Chapter One: Alternating Scenery

A/N: The following scenes are taken from OotP and have been altered to build the plot the way I want it to. Not all direct quotations will be noted; only the beginning of each scene to give the reader an idea of where it fits in canon. I would recommend reading through the last chapter, just to familiarize yourself with the events depicted here. All blocked, italicized text at the beginning of the section is quoted as written by J.K. Rowling.

The Forbidden Forest

"OK," said Harry irritably, rounding on her. "First of all, "we" aren't doing anything if you're including yourself in that, and second of all, Ron's the only one with a broomstick that isn't being guarded by a security troll, so –"

"I've got a broom!" said Ginny. (Order of the Phoenix, U.S. edition, page 761)

"Yeah, but you're not coming," said Harry angrily.

"Excuse me, but I care what happens to Sirius as much as you do!" said Ginny, her jaw set so that her resemblance to Fred and George was suddenly striking.

"You're too –" Harry began.

"I'm three years older than you were when you fought You-Know-Who over the Philosopher's Stone," she said fiercely, "and it's because of me that Malfoy's stuck back in Umbridge's office with giant flying bogies attacking him –"

"Yeah, but –"

"We were all in the DA together," said Ginny, her anger now bubbling over. "It was all supposed to be about fighting You-Know-Who, wasn't it? And this is the first chance we've had to do something real - or was that all just a game or something?"

"No — of course it wasn't -" said Harry impatiently, trying to hold his own temper in check.

"Then we should come too," said Ginny as if the matter had been decided.

"Well, you're not," retorted Harry, gripping his wand more tightly in his hand. Hermione and Ron were trading worried looks and Luna suddenly found Neville's swollen eye interesting. "You're the last person from the DA I'd ask to have come with us."

Ginny recoiled as if she had been slapped. "Is that how it is, then?" she asked in a deadly calm voice, her own wand inching higher.

"Yeah," said Harry, not backing down an iota, "it is."

Just as Harry was squaring his shoulders in an attempt to send Ginny packing, Ron walked between them, facing his sister, Hermione mirroring him as she took Harry's hand. "That's enough fighting, you two," said Ron.

"We've got to focus on Sirius right now," offered Hermione, whose logic finally broke through to Harry's brain.

"You're right," Harry said. "I'm – I don't know what came over me."

"Let's just get on with it, then," said Ginny, obviously still nursing her anger.

"Well it doesn't matter, anyway," said Harry through gritted teeth, "because we still don't know how to get there –"

The Hospital Wing

"Harry's heart began to race. He had not told Ron, Hermione or anyone else what the prophecy had contained. Neville had told them it had smashed while Harry was pulling him up the steps in the Death Room and Harry had not yet corrected this impression. He was not ready to see their expressions when he told them that he must be either murderer or victim, there was no other way..."

"It is a pity it broke," said Hermione quietly, shaking her head.

"Yeah, it is," said Ron. "Still, at least You-Know-Who never found out what was in it either - where are you going?" he added, looking both surprised and disappointed as Harry stood up.

"Er - Hagrid's," said Harry. "You know, he just got back and I promised I'd go down and see him and tell him how you two are."

"Oh, all right then," said Ron grumpily, looking out of the dormitory window at the patch of bright blue sky beyond. "Wish we could come."

"Say hello to him for us!" called Hermione, as Harry proceeded down the ward. "And ask him what's happening about... about his little friend!"

Harry gave a wave of his hand to show he had heard and understood as he left the dormitory. (Order of the Phoenix, U.S. edition, page 839)

Taking a deep breath, he paused outside the hospital wing for just a moment before plowing on. A voice broke his concentration and he turned back to see Ginny Weasley straining on her injured ankle to catch up to him, leaving the infirmary door open.

"Wait up, Harry," she said with a grimace.

Despite his urge to ignore her and continue towards the Entrance Hall, he turned around and waited.

"You've got some nerve, you know," she said, still huffing from her effort to walk the short distance from Hermione's bed.

"What are you on about, now?" he asked, entirely too weary to tolerate much from anyone just then.

Ginny snapped her arm behind her, pointing at the open door. "Walking away from them right when they needed to talk with you?" she said, fire dancing in her brown eyes.

He sighed and wiped a hand languidly over his tired face. "I can't face them right now, Ginny," he paused, staring at his now shaking hands between them. "It's not the right time, yet."

Her hands grabbed fistfuls of the robes at his shoulders and captured his eyes. "Harry.... They need you.... Now." He had never seen her so serious. Not since the night her father had been nearly killed –

Guilt welled up inside him and stung like a thousand angry hornets. Sensing that his feelings were about to spill over, he jerked his robes free and backed away. "I can't..." he said, then turned and ran down the corridor, ignoring Ginny's yells and desperately trying to school his emotions.

The Duel

"Well, Potter, Malfoy, I think you ought to be outside on a glorious day like this," Professor McGonagall continued briskly. (Order of the Phoenix, U.S. edition, page 853)

Not entirely sure he had heard correctly, Harry continued to goggle at his Head of House as she walked towards the staff rooms, trailed by Snape who looked extremely put out. Just as she turned the corner, a shock of fiery red hair appeared in his view.

"I'm not finished with you, Potter," yelled Ginny as she shoved him against the hard stone wall. Her face was flushed and beads of sweat were dotting her forehead. She must have hobbled all the way from the Hospital Wing.

His encounter with Malfoy still lingering on the edge of his memory and the hurt from Sirius' loss still pulsing in his heart, he felt his control slipping. "Ginny..." he said feebly. "Don't..."

"Oh ho!" called Malfoy, slinking back from the shadows now that the teachers had retreated. "Can't even keep the ladies happy, can you Potty?"

"Didn't you just get your arse handed to you?" said Ginny, turning to survey the blonde boy.

"Tsk, tsk, Weaselette," he said with a sneer. "You could do better than scar-head, you know?"

"Leave it alone," said Harry, still gripping his wand and trying to push Ginny out of the way. As much as he wanted to hex her just then, he'd rather get Malfoy first. "I'll handle her by myself."

Ginny's head whipped around, sending her hair flying into Harry's eyes. "Handle me, will you?" she said, brandishing her own wand and backing away. "We'll see about that, you arrogant... pig-headed... Nargle farmer!" It seemed that she had to search for just the right insults as she brought her wand up to point at Harry's chest.

"I've had enough of you, Ginny," said Harry his anger returning in waves. "Leave me alone before I do something we'll both regret."

"If I can handle ferret-face," she said motioning with her head towards Malfoy, "then I can handle the likes of you."

"Fine," said Harry through clenched teeth. "Fine!"

Malfoy wisely retreated just in time for Ginny to let loose with a series of ill-aimed curses. Harry dodged them easily, but that only seemed to infuriate her more.

"Argh!" she screeched, lunging for him.

Red light flashed from his wand, sending her sprawling to his right, diving behind a stone column. He heard her cry out in pain, probably from her ankle, but he didn't care. He wanted her to hurt. She had no right to treat him like this. No one had the right to force him to do anything.

Malfoy was dancing with glee behind one of the wooden benches, obviously enamored with the thought of the two of them bumpingeach other off. More curses flew over Harry's head and several students shrieked as they came into the entryway, scurrying outside as soon as they saw Harry and Ginny's fight.

Ginny recovered from her fall, her wand sending a blue light over her foot and the two of them started to duel in earnest. Harry's wand was a blur and his brow creased in concentration as he deflected her curses and sent his own at the determined redhead. Somewhere in the back of Harry's mind, he regretted teaching her in the D.A.

"At it again, Potter?" a sneering voice sounded over Ginny's shoulder and Snape appeared once more in the corridor, wand in hand. Having heard the voice as well, Ginny whipped around and shot an Impediment jinx at the Potions Master; exactly at the same time that Harry had fired an identical beam of blue light. Snape flew back down the corridor and hit the ground hard; much harder than normal under the influence of the combined spells, and slid along the polished stone floor until he hit a suit of armor, sending it crashing down on top of him.

Harry and Ginny locked eyes, simultaneously impressed and scared at the prospect of hexing a teacher. Then at once, their wands again worked furiously, sending more and more hexes at each other. Harry's anger was ebbing as his respect for Ginny's dueling abilities increased. Deciding that it was time to end it though, he sent her flying with a well aimed Stupefy, intending to hit her with another stunner as she dodged.

"See here!" said McGonagall, limping down the stairway, cane flailing in front of her. "What on earth is going on here?"

The momentary distraction almost cost Harry as he noticed Ginny doing a complicated motion with her wand from her position on the floor. Ducking at the last moment, he saw Malfoy's face contort with terror as he was hit with the sickly yellow light. Great green bats flew out of his nose and began attacking him, chasing his shrieking form down the hall.

"Stop this at once, Miss Weasley! Mr. Potter!"

Ignoring McGonagall, Harry barely got off another Stupefy as Ginny let loose with a full body bind. She slumped to the floor in a heap as his arms and legs snapped together before he fell painfully down to the floor, knocking his head on the unforgiving marble.

Consequences

"... never in all my years," came McGonagall's ethereal voice, penetrating the thick fog in Harry's brain. "Two students dueling in the middle of the Entrance Hall."

"Well, it's a good thing no one was seriously injured," said the voice of Madame Pomfrey.

The familiar sound of feet shuffling on tiled floor told him where he was. Back in here again, Harry mused. Then the image of Ginny Weasley's crumpled body appeared in his mind and the reason for his presence in the infirmary was brought back with such clarity that he jerked himself fully awake.

Now sitting up, he instantly regretted the action as the back of his head throbbed painfully. Feeling around tenderly with a finger, he found a large knot where it had hit the floor of the Entrance Hall. Looking over to the bed next to him, he found Ginny Weasley looking at him with a blank expression. Her sheets were pulled low over her as she sat in the bed. Her robes hanging on the headboard behind her, he found himself staring at her plain white blouse, rumpled and creased from wear.

They stared at each other for a moment longer before McGonagall appeared between them. "I'm glad to see you've woken up, Mr. Potter," she said in a stern voice. One that Harry had heard all too often.

Attempting to lighten the mood, he smiled weakly at her and inched back to lean against his pillows.

"You couldn't have found a different way to vent your anger, could you?" she said scathingly, her lips pursed into a thin line. "You had to goad Mr. Malfoy and then attack Miss Weasley."

"She – " he started but was cut off.

"No, you can't interrupt until I've finished," said McGonagall heatedly. Harry's head was pounding even harder as her words bore into them. "I had just gotyou off the hook with Professor Snape and yet you had to hex him. Why?" Harry noticed out of the corner of his eye that Ginny's head was hanging limply on her neck, her long red hair forming a protective curtain around her as McGonagall continued her tirade. "More than anyone," she said with a hint of softness. "I understand that you've been through a lot in the last few months, but that's no excuse for purposefully dueling with another student!"

She muttered something under her breath that sounded like "Just like his parents," but he couldn't be certain.

"And you, Miss Weasley," she said, turning to the girl next to Harry. "From what I'm told, you were the one to first attack Mr. Potter." Ginny, it seemed, deflated even further under the furious gaze of their Head. "Is that correct?"

"Yes, Professor," Ginny said with a croak, nervously folding and re-folding the sheets in front of her as she worked to clear her throat.

"I see," McGonagallsaid, looking over her tortoise shell spectacles at the two of them. "I'll need to consult with the Headmaster, but I can assure you that there will be a suitable punishment meted out regardless of the upcoming holidays."

Shooting a final withering stare at the two teens, McGonagall made to leave and Harry blurted, "Professor?"

"What is it, Mr. Potter," she said with a labored sigh.

"Could I," he began, pointingto his aching bump "– have something for my head?"

"No," she said simply. "Consider it a reminder for embarrassing your House and your classmates with that abysmal display." Then without waiting for another retort, she hobbled out of the infirmary on her cane and closed the door with a deep clunk, sending yet more waves of pain throughout Harry's skull.

Harry groaned and sunk back into his pillows, accidentally hitting his bruise on the headboard. "OW!" he yelled furiously, punching his mattress in a fruitless attempt to bleed off his anger. "Sodding bed!"

Ginny let out a stifled giggle and he leveled his gaze at her. "What's so funny, Ginny?" he asked, miserably clutching his head.

"I'm sorry, Harry," she said with a sad smile on her face. "Really."

"Look," said Harry with wave of his hand. "Let's talk about this later, all right? My head hurts too bad to talk."

Ginny sighed and snuggled down into her own blankets. "Fine," she said resignedly. "Try to get some sleep."

Harry fought through the throbbing in his head trying to figure out the puzzle that was Ginny Weasley. Deciding that he had been through enough already, and dreading what punishment was to come, he gave in to his exhaustion and slept.

When he had finally regained consciousness two hours later, his head was still throbbing, but not as sharply as before. Ginny was not in her bed and the matron had given him her leave, with the admonishment to avoid any more duels with students or Death Eaters. Harry's first impulse was to go back to Gryffindor Tower, but decided that he really should check in with Hagrid as he had intended to do before his encounter with Ginny.

Taking a deep breath, he walked down the nearly empty corridor and at long last, into the fading light of the day.

The Hogwarts Express

"You're well out of it, mate," said Ron forcefully. "I mean, she's quite good-looking and all that, but you want someone a bit more cheerful."

"She's probably cheerful enough with someone else," said Harry, shrugging.

"Who's she with now, anyway?" Ron asked Hermione, but it was Ginny who answered.

"Michael Corner," she said.

"Michael – but-"said Ron, craning around in his seat to stare at her. "But you were going out with him!"

"Not any more," said Ginny resolutely. "He didn't like Gryffindor beating Ravenclaw at Quidditch, and got really sulky, so I ditched him and he ran off to comfort Cho instead." She scratched her nose absently with the end of her quill, turned The Quibbler upside down and began marking her answers. Ron looked highly delighted.

"Well, I always thought he was a bit of an idiot," he said, prodding his queen forwards towards Harry's quivering castle. "Good for you. Just choose someone - better - next time."

He cast Harry an oddly furtive look as he said it.

"Well, I've chosen Dean Thomas, would you say he's better?" asked Ginny vaguely.

"WHAT?" shouted Ron, upending the chessboard: Crookshanks went plunging after the pieces and Hedwig and Pigwidgeon twittered and hooted angrily from overhead. (Order of the Phoenix, U.S. edition, page 866)

Harry kept to himself until term ended and during the ride back to London, only taking part in conversation when he had to. The incident with Malfoy and his goons as he had come back from the loo had been a high point, as he watched members of the D.A. hex, curse, and jinx the Slytherins into a quivering mass of jelly.

Back in his compartment, he could tell Ron and Hermione were concerned with what had happened between him and Ginny, but neither of them were willing to broach the subject. Harry and Ginny hadn't really seen each other since their latest stay in the hospital wing and consequently, hadn't found time to do anything to resolve what had happened between them.

For her part, Ginny had acted as if the entire thing hadn't occurred and it was this fact that kept Harry's temper close to the surface. It wasn't that she'd brushed him off, more thatit was the thought that she could simply turn off her emotions as if they were nothing more than an annoyance. Was he really that beneath her notice?

As the train slowed, Harry's thoughts returned to the promised punishment that McGonagall had mentioned. She hadn't brought it up again since he'd left the hospital wingand Harry briefly thought that he might be off the hook. One look at Ginny however, told him that the issue was far from being resolved and he knew that his Transfiguration Professor was worth her word, if nothing else.

With a resigned sigh, he walked off the Express, his trunk rolling awkwardly behind him and he walked slowly away from the only people he loved.