Back to the Dungeon
“Ginny. Ginny. Oh, for heaven’s sake, Ginny!”
“Whuhyuwan?” Ginny mumbled, burying her head beneath her pillow. “Goway.” Her pillow was yanked away from her head, and she blinked painfully in the grayish light pouring in the window. “Issnowing,” she squeaked, reaching for her blankets so that she might pull them over her head.
“Don’t you want to see what the Great Hall looks like?” asked Parvati’s excited voice from somewhere across the room. “Breakfast starts in half an hour.”
Ginny sat bolt upright—she and Neville had stayed up talking, planning for the D.A. until nearly dawn, and though she had had only a few hours’ sleep, the prospect of seeing the Carrows’ faces when they encountered the scene in the Great Hall was enough to have her out of bed and pulling on her robes inside-out in excitement. She righted herself and felt in her pocket—her Galleon was there, and her wand was in her hand—but her photograph was missing. She looked around on the floor; Harry’s picture was nowhere to be seen. Ginny frowned, pulling back the blankets and lifting the pillows on her bed. The others had not noticed.
“They’re going to go mad,” Lavender said with a nervous giggle, pulling a comb through her hair as she fumbled to get ready.
“We have to pretend like we don’t notice it,” Parvati insisted. “Just—like it’s not even there.”
“That’s going to draw attention,” said Ginny, still looking around nervously, but pushing it from her mind. She could not worry about the picture now; it was certainly safe, somewhere in the dormitory. “We’ll just do whatever everyone else does.” The three of them headed down to breakfast together—Ginny and Neville had agreed that it would be best if they kept their distance from each other and from Luna today, just in case Professor McGonagall was watching.
“Right on time,” Lavender muttered as they reached the top of the marble staircase in the entrance hall; sleep-tousled students were ambling into the Great Hall for an early meal. She led the way down the stairs, Ginny and Parvati behind her.
“Wow,” Parvati said, stopping on the threshold.
There were perhaps fifty or so people in the Great Hall, unusual for this early hour. Professor Sinistra and Professor Vector were the only staff present, and each and every pair of eyes was fixed on the wall behind the staff table, which bore a carefully-wrought legend in shimmering violet ink.
“Ha!” Ginny laughed under her breath, clapping a hand over her mouth. “That looks amazing!” she whispered to Lavender, who grinned.
“Dumbledore’s Army?” asked one curious first year Ravenclaw. He turned to his friend, a curly-haired second year. “What’s that?” But others were not so confused, and they were hurriedly explaining to their younger classmates.
“This is brilliant!” shouted a Hufflepuff boy, bolting forward to examine the graffiti.
Ginny chanced a glance away from her shocked pretense to see the staff table. Professor Sinistra looked torn between tears and laughter, and was deep in conversation with Professor Vector, who nodded hurriedly and took off from the Great Hall.
“Vector’s gone to get the Heads of House,” Ginny guessed out loud. “Better sit down, quick.” She, Lavender, and Parvati hurried over to the Gryffindor table, where Ginny chose a seat far from the other two, but closest to the enormous script on the wall.
The Great Hall was filling up. There were joyous shouts of recognition and surprise as students who were entering saw the graffiti and began to discover Ginny’s leaflets hidden beneath the tables—Professor Sinistra was now standing directly before the graffiti, muttering as she waved her wand over the ink, which would not budge. Ginny grinned to herself; the ink was impervious to anything but the serum Fred and George had invented for it. It would fade on its own in no less than two weeks. More and more people were arriving for breakfast, now. Professor Vector had rejoined Professor Sinistra, and the two of them were frantically trying to remove the enormous words from the stone wall as the students laughed and chattered excitedly, passing newsletters back and forth under the tables, out of sight.
“Out of the way! Stebbins, move!”
“Miss Fawcett, go along now!”
Ginny looked around—one behind the other, Professor Sprout, Professor Flitwick, Professor Slughorn, and Professor McGonagall came barreling over the threshold of the hall—Flitwick gave a strangled gasp, but ran forward and began trying to assist Professors Vector and Sinistra, who looked thoroughly distressed. Slughorn, puffing and wheezing, wiped his brow with an emerald green silk handkerchief, apparently shocked beyond all belief, and Professor Sprout looked sick with fear. But Ginny’s eyes were on Professor McGonagall, whose mouth was hanging open slightly as she one hand held over her heart. Even through her stunned disbelief, however, the tiniest glimmer of a smile was starting to show—a moment later, McGonagall clapped a hand over her mouth, stifling what was unmistakably a frightened laugh.
With the appearance of the teachers, Ginny could see the pamphlets disappearing into her classmates’ bags. People were Vanishing them, tucking them into books, or magically disguising them to be saved for perusal later. The staff didn’t seem to notice; all of them were now gathered beneath the graffiti, apparently trying to figure out how to remove it from the wall. It seemed that nearly the entire school was present. The volume and atmosphere in the Great Hall was the highest it had been all year. Ginny beamed and looked up the table to Parvati, who looked a bit tearful as she poured pumpkin juice for a very bewildered Evelyn Alistair (who made it a habit to eat all of her meals with Parvati).
“This is amazing!” Jimmy Peakes cried, sitting down opposite Ginny. “Look at it!”
“I saw,” said Ginny, trying to sound equally stunned. “I can’t believe it—” Up and down the table, people were chattering similarly.
“D’you reckon they’d let me join? I did all right on my O.W.L.s last year…”
“You couldn’t cast a Shield Charm if you had a self-spelling wand, you prat…”
“I could learn!”
Meanwhile the professors were becoming more and more frustrated with their efforts to erase the writing. McGonagall’s momentary expression of happiness had vanished, and she was looking rather tense and nervous again, now that she had seen that the writing appeared to be permanent. Professor Vector was actually trying to scrub at the ink with her sleeve. “This—ink—won’t—come—Tergeo! Scourgify! Obliviate!”
“A memory charm, Septima?” asked Professor Sinistra.
Ginny snorted into her cereal, pretending she hadn’t heard; she was carefully avoiding Professor McGonagall’s eyes while also occasionally looking up at the mural with mild confusion and interest. The din of excited laughter and conversation was nearly deafening, but the teachers were unconcerned.
Professor Flitwick threw his hands up in frustration. “What are we going to do when—?”
Ginny dropped her spoon and clapped her hands over her ears as several more loud cracks rent the air. Her ears ringing, she looked to the double doors of the Great Hall. Standing on the threshold, wand raised, was Snape, flanked on either side by the Carrows. Total silence filled the hall, an eerie quiet so starkly different from just moments before that it sent a shiver up Ginny’s spine. All of the teachers had frozen where they stood, beneath the stubbornly unmoving graffiti. Professor McGonagall was taking slow, even breaths, her beady eyes sharp and fixed on Snape. He was slowly approaching the head table, eyes fixed coldly on the violet cursive before him. Every student had their eyes on him and the Carrows, who were glaring all around the hall, searching for the guilty party; Ginny was irresistibly reminded of trained dogs catching a scent. Snape reached the staff table and stared up at the writing on the wall, blinking slowly. He turned and faced the students.
“Who is responsible for this?” His voice was a whisper, but it seemed to echo through the Great Hall nonetheless. No one moved a muscle. “Who—is—responsible?” Snape shouted, and several people jumped. His glittering black eyes flickered all over the hall, searching for something. They rested on the Gryffindor table. Ginny didn’t move a muscle, but she felt as though Snape were looking directly into her eyes. She remembered what Harry had once told her about Occlumency, and diverted her gaze quickly. All eyes in the hall were now on the Gryffindors, who seemed like an even smaller group than usual under the intense scrutiny.
“Very well,” Snape said sharply, taking a breath. “Very well—Professor Carrow!”
Amycus stepped forward, a cruel smile on his face. “I think that’s a detention for Gryffindor House—”
There was a cry of outrage from the table.
“You can’t do that!”
“What are you playing at, you great stupid—”
“Headmaster, an entire House!” Professor McGonagall said loudly, “You can’t—”
“SILENCE!” Snape roared, and his wand let off another bang. A hush fell over the hall again.
Alecto was slowly approaching the Gryffindor table, her expression one of sickly sweetness. “Unless somebody’s goin’ to own up. If one of ye admits what ye’ve done, then the rest of ye are all right…” Her eyes rested on Ginny for a moment, and she felt a thrill of horror. Did the Carrows know something? Alecto came to a halt directly in front of Evelyn Alistair. She was trembling from head to foot beside Parvati, who had an arm around her. Alecto reached into her pocket, and Ginny clenched her fist around her wand—but Alecto had produced a piece of paper. She was unfurling it; it looked very worn and creased. Ginny squinted—it was a photograph.
Her stomach dropped.
It was her own photograph, the one of Harry that she had to have lost the night before—perhaps right outside the Great Hall. Automatically, she put a hand to her pocket—where could she have lost it? Then she realized her mistake. Amycus’s eyes had caught her sudden movement. He bared his uneven teeth in a grimace, nudged his sister, and nodded to Ginny, who had frozen again. Alecto grinned vilely, but turned back and held the picture before Evelyn. “Ye ever seen this before, Alistair?” she barked. Evelyn shook her head hurriedly. She looked ready to cry.
“What about you, O’Brien? Who’s this belong to?” Alecto snapped at Josephine, who was ashen. She too shook her head. Alecto continued down the table, the picture still held aloft. “What about the rest of ye? Who’s seen this before, eh? Only, see, we found it out-of-bounds last night…and we want ter give it back.”
Ginny closed her eyes. She had dropped the photograph in the entrance hall. There was no other explanation. Taking a deep breath, she glanced down the table at Neville, who was watching her. “I’m sorry,” she mouthed.
Then she stood up. “It’s mine, Professor.” She knew immediately that she had not surprised them; both Carrows looked quite satisfied, as did Snape.
“Bring her to my office,” he said dismissively, sweeping down from the head table. Ginny stared down at the stones on the floor, feeling her neck and ears turning steadily more scarlet.
“C’mon, Weasley,” said Alecto’s voice, directly beside her. “Move it along.” She gave Ginny a sharp jab with the tip of her wand.
Ginny was escorted silently from the Great Hall, flanked by both Carrows, who kept their wands out. She kept her head up and her gaze unmoving even as she was aware of everyone’s eyes upon her. Her mind was working furiously, trying to gauge how much the Carrows could know if they had deduced that Harry’s picture was hers.
“I think it’s gonna be a coupla weeks’ detention,” Alecto said nastily, as they climbed the marble staircase. Ginny said nothing. “It’ll be nice ta have ye back, Weasley,” she said silkily. “We’ve been waitin’ for ye.”
Ginny could barely hear her; her mind was flying at breakneck speed. She could argue that she had lost the photograph at another time, but if she lied about having nothing to do with the defacement of the Great Hall, or tried to escape punishment, Snape would stop at nothing until he punished everyone else he even thought might be in Dumbledore’s Army…
There was the sound of scraping stone. She looked up; they had already arrived at the gargoyle outside Snape’s office. Alecto prodded her forward, and Ginny climbed the steps. Professor Snape was waiting for her. With a jolt, she saw that Professor Dumbledore’s portrait hung directly above his head, and was watching her serenely. She stood directly in the center of the room, before the desk. Alecto scurried forward and placed Harry’s photograph on the desktop, while Amycus went to shut the door—
“Go,” Snape said coldly. The Carrows looked around. “Go. I’ll speak to Miss Weasley alone.”
“What?” Alecto asked stupidly. Ginny repressed a snort.
“I will speak to Miss Weasley alone,” said Snape, a bit more loudly. “You are dismissed.”
“Hold on, now,” Amycus began, but Snape shot him a cold look, and he fell silent.
Grumbling and throwing Ginny filthy looks, the Carrows left the office, shutting the door behind them. Ginny was left alone, staring up at a point just above Professor Snape’s head.
“So,” he said quietly after a few moments. “So.” Ginny forced herself not to look at him, but continued to stare at the golden frame of Professor Dumbledore’s painting. “Explain yourself.”
Ginny glanced at the photograph lying on the desk before her. “Professor Carrow said she’d like to return my photograph to me,” she said calmly. “May I have it? Sir?”
Professor Snape picked up the picture, glaring down at it, his lip curled in distaste. “A touching memento,” he said. Then he crumpled it into a ball and threw it aside. “With whom did you vandalize the Great Hall last night?” he asked sharply.
Ginny frowned, putting on an expression of deep thought. “Vandalize the Great Hall?” she asked. “What do I have to do with that?”
Snape turned white. “That photograph was turned in to Professor Carrow early this morning, Weasley. It’s proof that you were there—”
“Of course I was there,” she interrupted loudly. “Yesterday, for dinner. I must have dropped it then.”
“Do not lie!” Snape shouted. “You have reformed Potter’s illegal group, and you have been caught red-handed!”
“I haven’t been caught doing anything!” Ginny retorted, though her brain was trying to figure out who could possibly have found and turned in the photograph.
“Don’t take that tone with me, Weasley,” he said, his voice suddenly becoming dangerously soft. “I can punish you, your friends, and your entire House, if I think that any of them had something to do with this. Insubordination, disregard for the rules put in place for your protection—neither will be tolerated for another moment.” Ginny stared coldly back at him. “You, and the rest of Gryffindor House have been given a great deal of freedom in recent years. I won’t stand for it.”
“Is that why our first years are being treated like criminals for being late to class? It’s been a while since I saw a Slytherin with a mark on him,” Ginny said loudly. “Sir.”
“I won’t warn you again, Weasley,” he said coolly. “Do not speak to me like that.”
Ginny narrowed her eyes, staring unblinkingly into his, and slowly raised one hand to tuck a strand of hair behind her left ear—the same ear that Snape had cursed off of George.
Professor Snape went even paler. “Who else damaged the Great Hall?” he demanded. Ginny said nothing. “Either you’ll tell me now, or all of Gryffindor House receives detention until someone comes forward. As long as it takes,” he added. “The rest of term, if need be.”
“You can’t do that,” Ginny said automatically, but she was not so sure; there was something twisted in Snape’s expression that suggested he very well could. She looked up at the portrait of Professor Dumbledore, but he was staring gravely at his own hands, and didn’t seem to be paying any attention to the conversation below.
Snape’s lip was curling unpleasantly. “For the last time, Weasley,” he said. “I know you’ve brought back Potter’s gang. Who is helping you?”
Ginny’s mouth had gone dry.
“Now, Weasley,” said Professor Snape lightly. “Or Gryffindor House pays for your unhelpfulness.”
“No one,” Ginny blurted out. “There’s no army. It’s me alone.”
“You’re lying,” Snape spat. “Very well, if you’re—”
The office door banged open, startling Ginny, and she spun around. Professor McGonagall stood in the doorway.
She rushed forward. “Headmaster, there is no reason to suspect Miss Weasley—”
“I’m afraid there is, Professor McGonagall,” Snape cut her off, as a cold smile curled his lips. “Miss Weasley has just confessed to defacing the Great Hall—” he met her eyes. “Alone.”
Professor McGonagall’s jaw dropped. “Is—is this true?” she asked Ginny. “You—you did that—downstairs—yourself?”
Ginny closed her eyes, dropping her head.
Before Professor McGonagall could do more than stammer in disbelief, Snape interrupted again. “I believe that’s two weeks’ detention, Miss Weasley. And fifty points from Gryffindor,” he said coldly.
“Two weeks!” Professor McGonagall gasped. “Headmaster, I—”
“Your input was not requested, Professor, thank you,” he snapped, eyes still on Ginny. “Miss Weasley will serve detention for the next two weeks, and I will be writing to her family.” He was still watching Ginny closely, as though he expected her to crack and confess everything. She held her gaze evenly at the corner of Professor Dumbledore’s frame, though she felt tears of fury stinging the corners of her eyes. Snape scowled. “Miss Weasley is to remain in her dormitory,” he said. “She will receive incomplete marks for all of her lessons today, Professor McGonagall, is that understood? And you will speak to no one else until you report to Professor Carrow for your detention this evening,” he added to Ginny. “You may rejoin your classmates tomorrow morning.”
Ginny swallowed hard and nodded once, determined not to give in to Snape’s bait.
“Very well,” he said. “Escort her to Gryffindor Tower, Professor McGonagall.” Snape sat down behind his desk and did not look up again as Ginny left the office.
It was not until they were a good distance away that Professor McGonagall spoke to her. “I can’t imagine what would have possessed you to do something like this, Miss Weasley,” she said in a low voice. “I need hardly say that I am past disappointment.” Ginny did not speak. They rounded the corner, heading for the Fat Lady’s corridor. Professor McGonagall stopped just outside the portrait and faced her.
“Look at me, Miss Weasley,” she said. Reluctantly, Ginny obeyed. Professor McGonagall looked torn between anger and pity. “I think it is obvious that I have very little say in how you are punished,” she said, her nostrils going white. “I advise you, therefore, to warn anyone who may attempt to…copy you…that this would be very poor judgment.” She put emphasis on the last three words.
Ginny nodded. She was too miserable to speak.
Professor McGonagall sighed. “Come to my classroom during your free period tomorrow afternoon,” she said briskly. “I’ll allow you to make up today’s lesson.”
“What?” Ginny stammered. She looked up at Professor McGonagall. Her heavy brows were knit, and her gaze was intense, but there was something like pride glimmering behind the stern gaze. Ginny smiled, very slightly and very gratefully.
“You heard me, Miss Weasley,” Professor McGonagall said. Ginny nodded. “Off you go, then.”
“Lacum leonis,” she said to the Fat Lady, and the portrait swung forward.
Ginny picked herself up off the floor, shaking and weak, but determined not to show it. She wasn’t sure if she was building up a resistance to the effects of the Cruciatus Curse, or if the Carrows were simply taking it easy on her because they wanted their questions answered.
She was in the same dungeon where she had served her first detention—it was empty now, but for several sets of chains attached to the walls. Ginny wouldn’t have been surprised if they were meant for other students who had been unfortunate enough to find themselves in detention. She was on all fours in the middle of the floor, trying to steady herself. A hand seized the scruff of her robes and hauled her to her feet. The Carrows’ pallid, lumpy faces swam before her as tiny sparks of light danced in the corners of her vision, threatening to make her black out.
“Have you been talkin’ ta Harry Potter?” Alecto demanded.
Ginny closed her eyes and shook her head. “Haven’t seen him…in months…”
“Where’d ye get the newspaper with his picture, then?” Amycus asked her.
She forced her eyes open and glared at him. “I found it,” she spat.
“There ain’t any newspapers to find round here, girl,” Alecto said, raising her wand. “Who’s been sneakin’ it in for ye?”
Ginny said nothing and looked away, bracing herself for what she knew was coming.
She dropped onto her knees, tightening into a ball until couldn’t hold it back any longer; she screamed. It was the only way she had of convincing herself that she was still alive, because every nerve in her body was coursing with fire, and she was going to be sick at any moment from the agony—and then the pain was gone. She retched, hunched over on her knees, though nothing came up. She had not eaten all day.
“Wonder why she wants a picture, eh?” Alecto asked Amycus in a light tone, walking around Ginny. “Can’t possibly imagine…”
“Sure, them blood traitors love Potter, don’t they?” Amycus said stupidly, nudging Ginny in the ribs with his foot. She collapsed onto her side, drawing shaky breaths. “S’right, Weasley. We know your family, don’t we?”
Ginny stared coldly up at him and forced herself to get up, pulling herself up against the wall. “You don’t scare me,” she spat.
Alecto’s curse may have been more painful, but Amycus’s was well aimed, and hit Ginny exactly where she already hurt most. She fell over immediately, screaming, and when the pain stopped, she felt tears on her cheeks. She lay curled on her side, hugging her knees to her chest as she shook uncontrollably.
“It don’t matter,” Amycus said, leaning over her. “I’ve got the wand here—I say what happens.”
Ginny was dragging herself to her feet again, leaning against the dungeon wall. “Not for long,” she retorted. “Just wait.”
“Ah, ah, ah, Weasley,” Alecto said, stepping forward. “Can’t have ye threatening teachers—Crucio!”
Ginny’s screams echoed off the walls of the dungeon, fading into silence long before they could reach the ears of anyone who cared.
Ginny opened her eyes, looking around at Neville. She had just returned to the Gryffindor common room from yet another night of detention, aching and stiff, to get a start on her homework. She’d accidentally started to doze in her armchair beside his. “M’fine.” She sat forward and picked up her bag, groaning. “I’ve got an essay for McGonagall due tomorrow.”
“You should go to bed,” Neville said, but Ginny glared at him. “What? If we’re right, and McGonagall’s guessed what the Carrows are up to, she’d let you pass on a homework assignment or two.”
“What’s your problem?” she asked, surprised.
Neville huffed. “Sorry. Carrow really laid into Parvati today in Muggle Studies and I’m just about done with them. I really am. They got you yesterday, and we couldn’t do anything, and—I don’t know. Never mind.” There was something in the way he set his jaw, and his tense posture, that made Ginny see something she never had before.
“You look like your grandmother, Neville, you know that?” she interrupted.
Neville looked up, startled. “What?”
Ginny laughed at his affronted tone. “I mean, you don’t really look like her, but just now, when you were talking…”
“What?” Neville urged her.
She sighed. “Two years ago…you know, when… we were visiting my dad in St. Mungo’s…”
Neville’s hand clenched on his textbook, but he said nothing.
“And we met your grandmother,” Ginny continued quickly, “She got this look on her face—I think—I think she was saying…”
“Saying what?” Neville asked, though his voice was quite soft now, and he looked somehow afraid.
Ginny swallowed. “She…she told you that you should be proud of what—what your parents had done. And she had this look in her eye that I just saw in your face, now. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now.” She sat forward suddenly, putting a hand on his arm. “Do you know how brave you are, Neville?”
He was staring at a hole in the threadbare carpet, unblinking, and she thought for a moment that she had perhaps said something very wrong. “N-Neville?”
“Thanks, Ginny,” he muttered quietly.
She smiled, but instinct told her that Neville didn’t wish to carry on the conversation. She fell silent for quite a while, turning to her Transfiguration homework. Before long, however, her back and head began to ache, and she was finding it difficult to concentrate. After the fourth time she changed positions in her chair, Neville spoke.
“You look terrible.”
Ginny gave him a wry smile. “I appreciate that, Neville, thanks.”
“I’m sorry, Ginny,” he blurted out suddenly. “I’m so sorry, you—you don’t deserve to be doing this—we should’ve—”
“Neville,” Ginny interrupted him, holding up a hand. “It was me that left evidence, not you lot. There’s no sense in all of us getting caught. Why would we give them that? It’s worth people believing in Dumbledore’s Army again to take detention.”
Neville shrugged morosely. Then a slight smile crept onto his features “You know, people were really excited when they figured out we’d been doing the newsletters? The entire fifth year was talking about it when they walked out of Herbology.”
Ginny nodded. “Then it’s worth it,” she said firmly.
“Listen,” he said, lowering his voice and looking around the common room. “I’m going to call a D.A. meeting, one night this week. We need to regroup—”
“What? N-no—Neville, you can’t!” said Ginny. “No—all they did tonight was ask me questions about Harry, and Dumbledore’s Army—if they catch you having a meeting—”
Neville looked uncomfortable. “They—they can’t catch us…if they’re…busy,” he said grimly.
“Oh,” said Ginny in a small voice. “Right—I—” She shook herself. “Well, I’ll keep them busy, then,” she said. “They won’t have a moment’s rest,” she added jokingly, but Neville looked a bit nauseated, so she changed the subject. “I think, in that case, I should avoid talking to you all—just at meals, you know? If they really believe I’m all alone, maybe they won’t look so hard for you.”
“D’you really think they’ll buy that?” Neville asked. He sounded rather amazed at the Carrows’ stupidity.
“They have to, for now, there’s no reason for them to think anything else. And they’re complete idiots, that helps,” she added as an afterthought.
Neville didn’t smile. “I can’t believe they’ve got you for two weeks,” he muttered.
Ginny shook her head; she was trying to keep it from her mind, for the time being. “Not now.”
“Sorry,” Neville said again quietly.
She drew a deep, calming breath. “It’s worth it.”