“Drop them everywhere, but only after you finish the graffiti,” said Neville, as Ginny passed out stacks of flyers to Hannah and Michael. “If you run into another pair, you’re too close together, and need to go somewhere else.”
“Seven floors in the castle, if we avoid the Great Hall, and only six pairs of us,” Ginny advised. “Meet back here when you’re done.” She moved to stand with Susan Bones, whom she would partner, and raised her hood, so that her face, too, was hidden from sight. “Who’s got the first floor?”
“That’s us, Hannah,” said Neville. She stepped forward eagerly. “We’ll see you all back here in one hour.”
Hannah and Neville left first, followed by Michael and Lavender, Padma and Ernie, Terry and Parvati, and Seamus and Anthony, until Susan and Ginny finally crept out into the corridor. At every blank wall they met, they stopped to drop flyers and write some variation of DUMBLEDORE’S ARMY: STILL RECRUITING upon the stone.
Ginny could see the subjects of the paintings flitting back and forth along the walls to watch them, but not one sounded an alarm; it was reassuring.
They had only a quarter of an hour left, with no sign that anyone else had been caught or spotted, when Susan pointed out that they had gone in a full circle, and were back in the corridor of the Room of Requirement. She glanced down at her watch, and then back up at Ginny, grinning mischievously. “There’s one place we didn’t go, though.” Ginny frowned. “Shall we get Snape’s office?” Susan whispered.
“Oh, definitely,” Ginny answered with relish. She allowed Susan to lead the way around the corner to the south side of the castle, down the corridor where the gargoyle that hid Snape’s office stood.
“Brilliant,” Susan whispered, gesturing to the vast expanse of blank stone that faced the statue. She drew her wand and produced a bottle of Indelible Ink from within her pocket.
“Wait,” said Ginny, catching her arm. “Stop a minute.” She drew her own wand and took the ink, facing the wall.
“Dumbledore’s Army?” Susan asked under her breath, glancing up and down the corridor.
Ginny shook her head, but didn’t elaborate. Her drawing skills were not good, nothing like Luna’s or even Charlie’s, but she could, perhaps, manage this…
“Whoa,” said Susan appreciatively when Ginny stepped back a few minutes later.
“That ought to frighten Snape every time he wants to go out, don’t you think?” she asked.
“A phoenix,” Susan whispered, in the same tone of reverence. She reached forward and lightly touched the already dry ink that made the enormous firebird Ginny had inscribed on the wall. “It’s brilliant.” She reached into her pocket and withdrew the last of the flyers she carried. “I just had an idea—my aunt told me once that Gringotts protects their vaults with Gemino Charms—”
“Everything multiplies when it’s touched,” Ginny agreed.
“Let’s put one on these,” Susan said eagerly, waving the stack of parchment. “The Carrows know it’s us by now, and all it’ll do is make it really difficult to get rid of.”
“I like it,” said Ginny. “Do it. I’ll keep watch.”
Susan nodded and set to work, while Ginny hurried down the corridor. She had made it about ten feet when she heard an echoing bellow of anger, coming from the staircase that stood only yards away. Not pausing for even a moment, she bolted towards Susan. “Drop them, now!” she hissed, and Susan flung a few pieces of parchment to the ground. They took off down the corridor and rounded the corner as fast as they could.
“Here, here,” Ginny dragged Susan by the arm into a broom cupboard, and they both pressed their ears to the door, straining to listen for any noise. Sure enough, within moments, two sets of running footsteps passed the cupboard, followed by more footfalls and angry voices.
“I saw ‘em run that way!” Amycus barked. “C’mon—”
“Nah, it was down ‘ere,” said Alecto. “You go one way, and we’ll trap ‘em round the corner.”
As their footsteps faded away, Ginny and Susan breathed simultaneous sighs of relief; whoever was being chased would make it back to the Room of Requirement long before the Carrows found them. Slowly, Ginny nodded to Susan. “Put out your wand and open the door. We can still get more on this floor—”
Susan shrieked suddenly, and the cupboard door banged open. Amycus Carrow stood before them, his wand drawn. He lunged forward, reaching for Ginny—
“Impedimenta!” Susan yelled, and the jinx caught Amycus straight on and he staggered backward, toppling over with a crash. “Come on!” Susan yelled to Ginny, but before they could make it more than a few feet, Alecto stepped out of the shadows.
“Expelliarmus!” Ginny shrieked. Alecto gave a furious cry and leapt after her wand.
“Oi, you little—”
Amycus’s Impediment Jinx had worn off, and he was getting awkwardly to his feet. Susan and Ginny turned to run again, but with a flourish of his wand, Amycus hit them both with an Impediment Jinx of his own. Ginny hit the floor hard and heard Susan grunt in pain as she landed hard on the stone floor.
“Stupefy!” Ginny cried, scrambling to her feet, but in one instant, her spell fired off course—someone had closed their arm around her windpipe, and she could not breathe.
“That’s enough outta you,” Alecto snarled in her ear. “Get the other one!” she barked at Amycus, who seized Susan, forcing her wand from her hand. “Now, let’s see…Weasley, I’m betting,” Alecto cackled nastily in Ginny’s ear, reaching for her hood, her stranglehold growing tighter.
Ginny tried to struggle away, but lights were popping before her eyes because she could draw no breath. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see that Susan was still struggling against Amycus, but it was no use—
Ginny’s heart leapt. At the end of the corridor stood not one, or two, but eight hooded figures, all with wands raised. She felt Alecto’s grip slacken.
“More of us now, aren’t there?” shouted Seamus.
“Stupefy!” Amycus roared, dropping Susan at Ginny’s feet and bounding forward. The jet of light missed the person he had aimed for, and Seamus gave a yell; as one, they charged forward, firing jinxes and curses. Someone hit Alecto in the face with a Stunning Spell, and Ginny dropped to the floor, reaching out immediately for her wand and Susan’s.
“Up, get up—can you move?” she asked Susan, who was rubbing her wrist where she lay on the floor.
“I’m fine,” she insisted. “I’m fine, it’s just my arm—” Ginny dragged her up, and Susan snatched her wand back. “Let’s go!”
“Come on, you two,” Seamus called, firing a second Stunner at Amycus, who collapsed mid-jinx. “Back to the Room—”
Ginny and Susan didn’t need telling twice. Following Seamus and the other seven who had taken off around the corner, they ran all the way through the corridors, back to the Room of Requirement—
Susan had dodged the oncoming obstacle, but Ginny slammed into something hard and fell backward onto the floor, smacking her head. Bright lights popped in her vision again, and she could see nothing, but another pair of hands was dragging her up—different from Alecto’s—smaller—
As her vision swam back into focus, Ginny realized that she had lost her hood, and that she was staring up at Professor McGonagall, who was dressed in her nightclothes. She was struck by the extremely odd and poorly timed realization that Professor McGonagall was quite impressively tall, and she, Ginny, was very, very small.
“Er—” Ginny stammered, trying to break free of her grasp. Professor McGonagall was staring at her as though she couldn’t comprehend what she was seeing. Then—
“They went this way!”
Amycus and Alecto had obviously woken up, and they were heading for the corridor where Ginny now stood. She looked at Professor McGonagall, pleading in her eyes. At the sound of Alecto’s yell, McGonagall released Ginny and bent swiftly, scooping up the dropped hood and wand, and shoved them both into Ginny’s hands.
“Go, now,” she snarled, and without another word, she ran down the corridor to head off the Carrows. It was only the desire to obey that allowed Ginny to move forward through her shock, and less than a minute later, she fell, gasping, into the Room of Requirement.
“What happened to you?” Neville asked immediately, hurrying over to her where she lay, flat on her back. “Are you hurt?”
“Tell you in a minute,” she panted, trying to catch her breath. At last, she hoisted herself up on her elbows and gazed around. She could see Hannah tending to Susan’s arm, and the panting, heaving bodies of their rescuers; Parvati, Padma, Seamus, Michael, Lavender, Ernie, Terry, and Anthony were all seated on the floor and sprawled across cushions.
“All right there, Weasley?” Terry asked breathlessly.
“Can’t complain,” she said, giving a mock salute. She caught Susan’s eye and beamed.
“That was pretty cool, wasn’t it?” asked Padma. Parvati gave a giggle and tackled her in a hug, as everyone burst into hysterical laughter.
The next morning was far and away the happiest Ginny had felt in over a year. Not only was the entire school amazed and thrilled to find new flyers (many of which had survived the night, perhaps simply because of sheer number) and immovable graffiti from Dumbledore’s Army, somehow, the story that a band of students had attacked the Carrows had reached every ear in the school by lunchtime. If the Carrows had been a bit cleverer, Ginny thought, they could have easily figured out who belonged to Dumbledore’s Army. They were those students who received looks of admiration from their classmates (who, it seemed, could riddle out the members of the Army fairly easily), and those who walked around with the biggest grins on their faces all day long.
“Did you hear the bit about us using the Imperius Curse on them to make them tap dance?” Seamus chuckled as he sat down beside Neville at the Gryffindor table.
“No,” Lavender said, as Neville snorted into his stew. “And that’s horrible! That curse is illegal, and if we used it, we’d be no better than they are!”
“Calm down, there,” Seamus answered defensively.
“Yeah, Lavender. Tell me you wouldn’t want to see that old cow practicing her high kicks,” Ginny added, nodding up to the staff table, where Alecto Carrow was sporting a slightly swollen left eye and a scowl. “What’s up with you, Parvati?”
Parvati looked around, as though startled out of a reverie. “I was just—where’s Professor McGonagall?” she asked quietly, glancing at the staff table. “She wasn’t at breakfast, either. Have you had Transfiguration this morning, Ginny?”
“No,” Ginny said slowly. “I’ve got it after lunch…”
“Blimey, wait a moment,” Neville said, a look of horror dawning on his face. “You don’t think—?”
“Like with Umbridge,” said Lavender, paling. “What if she was trying to protect us, and—?”
“Come off it,” Seamus said, though even he sounded unsure. “That—no.”
But half an hour later, Ginny’s mood had swung like a pendulum from giddy shock and happiness to heart-pounding anxiety. She filed silently into the Transfiguration classroom behind Vicky Frobisher and sat down, alone, near the back of the room.
She looked down at her watch. There were still five minutes before the lesson was meant to start. There was no reason to worry about Professor McGonagall yet. Unfortunately, the next three hundred seconds felt like the longest of Ginny’s life. She couldn’t keep still, but tapped her fingers nervously on the tabletop, annoying several of the Hufflepuffs seated near her. She ignored them. Then, the classroom door opened, and Ginny’s heart leapt into her throat. Professor McGonagall entered, setting a stack of books on the desk and moving to stand behind it.
“We’re going to start review for exams, which begin really in a matter of weeks. This is your first year in a N.E.W.T.-level Transfiguration class, and it is only fair to warn you that the exams are nothing like those you sat in O.W.L. classes,” she said sternly, her brow furrowed. She raised her wand and tapped the chalkboard. A list of spells for practicing appeared. “Mr. Wilson, come and take this box—pass out a mouse to each student. I expect you all to use only nonverbal spells on this exam, unless otherwise stated. Begin your practice now until you have mastered each spell silently. I will be checking your work.”
The class leapt into action, for usually Professor McGonagall’s promise to check their work meant a great deal of intense, slightly embarrassing scrutiny when they were caught chatting or whispering the spells out of the corners of their mouths. Therefore, Ginny already had her mouse and was preparing to work when she finally noticed something odd. Professor McGonagall was sitting down at her desk, a rare occurrence in itself during a lesson, but more importantly, she was moving with great delicacy, as though she were in pain.
A familiar rushing sound filled Ginny’s ears, and as though a film were rolling inside her head, she could see her encounter with McGonagall in the corridor the night before…she could see Professor McGonagall telling her to run, and then dashing off to stall the Carrows from reaching Dumbledore’s Army…
“Miss Weasley, did you need something?” Professor McGonagall asked, arching an eyebrow.
“N-no, Professor,” Ginny answered, returning her attention to her mouse, although she could feel McGonagall’s eyes on her for several minutes after. The class carried on as normal; it seemed that everyone was growing more and more proficient with nonverbal spells, for by the end of the lesson, more than half of the class had worked through half of Professor McGonagall’s practice list.
“You’re dismissed,” said Professor McGonagall, when the bell rang. She still had not gotten up. “You’ve my permission to escort yourselves to your Charms class, though I do ask you do so quickly and quietly, without attracting attention. Am I clear?” she asked sharply.
There was a murmur of agreement, and a flurry of movement to collect bags and books. Ginny seized her opportunity and darted between the tables, up to McGonagall’s desk. “Er—Professor,” she said. “Can I—erm—”
“What is it, Miss Weasley?” asked Professor McGonagall. Ginny stared at her. She looked dreadfully tired, and still held herself as though she was in pain; she leaned back against her chair with her hands gripping the seat’s arms tightly.
Professor McGonagall sighed. “Your classmates are leaving,” she said, gesturing to the classroom door, through which the last pair of Ravenclaw girls had just disappeared.
But Ginny was so overwhelmed by emotion, she couldn’t speak. There was gratitude, certainly, that Professor McGonagall had saved her, and had not been banished from the school, but mostly, she could feel only anger and guilt. “I—I’m really sorry,” she managed at last. “Thank you—”
She faltered under Professor McGonagall’s steely gaze.
It seemed to take a great deal of effort, but she leaned forward, reaching for Ginny’s wrist, and held it tightly. “Listen to me carefully, Miss Weasley, because I shall tell you this only once. Better I than you. Than any of you,” she said fiercely. “That includes doing everything I can to stay precisely where I am, so you may rest assured that I am perfectly well. Now go to class.”
She released Ginny, who turned to leave immediately. As she was on the threshold, however, Professor McGonagall called out, “And I’d like to see an improvement on that phoenix, next time.” Ginny gave her half a grin, feeling a tiny bit of the guilty weight in her stomach lift.
“You saw McGonagall?” Neville asked immediately when she sat down beside him at dinner that evening.
“Yeah,” answered Ginny. “She’s fine.” She glanced up to where he pointed, at the staff table, where Professor McGonagall was deep in conversation with Professor Sprout. “No need to worry.”
In the first week of March, the alternating biting cold, blinding snow, and pouring rain let up just enough to allow Ginny to leave the castle and visit Hagrid (outside of a Care of Magical Creatures lesson) for the first time all of term. It wasn’t until she received his rib-crushing hug that she realized just how much she had missed him.
“How are you, Hagrid?” she laughed, as Fang nearly knocked her over trying to lick her face. “I’m sorry it’s been so long—”
“Nah, don’ you worry ‘bout it,” he assured her, setting the kettle on the fire. “I bin jus’ fine, yeh don’ need ter bother yerself abou’ me.”
“Hagrid,” she said reproachfully, and he winked at her. “We all really miss you up at the castle.”
Hagrid’s expression clouded. “Yeh know I’d be there with yeh if I could,” he said, and Ginny nodded. “Them Carrows’ve been doin’ everythin’ they can ter keep me out here, though, an’ I’m none too keen ter spend time roun’—roun’ some o’ the folks up there, anyhow.” He dropped a plate of rock cakes on the table with unnecessary force, and Ginny could tell that he meant Snape.
“Well, how’s Grawp?” she asked, changing the subject brightly.
“Ah, he’s brillian’, really enjoyin’ himself now he knows the fores’ so well,” Hagrid answered, placing a mug of tea before Ginny and settling into his armchair. “Yeh should see if yeh can come with me one afternoon ter say hello! He’d really like yeh, yeh know.” He took a swig of his own tea. “Though, the way I heard it, yeh don’ need any help goin’ out o’ bounds.”
Ginny flushed scarlet. Dumbledore’s Army was, to put it simply, wreaking havoc on the castle nearly every single evening. Wherever graffiti was just starting to fade, it would immediately be replaced; accurate news and information swirled around the corridors and common rooms thanks to Ginny’s flyers; best of all, the Carrows could never corner one member of the D.A. without running into many, many more than they could handle. Professor Snape was furious, and had stopped coming to meals altogether, while Alecto and Amycus Carrow were increasing their rabid desire to teach the Cruciatus Curse. Their tempers were short, and it was unwise to antagonize them, as it usually meant that you would be their next victim for a Dark Arts lesson, but they were running very low on people to supply the habit.
“Professor McGonagall’s bin keepin’ me up ter date,” Hagrid said, tipping her another wink. “An’ I mighta let some o’ the news slip ter Remus not long ago.”
“You did?” Ginny asked incredulously.
“Ah, don’ worry,” Hagrid assured her with a heavy pat on the back. “Firs’ thing he said was, ‘better not tell Molly, eh?’” He chuckled merrily.
“How is he?” Ginny asked longingly. “I haven’t had a letter from Mum or Dad in weeks, Bill’s mostly been writing for all of my family. How’s Tonks?”
Hagrid smiled. “I reckon they’re doin’ all righ’,” he said. “Remus said Tonks is jus’ great, ready ter have that baby any minute. Never woulda picked him ter settle down an’—well, he deserves it, an’ more.”
“Agreed,” Ginny said fervently, sipping her tea. Suddenly, something sitting in the corner caught her eye. “Hagrid, what’s that?”
He looked around, and his face turned red. “Er—nothin’. Yeh wan’ some more tea?”
But Ginny had already gotten up and marched over to the object that was half-concealed under a blanket. She yanked the cover away and saw a rucksack that was positively enormous, even for Hagrid. She faced him, confused. “Were you planning on going somewhere?” she asked.
Hagrid looked immensely uncomfortable. “Well—er—yeah,” he said at last, and Ginny made a noise of shock.
“You’re leaving?” she demanded. “You’re just going to leave the school?”
“Now, hold on,” Hagrid said quickly. “Lemme explain!” Ginny folded her arms tightly, glaring at him. “These Carrows’ve been forcin’ me out fer months,” he said. “Little things at firs’, an’ now with all yer doin’ up at the castle, they’re lookin’ fer somethin’ ter do, ter get what he wants.”
“What You-Know-Who wants?” asked Ginny.
“Hogwarts,” Hagrid answered. “He wants Hogwarts, an’ if a bunch o’ kids are makin’ it look like them Carrows can’ do their job, then they gotta fin’ someone else ter get, ter make it look like they’re still in charge. I ain’t sayin’ yeh oughtta quit,” he cut Ginny off, waving an enormous hand. “I’m sayin’, they had it in fer me since day one, an’ I’ll be a hippogriff before they get me the way that ol’ toad did.”
“But Hagrid, if you think it’s our fault you’ll have to leave—” Ginny began.
“Now yeh listen ter me, Ginny,” he said sharply, looking extremely fierce. “I don’ wan’ yeh to stop anythin’ o’ what yer doin’ on my account. I’m jes’ keepin’ my eyes open fer trouble. An’ if I gotta, I’ll make it meself.”
“What does that mean?” Ginny asked.
“I’ll give meself a way out, before they can get ter me,” Hagrid said simply. “I’ll do somethin’ that’ll really get ‘em angry…”
Ginny stood suddenly and threw her arms around his neck as best she could. “Don’t go without saying goodbye,” she said, hugging him, and he patted her hand gently.
“None o’ this is forever,” he promised. “Yeh’ll see. One o’ these days, Harry’s goin’ ter come marchin’ straight up ter the castle, an’ it’ll all be righ’ again.”
Ginny sighed sadly, still hugging Hagrid’s neck.
The days slipped into weeks. All of Ginny’s time was divided between classes, which were becoming increasingly rigorous as the Easter holidays drew nearer, and D.A. meetings, which happened on almost a nightly basis, with overwhelming success. Dumbledore’s Army broke curfew at least twice every week to drop newsletters and graffiti new areas of the school, to the fury of both Carrows, who never were able to capture anyone, thanks to Fred and George’s Shield Garments, which had quickly become a staple of their wardrobes. It got to the point where Ginny and Neville were each so focused on Dumbledore’s Army and their various levels of homework that one day, they were startled to look up from dueling practice and discover that neither of them had eaten anything in more than twenty-four hours.
“You’re going to kill yourselves,” Parvati said at dinner one night, shaking her head as she watched them both wolf down chicken legs and rolls at alarming speed.
“Not before Carrow gets a chance,” Ginny and Neville mumbled together through full mouths. It was a sign of how truly well the D.A.’s efforts were going that they could joke in such a manner; to Ginny, it felt almost normal. Seamus and Lavender, who sat opposite them, laughed aloud, and Parvati smiled.
“You know,” Lavender said, “We should talk about whether we ought to plan anything for the Easter—”
“Ye little slime, ye did it on purpose!”
All heads in the Great Hall turned to look down the Gryffindor table, where Alecto Carrow stood with the front of her robes covered with what looked like particularly sticky black pudding. She glared down at a student whom Ginny couldn’t see.
“N-no, Professor, honestly, I didn’t mean to!” the girl squeaked, and Ginny’s heart skipped a beat. It was—
“Evelyn,” Parvati whispered. “Oh, no—”
“That’s a week’s detention, ye nasty little—”
“Leave her alone!” snapped another familiar voice. Josephine O’Brien sat—no, stood—Merlin, she was small, thought Ginny—directly beside Evelyn Alistair, and was glaring fiercely up at Alecto. “It was an accident!”
Ginny looked around desperately—there were almost no teachers still eating dinner this late, and Professor McGonagall was nowhere in sight.
“We’re not scared of you!” Josephine was saying loudly, looking to her fellow first years for support. And then, to Ginny’s shock and horror, mixed with a twisted desire to laugh, Josephine raised one fist in the air. “Dumbledore’s Army! Dumbledore’s Army!”
“Oh, no,” Lavender whispered, clapping her hands over her mouth. “We have to—”
But the chant was being taken up by all of the Gryffindor first years, and then by more students, all across the Great Hall. Cutlery was banged against the table and people stood on their seats as the chant grew louder and louder. Alecto Carrow was glowing scarlet. Ginny looked around at Neville and the others, but even Seamus was lost for words.
Like a charm, quiet fell immediately over the Great Hall, as a few stray spoons clattered to the floor. Professor Snape stood on the threshold of the hall, his uneven teeth bared as a vein throbbed unpleasantly in his temple. In a fluid movement, he flew up the aisle between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables to where Alecto stood. He had a brief, but hushed conversation with her, during which their eyes flickered disturbingly over to where Ginny and Neville sat. Josephine and Evelyn had both sat down again, looking too frightened to even glance up at the headmaster. After a few moments, Snape swept away from Alecto and moved to stand before the staff table. “All of you,” he snapped. “Return to your dormitories at once. This evening’s curfew begins in ten minutes. And if you think you might get past it, I welcome you to try.”
Parvati and Lavender had to hold Seamus’s shoulders to stop him leaping up in his seat. “You stinking old—”
“No! Please, no!”
Ginny looked round. Alecto had seized Evelyn by the collar and was half-dragging, half-marching the girl from the hall.
“I’m sorry,” Evelyn wailed as she was pulled past Ginny. “Please, no!”
“What are you all waiting for?” Snape called sharply, and Ginny felt herself being pulled by the elbow.
“C’mon,” Neville muttered in her ear as they were buffeted out of the hall. “Meeting, now, Parvati’s contacting the others…”
“No, that’s what Snape wants,” Ginny whispered back. “Didn’t you see him? He told Carrow to take her, they want to catch us!”
“I know,” Neville answered. “Just come on, I have an idea.”