3. Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes
The radio’s dial twirled and the lights behind the tuning panel went out…Hearing familiar, friendly voices was an extraordinary tonic; Harry had become so used to their isolation he had nearly forgotten that other people were resisting Voldemort. It was like waking from a long sleep. DH: The Deathly Hallows, pg. 235
Ginny shivered at the cold touch of the windowpane against her flushed skin. The icy flowers of frost that had become more beautifully intricate with each breath dissolved into nothingness beneath her fingers, granting her a clear vision of the street and storefronts opposite Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. It was a view which provided no comfort—just recognizable enough for her to realize that something was wrong, but at the same time so different that it was a struggle to pick out the familiar sights among the abandoned sidewalks and boarded-up storefronts.
Whatever she was looking for, it wasn’t here. That much was instantly clear. In her memories Diagon Alley was always bustling—slightly intimidating, even, with everyone hurrying and pushing about their business—full of promise, the beginning of a new school year, the return of old friends from the summer holidays. The annual late August journey to purchase new school supplies was one of her favorite days each summer. Or it had been. Even the knowledge that she wouldn’t be able to do anything more than stare longingly at the bright, glittering storefronts of the main street had done little to curb her excitement; and when she walked out of the darker, dustier second-hand stores with a few small parcels, Ginny always felt like she was the luckiest girl in the world.
At least that’s how everything looked in her memories, when she was able to summon up the strength to replay them. Remembering was a dangerous business, best served for late nights and quiet corners; that was one of the few lessons that she’d learned at Hogwarts this year. As she stared out the window, images of the near-deserted storefronts swam before her eyes; they threatening to drown out the crowded streets of the past, and Ginny had to force back the ache of another bit of happiness lost to the war.
Now was not the time for tears. It was a bright, clear day, the sun strong despite the crisp temperature—a perfect day for flying. This was her favorite part of the year to be outside, before the snow fell but late enough in the season to drive all but the most dedicated back indoors. When you had to always be moving to keep your hands from going numb.
Last year I would’ve been out flying right now, taking advantage of the beautiful weather. And Harry and Ron would have been there, and maybe Hermione. But now they’re gone, and the streets are empty, and we’re losing the fight. As much as she tried to stop herself from thinking of the past, the memories seemed to swell up when she least expected it. Sometimes she felt like an old woman on her deathbed, half-blind and barely able to stand, forced to relive time and again bygone golden years of joy and contentment because she knew the future could hold nothing but pain. Every time Ginny thought she had a handle on things again, at least to the point that she could pretend to be okay for everyone else’s sake, another change appeared to catch her off-guard. Today it was the fact that she was here, in Diagon Alley, when she should have been at Hogwarts, caught up in schoolwork and excited for the Halloween feast. Tomorrow it would be something different, and the next day; and one day soon the illusion would crumble, and she wouldn’t be able to pretend anymore.
It had been hard returning to Hogwarts this year, the many familiar faces she’d see each day in the halls and common room serving only to emphasize those she wouldn’t find, the faces that were missing. The ones that she wanted to see the most, that she’d give anything for just a glimpse of. But there was a solidarity among the remaining students, too, a sense of united purpose and shared sorrow that reminded her she wasn’t alone. In September, Ginny had barely been able to handle the combined pain of so many suffering together, feeling each death and disappearance so much more acutely because it wasn’t just a name in a newspaper anymore; no, now it was an aunt or a friend or a neighbor, and that made it all the more real and all the more excruciating to experience. But now, two months later, she realized how much she needed that feeling, that fellowship, because what was happening was too big for her, and she couldn’t deal with it on her own.
So surprisingly enough, she missed Hogwarts, even the sick, twisted version of the school that had been introduced this fall and barely warranted being called by the same name. The only reason she wasn’t there now was because Snape and the Carrows had introduced a mandatory fall break, sending all the students home for the last week of October. Neville had claimed that they were trying to force so-called “traitors” who supported the resistance out of hiding by making them come to pick up their children. It was either that or risk leaving their sons and daughters to some unknown form of punishment. Secretly Ginny agreed with Neville’s opinion on the matter, though she’d tried to keep spirits up among the D.A. members by reminding everyone that they should be celebrating a week of freedom from the Carrows, whatever the cause.....
…“You okay?” Fred’s voice startled her as he opened the door to the back stockroom. Ginny turned guiltily away from the window; the twins were paying her to help with inventory this week while they manned the registers and helped customers. But it had been clear within the first fifteen minutes that they didn’t really need the additional set of hands—even with students out on break, business was down throughout Wizarding London, and Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes was no exception. Though she didn’t know for sure, Ginny could only imagine most people felt like the small mundane actions that constituted daily life just didn’t matter as much anymore. And people were scared, regardless of whether or not they admitted it. Husbands made their wives promise to stay at home, to leave the shopping for next week, and mothers called out to their children, asking them to come back inside and play in the house instead. The twins must’ve noticed her hanging on by a thread at home, just waiting for that last spark before the big explosion, and decided she needed a change of scenery. They had always had a knack for understanding her silences, listening not only to the words she spoke but also to those she could only leave unsaid.
“No need to worry about it, we just closed,” Fred spoke softly into the silence of the shadowy storeroom. He didn’t seem angry as he came to sit next to her; instead he just dropped a long arm around her shoulders and brushed a strand of hair away from her face, looking as if he was on the verge of saying something more before turning away with a quiet sigh. They sat in silence for a moment before George entered the back room as well, looking around for them. The silence wasn’t awkward but it wasn’t quite comfortable either, for some reason she couldn’t explain. This was Fred and George, who were always ready with a laugh or joke or snide remark, even at the most inopportune moment. Sitting without speaking to the twins was something different than what she was used to; and she felt the room begin to swim before her as her eyes filled with unshed tears one more, because at the moment she’d give almost anything just to feel something familiar. Everything was changing, and she couldn’t stop it even if she was rash enough to try.
It was strange seeing this new side of the twins; they weren’t subdued so much as older, a bit more mature. Now when they played jokes it was for the others, to keep everyone laughing, rather than simply to amuse themselves. The change could be seen in the shop as well; they still had bright, eye-catching banners and silly trick sweets, but they seemed to know that a line had been drawn and weren’t stupid enough to see what happened if they crossed it.
“Do you think they know what’s been going on?” asked George quietly as he joined them at the window. “Harry, Ron, and Hermione, I mean. Do you think they heard about you being sent home for the week, or about the Dementors searching Hogwarts, or that that Muggle tour bus exploded yesterday?”
“Probably not,” said Ginny practically. “No one at school knows anything, though there’s been crazy rumors flying everywhere. It’s hard to tell whether the students or the Prophet start them sometimes, but no one seems to be getting the truth, that’s for sure. The only reason we know half of what’s going on is because of Dad, what he tells us, and we all know the only reason he says anything is to try and keep us from doing something reckless to find out on our own.”
“And Lupin,” added Fred. Luckily Lupin was not of the same opinion as Molly, that they were too young to be kept in the dark, and while he hadn’t been going out of his way to provide the twins with information, he had seemed willing enough to answer honestly when they questioned him directly. Probably figured it was for the best, like their father. “Doesn’t know anything about Ron and Harry and Hermione, though,” Fred continued. “We always ask. He said he saw them after the wedding really quickly, but when he went back a few days later to apologize—guess something happened between him and Harry that didn’t sit right with him—they were already gone, and the place was swarming with Death Eaters. Lupin barely got away, Kingsley chewed him out about it. No one’s supposed to go back there now.”
Ginny appreciated what Fred and George were doing, knowing that they were asking for her as much as for themselves, despite the tension it was causing with their mother. Ginny would know absolutely nothing if Molly had her way, and the twins were sure to get an earful later if it came out that they had shared any news at all. She hoped that Molly never found out, for the twins’ sake; while they were usually the ones who instigated trouble, deep down Fred and George were also among the least confrontational of her brothers. They held their own under Molly’s yells and often yelled right back, but they didn’t take it as far as the others. Charlie was quiet but he could be harsh when angry, with an uncanny ability to know the one thing to say that would cut the other person deepest. If she was being honest with herself, Ginny knew she was the same way, and often her sarcasm crossed the line into cruelty that she quickly regretted. Percy and Ron could stay angry for months if you let them, and she and Bill could definitely hold a grudge as well.
But the twins were almost as quick to forgive as they were to cause trouble, and they were always the first to apologize if an argument went too far. They hated to see any of the family fighting, and when they were very young some of their most memorable jokes had been ill-conceived attempts to ease the tension in a room and get everyone laughing again. It was a very different reaction than the rest of the family and she’d often wondered if it was something they’d developed out of necessity, because there was two of them. She couldn’t imagine Fred and George in a fight, but she also couldn’t imagine spending that much time with someone each day without wanting to tell them to bugger off occasionally.
The bell over the door tinkled, cutting sharply through the silence and interrupting Ginny’s train of thought. She felt Fred jump a bit beside her, startled, before he yelled out over his shoulder that the store was closed, voice just a shade too casual. He was nervous, and probably had a right to be; they were in a war, after all, and not all unexpected visitors were friendly.
Luckily, these ones were.
“We know,” said a woman’s familiar voice, a second before Angelina appeared in the doorway. A second later, Alicia materialized as well, breaking into a small half-smile when she caught sight of the three Weasleys huddled together in the center of the room.
“Did you hear about Oliver?” Angelina called out as the two girls started across the room towards the others, her voice ringing out sharply down the rows of shelves and boxes.
“He’s fine,” she added quickly, catching sight of their stricken faces. “Not all news is bad news, you know.” She laughed quietly at the identical sighs of relief that broke out across the room, then instantly regretted it. Her laughter sounded forced and out of place among the quiet room, and she was hit with an odd sensation of grief—she never would have imagined laughter to wrong in the company of the Weasley twins. “But there was an attack last night, at the Puddlemere-Cannons game. Katy stopped by this morning to let us know what happened, she and Oliver have been sharing a flat and I can only imagine how nervous she was when he didn’t make it home. She told us he got back just before dawn, half-frozen and looking scared out of his bloody wits.”
Ginny settled her head back against the rough brick behind her, closing her eyes as she listened to Angelina and Alicia take turns speaking, slowly telling their story. Everyone except George, who was now making a half-hearted attempt to inventory the latest shipment of potion ingredients, had unconsciously positioned themselves with their backs to the wall, leaving the front of the shop and the only entrance in full view. Or the only visible entrance—Ginny was sure that Fred and George had a hidden escape route of some kind, given their penchant for secret passageways at Hogwarts. It gave the room a strange atmosphere, as if they were all waiting for something to happen but no one was quite sure what. The anticipation hung so heavy on the air that Ginny could almost taste it.
“I guess they just couldn’t resist,” Angelina continued, “what with all those fans packed together in one place. Hard to tell who was muggle-born, of course, and most everyone’s in hiding at this point anyways. But the Death Eaters can never resist a crowd, and the setup of the stadium made them easy pickings once the exit was blocked off. Oliver was there, of course, and not as conspicuous as some of his other teammates because he was watching the game from the sidelines when the attack started. Said he was nearly trampled by a family running for what they thought was safety, though he knew that they were heading right for a group of Death Eaters. He had a broom, he could have just taken off at the first sign of trouble, but instead he piled the children on and flew them to safety, then came back for the parents.”
“He saved so many lives,” Alicia said softly, her voice filled with awe. “Once he’d gotten the first family out, he just kept going back for as many as he could, right under the Death Eater’s noses.”
“If he’d been caught…” Angelina started, but her voice broke before she could even finish the thought. She didn’t have to; they all knew what would have happened, the consequence of resistance. She struggled to find the right words, forcing herself to continue. “No one’s talking about it, obviously, but Oliver said he nearly collided mid-air with the Cannons beater, who looked as if he was doing the same thing. And most of his Puddlemere teammates were helping as well, or looking out for their muggle-born mates.”
“It could have been a disaster,” Alicia added. “So many people trapped in such a confined space, everyone in a panic and trampling over one another to try to get away. Like the World Cup all over again, but ten times worse because they out to kill this time. But the players stepped up and saved as many as they could. Not everyone, but more than anyone dared to hope.”
“It’s still a tragedy, of course, but it’s a little but inspirational at the same time, don’t you think? Shows that something can be achieved if there are people who aren’t afraid to stand up and make the right choice.”
“Oliver told Katy he felt like the bloody Hogwarts Express, shuttling all the muggle-born fans to safety, but she could tell he was proud he’d done it.”
“He should be,” George chimed in from where he had moved to in the far corner of the room, distractedly banishing brightly-wrapped toffees into various cardboard boxes with restless abandon; they seemed to miss their targets more often than not, and when they did land in a box it was anyone’s guess whether it was the one for which they’d been intended. There was already a growing number of the metallic sweets glittering haphazardly up from where they had been scattered across the stockroom floor.
“It’s the kind of stories you never hear anymore, the happy ones where everything just goes right,” Fred said with a tired sigh.
“Except for the fact that the game was attacked in the first place,” Ginny added sarcastically, forcing her eyes open. Fred was staring down at his lap, where he held one of Alicia’s hands intertwined within his own; Angelina’s head rested on his far shoulder, and she looked just as tired as Ginny felt.
“Well yeah, that wasn’t good, but it could have been much worse,” Fred shot back.
“I wish someone would report them,” Alicia cut in, before Ginny could respond. “The happy stories I mean. Or at least the ones that might give people some hope, encourage them to try doing the right thing. We get enough stories like this out, it might convince those who have already given up that it’s worth it to try to resist, even if they can’t save everyone. That even one less death means something.”
Ginny looked up again at that statement, taking in the other’s far-away eyes. For a brief second she could see them all imagining it, dreaming of waking up each morning to read about the lives that were saved along with all of those that were lost. To hear about the victories, however small, in the midst of so much tragedy. And one by one, she saw each of the others lower their heads, the light in their eyes extinguishing, because they knew it was nothing but a careless dream, a fragile fantasy world that would be shattered instantly by the harshness of reality. But Alicia’s words had struck a chord in the back of her mind, and she could hear them echoing over and over again, relentless. And though she knew the others were considering the bigger picture, how much this could mean to the wizarding world as a whole, Ginny was only thinking of one person, the one boy she knew needed hope and happiness more than anyone else in the world, as she felt the beginnings of a plan taking shape in her mind.
Somewhere Harry was preparing for the biggest battle of his life. He needed to know how many people stood behind him.
“What if we could?” Ginny said suddenly, breaking the brief silence that had fallen over the group. The echo in her head wouldn’t go away; if anything, it was just growing louder and louder, but she wasn’t sure how to put her new idea into words. When Fred turned to look at his sister, she stared back at him with a strong, calculating look; it was one that he recognized well as belonging to someone who had just come up with an idea that would be both very awesome and very illegal.
The wizarding world needed hope, Ginny thought to herself. Harry and the others were doing what needed to be done, she was sure of it, and no news was always good news. But many people were losing faith, without Dumbledore or Harry to stand behind. It seemed like no one was taming the flow of evil, but that was just because the good things never got reported.
But the small things could make a difference. She had noticed it today, looking out the window of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Fred and George had insisted on keeping up a bright, colorful display at their storefront, even as the other more and more of the surrounding shops put locks on their doors and hid their merchandise behind heavy dark curtains. People stopped for just a second in their hurried walk by, lifted their heads for a moment and actually smiled. It wasn’t much, of course. But even still, it was a touch of lightness in their day. And maybe it left them with one more spark of hope, just enough to get through another long night, never knowing what the morning would bring.
Harry needed that spark, to remember what he was fighting for. They all needed it, now more than ever.
“How, though?” Fred questioned, bringing Ginny back down to earth. “Even if we get a hold of stories to share, whose going to report them? It can’t be the Prophet, no one with half a head on their shoulders believes that nonsense anymore.”
“Dad said he’d have canceled our subscription if it didn’t give such an important look into what the Ministry wants us to think,” George agreed as he walked back across the room to rejoin the group, dodging boxes and stacks of order forms. He slid to the ground next to Angelina, putting an arm over her shoulder.
“You can do it,” said Ginny, turning to look her brothers in the eye. “Over the radio. We all can. We can report what’s really happening—the good stuff. And the bad stuff too. It will be hard to hear, but it’s so much worse not to know. We’ll have to report only the facts, build up our credibility until people begin to trust us. Do it in secret, so they can’t prove anything, but make it recognizable at the same time. Think if Kingsley was on the radio; his voice is so deep, you’d recognize him, even if he was never called by name. Who do we know who’s good at speaking to a crowd?”
“How about Lee,” Fred chimed in, starting to look excited once again. Ginny could almost hear the wheels beginning to turn in his brain as he latched on to the idea, mulling over the different possibilities. “The younger people would recognize him from announcing. And I bet he’d be willing to do it. But we’d need some way to keep it exclusive, otherwise the Death Eaters might be able to identify who’s speaking just as easily.”
“How about a password?” questioned George with a sideways glance at his twin. Fred caught the look and grinned, knowing what George was thinking of. They had both seen how well a password could keep something protected.
“Potter.” Ginny’s voice held a quiet fire, slow-burning and intense. “That will be the first password.”
Something about the way Ginny spoke, the passion and determination ringing clearly through her words, slashed through the other’s doubts and allowed them to consider the possibility of her words. All of them had spent too many weeks feeling powerless, unable to stop the rush of terrible things that seemed to be waiting around every corner, and now to have the chance to believe in something, anything, again was an addictive feeling. It was like the D.A.—maybe not too important in the big picture, but it made them feel as if they mattered. They talked for what seemed like hours, plotting and planning, energized by the idea that they might be able to make the world a little bit lighter, just by doing something as small as sharing the whole truth, the good and the bad.
Alicia and Angelina eventually stood to leave as the shadows lengthened and twisted, shaking out stiff knees and flashing smiles that for once were not forced. They walked away with promises to spread the news of the new broadcast, discreetly of course and only to those they knew they could trust. It would take some time to get the word out and even longer to establish credibility, but it was something. Ginny could hear Fred and George whispering in the corner about the best way to get in contact with Lee—the twins in particular had seemed to come alive again at the mere idea of resistance, laughing like old times.
“We should probably head back as well,” George sighed. “You know how upset mum gets when we we’re later than she expects.” He was staring at the door his friends had just left through while he spoke, as if trying to burn the image into his mind. Ginny wondered if he was trying to take it all in, how they’d had looked, what they’d said, in case something terrible happened and this was the last time he got to see them. She wondered, but she was afraid to ask; it wasn’t a thought that she wanted to put into words, though she’d caught herself doing the same thing over the past few months.
“And it’s past our baby sister’s bedtime,” Fred added with a grin, his old wicked smile making a welcome appearance.
Suddenly Fred and George each seized one of her arms and turned on the spot, leaving any retort Ginny might’ve had swallowed by the overwhelming feeling that she was about to vomit. And she did, right on George’s shoes as they landed in the paddock beside the Burrow, which served him right for Apparating her without warning. She only regretted that her aim had been slightly off; a few inches to the left and she would have hit the side of Fred’s pants as well.
Late that night, long after the kitchen had emptied and the rest of the family had headed to bed, Ginny still sat at the table, starring at the scarred wood and watching as her tears left dark stains across its surface. She jumped slightly as she felt a hand press down lightly on her shoulder, only calming again when she recognized the voice that whispered out a greeting. Lupin had walked up so quietly behind her that she didn’t notice his presence until he was already right there, didn’t have time to feel ashamed or mask her pain.
He’d caught her, the first day of the break, standing at the window and staring out into the yard with silent tears running down her face. It was right there, beneath the spreading branches of an old oak where the otherwise lush grass grew sparse and yellowed from lack of sun, that she’d seen Harry for the last time. He hadn’t even looked like Harry, still disguised as that red-haired boy from town; and he hadn’t even seen her, as he held tightly to Hermione’s hand and scanned the panicked crowd for Ron. But she treasured the moment all the same. When sleep broke through the walls she’d built to keep all the memories at bay, it replayed again and again amid her dreams, a bittersweet lullaby to occupy the long lonely hours of the night. Being at home again, she could almost feel the shadows of the past hovering at the edges of her vision, just out of reach.
At first Ginny had thought she was being strong for everyone else; it seemed like such a noble idea, to suffer in silence because the rest of the world had troubles enough already, and she didn’t want to add to the burden. In truth, though, she did it for herself, because she hated the look of pity that she got from anyone who noticed her tears. It made her feel weak, and powerless, and inexplicably angry, for some reason that she couldn’t quite explain. They wanted to sympathize with her, let her know that they understood what she was feeling. But they didn’t; no one could understand. And it scared her, the force of the frustration that bubbled up uncontrollably and spilled out in harsh words she instantly regretted, so she’d quickly learned to hide her tears and save herself the inevitable guilt.
“I just wish I could say thank you.” Lupin had taken the seat next to her, his declaration barely carrying across the small space between them even in the silence of the sleeping house. She could sense his presence but he never met her eyes; his focus was on something far away, something only he could see. He didn’t say anything more, but Ginny understood. He was talking about Harry, about whatever had been left unresolved between them, regretting that it was likely to be left that way forever.
“What if you could?” she asked, her own voice scarcely louder than a whisper. It seemed almost too much to hope for, like her Quidditch daydreams, a precious ray of hope so tenuously grasped that even to speak it aloud might make it shatter into a million gleaming shards of what might have been. But she had something to work on now, a new project, and it gave her the courage to keep speaking. She didn’t know if Harry would ever hear what they were going to say, she didn’t even know if they would really be able to say anything at all, but so many people had things that they wished they could tell him and she was determined to try, at the very least. And others might hear, others who could use a little more courage in their lives.
That was all she could ask for, really. She would have to return to school, back to her own, albeit smaller-scale, battle, but Fred and George would help, and Lee, and now maybe even some of the Order members could be recruited. It wouldn’t win any battles, but at the very least it would help convince the rest of the wizarding world that the war wasn’t already lost. And if she’d learned anything from the D.A., it was when all hope was lost that the enemy truly prevailed.
Lupin felt himself smile for the first time in days, though he didn’t know why. What Ginny was suggesting, the idea that he would be able to talk to Harry again, to explain and apologize and say everything that should have been said long ago, how proud he was of the man Harry was becoming and how proud James would have been, was near impossible; they both knew that. There was little chance that they would both survive the war, and that knowledge hung heavily in the air, unspoken but undeniable.
Yet Lupin could almost feel the exhilaration rolling off the girl next to him; there was an infectious energy spilling out from her eyes, a fire burning low but fierce within them like she was afraid to hope but just couldn’t help herself. Ginny was definitely excited about something. Knowing her, it was something completely unexpected. And completely illegal. He had always had a soft spot for the youngest Weasley, just as devious as the twins in many ways, but less flashy. He knew what it was like to be underestimated, left in the shadow of more boisterous friends, and she had an entire family to contend with. That said, the girl seemed to have no trouble holding her own. Even now, when most of the world had given up, she was still thinking of new ways to fight. And he wanted to help her, however he could; maybe she was just a child, but so were Harry, Ron, and Hermione in his mind, and that hadn’t prevented the three of them from having the fate of the war thrust upon their shoulders. Maybe this was no longer his fight. Maybe it was the children who would win this war. Maybe he just needed something, anything, to believe in.
He didn’t know what Ginny was thinking, whether it would turn the tide of the war or just get her killed. But he was willing to find out, because she had as much of a right as any of them to fight for her future, even if she was only 16.
“All right,” Lupin said softly, turning to look directly into Ginny’s eyes for the first time, letting the ferocity of her gaze burn away the last of his doubts. “Let’s hear your plan.”