The Dark Arts Lesson
Ginny led the way up the marble staircase, and in a matter of minutes, nearly all of Dumbledore’s Army had assembled in the Room of Requirement. Parvati and Lavender were hurriedly filling in the details for those who hadn’t been in the Great Hall, while Neville explained his plan to Ginny and Seamus.
“We need to help Evelyn,” he said firmly, and Ginny nodded. “I want to vandalize the sixth floor again.”
Seamus stared at him. “What does that have to do with—?”
“I want to draw the Carrows away from the dungeons, so you have time to break Evelyn free,” he said.
“Yeah, but, even if we did manage to break Snape’s new curfew, who’s going to get Evelyn if we’re all on the sixth floor?” Seamus asked, frowning. “And if we do manage to get her, what’s going to stop them from just taking her right back down?”
“He wants to do the sixth floor by himself,” Ginny said in a low voice. “He wants to get caught. Neville, you prat—”
“It’s partially our fault she’s down there in the first place,” Neville pleaded. “If I’m caught, they’ll forget about her and take me instead, they won’t hurt me too badly, I’m pureblood!”
“Ginny’s right, you’re being a prat!” Seamus hissed. “You’re our leader, Neville, you can’t go around making stupid decisions like this!”
“Exactly, let me be the leader and take the blame for Evelyn,” Neville answered. “Come on, Ginny, you agree with me, don’t you?”
“Actually, no, I don’t,” Ginny said, folding her arms. “I agree with Seamus.”
Neville gaped at her for a moment. Then he narrowed his eyes. “It’s what Harry would do.”
This was a bit low, in Ginny’s opinion, but she gritted her teeth. “Because Harry’s judgment is always sound when it comes helping people, isn’t it?”
“Look, I was just hoping to get your support before I told them the plan,” Neville began, but Ginny cut him off.
“Well, you haven’t got it.” She turned firmly on her heel and faced the others. “Hey! All of you, listen up! We’ve got a plan worked out, and if anyone’s got a problem, say so quickly, but you’d better have a solution. I’m going to go and cause some mayhem on one of the upper floors to draw the Carrows away from the dungeon. A few of you are going to keep an eye out for Snape, and the rest are going to go and get Evelyn. All right?”
“What about you?” Parvati asked.
“I’ll be all right,” Ginny lied casually. “Now, is everybody all right with the plan?” She looked directly to Ernie. It had become standard practice in the D.A. to always confirm that the plans were solid before proceeding, and Ernie, predictably, was the most vocal whenever they were not.
“Let’s go and help her,” he said immediately, and Ginny smiled.
Neville grabbed her upper arm as everyone else set about preparing to break curfew once again, and whispered, “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking I can run a lot faster than you,” she answered. “I can get away, and the distraction of thinking they’ve nearly got me will be just enough to get the Carrows to leave Evelyn alone. It’s better if you stay here, avoid getting them angry as long as you can.” And without another word, she hurried over to the cabinet where they stored all of Fred and George’s supplies. In minutes, everyone was ready to move. Ginny stood closest to the door, and reached into her pocket. She held up her enchanted Galleon.
“I’ll send word when I see them, all right?”
“Good luck,” said Susan Bones.
“You all, too,” Ginny answered, hoping she sounded a bit braver than she felt. She slipped out the door and scurried down the deserted corridors, eyes and ears open. Finally, she reached what had to be the only untouched bit of stone wall left in the castle. And, standing conveniently beside it was a suit of armor.
“All right,” she murmured, tucking herself behind a statue of an exceptionally large warty toad. She pointed her wand at the suit of armor. “Confringo!”
With an echoing din and a clatter, the suit of armor exploded into pieces, clattering loudly over the stone floor as the spell ricocheted off the ceiling and took a chunk out of the wall. Ginny ducked, avoiding the shrapnel. Then she leapt out from behind the statue just in time to meet Mrs. Norris, who fixed her in her lamplike gaze for only a moment before streaking off to find Filch. Ginny’s heart began to race as she pulled out her bottle of Indelible Ink. She had to make sure they knew who they were catching, so…
It took less than five minutes for the Carrows to abandon the dungeon and come hurtling up six flights of stairs. In that time, Ginny drew a massive phoenix on the wall, directly in front of the Transfiguration classroom. She knelt and reached a hand into her sock, found her Galleon, and sent a signal to Neville to go to the dungeons.
“There ‘e is! It’s Longbottom, all right!” Alecto barked. Ginny looked around, hiding the Galleon again, to see Amycus and Alecto both tearing down the corridor, wands drawn. They thought she was Neville? Considering that the Carrows seemed never to have noticed the difference in size between herself and Neville, it was going to be much easier to confuse them…
Concentrating hard, she thought, Expelliarmus! and both Carrows’ wands flew from their hands. Amid their yells of shock and anger, Ginny took off running. Mustn’t get too far, she thought, rounding a corner. They’ve got to come close to catching me…she looked over her shoulder, and could only see Alecto; Amycus had to still be searching for his wand. She glanced down at her watch. She had bought the D.A. five full minutes thus far, but they would need more…
A streak of red light flew over Ginny’s left shoulder, and she ducked instinctively to her right, crashing painfully into a second suit of armor. Swearing and rubbing her shoulder, she shot an Impediment Jinx and a Leg-Locker Curse at the Carrows without looking back. They were far too close, and she needed to get just a bit farther ahead…
Nine minutes, she thought, clutching a stitch in her side as she dived out of the way of another Stunner. “Expelliarmus!” she shouted automatically, when a jet of white light sailed dangerously close to her.
“It’s Weasley!” bellowed Alecto. “Weasley! We’ve got her! We’ve—”
Ginny fired a Silencing Charm directly at Alecto’s face just as the Galleon in her sock heated up—it had been fifteen minutes, and the D.A. had gotten Evelyn—now she just had to get away, which was more than doable, even with both Carrows dogging her path.
A brilliant jet of green light soared over Ginny’s head, and her stomach turned to ice. She skidded to a halt and looked around in utter shock and horror; Alecto had stopped running, too, and was grinning evilly at her. Then, with a thrill of horror, Ginny realized that she was alone. Where was Amycus?
Two arms clamped tightly around her shoulders and neck, cutting off her air; she had thought that he was directly behind his sister, when really, he was waiting to trap Ginny from the other direction. She dropped her wand, all thoughts of Alecto’s Killing Curse driven from her mind by the fact that she could no longer breathe…
“We’ve had just about enough ‘a you, Weasley,” Amycus growled in her ear.
Alecto was still smiling in that sickly satisfied way, advancing on Ginny, as she finally could no longer breathe, and everything went dark.
She didn’t know how long she was unconscious, but she quickly realized that the reason she was waking up was the pain she was in. She opened her eyes. She was in the dungeon where the Carrows had first tortured her, but they were nowhere in sight. The terrible pain she felt in her arms was coming from the chains that bound her wrists to the wall and pinned them over her head, bearing the full weight of her body, which didn’t quite reach the floor. Her legs stuck out straight in front of her, as her body made a kind of obtuse angle, her back to the wall.
Seeking to relieve the coursing pain in her shoulders and tingling fingertips, Ginny stiffly and awkwardly pulled herself into a squat, balancing on the balls of her feet with her back still pressed against the stone. Immediately, her arms felt better, though she could feel bruised skin where the stones had dug into her shoulders. Her neck felt as though it had been pinched tight, and she tried to rotate her head—no, it was too painful.
She sighed heavily, her arms trapped ridiculously over her head, and muttered in an undertone, “Brilliant. Just brilliant.” She gave the cuffs on her wrists a shake, but the chains were too short to even attempt to get up and ease the pain. Instead, she flexed her bloodless fingers, which tingled painfully. She wondered how long she had been trapped down here. Were classes resuming already? Perhaps Professor Slughorn was already close by, just on the floor above.
“Hello?” Ginny shouted. “Is anybody out there?” She thought it unlikely that anyone would hear her through the heavy oak door and stonework, but she had to try. She nearly yelled herself hoarse; no one answered her. It was at least three hours before the dungeon door banged open, and for a moment, her heart leapt—then she saw that it was just Alecto Carrow, unpleasant and sour as ever.
“No one’ll hear ye,” she growled. “So I’d save yer breath.”
Ginny snorted. “And what are you going to do to me now that’s worse than anything else you’ve done? No, wait, I have a better question. What do you expect you can do to a pureblood?” She saw Alecto’s piggy eyes narrow, as though she were thinking very hard. “Yeah, that’s right, remembered now? I don’t reckon your boss will be too happy if you just start killing us off.”
“Yer nothin’ but a blood traitor, Weasley,” Alecto snapped.
“But blood, I have,” Ginny answered simply. She gave Alecto a scathing look. “And you—don’t—scare—me. Understand?”
“Crucio!” Alecto screamed, and Ginny writhed, her feet slipping from beneath her so that she fell, jerking her arms painfully.
“An’ that’s just a bit o’ what’s comin’ to ye,” Alecto said viciously. She ripped her wand out of her pocket and hit Ginny’s cuffs with a curse that burned white-hot, but sent them flying. “Now get up.” But Ginny remained where she had fallen, rubbing her burned and blistering hands. With a furious growl, Alecto seized her upper arm and yanked her to her feet.
She clenched her teeth against the pain throbbing in her arms as blood rushed back into them. Her legs were regaining feeling with every step as Alecto roughly marched her from the dungeon and up through the castle. When they reached the sweeping marble staircase in the entrance hall, Alecto loosened her grip and stepped slightly behind Ginny, who stopped moving.
“Walk, Weasley, an’ don’t try anythin’,” she said, and Ginny felt not one, but two wandtips poke her in the small of her back. She touched a hand automatically to her pocket. “Yeah, that’s right,” Alecto said unpleasantly. “An’ ye’ll get it back if yer a good girl. Now walk.”
Ginny repressed the urge to stomp on her foot, and clenched her jaw tightly. “Walk where, Professor?”
“Yer goin’ ta Dark Arts,” Alecto answered. “Get along with ye, or ye’ll join ‘er!” she barked suddenly at a crowd of passing second year Ravenclaws.
Slowly, Ginny complied, feeling Alecto keep the wands pressed into her back. She climbed stairs all the way up to the seventh floor, her mind racing. Her head was still fuzzy and pounding, along with most of the rest of her body. What day of the week was it? Was she going into her own class? Unlikely—there would be no members of Dumbledore’s Army to whom the Carrows would hope to teach a lesson. It was possible she was going to Neville’s class, where she would meet the majority of the D.A.…
“‘Ere we go, then,” Amycus said, as Alecto pushed the door open. Ginny glowered at his ugly, doughy face. “We’ve got our volunteer. Who’d like ter practice firs’, then?”
Ginny looked out over the classroom, expecting to see no raised hands and the shocked faces of her fellow Gryffindors. Instead, she saw—
“Awright, then, Parkinson, up ye get,” Amycus said.
Ginny’s stomach dropped. There were still three raised hands in the classroom full of Slytherins and Ravenclaws: Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle. Pansy Parkinson, her eyes glinting maliciously above her upturned nose, was approaching Ginny.
“Give it a try, Parkinson,” Amycus said as Alecto joined him near the wall.
Ginny stood before Pansy, trying not to let any of the pain she already felt show in her hateful glare. Pansy watched her evenly for a moment.
“Crucio,” she said coolly, and the spell hit Ginny so fast that the wind was knocked out of her. It was not pain unimaginable, as she knew it would be if Pansy had successfully pulled off the curse, but it was enough to really hurt for a few moments. Pansy smirked.
“Do it again,” Ginny spat, clutching her stomach as she straightened up. “I dare you.”
“Go on, Pansy!” called Millicent Bulstrode, and someone else wolf-whistled. Ginny looked around to see Malfoy, his pale, pointed face twisted with evil enjoyment, staring at her.
“Again, Parkinson,” Amycus barked.
Pansy nodded, drawing a breath. “Crucio!”
The spell hit a bit harder, this time, and Ginny was knocked backward a few steps, though she managed to stay on her feet, doubled over in pain.
“Nah, Parkinson—ye gotta hold onto it—Malfoy, get up ‘ere, show ‘er,” Amcyus ordered, snapping his fingers.
Lazily, with a look of smug self-satisfaction, Malfoy drew himself up from his chair to join Pansy at the front of the room. He faced Ginny, a look of cool composure on his face, as though he were truly preparing to savor the moment.
“Oh, yeah, I forgot, Malfoy,” Ginny muttered. “They let you practice at home, don’t they? Who’s Daddy had you cursing?” A muscle twitched in Malfoy’s jaw, and Ginny saw something of his composure slip. “People who are more powerful than me, I bet…that’s why you can face me, right?”
“Shut up, Weasley!” Amycus barked. “Malfoy, do it now!”
“Draco,” Pansy whined, pulling on his elbow.
“But those two took my wand, so you’re definitely in charge here,” Ginny said, still in the same low undertone. “Who’ve you been practicing on? Muggle kids?”
Malfoy’s wand slipped in his sweaty grip.
“Muggle-borns who run away?”
“Do it now, Malfoy!” Amycus ordered.
“Prisoners?” There was no mistaking it, now, there was fear behind Malfoy’s eyes. The entire class was spellbound, watching Ginny overpower him without a wand in her hand. “Go on, then, Draco,” she said. “I’m wait—”
She screamed and fell to her knees. With a slashing movement through the air, Malfoy had sent a curse flying—it was not the Cruciatus Curse, for it struck her left shoulder, burning white-hot. She pulled her hand away to see a lot of blood. Pansy was staring between them in shock and horror, Malfoy’s face with twisted with hate, and Amycus and Alecto Carrow were giggling wheezily.
“Don’t ever talk to me like that again,” Malfoy hissed down at Ginny.
“I had no idea it was so easy to scare you,” she retorted, staggering to her feet and looking straight up into his face. “Good to know.”
“Cruc—!” Pansy shrieked, but before she could get the word out, Ginny took two strides forward, raised a fist, and hit her quite hard in the jaw.
The Ravenclaws sitting in the back of the room, including Padma Patil, Michael Corner, Terry Boot, and Anthony Goldstein all burst into shocked laughter as Pansy staggered backward. Amycus and Alecto, with twin roars of anger, leapt forward and seized Ginny’s arms—she gasped in pain. The wound on her shoulder was still oozing blood.
“Quiet! Shut up, all of ye!” Amycus was roaring at the class as Pansy clung, sobbing, to the front of Draco’s robes—the Ravenclaws had started cheering Ginny, who looked at Alecto.
“Bring me back in here tomorrow, please,” Ginny asked Alecto politely as she was forcibly dragged from the classroom. “This was fun.”
Alecto scowled and fumbled for her wand, pointing it directly at Ginny’s face. “Stupefy,” she growled. There was a flash of red light, and Ginny lost consciousness once again.
When she woke this time, it was abruptly, as though someone had yelled at her. She was slumped against the wall of the same dungeon as before. Her blistered wrists stung and burned where the metal cut into them, pinning her arms overhead. Awkwardly, she craned her neck to look down at her shoulder. There was the brownish stain of dried blood on her robes, and she could just see the edge of a slightly raised scar where the wound on her shoulder had been. Ignoring this angrily, Ginny looked around the dungeon, trying to figure out whether it was day or night. She was alone, and without any daylight, it was impossible to know how long she had been there. There was a gnawing hunger in the pit of her stomach, but she was, oddly, not thirsty.
She wished someone would come and release her arms; they were unbearably painful, and she realized that was what had awoken her so suddenly. She adjusted her position slightly, and her wrists stung painfully. To her great shame, her eyes watered, and she sniffled, rubbing her cheek against her shoulder. She wished suddenly, desperately, that she was back in Gryffindor Tower, with Arnold cuddled against her neck—or, better yet, that she was home with her mother.
And then the tears came thick and fast, and Ginny couldn’t stop herself from sobbing. Tears poured down her cheeks as she cried, but she couldn’t do anything to wipe them away. Every time she tried to dry her face on her sleeve, her wrists and neck would throb with pain, and she would cry harder. Ginny felt idiotic, and knew she must look dreadful, her face glazed with tears, but never before had she so badly wanted to just be away from Hogwarts. Anywhere had to be better than the place she so loved that was now turning against her; where teachers threw the Killing Curse at her and people she cared about. Now, here she was, reduced to a crying mess in the dungeons. She didn’t know if it was day or night and she didn’t know what was going to become of her—was she going to be punished even further for her behavior in the Dark Arts class? Worst of all—and this was what hurt the most—she didn’t know if anyone was going to come and rescue her, or even if they could.
For over an hour, Ginny sobbed brokenheartedly as she had not done since she and Harry had ended their relationship. She cried so hard that her head began to ache and spin, and, more for lack of tears than anything else, she began to quiet at last. She was still unable to wipe away her tears, so she felt them slowly dry on her cheeks, tightening her skin and somehow making her feel as though she were running a high fever. How she wished someone would come and unchain her…even now, her misery was hardening again into anger, and she wanted nothing more than to attack the Carrows…with or without her wand, she would take both of them on gladly…
Then, as if through a fog, Ginny heard voices outside her door. At first she imagined that they might be a passing group of students. Then, she realized that they couldn’t be—the voices were rising in volume, as though a quiet argument was giving way to a louder, more heated one. Ginny strained to listen, but was unable to tell who was speaking, until—
With a bang, the door of the dungeon flew open, and torchlight spilled into the room, much brighter than the dim lighting Ginny’s eyes had been growing accustomed to. She blinked, eyes watering as she tried to see who it was. Alecto Carrow stood sullenly in the doorway beside Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape. Ginny wondered if she was hallucinating, but then McGonagall rounded angrily on the other two.
“You gave the order for them to hold her here?” she demanded furiously of Snape.
“I deemed it appropriate, as she had attacked another student,” he began.
“Another student who attacked her first!” McGonagall retorted. “No thanks to your minions!” There were two indignant grunts, and Ginny realized that Amycus, too, stood in the corridor outside the dungeon with his sister.
“However,” Professor Snape continued, as though none of them had spoken, “I certainly did not say that the girl ought to be chained up, nor for so long a period.” He faced Amycus and Alecto and said silkily, “I must remind you, Professors, that our priority at Hogwarts is not punishment, but care for our charges. Miss Weasley must be returned to her family for her holidays. You will see me in my office later, for a formal reprimand.”
“Oh, well handled, headmaster,” McGonagall said acidly.
Snape arched an eyebrow. “Did you wish to join them, Professor McGonagall?”
“Excuse me,” Ginny croaked—her voice was very dry from disuse. “Am I being let out or not?” She was more than slightly annoyed at their disinterest in her.
“Yes, you are,” Professor McGonagall said firmly, striding forward and drawing her wand. She released Ginny’s arms from the chains, and they fell uselessly at her sides, burning as blood surged into them once more. McGonagall took in her tearstained appearance—Ginny was sure that her eyes had to be quite red—and seemed to restrain herself from trying to comfort her. “Up you get. Can you stand?” Ginny nodded, and Professor McGonagall helped her get up from the dirty floor. Her arms felt like lead, and her head spun, but she managed to stay upright as Professor McGonagall walked her out of the dungeon.
“Wait,” she said, stopping before Alecto, who was angrily avoiding her gaze. “You’ve got my wand, Professor. I’d like it back, please.” Alecto did nothing. Just as Professor McGonagall made an angry noise, Professor Snape spoke.
“Professor, kindly return Miss Weasley’s wand,” he said evenly. Grumbling, Alecto stuffed a hand into her pocket and produced Ginny’s wand, which she thrust into her hand.
“Thanks,” Ginny said politely.
“Come along, Miss Weasley,” Professor McGonagall said impatiently. “We’ll have Madam Pomfrey look you over…”
Ginny threw a last, victorious look over her shoulder at the Carrows and Snape, who remained standing before the open dungeon door, all looking extremely put out. At the top of the stairs, however, she swayed a little, feeling dizzy.
“You need water and sleep,” Professor McGonagall said, placing a supportive hand on Ginny’s elbow. Her voice was not nearly so strong now as it had been.
“How long was I there?” Ginny asked as they reached the entrance hall and began to climb upstairs to the hospital wing. It was evening, after curfew, to judge by the lit torches and darkness outside, but not particularly late at night.
“Nearly a full day,” McGonagall answered her. “They told me you attacked Pansy Parkinson and Draco Malfoy this morning, but when I didn’t see you at dinner, I knew that something was wrong.” They had arrived at the hospital wing. She let Ginny in first and pointed to a bed. “Sit down. I shall find Madam Pomfrey. Oh—” she went to the bedside table and poured a glass of water from the pitcher that stood there. “Drink this in small sips.”
She marched away, leaving Ginny alone. She put the glass of water of the bedside table and hunched over, holding her dully-aching head. She hoped sincerely that Neville, Seamus, and the others had refrained from trying to rescue her, for she was certain that they must know from Padma and the other Ravenclaws what had happened that morning. She winced; her wrists had just stung very badly, and she pulled back her sleeves a bit to see healing blisters and raw, red skin, just as Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall came hurrying down the ward.
“Where are you hurt, Weasley?” Madam Pomfrey asked immediately, taking Ginny’s face in her hands and turning it from side to side, peering into her eyes. “You’re a bit dehydrated.” She met Professor McGonagall’s gaze gravely. “See that she drinks that water. I’ll get something for her hands.”
“Madam Pomfrey?” Ginny asked. “Is—is there something you can do about my shoulder?” She plucked at the torn sleeve, and Madam Pomfrey came to look at the scar. She sucked in a sharp breath, which Professor McGonagall echoed a moment later.
“I’ll put it right,” Madam Pomfrey said briskly, and she strode away to her medicine chest.
Professor McGonagall sternly pressed the water glass into Ginny’s hands again. “Drink.” Ginny obeyed. Now that she had water at last, she realized that she hadn’t known how very thirsty she had been. It took her only a few gulps before she finished the second glass, and poured herself a third.
“Slowly, please,” Madam Pomfrey reminded her patiently. “Let me see your hands first.”
Ginny held out one wrist, and then the other, wincing painfully as Madam Pomfrey dabbed a thick, strong-smelling violet paste onto the sores and wrapped bandages around her hands.
“I won’t have to stay here tonight, will I?” Ginny asked, putting down her third glass of water to appeal to Professor McGonagall. “I can go back to Gryffindor Tower?”
“That is for Madam Pomfrey to decide,” she said, nodding at the matron, who was applying liberal amounts of undiluted essence of dittany to Ginny’s shoulder, which smoked faintly as the scar grew smaller and smaller.
Madam Pomfrey gave a rather long-suffering sigh and went to her medicine chest again. She returned with a small blue vial, which she added to Ginny’s water. “Drink this, it’s better than the water alone. And if you go to bed right away, I’ll allow you to leave tonight.”
Ginny smiled at her. “Thank you.”
“I mean it, Miss Weasley,” she answered sternly. “You could have been much more seriously hurt than this. You’re very lucky.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Ginny nodded. To placate Madam Pomfrey, she drank the potion, and a rush of cool air seemed to wash over her; she felt suddenly more awake and alert. “I really do feel much better.”
“She’s to come straight back to me if she doesn’t look well in the morning,” Madam Pomfrey said to Professor McGonagall. Then she faced Ginny, her expression much more sympathetic. “Do try to keep yourself well, at least until after your holidays.”
Ginny nodded. “I’ll do my best.”
“Come, Miss Weasley, I’ll take you back to Gryffindor Tower,” said Professor McGonagall. Ginny stood and followed her from the hospital wing. They walked in silenc for quite a ways, until, it seemed, Professor McGonagall could stand it no longer. “Am I to understand,” she said in an undertone, “That you had something to do with resolving the misfortune that befell Evelyn Alistair yesterday?”
Ginny looked away from her. “They shouldn’t have taken her like that. They were after us, not her.”
Professor McGonagall gave an exasperated sigh. “Miss Weasley—”
“Better I than her,” Ginny replied calmly. Professor McGonagall said nothing, apparently lost for words. They arrived at the Fat Lady in silence.
“Filigree,” said Professor McGonagall, and the portrait swung open. “Go to bed, Miss Weasley.”
Ginny started to climb through the portrait hole, but stopped and looked back. “Thank you, Professor—for coming to find me.” She nodded once, and Ginny climbed through to the common room, hearing the Fat Lady’s portrait swing shut behind her.