Dumbledore's Army United
The rest of the Christmas holidays passed far too quickly. Lupin, Tonks, and her mother left the Burrow on Boxing Day (though Tonks promised that they would be back to see Ginny off to school), and from then on, Fred, George, and Charlie never stopped by for much longer than a meal or two. On the day before she was meant to return to school, Ginny woke up to find that Bill and Fleur had arrived to stay for the entire day. They maintained that their visit was in order to see Ginny and avoid the terrible cold snap that had seized Shell Cottage, but Fred and George insisted that Bill, who seemed much more cheerful and talkative now, had simply caved in under Mum’s guilt about missing Christmas. That night, after dinner, Ginny sat down beside Bill on the sofa. He put an arm around her, and she leaned against his shoulder.
“Nervous for tomorrow?” he asked. She shook her head, and he laughed.
“Shut up,” she mumbled, giving him a shove.
“You’ll be all right,” he promised. “It’s only a couple weeks until the Easter holidays, right?”
Ginny sighed. “That’s not what I’m counting down to.”
“Yeah,” Bill agreed. “I know.” At that moment, Fleur came into the sitting room, but when she saw Bill and Ginny together, she smiled and quickly returned to the kitchen. “The twins told me about their Christmas present,” said Bill, lowering his voice. Ginny nodded. He faced her, looking grave. “Whatever you do, Ginny, will you promise me that you’ll be careful?”
“We’re not being—that’s not our problem, Bill, we’re pretty careful,” Ginny retorted impatiently.
He held up a hand. “No, I know,” he interrupted, “your problem is that Snape knows you. But I want you to be careful because of that. I say go for it, keep doing what you’re doing, but don’t give Snape one more reason to harass Mum and Dad.” Ginny felt a twinge of guilt, and not just because she felt responsible for much of her parents’ distress and unhappiness. She had a feeling that none of her brothers would be as supportive of her as they were now if they knew that torture was the risk that she and the rest of Dumbledore’s Army were running.
Unsurprisingly, Ginny’s goodbye the next morning was quite emotional. Her mother was especially upset, and it was with a heavy heart that Ginny hugged her and promised to write. She would be getting back to school via the Knight Bus, accompanied by Fred and George.
“Mum, please don’t cry,” Ginny pleaded quietly, as Mum held her close. “I’ll—I’ll be all right…”
“Your father sends all his love,” Mum answered, sniffing. “We’ll be there to get you at Easter, no matter what. I promise.”
Ginny smiled slightly. “Be—be safe, okay?” She looked at Fred and George, who were making gagging motions over by the front door, and Charlie, who grinned at her. “All of you.”
Mum nodded and straightened Ginny’s scarf. “Don’t worry about us, dear.”
There was a sudden clatter at the back door, and Charlie ran through the kitchen to answer it. A moment later—
“Has she left yet?” Tonks, dragging Lupin by the hand and both wrapped in heavy winter cloaks, came barreling into the sitting room. Tonks was looking wildly around. “Oh, thank Merlin!” she cried, hurrying over. “I thought we’d missed you.”
“You didn’t Apparate here, Tonks?” Mum asked, eyeing her worriedly as she squeezed Ginny in a tight hug.
Lupin looked exasperated. “She woke up late and almost ran out of the house in her pajamas.”
“Oh, I’ll be all right,” Tonks said, hugging Ginny again. “But I would’ve felt awful if I didn’t get to see you for three more months!”
“We’ll miss you, Ginny,” Lupin said, taking his turn to embrace her.
“And when you come back, there may be someone else for you to meet,” said Tonks excitedly, patting her belly, and Ginny grinned.
Charlie was looking at his watch. “You three had probably better get going,” he said gently to Fred and George, who nodded and hurried out into the grayish snowfall. With more embraces and tears from her mother, Ginny was at last hurried onto the Knight Bus after the twins, who were carrying her luggage. She waved at her mother, who was standing in the doorway of the Burrow, until with a loud bang, the bus jumped all the way to a gloomy, rainy street in London. Fred and George paid the conductor and helped Ginny take her trunk and Arnold’s cage to find chairs that were not toppled over or broken. They finally settled at the very back of the bus, in three armchairs not unlike those in the Gryffindor common room. Ginny couldn’t help but notice how empty the Knight Bus was. There was only one wizard on their level, and there couldn’t have been more than two or three people on the decks above, to judge by the voices that she could hear.
“So,” Fred said, clinging to his seat as the bus rounded a sharp corner. “What’s your plan?”
“Still using the Room of Requirement, right?” George asked.
Ginny nodded. “We’re going to have to wait and see. People—well, they aren’t going to feel very good about all this when they find out what happened to Luna.”
“Don’t count your dragons before they’re hatched,” Fred said firmly, as his armchair teetered dangerously. “And don’t underestimate the D.A.” Ginny looked out the rain-soaked window and nodded.
“What aren’t you telling us, Gin?” She looked around at George, who was watching her shrewdly. “There’s something you’re hiding, and you’ve been hiding it since you got home,” he continued. “What is it?”
“Nothing,” Ginny lied.
Fred had narrowed his eyes and leaned forward, looking at her closely. “We’ve got quite a while to get it out of you, Ginny. Now, we can do it the easy way, or we can do it our way.”
“There’s nothing going on,” she insisted.
George reached into his pocket and examined a small, multicolored candy. “I don’t think anyone would be surprised if I got sick from all this movement, do you, Fred?”
“Don’t be a prat,” Ginny snapped.
“Not at all, George,” Fred answered, as though she hadn’t spoken. “You might even faint…or get a nosebleed…”
“Could be,” George said seriously.
“Will you stop?” Ginny demanded. “You’ll get us thrown off!”
“Tell us what’s happening, then,” Fred answered, so seriously that for a moment, Ginny saw their father in his face.
“I—” She stared between them, desperate to find a way out. George was still rolling the Puking Pastille between his thumb and forefinger. She sighed heavily.
“Does it have to do with those—Carrows?” Fred asked. Ginny nodded.
“They’re doing something to you,” George said. “I knew it! What have they done?”
“It’s—it’s not so bad,” Ginny insisted.
“Ginny, you have three seconds—”
“Cruciatus Curse,” she mumbled, staring down at her knees. She couldn’t look up at her brothers. “When—when we get caught…that’s what happens.”
There was no sound but for the rumbling of the Knight Bus down a rain-soaked country road, and the sound of someone vomiting on one of the upper decks. Ginny couldn’t bring herself to look at Fred or George.
“Please tell me you’re joking.”
Ginny shook her head, still not looking at them.
“So you’re telling me,” Fred said angrily, “That we just handed you all a bunch of tools that’ll get you tortured?”
Ginny shrugged. “Kind of.”
George sighed heavily, and they were all silent for a long moment.
“You can’t tell Mum and Dad,” said Ginny at last.
“I should bloody well think not,” Fred answered shortly. He rubbed his face, clearly thinking hard. “But we can’t just let you—I mean—” He looked at George, lost for words.
“You’re going to have to let me,” Ginny told him firmly. “It’s not up to you.”
“She’s right, actually,” said George, who was staring at Ginny as though he’d never seen her properly before. “I mean,” he added to Fred, “she’s completely barking mad, but she’s right. But Merlin’s pants, Ginny, I can’t believe what you’re doing.” And to Ginny’s great surprise, he smiled at her.
She gave a nervous laugh. “Well, hanging around you lot was bound to rub off on me sometime.”
“Us?” Fred asked incredulously. “I think I’ll be speaking to Harry next time he decides to show his face…”
If her brothers had not been gaping at her as though she had professed a secret desire to become a Death Eater, Ginny would not have believed herself capable of making such an admission.
“I’d think you were stupid if you weren’t scared, Ginny,” said Fred slowly. “But as I know for a fact that you take after George and myself, that’s just not possible.” She smiled slightly. Fred looked at George, who nodded. “We won’t tell Mum and Dad,” he continued. “But—but you can’t let it happen again, all right? Do everything—”
“I don’t have much say in the matter, Fred,” she interrupted sadly.
He nodded. “Yeah…I was afraid of that,” he said, but he gave her a grin.
“Only one thing you can do, in that case,” George said thoughtfully. Ginny stared at him. “Make us proud.”
“Excuse me, but Hogwarts is our next stop,” called the conductor, a plump, cheerful witch seated at the front of the bus.
“Thanks,” said George, as with a loud bang, the Bus jumped to the end of High Street in Hogsmeade. The rain had turned to iron-gray sleet, almost invisible against the cold, dark skies. They struggled to get Ginny’s trunk off of the bus and stood before the gates of Hogwarts, which stood open, guarded on each side by burly wizards who glared menacingly through the sleet at the newcomers.
“Come on,” Fred shouted; the wind was picking up, blowing the sleet sideways. “Looks like someone’s come down to meet you.” He pointed at the path between the gates, where a tall, thin, cloaked figure stood waiting for Ginny. She hugged Fred and George each one last time, and began fighting her way over to the gate.
Professor McGonagall was standing just inside the gates, wrapped in a thick tartan cloak. “Come along, Miss Weasley,” she yelled over the roaring winds. It was an arduous path up the hill to Hogwarts, the inclement weather worsened by the unmistakable presence of dementors. Ginny could not see them, swirling high up in the clouds, but after nearly a month of being deprived of enough emotions on which to feed, they seemed to be making up for their hunger twice as fiercely. She felt the familiar ball of anxiety and fear settling down in the pit of her stomach. There was a large crowd of sopping wet and disgruntled students gathered in the entrance hall, waiting to be examined by Mr. Filch’s Secrecy Sensors under the watchful eyes of the Carrows, who stood on the marble staircase. Ginny looked around; she could see Parvati and Lavender standing near several Ravenclaw fourth years. Neville and Seamus were talking to Ernie Macmillan, Hannah Abbott, and Susan Bones, who all looked extremely grave.
Ginny tried not to let her nerves get the best of her as Mr. Filch examined her person and luggage. Fred and George had promised her that the charms they were performing to squeeze everything in would not set off any warnings, but as they had hidden their work even from her, she couldn’t be sure.
They had been correct. Breathing a sigh of relief, Ginny was allowed to go to Gryffindor Tower, following a long line of giggling first and second years who immediately fell silent as they passed Alecto Carrow, standing at the top of the stairs. She glared at Ginny, who pointedly ignored her and continued up the staircase.
She turned. Evelyn Alistair was hurrying over to her. “Hi, Ginny,” she said happily. She was dragging a trunk that outweighed her twice over, and looked a good deal more cheerful than she had been the last time Ginny saw her.
“Hi, Evelyn, how are you?”
“Oh, I’m all right. Holidays were too short,” her expression darkened for a moment, then cleared, “But I’m glad to see my friends. How was your Christmas?”
Ginny nodded. “It was nice.”
“Did you see your six brothers?” Evelyn asked eagerly. “I saw all of mine.”
“Erm—yeah,” Ginny lied. “I got to see my family.”
“Evelyn! Evelyn, over here!”
Evelyn looked around to see several of her fellow first years waving her over. “I have to go. I’ll see you later, Ginny!” And she darted off, leaving Ginny shaking her head in amusement. When she made it up to her dormitory in Gryffindor Tower, Parvati and Lavender were already unpacking, and greeted Ginny enthusiastically.
“When’s the next meeting?” Parvati demanded, releasing her from a hug.
“I haven’t talked to Neville yet,” said Ginny, “But listen—”
“Did you hear about Fenrir Greyback attacking that little child over Christmas?” Lavender asked. “It’s terrible, I heard so much news that we never found out. I hope Luna’s convinced her dad that we need better information…”
Ginny’s heart twisted. “Listen—both of you—”
“How’s Ron doing?” Parvati asked kindly, sitting down on the end of her bed. “It must’ve been nice to see him.”
“Listen,” Ginny interrupted, and Parvati and Lavender fell silent. “We couldn’t—we couldn’t put it in a message to everyone over the break, but…” She trailed off. Her throat felt like it had closed off.
Parvati seemed to read the worst in her face. “What happened?” she asked ominously.
Ginny closed her eyes and sighed. “Luna—Luna was kidnapped.”
Lavender’s mouth fell open. “What?” she whispered, and Ginny nodded.
“As everyone was leaving the platform at King’s Cross…two Ministry workers took her,” she answered softly. “Neville and I tried to fight back, and his grandmother, too—but—they got her.”
Lavender seemed to sway a little bit, and dropped down on the bed as well. Parvati had tears in her eyes. “And—is—is she—?”
“I don’t know,” Ginny answered. “Neville reckons she might be in—in Azkaban.”
Lavender put her hands over her mouth, her eyes wide open. “We need to call a meeting,” she said in a muffled voice. “The others have to hear this.”
Ginny nodded. “I’ll talk to Neville.”
“He was with the Hufflepuffs,” Parvati said. “They looked really upset about something.”
“What else can possibly go wrong?” Lavender asked angrily.
“Don’t say that,” Ginny said, perhaps a little sharply. She turned away and heaved her trunk onto her bed, preparing to unpack. As she did so, she caught sight of a dementor hovering in the swirling clouds outside her window, its long cloak flapping in the wind. She shuddered.
The first day of classes was a jarring one. In every lesson she normally had with Luna, Ginny found herself sitting beside an empty seat. What was more, there were several more students in her year who didn’t seem to have returned from their holidays. That they had been kidnapped like Luna seemed unlikely, but it was apparent that more and more people were going into hiding. Ginny began to wonder how or if, with the new rules on compulsory attendance at Hogwarts, the Ministry of Magic were trying to track down those who had left.
She got her answer at the end of her Charms lesson three days into the new term, when Professor McGonagall appeared in the corridor and beckoned imperiously for Ginny to follow her. Five minutes later, with a feeling of dread mingled with terrible déjà vu, she found herself in McGonagall’s office, waiting tensely for her to speak.
“Miss Weasley, Mr. Coote has chosen not to return for this term,” said Professor McGonagall plainly. “I’m afraid that you’ll be completing your prefect duties alone, until I appoint a replacement.” Ginny nodded. “I must also ask you,” she added in a resigned tone, “whether or not you know anything of Mr. Coote’s whereabouts.”
Ginny lifted her eyebrows. “I’m sorry, Professor, no.”
“If you hear anything from him or regarding his absence, you are to report it directly to Professor Carrow or the headmaster,” said Professor McGonagall in a tone that plainly suggested she was only doing what she was forced to do, and that the first person to report a fellow student would be hexed beyond recognition.
“Yes, ma’am,” Ginny answered. She waited for a few moments, unsure if she was being dismissed.
“I understand that Miss Lovegood—well, I’ve heard about what seems to have happened,” Professor McGonagall said stiffly. “And that you and Mr. Longbottom witnessed it.” Ginny nodded once. McGonagall’s eyebrows contracted tightly together into a deep line. “And in reflecting upon that, and our conversation shortly before the end of term, have you come to a different conclusion about what I have repeatedly told you?”
“No.” The force of the answer stunned even Ginny, though she could not have meant it more. “I mean, no, Professor. We haven’t.”
Professor McGonagall’s nostrils flared momentarily, and she seemed to be fighting to control herself. “Miss Weasley, you understand that I have no intention of allowing you to continue this—this behavior into the new term. The headmaster is intent upon rooting out those students who deliberately cause chaos within the school, and it is our duty as faculty to report honestly to him.”
For a moment, Ginny felt as though the floor had dropped out beneath her. Then she found her voice. “You—you wouldn’t really do that, ma’am—” She trailed off again at the expression on Professor McGonagall’s face.
“When it comes to the safety of students, there is very little that I would not do,” she said coldly. “But I agree with you that outside interference is uncalled for in this instance. I would feel much more secure in putting the problem to rest at its core.”
Something snapped in Ginny; she felt angry, furious at what she could only see as McGonagall’s cowardice in the face of the cruelty of Snape and the Carrows. How could she sit there and act as though she alone knew what was best, after all that Ginny had seen and lived through at the hands of people who were meant to be her teachers? “I’m going to be late for my next lesson, Professor,” she said through gritted teeth, rising stiffly and walking, lock-kneed, to the door.
“I did not dismiss you, Miss Weasley,” Professor McGonagall answered sharply, but Ginny was already out the door, her blood pounding in her ears. She stormed all the way down to the Great Hall, where lunch was just ending, and sought out the person she needed to see—Neville was sitting at the end of the Gryffindor table by himself, and Ginny dropped into the seat beside him.
“Er, hi,” he said warily. “Why are you all red? Did you run here?” Taking care to keep her voice as even as possible, Ginny relayed what Professor McGonagall had said. “N-no,” Neville said disbelievingly, when she had finished. “McGonagall wouldn’t sell us out.”
“She’s angry enough to threaten it, and that’s almost as bad,” Ginny retorted. “How can she do this? She has to know we’re not going to stop—”
“Y’know, my gran was pretty out of sorts about the whole thing,” Neville said uneasily.
“You told her?” she demanded exasperatedly. “Neville!”
“You’re kidding, right?” he asked sarcastically. “She figured out almost everything on her own! She reckons we’re biting off more than we can chew, tangling with Death Eaters—”
“First time that’s ever happened, eh?” Ginny snorted.
“You know what I mean,” Neville interrupted.
“So what, you think we should listen to McGonagall?” she asked, outraged at his even temper. Why was he not as infuriated as she felt? “Think we should just give it all up, never mind, we’ll just be scared off and let our school get overrun with Death Eaters while we sit around hoping Harry comes back soon—”
“Who said that?” said Neville incredulously. “Bloody hell, Ginny, give me a little credit here.”
Ginny paused. “Sorry.”
“You said I was going to be a good leader,” he replied. “So don’t just write me off that way.”
“Sorry,” she said again, and he nodded. “It’s just,” she continued, “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting very, very tired of being told what I can and can’t handle. And I’m tired of people trying to stop me from doing what we all know has to be done.” Involuntarily, her eyes flickered over to the Ravenclaw table. Neville followed her gaze for a moment.
“Did McGonagall ask you about where Coote is?” he asked. Ginny nodded. “Me, too.”
“She doesn’t really want to know,” she said slowly. Her anger was starting to ebb a bit, though there was still quite a bit of resentment towards Professor McGonagall taking up residence in the pit of her stomach. “She’d rather have them far away and safe than here, getting in trouble.”
There was a long pause. “We’ve got to organize a D.A. meeting,” Neville said at last. “I was thinking tonight.”
Ginny lifted her eyebrows. “Tonight? I thought you wanted to wait until we could Malfoy-proof the Room of Requirement.”
“Look,” Neville said seriously, pointing up at the wall over the staff table, where, at long last, the message from Dumbledore’s Army had faded. “We’ve all just come back, we’re nervous, our friends are missing. And the Hufflepuffs—Ernie and Hannah, and Susan Bones, I mean—there’s something they’re not telling us. They were having some kind of argument and wouldn’t talk to me or Seamus last night.”
Ginny released a slow breath through her teeth. “We’ve all got to start being more open with each other, you know. That’s what our problem’s been this whole time. Luna didn’t think she could tell us what was happening with her dad, and now look. And I know it’s my fault,” she added, overriding Neville’s protest, “For trying to make us go it alone in the first place, but I want to make it right. And that starts with banding together again.”
Neville stared at her, his expression steeling. “I’ll call the meeting. Tonight, an hour before curfew.”
“Excellent.” Ginny grinned.