Author's Note: This chapter is long overdue, but I got tangled up in rewriting and editing and writer's block. This chapter isn't 100% finished but closely enough hopefully. After brushing the dust off this file, I think it is readable. Honestly, I'm a bit lost in my own story at this stage so I hope it makes sense and flows with the previous chapters. Let me know what you think!
"Sssh," Ginny hissed. She held up her pointer finger in the air and held it there, a beat passed, and she slammed the book shut with a glare. She took her finger down and looked up at the invading presence, an automatic smiling crossing her face. "Hi Ron."
"Hey Gin," he returned, but despite the casual greeting, his face was pinched. He flopped down in the seat opposite her. He offered her a lopsided grin and gamely asked the superfluous question. "Did She let you out already?"
Ginny made a face and shook her head, small pout forming on her lips. "Not quite…no."
"Reckoned as much," said Ron glumly. He waved his hands vaguely around the Common Room, noticeably Harry and Hermione were absent, that was the only time Ron ever spoke to her anymore. Although it was a relief, the long looks Hermione tossed at Ginny were worrying, and Ginny couldn't help but wonder how big of an issue Hermione made out of Ginny's spacing out in the library. Had seen a few medical books around the place. Worrying. Best not to be around Hermione, give the girl another reason to study Ginny. Ginny didn't think Hermione told Ron anything, wasn't that paranoid about Ron wandering over to talk to her.
"So why are you here?"
"Change of scenery?" Ginny said after creative thought. Could hardly admit to prying through Jake's things. Sneaking around wasn't a good look on her, painted her actions in an unfair light.
"Me and Jake are working on something, just hit a breakthrough, need to grab a book," Ginny said with a half shrug, lying sliding easily from her mouth. Two years ago Ron would have seen through it.
He didn't doubt her for a second, didn't even bother to question what the project was. Sounded like schoolwork which he blatantly wasn't interested in. Especially when there were other issues that needed to be addressed. "So, uh, why were you there?" Tried to sound casual while asking, failed miserably. His fascination with his hands telling her icy blue eyes didn't.
"Flu," Ginny lied again. It was the simple answer. Couldn't get into the complicated one. Didn't know that answer. "Madam Pomfrey was just being overcautious."
Relief flooded Ron's face, thankful that there was nothing sinister at work, determined to read the signs that he missed last year. "Oh. Okay. When will she notice that you're gone?"
Ginny made a face and said ironically. "Probably twenty minutes."
Ron shuddered. "In that case, I'm making my exit before you make me into an accomplice. That lady might just poison me next time I have to visit."
Ginny laughed at his dramatic antics. "Chicken."
"Hell yeah," Ron admitted, stretching his legs out in front of him and lounging back. Not shamed in the lest bout the admittance.
"Some Gryffindor you are," Ginny teased, small smile on her face taking out whatever sting might be in her words.
"Says the person working on a project at this hour. You should be excommunicated to Ravenclaw," Ron shot back without missing a beat.
Ginny stuck her tongue out at him, and Ron's only response was to reach out and ruffle her hair, an odd sort of expression on his face. "Mature, Gin, real mature."
"I think so," said Ginny, sticking up her nose haughtily. She shook her hair back into place, wouldn't have bothered, but faint traces of black lines were appearing on her neck. Looked like the Abeotician Aromatic wasn't as effective as it claimed, or maybe her tattoo was made of stronger stuff, but it was coming back again.
"Are you going home from Christmas?" Ron asked completely out of the blue. It wasn't even the season, not yet, although it wasn't so early that people weren't already discussing holiday plans.
"Dunno. Colin kinda wants me and Jake to visit for Christmas, show his dad that the Wizarding World isn't full of psychos and that we're perfectly normal people who do magic," Ginny explained. A beat passed. "We pointed out a major flaw in that plan."
Ron snorted. "Yeah, Colin actually wants to come back."
"Jake can't exactly visit for a few days, either stay the entire holiday or go home. He's all the way from America, and you know at that time of the year trying to book a Floo station or portkey is a nightmare."
"Think you'll stay?"
"Two weeks of Percy," was all that Ginny said, and Ron nodded, understanding wholeheartedly and they shared a laugh. Usually Percy wasn't so bad, but with his upcoming NEWTs, he took his usual annoying self to a whole knew level of stress, and Ginny didn't feel like tiptoeing around the house because poor Percy was stressed.
"Yeah, I'm thinking of staying here," said Ron with a rueful grin.
"Oh, and my answer changes anything?"
"I might feel bad leaving you at Percy's mercy."
"Whatever," Ginny dismissed. She shoved Ron playfully. "Now scram. I think I hear Madam Pomfrey."
Ron scoffed but stood up nonetheless. "Like Sir Cadoegan would let her in."
A valid point. The lunatic was ruthless about entry without a password. Didn't let bribes or whines or threatens persuade him otherwise.
"A good chess master knows when to take risks," Ginny quipped, a slight pout on her lips, as she thought of all the times Ron completely annihilated her, smug little grin on his face from opposite the black and white chequered board.
"I'll take your advise when Percy's knight stops abusing you."
"He doesn't abuse my game," Ginny said. She crossed her arms and quickly uncrossed them, so not to appear defensive. "Not my fault he's a sexist ass."
"Nothing you should worry your pretty little head about," said Ron, grin still on his face, but a malicious glint entered his eyes as he taunted her.
Ginny shook a warning finger at him. She waved it some more for emphasis, not quite up to Mum's standard, but Ginny thought she was getting rather good at it. Now all she had to do was work on getting her brothers to listen to her." Not another word!"
"Or I'll meet my maker?" Ron prompted after a moment's pause, so uncreative that he needed an actual threat. No wonder he was scared of spiders. Couldn't be something random like giraffes, that would be beyond Ron.
"Was going to say Madam Pomfrey but if you want to admit that I can totally kick your ass go right on ahead," said Ginny, sickly sweet smile on her face.
Ron rolled his eyes but didn't dignify that with a response, or at least that was what he told himself. He hopped to his feet, knees cracking, and stretched his arms over his head. "I'll own up to believing in the tooth fairy before that," he said.
He regarded Ginny for a moment, and if Ginny did a good job at channelling Mum, then Ron was around Bill too often. From the very way he tilted his head and said his next words, it was pure Bill. "You should go the Hospital Wing after finishing up here."
Ginny waved him off, and turned to the next book in the pile beside her, conversation already dismissed from her mind, and almost like a spell had been cast, completely focused on her mission again. She knew that Jake kept the list in one of these books, and while she only glanced at it briefly, something told her that there was something insightful there whether Jake realised it or not.
It wasn't in the next book either.
Ginny sighed and looked at the stack, idly contemplated taking a book from the bottom, but knowing it would her luck for the book to be in the middle, or maybe Jake stored it in his locked trunk. Grrh! He wasn't even around to yell at for being awkward. Ginny had no idea where he was. It wasn't an odd occurrence, despite his seemingly bubbly exterior, Jake had a tendency to slip off, and do what, Ginny didn't know, but she suspected that it involved sulking and moodiness. She never followed him
Ginny sighed. It wouldn't be in the books. Not something Jake would leave lying around. He didn't show it to her, something personal there, probably undoubtedly in the damn trunk. Writing it in under Snape's nose was only a way to ward off suspicion, so that if anyone noticed what he was up to would think it was unimportant because he wouldn't risk Snape reading it to the class. Knew he wouldn't get caught.
Ginny buried her head in her hands, and against her will her eyes wandered to the door of the boys dormitory. It would be easy enough, but did that even out total invasion of privacy? Well, Jake wanted to find this out, by whatever means necessary he said coolly, eyes glittering (how could black glitter?) with an unidentifiable emotion. He'd think it was worth it, but that was only if, her invasion turned up something useful.
A good chess master knew when to take risks. Ginny bit her lip, guilt gnawing at her stomach as she checked her pocket, penknife warm weight against her leg. She didn't usually carry it around, but earlier she slipped it into her pocket before heading off to grab Jake's books, a subconscious desire to snoop? Bill gave it to her when it was her turn to go off to Hogwarts. It had attachments to undo any knot and unlock any lock. Claimed misuse and wear led it to be ineffective, and that he had to get a new one, but that she might find some use for it at Hogwarts. She didn't, not really, but now was the opportunity to see how good it was.
She crept up the darkened stairs, and whatever part of her that unthinkingly catalogued which steps creak, took control and instruct her how to hop them or where to step. Up the spiral staircase into the second year boys dormitory. The layout was exactly the same as the girls'. It could have been their room, only slight differences in posters and personal items. Couldn't even claim that one room was messier than the other.
A stack of pictures indicated which bed Colin called his own. Ginny flipped through them, stalling the inevitable, mind not even acknowledging the random assortment of pictures that made sense to Colin. A cursory glance knocked out two beds, everyone would have kept the beds they got in first year, and Jake would have ended up beside Colin, complained enough times about how the other boy snored. Only took seconds then to find out which one was Jake's. Ginny knelt down in front of his bed, and pulled out the trunk. The five locks sparkled up tauntingly at her.
Ginny inserted the blade of the magical knife into the crack of the first lock and moved it gently up and down, then withdrew it. There was a tiny click, and the trunk opened under her touch. It only contained a mass of spellbooks. Ginny shook her head, any of them might hide the elusive slip of paper. She'd check again if none of the other compartments revealed anything useful. Didn't want to invade his privacy totally. She wasn't that bad of a friend.
She closed the trunk, and repeated the same procedure on the second lock. The spellbooks vanished, this time an assortment of clothes, all neatly folded and Muggle, lay under her furtive gaze. The third compartment contained a slim rectangular case, which on inspection, Ginny vaguely identified as a laptop. She recognised a phone easily enough, but was at lost for the other gadgets. There was a small box, and with shaking hands Ginny opened it. Perched innocently inside lay a sleek gun. The breath caught in Ginny's throat, and her fingers operated without thought, muscle memory Ginny heard the term was called, and deftly striped down the gun into its pieces, and put it back together.
Gun violence was equally bad before the Pulse, she suspected. A thought occurred to her. She wasn't actually the same age as Jake, had those three years (even if they were spent trapped in a tomb and hadn't actually aged her) on him. She would have been nine around that time compared to Jake's six. While she didn't remember it, it must have had a impact on her.
The Pulse only encouraged gun violence. Jake wouldn't have remembered much of a world before it. God, he must have been only six. Had he ever been that young? She'd have been nine, and stayed nine for the next three years, entrapped by a nasty curse she stumbled on in Egypt. Should have believed in magic. She knew how to use a gun, and even though she didn't use one that day in the woods, she did countless of other times. The gun's very weight fell naturally in her hands. Familiar. Ginny shoved the gun back in its box, and replaced that very carefully.
The fourth compartment held potential. There were books, not textbooks, but hardback black journals. Ginny unfocused her eyes and flipped through the first, only catching glimpses of words and sentences. A journal, not a diary, because a diary was by nature personal, whereas this seemed like a record. Okay. He never admitted to that, but why not, no law that he couldn't keep a journal. There were several more books, and Ginny quickly flipped through them all, her name appearing several times, but she resisted the urge to peek. A page was stuck into one of the journals.
Used for transport
Perhaps can fly
Tamed. Ask Hagrid
Dangerous creature. Dark (???)
Live in Forbidden Forest
Herd six (has to be more)
Some sort of standard for seeing them.
Ginny can, vaguely, doesn't meet up
Something I have but she barely does
It went on, curt and abrupt, more like a report than tossing ideas out onto a page. Jake tried to guess what he and she might share that was relatively rare. American heritage. No, Snape knew about them on some level, and he was as British as they came. Similarity to, or feeling that way, Black. Murder. Only murders could see them?
Mythology. Similar to cliché about pointy hats and brooms? Death (???) Death's usually described as a skeletal being with a match horse and scythe. Coincidence, perhaps, but an infrequent trait. In relation to which? Having died, near death experience, or? None apply to me. Impossible to tell with Ginny.
That was it! The connection was there, the same one she grasped at fruitlessly, and one that Jake didn't follow up. Evasive as a snitch, and she held it in her hands. Ginny stared at the list for a moment longer, memorising Jake's words, knowing that if somehow it escaped again, that they'd trigger off similar if not the same thoughts.
Her hands were steady as she folded the page up (not parchment, blue-lined A5 page) and replaced it in the journal, same page, placed just so. Jake had a good memory, and she wasn't risking tipping him off. The ticking clock it the room echoed ominously, counting away the seconds she had before being caught red handed. Her hands moved quicker, fumbling slightly now, and there were footsteps on the stairs.
Shit. Ginny shoved the trunk back under the bed, grabbed her penknife and darted under Gerard's bed. It was a poor hiding place but she didn't even have enough time to slip into the bathroom, and as luck would have it Jake appeared in the doorway. From her position, curled under the bed, with a trunk digging into her spine, she couldn't really make out his expression, but he dragged his feet, like the stairs just wiped him out. Usually around this time, he'd be far more lively. He must have been chasing their invisible horses again.
Ginny shifted slightly, arching her back away from the trunk. The spot still tingle, and what Ginny really wanted was to rub it, but such a movement wouldn't pass unnoticed no matter how tired Jake seemed. Worn. The temptation to read his journals was greater than ever. Get an insight into the person that no one ever saw.
A shiver pulsed out from the spot in her back. Ginny clenched her eyes shut. Not now, not again. Spasms rattled her body, furious and silently, completely unnoticed. Ginny's tongue felt heavy in her mouth. For some reason she felt incredibly aware of it, fear of swallowing it or something. Ginny clamped her teeth down on her tongue, ensuring that it didn't disappear down her throat, and giving her something else to focus on. The coppery taste of blood slipped down her throat.
There was a squeak, and Jake's feet were no longer visible on the floor. He must have collapsed on the bed. His breathing was even, but Ginny didn't think that he was asleep, or even close to that state. He just lay there, content just to rest until someone came back. The seconds passed like minutes until Ginny had no idea how long passed. Time held no meaning between Jake's deep breaths and her shuddering body. Another squeak and feet appeared, and they moved silently across the obnoxiously red-carpeted floor, into the bathroom.
Ginny rolled out from under the bed, and supporting her weight on the post, pulled herself to her feet. Ginny's stomach twisted and twirled, threatening to unload food that wasn't actually there. Ginny didn't have time to take a deep breath and settle herself. She darted towards the door, and escaped through it. She closed the door behind her with a quiet click. She sat down. Ginny knew she shouldn't take a break so close, but the stairs seemed to twist endlessly down to the next flight.
She pulled her knees up to her chest and curled up into a ball, arms wrapped around herself and let the shakes play out. She hardly had a choice in the matter, and on the other side of a thick door, Jake never noticed.
She took in a shuddery breath and rose unsteadily to her feet. As much as she'd like to stay forever, the concept of not moving so alluring, she knew that she had to. At least she was going down the stairs, that was the lesser of the two evils. Didn't know if she'd be able to face going up a staircase.
She kept a steady hand on the banister and with painful slowness staggered down the stairs, managing to nod and look reasonable to the few boys heading in the opposite way. The sidelong looks only having to do with why she was heading down from the boys dormitories. She only vaguely recognised the boys, and hoped that they weren't her brothers' friends, because if they found out, well, she'd have a fun time trying to come up with an explanation.