Due to HPFF Terms of Service, the dialogue I am able to include from the source material (TDH) is limited. However, Ginny’s story takes place over the same timeline as Harry’s in JKR’s seventh novel. I am doing my best to write in ‘hints’ of Harry’s adventures as Ginny would have experienced them, from the outside. Hopefully in doing this, it will allow the reader a general idea of where we are in TDH timeline compared to Ginny’s Witching Hour timeline.
Much of the past few weeks had been spent repairing the damage done to The Burrow in the Death Eaters’ wake of destruction. Bill and Fleur, robbed of their honeymoon and their few short hours of wedded bliss, had returned from Shell Cottage to the Weasley’s home nearly every day to help with repairs.
Though Mr. Weasley still had to report in to the office daily, the Ministry of Magic had fallen harder and faster than anyone could have predicted. Scrimegeour’s brutal death and the Death Eaters’ infiltration of the building, though common knowledge, were scarcely discussed in barely-audible whispers, and only in the darkest corners of the building’s now cold, stone walls.
Ginny stood in front of the mirror in her small bedroom, analyzing her reflection. Her wounds, courtesy of Lestrange had faded into smooth white scars from angry ragged tears in her flesh. She ran her fingers delicately over the wide scar on the side of her stomach, wondering vaguely, as she had ever day since their departure, where Harry, Ron and Hermione were. Were they safe? Were they making progress with whatever it was they had set out to do? Ginny knew as well as everyone else that no one truly knew what Harry’s mission involved. Nevertheless she was determined to make her year at Hogwarts count.
Pulling her jumper over her head, Ginny moved towards the staircase. It was as though the air had become thick since the attack on The Burrow, daily actions became slower, duller, and a feeling of constant unease seeped through the cracks in the air. Every footstep was well intentioned; she felt the bones flex and groan under her weight as each touched the ground through layers of muscle and flesh. At first, Ginny worried her surreal feelings had to do with Dark Magic bled into her by the Death Eaters. Too soon, she realized, this was simply how war felt: tense, slow moving, and dreamlike.
It seemed even good news was bad news during wartime, as Ginny recalled the conversation she had managed to overhear earlier that week. Tonks and Lupin were expecting a baby, but instead of a celebration, the news had brought about a smattering of tight smiles, and congratulations that sounded more like apologies. Lupin looked even more haggard than usual, and a dark, sullen expression and furrowed brow seemed to have settled themselves on his prematurely lined face.
Tonks, who had been helping her parents with their own repairs following the Death Eaters’ most recent attack, was visiting The Burrow this morning, sharing tea with Mrs. Weasley across the island counter. Ginny moved silently through the kitchen, like a ghost gone unnoticed, as Molly passed a steaming cup of tea to the young woman, who was pale and tired looking. No pop of colour adorned the metamorphmagus’ strained features, Ginny noted, stealing a glance at the woman she’d come to think of as a mixture of a sister and Aunt.
“Thought of a name yet?” Molly asked gently, cupping her own mug in her hands.
Tonks smiled weakly at Ginny’s mother, laughing hollowly, “Remus will barely look at me, nevermind sit down long enough to browse pages of Alfrida Krinckle’s Best Baby Names.” Tonks ran a hand gently over her growing abdomen, absent-mindedly reassuring the tiny life she held closest to her heart.
Molly shook her head gently, reaching a hand out to cover the young woman’s. A beam of sun stretched through the air, sliding over the island, tickling the wood. “You know it has nothing to do with you, dear, and everything to do with what’s going on out there.”
Tonks dropped her gaze silently and Ginny hastily looked away, not wanting to witness any more tears. Pressing a hand quietly against the door to The Burrow’s back garden, unnoticed, she heard Tonks say softly, “I like Theodore... Teddy. After my Dad…”
Ginny made her way into the overgrown garden, watching a gnome dart into the large hedge upon her arrival. Sinking to the ground beneath the large willow tree that had been planted the day Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had moved into The Burrow, Ginny closed her eyes, willing back the ache in her throat that threatened to bloom into tears. Wasn’t a baby a thing to celebrate? She willed a happy memory into her mind… the common room in the Gryffindor Tower, a comforting fire throwing dancing shadows onto the walls. She was leaning against Harry’s legs, laughing about something with Ron and Hermione… something about a Pygmy Puff tattoo…
“I’m only saying, it’s not the worst thing-”
“It is. It is the worst thing, Arthur."
Mr. Weasley and Lupin’s terse voices sliced through the memory, tugging Ginny back to the present. She opened her eyes slowly, staring at the grey, overcast sky, doing its best to smother the sun. The voices were coming from the inside of her father’s shed, on the opposite side of the willow tree.
“This is not a world to bring a child into, Arthur… what I’ve done – what we’ve done… he’ll never have a chance…” Lupin’s voice cracked.
A moment of silence followed a dull thud that Ginny assumed was Lupin dropping his fist on the workbench. Ginny pictured plugs and zippers and other silly Muggle contraptions bouncing, startled.
Arthur’s voice was gentle when he responded, “There have been children born into similar circumstances, Remus…” he trailed off and Ginny imagined Lupin’s hollow brown eyes meeting her father’s blue ones, “Look at Harry-”
“Harry!” Lupin choked on the name and Ginny winced as she felt a cold hand grip her insides. “Harry has seen more danger and horror than any child should ever claim to have witnessed… and you compare my son’s future to his?”
Arthur’s tone hardened, “Harry was born into a hard world, faced with an even harder future, yes, but he was loved and has grown strong because of it. He had loving parents, if only for a short time-”
“A year!” Lupin bellowed, his voice thick with devastation, “He had Lily and James for one year. And he was stripped from his home and brought to live through years of emotional abuse at the hands of Muggles who never wanted him, only to be rewarded with more danger and terrible responsibility in a castle that should have housed the greatest years of his young life!”
“And he has grown into a braver man than you and I could ever have hoped to be at his age - capable of saving us!” Arthur responded fiercely.
Lupin made a sound of disbelief and a tense silence followed Mr. Weasley’s words.
“Not without help,” Lupin responded, after a minute.
“Not without help,” Arthur agreed, softly. A poignant silence passed between the two troubled men before Arthur said softly, “Harry is our best hope – your son’s best hope."
“I think I may know where they are,” Lupin muttered. Ginny's heart leapt.
Lupin had disapparated. Mr. Weasley sighed and resumed tinkering half-heartedly with his collection of Muggle artifacts.
Hot tears pricked the edges of Ginny’s eyes as she rested her red head against the trunk of the willow. She’d never felt more alone in her life.
Ginny woke dreamily from a deep sleep, stirred by raised voices carrying form the kitchen. She blinked several times, clearing her hazy vision as her dark green and gold walls – colours of the Holyhead Harpies Quidditch team - came into focus.
“I will not send my only daughter – my youngest child – back to that castle! We’d be sending her into Death Eaters’ hands you know that as well as I do, Arthur!”
Molly Weasley’s cries leapt up the staircase at The Burrow and through the gap under Ginny’s bedroom door. She was definitely awake now. She swung her legs over the side of her bed.
“It’s Hogwarts, Molly! McGonagall and the others would never let any harm come to their students - our children. Why do you think they haven’t all resigned? Minerva, Flitwick, Sprout-”
“-I don’t care if all the suits of armor in the castle have been bewitched to be her personal twenty-four hour guard, Arthur, she is not going back to that school!”
Ginny crept down the stairs, taking in the scene from her hiding place around the corner. Her father was running one hand through his thinning hair, his other on his hip. Molly Weasley stood, arms crossed, looking formidable as ever. A daily prophet lay open on the old kitchen table, a hole scorched through the full-spread photo.
“Do you honestly think she is safer here? In and out every day, with half the Order trouncing back and forth between missions?” Arthur pressed on, “What sort of life is waking up, wondering if I’m going to come home, if the Death Eaters will come back for more interrogations, what life, Molly?”
“She’s not going back.”
“They’ve made it compulsory, Molly. We can’t have two kids come down with spattergroit with only one decoy!” The ghoul in the attic thumped on the ceiling, as if to add his two cents to the argument.
“I won’t take her! She’s not going back,” Molly snapped, decisively.
“I am.” Ginny had slipped into the kitchen like running water. Her voice was steadier and more convincing than she had expected.
Molly Weasley’s brown eyes flashed as they met her daughter’s determined gaze. “It is not the same castle you once knew, Ginny-”
“It is!” Ginny insisted, “It is the same castle with horrible people in it. And we will not stand down and let Death Eaters overrun the halls Dumbledore once protected.”
Mrs. Weasley pursed her lips, shaking her head defiantly, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know what it’s like – what it was like before - you’re too young!”
Ginny scowled, moving farther into the kitchen. Snatching the Daily Prophet off the smoking counter top, she scanned the cover. A great scorch mark ran across Severus Snape’s moving portrait that swallowed up nearly the entire front page. The headline above read ‘SEVERUS SNAPE CONFIRMED AS HOGWARTS HEADMASTER’. He sneered from behind long, oily black hair that clung to him like the web of lies he’d spun over the past decade. Beneath the feature on Snape’s inauguration as headmaster were smaller welcomes to new professors, Death Eaters Amycus and Alecto Carrow, who’d be teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts and Muggle Studies, respectively. Ginny blinked, unfazed and met her mother's eyes, now brimming with tears that threatened to spill over.
“I won’t stay home cozy in my bed while Death Eaters walk the corridors of the castle, terrorizing first and second years. McGonagall and the others need help. You know that as well as I do.”
“You are sixteen years old!” angry tears made Molly’s eyes flash even more impressively as she slammed her wand on the table, sending red sparks shooting out the end (Ginny and Arthur started slightly, Arthur rubbing the back of his neck, tiredly).
“Am I in less danger here, Mum?” Ginny asked softly, reaching a hand toward her mother, her tired body dropping into the closest chair.
Mr. Weasley stood stoic, nodding grimly. Molly Weasley shook with silent sobs and Ginny moved to fold herself into her mother’s embrace, a child again, for just a moment.
“I have to go back.”
“Stay close, Ginny, no wandering off,” Molly Weasley snapped, keeping hold of Ginny’s upper arm with a dragon’s grip like she was eleven again.
Ginny rolled her eyes and muttered, “Yes, mum.”
Her eyes skipped over the shops in Diagon Alley, once so familiar, now looking decrepit and derelict in the fog that had settled over the cobblestone street. The boarded up windows of Ollivander’s (Where would the First Years get their wands? she thought, absently) and broken and cracked windows of every other shop cast an eerie atmosphere over the once bright and busy alley way, frequented by hundreds of witches and wizards from across England.
The Leaky Cauldron had been greasier and danker than Ginny had ever seen it, and Tom the barkeep’s nervous eyes darting across the room at each of his patrons did not go unnoticed by the Weasleys. Tom had nervously shot a tight smile towards the familiar family, offering a curt nod to Mr. Weasley.
“Arthur,” he greeted, his eyes sliding to Mrs. Weasley and Ginny. The eyes held a grave weight in them as he looked back at Arthur, “Aye. Right through to your left there for the Alley.”
The true meaning of his words may as well have been emblazoned in the air.
Sorry yeh've still got one for Hogwarts. Aint nothin’ doin’ going back to the castle without Dumbledore.
“Here,” Mrs. Weasley snapped, dragging Ginny through the doorway to Madame Malkin’s. Relinquishing her grip on Ginny’s upper arm, she barked, “You need those robes let out, you’ve grown about two inches this summer. Good thing I kept the ends long when I hemmed them. I’ll wait here and make sure we’ve got everything,” Molly Weasley smoothed out Ginny’s school list on her lap without looking at it.
Ginny felt her mother’s watchful eyes bear into the back of her head so intensely she marveled at the fact that her hair had not yet set fire. Mrs. Weasley had begrudgingly agreed to make the trip to Diagon Alley the day before the Hogwarts Express was to leave King’s Cross Station, and seemed determined to make her dissatisfaction with Ginny’s return to school very well known.
Madame Malkin, a small, greying woman scurried over to Ginny, stepping her up on an adjustments platform and getting to work on her robes. She seemed smaller and shakier than Ginny remembered her. Her eyes danced around the shop nervously, like every other shopkeeper still open in the haunted alley.
“Ouch!” Ginny gasped as a sharp pain pinched her ankle.
“My goodness, I am so sorry, dear, so sorry. My eyes aren’t what they used to be…” the woman’s large, glassy eyes stared up at Ginny, horror etched in the shadows that lay behind them. Her hands were shaking.
Ginny smiled kindly at the aging woman, who seemed to be shrinking before her eyes, “It’s okay. I’m fine.”
Mrs. Weasley had gathered up their bags and steered Ginny out of the shop so fast Ginny could hardly remember stepping off the adjustments platform.
“Alright, your Father’s waiting by the car outside the Leakey Cauldron, now let’s-” Mrs. Weasley stopped abruptly, realizing Ginny was no longer beside her. Spinning on her heel, Mrs. Weasley flattened a hand over her pounding heart when she spotted Ginny two feet away gripping a Daily Prophet, white-knuckled.
Ginny pulled her enraged, flashing brown eyes away from the paper to meet her mother’s, flipping the newspaper around so that Mrs. Weasley could see the front page. Even from a distance, Harry’s face frowned up from the front page, the headline emblazoned just over his forehead, his scar winking up at the reader.
'WANTED FOR QUESTIONING ABOUT THE DEATH OF ALBUS DUMBLEDORE.'
Mrs. Weasley seemed to deflate, her fury unravelling. The cold wind cradled a copy of the same ad as it flipped, danced, and twirled through the air, taunting mother and daughter as they stared at each other, one furiously offended for the man she loved, the other tired and defeated for the boy she considered a son.
Molly Weasley wrapped an arm around her daughter's shoulders.
“I know, dear”.
The scarlet steam engine looked as majestic as ever, towering over the students milling about Platform 9 ¾. Ginny pushed and heaved her trunk into the arms of the attendant, who smiled a brief, tight greeting before reaching for another student’s trunk.
The atmosphere on the landing hung low and thick like the fog as the train's whistle blew once, twice. Everything looked the same as it always had, with subtle differences that hit Ginny like a punch to the stomach.
Hogwarts students were still saying their goodbyes to their parents before joining their classmates on the train, but their goodbyes were more prolonged. Hugs lasted longer, and kids weren’t as eager to pull away as they once may have been. Mothers let tears escape the corners of their eyes, while fathers looked on grimly, standing rigid with pursed lips and exchanging terse, one-word answers with their families. Ginny turned to her own parents.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley enveloped Ginny in a tight group hug, as if holding on to her for the last time. Looking out over Mrs. Weasley’s bushy head of hair, Ginny saw something that made her throat run dry.
Narcissa Malfoy wrapped Draco in a hug, a wrinkle forming over her pinched nose as tears bled down her fair, pale face. Lucius stood beside them, a bony hand laid protectively on his son's shoulder. He looked like a shadow of the swaggering man she had once known and loathed - pale and ragged. His long, white-blonde hair hung limply around his hollowed face. He was not holding his staff that would usually conceal his wand. In fact, he wasn't holding anything at all, apart from the son he was about to send off to school. A ragged sob escaped Narcissa and Lucius closed his eyes, pain radiating behind his eyelids. Draco's hands were white-knuckled on his mother's robes, his eyes staring blankly at nothing.
So it’s that bad.
Ginny set her jaw, forcing a smile as her parents began to relinquish their grip.
"I'll be okay," she
Through the window of her compartment, Ginny watched the tear-streaked faces of families begin to blur as the engine picked up steam. She sat alone, toying idly with a chocolate frog card she’d found in the pocket of her robes. She flipped it around to see Dumbledore winking up at her. She closed her eyes, tilting her head slowly back until it rested against the back of her seat.
The compartment door slid open, and Ginny opened her eyes to see Neville and Luna file in, taking their seats across from and beside her. They met her eyes without speaking. There were no words, really.
“So,” Ginny smiled grimly, “Back again.”
[Deathly Hallows, (187) | © JK Rowling]
“…It’s like they’re hoping we’ll come out carrying our school trunks and head off for the Hogwarts Express.”
“I’ve been thinking about that all day. It left nearly six hours ago. Weird, not being on it, isn’t it?"
In his mind’s eye Harry seemed to see the scarlet steam engine as he and Ron had once followed it by air, shimmering between fields and hills, a rippling scarlet caterpillar. He was sure Ginny, Neville and Luna were sitting together at this moment, perhaps wondering where he, Ron and Hermione were, or debating how best to undermine Snape’s new regime...