It was with great relief that Ron leapt off the Hogwarts Express and began dragging his trunk down the platform towards his parents. At last he was going home! School was over… for a few weeks at least.
School this past term had been… it had been hard. Although he hadn’t been through anything else as bad as his experience with the Cruciatus Curse, he knew that a few others had experienced the same, including Neville.
It had been a tough few months.
“Ron!” his mum exclaimed, wrapping him in a hug. “I’m so glad you’re back! So glad!” Then her voice lowered. “Are you alright?” She hesitated. “How was Hogwarts?”
“It…” Ron hesitated.
“Actually, Ron,” Dad interrupted, in a low voice, “I think any stories you have might be best left until we’re home. The Ministry has…” Dad paused. “Er… laid on an escort to get us back to The Burrow.”
So, Ron realised as he looked up and saw a man in Auror robes standing a few feet behind his dad, they want to make sure we actually go home and don’t run off.
Ron nodded to his father. He was used to this at Hogwarts, constantly being watched, the authorities looking for any excuses to punish them.
“Shall we go, then?” Mum said, in what sounded like an incredibly forced tone.
“Yes,” Dad announced, also sounding far too cheerful. Then he turned to the Auror and said, “We’re ready to go now.”
Ron grabbed his trunk, expecting his family, as they did every year, to make the journey back through the Muggle part of King’s Cross to the Knight Bus, or even his father’s Ford Anglia.
“Mr. Weasley,” the Auror announced in a gravely voice. “you are all taking a Portkey back to your home. Please remember that an Auror will arrive to return you to the station on the fourth.” He paused. “Now, if you would all take hold.”
Ron tensed slightly at the Auror’s announcement that he would be escorted back to the station but he, and his parents, did as they were told, and, after a few disorientating seconds of Portkey travel, Ron landed with a thump in the kitchen of The Burrow.
“Did the Auror not follow us?” Ron asked, picking himself off the floor.
“There’s no need,” Dad answered bitterly. “They’ve got us under tight surveillance,” he paused, but then his expression suddenly brightened. “But we are safe here. Now let’s go to the sitting room and we’ll all catch up.”
Ron followed his father into the sitting room, where Bill, Fleur, Fred and George were waiting.
“Ron!” Bill said, getting to his feet and shaking his brother’s hand. “Glad to have you back.”
“Alright, guys,” Ron said to his brothers in reply, taking a seat of a sofa.
“Ron,” Dad asked, after a few brief pleasantries, “tell me honestly, how is Hogwarts?”
Ron sat still for a second, thinking about his response. He looked around and saw his mum, dad and brothers watching him intently.
Could he tell them? Ron wasn’t sure what they could do. Should he tell them? Although it would be a relief not to have to go back to school, he felt as if he was abandoning all those that would be returning to Hogwarts. Plus, if he disappeared, it would put his family at risk.
“Ron…” Dad began. “If it’s… If school is bad, you don’t have to go back, but you heard what the Auror said. You understand the implications if you vanish… but if you don’t want to go back, we’ll make it work.”
Ron nodded numbly. What his dad had just said had finally settled it for him.
“Dad,” Ron replied, “school is… school is fine.”
There was no way he could not go back, he wouldn’t abandon Neville and the rest of the DA and he wouldn’t force his family to go into hiding.
“Are you sure, Ron?” his mum added, still looking worried.
“Yes,” Ron replied. “It’ll be fine,” he paused. “Has… has it been bad for the rest of you?”
“It hasn’t been too bad for me,” Bill answered first. “But that’s only because the Ministry haven’t dared mess with the goblins yet, but since they refused to seize Harry Potter’s vault, I don’t know how long that will last.”
“For the rest of us,” Dad continued, “it’s been quite tough. I’m being watched at the Ministry, the same for the boys at the shop, and they’re watching the house and your mother when she goes out.”
“We’ve moved back here,” Fred added.
“Strength in numbers, you know,” George continued.
Ron nodded. “I guess we’re lucky they haven’t chucked the lot of us in Azkaban.”
“I think,” Bill added, “it’s only the fact that we’re pure-bloods has stopped that…”
“Plus,” Dad added, “I think they’re also hoping that Adam or Ginny will come back here.”
“Have they tried to come here?” Ron asked, anxious for any news about his sister and friend. “Or has anyone seen them?”
Mum shook her head and said quietly, “There’s been nothing…”
Dad sighed. “No news is good news. If they’d caught them, it would be all over the papers. I just hope neither of them is stupid enough to come back here.”
Adam December 24th 1997
Adam and Ginny stood together, under the Cloak, looking down at The Burrow.
They had been near the house for several hours, scouting the area to try to determine if it was safe for them to approach.
“Ginny,” Adam said quietly, drawing her into a hug, “we can’t, it’s just too dangerous.”
“I know,” Ginny whispered back to him. “I wish we could…” She trailed off and Adam could feel her shake herself. “But it’s too dangerous. It’s as simple as that.”
They stood there in silence for nearly a minute before Adam spoke again. “We should get out of here,” he began.
Then, before he knew what was happening, Adam felt himself Apparating.
He landed with a thump in the middle of their tent.
“Don’t do that!” Adam exclaimed, waving his arms pointlessly. “It’s really disorientating when you’re not expecting it!”
“Well,” Ginny replied cheekily, “you’ve been carrying me around for months, I thought I’d take a turn.”
Adam sighed and rolled his eyes in an exaggerated gesture of annoyance. Ginny, once she had mastered it just over a week ago, had taken to Apparition like a she had to flying. She loved being able to pop from place to place more or less instantly and had been completely adamant that she Apparate herself everywhere since then.
It seemed that Adam’s days of Side-Along Apparating her around had come to an end.
“Well,” Adam began, as he checked the tent, just in case anyone had broken in while they’d been away, “I guess we’ll have to try and catch Ron at the station on the way back to school, then?”
Before Ginny could answer, Adam poked his head outside the tent and checked their surroundings. The small wood where they had pitched the tent was silent, other than the hoot of a nearby owl. They were safe.
In the time that they had been on the run, no one had actually found them or the tent, but, Adam supposed, that was mainly because they moved frequently. In fact, the greatest danger was often from Muggles stumbling upon them, rather than the Death Eaters.
“All clear?” Ginny asked from the sofa when he brought his head back inside and buttoned up the tent flap.
“Yep,” Adam said. “Just a friendly owl.”
“An owl?” Ginny asked, looking concerned.
“Oh no,” Adam responded. “It was just a wild owl.”
“Oh,” Ginny replied.
Sensing that something was worrying her, Adam went over and sat next to her.
“Ginny,” Adam asked, “are you alright?”
Ginny was silent for several seconds. “Yeah…” she responded. “I-I was just thinking about Christmas. This’ll be the first time without my family. Well, there was the one when I stayed at Hogwarts for the Yule Ball, but that…” She sighed. “I don’t know why, but that was different.”
“At least we’re together,” Adam replied, taking her hand.
“Yes,” Ginny answered, squeezing his hand hard. “Don’t worry about me. I’m just feeling a bit low. I’ll be fine. Oh!” she exclaimed, her face breaking into a sudden smile. “I meant to tell you, I had a wicked idea about how we can get in touch with Ron if they manage to slip past us at King’s Cross again.”
Ron January 4th 1998
Ron leant against the window of his compartment on the Hogwarts Express and stared out. As he unenthusiastically watched the countryside roll past, he thought about Hogwarts. He hadn’t been looking forward to coming back to school, but then, he’d never really looked forward to coming back to school. He looked forward to seeing friends again, but actually coming back to school and lessons? No.
This time, it was different, it felt like a sort of quiet dread building inside him. It was like knowing that something bad was going to happen, but there was nothing you could do about it because it was something you just had to do.
Not that, in the end, Ron was given much choice: an Auror had arrived this morning to ensure that he returned to school.
At least, Ron thought, I won’t be alone; Neville and the rest of the DA will be with me.
The compartment door opened with a bang, and Ron sighed heavily.
I bet this will be Malfoy coming to gloat.
Tiredly, Ron turned to face the door. However, it was closed and no-one else had come into the compartment. There was only Neville, sleeping opposite him.
“Neville,” Ron said, trying to wake his friend. “Neville!”
Ron stared at his sister for a second, still in complete shock. What was she doing here!? Then he realised just how long it had been since he’d seen her and, before he knew it, Ron found himself being hugged tightly.
Once they’d broken the hug, Ron stared at her. Ginny looked different, very different. Her hair was longer but tied back so it didn’t get in her way. She was also dressed completely as a Muggle and, if he hadn’t known her, he wouldn’t have been able to identify her as a witch. However, despite all these changes, the most obvious thing that he noticed was that Ginny looked older.
Merlin, Ron thought, I wonder what she’s been through since she left home.
“Ron,” Ginny said again, “I can’t stay long in case I get caught, but I need your help.”
“But, Ginny…” Ron blurted, “wha…” he shook himself, trying to get make his words coherent. “Why did you come, then? You’re practically the most wanted person in Britain right now!”
“I know, Ron,” Ginny replied urgently. “But I had to come because we need your help.”
Ginny sighed. “For Merlin’s sake, Ron, will you let me explain? It’s me and…” She paused. “Er… Harry.”
“What about Adam?”
“Yes, yes, Adam, too. Now listen, it looks like we’ll have to sneak into Hogwarts sometime soon.”
“Ron! Listen and let me talk!” Ginny demanded. “We have to sneak in, and once we’re inside we may need your help. Can you do that?”
“Yes, of course, the DA will help,” Ron answered. “But I don’t see why you’d want to…”
“You restarted the DA!?” Ginny exclaimed, ignoring his question.
“We did,” Ron said proudly.
“Brilliant! But, the other thing I need you to do,” Ginny continued, “and this is much more important: I need you to try and find out if there are any artefacts of Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Gryffindor hidden in the school.”
“Artefacts?” Ron questioned. “What…”
Before he could finish the question, someone banged on the door and Ron and Neville both jumped and spun around at the sound.
“Weasel!” Malfoy’s unmistakable voice sounded from the other side. “What are you doing in there? You should be on patrol.”
Ron felt himself begin to panic. Ginny was going to get caught! He turned and frantically searched the compartment, looking for some way that Ginny could escape, only to realise that Ginny was no longer there.
Ron froze for a second. She had appeared as if from nowhere and now she had disappeared, too. How was she doing that?
A click from the lock on the door was his only warning; suddenly, the door burst violently open and Malfoy strode in.
“Weasel!” Malfoy said, looking around the compartment as he spoke. “Why was your door locked? Do I even want to know what you and Longbottom were doing in here?”
“Malfoy!” Ron snapped back. “What does it matter to you if I lock the door?”
“It matters when you’re a blood-traitor on my train!” Malfoy gloated back. “I’m Head Boy, and until we get to school, I run the show. If I decide you can’t lock your door, then you can’t lock your door!”
Ron sighed. Malfoy really needed to be brought back down to earth, but what would him cursing him actually achieve?
“Anyway,” Malfoy continued, in his typical arrogant tone of voice, “you should’ve been on patrol fifteen minutes ago, Weasel, but I guess I’ll just tell Professor Snape that you were shirking your duties.”
“Alright, Malfoy,” Ron replied tiredly. “I’m going. Coming, Nev?”
Neville nodded in response, and followed Ron out of the compartment, pushing past Crabbe and Goyle, who were standing in the corridor.
Neville, even though he wasn’t a Prefect, had agreed to patrol with Ron as there was no other seventh-year prefect from Gryffindor. Where are you, Hermione? Are you okay?
If anything happened, Ron knew he would need Neville at his back.
As the two of them began half-heartedly patrolling up and down the train, Ron hoped that Ginny had escaped safely. If she was caught… well, it didn’t bear thinking about.
Adam January 4th 1998
Adam scurried as fast as he could away from the barrier that led to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. He knew it was a massive risk for him to be here today, but he hadn’t been able to stomach leaving Ginny to navigate Muggle King’s Cross alone under the Cloak.
As it turned out, it was a good job that he’d come. There were large crowds of Muggles around and, in his opinion, Ginny would have really struggled to get to the platform in time if he hadn’t been there to make a path for her through the crowds.
In preparation for their trip, Adam had disguised himself heavily. He currently had blond hair and had even bought a new pair of glasses from a Muggle optician’s. He also wore a large Muggle rucksack on his back, which contained all of his and Ginny’s possessions and, most importantly, the tent. He hoped he looked like a Muggle going on holiday and, from what he’d seen when he looked in the in the mirror this morning, he did. He definitely looked nothing like Harry Potter, or Adam Winters.
When he reached the main entrance of King’s Cross, he sighed in relief. His disguise had apparently worked, and no one had noticed him on his trip through the station. Now all he had to do was get out of sight and Apparate away.
As he left the main doors of the station, Adam scanned the area around him, searching for threats. As he looked around, his eyes settled on a man and a woman who were also standing outside the station and looking around as if searching for something. The woman looked familiar, but Adam couldn’t quite remember who she was. What Adam did notice, however, was that both of them looked terrified.
The woman obviously noticed his interest and Adam saw her suddenly begin clinging tightly to the man she was standing with. As their eyes met, something suddenly clicked in Adam’s mind.
It was Hermione’s mother!
Adam felt a surge of alarm shoot through him. Why were they here? Had something happened to Hermione? What could have gone wrong?
As quickly as he could, Adam closed the distance between himself and the couple he presumed to be Hermione’s parents.
As he approached, he saw the man and woman tense, and begin to step backwards, as if trying to avoid him.
“Hi,” Adam shouted. Searching for something he could say to let them know he was friendly, but without giving himself away. “I’m a friend of your daughter,” he finally settled on, unable to come up with anything better.
The couple froze and, eyeing him warily, they finally stopped backing away.
“Who are you?” Mr Granger asked.
Adam moved to stand right next to them and answered in a whisper, “My name is Harry…”
Suddenly, Mrs Granger gasped in recognition. “You came and visited us in the summer!” she exclaimed.
“Yes…” Adam replied cautiously. “Why are you here?”
“We…” Mr Granger began, in a shaky voice. “We didn’t know where else to come. We wanted to try and find the Weasleys, the family that Hermione visits.”
Adam nodded in response. “What’s happened?”
Mrs Granger continued, in a voice that sounded as if she was about to cry, “We need help, about a week ago they…” She broke off into a sob.
“They…” Mr Granger picked up for his wife. “They took Hermione.”
“What!” Adam exclaimed, feeling renewed anger at Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Then, getting himself back under controlled, he looked around. They were still very close to the station and in danger of being spotted by a wizard. “We need to get somewhere more private, and then you can tell me everything.”
Ginny January 4th 1998
Ginny felt a surge of sympathy for her brother as she watched Malfoy send him packing from the compartment. If she’d been in his place, she would have just hexed him, but then, she didn’t know what it was like at school and there may well be a very good reason why Ron hadn’t hexed Malfoy.
As she watched Malfoy saunter out of the room, turning his back on where she was standing hidden by Adam’s Cloak, Ginny smirked to herself. It would be risky, but perhaps she could get some revenge on Malfoy and not be spotted. She glanced down at her watch; she still had time before she had to meet Adam.
Ginny drew her wand and followed Malfoy down the train. As he walked, he was flanked by his two goons, Crabbe and Goyle. However, before Ginny could get close enough to accurately fire the hex she had in mind, Malfoy ducked into a compartment and, without thinking about it, Ginny immediately followed him in.
As soon as she entered, Ginny realised she had possibly made a rather large mistake. The compartment she was now in was full of Slytherins. Sitting on the seats were Crabbe, Goyle, Malfoy, Pansy Parkinson and Theodore Nott.
Ginny stood very still, being careful to keep her breathing as quiet as possible.
“Crabbe,” Malfoy snapped suddenly. “Close that door.”
Ginny suddenly back-pedalled quickly, but it was too late. Crabbe had kicked the door and it slammed shut just seconds before she reached it. She was stuck!
“I just sent Weasel out on patrol,” Malfoy mused to his friends. “He didn’t even realise that he was supposed to be on patrol. I mean, how stupid can you get!”
“I wish,” Parkinson continued, as Ginny struggled to contain her temper, “Snape would just accept that only Slytherins should be Prefects. It just makes things so much easier.”
“For one,” Malfoy answered. “I’m glad this is our last year. It’s about time I moved on to bigger and better things.”
“What do you mean?” Pansy Parkinson asked. “You’ve already got something lined up?”
Malfoy only smirked in response. “Yes,” he paused, slowly drawing back his sleeve and showing Parkinson something. “Well, you could say, I’m already in.”
Parkinson gasped in response. “Already?”
“If it wasn’t for Mother’s insistence that I complete my tenure as Head Boy, I wouldn’t have come back,” Malfoy added.
“But why?” Parkinson exclaimed.
“What do you mean, ‘why’?” Malfoy spat in response. “Do you object to my choice of master?”
“N-No,” Pansy quickly stammered in response, her eyes quickly scanning the others in the room, as if hoping one of them would come to her aid. “It’s just that…” She hesitated. “I wouldn’t have thought he’d take you until you were finished with school.”
“I don’t think,” Malfoy replied haughtily, “that school matters to the Dark Lord. Anyway, I would know his thoughts better than you. He visits Malfoy Manor regularly, and has even entrusted Father to guard one of his most valued possessions, now that he doesn’t trust the goblins.”
Ginny had to stop herself from jigging up and down in excitement. Could his valuable possession be a Horcrux? Malfoy had inadvertently given away a massive secret. Voldemort would probably kill him if he knew what he’d just told his friends.
“Well,” Nott spoke up for the first time, “I hope you know what you’re getting into. The Dark Lord expects a lot from his followers. My dad hasn’t been the same since he failed a mission a few months back.”
Malfoy only sneered in response. “Malfoys don’t fail, Nott. So I don’t think that will be a problem.”
By Merlin! Ginny thought. He’s so arrogant!I wish I could hex him here and now.
But she couldn’t, at least not yet. Adam wouldn’t be here for another fifteen minutes. She paused, a plan forming in her mind.
Ginny waited patiently for fifteen minutes, enduring the Slytherins’ conversation. Then, after waiting a further five minutes just to be on the safe side, she swung into action.
With one hand gripping her wand, she moved her other hand to the door handle and ripped open the door.
The sound caused the Slytherins in the compartment to leap to their feet, but Ginny was quicker than they. As soon as the door had opened, she cast her favourite spell, the Bat-Bogey Hex, at Malfoy.
As Malfoy staggered backwards with large bats beginning to work their way down his nose, Ginny turned and ran. She sprinted down the corridor towards the back of the train. As she neared the end of the last carriage, Ginny fired the Unlocking Charm at the door that led out of the back the train.
Ginny opened the door, stepped gingerly outside onto the small ledge that lay on the other side of the door, and then carefully closed the door behind her.
Once outside of the train, Ginny suddenly realised just how fast it was going. The rails sped by below her as long silver blurs and every jerk the train made threatened to toss her off the narrow ledge on which she was currently standing.
Where is Adam? He was supposed to meet me here!
Ginny looked around her, searching for anywhere that Adam could have landed. Then, suddenly, she saw that, attached the back of the train was a ladder leading up onto the roof. Hoping that Adam had landed up there, Ginny quickly ripped off the Cloak, tied it around her waist so that it wouldn’t get in the way, and climbed the ladder.
Adam was waiting for her on the roof of the train and Ginny couldn’t help but smile when she saw him. He appeared to be having difficulty keeping his balance and had to lean on their new broom for help.
“Hi,” he exclaimed, looking strangely serious. “You’re late.”
“Oh shush,” Ginny laughed in response, running up and hugging him. “Let’s get out of here. I’ve got loads to tell you.”
They hopped onto the broom together, and, with Adam guiding it expertly, they shot away from the Hogwarts Express. Turning slightly in her seat, Ginny kept her eyes on the train, looking for any signs that they’d been spotted.
“Looks like we’re clear,” she announced once the train had faded from view.
“I’ll search for a place to put down,” Adam called back to her, slowing the pace of the broom. “Did you meet up with Ron?”
“Yes,” Ginny responded. “I passed on the message. I also learned something very interesting.”
“What did you find out?” Adam asked. “Oh, look,” he exclaimed and suddenly put the broom into a dive.
“What?” Ginny questioned. “What are we diving for?”
“I think I found our new hiding place!” Adam answered in response. “Look down there. It’s a small wood; would be perfect for a few nights, I think.”
Ginny looked at the wood. It didn’t look anything more than a group of about fifty or so trees clustered closely together, but, she supposed, the trees should keep them hidden from any prying eyes.
Adam guided the broom down into a hover just above the tops of the trees and then, very slowly, they began to float downwards through the branches, until they landed on the leaf-covered floor with a soft thud.
“Nice flying,” Ginny complemented, grinning at her boyfriend.
“Thanks,” Adam responded, suddenly putting his hands on her shoulders. “I love you.”
“Love you, too,” Ginny replied, giving him a kiss.
With a camp site now chosen, Adam and Ginny began their well-practised routine of scouting the area, making sure it was safe, and setting up their tent.
“So,” Adam questioned as they set to work on the tent, “what did you find out?”
“Well,” Ginny responded, “while I was talking to Ron, Malfoy burst in and had a go at him. So I followed Malfoy so I could Bat-Bogey him.”
“Ginny!” Adam interrupted.
“I know it was stupid and dangerous, but I overheard a conversation, and apparently something is being stored at Malfoy Manor. Malfoy described it as ‘one of his most valued possessions’.”
“A Horcrux!” Adam exclaimed.
“That was what I thought, too,” Ginny replied excitedly, all thoughts of setting up the campsite now forgotten. “And I bet Malfoy Manor is easier to break into than Hogwarts.”
“Hmm,” Adam murmured, apparently deep in thought. “We definitely need to check it out, but there’s something we need to do first.”
“What!” Ginny replied. “What could be more important than getting the next Horcrux?”
“Hermione,” Adam responded gravely. “They’ve got Hermione.”
“What!” Ginny cried. “How?”
“I’m not sure, but her parents came to the station to try and get help. Apparently, Hermione realised they were on to her, so she slipped away from her parents, but she got caught anyway.”
“What…” Ginny began quietly, “What happened?”
“They…” Adam began. “Her parents saw it happen; from what they said, it seems she was Stunned as she tried to get away from the hotel they were staying in and then a man dressed as an Auror took her away.”
“We have to do something!” Ginny replied passionately. “I know we can’t help all the Muggle-borns, but Hermione is our friend.”
“I know; plus,” Adam continued, “I sort of feel like this is partly my fault. I mean, she wouldn’t be as big a target if she wasn’t friends with me.”
“Or me,” Ginny continued. “You can’t blame all this on yourself. If you’re to blame, then I am, too. We need to get her back.”
“Yes,” Adam replied. “We need to find out where she’s been taken.”
“My guess would be the Ministry,” Ginny answered. “I just hope she hasn’t been sent to Azkaban.”
“Me, too,” Adam responded sadly. “But how can we get into the Ministry?”
“I…” Ginny began. “I know where the staff entrance is, maybe we can use that?”
“It’ll be risky,” Adam commented.
“I know that!” Ginny exclaimed. “But what choice do we have? Let’s get this tent up and then we need to come up with a plan.”