Chapter 2 : For the Love of Mudbloods
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Luna stuck her head out of the doorway, “I’m glad we’ve got that taken care of. Now let’s have fun, shall we?” She was holding out the quibbler and spectre specs to Ginny again.
With a loud bang, one of the other doors burst open, and a spewing, livid Neville was tossed out into the hallway.
“That’s right Malfoy! You know you can’t take me one on one, just send your goons after me!” he was yelling, but it seemed that Crabbe and Goyle had already closed the door and retreated.
“Well, why don’t you tell them how you really feel Longbottom?” Ginny laughed genuinely as he turned his head in alarm. He looked nice and riled up to her. His lip was busted and leaking, leaving a red streak down his chin, nose bruised and swollen, as was his left cheek. Both eyes seemed to have made it out ok, and she was relieved to see that his wand was still clutched firmly in his hand. It was nice to know that someone else was on the same page as her.
“Oh. Hey!” Neville came forward, wrapping Ginny and Luna in a friendly hug. It felt nice to have him back. Neville might not be the brightest, but he was definitely a good ally to have at her side. A real Gryffindor.
He caught sight of Pansy tucked away in the corner and raised an eyebrow. “I see you’ve been having more luck than I have this year already, Weasley.”
“Yes well, it’s amazing what the power of surprise can do for you. It’s good to see you Neville. How was your summer?”
The train ride seemed much warmer to Ginny after Neville’s arrival. He was the perfect balance between the Creevys and Luna, but quick to laugh, in spite of everything that was happening around them. When the train finally started to slow, she was almost weary of what would be waiting for her in the Great Hall. Hogwarts without Dumbledore? It was one thing when he left while Umbridge paraded around, but gone permanently? Dead? And replaced by the man that killed him?
As the wheels gave their last screech and the train pulled into Hogsmead station, Ginny resolved that she would not play nice this year at Hogwarts. She would give all the scum and cowards exactly what they deserved. Not quietly, or in secret either. For too long had the youngest Weasley, the precious little younger sister, sat back and watched her family be the change she wanted to be; left waiting and wondering if they were ok. This year, she would prove to them that she was just as cunning, just as useful, and just as brave as they were.
Determination coursing through her, she looked around the compartment at the people she cared about.
“Ready to go?” she asked them.
Collin gulped. Dennis was too busy trying to pull on his robes to answer. Neville gave a one-sided grin and moved to open the door. Luna nodded, and they made their way down the train to the exits without a glance back.
Things were worse than Ginny had thought possible. When they stepped off the train and onto the platform in Hogsmeade station the “welcoming party” had already assembled. Various adults -no one she recognized as Death Eater or member of the Order-seemed to be searching students before they got on the carriages to Hogwarts. Ginny’s hand tightened on her wand, and she rehearsed the story she and her mother had gone over the past few weeks. Ronald was at home. He had Dragon Pox. Unsure of when he’d be able to return. No word from Harry. Disappeared right after his birthday. Any more questions would be answered with indignation at the hold up, and lot’s of “just ask my mother, she’ll tell you”. Mum had told her to use her blood status if she had too, but she’d rather vomit than say “I’m a pureblood.” Blood traitor was her title, and she was eager to embrace it whole-heartedly.
“Come on,” she growled at the others, “let’s go.”
“Ginny-“ she felt Collin’s hand on her shoulder once more. She turned to look at him. His brows were furrowed in the adult way she’d noticed earlier. She decided she didn’t like it. He fumbled and stuttered, struggling to find the words as groups of people passed them to go through the checkpoint. From the way his eyes kept darting over to Dennis (who was hoping up and down waving to someone in the crowd) Ginny was pretty sure she knew what it was about.
“It’ll be ok Collin. We’ll keep him safe. I promise,” but even as the words left her mouth she wondered how on earth she was going to pull it off. The truth was she was just a student. An experienced one, a fighter, member of Dumbledore’s Army, hellfire when angered, but if they tried to drag Collin and Dennis off right now, there was little she could successfully do about it. Throw curses at them? Sure. They’d be deflected or countered. She’d be expelled or worse. Punches? Even the thought was laughable. The helplessness left her feeling suffocated and a little claustrophobic.
As if he knew what she was thinking, Neville leaned towards her whispering, “This isn’t the Ministry, Ginny. If we want to help them, we have to be patient.”
Ginny walked away, leaving him behind. He was right, but that only pissed her off. Anything she said would just come out wrong. They followed her.
They got in line behind a couple of Ravenclaw third years chatting amicably as though they hadn’t a care in the world.
“Firs’ years! This way-“ some of the tension in her chest released as Ginny heard Hagrid’s booming voice over the crowd. At least he was taking care of the first years still. McGonagall would surely be here too. And Flitwick. They weren’t completely doomed, then.
“Name?” The line had moved without her notice. She glanced up at the man in front of her. He was middle-aged, probably late thirties, with a pinched face and scraggly mustache. He was dressed in plain robes, and spoke as though he’d rather be somewhere else. It took her off guard slightly. She’d been expecting some kind of super-prejudiced dark wizard demanding she hand over her wand until further investigation or something.
“Ginerva Weasley.” She answered a little defiantly. The change in his demeanor was almost immediate. His head snapped up from the clip board he held in front of him, and he surveyed the group before him. She couldn’t be sure, but Ginny hoped that they were giving him the same glare she was.
“Ginerva Weasley?” he looked her up and down. That’s right. Red hair? Check. Freckles? Check. Now look around for my brother and Harry… Right on cue the man turned his head, searching the line behind her. “It says here you are to be accompanied by your brother, Ronald. Where is he?”
Ginny was surprised that he actually managed to sound hostile. He was so mild looking.
“He couldn’t come. Got Dragon Pox. Wouldn’t want the whole school infected, now would we?” she stared him down, knowing that there was no way she’d get off that easily.
“Likely story.” He turned and waved to someone behind him. Ginny couldn’t see past him to know who he was hailing. Hopefully someone big and nasty she wouldn’t feel bad about kicking in the shins while they dragged her off to the dungeons. “Please set your things to the side and wait for assistance.” He tried to engage Neville in conversation, but Ginny wasn’t done with him yet.
“I don’t need anyone to carry my bags for me, thanks.” She grabbed the end of her trunk and tried to barge past.
“Not so fast girly,” Ginny felt a wand at her side, and strong fingers wrapping around her wrist and pulling it behind her back. “I heard you needed a little help with your things.”
She’d let go of her wand to grab the trunk. It lay useless in the pocket of her robes. Adrenaline was kicking in fast, making her rising heart rate very noticeable. Whoever had her now was not the tool checking kids in as they stepped off the train. The thought that they considered her dangerous enough to send out the real muscle put a smile on her face. Maybe she’d made more of a reputation than she thought. The wand jabbed between her ribs was steady and firm, someone comfortable with pain and conflict, not an office light-weight who got the unlucky draw and the hand wrapped painfully around her wrist was calloused and scarred, definitely used for more than pushing paper and a frilly signature.
He was standing slightly behind her and to the right. Craning her head over her shoulder, Ginny could see the edges of a blonde main of hair, but mostly the defiant look in Neville’s face as he pointed his wand at the man who had her.
“I don’t believe she asked for help, actually, mister. And I think it would be best if you let her go now.”
So much for being patient… Ginny thought. The man behind her laughed. She immediately knew he was a Death Eater. They all had the same empty, hollow sound that echoed from their heartless chests. There was no joy in the expression. Most likely a side effect of having all the happiness sucked out of you in Azkaban. Sirius’s laugh had been the same way, only perhaps a little warmer. This man, however, was like ice.
“Don’t make me break your girlfriend. Lower your wand, and answer the nice man’s questions. I’m just going to help her up to the castle. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to her, now would we.” With another laugh, he wrenched her hand up farther. Ginny stood on her tip toes to try and alleviate the pain in her shoulder It didn’t help much. Tears slid past her tightly shut eyes, embarrassing her with every drop. She could hear Luna talking to Neville. He swore in reply, the blonde Death Eater gave another ‘laugh’, and she was pushed forward. Since her options were step forward or have her shoulder dislocated, Ginny chose to take the step.
Once they were out of earshot from the others, Ginny said “Don’t know why you’re even bothering with all this. He’s not coming. Surely you don’t think he’s stupid enough to come back,” she said. The man didn’t answer. They were walking through the dark, away from where the lines of students being checked in waited. Ginny felt there was no reason to hide her tears now. Not like anyone could see them.
From what she could tell, they were headed for the inside of Hogsmeade station, through a little door marked “employees only’’. There was a bright light inside, and Ginny ducked her head down to try and wipe away the tear stains surely streaking her face. The sharp tip of the wand was briefly removed from her side as the door was opened.
“What do we have here?” A familiar voice drawled from inside. Ginny looked up sharply, lip curling in disgust.
“One teensy-weensy Weasley? Where’s big brother darling? Be a good girl and tell Bellatrix. I promise to let you back with your friends if you do.”
She brought her big, pale, face right in front of Ginny’s. With all that crazy hair, the blank stare from black eyes, and alarmingly disturbing grin, it was more reflex for Ginny to spit in her face than anything. Though she did enjoy it afterward.
The woman jerked back with a screech and brought her wand out quickly.
“Crucio!” she screamed at the top of her voice.
The pain was immediate, and unexpected. Despite the large man’s hold on her wrist, Ginny’s knees buckled under the pain, but she wasn’t sure if his grip held. With every inch of her burning in agony, she couldn’t tell if her shoulder was still intact. She was vaguely aware that it was difficult to tell her shrieks of pain from Bellatrix’s laughter.
Finally, both subsided.
“Now. Let’s try this again.”
A cold, bony hand wrenched Ginny’s face up. She blinked a little stupidly in the light and tried to focus on the woman’s face again.
“Where is your big brother?”
“He’s…at home. Dragon…Pox.” Ginny was still breathing heavily. Her brain seemed overly aware of her body, as though looking for the source of all the pain. The ground was hard beneath her knees, the marble cold like Bellatrix’s hands. It turned out the blonde one had let her wrist go after all. She could see the tip of his dirty shoe slightly behind her as she lowered her head to the floor, trying not to puke.
“DO NOT LIE TO ME!” Bellatrix screamed again. Ginny was growing rather tired of this.
“Just ask my mum. She’ll tell you. Got it right after the wedding. He’s been quarantined to the top floor and everything…” she didn’t know what else to say. Mentioning Harry without being asked seemed-
“And what about Harry Potter? Did he accompany you to the train?”
Right. Here we go. “No. We haven’t heard from him in weeks. He was supposed to come to the house after his birthday, but we never heard from him. Figured his aunt and uncle managed to finally keep him away.” She’d gotten a little carried away. She hadn’t been told to mention his other family. Hopefully they didn’t start looking for them…
“Rubbish! Of course he’s not with the muggles!” Bellatrix spitted it out like a dirty word.
Ginny put both hands on the ground, and began to stand. She was almost certain she was going to keep her lunch. “Then ask someone else.” Her feet were steady enough to start moving towards the door. She turned her back on Bellatrix and stared at the Death Eater blocking her way.
“What now?” the blonde man asked.
“Take her back to the carriages. Make sure she doesn’t cause any trouble. Someone will have to search their house, I suppose.”
He only grinned in response.
Oh goody. Here comes the shin kicking…
After taking out some frustration on the large man, and receiving a few cuts and bruises herself, Ginny was feeling slightly better now. The Great Hall was just as it always had been. The high vaulted ceiling reflected the bad weather outside, but the hundreds of burning candles added a soft light that held a special place in her heart. The shiny forms of ghosts dotted the house tables before her, and a few teachers nodded in her direction when she met their eyes.
The large oak doors closed, and a surprisingly loud thud had several heads turning towards her, but most of their curious faces quickly looked back to the front of the Great Hall, where a small boy (“Van Houten, Zacchary”) was being sorted. Luna gave a small wave and a worried smile as Ginny limped past. She scanned the Gryffindor table for an empty seat. It seemed as though Collin and Neville had saved her one between them. How thoughtful…
With a shout of, “Ravenclaw!” ringing from the old hat at the front, the Sorting ended. Ginny quickly took her seat and waited for Snape’s introduction. Ravenclaw’s applause finally died down, and the room fell silent. Ginny wondered if anyone else thought the room seemed a little less warm as Snape stood slowly from his chair at the center of the table. It seemed wrong for him to be there. His long greasy black hair was sinister compared to the twinkling eyes and silvery beard that had greeted Ginny on her first day at Hogwarts. She felt a pang of sorrow for the children who had just been sorted. None of this was fair to them.
Ginny noticed that Professor McGonagall, who was sitting next to Snape, did not lift her eyes. She didn’t seem to be paying him any attention at all. She sat erect in her chair, lips pressed into a dangerously thin line, staring straight ahead as though determined to burn a hole through the great double doors with her glare.
Snape’s long, ugly nose swept to either side as he surveyed the room. “Proceed,” he uttered grimly before sitting down once more.
Then, just as it always did, the plates on the tables filled themselves. The tension in the room eased, and general chatter started up. Ginny supposed it would’ve smelled wonderful if her nose wasn’t swollen shut. The little house elves hadn’t disappointed. As usual, all her favorites were present. Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, treacle tart, pumpkin juice, cherry pie. Ginny reached toward the delectable dishes with both hands, scooping out plentiful helpings as her stomach let out a loud growl.
Removing a fork loaded with steak and kidney pie from his mouth, Neville asked, “What happened back there Ginny? You look awful…”
“Well, the same goes for you Neville. I suppose now we match.”
“I’m serious Ginny, what happened?”
As she shoved another spoonful of potato into her watering mouth, Ginny caught a little movement out of the corner of her eye. Sure enough big, blonde, and beefy was making his way down the staff table towards an empty seat next to Hagrid, who did not seem pleased with the arrangement. Her heart lifted a little when she noticed he was limping as well. Shins hurting big man? I bet they are…
“Why are you grinning like that? You… you didn’t?” Neville’s head was whipping back and forth between Ginny and the Death Eater.
“Curse him? No. Hurt him? Hopefully.” Collin snorted in his pumpkin juice. Neville just shook his head.
“They’re going to kill me when they hear about this, you know.”
Ginny took a break from the face-stuffing to stare at him blankly. “Excuse me?”
“What do you think they’ll say when you tell them about them about this. They’re my best mates, I’m supposed to watch out for you while they’re gone.”
“Are you kidding me, Longbottom? I’ve been cursing people since before you knew your way around a disarming spell. I don’t need your protection, and you’d think if they were that worried about me, they might stick around instead of just leaving me behind.”
“Come on, Ginny, you know it’s not-“
“Shut it, Neville. I don’t want to hear it. I thought you were on my side.”
Neville let out an exasperated sigh. “I am on your side, Ginny! Why do you think we match?”
“Then don’t patronize me about playing nice.” She glared at her plate, pushing around the potatoes that no longer seemed appetizing.
“E-e-excuse me?” A tiny voice sputtered from in front of her.
Ginny lifted her head to bark at the intruder, but caught her tongue just in time. Standing before her was a small first year girl. Ginny doubted if she was indeed old enough to be attending Hogwarts. She just seemed so little. The girl had large dark grey eyes and a light complexion. Ginny could make out a good number of freckles on her nose. The light brown hair on her crown was braided into pigtails, much like the ones Ginny wore on her first day at Hogwarts.
“Er…yes?” Ginny asked, trying to swallow the attitude she’d been brewing all evening.
“Would it be ok for me to sit here? No one else wants me.”
“No one else wants you? What do you mean? There’s a group of first years just down there. Why don’t you go make some friends?” Collin asked her kindly. “I’m sure you’ll want to get to know them before you go up to the dorms tonight.”
“Well… they’re all purebloods.” The girl was looking down at her shoes, avoiding their eyes, “and I’m a…a dirtblood..” Ginny’s jaw clenched on reflex, but the little girl didn’t seem to notice. “ The woman told me so, when we got off the boats and checked in. She said that I wasn’t going to be as good as everyone else. She said that I should stick to my own kind and…”
Ginny didn’t know what else the woman said. There was a high pitched whistling sound going off in her head again that made it difficult to hear. The thought of someone telling this poor thing she would never be as good as someone because of her ‘blood status’ was sickening. The fact that all the first years were being told this was an atrocity. If someone didn’t rectify this propaganda, there would be no hope for any of them.
Through the haze of indignation, Ginny caught sight of a tear rolling down the small cheek.
“You don’t listen to a word they say, do you hear me?” As the whistling in her mind died down, Ginny realized she still sounded a little scary. She made a conscious effort to loosen her jaw and soften her tone. “That woman lied. Was her name Professor McGonagall?” Ginny asked. The Deputy Headmistress would ever utter such words, and if someone using her name was, there may be more Death Eaters at Hogwarts than Ginny thought.
“No. She said her name was Professor Carrow.”
Ginny and Neville exchanged worried glances. Neville replied, “Well, that explains it. She’s new here. Doesn’t know how things are run.”
Ginny added quickly, “There’s nothing wrong with you. You have just as much a right to be here as anyone else. One of the smartest witches I know was muggle-born.” She reached across the table (almost knocking over a mountain of dinner rolls) to tilt the girls head up. “And don’t call yourself a mudblood. There’s nothing wrong with what’s running through your veins, ok?”
“You really think I can be good at magic?”
“Of course! You’re a Gryffindor, aren’t you?” Neville added playfully. She nodded a little. “Didn’t you hear what the hat said? Best house there is, Gryffindor! You wouldn’t have been put here if it didn’t think you could be great.”
The corner of her mouth burst into a large smile. “Really?” she asked.
“Definitely,” they replied.
As the small girl hoped up onto the seat across from Ginny, Collin stretched forward his hand. “My name is Collin Creevy. My parents are muggles too. What’s your name?”
The little girl looked up at them from under her thick eyelashes.
“Lillian,” she told them quietly, “but you can call my Lily. That’s what my friends do.”
As Ginny’s spine stiffened at the familiar moniker, Neville patted her leg reassuringly under the table.
“That’s a beautiful name Lily. I’m Neville Longbottom. This is Ginny Weasley. Welcome to Hogwarts.”
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