Return to Grimmauld Place

Prologue

A/N: This was an experiment to see if I could stick with one story if I had an outline and the feeling of deadlines. It failed, so the fic is ABANDONED. Also, you may notice by the date that it was written prior to the release of HBP, so it is quite obviously not compatible with DH. I just hate when people take things off the internet, so in the interests of not being a hypocrite I've left it up.

Of course, this is all just me playing in J.K. Rowling's world. She gets credit for everything you recognize.

Snape glanced at the note the trembling first-year handed him and sneered. "Ah, Ms… Weasley," he said, walking slowly towards her. "It seems you have been excused from the preparation of this potion."

Ginny blushed, sinking lower in her chair as all eyes turned her way. She desperately wished he would not say her name like that, as if he had almost forgotten it and might slip at any time. And she wished she knew what to say in reply, but she hadn't the slightest idea why she might be excused. Finally she gave up wracking her brain and said blankly, "Pardon?"

He towered over her, glaring down his hooked nose. Behind his back, she could see several of the Slytherins whispering and giggling behind their hands. "It appears," he said, speaking as if the words left a bad taste in his mouth, "that Professor Dumbledore would prefer to have a little visit with you."

"Oh," she whispered, somewhat relieved, although the rest of the class gasped. She may have pulled a few Fred-and-George-worthy pranks here and there, but nothing recently… somehow, she could not imagine anything bad that Dumbledore would need to see her about.

Unless it was Harry.

Ginny took a steadying breath and reminded herself that Voldemort was gone and nothing couldhave happened to Harry. He would be safely at home, she admonished herself, or at least safely at Quidditch practice, where a Bludger to the head was about the worst that could happen. Finally she looked up at Snape, still standing uncomfortably close to her desk. "M-may I go then?"

Lip curling, Snape nodded tersely. As he turned away, Ginny heaved a great sigh and began gathering her things, piling them into her cauldron as Colin gave her an encouraging smile. She was glad to get out of that room, and started to relax as she moved towards the door, but Snape's voice floated after her, "Is Potter's celebrity rubbing off on you, Miss Weasley? You know that doesn't count for much with me."

Gritting her teeth, Ginny pretended not to hear. As if Snape didn't know that they were avoiding "celebrity" as best they could! One day, she vowed, she would cast an extremely satisfying bat-bogey hex on the Potions Master. She entertained herself with that image as she climbed the staircase from the dungeons. Better yet, perhaps she would simply stop pretending to Harry that Professor Snape behaved himself around her, and sit back to watch the show as Harry protectively tore him limb from limb on her behalf.

Not that she needed a protector, of course. She was a strong woman; she'd held her own during the final battle and done her share of protecting others. But sometimes, especially lately, Ginny felt that she could gladly allow Harry to come to her rescue… but no, she wouldn't think about that.

She found Dumbledore waiting patiently outside his hidden staircase. He smiled as she came down the hall, and mumbled his password to the statue. It sounded to Ginny as if he had said "Canary Cream," and she giggled as she stepped onto the rising stairs behind the headmaster.

"Come, come, my dear," Dumbledore said, ushering her into his office as the portraits feigned sleep and disinterest. "Have a seat… sherbet lemon?"

Ginny shook her head as she sank into the squashy armchair in front of his desk. Her eyes followed the headmaster as he rounded the desk and took his seat on the other side, a candy lodged in his cheek. Despite the apparent urgency of the note, he did not appear inclined to speak, but simply smiled fondly at her. Finally, unable to stand the suspense, Ginny took a deep breath and asked, "You wanted to see me, Professor Dumbledore?"

Dumbledore sucked his sherbet lemon thoughtfully for a moment, then said slowly, "No… no, not particularly."

Confused, Ginny started, "But, the note to Professor Snape…"

He smiled, eyes twinkling. "I thought that requesting your presence would be much simpler than explaining why you should be avoiding that particular potion, don't you agree?"

Ginny was suddenly very glad she had turned down the candy, because she might have choked on it. "I… I'm n-not certain, Professor…" she stammered, then trailed off, bowing her head to hide her blush. I should have known better than to think nobody would notice, she thought.

"Ginny," Dumbledore said gently, "Dobby has been very concerned about you." Ginny groaned, covering her face with her hands, and he chuckled. "After all, his loyalty to Harry is very strong… stronger, I believe, than his loyalty to Hogwarts and to myself. Although he did his best to keep your secret, in the end he was more concerned that something might go awry. He felt certain Harry would never forgive him if he allowed you to be hurt."

"I would have been careful," she whispered, too mortified to react to the implication that she couldn't handle herself.

"Of course you would, but others might not be so careful, and then where would we be? Making an announcement to all the world, and in front of your favorite professor." Dumbledore nodded when Ginny cringed, but seemed to feel that enough had been said on that precise topic. Several moments passed as he watched her struggle to compose herself. Then, his voice gentle, he said, "You haven't been to see Madam Pomfrey."

She could feel heat creeping back over her cheeks. "No," she whispered in response, although it wasn't, strictly speaking, a question.

"Does Harry know, Ginny?"

She whimpered. "No… no, not yet. He hasn't been to see me since last Hogsmeade weekend."

Dumbledore carefully picked up his quill and dipped the tip in his signature ink. "Perhaps," he said, touching it to a bit of parchment, "this would be a good weekend for you to floo home."