”
“STOP!” yelled Ginny. She flung herself up, extending a hand at Lily, and suddenly her wand was in it and she was pointing it at the witch as she backed away around the end of the couch. She had no idea from where she had pulled her wand, but it was hers and she gripped it with both hands and kept it trained on Lily, trying her best to hold it steady although her hands were trembling violently.
“Settle down, Ginny,” said Lily calmly.
“I don’t know who you are,” said Ginny, shaking all over, “Or what kind of sick prank you’re trying to pull off, but Polyjuice Potion wears off in one hour and then I’ll see who you really are.” Her expression hardened. “And when I do, I promise you that you’re not getting out of this common room without a fistful of Bat-Bogeys sprouting out of your nose.”
“Ah, now, don’t make me hex you, Ginny,” said Lily, and her wand was out too.
“If you don’t try to escape, I won’t hex you before the Polyjuice wears off. I’m just a little bit curious as to who you are, and why you’ve gone to so much trouble to do this to me,” said Ginny. “Are you a Gryffindor? Slytherin? Or did Fred and George think it’s very funny to dress up as Harry’s dead mum and come visit me like in a Muggle fairytale?”
To Ginny’s surprise Lily laughed. “No, no, I’m not going to go all ‘A Christmas Carol’ on you, Ginny. However, I think this might just convince you that I really am Lily Potter,” she murmured softly. She tapped herself with her wand.
“No you don’t!” shouted Ginny, but her hex missed the witch, the jet of light streaking past to bury itself into the wall of the common room with a muffled fizzle.
The spell must have hit after all, however, because Lily Potter was down on all fours, but then something else was happening to her. Certainly, no bat-winged bogeys exploded out of her nostrils, no; her limbs were lengthening, her clothes disappearing, replaced by thick, rich, dark red fur. Lily’s slim neck grew longer, while her face extended and morphed and lost its pretty human features to be replaced by that of a…
“A doe,” whispered Ginny to herself, lowering her wand. “Harry’s dad’s Animagus was a stag, and he learned it back in his fifth year. Hermione told me so. Did Lily… did you inadvertently decide to follow him in his choice of animal, or was it your natural form…?”
The doe stared unblinkingly at Ginny for a moment, then turned and trotted to the far corner of the common room. Ginny scrambled after it. The doe approached the common room wall, then stopped and pointed at something on the bit of wall next to the portrait hole with its muzzle.
Ginny peered at the spot on the wall. It was the spot where her missed hex had struck the wall, and Ginny expected to see a scorch mark on it. Instead, what she saw was a hole in the wood-panelled wall, and a whirling cloud of grey smoke beyond it. When she turned back to the doe she saw that Lily had transformed back into her original self, and was standing there with a smug, very Hermione-like grin on her face.
“Believe me now?” she said.
Ginny nodded dumbly, then jerked a thumb at the hole in the wall. “What’s that?”
“That,” said Lily, “is the limit of my memory. I told you earlier tonight that this common room is made up according to how I remember it? Well, I haven’t bothered to create the corridor outside the common room, so it still looks just like that,” she pointed at the whirling grey mass of smoke. Lily took out her wand and pointed it at the hole, and it sealed itself so that it looked like a bit of the common room wall again.
“Now,” said Lily briskly, “we’ve wasted enough time as it is, so let’s get going.”
“Wait, if you’re really Lily Potter,” said Ginny, “Why are you talking to me? Why not go straight to Harry and tell him all he needs to know?” Ginny snorted. “Pfft, while you’re at it, why not spy on what Voldemort’s doing and then help Harry defeat him?”
For the first time that night, Lily appeared uncomfortable. “I can’t help Harry defeat Voldemort by spying on him, Ginny. It’s against the rules for us to help him in that way. Mind you,” she said warningly, “I’m bending quite a few rules as it is, and outright breaking a couple of others, just to talk to you like this. It’s very bad for the afterworld to mess with the living one.” Lily shook her head. “We’ve seen it. As for why I’m talking to you and not Harry, it’s because, well, you’re a lot more approachable than Harry is. He’d probably think I was Voldemort in disguise.”
It sounded like a very half-hearted explanation to Ginny and not the entire truth, especially given how ‘approachable’ she had been just now, but she didn’t press it. “Well, okay,” she said. “So… why are you here then?” she asked as Lily began opening up the portrait hole. “In my dreams I mean.”
The witch paused with one leg outside the portrait hole. Lily looked back over her shoulder, with a cheeky grin on her face. “Well, why don’t you come along and find out? Or you could go back to your dorm and wait for the ‘Daydream Charm’ to wear off…”
* * *
The Hogwarts corridors were empty. As Lily trotted briskly down the corridor, Ginny looked around, noting the slight differences between the Hogwarts Lily remembered and the Hogwarts of the present time. Suits of armour and statues that Ginny distinctly remembered were absent, as were their plinths, and there were one or two corridors that were either completely non-existent or just opened up to swirling grey masses of clouds a few feet in. Some of these resolved into actual corridors as they passed, while the others remained as they were.
“I haven’t bothered to really flesh out a complete Hogwarts tonight,” said Lily loftily. “Just the bits that we need for tonight’s work.”
“What work?” said Ginny.
“Well, I thought tonight we’d start off with a bit of Charms, some handy spells that you might not have learned yet in your fifth year,” said Lily as they descended a staircase to the Great Hall.
“What?” spluttered Ginny. “More homework? I’m drowning in enough work from Flitwick to have to spend the night learning Charms with you, Lil… er, that is to say, Mrs. Potter,” she said hastily.
Lily laughed again. “Don’t bother with that, I feel so old having you call me Mrs. Potter. Lily will do, alright?” She stopped in the middle of the corridor, frowning slightly. “In fact, if this helps…” She closed her eyes for a moment.
Ginny watched, awestruck, as the older-looking Lily Potter became shorter, while her hair receded an inch or two, her chin became more pointed and her cheeks plumped out, grew just a touch more youthful as her body shrank slightly, became more girlish. Lily looked down, waved her wand and her T-shirt and jeans - which by now were somewhat long and hung limply on her smaller frame - changed into the standard Hogwarts school robes. On her smaller face her green eyes looked more startling than ever.
“There,” said Lily, turning to Ginny with a satisfied grin, “better? It’s how I looked back in my fifth year.”
“Now, as I was saying,” said Lily, opening the door to one of the classrooms in the corridor, “Charms. This was my Charms classroom, by the way,” said Lily as she and Ginny entered the cheery-looking classroom. Sunlight streamed in through the windows, which overlooked the lawn, and the tables and chairs were arranged neatly - far neater than the tables and chairs in Ginny’s classroom ever were. “At least, how I remember it,” Lily reminded her.
“Yes, I can see that. My classrooms are usually a lot messier,” said Ginny, looking around. She turned to see Lily perched on the edge of a table, swinging her legs idly like a very precocious teenager. Ginny couldn’t help grinning at the sight.
“So, shall we begin?” Lily said brightly. “Healing Charms. What do you know of them?”
“Er,” said Ginny, racking her brains for all that Professor Flitwick had taught them about Healing Charms, “well, we’ve covered how to cure minor bruises, scratches and cuts, help someone who’s choking (that was a fun lesson), but that’s about it… haven’t really gone any further…”
“Well, I would have expected more of a fifth-year,” sniffed Lily, “but it’s still rather early yet for you to have learned some of the spells I’m going to show you, so… wand out! I’m going to teach you a basic charm to cure bleeding, small breaks and deep cuts. It’s NEWT-level, you will only have learned this in your sixth year,” she added, rolling up her sleeves. “Incantation first, say it after me: Episkey!”
Feeling very confused, Ginny took out her wand. “Episkey!”
“Not ‘ee-piskey’, Ginny dear, ‘eh-piskey’. Episkey!”
“Episkey,” repeated Ginny.
“Good,” said Lily, pleased. “Now I’ve been thinking very hard how to teach this charm, and I’m not going to conjure up an animal and slice it open just so you can practice on it, so here goes.” With a slight grimace she directed the wand on the back of her left hand, the skin of which split open with a flash of light.
“Blimey,” gulped Ginny. She pointed her wand at the wound, which was deep and bleeding heavily, “Episkey!”
The lips of the wound jumped together and knit partially but not wholly, and Lily winced and bit back a gasp. “Done properly, the charm is painless and will leave the skin whole and unscarred, but done improperly, and it feels a whole lot like badly-done stitches. Again.”
“I’m sorry,” said Ginny, feeling very guilty. “Episkey!”
This time the open half of the wound jumped together, and held for a moment, before another tear formed and blood began to well up.
“Episkey!” said Ginny again, and the wound finally closed for good. Lily held up her hand to her face and inspected the scar closely, before tapping the wound with her own wand. The scar vanished. She turned to Ginny.
“Well, as you can see, it’s not quite perfect, and it took you three times to do it, but at least you got the incantation right, yeah?” said Lily bracingly. “Now… here we go again.”
“No, Lily, wait,” said Ginny quickly. She took a deep breath. “Before you go cutting yourself up again, could you please tell me why we’re doing this?”
“Because Voldemort is back, Ginny,” said Lily gravely. “Voldemort is back, and I’ve got a very bad feeling that you lot are going to need to learn how to defend yourselves well ahead of time. Knowledge and the ability to perform some basic Healing Charms - and a few more complex ones - are going to be very important if you are going to survive, and that’s part of why I’ve decided to come see you in your dreams.”
“But why me?” said Ginny. “Besides, I’m pretty sure you know that Harry’s been teaching us a lot in the D.A. - that’s short for Dumbledore’s Army, you know - and if anything happens we can always go to St. Mungo’s, the Healers there can sort us out better than we ourselves can…”
“Ginny,” said Lily, “Harry did a really good job teaching you some useful jinxes and spells, but there’s more to it than just learning how to hex somebody. Also, Voldemort will have learned from his mistakes. The last time he attacked, he didn’t go after St. Mungo’s, he was afraid of attacking Hogwarts, he waited too long before he attacked, he made his moves openly and he attracted the attention of the Ministry of Magic. This time,” she said grimly, “this time he’s going to make sure of the job. You may think you’re safe and sound in Hogwarts,” said Lily, pointing at Ginny, “but I don’t think so.”
“Look, just wait two years, yeah?” said Ginny, “In two years the rest of us in the D.A. are going to be of age and out of Hogwarts, and then we’ll… I don’t know, join the Order or something.”
“He’s not going to wait two years, Ginny,” said Lily. “He’s going to come after you lot as soon as he’s ready, and he’ll make sure he gets ready before you are. Don’t you think he knows about your little Defence Association? Don’t you think he knows that if he waits too long, you’ll all join the Order, and hence his job will be made that much harder by having a bunch of well-trained and well-led wizards and witches operating outside of the Ministry on the trail of him and his Death Eaters? He made that mistake the last time, he won’t make it again. Mark my words,” said Lily darkly, “before the next year Voldemort will make his move, and it will be open warfare in the wizarding world again.”
Ginny was lost for words. There was sense in what Lily was saying to her, but she couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that Voldemort might attack before her schooldays were over, that she might never finish school properly before being thrust out into a very violent world. Ginny remembered the terror of their recent jaunt into the Department of Mysteries, and shivered. She couldn’t imagine the whole wold becoming like that.
“But let’s not dwell on that now,” said Lily, waving her hand in front of her face. “Back to Healing Charms. On second thoughts I think we’re not going to practice Episkey again, not before you’ve mastered that particular Healing Charm anyway, so I’m going to teach you just the incantations first. We’ll try something else: how to revive an unconscious person. The Reviving Spell is rather useful if someone’s been knocked out cold, and it works well on people Stunned with a Stunning Spell. Mind you, it’s not an instant revival as the person feels very groggy afterwards, but it’s better than nothing. Incantation first: Rennervate!”
“Rennervate!” repeated Ginny dutifully.
* * *
After a while practising the incantations for a few different types of Healing Charms, Lily called it a day. Around Ginny, everything faded to black, before she woke up in her Hogwarts dormitory feeling very disoriented and… weird.
Ginny lay in her bed for a while, staring up at the canopy of her four-poster. What a very, very strange dream she had had. Lily Potter had appeared, changed into a doe and then given Ginny a Charms lesson. How peculiar. What was even more peculiar was the fact that part of Ginny was telling her that it wasn't a dream, that Lily had claimed to have heard her heart-to-heart with Harry last night, and surely Lily couldn't have known that...?
"I'm going to have a very, very long talk with Hermione today," muttered Ginny to herself.
It was a very tired and most decidedly unrested Ginny who appeared in the Great Hall for breakfast that morning. Still, she forced herself to be cordial and greeted Hermione cheerfully (Ron was sitting away from them with none other than Lavender Brown), but couldn’t quite meet Harry’s eye as she sat down and began buttering a slice of toast.
“You don’t look as if you’ve slept much,” mumbled Hermione as Ginny reached across her for the marmalade.
“Neither do you,” retorted Ginny. Hermione’s bushy hair seemed bushier than usual, and her eyes were puffy and reddish, despite whatever charms Ginny was sure she had tried on herself in order to reduce the effect.
“Boy trouble?” muttered Hermione.
“Not quite,” said Ginny, inadvertently glancing across at Harry, who was watching interestedly. “Uh, homework.”
Hermione mumbled something unintelligible and stared dejectedly at her porridge.
Ginny glanced at Harry and twitched her elbow in Hermione’s direction. Harry shrugged and pointed with his chin at the far end of the table, where Ron and Lavender were giggling over something, presumably a very silly something if Ginny’s experience of Lavender’s sense of humour was anything to judge by. Fleetingly, Ginny thought of telling Hermione about her strange dream - she was by now fairly convinced it was just a very weird dream - but the pitiful sight of a very woebegone Hermione staring forlornly at her cooling porridge chased away the thought.
“Come on, Hermione,” she said. “You’re not going to be able to pay attention in class if you don’t eat breakfast.”
No response, other than a mumbled ‘ery hung’ which Ginny presumed was the barely-audible middle portion of ‘not very hungry’. She glanced at Harry, who said worriedly, “I know, Ginny, that usually works.”
Further attempts to coax Hermione to eat were interrupted by a hearty “All right, Ginny?” from behind. Ginny turned to see Dean Thomas sitting down next to her. “Pass the marmalade, luv,” he said.
As Ginny handed over the marmalade jar, she glanced at Harry. He was keeping up a blank, firmly neutral expression, but Ginny could see that a shadow had passed over his face, and after a moment he turned away to talk to Neville on his left.
Throughout the rest of breakfast Ron and Lavender kept up an infuriatingly cheery prattle on the far end of the table, a moping Hermione barely managed more than a few spoons of porridge despite endless wheedling on Ginny’s part, while Dean tried to cheer up an uncharacteristically quiet section of the Gryffindor table with a few jokes, with spectacularly unsuccessful results. Harry was silent for the rest of breakfast after Neville left early to go to the greenhouses. If ever a funeral was held during breakfast, thought Ginny, the mood couldn’t possibly be any more depressing than this.
Ginny had Transfiguration lessons in the morning. Professor McGonagall’s lecture on Switching Spells failed to penetrate her brain much, presumably owing to the befuddled state she found herself in due to the lack of sleep. When it came to the practical part of the lesson, Ginny failed to so much as Switch the water in a goblet into another goblet, a feat which Professor McGonagall had said was very basic. The net result was that a substantial amount of practice and a remedial essay on the correct casting of a Switching Spell was required of Ginny, as well as almost half the class.
Added to the pounding behind Ginny’s eyes, probably also due to lack of sleep, and it wasn’t one of Ginny’s greatest mornings at Hogwarts.
She skipped lunch and went up to the library instead to finish Flitwick’s essay, with the consequence that within ten minutes her stomach was grumbling loudly enough that Ginny wondered if Madam Pince was going to hear. Sure enough, as Ginny was bent over her half-completed essay in the quietest, most discreet corner of the library scribbling away furiously, her stomach grumbled extra loudly and there came a muted “Ahem!” behind her.
Ginny jumped to her feet, prepared to issue a series of apologies, but the figure standing behind her wasn’t the dreaded school librarian. It was Harry, with a very big grin on his face.
“What are you doing here?” began Ginny, then her eyes fell on Harry’s hands, which were cupped with the palms facing up but held nothing but air.
“Shhh,” said Harry. He grasped something in mid-air and pulled slowly, revealing a plate of Cornish pasties with a goblet of cold pumpkin juice balanced on top, hidden beneath his Invisibility Cloak.
“Oh Harry!” whispered Ginny, her eyes shining and her stomach rumbling appreciatively as Harry set down the plate on the table.
“I thought I’d find you here when I didn’t see you downstairs. I didn’t think you finished your essay last night,” said Harry, a rueful grin on his face as he unconsciously ran a hand through his hair. “Sorry about that. Er… you’d better hurry up and eat that, the plate was conjured. Also, Madam Pince is working in her office, but she might just decide to patrol the library. Oh, almost forgot,” he said, pulling something out of his pocket. “Catch.”
Ginny didn’t need to call on her Chaser skills to easily catch the shiny foil bundle that Harry tossed her. Looking down, she saw that it was a Chocolate Frog. She looked up at Harry, who grinned and disappeared behind a row of shelves.
* * *
Two nights later Ginny awoke to find in the middle of the night to find herself in the sunlit Hogwarts Quidditch field.
“Again,” muttered Ginny to herself. “So it really wasn’t a dream.”
Getting to her feet, she spotted Lily walking towards her from the direction of the bleachers, smiling and in her fifth-year self. She wore a dark red cardigan and jeans.
“Well, I decided I’d let you rest for a couple of days before it was time for our second lesson,” said Lily as she came closer. “I hope the morning after our first meeting wasn’t too hard on you?”
“Too right it was,” said Ginny fervently. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a worse morning, though it might have been worse on Hermione. She’s one of my best friends, and she really, really fancies my brother except they’re both too thickheaded to get together, and now she’s gotten all depressed ever since my brother’s started going out with this other girl whom I don’t think he even likes…” Suddenly she realised she was babbling, and caught herself with a glance at the other witch.
But the expression on Lily’s face was understanding. “Yes, boys can be so thick, can’t they,” said Lily sympathetically. “Not that I ever had that particular problem with James. Quite the opposite. Well,” she said, taking out her wand, “let’s see some Stunning Spells, Ginny. Since Stunners never hurt anybody much, I won’t feel very guilty about doing this. Avis!”
A single yellow canary sped out of the tip of Lily’s wand and wheeled about in the sun before alighting on the grass at their feet. Lily frowned. “That’s not quite what I intended,” she said. She aimed her wand at the twittering bird. “Gemino!”
There was a burst of yellow feathers as the single yellow canary magically multiplied into a full flock of fifteen more birds that twittered and hopped on the ground or flew in dizzying circles around the witches. Ginny whistled. “That’s a useful charm,” she said.
“What, Gemino?” said Lily, pleased. “Yes, it can be a handy charm. It multiplies copies of objects. The objects aren’t worth anything, though, they fade within twenty-four to forty-eight hours, depending on the size or complexity of the object. Kind of like leprechaun gold.”
“Please teach it to me,” said Ginny. “I haven’t learned anything like that in Charms class so far, it seems dead useful…”
“Sure,” said Lily. “That is, after you Stun those birds for me.”
“With pleasure,” said Ginny, eager to show off the skills she had learnt in the D.A. She brandished her own wand, pointed it at a bird and cried, “Stupefy!”
The spell caught the bird in mid-air, and it dropped to the ground without so much as a squawk. It didn’t take her very long to Stun the fifteen or so birds that Lily had conjured, which soon lay on the grassy Quidditch field around the two witches.
“Very good,” said Lily, clapping. “I see Harry really has put your lot through your paces. Now,” she said, grinning, “how about reviving them? Use that spell I taught you the last time.”
“Rennervate!” said Ginny, pointing her wand at the nearest bird. The limp canary twitched but didn’t stir otherwise. “Rennervate!” she repeated, louder this time. The bird squawked once, and struggled to its feet.
It took nearly fifty repeated castings of the Reviving Spell for Ginny to unstun all fifteen canaries, by which time she had almost completely lost her patience. As the fifteenth struggled to its feet, Ginny turned triumphantly at last to Lily.
“Now, how about Vanishing them?” was all Lily said.
Muttering angrily under her breath, Ginny concentrated hard on the Vanishing Spell Professor McGonagall had been drilling into them since the start of the year, pointed her wand at the closest canary and said “Evanesco!”
The bird twitched, and Ginny thought it looked a bit more transparent. “Evanesco!” she repeated. This time the yellow canary did indeed lose its yellow colour and turned white. The third time she cast the spell the canary disappeared.
“Not bad,” said Lily approvingly, “but it took you three times to do it, and unless Professor McGonagall has changed her teaching I daresay you’ve been studying Vanishing Spells since the start of the year.”
After about twenty repeated castings of the Vanishing Spell, with varied results, Ginny was feeling bored and frustrated. “Why am I practising Vanishing Spells anyway?” complained Ginny. “I don’t see how that would help us in fighting the Death Eaters.”
“Because you might need to Vanish something in a hurry,” said Lily. “Such as evidence of something, for example, or traces of your presence, or a Dark Mark. I had to do that more than once,” she said, shuddering. She stood there for a moment with a faraway look in her eye, obviously remembering the bad old days when Voldemort and his Death Eaters had stalked the streets of wizarding England and Lily and the Order of the Phoenix, outmanoeuvred and outnumbered twenty to one, had fought and suffered and died to stop him taking over.
Ginny couldn’t help but feel sorry for Lily. “I’m sorry,” she said, turning quickly to the next canary. “Evanesco!”
They spent the next half-hour practising Vanishing Spells, and then a little more time teaching Ginny the Gemino spell, which was also a NEWT-level spell. After a while, Lily said they ought to end it. When Ginny awoke the next morning to find herself once more in her dormitory, she was as exhausted as she was after their first lesson, but throughout the day she almost found herself missing Lily’s presence as she hurried in and out of classes.
Later that day, Ginny went to look for Hermione again, but she was nowhere to be found. Although she briefly considered talking to Luna, her other confidant, Ginny realised that Luna would probably think talking to the long-dead mother of the Boy-You-Fancied completely normal, and hence would not be much help at all.
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Chapter 3: Chapter 3: Christmas
Author's Notes: I used a total of 206 words extracted from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. This is chapter 3 in what looks to be a 5-part (and horrendously overlength) Challenge fic, but I'm really enjoying myself writing this. Chapters 4 and 5 are almost done, and if I may say so they aren't to be missed! Many thanks to DukeBrymin and babewithbrains for the reviews and for pointing out my mistakes.
CHAPTER THREE: CHRISTMAS
Christmas did not find Ginny in a very good mood.
Mum had invited Harry to the Burrow, as usual, to spend Christmas together with the family. As far as Ginny was concerned, she would very much welcome his presence if not for the fact that every time they caught each other’s eye she remembered their conversation the night after Gryffindor’s opening match against Slytherin. Added to that was the fact that Hermione was not around to offer her expert advice, having elected to spend Christmas with her parents this year. Ginny felt that she could really have done with her best friend’s help at that point in time.
Dean had also sent her a letter by owl post. The first half of the letter consisted of a few paragraphs detailing his Christmas holidays, spotted throughout with Muggle-isms that left Ginny feeling somewhat confused. The final two paragraphs, however, was what Hermione would have termed ‘illuminating’ in her understating way:
Ginny, sometime recently I’ve noticed that you and Harry are now talking more often. At this point you’re probably already going to hex me, but sit down, put away your wand and bear with me for a while. Yes, I’ve noticed. No, I am not being paranoid or delusional. And yes, I would like to remind you of what we agreed when we began this relationship. No secrets where you and Harry are concerned; I — want — the — truth, no matter what it is.
Ginny… you have to be honest with yourself, both for my sake and yours. Don’t tell me that you’ve gotten over Harry when you’ve still got some feelings for him, because it’s not fair on me, it’s not fair on Harry, and it’s a damn sight unfair on you yourself. I deserve better than this, Harry deserves better than this and you deserve better than this. I’m not about to recreate a Wizarding Wireless soap opera in the common room with my girlfriend and Harry Potter.
We’ve got a lot to discuss when Christmas hols are over.
Ginny had not replied to the letter. Every time she sat down and took out her quill, she couldn’t think of a suitable reply for Dean. The truth was… complicated. Ginny didn’t know half of what she thought she felt about Harry bloody Potter. Every time her letter writing ended the same way; she discarded both quill and unfinished reply and decided to vent her feelings by decorating the Burrow.
While Fred, George, Ron and Harry romped outside in the snow chasing garden gnomes, Ginny busied herself in the living room with tinsel, baubles, mistletoe and coloured paper. Although ordinarily she hated ‘women’s work’ such as putting up the decorations and would gladly have gone out into the garden with the boys, she had an ulterior motive for doing so.
Ginny considered the problem of decoration like she would have a fiddly bit of homework, finally coming up with a solution that, if it worked, would yield very good results for less actual work. First, she worked carefully on a paper-chain of alternating red, white and green links, painstakingly done by hand with glue and coloured paper. She was very careful not to make mistakes, which was important for what she had in mind. The paper-chain took her ten minutes to create, and was about a meter long. Now for the fiddly bit.
Glancing around, Ginny quietly drew her wand. Tapping the chain lightly, she concentrated and said “Gemino!”
The paper-chain swelled and burst into ten more identical chains of beautiful red, white and green links. Very pleased with her charmwork, Ginny picked up the chains and began hanging them up around the living room, beginning with the Christmas tree in the corner. She repeated the Gemino Charm on the chains once more and again on the baubles, with the result that the living room was really dripping with festive air by the time she had finished hanging them all up on the walls.
“And all in less than an hour,” said Ginny to herself, smiling as she looked around at the living room. “Thank you, Lily.”
She threw away the little scraps of paper that were left, and wandered into the kitchen to find something to nibble. Mother was nowhere to be found, which was good. The Weasley matriarch had a nasty habit of finding work to be done whenever a pair of idle hands were around. Ginny found the biscuit-tin, and was helping herself to a ginger biscuit when the kitchen door slammed open. Guitily she stuffed the jar under the table, chewing quickly, before the cacophony of noise told her it was just the boys coming in from the garden.
“Bloody hell,” said Fred, shaking his foot vigorously while holding a basket of carrots aloft with his wand. “Blighter’s got a particularly nasty bite.”
“Yeah, well, he won’t be doing it again I reckon,” chortled Ron. “Jolly good Stunner, George.”
George pretended to curtsey, to general applause from the other three.
“What are you lot rambling about?” said Ginny. She placed the jar on the table and peered at Fred’s foot. In answer Fred directed the carrots onto the kitchen table and pulled up his trouser leg to reveal a circular set of teeth marks around his ankle, blood seeping slowly from some of them.
“Garden gnome,” said George. “Bit Fred while he was carroting.”
“Oh, I can fix that,” said Ginny brightly. Before any of the others could say anything she whipped out her wand and said “Episkey!”
The wound vanished immediately, leaving no trace but for a set of circular bumps. Fred inspected his foot gravely, then tapped it again with his wand to eliminate the scars. “Jolly good Healing Charm, Ginny,” he said. “Thanks.”
“Ginny!” exclaimed Ron, looking scandalised, “You’re still underage, you’re not supposed to do any magic!”
“Oh bother,” said Ginny, “the Ministry won’t come nosing around around Christmas time.” She risked a glance at Harry, who was staring at her with a very impressed expression on his face. How’s that, Potter? “What did you do to the gnome who did that, then?”
“Oh, I got him with a Stunning Spell before he got too far,” said George with a grin. “You’ll be seeing him around. Ron, get the gold paint out will you?”
The boys exchanged gleeful, conspiratorial glances, and Ginny didn’t fail to see that Harry’s pocket had a gnome-sized bulge in it.
* * *
The Weasleys and their guests were sitting in the living room, which Ginny had decorated so lavishly that it was rather like sitting in a paper-chain explosion. Fred, George, Harry, and Ron were the only ones who knew that the angel on top of the tree was actually a garden gnome that had bitten Fred on the ankle as he pulled up carrots for Christmas dinner. Stupefied, painted gold, stuffed into a miniature tutu and with small wings glued to it’s back, it glowered down at them all, the ugliest angel Harry had ever seen, with a large bald head like a potato and rather hairy feet.
- Excerpt from Chapter 16, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
* * *
After a fairly bog standard Weasley Christmas eve, Ginny was tired enough that she went to bed without even a sharp glare at Fleur, who was sharing her room. When Ginny next opened her eyes, the black granite of Hogwarts’ walls was three inches in front of her nose. She started backwards and collided into the feet of a grinning Lily Potter, who helped her up.
“Oh, no, you are not teaching me anything on Christmas night,” said Ginny angrily, “I won’t be able to keep my eyes open tomorrow!” She looked around. “And why are we in the Potions dungeon?”
“Because we’re going to learn about Potions, silly,” said Lily, giggling. “I was thinking about your little problem waking up in the mornings after our lessons, when it hit me. I’ll just dose you with a spot of Invigoration Draught before you go. It’s a handy potion to know, and we’ll be making it tonight. Later on I’ll teach you some more complex ones.”
“I hate Potions,” grumbled Ginny. “Mainly because of Snape. I don’t think there’s a single Gryffindor besides Hermione who isn’t rubbish at it, and it’s mostly the greasy git’s fault…”
Lily frowned. “Professor Snape is a very good potioneer,” she said. “Anyway, I happen to be very good at Potions, and I’ll be teaching you some handy ones to learn.”
Ginny opened her mouth to say that she didn’t think they would have time in a war to brew potions, then closed it again. Lily was watching her, with her head cocked to one side and a small smile playing around the corners of her mouth. “Well?” prompted the older witch.
“We might need to brew potions for ourselves,” Ginny said slowly. “Healing potions like Restorative Draughts, or Blood-Replenishing Potions, or antidotes, or to help cure cursed wounds. Then there are other potions. Tonks said,” her brow furrowed, “Tonks said Aurors use potions like Polyjuice and Veritaserum too.”
“Correct,” said Lily, looking pleased. “At last you’re finally using that head of yours. Now, Invigoration Draught. It’s quite simple, really. The main ingredient is borage, one of the more uncommon herbs, some dried nettles and a few other herbs and leaves, some magical, some not, and don’t forget a bit of crushed peppermint. Mainly you boil it, stir it a bit and it’s done. Rather like baking a cake, actually.”
Lily fished out a piece of parchment and flattened it on a work-desk, smoothing out the wrinkles. Ginny bent over the scroll, which was written on in Lily’s somewhat messy hand. The directions were clear enough, but the instructions were very fiddly, comparable to some of the potions they were doing with Snape. The fire had to be just so, and the slightest error in stirring the potion or preparing and measuring the ingredients would result in too weak a potion to be much more effective than tea. It was as far from the so-called simplicity of baking a cake as Ginny could imagine.
Lily must have seen the look of despair on her face, for she said soothingly, “I’ll be right here helping you, Ginny, you needn’t worry.”
Ginny went to the student cupboard and found that the ingredient jars were all well-labelled, full to the brim and arranged neatly in alphabetical order, very much in contrast to its usual state of disorganisation. She shot Lily a quizzical glance, who shrugged. “It’s how I remember it,” said Lily.
Ginny found the ingredients and began preparing them, starting with borage. She had used borage before, and now she took up a knife to shred the flowers.
“What are you doing?” inquired Lily politely.
“Cutting up the borage,” said Ginny. “How else would you prepare it?”
Lily blinked. “You don’t cut up borage, it’s not nearly effective enough.”
Ginny scowled. “Well, how else would you do it?”
“Here, use that,” Lily said, pointing at a mortar and pestle. “Pound them to an almost liquidlike paste.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “I never… well all right, it’s your potion we’re making.” She scooped the borage into the mortar and pestle and began to grind them.
“Just do it and we’ll see,” said Lily.
They continued in much the same vein for the next half-hour. Ginny was very bored. She certainly hadn’t thought that she would be spending Christmas night making potions in the Hogwarts dungeon. She was also sure that she would wake up the next morning in a very fractious mood, and said as much to Lily.
“Never you mind, the Invigoration Draught will sort that out,” said Lily, poking at the potion bubbling in the cauldron with a ladle. “If you’re bored, you can start thinking of what exactly you’re going to tell Dean Thomas.”
“How do you know about that?” said Ginny, outraged. “That’s private correspondence, you’re not supposed to read that!”
“Yeah, well, when you’re dead you find your entertainment wherever you can, however poor it is,” said Lily with a grin.
“Not funny,” said Ginny, making a face. A thought struck her. “You don’t look at me all the time do you?” she said suspiciously. “Like when I’m in the loo?”
“Certainly not,” said Lily. “That’s strictly forbidden.”
“As forbidden as visiting the living in their sleep and giving them Potions lessons?” said Ginny snidely.
“I’ll worry about my end, you just worry about Thomas,” said Lily. Glancing at Ginny, however, she realised that the younger witch was now staring moodily at the simmering potion. She sighed, and said “What exactly is your problem with Thomas, anyway?”
“I don’t know,” said Ginny shortly. “And you needn’t pressure me about it, either.”
“I’m not pressuring you on anything, Ginny. I’m just going to tell you that I had similar problems in my day and I would be glad to help.”
Ginny arched an eyebrow. “Really, now? You had problems like I do? I find that so hard to believe.”
Lily giggled. “Well, I was quite popular. The boys seem to think red hair is so fascinating, and with my rather unusual eyes… well, from my third year onwards I got plenty of attention. Not all of it welcome,” she added darkly. “James would get very jealous and hex people for looking at me wrong,” said Lily. “And that was before we were even friends, mind you.”
“He didn’t!” exclaimed Ginny.
Lily nodded. “Oh yes, he did. He was quite annoying in school,” she said with a chuckle, “but I guess he got a proper shake-up when one of his pranks backfired spectacularly. He was quite nice after that,” she added. “Wouldn’t hex anybody for the fun of it.”
“I can’t for the life of me,” said Ginny, frowning, “see Harry hexing anybody for fun.”
“Oh, no, Harry wouldn’t,” said Lily, smiling. “That was just James, really. I mean if you think Sirius was reckless, well, the both of them were even worse back then.”
“Well,” said Ginny slowly, “except maybe the Slytherins.” She made a face. “I’ve seen this Zabini bloke looking at me, it’s downright creepy.”
“Yes, well, most of them are toerags, I’d agree,” replied Lily. “But I had someone to keep them off me, so I was okay.”
“Harry’s dad?” asked Ginny, as she added crushed dried nettles and stirred the cauldron carefully, following the instructions Lily had written down.
“No,” said Lily. “Someone else.”
“Someone else?” said Ginny sharply. “You don’t mean… a Slytherin?” she said incredulously.
To Ginny’s surprise, Lily blushed. “He was a decent boy,” she said quietly. “If he hadn’t gone to Slytherin, he might have turned out differently. I’d swear he could be quite the Gryffindor at times.”
“Tell me about him,” said Ginny breathlessly.
“He was quite bookish,” said Lily, and Ginny snorted as she pictured a Slytherin boy resembling Hermione. “He was very good at Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts, and a genius in Potions. He had the capacity to be kind and caring, but bad upbringing and poor choice of friends made him very bitter very early in life.” Lily started. “Ginny, your potion!”
Ginny whirled around to see that her Invigoration Draught was almost bubbling over, and immediately extinguished the flames under the cauldron with her wand. “Well, that was easier than I had expected,” she said. “Why don’t they teach this potion in our year?”
“Of course it’s easy, I made some personal corrections to the textbook instructions,” said Lily with a hint of pride. “Most of the potions instructions in your textbook are quite outdated, there were better ways of doing things even in my time, but the traditionalists like to keep the instructions as they are, so…” she shrugged. “Sever… Professor Snape knows all of them, and I daresay he’s developed a few more methods himself.”
Ginny was outraged. “He’s never told any of them to us! We just follow what’s written in the textbook!”
“Didn’t he?” Lily looked at Ginny oddly. “Well… I suppose a potions master must have his secrets.”
Ginny didn’t think that was very much of an excuse at all, but she didn’t press the point.
“Never mind, it should still be effective,” said Lily, looking over the potion, before sitting down. “Well, let’s wait for it to cool.” She looked directly at Ginny. “I’ve told you enough about myself. Dean Thomas. Spill.”
Ginny sighed. “He’s a very nice boy, alright? He’s in Harry’s dormitory. Muggleborn and a very good artist.”
“Once or twice,” admitted Ginny, and Lily tittered.
“Did anything more?”
“Want anything more?”
“NO!” exclaimed Ginny emphatically.
Lily winked. “I remember how it was like to be young, Ginny, but then again my poor, noble James could never really bear to explore the broom cupboards and secret passages with me the way Sirius did with his girlfriends. Bit of a pity, really,” she added cheekily.
“I’m quite sure I wouldn’t know,” said Ginny innocently.
“Ginny,” said Lily, her tone serious, “I don’t know very much about your relationships with Dean and Harry. But what I do know is that it’s not fair on both of them to keep them hanging around you while you make up your mind about yourself. Pick one or the other, or none for that matter, and then live with it. Don’t leave them hanging around like Quidditch substitutes, for heaven’s sake.”
Silence. Lily got up to test the cauldron of cooling potion. Ginny was starting to feel very guilty, and more than just a little rotten. The picture Lily had painted of herself was uncomfortably close to the truth as told to herself frequently by her conscience, whenever she was with Dean and looked around to see if Harry was nearby.
“I thought I’d be more of my own person,” she said defensively. “Hermione thought… She thought Harry would notice me a bit more that way.”
Lily arched an eyebrow. “And snogging Dean Thomas completes your idea of how you are like when you’re ‘more of your own person’?”
Another long silence passed as Lily busied herself getting a goblet from the store cupboard. “Your relationship with Dean,” called Lily over her shoulder, “How is it like, exactly? Do you really fancy Dean as partner material? Or is he another means to getting Harry to ‘notice you a bit more’.”
“I don’t know!” burst out Ginny. “Does Harry want to be my friend or something more? Does he even know that I used to like him? That I still like him! You tell me what I should do about him, Lily! While you’re at it, tell me what I should do about Dean! You tell me what to do, Lily, you seem to know everything!” She sniffed loudly and blinked back tears of anger.
“I can’t tell you what to do, Ginny,” said Lily calmly. “I can only suggest and advise. It’s entirely up to you what you do with Harry and Dean.”
“I said I don’t know.”
Lily ladled a gobletful of potion and handed it to Ginny, who accepted it meekly. “Well, what I know is this, Ginny. You need to sit down and have a proper think about who you would really truly love to share your life with; all of it, good and bad. You need to make a clean breast of it, and I assure you, they’ll appreciate the honesty. Drink up.”
Ginny lifted the goblet to her lips and took a sip. The Invigoration Draught was cool and refreshing to the tongue, and she drained the goblet. Lily nodded with approval.
“Thanks, Lily,” said Ginny, feeling immediately the uplifting effects of the potion - or was that the feeling of goodwill that came from making a decision to do what was right? “And not just for the Invigoration Draught.”
“You’re welcome,” said Lily, curtseying in acknowledgement. Ginny smiled. “Ginny, go on and be yourself. And I really mean your proper self. Merry Christmas.”
The Potions dungeon faded around her, and Ginny blinked as she sat up in her bed in the Burrow. She felt more energetic than she had ever before, thanks to the Invigoration Draught. It was Christmas morning, the first few rays of the winter sun was shining through the window of her room, and there was a stack of wrapped parcels at the foot of the bed. Ginny felt like singing a few bars of Celestina Warbeck.
There was just a small cloud on the horizon, though. Ginny tried her best to forget it, but it fought its way to the forefront of her mind as she unwrapped one of her mother’s signature sweaters. She needed to have that talk with Dean.
* * *
“Harry, you’ve got a maggot in your hair,” said Ginny cheerfully, leaning across the table to pick it out; Harry felt goose bumps erupt up his neck that had nothing to do with the maggot.
- Excerpt from Chapter 16, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
But at that moment there was a loud squeal of “Won-Won!” and Lavender Brown came hurtling out of nowhere and flung herself into Ron's arms. Several onlookers sniggered; Hermione gave a tinkling laugh and said, “There’s a table over here... Coming. Ginny?”
“No, thanks, I said I’d meet Dean,” said Ginny, though Harry could not help noticing that she did not sound very enthusiastic.
- Excerpt from Chapter 16, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
* * *
Hermione woke with a start, her hand snatching for the wand on her bedside table. In the pale moonlight, she could just make out the figure perched on the end of her bed. It said “Shhhh!” in Ginny’s voice, and she lowered her wand. “Lumos!”
It was a testament to Hermione’s sense of tact that she made no loud exclamations, alarmed fusses or painfully obvious remarks about the unshed tears she saw building in Ginny’s eyes, but instead sat up and pulled her knees up to her chin, leaving more room for Ginny to sit. Ginny climbed up on the bed and sat down cross-legged. Neither spoke for a moment.
“Dean?” said Hermione gently, “or Harry?”
Ginny sniffed. “Both, rather. Dean’s… not very happy with me. We had a bit of a quarrel. He thinks that I’ve still got feelings for Harry.”
Yes, thought Hermione, but she waited before saying, “And is he right?”
Ginny nodded miserably.
Hermione considered this for a moment, and decided on a straightforward approach. “Did you break up?”
Ginny shook her head.
“I said — I said we’d give ourselves a bit more time.” Ginny sniffed again. “I said if it still didn’t work out, we’d go our separate ways.”
Hermione nodded, digesting this. “Do you think that’s wise?” she asked, although she knew the answer herself, and it was in the negative.
Ginny shrugged helplessly. “I didn’t know what to say. What do you think I should have said?”
“Ginny,” said Hermione gently, taking Ginny’s hand, “you already know my thoughts on the subject, as far as your love life is concerned. I feel there are enough people trying to tell you what to do. You ought to make your decisions yourself. Search your heart for your deepest and truest feelings, and act on them, and then never look back with regret. And remember that whatever happens, I’m still your friend, alright?” She squeezed Ginny’s hand.
“Thanks, Hermione,” said Ginny, with a watery smile. “Do you mind if I just sort of sit here for a while?”
“Not at all, Ginny.”
They sat there in friendly silence, Ginny turning over her feelings in her heart while Hermione sat up patiently, occasionally squeezing her friend’s hand. Presently Ginny turned to Hermione.
“Hermione,” she said quietly, “what would you say if I told you I’ve recently been talking to someone who’s dead?”
Hermione wondered if this was a trick question. “I’d ask if you’d been spending much time with Moaning Myrtle?”
“I don’t mean a ghost, Hermione,” said Ginny. “I meant someone who had… passed on.”
Hermione felt a flicker of fear and looked Ginny in the eye in the darkness of the moonlit dorm, seeing nothing but a serious earnestness. She racked her brains for any magical possibility the dead could contact the living. Finding several and discarding them one by one after reasoning that they could not be, she decided with finality that it was quite impossible. “Er… how have you been talking to this someone?” she said, hedging for more time. How Ginny answered this question would be most indicative, Hermione knew.
“In my dreams,” said Ginny quickly.
Hermione felt better. It was probably only a strange, possibly frightening dream Ginny had had. Best to comfort and reassure her. “It’s not possible for the dead to come back, Ginny. The closest anybody’s come to communicating with the dead is through seances and divination, and as Professor McGonagall rightly says, Divination is very imprecise and riddled as a field of study by old bats like Trelawney.”
“So my dreams could be real,” said Ginny at once.
“A dream?” said Hermione quickly. She immediately thought of Harry and his dream connection with Voldemort… and its deadly consequences. “You’ve been talking to someone in your dreams?”
“Yes,” said Ginny.
Ginny hesitated, then took a deep breath. “Harry’s mum, Lily Potter.”
This revelation took Hermione completely by surprise. She blinked, digesting this bit of information. This was a whole different topic altogether. “Er… it’s perfectly normal to dream of the family of a boy whom you sort of, er, fancy,” said Hermione. “Er… what does Lily say?”
“She teaches me Charms,” said Ginny promptly. “And Potions,” she added as an afterthought.
This was also a surprise; Hermione had been expecting topics revolving around Harry. Well, it seemed like this was a fairly basic problem. Hermione dreamt of lessons often herself. “Well, you’re probably just reviewing your notes in your mind, and somehow you thought of Harry’s mum,” she said.
“This is different,” insisted Ginny. “She taught me N.E.W.T.-level stuff. I couldn’t possibly have learned the things she shows me in class.”
Easily explained, thought Hermione. “Maybe you read some details in the library, and your imagination supplied the rest.”
“I’ve done some of the charms,” said Ginny. “They work.”
This stumped Hermione for a while. “Well, you probably heard the incantations somewhere and forgot them until they appeared in your dream,” she said finally. “Ginny, no one can come back from the dead. We all wish we could see those who passed on again, but there are some things magic can’t do. Your dreams were just that, Ginny… dreams.”
Ginny mused for a moment, then shrugged. “I guess so. It’s not like my other dreams are real.”
Hermione smiled. “You mean dreams that involve a certain dark-haired, green-eyed Chosen One?”
Ginny scowled. “Or a certain git of a brother whom my friend happens to fancy in secret?” she said, and Hermione’s smile slid off.
“Well,” said Hermione presently, “we’re both in a pretty state aren’t we?”
"Right you are," nodded Ginny with a small smile. She pretended to lift a goblet above her head. "To shared misery, friendship and thickheaded gits."
"Hear, hear," said Hermione, who promptly stuffed her fist into her mouth as Parvati Patil gave a loud, grunting snore and the two girls doubled over in suppressed mirth.
They sat there companionably in the dark for a while longer and talked about other things. Ginny would have stayed till morning if she could, but in the end she got up off Hermione's bed and bade her good night.
“Well,” said Hermione, suppressing a yawn, “good luck with Harry.”
“Yeah well, good luck with my thick-headed git of a brother,” said Ginny.
As Ginny exited the dorm and Hermione pulled the covers to her chin, she muttered to herself, “People can’t come back from the dead.”
Back to index
Chapter 4: Chapter 4: Kiss
Author's Notes: Chapter 4 is now (finally) up, after much problems with work and time issues. It's a bit long (the whole damn thing is a bit long!) but my word, I had fun writing it! There will be a Chapter 5 and it will come in 2 days' time, so Challenge judges hang on to your hats and please drop off a review - it's going to be a bumpy ride. Many thanks to my reviewers, ALL of you! I read your reviews when I'm out of juice and the ideas just flow in afterwards! Included are 478 words excerpted from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
CHAPTER FOUR: KISS
The beginning of the new year saw the gradual cooling-off of Ginny’s and Dean’s romantic ardour. For one, there was more and more homework being laid on both the fifth- and sixth-year students. Ginny, who was sitting for her O.W.L.s later in the year, was working exceptionally hard. For another, there was more friction between them than there had been before. Differences in thinking that Ginny had at first dismissed became glaring and somehow became problems larger than their origins. Ginny told herself they were just rubbing the edges off each other, but as she grew more touchy and she saw Dean’s ‘irritated look’ more often as the days passed, instead of less, she knew that their second try at a relationship might just not last any longer than their first.
Lily’s tutelage in Ginny’s fifth-year subjects was beginning to show results. Professor Flitwick was pleased with her Charms work, which had made a marked improvement, and Ginny found she needed to do less remedial Charms homework. The time thus saved, however, mostly went towards Transfiguration practice; Professor McGonagall was not quite satisfied with her progress there yet.
About once every three nights, Lily visited and taught Ginny more jinxes, spells and charms, as well as handy tips for use in Potions classes. Sometimes they just sat and talked, or wandered the Hogwarts that Lily remembered while the older witch reminisced fondly of her own school days. Despite what Hermione had said, Ginny couldn’t bring herself to believe that it was all just a series of really realistic dreams and that Lily was a figment of her own sleeping imagination.
Tonight they were practising wards and protective enchantments on the lawn of Hogwarts Castle, as Lily remembered it. There were a few trees dotted here and there that Ginny didn’t think she had seen, but other than that it was almost exactly like the Hogwarts of the present day.
“Protego totalum!” said Ginny, pointing her wand at a wooden shed Lily had conjured up. Lily sent a Reductor Curse almost lazily into one corner of the shed, smashing through Ginny’s defensive ward with a crack. The curse blasted a gaping hole in the walls, nearly collapsing the hut.
“No good, Ginny,” said Lily, shaking her head. “You’ll just have to practice more. Remember what I said; when you’re casting the spell, you have to imagine huge impenetrable walls surrounding the object you’re trying to protect.”
“I’m trying my best, dammit,” said Ginny through gritted teeth. “Protego totalum!”
A flicker of magic shone around the damaged shack, invisible as a mirage on a hot summer’s day. Lily said nothing, but sent another curse towards the shack. The protective magic bent inwards under the jet of flame that flew from the tip of Lily’s wand, bent far enough for the flames to lick hungrily at the walls of the shack. For a moment it looked as if the magic might actually hold, but then the shimmering shield burst and the flames streamed through to set the shack on fire.
“Did you see that, Ginny?” said Lily excitedly, turning to face her pupil, “Your shield held longer than it did before! You’re getting better at…” Her voice trailed off.
Ginny was walking away, shoulders slumped, her long red hair waving slightly in the gentle breeze. Her wand lay on the grass where she had thrown it.
A slight frown creased Lily’s brow. She picked up the wand, and trotted casually after Ginny. Ginny glanced over her shoulder, and speeded up her pace. Lily followed suit, and soon the two witches were running flat-out over the green Hogwarts lawn.
While running Ginny glanced back, spotted Lily catching up and put on another burst of speed that set her heart pounding wildly against her ribs. She felt guilty for running away from her lessons - literally - but couldn’t bring herself to admit defeat and slow down. When she glanced behind again, however, Lily was nowhere to be seen. Frowning, Ginny turned her head to the front, recognising a flash of dark red hair too late before she slammed into Lily at full speed with a low “oomph!” from both witches and the two of them went down, tumbling onto the grass of the Hogwarts Quidditch field.
Dazed by the collision, Lily and Ginny lay on the ground for a moment, Ginny panting as she struggled to recover her breath and clear her head. When she opened her eyes she saw that Lily was standing over her.
“All right, Ginny?” said Lily, smirking.
“Hey, no Apparation!” gasped Ginny, forgetting that she was supposed to be angry and sulking.
“All’s fair in love and war,” said Lily, shrugging. “Now can you tell me what possessed you to run off like that?”
“I’m fed up with that stupid spell! I can’t get the hang of it, and it’s no use telling me to ‘envision walls’ because the best I can come up with is Hogwarts’ walls, and even that’s not working!” said Ginny, raising her voice. “It’s not bloody working!”
“Would you like to cool off?” said Lily evenly, with no trace of blame, temper or sarcasm in her manner. This, more than anything else, defused Ginny’s temper. She suddenly felt ashamed that she had been behaving rather childishly, not to mention being rather rude and difficult. Lily waved her wand, and a couple of broomsticks appeared. “I happen to hear that you enjoy flying. You know, I’d say we’re even in the right place for it,” she gestured at the Quidditch field around them.
She held out one of the brooms. Ginny stared at it. Emblazoned on the side in golden scroll were the words ‘Comet Two-Forty’. Lily shrugged, “Well, it’s nothing compared to Harry’s Firebolt, but it’s the best broom on the market in my time. James was always going on and on about it. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’d be able to recreate it if not for me having to put up with him discussing it endlessly with Sirius at the dinner table. Well?” she prompted.
Ginny took the broom, admiring the way it seemed to vibrate with power and potential thrust as it lay in her hand. She threw her leg over it, glanced over at Lily, who had mounted her own with a grin, and kicked off.
The Comet Two-Forty sent Ginny streaking into the air with an acceleration completely unlike the rather dated Cleansweep Five she used in inter-House Quidditch matches. Revelling in the speed of the broom, Ginny flung herself almost flat against the broomstick and tucked in her elbows, shooting up into the air and leaving the ground far behind. Experimentally she threw out a hand; the slipstream caught and tugged at her splayed fingers and Ginny grinned from ear to ear.
She flung the broom over, doing a loop-the-loop in the air and dove for the ground. She spotted a red-headed figure coasting along far below her at a very slow speed; it was Lily Potter, gripping her broom much the same way Hermione had done when she reluctantly agreed to play two-a-side Quidditch with Ginny, Ron and Harry the previous summer. Ginny aimed for Lily and dove, streaking past the older witch with a few feet to spare and laughing madly as Lily squealed and bolted in the opposite direction.
Ginny swung the broom around - what a fantastically tight turning circle - and chased after Lily, but Lily had spotted her, of course, and was pointing her wand at her. A stream of clear liquid seemed to hang like a string of pearls in the air before they smashed straight into Ginny’s face and soaked her to the bone. She gave a shriek of surprise; it was also very, very cold.
“Not fair!” she screamed into the wind, but all Ginny heard was Lily’s laughter as Ginny chased her across the Quidditch field, ice-cold water still gushing from the tip of her wand.
Several times more Ginny was soaked as they played a sort of tag amongst the goal hoops on one end of the pitch, racing each other in flat-out heats across the pitch and then resuming the game of tag at the other end. Ginny’s objective was to fly very fast past Lily and catch her wobbling in the slipstream from her broom while Lily tried to soak her.
Eventually Ginny spotted Lily landing at one end of the pitch, and followed.
Lily was giggling madly as she flopped down on the grass to catch her breath, throwing aside her Comet Two-Forty. “I don’t think,” she said, gasping, “that I’ve had quite this much fun since my schooldays.”
This struck Ginny as a very strange thing to say, coming from a fifth-year girl dressed in the Hogwarts uniform, and she opened her mouth to say so until she remembered. “Er, yeah,” she said.
Lily looked amused. “So… ready to try protective spells again?”
Ginny turned red as she remembered her tantrum, and muttered “Sorry” while patting her robe pockets desperately for her wand. Lily reached into her own pocket and pulled it out. “Sorry,” Ginny said again, as she took the wand from Lily.
“Not to worry,” said Lily cheerfully. “Everybody needs to let off steam, and no harm done, so…” She waved her wand in the air, and a ramshackle-looking shed appeared on the Quidditch field. “Now, as I was saying: imagine in your head the safest, strongest wall or shield you can think of, and then imagine your spell putting it up around that shed. Then cast. Hogwarts’ walls are a good start. Some also like to think of the Bank of England’s vaults, or Gringotts’ vaults if you prefer.”
Ginny’s brow knitted in concentration as she pictured the high, imposing walls of the Hogwarts castle, and then she recited “Protego totalum!” Again the shimmering shield appeared briefly around the shed, before disappearing. Lily waited for five seconds, then sent a spell at the shed. The spell pierced through the magical barrier with a pop and struck the wall of the shed, blowing a small hole in it.
“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong,” said Ginny despairingly.
“Ginny, what exactly are you picturing when you think of the walls around Hogwarts?” said Lily gently.
Ginny thought for a moment. “They’re big and thick,” she said. “I’m picturing putting up big, thick, black granite blocks. They’re big and they’re scary and they’re strong.” She sighed in frustration, and added, “Except it seems they’re not strong enough.”
“What about the wards?” said Lily. “Have you forgotten that Hogwarts is covered with protective spells and wards? That their walls are reinforced with magic?” She indicated the two brooms lying on the grass. “When I conjured those up I needed to include everything magical about them, else they would have emerged as ordinary brooms; acceleration, handling, turning circles, braking charm, cushioning charm.” She snorted. “I should know; as I told you I’ve heard James and Sirius going on and on about them. You need to do the same thing, Ginny. This time, take a moment to focus on the enchantments on the Hogwarts walls when you cast your spell.”
Once more Ginny thought of the walls of the Hogwarts castle, but this time she pictured shimmering shields of magic around them. “Protego totalum!”
The shimmering shield appeared again, silvery and faint in the bright sunlight. Lily pointed her wand at it and said “Incendio!”
The flames streaking from her wand licked at the magical shield surrounding the hut, bending the shield in just as they did before. This time, however, the shield held. After a moment Lily sent a Stunner at the magical field, but the comet of red sparks struck the protective spell and dissipated.
Ginny let out a whoop of joy and hugged Lily tightly. “I did it!” she said excitedly, “I did it I did it I did it thank you thank you thank you thank you…”
Taken aback by Ginny’s sudden hug Lily stood there dazedly for a moment. Then she smiled warmly and squeezed Ginny tightly.
* * *
“Tell me why you don’t want to meet Harry in his dreams,” said Ginny. “He’s dying to see you, I know he is. It would really make his day to meet you and his dad.”
They were back in the Potions dungeon tonight, making a basic Restorative Draught ideal for curing curse and spell injuries. A stronger variant of the same draught would need chopped mandrake roots and a few other ingredients. Ginny had remembered, not without a hefty helping of guilt, that it was the potion that had been made to reverse the effects of the basilisk on Hermione and its other victims.
“I can’t, Ginny,” said Lily. “Not right now.” She did not meet Ginny’s eye.
“Why not?” said Ginny. “You must want to see your son too, although I realise you probably watch over him from,” she waved her hand vaguely above her head, “above. You’d probably want to talk to him in his dreams too. It’d be great, you could teach him the kind of things you’re teaching me.”
“I can’t,” said Lily shortly. “Now can we get back to work?
“I’m sure he would really like it. He really misses you, he’d love it if he could…”
“Because I bloody well can’t!” said Lily angrily. “Don’t you think I want to meet my own son, after all of these years we’ve been apart? Don’t you think that every time he catches the Snitch, I want to go out there onto the Quidditch field and tell him how proud I am of him? Don’t you think that every time he’s depressed, or he ends up in the hospital wing, or wakes up in his bed from another nightmare, I want to be there with him, to tell him it’s all right, to hold him like a mother, a real mother, would have done? But I can’t do it, I won’t do it because I’d kill him if I did!”
Ginny sat there, shocked at the sudden outburst. Her hand still held the ladle she had been stirring the potion with. To her horror, Lily burst into tears. Her shoulders heaved and she made little gasping noises. It was the first time Ginny had seen Lily in distress, and it shocked her out of her daze. She immediately put down the ladle and sat down next to Lily. She focused all her concentration on creating the perfect Conjuring Charm, and a handkerchief appeared in mid-air to fall lightly onto Ginny’s palm.
“Don’t cry, Lily,” she said faintly, handing Lily the handkerchief.
“If,” said Lily, between sobs, “If I see him every night as I want to very, very much, he’s going to start to hesitate and think what we would want him to do, and on the path that he is going to have to take he must not hesitate. Also, he‘s going to starting rely on James and I for advice and help, and he needs to learn to think and fend for himself if he’s going to survive what’s ahead.”
Ginny patted her on the shoulder while Lily cried quietly into the handkerchief. It was a while before Lily subsided, dabbed at her eyes and moved to the cauldron, peering inside as if checking on the potion, as if nothing had happened. But her eyes stared through the potion, not registering it at all.
“You don’t understand, Ginny,” said Lily distantly, more to herself than to Ginny. “Having us visit him is going to make it even more painful that he doesn’t have us around except when he dreams. He’s going look forward to his dreams, and from there it’s a short hop away to looking forward to dying so that he be with us see us for real and for ever. Somewhere along the line, Harry is going to be faced with a very difficult decision, and there must be nothing at all in the deepest part of his heart to make him want to get it all over with and die so he can meet us again.”
Ginny sensed that Lily needed to get this off her chest, and let her ramble on.
“A large part of Harry’s drive to finish Voldemort once and for all is because Voldemort killed us and took us away from Harry,” said Lily sadly. She looked up at Ginny through red eyes. “And now, ever since you and he have been skirting around each other for years like a pair of skittish third-years at a formal dance, you’ve become a major part of what possesses him to rid the world of menaces like Voldemort, what you call his ‘saving the world’ thing. Harry’s path is difficult enough as it is - I should know, I know more about it than you or even he does - and I know he won’t do as well with us mucking about in his head as if he did thinking that he’s all on his own, which he essentially is. He’ll be able to face what’s coming better knowing he’s got nothing to lose by dying and everything to gain by living,” said Lily.
They finished the potion in silence. After Lily checked on the potion and declared it to be a success, Ginny stood there awkwardly, wanting to say something but unsure of what, exactly, she ought to say.
Finally, she blurted out “I love him.”
Lily regarded her for a moment before nodding slowly. “Thanks, Ginny,” said Lily. “It means very much to me to know that there’s someone who will stand by my son.”
Ginny said nothing. There was a warm glow in her heart that was slowly expanding to fill her body. It had nothing to do with standing by Lily’s son and everything to do with the last three words that she had spoken out loud... a final admittance to herself.
* * *
The end of Dean and Ginny, when it finally came, was somewhat quieter than Ginny had feared.
She and Dean were doing their homework by the common-room fire one night. They were not saying much to one another, not in a post-row period, said row having started over Dean helping Ginny through the portrait hole.
The last Gryffindor students, a gaggle of first-years who had been reading at the far end of the common-room, finally decided to go up to bed. In the sudden silence of the common room, Dean quietly laid down his quill.
“Ginny,” he said, slowly but without any preamble whatsoever, “I think it’s time we called things off.”
The statement did not surprise Ginny. Although she had always stopped herself short of telling Dean that the end of them being together was fast approaching, Dean had only voiced what had been on her mind for a very long while, even before Ginny’s dreams with Lily. So Ginny did not say anything to Dean, merely laying down her own quill and staring at the kindly face of a boy whose expressions and gestures she had come to know well.
Perhaps feeling the urge to break the silence, Dean added, “I think it’s the best for both of us.”
Dean seemed to think she ought to say something, so Ginny said, “What makes you think so?”
Dean crossed his arms and put his elbows on the table. Ginny knew he did this when he was thinking. “I could say that it’s because we’re not really seeing eye to eye on much,” Dean said eventually. “I could also say that it’s because neither of us see the other as a serious relationship, not really. I could also say that I don’t think we had a real connection; we were just friends who really hit it off at first and later decided to sort of give it a try. But,” and here Dean hesitated, and for the first time he was more uncertain of himself, “it’s also because I’ve seen how you look at Harry,” said Dean.
Ginny stared at the parchment in front of her and said nothing. There wasn’t really much to say at this point other than admit that Dean was correct on all counts, and she didn’t really want to say that.
“You and Harry… although you’re never together for long, you’ve got a sort of… unacknowledged intimacy between you,” said Dean. “A kind of shared feeling that we didn’t have. A sort of spark that goes beyond merely fancying each other. I only wish you could have told me earlier, Ginny. Back when we first started out, I told you that you have to tell me if you’re still carrying a torch for Harry, and I said that if you did tell me I promised wouldn’t get angry. That was our agreement. That was the one agreement we had and you broke it.” Dean looked up, and Ginny saw that his eyes were filled with hurt and disappointment.
“I’m sorry,” said Ginny. And she was. “I know it’s rotten of me, Dean, and I’m just… I’m just sorry, alright?” Finding it unbearable to keep staring at Dean, Ginny closed her eyes and rested her forehead in her hand. “You… you can be angry at me, Dean. I deserve it.”
At her admission, Dean looked away. A muscle worked in his jaw. Long minutes passed, punctuated only by the snap and crackle of the flames. “I could be so angry with you,” said Dean finally. “And I have been very angry with you, and to be honest that’s probably why we’ve been rowing so much. I’m still inclined to be very angry, Ginny, but that’s something I won’t do.” Dean sighed. “What’s the point of getting angry, anyway? What’s the bloody point?”
Ginny flinched at the disgust in his voice.
They sat there in the silence as the fire grew dim.
“I’m sorry,” Ginny said again. “Dean, please don’t blame Harry for this. It’s all my fault, alright?”
Dean sighed. “I don’t blame Harry, Ginny. At least not much. I think I knew, deep inside, that you always belonged to him. Maybe I knew it, and I was afraid, and I knew I was afraid, and that’s why I wanted you to promise to tell me. Now please… tell me the truth now. You owe me that, at least. I’ve earned the right to the truth about your feelings for Harry.”
Ginny opened her mouth to protest. “I don’t…”
“Don’t lie, Ginny, you’re very good at that but you and I have been hanging around one another for too long for me to fall for your fibs now.”
Slowly, haltingly, and not daring to look Dean in the eye, Ginny told him. Told him of her longtime crush on Harry. Told how her skewed schoolgirl-fantasy perception of Harry had been gradually replaced by the real Harry as shown by his words and actions around Ron, Hermione and the other members of the Weasley family. Told how she loved him all the more because of that. Told Dean she admired Harry, admired that he fought Voldemort because he despised evil, that he genuinely cared for others and was unfailingly selfless, and that he had never laughed or made fun of Luna’s innumerable oddities. She told Dean how she had thought she was over Harry when she started dating him.
Dean smiled mirthlessly at this. “You’re right, you’re not crushing on Harry any more. Now you love him, and no wonder,” he said bitterly. “How did I ever think, how could I ever have been stupid enough to think I could compete with the Chosen One?”
“Dean, don’t beat yourself up over this. You’re a very nice boy,” said Ginny. “It’s me who’s the rotten one. I… I’d understand if you don’t ever want to speak to me again.”
“Maybe I will, maybe I won’t,” said Dean. “I think… yeah, I think I’d still like to be your friend in future. And we’ll still see each other on the Quidditch pitch, and I promise I won’t let this hurt our chances for the Cup this year. But Ginny… you’ve hurt me very badly, alright? I hope you understand if I tell you to keep away from me for a while.” The tone of his voice suggested that she start now.
Ginny nodded, more to herself than to Dean for the latter was staring unseeingly into the embers of the dying fire. She stood up and quickly packed away her things. As she reached the girls’ dorms, however, Dean suddenly spoke. “Don’t do to Harry the same thing you did to me, Ginny.” Dean’s voice hardened. “If you’re going to be with him, don’t betray him like you did me. Harry’s been through enough, and like as not as hard as the road ahead is for us, it’s going to be even more difficult for him, and he’ll be walking it alone. Ron and Hermione will be able to help him, but they can’t help him the exact way you can. Don’t hurt him, Ginny. He’s the best hope for us all, but more than that, he’s my friend.”
In her dorm, Ginny undressed for bed quietly and calmly. Only when she was in bed did she let the tears moisten her eyes.
* * *
“Ah,” said Harry. “Well — you don’t mind it’s over, do you?
“No,” Ron admitted. “It was pretty bad while she was yelling, but at least I didn’t have to finish it.”
“Coward,” said Hermione, though she looked amused. “Well, it was a bad night for romance all around. Ginny and Dean split up too, Harry.”
Harry thought there was a rather knowing look in her eye as she told him that, but she could not possibly know that his insides were suddenly dancing the conga. Keeping his face as immobile and his voice as indifferent as he could, he asked, “How come?”
“Oh, something really silly . . . She said he was always trying to help her through the portrait hole, like she couldn’t climb in herself . . . but they’ve been a bit rocky for ages.”
Harry glanced over at Dean on the other side of the classroom. He certainly looked unhappy.
“Of course, this puts you in a bit of a dilemma, doesn’t it?” said Hermione.
“What d’you mean?” said Harry quickly.
“The Quidditch team,” said Hermione. “If Ginny and Dean aren’t speaking . . .”
“Oh — oh yeah,” said Harry.
-Excerpt from Chapter 23, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
* * *
“All of us make mistakes, Ginny,” said Lily. “So did I, when I was your age. It’s only fools who forget how they behaved when they were young and…” She hesitated, caught Ginny’s eye, and said with a grin, “…well, stupid.”
“Well, I still feel terribly rotten,” said Ginny.
The two girls sat on the sandy shores of the Great Lake, having taken their shoes and socks off to trail their feet in the water. The Great Lake as Lily remembered it was full of interesting creeks and hollows and alive with activity. Fish darted beneath the lake’s cool surface, insects of all kinds flashed past on shimmering, iridescent wings and colourful birds chirped and twittered in the trees around the lake. The giant squid too had made an appearance; its long tentacles reached out to the girls for them to stroke and tickle.
In light of what had just happened, Lily did not teach Ginny any new spells. They just practised the previous charms Lily had taught Ginny, with varying results. As it turned out, Ginny was getting better at Healing Charms, but her protective wards and anti-jinxes were still weak. After an hour of practice, Lily had called for a break and they went down to relax by the Great Lake. Lily had said it was one of her favourite places to go after a particularly intense lesson or examination.
“I don’t blame you for what you did, Ginny,” said Lily. “For the longest time ever I didn’t quite know what to think about James. I guess it didn’t help that I never saw what he was like when his guard was down. I didn’t know whether he was really speaking his mind or just joking and fooling around.” Lily cast Ginny a sidelong glance. “That’s one advantage you’ve got. You can tell how Harry thinks by how he’s like when he’s with Ron.”
“But I’m still quite unsure about Harry, Lily,” said Ginny. “I mean he’s much nicer than most boys, yeah? And Dean’s right, we’re rather close indeed… but I don’t think I want to start anything quite so soon. I’ve had enough to do with boys for a while.”
“Sure,” said Lily with a smile. “Never, ever make a move unless you’re a hundred percent sure you won’t regret it.”
They stared out over the lake, where the giant squid was splashing around happily in the shallows.
“Back in my fifth year,” began Lily, “I stopped being friends with a boy.”
“Being friends? Or being something more?”
“We were just friends,” said Lily. “I think… I think he might have wanted to be more, but he never got the courage to tell me and I don’t think I would have gone out with him anyway.”
Ginny lay back, pillowing her head on the grassy shore and kicking her legs in the lake so that they made delightful splashy sounds. “Why’s that?”
“Well… We had a lot of differences. His choice of friends, for one. I hated them, and I hated the part of him that kept them around and even endorsed their views. They would have made life very difficult for the both of us if we’d gone out.”
Pieces were beginning to click together in Ginny’s head. “Was he… was he that boy from Slytherin? Is that why his friends didn’t like you?”
Lily nodded. “Yeah, he was. We knew each other before Hogwarts. He was unpopular, even amongst the Slytherins; probably because of his friendship with me now I think of it. They probably disdained him for being soft on Muggleborns. I believe I was the only friend he had in the whole school.”
Ginny wrinkled her nose. “That’s sad. I can’t imagine… well, I didn’t make many friends my first year, so yeah, I can imagine how it’s like, but… but seven years in Hogwarts and he’s only got you. No wonder he fancied you.”
Lily shook her head. “He might have thought he fancied me, and I might have thought he did, but I think that deep inside we just wanted to be good friends. He’s had so few real friends in his life…” Lily sighed. “Don’t ever mistake friendship for love, Ginny.”
“I think that’s exactly what I did with Dean,” said Ginny quietly.
“I know, which is why I’m telling you this little tale,” said Lily with a grin.
“Well, what happened?”
“We grew up,” said Lily distantly. “Some things we thought didn’t matter suddenly mattered. Childhood prejudices became personality-shaping, life-changing forces that could no longer be ignored. One day it all became too much, and…” Lily waved her hand vaguely in the air.
Ginny sighed. “That’s sad,” she said again.
“Yes, well, people grow up, and people grow apart,” said Lily. “You know, some people say that we have difficulty being friends when we’re older because we lose our honesty and sincerity. I think with me and him, it was different. We became more honest with each other. It would never have worked out, Ginny.”
Ginny didn’t quite know what to say to this. So she took Lily’s hand and squeezed it comfortingly. “You’ll always be my friend, Lily,” she said. “And I’ll always be honest with you.”
Lily looked over and smiled. She squeezed back. “Me too.”
“Let me tell you about my friend,” said Ginny. “She’s really smart, and good at magic, and she can say the most surprisingly sharp things, but she's quite daft at times and believes in popular gossip and imaginary creatures like Nargles and Snorkacks and…”
* * *
“Oh, don’t start acting as though you understand Quidditch,” snapped Ginny, “you’ll only embarrass yourself.”
By Saturday morning, whatever he might have told Hermione, Harry would have gladly exchanged all the Felix Felicis in the world to be walking down to the Quidditch pitch with Ron, Ginny, and the others. It was almost unbearable to turn away from the mass of students streaming out into the sunshine, all of them wearing rosettes and hats and brandishing banners and scarves, to descend the stone steps into the dungeons and walk until the distant sounds of the crowd were quite obliterated, knowing that he would not be able to hear a word of commentary or a cheer or groan.
- Excerpt from Chapter 24 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
* * *
“Quidditch,” Lily had said on Friday night, “is highly overrated.”
Ginny had told her the story of the upcoming Quidditch match and Harry’s absence from it, as well as the reasons why he was in detention with Snape. To her surprise, Lily had said nothing at all about the Sectumsempra curse, and they had gotten on with anti-jinx practice and Healing Charms, now performed on broken pieces of sticks.
“I bet if it was Muggle football you’d be a lot more interested,” said Ginny. “I can’t say it sounds exciting myself, though Dean is a great fan. Can’t fly, can’t hit a Bludger at anybody, though I admit tackling sounds interesting…”
“I’m not a fan of football either,” said Lily. “I can cheer with the best of them when somebody performs a feat of skill, but I can’t understand all the fanaticism and factionalism. And I can’t understand why people get themselves so worked up over a sport…” She looked pointedly at Ginny then.
Ginny had blushed, but stood her ground. “Hermione was being a cow. She’s gone on at Harry for long enough as is, and besides, I’m the replacement Seeker, what in the world does she mean by ‘what this has done to your chances in the match’…” Even as she said it, though, Ginny felt guilty for snapping at Hermione based on a comment the implications of which she could not possibly have guessed.
Lily merely rolled her eyes. Ginny had the distinct feeling that Lily knew she was feeling remorseful over the tiff with Hermione.
“Ferula!” said Ginny, pointing her wand at a broken branch. A thin, reedy splint appeared and bound itself to the branch.
"Yes," said Lily, sounding very Flitwick-like. "More practice."
And now it was the morning of the match. Ginny had watched with more than just a little bit of wistfulness as Harry slouched off to the dungeons, unable to join the throng of students heading out for the Hogwarts Quidditch Cup final, Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw.
The match began badly. The Gryffindor team was disheartened with the loss of their Captain and star Seeker. The Chaser team of Ginny, Demelza Robbins and Katie Bell had been disrupted. Previously, their main strategies revolved around one of three options; Katie and Demelza ran interference while Ginny swooped in to score, or Demelza set Katie and Ginny up to score, or Ginny feinted while either one of the others did the actual scoring. Dean, who was only a fair to middling Quidditch player most of the time, was very much a jack-of-all-trades, and certainly master at none.
The Ravenclaws scored well early in the game despite the Gryffindor team struggling might and main, contesting every goal and generally putting up a frenetic resistance. The score was seventy to thirty, Ravenclaw leading, within fifteen torturous minutes of play.
Ginny streaked from one end of the pitch to the other, an all-red blur of constant motion on her Cleansweep, her eyes searching for the Golden Snitch. She was painfully aware of missed opportunities and failed plays by the Gryffindor team, and groaned several times as she watched the Ravenclaws snatch the Quaffle away from the Gryffindor Chasers time and again. Ron was trying his best to prevent the Ravenclaws from scoring, but he was being worn down faster than normal and his performance slipped when he was tiring, allowing in yet another goal.
The first time-out of one minute allowed by Madam Hooch was a stormy, ill-tempered one, with the score at a hundred to seventy. None of the designated Chasers were in any mood to talk, let alone plan. Demelza was crying angry tears of frustration, declaring that none of the senior team members were doing their jobs right. Dean would say nothing but clung tightly to his broom in a sulk. Katie was growing redder and redder in the face as Demelza went on. Jimmy Peakes and Ritchie Coote, the team’s Beaters, were still game to play but were noncommittal about their chances of winning. To top it all off, Ron was in a daze, unsure of what exactly to do with the fractious team.
Ginny opened her mouth to follow her first instinct, and that was to tell Demelza to shut up before she hexed her, followed by telling the Beaters to put more heart into the game and Katie to get her act together while she slapped Ron awake and kept her eyes firmly away from Dean’s. She shut her mouth. Somehow, something was telling her that yelling or hexing her team-mates wasn’t going to help them win, however much she wanted to. She glanced at her team-mates, from one to the other and despaired.
I wish Harry were here. But they were barely twenty minutes into the game; Harry would still be doing his detention, Snape would make sure of that.
Lead them yourself, said a voice in her ear.
Oh, no, not me. That’s Ron’s job anyway.
Does he look anything remotely like a leader right now?
Ginny glanced at Ron, who was paler than a Patronus. Admittedly not, but do I look like a leader to you?
Not right now, no… but you can be one.
No, I can’t, insisted Ginny, willing the stupid, rather familiar voice to cut out the crazy ideas.
Yes you can. You have a firm grasp of Quidditch tactics and you’re an excellent Chaser, so you know exactly what to do. You know just what they’re doing right and wrong. Neither Dean, Demelza nor Katie can see it at this point; they’re too caught up in the game. You’re not. You’re just the right person to lead them.
Ginny didn’t know why she did it, but recklessly she opened her mouth and said loudly, “All right, that’s enough! We’ve practiced for this before, we know what to do.”
The commanding words faded away as Ginny’s team-mates stopped and stared at her. She knew exactly how they were feeling, for she herself was feeling shocked at the words that had just come out of her mouth. She opened her mouth to apologise, but just then Ginny glanced over Katie’s shoulder and saw Madam Hooch tap her watch. Well, shrugged Ginny, in for a dragon, in for an egg.
Ginny spoke quickly. “Ravenclaw got our goat this time, but the game’s not over and they won’t do it again. Dean, you to keep feeding the ball to Katie while Demelza runs interference. Try for a score yourself only if you’re absolutely sure you can score. Demelza, keep the Bludgers and the other Chasers off Katie’s back and prepare to take the Quaffle from her if she can’t get a clear shot. Jimmy, I want you to cover the three of them exclusively and distract their Keeper. Katie knows what to do. Ritchie, Ron will need defending from the other side’s Beaters. That’s your job.”
They stared openmouthed at her. Ginny’s heart skipped a beat. This was the moment of truth. If they accepted her words, she would find a new level of responsibility thrust on her for the rest of the match. If they didn’t, well, not only would they probably lose the match for sure but Ginny would have a whole lot of egg on her face to wash off. She mentally prepared for the onslaught of yelling that would probably follow.
Instead, all that she heard was a lot of low muttering and grumbling, but no outright dissent. Only Ritchie asked, “What about you?”
“I’ll be looking for the Snitch of course,” said Ginny grimly, “And helping out however I can.” She thought she had a few ideas, in fact, how she could help them equalise… if they worked.
Dean took the Quaffle at the resumption of the match. Ginny kept her eyes roving for the Snitch, but glanced down every now and then to watch the progress of the team. They were playing as half-heartedly as ever, although with a bit more perk than before; still, the Ravenclaws were breaking the Gryffindor Chasers apart and then overwhelming them individually.
Two minutes in Ginny spotted a chance. Katie and Dean were pelting up the middle, Demelza flying zig-zag patterns in front and Jimmy off to one side with his Beater’s bat raised. The Ravenclaw Chasers were angling in from the side, probably timing an attack for when Demelza was turning a corner. Ginny waited two more seconds, then flattened herself for a dive and streaked for the group.
As Dean lobbed the Quaffle to Katie, Katie tucking it safely in the crook of her arm as they prepared to fight their way through the Ravenclaw Chasers, Ginny came blasting through and across the Ravenclaw line. She had timed it perfectly. For one vital second they were distracted by an unexpected red blur flying out of nowhere, and then Katie was past and nudging her broom upwards to pass the ball to Demelza. Ginny spotted a Ravenclaw Chaser aiming for an intercept, and she blocked him expertly as Demelza dodged a Bludger and grabbed the Quaffle.
“…and it looks like Ginny Weasley’s getting into the action!” yelled Zacharias Smith. “She seems to have decided to go back to her original role as Chaser; perhaps she’s forgotten… that is, er, Chaser, a role she’s much suited for but not for today’s match.” Ginny stifled a grin; Smith evidently hadn’t forgotten the little ‘accident’ he’d had at the end of the first match of the season.
“SCOOOORE!” yelled Ginny exuberantly as Demelza put the Quaffle neatly through the left hoop. Next instant a whoosh of air and a loud thwack! made her look around; Jimmy Cootes was there behind her, having backhanded a Bludger away from her back, evidently aimed by a vengeful Ravenclaw Beater.
“Thanks!” gasped Ginny. She jerked a thumb at Katie and Demelza, who waved as they soared past. “Good one, play on!” she yelled.
Ginny returned to high altitude above the match where Cho Chang, the Ravenclaw Seeker, circled rather aimlessly, not having spotted the Snitch yet.
Gryffindor had been revitalised by the goal, even though they were still twenty points down. Ron saved two more attempts by the Ravenclaws, Ritchie helping by harrying the Chasers with a few well-placed Bludgers into their midst. When Demelza and Katie each scored again to equalise the scores, Ginny breathed a sigh of relief, focusing her full attention now on finding the Snitch.
Slowly, Gryffindor fought back, and twenty heartstopping minutes later, Ravenclaw called a time-out when the Gryffindors were leading two hundred and thirty to a hundred and ten.
“We’re switching tactics now,” Ginny informed them. “Demelza, you keep up the scoring with Dean. Katie, you support the two others but get ready to double back if the Ravenclaws grab the Quaffle. Ritchie, you’re doing great; keep protecting Ron. Jimmy, I’ve something in mind for you and Demelza.” She briefly laid out the plan, and both Jimmy and Demelza grinned and gave her the thumbs up when she was done.
Jimmy and Demelza soon got the opportunity to try out their new tactic. Dean and Katie successfully made their way down the length of the pitch, passing the Quaffle to Demelza who streaked past a Bludger and Bradley, one of the Ravenclaw Chasers, and into the scoring area. Just as she lobbed the ball towards the far hoop, Jimmy swung his bat at the Bludger, launching it between the outreached fingers of the Ravenclaw Keeper and the Quaffle. The Keeper snatched back his bruised fingers as the Quaffle shot through the hoop.
The Gryffindor team scored steadily, even Dean managing to get two goals in. At a score of two hundred and ninety to one hundred and forty, Ginny had changed her tactics to actively follow Cho Chang as they both realised that the Ravenclaw team’s chances of winning by capturing the Snitch were becoming very slim.
A sudden cry from below caught both Ginny’s and Cho’s attention. One of the Ravenclaw Chasers was pointing vaguely in the direction of the commentator’s podium, and Ginny spotted a glint of gold hovering just beneath it. She reacted first, and dove hard for the commentator’s box. The wind whistled in her ears as Ginny flattened herself, tucked her arms in and willed the broom to go faster. Cho’s Comet Two Sixty was almost half again faster than her Five, but Ginny had a two second advantage on her opponent and knew Cho's heavier body weighed her broom down greater than Ginny's lighter, smaller frame did for her own Cleansweep.
Zacharias Smith saw her streaking towards him, and his eyes bugged out. “…Katie takes the Quaffle, going to score and... Merlin’s beard, SHE’S COMING FOR ME!” he screamed, and scrambled out of the box a moment before Ginny crashed into it… again.
It took them a minute or so to clear away the wreckage and haul Ginny and Zacharias Smith from amid the broken planks. Zacharias was spluttering and swearing; thanks to his magically-amplified voice the entire stadium heard him loud and clear. Ginny looked up. Professor McGonagall was looming over her, redder in the face than Ron had ever been, while Madam Hooch was landing and getting ready to issue fifty penalties against Gryffindor. The teachers were struck dumb, however, as Ginny thrust up her right arm and opened her fist.
The Golden Snitch lay there, glinting in the strong mid-morning sun.
“Bloody hell, she’s got the Snitch!” exclaimed Zacharias Smith. His words echoed around the stadium, which promptly exploded into a thunderous roar.
* * *
Ginny hovered around the edge of the party, a Butterbeer in one hand and a piece of sweet cauldron cake in another. Although she was undeniably in the star of today’s match, there was only one face she was interested in seeing, and he wasn’t here. Several times her heart leapt into her mouth and she craned her neck to identify the newcomer, only to see yet another Gryffindor bearing a heap of goodies from the kitchen or party hats or Weasley Wizarding Wheezes or out-of-season Christmas crackers.
Finally, the portrait hole swung forward, and Ginny threw down her Butterbeer as a familiar form stepped through. She started forwards.
Harry’s expression at the sight of the celebration was one of wonderment, bemused wonderment that turned to a sincere and honest joy as he realised that they had won the Quidditch Cup… again.
Ginny broke into a run without knowing it. All she saw was the happiness in Harry’s eyes as a smile broke on his face as he saw her; all she was aware of was how glad she was to have given him such pure happiness during these dark and troubled times.
Perhaps she only meant to hug him, to tell him that she’d caught the Snitch, to tell her that she had done it for him because she loved him, had loved him for ages, had doubted herself and that same love for ages, but now she could tell him that her mind was finally finally finally made up, and more than that her heart was made up, and she was going to be by his side from now on, and she would be by his side when he fought Voldemort, and she would always always always be by his side… live or die.
Certainly it was thoughts along that vein that ran in her mind as she ran at him and the words ran up from her throat to tell him so, but all that happened as she launched herself at him and pulled him tightly against herself was the distillation of all those thoughts and all that feeling into one single, spontaneous act by Ginny that might just have coincided with an identical act on Harry’s part.
It’s hard to say, exactly, how a wonderful kiss feels like. It’s hard to describe the sudden intertwining and joining of souls that know, instinctively that they have found a life partner. Later that evening, Harry would tell Ginny that for him it was like several sunlit days, a vivid metaphor for one who was living with the dark clouds of Voldemort’s return and the implications of the prophecy of the Chosen One hanging over his head. Also, it was only Harry’s second kiss ever, and as he said self-deprecatingly, he was still rather new and somewhat overwhelmed by the whole thing.
For Ginny, though, the kiss was like a wave of warmth that welled up from inside, not outside, and surged past to fill every corner of her body and break through the countless barriers that had shielded her soul since Tom Riddle had got his hands upon it. If for Harry their first kiss together was like several sunlit days, for her it was like a joyous homecoming, for Ginny knew at long last that this was were she belonged, come hell, high water or Volde-bloody-mort.
For Ginny, the kiss was a denunciation of paltry romance physical for the greater joy of love spiritual; wholehearted, unselfish and undying love that superseded dating and boyfriend and affection and all that rot, venturing into the infinitely more mature idea of a physical and spiritual sharing of oneself and another, the complete revelation of one’s inner self to another and the equally complete acceptance of another’s strengths, another’s temptations, another’s hopes, fears and dreams… and another’s life.
For Ginny, the kiss was vastly different than anything she had ever had with Dean Thomas, and not because Harry was a better kisser. The kiss was sweet and innocent, completely devoid of the lingering, passion-fuelled excesses of the typical dating couple. It was a kiss that said “Now I know who you are. This is who I am.”
Ginny never wanted it to end.
* * *
After several long moments — or it might have been half an hour — or possibly several sunlit days — they broke apart. The room had gone very quiet. Then several people wolf-whistled and there was an outbreak of nervous giggling. Harry looked over the top of Ginny's head to see Dean Thomas holding a shattered glass in his hand, and Romilda Vane looking as though she might throw something. Hermione was beaming, but Harry's eyes sought Ron. At last he found him, still clutching the Cup and wearing an expression appropriate to having been clubbed over the head. For a fraction of a second they looked at each other, then Ron gave a tiny jerk of the head that Harry understood to mean, Well — if you must.
The creature in his chest roaring in triumph, he grinned down at Ginny and gestured wordlessly out of the portrait hole. A long walk in the grounds seemed indicated, during which — if they had time — they might discuss the match.
-Excerpt from Chapter 24, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
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Chapter 5: Chapter 5: Beginnings
Author's Notes: This is the final chapter, and what the previous four chapters have all been working up to. Many thanks to all my reviewers. Your support is greatly appreciated. Stay tuned; I have another fic in the works already! I used 1020 words from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
CHAPTER FIVE: BEGINNINGS
Looking back at the past weeks, Ginny could honestly tell herself that they were probably the best weeks of her sixteen years of life, bar none. For the first time in years, she found herself wanting for nothing at all in the world. Every night in the common room was a regular riot with Harry, Ron and Hermione as the four of them ostensibly revised their studies, but more often than not Ginny ended up curled in an armchair with Harry while watching Ron and Hermione do homework (or rather, watching Ron copy off Hermione’s homework), or read (that was Hermione), or eat (that was Ron), or bicker to pass the time (that was both of them). Often the four of them played Exploding Snap or watched Ron wipe the chessboard of Harry’s pieces.
Ginny very quickly learned that Harry was a whole different kettle of fish compared to her previous boyfriends. For one, she was his first real girlfriend, and the whole dating experience was still very new on him. Also, Ginny had had two boyfriends already, and Harry had none (Cho Chang didn’t count, not really, thought Ginny triumphantly) and so he was aware that he was very much lacking in experience of all things romantic. Consequently he was very unsure of himself around Ginny for the first few days; other than holding hands and stumbling around looking dazedly happy there wasn’t much else they did that deviated from the norm.
And somehow, Ginny liked it that way. After her whirlwind relationships with Michael Corner and Dean Thomas, Harry’s slower approach made a comfortable change from the usual. They did a lot of walking and talking, those first few days. Long walks out to the Great Lake, talking about… well, talking about everything they used to talk about when they were together. School. Friends. Themselves. One subject they steadfastly avoided was the war and Voldemort.
Something Ginny noticed was that Harry was exceedingly closemouthed. He seldom spoke about himself (or as Hermione liked to say, ‘opened up’) to Ginny and he never said anything to the others about himself and Ginny, very unlike many boys who were inclined, knowingly or unknowingly, to brag about their relationships. He was also almost afraid to show his feelings for her. Barring that one great kiss in front of fifty fellow Gryffindors at the start of the match, the word about Harry was ‘discretion’.
One evening as they re-entered the castle (hand in hand) after another long chat by the lake, Ginny remarked on this.
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Harry, looking away. He made a face. “Won-Won and Lav-Lav made for some pretty embarrassing entertainment. I’m sure you wouldn’t like snogging in the common-room with everyone watching.”
“I’m very sure that’s not what I remember you saying after that match with Ravenclaw,” said Ginny with a grin.
Harry laughed. “Yeah, well, don’t count on that being an everyday occurrence.”
Ginny lifted an eyebrow. “Speaking of which… I don’t think you’ve given me a proper kiss since then, and it’s been a full week. What about it, Potter?” She gave him a meaningful look, then glanced almost nonchalantly at the deserted corridor they were in. It led to a few classrooms, there wouldn’t be anybody who would come here at this time of night.
Harry stared at her. Ginny was delighted to see that the bold proposition had certainly surprised him, maybe even shocked him. He ran a hand through his hair nervously. “What, now?” he croaked, glancing around them. “Not very, er, romantic, is it?”
Ginny pushed Harry against the wall. Taking one of his hands, she placed it on her shoulder, and put her own hand on his shoulder. She closed her eyes, feeling the delicious warmth of Harry’s hands on her. “Harry, tell me what it was like the first time we kissed.”
“Sunlit days,” said Harry almost reverently. “It was like, I dunno… walking in the bright morning sun over a field of flowers. I felt completely different inside. The first time I flew, it was like I left the old Harry Potter behind when I soared up into the sky. There were no Dursleys, no worries, no sadness, nothing to stop me from doing what I wanted. The first time I kissed you, it felt like that, only better.” He blinked and stared at her as if surprised by his own words. “I never wanted it to end.”
“It doesn’t have to,” said Ginny softly, opening her eyes. “Any time you want to leave yourself behind and go to place where there are ‘no Dursleys, no worries, no sadness, nothing to stop you from doing what you want’, I’m here.” She brought her lips softly to his. “You see?”
The kiss was soft, tender and chaste. When Ginny leaned back and opened her eyes, she saw that Harry’s eyes were moist. “I’ll always be here for you,” she said, and she meant it.
“And I’ll always come to you,” said Harry, his voice thick with emotion. And he too meant it. Every word.
* * *
“... so you see what this means?” Harry finished at a gallop. “Dumbledore won’t be here tonight, so Malfoy’s going to have another clear shot at whatever he’s up to. No, listen to me!” he hissed angrily, as both Ron and Hermione showed every sign of interrupting. “I know it was Malfoy celebrating in the Room of Requirement. Here…” He shoved the Marauder’s Map into Hermione’s hand. “You’ve got to watch him and you’ve got to watch Snape, too. Use anyone else who you can rustle up from the DA. Hermione, those contact Galleons will still work, right? Dumbledore says he’s put extra protection in the school, but if Snape’s involved, he’ll know what Dumbledore’s protection is, and how to avoid it - but he won’t be expecting you lot to be on the watch, will he?”
“Harry - ” began Hermione, her eyes huge with fear.
“I haven’t got time to argue,” said Harry curtly. “Take this as well - ” He thrust the socks into Ron’s hands.
“Thanks,” said Ron. “Er - why do I need socks?”
“You need what’s wrapped in them, it’s the Felix Felicis. Share it between yourselves and Ginny too. Say goodbye to her from me. I’d better go, Dumbledore’s waiting - ”
-Excerpt from Chapter 25, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
* * *
Hermione trotted into the Gryffindor fifth-year girls’ dormitory as calmly as she could. Ginny, who had been changing into her pyjamas, smiled and opened her mouth to greet her, but her grin faded at the look in Hermione’s eye. Instinctively she knew it was Harry, and an icy hand clutched at her gut.
“Ginny,” said Hermione, “We need you and Luna. Now.”
Ginny did not know how, but soon she found herself peering round the corner of the corridor that led to the Room of Requirement. She seemed to remember slipping back into her jeans and a shirt, throwing on a sweater on top, but it was all a blur to her. Hermione had made them take a sip each from the half-empty bottle of Felix Felicis; she did not even remember much of its taste and then Ginny had found herself here, with Neville and Ron hidden in an alcove on the other side of the corridor.
Ginny’s heart pounded in her chest. It was like the Department of Mysteries all over again; they were cut off from Harry, their leader and chief troublemaker gone who knows where with Dumbledore, except that according to Hermione he had left instructions that the Room of Requirement be watched and he had been willing to gamble his last swig of Felix Felicis on something bad happening at Hogwarts tonight, something to do with Malfoy and the Room of Requirement.
She wiped her sweaty palms on her jeans and clutched her wand tighter.
“Hi,” said the voice in her head, loud and clear.
Ginny whirled and glanced up and down the corridor, but there was nobody there. At first she thought it might be Harry or Hermione in the Invisibility Cloak, but then she realised the voice was the same vaguely-familiar voice that had talked to her at that last match against Slytherin. It was a very familiar voice. It almost sounded like…
“Lily?” she whispered.
“Right you are,” said the voice gleefully. At Lily’s confirmation, Ginny felt a rush of warmth fill her chest. “Don’t speak out loud. Think. I can hear you.”
“Lily, how are you doing that?” thought Ginny as hard as she could. “Was that you at the Quidditch game? That’s amazing, you’re in my head and I’m not even sleeping or dreaming…”
“Yes, well, it takes a lot more effort on my part but it’s worth it to be here with you, Ginny,” said Lily. “Now focus.”
Ginny immediately sobered up. “What’s happening in the Room of Requirement?” she asked.
“I don’t know, I can’t see myself.”
“Brilliant,” groused Ginny. “Just brilliant… Where the hell is Harry?” she said fretfully. “Honestly, I’m going to hex him for this; not only has he gone off on his own yet again but he’s left the whole lot of us behind this time…”
“Ginny, look! The Room’s opening up!”
All notions of hexing Harry forgotten, Ginny peered round the corner again. She saw the door of the Room of Requirement forming, saw it inch open ever so slightly and a familiar pale face topped with blond hair glancing out. Draco Malfoy looked up straight at her and their eyes locked; Ginny saw his eyes widen and his hand came around; at first she thought he was going for his wand but it looked so withered and misshapen, something must have happened to it, surely…
Then she realised the hand that came out was not Malfoy’s and that it held a single lit candle. She also realised that Malfoy’s hand, his real one, was coming round in a sweeping arc, scattering a handful of fine powder into the air. Then the corridor was plunged into sudden darkness.
“Ron! Neville! It’s Malfoy!” shouted Ginny as loudly as she could. “Lumos!” she cried, but no light sprang from the tip of her wand. “Lumos! LUMOS!”
The corridor was a cacophony of shouting; Ron and Neville were both trying to get their wands to work and Malfoy was yelling something about holding on tight to whoever was with him, a large party by the sound of it. Footsteps came towards Ginny; one set hurried but measured, probably Malfoy leading the way with his path illuminated by the Hand of Glory, while a series of more uncertain feet followed after him. She darted away from the sound of the footsteps and cried “Lumos!” again.
“It’s not working, try something else!” shouted Lily in her ear. “Flames!”
“Incendio!” yelled Ginny, before she gave a scream; although no light appeared to pierce the darkness, she knew from the uncomfortable heat that flames had sprouted from her wand-tip, she just couldn’t see them.
“Damn it, my cloak’s on fire!” said a gruff voice nearby, rough and gravelly-sounding. Ginny heard the stamping of feet. “Sodding kids… Stupefy!”
Both Ginny and Lily yelled “Protego!”, simultaneously; while Lily’s shout echoed in Ginny’s head she felt the magical barrier emerge to shield her as she huddled into the corner of the corridor and tried to make herself as small as possible, not too difficult with her smaller frame. But then the caster must have missed, for no spell struck the shield. The footsteps faded away.
“Ron! Neville!” she yelled. “They’ve gone this way!” Ginny pulled herself to her feet and ran down the corridor, trying to remember how it looked like. All of a sudden, light returned to her surroundings, and Ginny stopped herself in time to avoid crashing into a tapestry. Glancing behind her but seeing nothing but darkness enveloping that section of corridor, she heard Ron and Neville running her way, Ron swearing badly. Then Ron emerged from the blackness, wand in one hand and Marauder’s Map crumpled in the other.
At that moment, a door leading to one of the side-corridors slammed open, and a familiar figure hurtled out; it was Nymphadora Tonks with her wand clutched in her hand and an expression of surprise on her face. “What’s happened?” she exclaimed, taking in their panicked looks and the wands in their hands.
“What are you doing…” began Ron, amazed at the sudden appearance of the Order member, but Ginny cut him off.
“Death Eaters! In the castle!” she said quickly. “Draco Malfoy’s leading them, they must have gone this way!” She pointed at the far end of the corridor; it rounded the corner and led, she knew, to another corridor and up to the Astronomy Tower. What Malfoy and his companions wanted to do up there, she had no idea, but Ginny had a sickening feeling it had something to do with Harry’s and Dumbledore’s absence from the school.
Tonks reacted immediately. “Expecto nuntium!” she said, waving her wand. A shining bright animal-guardian Ginny knew was a Patronus emerged from the wand… then another, and another, until four Patronuses were gathered around her. Ginny had time to think that they seemed to resemble big dogs, or wolves. “Tell Remus and the others: Draco Malfoy and Death Eaters, seventh floor corridor and moving elsewhere!” Tonks said quickly. “Hurry!”
As the Patronuses dove straight through the castle walls and vanished in puffs of silvery vapour, Tonks barely gave them a second glance as she dashed up the corridor. Ginny, Ron and Neville exchanged glances, then tore after her.
“What are you doing? You’re not coming with me!” yelled Tonks.
“Like hell you’re keeping us away from this fight,” snarled Ron. “You’re one Auror against how many of them, exactly?”
Tonks compressed her lips and said nothing. The four of them ran down the castle corridors, following the rapidly receding sound of footsteps. They soon lost track of where Malfoy had gone exactly, but Tonks was muttering spells Ginny had never heard before and seemed to know just where to go. They soon found themselves at the central courtyard of Hogwarts. Ginny, Ron and Neville stood in the middle of the courtyard for a moment, unsure of what to do while Tonks lifted her wand in the air and swept it in a wide arc, her face screwed up in concentration.
“Tonks! Tonks!” It was Remus Lupin, running up to them. “I think they’ve gone up the Astronomy Tower!”
Without a word, Ginny, Neville and Ron dashed towards the nearest entrance into the castle. Ginny was aware of Remus and Tonks running after them and yelling, but as she pounded up the marble staircase all she knew was that there were Death Eaters in the castle, they were here for a purpose and it most likely had something to do with Harry and Dumbledore’s mysterious trip tonight. That made it her business as far as she was concerned.
As the three of them approached the corridor leading to the Astronomy Tower, they caught up with a familiar, red-headed figure ahead of them. Ginny and Ron both recognised the ponytail and dragonhide jacket immediately; Bill Weasley gaped as he saw his younger brother and sister racing towards him with their wands in their hands.
“What are you…” he began, but Ginny, Ron and Neville whipped past him with barely a word of greeting or explanation. “Hey… no! Mother’s going to have a fit!”
“We’re helping Harry!” yelled Ron over his shoulder, but his words were deafened by an enormous bang. The portraits lining the corridor squawked in fear and alarm as a silver streak of light ricocheted and smashed into a statue, crumbling it to pieces.
At the far end of the dark corridor stood six masked, hooded and cloaked figures, Draco Malfoy uncharacteristically skulking behind them. At once Ron and Ginny yelled “Stupefy!” while Neville sent a Full Body-Bind down the hallway. The Death Eaters blocked the spells easily; one of them laughed, a mad cackle that echoed through the corridor as all six raised their wands and shot a barrage of curses at them, and it was Ginny, Ron and Neville’s turn to block or dodge them.
The battle was on.
As three of the Death Eaters lunged forwards, one of them hunched over and growling in anticipation, Ron and Neville spread out to cover the corridor, firing jinxes and blocking return curses with Shield Charms. The hunched one had picked Ginny out as a target, leaping after her more like an animal than a wizard while firing curses all the way; Ginny backtracked and blocked his spells with Shield Charms. She tried to get a Stunner in edgewise, or her Bat-Bogey Hex, but the curses came fast and Ginny couldn’t stop to plan and think, couldn’t figure out how to defeat the Death Eater using trickery, because that was all she had against the onslaught of curses coming at her…
“Use the spells I’ve taught you!” cried Lily in her head. “Hex him! Tie him up!”
“Incarcerous!” Ginny shouted.
Thick ropes burst out of the air and wrapped around the Death Eater; he swore, struggled and slashed at them with his wand. Ginny tried Stunning him again, but impeded as he was by the ropes the Death Eater still managed to deflect the spell. Ginny tried to throw him off-balance with a jinx Lily had said was popular back during her schooldays, shouting “Levicorpus!” at the struggling Death Eater. There was a bang and the Death Eater was lifted into the air, his mask falling off and revealing a scarred, hirsute face twisted in a snarl of fury.
“Good one Ginny,” said Lily quickly, “Now Stun… look out!”
Seeing their comrade in trouble, another Death Eater had entered the fray, and a yellow spell burst from the Death Eater’s outstretched wand and shot at her. Ginny gasped, dodged the curse (it smashed into the wall behind her) and turned her wand on this new threat. Even as she yelled “Impedimenta!” and watched as the Death Eater blocked the curse, Ginny was dimly aware of Bill, Lupin, Tonks and McGonagall joining the fight, prompting the other Death Eaters to engage them.
A stray curse came flying out of nowhere, and Ginny barely had time to gasp “Protego!” and block it. Part of the magical force of the spell diffused past her shield and Ginny felt herself shoved backwards and collided into Neville’s legs. Immediately his opponent sent two rapid curses into him, striking Neville in the midsection; the Gryffindor let out a cry of agony and went down.
Ginny twisted round on the floor and cast another Shield Charm as the Death Eater fighting Neville advanced on them, then shot a jinx at him for good measure. The Death Eater blocked the jinx and bellowed, “CONFRINGO!”
Lily’s mental cry of alarm was drowned out as Ginny summoned up the thickest walls she could think of, imbued with the most powerful magical protection, and swept her wand in a wide arc, roaring “Protego totalum!” even as she threw her body over Neville’s.
The Death Eater’s Blasting Curse smashed into her protective spell, washing over it like a wave of magical force; the magic battered and beat at the invisible barrier but faded away after a moment. Then Tonks was standing over the two of them, a tower of righteous fury, dueling with the Death Eater with a ferocity that had the Death Eater tripping backwards as deflected spells glanced off their shield and into the walls of the corridor around them, gouging holes into the walls.
Neville gave a cry of pain, and Ginny raised herself off him. “Neville, are you all right? What did he hit you with?” said Ginny quickly. Blood was welling up from under Neville’s robes and dribbling from his mouth, and he seemed close to fainting, too weak to say anything to her. Ginny didn’t know how she knew, but she knew that if he fainted he might not ever regain consciousness.
“Renervate!” said Ginny loudly, pointing her wand at Neville, who gave a shuddering gasp and opened his eyes, staring wildly at her. “Episkey!” muttered Ginny, concentrating as best as she could while the battle raged around them. “Oh damn it… Episkey!” The flow of blood seemed to slow and then stop, although Neville still clutched at his midsection.
“Ginny… my… my leg…” groaned Neville.
Ginny glanced at it and saw immediately that it was broken. She used another spell Lily had taught her, and said “Ferula,” conjuring a splint that appeared and glued itself to his leg before Ginny conjured up bandages that wound themselves tightly around the broken limb. Ginny checked her handiwork, then picked up Neville’s wand from the floor next to him and thrust it into Neville’s hand. “Thanks, Ginny,” moaned Neville, as she straightened and looked around.
A ringing cry cut through the din of battle: “Avada Kedavra!” roared one of the Death Eaters, a heavyset blonde-haired man, and the green jet of sparks streaked from his wand straight at Ron.
“RON!” screamed Ginny as her heart leapt into her mouth; but then the spell missed his head by inches and Ron ducked low to fire a hex that struck the blonde Death Eater’s leg. It seized up at once, the Leg-Locker Curse nearly tripping up the Death Eater, but then the Death Eater waved his wand to dispel the curse and sent another streak of green from his wand that impacted into a bit of tapestry that Lupin had ripped from the walls and enchanted with a protective spell; the tapestry burst into flames when the Killing Curse hit it and flaked into pieces of charred fabric.
There was another yell of “Avada Kedavra!” from a nearby Death Eater with a lumpy, squashy look about him, and Ginny flung herself aside as the Killing Curse missed her and smashed into the wall.
“Ginny, to your left!” said Lily faintly in her head, and Ginny quickly sent a Bat-Bogey Hex in that direction as from the corner of her eye she spotted the hunched Death Eater, freed of her ropes, coming at her with a triumphant grin on his snarling, twisted face. The spell missed, and she backed away but tripped over Neville’s prone body, sprawling onto the floor. He was almost upon her.
“Stupefy!” cried Ginny in desperation as the Death Eater leapt towards her, but the Death Eater flicked his wand mid-leap and deflected her spell; Ginny shrieked in terror and threw up her arms as the Death Eater opened his mouth to reveal sharp, pointed teeth.
“NO YOU DON’T!” came the deafening roar from behind; Ginny was almost bowled over as a red-haired figure tackled the Death Eater in mid-air; it was Bill, her eldest brother Bill, lunging into the Death Eater and wrapping his thick, muscular arms around the Death Eater. They hit the ground in a heap; then Bill was blasted backwards and slammed into the wall. In an instant the Death Eater was on top of him… and sank his teeth into Bill’s face.
Bill screamed; a hoarse, choking cry of terror and agony, the kind of scream that Ginny had never imagined anyone could make. “IMPEDIMENTA!” shouted Ginny in horror; the spell blasted the Death Eater off her brother and flung him away.
Suddenly, in a whirling of black robes, the Death Eaters disappeared into the doorway leading to the top of the Astronomy Tower, all of them save the thickset Death Eater who blocked their way and firing spells non-stop from his wand. One curse shot straight at Ginny; she ducked and dove towards Bill, casting another Protego totalum behind her to shield her as she worked.
Bill wasn’t moving, and for one heartstopping moment Ginny thought he was dead. Then she heard him draw in a ragged breath, and she realised he was unconscious. She could barely recognise her brother, Ginny realised. His face was slashed open deeply from forehead to chin, and a continuous flow of blood welled up from the ragged wounds.
“Episkey!” cried Ginny, but the wounds did not react. “Episkey! Episkey!” She was sobbing now, her tears dripping onto Bill’s robes as she cast all the Healing Charms Lily taught her that she could think of.
“Ginny! Ginny!” said Lily loudly in her head. “You can’t help him by yourself! Those are cursed wounds; nothing I’ve taught you can handle them!”
“What do I do?” cried Ginny out loud. She looked frantically around her; the Death Eater was still fighting Ron and Tonks together, holding them off and filling the corridor with dozens of flying curses. A black-cloaked body lay in a corner, a Death Eater who had been struck by a curse, thought Ginny. A limping Neville hurried across her line of sight, wand clutched determinedly in his right arm, making for the doorway up to the tower. He was followed closely behind by Lupin.
“No, Neville, don’t!” yelled Lupin as Neville limped into the doorway; immediately there was a flash of light and a bang, and Neville flew backwards with a cry. McGonagall rushed over to his side; Lupin cast a series of spells on the doorway and himself before trying to go through it himself, but then he too was thrown back, landing near Ginny.
Lupin struggled to his feet, but Ginny grabbed hold of his sleeve and tugged. “Help me with Bill!” she pleaded.
Lupin crouched down, took one look at the wounds and gave a low moan of anguish. “Greyback,” he said. “Greyback did this.”
Fenrir Greyback! The werewolf! Ginny felt a cold fury wash over her; she straightened and pointed her wand at the doorway. “REDUCTO!”
The Reductor Curse ricocheted off the invisible shield, bouncing away to bury itself in the walls and blow out a chunk of brick. Ginny ignored this; instead, she thought of the most powerful spell Lily had taught her and said “CONFRINGO!” The Blasting Curse shot out of her wand with a bang and the end of the corridor was filled with brick dust and shattered fragments of the wall, but the doorway and the bits of wall surrounding it remained intact.
“Ginny!” cried Lily. “Behind you!”
Ginny threw herself aside immediately at Lily’s warning shout. A stray curse from the duel between the blonde Death Eater, Ron and Tonks smashed into the wall; there was an explosion greater than Ginny’s spells had caused. Part of the ceiling collapsed; Ginny leapt to Bill and Lupin’s side and cast a protective spell over them. Bits of brick rained down on them, bouncing off the magical barrier.
There was a warning cry from McGonagall; the Death Eaters had returned from the Astronomy Tower and were passing through the doorway at a run. McGonagall and Lupin immediately intercepted the black figures; running up from behind, Ron sent a hex at another, who was blown off his feet but then sent back a Killing Curse from the floor that missed Ron by inches. Further back Tonks was still fighting the Death Eater; the spells from that duel were smashing into the walls around them…
Ginny quickly cast a Shield Charm on Bill, then turned to see the lumpy Death Eater raising his wand and pointing it at her, a crooked leer on his face. “Crucio!”
Ginny blocked the curse, fired back a Bat-Bogey Hex of her own. But then the Death Eater was sending another hex at her, and another, and she had to duck and dodge to avoid the streaks of light that seemed to crackle with malevolence as they passed mere inches to either side of her. Ginny blocked one curse, dodged two and sent back a Levicorpus jinx but the Death Eater blocked the spell easily and threw two more Cruciatus Curses at her, forcing her to dodge them again.
“I’m gonna get you! I’m gonna get you!” cackled the Death Eater in a high, reedy voice, “Crucio! Crucio! You can’t dance forever, pretty…”
“IMPEDIMENTA!” bellowed somebody from behind Ginny; the streak of sparks shot past Ginny to strike the Death Eater in the chest, throwing him several yards away.
Ginny’s heart leapt as she recognised the voice; she turned, and there he was. Harry stood there, tears in his eyes and his face twisted with fury and grief, his wand-hand shaking. Relief flooded her; it was alright, Harry was here and alive.
“Harry, where did you come from?” she said, but then he sprinted past her and after the fleeing Death Eaters.
Her first instinct was to run after him, but there was a low groan at her feet; Bill was moaning feebly and trying to get up. She dropped to his side and the corridor fell silent as the others ran after the Death Eaters, leaving Ginny in the ruined corridor with Neville and Bill.
“Pomfrey,” said Lily’s voice, “Go get Madam Pomfrey!”
Ginny ran for the Hospital Wing, Bill’s savaged face and Harry’s strange expression hounding her thoughts every step of the way. More bangs echoed from the other parts of the castle, and also a lot of yelling, but though every part of her wanted to be out there dueling the Death Eaters, Ginny forced herself to run away from the fighting and towards the Hospital Wing. She burst inside to find a panicking Madam Pomfrey, but right after calming the witch down and directing her to the Astronomy Tower Ginny sprinted off to the Entrance Hall.
Only then did Ginny know how much they had lost that day, and she knew things would never be the same again.
* * *
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were spending all of their time together. The beautiful weather seemed to mock them; Harry could imagine how it would have been if Durnbledore had not died, and they had had this time together at the very end of the year, Ginny’s examinations finished, the pressure of homework lifted... and hour by hour, he put off saying the thing that he knew he must say, doing what he knew was right to do, because it was too hard to forgo his best source of comfort.
Harry looked at Ginny, Ron and Hermione: Ron's face was screwed up as though the sunlight was blinding him. Hermione’s face was glazed with tears, but Ginny was no longer crying. She met Harry’s gaze with the same hard, blazing look that he had seen when she had hugged him after winning the Quidditch Cup in his absence, and he knew that at that moment they understood each other perfectly, and that when he told her what he was going to do now, she would not say “Be careful”, or “Don't do it”, but accept his decision, because she would not have expected anything less of him. And so he steeled himself to say what he had known he must say ever since Dumbledore had died.
“Ginny, listen...” he said very quietly, as the buzz of conversation grew louder around them and people began to get to their feet. “I can’t be involved with you any more. We’ve got to stop seeing each other. We can’t be together.”
She said, with an oddly twisted smile, “It’s for some stupid, noble reason, isn’t it?”
“It’s been like... like something out of someone else’s life, these last few weeks with you,” said Harry. “But I can’t... we can’t... I’ve got things to do alone now.” She did not cry, she simply looked at him. “Voldemort uses people his enemies are close to. He’s already used you as bait once, and that was just because you’re my best friend’s sister. Think how much danger you’ll be in if we keep this up. He’ll know, he’ll find out. He’ll try and get to me through you.”
“What if I don’t care?” said Ginny fiercely.
“I care,” said Harry. “How do you think I’d feel if this was your funeral... and it was my fault...”
She looked away from him, over the lake. “I never really gave up on you,” she said. “Not really. I always hoped... Hermione told me to get on with life, maybe go out with some other people, relax a bit around you, because I never used to be able to talk if you were in the room, remember? And she thought you might take a bit more notice if I was a bit more - myself.”
“Smart girl, that Hermione,” said Harry, trying to smile. “I just wish I’d asked you sooner. We could’ve had ages... months... years maybe...”
“But you’ve been too busy saving the wizarding world,” said Ginny, half-laughing. “Well... I can’t say I’m surprised. I knew this would happen in the end. I knew you wouldn’t be happy unless you were hunting Voldemort. Maybe that’s why I like you so much.”
-Excerpt from Chapter 30, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Price
* * *
It took all of Ginny’s strength to keep her composure steady as they exchanged bitter truths, and reached what Dumbledore - Albus Dumbledore, dead Albus Dumbledore - would have called a ‘parting of ways’. It took more than that besides to keep her shoulders squared and her back straight as she walked away from the last of the funereal proceedings, because she knew if she faltered… it would make the separation all the more painful than it already was for both Harry and her.
Ginny walked sadly back to the castle, her shoulders shaking slightly from the effort of holding in the sobs that threatened to tear out her chest. “I must be brave,” she whispered to herself. “I… must… be… strong.” But no matter how many times she said it, no matter how she looked at it, the looming spectre of being away from Harry at so dangerous a time, knowing that Harry was going to put himself in the front line again, threatened to wash over her and reduce her to a sodden, quivering mass of tears.
Eventually she reached her dorm - scattered all over with half-packed trunks - and collapsed into bed, willing herself to sleep.
Then she was there again at the side of the Great Lake, the skies black with storm clouds and thunder rolling in the distance, but this time no White Tomb marked the place where the late Albus Dumbledore now rested forever. Standing on the shores of the lake, underneath the beech tree, was another redheaded witch, this one older, wiser, and infinitely sadder as she turned, saw Ginny, and held out her arms.
Ginny almost collapsed into Lily Potter’s arms, she was almost out of the inner wellspring of strength and will that had somehow kept her going until now. For that moment, Lily was neither sister nor teacher, but a mother giving comfort to one who she by now accepted as a daughter. The familiar, maternal warmth was enough for Ginny to surrender, for the last of her reserve to crack, for her to finally let down her guard, succumbing at last to the seemingly bottomless grief that welled up from the inside. As painful, wracking sobs shook her body, Lily enfolded her in her arms and hugged her tightly, while Ginny sobbed into the front of her clothes.
“This lake,” said Lily softly, “has been a place of such great happiness and sadness.” She sounded very faraway, as if she was also remembering something very sad that had happened to her by the Great Lake. “I’m sorry that you two can’t be together now. But it was dangerous out there, and it’s going to be even more dangerous now.” She looked down at Ginny. “Harry did the right thing, Ginny. You did the right thing. I’m so proud of you both.”
“It doesn’t feel right,” moaned Ginny thickly into the front of Lily’s clothes, feeling as if her heart would break. “It doesn’t feel right at all.”
“Be strong, Ginny,” said Lily. “It’s all going to be all right at the end, but you must be strong. It’s going to take a lot of your will to keep on ticking through the dark days ahead. Ginny, no matter what happens, you have to keep going, alright? Harry needs something to come back to. When the whole world looks bleak and hopeless and even Harry can’t stand it, he’ll need a reminder of why he’s struggling to rid the world of Voldemort.” She stroked Ginny’s cheek. “You’re that reminder, Ginny. You’re what will make him keep fighting on. You’re what he thinks of when he casts a Patronus.”
Her voice sounded faraway and distant, and Ginny looked up in alarm. “You sound like you’re going away. Please don’t go,” she begged, gripping Lily’s arms and feeling the reassuring warmth of flesh, “I don’t know what I’ll do without you. You’ve helped me so much.”
“I’m in your dreams, Ginny, I won’t be going anywhere,” said Lily gently, “but there will come times when whatever I say, whatever I do, it won’t convince you to do something you need to do or not do something you shouldn’t. At that time, you will need to use your own judgment to choose the right thing to do and the will to do it, however much you don’t want to. That is something I cannot help you with.”
“What’s going to happen to us now?” said Ginny.
“Dumbledore is dead, Ginny,” said Lily sadly. “You are all targets now. If you think Voldemort won’t go after the weak ones, the students, the families first… think again. Voldemort will recruit amongst the students and teachers,” said Lily. “Now that Dumbledore is no longer in his way, Hogwarts is too good a prize to ignore. Hogwarts is not going to safe much longer, Ginny, and you will need to use everything that I have taught you to survive. Beware of new teachers and new students, and doubly so of old enemies. The Slytherins will heed his call.” She said, almost bitterly, “They always have.”
“I never thought,” said Ginny, “That Professor Snape… Professor Snape would… would…”
Lily sighed. “Severus Snape is a very difficult man to understand. I’m not sure even I know everything that that man thinks, and I know more than most. Don’t trust him entirely, Ginny, but then again, don’t think you’ve heard the most surprising things about Professor Snape.”
“I’ll never,” said Ginny fiercely, “never, ever, ever forgive him for killing Dumbledore. Not even if he turned around and killed Voldemort himself.”
Lily didn’t say anything, but stroked Ginny’s hair softly as they stood staring out over the Lake.
“Harry’s going off somewhere,” said Ginny dully. “He’s going to be ‘doing things now’. You were right.”
Lily reached out to hold Ginny to her tightly.
“And he told me… he told me we couldn’t be together either. He told me Voldemort would use me as bait again.”
“And he’s right, as always. But it doesn’t make this feel any better. I thought…” she said, hiccoughing slightly, “That after this past year… that he might take me with him.”
“Ginny,” said Lily softly, “It’s exactly because of this past year that he won’t take you with him. He loves you, Ginny. What he said is true. It’s going to kill him if anything happened to you.”
“I love him too!” burst out Ginny fiercely. “Has he ever thought of that? It’s going to kill me if anything happened to him!”
“Nothing will, Ginny,” said Lily. “He’ll be fine.” But her words were empty words and both witches knew it.
“If… if Harry died, and I was there,” mumbled Ginny, “I don’t think I’d mind quite that badly. It’s terrible to think about, but I could still stand it if… if he d-died and I was there to be with him. But… not knowing isn’t the worst. The worst would be if he left and just didn’t come back and I never got the chance to really say goodbye…”
Ginny felt Lily’s arms encircle her, and reached out a hand blindly to pull them tighter around her. “I need you, Lily,” she whispered softly. “I need you to help me. It’s going to be difficult, I know. Stay with me.”
Lily hugged Ginny tightly. “Always.”
* * *
She was looking at him steadily; he however, found it difficult to look back at her; it was like gazing into a brilliant light.
“Nice view,” he said feebly, pointing toward with window. She ignored this. He could not blame her.
“I couldn’t think what to get you,” she said.
“You didn’t have to get me anything.” She disregarded this too.
“I didn’t know what would be useful. Nothing too big, because you wouldn’t be able to take it with you.”
He chanced a glance at her. She was not tearful; that was one of the many wonderful things about Ginny, she was rarely weepy. He had sometimes thought that having six brothers must have toughened her up. She took a step closer to him.
“So then I thought, I’d like you to have something to remember me by, you know, if you meet some veela when you’re off doing whatever you’re doing.”
“I think dating opportunities are going to be pretty thin on the ground, to be honest.”
“There’s the silver lining I’ve been looking for,” she whispered, and then she was kissing him as she had never kissed him before, and Harry was kissing her back, and it was blissful oblivion better than firewhisky; she was the only real thing in the world, Ginny, the feel of her, one hand at her back and one in her long, sweet-smelling hair…
The door banged open behind them and they jumped apart.
“Oh,” said Ron pointedly. “Sorry.”
“Ron!” Hermione was just behind him, slight out of breath. There was a strained silence, then Ginny had said in a flat little voice, “Well, happy birthday anyway, Harry.”
-Excerpt from Chapter 7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
* * *
One last kiss, one final opportunity for Ginny to tell Harry how much she loved him. She had poured out a part of her soul to Tom Riddle so many years ago, but she poured out all of it now to Harry Potter before he left to face his destiny. In this last kiss she put all of her emotions, all of her joy, all of her fears; she gave him everything she had and took all that he had to offer. They both knew, somehow, that this might just be the last time they shared so close a connection.
Lily appeared in Ginny’s dreams more seldom, now. Ginny had learned from her many spells, potions and charms, most of them useful spells that could help Ginny defend herself from the Death Eaters in different ways, but often now they just sat and talked for a while, or practised a few spells.
Lily met Ginny the night after the Death Eaters had stormed the wedding and the Burrow. The Death Eaters made no attempts to explain away who they were, why they were here and what exactly they were looking for. Ginny’s world was turned upside down as, under the supposed aegis of the Ministry, they searched the Burrow from top to bottom until they were begrudgingly convinced that Harry was not there. The Weasleys stood quietly by to keep up a pretense of innocence while the other members of the Order of the Phoenix had disappeared.
That night Ginny lay down in her bedroom amid all the mess the Death Eaters had made, and felt truly alone and abandoned. She cried herself to sleep, and within moments Lily was standing there in front of her. The sky above the Great Lake was overcast, reflecting Lily’s mood as the two witches stood silently by the side of the lake. Ginny clung tightly to Lily’s warm hand.
“There’s one last charm I need to teach you, Ginny,” said Lily, and her voice was solemn. Ginny felt a sense of foreboding as Lily handed Ginny a scrap of parchment with an incantation written on it. Ginny took it, unfolded the parchment and read the words written there. Then she flushed red, and her first instinct was to ask why Lily thought fit to teach her a charm that usually passed on by most mothers to their particularly wayward girls, but then she knew by now that Lily did not like her to ask why she was learning that lesson’s particular charm and preferred her to think it out for herself.
Ginny stood there for a moment, wondering what possible war application this kind of charm would do. Then a horrible thought hit her, and she knew why. She felt sick, and quickly folded the parchment and stuck it in her pocket, almost wiping her hands after she did. Ginny knew she couldn’t possibly forget the charm’s incantation now that it was indelibly seared by its dreadful implications into her mind’s eye.
“In war,” said Lily softly, “terrible things happen. One of the worst things happen to young, reasonably attractive witches who are captured alive by the enemy. This charm is designed to be done quickly, painlessly, and most importantly, wandlessly. It will ensure you do not have to live with the long-term ramifications of things that you were not… a willing party to. I hope that when the time comes, you will make sure that the girls you know are made aware of this charm and how to use it. It lasts for a few days.”
Ginny sat down on the grass. “Thanks,” she said quietly to Lily. “Did…” She blushed, and went on asking what she was sure was a very personal question, “Did you ever need to… you know… use the charm?”
“No,” said Lily, “But I knew a witch who did, and I’m glad they killed her afterwards, because I knew she would never have gotten over it.” Ginny’s insides churned. “I sincerely hope you will not ever face this kind of danger, ever.”
“Me too,” Ginny said quietly. “Me, too.”
Lily joined her on the grass, and they sat there in silence for a while.
“Nice going-away present you gave my son,” said Lily eventually.
Ginny managed a wan smile. “‘He’ll need a reminder of why he’s struggling to rid the world of Voldemort’,” she quoted, and Lily smiled, recognising her own words. “You’re right, as always. Harry’s got his road to walk, and I’ve got mine… and we’ll do it best away from each other, with something wonderful to look forward to together when all this is over.” She emphasised the word ‘together’.
Lily smiled. “If it means anything to you, you two have my permission and James’ too,” she said.
Ginny flushed. She hadn’t meant it quite that way… at least not yet… but she nodded. That was definitely a part of her future in time to come. She knew that now.
* * *
Hurrying through the Great Hall from Charms class, Luna by her side, Ginny stopped as she heard a high, frightened scream that seemed to come from the Great Hall. A number of students were starting to converge on the Hall, and Ginny grabbed Luna’s hand and joined the exodus. As they entered, Ginny glanced surreptitiously at the people around her. It was a very different Hogwarts from before. The Ravenclaws and Gryffindors were wary, guarded. The Hufflepuffs were glancing from face to face, fear written all over their own. The Slytherins, of course, swaggered along as if they were in charge. Things were going peachy for them.
As they entered the Hall and pushed their way to the front, Ginny saw that everyone had formed a big circle around the center of the Hall. Another scream rang out, accompanied by soft cries and shrieks from the other students. Ginny nudged aside a tall first-year blocking her way, then gasped in horror as what she was witnessing registered in her mind.
“This is wha’ happens to sneakin’, lyin’ blood traitors!” screamed Amycus Carrow in the middle of the Great Hall, levitating up a terrified looking third-year boy with his wand. He jerked the tip of his wand upwards, breaking the spell, and the boy tumbled painfully to the floor. “This is wha’ ‘appens to people wot tell great stinkin’ fibs!”
“You’re not a teacher!” shouted the boy defiantly, scrambling to his feet. “Defense against the Dark Arts, my bloody hat! You’re a bleedin’ Death Eater!”
In the silence that followed the ringing shout, the students around the Great Hall exchanged glances, as if they somehow instinctively knew that the boy had gone too far and that a vicious, cruel retribution was forthcoming. For once, they were correct. Slowly, deliberately, the lanky Death Eater pointed his wand at the boy, who went chalk white. “Crucio!”
The third-year raised his wand in a futile attempt to defend himself, but the curse struck him and blew him off his feet. Ginny watched sickly as Amycus Carrow advanced on the third-year, who scrabbled around on the floor for his wand. “Crucio!” yelled the Death Eater, and held the curse steady as once again the boy convulsed in pain.
Ginny glanced across the Hall to a crowd of seventh-year students who had appeared from the stairs leading down to the Potions dungeons. Neville was amongst them, the look on his face a mixture of horror, disgust and anger. Amycus was now yelling as he tortured the third-year, screaming that he was a blood traitor, a disgraceful excuse for a pureblood wizard. By now the third-year had given up trying to defend himself and was just holding his hands up ineffectually in front of his head, writhing and twisting in magically-inflicted agony as the Cruciatus turned every nerve into fiery streaks of pain.
Ginny’s first instinct was to throw up. Her second was to give cry to the scream of horror rising up in her throat. Her third was to draw her wand and hex the blazes out of Amycus Carrow, and devil take the consequences. But all she did was stand there, paralysed with a combination of fear, horror and revulsion at the sight taking place in this most hallowed of places, the Great Hall of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Desperately she stared around, wishing that McGonagall or Flitwick would appear from amongst the crowd of students and stop this madness. But there were no teachers in sight. However, as clearly as if she was speaking by her side, Ginny heard a familiar voice, soft and confident say, “Do it, Ginny. Trust your instincts.”
“I can’t,” she whispered. As she stood there she felt like she was back again in the Chamber of Secrets. She wanted very much to curl up in a ball and forget about what was happening. As the third-year screamed again, another shriek - younger, more feminine - echoed in Ginny’s mind, the terror-filled cry of a young ten-year old watching helplessly as, under another’s control, her own stiff, unresisting body moved jerkily down a hidden tunnel to the Chamber of Secrets.
“Don’t lose it now, Ginny. You’re not alone this time. I’m with you. Your friends are with you. Be brave, Ginny. This is what I’ve trained you for,” said Lily, her voice louder now, more insistent. “This is how you will use the skills I have equipped you with. You can fight the Death Eaters now. You can heal the wounds the Carrows inflict, both spell wounds and physical injuries. You can brew potions, antidotes, cures and healing draughts for the students, when they are prevented from seeking treatment. You can set up protective wards that the Carrows will not be able to break.”
Ginny shook her head, a wordless sob caught in her throat.
“The path to our destiny is never easy,” continued Lily. “Harry has his path to travel. He faces his unique trials and tribulation. This is the path to your destiny, Ginny, and you will face many obstacles along the way. Don’t be afraid, Ginny. Look up.”
Ginny obeyed, raising her head and glanced across the way. She scanned the crowd of students, her eyes falling at last on Neville. His gaze flicked down to Ginny’s wand arm, which she only now realised was inside her robe pocket and clutching her wand, and he swallowed and nodded as his own wand hand drifted to his side.
“You see,” said Lily’s voice inside her head. “You’re a leader, Ginny. You always have been. The others will look up to you for guidance and counsel. I know it’s a heavy burden to bear, but you must do this, Ginny.”
“I will,” said Ginny at last, stifling a dry sob. She could not cry now, she told herself, wiping at her eyes with the heel of her hand. “I’ll… I’ll be brave, Lily.”
“Good girl,” breathed Lily, and Ginny could hear the emotion in her voice. “I’m so proud of you, Ginny. So very proud of you.”
Ginny nodded to herself. “Luna,” she said quietly, glancing to her right. Her friend smiled as she took out her wand, an almost amused, reassuring smile that seemed very out of sorts with the time and place. But then that was classic Luna. Ginny also didn’t fail to notice as Luna tapped a gold Galleon coin once with the tip of her wand. Her own Galleon began to heat up, first a warm glow in her pocket, then a burning flame that was at once a warning signal and a rallying cry of defiance that spread a fire through Ginny’s heart and soul.
Ginny closed her eyes. Thanks, Mrs. Potter… Lily, breathed Ginny. I will be strong. Harry… this one’s for you, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. Come back to me soon.
“I’m so proud of you, Ginny,” said Lily again, her voice fading like an echo in her head. “So very, very, very proud…”
Letting her face break into a furious scowl, Ginny opened her eyes and drew her wand, taking a step forward to push past the front rank of students just as Luna and Neville did the same, the students around them gasping and pointing at them. “OI, AMYCUS!” she shouted, her voice loud and defiant as it rang throughout the hall. “EXPELLIARMUS!”
(OF THE BEGINNING)
“Dumbledore’s Army: Still Recruiting!”
Additional Author's Note: When brainstorming for the Challenge I asked myself the question, “What transformed Ginny from being just a follower of Harry’s schemes to becoming one of the chief Hogwarts troublemakers and ringleaders of Dumbledore’s Army during the Carrows’ tenures at Hogwarts?” This fic is an attempt to answer that question (Ginny’s dreams with Lily having a major role in it), and having completed it and re-read it from front to back, I think it’s one of my better works. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I have had writing (and re-reading) it. Cheers!
A reviewer prompted me to explain a little further the reasoning behind this fic. The books are written from Harry's point of view, and both Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows portray Ginny as a bold personality who is popular, hexes well and is 'not very weepy', to paraphrase Harry. The idea behind this fic is that Ginny, while being full of potential indeed, is not actually quite as superlative as Harry thinks. That's where Lily comes in; to take all that potential and mould and shape her into that bold girl Harry sees who hexes well, is not very weepy (in public anyway) and who eventually becomes quite a charismatic leader of Dumbledore's Army herself, as seen in Deathly Hallows. A fitting partner for Harry indeed.
In short, within the time frame of this fic, between Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows, Ginny grew up, and it was Lily who helped her along.
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