The First Detention
When Ginny got down to the Great Hall, she marched along the Gryffindor table, hunting for a space, only to be caught by Neville, who looked very agitated and seemed to be waiting for her. She gave a little groan and sat down beside him.
“Do you really have detention tonight?” he demanded, still clinging to her wrist.
“Yes,” Ginny answered testily, pulling her hand back.
“Ginny,” he moaned. “What did you do that for?
“What?” she asked sharply. “I’m not allowed to have a problem with the ridiculous things they’re forcing us to read? I thought you wanted us collecting information. This seems like a pretty good way.”
“We don’t know what they’ll do to you,” he said.
“Only one way to find out,” Ginny told him. Neville looked downcast, and she reached out to touch his arm. “Look, they’ll probably just try to scare me out of causing more trouble in class. They won’t do anything drastic.”
“Says you,” Neville mumbled.
Ginny shook her head. “For once, I’m really glad I’m pureblood, Neville. And you should be, too. You-Know-Who won’t want to murder the people he thinks he can win over, will he?”
Neville wrinkled his nose at the word “murder,” but sighed. “I guess not.”
Ginny smiled. “I’ll see you back in the common room tonight and give you an update on what they’re up to.”
“That reminds me,” he said suddenly. “Did you get the Daily Prophet this morning?”
“Yeh—no,” Ginny said, with sudden realization. “No, I didn’t.”
“Nor did anybody else,” said Neville. “I asked about ten different people.”
Ginny frowned and looked up at the staff table, where Alecto Carrow was watching the hall with beady eyes. “Do you think they’re stopping news?”
“Well, I know they’re opening letters and packages,” said Neville. “Gran sent me a jumper I left behind, and the whole thing was nearly destroyed. And the note had definitely been read.”
“Yes, but stopping the newspaper?” Ginny asked incredulously.
Neville shrugged. “Luna already had her Quibbler taken away on the train, remember?”
Ginny slammed her fork and knife down on the table, startling Neville. “Really?” she demanded. “Really, this is how it’s going to be now? This is it? We’re just going to sit by while they open our mail, and destroy our school, and—and—”
“Ginny,” Neville said slowly, “We’re going to have to face this if Harry’s left—”
“He hasn’t left!” she almost shouted. “He hasn’t left, don’t say that—he’s just—he’s somewhere else, he’s fighting somewhere else.”
“You’re right—I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant,” Neville said calmingly, trying to get her to lower her voice. “But the fact is that he’s not with us right now, and we’ve got to get used to it.”
Ginny took a deep breath. “I know,” she said in a low voice, staring down at the tabletop. “I know.”
But it was in a very foul mood that Ginny left the Gryffindor table and made the trek down into the dungeons. A level below the normal Potions classroom, she came across one of the doors standing open to a room where spare desks and chairs were kept. Deciding that it was her best shot, Ginny walked into the small dungeon to see both Carrows waiting for her, identical idiotic, malevolent grins on their faces as they stood amid a clutter of desks.
She felt a sudden, irrepressible wave of fear, and narrowed her eyes.
“Weasley, eh?” asked Amycus, flicking his wand. The door banged shut, but Ginny did not flinch.
“Where’s yer stinking little gang of nasties now?” demanded Alecto, walking a slow circle around Ginny. “Think ye can just say anything ye like in my classroom? Think ye still run this school? I got news for you, girlie—you, an’ all yer Order of the Phoenix friends are nothin’. We make the rules now. Dumbledore’s gone, an’ we’re in charge.”
Ginny gave an involuntary shiver of revulsion at the stink of Alecto’s breath, coupled with her overwhelming fear at the revelation that the Carrows knew exactly who she and all her family were—how?
Amycus gave a harsh laugh. “Not so brave, now, eh?”
And a bubble of hatred popped inside Ginny’s heart, sparking a flicker of confidence. “Try me,” she spat.
“Ooh-hoo-hoo,” cackled Alecto. “Such a temper on the little ginger.”
Ginny narrowed her eyes fiercely.
“Yer brother really got spattergroit?” Amycus demanded, coming close to Ginny with his wand drawn.
“Yes,” Ginny said.
“Onna ‘counta we heard that he’s a real good friend of Harry Potter,” said Alecto, with an evil smile.
“My brother is at home, very sick,” Ginny said coldly. “And I haven’t seen Harry Potter since last June.”
Amycus prodded his wand up beneath her chin. “Ye lyin’?”
Ginny forced herself to meet his eyes. “No, Professor.”
“Ferget it,” Alecto muttered after several beats of silence. “We got time to get it out of ‘er. Let’s—”
“Ah, right,” Amycus said, with a foul smile. “Yer our first detention, Weasley. Didja know ye’d be settin’ an example?”
Ginny raised her chin, refusing to betray fear.
“We got special permission ta use whatever we need ta punish ye,” said Alecto, drawing her wand. “Take ‘er wand.”
Amycus reached for Ginny’s pocket, but she jerked away, closing her fingers tightly around the handle of her wand. Her heart was pounding; she backed away, watching in fright as both Carrows aimed their wands at her. There was a long, tense moment of utter silence. Then, knowing she had no choice, she pulled out her wand and Amycus snatched it away, tossing it onto a broken desk in the corner.
But before Ginny could say anything, Amycus slashed his wand through the air. “Crucio!”
Pain like she had never felt ripped through Ginny’s stomach. She dropped immediately to the floor, biting down hard. She fought to stay rigid, not to scream, but it was becoming difficult—and then the pain was gone. She lay curled on the floor, shaking and sweating, as Amycus stepped over her.
“Ye wanna be careful,” he wheezed, chuckling down at her. “Fallin’ on the floor like that, ye could hurt yerself.” Ginny glared back hatefully.
“Crucio,” Alecto said lightly, and the pain was a million times worse—Ginny thrashed back involuntarily, banging her knee sharply on a nearby desk and hitting her head on another. When Alecto lifted the curse this time, Ginny could feel something warm and wet trickling down her temple. Her knee felt like it had split open, but she didn’t dare look at it—she was nauseated enough already.
“How’s that?” asked Alecto, hunching down so that she was right beside Ginny’s face. “Weren’t expectin’ that, eh?”
“What?” Ginny panted. “An illegal curse—from Death Eaters? Couldn’t possibly—have—imagined…”
Alecto’s face twisted in fury, and she raised her wand again. Ginny squeezed her eyes shut, curling into a tighter ball—she would not scream—
The dungeon door banged open, admitting a figure Ginny had never expected she’d be glad to see, if only for a split-second. Snape, his black robes billowing around him, was enraged, and held up what looked to Ginny like a newspaper.
“What, Snape?” Alecto whined, clearly upset that she had been stopped.
Snape’s black eyes flickered carelessly over Ginny, who was pulling herself into a sitting position on the floor. “Never mind her,” he said. “Weasley, get out of here. Now.” Ginny froze, staring between Snape and the Carrows. Alecto gaped angrily. “Now, Weasley, now!” Snape shouted.
Wincing, Ginny pulled herself up on a desk. She spotted her wand still lying on the broken table in the corner and snatched it quickly before limping out of the room. Her mind was racing as she quickly made her decision; she ducked into a small alcove and strained to listen to the conversation happening inside the dungeon.
“—What’s this mean? Potter—”
“It means, Carrow, that Potter may very well be headed here,” Snape growled. Ginny’s heart leapt.
“How’s that?” demanded Alecto.
“The Dark Lord has reason to believe the boy will try to enter Hogwarts, and this…reappearance…indicates that he is correct.”
“You spoke to him?” asked Amycus.
There were several beats of silence. Ginny gulped, listening hard. Did that mean that Snape had seen Voldemort…in Hogwarts? The thought made her shiver
“We will return to my office now and prepare for a possible break-in,” said his cold voice. “Come.”
Ginny crammed herself back into the shadows and watched as Snape swept out of the dungeon, followed by the Carrows. She could see the newspaper sticking out of Alecto’s pocket. She quickly fumbled with her wand and whispered, “Wingardium Leviosa.”
The newspaper floated out of Alecto’s pocket and hovered near the stairs leading out of the dungeon. Satisfied that Snape and the Carrows were gone, Ginny limped forward and seized it, unrolling it to the front page. Her heart jumped into her throat.
UNDESIRABLE No. 1 LEADS MINISTRY BREAK-IN; ESCAPES ARREST
Ginny clapped a hand over her mouth, stifling a burst of nervous laughter. Harry’s picture was emblazoned across the front page, captioned with Undesirable No. 1: Harry James Potter. Quickly, she folded the newspaper and stuffed it in an inner pocket. Gritting her teeth against the pounding pain in her leg and head, she began the climb up the nine flights of stairs back to Gryffindor Tower. At long last, she reached the Fat Lady. She looked utterly shocked at Ginny’s appearance. “What on earth happened—?”
“Billywig!” Ginny gasped, and the painting swung open. With monumental effort, she dragged herself through the portrait hole.
“Neville,” she panted as she was stifled in a painful hug. “Shh—ow, ow!”
“Merlin’s beard, what did they do to you?”
She felt Neville seize her under the arms and help her into a chair by the fire. She looked around; the common room was mostly dark. It seemed that with the early curfew, everyone had gone up to bed.
“Ow!” she cried, as Neville’s fingers prodded the cut on her forehead.
“You need Madam Pomfrey,” he said, looking vaguely nauseated.
“No,” Ginny muttered. “That’s not bad—it’s my knee that’s hurt—but Neville, listen,” she began, reaching into her pocket.
“I think I can fix this one,” he said, not paying attention. He bit his lip, looking nervous as he held his wand. “If you’ll let me.”
Ginny met his eyes. “Okay, fine,” she said impatiently. “But Neville, listen.”
“Hold still, Ginny—”
“Neville! Harry broke into the Ministry of Magic!”
Neville stopped and stared at her. “What?”
Ginny pulled out the Daily Prophet and unfurled the headline. Neville took the paper, dropping into a chair, his jaw hanging open.
“‘Harry Potter, Undesirable Number One, evaded law enforcement officials today in the Ministry of Magic, aided by two unknown accomplices posing as Ministry officials. Says Madam Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic and head of the…Muggle-born…’ oh, bloody hell,” Neville groaned.
“They escaped,” Ginny said, beaming.
“They attacked Umbridge,” said Neville, scanning the article.
“Even better,” said Ginny offhandedly. “And listen—Snape’s been talking to You-Know-Who—I swiped this from him, when he burst in and ended my detention—but You-Know-Who is scared stiff that Harry’s going to come here, to Hogwarts!”
“Why would he do that?” Neville asked skeptically.
“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “But now we have news. We have something to go on. If Snape’s scared that Harry’s going to break into the castle—”
“Then maybe we should help him break in,” Neville said, catching on.
Ginny nodded, sitting back. “You’ve got it. We just need to figure out how many of Fred and George’s secret passages they’ve found, and then find a way to tell Harry which ones he can still use.” She felt so jittery and alive with excitement that she’d nearly forgotten about her injured knee—then she moved it and winced.
“Let’s see that,” Neville said, and Ginny lifted back her robe. A very deep wound was oozing blood down her leg. She touched it gingerly and winced again.
“How did you get up here like this?” Neville asked incredulously, kneeling before her.
Ginny shook her head. Now that she had seen the cut, it had begun to hurt very badly.
“Well, I can do the one on your forehead, it’s just a small one,” he said, standing up and drawing his wand. “Will you let me?”
“I trust you.” Ginny closed her eyes and felt the tip of Neville’s wand touch her hairline. It burned hot for a moment, and she winced, but a moment later it stopped, and she reached up a hand and very gingerly touched the spot where the cut had been—it had vanished, leaving only a slightly tender bump behind. “That’s much better, Neville, thanks.”
“No problem,” Neville said, looking relieved as he handed her a handkerchief, and she dabbed at the trickle of blood on the side of her face. “But this one…it’s serious,” he said, examining her knee again in the firelight. “I’m going to get McGonagall. What did you do?”
Ginny grabbed his arm. “No—I fell, it was my own fault. They let me go, and I fell on my way up the stairs. Don’t bother McGonagall, she’ll just get in more trouble if they think she’s letting students ignore curfew.”
Neville looked mistrustful. “You’re not telling me the truth.”
“Neville, I’m fine, just—just use that spell you did on my forehead, I’m fine,” Ginny insisted.
“Ginny, Luna taught me that charm to stop parchment cuts from hurting, not real wounds. You need the hospital wing, at the least,” he said firmly.
“No, Neville,” Ginny said. “I’m not going to set the Carrows on McGonagall’s case or Madam Pomfrey’s because of me being clumsy.”
“You’re not clumsy, you’re lying again,” he said loudly, standing up. Ginny was startled, and seeing this, Neville took a deep breath. “Okay, look, you definitely need the hospital wing. I’ll get you help, and then tomorrow, first thing, you’re telling me what happened to you.”
Ginny stared at him for a moment. Then she reached out and touched his hand. “Okay, Neville. Okay,” she said. “Go get McGonagall.”
“Ginny?” She looked over her shoulder. Little Evelyn Alistair stood at the foot of the stairs in a violet bathrobe, wearing a frown. “Are you all right?” Evelyn asked.
Ginny smiled. “I’m fine, Evelyn, thank you,” she said. “I’m sorry, we didn’t mean to wake anybody up. You can go back—”
“Are you hurt?”
Ginny glanced up at Neville and tugged her robes to cover her knee. “I—er—I fell and cut my knee on the stairs.”
“Are you helping her?” Evelyn asked Neville immediately.
He didn’t seem to be able to repress a smile. “I was just going to get Professor McGonagall.”
“Then I’ll keep you company, Ginny,” said Evelyn, marching over to the sofa and sitting down as Neville grinned at Ginny and hurried out of the portrait hole.
“Can I see?” Evelyn asked, leaning over.
“No, no,” Ginny said, wrinkling her nose. “It’s nasty.”
Evelyn nodded. “I’ve got three younger brothers. Nothing is nastier than the things they do to themselves.”
Ginny laughed. “I know what you mean. I’ve got six older brothers.”
“No,” Evelyn said, looking shocked. “I don’t think I could have six of my brothers.”
Ginny smiled, but winced slightly.
“Does it hurt?” Evelyn asked sympathetically.
“No, I’m fine,” Ginny lied. “You should go back up to bed. I’ll be fine here.”
“I can’t sleep,” said Evelyn, looking around the common room. “It’s too early.”
Ginny frowned. “Are you sure?”
Evelyn nodded, though she was still looking at the bookshelves. “Just not tired,” she said. Silence fell for a few moments.
“Are you still homesick, Evelyn?” asked Ginny, and Evelyn blinked rapidly and shook her head. “It’s okay if you are. I’m homesick, too. I miss my brothers and my parents like mad.”
Evelyn faced her, her overlarge brown eyes swimming with tears. “You do?”
Ginny’s heart felt like it was breaking into a million tiny pieces. She sat forward and patted Evelyn’s hand. “All the time.”
Ginny turned around to see Professor McGonagall and Neville climbing through the portrait hole. “Professor,” she said, trying to smile. “I’m sorry if we bothered you—”
“Off to bed, please, Miss Alistair,” said Professor McGonagall to Evelyn, who immediately hopped up and scurried away up the stairs. Professor McGonagall came to face Ginny, frowning. “What happened, Miss Weasley? Longbottom said you had a detention. It is the first day of class.”
“Oh,” Ginny stammered, glancing at Neville. “Well, I was—doing lines, for Professor Carrow—”
“Lines,” Professor McGonagall repeated, her eyebrows contracting sharply.
“Yes, lines,” Ginny said. “I was coming back, and I guess I wasn’t being careful on the stairs. I slipped,” she said, pulling back her robes again to reveal her injury.
Professor McGonagall’s frown deepened, but she quickly recovered herself. “We’ll talk about Professor Carrow and your detention later,” she said briskly. “For now, can you walk? We’ll take you to Madam Pomfrey. Longbottom, help her up—that’s it.”
Later that night, as Ginny lay in the hospital wing with her knee bandaged and healing nicely thanks to Madam Pomfrey, she reached into her pocket and withdrew the folded-up newspaper. She picked up her wand and lit it, studying Harry’s face. Two unknown accomplices…that had to be Ron and Hermione, she thought. She had read the article a dozen times, looking for more clues, but couldn’t find anything.
Quietly, she ripped out Harry’s picture and folded it up, tucking it safely in the pocket of her robes, which lay folded on her bedside table. Then she turned on her side and hoped that wherever they had escaped to, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were safe.
Just as she started to drift off to sleep, wondering why on earth Snape could possibly have thought Harry was on his way to Hogwarts, a memory floated through her mind; an overheard conversation in Ron’s room the night before Bill’s wedding…a sudden idea struck.
“The sword,” she whispered.
“Don’t you see?” Ginny asked. “Snape was angry because he thought Harry was going to come here next to take the sword.” She, Luna, and Neville stood together in the courtyard at break, one of the only times they had to talk to each other. She had just left the hospital wing that morning and sought out Neville and Luna immediately.
“Why would he steal a sword?” Luna asked.
“The sword of Gryffindor?” Neville asked incredulously. “The one in Dumbledore’s office?”
Ginny nodded. “Listen,” she said, lowering her voice. “Over the summer, Rufus Scrimgeour came to our house to talk to Harry, Ron, and Hermione.”
“Why?” Neville asked.
“I still don’t know,” Ginny said, shaking her head. “But it had something to do with Dumbledore, and the sword. I definitely heard them talking about it the night before my brother’s wedding.”
“His will,” said Luna, with sudden realization. Ginny and Neville stared at her. “The Ministry of Magic must have been holding his will. They’re allowed to withhold the contents of a witch or wizard’s will to examine them for a maximum of thirty days if they have reason to believe that the things being passed along are Dark or dangerous. Daddy did a piece on it once…”
“Dumbledore wouldn’t pass along anything like that,” Ginny said indignantly, but Luna shook her head.
“Of course not, but he wasn’t very popular with the Ministry at the time he died, was he?” she asked. “And anyway, they don’t need proof that the things are dangerous, only a belief that they are. It’s really a brilliant loophole, you see. There’s no penalty if they say they’re wrong—after they thoroughly examine everything.”
“So—wait—you’re saying that Scrimgeour decided to hang onto the stuff Dumbledore left behind, just for the fun of it?” Neville asked. “What’s that got to do with Harry or the sword of Gryffindor?”
“Well, obviously Professor Dumbledore left Harry something in his will,” Luna said, waving a hand dismissively. “But I think he must have tried to give them the sword as well.” She put a hand to her chin, thinking hard. “I can’t imagine why…”
Ginny, meanwhile, was staring at her. “One day, Luna, I will make you sit down with Hermione, and you two can just riddle out the universe together while the rest of us watch.”
Luna wrinkled her nose slightly. “Don’t be silly, Hermione would hate that,” she said. She reached for Ginny’s jaw suddenly, preventing further speech. “Now, coming back to you…what are we going to do about that bruise?” Though Neville had taken care of the wound, a rather dark, ugly bruise had spread from the spot where Ginny had been cut on her forehead. She’d had no explanation for Madam Pomfrey, and the matron had released her, albeit reluctantly.
“Mm,” Ginny mumbled, reaching into her pocket to produce a small pot labeled ‘Blemish Remover’; she’d fetched it from her trunk before class.
“Fred and George?” Neville asked with a chuckle. Ginny grinned as Luna dabbed the blemish paste onto the bruise. “And—hang on—” he looked accusingly at Ginny, as though she had intentionally distracted them. “You never told me how you got beaten up in the first place. You promised you’d tell me this morning.”
“I’ve been wondering that myself,” Luna said lightly.
Ginny swallowed. “Well, like I said yesterday…it’s lucky I’m a pure-blood,” she said with a reluctant laugh.
“I beg your pardon?” Neville demanded. “What does that mean?”
“Did the Carrows hurt you?” Luna asked softly.
“I…well, technically, I wasn’t lying,” Ginny said to Neville. “I did fall, and I hurt my own knee. I fell and cut it on a desk. And I hit my head, too.”
“Ginny,” Neville said warningly, and she glared at him.
“Detention means they use the Cruciatus Curse on you,” she said in a low voice.
Luna’s eyes widened. “Surely not—”
“Why would I lie about that?” Ginny snapped suddenly, furious. Then she glanced at Neville, who looked sickened, and checked herself. “It’s…it’s not as bad as it could be. They’re not…I dunno…serious about it. They just want to make the point, they’re not interested in really hurting—”
“Don’t,” Neville muttered, closing his eyes. “I don’t want to hear.” Luna sighed, placing a hand on his arm.
“We’re lucky you’re all right,” she said softly to Ginny, who nodded, staring down at her feet. She felt horrible. In worrying so much about herself, she had somehow forgotten about Neville’s possible reaction to the news that torture would be the new standard for punishment.
Luna looked between Ginny and Neville, who was staring at the cobblestones below his feet. “We’re going to make it,” she said quietly. “We’re all going to be fine.”