Chapter 1 : The Gloomy Train
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Her father was trying his hardest not to get fired under the strict probation they had put him on at work. Fred and George were taking care of things at the shop, which was doing exceptionally well with the start of term, and the Extendables had informed her that Bill and Charlie were on missions for the Order. All of her family was abroad now except Percy, and who knew what kind of trouble the prat had gotten himself into. It was bad enough that he hadn’t showed up to Bill and Phlegm’s wedding, at least Ron and Harry-
But she cut herself off there. There was a tightening in her chest just at the thought of his name. She closed her eyes and tried to keep from remembering those last moments with him.
“Ginny dear, we’re here,” her mother’s voice said from somewhere beyond the confines of her mind. Her voice was not warm and full as it had been the year before, but filled with all the nights her mother had spent sleeping in the living room with the family clock clutched close to her chest.
Ginny opened her eyes and found herself staring at the blank stretch of brick wall between platforms nine and ten. “Well, let’s get on then,” her mother continued with an ill hidden sniff, “Best get you on the train.”
“You don’t have to come with me from here mum, I’ll be fine.” She mumbled. She could see the tears spilling from her mother’s eyes already. No need to make a scene.
“You’re sure you’ll be alright? Do remember to write every week. Here are you sandwiches for the ride…” The normal start of term spiel her mother normally bored her with stopped. Ginny met her mother’s eyes once again. “I love you, Ginny. Don’t dilly-dally about the train, you go straight inside and find a compartment…Try to do your best. I’m sorry we, that I, I mean, I know that you’re going through a lot, what with Harry-“
“Yeah mum. I know, you’re always here for me. I’ve got to go now, or I’ll never get a good seat,” Ginny butted in quickly. She didn’t want to do this, she didn’t want to be reminded that he was out there fighting, and she was stuck going to school with those trying to kill him. It wasn’t something that needed talking about. Her mother started to openly cry, and wrapped her up in a tight hug.
“I’ll write you all the time, just like I always do Mum. I’ll be fine.” Ginny attempted a care-free smile. The muscles in her face seemed to protest. She was sure she looked like she was in pain. If Fred and George were there, they’d have never let it slip, but Mum seemed to be doing the same thing.
“Alright now dear, off you go. If you’ve forgotten anything, just write, and we’ll send it in the post soon as we can. Now go on.” And with one final hug and kiss, Ginny parted ways with her mother, and crossed the barrier to the Hogwarts Express.
She had expected there to be something drastically different. True, there were less people huddled in groups talking along the platform. Everything was quieter, even the animals, but as she stood under the overhang, Ginny still saw familiar faces. Neville was being groomed by his grandmother a few feet away. She was standing on tip-toe to flatten down his hair, as he had finally grown to be taller than she was. Luna and her father were parting ways at the mouth of one of the compartments, both dressed in outlandishly loud colors. She could see several other classmates, and a few nervous first years scattered between. As she turned to make her way towards the compartment she had seen Luna enter, a hand grabbed her shoulder. She instinctively reached for the wand in her bag, heart stuttering with anxiety.
“Woah now, Red, don’t jinx me to next week!” It was Collin Creevy, a fellow Gryffindor sixth year, his younger brother grinning at his elbow, as always.
“Don’t scare me like that Collin, or next time you’ll find yourself in pretty sore shape.”
“Just glad to find a friendly face,” he said a little nervously. As they made a little small talk, Ginny realized that the summer had not been kind to him. His face had a strained look, as though he hadn’t been able to sleep for a while, and his eyes kept darting about like he was expecting someone to haul him off. Dennis seemed to not be worried about much though. He was waving at various classmates and shouting out greetings. As they were both muggle-born, she could see why they would be a bit nervous coming back to Hogwarts. As Weasley’s were well known as blood traitors, she supposed she should be worried as well. Sometimes she forgot she wasn’t the only one tossing and turning at night.
“Come on Collin, let’s go find a spot.”
They began to gather their things and wade through the crowd once again. The shinning scarlet steam engine let off its first whistle. “Just in time!” Ginny heard Collin say from behind her. She glanced over her shoulder to give him an encouraging smile, but found she was unable to do so. Her breath caught in her throat, and her composure faltered. The sound of the crowd fell away entirely. It was as though the world had stopped. Stretching down the platform, on the side of every column were giant posters bearing the words Undesirable #1 in large block letters. There, staring at her from every few feet, were the eyes of Harry James Potter.
It felt as though she were falling, but he gazed steadily back at her all the same. He wasn’t smiling, or frowning, and seemed neither calm or upset. Every part of her yearned for it be him, and yet Platform 9 ¾ was the last place she wanted Harry to be. He could never be here. He knows that. He isn’t here, she told herself, He’s not coming back. Not until it’s over.
The second blow of the whistle brought her back to the present. “Ginny? Ginny, come on, you’re blocking door…” The roar of the crowd was loud in her ear. She tore her brown eyes away from the grey image of Harry’s green ones, and met the worried looks of those around her. Collin gently pushed further into the train. “Are you ok?” he asked in a low voice. Ginny thought it was odd how much the crease in his forehead made him look older.
“Yeah, sorry,” Ginny muttered back, starting forward once more. The three of them headed through the train, intent on finding the compartment Luna was in. At first she was just scanning for that sheet of blonde hair as she rushed past doorways, searching for the butterbeer caps and raddish earings that meant the comfort of a friend, a real one. Collin and Dennis were just fine, but Luna had been there with her at the Ministry. She was at the Burrow when the ministry fell. She knew what was going on. Ginny was anxious to find her. Luna had a way of attracting trouble quickly, and she was itching for a duel.
The compartments seemed to blur together, but the more she searched, the more she noticed who was looking back at her. There didn’t seem to be kind looks anywhere. Cold eyes and sneering faces looked out of the bold ones. These were the over-privileged Death Eater spawn that felt as though they now had some kind of authority. It would’ve been amusing if it hadn’t been disgusting. More shocking than the ridiculous purebloods were the cowards. More often than not, students seemed to be shunning Collin and Dennis. It was true that they hadn’t been popular before, but now they were openly ostracized. People Ginny knew to be friends with Dennis were avoiding his eye. Collin tried to sit with a compartment of Hufflepuffs that were in the Gobbstones club with him only to find that they were gathering bags to put in their seats until there was no room left for him to join him. Ginny began to slow down at each open door and meet the gazes staring back at her. She wanted to know who were cowards and who were scum. It wasn’t difficult to tell. She began to get discouraged when she noticed even a few Gryffindors were hesitanting to meet her gaze.
After what seemed like ages, the startled voice of Luna finally greeted her. She was unusually talkative. “Oh, it’s you! I’m so glad you’ve come back to school this year. I was worried you’d be busy with Harry.” Ginny felt the grin slide of her face. Of course Luna would think that. Ginny had hoped for that same thing. “Oh no. Now I’ve upset you. I guess you don’t want to think about him being gone right now, do you?” Luna reached forward and pulled Ginny into the seat next to her. Thankfully, she was the only one there. Dennis and Collin hovered at the door, not sure whether to enter, or keep looking.
Ginny attempted another smile and felt her eye twitch. If she kept this up, she’d be as scary as Mad-Eye was-
She gave her head a little shake. Had been. As scary as Mad-Eye had been.
“You’re right, Luna, I don’t. You wouldn’t happen to have a copy of the Quibbler, would you?” She glanced up at Collin and Dennis and nodded towards the empty seats across from them. Luna began to dig in her bag for the magazine and some spectre specs for Ginny to wear for the puzzle. The Creevy boys took their seats and started a quiet conversation amongst themselves.
“Here it is!” Luna emerged triumphantly from beneath her seat carrying a brightly colored, oddly pointy pair of glasses.
“Do I really need these, Luna?” Ginny asked, holding them like a deadly weapon between her thumb and forefinger.
“Most of Daddy’s articles are about Harry and the war now that the general public realizes how ridiculous the Prophet is. You’ll need the glasses to solve the puzzles, unless you want to hear all the rumors about them.”
As Ginny slid the glasses up her nose, the compartment door banged open, and the large, ugly face of Pansy Parkinson peered through the door. Ginny was on her feet in an instant, the spectre specs falling off her face and clattering under the seats once again.
Ginny didn’t wait for a snide remark. “Get out,” she said firmly, looking Pansy straight in the face. She seemed to be sizing Ginny up. Though Pansy was at least a head taller than her, Ginny knew she could take the gorilla. She remembered how easy it was to leave Pansy incapacitated in Umbridge’s office two years before. It would be simple now.
“Ooo, twitchy are we, Weasley? Hiding Potter under your cloak?” Pansy hadn’t taken a step in, and Ginny could see her eyes darting towards the pocket where she clutched her wand. Apparently she hadn’t forgotten that year either.
“I said get out.” Ginny spit through clenched teeth.
“I suppose not. Malfoy,” she said his name almost lovingly- it was sickening, “says he’ll be too much of a coward to show his face now that his precious little Dumbledore is dead.”
“Neither one of you had the guts to say that while they were here though, did you?” Her voice seemed deceptively calm with all the rage boiling inside her. “You’re so scared of him, of what he’s already done, you won’t even look him in the eye when he comes back.”
She laughed at this. “Back? You honestly think he’s coming back? How long do you think he’ll last out there? They catch mudbloods like Granger and blood traitors like you every day. I bet right now he’s hiding like a dog trying not to wet itself with the Dark Lord on his heels. That, or talking up some muggle girl in another country. Trying to blend in, as far from our Dark Lord as possible. No way he’d come back for you, Gingey...”
Ginny wasn’t sure what came after that. Pansy might have kept talking. There was suddenly a ringing in her ears, as though all the sound had been sucked out of the world again. All she felt was her wand vibrating in her pocket, and for some reason, hexing the hell out of Parkinson just wasn’t going to cut it this time. Sometimes, Fred and George had the right idea.
The impact of Ginny’s right jab had Pansy reeling backward out of the compartment. Ginny’s chest was heaving as she fought to get her breathing under control. Though she would have liked to continue the muggle duel, Pansy didn’t seem up to it. There was a moment when no one moved before Luna’s dreamy voice floated through the compartment.
"That was very effective Ginny. Let's move her now, shall we?"