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Love Breaks The Noble Spirit by Hippothestrowl
Chapter 9 : The Trysting Stone
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1


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When the morning's rain finally resigned itself to a melancholy end, the view did not improve. If there was a more dismal landscape than the one that Harry Potter now faced, he had never seen it. He saw no reason why Hermione should ever have visited this grim old quarry. He had only been told that, when younger, she had hiked here with her parents. The ugly pit was long-disused; that much was evident from the wet, stringy weeds that clawed out of the cracks between its shattered stones. Yet at the higher levels, overlooking this unnatural chasm, wind and rain had scraped the rocks, leaving bare, unwanted slabs, rejected even by mosses and lichens. Upon one such puddled rock lay Slytherin's locket.

That Harry had placed this dark object, and what it contained, in this dead, unforgiving place, seemed appropriate. He wished he might leave it here forever or hurl it down to smash against the quarry floor. He could not - but at least he was taking an hour's respite from its malevolent influence.

Wearing the cursed pendant always made him irritable and anxious to some extent but when Harry had again started thinking hateful thoughts about Ginny it became so unpleasant he had felt compelled to take it off. The artifact would not be out of his sight though, and he was ever-alert to snatch it up if need be. It was slightly risky but the relic had finally broken his resolve when he had begun to question Ginny's faithfulness. For many minutes he fought those feelings until, disgusted, he separated himself from the evil thing.

Harry had been so filled with concern for Ginny, and so delighted at her recovery, he had not cared what she had done. Over a week had passed, however, and he was curious about the matter and why she had not explained her plea for help. The warmth of his relationship with Ginny, the honesty of her kisses, his certainty of her character - all these evoked an unshakable trust. He reminded himself, rather guiltily, that he had not yet told her about the destruction of her photograph. There's a reason she's not told me. Give her time, Harry.

He yearned to see her again; surely another Hogsmeade visit must not be far off! He would not press her however, but continue to offer his unquestioning support. He put the medallion to his lips. Ever thinking of you Ginny. Strong 4U

He was still thrilling to the kiss he shared when he spotted two distant figures waving to him from far along the winding depths. He waved back - though he knew protective spells hid him from their view. Ron and Hermione would take another ten minutes to ascend the access ledges left when the quarry's northern face was cut. This vantage assured Harry he was unlikely to be surprised by unwanted visitors.

With a sigh, he slipped the locket back around his neck shortly before they reached him.

"Any luck?" he called.

He could tell from the shake of their heads they would all be going hungry that night.

"The guest house is gone, Harry," said Hermione, as they drew near. "I'm sorry. We found quarrymen's houses in ruins - not even sure if it's the same place."

"Anything else?"

"No rabbits, no trees, no river, no mushrooms, no nothing," grumbled Ron.

"It's not how I remember it," added Hermione apologetically.

"It's alright - don't worry."

Hermione looked at Harry in surprise. She had prepared herself for bitter responses.

"I took it off for a while," said Harry, by way of explanation of his good humour. "I kept watch and I never let it out of my sight." He gestured towards the flattened slab that lay like a table top before him - a table that would not be dined upon this day.

"We'll start on the chocolate tonight, then," said Hermione. "It will have to do until tomorrow. We'll find somewhere better."

"Yeah, like next door to a twenty-four-hour café," muttered Ron.

"I remember a river in Wales," said Hermione, frowning as she tried to recall old memories, " - we'll go there."

"That's good - we'll get a fish or two..." said Harry, hoping to cheer up Ron but Ron scowled. He ducked behind Harry into their tent which was pitched next to the last remnants of a broken-down workman's hut, itself wedged against a sheltering rock face.

"He's never had to go hungry like this," whispered Hermione, trying to excuse his sour disposition.

"Neither have you," said Harry. "If he wants to be unhappy then I'll go out tomorrow and he can have the locket; see how he likes it."

"Harry, he--" Hermione looked really miserable.

"I've not even seen a bird fly over," said Harry, looking unhopefully upwards and trying to divert Hermione from talking about Ron.

Hermione took a few steps. She was unsure whether to go into the tent with Ron or remain with Harry outside. It was not raining but everywhere was damp. Without a meal to prepare she was at sixes and sevens.

"Here, take my seat," said Harry, standing up from his stool and stretching his legs.

She gratefully eyed the folded blanket Harry had been using as a dry cushion. The young girl had been walking for hours and her legs ached.

"I'd better go in..." she replied after a few seconds' hesitation. She turned away into the tent.

Fine! thought Harry, I'm sure you two have got lots to talk about...

Harry plonked himself back down on his stool again and looked out over the quarry access and the grey skies. He had a couple more hours to go on this watch until Ron would take over and Hermione would wear the horcrux. He considered taking the locket off again; this was the most secure location they had ever found. He decided against it unless it became too difficult to wear. He resigned himself to a period of gloom.

His mood was lifted by the touch of Ginny's kiss and the trembling of his medallion.

With U2. Strong 4U2. Something to tell next we meet.

Harry smiled. Now he knew why Ginny had not told him. She wanted to tell him when they were together. It must surely be just a week or two and then there would be another Hogsmeade... He began to visualise her face - seeing him, seeing her. Even in his imagination, the look in her eyes touched him so deeply, it evoked warmth and joy in his heart.

"Cup of tea, Harry?" It was Hermione with a warming brew.

Harry's smile deepened. Things were looking up.


—oOo—


The Students of Hogwarts did not have to wait even two days for the next Hogsmeade visit.

"This D.A. meeting is only going to be a short one," said Ginny. "Sorry it was so sudden but you've probably all heard in the last few hours that tomorrow is a Hogsmeade weekend," said Ginny. "We think Snape's announced it at the last minute deliberately so we don't have much time to plan anything--"

"Should have thought of that before then," smirked Zacharias Smith.

"You're right - WE should have, shouldn't we Smith? We're all in this together, remember? Anyway, as it happens, we do have a couple of things already thought out."

"Why is Snape allowing any Hogsmeades at all?" asked Lavender. "And this one's sooner than expected so at this rate we'll have more than normal!"

"We've thought of a few reasons," said Ginny, grimly.

"So they can get us out of the way, you reckon?" said Michael.

"Yes - they might use the opportunity to sneak around - probably even go through our things," said Ginny, "that's why we've now got these footlockers."

Ginny gestured to the long row of chests against the back wall of the Room of Requirement. The Room was accumulating more and more equipment as they were needed.

"It's Neville's idea and the Room delivered what we need as usual! So, if you've got any stuff the Carrows and Snape shouldn't see, then move it in here; this place is secure."

"I think they've also done it so we believe they're not as bad as they seem," said Terry. "Look, although they like to hand out punishments I don't think that's an end in itself - that's not why they're here. Their real purpose is to persuade us to believe in what they believe - or else control us. Ideally, they just want everyone to obey them. You-know-who wants to strengthen blood purity not to punish or destroy it. You'll notice the Hogwarts' food is just as good as ever - and they've not increased study periods or homework."

"Exactly." said Ginny. "If we all thought and behaved like Slytherins then life at Hogwarts would be tolerable. I mean, the cruelty in Dark Arts is never aimed at Slytherins is it? And Muggles Studies is a joke - speaking of which, Hannah, have you got your 'True Muggles Studies' set up yet?"

"Not quite. We - Seamus and I - have given up on the spare classroom idea and are going for small extra study groups within common rooms. That way they can disperse quickly and unnoticeably if necessary. We've got some of the old Muggles Studies textbooks but we're only doing a cut-down set of lessons - telling the basic truth while at the same time training kids to pretend to go with Alecto's teaching."

"So, what's the hold up?"

"Well, we're still copying the important sections from the books so we've got something to work with but also, we still need somebody to teach in Ravenclaw - a half-blood I mean or someone who has lived with at least one Muggle like my mum or Seamus' dad." She looked meaningfully across at Terry Boot and caught his eye.

"Told you - I'm no teacher," hissed Terry nervously.

"No - but you're a D.A. member," said Neville. "We're all here to do what we can for the cause - to resist and oppose them until the ultimate downfall of You-know-who."

"I know that but I'd rather fight than teach, quite frankly," said Terry.

"Then fight Muggle ignorance!" Neville said loudly. "Hannah lost her mother because of it. Isn't that worth fighting for? For your Muggle parent?" Neville gave him a questioning look. Hannah looked at Neville; there was curiosity in her gaze. She hadn't known that Neville even knew about her mother being killed by Death Eaters in the previous year.

Terry gulped. "My mother - It's my mother too who's the Muggle in my family. I suppose, when you put it like that..."

"I'll help you get started," said Seamus. He laughed. "I'm no teacher meself - but how hard can it be? They're only small groups - mostly first and second years."

"Right - that settles it. Huffs, Raves, and Gryffs - anyone volunteer to teach True Muggle Studies to the Slyths?" said Ginny with a grin.

"I'd like to try," said Luna, raising her hand. "We had a Muggle stay with us once for a whole week. He kept a tiny little brush in our bathroom. Daddy said he'd seen him trying to eat it with peppermint sauce but he could never get it all in his mouth no matter how much he tried."

Only a few of the gathering laughed; the rest stared in horror.

"Luna!" cried Ginny. "I was joking!"

"I think it would be fun teaching little Slytherin children," said Luna, with a dreamy smile on her face, "but I wouldn't teach them to eat brushes, I don't think."

"It's the big children I'd worry about," said Neville. "Sorry, Luna - we can't spare you to the Slytherins. We need you alive--" He stopped abruptly and grimaced as he realised what he had said. Ginny rescued him.

"There's another reason why they allow Hogsmeade visits," she said. "It's so they can cancel them as punishments."

"Yes, they cut mine," said Padma, glumly. "Last detention I was told my next Hogsmeade was scrubbed."

"Right - and not just you," said Ginny. "They've stopped lots of us - some just the once, some for the whole term - and some of us, as you know, for life." Ginny glanced briefly at Neville and Luna who were at her side.

"They can't legally do that you know," said Susan.

"They can do what they want, Susan," growled Seamus.

"Well, I mean, it's difficult for them," persisted Susan. "It's built into the statute and I think they try to appear to stick to the main rules. One term is the maximum ban."

"McGonagall banned me for the rest of the year when Sirius Black stole my Gryffindor passwords," said Neville, "and Umbridge stopped Harry!"

Yes, but technically it's not legal," said Susan. "It's an old law that nobody remembers. It's to get past another law about lengthy imprisonment. In a way, we were all prisoners here even under Professor Dumbledore if we could never leave the grounds for more than three months. Only the Wizengamot can legally imprison anyone for longer."

"Yeah, well try telling Snape that," snapped Seamus.

"I already did," said Susan. "Or rather, I spoke to Professor Sprout and she told him. She said he seemed to be annoyed about it - which means he's considering it. I think he'll probably back down. I doubt he'll go to the trouble of getting the law changed for something this trivial - that will need a full meeting of the Wizengamot - especially when there are lots of other forms of punishment."

"He can just ban us again when he feels like it," said Neville.

"I think Ginny's right," said Luna. "They like to stop people because they enjoy it so the more times they can stop us then the more fun for them: stop us then let us go again then stop us again at the first opportunity. It's cat and mouse really; the cat lets the mouse go so it can pounce on it again."

"You think this is really possible?" said Neville, turning to Luna, "that we might be able to go to Hogsmeade again?"

"I think we have a real chance next year," said Luna brightly, staring straight into Neville's eyes. He blinked. Ginny rescued him again.

"We haven't got much time," she said. "Ernie's already organising supplies - don't ask me how he's getting them past Filch--" Ernie waved an empty potion vial in the air to suggest he was going to do some switching. Ginny continued, "--but what I really want to discuss is an idea that Hannah had last time - about the wands. Hannah?"

Hannah stood up to applause from the other Hufflepuffs. She took a bow with a smile. "As you know, the headmaster fought fire with fire and is using a grey fungus to obscure the wanted posters we've set up. I volunteered to help Neville--" Hannah leaned and smiled in Neville's direction and a slow flush crept over his face. "--with the extra ingredient we're going to put in the new posters that will make this fungus nearly invisible."

"What's this got to do with wands?" said Parvati.

"The existing posters will need modifying and that has to be done by hand," said Hannah. "I volunteered to help Neville--"

"Seems to me you do a lot of volunteering to help Neville," smirked Seamus.

Hannah smiled. "I do what I can in a good cause."

"I bet you do," muttered Smith.

"So what's it got to do with wands?" persisted Parvati.

"It's risky to use our own on things like this. The headmaster can easily check our wands to see what spells they have cast recently. So my idea was to get some spare ones--"

"Don't tell me you volunteered to help Neville get some more wands?" laughed Seamus.

"No. You don't suppose the D.A. and the Order are the only organisations resisting You-know-who do you? Certain persons, for instance, have been tracking down Snatchers and--"

"Snatchers?" said several people at once.

"Honestly, don't you know what's going on at all? Snatchers are gangs that hunt down so-called 'Undesirables' and Muggle-borns and hand them over to the Ministry for payment."

"That is sinful, I think," said Luna sadly, "to take money for doing such an evil thing..."

"Yes, well, as I was saying, certain persons--"

"It's your dad isn't it, Hannah?" said Terry, then added hastily. "Sorry! Didn't think."

Hannah glared at Terry then continued, "Certain persons attack and disarm Snatchers..."

"You must be very, very proud of the certain person, Hannah. He's very brave and very good," said Luna quietly.

Hannah stared at Luna. She glanced back and forth between her and Neville and for some reason she seemed to be trying to stifle some emotion.

"He's... yes, I am," she finished, meekly.

"Long story, short, Hannah and I are meeting... a certain person... tomorrow behind the Three Broomsticks and bringing in a few spare wands," said Ernie. He winked.

"They won't work well for everyone - they'll never be as good as your own," said Hannah. "We'll... everybody can try them out and see what works best for who. Some will be very good indeed. You'll still have your own wand but use one of these for special missions."

"What we're going to do," said Ernie, "Hannah and I are going to win the wands from... a certain person using Expelliarmus - he ... or she ... won't resist obviously. Then when we decide who gets what they can capture them off us. That way they work better because the wands accept their new master,"

"We'll keep them here when not in use," said Ginny. "This is the most secure place in the castle. Neville has defined the requirement very strictly. We needed a room that You-know-who's supporters cannot find or enter or even know about. Even if anyone accidentally mentioned it to someone else they still wouldn't be able to find it."

The meeting broke up shortly thereafter and they dispersed. Ginny was feeling rather low about being banned from Hogsmeade. She held back to be on her own to send another kiss to Harry. Missing you. Harry's kiss came back almost instantly, My thoughts always with you.

Ginny still carried her troubled heart as a desire to set things right with Harry. As she walked the hallways alone then, her thoughts were elsewhere. But the young girl's awareness was wrenched back to the here-and-now by a faint sound nearby; too brief for her to be sure of its direction.

It is likely her footsteps would have obscured the noise if she had been walking normally but drawing attention to oneself was no longer safe in the passageways of Hogwarts. D.A. members tended to move stealthily and silently when solitary and above all, they listened for Slytherin prefects. Ginny paused mid-stride, straining to hear the sound again and locate it.

The passage ended immediately around the next corner and she could see nobody behind her so she turned to her destination: the side entrance which led up to the next floor. She stood with one foot on the first step, listening up the stairway. Someone talking! But it was not from above. The voice came from around the bend further along the same corridor so Ginny started up the stairs to get as far away as possible. Yet curiosity soon made her stop on the winding steps. She turned. She knew the hallway she had come from ended in a blank wall behind the bend; it was haunted anyway. Why would anybody be round there?

"Sure it's ... ? ... enchanted one?" It was nearly inaudible but that voice was no ghost; it was Draco Malfoy.

Ginny sneaked back down the first few steps and listened again.

"But 'ow many stones could there be like that!" This was a different voice and Ginny recognised it instantly. Crabbe! She crept a little nearer...

"And nobody saw you?"

"Told you, that Loony one came after me an' I thwacked 'er good with a branch! 'agrid almost led me to it - didn't even need to leave the others for more than a few minutes. You were right - it was the same area as the 'erbs what Snape told you of."

"About time I had some good luck for a change." Malfoy sounded bitter. "You marked the way? They didn't see?"

"Course I did. Only a revealing spell can show 'em."

There was a short silence. The echoes died. Ginny heard herself breathing hard.

"When you going?" asked Crabbe.

"Not until next week. I want to see Greengrass alone again first; see how she still feels about me. It's best if we both go."

"No choice is there? She's got to go with you, ain't she?"

"Ideally, but it's not vital. It knows where your feelings are directed."

"You really 'ope it will 'old you two back with each other?" smirked Crabbe. "She was a bit--"

"'Naught shalt love e'er sunder,' - that's what it says in Secret History."

"Din't do them much good did it!"

"They were unfortunate for other reasons but the enchantment still helped them understand one another; kept them together. It doesn't make you immortal you idiot! Go and check on Goyle."

Crabbe laughed and there were footsteps. Ginny darted back up around the first bend of the spiral stair and looked back. It was just Crabbe; he was heading back down the corridor alone. She listened for Malfoy's footsteps but heard nothing. What's he waiting for?

Another voice, this one thin and spectral, came from around the corner.

"This humbled swain doth wish thee prosper in thine endeavour, master Draco," said the voice.

"Adgar!" snapped Draco, "You startled me!" then less harshly, "Thanks anyway. She means a lot to me."

"Ah! Dost thou yearn so for thy beloved? Fear not; the tryst shalt bind thine hearts; not even death hast parted me from my blissful Ellyn. E'en now she awaits me and I shalt not tarry with thee."

"And it works for everyone who--?"

There was silence. Ginny waited. Curiosity eventually overcame her and she crept to the corner of the hallway and looked around. There were less than six strides of corridor - the length of its ancient balcony window - terminating in a grubby, tapestry-covered wall. The bay had long since been half-stoned up and the two lengthy block steps leading up to it now functioned as a bench. Draco was alone; sitting, head in hands, and looking rather mournful.

"Maybe Malfoy does have feelings, after all," said Ginny.

"Weasley!" Draco's wand was drawn surprisingly quickly but Ginny already had hers pointing at the Slytherin.

"Truce?"

Draco slowly lowered his wand. "Well, if it isn't the failed sneak-thief! What did you hear? How long have you been listening?"

"I'm no thief, Malfoy. The sword rightfully was given to Harry." Ginny put her wand away.

"Won't be much use to him now then will it? Did you really think he was going to fight the Dark Lord with just a sword! Everybody's laughing about it down in our common room." Draco attempted a laugh of his own but it was dry and weak and his head was lowered again.

"I wouldn't laugh if I were you, Malfoy. Your fate is tied up with Harry's."

Draco's white face jerked up to look at Ginny. "Now what are you talking about?"

"I know your family's mud with You-know-who these days. You made it worse with your bungled effort to murder Professor Dumbledore." Draco glared at Ginny and started to rise to his feet but Ginny rapidly continued. "Don't deny it - Harry was there, watching and listening. Isn't it true you would benefit if you could hand him over to your Dark Lord?"

"You know where he is?" Draco froze halfway to standing; his expression was somewhere between astonishment and hope but both soon faded as Ginny replied.

"No idea. Do you seriously think Harry would tell me?" Ginny looked around the small stretch of corridor; it was almost like a tiny room with an open doorway. Even Filch did not come here and the dusty old tapestry on the wall, furthest from the flickering torch at the turning, was grey and faded. It was almost dark outside and the half-filled window was as filthy as the hanging fabrics that remained on either side. "What you might not realise is that Harry is your best hope - he is the only one who can deliver you from your slavery..."

"I am not a slave!" He drew himself to his full height.

"You're worse off than a house-elf and you know it!"

The Slytherin looked stunned. He sank slowly back down onto the stone step. "You're mad if you think Potter can defeat the Dark Lord..."

"Why'd you think there's a prophecy?" said Ginny quietly. "If there is the remotest chance that anyone could defeat your master, who'd you think it must be?"

Draco stared, apparently lost for words for once.

"Think about it, Draco." Ginny slowly backed out of the side-corridor. "If anything happened to Harry..."

As she disappeared around the corner she called back to him, "Give my love to Daphne!"

"Daphne? What are you talking about?" Draco came to the corner.

"Don't worry, Draco - the secrets of your heart are safe with me - for now."

"Well you're wrong - it's not Daphne."

Ginny laughed as she headed up the stairs.

What just happened? Ginny ascended the winding stairs to the next floor. She had acted impulsively without thinking. She usually regretted such spontaneity but this time she had a warm feeling inside. Had she struck a blow for Harry? Had she sowed a seed of doubt in Malfoy's mind? She had been dejected all morning; now she was almost whistling as she hurried along to Ravenclaw Tower.


—oOo—


Ginny banged the door knocker hard. She knew what to expect from the door to the Ravenclaw common room and felt she ought to assert herself from the start.

"Nobody knows where it is yet all go to it every day. Nobody knows how to do it but everyone does it daily," said the eagle knocker.

She glared at the knocker. "The loo?"

The eagle remained silent. Ginny imagined she might have seen one bronze wing give the tiniest flutter of disdain.

"Walk? ... Breathe? ... The dinner table?" Ginny thought for a while. "The next seat! Everybody sits down everyday somewhere!"

"Oh, hello, Ginny. I forgot my library book again. If you've come to cheer me up there's no need - I'm not troubled."

Ginny spun around to see Luna coming up the winding stairs.

"Just the opposite," said Ginny, "- I've come for you to cheer me up - what have you got to be miserable about anyway?"

Luna grasped the knocker and gave it a very light tap on the door.

"I think if you treat it nicely and don't hit it too hard the questions are so easy it lets in anyone - it's a flaw in the system."

"Nobody knows where it is yet all go to it every day. Nobody knows how to do it but everyone does it daily," said the eagle door knocker.

Ginny laughed and was about to say it was the same question as was given to her when Luna said, "See what I mean? I'll let you do this one just for practice."

Luna moved both her feet across the edge of the top step and balanced there, arms outstretched, and wobbling slightly.

"Mmm... no, that's OK," said Ginny, suddenly admiring the sculpted ceiling above the stair. "I already worked it out. You knocked so it's only fair to let you answer."

Luna stepped forward, put her head on side and looked dreamily at Ginny. "Sleep - we can only wait for it to take us."

"Most attentive of you," said the eagle and the door opened.

There were only a few Ravenclaws in their common room at this hour and they took little notice of Ginny and even less of Luna. Anthony Goldstein raised a hand in greeting but he didn't come over.

Luna picked up an age-blackened tome from a narrow table standing against the circular wall of the room. She exchanged the book for one already under the seat cushion of a long blue leather settee and sat down upon the seat.

"Just sitting on these sofas can be a bit tiresome without a good book don't you think?" she said as Ginny joined her.

"Luna, did you say you were down in the dumps? What have--"

"Oh, no, I was only concerned that I think Death Eaters were watching me in the Forest and probably going to kill me. It's because the headmaster finds me so annoying you know - I can't think why - it can't be because I forgot to warn him about the stingers in Hagrid's bag because that was after and his fingers are nearly better anyway and also Neville and I are very fond of one another but he needs a nudge but now we can't go to Hogsmeade it's difficult and also my library book has expired so many times and Madam Pince was very snippy with me so I have to get this back right away."

"Kill you! Did you say kill you!"

"Oh no, she'll only fine me a Knut a day but that's good because now we can't go into Hogsmeade I can't spend the money on anything else so that's worked out quite well, really." Luna gazed out of the tall casement window next to her. "I wonder if he's in the Herbology gardens? I wonder what he's thinking--"

"I mean, the Death Eaters!"

"Oh that - yes. It does seem likely doesn't it? Why waste time trying to prove who is posting posters and writing graffiti and having detentions over and over when they can just guess and dispose of you quietly with no fuss. That's why Professor Snape didn't send us to Azkaban. He was hoping a manticore or something would conveniently gouge us in the forest - I don't mean convenient for us but for the headmaster - and the manticore of course."

"You don't seriously think they would do that do you?"

"Well, they hate the Lovegoods because Daddy publishes the truth about Harry and most people find me irritating so I would if it were me - wouldn't you? If you were a Death Eater I mean?" She flipped through the pages of her book. "It's a pity you cannot just renew books but have to return them and wait for them to be put back on the shelf and then take them out again. It seems a waste to me. Do you think it's a waste?" She closed the book. It was covered in dark green leather with silvered, embossed lettering, "Magicalogic - a Study' on the front. Luna picked at the flaking silver with a striped finger nail and shook her head.

"Nobody's going to kill you Luna," said Ginny firmly. "Trust me on this."

"Ginny, you have been feeling especially low ever since we lost the sword wondering how to explain to Harry. You imagine he'll first look devastated then gallantly pretend he is not but secretly think badly of you and be everlastingly disappointed in you. Prolonged despair is an indulgence."

"Don't say that!" Ginny frowned at Luna then looked downwards. Luna had an uncanny knack of getting right to the heart of things and could be annoying at times.

"You've done nothing wicked. Harry loves you. He won't hate you no matter what," said Luna firmly. She laid down her book then grasped one of Ginny's hands between her own and resisted Ginny's feeble attempt to pull away. When Ginny wouldn't look up, Luna added, "You listen to me, Ginny Weasley."

Ginny's eyes widened and she looked up. Luna looked very stern.

"You disgrace Harry when you mope like this. He deserves better."

"How dare you!" Ginny thrust away Luna's hands and leapt to her feet, her cheeks flaming. "I've tried--"

Ginny's raised voice caught the attention of a couple of Ravenclaw students and a few heads appeared at the girls' dormitory doorway overhead.

"If Harry had lost the sword for you then you would not hate him," cried Luna standing up and grabbing Ginny's arm as she was turning to leave. "You belittle him when you suppose he would hate you. When you love someone you--"

"What would you know about it!" shouted Ginny, then regretted it instantly when she saw the look on Luna's face.

"Well, just think about it," said Luna, faintly. She hurriedly passed Ginny and headed out the door. "I have to return my library book. I really do."

"Luna, I didn't mean..."

Ginny slumped back onto the over-soft sofa and sank deeply into her feelings - then she noticed all the faces looking at her. She turned her head away and stared down, trying to think.

DARING ESCAPE FROM MINISTRY!


She looked, trying to focus, unable for a few seconds to comprehend what she was looking at. She blinked a few times. It was a page from a Daily Prophet peeping out from Luna's library book; perhaps she had used it as a bookmark because it was covered in Luna's scribbles - between the lines and in the margins. Ginny teased it out a little further.

REBELS RELEASE MUGGLE-BORNS!


On 2nd September last, a great many Muggle-borns were rescued from the Ministry by three daring Ministry workers rebelling against...

As she read the article, her thoughts shot back to the first day of the school term and Harry's message: Me. Danger tomorrow. Do not worry.

Ginny shrieked and leapt to her feet. She jumped up and down, waving the book for sheer joy. She suddenly remembered where she was. It seemed as if every Ravenclaw in Hogwarts was silently looking at her.

"Sorry! - forgot her library book!" she giggled, and ran after Luna.

"Wait up, Luna!"

Luna was already way below on the stair but she stopped and turned. "Would you like to help me take back my book, Ginny? You'll see what I mean then. Madam Pince won't be so hard on you if you take it back unless you are late with lots of books like me. I know that's difficult to believe."

"Luna, I'm sorry - I'm so sorry - please forgive me," said Ginny, as she reached Luna and took her by the arm, "but I have to ask you something."

Luna looked puzzled. "Oh - you mean the hurtful thing you said - you only spoke without thinking. It's true in a way - what do I know about romance? I know I feel sad sometimes that Neville is not sure what to do but I think it's best to be patient, don't you? I don't want to undermine his male confidence by taking the lead so I'm giving him time. He's quite resourceful. I'm sure he'll think of something. I'm not wrong am I, Ginny? You do think he's attracted to me?"

"He... I..."

"You're not sure. Come on. Madam Pince probably will murder me if I don't get my book back then that will save the Death Eaters the bother."

Ginny ran after Luna again. She lowered her voice as some students passed them going the other way, up the stairs. Luna stopped again - this time to gaze wistfully out of a window in the direction of the gardens.

"I am sure, Luna. It's obvious. He's... To be honest, I thought you two were already a couple."

"Only when we're together; then we're lovely. The problem is getting us together."

They continued their journey down the stairs of the Ravenclaw Tower.

"I'll help you!" cried Ginny. "I'll... I'll think up something and help you."

"Ginny! Would you? Really?"

"Of course! That's what friends are for!"

Luna smiled.

"So... You forgive me?"

Luna's faced clouded over. "I'm sorry, Ginny. I can't." She paused for a few seconds as Ginny stared, almost tearful before Luna continued, "I think you would need to do something really spiteful - intentionally hateful. Yes... Then I could hate you and then you could beg my forgiveness and then I think, yes, then I could probably forgive you." Luna beamed.

"So... You don't hate me for what I said?"

As they walked along to the library, Luna tried to remember what had been said. "Oh, you mean about me being completely ignorant about romantic feelings? Not at all. Come on. If I can renew my book perhaps there's a later chapter about feelings. You never know with Magicalogic - it can be quite mysterious; not like ordinary logic at all. Look at this page on-- Oh." She looked at her empty hands with a puzzled expression on her face.

"Looking for this?" said Ginny, holding up the library book.

"Ah - you see how mysterious it is!"

"Luna, do you know what this is?" Ginny pulled out the Prophet sheet.

"Oh - you've lost my place," said Luna gloomily. "Not to worry - It took me eleven days to read to there so if I renew it and read for eleven days I should be in the right place shouldn't I? - so no harm done."

"No - this article - have you read it?"

Luna glanced at the sheet. "Oh, lots of times. I shall have to rewrite it I think."

"Rewrite? You mean... For the Prophet?"

"Oh, it's not a Prophet - it's a draft Quibbler page in disguise. Daddy asked me to proof-read it and comment--"

"But don't you realise who did this?"

Luna looked again at the loose page but she was really remembering it in her mind. "You think... Harry?"

"Of course it is! Remember him at the wedding?"

"He was Barny... They had Polyjuice! Oh they are so brave to try to rescue all those people!" Luna's eyes flashed as she and Ginny stared, wide-eyed at one another and grinned. "Only..." Luna hesitated, deep in thought.

"What?"

"Well, how will that help vanquish You-know-who?"

"I think they were after the sword! Scrimgeour was nosy about all the things that Dumbledore left. I bet Harry thought..."

The Gryffindor girl lapsed into silence.

"Was he very upset afterwards?" asked Luna.

Ginny thought for a few moments. "No! He said it was successful!"

"Well then..."

"Oh, Luna! Do you think they might have taken another sword by mistake?"

"I hope not. Imagine if he tries to slay You-know-who with the wrong sword! That would be terrible." Luna looked closely at her friend. "Ginny, you must tell him about--"

"I know, I know..."

"And we should not tell anyone the real reason," Luna finished. "Daddy will be so disappointed."

"You mean... Oh no! I see what you mean! If you publish about him being after the sword then You-know-who will know he's after it!"

"We'll only say the intrepid raiders heroically saved the Muggle-borns as an act of defiance to humiliate You-know-who and the Ministry. 'Intrepid' is a lovely word. I'd say Hermione and Ron are very intrepid. Or do you think 'fearless?'. Yes, that should do it. I'm not going to even tell Daddy about the sword." She scribbled on the sheet with her go-anywhere quill.

"No you can't mention Ron and Hermione! Ron is supposed to be ill in bed and Hermione is supposed to have run away to Australia."

Luna sighed then brightened up considerably and wrote some more on the Prophet sheet, "Harry Potter recruits new army! Raids Ministry in daring rescue mission! That should do it. Nobody could believe just three people broke into the Ministry and rescued all those people anyway!"

As they entered the library, Ginny noticed Goyle lounging against a bookshelf. She could not ever remember seeing him in here before. The way he was obviously looking at them while pretending not to, made Ginny wonder if there might be something in what Luna had said about her being watched.

Whatever system Madam Pince used, much of it seemed to be in her head because she accepted Luna's overdue book from Ginny without comment when Ginny laid the fine on the counter and Luna slipped theatrically behind a bookshelf. Goyle slammed his book down beside Ginny's on top of her Knuts and knocked a couple of them onto the floor.

"Wanna rent this book. How much?"

"Wait your turn, young man - have you never borrowed a book before? The only charge is a fine for overdue books not for borrowing them! Now, pick up Miss Weasley's coins and join the queue!"

"Oh yeah! Sorry, Miss Weasley."

Goyle bent down to gather up Ginny's coins. Ginny's brain froze. Goyle being polite? She grabbed his book out of the way to get at her other coins.

"Hurry up, young-- What is your name, young man?" said Madam Pince.

Goyle mumbled something from the floor.

"Gregory Goyle! Don't you think you should tell Madam Pince your name's Goyle, eh Goyle?" smirked Ginny.

When Ginny rejoined Luna behind the bookshelf Luna was already surveilling the returns counter to see when her book would be returned to the shelves.

"That's odd. He's not taking his book. I expect he doesn't know when you borrow something you take it with you. Unless he's forgotten it already. Do you think that's possible? To take out a book to borrow it then forget to borrow it?"

"What?"

"Gregory Goyle."

Ginny looked back the way she had come. "Anything's possible with Goyle."

"Perhaps he was going to read about Wrackspurts," said Luna. "That makes sense. He's probably suffering from Wrackspurts but they made his mind so fuzzy he forgot."

"No, he was getting Hogwarts, a History..." Ginny seemed thoughtful for a few moments. "Luna, do you know if there is a Secret History of Hogwarts?"

"Wrackspurts won't be in there either I shouldn't think."

"There is one then?"

"I should think there are lots of them in here. You notice when people are studying they sometimes do not turn the page and they have to keep reading the same one over and over because their minds are muddled."

"I meant... Never mind, I'll ask Madam Pince. I'll catch you later maybe."

The title that Ginny was looking for did exist but it was the familiar name of an extensive portfolio of papers stacked in boxes in a back room. Madam Pince warned Ginny that the work was protected which the girl took to mean had spells cast upon it so nothing could be removed from the library. Although it seemed a disorganised mess at first glance, there was a book amongst it all - a handwritten log full of notes indexing the collection. The whole thing was such a jumble that it was almost curfew before Ginny found the parchment she sought. Alone in the library's backroom, by candlelight alone, she read it aloud to herself--

"This yeare of 1569 uncover'd an abiding chronycle of yore relateth yet trusteth by Lacedrew himselfe. Two scholars grievously loste to this school & familie both. These two deceaseth: Miss Ellyn Martha Holbrook & Master Adgar Waryn Stockley, of syxteen & ten months & seuenteen & a monthe respectively, plungeth from an balcony said hath collapsed by magicks foul else mistakenly employ'd. Same accounte hath sure knowledge of an blessing effecteth that day at Harken Trysting Stone near our owne good Forest these two being sweethearts & inseparable. Said Miss Ellyn later curseth by an wrongged else covetous suitor, one Thurgis Bowett, also of seuenteen years & some months, did plummet down & so Master Stockley likewyse drawne by his griefe, his ardour, & his devotion did follow. This tragedie not loste to our memories. Said Bowett detected & detained for his black curse, gutted, weighted, & hung to his dystress till quite dead, his soul rotteth in helle hereafter."

Attached to the parchment was a clipping from a nineteenth-century copy of The Daily Journal of Magical Events--

"The Harken Trysting Stone, ancient and enchanted, is now overrun by the spread of the trees and not used much these days, being no longer on the edge, but deep within the Forbidden Forest, smothered by maid's hair fronds, skullcap foliage, and Merlin's beard. Its origins are lost to history but certainly it was a Muggles' meeting place and many betrothals would have begun at its side. The charm was placed upon it by the great wizard Harken in the 10th century. Harken was said to have had his heart broken by causeless disaffection so he charmed the stone that true lovers would not be parted by misunderstandings. Carved into the rock are his words: 'Naught shalt love e'er sunder.'"

She used the Geminio spell to duplicate the information and slipped the copies into the top of her bag so Madam Pince wouldn't grumble.


—oOo—


Ginny walked back to the Gryffindor common room, thinking deeply. If this stone still existed then all her doubts about Harry might be resolved; it could bond them despite her failures. A big smile spread across her face as she entered through the portrait hole. Seamus, Neville, Lavender, Parvati - all the girls were there and drew close when they heard Ginny's cheery shout.

"Looks like Luna brightened you up then!" said Neville, as he saw her come in. "She's good at that."

"No - yes - look, Neville - everybody - I've got some good news..." She slumped down to sit on the rug before the hearth and dumped her bag at her side. It had been a busy couple of hours and she was tired. Neville handed her a cup of hot chocolate and everyone flopped into chairs to listen to her. She explained about the break-in at the Ministry and how Luna had been revising an article in the Quibbler disguised as a Prophet. There was a great roar of approval from everyone around her.

"This it?" said Neville, excitedly, taking the clipping from the top of Ginny's bag and settling himself down beside Ginny to read.

Seamus punched the air. "I knew he'd be doing something!"

"But there's more! We have to keep this secret though!" Ginny wriggled into a more comfortable position on the rug and took a deep gulp of her drink. "We think he was probably after the sword!"

The hubbub died away to silence as everyone remembered how the sword was now out of reach.

"I'm going after it," said Ginny suddenly. "It's the only way. Harry needs it. It's my fault. I'm going to get it."

Silence continued for a while until eventually Seamus spoke. "Ginny - you know it's not only impossible but certain to put you in Azkaban."

"I don't care. There has to be a way. If Harry and Hermione and Ron can get into the Ministry and rescue people right from inside the courtroom then we can get the sword out of Gringotts," said Ginny, excitedly. "We'll make it happen! Who's with me?"

The silence continued and the gathering started to disperse.

"Sorry, Ginny, but this is..."

Ginny stared in dismay. Her elation dissipated like the steam off her drinking chocolate. Only Neville remained at her side. She looked at him for support.

"What's this?" he said softly.

"That's not it! That's..." She snatched the old cutting about the Trysting Stone away from Neville.

"It's another foolish dream isn't it?" Neville looked very concerned and Ginny turned her head away to drink some more chocolate.

"What's happened to you Ginny? You still think Harry will be disappointed in you because you lost the sword? You think he'll stop caring for you just because of that?"

"'Just!' It's just the only weapon that might slay You-know-who - that's just all!" cried Ginny. "Don't you see?"

Neville did not answer.

"I can't help how I feel," said Ginny miserably. "I have to do something. The Trysting Stone will clear away any doubts he might have about me..."

"It's Snape isn't it?" said Neville, finally. "When he harmed your mind it brought up some terrible doubts - emotional pain you can't shake off? Is that it?"

Ginny stared at Neville, not wishing to remember what he was asking.

"It was my worst nightmare magnified a thousand times," she said simply. "It was hell."

"I'm sorry Ginny, but magic spells shouldn't be used to meddle with love. Love finds its own way--"

"How about you then!" snapped Ginny.

"What? W- What d- d'you mean?"

"You think you--" Ginny stopped herself. She remembered how she had hurt Luna's feelings and how she had promised to help her with Neville.

"Sorry, Neville, but... Don't you think... You and Luna..."

"Well, it's..." Neville shifted uncomfortably on the rug. "It's difficult - with Hogsmeade being banned and--"

"It's not all about Hogsmeade is it! There must be some excuse you can make to meet - it would mean so much to her." She risked a glance back at Neville. He was staring at her, somewhat flushed in the face.

"Has she said--"

Ginny cut him off so as not to break Luna's confidence. "She's said nothing but it's obvious isn't it? When she's with you? Can't you think of something? It's the weekend tomorrow - two free days. Take her for a walk or show her a new fungus or..."

"I'll... right... I'll think of s- something."

They sat silently for a little while but it was not quite so awkward between them now.

"Ginny?"

"Yes?"

"Don't hate me for this but... I still... you should think about this tryst thing more before you..."

Ginny leapt to her feet. "Don't spoil it for Merlin's sake! I was happy when I found it - for the first time in..."

"Ginny..."

"Fine! I'll find out more, first!"

She needed information and there was only person she knew who would have first-hand knowledge. She swerved away and headed out up to the fifth floor passageway.

"Ginny! It's past curfew!"

"To hell with the blasted curfew!" Ginny called back.

The short section of corridor was empty. Ginny stood on the topmost step, grabbed the highest stone of the partly-blocked window, pulled herself up on tiptoe and peered out through the heavily-leaded glass. The balcony was still there but part of its parapet was destroyed and the surrounding stonework blackened as if by a blasting curse.

She decided she could afford to wait half an hour. Hauntings do not usually stray too far. She considered this the worst of places to be condemned to haunt. Small and devoid of interest, she thought anyone might go mad to spend eternity here. Even the ragged tapestry was so faded it was almost indiscernible. Its magic must have long dispersed for it was static. Nor were there ladies or gentlemen; nor animals or buildings - it seemed but a plain vertical shape with a central mark. Perhaps there was lettering...

Rejoice in love already bloom'd,
And praye for...


Ginny had a strange sensation that she was being watched.

"What dost thou here?" snapped a thin, spectral tone.

She spun around in alarm but it was only a ghostly boy. She remembered the voice from earlier; it must be Adgar. His robes were archaic; there was a thick ruff around his neck and the green trim told her his house.

"Oh shut up!" Ginny was annoyed at being alarmed for no reason - especially by a Slytherin, even though this was the person she had come to see.

"Oh, charmed not am I to acquaint myself with thee, Mistress Weasley." said the youth. "Master Draco didst say thou wert churlishly disposed."

"You're the boy who jumped off - after Ellyn fell, aren't you!" said Ginny.

"And ten thousand times more wouldst I make that leap for my beloved," cried the ghost, his eyes sparkling with emotion.

Ginny lapsed into silence for a few moments, studying the boy's sad expression. "You must have loved her very much."

The ghost returned Ginny's stare. "Love doth sway me alway - as Ellyn lovest me still these seven hundred dark winters and forty-five. Why comest thou here? Thou seekest to undermine the Malfoy allegiance dost thou! His forebears wouldst groan at--"

"Tell me about the stone - the Trysting Stone."

"Ha! t'will not find a lover for thee, fair Mistress. Nor charm and hold a victim that loves thee not."

A sudden chill swept over Ginny. She dare not reveal to a Slytherin that she was loved by Harry Potter - yet she needed to confirm that the Trysting Stone could prevent that love fading when Harry learned that she had lost the only weapon that might defeat Voldemort.

"A friend..." She faltered. "...Two friends of mine are already in love," she said, "But--"

"And thou seekest but what? That faint circumstance not separate their hearts? That chance not spoil their true devotions? If contrarily, thou wasteth thy days in a very shallow thing."

"So, it's true then? It really works?"

"'Tis truth - The Stone doth bind them that lovest aright. It doth clear their minds from deceits and falsehoods that might persuade them one 'gainst the other."

"And you don't need both of us - I mean them?"

The youth stared. "What sayest thou? With but one then the tryst is for the other - seest thou not? Only thine lover will ne'er forsake thee but thou mayest forsake him--"

"My friend's lover you mean."

"Thyself, thou couldst falter even yet. 'Tis needful the other shouldst fulfil his task at a different hour."

"Her task I think you mean. My friend's girlfriend."

Ginny was warming to this youth. Sure, he was only a Slytherin but now the weight which had pressed upon her since their attempted robbery of the sword seemed not only to lighten but to uplift her. And this boy ghost, as the bearer of her solution, seemed much more pleasing to her than when he had first startled her. And after all, since he had thrown himself down to his death for love of his sweetheart, he must have a good heart for all his sharp manner - even Draco seemed now to have warm feelings albeit restricted to Daphne Greengrass. My God you'd have to be on fire to fancy that high and mighty soandso!


—oOo—


"It's really kind of you to invite me to your den for a weekend surprise, Neville," smiled Luna. She had been doing a lot of smiling on their walk to and through the Herbology Gardens.

"I know you like magical creatures so..." Neville sounded reassured by Luna's enthusiasm but there was still a trace of doubt.

"This is my den - where I keep my things - trowels and such like. Professor Sprout let's me use this section."

Luna looked around then back at where Neville was facing. A corner of an old flowerbed bordered onto a greenhouse. Several shelves held pots, tools, and boxes. There were various shapes wrapped in newspaper and a pile of Daily Prophets lay at the side for future use. A couple of cracked tubs filled solely with neat, black compost and surrounded by broken pottery, stood in the dirt. A rickety slat-chair backed onto the shelving and the tiny area was fenced off by a long floorboard angled across from a barrel to a dead abelia at the back wall of the garden. Neville lifted off this plank and laid it aside.

"It's... lovely."

He looked surprised and risked a glance at Luna then back at his corner. The young man scratched his head. "I didn't think you could see very well. It's only a few weeks now but I've been keeping it apart for a few hours every day and watching it carefully."

"I expect... it must be very special to you..." said Luna hesitantly. She wanted so much to give him space for his own feelings and not be too blunt.

"Yes, I'm quite pleased with it so far," he said, staring into his little corner. "It drives you crazy with worry. I've reached the stage of dipping my finger in milk. You'll know about these things better than I do, of course."

Neville absentmindedly held up his right forefinger and Luna stared. Her smile had been replaced by a very serious expression.

"Is it a little septic?"

"No it's - guess what! I've a Ragdoll - seriously!"

"You have a rag doll?"

"Yes! - it doesn't do much yet though. It doesn't even squirm when you pick it up - well you know how lifeless they are - but it doesn't hurt birds and mice and rats - that's the thing isn't it?"

"Yes, I should think that ... would ... be..."

"If you'd like to sit on the chair you can play with it if you like."

"No, that's alright, Neville..."

"Would you like to stand on a plant pot then? I often do."

Luna went white in the face and she said with a tiny squeak, "No thank you."

"You're not very tall are you. Are you sure you can see properly?"

"Oh, my vision is fine, Neville."

"Here, let me put this board down so you don't sink into the muck..." Neville brushed roughly at the seat of the chair with his hand then opened a Daily Prophet onto it. He held out his hand to Luna which she grasped and Neville guided her onto the seat. She looked around nervously.

He picked up a big open box from one of the shelves and placed it at Luna's feet.

"It's a kitten!" squealed Luna. "Oh, it's adorable!" She leaned down and picked up the creature which immediately went limp and gazed at her appealingly. She cuddled and stroked and examined the bundle of white fur and eventually it stood up on her lap and looked around inquisitively.

"Oh sorry, yes - did you think it was fully grown? I thought you were acting a bit odd." Neville laughed with relief. Luna could be very strange at times.

"Her mother, Flywixel, will teach it where to take the vermin - I think they give them a good talking to and warn them not to come back but I'm not sure about these details of enchanted Ragdoll cats."

"What's her name?"

"Dippity - well it's Serendipity really but we got tired of saying that pretty quickly."

"It's kind of you to let me see her. She's just so CUTE!" She hugged the kitten to her face and kissed its nose. "I don't ever want to let you go, do I? ... Do I? ... Know I don't!"

"Well, to be honest, there was something else I wanted to say to you - something important..."

"Oh, really." Luna stuffed the kitten back in its box and sat upright, banging her head on an overhead shelf.

"It's important. I've been meaning to ask for a while..."

"Yes, Neville?" Luna folded her hands in her lap and tried to show Neville she was giving him her full attention.

"She didn't want you to know... but I didn't actually promise not to say anything..."

"Who?"

"Ginny. She's still not properly recovered from Snape's invasion of her feelings. To keep Harry's love for her hidden from him she clung to her most unbearable fear - all those years when Harry did not return her love. The Legilimency intensified it; it almost drove her mad; nearly killed her - but it convinced Snape that Harry still doesn't care for her. It broke her spirit - she sacrificed it for Harry. She knew if Snape told You-know-who the truth then Harry would surrender to the dark wizard to protect her."

Luna rose from her seat and joined Neville on the footpath. Her eyes shone with unshed tears. "So that's why she's filled with doubts about Harry. She's in awful conflict. She knows he loves her but her deeper feelings deny it."

She look at Neville for a time, deep in thought. Something like horror and despair then flooded her expression and the tears rolled down at last. "I said some terrible things to her, Neville, cruel things," she sobbed. "I... th- thought I was helping her... I wanted to slap her in the face to stop her moping about the sword... stop her doubting Harry. I'm ashamed."

Neville put his arm around Luna but he could think of nothing to say to comfort her.

Luna added solemnly, "There's more. She's also badly frightened that the sword is so important he still must try to steal it no matter what the consequences."

"From Gringotts? Don't be silly. Even Harry wouldn't be that stupid."

"That's what scares her most of all, I'm sure. She afraid of Harry being caught because of her own failure even more than Harry not loving her anymore."

"Well, I think it's how Harry will feel about her that scares her most. She wants me to go with her... She wants to use magic - for herself and Harry I mean. To sort of... Well, I said it was stupid. Harry loves her anyway." Neville paused and Luna's eyes widened as it sank in what he was saying.

"What has she done, Neville?" Luna stood back from the youth to study his face. She rubbed away her tears and focused on what he was about to say.

"She says there's an enchanted trysting stone in the Forbidden Forest - near where we went the other day. She wants me to go with her. She daren't ask Hagrid and it's too risky on her own."

"This is wrong, Neville. She shouldn't rely on magic. They couldn't love each other more than they do already. She must learn to trust--"

"That's what I told her but she says she won't be able to bear seeing his face when she tells him..."

"She's going to see him?"

"She must mean when he comes back. I don't know. If he returns it will all be over won't it? Perhaps she means a message. Maybe she has an owl that can get to him!"

"Possibly..." Luna looked up and down the length of the garden but she was not really seeing anything. "What are you going to do?"

"Well, I'm going with her, of course - she's my friend. But--"

"How does she know about this?"

"One of the ghosts told her - and the library, I think."

"Which ghost?"

"Hmm... Adgar something or other. He was a student in Slytherin here yonks ago."

"When?"

"Hundreds of years I should think."

"No, when are you going, I mean?"

"Later this morning. We're taking a lunch. It has to be today or tomorrow because the weekend is the only time we can go in daylight. It's over four hours there and back."

"Neville, can you put her off until tomorrow?"

"I'll try but--"

"I'd like to... look into it myself - I have to dash! you don't think I'm being an interfering busybody do you, Neville?"

"No, no, of course not, Luna," said Neville, then more excitedly added, "This is why I wanted to talk to you really - because you get more ideas and - well, you're a Ravenclaw." He smiled at her appreciatively and Luna thought she saw something else in his expression. She gazed back at him. He did have a wonderful smile. She liked it when he looked at her.

"Luna?"

"Do you think one day we might ever get to--"

"Hogsmeade? That's what I was thinking but..." Neville gave a wry smile of disappointment.

Luna jerked herself back to the present. "I really must fly... Yes, I'll go now and see what I can find - thanks for showing me Dippity and erm... your den."


—oOo—


It was late in the morning when Luna raced up the Gryffindor Tower.

"Password?" said the Fat Lady.

"I don't actually... I'd like to speak to someone please," said Luna to the portrait.

"Sorry, I only deal with passwords. You'll have to wait for someone to come in or out and ask them."

"But it's jolly urgent business. Couldn't you--"

"Sorry. Passwords only. If we let in everyone with 'jolly urgent' business then we'd have... a lot of... people inside wouldn't we?"

Luna decided to wait. She spent the next ten minutes trying to guess the password.

"Noble Valour? Death or Glory? Right is Might?"

"Not even close."

"Can you give me a clue, then?"

"What you doing here, Loony?"

She twisted around. It was Draco Malfoy.

"She has some jolly urgent business," snapped the Fat Lady. "Password?"

"I need to see someone quickly," said Malfoy. "Get off your fat arse and fetch them will you?"

"Well, I never!" The Fat Lady turned her back on them and folded her arms in annoyance.

"What's up with her?" frowned Draco.

Now, see what you've done," said Luna. "You've upset this nice Fat Lady and so you'll never get inside."

"Hell with this. Give someone a message then!" Draco snarled. He didn't even pause for the portrait's or Luna's response. "No - wait."

He scribbled something down on a notepad, tore out the page then looked around, biting his lip.

"I expect it's extremely private so you don't want me to read it so you'd like to politely ask me if you can borrow one of my scented envelopes from my bag, wouldn't you?" said Luna.

"Something like that." Malfoy glared at Luna.

"Very well. But I want it back when you've finished with it," smiled Luna.

She took out an envelope and handed it to Malfoy. He pushed his note into it, sealed it, wrote on it, then handed it back.

"There - you can have it back now; I've finished with it."

He did not smile but spun on his heels and strode off very quickly as though glad to get away. After a while, Ginny looked at the envelope. It said URGENT! For the attention of: Miss G. Weasley.

Luna stared in dismay. She just sensed there was some connection with Ginny's plan.

"I say, that looks jolly urgent," said the Fat Lady, who, by now, had turned around again. "What a pity."

"She's already gone hasn't she?" said Luna, dismally. "I'm too late."

The Fat Lady nodded sympathetically. "Just moments before you arrived. If only you'd known."

"Oh well, thanks for your help anyway."

"Not at all," preened the Fat Lady, "that's what I'm here for."


—oOo—






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