"For one moment, the warlock knelt triumphant, with a heart clutched in each hand; then he fell across the maiden's body, and died." Molly closed the well-loved copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. She looked at battered spine and repaired pages. A gift from Gideon to Bill, the book was one of the few things that managed to survive all seven of her children. She put the book on the nightstand table next to Ginny's latest diary.
"Mum," said Ginny. She was half asleep the night before her first day at Hogwarts.
"Yes love." said Molly. She knew she should leave the room and check on the rest of the children, but this might be the last moment of childhood to savor.
"The maiden was stupid. She should never have fallen for the Warlock's tricks" said Ginny.
"Well, sometimes the world isn't as easy as it should be. Especially when our hearts are involved." chuckled Molly.
"Well, I am going to protect my heart. No one will be able to ever hurt me," said Ginny. Sitting up and looking at her mother with determination blazing in her brown eyes. "And I am going to grow up and prove I am just as strong and brave as everyone else."
"You will dear. And you will grow up sooner and faster than any of us will like. But for now, I am happy you are my precious little girl. Don't rush to be grown. Life will have enough hard lessons to teach you soon enough." said Molly.
Ginny let her head fall back into her mother's chest and sat there quiet for a few moments as the rise and fall of her Mum's breath lulled her to sleep.
The next morning was typical chaos with last minute trunks being packed, lunches made, and the Ford loaded. They arrived at the station later than normal after several backtracks for forgotten books, broomsticks, and a diary. They made it to the platform with a few minutes to spare. Molly lectured Percy to keep an eye on Ginny while Arthur confiscated exploding slugs from the twins.
Ginny dragged Percy onto the train and chose a compartment near the front. They sat in silence as Percy reviewed his leather bound notebook and Ginny waved through the window until she lost sight of her parents waving on the platform.
"Do you think Fred and George will come sit with us?" asked Ginny sitting down.
"No," said Percy flatly jotting notes in his book.
"Do you think I have enough pocket money for the trolley cart witch? Do you usually get snacks? How often does she come by?" asked Ginny hopping up again to look into the hall of the train.
"Not sure," said Percy.
"Where are your friends? How much longer until we get there? Will you cheer loud and break protocol when I am sorted into Gryffindor?" asked Ginny sitting down beside Percy.
"Of course," said Percy still not removing his face from his book.
"When do I get to try out for quidditch? You know they let Harry play his first year maybe they can make an exception for me. Do you think I should talk to Professor McGonagall? I am going to talk to Professor McGonagall. If I make the team will you do that dance you di-" said Ginny leaning her head on Percy's arm.
"REALLY Ginny. Stop asking questions if you don't want a reply. I need to meet with the other Prefects. Stay here and do not leave the compartment," Percy got up while Ginny fell back into the seat. Ginny stuck out her tongue towards the back of his head as he walked out into the hall.
Sighing and looking around the empty compartment, Ginny bent over to retrieve her bag for the corned beef sandwich her Mum packed and pulled out her diary.
"You are not listening to me. They are missing. We specifically discussed in Diagon Alley that we would meet at the station. I arrived fifteen minutes early and waited until the last possible moment for them to arrive before I got on the train. I never saw them come through the wall with the rest of you," said Hermione.
"And you are not listening to me. They were in the car next to me this morning. They are probably just under that silly invisibility cloak having a laugh. Yes I know about the cloak Hermione so you can stop looking at me like that," lectured Percy. "If you three think any of the shenanigans you pulled last year will fly you are dead wrong."
Ginny looked up from the top of her diary. Hermione's fiercest glare bore at Percy. Her hair looked wilder than it had been a few days ago in Flourish and Blotts giving her the appearance of someone twice her size and height.
"Hello Hermione! Are you hungry? Would you like a chocolate frog? The trolley witch came by and you missed it. I had enough sickles for two," offered Ginny.
Hermione sat down next to Ginny without removing her glare from Percy. She picked up a History of Hogwarts and kept muttering under her breath about incompetent Prefects and their overstuffed egos. Ginny ate both frogs while she returned to her barrage of questions for Percy about what to expect from her first year.
After the train stopped at Hogsmeade station Hermione stormed away from an exasperated Percy. She started to cross examine everyone if they saw Ron or Harry enter the platform, convinced they never got on the train. Percy took a deep breath and walked swiftly away in the other direction as he tried to round up a few wayward students with the other Prefects.
"Firs' years! Firs' years over here!" boomed a large voice. Ginny made her way towards the narrow path with the rest of the first year students. When she got closer to the voice she saw the largest face she had ever seen gazing kindly down into her small one.
"Red hair, ye must be Ginny Weasley! Ah know all of yer brothers. Run along now an' min' yer step. Make sure tae come see me in mah cabin for tea an' biscuits. Ah just got a letter from yer brother Charlie. First years follaw me!" said Hagrid.
Ginny made her way with the group towards the opening of the path where it joined the lake.
"Ony four to a boat!" Hagrid yelled over the chatter.
"Hello Ginny," sang a voice. Ginny turned around and pulled her familiar friend Luna into an embrace. She lived in a tower near the burrow and they grew up playing together. "I was hoping to catch you on the train."
"Dad gave me extra pocket money this morning if I promised to stay with Percy and avoid the twins. Percy was so boring he barely spoke and wouldn't let me leave the compartment. I had enough money to buy two chocolate frogs! Want to ride in this boat?" Ginny said pointing to a boat with an eager boy smiling at them.
"Hello, I am Ginny and this is Luna. We are from Ottery St Catchpole in Devon. Who are you? Do you have any brothers or sisters? I have six older brothers but Luna is an only child," said Ginny while Luna started to walk around the boat examining it in great detail.
"Hello Ginny and Luna, I am Colin. I have one little brother. Are you both from wizard families? Or should I say, witch? I hope I am not being rude this is all very new to me," Colin said trying to balance while helping Ginny into the boat. Luna took off her shoes and lifted her robes above her knees. She serenely waded out into the lake and gracefully sat down in the boat from the back end. She focused on re-adjusting her shoes while the others talked.
"Not rude at all! You need to meet my brother Ron's two best friends. Hermione Granger, she is probably the smartest witch in the entire school. And Harry Potter is a real live hero! He is also the nicest boy in the world. You should probably start with him. Before coming to Hogwarts they were both raised by muggles and can tell you anything you want about how to fit in. I hope we are all sorted into Gryffindor together. Wouldn't that be fun?" Ginny continued to dominate the conversation as they sailed across the black lake. Colin nodded along eagerly trying to take in every word while Luna reclined back to look at constellations in the sky creeping through the clouds as her hand skimmed the top of the cold water.
They arrived on shore and walked into the grand castle towards the Great Hall. The castle that looked grand from the other side of the lake transformed into a monstrously imposing stone structure. The size of the old carved wood doors and the iron knobs dwarfed the three first years by a solid three meters as Hagrid reached down casually opened the doors as if this was the size of any normal door. The stone floors through the entrance were perfectly polished gleaming up at them reflecting the torchlight guiding the way. A rumble of students down the corridor was overshadowed by a myriad of conversations between the portraits examining the first years.
Entering the Great Hall Ginny searched the high walls until she found the same Gryffindor emblem her parents and brothers wore proudly. She looked up at the thousands of candles in the night sky with clouds drifting over a brightly lit moon.
First years were filled onto the stage in alphabetical order by Professor McGonagall. She looked stern and fierce but Ginny noticed kindness crinkling in her eyes behind her tough facade. Colin broke off towards the front, Luna in the middle and Ginny fell behind as the final student. Nerves started to flit in Ginny's stomach as she looked out into a sea of unknown expectant faces. She tried to find familiar glimpses of red over at the Gryffindor table but found her eyes struggling to focus.
"Creevy, Colin - Gryffindor," said the hat. Ginny smiled excitedly for her new friend to join her.
"Lovegood, Luna - Ravenclaw," said the hat. Ginny frowned as concern settled in. The Ravenclaw table cheered as Luna walked away. Ginny hoped Luna would find a way to fit in. Not everyone always understood Luna's way of seeing the world.
Finally, it was her turn to be called up to the center of the stage as the old hat was placed gently on her head. Professor McGonagall voice was abruptly cut off before Ginny could hear her name announced to the crowd. All noise and light were gone as she fidgeted underneath the weight of the hat.
"Hmm let's see. This is an easy way to end the night. Two parents and six brothers have already blazed the trail but you are determined to do things your own way. A brave heart and kind soul must make you a - GRYFFINDOR", the hat bellowed as the noise and light from the Great Hall broke through the void reflooding her senses.
Ginny felt the hat plucked off her head as she ran towards Hermione and her brothers clapping at the cheering red and gold table. She sat down between Hermione and George as Dumbledore started the welcome speech. Ginny noticed the look of intensity from the train still fixed on Hermione's face as she continued to try and make visual contact with a bored looking Percy.
"Well, if Ron didn't find his way to dinner he must really be lost," said Hermione to Ginny loud enough for Percy to hear. "I am not sure what type of Prefect Percy thinks he is being so unconcerned by two missing students."
Ginny decided not to try and distract Hermione, focusing instead listening to Fred and George on her other side. They were discussing upcoming tryouts with an intense Scottish boy next to George.
After Dumbledore dismissed the students with Percy leading the majority of first years out of the hall. Ginny lingered back with Hermione sensing her intensity calming once they were out of sight of Percy. "Did you enjoy the boat ride?" asked Hermione.
"It was lovely! I met up with a friend from back home, she was sorted Ravenclaw, and made a new friend in the boat. He is muggleborn like you. I told him he could ask you questions," chattered Ginny.
"Most excellent! You will have to point him out later. Here we are at the portrait, the password is cannonballs - don't forget you don't want to be stuck outside," Hermione explained.
The girls walked in together and found seats by the fire. Soon Fred and George joined them starting a game of Exploding Snaps while the girls watched the portrait hole for a sign of Harry and Ron. Ginny introduced Hermione to Colin and started writing in her diary as the conversation drifted to half a dozen book recommendations for acclimating to Wizarding customs, culture, and etiquette. As soon as politely possible Colin excused himself with a dizzying look on his face as he tried to process his new assigned reading list.
"I told you to start with Harry," Ginny's winked and smiled towards her bewildered friend.
It has been hours since the sorting ceremony. Percy finally sat down with them and told Hermione he received word the boys were on safe on school grounds and but in a great deal of unknown trouble. Rumors of flying cars, expulsion, and the great squid were floating between conversations around the common room.
"What could they have done already to wind up in the headmaster's office?" wondered George.
"And why didn't we think of it first?" retorted Fred. "Soonest we were ever summoned was the first night! How did they manage to get in trouble before the sorting ceremony?"
"As if being in trouble is some sort of badge of ho-" Percy was cut off as Harry and Ron stumbled through the portrait hole.
Hermione jumped up and crossed the room knocking several students out of the way as she made her way towards them.
"There you are! Where have you been? The most ridiculous rumors - someone said you'd been expelled for crashing a flying car -" said Hermione.
Ginny got a glimpse as Harry and Ron were overwhelmed with a wave of attention. She stayed back in her chair by the fire. Ron's face transformed into a cocky grin. The attention suited him as he basked in the chaotic glory that was usually reserved for the twins.
Harry did not look as comfortable. He tried to smile but it came out more like a grimace. He shifted his weight between his feet as his eyes darted around for an exit. Ginny wondered if he would see her as she debated the merits of waving him over but his gaze never made it to the back of the room.
She watched as he started towards the dormitory while Ron trailed behind. Several people pat their backs. Unlike Ron, Harry didn't turn to encourage the admiration. They left the room and the excitement continued to buzz in their wake. No one noticed Ginny picking up her diary and walking silently to the turrets.