The Sugar Quill
Author: Starsea (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Watching for Wolves  Chapter: Part Two: Eyes
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“But Grandma, what big eyes you have.”


“All the better to see you with, my dear.”



Rated PG


Diagon Alley was bustling as usual. Ever since she could remember, they had come here the week before school started to buy books and supplies – that is, they bought what they could afford, or what they had to replace. She and Mum had often gazed at some fancy robes and hats in Madam Malkin’s shop, but they had never once gone in and bought anything like that. However, this summer – triggered by some diabolical chemical in her brain – her body had started to change. Along with all the indignities the boys had to bear – shyness, spots and body hair – she, as the only girl, had a special irritation in store for her.


Ginny shifted from foot to foot on the fitting stool and thought for the hundredth time that she didn’t need a baby at twelve, didn’t want a baby at twelve, and wasn’t even sure about kissing a boy, let alone anything beyond that. She refused to think about kissing Harry.


“Stand still, dear,” said Madam Malkin in that soft drone which told you she’d said that to many Hogwarts pupils over many years.


For some reason, Mum was looking tearful. She had a sentimental smile. Ginny’s heart sank. Mum was either going to burst into one of her ‘cute’ stories about Ginny’s childhood or she was going to say something about how her ‘little girl’ was growing up. Ginny couldn’t decide which option was more excruciating. She could feel the material pinning itself around her, moulding itself to her hips, which were still small, her waist, which was still straight, and hanging loose over her chest.


“I don’t know… it seems like yesterday I was in here getting Bill fitted,” Mum sighed. “And now here you are… my little girl…”


Ginny winced and prayed that her robes were almost finished. Madam Malkin nodded. “It’s true, Molly, they do grow up fast… how is Bill, by the way?”


Mum was successfully distracted into tales of her brilliant eldest son, who was working in Egypt at the moment, for Gringotts of course… Ginny breathed a sigh of relief. Madam Malkin must have had to listen to tons of speeches like the one Mum had almost started. Of course, she probably had a soft spot for Bill. A lot of the shop ladies in Diagon Alley asked her mum about him when they visited. And they always asked her how she was doing. Probably because she was the only girl, it wasn’t too difficult to remember her.


The shop bell rang as the door opened again, and two girls walked in, chatting together. The taller girl had loose fair hair tumbling to her shoulders, while her friend had a long dark ponytail. Ginny felt her heart plunge. Here she was, standing on the stool, arms held out like an idiot when she could have been coolly discussing the cut and fit of her robes with Madam Malkin, but the shopkeeper was now completely involved in her conversation with Mum.


The girls looked up and both stopped talking abruptly, their eyes widening. Ginny swallowed.


“Hey Esmé, hey Rowena,” she said, putting a smile on her face.


Rowena tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “Hey… Ginny,” she said, as if she had only just remembered the name. Esmé just watched her, bright blue eyes wary and curious at the same time.


“Getting fitted?” Ginny asked desperately. “Buying some accessories?”


“Just checking what’s on offer,” Rowena answered, avoiding Ginny’s eyes. “I haven’t been given much pocket money this year.”


“Oh yeah, I remember, you had a thing for those talking brooches last year!” Ginny agreed, and winced at the eagerness in her voice. You sound so desperate, stop it! What she had said was true, but it was the way she’d said it which counted. It was bad enough that they saw her as a weirdo with no friends without her actually acting like one. There goes my chance of sitting with them on the train tomorrow. Maybe I’ll be able to slip in with Harry, Ron and Hermione…


Rowena seemed a bit surprised. “You remember that?”


“We couldn’t sleep for the bloody things,” Esmé muttered, and Ginny felt her lips quiver in a smile, partly for what Esmé had actually said, and partly because Esmé had been daring enough to swear in the presence of two adults, even if it was under her breath. It was obvious why she was in Gryffindor. Maybe the situation wasn’t as hopeless as Ginny had thought –


“Oh hello!”


She could have cried. Why did Mum have to notice them now? Why couldn’t she and Madam Malkin have gone on talking for a bit longer? Now Mum would want to know Rowena and Esmé’s names, and which house they were in, and how they all knew each other.


“Hello… Mrs. Weasley,” Rowena replied. Both she and Esmé were looking wary again, leaning back from Mum.


“Oh, so Ginny’s told you about me,” said Mum in a bright voice. “Then you must be in Gryffindor!”


Both girls nodded. Mum didn’t seem to notice how nervous and uncomfortable they were, which was unusual for her. Instead, she prattled on in that light tone which somehow hurt your ears. “We’re here to get Ginny some new robes, she’s grown so much this summer, but it’s your age, isn’t it, I’m sure you girls have experienced the same thing.”


“Mum!” Ginny said, tortured beyond endurance. “I’m finished!”


Mum turned around. “Oh, yes… so you are, dear.”


Ginny hopped down from the stool, her cheeks flaming red with shame and embarrassment, glaring at Rowena and Esmé, daring them to laugh or say something. They did neither. They just looked embarrassed. Ginny couldn’t blame them.


“I’ll see you two on the train tomorrow, maybe,” she said and brushed past them, almost running out of the shop. The fresh air made the lump in her throat dissolve slightly, but not that much. How could Mum do that? How could she start talking to Rowena and Esmé about what had happened in the middle of Madam Malkin’s? Ginny covered her face for a moment, pressing sweaty palms to her burning cheeks.


Calm down, calm down, calm down… you are not going to cry in the street.


She took her hands away and looked around, focusing on the little details. The way a small child dragged his feet slightly as his mother walked away from the sweet shop… the huddle of Hogwarts students chatting by Flourish and Blotts, sacks and bags crammed with new textbooks… the ‘Wanted’ posters of Sirius Black, grim black and white reminders of reality in the colourful summer day. You would not have known a psychopathic killer was on the loose otherwise – the shoppers seemed unconcerned, barely glancing at the posters; there were no security measures around the shops. Only Gringotts seemed to be taking Black’s escape seriously – the huge front doors of the bank, usually open on a hot day, were shut tight, and there was a little sign fixed to one of them that read ‘If you have business, please use the knocker and wait. If you don’t, clear off.’


“Ginevra Weasley!”


Mum must be really angry, she was using her full name. It wasn’t that Ginny hated her full name exactly, she’d just found it very difficult to pronounce when she was little, and when she grew older, she started to think that it didn’t suit her. ‘Ginevra’ was stately, more suited to someone who was tall. She was not tall.


Mum appeared in front of her, bristling. “How could you behave like that? You didn’t even say goodbye to Madam Malkin, you just stormed out of there as if you had no manners at all, and they seemed such nice girls, I was so ashamed of you –”


“You were embarrassing me!” Ginny interrupted. “How could you talk about… that to Rowena and Esmé?!”


“But you seemed to get on so well with them!”


“Mum, I share a dormitory with them, that doesn’t mean we’re all chums! They already think I’m a weirdo because of what happened, and now you…” She stopped.


Mum looked stricken. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I just wanted to help. I thought if I was nice to them, then maybe… I’m sorry.”


Ginny fought the urge to close her eyes. “Don’t, Mum, it’s all right, really it’s all right,” she said, looking away. “Come on, we should get back to the Cauldron.” Anything to stop those tears she could see in her mother’s eyes.


The memory of walking into Dumbledore’s office, seeing Mum with tears on her cheeks, and worst of all it was her fault that Mum had been like that, and then Mum had started crying again, hugging her, saying they’d thought she was dead… Ginny forced the thoughts away. She wasn’t going to think of that anymore. It was a new year, she had to make up for lost time. She couldn’t afford to focus on the past, not when it still ripped her apart inside.


“Where are the boys?” Mum murmured. “There’s Fred and George… and Percy. He must have rounded them up.” There was a definite note of relief in Mum’s voice. Ginny hid a smile; Mum must have been dreading getting them out of Zonko’s, but as usual, Percy was there to help her. ‘Mum’s Little Helper’, that’s what his nickname used to be, she remembered that dimly. The twins had made fun of the title of course, but Percy had ignored them, just like he ignored them when they made fun of him being Prefect, just like he was ignoring them now he’d been made Head Boy. Of course, it would help if he wasn’t quite so insistent on reminding everyone that he was Head Boy, but try telling that to Percy…


As they walked inside, she could hear Dad’s voice: “Don’t be ridiculous, Ron. Black’s not going to be caught by a thirteen-year-old wizard. It’s the Azkaban guards who’ll get him back, you mark my words.”


Typical Ron, Ginny thought fondly. Always racing off without a moment’s thought for any… thing…


It was him.


Ginny felt her stomach curl up and her heart suddenly slam into the middle of her chest, thumping against her ribs. Her cheeks were burning. The way his hair stuck up at the back… the way he stood straight, the way his chin stuck out in that proud defiant way, that Gryffindor way…


Harry Potter.


He’d saved her life.


He’d saved her life because she’d been a stupid little girl. And here he was, smiling at her as if nothing had happened, as if everything was perfectly normal.


“Hey Ginny.”


Ginny tore her gaze away. “Hello…” There were tears in her eyes for some reason, and she blinked them away. He hadn’t noticed her. He hadn’t noticed her at all. She took a deep breath and then abruptly forgot her own sorrows. What was Percy doing? What was he doing shaking Harry’s hand and enquiring after his health? Ginny didn’t know whether to laugh or stare in utter disbelief. At least Harry hadn’t burst out laughing, but here came the twins, always ready to mock Percy’s pomposity.


“That’s enough!” Mum said, moving forward.


Ginny trailed behind her. It was so difficult to know how to react. She didn’t want to hurt Percy’s feelings by laughing at him, but he was being ridiculous, and the twins were funny.


“I said, that’s enough.”


Mum dropped into a chair and stretched her feet out under the table. Ginny never understood why Mum crammed her feet into those awful little shoes whenever they came to Diagon Alley: they crushed her toes and by the end of a day’s shopping she generally needed a foot bath with Fabian Franklin’s Feet Feast. And now she was fussing over Percy again… Ginny turned away, suddenly tired of her family. She just wanted to get to her room, fall on the bed and have a good cry in her pillow. George’s voice suddenly rose above the babble of the pub.


“What do we want to be Prefects for? It’d take all the fun out of life!”


A giggle escaped her before she could think, which made Mum start on the twins about setting a good example, which meant Percy had to stick his oar in… Ginny wanted to scream at the predictability of it all, but fortunately Percy went upstairs at that point. She waited for a moment and then followed him, hurrying into her room and flinging herself on the bed. It was all too much – Rowena and Esmé turning up, Mum behaving like that, Harry ignoring her as usual – how was she going to be able to bear the coming year?


There was a knock on the door. Ginny didn’t reply. She buried her face in the pillow and hoped whoever it was would go away. Then her heart jumped: maybe it was Harry – maybe he’d seen that she was barely holding back tears and he’d come to check on her – 




Ginny’s heart crashed back down with a thump inside her chest, sliding all the way down into her stomach. It was only Hermione. Hermione Granger, who got to spend every day with Harry. She wasn’t jealous… not exactly. She just wished that Hermione could appreciate her luck. But of course, it would be even worse if Hermione did start appreciating her luck and seeing Harry as more than a little brother.


The knock came again. “Ginny?  May I come in?”


Ginny almost huffed. It was her room as well, what was she knocking for?




“What?!” Ginny snapped, lifting her head. “If you’re coming in, come in, if not, go away!”


There was a brief silence, and then the door opened and Hermione slipped inside. Ginny watched, noticing how Hermione had to turn sideways now because of her new figure. Lucky her; Ginny glanced down at her own body, which was still as straight as an ironing board, still a little girl’s body, on the outside. The inside, of course, was completely different.


Hermione sat down on the bed and Ginny noticed for the first time that she was carrying something: something that was large and orange and it had a tail. “Oh!” she said, sitting up, bad mood forgotten. “You got a cat!”


Hermione smiled. “His name’s Crookshanks, he’s my birthday present from Mum and Dad – they gave me some money to buy what I wanted,” she added, loosening her grip. Crookshanks jumped down onto the floor and looked around, whiskers twitching.


“Hermione, he’s huge!” Ginny said, staring at him. “Do you know what breed he is?”


“The witch in the shop said he was half-Kneazle, but Kneazles are small. Anyway, I like the fact he’s so big,” Hermione cooed, stroking Crookshanks’s back. “There’s more of him to cuddle.”


Ginny loved cats, but even she had to admit that Crookshanks wasn’t exactly what you’d call a handsome specimen. He was big but rather misshapen, with long bandy legs that had given him his name, one tattered ear, and a rather lumpy, misshapen face. He bore the marks of a rough life. Ginny slipped onto the floor and held out her hand: if Crookshanks was half-Kneazle, it was best that she took things slowly. Aside from the fact you could never tell how much was Kneazle and how much was ordinary cat, it seemed like he’d been ill-treated. The ginger tom stretched his neck and sniffed her hand for a while; then an enormous rumbling purr filled the room, and he pressed his head up into Ginny’s hand, rubbing the curve of his spine along her arm.


“Look, he likes you!” Hermione said, beaming.


Ginny blinked back sudden tears. “Yeah…” She gently pulled the cat into a cuddle and began to stroke him, enjoying the feeling of the warm purring lump against her chest. Crookshanks kneaded her thin t-shirt (she noticed that he was careful to avoid pricking her skin) and gazed up at her, his amber eyes smug and certain of his appeal. Ginny grinned down at him. “Yeah, you know you’re charming, don’t you?” she said, tickling him under the chin and watching him stretch out his neck in pleasure.


“Are you okay?”


For a moment, Ginny wondered why Hermione was asking. Then she remembered. “Oh… yeah… sorry I snapped at you. Mum was just…” She wondered how to give an explanation that would satisfy Hermione without giving anything away.


“You don’t have to pretend with me,” Hermione said, getting down onto the floor. “I know it can’t just have been your mum.” She reached out and stroked Crookshanks’s head, a soft smile on her face.


“It’s everything, all right?” Ginny said angrily. “It’s Mum, and it’s going back to school, and it’s… it’s Harry.” She swallowed down a sudden lump, hating the way her voice had weakened on his name.


Hermione kept stroking Crookshanks, but Ginny could feel her eyes on her face. “He does like you, Ginny,” she said quietly.


“He doesn’t even notice me!” Ginny said bitterly. “All I am is just some nuisance that he had to rescue last year because I was stupid enough to trust that diary–!”




She looked up, surprised and puzzled by the word. “No?”


Hermione was looking at her calmly. “He doesn’t think of you as a nuisance, Ginny,” she said. “Not at all. Colin Creevey’s a nuisance. Malfoy’s a nuisance. You’re… you’re not a nuisance. You’re his best friend’s little sister. I know that’s not exactly inspiring, but you’re not a nuisance, okay? Harry does like you… just not in the way you want him to.”


“I was such an idiot,” Ginny muttered.


“We’ve all been idiots!” Hermione said earnestly, putting a hand on her arm. “Listen, Ginny… Harry and I were just as fascinated by that diary. We spent a whole evening trying to figure it out… I did all this research about book spells… it wasn’t just you! You were just unlucky enough to write in it. And how were you supposed to know it was evil? It’s not like it had snakes on the cover or ‘Slytherin Rules!’ written all over the pages, right?”


Ginny shrugged and then jumped as Crookshanks let out a rather loud meow, his eyes fixed on her face.


“Aww, Crookshanks, have we been ignoring you?” Hermione cooed, picking him up and cuddling him so that the rumbling purrs started again. “We’re sorry, aren’t we, Ginny, we’re sorry…”


The sight of rational, brilliant Hermione fussing over such a cat was irresistible. Ginny giggled. “Love at first sight, was it?” she said with a grin.


Hermione smiled foolishly. “Yeah… Ron doesn’t like him, though,” she added, frowning. “He thinks that Crookshanks is after Scabbers. I mean, he thinks Crookshanks has deliberately targeted him.”


Ginny rolled her eyes. The idiocy of boys was infinite. “Scabbers is a rat, of course Crookshanks is going to be after him,” she said, folding her arms. “He’ll probably go after other rats as well, it’s just Scabbers is the nearest one… although he’s not exactly rich pickings lately.” She frowned suddenly, remembering how worried Ron had been about his pet since they’d returned from Egypt. First Scabbers had lost weight, and recently he’d started to lose his fur as well. Maybe Ron was being paranoid about Crookshanks targeting his rat, but she couldn’t blame him for being worried. Scabbers was one of the few things that belonged to Ron alone.


“Oh, it’s ridiculous,” Hermione huffed, “just because Crookshanks jumped on his head, Ron’s got this grudge against him already…”


Ginny leaned back against the bed and let Hermione complain about her older brother for the next ten minutes. For one thing, it was funny, and a lot of the things Hermione said about Ron were true; and for another, it meant that Hermione didn’t try and talk to her about the diary or Harry. Ginny didn’t really feel like discussing those subjects with anyone; least of all the girl who was Harry’s closest friend after Ron.


There were some barriers you just didn’t cross.


*           *           *


Ginny enjoyed the luxurious ride to Kings Cross in the Ministry limousines. She wasn’t sharing one with Harry, but maybe that was a good thing, since she’d probably have spent the whole journey with her mouth shut, her cheeks red, and her eyes alternately fixed on him or out the window. Even better was how the drivers found them all trolleys and then touched their caps to Dad. She knew that a lot of people liked Dad, she knew he was popular, but she did wish that he got more respect. So he liked Muggle things, everyone had their little eccentricity, he shouldn’t be held back for it…


“Ready, Ginny?”


The voice brought her out of her reverie, and she looked up into Percy’s kind, bespectacled eyes. He was smiling a little, the pompousness peeled back to expose the real Percy. She smiled back and then glanced around at everyone else.


“Percy… could we run?”


He looked puzzled. “Would it make you feel better?”


She nodded. They each put their hands on the bar of the trolley and began to push it, gathering speed, going faster and faster until the barrier was there before them, blinking out of sight, and they were on Platform 9¾, with the steam of the Hogwarts Express billowing around them, laughter and chatter and the shrieks of owls.


“Ah, there’s Penelope!” said Percy, blushing and smoothing his hair, forgetting Ginny in an instant. He marched towards her with his chest puffed out. Ginny glanced at Harry, met his eye, and then they both turned away, shoulders shaking with laughter. Well, at least Percy was in safe hands, Ginny reflected with a little smirk, and it was only later that she realised she’d been completely natural with Harry for a moment.


After the customary quest for an empty carriage – as usual, it was right at the back of the train – and loading the luggage and the animals (Crookshanks was spitting like a cobra in his basket), it was time for the goodbye kiss. As they hugged, Mum whispered in her ear, “If you need an ear, I’m just an owl away. You’re going to be fine, Ginny.”


She pulled away and smiled at her. “Course I am, Mum. No sweat.” Then Hermione and Harry got kissed and hugged: Harry blushed a bit, and Ginny thought with a pang how cute he looked. Then Mum began to hand out the sandwiches – Percy appeared, grabbed his, and disappeared again – beef and pickle for the twins, cheese for Ron and honey for her. She took the package with a smile, and glanced around for Harry, but he’d disappeared, and the smoke from the funnel was getting whiter and whiter, signifying that they were banking up the engine.


“Quickly, get on,” Mum said, chivvying them. The twins immediately went off to look for Lee Jordan, but Ginny stayed with Ron and Hermione, anxiously waiting for Harry to appear.


“Arthur, what are you doing? It’s about to go!” Mum called, and Ginny saw her father talking to Harry behind a pillar. Dad looked pale and serious, the usual light in his eyes gone. Harry looked non-plussed, puzzled. Ginny wondered what they were talking about.


The whistle shrieked in their ears and she jumped slightly. Guards began to slam the doors, one heavy bang after another, and Harry was still on the platform.


Oh hurry UP! Ginny thought, almost dancing on her feet. Please hurry up, Harry, don’t get left behind! She almost called out, but she had no idea what Harry would think if she did, the mere thought was enough to make her go bright red. She could feel the motion of the train under her feet. Hermione was jumping on her feet and Ron was yelling at Harry to get a move on.


“Arthur, quickly!” Mum shouted, and Harry ran towards them. Ron threw open the door and pulled him on, just as the train began to pick up speed. They all leaned out of the door window, waving at Mum and Dad until the train turned a corner and they disappeared.


Ginny turned and smiled at the three of them, but Ron glared at her. “Go away, Ginny.”


Ginny felt like she’d been slapped. “Oh, that’s nice,” she snapped, and stalked off down the carriage. So much for sitting in the same compartment as them, so much for being with Harry for the whole journey, so much for Ron looking after his little sister. No, as soon as Harry Potter and Hermione Granger turned up, she didn’t even get a look in…


Ginny threw open a compartment door at random and flung herself in the corner seat without even looking at who was there. It turned out there were only two other people, fortunately enough: Neville Longbottom, and a girl from her own year. Ginny sort of recognised her, but she didn’t know her name. They were both staring at her. The girl had long mousy hair falling down her back to her waist, and Ginny couldn’t help noticing it was full of split ends, but at least her skin wasn’t covered in freckles. It was lovely and clear, and her eyes were a soft silvery grey. Whereas Neville looked faintly alarmed, the girl looked more interested than anything else. Ginny felt a spark of friendliness towards her.


“Hi, Neville,” she said, smiling at him, and getting a tentative smile in return. “How was your summer?”


“Oh… not bad,” Neville said, making a grab for his toad as Trevor tried to hop under the seat. Ginny’s lips twitched, but she forced herself not to smile. So many people made fun of Neville, but she wasn’t going to be like them.


The girl was still looking at her with the same expression of mild interest. Ginny looked at her. “I’m Ginny Weasley,” she said. “What’s your name?”


“Luna Lovegood.”


“Nice to meet you, Luna,” Ginny said with a smile.


“Most people call me ‘Loony’,” Luna observed.


“Oh.” Ginny was lost for words. Normally, this only happened when she was around Harry Potter, but that statement was just… She took refuge in manners. “Don’t you mind?”


“Not really.” Luna shrugged. “What’s important is that the message gets across, right?”


“Um… right,” Ginny agreed, not quite sure what they were talking about. If anyone had called her ‘loony’, she would have hexed them to next Sunday, but obviously Luna was different.


“Ginny Weasley,” Luna said dreamily. “You got taken into the Chamber, didn’t you?”


Once again, Ginny was lost for words. To have it so baldly stated like that… the plain and simple truth, not all those rumours and questions she’d had to deal with at the end of the year. Neville was staring at Luna as if she was insane, but Ginny wasn’t angry. It felt nice to have someone acknowledge what had happened without any fuss. She nodded.


Luna nodded, almost to herself. “Harry Potter rescued you, didn’t he?” she said, as if they were discussing something which had happened in a book.


Ginny felt her cheeks burn and nodded again. The other girls had asked her if he’d given her ‘the Kiss of Life’, if he’d said anything ‘romantic’, and it had been so embarrassing because the reality hadn’t been anything like that. Harry had been covered in blood and sweat and dirt, holding a sword, his green eyes burning into hers, and she’d wanted to crawl into a corner and die from the shame of what she’d done, the embarrassment of him seeing her like this, and the terror of what would happen when her parents found out…


“It’s okay,” Neville said, breaking in on her thoughts. “It’s over now, Ginny.” He was staring at her anxiously, and Ginny’s heart warmed at his concern.


“Yes,” she said. “I’m here, aren’t I?” She winked at him, making a small smile flutter on his lips.


“Do you like being here?” asked Luna.


Ginny blinked. “I… I don’t know,” she said, rubbing her palms over the skirt she’d put on that morning. “Nobody’s ever asked me that question before… yes!” She looked up, defiant. “I do like being here. I like being alive.”


Luna nodded. “Life’s interesting, isn’t it?” she said. “So many things to find out…”


“Not all of them are good things,” said Neville unexpectedly, frowning and gripping Trevor so tightly that the toad looked as if he was being suffocated.


“No,” Ginny agreed. “But even the bad things… they’re necessary. They have to be necessary,” she added softly.


The conversation ground to a halt, but the silence wasn’t unpleasant. Luna curled up in her corner, reading her magazine. Neville read a book about herbs and their magical properties, and Ginny picked up her book of fairy tales, confident that her companions would not mock her choice of reading material.


The trolley lady came by, asking if they wanted any sweets. Luna bought a whole bag of Everlasting Gobstoppers. Ginny helped Neville find his money sack and he shared some of his Chocolate Frogs with her and Luna in return. Ginny stored the cards away in her robe pocket for Ron. Outside the window, grey sheets of rain blurred the scenery, following them all the way up into Scotland. It was so overcast that they barely saw the sky darkening from grey to black, and blinked in surprise when the lanterns came on, shutting out the night. The wind whistled and occasionally roared outside, but the compartment was warm, even cosy. Ginny leant back, thinking that maybe it hadn’t been such a bad thing to come in here. She wouldn’t have been half so relaxed if she’d spent the journey in Harry’s compartment.


Oh, why can’t I talk to him? It should be simple enough. It’s not like he’s done anything to make me feel this way. It’s just those eyes… and that smile… and the way he lifts his chin… I’m hopeless.


There was a sudden change in the rhythm of the change. Neville gasped, jerking his head up. “Are we there already?” He jumped to his feet and pulled his robes down from the coat rack, along with some empty gum wrappers.


“We do seem to be slowing down…” Ginny agreed, puzzled.


Luna lowered the magazine and gazed outside. “The station lights aren’t working,” she observed.


“That means we can’t be there,” Ginny said, frowning. She got up and stuck her head out into the corridor. Lots of other people were doing the same thing, and there was a buzz of questions. Percy came hurrying down the corridor and Ginny grabbed at his sleeve.


“What’s going on?” she asked.


“I don’t know,” Percy admitted, obviously embarrassed by his lack of knowledge. “I’m just going to ask the driver. Stay in your compartment, Ginny. Don’t go wandering off.”


“It’s a train, where am I going to go?!” Ginny demanded, but he’d already marched off. She rolled her eyes and pulled her head back in, closing the door and sitting down again. “Even my brother doesn’t know what’s going on, and he’s Head Boy,” she told the others.


“Maybe if we opened the window and lit our wands, we could see,” Luna suggested, already getting up, but as she did so there was a jolt, and the train stopped completely. Neville’s trunk fell off the rack, just missing his feet, and Luna fell back into her seat.


Then the lanterns went out.


Ginny almost screamed and clapped a hand over her mouth, forcing herself to breathe slowly. They were lost in total darkness. All they could hear was the rain and the howl of the wind outside.


“Hang on,” Neville said. “I’ll just go and see what’s happening…”


Ginny opened her mouth, but he’d already opened the door and gone. She gritted her teeth. Neville was nice, but notoriously accident-prone. He was more likely to trip and knock himself out than discover what was going on, and she wasn’t going to sit in the dark and patiently wait for him to come back, she wanted answers now.


“Luna, you stay here,” she said.


“Are you going, too?” Luna asked.


“I have to, I can’t let him go on his own,” Ginny replied. “Besides, my older brother’s only a few doors down, maybe he’ll know what’s going on.” She pushed away the thought that if Percy didn’t what was going on, it was doubtful Ron would.


“See you soon,” Luna said cheerfully. Ginny just grunted in reply. She didn’t see anything funny about the situation, but perhaps Luna hadn’t meant to be funny.


At first, she paused in the corridor and glanced around, but it was hopeless. There was no visibility at all. She could hear distant bangs and crashes as people tried to find their friends. Right, you know the light spell, don’t you? I think this qualifies as an emergency, so you can use magic.




The wand sparked for a brief moment, and then died. Ginny frowned. “Lumos!!” she repeated, her voice stronger with anger. This time, the light lasted for a few seconds, and then vanished again. Ginny tightened her grip, feeling fear creep over her. I don’t understand… why doesn’t it work? It’s like something’s blocking the light. She put her wand away. Fine. We’ll just have to do this in the pitch dark. Fun, fun, fun.


She crept down the corridor, keeping one hand on the windows, which were icy cold to the touch. There was no moon, so her progress was slow. It didn’t take very long, but it seemed like hours to Ginny, mainly because she had no idea what was going on. Most of the time, there was an elder brother around to make a joke, but they weren’t here now. She was alone. If she made a mistake…


A door slid open to her right and somebody walked straight into her.


“OW!” she said, putting a hand up to her head.


“Who’s that?” a voice demanded nervously.


“Who’s that?” she retorted, gripping her wand.


“Ginny?” The voice brightened, and she blinked, a useless action.


“Hermione?” she whispered.


“What are you doing?” Hermione demanded.


“I was looking for Ron – ” she admitted, glad that nobody could see her blush.


“Come in and sit down,” Hermione invited, and Ginny didn’t need any encouragement. She stepped inside and began to sit down.


“Not here! I’m here!” Harry’s voice suddenly protested, causing goosebumps to streak down her spine.


She swallowed and moved on, treading on someone’s foot. From the yelp of pain, it was obviously Neville. At least he was okay. Then there was a rustle of clothing and a strange voice said, “Quiet!”


There was a crackling sound and pale fire flared in the corner of the compartment. Ginny blinked in the sudden light and then stared at the man who was creating it. His face was lined, tired and pale, but his eyes were younger, fully awake. The new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, must be.


She sat down next to Hermione in the new light and whispered, “Is he…?”


“Defence Against the Dark Arts,” Hermione confirmed. “His name’s Remus Lupin, according to his case.”


Remus? The wizarding world was fond of Latin names, but Ginny wasn’t familiar with that one. Yet she knew she’d heard it before. It tugged at her memory, something to do with books…


“Stay where you are,” Professor Lupin commanded, and he rose to his feet. Even in that one slow movement, you could see how tired he was. They all watched as he walked to the door, holding the fire in front of him. Just as Ginny was wondering why the flames worked when Lumos didn’t, the door slid open to reveal a tall figure in a black cloak. There was a terrible rattling noise, like someone’s dying breath, and a wave of dread swept over them all.


“Oh no,” Ginny said thinly, crawling back in the seat, her mind frozen in terror. “Oh no, oh no, oh no…”


She clapped her hands over her ears, but nothing could stop it. Nothing could stop him, the face rearing up in front of her eyes, the voice laughing as she felt herself grow cold, cold, cold -


“Poor Ginny… you really thought you could handle me? You thought you, a skinny red-haired nobody, could handle the great Lord Voldemort? You really are a stupid little girl…”


No… I won’t think of this… make it stop, make it stop…


That face, that handsome face, all twisted and warped with sadistic delight and greed. Nobody that evil should look so beautiful. How could she have ever believed he was interested in her? She hunched up, shaking. He wanted Harry, he’d always wanted Harry, and now Harry was going to die, and it was all her fault, all of it, it was all her fault…


Far away, she heard a whisper, and suddenly the compartment was full of light. Ginny flung a hand up in front of her eyes, blinded, and saw the Dementor retreating, turning away… The air was suddenly breathable again. She felt herself begin to sob and put her hands over her mouth. She looked around. Ron and Hermione were pale, but they didn’t seem too affected. Neville was biting his nails, and Harry…


Harry was lying on the floor, eyes closed, pale as death. Ginny tried to sit up, but her body was still too cold and stiff to move, and her heart felt too large for her ribs, battering against them. Harry! Harry, wake up, oh please, wake up!


Ron and Hermione slipped down onto their knees. Hermione began to slap Harry on the cheek. “Harry! Harry! Are you all right? Harry!


The desperation in her voice seemed to reach Harry where the physical contact could not. He blinked, shuddered, and pushed his glasses back up his nose. Ginny let out a silent breath of relief, realising for the first time that the train had started moving again. The thought of Hogwarts was immensely comforting after what had just happened. Ron and Hermione had pulled Harry back onto his seat, and there was some colour in his cheeks now – the merest flush of pink.


“Who screamed?” he said, looking from one to the other, his eyes too brilliant against the pallor of his skin.


“No one screamed,” Ron said, glancing at Hermione, his worry plain.


Harry looked at Neville, then at Ginny, as if searching for another person. “But I heard screaming,” he said softly.


Ginny hugged herself, feeling cold again. She didn’t want to imagine what Harry might have seen and heard because of that creature. She didn’t want to think at all. An enormous snap made her jump and look around – Professor Lupin was breaking an enormous slab of chocolate into pieces. Ginny saw how threadbare and worn his clothes were and wondered how he could afford such a luxury. She also wondered why he had such an enormous bar in the first place. Surely he couldn’t have known this would happen? Perhaps he was just a chocoholic, she told herself. He certainly seemed generous enough, handing out pieces to all of them, not just Harry.


“What was that thing?” Harry asked, voicing everyone’s thoughts.


“A Dementor,” Professor Lupin said quietly. “One of the Dementors of Azkaban.”


Dementor?! Ginny remembered her father coming in through the door, white and drawn, collapsing in a chair; she remembered her mother giving him mug after mug of hot chocolate, questioning him. So that was a Dementor. What was it doing here?! They weren’t criminals! She opened her mouth to ask, but Professor Lupin said something about speaking to the driver and left the compartment.


Rats, Ginny thought. Maybe Percy will know something. I’ll have to ask him when I next see him. She glanced at her chocolate, but her throat still felt stuck together and sore. The others were explaining to Harry what had happened and comparing notes. Ginny tried not to listen, she didn’t want to relive it, but she couldn’t move, and the words filtered through.


“Did you feel how cold it was when it came in?” Neville said, shivering.


“I felt weird,” Ron agreed, “like I’d never be cheerful again…”


A sob escaped Ginny’s throat before she could stop it. She didn’t want to break down in front of Harry, not again, but Hermione was already there, putting an arm around her. The warmth of her body was so comforting that Ginny found herself leaning into the older girl as if she was a baby.


“But didn’t any of you – fall off your seats?” Harry asked, looking from one to the other. Ginny didn’t dare to meet his eye.


Ron shook his head. “No, Ginny was shaking like mad, though…”


Oh thanks, Ron, as if I wasn’t enough of a wimp already, Ginny thought unhappily, but she was still too shocked to actually make much of a noise. Her voice seemed to have gone on holiday without warning, and she had to clear her throat several times before she could respond to Hermione’s question of whether she was all right.


The compartment door slid back and Professor Lupin came in. He looked at them all and said, smiling strangely, “I haven’t poisoned that chocolate, you know.”


Ginny had almost forgotten about the chocolate. Her fingers were smudged when she passed it to her other hand. Harry was occupied with eating his own piece, so she could lick them without making a fool of herself. The sweet taste seemed to make the world a little brighter; a whole bite spread warmth right throughout her body, and she felt as if her blood was flowing properly again. The cold in her chest melted away.


“We’ll be at Hogwarts in ten minutes,” Professor Lupin announced. He glanced at Harry, who still looked rather peaky. “Are you all right, Harry?”


Harry muttered something and bit into his chocolate again. Ginny tore her eyes away and looked out of the window. Hermione didn’t notice, because she was looking at Harry. Ginny was glad. Harry’s episode had been far worse, you could still tell, even after the chocolate. She continued to worry about him even after they arrived and he disappeared in the normal crush of students.


“Come on,” she said to Neville, “let’s go and find Luna.” She was feeling a bit guilty since they’d just abandoned her. Maybe a Dementor had invaded Luna’s compartment as well? Ginny didn’t want to imagine facing a Dementor on your own.


They didn’t find Luna, they found Draco Malfoy and his cronies instead. Malfoy ignored Ginny, of course, and went straight for Neville, grabbing his sleeve. Crabbe and Goyle blocked the way so that Neville and Ginny couldn’t leave.


“Heard you were in Potter’s compartment, Longbottom,” Malfoy said, his eyes gleaming with greed. “What happened? Did he cry? Did he wet his pants? I bet he ran screaming out of the door –”


“No,” Neville said defensively, jerking his sleeve out of Malfoy’s hand, “he fainted, actually!”


Ginny almost groaned out loud. Malfoy’s eyes widened in malicious pleasure. “He fainted? You’re not lying to me, are you, Longbottom? You’d better not lie, this is too good –!”


Ginny chose this moment to punch both Crabbe and Goyle in the stomach. They bent over, startled by this sudden pain, and she grabbed Neville’s arm, pulling him through.


“I’m sorry,” Neville moaned, “it just slipped out, I didn’t mean to –”


“Don’t apologise to me, apologise to Harry,” Ginny said, glancing around. Why did she have to be small? Why couldn’t she be like Ron, or Percy, or, best of all, Bill? Being small put you at a distinct disadvantage in a crowd: you couldn’t see anyone, and your nose was at the level of a normal person’s armpit. Ginny held her breath and pulled Neville towards the coaches.


“Ginny? Are you okay? We heard a Dementor came to your compartment!” Rowena and Esmé came pushing towards her. Behind them was Catharine Watson, the fourth member of their dormitory, her large dark eyes agog at the prospect of some juicy gossip.


“Let’s get a coach,” Ginny said, deciding to ignore that statement. “I want to get out of this crowd.”


“Tell me about it,” Esmé muttered, “why is it that we always get stuck with people who don’t wash?”


Ginny and Rowena laughed. Neville smiled uneasily and opened the door for them. Rowena gave him a polite smile as she got in, but Esmé and Catharine barely glanced at him. Ginny waited until Neville got in before making introductions. “Neville, this is Rowena Penhallow, Esmé Crosse and Catharine Watson. This is Neville Longbottom.”


“Pleased to meet you,” Rowena said. Neville blushed and shuffled. Esmé nodded. Catharine looked at him for a moment and then dismissed him, focusing on Ginny once more.


“I heard Harry Potter had a fit!” she said, leaning forward, her eyes fixed on Ginny with the same greedy gleam which she’d seen in Malfoy. “What happened, Ginny? Did he… you know… say anything? Did you give him mouth to mouth?”


“No,” Ginny said, picking her words, “he didn’t have a fit. He wasn’t exactly at his best, but nobody’s at their best when a Dementor’s around, are they, Catharine?”


“We met the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher,” Neville said suddenly. As a conversational tactic, it was pure genius, and it wasn’t too bad as a bid for their attention either. All three girls turned and looked at him, their interest rekindled.


“What’s he like?”


“Where does he come from?”


“Is he good looking?”




Catharine smirked a little and flicked a lock of hair over her shoulder. “Just to trying to find out the important things, girls.”


Esmé rolled her eyes. “I don’t care if he looks like Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe’s lovechild, as long as he actually knows what he’s doing.”


“Eww, Esmé, I really did not need that image!” Catharine wrinkled her nose.


“Let’s not wish that combination of looks on anyone,” Ginny agreed, sharing a grin with Esmé.


“So, what’s he like?” Rowena pressed, leaning forward.


“He’s, um… he definitely knows his stuff,” Neville said, and Ginny nodded along with him. “A Dementor came into our compartment, but he made it go away.”


“Made it go away? I didn’t know you could make a Dementor do anything,” Esmé said slowly. “How did he do that?”


Neville shrugged, and Ginny shook her head when they looked at her. “I don’t know… I don’t remember much. There was this brilliant light, and it was gone.”


“It came from his wand, it must have been a spell,” Neville added.


“Pretty powerful spell!” Catharine exclaimed. “I’ve never heard of anything like it.”


“So he’s not like Lockhart,” Esmé said with satisfaction.


“Definitely not, and you’ll see him at the feast, Catharine, so don’t whine,” Ginny told the other girl, who was pouting.


“Do you think he’ll be fair?” Rowena asked, rather anxious. “Having favourites is so off-putting…” Rowena was not good at Potions, which meant she spent most of the lessons being picked on and sniped at by Snape; Lockhart had acted as if she wasn’t even there.


“He shared out his chocolate with all of us,” Neville told her. “It was really good chocolate, too.”


All three looked cheered by this prospect, and a lively discussion ensued about whether Professor Lupin would hand out chocolate if they did particularly well in his class. Ginny told herself she’d see Harry when they sat down to the feast. But Harry wasn’t there. Ron had two spaces on either side of him, which meant Hermione was missing, too. Ginny caught Ron’s eye and questioned him with her eyebrows. He leaned over, his voice low so that the gossips couldn’t hear.


“McGonagall told Harry and Hermione she wanted to see them. Said it was urgent.”


“What? Why? They haven’t done anything wrong, have they?” Ginny stared at him, bewildered.


Ron shrugged. “I’m sure it’s nothing serious…” he said, his voice dying away just like Dad’s when he wasn’t sure of something.


Ginny sagged back in her seat. Maybe they’d taken Harry to the hospital wing so Madam Pomfrey could make sure he was okay. But if so, why had Hermione gone with him and not Ron? They went everywhere together, they were already famous for it. The Sorting passed her in a blur, and she clapped when everyone else clapped, barely noticing the new first years as they joined the table. Just as the last student joined the Hufflepuff table, Harry and Hermione entered the Hall, hurrying to the Gryffindor table. They had their heads down, avoiding the curious gazes. Ginny saw people point and whisper. She sucked in a breath. She knew what that felt like.


“Are you all right?” Rowena whispered.


Ginny put on a false smile. It was getting easier and easier. “Fine…”


She was spared further interrogation by Professor Dumbledore, who stood up to make his customary speech. All the students stopped talking and looked at him expectantly. You could never be sure what to expect from a Dumbledore speech. That was what made him so much fun. Fred and George respected him, and they didn’t respect many grown ups that Ginny could think of.


“Welcome!” Dumbledore said, his blue eyes kind as he gazed upon them all. “Welcome to another year at Hogwarts! I have a few things to say to you all, and as one of them is very serious, I think it best to get it out of the way before you become befuddled by our excellent feast…” His face darkened. “As you will be aware after their search of the Hogwarts Express, our school is presently playing host to some of the Dementors of  Azkaban, who are here on Ministry business… they are stationed at every entrance to the grounds, and while they are with us, I must make it plain that nobody is to leave the school without permission. Dementors are not to be fooled by tricks or disguises – or even Invisibility Cloaks.”


Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny saw Ron and Harry look at each other. She stored that away to think about later. Dumbledore’s voice grew even more serious.


“It is not in the nature of a Dementor to understand pleading or excuses. I therefore warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you. I look to the Prefects, and our new Head Boy and Girl, to make sure that no student runs afoul of the Dementors.”


Ginny wondered how Percy could protect them from the Dementors: bore them so much they decided it wasn’t worth hanging around? Dumbledore was looking around the Hall, making sure that everyone understood him. Ginny didn’t think it was necessary. Everyone on the Express already knew that Dementors were bad for you in every way.


“On a happier note, I am pleased to welcome two new teachers to our ranks this year,” Dumbledore continued, the light returning to his eyes. “Firstly, Professor Lupin, who has kindly consented to fill the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.”


Professor Lupin looked thin and shabby compared to the other teachers.  Ginny knew what that was like, and she clapped extra hard, along with Neville, Hermione, Ron and Harry. Esmé and Rowena craned their necks to see him. Catharine was already telling everyone in their year what she’d heard. Ron whispered to Harry and pointed. Ginny turned around and suddenly saw what he meant.


Professor Snape was staring at Professor Lupin as if he wanted to kill him.


Ginny whipped round again, staring at the table. Everyone knew Snape wanted the Defence Against the Dark Arts post, he’d wanted it ever since he came to teach, but she’d never seen him look like that before. Dumbledore was speaking again.


“… Professor Kettleburn, our Care of Magical Creatures teacher, retired at the end of last year in order to enjoy more time with his remaining limbs. However, I am delighted to say that his place will be filled by none other than Rubeus Hagrid…”


For a moment there was silence, and everyone at the Gryffindor table stared at each other, then at the teachers’ table. Sure enough, there was Hagrid, his enormous bulk highly visible next to Professor McGonagall’s spare, upright form. Then the applause erupted from every corner of the room, but the Gryffindors did more than applaud. They stamped their feet, they banged their fists upon the table, and the twins wolf whistled. Hagrid went bright red and stared down at his hand, his cheeks stretched wide with a smile. Ginny smiled and turned back to the table, as Dumbledore pronounced those magic words: “Let the feast begin!”


Ginny dug in happily, glancing at Harry every now and then to satisfy her other hunger. The fact she’d been in Harry Potter’s compartment with Professor Lupin had already given her a certain social advantage, so she spent most of the meal dodging various questions and answering others. It was rather pleasant to have people staring at her with curiosity and admiration instead of awe and fear. She basked in the attention. Even when they went up to bed, people were still crowding around her, wanting to know what had happened. By now the rumours were ridiculous: Harry had actually stopped breathing, there had been ten Dementors in the compartment, Professor Lupin had faced them down with a rod of fire, Professor Lupin gave out free chocolate to anyone who asked…


Ginny glimpsed Luna just before they turned down opposite corridors and waved, but Luna didn’t notice. She was off in her own world. Ginny shrugged to herself. They would probably bump into each other again at some point. She should apologise. She didn’t want Luna to feel abandoned.


“Did you see how Snape was looking at Professor Lupin?” she asked the other girls in the dormitory that evening.


“Yeah!” Catharine said, flopping onto her stomach. “If looks could kill, Lupin would have keeled over on the spot!”


“What do you mean?” Rowena asked, trying to decide which flannel pyjama set she should wear. Esmé had already changed and was in bed, stroking the spine of her Monster Book; Catharine hadn’t even bothered to take out any nightclothes. Ginny carefully slipped on her own thick pyjamas – scarlet, unfortunately – and hopped into her four poster, grateful for the hot brick which had been placed there by the house elves.


“Snape was giving Professor Lupin the Evil Eye!” Catharine said, rolling her eyes dramatically. “There’s some ancient grudge between them, I bet you!”


“Don’t be ridiculous, he’s probably just annoyed because he thought that after Lockhart, Dumbledore would beg him to take the post,” Esmé retorted.  “I wonder where Professor Lupin was teaching before, they didn’t pay him very well, by the looks of it.”


“Maybe he’s been ill,” Rowena said, picking out a pale blue set. “He did look rather thin. And he’s got grey hair, too.”


“What does that have to do with anything?” Catharine asked, nonplussed.


Rowena looked defensive. “It means he’s stressed!”


“Then he’s hardly come to the right place, has he?” Esmé pointed out. “Teaching at Hogwarts isn’t exactly what I’d call a rest cure, and as for the Defence post… everyone knows it’s jinxed!”


“Then maybe all he needs is feeding up,” Rowena suggested. This could not be disputed so there was silence for a few moments.


“Maybe he’s just a typical man; men don’t care about their clothes,” Catharine said in a wise voice.


Esmé shook her head. “They were good clothes, just very old.”


“It doesn’t matter how he dresses, what’s important is whether he’s actually got anything to teach us,” Ginny said firmly. “And from what I saw on the train, the prospects look good.”


“Yeah, we’ll actually have to work in Defence lessons instead of listening to Lockhart witter on about how fabulous he is, what a shame,” Esmé said with a smirk, and they all laughed.


Later in bed, however, when the lights were out, the look on Snape’s face returned to Ginny’s mind, along with Professor Lupin’s name.


Remus… Remus… Remus… I know I’ve read it somewhere.


She slid her book out from under the mattress and lit her candle so that she could read herself to sleep.


One day her mother said to her, "Come, Little Red Cap, take this piece of cake and bottle of wine and bring them to your grandmother. She's sick and weak, and this will strengthen her. Get an early start, before it becomes hot, and when you're out in the woods, be nice and good and don't stray from the path, otherwise you'll fall and break the glass, and your grandmother will get nothing. And when you enter her room, don't forget to say good morning, and don't go peeping in all the corners."

"I'll do just as you say," Little Red Cap promised her mother…


Don’t stray from the path, don’t go peeping in all the corners, don’t do this, don’t do that. The problem was, Ginny thought, her eyelids slipping down, that sometimes you couldn’t help looking in the corners… sometimes you didn’t know when you strayed from the path…


If it was that simple, life would be much safer, and happier. And so much more boring.


DISCLAIMER: Ginny Weasley, the entire Weasley family and all things Harry Potter belong to J.K. Rowling, not me. They just tend to invade my head every so often.

AUTHOR’S NOTES: Okay… I know it’s been a long time since I uploaded the first chapter. Eight months, in fact. That’s because I was in my final year at university, and my studies just took over my entire life. I didn’t actually stop writing, but I couldn’t write as much or as fast as I wanted, partly because of time, partly because my desire to write was submerged beneath the need to study. I wrote bits and pieces of this second chapter, but I’ve only really just finished it in the last week or so.


Now that’s been said: I am not trying to imply that Ginny hates Molly or that Ginny is a brat. She’s turned twelve, the hormones are already starting to rage, and after her experiences, she doesn’t want to be cosseted. I’m trying to show the beginning of the desire for independence that leads to the absolute fit we see in OotP when Molly drags her upstairs in 12 Grimmauld Place. I hope Luna is in character: she was rather difficult to capture at first, but practise makes perfect!


To all those who have waited so long, thanks for being patient with me. I hope you enjoy the chapter.



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