The Sugar Quill
Author: Starsea (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Watching for Wolves  Chapter: Part Three: Hands
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PART THREE: Hands

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“But Grandma, what big hands you have.”

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

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In a complete turnaround from last year, everyone was looking forward to Defence Against the Dark Arts. Most of the second years listened to the students in the years above them discuss Professor Lupin’s lessons, but what intrigued Ginny was that he had somehow managed to impress Percy and the twins at the same time, a feat accomplished in her memory by only one other person, their oldest brother Bill. Percy raved about his carefully planned lessons, while Fred and George would only say that Lupin was 'cool', but coming from the twins, that was the ultimate compliment. Obviously, there was more to the new teacher than his shabby exterior.

What with a ready-made network of elder brothers and having previous experience of Professor Lupin’s skills on the Express, Ginny was doing better than she’d dared to hope.

It was a pity that social success didn’t cure nightmares.

“Oh my God, I am so excited!” Catharine squealed on the eve of their first lesson with Professor Lupin. "I can't wait to see what we learn!"

This was the first time anyone could remember that Catharine was actually interested in lessons. Esmé gave her a scornful look. "What about that get-well card you sent to Lockhart, hmm? Abandoned him already, have you?”

“No, but he’s there, and Professor Lupin's here,” Catherine sighed, gazing into space with starry eyes.

“He's not that good-looking," Ginny said, rolling her eyes.

Catharine glared at her and then smirked. “Yeah, well, we all know who you like, don’t we?” she said, and broke into song. “His eyes are as green as a fresh-pickled toad, his hair is as dark as a blackboard-!”

White-hot anger blazed through Ginny, blocking out everything except Catharine’s taunting face, and she grabbed the nearest thing.

“I wish he was mine, he’s really divine, the hero who-”

“SHUT UP!”

The pillow hit Catharine squarely in the face, and she fell back on the bed for a moment, stunned. Ginny grabbed her wand with no thought in her head except making sure Catharine didn’t sing the rest of that song.

“Erumpo Chiroptera!”

There was an explosion; a black stream poured out of Ginny’s wand into the air, separating into hundreds of flapping wings, all heading towards Catharine’s face, filling her mouth, covering her whole body. She flailed, trying to push them off, her screams becoming muffled, the slapping of bat wings filling the air.

Ginny couldn’t believe it: she’d never been able to produce a single bat before, even with all her attempts at that hex. Why now? What had changed? She stared at the seething blackness attacking her friends.

That came out of me… That was inside me…

Esmé’s face was in front of her, mouthing something, but there was a delay between what Ginny saw and what she heard, so that the sound came flying out of nowhere.

“Stop it, Ginny, stop it!"

Ginny gasped. She lifted her wand and said, the words like cotton in her mouth, “Finite Incantatem.”

The bats vanished; the air was clear and silent. Catharine sat up, her face white with shock. Rowena avoided looking at Ginny, rubbing Catharine’s back. Esmé didn’t move.

“How did you do that?” she said in a low voice.

“I… don’t know,” Ginny said, her legs wobbling. “It never worked before… I…” The world swam before her eyes, and the last thing she saw was Rowena flying out of the door before everything disappeared into the dark.

This darkness… inside of me… I can’t get out. It’s still here, he’s still here, waiting, just waiting to gobble me up. I’m not free. I’m not safe…

“Miss Weasley.”

What is Professor McGonagall doing inside my head?

“Miss Weasley, can you hear me?”

Ginny blinked and saw two dark eyes gazing anxiously into her own, set in a pale thin face. She licked her lips. “Professor?”

“I am glad to see you’re awake,” said Professor McGonagall. “You can never be sure when someone who has fainted will regain consciousness.”

Ginny gazed at the vaulted ceiling and the long tall windows. She was in the infirmary, in one of those long white beds that Harry had been in last year. It was empty except for her and McGonagall and so quiet that she could hear the Deputy Head breathing.

“Catharine-!” she said, remembering and turning to McGonagall. “Professor, I’m sorry, I just got so angry-!”

“Miss Watson is unharmed,” Professor McGonagall said calmly, stopping the flow of words. “She is a little shocked, but that is all.” She paused, watching Ginny’s face. Ginny looked down, feeling herself flush.

“Miss Weasley, I confess I am a little surprised at your actions. There are students who seem to think every argument needs to be solved with a duel, but I didn’t expect you to be among them. Your three companions would not tell me what started the argument, but it must have been quite serious.”

Ginny felt even worse. How could she explain? “She was… making fun of me, Professor. Not just me, someone I know… a friend.” Her fingers twisted and pleated the coverlet on the bed. There was a silence. She heard McGonagall sigh a little.

“Miss Weasley, I am aware that you had a difficult first year. I was there when you and Mr. Potter returned from the Chamber, if you recall.”

“Oh… yes,” Ginny said, looking down. Her memory became rather blurred at that point, emotions stronger than actual images.

“Even if I had not been there, as your Head of House, I need to know about anything that may affect my students,” Professor McGonagall continued. “I think what happened last year has certainly affected you, yes?”

“I’m all right!” Ginny said instantly. “I don’t want to miss lessons or anything!” She gripped the coverlet tightly. Missing lessons would just confirm that there was something wrong with her…

“Of course you will continue with your lessons,” Professor McGonagall agreed. “But if there is something troubling you, Miss Weasley, you should tell somebody. Ignoring what happened is not going to help anybody, least of all you.”

Ginny pressed her lips together tightly. “Does… anybody else know about what happened?” she asked, dreading the answer.

“Your teachers have been informed, of course. If you faint again… or if something else happens… they will need to know what to do.”

Because I’m contaminated, is that it? Because you have to keep an eye on me. You can’t let me harm the other students, or myself… I have to be watched. I’m dangerous. Why did you even let me come back if that’s what you think?!

Ginny hunched her shoulders. She was right back to square one – everyone would hear about what she’d done to Catharine. She’d be ostracised. What if Harry heard? The more she thought about it, the more hopeless it seemed.

“Now, Miss Weasley,” said Professor McGonagall, as if the subject were closed, “although you have been under stress, I cannot allow you to go hexing your dorm companions without punishment.”

Ginny looked up, startled. “What…?”

“You will report to my office this Saturday to do your detention.” Professor McGonagall stood up. “I suggest you stay here for the night. If Madam Pomfrey catches you trying to sneak back to your dormitory, I will not be responsible.” Her lips twitched slightly, and then she turned and left the room.

Ginny watched her go, stunned. Then a small smile made its way to her lips. At least she wasn’t getting special treatment. Good old McGonagall.

“Fred and George are going to be so proud of me,” she murmured, settling back on her pillows.

* * *

Next morning, the Gryffindor table went silent as she appeared. Ginny ignored the silence and sat down to breakfast, although her appetite seemed to have vanished. She could see Hermione and Ron casting worried glances at her from where they were sitting, though Harry didn’t even notice.

Of course not, he never notices, she thought bitterly, and shoved a whole rasher of bacon in her mouth. The meat juices made her feel a little better but not much.

“Scrambled eggs, Ginny?” Ron said loudly, and she looked up in surprise.

“Oh, um, thanks, Ron.” She scooped some onto her plate. She hated scrambled eggs, but the gesture was still appreciated. It wasn’t like he could protect her from her own classmates.

Hermione slid down next to her. “I heard about what happened, Ginny. Are you all right?”

Ginny felt something jump onto her lap and saw that it was Crookshanks, who turned around three times and settled down, purring loudly. Ginny fed him a bit of bacon, and he licked her fingers with a rough pink tongue. “What exactly did you hear?” she asked quietly.

“That you attacked Catharine,” Hermione said, watching her face. “Why?”

“She started singing that stupid song about Harry,” Ginny said, mixing the scrambled eggs with baked beans to make them edible. “I didn’t mean to hex her, I just… lost control.”

Hermione sighed. “I know it’s difficult not to react when you hear things about Harry… I’m always having to hold back Ron when Malfoy says something.”

Ginny grinned at her plate and fed Crookshanks another piece of bacon. “What I didn’t understand… Hermione, I managed a Bat Bogey Hex.” She heard the older girl gasp and continued before Hermione could say anything. “I’ve never been able to do it before. I’ve practised and practised, but nothing. Why could I do it last night?”

Hermione was silent. Ginny played with her scrambled eggs for a while, then finally cut off a piece, put it in her mouth and swallowed without chewing. “Do you think it’s because of what… he did to me?”

“No!” Hermione said loudly, which made everyone look at her. Hermione ignored them, but she lowered her voice to a fierce whisper. “Ginny, he’s gone. It wasn’t anything to do with him. Your family are great wizards – look at Percy. Even Fred and George… well, they’re inventive…”

Hermione said ‘inventive’ as if she wasn’t quite sure whether it was a compliment or not, but Ginny smiled. The thought that she was following in her brothers’ footsteps was comforting at the moment.

“Anyway,” Hermione finished, “I’m sure you’re going to be a great witch.”

“Thanks, Hermione,” Ginny said, stroking Crookshanks, whose purr seemed to vibrate in her bones. “I just… I don’t know how it’s going to be for a while. Everything was going so well, and now they’re going to act like I’m a Dungbomb.”

“Let them,” Hermione said fiercely. “People are incredibly fickle, Ginny – you saw how everyone turned on Harry last year… but they turned right back again!” she went on hurriedly, seeing Ginny’s expression. “That’s what I was trying to say, I doubt this will last.”

Ginny pushed Crookshanks off and stood up. “I’d better get my books ready,” she said and hurried away.

Outside the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, none of the Gryffindors spoke. The only sound came from the Ravenclaws, chattering to each other about what the new professor would teach them. Ginny was at the head of the queue, holding her head high. She wasn’t going to let them see her beaten and cringing. She still had her pride, Weasley pride.

“Hi, Ginny!”

She turned her head, startled. Colin Creevey beamed at her, camera around his neck as usual. They hadn’t really spoken since they’d returned to school, and Ginny was wondering why Colin wanted to talk to her now.

“Hi, Colin…” she said slowly. “How are you?”

“I’m good. About what happened on the train with Harry…”

“What happened with Harry?” she repeated. “Oh yes, I’ve been meaning to tell you…”

Colin’s brown eyes widened in eagerness and just as he leaned forward, Professor Lupin opened the door. They all looked at him immediately, taking him in. As before, Ginny noticed the contrast between the lines on his pale skin and the light in his brown eyes. A clash of signs. Was he young or old? The smile solved the puzzle, smoothing the lines away, and she realised that he was young - or younger than her father, at any rate.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, I was just preparing for the lesson,” he said, his voice light and calm, such a contrast to Lockhart’s bombastic tones that everyone had to strain to hear him. “Do come in.” He stepped aside, and Ginny had no choice but to walk forward under his eyes. She felt no censure, no accusation, no suspicion. His gaze was kind.

She sat down, and found that tears were pricking her eyes. She could have dealt with hostility or disapproval or wariness. She was not prepared for kindness. Someone sat beside her, but Ginny didn’t dare look up. She had to get herself under control, and did this while getting out her book and her quill and her parchment and her ink well (tightly stoppered).

Professor Lupin waited until everyone had sat down. Then he shut the door and walked to the front of the classroom. He did not swagger like Lockhart had done, but there was something about his presence that kept everyone quiet, waiting to see what he would do. After reaching the blackboard, he turned and surveyed everyone in silence for a while. He didn’t seem to be nervous about facing them. There was a serenity about him.

“Well,” he finally said. “It’s nice to meet you all. My name is Professor Lupin, that’s L-U-P-I-N, and I will be your Defence Against the Dark Arts professor for this year. I want to learn your names, so it would be helpful to tell me who you are before answering a question. Now – I understand that your education last year may not have been up to standard –”

“Up to standard, more like a joke!” said Esmé loudly, and there was a whole chorus of agreement.

“He never even told us if he’d really seen a Yeti,” said a voice mournfully besides Ginny, and she turned to see that Luna Lovegood was sitting next to her.

“Hi, Luna!” she said, surprised.

Luna smiled vaguely at her. She had a pair of earrings that looked like parsnips dangling from her earlobes, except that they were purple and not white, and her hands were decorated with swirls, also in purple. “The seat was empty, so I sat down.”

“That’s… fine,” Ginny said, smiling in reflex and wondering what to say. “How are you?”

“It’s been an interesting week,” Luna said, nodding.

“What have you done to your hands?” Ginny asked, noticing that some Ravenclaw girls were pointing and whispering.

Luna smiled and held them up. “Good, aren’t they? I drew them myself. They’re mandalas. The sacred circle, you know. I always draw them on my hands before Defence Against the Dark Arts. You can never tell…”

“Never tell what?” Ginny whispered.

“What’s going to be attracted to this class. Given the subject, it could be anything: Spaws, Nargles, Gurzles… I like to be prepared. Do you think this is going to be interesting?”

Ginny was about to answer when the noise finally died down. Relieved, she nodded and looked back at Professor Lupin. He was almost smiling.

“Since, as you have so vividly told me, your education in this subject lacked something last year, we will have to do the work of your first year as well as the work for this year.” He paused to let this sink in. “This will be hard work, but I’m confident you can manage it. Are you?”

There was a resounding ‘YES!’ No self-respecting Ravenclaw would have been caught dead turning down an academic challenge. No self-respecting Gryffindor would have been caught dead turning down a challenge full stop.

Professor Lupin smiled at the answer. “Excellent. Then we won’t waste any time.” He turned to the blackboard and wrote down the words ‘Dark Arts’ before turning back to the class. “As you know, this class is called ‘Defence Against the Dark Arts’. But what are the Dark Arts, precisely? You have spells and rituals that are definitely dark, and others that – if you’ll forgive the pun – fall into shades of grey. Ideas?” He looked at them expectantly. Everyone looked at each other. There had been no interaction the previous year, it had just been Lockhart rabbiting on and on about what he’d done, and they’d either taken notes or done their homework from other classes or ignored the fact they were in a lesson altogether.

Ginny waited for someone to say something but no one spoke. Eventually she put up her hand.

“Yes, Miss Weasley,” Professor Lupin said with a smile.

Ginny didn’t ask how he knew her name. Four older brothers with freckles and red hair tended to mark you out. “Forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do,” she said.

Professor Lupin nodded and wrote her answer on the board. “Yes, that’s definitely classified as a Dark Art. Anybody else?”

One of the Ravenclaws put his hand up. “Torturing someone?”

“Good… what else?”

More and more people began to volunteer ideas. Even Rowena came up with one, emboldened by Professor Lupin’s kind smile. “Love potions?” she said tentatively, to a chorus of hoots and whistles.

“Ah… now we come to the shades of grey that I was talking about,” Professor Lupin said, raising his eyebrows. “A love potion doesn’t kill someone, nor does it torture them… not while they’re under its influence anyway.” There were a few nervous smirks at this. “Love potions are banned at Hogwarts… but does that make them Dark?”

There was a silence. Everyone considered the question. Ginny was surprised to see Catharine put up her hand. “Well… it’s not like they harm people, is it, Professor? I mean… love potions, they’re just a bit of fun, really.”

“A bit of fun,” Professor Lupin repeated. The words hung in the air for some moments before he spoke again. “Perhaps they are – for the person who uses them… but consider the person who actually takes the potion, usually without knowing it.” He began to walk back and forth, and the class followed him with their eyes. “The victim – yes, that’s what the person who ingests the potion is called, the victim – usually behaves in an extravagant manner that is totally out of character. Most of the time, the victim ends up entangled with someone that he or she doesn’t love, and may not even like. There have been cases where people have found themselves married someone they barely know; a few women were actually pregnant…” Some of the girls shuddered. “Not a nice thought, is it?” Professor Lupin agreed. “Married to a stranger, perhaps even having his baby. It’s certainly not as bad as killing or torturing someone… but what’s worse? Physical pain… or emotional pain? Are you saying that causing someone emotional distress isn’t Dark, Miss Watson?”

Catharine fidgeted, not liking the way everyone was looking at her. “I didn’t think of it like that… I mean, hurting people is bad, whichever way you do it…”

Professor Lupin nodded. He looked at them all for the moment and then said, “Physical pain is bad, but it can be endured. Emotional pain lasts longer, and leaves deeper scars. That is what makes the Dark Arts so terrifying: they can leave you with scars that will never heal. They can leave you utterly broken in mind, heart and soul… even if you think you can control them eventually they will end up controlling you. That is why you need a strong defence. And that is what I am here to teach you.”

His words rang in the silence. Ginny could hear a rushing in her ears. Even if you think you can control them, eventually they will end up controlling you. He couldn’t have been speaking to her more clearly than if he’d added her name at the end of the speech. She opened and closed her fists, barely breathing. She was sure that everyone was looking at her. How could they not? Everyone knew what had happened… well, they knew she’d been taken into the Chamber… Ginny took a deep breath and looked around, but everyone was staring at Professor Lupin. He looked back, sombre and intense, then a brief smile flickered over his features.

“Are you ready to begin?” he said. The reply was more of a roar, but he seemed satisfied.

It seemed as if the lesson whizzed by. Ginny felt like she’d just picked up her pen when the bell rang and the students began to gather their books and things, ready for the next lesson. “Luna,” she said, carefully packing things in, “I’m sorry that I left you on the train. I didn’t mean to just abandon you.”

“You were worried about that boy, weren’t you?” Luna said, frowning. “Neville Longcheek?”

A snort of laughter burst out of Ginny’s mouth before she could help herself. “Neville Longbottom, yes. He’s a bit accident-prone, you see, and-”

“You don’t have to justify yourself to me,” Luna said, sliding her book bag onto her shoulder. Ginny was amazed to see a smile on her face. “I can take care of myself.”

“But the Dementors,” Ginny said, staring at her, “did one come into your compartment?”

“I think one peeked in, yes,” Luna said, blinking. “I don’t really remember much about it. It was awfully dark, you see.” She smiled again. “Bye.”

“Bye,” Ginny replied, watching her go. The group of Ravenclaw girls who had been whispering and giggling followed Luna out of the classroom. Ginny wondered for a moment whether she ought to go and walk with her, but Luna had said she could take care of herself. Ginny knew what it was like to have people fussing over you when all you wanted was to be left alone. She wasn’t going to do the same thing to Luna. Besides, she’d had an idea, and she wanted to try it out.

Taking a deep breath, Ginny marched up to the desk where Professor Lupin was sitting. He did not look up immediately, so she waited, wondering if she should clear her throat or try to get his attention, but there was no need. He dotted the end of a sentence and looked up with those kind brown eyes.

“What can I do for you, Miss Weasley?”

Ginny opened her mouth, then looked down. Why did she have to be stricken all of a sudden? He wasn’t Harry! He was just a teacher! Please don’t tell me I’m going to start fancying Professor Lupin as well, and be one of those girls who’re in love with five men at the same time like Catharine, I couldn’t take that!

“Did something about today’s class upset you?”

She licked her lips. Speak, you idiot! “No, Professor, not at all… but… I wanted to know…”

“Yes?”

Ginny took another deep breath. “You’re the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. How do I… you know what happened to me last year.” She looked up, defiant, daring him to say something, anything. Attacking was always the best defence, Ron had taught her that over and over again.

He was still smiling, the same understanding light in his eyes. “Yes, Miss Weasley, Professor Dumbledore has informed me of what happened to you. A terrible ordeal for someone so young.”

“It’s not over!” Ginny said, glaring at him as she held her book bag to her chest. “Everyone thinks it is, but it’s not! I still see… I still dream…” She fought against tears. “I want to stop it! I want to stop dreaming of him, Professor!”

Professor Lupin’s expression darkened, but he did not look away. Ginny knew that he could see her eyes were wet, but it was all she could do to stop herself from crying in front of him, never mind appearing cool about this. She would never be able to keep cool about this.

“Ginny,” Professor Lupin said slowly, “you have been through a terrible ordeal. Such things mark us… scar us. We do not recover from them easily… You are young, which helps, but you will need to be patient. And I’m not surprised you’re having nightmares. That’s actually a good sign – yes, a good sign,” he repeated, smiling briefly at Ginny’s look of disbelief. “I’m sure you’re aware that many people believe dreams are visions of the future, but in my experience that’s very rare. Most dreams are more like… mental photographs. The mind sorts through the things it has learned, absorbing them, ordering them. Nightmares are when your mind is dealing with something extremely disturbing. In nightmares, you are brought face to face with what is frightening you, and the mind attempts to get rid of this fear, or at least subjugate it. People have told you to just forget what happened, get on with your life, yes?”

Ginny nodded, slowly. “My family…”

Professor Lupin nodded. “Your family wants to protect you from suffering anymore. Understandable but… rather late for that. This is far too big to be forgotten, Ginny, your nightmares show that. As much as you want to… and believe me, I can understand that desire… forgetting what happened is not going to help you.”

“Then what do I do?” Ginny almost shouted. “How do I stop it?”

Professor Lupin was silent for a moment, studying her. “You’re going to be late for your next class,” he said. “Potions, isn’t it?”

Ginny nodded, seething. How could he think about classes at a time like this?

“Then you’d better hurry along. Professor Snape is someone who appreciates punctuality.”

“He doesn’t appreciate anything if it’s from a Gryffindor,” Ginny muttered.

Lupin’s lips twitched, almost as if he wanted to smile. “Nevertheless, you should go. But do drop by my office on Sunday afternoon… I may have some things that can help you. Since you’re asking for my help,” he added.

“Of course!” Ginny said, staring at him. “Who else is going to help me?” Without waiting for an answer, she turned around and hurried off. The way her temper was at the moment, she did not want a scolding from Snape if she could help it.

* * *

Quidditch had been one of Ginny’s favourite activities ever since she could remember. All her brothers except Percy played, and even Percy was a devoted spectator. She hadn’t been allowed to join in with their games, of course, but she’d managed to get around that and one of the few bright points in her first year was finding out about Oliver Wood’s training programme. Wood had dedicated himself to the cause of winning the Quidditch Cup back from Slytherin. Ginny could understand that. She’d been determined to attend practices as soon as she was old enough and now that determination was doubled: not only did she love the game, it would be a way to show everyone that she was normal.

It was a bright, windy day when they arrived on the pitch. The tops of the trees in the Forbidden Forest were swaying gently in time with the breeze. Ginny couldn’t resist a quick glance at the stands to see if Harry was there. No. Only Neville, wearing a pair of fluffy red earmuffs. Ginny wondered how he always managed to make himself a target, but then Oliver Wood emerged from the changing rooms and she forgot all about Neville in her excitement.

Oliver surveyed the group before he spoke, his dark eyes narrow, assessing them already. Only when he’d looked at each and every one of them did he speak. “Good to see some new faces,” he said, nodding. “We’ve got a full team but that isn’t permanent. This is Quidditch; one Bludger and you could be out for weeks. It’s essential that we have good replacements where possible. So I’m going to watch you in each position and see where your talent lies. And we’ll start with the simplest position: Chaser. Now, I’m not saying being Chaser is easy – but when it comes to the game, all you have to do is pass the Quaffle and try to score goals. One aim. We’ll concentrate on passing, then marking, then scoring. That should be enough for today. Get up there and pair off.”

Ginny mounted her broom and kicked at the ground, feeling a rush of delight and relief as gravity released her. She’d been watched so closely over the summer that ‘borrowing’ a broomstick had been almost impossible; she’d almost forgotten just how good it was to feel the wind kiss her face. Her joy at being airborne again was so strong that the first Chaser exercise passed her by in a kind of haze. She didn’t even mind having Lewis Gudgeon as her partner. Lewis often had to fly off to retrieve her passes after missing them, but Ginny didn’t care. She didn’t even care that he seemed to be throwing the Quaffle everywhere except at her. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except the sun, the sky and the space all around her. She knew what to do. Hadn’t she seen her brothers practice this a hundred times? The Quaffle flew through the air and Ginny knew exactly where she had to go in order to grab it. It was cool and rough in her hands, vibrating slightly with its anti-gravity charm. She wanted to fly towards the end of the pitch and fling it through the hoops, then loop the loop and scream for joy.

You can’t get me here. Not here. I’m free. You never flew, never! The whistle almost shocked her – had they really been playing for five minutes? She turned her broom and flew towards Oliver, who was hovering in the middle of the pitch.

“Quaffles in the centre!” Oliver said, balancing on his broom with a confidence that reminded Ginny of Charlie. He waited until everyone had tossed their Quaffles towards him so that they hovered in a red ring around his broomstick. “Some good passing, but now we’re moving onto marking,” he announced. “Anyone can throw a Quaffle but the secret of being a good Chaser is being able to pass and mark at the same time. Based on what I’ve seen, I’m going to put you into threes – passer, receiver and marker. The passer will be looking to pass the Quaffle to the receiver, while the marker will be trying to stop this happening. Mind, I’m not saying who to mark – because that all depends on you and your personal judgement. Intuition is part of Quidditch, and intuition is what helps a Chaser to know where they should be marking.”

Ginny got paired with Margaret Jones and Demelza Robins. Both of them smiled at her. “Saw you with Lewis, you look pretty good,” Demelza remarked, her Cornish accent turning every word into a song. “Shame that he’s a bit inaccurate.”

Margaret clicked her tongue. “Shouldn’t even be up here if he’s that bad, how’s he going to cope when we have to dodge the Bludgers?”

Ginny sighed. “I think Lewis will probably miss next week.”

“Along with about half of us,” Margaret remarked. “Are those girls friends of yours, Ginny?”

Ginny glanced down. To her shock, Catharine, Esmé and Rowena were sitting in the stands next to Neville. Rowena waved and Esmé held her hand to her eyes. “They’re… from my dormitory,” she managed to say.

“Good to see them out here in support,” Demelza said with a smile. “So, you going to be the marker, Ginny?”

“What… oh, yeah.” Ginny nodded. “Ready when you are.” She flew in front of Margaret, part of her still in a daze. Why were they there? Catharine as well, not just Rowena and Esmé. Ginny would have been less surprised to see Luna, although she had no idea what Neville would have made of her.

She wasn’t allowed to stay shocked for long. Demelza and Margaret were much closer to her skill level and she found it difficult to both mark Margaret and keep her eye on the Quaffle. Still, she felt that she’d made the right decision. Demelza was much more agile on her broom than Margaret, more willing to loop and twist. Eventually, Ginny got the Quaffle and they switched around. This time, Margaret marked, while Ginny was the passer and Demelza the receiver. Ginny couldn’t help noticing that she and Demelza made a good team. Margaret noticed it, too. She got redder and redder and switched from marking Ginny to marking Demelza. Oliver blew the whistle just after she finally caught the Quaffle.

“You didn’t get to mark,” Ginny said to Demelza in a low voice as they flew back. She didn’t want Margaret hearing.

Demelza shrugged and gave her a quick smile. “If you’re as dedicated about this as you seem to be, I’ll surely get a chance. It was good to play with you, Ginny.”

Ginny felt a warmth spread through her. “You too,” she said, then Oliver began to speak.

“Right; I’m going to give you each a shot at scoring. Firstly without any barrier and then with me in front of them as Keeper. And if you can get a goal past me, then you might be a future Chaser.”

“So no pressure,” Margaret muttered, making Demelza and Ginny giggle.

They were right at the end of the queue. Lewis managed to score a goal without Oliver there but the presence of someone in front of the hoops completely threw him and his second throw went soaring over them towards the Forbidden Forest. It was a good thing that the Quaffle was charmed to stop at the pitch barrier. Oliver Summoned it back and threw it to the next in line. Margaret almost got a goal past him, but Oliver flipped at the last moment and blocked the Quaffle with the end of his broom. Demelza got one past him by feinting and then throwing overarm instead of under. Everyone cheered and clapped her. Ginny took a deep breath and flew forward, catching the Quaffle easily and throwing it through the hoops unblocked without a second thought. Then she held it in her hands, watching as Oliver flew back and forth, aware of all the eyes on her, hearing the wind blow in her ears.

It came to her that you need all three things in Quidditch: your eyes to see where the Quaffle is, your ears to hear what your teammates want and to listen for Bludgers and your hands, of course. Hands were an essential part of the game. She thought of Harry’s hands, reaching out and grasping the Snitch; Harry’s hands, covered in blood and gripping Gryffindor’s sword.

She lifted the Quaffle and threw. It sailed just under Oliver’s outstretched arm and through the hoop. The people behind her whooped and clapped and when she looked at the stands, she saw that Rowena and Catharine were standing up, while Neville had put both fingers in his mouth to whistle.

“Weasley, Robins, I’d like to speak to you!” Oliver said as they all landed. “Just a quick five minutes,” he added as they walked back to him. “Have either of you ever thought of being Seeker?”

Ginny stared at him. Demelza looked equally shocked. “Surely you’re not thinking of replacing Harry, Oliver?” she asked. “He’s amazing.”

Ginny went from shocked to slightly suspicious. Did Demelza think Harry’s Quidditch skills were amazing or did she think Harry was amazing?

Oliver laughed. “No chance of us replacing Harry while he’s fit and willing,” he assured them. “But he does have a tendency to… well, things happen to him, you both know that.” His eyes flickered to Ginny, but he carried on. “I would like to know that there’s a replacement in an emergency.”

Demelza shook her head. “I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t just sit there, watching and waiting. I need to be doing something.”

Oliver nodded soberly and looked at Ginny. “Weasley?” He raised an eyebrow.

Ginny looked at him and realised why she liked him so much. She nodded. “I’ll think about it,” she said.

A relieved smile spread over Oliver’s face. “Great. I’ll see you both next week, all right? Good practice!” He ran off to pack up the Quaffles, broom on his shoulder.

Demelza watched him go and sighed. “I’m not saying devotion on Quidditch is a bad thing but… he could open his eyes occasionally.”

Ginny looked at her, startled. Then she smiled ruefully. “I know exactly what you mean,” she agreed. “They can be so…”

“Blind,” Demelza finished. They both laughed and walked back to the changing rooms. Margaret had been waiting. Ginny could tell that she wasn’t impressed by the way she immediately started asking Demelza about what Oliver had wanted. Ginny shrugged to herself, showered and dressed, more interested in finding out how the other girls had found out about the training. Demelza still managed to shoot her a quick smile before she left, and Ginny put that away to think about.

Rowena, Catharine, Esmé and Neville were all waiting for her by the stands, beaming.

“You were brilliant!” Neville said, his eyes round. “You should definitely get on the team, Ginny!”

Ginny shrugged, feeling a Weasley blush spread over her face. “I’ve still got a lot of training to do before I get that good, Neville.”

“You got one past Oliver, that’s not easy to do,” Esmé observed. “And Demelza looked good as well. But what was Lewis doing there?”

Ginny laughed. “I have no idea – how did you find out about this anyway?”

Rowena smiled. “You’re not the only one who’s interested in Quidditch, Ginny! And you’re our dorm mate. It’s only right we come and cheer you on.”

“Oliver Wood is so dreamy,” sighed Catharine. “What were you two talking about?” She nudged Ginny, trying to look sly. “I bet it was nice to look into those big brown eyes of his.”

Ginny shrugged. “Brown eyes aren’t my thing, remember, Catharine? Now let’s go inside or we’ll be late for Transfiguration.” She gave Neville a smile, thanking him for the support, and he blushed a little.

Catharine kept trying to probe her about Oliver all through Transfiguration, but Ginny didn’t take any notice. She knew why she liked Oliver. She liked him because he called her ‘Weasley’, just like her brothers; because being thin and petite meant she might make a good Seeker, not that she should be protected; because he treated her exactly how she wanted to be treated. And that was a rarity in her life.

* * *

Just before five o’clock on Sunday afternoon, Ginny stood before Professor Lupin’s door, trying to screw up enough courage to knock. Why was she feeling this way? So tense, so cold, so… scared. Why should she be scared of him?

Oh, be honest with yourself if nobody else. You’re not scared of him.

Her hand dropped again, and she took a deep breath, fighting against the burning in her eyes. I will not cry, I will not cry, I WILL NOT CRY. Once the danger was passed, she took a deep breath.

You have to do this. You can’t go through your whole life having nightmares and feeling scared all the time.

Ginny looked at the window set just above her in the curving wall. September sunlight created a golden curtain across the step, and she could see faded blue sky and trails of cloud through the arrow slit. It was a perfect day and she hadn’t even been outside, she’d spent most of it doing homework and worrying about the meeting, not necessarily in that order. Oh, and occasionally looking at Harry to see if he was looking at her. No such luck.

The irritation at Harry was strong enough to push back the fear and help Ginny actually knock on the door. She heard Professor Lupin call out “Come in!” and did so before she could change her mind. Closing the door behind her, she lingered on the threshold, gazing around.

The room was filled with bookcases and tables on which she could see tanks of stagnant water and plaster models of various Dark creatures, which hissed or flapped or snarled on their stands. Some of the books looked very old, the leather on the spines cracking. She could smell paper, beeswax and an unpleasant smell of dank water. Lupin was sitting behind the desk, obviously marking something from the scratches and dots he was making with his quill. He looked up and a smile flashed over his face, like sunlight on a cloudy day. “Miss Weasley. Do sit down.”

Ginny walked forward and sat down on the chair in front of his desk. It immediately shifted to accommodate her, the hugging sensation firm but not claustrophobic. Professor Lupin laid the quill down. “How have you been, Miss Weasley? Apart from the nightmares,” he added as Ginny opened her mouth.

“I’m fine,” she said automatically, then elaborated as he raised an eyebrow. “Well, not fine… I suppose you heard about my detention.”

“I did hear about it,” he said, nodding calmly. “It’s rather early in the term.”

Ginny bit her lip. “I wasn’t aiming to get a detention,” she said, unable to keep the sharpness from her voice. “I’m not like my brothers,” she added in a lower voice, feeling as if she were betraying them by admitting this.

“Of course not,” Lupin said, putting his papers away in a drawer. “You’re a completely separate person. But you are also a Gryffindor.” He straightened, smiling slightly. “And Gryffindors tend to see detentions rather differently from the other houses.”

“Were you a Gryffindor, sir?” Ginny asked, noting the smile.

Professor Lupin nodded. “Yes, strange as it may seem.”

“I don’t think it’s strange,” Ginny said. “You stood up to those Dementors; if that’s not bravery, I don’t know what is.” The room darkened as she remembered their rattling breath and the way Tom’s voice had suddenly invaded her head, growing louder and louder. Goosebumps raced over her skin and she shivered.

“There are all kinds of bravery, Miss Weasley,” Professor Lupin said gently, snapping her back into the present. “Facing down mental demons takes quite as much courage as facing down physical ones. Perhaps more,” he added, almost to himself.

Ginny realised she was leaning forward and made herself sit back in the chair. “You can call me ‘Ginny’, sir. Everybody else does. You did save me in the carriage, it would be silly to stand on formality after that,” she pointed out.

Lupin studied her. “Ginny. Not Ginevra.”

“Urgh, no,” Ginny said, making a face. “Anything but that! I’d rather be called ‘Miss Weasley’! Nobody calls me ‘Ginevra’ except my Great Auntie Muriel, and then she wonders why I hardly ever speak to her.”

Professor Lupin’s mouth twitched. “As someone with a rather unusual first name, I shall honour your wishes,” he said gravely. “Now.” He pushed back his chair and went over to one of the bookshelves. “I noticed that you had an extreme reaction to the Dementors on the train, extreme for someone so young, that is; but it made sense when Professor Dumbledore explained who you were and what had happened to you.”

“What – exactly – did he tell you?” Ginny asked, forcing the words out. She didn’t even want to think about this, but she needed to know exactly how much Dumbledore had said.

Lupin pulled out three books and came back to the desk, setting them on one side. Then he sat down and pulled up his chair, looking her in the eye. “He told me that you’d had the misfortune to be manipulated and then possessed by Lord Voldemort.” Ginny shut her eyes, wondering how he could say that name so easily. “He said that you’d been made to do things without your knowledge, and that it had been a very traumatic experience for you. He also said that you’d been extremely brave.”

Ginny almost jumped out of her chair. “I wasn’t brave! I was stupid, stupid and little and…” Here came the tears, sticking in her throat. She clenched her fists, fighting them. “I was a stupid little girl, sir, I wasn’t brave at all.”

Professor Lupin didn’t reply. When she finally thought it was safe to open her eyes, he was still sitting behind his desk; there was a sad look in his eyes, a look of understanding. “Ginny,” he said. “I could tell you that you were brave and innocent until I was blue in the face, but it wouldn’t do you any good. You have to believe that. You have to believe that you were brave, that you were not just a ‘stupid little girl’. Plenty of people have been fooled by him, Ginny; but not many have lived to tell the tale.”

“Harry-”

“If you want to know about Harry’s motives, I suggest you ask him, not me.”

Ginny almost laughed out loud. Talk to Harry? She couldn’t even look the boy in the eye without going up in flames. “I doubt that’s going to happen, sir,” she said, looking at her knees.

“Well, I didn’t say anything about ‘now’,” Lupin said, a trace of amusement in his voice. “You have all the time in the world to talk to Harry, Ginny. How about we start focusing on you? That is why you’re here, after all.”

Ginny looked up and nodded, grateful that he’d changed the subject. Professor Lupin took the first book off the pile and opened it, obviously having marked his place. Ginny looked at the spines of the other two books: the first had the title picked out in gold on dark green leather: Maladies of the Mind by Ima Loon; the other book was obviously much older, its spine was scored with lines and the title seemed to have been burnt into the skin: Dis-Eases of the Ancient World And Their Remedies by Asklepios Asikis.

“The ancient world?” she murmured.

“Your illness isn’t new, Ginny,” Professor Lupin assured her with a crooked smile. “It’s been around for centuries, for thousands of years; for as long as people have had to fight, in fact.” He turned the book he was holding and held it out to her. “It has various names – maladie du pays, heimweh – but we call it Animus Debilitus, because most people who experience it feel tired, worn out deep inside themselves.”

Ginny nodded slowly and took the book. It was obviously a dictionary of some sort: there was the name; the definition; the symptoms and various treatments. Lower down, a phrase caught her eye.

“An abnormal response to an abnormal situation is normal behaviour,” she read aloud, the words ringing in her mind.

“Your reactions were perfectly reasonable, given your circumstances; now we have to help your body and mind accept that the abnormal situation is over and you are safe,” Lupin explained.

“How?” Ginny said simply, looking at him.

“Carry on with your life, which you’ve already done; but don’t try and pretend you’re all right. If people want to help you, you should let them help you, Ginny. I know that’s hard – believe me, I know – but it is important.” He paused: his dark eyes were sympathetic but his mouth was stern. Ginny knew he meant it. She nodded. Professor Lupin smiled. “The second thing is have fun. I hope you won’t find that too difficult. And the third thing… is a little more challenging.”

“I don’t mind,” Ginny said instantly.

“No, what I mean is… this is something you really will have to do on your own. I can give you the tools but the rest is up to you.” He opened Dis-Eases of the Ancient World and ran his finger down one page. “Since this is an ancient illness, naturally there are ancient remedies – I’ll spare you the one involving toad skin,” he added with a small smile. “The one I think you should try is called ‘lucid dreaming’.”

“Lucid dreaming?” Ginny repeated, thinking it sounded like a soft option.

“It’s a technique where you take control of your dream and make it do what you want, for lack of a better description,” Professor Lupin said with a smile. “You follow the dream to its conclusion but on your terms.”

Ginny couldn’t help smiling. “I like that,” she said. “What do I have to do?”

He handed her the book. “It’s all there.”

The entry was so short that Ginny almost blinked and missed it.

When going to sleep, tell yourself, ‘This is my dream, I am in control.’ Repeat this phrase seven times. Whilst dreaming, if something happens that you don’t like, repeat the phrase until you feel in control. Then take the dream somewhere else.

Ginny stared. She read it over three times. Then she looked up at him, feeling her face burn. “Is this some sort of joke? This isn’t going to help me!”

“I told you it was challenging,” Professor Lupin reminded her. “Magic cannot help you here, Ginny. This is inside your mind. It is between you and what happened. It will take a lot of hard work and patience.” He raised his eyebrows at her. “I know that’s not a Gryffindor’s strong point, but I thought you were determined to try anything.”

“I was! I am! I mean…” Ginny looked down. She hadn’t anticipated that ‘anything’ would mean repeating meaningless phrases. She’d thought she could brew a potion, do some exercises… something practical.

“Anything that’s a little dangerous or strange, but not talking to yourself before going to bed.” Ginny looked up, startled. He’d picked the words out of her head. He looked down for a moment, sighing. “I hate to sound harsh, Ginny, but it’s all you can do: live your life and train yourself to confront your fears. On your own. I can give you encouragement, and we can discuss your progress but that’s all. Or you can take a sleeping draught.” When he looked at her, his eyes were very serious. She felt almost afraid of the look in them. “I told you that there are all kinds of bravery. It would be easier to give you some tasks to do, yes, but they wouldn’t accomplish anything. This is what you need to do. Do you understand?”

She nodded, feeling that she couldn’t do anything else. He’d done all this research for her, he’d taken her seriously. And she did understand what she was saying, but she didn’t like it. She just wanted to make it all go away right now. Hadn’t she gone through enough?

Then Professor Lupin smiled. Wrinkles gathered around his eyes and Ginny felt a sharp pang. Who was she to complain? Professor Lupin looked like he’d gone through lots of bad things, and he could still smile.

“Will you at least give it a try?” he said. “That’s all I ask, Ginny. That you try this.” He held out the book. “Bedtime reading. It’s quite interesting. If you haven’t seen any improvement in three months’ time, then I’ll have it back and you can ask Madam Pomfrey for a sleeping draught.”

Ginny nodded. “I’ll try,” she said, “I’ll definitely try my best.”

“Good.” His smile widened. “I look forward to hearing about your progress.”

She got up, nodded once more, wishing that she could thank him in a better way. Maybe I’ll ask Mum if she can knit a scarf for him,Or maybe there’s something in here. After all, there are probably lots of illnesses in here that are still around under different names. I just need to find out what’s wrong with him.

Fuelled by this resolve, Ginny hurried back to the tower. The Fat Lady gazed down at her, raising one pencil-thin eyebrow. “Someone’s cheered up,” she observed.

“You’re looking lovely today,” Ginny replied with a smile.

The Fat Lady actually blushed and glanced down at herself. “It’s only the same old thing.”

“Yes, but it suits you so well,” Ginny told her, trying not to laugh. “Fortuna Major!”

She climbed into the cCommon rRoom, waved at Rowena and Esmé by the window (Catharine was deep in Witch Weekly), and walked across to the staircase. Harry was at his usual table with Ron, doing his homework. Ginny allowed herself one glance (oh his hair, his eyes), then ran up the stairs and into her dormitory. She put the book on her bedside cabinet and sat down, taking a deep breath. Her bed was by the casement, so she could see out across the ground towards the Forbidden Forest. As she sat looking out, she saw something large and black emerge from the trees. Startled, Ginny stood up and moved closer. It was definitely an animal, on all fours. She thought for one moment that it was a wolf, but wolves were extinct in Scotland. There was that rumour of werewolves, but it was broad daylight. No, it had to be a dog. An extremely big dog. Ginny frowned as the dog turned and moved back into the forest.

“Weird.”

She wondered if Hagrid knew something about it, and made a note to ask him. For now, she didn’t have to do anything except go back downstairs, sit with the girls and relax because she’d done all her homework. She allowed herself to skip, because nobody was there and she was feeling so very buoyed up all of a sudden. Then she stopped. Crookshanks was sitting at the entrance to the boys’ dormitories, lashing his tail. He was making a low growling sound in his throat, which stopped when he saw that Ginny was looking at him.

“You know, there are plenty of other rats in this castle; you don’t have to settle for mangy old Scabbers anymore,” she told him with a frown.

Crookshanks’s face was a little too squashed to register much expression, but his eyes took up the slack. He gave Ginny a look that said he was extremely disappointed in her, turned and trotted back down the stairs. Ginny followed him, thoughtful, wondering. What did he expect? She wanted to tell herself that Crookshanks was just upset about missing out on a free lunch, but somehow, it didn’t seem right. Why would Crookshanks want to deliberately pick on Scabbers now that he had the whole of Hogwarts in which to hunt?

This continued to niggle her for the rest of the day, all through dinner and up to bed. Ginny had been through too much to ignore her instincts but that wasn’t very helpful when she didn’t know what they were telling her. “Look!” she finally said to herself that night, as she brushed her teeth. “You can’t do anything about it. Crookshanks is Hermione’s cat, and Scabbers is Ron’s rat. It’s none of your business what happens. Think about yourself. Think about that great big… thing you saw in the forest. I mean it can’t have been a wolf… wolf!” She stared into the mirror, remembering Professor Lupin’s first name. Remus. That’s it! Remus was a baby found and brought up by wolves! She thought of her story book upstairs and then quickly shook her head. “Don’t. He’s a nice man. He’s a teacher. There’s no way Dumbledore would hire a wolf as a teacher,” she told her pale reflection; then she rinsed her mouth out and hurried to bed.

Ancient Dis-Eases felt heavy in her hands as she took it out, having made sure to draw her curtains first. She could hear Catharine and Rowena talking in low voices as she opened the book and stared at the marked page. A comforting smell of herbs wafted from the paper, reminding her of home, and tears pricked Ginny’s eyes. She took a deep breath and began to commit the phrase to memory.

She would accept this helping hand for now.

Author’s Note

Hello, everyone. I’m really sorry it’s been this long. I actually meant to have this chapter out last December and ran into a massive writer’s block on how to get through it. Heartfelt thanks go to Grace has Victory for helping me to decide on Ginny’s illness, its symptoms and how the wizarding world would cure them. The illness is indeed very ancient and has many names, including the ones used above; the surgeons in the American Civil War called it ‘exhausted heart’ or ‘soldier’s heart’. We know it as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or PTSD.

Thanks also go to godric_gal for reading this chapter and my beta reader, Jo Wickaninnish, for looking over this at such a busy time for her.

The phrase Ginny reads out loud from the book actually comes from Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankel, a psychologist who survived four Nazi concentration camps.

Maladie du pays and heimweh mean ‘homesickness’, in French and German respectively.

I would like to state that I do not believe the Bat Bogey Hex is Dark Magic, nor do I believe Ginny has been 'contaminated' by Riddle. Ginny is overwrought at this point and he is on her mind. That is all.

//
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