The Sugar Quill
Author: Arnel  Story: New Year, New Hope  Chapter: Part Three
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New Year, New Hope

New Year, New Hope

 

Part Three

 

Someone was sitting in one of the over-stuffed armchairs by the fire when Ginny crawled through the portrait hole.  That handsome someone had messy, raven-coloured hair and wore glasses.  The glasses framed closed eyelids which covered what she knew to be a pair of startlingly green eyes.  Harry, bless him, had tried to wait up for her and had fallen asleep.  Her heart melted as she crossed the floor, knelt in front of him and gently lifted the Potions text from where it had come to rest on his torso. 

 

He looks so peaceful, she thought as she laid the book on the floor.

 

She hated to wake Harry; unfortunately, he needed to be awake in order to climb the stairs to his dormitory.  The only way to awaken him safely these days was to take his wand away; the last unfortunate person to arouse Harry without doing so had ended up having to visit Madam Pomfrey.  Harry had been so quick to draw his wand—even in his drowsy state—that poor Neville never had a chance to get out of the way.  That had been just four nights ago and since then, the rest of the fifth and sixth years had found it quite to their advantage to temporarily confiscate Harry’s wand, thus avoiding Neville’s fate.

 

Taking Harry’s wand only guaranteed that Harry couldn’t focus his magic directly on the intrepid student trying to arouse him:  just last night Seamus had been elected to nick the wand and convince Harry to go to bed; he had been successful in purloining the wand from the cushion of Harry’s chair, but had needed to jump out of the way of a wandless Inferno hex which had set the hearth rug on fire after not so subtly telling him to wake up.  Dean had cast a quick “Exstinguo deflagratum” (extinguishing spell) on the blaze. Seamus followed with an equally quick “Reparo” which had restored the rug.  By the time the smoke had cleared, Harry was fully awake and back in possession of his wand, a sheepish grin on his face. 

 

Ginny now began a less abrupt attempt to wake her boyfriend.  First, she glanced around for Harry’s wand.  Not seeing it, she slipped her hand inside Harry’s bag and groped about until she found what she sought at the bottom.  Thank goodness Harry left it in here and not in his pocket like he did the other night, she thought as she extracted the slim shaft of polished holly.  That part accomplished, she exhaled quietly preparing for the second part of the waking process. 

 

“Harry,” she whispered.  “Harry, wake up.”  She repeated this last sentence several more times, each repetition a little louder than the one preceding it.  Finally, Harry jerked his head up and Ginny heard the embers in the fireplace spring to life behind her.  Harry opened his eyes, then closed them again.

 

“Hey, handsome,” she crooned.  “I’m back from the library.”  She giggled as he opened one eye, smiled sleepily, and blinked owlishly at her.  “You were more controlled tonight,” she added throwing a quick look over her shoulder at the merrily dancing flames.

 

Harry followed her gaze.  “Thanks.  You didn’t startle me tonight.  I like that,” he said with a drowsy smile and held out his hand.  “May I have my wand, please?”

 

“Of course,” she said handing it over.  “But only if you say goodnight and go upstairs like you should.”  She leant over, gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and offered him a hand up.  His weight almost pulled her over as he hoisted himself to his feet; the spells had exhausted her that much.  Harry drew her to him in a steadying hug.

 

“Ginny?  Are you all right?” he asked concern plainly in his voice.

 

“I’m knackered, Love,” she told him candidly as he leaned over and planted a kiss on her forehead.  “I need to go up to bed really soon.”

 

Harry raised a questioning eyebrow while pocketing his wand.  “Are you certain nothing’s wrong?” he inquired as she leaned upon him more than she usually did.  “Hermione told me you’d be along shortly and it’s almost eleven.”

 

Ginny hesitated, not wanting to tell Harry about the spells she’d been doing.  “I lost track of time,” she replied honestly. “I spent too much time on my O.W.L. revision and a killer essay for Snape.”  When Harry’s eyebrow disappeared into his fringe she added, “It’s late and I’m just feeling really drained right now.”

 

Harry still looked sceptical.  “You’re up to something.  I know it,” he countered.  “I can’t believe that you’re spending all that time researching potion ingredients for Snape when the library closes at nine o’clock.  Hermione never spent that much time on any essay last year.  And she certainly didn’t look this tired.” 

 

Ginny smiled up at him.  “I just want to be thorough,” she responded tiredly.  “It’s really charming of you to worry about me,” she added sincerely.

 

Harry took hold of her shoulders, a confused expression crossing his features.  “I’ve done something you don’t approve of,” he mumbled.

 

“Why would you think that, Harry?” Ginny countered puzzled.

 

“You’ve been avoiding me since we got back,” he said quietly not meeting her eyes.  “I… I hope that incident with Malfoy and the thestrals didn’t scare you,” he added uncertainly.

 

“Oh, Harry.  I have not been avoiding you.  I’d never do something like that!” she exclaimed, startled.

 

“Well, it certainly seems that way,” he said, still dodging her gaze and dropping his hands from her shoulders.

 

“It does?” Ginny asked anxiously.

 

“Yeah, it does.”  The hurt in his voice was evident.

 

“But why?  I know I’ve been busy, but this is the first time I’ve come in after curfew,” she said feeling the need to try to justify her answers.

 

“It’s not that, exactly.  It’s… it’s the fact that…whenever I try to find you you’re not where you say you’ll be…” Harry let the sentence die, leaving Ginny to complete it herself.

 

“…and no one seems to know where I am,” she finished for him, a guilty blush colouring her cheeks.

 

Harry nodded and turned to ponder the logs in the grate.  “Blimey, Ginny!” he exclaimed running a hand through his hair.  “The first night we were back here you disappeared and didn’t tell anyone where you were going!  It’s gone on like this all week!  How am I supposed to feel when I ask everyone I know if they’ve seen you and all anyone knows is that you’re off revising somewhere?” 

 

Ginny sank onto the nearest sofa and buried her face in her hands.  “I’m sorry, Harry,” she breathed.  “I was wrong and I’m too tired right now to justify my actions.  It’s not worth rowing over them with you.”

 

Harry turned around and came to kneel in front of her.  “I want to understand, Ginny.  But it’s hard when you’re not around to talk to.” He gently pried her hands away from her face and held them loosely in his own.  “Please talk to me.  I’m here if you need me.”

 

Oh, Harry…how many times have Hermione, Ron and I said those exact words to you?  Oh, if you only knew! she thought.  Aloud, she said, “I’m talking to you now, Harry.  Please believe me that you’ve done nothing to make me angry at you or that I’ve been avoiding you in any way.  I’m really sorry I’ve upset you.”

 

Harry didn’t look in the least mollified.  “There’s something else,” he muttered looking away again.

 

“Yes, Harry? What is it?”  she asked reaching up to run a hand through his hair.  She felt him shiver slightly as he turned to look at her again.

 

“I’m concerned that you’re not eating properly, Ginny,” he admitted.   When she frowned he said quickly, “Hunger does weird things to your mind; I’ve certainly had enough experience with it at the Dursley’s.  You haven’t been at dinner the last few nights and hardly eat anything at lunch.  Are you positive you don’t need to see Madam Pomfrey?  She could give you something to bring back your appetite if you’re feeling sick.”

 

“Yes, Harry.  I’m quite sure,” she said pulling an oddly-shaped bundle from her rucksack.  She unwrapped it to reveal a half-eaten chicken breast, a container of green beans, an apple and a roll which she had gleaned from the Room of Requirement before she made her way back to Gryffindor tower.  “See?  I am eating properly.  You’re sweet to be so concerned about me.  I’m not starving myself if that’s what you’re worried about.  Now go to bed before Ron comes down here looking for us.”

 

Harry smiled at her, an evil glint in his eyes.  “I take it you’d rather he not catch us snogging,” he said.  He kissed the tip of her nose making her giggle.

 

“Something like that,” she said smiling tiredly. She haphazardly wrapped up her dinner and picked up her book bag, hoisting it onto her shoulder as she stood up with an effort.  She was certain Harry noticed.  He didn’t say anything though as she gave him another quick kiss on the cheek.  “Good night, love.  See you at breakfast.”

 

“Yeah, see you then.”  Harry picked up the discarded potions book which Ginny had set aside and strode over to the staircase to begin his climb up the stairs.  “Good night Ginny.  Don’t stay up too late.” His voice trailed down the boy’s staircase as his feet disappeared up the stairs. 

 

Ginny sat down on Harry’s chair and let her bag drop with a thud.  He suspects something, she thought as she opened her dinner bundle, bit into the chicken breast and chewed slowly.  The food seemed to help her feelings of powerlessness, but she knew she was going to be in for a rough day tomorrow with her magic reserves as depleted as they were.  She finished her meal and headed for her own bed in the fifth year girl’s dormitory.

 

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

 

On Friday morning, Ginny stood at her table in the Potions classroom a piece of parchment clutched in her hand.  She glanced at the list of ingredients and their amounts she held trying to memorize it so that it wouldn’t look obvious that she was taking something she didn’t need from the student stores cupboard.  Besides the requisite lovage powder, scurvy-grass extract, sneezewort powder, and liquorice roots (the main ingredients in the Longevity Concoction the class was to prepare), she needed to take liverwort powder, cow parsley pods, powdered quince seeds, and dried poppy flowers for her Draught of Peace.  Somehow she was also going to have to steal a couple of dried puffskeins from Professor Snape’s private stores as well.  That she would have to leave for another day, or maybe she could sneak into his office during lunch…hmm.  That sounds more like it.  A small smile graced her features at this thought and the next, Gred and Forge would be proud of me!

 

She looked at her list one last time and was just about to join the line of students at the stores cupboard when a voice behind her asked, “The Draught of Peace, Ginny?”  Colin Creevey was peering over her shoulder at her list.

 

Ginny jumped.  “Colin! What are you doing?”

 

“I was just about to ask you the same thing.”

 

“Erm…memorizing an ingredient list,” Ginny stammered lamely.  “I’ve finally made it to my fifth year notes in my OWL revising.”

 

Colin glanced at the paper in Ginny’s hand looking hopeful.  “Well, am I right?”

 

“What?”

 

“Isn’t that a list of ingredients for the Draught of Peace?”

 

“Oh, yes, among other things.”

 

“Right.  You seem to be studying it rather intently.”

 

“I’m trying to memorize it, all right?”

 

Colin looked sceptical.  “In the middle of class when we’re supposed to be preparing a Longevity Concoction?  I’ll believe that when the giant squid flies.”

 

Ginny squirmed and said nothing.

 

“You’re up to something, Ginny.  I know it,” Colin winked at her triumphantly.

 

“Be quiet!  I don’t want the whole class to know!”  Ginny hissed.

 

“Hold your hippogriffs, Ginny!  I’m not going to blab your plans to the entire room.  Let’s get our ingredients,” Colin suggested lowering his voice and giving Ginny a small shove in the direction of the stores cupboard.

 

“All right! I’m going!” Ginny exclaimed joining the group of students gathered at the front of the room.

 

Colin continued to persist in his quest for information.  “Does it have anything to do with a certain black-haired wizard with a penchant for trouble?”

 

“Colin…not here!”  Ginny was rapidly going from annoyed to furious.  If he says any more I’ll have to hex him, she thought, not relishing the prospect of a week of detentions under Snape’s eagle eye for attacking a fellow student seemingly unprovoked.

 

Colin was now smirking at her triumphantly.  “I knew it!” he whispered so that only Ginny could hear.  “If you want, I’ll get the liverwort powder and cow parsley pods so it doesn’t look too suspicious.” He opened his robes just enough to reveal two empty ingredient jars.

 

Ginny nodded, an eyebrow raised questioningly.  “Why are you willing to risk getting into trouble?”

 

Colin was about to reply when the nasty growl of authority interrupted him.  “Weasley, Creevey!  Move along before I take points off Gryffindor because you’re holding up the line!”

 

“Yes, Professor,” the two chorused, more than a little embarrassed.  That’s all I need, Ginny though, Snape breathing down my neck and foiling my attempt to help Harry.

 

When it was their turn, Ginny reached for the correct ingredients while Colin pinched a sizable amount of liverwort powder and cow parsley pods and concealed the jars under his robes again.  Ginny transferred an equal amount of quince seeds and dried poppy flowers before making a big display of measuring out the correct double amount of syrup of Irish moss and took enough liquorice roots for two Longevity Concoctions.

 

Heaving a small sigh of relief that this part of the ordeal was over, Ginny led the way back to her and Colin’s table before the students in back of her could begin complaining.

 

They worked together feverishly for ten minutes trying to make up for lost time. While Colin lit the flames under their caldrons and slipped his jars into Ginny’s open bag, Ginny poured a small amount of water into each cauldron and began to set out their ingredients in the order they’d need them.  Next, Colin began to crush the dry ingredients, weighing the powder he’d made and setting the measured amounts aside on small pieces of parchment.  They both took turns observing where Professor Snape was just in case he happened to look their way and decided to make an example out of them for meddling in each other’s potions. 

 

After a quick glance at both the clock and the chalkboard where the Potions Master had written the recipe, Ginny began chopping up a double quantity of the liquorice root.  It was hard going.  If she moved a certain way, her elbow hit the jars in her pocket as she sliced, making the containers clink together. 

 

“Colin,” she muttered, “reach into my right pocket and take out one of the jars.  They’re making too much noise.”

 

Colin sidled up to her and stuck his hand in Ginny’s pocket.  “Thanks,” she said dividing the liquorice roots into two equal piles.  Over the next five minutes they continued to prepare and add their ingredients in silence, concentrating more than usual on making their own potions correctly.  Ginny was quite pleased when she glanced over at Colin’s cauldron to see that, for once, his potion looked exactly like her own.

 

“You should have finished adding your ingredients by now,” Professor Snape intoned over the general hubbub of the lesson.  Ginny squinted at the blackboard; they were still only on step three (take the potion off the fire and add the sneezewort powder: stew for five minutes).  They should have been on step five (add liquorice root and stir five minutes in an anti-clockwise direction). 

 

 She reminded Colin to add his syrup of Irish moss (step four) then asked, “What do you think? Risk adding the sneezewort powder and liquorice roots together or take our chances on finishing five minutes late?”

 

“I’d rather add them individually, and stew only a minute or two between additions,” Colin suggested.  “If there’s time, we can add an extra minute or two at the end.”

 

“Right,” Ginny brought one portion each of sneezewort powder and liquorice roots closer to the edge of the table and lifted her cauldron away from the fire.  Colin gently tipped the powder into Ginny’s potion where it bubbled and hissed noisily as he stirred it in, careful to stand back lest he breathe any of the fumes.  He moved over to his cauldron to add his own sneezewort.

 

“Wait,” Ginny said.  “Let me help.”  She put her cauldron back on the fire and turned the flame down low.

 

Colin nodded and picked up his cauldron.  Ginny added his measure of sneezewort powder which acted the same way as hers had.  They waited two minutes, then finished adding the liquorice roots to their own potions and began the stirring process.

 

“Ginny, if you’re really going to make the Draught, you still don’t have the dried puffskeins,” Colin whispered his eye on the classroom clock.

 

“I know, but I haven’t figured out how to get into Snape’s office yet,” Ginny answered just as softly.  “It’s not like I have an accomplice or someone to cause a distraction,” she added thinking of the story Hermione had told her about stealing boomslang skin during her second year.

 

“Would you…would you like some help?”

 

Ginny shot Colin a look, an eyebrow reaching toward her hairline.  “What exactly do you have in mind?” she asked cautiously.

 

“I don’t know yet.  Do you have to have the puffskeins today?”

 

“No.  Let’s talk at lunch.”  She went back to her stirring her potion which, despite the lack of time for proper stewing, was actually looking as it should. 

 

“Uh-oh!” Colin muttered suddenly.

 

Ginny glanced over at him.  Colin’s cauldron had just belched a quantity of foul-smelling greyish-green steam and he was now stirring frantically in the wrong direction.  Ginny felt sorry for him.  Any moment now, Snape would descend upon their table to sneer at Colin’s mistake and would most likely take points away.  

 

“Colin, stir the other way!” she hissed knowing it was too late:   Snape’s heels were definitely clicking in their direction.  Any corrective action on her part now would now be misconstrued as interference and just be that many more points off Gryffindor.  Colin, for his part, had taken his cauldron away from the fire and was now stirring in the proper direction.  The steam had diminished and his potion was returning to its proper colour if not consistency.

 

Suddenly remembering the incriminating evidence in her bag, Ginny turned her back on Colin.  She pushed the bag further under their table with her foot, hoping that she hadn’t been seen, and that if there were any sizable gaps open no one could see them.  She remained in this stance as the Potions Master stopped in front of Colin’s station.

 

“What is the meaning of this disturbance?” Professor Snape demanded.  “What did you do that caused your cauldron to belch?”

 

“I…I…I stopped stirring to put my ingredients away,” Ginny heard Colin stammer.

 

“You know very well from your reading that you should not cease stirring this potion in an anti-clockwise direction for five minutes.  You have fouled the air in this classroom one too many times, Creevey.  That will be twenty points from Gryffindor for your ineptitude.”

 

“But…but…” Colin began to protest.  There were several shades of multi-coloured steam lurking near the ceiling, so Ginny knew that not everyone in the classroom had prepared their Longevity Concoction correctly.  She hated it how Snape had decided it was Colin’s day to be the one to lose points for Gryffindor.

 

“Do you want to make that thirty with detention for your cheek?” Professor Snape sneered.

 

“No, sir,” Colin said meekly.

 

“Very well.  Continue.”  Ginny heard Snape’s footfalls recede as he resumed his prowling about the classroom.  She assumed that he was looking for another hapless Gryffindor to pick on.

 

“Big help you were,” Colin moaned as soon as Snape was out of earshot.

 

“I’m sorry, Colin,” Ginny said sincerely.  “But if I’d said something he would have taken more points.  At least this way you don’t have detention.”

 

“Yeah.  You’re right.”

 

“How does your potion look?” Ginny asked turning to look at the clock and then the blackboard.  She stirred in the final ingredients and stepped back to survey Colin’s potion.  He had just added his final herbs and was slowly poking them under the surface with his ladle.

 

“Well, it’s the same colour as yours at least,” he began.  He dipped his ladle into his cauldron and let some of his mixture pour from the bowl.  The consistency was very syrupy and reminded Ginny of her mother’s cough mixture. Colin shook his head and began searching for a flask to put his sample in.

 

“At least he didn’t Vanish your potion like he’s done to some of Harry’s,” she said consolingly.  She began putting away her ingredients.

 

“I heard about that,” Colin said as he put his potions kit back in his bag.  “Poor Harry.  He didn’t get any breaks last year, didn’t he?  And he’s still taking Potions!  I don’t understand it!”

 

“He wants to be an Auror, Colin, and needs a NEWT in Potions in order to qualify,” Ginny explained searching their table with her eyes for a sample bottle, never letting up on her stirring.

 

“Time is up,” they heard Professor Snape intone.  “Bring your samples up to my desk and clean up your tables.  You have five minutes.”

 

Several minutes later, their samples safely on Snape’s desk and their table sufficiently scoured, Ginny and Colin joined their fellow students in the headlong rush toward their next lesson.

 

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

 

The Great Hall was crowded as usual with chattering students when Colin and Ginny took seats at the Gryffindor table a little apart from the other diners at lunchtime.  Ginny waved at Hermione and mimicked opening a book hoping the older girl would interpret her gesture as needing to revise.  (It had become Ginny’s custom to join the trio for meals and she hoped they would understand when she chose to sit with Colin today.)  Hermione smiled and rolled her eyes at Ron and Harry who were deep in conversation. From the look of it, the two boys were heatedly discussing Quidditch; Hermione shook her head and went back to her meal.

 

“Did I hear you correctly when you said you’d like to help me acquire those puffskeins?” Ginny asked as she ladled Scotch broth into her bowl.

 

Colin held out his bowl.  “Yes.  I’d like to do something that could potentially get me into big trouble,” he told her.  “Besides, I’ve been a good little Gryffindor for too long.  It’s high time I started behaving like I did in grammar school.”

 

Ginny paused with the ladle half-way to his bowl.  “How do you mean?”

 

Colin’s ears turned pink.  “The last time I was out of bed, not doing what I should, I ran into the basilisk,” he answered quietly.

 

“I’m sorry,” Ginny said automatically.  Guilt the size of a Bludger knotted her stomach and she concentrated on ignoring it as she poured the soup into his bowl.

 

“Don’t be,” Colin said.  “Ginny, look at me.  I wouldn’t be your friend if I thought for a moment that you’d Petrified me on purpose.”  He reached for the roll basket with his free hand and deposited three fluffy rolls on his bread plate.

 

Ginny smiled ruefully.  “Thanks for that.  Your friendship does mean a lot, but sometimes I find it hard to understand why people want to be my friend.”  She added more broth and some chunks of meat and vegetables to his bowl.

 

“You’re smart, you’re fun, you’re nice…and people know it was You-Know-Who’s fault that you terrorized Hogwarts that year,” he said setting his bowl down and picking up his spoon.  “Besides, you’re Fred and George’s sister.  That ought to count for something.”

 

“Thanks,” she said and began to eat.

 

Suddenly she dived under the table, removing her wand from her pocket as she went.  She quickly cast shrinking, gluing and camouflaging charms over the jars of pilfered potions ingredients stowed in the outside pocket of her bag.  She wasn’t too sure what would happen if someone upset it.  Besides, Fred and George would be rather chagrined with her if they thought she’d failed to transport the pilfered goods back to her trunk.  She had their reputation to uphold after all.

 

“There.  That ought to do it,” she said in answer to Colin’s puzzled look when she straightened up.  “Concealing the evidence as it were.”

 

“Oh.  Good idea.” He reached for the ladle and began poking around in the soup tureen.  Ginny smiled as he plopped extra meat and vegetables into his bowl and inspected it for something specific.  Her smile became a grin as Colin fished three small onions out with a whispered, “Eew!” and laid them on his bread plate.  He’s a lot like Charlie, she thought thinking of her brother’s dislike for that particular vegetable.

 

“So…what’s the plan?”  Colin asked through a mouthful of buttered roll.

 

“I haven’t got one, really,” she said.  “Do you have any ideas?”

 

“Well, depending on when you want to do it, we could pretend you left something in the classroom and I could be waiting outside as a sort of sentry.  When do you want to make the attempt?”

 

“I don’t know.  Sooner the better, I reckon.  With the way Snape’s been breathing down Harry’s neck lately, something’s bound to blow at any time.  I want to be ready for it.”

 

A commotion toward the middle of the table interrupted their planning.  Both Ginny and Colin stood up with the rest of their Gryffindor housemates to see what was going on.  Through the sea of heads Ginny could just make out Ron easing Harry off the bench.  Concern for her boyfriend flooded through Ginny and as she climbed off her bench to go to him, Colin caught her arm.

 

“Let Ron sort it out,” he cautioned.

 

Ginny glared at him.  “Harry’s hurting.  I want to know what happened.”

 

“So does everybody else.  But wouldn’t it be better to finish lunch and go get the puffskeins now?  I mean, if you’re really intent on making that potion soon shouldn’t you have all the ingredients?” he reasoned.  “It just makes sense.”

 

A huge sigh escaped Ginny as she sat down again to finish her lunch.  “You’re absolutely right.  It’s just that I’m so worried about Harry all the time.”

 

“I know you are, Ginny.  He’s a good bloke and we Gryffindors always take care of our own,” he said perceptively.  “That’s why I’m willing to risk getting into trouble with you.”

 

A lump the size of a Quaffle was beginning to form in her throat as Ron struggled past half carrying Harry out of the hall, the latter clutching his forehead and looking distinctly green. 

 

“Thanks, Colin.  You’re a good friend yourself.  I mean it,” she choked out.  Then, with a fortifying deep breath she addressed the rest of her meal.  They ate in silence for the next few minutes each glancing nervously up at the teachers’ table to make sure Professor Snape was eating his lunch.

 

“Let’s get going before I lose my nerve,” Colin said finally popping the last bite of his fourth chocolate biscuit into his mouth a few minutes later.

 

Ginny laughed nervously and followed him out of the Great Hall.

 

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

 

Ginny and Colin stood in the Entrance Hall peering back at the teachers’ table one last time to make certain that Professor Snape was still sitting there. 

 

“He looks like he’s almost finished,” Ginny whispered tugging at Colin’s sleeve and turning toward the dungeons.  “I don’t think we have much time.”

 

“Neither do I.”

They descended the steps to the passage leading to the potions classroom and Professor Snape’s office.  Ginny could feel the very air chilling as they walked deeper and deeper under the school.  I must be imagining things.  It’s never this cool when I come down here for lessons, Ginny thought as she mentally began inventorying the spells she might need for this little caper.  She hadn’t practiced any of them, but Fred and George had said she was a good enough sneak to pull off whichever of their spells was necessary with little or no practice.

 

“I’ll use the door from the classroom to get into the office,” she said as they approached the correct door.  “It might not be as heavily hexed as Snape’s main office entrance.  Besides, the classroom door is always open.”

 

“Good thinking,” Colin agreed.  “If I get caught…” 

 

He never finished the thought because a suit of armour cleared its throat.  “Well, are you going in for lessons or not?” it asked causing both Ginny and Colin to jump.

 

“Right,” they said together and opened the classroom door.  Colin stationed himself just over the threshold, his back to the room.

 

Ginny crossed the room quickly.  The door to Snape’s office was slightly ajar, just as it had been during their lesson.  She pushed it open just enough to let herself in and repositioned it once she was inside.  When nothing happened, she turned around and assessed the situation. 

 

The room looked just as Harry had described it with hundreds of glass jars and bottles containing slimy things lining the walls.  Since she didn’t have time to read each label, Ginny pulled out her wand and whispered, “Accio dried puffskeins.”

 

Immediately, a huge jar flew at her from the opposite side of the room.  She caught it deftly and gulped as she gazed at the bodies of the shrivelled creatures the jar contained.  There was no possible way to stuff the container in her bag even if she shrunk it, so she pictured the inside of her trunk upstairs in the Gryffindor fifth year dormitory and muttered a specialized banishing charm.  I hope Fred and George were right about this one, she thought as the jar vanished from her grasp.

 

She turned to leave, then thought better of it.  The jar had been too large to just leave the room without rearranging its shelf; the hole left behind was just too conspicuous.  She flicked her wand and murmured another of Fred and Georges’ spells in the general direction from which the jar had come and heard the satisfyingly soft noise of jars reorganizing themselves.  Breathing a sigh of relief, she pocketed her wand and had just picked up her bag when she heard Colin call out from the classroom.

 

“Will you hurry up?  We’ve got to get to class,” he called in an annoyed tone.

 

Ginny poked her head out into the classroom.  “Hold your hippogriffs, Colin!  I think I found my quill,” she answered exasperatedly and hurried out of the office shutting the door behind her.

 

Ginny hastily pulled a quill from her bag and quickly knelt with her head under the student potions cupboard, pretending to be searching for the quill.  In the background, she thought she heard Colin cry out.

 

“Well, what do we have here?” snarled the distinctive voice of Professor Snape.  A hand descended upon her shoulder making her gasp.  It drew her roughly from under the cupboard and propelled her, along with Colin, back into the office.

 

“You’ve been in my office,” he snarled at Ginny.  When she didn’t respond to his accusation, he said, “I always leave the door open, Miss Weasley.  Do you know why it was closed?”

 

“No, sir,” she murmured crossing her fingers behind her back.

 

“You’re lying!  Turn out your pockets,” the Potions master hissed.  “Put everything on the chairs in front of my desk.”

 

“Yes, sir,” she squeaked and reached into her wand pocket and took it out.  Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny saw Colin doing the same.

 

Suddenly, she felt a tugging sensation on her robes; her pockets were turning themselves out of their own accord and the contents were magically laying themselves out upon the chair as directed.  Oh, no! These must have been Fred’s or George’s old robes, she thought frantically.  No one else in her family would have been so clever as to place a teacher-appeasing charm on their clothing other than her twin bothers—erm, brothers.

 

Ginny chanced a glance at Colin.  His eyes were wide with surprise and fright as his gaze flicked from Ginny to their teacher and back again.

 

Professor Snape smiled nastily as he began inspecting the contents of Colin’s pockets.  He picked up several items including the golden galleon Hermione had charmed last year for the DA.  There was an identical coin in Ginny’s belongings and she wondered if the professor would remark on it.  He did.

 

“Two identical galleons … with identical serial numbers from nearly a year ago.  How odd,” he mused aloud before moving onto the chair containing Ginny’s belongings.  As he did so, he looked up at Colin and snarled, “I know you’re involved in this, but I can’t prove you’re up to something.  Therefore, twenty points from Gryffindor and three days detention beginning tomorrow.  Dismissed.”

 

Colin, who knew what was good for him, scooped up the items on the chair and scurried from the office.  He paused just outside the doorway and held up two crossed fingers.  Ginny nodded slightly to acknowledge him and turned back to her teacher.

 

Professor Snape was inspecting everything on the chair with extreme care.  He lingered over several scraps of parchment upon which Ginny had written notes to herself, including the one with the lists of potions ingredients on it.  He held it in front of Ginny and demanded, “Explain this list.”

 

Ginny complied obediently.  “I’m revising for my O.W.L.s, sir.  My potion of the day is the Dreamless Sleep potion: this is a list I made of the ingredients for that potion plus what I would need for the Longevity Concoction.  I was trying to memorize how much of each ingredient I would need,” she told him honestly.

 

“Very well,” he muttered eyeing her suspiciously.  He replaced the parchment and picked up Ginny’s wand.

 

I’m sunk if he tries Priori Incantatem, she groaned inwardly.  There was no way of tricking the reverse spell charm and she held her breath as Professor Snape applied the charm to her wand. 

 

The first spell to emanate from the wand tip was a series of the last incantation she’d practiced casting earlier in the day during Charms, a repulsing charm.  The rearranging, banishing, summoning, camouflaging, gluing, and shrinking charms had not shown up at all!  Ginny had no time to reflect on this coincidence; Professor Snape was glaring at her in stony-faced fury.

 

“Miss Weasley, I demand to know why I cannot find any evidence of at least one charm you cast in this office!”

 

“I—I don’t know, sir,” she squeaked.

 

“Why isn’t there any evidence that you cast a rearranging charm not five minutes ago?”

 

“I—I don’t know,” Ginny repeated.

 

“You’re lying!” Professor Snape spat the words at her.  He waved his own wand causing multi-coloured auras to appear within the room.  Most of them shimmered faintly, but the orange cloud which suffused the shelves on the opposite wall glowed brightly.

 

“Ah, an arranging charm.  How interesting.”  He turned back to face Ginny.  “How do I know you cast an arranging charm, you may ask,” he said and pointed to the orange cloud.  “This is evidence of fresh magic lingering in this room, Miss Weasley; too much of it to be something I’ve done within the past twelve hours.  Besides, I have not required any ingredients from these shelves within that time period, Miss Weasley.  You have stolen ingredients from my stores.  Admit it!” he yelled.

 

Ginny stood her ground and refused to answer which infuriated Professor Snape further.

 

“Very well.  Retexi!  Electric blue sparks emanated from his wand and settled on a tier of shelves across the room: though instead of highlighting only one shelf as Ginny supposed the Potions master wished, the entire section was high-lighted in blue while the rest of the shelves along that wall continued to glow orange.

 

“This is impossible!” roared the potions master.  “I will not put up with such insolence!”  Evidently, his revealing charm had worked only so well.  He strode over to the shelves and began to inspect them individually, picking up jar after jar, muttering to himself.  Why, Ginny could only guess.  “These shelves are clean!  There is no dust on them.  They are still in alphabetical order.  There is no evidence of the jars rearranging themselves whatsoever!”  He moved about the office, looking for more dust. 

 

“This room has been scoured of dust, Miss Weasley.  How very clever of you to clear away any evidence of your tampering with my ingredients,” he snarled.

 

Ginny silently studied the stones which made up the office floor.  Her down-cast eyes seemed to appease the irate teacher in front of her.  He had gone back to the contents of her pockets and was again studying them closely.   He picked up three large star-shaped seed pods, the last item to be inspected.

 

“What are you doing with anise pods in your pocket?”  He consulted the ingredients list.  “Star anise is not one of the ingredients used in either of these potions nor is it a required herb for your potions kit.  Where did you get such a thing and what were you planning on making with these seeds?”

 

Again, Ginny was at a loss for words: she had no idea how the pods had appeared amongst her possessions.  Unfortunately, from the look on Snape’s face, he was not in the mood to accept the truth, so she would have to make up something.

 

“They—they’re left over from a breath-freshening potion I tried to make,” she stammered. 

 

Snape dropped the pods back onto the chair.  “Do you expect me to believe that rubbish?  Breath-freshening potion indeed.  Silly girl…you should know by now that we use oil of anise for such potions.  Or,” he paused as if an idea had just occurred to him, “were you using the seeds to flavour something illegal…like a love potion?”

 

This idea struck Ginny as incredibly funny and before she could help herself, began giggling behind her hand.  Her giggles didn’t subside when Professor Snape came to stand in front of her and leaned in until their noses were barely an inch from each other.

 

“Love potion, professor?” she managed to squeak.  “What would I need a love potion for?  I have a boyfriend.  I don’t need another one!”

 

“I see you are going to remain uncooperative, Miss Weasley,” he snapped.  “I will therefore be subtracting ten points from Gryffindor for your cheek.  In addition, I am taking a further fifty points from Gryffindor and assigning you a week of detentions which should hopefully be enough to deter you from ever stealing from my stores again.  Do I make myself clear?”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Very well.  You will report to this office promptly at five o’clock Monday afternoon.  Don’t be late.”

 

Ginny gulped, nodded, and fled the office feeling very fortunate to have gotten off with just a week of detentions under Professor Snape’s eagle eye.  She promised herself that she would not complain no matter how horrible the tasks promised to be.

 

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

 

It wasn’t until she finished her last lesson that Ginny was able to sprint upstairs to Gryffindor tower to relieve her curiosity about the Vanishing spell she had used.

 

“Ginny, why’s Colin got—” Dennis Creevey began as she flew past the fireplace and threw herself up the stairs.

 

 She burst into her room and almost pounced on her trunk.  Her hands shook as she whispered the secret unlocking Bill had taught her and she held her breath as she raised the lid.  A relieved sigh escaped her when she caught sight of the huge jar of puffskeins.  She opened the compartment in her bag which held the other pilfered ingredients and murmured, “Finite Incantatem”.  There was a soft squelching sound as the jars released themselves and became visible once more.  With a satisfied smile, she transferred the other ingredients to her trunk and carefully arranged her other belongings to conceal the pilfered items.  She then tucked Uncommon Uses for Everyday Potions next to her supplies.  Finally, with the disturbing thought that she was going to be in more trouble with her parents than with Professor Snape, she closed and locked the trunk and hurried down the stairs to the common room.  She just hoped her mother wouldn’t send her a Howler in the morning.

 

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

 

“Ginny, is it true that you and Colin got detention from Snape this afternoon?” one of her roommates asked as the fifth year girls were preparing for bed.

 

Ginny nodded, deciding not to say more than she had to.

 

“But why?  I mean, you two were dawdling over something at the beginning of class…” another girl began.

 

“…but you finished on time and Colin’s little belch wasn’t that hideous,” chimed in a third witch.

 

When Ginny didn’t answer, her fourth roommate said to the others, “I bet Snape caught them snogging behind that fat suit of armour just inside the corridor leading to the potions classroom.”

 

This elicited a gale of giggles from the other girls and caused Ginny to turn a delicate shade of pink.  She had been wanting to do that exact thing with Harry, but in another part of the castle.  “You’re wrong, girls,” she muttered under her breath.  “Very wrong.”

 

The first girl shook her head.  “Why would she do that?  She’s Harry’s girlfriend, remember?  I’d say it’s more like they were trying to prank Snape and got caught,” she said.

 

All eyes turned to Ginny.  “Well?” the four chorused together.

 

“It was a prank,” she said simply.

 

“Oh, do tell!  Were you able to complete it?”

 

Ginny sighed.  “Unfortunately, no.  We were caught red-handed, so we’ve got detention next week.  On top of that, you saw how many points Snape took for catching us,” she said ruefully.

 

“I can understand the detentions, but the house points?  That’s not fair!” someone said.

 

“I heard Snape caught Ginny in his office.  That’s why he took the house points.”  She eyed Ginny critically.  “Is that true?”

 

“It is,” she said quietly.  When the other girls began pressing her for details, she told them, “Look, I’m not proud of what we did.  It was a spur of the moment thing and I really don’t want to talk about it.  I feel bad enough about involving Colin as it is, so I’d appreciate it if you’d just let the subject drop for now.  I’m going to bed.”

 

“Sure, Ginny.  See you in the morning,” the other girls grudgingly assented.

 

Ginny crawled into her four-poster and shut the curtains.  She lay back on her pillows and shut her eyes, but her mind remained active despite the darkness of her surroundings.  With so much to think about, it was a long time before she began to relax.

 

 

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

 

 

“Arrgh!”

 

The shriek, echoing throughout Gryffindor tower, came from the boys’ dormitory at three in the morning.

 

Harry! 

 

Ginny, who had still been awake with the scene in Snape’s office racing around her head, sat up as one of her roommates complained, “Not again!”

 

She climbed out of bed and was halfway into her dressing gown when a hand on her arm stopped her.  “There’s nothing you can do, Ginny.  Harry’s in good hands.  Go back to bed,” her friend urged.

 

Knowing the other girl was right, but feeling absolutely wretched about it, Ginny crawled back under her covers and closed the curtains again.  It was going to be a long wait until morning.

 

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

 

When Ginny joined the others at the Gryffindor table Saturday morning she knew instantly that something was very wrong.  Harry and Ron were peering intently over Hermione’s shoulders at the front page of that morning’s Daily Prophet.  The tableau, unlike that of the previous year when those ten Death Eaters had escaped Azkaban, was repeated may times over at the other tables as groups of students shared the latest news.  Ginny slid onto a chair next to Hermione and began scanning the caption under an enormous picture of the Dark Mark, her eyes widening in shock.

 

“DEATH EATER ATTACKS MOVE NORTHWARD,” screamed the headline.

 

The caption under the picture read, “Walton-upon-Thames — In a surprise move by the forces of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, fifteen private residences from Eastbourne to Perth were put to the torch and their occupants tortured to death last night.” A listing of the other articles on the subject followed:

 

Destruction Overspreads the Country, Page 2

Auror Recounts Grisly Attack Tale, Page 4

Cornelius Fudge Implores Citizenry to Remain Calm, Page 6

 

          Hermione turned the page and all four of them gasped.  Three pictures, all in moving colour and positioned on the page for maximum impact, showed the evidence of the Death Eaters’ malevolence: several burnt houses with the ghastly green Dark Mark glittering above them smouldered whitely against the black sky as tiny ant-like figures (probably Aurors) scurried about.

 

            “Now that’s free publicity if I ever saw it,” remarked Ron as he plucked a piece of toast from a nearby plate and proceeded to devour it in two bites.

 

“I’m sure Voldemort planned something like this,” Ginny mused as she tried to scan the captions under the photos. 

 

Harry, who now had his hand on her shoulder, muttered, “He did,” and leaned forward over Hermione’s shoulder to get a better look.  His hand trembled slightly.  Ginny glanced over at him and found his face set and unreadable.

 

“Looks like Rita Skeeter and her cronies have been busy, too.  Listen to this,” Hermione began to read the next article aloud.

 

DESTRUCTION AND MAYHEM RULE THE NIGHT

 

Terror like none seen since that of Grindelwald in the 1940s showed its ugly face last night in thirteen cities and villages throughout England and Scotland, writes Orson Kane, special correspondent to The Daily Prophet.  Shortly before midnight, groups of Death Eaters Apparated into fifteen sites and tortured to death fifty-three people ranging in age from six months to one hundred-twenty years of age. From reports taken by the Ministry of Magic it is assumed that every house and outbuilding was reduced to ashes and the neighbours told they had heard a gas explosion. A Ministry of Magic official, who asked to remain anonymous, said the Death Eaters sent the Dark Mark over Muggle and Wizarding households alike. 

 

“There was so much carnage and destruction that the fires cannot be explained away as simple gas main explosions,” he remarked when asked his personal opinion of whether or not the official story would be believed by the Muggles. “A more appropriate explanation might have been to suggest these were acts perpetrated by an un-named terryist organization.  At least the Muggles are familiar with that particular term.”

 

The cities and villages where the attacks took place are North Walsha, Padstow, Walton-upon-Thames, Chippenham, and Eastbourne in the South; Worcester, Stoke-on-Trent, and Leeds in Central Britain; Sedbergh in the North; and Moffat, Hamilton and Perth, Scotland.  “It appears that these cities and villages were chosen for maximum impact to the Wizarding world, as the majority holds a large population of magical folk,” the official reported.

 

At five of the locations the dead included entire Muggle families.  This reporter viewed the ruins of one of the dwellings in Walton-upon-Thames(the house and outbuildings were reduced to ashes) and was able to talk with a Muggle witness before the Obliviators from the Ministry of Magic got to him. The first Auror on the premises agreed to an exclusive interview (see Auror, page five).

 

My wife and I heard [the] burglar alarm next door go off around midnight and thought nothing of it, the neighbour in Walton-upon-Thames said.  The [family] had two teenage boys who were constantly forgetting to deactivate the thing when they came home late.

 

“[But] we became very concerned when we heard screaming a few seconds after the alarm went off.  We could see weird flashes of coloured light through the windows of rooms with no tellies.  We tried to get into the house to see what was going on, but it seemed as if there was an invisible barrier around the estate.  Then, suddenly, the house exploded and this gruesome firework appeared in the sky.  I will never forget it as long as I live.

 

Needless to say, the Muggle has forgotten; seconds after this reporter obtained the above eyewitness report a Ministry official permanently changed his knowledge of the situation.

 

Three cities of note to the Wizarding public (Leeds, Worcester, and Sedbergh) were unfortunate enough to have been targeted twice.  All six estates destroyed in those locations were owned by wizards who had married Muggles. This reporter discovered that two of those families had children attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. No doubt Headmaster Albus Dumbledore will offer solace to these young victims.

 

 

Hermione stopped reading.  “I wonder who…” She gazed around the Great Hall at the other tables, a sad and stricken expression on her face.

 

“We’ll know soon enough, Hermione.” Ron said in a subdued voice.  He glanced up the table to where Lavender and Parvati had their heads together conversing in whispers over their copy of the Prophet.  “It’ll only be a matter of hours once those two discover who the lucky families were.” He added sarcastically.

 

“I feel so sorry for them, whoever they are,” Hermione murmured turning back to the article.

 

“Is there more?” Ginny asked.

 

Hermione glanced through the newspaper.  “I’ve almost finished this column.  The article covers the entire page.”  She rifled through the front section remarking, “There are three more pages of articles and photos if you really want to read them.”

 

“Thanks, but no.  This is all I can handle right now.”  Ginny felt sick to her stomach.  She definitely didn’t want to pursue the details the sensationalist reporters so gleefully recounted and she sensed her three companions felt the same.  She knew, though, that later when the shock had worn off she would seclude herself in a quiet corner of the library and read every repulsive word. It pays to know what the opposition is up to, she thought grimly.

 

“Shall I finish Orson Kane’s article?” Hermione asked looking around at Harry, Ginny and Ron.

 

“Go ahead.  We might as well hear it,” Ron said raiding the toast plate once again.

 

Someone shifted behind Ginny.

 

“I don’t,” she heard Harry murmur.  She felt him shrink from the group both physically and mentally.  Ignoring the surprised exclamations from Ron and Hermione, Ginny leapt from her seat and sprinted after Harry as he left the Great Hall almost at a run.

 

She didn’t catch up to him until he was out the front doors and half-way to the lake.  He had finally slowed to a walk and she could see his chest heaving, not from the effort of running, but from the numerous emotions crossing his normally stoic face.

 

Harry stopped at the water’s edge and picked up several flat stones which he proceeded to hurl sideways into the lake.  One or two made a few skips, but the majority just sailed out toward the middle where the ice was thin or non-existent.  The giant squid surfaced as a stone entered the water near its head and waved its tentacles angrily as another splashed down not far from the first.  Finally, Harry ran out of stones and crumpled to the bank.  He knelt there, his hands hiding his face.  Ginny sat down quietly next to him. 

 

Please, oh, please don’t let this break him!  He’s come too far to have to start over! she thought.  Help him see that no matter how bad the war becomes, it’s Voldemort’s fault for causing so much misery!  She reached for Harry’s hand.  He allowed her to pull it away from his face; she found it cold and shaky.

 

Neither spoke for a long time.  Ginny sensed that Harry wasn’t ready to speak yet of the thoughts that seemed to be plaguing him, so she fell back into her mode from earlier in the year and sent him soothing thoughts.  It’s not your responsibility, Harry.  You’ve done nothing wrong.  It’s Voldemort who should pay for the terror his followers raised last night.  Let someone else fight him right now. Your time will come when you are ready to deal with him, when your friends and supporters are ready to help you deal the final blow.

 

Very slowly, Harry seemed to respond.  However, Ginny didn’t know whether it was just her patience or whether Harry really could sense what she was thinking.  In the meantime, Ginny began trembling from the effects of the cold wind blowing across the lake.  She took out her wand and cast a warming charm around them in an effort to warm herself up.

 

At last, Harry asked in an anguished tone, “Why now?”

 

Ginny couldn’t answer.  She could only guess at the reasons for Voldemort’s timing. 

 

Harry stood up and raked both hands through his hair multiple times making it stand on end.  Ginny went to him, capturing his hand and holding it tightly in both of her own.  Her efforts stilled his movements and he finally looked at her.  A tear had escaped his right eye (something Ginny had never seen before since Harry always guarded his emotions so closely) and ran unheeded down his cheek.  She was torn between acknowledging it by brushing it away and risking embarrassing Harry and doing nothing to show him she’d noticed.  She chose the latter; the closed expression she had come to know last November was back on Harry’s face.

 

“I felt him yesterday, Ginny,” he nearly whispered staring out over the vast expanse of the lake. 

 

Ginny put her arm around his waist and pulled him close.  “At lunch?”

 

“Yeah,” Harry said.  “He must have been finalizing his plans and something wasn’t going right…”

 

“You mean you saw this at lunch?”

 

“No.  I just knew something was displeasing him.”  Harry paused.  “It’s happened before.”

 

“Does Dumbledore know?”

 

Harry bristled and pulled away.  “He does now.  But only after he summoned me to his office yesterday afternoon.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered him.”

 

“Why wouldn’t you tell him right away?”

 

Harry snorted.  “After what happened between us at the end of last year?  I think not.”

 

“I don’t understand, Harry.”

 

“He lied to me, Ginny.  He used me.  I’m just a walking radar device to him where Voldemort is concerned.”

 

“Radar?”

 

“Something Muggles use to keep track of things they can’t see.”

 

“So when you didn’t report to him right away yesterday afternoon, Dumbledore made you tell him what happened.”

 

“Yeah.  He wanted to know what Voldemort was doing and all I could tell him was that he was displeased.”

 

“What happened then?”

 

“Dumbledore sent me off to class with a request that I report back to him if my scar hurt again.”

 

“And did you?  We…we heard you hollering clear up in my room this morning.”

 

Harry looked stricken.  “You—you heard that?”

 

“Yes, Harry,” Ginny admitted.  “I wanted to go to you, but my roommates wouldn’t let me out.”

 

“I’m glad you didn’t.  I’m sorry I woke you.”  His embarrassment was palatable.

 

“What was Vvv—Voldemort feeling, Harry?” Ginny asked changing the subject.

 

“He was pleased.  He—he was ecstatic over an astounding success.”

 

“Did you dream about him, too?”

 

Harry sighed heavily.  “Yeah, vividly.”

 

“What did you see?”

 

“Just colours mainly. And—and—and one house.  It had the Dark Mark hanging over it.”

 

“Did you recognize the house?”

 

“No.”

 

“So do you think that there’s a connection between your scar hurting, the images and the Daily Prophet articles?”

 

“I’m sure of it.”

 

“What makes you think that?”

 

“The cities and villages the Death Eaters hit last night.”

 

“What about them?”

 

“They’re trying to find the Dursleys.  They’re trying to find them in the hope of getting to me,” he told her.

 

“How do you know?”

 

Walton-upon-Thames is less than ten kilometres from Little Whinging.”

 

 

 

 

End Part Three

 

A/N:  Many thanks to thedailyprophetreporting for his assistance in the writing of the two Daily Prophet articles.  These were my first attempts at journalism-type writing and his suggestions were educational as well as helpful.  I also thank Yolanda for the superb beta on this huge chapter.  It sort of wrote itself and seemed to mushroom as each section fell into place.  Yolanda is a saint for slogging through my long-windedness.

 

 

 

 

 

//
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