Return to the Burrow
The Longbottoms’ house was not unlike number twelve, Grimmauld Place, if Grimmauld Place had been better cared for and not bedecked with Dark objects and paintings with bad attitudes. Neville’s house was large and bright, three stories high, and lay nestled in a quiet corner of London near a snow-covered park. After Mrs. Longbottom healed her bloody lip and made a cup of tea, Ginny was given a guest room on the third floor, a wide and comfortable attic space. Neville and his grandmother had their bedrooms on the second floor, and the first floor was devoted to the sitting room, parlor, kitchen, and dining room.
Ginny stayed up in her room for quite a while, calming herself down, although Mrs. Longbottom’s homemade tea helped a great deal to calm her nerves. Fighting back more tears, she put the broken pieces of Luna’s wand safely in her trunk. She packed the rest of Luna’s belongings (including the D.A. Galleon she had been dismayed to find tucked in a pair of socks) in her trunk as well, determined to keep them safe. Then she shut the lid and went to the window, where she could gaze out at the city.
There was a dense ceiling of fog that did not quite reach the tops of the buildings, making all of the snowy rooftops dotted with golden lights look at though they were buried in huge drifts of snow. She sighed, thinking longingly of the Burrow, and another wave of fear flooded her at the thought that her parents hadn’t come to collect her from King’s Cross. She pushed it from her mind; Mrs. Longbottom was downstairs right now trying to contact her family, and she had no reason to be worried—yet. When she had gotten Arnold to calm down enough that she could leave him in his cage, she went downstairs to find Neville in his bedroom, talking to his Mimbulus mimbletonia, which was now so large that it took up a corner of his bedroom entirely on its own.
He had not noticed her watching him, and she was about to speak when she heard a familiar voice downstairs. Her heart leapt, and she darted down the remaining flight of stairs.
“Thanks so much, Augusta, we—Ginny!”
Ginny came into Mrs. Longbottom’s sitting room, where her father’s head sat in the flickering flames that danced in the fireplace. She gave him a faint smile. “Hi, Dad,” she said. “Where are you?”
“We’re home, we’re all safe here,” he assured her.
“They couldn’t make it to King’s Cross,” said Mrs. Longbottom significantly. Ginny could tell that the Floo call was probably being monitored, and so said nothing else.
“Are you all right?” Dad asked, smiling tiredly. “We can’t wait to have you home.”
“I’m fine, Dad,” she promised. “I miss you.”
“I’ll come to pick you up on Monday, all right?”
“Monday?” Ginny repeated. “But—but—”
Her father widened his eyes and shook his head slightly. “You’re to have a nice weekend visiting with Neville and his grandmother, Ginny, understand?”
Ginny deflated. “All right,” she agreed morosely.
“Your mother sends her love. She’s busy right now, or she’d come and talk,” said Dad. Ginny blinked hard and nodded. “Thanks again, Augusta.”
“Not at all, not at all,” said Mrs. Longbottom, waving a hand. “Good evening, Arthur.”
Ginny sank down in a chair behind Mrs. Longbottom’s as, with a small pop, her father disappeared from the fireplace.
“Where is Neville?” Mrs. Longbottom asked.
“Upstairs, checking on his Mimbulus mimbletonia,” said Ginny quietly.
Mrs. Longbottom chuckled. “I hope I’ve been taking care of it to his satisfaction. He left me detailed instructions when he realized that he would never be able to carry it back to school with him on the train…of course, I’ve always had a talent for Herbology, as well…” She picked up a cup of tea from the table beside her and leaned around her chair to look at Ginny. “Come here, my girl,” she said austerely, pointing to the chair opposite hers.
Ginny obeyed, though she did not look up at Mrs. Longbottom, who narrowed her eyes and stared at her over the rim of her teacup. “Neville has spoken very highly of you for several years now, you know, and though I met you myself not long ago…tonight I saw why. You behaved admirably.”
Ginny stared at the carpet. “It didn’t do much good,” she said.
“I think your parents might disagree with that,” Mrs. Longbottom scoffed. “You saved your own life, and you tried very hard to save your friend from being captured. It was very brave of you.”
Ginny nodded, staring into the fire.
Mrs. Longbottom was still watching her closely. “They won’t harm the Lovegood girl.”
“How can you say that?” Ginny asked, a little more rudely than she had intended. “You can’t know—”
“No, I can’t,” Mrs. Longbottom agreed. “But if Xenophilius Lovegood is in trouble for what his magazine has been writing, they know their best leverage to get him to behave is his daughter, alive but imprisoned. Shockingly, Death Eaters and the people they place under the Imperius Curse are rarely stupid.”
Ginny buried her face in her hands. She had just experienced the longest three days of her life. Everything felt surreal, as though she were dreaming, and suddenly she was extremely tired. Mrs. Longbottom seemed to wish to divert her attention. “How is your… what was it? The purple creature. In the cage, I mean.”
“Pygmy Puff,” Ginny mumbled. She raised her head. “It’s a miniature puffskein. My brothers breed them in their joke shop.”
Mrs. Longbottom raised her eyebrows. “I’ve heard of the shop,” she said. “Neville and I visited it recently. Your brothers are very gifted wizards. Which ones own the store?” Now that she had gotten Ginny talking, she seemed eager to keep the conversation off of Luna.
Ginny cleared her throat. “It’s Fred and George. They’re twins.”
“And you have another brother, who’s ill, I believe?” she asked. “I’ve met him. Ron, isn’t it? How is he?”
Ginny squirmed a bit at the lie, but shrugged. “I haven’t any idea. I haven’t been able to write much to my family,” she said. “I’m sure you’ve noticed Neville hasn’t written much, either.”
Mrs. Longbottom nodded. “So, you are the only girl in a family of—four children?”
“Seven,” said Ginny. “All Gryffindors.”
Mrs. Longbottom smiled slightly. “I had four older brothers. All Gryffindors, too. All brave like you, and Neville, and my son.”
There was a long stretch of silence. Finally, Ginny looked up. “Um…thank you, Mrs. Longbottom. Really, thank you so much for having me. And…thanks for trying to save Luna, too.” The words stuck in her throat.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t help more,” said Mrs. Longbottom, and she seemed truly regretful. Ginny appreciated it. “Has Neville shown you your room?”
She nodded. “Thank you, ma’am. I’m a bit tired.”
“Run along to bed,” Mrs. Longbottom told her. “Our Christmas tree will be delivered tomorrow, if you wish to help decorate it. The two of you ought to have as nice a start to your holiday as you can. I can’t imagine how hard they’ve been working you this year, but you both look ready to collapse from strain.”
“I think we’re probably just tired from tonight,” Ginny lied automatically. “I—I think I’ll go up, then. Good night, Mrs. Longbottom.” She stood and hurried to the stairs.
“Good night, dear.”
Ginny stopped in the doorway and faced Mrs. Longbottom, who was frowning thoughtfully into the fire. “Mrs. Longbottom…how many of your brothers do you still have?”
She raised her eyes shrewdly to stare at Ginny, her expression knowing and sharp. “One.”
“D’you think her dad knows yet?” Ginny asked in a low voice. “I mean, where was he if he wasn’t on the platform? And why weren’t my parents there, why were they at home?”
“He definitely knows,” Neville assured her, attaching a hook to the ornament he held. “I’ll bet you they held him up somehow, so they could get to the platform first.”
“I had a nightmare about what—what happened,” Ginny admitted. “What are they going to do to her?”
“Luna’s brave, Ginny,” he said. “And the worst they can possibly do is drag her off to Azkaban, if they expect to get her dad to do anything they want.”
“You say that like it’s a good thing,” she moaned.
“Well, it’s not like I have any other choices!” He lowered his gaze when Ginny glared at him. “I just mean, what else can I do? It’s not like sitting here worrying about it is going to help.”
“What is wrong with you?” Ginny demanded. “How can you—?”
“You know Luna would say the exact same thing,” Neville interrupted. “She would say that the most important thing is to believe she’s all right, and keep going on. We can’t fall to pieces.”
Ginny closed her eyes as Neville took the ornament out of her hands. He was absolutely right, but she could not erase from her mind the image of Luna’s calm, peaceful expression just a half-second before she was taken. She felt badly shaken to her core. There was a sudden sound at the door to the kitchen, and they both looked up.
“I’ve laid out dinner,” said Mrs. Longbottom, appearing in the doorway. She cast an appraising eye over the Christmas tree. Ginny stood and moved to hang the last ornament. “That looks wonderful. Lovely work, both of you. Now come and wash your hands.”
It was late on Monday evening, and Mrs. Longbottom had done a successful job of keeping Neville and Ginny occupied for the last two days. She insisted that they help decorate the Christmas tree, cook dinner, and do their laundry. Ginny had just finished repacking her trunk more neatly with Luna’s belongings before she was summoned down to the parlor with Neville to put the finishing touches on the tree. It was another hour before they finished dinner, by which time she was unable to keep her eyes from flickering every few seconds to the windows in the sitting room, through which she could just see the path that led to the front door.
“Are you all right?” Mrs. Longbottom asked.
“Dad doesn’t usually stay this late at work,” she said tensely. Then she turned back to her plate. “I’m sorry.” There was a knock at the door, and Ginny launched out of her seat.
“Wait, wait!” Mrs. Longbottom cried, heading her off. She got through the sitting room to the front door first, holding her wand. Neville and Ginny stood in the kitchen doorway. “Declare yourself,” Mrs. Longbottom said loudly.
“I’m Arthur Weasley, here to collect my daughter, Ginevra Molly Weasley. When she was four years old, she broke her leg falling from an apple tree in our orchard, and she refused to let her mother fix it until she was given a Chocolate Frog.” Mrs. Longbottom looked to Ginny, who smiled, knowing that that had been her father’s intention. She opened the door and Ginny ran forward, throwing herself into her father’s arms.
He looked the same as ever, if perhaps a little thin, his patched traveling cloak sliding off one shoulder and a thick, homemade sweater underneath. His expression showed the strain he was under as he looked closely into Ginny’s face. “You’re all right? You’re not hurt?”
“I’m okay,” Ginny insisted, hugging him tighter.
“Your mother’s been beside herself,” Dad told her, kissing her hair. His voice was constricted with emotion, and she could not remember the last time he had held her so tightly.
“Then you’d better get going,” Mrs. Longbottom said gently. “Neville, why don’t you fetch Ginny’s trunk for her?”
Ginny pulled away from her father. “I’ll be right back,” she promised. He smoothed her hair and nodded. She followed Neville out of the room, upstairs to her bedroom.
“Okay, listen,” Neville said, lifting Ginny’s trunk onto its end. “We’ve got to decide what to tell everyone else.”
“Well…they need the truth, of course,” she said slowly, as the image of Luna’s closed eyes moments before she disappeared flashed through her mind once again. “But I don’t think we should write to them, in case any mail gets intercepted. We’ll have to wait until term starts to tell them.”
“I meant about Dumbledore’s Army,” Neville said. “Are we still going on?”
Ginny paused, looking away from him, and Luna’s last words echoed in her head. Would going on mean more disappearances, more kidnappings like Luna’s? Neville was watching her nervously. “You’re the leader, Neville,” she said slowly. “Don’t be a prat.” He snorted, and she smiled reluctantly.
“Right, got it,” said Neville. He embraced her tightly. “Be safe, okay? Use the coin if you need to talk.” She nodded, wondering horribly if this was the last time she was going to see Neville.
“Coming, Dad,” she called down the stairs, picking up Arnold’s cage as the feeling of foreboding dissipated. Neville followed her, carrying her trunk. Mrs. Longbottom and Ginny’s father had not moved from the sitting room. “Ready,” she said. “How are we going?”
“You’ll Apparate with me,” Dad said, taking Arnold’s cage and setting it on top of Ginny’s trunk. He waved his wand once and they vanished with a small pop. “Augusta, thank you again.”
“Not at all,” said Mrs. Longbottom. “Have a nice holiday, Ginny.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Longbottom,” she answered. “Bye, Neville.”
He waved as Ginny and her father walked down the front steps of the house. Dad looked both ways down the deserted street.
“No questions here, sweet pea,” he said, shaking his head. “Take my arm.” Ginny braced herself as she was pulled into the tight vacuum and emerged seconds later, staggering, on the snow-covered road just in front of the Burrow. She gave a sigh of relief; she was home. “Come on, quickly,” said Dad breathlessly, hurrying her through the garden gate. He raised his wand, casting shimmering lights over the boundaries again as Ginny stood rooted to the spot, shivering.
“Ginny? Ginny! Oh, Arthur!”
She spun around; her mother had appeared in the golden light that poured from the open kitchen door, and was running to meet them.
“She’s all right, Molly,” said Dad, as Ginny was pulled into a suffocating hug. “She’s fine—please, let’s go inside.”
Mum refused to let Ginny go, pulling her into the warmth and light of the kitchen. While Dad sealed the door, Mum looked her over. She was showing her tension even more than Dad—her dressing gown was far too loose, and she looked exhausted, as though she hadn’t slept in days.
“Oh, my poor girl,” she gasped at last, wrapping Ginny tightly in her arms again. Ginny didn’t try to break away; it felt far too good to be back with her mother again. She actually had to swallow a lump in her throat. Before she knew what was happening, she had been deposited in a chair at the kitchen table with her parents sitting on either side of her.
“What happened?” her mother asked. “Augusta said there was trouble at the platform—”
“Death Eaters—or, I think Ministry people, I don’t know,” Ginny said quickly. “They took Luna, because of what her dad’s been writing in the Quibbler. Neville and I tried to stop it, and so did Neville’s grandmother—but wait,” she said, holding her hands up. “Where were you? I thought you were coming to get me.” She was trying hard not to sound accusatory.
Her mother started to speak, but Dad cut her off and said very frankly, “There was someone watching the house, Ginny, and we didn’t want to lead them to you.” He looked up at Mum. “And it sounds like we were right in that, Molly. They seem to have known who Luna’s friends would be. Augusta said her wards weren’t broken, but she saw someone outside her house late last night, just watching the door. I think they wanted to avoid having too many people at the station.” He sighed and looked at Ginny. “Ever since the wedding, when they came from the Ministry…well, they’ve sent someone round to check on us about once a month.”
Ginny’s stomach twisted unpleasantly.
“All right, that’s enough,” Mum said gently, with a pointed look at Dad. “Our girl’s home, that’s all that matters.”
“Right,” said Dad, smoothing Ginny’s hair.
“Where’s Charlie?” she asked, looking around. “He said he’d be back by now.”
“He’s staying with the twins in Diagon Alley,” Mum told her. “They’ll all be home for Christmas.” Then, as though she couldn’t restrain herself, she threw her arms around Ginny and yanked her into another stifling hug. “I’m so glad you’re safe, sweetheart.”
Ginny blinked hard, patting her back. “I’m okay, Mum,” she said. “Really, I’m fine…”
“But you might not have been,” Mum said, holding her still tighter. Then she seemed to remember something, and released Ginny. “You’ve got a lot to tell us,” she said sternly. Dad nodded.
“What was that letter we got?” he asked, his brow furrowing. “Vandalism, Ginny?”
“Erm,” Ginny mumbled, “Well, about that…it really…er…”
Her mother narrowed her eyes dangerously. “Ginevra.”
“Look, I already served my punishment for it, isn’t that enough?” Ginny snapped suddenly, to her own surprise as much as her parents’. “If you’d rather believe Snape that I’m singlehandedly tearing down the castle walls, then fine, but I don’t want to talk about this five seconds after I walk in the door!”
She ignored her mother and left the kitchen. She stormed through the living room, up the stairs, and straight to her bedroom, where her trunk sat under the window. Arnold lay in his cage on top of the trunk, snoozing. Ginny flicked her wand and the lights went out. She immediately regretted this when she realized she could barely see enough to get over to her trunk and fetch her pajamas. Instead, she just kicked off her shoes and flopped onto her bed, seething. Her warm feelings of happiness that she was finally home had dissipated, and she was left with a great feeling of injustice. She felt bad for shouting at her parents, but it seemed as though a great wall had erupted in the middle of her life—a wall that separated her life at Hogwarts and her life at home. How could she look her parents in the eye, knowing how strained and exhausted with worry they were, and tell them the truth of what was happening to her and her friends? How could she burden them more by talking about the Carrows and their insane methods of punishment? How could she tell her mother that she had been tortured?
Not for the first time, Ginny felt a rush of hatred for Snape. This was his doing; he had written to her parents, gotten them anxious in the first place. He would get what he deserved, she thought. When this was all over, and Harry finally came back, Snape would be the first to get what he deserved. But thinking of Harry gave her another swell of painful emotion. Saying goodbye to Neville, after losing Luna, had been the painful beyond the norm. She didn’t know whether she would ever see Luna again; it seemed even less likely than Harry, Ron, or Hermione coming back. How many of her friends had she casually said goodbye to who could very well vanish before returning to Hogwarts? Paralyzing dread filled her stomach, creeping up the back of her throat and filling her brain with a million different horror scenarios. Where were her brothers right now? What if someone broke into the house at this moment, and she had left her parents downstairs? Had Hermione been captured and thrown in Azkaban, like so many other Muggle-borns? She could not move, could not breathe, could not think. There was nothing she could do. What was the point of ever fighting back when a million other horrible things threatened to overtake you at every turn?
SHUT UP!The voice in Ginny’s head (which sounded oddly like Ron) had had enough, apparently, for her mind went suddenly blank, and she felt herself relaxing again. She let out a long breath, and winced. Her back was still painful from her ordeal just a few nights ago. It could have been years since her last detention, when she had felt so happy and looked forward to going home. She turned over onto her back again, gazing up at the ceiling. There was a soft knock on her door, and Ginny rolled over, pretending not to hear it. The door opened and a weight settled beside her on the bed. Her mother’s hands gently stroked her hair for a moment, and she heard a heavy sigh. Then the weight disappeared, and she felt a blanket being draped over her. There were a few soft footsteps, the sound of the door shutting again, and then silence.