a/n—Well, happy 6th anniversary of this story being published, I suppose. Just seeing how many years it's been makes me cringe, but I'm bound to finally complete this story one day…
Chapter Thirty One
Ginny had never felt more tired in her entire life.
And yet she felt so relaxed. Whatever she was lying on—a bed, a cloud, a pile of rocks?—was simply heavenly. The only bad thing about her current position was that she had apparently forgotten to close her curtains before going to bed the previous night. Merlin, that sunlight was bright, even through closed eyelids.
Ginny's bedroom at Grimmauld Place didn't get any sun exposure in the morning.
This realization brought her crashing back to reality.
Why was she so comfortable? Peter Pettigrew had been hiding in her home in Godric's Hollow. He'd stolen her wand. He'd tortured her. This wasn't right.
At this, Ginny forced her eyes to finally open. And then she promptly shut them again after being blinded by the bright sunlight directly in her eyes. After a few moments, she turned her head to the side and tried again. The sight that met her eyes was rather surprising.
Slouching in a chair beside her bed, fast asleep, was Sirius. Beyond him, she easily recognized the scenery of the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts, familiar from the numerous times she had visited Harry there in her own time, in addition to the few times she'd been there herself. But why was she here, of all places, now?
"You're awake," At the sound of the familiar voice, Ginny shifted her head slightly to see Remus standing at the foot of her bed, mercifully blocking most of the sunlight. She noted that the expression on his face matched his tone: weary relief.
Ginny struggled to sit up and Remus hurried to her side so that he could assist her. Once she was upright, Remus pressed a glass of cool water into her hands, and also ended up helping her drink it as she was still quite weak, after affects of all of the curses she'd been subjected to. All of the commotion quickly woke Sirius from his uncomfortable slumber.
"Ginny!" He exclaimed, launching out of his chair once Remus had put the now-empty water glass on the bedside table; despite his enthusiasm, he hugged her gently before pulling away again. "You had us all so worried. How are you? Should I get Madame Pomfrey? I should probably get her anyway; she'll have my hide if she knows you woke up and we didn't inform her immediately. But it's breakfast now, and she's not here—"
"Sirius," Ginny interrupted his rambling softly, her voice still a bit gravelly even after the water. "I'll be fine until she gets back. How long was I out?"
"Three days," Remus answered promptly. "Do you remember anything?"
Ginny frowned, her gaze locked on his. "Did you…you were there, weren't you? You found me?"
Remus nodded emphatically.
"How?" Ginny questioned. "I don't even know how long he—Pettigrew! Did they catch him?"
Sirius shook his head to indicate the negative now. "He'd fled by the time the Aurors showed up."
"Aurors?" Ginny repeated with another frown.
"Maybe we should start at the beginning, Ginny," Remus suggested, sitting down in the empty chair next to the one Sirius had been occupying. Sirius remained standing for the time being, slightly restless after his uncomfortable night's sleep. He set up a silencing spell around Ginny's bed while Remus continued, "Let's start with you. Why did you even go back to Godric's Hollow?"
"I needed a break from research on the Horcruxes," Ginny replied. "I haven't been getting anywhere with it recently, and I needed a breath of fresh air. When I got there, I didn't notice any disturbances to the house. But I was only there for a few minutes before Pettigrew showed himself."
"How did he overpower you, though?" Remus asked. "The Aurors couldn't find your wand anywhere in the house, so he must have taken it from you."
"I put it down," Ginny said, slightly guiltily, "In the kitchen. That was my first stop when I got there, to drop off the basket of food Kreacher sent me with. Then I went upstairs to drop off my bag in my bedroom; I didn't think I'd need my wand so I left it behind. Of course, that was when I finally realized that there was someone in the house, because Pettigrew had been sleeping in my room. That's when he cornered me with my wand."
"And that was on Thursday?" Sirius questioned. "Kreacher said that was the last time he saw you."
Ginny nodded. "It was late in the afternoon." She frowned yet again. "How long did he have me there? After awhile, all of the curses caused time to sort of bleed together."
"Kreacher showed up here late Saturday night," Sirius answered. "He was concerned that you hadn't come home by the time you promised him."
"So that would make today…Tuesday?" Ginny asked.
"Wednesday morning," Remus corrected. "You really did sleep for three straight days; Madame Pomfrey was expecting a week."
"Why am I here, anyway?" Ginny asked, taking in her surroundings once more. "Why did you bring me back to Hogwarts?"
Sirius looked around the Hospital Wing now, too, but in his case it was to make absolutely certain it was deserted before continuing, "We figured they'd have a permanent record of you if Remus had brought you to St. Mungo's. Plus they'd have identified you as Ginevra Weasley."
"Not that I even thought of any of that right away," Remus admitted now. "I was too concerned for you to really concentrate on where I was apparating to. Hogwarts just so happened to be the place I thought of first. But Madame Pomfrey is just as good as any healer at St. Mungo's. Merlin knows she's seen some interesting things in her time here."
"But what about Dumbledore?" Ginny pressed. "How did you get me passed him?"
"But my dear Virginia Collins," Sirius said theatrically, reaching out and grasping both of her hands in his. "However could I bear to be parted from my beloved when she had suffered such grievous injuries?"
Ginny merely stared at him with wide eyes for a moment before speaking. "Dumbledore actually bought that."
Sirius released her hands with a shrug and a smirk. "It didn't hurt that he'd actually met you before, and so knew we were involved. Plus, I have a feeling he's going to want to question you himself about the Pettigrew sighting."
"Wait a minute, that's another thing," Ginny said suddenly. "You said the Aurors were involved. Won't that be worse than St. Mungo's having a permanent record of me?"
"My dear Virginia, has your recent trauma caused you to completely forget your own history?" Sirius asked and, if Ginny hadn't known the truth of her own identity, she would have completely fallen for the concerned look he was giving her.
"Apparently," she said dryly.
"Well you know that you were homeschooled, correct?" Sirius questioned.
Ginny nodded. "My parents—an American wizard and a British witch—travelled a lot."
"Yes," Sirius agreed, "And on their travels, they happened to make a few enemies."
"Death Eaters," Remus cut in and Sirius nodded his agreement.
"And of course you've basically been on the run from them ever since, because they're always going to hold a grudge against you," Sirius continued. "It wasn't enough to simply kill your parents; they still want you dead because of whatever horrible thing your parents got into with them. But, of course, it's been years since any of you have crossed paths, which is why you were so surprised by Pettigrew when you went to go visit your home, which you haven't been to since moving in with yours truly more than a year ago."
"Alright…" Ginny said slowly, after taking a moment to process all of this. "But that still doesn't explain what we're going to do about the Aurors having me in their records now."
"But why would they?" Sirius asked innocently.
"What did you do?" Ginny asked him, narrowing her eyes at him suspiciously.
"Nothing, for once, actually," Remus said with a small grin. "This time it was me. Well, Dumbledore helped a bit."
"Did he really?" Ginny questioned and the pair nodded vigorously.
"We said that I was going to my cottage—and it is mine technically, because you insisted on putting my name on the deed all those years ago," Remus said. "Anyway, I went to my cottage to capture a boggart that I knew was lurking about in an empty cupboard, when I saw Peter Pettigrew there. Naturally, he was after me because I was the one who turned him in to the Ministry all those years ago. And of course I had to alert the authorities right away, but Pettigrew must have seen me because he was long gone by the time they got there."
"And this involves Dumbledore…how?" Ginny asked.
"He believed our reason for why you should be kept out of the official records of the event," Remus said with a shrug. "He knows there are former Death Eaters lurking in the ranks of the Ministry; he wouldn't want them to catch wind of your whereabouts so he supported us giving the false story to them."
Ginny let out a brief, mirthless laugh. "That sounds just like him."
Nothing more could be said, however, because at that moment the doors to the infirmary opened to reveal none other than Albus Dumbledore, himself.
"I am glad to see that you're doing better, Ms. Collins," Dumbledore said, taking in the scene before him with a twinkle in his eyes. Remus was still sitting in his chair, but Sirius was now resting on the edge of Ginny's bed. He made his way over to them. "I daresay Mr. Black was quite worried for you while you were unconscious."
Ginny did her best to smile pleasantly at the man. No matter that she had changed things considerably, she would always remember what her beloved Harry had had to go through in her own time, thanks in large part to the man standing at the foot of her bed.
"Thank you so much for allowing me to stay here," Ginny told him. "If the wrong person in the Ministry found out—"
Dumbledore held up a hand to silence her. "Do not mention it, Ms. Collins. I always try my best to help people whenever I may."
They conversed pleasantly for a few moments more, with Remus and Sirius chiming in as well, until Dumbledore made his excuses to leave, politely reminding the pair of Marauders that they had their own duties in the school to attend to as well.
"He suspects something," Ginny said once she was sure Dumbledore was well on his way back to his office, and also after Sirius had put up another silencing spell after having surreptitiously taken the other one down when the Hospital Wing doors had first begun to open.
"What?" Remus asked sharply; he had just been standing up to make his way to his classroom for his first class of the day.
"Dumbledore suspects something," Ginny repeated. She turned to Sirius and smirked at him slightly. "Clearly your acting abilities aren't quite as sharp as you thought they were."
"But how do you know?" Remus pressed, slowly retaking his seat as he spoke.
"He kept trying to use Legilimency on me while we were talking," Ginny said with a frown. "Did neither of you really notice how he kept looking at me?"
"I thought he was just being his usual sunny self," Sirius admitted with a shrug.
"Should we assume that since you noticed his Legilimency, you were able to use Occlumency to block him?" Remus asked.
"Of course," Ginny replied. "All I let him see was the past few days with Pettigrew."
"But then why would you think that Dumbledore suspects something?" Sirius asked, brow furrowed.
"Well, for starters, he tried digging deeper," Ginny said, "But I made sure to concentrate on just Pettigrew, so he couldn't see anything else. And then there's the fact that he was even looking at all. I don't care if they've just suffered some kind of trauma, you don't go rooting around in complete stranger' minds unless you have a very good reason. We all know he's determined to figure out where Harry really was for those ten years he should have been living with the Dursley's."
"There isn't much we can do," Remus finally spoke up after a few brief moments of silence, "Except continue on as we've been doing lately." He frowned slightly as he continued, "We told Harry, Ron, and Hermione about your encounter with Pettigrew and that you were in here, and all three have visited you; they've barely left your side. In retrospect, I wish we hadn't told them. Their overwhelming concern for you is probably what made Dumbledore suspicious of you."
Sirius let out a sudden snort of laughter, redirecting both Ginny and Remus' attention to him.
"Sorry," He said, "I was just thinking…Dumbledore probably thinks Gin and I kidnapped Harry from his Aunt and Uncle's house and have been secretly raising him all these years."
"It wouldn't be very far off from the truth," Ginny said grimly.
"Well we'll have to be more careful from now on," Remus said resolutely.
"There's something else, too," Ginny said now, still grim. "Something I had plenty of time to think about while Pettigrew had me..."
"What is it, Gin?" Sirius asked, concerned due to her tone.
"Honestly, I didn't want to say anything right away because…" She sighed heavily here, "Well, because I just can't believe how stupid I've been. But it's important and I know I'd only have to tell you eventually, so I might as well as get it out of the way now. It's like this: finding Pettigrew at my cottage made me realize something."
Ginny paused to take a deep breath, and both Remus and Sirius waited patiently for her to continue.
"Things have changed," She finally continued. "With the timeline, obviously, but more so with how actual events are going to turn out. I honestly don't know why I didn't realize before now…but my being here has changed more than just what I intended it to."
"How do you mean?" Sirius asked slowly.
"Everything concerning Pettigrew is a wild card now," Ginny explained. "I don't know what to expect from him at all. For example, did he ever end up coming here on Saturday night?"
Both Sirius and Remus shook their heads.
"I had a feeling," Ginny said with another sigh. "We can't keep basing how things are going to turn out here completely on how they happened in my past. It really was beyond stupid of me to assume I could get away with that. Unless we want history to repeat itself, I really can't predict how things are going to turn out for Harry anymore."