There was something unpleasant about the look of the Carrows when Snape introduced them at the opening banquet in the Great Hall. Whereas Snape himself seemed merely devious, mysterious, heartless and cold, Alectus and Amycus Carrow both seemed to actually exude dark evil. Their eyes were empty of all but cruel, pitiless arrogance and Ginny loathed the new teachers on sight. Learning that they would be in charge of discipline at Hogwarts was very worrying but that was not all that was disturbing Ginny.
She looked again with dismay at the message on her medallion: Avoid Snape's stare. He may see within. Ginny was at the Gryffindor table in the position Harry usually occupied. Perhaps there was some comfort in clinging to every reminder of him or possibly she satisfied a sense of duty within herself - as if keeping his place for him. She was holding her class schedule up high to cradle and conceal the silver disk. It was not herself she was concerned about but Neville who was seated next to her. Neville had a new-found courage that was still immature, even reckless at times. His anger at Snape for murdering Professor Dumbledore overrode his fear of the former Potions and Dark Arts master when fright might have been the safer state of mind. Right now Neville was returning the headmaster's gaze with a cold hatred that would have unnerved anyone of less mental fortitude.
"Neville!" hissed Ginny, hiding her medallion within her grasp, "look at me!"
Neville, startled, turned to Ginny. Ginny thrust her schedule under his face and with a forced smile intended to allay any suspicions of the headmaster, said, "Don't look at Snape! Pretend to read my schedule."
"Why not, Ginny?" said Neville. "I'm not scared of him any more."
"I know you're not - but perhaps you should be. He's expert at Legilimens you know. Harry's told me this before - I almost forgot."
Neville's eyes widened. "But..."
"It helps him if he has eye contact. Don't give him any advantage."
"Ah - right - but I wasn't thinking about--"
"It's not only what you're thinking about! Perhaps he can get deeper; see what we know and our memories." said Ginny. She felt Harry's kiss again and the silver medallion, still clutched in her hand, trembled once more. "I don't think he can go too deep without us feeling it but still... we need to be careful - warn the others."
"Right!" Neville struggled to avoid glancing back at the headmaster, seated at the head of the Great Hall in Dumbledore's old seat. "How do we... What do we..."
"We'll have to work something out - look at my ears or something instead of my eyes," said Ginny.
"Hair's too long. Can't see your-- Right. Look elsewhere." Neville fixed his gaze on the side of Ginny's head. "How's this?"
"Looks odd," said Ginny. "Try moving around over my nose, forehead - anywhere but my eyes."
"And around the room - you don't have to stare at my nose all the time!"
"No nose - it's a bit awkward, Ginny."
Ginny sighed. "We just need to practice so it doesn't look too unnatural." She pulled her schedule back from Neville and used it again to shield her medallion while she read it.
Me. Danger tomorrow. Do not worry.
Ginny looked around. Luna was engrossed with pouring custard over a jam sponge at the Ravenclaw table but there were plenty of other people gazing about who would think it odd if it looked like she was kissing her schedule. She would have to be patient before she could answer Harry's message but she could not help but be anxious and fret over what he might be planning. Was he intending to kill Voldemort the very next day? Why was he telling her now?
"Ginny?" said Neville.
"When we get back to the common room I want us to start asking around the old D.A. members - who's with us..."
"Tonight? We've not even unpacked!" Neville nearly dropped his dessert spoon.
"No point in waiting. I want to get going."
"Yes, of course. ... Yes, Harry wouldn't wait..."
Something banged heavily on a table at the front of the Hall and they became aware that everyone but themselves had fallen silent.
"Let me make one thing quite clear." Snape was on his feet addressing the entire Hall but glaring in particular at Neville and Ginny.
"Discipline at Hogwarts has been very lax these last few years." Snape paused. "This ... will ... NOT ... continue.
"In particular ... Anyone found consorting ... or conspiring ... with known criminals will be heavily punished.
"It is known ... I repeat, known ... that Harry Potter was seen running from the scene of the murder of our former headmaster, Professor Dumbledore who was much loved by us all ... not least ... by ... myself."
An angry murmuring and muttering flew around the entire gathering, including the teachers. Neville stirred in his seat, almost as if he was about to leap to his feet, but Ginny grabbed his arm. She herself felt Neville's revulsion of Snape but they needed to think carefully before doing anything foolish.
"SILENCE!" Snape's command was not as authoritive as Dumbledore's had been but nevertheless, everyone quietened down.
"If anyone ... knows of the whereabout of the criminal ... Harry Potter ... they must report this immediately to ... me.
"No doubt ... there are those amongst you who might wish ... to take the law into their own hands. ... This is understandable, ... given the enormity of his crime. ... But ... this will not be tolerated. We are a peaceful, law-abiding community and Potter must and will face a fair and just trial. Therefore ... resist your own impulses and report to me any information you might have about the boy ... OR ... any information you might have about ... anyone else's knowledge about him." Ginny felt sure he was looking directly at her but she stared only at the Carrows. While Snape was dangerously sharp-witted, Ginny felt the two Death Eaters looked rather dull and ignorant. They did not look the type to be able to penetrate anyone's mind very successfully. Perhaps they might be a better target for the D.A. resistance.
Snape continued standing for a few seconds, glaring around the hall at everyone before finally sweeping away towards the exit doors followed by his deputies, the Carrows. A general muttering broke out and rapidly grew into a hubbub as students discussed what had been said. The remaining teachers did not quell it - indeed, were part of it as they debated the situation amongst themselves. But when some students prepared to leave, Professor McGonagall stood up and called for attention.
"Hogwarts students! This will be a difficult year for many of you. Your heads of house will be available if any of you need advice but things will not be the same as before and I would advise caution." She paused for a few seconds before continuing.
"Many students cannot... will not be able to attend this year. To make up class numbers you will notice that some years are merged into the same lessons. We, the teachers of Hogwarts, expect senior students to... look out for those younger than themselves."
There was silence throughout the hall until McGonagall finished, "Merlin's good fortune be with you all."
"She sounds worried," said Neville.
"With good reason," said Ginny.
Seamus, who was sitting next to them and talking with Parvati and Lavender, turned to Ginny, "Why'd Snape want to protect Harry from vigilantes?"
"Because," said Ginny, in a matter-of-fact manner, "You-Know-Who wants to murder Harry himself. He needs to prove himself to his followers."
"He'll have to find him first," said Neville grimly.
"Why - where is he then?" asked Parvati.
"Nobody knows," said Ginny.
"He's smart. Gone into hiding where no one can hunt him down." said Seamus, nodding his head.
"I don't think he's on the run," said Neville. "I reckon he's up to something."
"Like what?" said Seamus.
"Don't know but... something," said Neville thoughtfully. "He won't just lie low; not Harry Potter."
Ginny felt a thrill at the admiration she sensed in Neville's voice but she remained silent, dwelling only on the message she had received from Harry. Harry will be in danger tomorrow. How can I support him? ... One thing I can do is not distract him with any unnecessary messages while he's at risk.
"Ron is the same," said Lavender, wistfully. "He's a fighter. He--"
"Ron is sick in bed!" snapped Ginny, then, in a more controlled manner, "He's very ill and... I'm really worried about him. I don't think he'll be back at Hogwarts for weeks - perhaps not this term."
Lavender stared. "So... He'll be back next... But what about..."
"Hermione?" supplied Ginny, not showing any surprise at all. "She's Muggle-born. She must have gone into hiding with her parents."
"So she's not... they're not..."
Ginny could see Lavender was digesting this information but before she could ask any further questions, Ginny got up abruptly and was surprised to notice a cluster of Gryffindors rose with her. She was suddenly aware that all those within earshot had been listening in on every word she had exchanged with Neville and Seamus. There was something different from previous years. There was an eagerness in the way they were looking at her - looking up to her. Did they think she had some great plan worked out? Could they possibly suspect she was in touch with Harry? Looking to Harry through her? To lead them from darkness into light? She shrugged and marched back to the common room with them all following. It felt very odd.
"Get started, Neville," said Ginny, when they had all entered their common room. "I'll join you in a minute."
"Me?" said Neville. "Why don't you... Right... me."
Ginny turned into the reading room and hid herself behind a tall shelf where she pulled out a huge dusty volume to obscure herself and the medallion further. She gazed at the disk and the message it still showed around its perimeter:
Me. Danger tomorrow. Do not worry.
For a long minute she tried to think what to say; considering what might be helpful or useful to Harry. Neville could be heard talking loudly around the corner and she knew he'd be drawing the few remaining D.A. members together again to gauge their attitudes and seeing if there might be any new recruits. She turned her attention back to what she was doing. What to say? Finally, Ginny kissed the disk and sent it with the message,
Safe till Prophecy. Tell me after.
As Ginny went back into the common room the talking fell silent and she could see everyone's eyes on her, including Neville's.
Romilda Vane spoke first, "So, is Harry not--"
"This is not about Harry!" snorted Ginny, then she steadied herself. "We're sure Harry will be out there... doing something. Nobody knows. But we know Harry and we know how strongly he feels. We can be sure he won't be lying back doing nothing. The thing is, Harry is not here. It's just us. It's up to us to do anything we can. We know Harry would if he were here."
"But what can we do anyway? Snape's in control and Death Eaters for teachers." said Seamus.
"Death Eaters!" exclaimed Parvati. "What do you mean?"
"The Carrows! Didn't you see them? They--" said Neville.
"I didn't know they were Death Eaters!" cried Parvati. "How can we fight Death Eaters?"
"Well obviously, we're not going to attack them in class, are we?" said Neville. "Anyway, Why'd you think you joined Dumbledore's Army? to play tiddly-winks?"
"We were learning Defence against the Dark Arts! Learning how to defend ourselves!" said Parvati.
"We can take them," said Cormac McLaggen. "They're spineless cowards all of them."
"McLaggen! What you doing here?" said Ginny. "Thought you'd left?"
"Yes, well, I decided... to do more studies... Advance myself, that sort of thing."
"You failed your NEWTS didn't you!" roared Seamus. "You've got to redo your seventh year!"
McLaggen quickly became red-faced. "I wanted to anyway!"
"Yeah - course you did!" smirked Seamus.
"Enough!" cried Ginny. "Does this mean you're in, McLaggen?"
"I'm considering it," he said.
"Well consider this while you're at it - I won't stand for any of last year's Quidditch nonsense," said Ginny firmly. "No bossing people around! I'm in charge and Neville here and Luna are my seconds-in-command - that's it!" Neville looked sideways at Ginny at this last remark but he didn't get a chance to say anything.
"Loony? Loony Lovegood?" cried Romilda. "How can she be--"
"Because she's ten times smarter than you is why!" cried Ginny, "and she fought Death Eaters at the Ministry - and last year when they murdered Professor Dumbledore. Anyone else here think they're good enough to step into her shoes? Hands up anyone who's fought Death Eaters!"
There was silence for a while. "Thought not," added Ginny.
"How can they both be second?" scoffed McLaggen. "Only one person can be--"
"Because I say so!" stormed Ginny. "They are co-equal deputies, alright?"
"Listen, we're not talking about fighting," continued Ginny. "We want to set up a meeting to find out exactly what we can do to resist Snape - to raise morale and wipe those stupid smirks off their faces..."
"And practice," broke in Neville, again looking sideways at Ginny and being reassured by her nods he continued, "We'll be carrying on duelling practice - learning new spells - so we can defend ourselves if we have to." He looked squarely at Parvati when he said this.
"Remember how it was when Umbridge was here," said Ginny. "It's bound to be at least as bad and probably worse. Do you want that? So think about it till tomorrow. We'll arrange the first meeting to discuss things properly. It's not just Gryffindors - there's Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs too. Then you make your decision."
"What is it, Harry?" said Hermione. "Is it your scar? Again?"
"Nothing. No, not this time. It's nothing. Just thinking." Harry thought hard. Somehow he had to control his reactions when he felt Ginny's kiss. He sighed and went to the mantelpiece where he fiddled with some old metal ornaments.
Hermione exchanged looks with Ron but said nothing. Harry managed to sneak out his medallion and read it while pretending to look at a little brass goblin with a tiny bell inside. The ornament glared and squirmed a little as if to say "Well? Are you going to ring me or not?" and Harry hastily dropped it back on the shelf and turned to the other two.
They had been discussing their plan for tomorrow and just finished Kreacher's treacle tart. They were physically well fed but still felt empty inside.
"Are you absolutely sure about this, Harry? Tomorrow?" said Hermione.
Safe till Prophecy. Harry was thinking about Ginny's message. Somehow it was reassuring - as if the Prophecy was too big and too important to be intended for an escapade in some Ministerial office. He knew that made little sense and yet why did the Prophecy not say 'Only one can survive but by the way he has seven lives.' Why was there no prophecy for all the other people that Voldemort killed? He marked me as his equal - his equal. So let's level the playing field so it really is equal. Maybe that's intended.
Harry smiled. He felt a little more confident about the next day. "Yes, Hermione - tomorrow we steal back the locket from Umbridge."
Ginny had spent every spare minute looking at the portcullis displayed on her medallion. It had begun as a small gateway but now it was huge. Harry had told her that signified increased danger near or within an enemy stronghold but only when it showed a dungeon did it mean capture. At least the spiked gate was still partly open; she hoped that meant there was a way out for Harry wherever he was. Her eye was distracted by an image in the book in which she was shielding the disk. A fat Muggle was disciplining his child. Ginny lifted her eyes away from the book but not to pay attention to anything that the teacher was saying.
"It's no surprise that Muggles are continuously at war with one another somewhere in the world when they all raise their children in such a brutal fashion," smirked Alecto Carrow. She was a short, stocky woman with dark hair severely tied back and an almost continuous expression of contempt.
The first ten minutes of this Muggles Studies class had been shocking; Muggles were being portrayed as ignorant, stupid, and disgustingly unhygenic. After that, Ginny had just resigned herself to letting the nonsense wash harmlessly over her; now was not the time for action but she could see Seamus was looking furiously at the teacher.
"Me dad never beats me," cried Seamus. He looked outraged. "He's less strict than me mam if anything."
"It is sickening when a witch or wizard mates with a Muggle but at least they keep them under control." said Carrrow. It sounded as if she had rehearsed the response.
Seamus was on his feet in an instant; he was furious. "Me dad doesn't need controlling!" he shouted. Neville, sitting next to him, dragged him back down to his chair.
"Ten points from Gryffindor!" smirked Carrow. "Any more outbursts like that Mr. Finnegan and it will be detention!"
She muttered something as if to herself but she did it loudly enough that everyone could hear. "I suppose this bad temper is understandable."
"What's that supposed to mean! - because I'm half-blood I get annoyed when someone insults me family?" roared Finnegan.
"Detention, Mr. Finnegan! Seven o'clock sharp. Don't bring your temper - it will not be tolerated." Carrow glared at him and there was something sinister in the way she continued, "If you cannot control yourself then you will find we have ways of doing it for you."
Neville and Ginny exchanged glances but decided to remain silent for the rest of the lesson. When the lunch bell went they were glad to get out.
At lunchtime in the Great Hall, there had initially been the usual chatter but Snape had ordered silence again. This lasted less than a minute then students were whispering to each other under cover of a sandwich or a pie.
"What d'you reckon, Ginny? Blood Quill?" said Neville out of the corner of his mouth.
"What?" Ginny looked up; she had not been following the Gryffindor's conversations but had spent most of the time with her face buried in a large, slim volume called "Twenty Charms You Should Know." It was ideal for hiding her medallion yet not heavy.
"Seamus' detention. What do you think he'll get?"
"Probably start with a big soapy scrub up then ten hot showers and then he'll have to take a pledge of peace and swear he'll never go to war."
"Not funny," snapped Finnegan.
"Perhaps not," whispered Ginny, "but it's all ruddy stupid anyway. I just ignored her." She returned her gaze to the silver disk concealed within her book. She was concerned that the portcullis image was now immense and fully closed. Great chains crossed it from side to side to make it clear that it was locked.
"You're turning into a regular Hermione Granger, Ginny!" murmured Neville. "It's me what's taking NEWTS this year."
Ginny slipped her medallion back below her neckline and closed her book. "Just doing a refresher. Last term seems ages ago. So much has..."
"Where do you think you are going, Lovegood!" barked Snape so loudly that several students near the front visibly recoiled.
"Oh! I've finished eating I'm just going to talk to some friends," replied Luna chirpily and continued walking over to the Gryffindor table.
"If you've finished then you may leave or return to your own table," snarled Snape. He raised his voice a notch to indicate he was addressing everyone. "Students will not fraternize with members of other houses in the Great Hall."
"But should we not encourage co-operation between the houses in these troubled times?" asked Luna innocently.
"Sit... Down... or... Go," said Snape, "or Ravenclaw will be co-operating with the other houses by forfeiting five house points. I shall not warn you again."
Luna started to turn but waved at Ginny as she did so then went back and sat down at the Ravenclaw table. The wave was not lost on Ginny.
"Three fingers - three definites," said Ginny. She looked across to Ernie Macmillan at the Hufflepuff table. He had not missed Luna's wave either; he was holding up four fingers. Ginny smiled and nodded. "Four Huffs, three Raves, plus Luna and Ernie is nine."
"What about this evening for the first meeting, then?" said Neville.
"No, I'm... Well, Seamus has detention for one thing," said Ginny. She didn't like to say she wanted to be free to keep watch when Harry was safe again. "Let's make it tomorrow at seven-thirty. I'll set the Galleons then Luna and Ernie can pass the message to those who've not yet got them."
It was early afternoon in Charms before Ginny was finally relieved to see a sailing ship had replaced the portcullis on her medallion - yet no message from Harry. She fretted through the remaining lessons of the day. What if he's sick? Or unconscious? It was evening in the common room as she and Neville and others waited for Seamus to return from his detention that a tremble at her throat and the sense of Harry's presence and his warm affection touched her.
"I'm in!" snapped Finnegan as he entered the Gryffindor common room. "Count me in!" His face was dark as thunder and his eyes were red and sore.
"In?" said Neville, "you mean the D.A.? - thought you were already in!"
"No, well - I'd been thinking about it..."
"So, what happened?" said Ginny. She was already on her feet ready to go and find a corner where she could read Harry's message so she was slightly annoyed that Seamus had arrived at that very moment.
"Blood Quill; banned from Hogsmeade this weekend; and a nasty little spell called Itchysquirms."
"Hogsmeade!" squealed Romilda and Lavender, "it's a Hogsmeade weekend?"
"Yeah - and I'm sure they only did it so they could ban me from it," grumbled Seamus, rubbing the back of his hand.
"Not as bad as I'd feared," said Neville.
"Not bad?" snapped Seamus, "You want to try it! See how long you last!"
"What is it? Itching powder kind of thing?" said Ginny. "Fred and George might be--"
"Your skin crawls. All over. It's like being... crawled over by a million bugs." Seamus shuddered. "Even my eyes... But that's not all..."
"Oh no - I hate creeping things," said Romilda. She brushed some imaginary insect off her sleeve and hugged herself as if she had suddenly gone cold.
"What else?" said Ginny.
"Amycus - he--"
"Amycus was there as well?" said Neville.
"Both of them. Alecto - she casts the squirmy thing. I don't know what it's called. I call it itchysquirms because that's what it feels like." Seamus hesitated before continuing. "He... he gets into your mind. You see... You see things... Dark... it's like their... all over you. You can't... I... I gave in to them..." Seamus threw himself down in an armchair and buried his face in his hands.
There was stunned silence throughout the common room. Ginny spoke first. "What did you tell them, Seamus?"
Seamus looked up, startled. "Nothing! What do you... I..." His face flushed as he struggled to tell them. "I apologized... to Alecto. I begged her forgiveness. I told them... me dad was a..." He hid his face in his hands again and turned away, ashamed.
Ginny went over and put a hand on his shoulder. "They've shamed themselves not you. You can't be... Don't feel badly about yourself if you couldn't stand the spell any longer..."
"Spell? Me? It wasn't me that time!" Seamus looked at everyone again. He realised he'd not explained himself very well. "It wasn't me. They did it to me first but I wouldn't give in. Then they did it to a... first-, no, second-year he is now. That little Huff with the big ears - you know? Davey something. He was crying. They wouldn't stop till I gave in..."
Ginny sank down into the chair next to Seamus. "You're dad would be so, so proud of you Seamus." Seamus turned to look at her. His eyes were shining but he had managed to fight back his tears. He didn't speak but Ginny hoped that what she saw in his expression was a little relief from his inner torment.
"They can't do that!" said Romilda. "They shouldn't be allowed."
"You see what we're up against don't you!" shouted Neville at everyone in the room. He was furious. "They're evil. We have to fight them! Anyone who doesn't stand up to them is as bad they are! You don't need to fight them in a duel but everyone needs to do their bit! We have to find ways to deal with this! Think about it. Think about tomorrow night's meeting. If you're not with us then... Well, you have to live with that for the rest of your life."
Ginny suddenly remembered Harry's message and she stood up. "What Neville said. Think about it overnight. Make sure everyone you speak to knows about it. You lose nothing by coming to the meeting and discussing what action we can take. Think on it..."
She left them and went upstairs to the girls' dormitory and sat on her bed, face glowing with a mixture of emotions. She was alone. Everyone had crammed into the common room to listen to what had happened and she could hear raised voices down there still. She took out her medallion and looked at it.
3 Safe. Ron hurt. Recovering. I need you bad. Wish this was over. BwithU.
Ginny could feel Harry's misery like a stone in her heart and her brother's courage slapped her in the face as she realised he might have died while she had hardly thought of him. She burst into tears but suppressed her sobs so no one could hear her. She struggled to bring herself under control and dried her eyes in case anyone came upstairs and saw her. She sat for many minutes distracted by the heated discussions that were taking place down in the common room. What to do? A fragment of what someone was saying downstairs caught her attention and she straightened up; her eyes widened. She did not hesitate for long before her kiss was on its way to Harry.
Hogsmeade this weekend. Stile. 11:00am. ?
'Only one can survive' and 'He marked me as his equal' are based on similar statements in 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,' Chapter 7 by J.K. Rowling.
I suppose I should have said this story assumes you are familiar with all the characters and events of Deathly Hallows. I mostly only give hints where we are in the original story or it gets boring retelling the same old stuff. Harry is wearing the locket horcrux now so is feeling especially low. The stile is at the end of the road out of Hogsmeade where Harry, Ron, and Hermione met Sirius to take him food in GoF.
Comments and reviews are welcome and very encouraging. Thank you. :)
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