Disclaimer: 'Any people, objects, places and so on that you recognise belong to JK Rowling. I'm just having fun playing in her sandbox for a while.
The rest of the week passed more quietly than the first couple days. With Ginny's hand still glistening red with her tattoo and the shock that Andrew Harper had given her. Apart from the odd bit of graffiti and the planning for the next D.A meeting, she had kept a relatively low profile, acting like any other sixth year. She had, even after constant pressure from Ritchie and advice from Demelza, helped to give the right impression of pretending to be a normal sixth year arranged the Quidditch trials for seven o'clock. After all to most people at the school, Quidditch was the most important thing there was and no one could understand why the Gryffindors did not already have a team.
It was the weekend, however, that was going to bring the action back. The weekend was going to be the first chance they could get away with another D.A meeting and this meeting was going to have some new members, some sixth year friends who wanted to fight. She could hardly wait for her Friday afternoon Transfiguration lesson to end and the closer to 3:30 it got the more irritable she became, even letting out a large groan as her Head of House wrote a mountain of homework on the board, earning one of McGonagall infamous frowns.
Finally after what seemed like years later, Ginny placed her Transfiguration book back into her bag, throwing the notes she had made that lesson on top of it. She capped her ink bottle so quickly that it split as she bundled it with her quill in there before tapping it briefly with her wand and letting it lock. Pocketing her wand, she swung the bag over her shoulder, massaging it with one hand. McGonagall had really gone over the top with the notes today; she must have written over twelve inches in the last hour.
"Let's go," she said as she turned to Ritchie, who was still packing his things away, "we've got Quidditch trials tonight."
"I did wonder why you always arrange it after McGonagall's class; she never lets us out on time." He smiled. "So much for being Gryffindors."
"We could never question her for favouritism," Ginny said, glancing to the front of the class, "but at least you know she'll let us off with homework the week before the Slytherin match."
"Which is more than can be said for today." Ritchie gestured towards the board and the title for the essay that had been set. "But at least I don't get detention every other night so I can get mine finished."
"Where's the fun of the challenge when you actually have time to meet all your commitments?"
Ritchie laughed. "Harry doesn't know what he's missing not being with you."
"I hope so," she said so quietly that only she could hear.
She knew Harry had far more important things to be thinking about than her but she could not help missing him, thinking of him, wishing that she could run back up to the common room and tell him about her day before falling asleep in his arms in front of the fire. And a very small selfish part of her hoped that he was feeling the same way; hoped that he saw her face just before he fell asleep just as she saw his.
"Miss Weasley, may I have a word?" Professor McGonagall said as Ginny placed her hand on the door.
"Yeah, I guess."
She was frantically racking her mind to try and work out what she had done wrong. There were plenty of things that she had done in the last week as part of setting up the Hogwarts rebellion that could earn her detention at the very least. However she had to be caught to earn those detentions and lectures and since her first day back she had been very careful and she was sure she hadn't been caught for anything else yet but her Head of House's stern expression was making her start to doubt herself.
"Close the door please, Coote. Miss Weasley will see you at your Quidditch trials, I'm sure." Ginny watched as Ritchie carried out McGonagall instructions and with a small wave he was gone, leaving the two women alone. McGonagall flicked her wand and a chair emerged at the other side of her desk. "Have a seat."
"Quickly, please, Miss Weasley," McGonagall said a touch of urgency in her voice.
"What's this about, Professor?" Ginny asked as she sat in the hard backed chair.
McGonagall looked at her with her infamous stern gaze before continuing in the same quick tones. "Some rather fine 'Support Harry Potter' graffiti by the greenhouses which, unless I am very much mistaken, is in your handwriting."
She kept her face impassive as she looked back at the older woman. "I'm not sure I understand what you're talking about, Professor."
"Really, Miss Weasley. I am not stupid and neither are you so let's not play games here." McGonagall paused as teacher and student continued to look at each other. "The graffiti was yours."
Ginny offered a small nod. Fred and George had always taught her never to confess to anything, something she considered to be very sound advice, but she was now very much in uncharted territory. The small nod had already fought against all her natural instincts to talk herself out of trouble. She was not going to openly admit to defacing the school even if it was for a good cause.
"You need to be careful," the Professor told her simply. "You are being watched very carefully and your misdemeanours have not gone unnoticed."
"I told you we don't have time for games." The stern tone had returned. "You know why. You are Harry Potter's girlfriend and your family are all members of the Order of the Phoenix. Do you think Professor Snape needs any more reasons?"
"Harry broke up with me," she said bluntly, not wishing to go into the subject.
"And you think people will remember that, Ginny?" McGonagall shocked her with the use of her first name.
She had not heard the professor call her Ginny since the end of her first year and her escape from the Chamber of Secrets. It was the first time the seriousness of the situation had hit her.
"Those numerous occasions that you spent by Mr Potter's side will not go unforgotten. At the very least you will be seen as a beacon of support for Potter and more likely you will be remembered as his girlfriend." She looked at her directly in the eyes. "You need to stop getting detentions; they only draw more attention. We can't protect you in detentions and we believe that these detentions will become more extreme in the very near future. They will take pleasure in hurting you."
Ginny just shrugged as the elderly witch held Ginny's hand up briefly studying the wording on it. "Then, Ginny, think about it this way. You are in a unique position here. You know a lot about the running of your own rebellion group, plus the Order of the Phoenix and Mr Potter himself. Do you not think that Death Eaters would find that very valuable information?"
Feeling more than a little ashamed, Ginny nodded again before the Professor continued. "If you want to fight, I can not stop you, nor do I wish to, but please be more careful. Do not put yourself in unnecessary danger and if you are not doing that for yourself, think of the others that those unnecessary situations will hurt. Do you understand what I am saying?"
Guilt had filled her insides as she looked back at the floor, avoiding the cause of her rethink. "Yes, Professor."
"And, Miss Weasley...."
Ginny glanced up nervously worried about what was going to be said next. "Yes, Professor?"
"Please try to put together a good team this year; I'm still rather fond having the cup in my office."
Ginny flashed her teacher a truly genuine smile. "I'll try my best, Professor."
McGonagall smiled back. "Right, off to dinner."
Maybe she had underestimated the importance of playing Quidditch this year. She had seen being given the role of captain as a chore and she was positive that part of the reason that she had this role was to fill up her time. She was positive that both her Head of House and her parents as well as other worried Order members expected the captaincy to take up any free time she had and to stop her from getting into trouble, thus making the role more of a chore than a privilege.
But now that she thought about it, she needed Quidditch. It was so easy to leave your troubles on the ground when you were flying. The goal post gave her a simple focus with the only worry being that she missed the target. However, if that happened she knew she would get another chance. It would allow her to take out all her anger and frustration in a competitive situation without anyone questioning her actions. Not to mention, the very petty feeling that it would feel even better than normal to beat the Slytherins at the moment.
She left the classroom and headed straight to the Great Hall meeting Demelza and Ritchie at the Gryffindor table. Her enthusiasm grew as she allowed herself to take full part in the conversation with her friends, really listening and answering their questions for the first time. She felt a familiar spark and joy bubbling inside her as she spoke. Despite everything else she couldn't help but love this sport; it was her relief.
Ginny got down to the pitch early, straight after dinner. The adrenaline filled her body as she kicked off from the ground and sped through the air, scoring several goals before she landed.
There was a small echo of hands clapping as she landed. Bowing her head slightly she studied the group before her. It was small, barely a dozen people there for the three positions. She looked from those hopeful faces and up to the masses in the stands.
"What's going on?" Ginny hissed.
"I think people are afraid to be on the team this year with you as captain." Demelza whispered, "It's almost like shouting out in a Carrow lesson as to be seen to be siding with you."
"So much for being Gryffindor, I guess." She shrugged as she looked back up at the crowd. She did not like the idea of putting other people in danger if that was going to be the case but at the same time she didn't like feeling like someone with a nasty case of Dragon Pox. Taking a long deep breath, she forced a smile as she felt Demelza's hand on her shoulder. "At least it means that we won't be here forever then."
"That has to be a good thing." Ritchie grinned at her as he slipped his hand into his girlfriend's. "I mean, that Transfiguration homework is going to take hours." His grin grew and his eyes twinkled with mischief. "And it will leave us with a longer time for the party tonight."
"And don't forget, whatever happens, we have your back." Demelza was smiling too. "We support both you and Harry."
Ginny's thanks shone through her smile.
With renewed energy, she organised the players into groups. It was hard not to feed off her friends' natural buzz and it felt good to feel that she was not on her own. She turned briefly to face them when the groups were set. She was not sure she would ever be able to explain how much they were helping her by letting her still be herself and resist everything that was going on when the odds were all stacked against her and despite the fact that those who she loved had been pulled so violently away from her.
Taking another long deep breath, she continued to select her team. She could really do this. In a similar fashion to what Harry had done last year she sent the four wannabe chasers up into the air. She floated in mid air to watch as the players performed a couple of simple drills.
An hour later and her Quidditch team had been selected. The thin and gangly third year Kiera Keane had scored more than a dozen goals so she joined as a Chaser. Her twin brother Cillian, the only one who had made any saves against her, had taken the position of Keeper. Choosing someone to take Harry's old position as Seeker was not as easy. There were no stand out candidates and deep down she knew no one would have been able to impress her enough to take the position so the real answer here would be to take up the position herself but something irrational deep down inside her wanted to keep the position open for him to return. After some careful thought and some hushed discussions with Demelza, who was already taking on the role of vice captain, she chose the athletically built and enthusiastic fourth year, Natalie McDonald, to join Jimmy Peaks, Ritchie Coote and Demelza Robins who retained their positions.
Saturday saw the first Quidditch practice of the year and for a first session it showed a lot of promise. The team was far from the same technically gifted level of earlier teams but it did have an unmatched togetherness and spirit. Sunday brought a mammoth homework session as she kept up the pretence of being just a normal sixth year student. A pretence that was dropped at six o'clock on Sunday evening as she sat in the middle of the Room of Requirement with a Skiving Snackbox open in front of her.
Ginny struggled to stop the buzz she felt from the group assembled before her from overtaking her. She couldn't help it. No matter how small, it felt wonderful to be doing something that might be helping Harry. Add to that the reassurances from both Neville and Luna that this could well work and would not be a fruitless gesture added to her natural high.
Her buzz grew as Neville smiled then nodded at her to start the meeting. He really was a true friend. After realising how much that this would mean to her, he had let her take the lead. And now she could not help but feel in total control as she stood in front of her own classmates and Harry's former ones.
"I know that Weasley products are banned but I thought it was time we took some direct action here," Ginny said as a small smile crossed her face. "After all, this stuff worked against Umbridge."
"So," Neville backed her up, "in your lesson with the Carrows, just bite one end of the sweet as you go in and wait for the blood, sickness and fever to overtake you, making you ill. As soon as you're let out, bite the other side and you'll be free to decorate the school with some more slogans that support Harry."
"You need to remember that one should be very careful regarding the timing of consumption of the sweets," Luna added in a song-like tone.
Ginny smiled at her as she continued, it felt good to be doing something that might actually work. "Yeah, as I was reminded the other day, we're being watched."
"So are you going to try out this stuff too?" Michael Corner asked as he played with a fainting fancy between his thumb and forefinger.
She stared and met her former boyfriend's gaze. "Tomorrow, period one."
The next morning she drew on all her spirit and courage as, instead of heading to the back of the class, she sat in the front row, completely visible to the entire class as well as to the loathsome Death Eater. She fought the urge to build up her protective shield of books.
She was going to do this and she was going to do this right.
True to her word, within minutes of entering the Dark Arts classroom on Monday morning she had swallowed the orange end of a Nosebleed Nougat sweet. Slipping the purple end of the sweet into her pocket, she waited less than a minute for the onset of blood. Smelling the rust of the blood, she ignored the instinct to cover her nose; the whole point here was to make as much mess as possible. As soon as the flow of blood passed her lips and hit the table she shot her right wrist up into the air.
Gulping, and fighting off a wave of nausea, she waited for the Death Eater to turn round as she spat out the word, "Professor."
The squat and lumpy man turned round, looking at her with his lopsided leer. Ginny met his eyes directly, ignoring the shiver that ran down her spine; she had been here before. She just needed to keep her nerve and, more importantly, her balance as she felt herself pale as the blood began to drain from her body and she felt faint. It was only a matter of time before she escaped from the hellish lesson.
Carrow met her gaze with his wheezy giggle. "Detention, Miss Weasley."
"What for?" she spluttered through the blood that was now on her lips. "Being sick? Needing to go to the hospital wing?"
"For use of Weasley products," that evil smile was present on his face, "and for the mess you have caused to this classroom." His grin grew. "I shall see you in my office tonight."
Not willing to give in that easily, Ginny allowed herself to black out on the desk instead of taking the purple end of the sweet, only to receive a lecture from Madam Pomfrey when she came round in the hospital wing at the start of period three. She zoned out the Hogwarts' matron's rant on dangerous pranks and unfit teachers as she focused on the two hours of hell from which she had freed herself.
As soon as the stern Healer had allowed her to escape the confines of the hospital wing, she darted up six flights of stairs to the Room of Requirement. She had one thought and one thought only: that they were not going to get away with this. If she needed to up the ante then she would and there were two people who would help her do that without any questions. After passing the portrait of Barnabas the Barmy three times, the door opened to allow her access to that private floo connection.
Striding across the room she found a small box containing the glittering floo powder above the only item in the room. Quickly she reached into her bag and pulled out pen and parchment. With a plan brewing in her mind, Ginny jotted down a long list of her brother's products. There was going to be no holding back now, whatever the sacrifice it may take on her part.
She crouched down to the empty fire gate with a fistful of powder in her hand. Her whole body was shaking as she stuck her head into the fireplace. She was taking a huge risk here, especially with no one playing guard for her.
Ginny dropped the fistful of powder onto the logs stacked neatly beneath her and at once they exploded into green flames.
"Ninety-three Diagon Alley."
Her knees stuck firmly to the stone cold floor of the Room of Requirement, but her head was spinning, hurtling through the emerald green fire and into a variety of colours before it stopped abruptly. There she was staring out of the fireplace in the small flat above her brothers' shop.
"Fred! George!" She shouted at the top of her voice.
"Ginny!" Her brother's shocked voice replied.
"Hey, Fred," she said as her twin brother sank to his own knees.
It felt so good to see his face. There was so much she wanted to say to him, so much that she wanted to do right now, not least was to throw her arms around him in a hug, but she could not let herself think like that; she needed to keep a straight face now and to put an on an act. She could not let him see her pain or have a good idea of what was going on with her.
Ginny took a long deep breath and resumed the act that she had started of pretending that everything was fine, since that June day with Harry after the funeral by the Hogwarts Lake.
"Well," he had regained his composure just as quickly as the shock had come and was now grinning at her, "you've been causing a fair bit of trouble already." His grin had grown. "I'm impressed."
She grinned back. "I'm honoured, since it's coming from Hogwarts' best ever prankster."
"Just remember," Fred laughed, and it was so good to hear his laugh, like a spontaneous boost to every part of her, "who you learnt all this from when you write the autobiography with Harry."
"Of course," she replied as she felt her face flush red and she was sure that had nothing to do with the heat of the fire. "So, do you fancy helping out with stage two?"
"Me!?" He spoke in mock shocked tones. "Break Hogwarts rules? How could you suggest such an idea to a respectable member of the community!"
"Come on, Fred," she spoke in a more urgent tone, becoming very aware of the time as she heard movement in the corridors outside the room. It must be lunchtime. "Meet me Wednesday afternoon in Hogsmeade."
"Tut tut, Ginny," he continued in mock outraged tones, "Missing class – I really can't say I condone that."
"Just be there," she said urgently as her heart skipped a couple of beats and the noise outside grew.
"Okay," he spoke in a more serious tone as he studied her face carefully, "do you need me to bring anything?"
She pulled a list out of her pocket that she had written after yesterday's DA meeting, and handed it over. "Disguise it, okay; I have to get it back past Snape."
Fred took the list and pocketed it. "It's free of charge."
Despite the ever increasing noise and tension, she grinned. "Did I mention that you're my favourite brother?"
Fred laughed, "You said the same thing to Bill the other week."
"Well, I was his bridesmaid then. Plus, a woman has every right to change her mind." She flinched as she heard a banging on the door.
Fred resisted the joke as he looked her straight in her eyes. "Are you okay, Ginny?"
"I'm fine," her voice was almost pleading with him to understand. "Just be there, okay, and I'll be fine."
"I will be."
"Well, I better go then." Ginny smiled. "See you Wednesday."
"See you Wednesday," Fred repeated, "and Ginny, you be careful, okay?"
Ginny pulled her spinning head out of the fire. She pushed herself against the back of a stone wall as she allowed herself to settle down. Missing the whole of lunch, she calmed down just in time to go to her Potions class.
Potions was a blur.
Detention was painful and repetitive.
Tuesday raced through without notice and before she knew it, it was Wednesday lunchtime.
At quarter to one as she left Transfiguration she ignored the crowds and nervously made her way up to the third floor corridor. Her heart was pounding as she reached the statue of the One-Eyed Witch. It only started to calm down as she was sprinting through the passage to the Honeydukes cellar.
She passed through the streets and made her way slowly up to the caves in the mountains. The first time she stopped her run was when she saw a pair of red haired men by the mouth of one of the mountain dwellings. However the pause was only brief. As strong as she had pretended to be, she had wanted to be held by those who loved her for such a long time. She broke into a quick walk.
"I thought that Hogwarts meals were good," Fred commented as she walked down the road to the caves.
"What do you mean?" she asked as she got closer and hugged both her twin brothers.
"You look to have lost weight," George obsessed.
"How do you think I slipped away so easily?" she joked.
"Don't, Ginny." Fred looked more serious than she had ever seen him as he studied her entire body and his eyes fell on her left hand. "What's that?"
She shrugged as she tried to pull her hand out of his grasp. "Just last week's detention."
Fred kept a firm hold on her hand, pulling her shoulder slightly as he showed her 'pureblood' tattoo to George. "Mum's going to have kittens when she sees this."
Panic rose inside her at Fred's words. Despite everything she could not bear to cause either of her parents more pain. "Do they know you're here?"
"You should never lie to your mother," Fred replied in the perfect impersonation of Percy.
"And does she know that you're meeting me?" she asked.
"Now, Ginny," Fred tutted, "you know what Mum doesn't know can't hurt us. Isn't that right, Lugless?"
Ginny groaned at yet another ear joke as George replied. "Perfectly, brother, dear."
She grinned, at least she was not going to cause her parents more worry – well not until she used the product, anyway, and that was still going to be weeks away. "Did you bring everything on the list?"
"We're shocked," Fred gestured at his brother as they spoke, "you even have to ask." He shook his head. "Who do you think we are?"
"It's all carefully disguised as spare bits of parchment, quills and so on." George continued as he took her school bag off her. "Quite ingenious, really."
"I get it; the pair of you are brilliant." Ginny smiled as the last few rolls of parchment got pushed into her school bag. "I promise to put it to good use."
"And here's your alibi, too," George added as he handed her a large bag of Honeydukes chocolates.
"Thanks," she said placing them in her bag, turning to go back to the school.
Fred placed his hand on her shoulder. "And we're going to spring you out of there soon."
"I'm not leaving," she spoke in a fierce tone, "I'm fighting, Fred. I'm doing the little I can; don't take that away from me."
"Whatever you want, Ginny, we'll stick by you," George said, placing his hand on her other shoulder.
"As long as you make sure you use some of those fireworks in an enclosed place," Fred said with a forced smile.
"Okay, last thing," Fred passed her a piece of paper. "Listen to the radio at ten tonight, password is 'Harry'."
George pulled her into a strong hug so that she could hardly breathe but instead of making a jibe about her ribs she hugged him back. Somehow, the time for jokes seemed to have been long gone. "Just you be careful."
Fred took over the hug. "And do us proud."
Ginny just grinned back at them before turning back to the path to Hogsmeade. She didn't even allow herself one glance back as she darted down the pathway. If she looked back at them she knew she would not have the courage to return to the terror of the school. Nor did she want to see those grave looks of worry on their faces. That was not how she wanted to remember them when she was kept away.
She did not notice her surroundings until she heard a low hiss.
"Is that the Weasley girl?"
The eager voice brought her sprint to a halt. She knew Death Eaters were stationed here and it only made sense for them to be marking the exits to the Hogwarts secret passageways. After being so careful about her escape from the school, she could kick herself for this oversight. McGonagall was right, Death Eaters would love to get their hands on her and there she was making it easier for them.
"It looks like her."
"She's a cute little thing. Nice hips, fine breasts, developing nicely."
"Fancy having some fun?"
"Why not? Might as well entertain ourselves with the girlfriend while we wait for Potter to show."
"Not to mention putting Arthur Weasley in his place."
"Blood traitors need to be reminded of their status."
Her heart was pounding so badly that she thought it was going to burst through her ribcage as she ducked into the shadows between the shops and waited for the noise to die down. Her body shook as she stood in the dark. She was positive that if the Death Eaters caught her, the Andrew Harper experience would be taken to the next level and she didn't think that she was strong enough to survive that.
It was dark and curfew had long passed before she dared move again.
Carefully, she slipped back into Honeydukes and down into the store room. Once inside the secret passageway she broke into the run that she had begun so many hours ago. She only stopped to draw breath when she had reached the other end of the tunnel.
Without thinking and keen to head straight for the showers, Ginny climbed back through the statue of the One-Eyed Witch that opened onto the third floor. Briefly she looked up and down the corridor and let out a huge sigh of relief.
She was out of there.
Away from the Death Eaters.
Or at least as safe as she could be at Hogwarts.
Now she had nothing to worry about other than missing her curfew. Grinning slightly to herself, she moved her legs into a jog. She could be back to the relative safety of Gryffindor Tower within a matter of minutes.
Her slow jog down the corridor came to a sudden halt. There was a man stopping her movements – a tall man with dark greasy hair.
Snape turned to face her and smiled. "Miss Weasley."