Disclaimer: Harry Potter and characters are copyright and trademarks of J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros, etc. I'm not making any money off this. So don't sue, all you'll get is a button.

Notes: I'd like to thank everyone that emailed me about this story and wouldn't let me forget it existed. I'm hoping I will be a bit more regular with updates, as I would ideally like to have it finished before book 7 comes out, but we'll see how that goes.

Chapter 6: Sorry, Charlie

The world had gone mad. At least as far as Ginny Weasley could tell.

When Ginny was a child, only one girl had ever come over to the Burrow to play with her. That girl described the experience as "mad." Mad because Fred and George kept setting things on fire. Mad because of the gnomes and the ghoul. Mad because of the noise. Ginny never spoke to that girl again. She couldn't even remember her name, just the dull fury at hearing her family being described that way. She knew the truth. Noise was normal. It was the silence that was the true indicator of madness.

And the silence at the Burrow was interminable.

Molly Weasley was not a fragile woman. In fact, if asked to describe her mother, Ginny would've talked about how tough and strong-willed she was. But Bill had jut been savaged by a werewolf, and it had gotten to her. Ginny knew that her mother constantly feared for the safety of her children. Molly had focused mostly on protecting Ginny, perhaps because she was the youngest. Bill, on the other hand, was the oldest and most experienced. If he wasn't safe, it threw everything at the Burrow out of whack.

Bill was still at St. Mungo's. Fleur stayed with him most of the time, except to come to the Burrow and sniffle dramatically. Charlie left not long after Bill was injured. His superiors had suggested training the dragons for wars—something that hadn't been done since the Middle Ages. Percy sent one surreptitious letter to their Mum, saying he was all right but he continued to cut himself off from the family. Ron was also cut off. Being an underage wizard of limited ability, he had decided he should naturally go off on some quest with Harry Potter to save the world.

It just left Ginny to stay with Molly and comfort her. Well, really, the twins were around too. But their presence only distracted everyone further because they refused to be distracting. They should've been turning people into canaries. But no! They demurred out of respect for their mother's nerves! As if that had ever stopped them before. It just made it that much obvious that the world had changed since last they had been home.

Ginny wiled away her hours alternatively wrapped in her bed linens (pretending she was safely ensconced in a bubble) and pacing the floor of the living room while her mother sat listlessly on the sofa.

Ginny couldn't blame her mother. Molly feared that her children would be hurt, or worse, killed, in the war. And there was a lot to worry about. New reports of Death Eater incidents came in every day. It didn't stand to reason that the Weasley family would be untouched forever, especially with Ron sticking his neck out all the time.

Ginny had an added weight on her shoulders. She couldn't stop thinking about Draco Malfoy and his mother, particularly now that the news that Lucius had escaped from prison had trickled down to her. Though, to hear her father tell it, it wasn't so much "escaping" as "being freed after Lord Voldemort deigned to acknowledge his existence."

Still, Draco was in terrible danger if that was the case. He had not only failed the mission he had been given by Lord Voldemort , who wasn't notoriously forgiving but his mother was now being called a traitor. If his mother was a traitor, suspicion would be cast on Draco since blood meant everything to the Death Eaters. Ginny wondered if he was already dead, just that his body was hidden somewhere that it wouldn't be found for centuries.

She tried not to think about Draco at all. She knew she should be fretting about Harry. He was her boyfriend, after all. Or, he had been before he dumped her at Albus Dumbledore's funeral. Ginny was still miffed about that. As if a funeral was a good time for dumping someone. People were already depressed enough! It was just plain rude. At least, that was her rationalization for thinking about Draco more, at least. She didn't pretend it was a good reason.

The funeral had been a surreal experience. Professor Albus Dumbledore had been killed. That was odd enough in and of itself, since Ginny had been raised believing that he was the greatest wizard that ever lived. Worse, people said that Draco had killed him. Ginny knew that wasn't true, and not only because Harry had said otherwise. She had seen the sadness in Draco's eyes when they left the Forbidden Forest . She hadn't known at the time what task he had been given, but she had known he didn't want to complete it.

The funeral was held at Hogwarts, which was as it should have been because Albus Dumbledore was Hogwarts. Harry, Ron and Hermione stood out among the crowd. For decades, everyone had looked to Professor Dumbledore when times got bad. And now, they looked to Harry—their last hope. Ginny knew many of the students no longer believed that Harry Potter could defeat Lord Voldemort. If he was able to kill Dumbledore then certainly he'd be able to get to Potter, who hadn't even finished school yet.

Looking back, Ginny realized she hadn't looked to Harry for protection during the service. She looked to someone else who also had the monumental task of filling Dumbledore's shoes ahead of her. Next to the white tomb, Minerva McGonagall stood tall with her back straight, in all black that swirled around her like grief. She was Headmistress now. She would occupy the strange room behind the statue of the gargoyle. And though she was no Albus Dumbledore (as there was but one Albus Dumbledore and he would never be equaled), she was, in Ginny's eyes, the one brilliant hope that bleak day. Chaos was coming.

Make them come to order! she willed her teacher The way you teach those ickle firsties there will be no shenanigans in your class. Make them fall in line!

Many parents were threatening to take their children out of Hogwarts. They said it was not safe. Ginny scowled when she heard that. She believed that Hogwarts was still the safest place in the world. It was not going to the school that made the students unsafe; it had been the students who made the school unsafe.

While she paced her living room that summer, Ginny thought of sending Professor McGonagall a letter of support, but had no idea what to say. Ginny wanted her to know that she believed in her. Everything she wrote sounded like some annoying little girl hero-worshipping. It was not the sentiment Ginny wanted to convey. She knew McGonagall was a much more powerful and experienced witch than herself and probably didn't need support from a fifteen-year-old, but she wanted to express a certain level of emotional solidarity between them. She just lacked the right words.

Or rather, she had the word—sisters. Wasn't that what the Amazons called each other regardless of genetic links? They were sisters in purpose—sisters in battle.

Ginny was afraid of saying this, however. McGonagall had warned her about the Amazons. Kingsley's death had shown her that the "sisters" were not people she wanted to be associated with. She didn't want to seem like she was condoning their behavior.

"Ginny, dear, please stop pacing and sit down," her mother said, a bit too sweetly. She was resting on the sofa, with her arm across her forehead like she was doing some very disturbing thinking.

Ginny stopped pacing, but didn't sit. "Why?" she asked.

"We need to talk, sweetheart" said Molly.

That was two terms of endearments in as many sentences. Ginny did the maths in her head and decided that could only mean her mother was going to ask her to do something she did not want to do. She raised an eyebrow.

"Sit," said Molly.

With back stiff and shoulders straight, Ginny sat. "Is something wrong?" she asked. "Is Ron all right?"

A pained expression crossed her mother's face. She hadn't heard from Ron in two days. "It's not about Ron, dear," she said slowly. "Your father and I have been thinking… and we'd like to send you to the Salem Witches' Institute next term."

"What?!" cried Ginny, standing up again.

"Sit!" commanded her mother.

Ginny sat.

"It's for your own good, dear; Hogwarts is not safe and we couldn't bear the thought of anything happening to you." Her mother reached out and caressed her only daughter's cheek.

It really made it hard for Ginny to stay angry when her mum clearly loved her so much.

"Now Salem doesn't usually take students from other countries, but your father has been talking to some people he knows at the Ministry and he might be able to pull a few strings for you…"

"Mum," interrupted Ginny. "I don't want to go to Salem."

"I know, sweetheart," consoled Molly, "you'll miss your friends and won't know anyone, but I'm sure you'll adjust."

"That's not it," grumbled Ginny. "You always try to pack me off when something gets bad. I can help! I can fight!"

"Ginny, you don't understand. Last time," her mother shuddered, "it was bad. I don't want anything to happen to you. Hogwarts isn't safe!"

"Hogwarts was never safe!" Ginny all but shouted. "You didn't pull me out after I got possessed by a diary and nearly killed Hermione!"

Her mother looked stricken. "Dumbledore promised us he would look after you…." she began.

"He didn't! Last time you tried to send me away it went wrong! I ended up seeing Kingsley killed! What makes you think I'll even make it to Salem?!"

Molly frowned. "Don't raise your voice at me!" she shouted (ironically, much louder than Ginny had been). "We are only trying to keep you out of danger!"

"Well you can't!" cried Ginny.

The two of them regarded each other, both breathing heavily and glaring. "You're going," said Molly.

"I'm not!" said Ginny.

When it was clear to her that her mother would not be moved, Ginny did the only thing that a fifteen-year-old girl could do in her situation. She stormed out. She raced out of the living room and up the stairs, stomping all the way. She saw Fred and George listening in on the fight but didn't care. She rushed past them. When she reached her bedroom, she slammed the door shut behind her. In a fit of temper, she threw some stuffed animals at the wall.

She couldn't believe they were trying to do this to her again.

Molly and Ginny Weasley did not speak to each other for a week. It made dinner a very awkward affair for Arthur Weasley, who agreed with his wife that their daughter would not be safe at Hogwarts but wasn't too keen on the idea of sending her to another continent. Molly kept trying to bring him into the fight to back her up, and he would, but only wearily repeating the words she had told him to say.

Ginny did not budge from her position of martyrdom.

She did not understand why it was all right for her brother Ron, who was only seventeen months older than her, to quit school and run around the country looking for artifacts (or whatever else he was doing with Harry Potter) and she had to be buried away in some girls' school. Why did they trust him and not her? Fred and George insisted it was only because she was the youngest, but Ginny felt differently.

It was because she was a girl.

The idea made her so mad. She had spent the last four years proving that she was one of the most competent young witches at Hogwarts. She could out hex Ron any day. She could also out fly him. And she was pretty good with a bow and arrow. She didn't understand why everyone insisted on treating her like some damsel in distress—or worse, an idiot who couldn't take care of herself.

Harry thought the same thing. He ditched her to "protect" her. She wasn't sure what he thought Lord Voldemort would do to her, but she figured it was probably worse to not be trusted by someone she thought she loved. Maybe he had confused her with that whiney Cho Chang.

Ginny was bitter. She briefly considered taking her broom and flying to Hogwarts. She wanted to talk to Professor McGonagall. She'd talk sense into her parents. But then Ginny remembered the last time she'd attempted to fly to Hogwarts and thought better of her plan. Besides, McGonagall probably had a lot bigger things to worry about. Like how to keep Hogwarts running and finding a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. It didn't seem right to burden her with Ginny's problems. It was her own stupid family. She needed to deal with them herself.

Perhaps if there was some sort of incident—some way for Ginny to prove herself in battle. She'd have to keep her ear to the ground for any Order of the Phoenix news she could get her hands on. Maybe Tonks would bring her along on a mission. She was a girl too; she must know what it's like to be underestimated. Although, Tonks had been different since she fell in love with Professor Lupin. Maybe it was best to find a way by herself.

She had all summer.

Things were too awkward with her mother for Ginny to go downstairs and stay with her. She had managed to stay in her room for two days straight, without talking to her mum or going downstairs for meals. She was getting good at transfiguring household things into food. She was just at the point where she was thinking that her actions were a bit childish and perhaps were not helping her cause as much as she would hope when she heard the noises.

Arthur, Fred and George had all left for work, so her mum was the only other person in the house. Ginny had never known her mum to make this much noise. It sounded like Fred and George were setting off fireworks again.

Ginny wandered downstairs wondering if her mum was having some sort of fit. She could think of no good reason why her mum would be making so much racket. As Ginny descended the stairs, her heart descended into her stomach. She began to hear shouting voices as she got closer to the kitchen, and one of them was distinctively male—and angry. Attempting to be stealthy, she hid herself behind the clock with one-hand and peeked her into the kitchen.

Molly Weasley's back was to Ginny. Over her shoulder, Ginny could see the haughty face of Lucius Malfoy. His hair was longer, and his face was thinner, but it was definitely the man of her nightmares. Ginny gasped and ducked back out into the living room. She glanced quickly up at the grandfather clock; her mum's hand had jumped up to "mortal peril" along with Ron and… Charlie's?

Ginny didn't have time to wonder what the dragons had done to Charlie to put him in mortal peril, she had to focus on helping her mum. Malfoy must not have known that she was home. She hadn't come out of her room for two days, and Fred and George had taken to joking that she had tunneled out. If Malfoy had been watching the Burrow, waiting for the right time to strike, he never would have saw her and probably assumed she was gone.

Crawling away from the ruckus in the kitchen, Ginny pulled her wand from her trousers. She knew she had to contact the Order of the Phoenix. Of course, she was still an underage witch and wasn't technically allowed to do magic outside of school. Regardless, Ginny held out her wand, thought of Christmas at the Burrow, and whispered the words "Expecto Patronum!"

In all the days they had worked on the Patronus charm in Dumbledore's Army, Ginny had only once been able to produce a viable patronus. This time one erupted from her wand so quickly that she startled herself. She fell back onto her bum and stared at it, almost in disbelief.

The calico cat looked up at her petulantly. It mewed with an eerie other-wordly tinge to the noise.

"Go," said Ginny. "The Order. SOS. Malfoy."

In a flash, her kitten was gone and Ginny was left alone again. She felt lonely and scared at its abrupt departure. She wished there was a way it could take her message to the Order and stay with her. The din in the kitchen was getting louder.

Ginny crawled back over to her hiding place behind the other clock, and looked out into the kitchen. Her mother and Lucius were dueling now. Pots and pans continually clattered to the floor as they got caught in the crossfire. As the pair, danced around the wooden table in the center of the kitchen, Ginny caught a glimpse of her mother's face.

Molly Weasley wore a look of complete concentration. Ginny knew Lucius Malfoy to be a deadly opponent, but it was he who was the one on the defensive. He was the one stumbling backwards as her rain of spells hit him. Her dad had once mentioned that Molly Prewett had been the champion dueler their year at Hogwarts. Ginny had always thought it was a joke. Now she was certain it was not.

Malfoy fell backward as another one of Molly's hexes hit him in the chest. He clutched heart while he tumbled to the floor. Her mum's outstretched wand arm was leveled at his head. "Don't move," she said.

He chuckled menacingly and spit out blood on the floor. "I have something I think you'll want to see," he said. "If you kill me, you'll never see him again."

Malfoy opened his closed fist, and produced a small, rolled-up piece of parchment. When he unfurled the crumpled paper, an image appeared directly above it. Ginny had never seen a spell like it. It reminded her of the diary, except you didn't have to fall into the pages to see this memory; it was displayed right in front of you.

The memory was dark at first. There was rustling in the shadows, but Ginny couldn't make out any of the faces. Then there were voices. The first voice she immediately recognized as Malfoy's. He was threatening someone, but the second person was stoically ignoring his taunts.

As the vision became clearer, Ginny was able to recognize something frighteningly familiar. There was a flash of bright red hair in the darkness. Then, after enduring enough abuse, Charlie Weasley said, "Safe your breath, Malfoy. You don't scare me." But the tiny shaking in his voice betrayed to Ginny that he was afraid. He was just trying to be brave, like a good Gryffindor.

In the memory, Malfoy laughed. "Crucio," he said.

Charlie screamed. And when he did, Molly Weasley screamed with him.

At that moment, Malfoy saw his opening. "Expelliarmus!" he shouted! Molly fell backward as her wand flew from her hands. She looked up at Malfoy, their roles reversed now, and then looked at the memory, unable to look away from her son for too long.

Charlie was still screaming, the noise almost drowning out what Malfoy said next. "My wife was here before she disappeared," he growled. "You know where she is. Tell me, and I'll let your son live."

"I don't know!" wailed Molly. "Dumbledore took her. I don't know where they went."

Ginny knew her mother was telling the truth but apparently Malfoy didn't believe her. He raised his wand and hit her with the Cruciatus Curse. Mother and son cried out in unison. Ginny's eyes flew to her mum, writhing on the floor, and then to her brother doing the same thing in the memory.

She tried to remember everything she could about the Cruciatus Curse. It seemed like Charlie had been screaming forever. Hadn't Neville's parents gone crazy after being tortured like this? How long before Charlie wasn't Charlie anymore?

"Stop it!" she cried, jumping out from her hiding place. She opened her mouth to tell Lucius Malfoy exactly where his wife was. Just as long as he left Charlie and her Mum alone, she didn't care.

But Lucius hadn't known she was home. When he saw her, he spooked. The curse he hurled at her was lost in the noise of Charlie's screams. Ginny expected green light and rushing death, but it never came.

The Cruciatus Curse usually left the victim with slowed reaction time and dulled senses. So Ginny would never be entirely sure how her mother got herself off the floor and launched herself into the air quickly enough to intercept the spell. But somehow she had. Ginny screamed as her mother crumpled and hit the floor (again).

Ginny looked at her mother's body, and then at her attacker. Malfoy was equally shocked at Molly's reaction time. He had not expected this, probably because he would have never put his body between a curse and his own son. In his shock, he stood gaping long enough for Ginny to raise her wand and shout the first hex that came to her mind: the Bat-Bogey hex.

Flying bats bloomed on Malfoy's face and gave Ginny time to rush to her mother's side. "Mum!" she cried, turning her mother over onto her back.

Malfoy swore creatively and shot off curses in all the wrong directions. Before he had the time to regroup and actually attempt a spell that would work, a very distinctive growl interrupted him.

"Drop it!" said Alastor Moody, in no mood to be trifled with.

Lucius Malfoy had just been bested by Molly Weasley and her youngest child. What he really didn't need right then was the Ministry's best Auror showing up. He knew when it was time to retreat. With a 'pop' he apparated from the Burrow as quickly as he could. Which meant, he forgot to take with him the incriminating evidence of him performing an Unforgivable Curse on Charlie Weasley.

"Mum! Mum!" shouted Ginny, each 'Mum' getting progressively louder.

Moody's instincts told him to follow Malfoy but the girl's plaintive cries distracted him. He rushed to her side. He reached out to feel for a pulse, and found himself releasing a breath he hadn't known he had been holding when he discovered a faint one. "She's just stunned, kid," he said.

The girl pressed her head to her mum's stomach and cried.

"What happened?" he growled. He thought it was probably lucky that he constantly kept watch on all the doings of the Order of the Phoenix. Otherwise, he never would have reached the Burrow so quickly.

She said a lot of things that were lost to him, what with her face being buried in her mum's chest. The one that did get through was: "Malfoy kidnapped Charlie."

Moody wasn't much at comforting grieving women, so he stood up and walked over to the other side of the kitchen, where Malfoy had dropped the parchment. It's frightening message had stopped playing about the time he had arrived, but when he picked it up, it started again.

"Blimey," said Moody.

"Shut it off!" screamed Ginny, when it once again got to the torture.

Moody crumpled the paper in his hand, and the memory vanished.

"He wants Narcissa," hissed Ginny. "We have to go get her."

Moody whirled his magical eye on her. Dumbledore hadn't told anyone where he had stashed Narcissa Malfoy. How was it that this kid seemed to know?

"No," he said. "We don't. We gotta get yer Mum to St. Mungo's and then I have go track Malfoy."

"But Narcissa—" she began.

"Weasley," he said gruffly. It made him a bit sad to shatter the kid's delusions but he had seen this same trick last war. "You think they ain't done this before? Yer not getting yer brother back alive unless we find him fast."

Molly Weasley only stayed at St. Mungo's for a night, and then she was released to the care of her daughter and husband. The simple stunning spell may not have had a great effect on Molly Weasley's health, but it did have a great effect on her relationship with her daughter. Ginny now stayed with her almost 24 hours of the day. They sat on the sofa, together, waiting for any news of Charlie.

Each day that went by was agony for the Weasley family. They knew that the longer he was missing, the less likely that he would be found alive. Ginny found it oddly comforting each morning when she drifted down the stairs and saw his hand on the grandfather clock pointing to 'mortal peril.' She figured he could not be in mortal peril if he were already dead.

The entire Order of the Phoenix had been told to keep watch for Charlie Weasley. He was one of them, after all. Fellow employees at the dragon sanctuary reported that he had gone missing sometime during the night, as he had been seen by almost all of them after dinner but hadn't shown up to breakfast. No one was sure how the Death Eaters had gotten into the magically protected dragon sanctuary. It made everyone nervous to think that they might have access to dragons now.

Charlie's disappearance did have one upside for Ginny. Because Charlie had been in another country, in a well-protected area, his disappearance had convinced Molly Weasley that the best way to protect her children was to keep an eye on them herself. Talk of sending Ginny to the Salem Witches Institute ceased. Though Ginny was certain her mum still had no intention of sending her back to Hogwarts.

That was, until the owl arrived.

"Ginny," said Molly one day. "We received an owl from Hogwarts this morning."

"Hogwarts?" asked Ginny, while picking at her breakfast.

"Professor McGonagall has hired Alastor Moody to be Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher," explained Molly. Ginny stared at her mother. Why would Professor McGonagall send letters alerting the Weasleys of her staffing choice?. It seemed odd.

"Really him this time?" wondered Ginny, thinking of the year they had spent taking notes from a Death Eater.

"Yes," said Molly, not liking her daughter's cheek.

There was a silence in the kitchen as they both regarded each other. "Does that mean I can go back?" asked Ginny, not daring to hope.

"Alastor has promised to keep an eye on you," explained Molly. She added: "And not his regular eye either!"

Ginny was no longer in the mood to fight with her mother about not needing protection. Charlie disappearance had convinced her that she might actually need some. But it still bothered her that none of her brothers were going to have babysitters. They could've been kidnapped too!

"Mum, how come you haven't made Ron come home?" she asked abruptly.

Molly turned to face her daughter. "You think I haven't tried?" she asked. "He won't listen to me at all! I event sent an owl to Harry, thinking he'd talk some sense into Ron. But no!"

Ginny raised an eyebrow. This was the first time she had ever heard her mum disparage Harry Potter in any way.

"Maybe you ought to send someone to look after Ron and Harry," suggested Ginny. "I bet Harry'd like to see Professor Lupin…"

Molly thought about it. "That's a good idea," she said. "I'll send an owl to Remus."

"What about Fred and George," said Ginny. "I bet just anyone could come into their store…"

"Oh don't worry about that dear," Molly patted her daughter on the head. "I've already got Mundungus Fletcher watching them. They think he's a riot. Don't know he's reporting to me."

Ginny beamed. Sometimes, she liked the way her mother thought.

With the Hogwarts issue settled to her satisfaction, Ginny was forced to find new things to brood over. Lately she had taken to replaying the encounter with Lucius Malfoy over and over in her mind. Only a few days ago she had planned to be the hero of some battle, and that should've been her chance. Instead, she had almost done something she would have never forgiven herself for.

She had nearly betrayed Narcissa Malfoy's location. She knew that Lucius wasn't looking for her to give her presents. She knew Lord Voldemort wanted her dead. And yet she had been willing to offer her up for Charlie's sake.

Ginny loved her brothers more than anything. She knew she would have done anything for them. But still, one thought nagged her: how was it different than what Priene had done to Kingsley? Hadn't she said she let him die to save her sisters? Ginny had spent the last year despising Priene for her willingness to sacrifice her friend. She thought Priene was a horrible person. Did that make her a horrible person too?

What was worse, Moody had told her that even if she had told Lucius where Narcissa was, he wouldn't have exchanged her for Charlie. It would have just sealed Charlie's fate. She had nearly killed her brother. The thought chilled her to the bone. She didn't know what she would do if Charlie died.

A year ago, she had thought she knew what it would mean to be at war, now she was discovering she really had no idea.

The Amazons and even Draco had tried to tell her as much. She remembered Draco's letter: You can't help. His mother's life hung in the balance then, the way Charlie's did now.

Except he was a Death Eater, sworn to Lord Voldemort. Harry said that Voldemort had told Draco to kill Dumbledore, yet Draco hadn't been able to do it. Even though he would have been killed for failing. For the first time, Ginny wondered what she would have done in that situation. Would she kill someone good to protect her own life? She hoped she wouldn't, but now she wasn't so sure.

She wished she could talk to Draco now. She knew she still wouldn't be able to help him, but at least she could understand him now.

Nearly a fortnight had passed since Charlie had been kidnapped. The mood at the Burrow became worse with each progressive day. At first, everyone in the Order had been sure they would find Charlie quickly. Apparently, they had far underestimated Lucius Malfoy's ability to conceal himself, because no one had been able to turn up a silver hair. Ginny wavered between hope and despair. Some days she was sure he was fine, after all the clock still said he was alive. Other days she would think about the torture he must be enduring and wonder if him being alive meant anything at all.

Each night, as she climbed the stairs for bed, she wondered if she would ever hear from him again. It was the thirteenth night that she found Draco Malfoy was sitting on her bed.

He had been looking at a piece of parchment he held tightly in his hands, but when she burst through the door, he looked up, blinking. He was unable, or perhaps unwilling to speak at first. She looked around the room, astounded to see that it was indeed her room—exactly as she had left it. And Draco was indeed sitting on her bed, though he did not belong there.

"What are you doing here?" she asked. It was not the most original or insightful question, but it needed to be answered all the same.

He blinked again at looked at the parchment in his hand. She could see now that it was a sealed letter and it was too bulky to contain simply paper. "I'm harassing you," he explained. "Or, I'm supposed to be. My father is quite put out that your family is not cooperating with his well-thought out evil plan. So I have a message for you."

She looked at the thing in his hand, suddenly wary of what it contained.

He seemed wary of what it contained as well, and hastened to add, "I'm just the errand boy." He sounded put out about it—that he had been relegated to sending and fetching. She supposed he was lucky that was all the punishment he'd received for failing his mission.

"Er," he added, "Before I give this to you, you should know that it can be reattached with the right healing spells so long as you kept it in the proper potion."

Ginny gasped, and leaned her head against the doorframe to steady herself. She had wanted to believe it was some sort of empty threat, maybe a cursed artifact. This was the sort of thing she'd only read about in books.

She felt Draco's hand at the small of her back, rubbing soothing circles there. When she looked up he was peering at her curiously, his eyes suspiciously moist. "Why haven't you told…about my Mum?" he asked.

"I can't just let her die!" she protested, knowing her heroic words were not as true as she'd like to believe. She had almost told his father exactly where his mother was. It was just an accident that he had hexed her first. "Besides," she added with less conviction, "he'll just kill Charlie when he gets her back."

Draco nodded. "You're right about that," he said. "He meant to kill him from the start but your family… you have some magical way to tell he's alive, don't you?"

The clock, thought Ginny, the clock always knows where he is. She opened her mouth to say as much but Draco stopped her.

"Don't tell me," he whispered. She wondered if it was his father he didn't trust or himself.

Suddenly he dropped his arm and wandered across the room, running his hand through his hair. She walked over to the bed, curiosity getting the better of her, and picked up the envelope where he had dropped it. Peeling back the paper, she took a quick peek inside. It was Charlie's finger. She knew because he had a funny scar there from where a dragon had bitten him. Quickly, she shut the flap again and closed her eyes, hoping this all wasn't real.

"At least it's not, you know, the other thing," said Draco. "That's what I thought it'd be."

Ginny whirled and glared at him. "That is not funny!" She was holding her brother's finger in her hands and he was making jokes. What was wrong with him?

"Sorry," mumbled Draco.

The silence in her room was very heavy. Suddenly, she wished he'd make another stupid joke.

"I would've told," he said instead. "If it were the other way. I would've let your brother die to get my Mum back."

"Yeah, well you're a horrible person," she grumbled, and she hoped he knew this time she was making a joke.

He smiled sadly.

"How is that your Dad doesn't know? Why didn't you tell him?" she asked.

"Because I want her to live," he said, flatly. "The Dark Lord wants her dead and Lucius doesn't have a problem with that. In fact, he's pretty anxious to have her gone." She felt very sorry for him when she said that. Her family may have been in constant danger, but at least it wasn't from each other. "And," he added a bit cockily, "I'm a pretty good Occlumens."

"I think you mentioned something about that before," she sniffed.

"I'm used to it. I never would've gotten through adolescence if my father knew what I was thinking all the time," He explained. "I'm sorry you have to keep my secrets though." She was possibly one of the only people who had ever been nice to him, and she was truly suffering for it.

Ginny looked at the envelope with the finger. "Is he all right?" she asked.

"He's kind of banged up," said Draco, not elaborating how he got that way. "And he's not really getting enough to eat. I sneak him stuff sometimes but I can't fit a roast chicken under my robes. I'm hoping Potter will make his move soon, then Lucius will be too busy to guard so closely."

Draco didn't look like he was eating well enough himself; it made his cheekbones stick out more prominently. His robes were a bit tatty, which was not at all the look she was used to from him. Of course, she wouldn't go so far as to say he looked bad. He had always been handsome.

"Oh, and that finger, there's a spell that you have to do, so that it can—er—go back proper," he explained.

"I know," she whispered. "She had spent a lot of time in the hospital ward with her brothers. Madam Pomfrey had to perform a charm on both the patient and the severed… piece, if they were to attach again naturally. She didn't bother to ask if Draco had done the spell on Charlie already. She knew he wouldn't have mentioned it if he hadn't.

"You'll look after him, won't you?" she asked sadly.

"Yeah," he said. "And you'll look after my Mum."

He reached out for her then and she raised her arm to meet him in the middle. She watched as his pale fingers knotted together with her own. Their happiness depended on each other now; their fate intertwined like their fingers. United, Ginny thought as she looked at the link.

And then he kissed her, and their fate was sealed.