Hello readers. I would firstly like to apologise most sincerely for the huge delay. I've had a lot to deal with lately and as you may all have noticed; my fics had to take the back burner for a little while. I can't guarantee regular updates yet but I am doing my best to move forward with all my stories. For those of you who continually ask me: Yes that does include the Replay sequel and the Harry/Charlie paired story.
I should point out that I am still getting back into this writing thing. Be kind to me. The chapter's been beta-ed twice so I assure you it is readable and I will accept no comments that say otherwise!
Enough with the boring details! On with the story!
"Ginny!" the redhead in question turned to smile at the approaching figure.
"Why Dad, this is a bit of a surprise. What are you doing here in ye old Hogwarts shire?"
"Ron asked me to come," Arthur replied, stopping in front of her and leading her to the side of the corridor, "He seemed a little… concerned over the current company you keep."
"Oh?" Ginny tried to keep her tone casual, but an observant ear could probably have noticed the slightly higher pitch of her voice, "And which particular person is it who… concerns Ron so?"
Arthur ducked his head a little sheepishly and rubbed his neck.
"Harry," he admitted before hurrying to explain, "Now don't get me wrong, Ron likes Harry a lot, as do I. He is simply a little worried about the speed at which your relationship is progressing."
Inwardly, Ginny sighed with relief. Outwardly, she managed an outraged expression.
"That's hardly any of his business! Why do you care anyway?" She put on her best stereotypical-fifteen-year-old-girl impression.
"Ginny, darling, I simply wonder if you've put enough thought into this. You've only been dating a few months." Arthur looked remarkably uncomfortable.
"How dare you!" Ginny screamed, "Harry and I love each other unconditionally! Why are you trying to stand in our way?"
"I'm not sweetie. You have both mine and your mother's blessings for this. We just don't want you to get hurt."
"Then why are you here expressing Ron's… concerns?" Ginny questioned him acidly.
"Well, honestly they're my concerns as well," somehow Arthur managed to look even more embarrassed, "It's just… you're fifteen now and soon you may want to… do certain things."
Ginny raised an eyebrow.
"What I'm trying to say, Ginny," her father continued, "Is that you've never really received the talk."
"The talk," Ginny looked at him with a deadpanned expression.
"Yes. See…" Arthur trailed off for a moment as he led her into an empty classroom, "There are a few things I need to explain to you."
Ginny hid a laugh at his discomfort.
"Okay, shoot," she leant back against a desk and waited patiently for him to begin.
"Well… it's sort of hard to explain really. You see, well, it starts when…"
"When two people love each other very much?" Ginny prompted.
"Yes! How did you know?"
"Lucky guess," Ginny said with a small grin.
"Ah. Anyway, um… when two people love each other very much, sometimes they decide to… have a special hug."
"A special hug," Ginny feigned confusion, "What do you mean, Dad?"
Arthur frowned in concentration, searching his mind for another tried and tested way of conveying his subject.
"I mean that… women are like birds and men are like bees," he looked satisfied. "Does that make sense?"
"… No, Dad."
"Oh. Um… there are certain parts of a persons body which are… they're for… you know what" Arthur floundered desperately, his face becoming redder and redder as he spoke, "How about I get your mother to explain it to you some other time, okay?"
"No, it's alright Dad," Ginny smiled brightly, "I can just get Harry to show me!"
"Ah, no sweetie, I'll get your Mum to come and tell you okay?"
Arthur made towards the door looking slightly more relaxed. He paused briefly a few steps away from his destination and looked back at his young daughter. A paternal smile had spread its way across his face and he chuckled warmly.
"It's amazing really," he commented to her, "You're almost grown up now, but you still hold such innocence about you."
"I think that was a compliment," Ginny said dryly, "So thanks, Dad. But don't worry so much, okay? No matter how grown up I get, I'll always be your little girl."
"I know that," Arthur told her, "I just wonder if you'll always remember that."
"Again, don't worry so much." Ginny smiled fondly.
Arthur looked at his daughter for a moment. He could have sworn that there was a slight sadness in her eyes. Possibly regret? It was gone a moment later however, replaced by that expression of perfect innocence she had been born with. He decided to forget about it.
Arthur nodded to her and turned to reach for the door just missing the childish and slightly evil smile spread across Ginny's face, vanishing again a millisecond later.
"Oh, Dad?" he twisted around again at her voice, "Where do babies come from?"
"Where've you been all this time?" Harry frowned as Ginny re-entered the common room.
"Torturing my Dad," she smiled wickedly at him and threw herself onto the couch.
"And you didn't invite me?" Harry pouted, "Ginny, you promised we'd do things as a couple from now on."
"Aww, poor ickle Harry. Feeling left out?"
Harry glared at her.
"Have you been talking to Fred and George again?"
"No, I get this from you." Ginny informed him dryly.
"Well that's sickening," Harry scrunched his nose up at the thought, "Next thing you know we'll be finishing each other's sentences."
"A tragic day for all."
"Indeed. We must do something," Harry slipped off the edge of the couch and knelt before Ginny, "Ginny, my sweet, sweet Ginny."
"Yes, Harry?" Sweet, sweet Ginny replied in a falsely breathless voice.
"I think we should spend some time apart."
"And see other people?"
"You already are," Harry reminded her.
"Oh, right. I forgot," Ginny sighed, "I suppose you're right. I guess it's a good thing I'm heading to Haven tonight then, huh?"
"A wonderful thing actually," Harry grinned at her, "I'll get to have a lot of extra privacy to go through the necessary mourning period. Not even Ron will dare disturb me!"
"Er… yes he will."
"Fine. Not even Ron whilst under Hermione's control will dare disturb me!" Harry cried, stabbing the air in triumph.
"Much better. Sort of."
"You really know how to belittle a guy don't you?"
"All women have this skill, Harry. Nothing cures a bad temper better than a little session of ego crushing."
"I think I may cry," Harry sniffed.
"What's up Hamish?" The older boy smiled at his younger brother and slowed his pace until the boy caught up with him.
Hamish beamed widely, unable to contain his own delight. Pausing briefly to catch his breath, he dragged Dean into an empty classroom. Once there he began to speak.
"I was talking with Patrick earlier and suddenly Draco Malfoy came up," Hamish started, "He went through the usual farce of hazing the new Hufflepuffs and whispered for me to meet him behind the statue of the old hag near the Astrology tower. Anyway, once I was there, he told me that I'm going to be in the next batch of kidnap victims!"
"What?" Dean gasped out, sliding backwards onto a chair, "Is he out of his mind? You're too young!"
"But Dean, that's unfair. Tilly went in the first kidnapping and she's a first year," Hamish pouted, "And then Delaney and Penelope were in the most recent batch of victims and Penelope's three months younger than me!"
"Yes, but that was then and this is now," Dean explained patronisingly.
"Really? I couldn't tell. I thought time had been standing still for the last few weeks," Hamish replied sarcastically.
"Hamish, I mean that now Dumbledore has his guard raised, not to mention the Ministry and Voldemort are both on the lookout. If you were caught you'd be questioned, and you're too young to be able to resist that."
"Dean, Ginny is going to be going with us. Do you honestly think anyone could get past her?"
"Yes! She's still only a child."
"As are you and Harry and everyone else in this whole conspiracy," Hamish snapped, "Look, I know you're worried, but Draco thinks my disappearance would help our cause and I'm going to do it. You can either sit there and argue with me or you can keep working on your way of getting us out of here. That is your job isn't it?"
With that Hamish stormed out of the classroom, slamming the door after himself and leaving Dean stunned.
"When did he become the older sibling?" Dean finally muttered before making his way back to the Room of Requirement to put some extra elements into the escape plan.
The kidnapping victims of the fourth round, aside from Ginny, had all been personally selected by Draco for the effect they would have on assorted members of the magical community. Hamish, as a Muggleborn student, was another personal blow for Dumbledore. His disappearance would strain the already tenuous relationships Dumbledore had with Muggle leaders. Convincing them to allow Muggleborns to enrol in Hogwarts next year might be a little difficult after this.
Josainne Kadir, a Slytherin, was the daughter of an Egyptian businessman. He was on friendly terms with Dumbledore and supplied a lot of the more exotic ingredients needed by potions students at Hogwarts. If Harry's side could turn him they would have a very useful supply source. If they couldn't get him on their side at least Hogwarts might stop getting the absolute premium of everything.
Halina Buschenstiel was a Polish girl in her seventh year who was new to the group. With Draco's instructions, she had actually informed her family as to what was going to happen. Draco's reasoning behind this was that the family was quite poor and unconnected, having only immigrated ten years earlier. Her father was a tailor and the whole family worked for his business. They specialized specifically in making safety equipment such as flame retardant coats and acid resistant gloves. Understanding the dangers of what the Hufflepuff girl was getting into, they had agreed to supply such equipment to Haven for a minimal cost.
Ginny, of course, was going on to sort out politics. Whatever one has to say about them, politics can sure be interesting. Corrupt, petty and bigoted? Yes, but still interesting.
Dean, while deeply involved in the kidnapping process, was not responsible for who was chosen to go. If he didn't like it well then, it sucked to be him. His responsibility was getting them there safely. And that was exactly what he planned to do.
The kidnapping, Dean decided, would be delayed a little. Dumbledore was now used to the students disappearing between the end of classes and the beginning of curfew. This time, the students would be vanishing shortly after midnight and, in what Dean considered to be his greatest triumph yet, they would disappear from their beds.
It was pointed out to him by both Harry and Ginny that it had been far more impressive when he had floated four students up out of their chairs in the middle of a meal, but Dean was insistent. This was to be his greatest triumph.
His reasoning was that while it might be perceived as an easy feat, it was made remarkably more difficult by the huge amount of wards Dumbledore placed in every dorm. Dumbledore could literally watch them all sleep.
Dean, however, was fairly good at charms. Well, fairly was a bit of an understatement. It had taken him almost the whole week, but he'd finally gotten underneath Dumbledore's wards. A couple of apparitions and a befuddlement charm or too, and Dumbledore could see images of four missing students sleeping in their beds like drugged-up infants. In all reality; Dean's greatest triumph consisted of four people getting out of bed and walking them out the front door.
"They what?" The booming shout of Cornelius Fudge rang out from a room off the side of the Great Hall, startling the students preparing for breakfast.
Dumbledore's rushed and reassuring murmurs followed, and the pair's mumbled conversation continued, once again, inaudible to their audience. Harry paused briefly to pout at this before returning to his conversation with Ron and Hermione.
"You don't think she's been taken do you?" He whispered, his voice filled with an appropriate mix of terror and dread, "I mean, yesterday was a week since the last kidnapping and three other people are missing too."
"Oh Harry," Hermione patronized as Ron turned slightly green, "Ginny is fine, I'm sure of it. Dumbledore takes really good care of all the children of Order members. There's no way anyone could have gotten a Weasley away from Hogwarts. It would be impossible."
Across the table, Dean looked entirely too pleased with himself.
"But 'Mione, I'm scared for her. Where could she be if she hasn't been kidnapped?"
"Yeah, Hermione," Ron added angrily, "She's my baby sister and she's missing!"
"We know, Ron," Harry muttered under his breath. Out loud he said instead, "Maybe we should go ask Dumbledore what's going on?"
"Great idea, Harry," Ron perked up, but then his face fell once again, "I think he's busy with the minister right now though."
"We can talk to him after breakfast," Hermione assured the both of them in her best mothering tone, "He's always happy to make time for us."
"He wasn't last year," Harry muttered the reminder.
"That was different, Harry!" exclaimed Hermione in exasperation, "He thought Voldemort was in your head! And in case you've forgotten- he was!"
"You Know Who was in Harry's head?" Lavender gasped in shock, "He could have seen all of us."
"Harry is the big, strong, sexy saviour of the world, Lavender," Dean butted in smoothly, "If You Know Who was in his head, I'm sure Harry made certain he wouldn't find out anything."
"You're right Dean," Hermione hurriedly added her opinion, "Harry will protect us all, right Harry?" she looked at him pointedly.
"Er… yeah Lavender," Harry feigned awkwardness, "I know just what to do in situations like that."
"Hermione didn't mean to frighten you," Dean said soothingly, "Just go back to your breakfast."
"So anyway, Parvati…" the others breathed a sigh of relief.
"That was close," Ron stated the obvious as usual.
Dumbledore sat down at his desk with a sigh. Four more children missing! And one of them the child of Order members! This was going to be hard to explain. Plus, he really wasn't looking forward to dealing with Molly Weasley's famously piercing screams. Dear Merlin that woman could be annoying.
The whole, unbelievable situation was frustrating on a new level this time. The Weasley girl had been the perfect way to control Harry. Sure, she herself was rather unruly, but it wouldn't have been long before her parents got her under control and then she would be the perfect spy in his life.
It had been nice to see the lad return to him though. Only minutes after he had sent Fudge off to one of the suites in the castle (the minister had insisted on staying for a few nights to see how Dumbledore was handling the crisis) Harry had timidly made his way into the antechamber where Dumbledore had originally taken Fudge. He, along with Ron and Hermione had begged him for information on Ginny Weasley's whereabouts.
All three had been devastated at the news. Hermione less than the other two, but it seemed she had been genuinely fond of the girl. Ronald had thrown a minor tantrum but had been fairly quiet for the most part.
Harry on the other hand made rather a lot of noise about the issue. He'd been a little angry but mostly at himself. The poor boy seemed to blame himself for his girlfriend's disappearance. If the girl was never found or was conveniently murdered, Dumbledore decided, he could make use of this guilt Harry held. A soldier hell-bent on revenge was far more likely to agree to go on dangerous missions than one who was thinking about life after war. Perhaps afterwards he could drive the lad to suicide. It would be a quick and easy way to get rid of him and the wizarding world would be so devastated; they'd fall right in his lap.
Indeed there were many uses for a grief stricken teenager. He would keep that idea in mind for later.
"Ah! Come in Professor… Snape isn't it?
"It is, Minister Fudge, but you may call me Severus."
"Well then have a seat, Severus. What is it I can do for you?"
"You've heard all about the disappearances no doubt and no doubt you can tell Dumbledore has not been entirely forthright with you."
"I can. The man is so elusive sometimes. I know we're on the same team but I can't help but feel threatened by him. Last year as I'm sure you know was a slight embarrassment for me and I know that, if given the choice, the country would love to see Dumbledore holding my position. In their eyes he's a far more wizened and reliable figure."
"Well now, Sir, we can't have that. I hope you don't mind how forward I am being but… I have a proposition for you."
"You need someone to be your eyes and ears here. Someone who can give you insider details from two factions of this war."
"What are you saying Severus? What can you offer me?"
"I'm saying I could get you that information. It would cost you nothing except a guarantee that I would be safe from persecution at the end of this war. No matter what happens."
"I think I could arrange that."
"Well then Minister Fudge, do we have a deal?"
"Indeed we do Professor."
Is the Severus Snape thing making sense to you all? Let me know if it isn't as I'd be more than happy to expand on it and explain a little. Thank-you all for sticking around even when it seemed like my hiatus was never going to end. The reviews were what forced me to continue (you people are really good at giving us poor authors terrible guilt trips) and I'm very glad I did. Hopefully you all enjoyed this chapter. See you next time!