Chapter 22: Ginny's Sorting and Ron's Punishment

Eventually, the train stopped at Hogwarts Station and everyone disembarked in their robes. Ginny and Luna had to go with the rest of the first years and Hagrid while Harry, Hermione and Neville went to the carriages. Before he left with the others, Harry reassured Ginny that everything would be fine. After a hug, he went after his year mates and let her go and catch up with Luna.

When they were in the carriages, Hermione and Neville noticed how on-edge Harry was. Somehow, Hermione had a feeling that, while he didn't express it out loud, he was worried about Ginny. When the current trio entered Hogwarts and sat at the Gryffindor table to wait for the first years, they noticed that Ron and Snape were absent. Harry could only think that Ron was likely caught after he landed and was being reprimanded by Snape at this very moment.

A few minutes later, the first years came through and were being led by McGonagall. Harry caught Ginny's eyes and he gave her a smile, which she returned with a smile of her own. Harry wasn't really interested in the Sorting, though he did smile at Luna when she looked over at him and his friends when she was sorted into Ravenclaw. Eventually, it came time for Ginny to be sorted as she was the last on the list this year.

Ginny sat on the stool and McGonagall placed the Sorting Hat on her head. Harry watched intently as he could see the hat contemplating where to put her. He also saw how she seemed confused at whatever the hat was telling her before it eventually announced that she would belong in Gryffindor. The Gryffindor students cheered as she walked up to the table and sat down next to him.

Dumbledore then gave his yearly speech before letting the feast begin. As everyone began to dig in, Snape walked in and ushered for Dumbledore and McGonagall to follow him. It seemed as though Harry's assumption about Ron being caught might have been right after all. Snape gave a subtle nod in Harry's direction, indicating that they would need to talk later.

After the feast, the students all went to their respective common rooms, with Ginny going with the rest of the first years as her prefect brother Percy guided them around Hogwarts and Harry going to find a place to talk in private with Hermione. Once they were alone, they talked about Ron's likely predicament.

"I still can't believe that he would drive a flying car to school! What was he thinking?!" Hermione ranted.

"He likely wasn't, otherwise he would've listened to me. It doesn't really matter. The less I see of him the better," Harry said darkly.

"Harry! You've never said that before! What happened to keeping him close to keep up appearances?!" Hermione questioned.

"It's not my place to give the exact details. During the summer, as you know, I was at the Burrow. While I was there, I taught Ginny Occlumency," Harry answered.

"Really?!" Hermione exclaimed, "How?"

"I used Legilimency on her until I deemed her barriers to be strong enough," Harry replied.

"You used Legilimency on her?! But she's still a minor, Harry! Since you're emancipated, you could get into serious trouble!" Hermione exclaimed in horror.

"It was the only way to teach her as quickly as possible. Now that I think about it, you should probably start to learn Occlumency as well," Harry explained.

"I agree, but you're trying to change the topic. What does teaching Ginny Occlumency have to do with why you'd rather see Ron less?" Hermione questioned.

"As I said, I won't give exact details. All I will say is that the memories that I saw the first time I entered Ginny's mind were not pleasant. She had been trying to forget them for a while and they overwhelmed me enough that I couldn't get out of her mind. I would've done anything to spare her having to remember those moments, but I was trapped, just as she was. Trapped in her own mind," Harry answered sadly.

"That sounds horrible," Hermione said gloomily.

"I won't let them hurt her again. I need to be strong for her and if I can help her to grow stronger and protect herself, then I will do whatever I can," Harry said.

"You really care about her, don't you?" Hermione asked.

"She's my best friend. I know that she would do the same for me," Harry said bluntly.

"I've just thought, we should probably head to the common room now. The first years should be there by now and maybe Ron will be there too. Hopefully, we'll be able to find out what happened to him," Hermione said.

Harry agreed and the two went to the common room. Once inside, Ginny greeted them and gestured to Ron sulking in one of the couches.

"Hey Ron. I see that you got here alright," Harry said.

"Alright is one way of putting it," Ron grumbled.

"What's wrong? What happened?" Harry asked.

"The car seemed to get a mind of its own once I got to Hogwarts. It crashed into the Whomping Willow, my wand broke, then the car threw me out with my stuff once it got away from that stupid tree!" Ron ranted.

"We saw Snape take Dumbledore and McGonagall somewhere during the feast. That wouldn't have anything to do with you, would it?" Harry asked.

"Filch found me and took me to Snape. The greasy git seemed more concerned with muggles seeing me and the damned tree than me! I tried to tell him about the barrier being closed, but he didn't believe me! Then he fetched Dumbledore and McGonagall and, while he was going to expel me, they just gave me detentions every week until the end of term. It could've been worse, but Mum's going to kill me," Ron explained.

"I did suggest waiting. Your parents and Ginny got through after a while and they kept the train at the station for us, so I was able to get on the train just fine," Harry said.

"Really?! Damn it!" Ron exclaimed angrily.

"Don't be like that, Ron. As you said, it could've been worse," Ginny said playfully.

"But the howlers from Mum could've been avoided after all!" Ron exclaimed.

"Howlers?" Harry asked, looking at Ginny for the answer.

"A howler is a letter that speaks in your voice. One is usually used for ranting. My mum is apparently very skilled with creating one," Ginny answered.

"Oh! So it's like a voice recorder from the muggle world. Interesting," Harry said.

Ron was a grump for the rest of the conversation and wasn't really present as the girls tried to talk to him and Harry. Eventually, Ron went up to his dormitory and Hermione went to hers to give Harry and Ginny time to talk alone.

"Come on, Ginny," Harry said, walking towards the exit.

"Where are we going?" Ginny asked as she followed Harry.

"To see Snape. He indicated that we needed to talk during the feast," Harry replied.

"Do you think that he'll be alright with me coming along?" Ginny enquired, unsure of herself.

"'m sure that everything will be fine. Besides, I can always tells him about your Occlumency training if he's unsure," Harry answered honestly.

"If you say so, Harry," Ginny said.

Harry and Ginny made their way to the dungeons and were careful not to get caught by any of the professors. Harry didn't need anyone blabbing to Dumbledore about him sneaking around the castle for unknown reasons. When the duo got to Snape's office, Harry quickly pulled Ginny behind a wall as he noticed a shadow come out. The shadow belonged to Draco Malfoy, who looked around shiftily before walking away to the Slytherin common room.

Once Malfoy was out of sight, Harry and Ginny entered Snape's office and found him sitting at his desk with a hand rubbing his forehead as he seemed to be pondering something.

"Professor? Are you alright?" Harry asked.

"Oh! Potter! Don't sneak up on people like that!" Snape exclaimed, looking up in shock.

"Sorry, Professor," Harry said.

"Who's your friend?" Snape asked, raising an eyebrow as he looked at Ginny.

"Ah, where are my manners. This is Ginny Weasley. We've been friends since last September 1st, but she was only 10. We were corresponding by letters last year until we were finally able to talk face-to-face," Harry explained.

"Is she trustworthy?" Snape enquired.

"I trust her with my life, Professor. She knows everything," Harry replied.

"If you don't mind, I would like to test your mental defences first, Miss Weasley," Snape said.

"As you wish, Professor," Ginny responded.

Snape entered Ginny's mind and was pleased with what he saw. It seemed as though Harry had taught his friend well and she had made good defences. He didn't stay inside long and exited her mind after only a minute.

"I must commend your work, Miss Weasley. These are exceptional defences," Snape praised.

"I had a good teacher," Ginny said, smiling at Harry.

"Well, now that everything is sorted, what did you want to tell me, Professor?" Harry enquired.

"As I'm sure that you are aware, your friend's brother caused a lot of problems today," Snape said.

"Yes, dear old Ronald didn't seem to care much for possibly breaking many laws with flying that car," Harry commented.

"Yes. He was seen by no less than seven muggles, nearly damaged the Whomping Willow beyond repair due to its age, and broke his wand out of anger because the car malfunctioned and wouldn't listen to him. He should have really been expelled, but Dumbledore and McGonagall had the final say on the matter. I take it that you already know of his punishment?" Snape explained.

"I bet that he forgot that the car had an invisibility setting and yes, he told us of his detentions," Ginny answered.

"McGonagall was trying to be nice to one of her lions, but Dumbledore didn't seem too happy with him either way. I think that they probably had a private chat afterwards considering how he was following beside Dumbledore while McGonagall left on her own," Snape explained.

"That could explain his bad mood in the common room. It seemed as though it was more than just the detentions that got him so annoyed," Harry said.

"I wouldn't doubt that. Now, is there anything that you wish to ask me?" Snape enquired.

"Yes, actually. When we were coming down, we saw Draco come out of your office. What was he talking to you about?" Harry asked.

"Well, Draco Malfoy is actually my godson. He comes in every so often to just talk, usually about how he hates you and how you're so perfect. I swear, he's taken on too many of his father's traits for his own good. Poor Narcissa had hardly any say in teaching their son, but he wouldn't have been so pompous and arrogant if she did," Snape explained.

"I met Lucius in Diagon Alley. He certainly made an impression, but not a good one," Harry said.

"Lucius has that effect on people, it seems. Now, that's not the important thing at the moment. You need to be warned," Snape said.

"Warned? Why?" Harry asked.

"Draco told me that his father had a plan for this year and that it would begin to make everything right. He said that something big is going to happen. You need to be prepared for it should it happen," Snape warned.

"That's funny. Before I got to Hogwarts, a house elf named Dobby warned me of something terrible happening this year and tried to stop me from coming," Harry explained.

"Dobby is the Malfoy's house elves. He's a kind soul, but is badly beaten by Lucius for even the smallest thing going wrong whether it's his fault or not. If he's also warning you, then what Draco told me is likely true. You need to be especially careful this year, Potter. And you too, Miss Weasley," Snape explained.

"I understand, Professor," Harry said.

"If that is all, then you are dismissed. I'm sure that your housemates are wondering where you are by now," Snape said.

"Thank you, sir," Harry said.

"Goodnight, Professor," Ginny said.

Harry and Ginny exited Snape's office and made their way back to the common room.

"So, what do you think the Malfoys are planning?" Ginny asked.

"The most obvious thing is getting rid of me. How? I'm not sure, but I wouldn't put it past them to use any nefarious means necessary. You need to be careful as well. Malfoy will likely try to get to me through you once he learns of our friendship. Don't touch or use anything that is given to you by anyone not trustworthy and if you find anything suspicious, then tell me and I'll sort it out. I won't have my friends hurt because of a pathetic schoolboy grudge," Harry explained.

Ginny thought back to Tom's diary. Should she tell Harry about it? Was it truly odd that a magical diary could talk back to her?

'Tom's not dangerous, though. He's been nothing but kind to me ever since I started to write in the diary. There's no way that the Malfoys could ever make anything that could be so nice. Nicety is completely beyond what their little brains can process,' Ginny thought.

"Will do, Harry," Ginny said, deciding to keep the diary a secret for now.

Eventually, the two made their way to the common room and said their goodbyes before they went to their respective dormitories. Once alone, Harry decided to talk to Sabrina about something that he noticed.

~Did you think that Ginny was hiding something back then? She just went silent for a while after I told her not to touch anything suspicious and had a pensive expression on her face~ Harry asked.

~She was probably just trying to think about whether there was anything to tell you about already. However, you best keep an eye on her. If she is hiding something, then it's not because of some nefarious purpose, but that she likely doesn't know of the danger she is in. If she starts to act out of the ordinary, you must react fast~ Sabrina answered.

~I hope that the former is the correct reason~ Harry said.

Harry then got ready for bed and he and Sabrina fell asleep. A fitful night's sleep graced Harry tonight as he dreamt of the Malfoys, Molly, Ron and Dumbledore torturing Ginny, all while he was prone and unable to move. Useless. Weak. Pathetic.