A Time to Mourn
Ginny smiled at her father. "Look," she said, "we've almost finished for the day. Why don't you get a cup of tea, and I'll clear out the register."
Her Dad pushed his glasses up his nose and said, "Are you sure Ginny? I can do it if you don't want to."
Ginny shook her head and pushed him firmly in the direction of the kitchen. "Don't worry about it," she said. "Besides, if they left any booby traps, you're better able to help me."
Her Dad nodded and left the room. Ginny bit her lip and walked to the cash register. She was worried about him. There were grey streaks in his hair now, lines on his face, and if anything, he seemed more forgetful. Her Mum seemed to be dealing with things better, though she clung to them all more, especially Percy, and worried frantically about Ron, Harry and Hermione. Clearing out the twins' flat had been the hardest part, and the most upsetting. Ginny could handle her parents' grief, but when she'd found Bill crying in George's bedroom she'd been almost frightened.
And he and Fleur had been so wonderful too. They'd practically moved into the Burrow – Fleur spent hours looking at baby pictures with their Mum, and Bill did his best to get their Dad to talk. Ginny hadn't really appreciated any of it – she still felt numb, as though she was merely from one day to the next. It was impossible to realize that her life no longer had Fred and George in it.
She'd come home one day, exhausted after hours in Twillfit and Tatlings and a session with the DA, wanting only to go to bed, but Fleur had made her eat. Not only that, she'd made her talk. Not about the twins – that wound was still too raw – but about the DA, and the beautiful robes they sold in the shop, and how much Ginny wanted Neville to get a move on with Susan. And about Harry.
Not about the obvious things – not about the fact that he'd left her, or was the Chosen One, or might die any minute. About the way he looked at her, the way his eyes got fierce and he seemed to be stopping himself from touching her. About all the ways that look scared her, though she loved his face when it looked like that more than anything. About how if she gave into that keen, breathless look she'd more in love with than she could ever bear, and might well die of it.
Except of course, not in so many words. It was incredibly hard to say such things – Ginny's face got red and she stammered and didn't know where to look. It didn't help that Fleur's reaction wasn't outrage or a stern reminder that Ginny wasn't of age, but a nod. Ginny would have known what to do with disapproval.
Fleur had nodded, and drank her tea and finally said, "You're a very good-looking girl, Ginny." This wasn't at all the response Ginny had been expecting, and she'd barely been able to conceal her surprise as Fleur continued. "But you are not yet wise. You can only be wise when you're old. For now you need only be strong enough."
Ginny had gaped at her, but Fleur had merely smiled in her enigmatic way and gone upstairs to bed. Ginny still wasn't sure what she thought of it. In any case, since she hadn't seen hide or hair of Harry in nearly a month, it probably wasn't worth worrying. She didn't have the energy.
She bit her lip as she looked through the twins' register. The owner of the building had yet to find a new taker for the lease, business having trailed off due to the war, but at the least they had to catalogue the stock so they could move it when necessary.
The last thing Ginny had expected to find was a book containing all the twins' formulas, but it was there, on a shelf under the counter. All their current products were there, as well as hundreds of ideas in various stages of development.
Ginny was so enthralled by what she was reading, that she didn't even notice her Dad come in until she heard his cup smash on the floor as he said, "GINNY!"
She looked at him, surprised, and saw that he had his wand out and was pointing at…at…at Lucius Malfoy.
Lucius Malfoy was standing in the twins' shop. Ginny tried to control her breathing as he said, "Arthur," and gave a courtly bow. Her Dad's hand was trembling as he held his wand. "What do you want, Malfoy?" he said.
Malfoy attempted his usual smirk, but perhaps his heart wasn't in it – he looked very ill. In fact, his face was grey and worn, and his clothes dull and stained, not his usual elegant attire at all.
Ginny managed to get her wand out, but he saw the movement and faced her instantly. "Sorry to bother you Arthur," he drawled, "But the Dark Lord wants me to deal with your daughter."
She had never, ever seen her father so furious, and his voice trembled as he said, "You won't lay a finger on my daughter, Lucius."
Malfoy raised an eyebrow. "I won't have to."
Without taking his eyes off Malfoy, her Dad said, "Ginny Floo to Headquarters, now."
"But Dad – " she said, not liking the idea of leaving him alone with a Death Eater.
She recognised that particular tone and obeyed him instantly, dropping to all fours as Malfoy let loose his first curse. She crawled the length of the counter and scrambled into the back room, trying to ignore the shouts and hisses of hexes thrown she heard as she went. It took one whole, panicky minute for to find the Floo powder, and she almost dropped it when she heard glass shattering outside. By the time she was in the Floo she had broken out in a cold sweat.
She tumbled into the kitchen of Grimmauld Place, gabbling about Malfoy and her Dad. She was so incoherent it was a wonder Lupin understood at all, but by some miracle he did, and he, Tonks and Moody set off to help her Dad.
Ginny spent ten minutes pacing the room, chewing on her lower lip and waiting for them to return. She nearly jumped out of her skin when Harry, Ron and Hermione Apparated into the kitchen. She was trying, and failing, to explain what had had happened, when Lupin and her Dad reappeared.
Her father's face was pale and frightened, and he seized Ginny by the shoulders, saying, "Are you all right? Are you all right, Ginny?"
"Yes, Dad," she said, truly worried by the look on his face. The moment she said it, he hugged her hard. Ginny heard him say, "Thank God," and she held on tight.
It was a minute or two before either of them was composed enough to answer Ron's question. "What the bloody hell happened?"
Their Dad shook his head, and Lupin said, "Lucius Malfoy is dead." Hermione gasped. "It looks like he was hit with a Killing Curse, but we checked Arthur's wand, and he definitely didn't cast it. The worst he managed was to Banish him through the front window." He held his hands up resignedly. "We don't know what happened."
Hermione looked confused. "But if Mr Weasley didn't…were there any Aurors there?"
Lupin shook his head. "None. There weren't even any in the street."
Ginny squeezed her father's hand. "I'm just glad he didn't have to cast that spell," she said.
"I agree with you Ginny," Lupin said. "But I don't trust miraculous help. I want to know what happened."
Her Dad looked worried and said, "What would Voldemort want with Ginny?"
Lupin's head almost seemed to snap as he turned to look at her Dad. "Isn't it obvious Arthur?" he said.
Harry shifted in his seat, and Ginny felt a yawning gulf open up inside her. She'd never told her parents about her and Harry – there'd barely been time before Dumbledore's death, and afterwards her feelings had been so confused that she hadn't known what to do.
Lupin looked at her accusingly. "Did you tell your parents, Ginny?"
"Tell us what?" her Dad said.
Ginny couldn't speak – her lips seemed stuck together – and she looked at Lupin pleadingly. It was Harry who said, "The thing is Mr Weasley, Ginny and I were…going out, for a while, last year."
He looked miserable, and Ginny's Dad said, "Why didn't you tell us Gin?"
She stumbled over her words as she tried to explain. "It was only for a few weeks, and then…Dumbledore died and Harry broke…and I didn't want you to be angry with him, and I was confused. And I didn't think it mattered."
Lupin's tone was low and even as he said, "You did realise that any relationship with harry made you a prime target, did you not?"
"Yes, but…we were broken up," Ginny said helplessly.
"You know as well as I do that Voldemort has no time for such distinctions. Harry is not a normal young man – and as a mature young woman, Ginny, you ought to have put aside any adolescent awkwardness and informed your parents of any relationship immediately. Had that been the case, Fred and George might have been more on their guard."
For a moment, Ginny thought she might faint, but Lupin was clearly furious, and she had to answer him. Bursting into tears – which she would, shortly – wouldn't help. Her lips were trembling as she said, "I'm sorry."
"That's not really very helpful now, Ginny."
"I know," she said, resisting tears with everything she could. "I know, but I'm sorry."
She heard her Dad say, "Remus," as she ran out of the room.
It was Ron who found her. She'd been lying on her old bed, staring at the walls. Her tears had long since dried, and she was left with a pounding headache and a dry mouth. Ron sat beside her awkwardly, and said, "Dad's not angry, you know."
Ginny felt very tired. "Really?" she asked.
"Yeah," Ron said. "He said he wished you'd told him, but he understands." He chuckled. "Harry didn't know where to look."
Ginny sat up and looked at him for a moment before she said, "Was he… Does he blame me for Fred and George?" She had to swallow a sob.
"No," Ron said, "Of course not. We're targets anyway, remember? Besides, would Voldemort really have sent five of his best Death Eaters just to get you? I kow you're tough, Gin, but you're not that tough."
"Yeah," Ginny said, unable to restrain a sniffle.
"Look, Ginny," Ron said, "I get it. It must have been awful. I don't know what I'd do if Hermione… I mean," he added hurriedly, "I wasn't sure about you and Harry, I thought you might hurt him, but it's obvious you really like him and…"
Ginny stared at him. "Are you joking me?" she said. Ron shook his head, and she walked out of the room, muttering, "Unbelievable."
Ron followed her, saying desperately, "Look, I'm not criticising you; it's just the way you treated Michael and Dean, that'd really hurt Harry, Ginny, and –"
"He broke up with me!" Ginny said fiercely, as she walked into the kitchen. "He's the one who left for months on end, with no word, and people telling me twice a week that he was dead. And you were worried I would hurt him? I don't believe you, Ron." She had to pause for a moment to catch her breath. "Did it even cross your mind that I might get hurt? Did you even care?"
"Ginny, don't be so ridiculous," Ron started to say, but he was interrupted by Hermione opening the pantry door. She and Harry were standing there.
Ginny bit her lip – she couldn't look at Harry. "Look," she said, "I don't even want to talk about this any more. I have a DA meeting to run, since none of you are there to do it."
She stepped into the fireplace and said, "Hogwarts," before Ron could even answer her. She was just too angry to even speak to him.
Ginny continued to run DA meetings nearly twice a week for the next seven weeks. She didn't see Ron or Harry or Hermione again, but she did start to receive the occasional owl, usually from Hermione, sometimes from Ron. Harry never sent a word.
She studied the twins' book with Luna, winced whenever she read the Daily Prophet and went for lunch with Neville and his Gran. It was Neville who listened to her complaints about the customers at Twillfit and Tatlings, Harry's hurtful silence and her awkwardness around Lupin (who she was avoiding as much as possible, though she knew it was foolish). She loved Neville for his steadfast heart and unfailing patience – but there were times when she wondered why on earth he put up with her.
One night early in May, Ginny's Mum talked to her about Harry. It was a conversation she had been dreading. She'd been worried her Mum would think her foolish, or romantic, or that her feelings for Harry were something she would get over. There must have been something in her face though, for her Mum only stroked her hair and she was proud of her. It was both comforting, and mildly disappointing.
The biggest relief though, happened one evening toward the end of May. Ginny and Neville were cleaning up a few last things from the Room of Requirement when Susan joined them. She looked sideways at Neville and then said, "Ginny, I wanted to ask you something."
"Okay," Ginny said.
"Well, it's just… I know you're very busy, and I was wondering if … if you'd like me to take over the DA sessions. I think I could do it now."
"Oh," Ginny said, "If you're sure. I mean…it'd be great, but don't do it unless you're sure."
"I am," Susan said. "We really appreciate everything you've done, especially after what happened to your brothers, but … we all know you've got more important things to do."
"Oh," Ginny said. "Thanks. And I can still drop in if you need help, or if you've got questions or anything, so don't hesitate to Owl."
Susan nodded, and smiled at Ginny before going to talk to Neville. Ginny rather thought she heard him ask her, bashfully, to meet him at the next Hogsmeade weekened, but she wasn't sure.
In any case, Susan was gone a moment later, and Neville and Ginny got ready to leave. They were meeting Luna at the Hog's Head, but Ginny wanted to wash her hands first, so she popped into Myrtle's bathroom. A moment later she screamed.
The Chamber of Secrets had been opened.