Chapter 36 : Chapter 36 Risky Business
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“Thanks, Dobby,” Ginny whispered as she turned back, winking at the helpful elf who closed the door behind them, but neglected to lock it again.
Everything was going to plan…Snape was out of the castle, and Dobby had agreed to help them, not that they had ever doubted he would. Ginny took Neville’s hand, carefully slipped across the icy courtyard as more snow fell upon them, and they broke into an awkward dash as they reached the grass and ploughed through the snow. They held their wands behind them to cover their tracks, not daring to light them as they tried to navigate through the grounds in sheer darkness. Within seconds Ginny’s sneakers and jeans were sodden with wet snow, and she cringed her toes in effort to keep them warm.
It was clear that Luna had done her job well, there being no one else out in the grounds at all. There was another gust of cold, and a sense of foreboding came across them both as they drew nearer the Quidditch pitch and broom shed, but Ginny knew it was only the Dementors guarding the perimeter. Officially they were there to prevent anyone breaking in. Unofficially they were there to prevent anyone breaking out. She and Neville could handle themselves adequately though, largely in thanks to Harry. At this she allowed her thoughts to stray back to him, smiling a little as she wondered exactly where he was. The Daily Prophet reported sightings of him almost weekly, even reports of his death once or twice, but Ginny knew better than to believe them. If Harry really were dead, all hell would have broken loose.
The broom shed loomed up at them faster than expected, and it was with great relief when they finally charmed the lock and stepped inside. Ginny lit her wand and grinned at Neville, who was shivering from the cold just like her.
“Why so cheerful?” he asked, turning his wand onto his legs and drying his cold and wet trousers.
Ginny did the same, casting a warming charm over them both as an afterthought. “Didn’t think we’d actually do this,” she confessed, raising her wand and looking around at the various school brooms. “You still want to do it?”
“Yes!” he rushed to confirm, following her gaze and observing the broomsticks. “You said Harry needs it, right?”
“Right,” she answered. She approached the racks of broomsticks and began looking over each of them, saddened when her own broomstick was not present. She had expected this though, and for a moment wondered if Hermione had packed it into her beaded bag and forgotten to tell her.
“What about this one?” Neville asked, gesturing to an old Shooting Star.
“No,” she replied at once, sparing it only a glance. “The wood is bowed, you’d never fly straight.”
She kept looking, knowing exactly the brooms she was looking for. After a few minutes she checked her watch, her heart racing as she noted they had wasted a third of their precious time already. If they weren’t back in the tower by at least a quarter to four, they would be caught by the Carrows or other Death Eaters as they did their hourly bed checks.
“We’ve got to get moving,” Ginny said, taking one broomstick off the rack and laying it down before Neville. “Here, take this one.”
“Is it a good one?”
“A good as we’re gonna get, most of these brooms are older than us,” she replied, selecting the next best one for herself. The twigs were a little unruly, and she would have to fight it to stay on course as they flew. “Let’s go.”
They slipped outside back into the snow, checking out their surroundings before they mounted their brooms and took off. Neville lagged a bit behind her as they flew, and she constantly battled her own broom to stay on course. Keeping an eye on Neville behind her, Ginny ascended higher into the sky, looking over the castle in search of Dumbledore’s tower. She would never call it Snape’s tower.
They ought to have waited for full moon, when there would have been plenty of light for them to navigate the towers, but Snape left the castle so rarely they acted when they could. Ginny slowed down as she reached the tower, hovering a few feet above the largest window as she waited for Neville to catch up. She shivered again, the warming charms doing little to keep the cold out, and she wished she had listened a little more closely to Professor Flitwick.
“Is this it?” Neville panted, hauling his broomstick closer so that they could talk.
“I think so,” Ginny answered, lowering her broom a few feet until she could see into the window. Peering inside there was a single candle lit, a signal from Dobby that the window was unlocked. “Are you ready?”
“Yeah, let’s go,” Neville agreed nervously.
Ginny gave only a quick nod before swinging her leg over to sit sideways on the broom, using the window frame to pull herself closer. Gently pushing on the stained glass window, it opened without a sound, and so she pushed it open all the way. There was no hesitation as she swung herself off the broomstick and onto the window sill, though she could picture the look of concern on Neville’s face, his wand drawn and ready to catch her if she fell. Her broomstick stayed in its place, waiting for her return.
Sitting on the sill she took her trainers off and carefully threw them to Neville, not wanting to leave mud or water on the floors as evidence. Clad in her socks she swung herself inside and stood quietly, looking around what must be the living quarters of Snape. The bedside candle was burning softly, and she knew Dobby was awaiting her call.
“Dobby,” she whispered, though she was completely alone.
“Yes, Miss Ginny. Dobby is here,” he replied, apparating beside her silently.
She breathed an audible sigh of relief at his presence, and smiled at him before turning back to the window and giving Neville a short wave. They acted quickly, wasting no time going over what needed to be done. They had done all of that as they rushed to plan that afternoon, and Dobby knew exactly what was to be done.
“This way,” Dobby prompted her, taking off down the hallway. He had abandoned his usual tea cosy in preference for a black hat, his large ears tucked up inside and making his head seem round and comical.
Ginny followed him down a short hallway off the living quarters, and moments later Dumbledore’s large and spacious office was visible down a short flight of stone steps. She had only been in here a few times, once when McGonagall was in charge, but never completely alone. Wishing for more time to look around properly Ginny rushed down the steps and found the grand office desk, lighting her wand and raising it to look at her target.
Godric Gryffindor’s sword hung in a cabinet on the wall behind the desk, the enormous rubies sparkling in the light from her wand. Before she could take the time to take in its beauty Dobby was removing it from the cabinet and turning back to her, smiling as he held out the handle.
“That easy?” she smiled, still hardly believing their luck. She reached out and took the handle, surprised by how heavy it was. The tip dropped to the floor with a soft clunk.
“Oh yes, Miss Ginny. Someone has to clean and polish the sword of noble Godric. But only a witch or wizard can permanently remove it from its home…though I now suspect…”
“This isn’t its true home, without Dumbledore.”
“That is correct, Miss Ginny. Careful now, it’s sharp!”
“I’ll bet,” she replied, grinning as she cradled the long blade and turned to rush back to the open window in the living quarters. “Thank you so much, Dobby! I’ll see you at the back doors.”
With that Dobby disappeared, and Ginny rushed up the stone steps to get back to the window, stopping only just in time to carry the sword carefully through the narrow doorway. It was strange to be holding the sword after so long of hoping and planning, even stranger still that Harry had managed to wield it at age twelve. If it was heavy to her, she wondered how he had managed against a Basilisk.
“We got it!” She whispered to Neville through the open window, barely able to contain her excitement.
He just nodded, waiting until she carefully put the sword down before tossing back her trainers. Arranging them on the window sill where they wouldn’t make a mess, Ginny retrieved the sword and very carefully passed it out the window to Neville, whose eyes bulged as he took hold of it. Blowing out the bedside candle she sat on the window sill and hastily pulled on her trainers, ushering her broomstick as little closer before fearlessly swinging herself back onto it.
“Everything go alright?” Neville asked as she charmed the window to close and lock itself again.
“Yeah, let’s go, we’re running out of time.”
“Right, can you take the sword? I don’t think I can fly with it.”
They set off quickly, both of them uncomfortably aware of how much time they had left before the bed checks would start. They made it back to the broom shed in record time, stowing away the broom sticks and setting off back to the castle at a run, struggling to cover their tracks. The castle seemed so far away, especially being uphill, but neither of them ever showed signs of slowing down, and she only prayed they would make it back to their beds soon. Getting caught out after curfew was bad, but getting caught after breaking into the Headmaster’s office to steal was even worse.
Ginny could hardly believe that she had already spent two months back at Hogwarts, two months since she had been captured by Death Eaters who had clearly waited for their opportunity. She hated to think of that night, of being suddenly torn from her bed at Shell Cottage in the middle of the night and forced outside into the frigid January weather. The whole ordeal was over in less than a minute, mere seconds of screaming and fighting to keep possession of the wand that was clutched in her hand as she slept. That night she had heard nothing of Bill and Fleur. They might be dead for all she knew.
It was no surprise that the worst was yet to come, and looking back two months later Ginny was surprised at how well she had handled herself. The thought of being taken to Voldemort was unbearable, having spent months considering what her greatest use to him would be. If she were taken to Voldemort, it would mean almost certain death for Harry. He would come, put his life at risk for hers, and it was a relief for Ginny when she and her captors appeared before a set of grand iron gates that bore the unmistakable Malfoy crest. If they intended to take her to Voldemort they wouldn’t have come to the Malfoy’s, where already Narcissa Malfoy was approaching the gates from the inside of the property to admit them. They must have other plans for her use.
Forcing herself to remain in one piece, Ginny allowed herself to be escorted barefoot across the snowy grounds, clad only in the tee-shirt and track pants she had worn to bed. Looking at the Death Eaters who held each elbow she tried to identify them, or those around them, but none lowered their masks to her. Perhaps they could feel the righteous anger that swelled inside her, or her definitive resolve that she would never give them what they wanted. Providing that Harry didn’t do anything stupid, Ginny knew she would be alright.
She didn’t look at the grand house as they approached, keeping her eyes focused on the ground and ensuring that she didn’t trip. It was blissfully warm inside, but Ginny still regretted that she raised her eyes from the marble flooring to be greeted by all three of the Malfoy’s, who stood side by side in a perfect family portrait. Ginny stifled a laugh, recalling their family trip to Egypt, when their tour guide had tried to get a family portrait of them. Between the nine of them, none of them could pay attention long enough to face the camera and smile properly, which is likely why Charlie usually appears a little cross-eyed. Clearly the Malfoy’s had the art of family portraits perfected.
“Is something, funny, Miss Weasley?” Lucius asked, detected her hidden laugh. He too smiled, stepping forward towards her. For a fleeting moment Ginny remembered the first time she had met the Malfoy family, during their trip to Diagon Alley before she started her first year. She clearly recalled the incident, though hadn’t known he had slipped Tom Riddle’s diary in amongst her new books.
Ginny pursed her lips, wondering what to say. She followed by Harry’s example, who would never wilt away and submit. “Do you lot sleep at all? Or do you just wear that to bed?” she asked politely, gesturing to their formal robes and clothing.
“Draco told me you had a smart mouth. Not unlike your boyfriend,” he smirked, stepping even closer to her. “He quietened down pretty quickly though. They always do.”
Ginny stood a little straighter, never looking away from his gaze even when she desperately wanted to. “You’ve brought me here for a reason, I hope?”
Those around them had laughed, but Malfoy quietened them with a simple nod of his head, his smirk never faltering. “Let us not waste time,” he began as confirmation, looking at her expectantly.
“I don’t know where he is,” Ginny said solidly, and it was the truth. Harry could be anywhere this very moment.
“Tsk, surely you must have some idea,” Malfoy replied, taking one last step towards her. They stood only a few inches away from each other, and he towered over her.
Ginny hesitated, unable to pretend that she wasn’t intimidated. “I’m sorry, he didn’t pass along his holiday itinerary. I’ll make sure he is better organised next time.”
Malfoy didn’t seem fazed at all by her remark, and so stood in position for a long minute until he finally moved away, allowing Ginny to release the breath she had been holding. The father and son exchanged a glance that conveyed clear instructions, and Draco moved forward to take his father’s place before her. He drew his wand and held it by his side, considering her for a moment.
Suddenly Ginny was in a mass of confusion, thoughts and memories rushing through her head against her will. In her memories she could see Harry most prominently, and the intensity and sensitivity of the memories increased, her fear and embarrassment mounting as she realised Draco could see everything that she could. Suddenly the memories stopped, and she found herself on her knees before Malfoy, shaking and trying to catch her breath. A fine sheet of sweat broke out over her skin as she saw Malfoy smirking at her knowingly, and her face flushed with embarrassment.
“Nothing of note, Father,” Malfoy laughed, stepping back to stand by his parents. “As we expect from a Weasley.”
There was laughter from the Death Eaters, but Ginny ignored them and focused on steadying her breathing, reluctantly allowing one hooded figure to take her by the arm and haul her to her feet, following Narcissa Malfoy up the stairs. Looking over her shoulder she could see Draco’s eyes following her ascent upstairs, his smirk never fading. She turned front and concentrated on where she was being taken, lest she be given the opportunity to escape, yet they didn’t travel far before Narcissa led her into a large room off the first corridor.
Inside was a warm fire and a grand four poster bed. The Death Eater who held her arm ushered her inside and quickly left, leaving her alone with Narcissa Malfoy. There was an awkward moment as the two of them stood and observed each other, Narcissa finally looking away and approaching the bed. She lit the lamp and pulled back the thick sheets and blankets, fluffing the pillows before turning back to Ginny.
“I’m sure you’ll be quite comfortable here, Miss Weasley,” she said with strange politeness, her observant eyes looking her up and down.
Uncomfortable, Ginny folded her arms across her chest, wondering what exactly was going to happen. Narcissa left the room and closed the door behind her, a loud click telling Ginny that it was locked. Without her wand there was no way she was leaving that room, which beautiful as it was, was now her prison. Ginny glared at the bed, taking the smaller blanket from the end of the bed and carrying it towards the fireplace where she sat in the velvet armchair, pulling it over her. Despite the warmth, she shivered, her imagination going to a million places. How long would it take for them to lure Harry here to save her? How long would it take to kill him when he came, which Ginny knew with certainty that he would.
She fell into a fitful sleep, awakening a few hours later from the discomfort in her shoulders. Sitting up a little straighter, Ginny looked around the room for a clock, wondering what time it was. Without the window to show her the outside world, she had no sense of time, and to her frustration there was not a clock in sight. There was a small bathroom on the other side of the room, and so she quickly freshened up as best she could, retying her hair in a ponytail before sitting back before the fireplace. To pass the time she picked at her fingernails, cleaning the grit from underneath before trying to sleep again.
A little while later a house elf appeared, bearing a tray laden full of breakfast food, a pot of steaming tea enticing Ginny to sit up. The elf did not look at her, and her request to know the time went unanswered. Frustrated, Ginny ignored the tea and breakfast, settling back onto the chair and trying to go back to sleep, wondering when someone was going to come back for her. If they left her to stew in her own boredom, they were sure to regret it.
It was a relief when Narcissa Malfoy returned, entering the room and observing the untouched breakfast tray.
“Hunger strikes will get you nowhere,” she said, and it was then that Ginny looked up and saw what she had brought with her.
“What the hell is that?” she demanded angrily, jumping to her feet and looking at the Hogwarts uniforms and robes that lay across the bed.
“School uniforms,” Narcissa informed her. “I understand why you don’t recognise them, they’re new after all. Get dressed, you’re expected at your first class in an hour.”
Ginny was gobsmacked, looking at the uniforms in disbelief. They were sending her back to Hogwarts? Obediently she dressed in the new uniforms in an absolute daze, Narcissa waiting for her outside and returning only when she knew Ginny was dressed.
“Are you going to eat?” she asked, clearly wishing she wasn’t so patient.
Ginny shook her head. She didn’t think she could stand to keep anything down at the moment. At that Narcissa led her outside, apparating to appear outside the front gates of Hogwarts. An hour later she was sitting in Transfiguration alongside her classmates, who were as surprised as she was by her return.
Coming back to the present, Ginny sighed with relief when they finally arrived at the back doors and found them unlocked, and they breathlessly thanked Dobby as they entered the warm castle. Ginny checked her watch again, and knew they would have to run if they were to make it. Slipping off their shoes, Neville carried them as Ginny carried the sword, held carefully as they dashed through the halls and up the moving staircases, which acted as if they too were in support of what they had done, and their trip back to Gryffindor tower was faster than expected. They skidded to a stop before the Fat Lady, and Ginny prodded her awake impolitely.
“When am I expected to get any sleep with you lot- Oh, it’s you two. Where have you been?” she asked suspiciously, peering down at the sword of Gryffindor with harsh judgement in her eyes. “You won’t do well to be caught with that my dears.”
“Oi!” Neville said so sharply he almost sounded like Ron. He snapped his fingers to get the Fat Lady’s attention. “We were never here, okay? We haven’t been out all night, alright? If anyone asks, we didn’t leave the common room until the morning-”
“She gets the point, Neville!” Ginny whispered harshly, ramming him in the back with the handle of the sword. “Let us in!”
“Well, you haven’t given me the password.”
“Snape stinks! Let us in!”
“Alright then,” she smiled sweetly, swinging her portrait away and allowing them entrance.
They clamoured through the portrait hole and rushed to close it behind them, finding the common room blissfully empty. Neville and Ginny dashed over to the pre-prepared suit of armour and opened the helmet, and Ginny struggled to lift it high enough until Neville helped her. Very carefully they slid the sword inside and closed the helmet, sealing it shut.
“Night, Ginny!” Neville declared, tossing her shoes and ushering her up the stairs towards the girls dormitory.
“Night, Neville!” she laughed, making her way up the stairs as she tried to wipe the grin off her face. She was full of elation, having stolen the sword and made it back to their dormitory in record time, and she was almost expecting to find a roomful of Death Eaters when she opened the door to the sixth year’s dorm, but smiled again when she found only Demelza and Romilda who were fast asleep. Throwing her trainers into her trunk Ginny tore off her jumper and shirt, slipping on her pyjama shirt without bothering to change out of her jeans. As long as the inspectors could see she was asleep and in pyjamas they had no reason to suspect her.
Removing her hair from the pony tail she let it fall past her shoulders before she jumped back into bed, ruffling it up a little before laying down and pulling the covers up. She had only just managed to properly relax when ten minutes later the door opened, announcing the hourly intrusion of the Death Eater who was inspecting the Gryffindor girls that night. Ginny kept her eyes closed and focused on taking slow and deep breaths, and though she could sense them looking over her properly, she did not falter.
Whoever it was left pretty quickly, allowing Ginny to finally relax and find sleep for the first time that night. When she first awoke the next morning it was to the sound of Demelza in the shower, and so Ginny rolled over and looked around the dormitory with bleary eyes, taking note of Demelza’s now vacant bed, Romilda’s empty bed and the unmade bed on the other side of hers, which had once belonged to Alice. She was gone the very morning of the attack on Hogwarts, as was every other Muggle-born student in the castle, leaving gaping holes in all houses but Slytherin.
Demelza often complained of how lonely she had been in the dormitory with just Romilda, and had been more excited than Ginny could bear when she had returned. Ginny usually clenched her teeth at this, wanting to tell Demelza how true loneliness really felt, but she held herself back. Almost nothing of her own had been returned to her, and so she got by on weekends mostly borrowing jeans and coats from Demelza or Luna, occasionally from Romilda. Of what had been many friends, it was only Luna and Neville who had welcomed her back without any ulterior motive for gossip or harassment. To many others she was considered a coward, having run away from the Death Eaters the night they were attacked. She mainly ignored this, reminding herself that they had no idea what was at stake that night. If Harry had been caught, he would have been killed within the hour, she too.
“Get up, Ginny, you’re running late,” Demelza chastised, belting her across the head as she towel dried her hair.
Ginny groaned, having fallen asleep again. Without thinking twice she threw back the covers and sat up, noticing too late Demelza’s look of curiosity.
“Why are you wearing jeans?” she asked in confusion, fixing her tie. “Did you go somewhere last night?”
“No,” Ginny grumbled, taking her brush and pulling it through her hair a few times. She threw it on the bed and padded over to her trunk, retrieving her uniform and underwear.
“Then why did you wear jeans to bed?” she continued, throwing her books into her bag.
“I just did, okay?” Ginny snapped, changing as quickly as she could. She needed to get to Transfiguration in fifteen minutes. “It was warmer.”
“Fine,” Demelza replied, raising her eyebrows. She slung her bag over her shoulder. “I’ll wait for you in the Common Room.”
When she left Ginny clenched her eyes closed, thinking back to last night with a mixture of wonder and dread. Shaking herself out of it she finished dressing and brushed her teeth furiously, throwing her hair into a messy pony tail and packing her bag. Stopping, she took a deep breath and redid her hair, not wanting to appear stressed or dishevelled. If the missing sword was discovered today she needed to look as normal as possible. When she finally went downstairs she avoided looking towards the suit of armour that now housed the Sword of Gryffindor, instead looking around for Demelza, who greeted her with a piece of toast.
“Longbottom brought this back for you,” she said with a hint of accusation.
“Oh, that’s nice of him,” she commented with a smile. He must have known she would oversleep. “Here, have half. We’ll have to have an early lunch.”
Demelza accepted the piece of toast, but Ginny could tell she wasn’t going to leave it at that. “So,” she began very carefully as they rushed towards Transfiguration. “Is there something going on between you and Longbottom?”
“What?” Ginny said sharply. “No, what gave you that impression?”
“Well, you just seem to be hanging around with him a lot, that’s all. Now he’s bringing your breakfast, and he walked you to class the other day.”
“We’re friends, we have been for years!” Ginny defended herself, increasingly uncomfortable. She knew what was coming next.
“Oh, I’m not judging you or spreading rumours,” Demelza rushed to explain, trying to pay attention to where they were going as they reached the ground floor. “With Harry and all…people would understand that you want to move on.”
Ginny groaned. “Don’t believe the prophet Demelza, Merlin. Harry’s not dead, and he’s not a Death Eater either.”
“Okay,” Demelza replied dismissively, and Ginny had never been so glad for her to shut up.
“Good morning, Ginny,” Luna greeted them with her usual earthy smile. She didn’t look at all tired, despite what she had done last night.
“Morning, Luna,” Ginny replied, parting from Demelza and moving to stand by Luna as they waited for McGonagall to allow them inside. “Sleep well, last night?”
“I always sleep well, the Wrackspurts help me.”
“Okay,” Ginny accepted this with a smile, moving to stand a little closer. “Good job last night, thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” she whispered, before continuing in her normal voice. “I heard the strangest rumours over breakfast this morning; apparently the Sword of Godric Gryffindor has gone missing.”
“What?” Ginny feigned. “That’s bad luck.”
“Oh yes,” Luna smiled, those around them erupting into conversation about the rumours they had heard. “Bad luck indeed.”
Carefully wiping the smiles from their faces Ginny and Luna stood in a comfortable silence, listening to the dramatic rumours that spread among their classmates, and was relieved to not hear her name come up once. To that end though, Ginny didn’t meet Demelza’s eyes again, knowing she would have her suspicions after finding her wearing jeans that morning. It was a relief when McGonagall appeared before the classroom doors, waiting patiently for silence to fall among the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws.
“Good morning, sixth years,” she greeted them. “As you’re all aware, you paired assignment is due this Monday. For the first half of today’s lesson we will be working on this assignment in your assigned pairs. Come in, and please take your seats accordingly.”
There were a few nods of approval as they entered the classroom, the vast majority of the students having enjoyed being paired up with students from another house, but to Ginny it was a terrible start to the day. Entering the classroom she could see that the desks had been arranged to seat the pairs individually, and her partner Caitlin Morris had already taken her seat.
Farewelling Luna, Ginny stuck a smile on her face and sat down beside Caitlin, drawing on all of her people skills to get through the first half of the lesson.
That was the extent of their greeting, and as the rest of the class chatted and joked as they retrieved their books and parchment, Ginny and Caitlin retrieved theirs in silence. Ginny wondered if there was a better way to describe Caitlin than to say she was a heinous bitch. Close friends with Romilda Vane, she had been part of the mastermind plot to give Harry spiked Cauldron Cakes last year. When they had begun dating, Caitlin had lashed out at Ginny and begun a small war that continued to this day. It didn’t seem characteristic of McGonagall to be punishing Ginny now of all times, but being paired with Caitlin certainly felt like punishment.
Ginny wished she could just be friends with blokes, they were far easier to get along with. They fight, they argue, and they throw a few punches if they need to. It would be so much simpler than trying to navigate the dramas and back stabbing of most girls her age, Hermione and Luna being the rare exceptions. She could throw her share of fair punches. If only she could punch Caitlin Morris.
Unlike the rest of the class, Ginny and Caitlin worked almost completely in silence, being chatty and cooperative when McGonagall came by to check on their progress.
“Maybe if you’d finished your part of the research, we would have finished part two by now,” Ginny commented lightly after McGonagall left.
“Maybe if you’d been willing to work on it together last night, we would have.”
“You mean I would have done your job for you.”
“We would have finished by now, but you were too busy.”
“You mean I would have done your job for you,” Ginny repeated herself sweetly. “I’ve done my part.”
“I have other classes too,” Caitlin snarled at her.
“Funny, I have those exact same classes… shame that I share every single one of them with you,” Ginny smiled.
“Is everything alright here, ladies?” Professor McGonagall asked, swooping back down on them at the first sign of discord. Perhaps she was already regretting pairing them together. This wasn’t their first argument over this assignment.
“Yes, Professor. Just teaching Caitlin some effective time management skills.”
“Perhaps I’ll need to teach them to you both,” she said sternly, narrowing her eyes at them. “In detention, on a Friday night.”
Ginny turned to Caitlin and smiled again, letting her frustration come out. A swift punch was looking more and more appealing. “I think you’d benefit from that, Caitlin. Maybe learn something about doing your work yourself, not bribing fourth years to do it for you.”
“That’s enough, Miss Weasley. Get back to work. I’m expecting a high standard of work from the both of you.”
There was a long silence, Caitlin consulting the textbook until McGonagall was out of sight. “Maybe you’d benefit from a class on people skills.”
“Maybe you’d benefit from a punch in the face. I’m willing to help you out.”
Caitlin didn’t answer, for at that very moment the classroom doors opened with a sharp bang, and each student turned around in their seats and instantly fell silent.
Ginny was horrified, her limbs freezing in shock as Lucius proudly walked down the centre aisle of desks, ignoring the protests of McGonagall as three others followed him in. Ginny’s heart raced as he looked her in the eye and smiled, drawing nearer to her with every step as Ginny’s brain went into absolute panic. She had been caught…they knew it was she, Neville and Luna who had stolen the sword, and now they were going to pay for it, severely. By the time Malfoy came to a stop beside her Ginny was ready to confess her every sin right then and there, but the moment he began to speak Ginny felt strangely in control.
“Good morning, Miss Weasley,” Malfoy began, her smile never faltering as he cocked his head to the side. His demeanour was a cool and calm as it had been the night Death Eaters had brought her to his mansion for questioning.
“Good morning,” Ginny replied, her voice strong, steady and confident as it rang out across the room.
“Up you get, then,” he instructed her, watching as Ginny rose to her feet. “Leave your school books, and your wand.”
Avoiding the fearful gaze of her classmates, Ginny allowed Malfoy to usher her towards the classroom doors, doing her best to ignore the protests of Professor McGonagall, who was clearly anticipating harm.
“Minerva it’s quite alright. If Miss Weasley here is cooperative, we won’t be longer than five minutes.”
“It’s alright, Professor,” Ginny said boldly, knowing her Professor had no other choice. Already the three other Death Eaters were stationing themselves around the classroom, sending a clear message that she ought to cooperate. “I’m not afraid of him.”
“Now look at that bravery,” Malfoy smiled, disgusting Ginny when he placed her hand on her shoulder and steered her out of the classroom. “A true Gryffindor,” he mocked.
They didn’t go far, Malfoy steering her into the empty classroom directly across from McGonagall’s, neglecting to close the doors. Her heart pounding, Ginny tried to calm her breathing, wiping her sweaty palms on her skirt as she glanced back into her classroom across the hall. Every person that could see had turned in their seats to watch her, and Luna had stood up, looking as though she wanted to bolt over and accept punishment along with her. Behind her McGonagall stood in the centre of the aisle, looking between her and her students. Ginny turned her attention back to Luna, who had already begun to move out from behind her seat. She shook her head at her imperatively.
It was then that Malfoy struck her.
The blow to her face was hard, and she stumbled and bumped into a vacant desk as a student from her classroom screamed. Sinking down into a crouch Ginny leant one elbow against the seat of a chair and cradled her face in her hand, the pain intensifying as she tried to catch her breath. When she opened her eyes should could only see white, and it took a few blinks for her vision to clear. Looking up she could see Malfoy standing expectantly before her. Behind him stood Amycus Carrow, whose new forms of discipline extended to the use of the Cruciatus Curse, which he never hesitated to use.
“Feel like a big, tough man now?” she goaded, uncertainly getting to her feet to face Malfoy. “Does hitting girls make you feel good?”
He didn’t bite at this, instead getting straight down to the point. “Two things very dear to many people, have gone missing. What can you tell me about that?”
Ginny hesitated, unsure. Aside from the Sword of Gryffindor, what else was gone? Had Harry, Ron and Hermione set about their plans to break into the Ministry of Magic and Gringotts already? There had been nothing mentioned in the newspapers. “I’m sure I’ve got nothing to do with either. I’ve been right here in school.”
Malfoy ignored this, carrying on relentlessly. “The first, has been gone for quite some time. The second, went missing only very recently. The Sword of Gryffindor.”
“I heard a rumour,” Ginny confirmed. “But what’s it to do with me? It’s not my fault if Snape left his office unlocked.”
That remark earned her a second belting, and this one felt even worse than the first. Clutching the same side of her face she stumbled again and backed into a desk, overturning its chair as she struggled to regain her footing. She could hear McGonagall yelling and shouting from the classroom as she tasted blood from where she had bitten her lip. There was a loud bang as the doors to McGonagall’s classroom slammed shut, diminishing her protests.
“I haven’t touched that stupid sword,” Ginny ground out with her teeth clenched, her face smarting terribly. She clamoured to stand upright again, turning back to face Malfoy and Carrow.
Carrow came forward, and Ginny was backed up against the wall of the classroom by them both.
“Then where were you at four thirty this morning?”
Ginny’s blood ran cold at this, and was unable to prevent the look of fear flickering across her face. Had the hourly bed checks increased to half hourly? Why had she not noticed that before?
“Where was Neville Longbottom, at four thirty this morning?”
“With me,” she replied calmly, the lie coming easily. “We went for a walk.”
“To the Head Master’s tower?” Malfoy smirked.
“No,” Ginny replied. “We didn’t go far from the Gryffindor common room.”
“That’s funny, Mr Longbottom told us the opposite, not even five minutes ago.”
“Then he’s lying,” she answered, wondering if Neville really had said that. Neville was better than that, he’d never throw her to the mercy of Death Eaters without a fight.
“And why would he do that?” Malfoy asked sweetly, standing tall over her. He was so close she could feel the fabric of his robes against her own, and his hot breath against her face. She flinched away from him.
Silently praying that Harry would forgive her, she answered. “Because he doesn’t want people to know about us,” she answered stiffly, swallowing nervously.
They laughed at her mercilessly, not believing her story. “So Longbottom would rather incriminate himself, than go public as Harry Potter’s replacement?”
Carrow snickered at her, roughly taking her by the arm and steering her to face the wall. “What the hell are you doing?” Ginny demanded, shivering as her robes and school jumper disappeared. Clad only in her skirt and white blouse, she felt completely exposed as they placed her hands on the wall before her and fastened them with a sticking charm. “Let me go, or I’ll start screaming,” she threatened.
“You won’t scream,” Malfoy said confidently, removing his wand from his robes and pointing it at her. “You’re just like Potter, he wouldn’t give us the satisfaction of hearing him scream too often.”
“He was no fun at all,” Carrow commented.
Her heart racing, Ginny eyed the wand that was pointed to her, her body tense in anticipation of the Cruciatus curse. She was scared, and they could tell.
“I’ve done nothing wrong,” she said, ignoring what they said about Harry. She turned and faced the wall, remembering how strong and brave he could be, praying that she could be the same.
If it weren’t for her hands fixed to the wall, she would have fallen over from the force of the curse that neatly slashed a long line across her lower back, and Ginny couldn’t help but gasp at the sharp pain. Shaking now, she twisted her head around to see the slashed material of her school shirt that was quickly absorbing blood.
“Where is the Sword of Gryffindor?” Malfoy asked patiently.
“I don’t know,” Ginny lied, her voice trembling.
Her knees buckled for just a moment as Malfoy cursed her again, this pain sharper and stronger as fresh blood spilt from the new cut, slightly below the first.
“How did you break into Professor Snape’s office?”
“I didn’t, I was with Neville last night,” Ginny gasped, grimacing.
He cut her again, and Ginny squirmed in pain, trying to find some relief. She could feel her shirt sticking to her skin.
“Who helped you?” Carrow asked.
She felt a flicker of relief. They didn’t suspect Dobby, or Luna for that matter. Had she made it back to bed before the half hourly check? “No one, I didn’t do it.”
This time the pain was across the back of her legs, slightly higher than her knees, but it was excruciating. She couldn’t help the cry she emitted, clenching her toes in her shoes and gritting her teeth.
“I didn’t touch that stupid sword!” she shouted, gasping as Malfoy cursed her again, the new cut slightly higher. “Ask the Fat Lady! Neville and I were in and out in less than twenty minutes! We didn’t have the sword!”
“Perhaps we will ask her,” Malfoy responded.
Ginny regretted that outburst immediately, praying that the Fat Lady would support her. After all, she had never made fun of her plump rosy cheeks, or knocked the painted piece of cake she was eating onto the floor.
“I don’t have that stupid sword!” Ginny shouted, louder than last time. “Maybe you should ask your precious Slytherins! They’ve been daring each other to nick it since Dumbledore died!”
That was a lie of course. Ginny couldn’t think of one Slytherin who had taken any interest in the sword in her entire time at Hogwarts. It made no difference, Malfoy inflicting another cut to her legs in the midst of her shouting. There was a long silence between the three of them as Carrow and Malfoy anticipated their next move, while Ginny stared them down defiantly, trying not to squirm in pain. She was panting, her face flushed with red.
“That’s enough, Gentlemen.”
Ginny tore her stare away from Malfoy and looked over her shoulder, her fear and anxiety rocketing as she saw Severus Snape standing in the doorway, his arms folded and his face passive.
“Severus,” Carrow greeted him, turning away from Ginny and approaching Snape. “We were just beginning our interrogations-”
“Interrogations which I informed you to withhold,” Snape continued coolly, sweeping into the room.
Ginny found her hands released from the wall, and she carefully moved away from Malfoy and held onto a desk, trying to stop her body from trembling. The pain in her back and legs was increasing, and she knew her situation was only going to get worse. What would Snape do to her? She didn’t want to consider that. Although Harry displayed no open fear towards Voldemort himself, the mere mention of Snape’s name turned his body tense with fear he was unwilling to voice.
“We thought it best to-”
“I doubt you thought at all, Amycus. Now you’ve unnecessarily maimed a pureblood. You’ve shown enough ignorance for one day, you’re presence is no longer required. The same to you, Lucius.”
At this the two men lowered their wands, casting one last look to Ginny before sweeping past her.
“Now you look just like him,” Lucius said to her as she passed, and there was no doubting who he meant.
Ginny stood frozen, Snape watching her as Malfoy and Carrow left swiftly, leaving the door open in their wake. With his arms still folded Snape swept across the room towards her, stopping on the other side of the desk she clutched. There was a long moment as Snape looked at her, his eyes boring deep inside of her when she refused to look away. Would he use Occlumency on her? She hadn’t managed to keep much from Malfoy the first time she had experienced the power of a skilled Legilimens, and knew that Harry struggled against Snape.
“The Sword of Gryffindor has been moved,” he began softly, his voice cold and unfeeling. “It now resides in the Restricted Section of the library, hidden on shelf number one hundred and twelve, behind the books it holds.”
Despite the whirl of questions and the hammering of her heart, Ginny managed to keep her face impassive. Had he found the sword, hidden carefully in a suit of armour? Why would he move it, rather than take possession of it again?
“Why are you telling me this, Professor?” Ginny asked politely.
He titled his head a little, looking down at her with a calculating stare. “It is in the best interests of many, that you take that sword immediately and keep it in your possession at all times…until such a time that there is another who needs it more than yourself.”
“I don’t understand, Professor,” Ginny whispered to begin, even though the implication was clear. Snape was telling her to give it to Harry. “I haven’t touched that sword. I have no interest in it.”
He nodded. “You’re dismissed, Miss Weasley, you will go back to class immediately. Do not seek the treatment of Madam Pomfrey…she has been instructed not to provide it to you.”
“Yes, sir,” she replied, slipping past him and all but bolting out of the classroom.
“One last thing, Miss Weasley,” Snape began, looking at her imperatively as she stopped and turned around. “You’ll be serving detention with Professor Hagrid tonight, and nine o’clock sharp. It’s important that you be prompt. Do you understand?”
Ginny hesitated, feeling the weight of his words. Her head was still spinning, and she wasn’t sure she was keeping up with everything that Snape had told her. “Yes, sir,” she replied, finally bolting out the door and closing it behind her.
Standing in the deserted corridor she hesitated, wondering if she ought to go straight to the library, but she remembered what Snape had instructed her to do first. Shivering without her cloak or jumper, Ginny carefully twisted around with a hiss of pain, inspecting the blood and cuts on her back and legs. Her stockings hid most of the blood on her legs, but her white school shirt displayed her injuries for all to see. Patting her left cheek, the skin felt hot as it swelled. She didn’t want to go back into class. Everyone had seen and heard most of what had happened, and she didn’t want to be the centre of attention yet again.
Before she could ready herself the door to Professor McGonagall’s classroom opened, the three masked Death Eaters leaving. One of them approached her and took her by the arm, steering her towards the door and pushing her through. The stares of her classmates were apparent, those closest to where she stood in the doorway giving a soft gasp as they saw her appearance. Turning around Ginny put on the façade that Harry often bore, pretending that she didn’t care as she tucked her bloodied shirt back into her skirt, stalking back to her desk with her eyes averted. The eyes of every single classmate bore down on her, and again she wondered how Harry managed to keep himself together when he returned to school.
Gingerly sitting down at her desk Ginny didn’t look up to Professor McGonagall or to anyone else, glancing up only to gratefully accept the school jumper that Luna passed down the desks to her. Pulling it on Ginny sighed as she felt much warmer, and she brushed her fringe off her face as Caitlin beside her took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“Are you okay?” she whispered, genuinely concerned.
Ginny only nodded, picking up her quill and beginning the notes that McGonagall had hastily thrown up on the board. With her other hand she took her wand from the desk and slipped it back into her pocket, feeling some small comfort now that she had it back. Checking her watch she noted that there was still over an hour of class left, and that her heart would not stop hammering until she got back to Gryffindor tower.
When the bell finally rang to signal the end of class, Ginny leapt to her feet and slung her bag over her shoulder, wincing as it brushed against the long cuts. Ignoring the searing pain she quickly slipped out of class and pretended not to hear McGonagall calling out to her, and the moment she reached the hallway she broke into a run. That too was painful, but Ginny ignored this and ran harder, making the trek back to Gryffindor tower in record time. When she skidded to a halt in front of the Fat Lady, Ginny’s heart immediately sank.
“It’s gone, my dearie,” she said sympathetically, swinging her portrait forward without waiting for the password.
Ginny bolted inside, dropping her bag and paying no attention to the destruction before her, or the students on break who were already tidying up amidst their confusion. Not paying attention to them Ginny dashed straight to the suit of armour in which she had hidden the sword of Gryffindor and opened its mask. Plunging her arm deep inside the suit she desperately felt around for the handle of the sword, standing on the tips of her toes to reach further. Frustrated, Ginny hauled over one of the chairs from the overturned study table and stood on it, shining her wand deep into the centre of the armour.
She swore loudly, jumping down from the chair and kicking it furiously. Behind her, other students looked at her warily, stopping their clean-up to watch her in fascination. The Sword of Gryffindor was gone, and that meant only one thing. She had to trust Snape, he must have moved it. Ginny asked herself why he would do that, closing her eyes and pinching the bridge of her nose as she thought. She was so confused, but without stopping to consider that it might be a trap, Ginny began to set off for the library.
Before she could reach the portrait hole it swung open, admitting Demelza, Romilda and Luna, who were each in their own state of panic. They swarmed on her, asking a multitude of questions as they swept her upstairs to their dormitory, which had also been turned upside down in the Death Eater’s search for the stolen sword. Before she knew it Ginny had stripped down to her underwear and was leant up against the post on her bed, allowing Demelza to clean and dress her wounds with supplies the Ravenclaws smuggled from the hospital wing.
“It’s completely barbaric,” Romilda declared from her place on Ginny’s bed, where she watched with a strange fascination, as though glad to see Harry Potters preferred girlfriend in pain.
Standing right by her side, Luna rolled her eyes dramatically to Ginny, eliciting a small laugh. “Are you sure you should be missing Charms, Romilda?” Luna began nicely. “I know you struggled last class.”
“No, I can stay,” she replied solidly, glaring at Luna.
Ginny winked at Luna in thanks, resting her head against the bedpost she leant against while Demelza finished applying the dressings to the back of her legs. Impatiently she checked her watch, seeing the seconds ticking by, each one bringing the possibility of someone discovering the sword by accident even closer. She racked her head, trying to recall that shelf one hundred and twelve was a part of the Restricted Section. She would need help to retrieve it, Madam Pince rarely allowed students who were not in seventh year to enter that section without her careful supervision.
“So why were they asking you about the Sword of Gryffindor?” Romilda asked again, shifting closer on the bed, looking around their dormitory that was still a mess. “You must have given them reason to.”
“I missed a bed check last night,” Ginny repeated politely, sticking to her original story. “They assumed it was me.”
“Because you were out with Neville?” Romilda persisted.
“So have they been talking to him, I wonder?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
Luna stepped away from the bed, peering towards the dormitory door. “I think you’re about to find out, he’s coming up the stairway.”
“He’s what?” Demelza and Romilda exclaimed in unison.
“He can’t come in here!” Demelza added in dismay. “He’s a boy!”
“I’m sure he’s got only noble intentions,” Luna explained, opening the door with a smile and watching as Neville climbed the stairway that neglected to transform into the slide that had been an enemy to so many before him. “Hello, Neville.”
“Hey, Luna,” he panted, bursting into the dormitory as Demelza and Romilda gave a squeal of surprise. “Oh! Ginny!” He exclaimed, throwing his hands over his eyes as he saw her state of undress. “Sorry…”
“It’s alright, Neville,” she sighed, prompting Demelza to continue on the last dressing. “I’ve got my underwear on.”
“You’ve got…” he began cautiously, parting his fingers and peeking, his cheeks bright red. Breathing a sigh of relief, he removed his hands and approached her, keeping his eyes averted. “Sorry, I didn’t realise I was-”
“I don’t care, just look at me!” she said sharply, pursing her lips when he did. He was clearly panicked, his face red and his breaths coming in sharp pants. “Are you alright?”
“Am I? What about you?” he remarked loudly. “I ran here all the way from class, I heard someone say Lucius Malfoy attacked you! Did he do this?” he finally added softly, hesitantly looking down her back at the dressings Demelza had applied, seeing the final wound that had not yet been covered.
“Yeah, it’s true,” she said, already knowing that Neville had not sold them out, or had not even been interrogated. “But I’m okay.”
He nodded, swallowing thickly before looking around uncomfortably. Ginny watched as his eyes scoured the dormitory in search of the sword.
“It’s gone,” Ginny whispered very softly, leaning closer to him so that Romilda couldn’t hear. At this, Luna quickly distracted the others so that they could talk privately, applying the last dressing to Ginny’s legs herself. “It’s a long story,” she added, seeing his look of confusion.
“It always is,” he said with good nature, taking a deep breath and looking back to the floor.
There was a long silence between the three of them, Luna finishing her task and standing up beside them, making one last check that Romilda and Demelza were occupied out of ear shot. “I know I already asked a lot of you guys, last night,” Ginny began.
“And I’d do it all again,” Neville interrupted her with fierce loyalty. “I don’t care how risky it is, if Harry needs this sword we’ll get it back.”
Luna nodded in agreement.
“Thanks,” Ginny said gratefully, smiling despite their situation. “But unless you count Madam Pince, this shouldn’t be too risky.”
A/N Thanks for reading. I’ve got more chapters ready to be posted, 37 should be up next week.
Am giving a shout out to any avid readers out there who consider themselves to be Spelling and Grammar experts. I’m sure you’ve noticed the occasional mistake or violation, and I’m looking for someone who can help me out purely with SPaG.
A suitable someone would be able to read over a completed chapter and send it back with corrections, preferably within a 24 hour time frame. Ideas and plot lines are always welcome, but I need someone to specifically help me out with SPaG.
If you’re up for it, please email me at killtherat @ hotmail.com.au and tell me a little about yourself.
Thanks for reading, please review!
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