Dinner was a quiet affair. Ginny felt everyone's eyes on her while she ate her roast chicken. The slashes on her face were like gigantic signposts that drew attention. "Would you please stop looking at me?" she said finally. "I can't eat with fifteen people staring."
The others averted their eyes, but Mrs. Weasely maintained her pleading stare. "Please reconsider, dear. You'd be so much safter at home."
Ginny did not reply. How could she explain to her mother that her rebellion was driven by too many things for her to quit? How could she explain the burning anger she felt whenever she thought of the Muggle-born Registration? How could she explain that she did it so that Harry could come home, so he could finally be safe? He had left to protect her; she would fight to protect him.
The words she could not say but needed to tell bubbled and died on her lips. She looked at her plate and shook her head.
Mrs. Weasley's mouth trembled, and she left the room. Mr. Weasley followed her out, shooting Ginny a look that was full of many things: Anger. Despair. Pleading. Resignation.
To her humiliation, she felt tears well up in her eyes. Awkward silence lay over the room. George put a hand on her shoulder. "Come on."
The twins led her into the empty living room. She sat on a chair and put her head in her hands. Fred and George sat on the couch across from her and waited. "I don't want to hurt Mum," she said finally, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. The twins said nothing; they only waited.
"It's so hopeless," she continued, and then words were pouring out of her mouth before she could stop them. It was so good to talk to her brothers-she had always been close to Fred and George-and to finally admit her fears. "We do what we can-your products have been fantastic-but there's only so much we can do. The punishments have gotten so much worse. They nearly killed Michael, and I'm afraid that they really will kill someone. But we have to fight. We have to. I know it's worth it."
"It's normal to be afraid of torture, or of death," said George.
"But that's not what I'm afraid of."
"Then what is it?"
"I'm afraid of losing." She took a deep breath. "I'm afraid that I'll die before...before it ends. I'm afraid that Voldemort will win."
"It's Harry, isn't it?" said Fred knowingly. "Yeah, we figured."
"I'm afraid he's going to die."
"They don't have a clue where he is," George reminded her. "He's safe for the moment, and we'll know the second he isn't."
"Yeah, don't worry about Harry. You have enough to be worrying about without him. Besides, he's the Boy Who Lived," said Fred.
"Yeah, and he can't be the Boy Who Lived if Voldemort does him in," added George.
They were all quiet for a minute before Ginny said, "They took Luna. A bunch of Death Eaters came onto the train and dragged her off."
"That's because old Xeno's been writing articles that tell the wizarding community to stand together, support Harry and all that. They probably took her to make him behave," said Fred wisely. "Luna'll be okay."
"How do we know she's not dead already?"
"If they kill her, they don't have any incentive for her father to behave."
It was a grim picture, but nevertheless, it comforted her a bit. Don't worry about it, she told herself. You've got enough to be going on with.
But she worried anyway.
Christmas was quiet as well. Tonks, Lupin and Kingsley came over for a small gift exchange. She got a new Weasley sweater, some mince pies and some chocolate from her parents; a necklace from Fred and George; Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans from Kingsley; Honeydukes chocolate from Lupin and Tonks; a pair of fang earrings to match Bill's (he winked at her behind a horrified Mrs. Weasley's back); and a pair of dragonskin boots from Charlie.
After breakfast, Ginny wandered around the Burrow. She climbed the stairs to Ron's room and opened the door. The ghoul was gone-probably in his old dwelling. The room had an unlived air to it. Dust motes swirled in the rays of pale winter sun that filtered through the window and striped the floor. Ginny smiled at Ron's Chudley Cannons posters and bedspread. The dresser sat in an abandoned corner. One of the drawers was slightly open.
It was empty, except for two folded sweaters and a couple of t-shirts. She picked up the sweaters thinking they were Ron's, but with a jolt in her stomach she realized they were Harry's. One was green with an H on the chest; the other was maroon with a lion. Before she really knew what she was doing, she pulled the green one over her head. She rolled the other one under her arm and made a mental note to pack it in her trunk. As an afterthought she grabbed the t-shirts.
After she packed them away, she went downstairs. Fred looked at her oddly. "Isn't that...?"
"Yes," said Ginny curtly, before he could finish. He and George exchanged a look. She felt conspicuous with a giant H on her chest, and the residents of the Burrow gave her odd looks, but she liked wearing Harry's clothes, smelling like him, breathing in his familiar scent of cotton and sweat and something else she couldn't identify, something warm and solid and comforting.
Mrs. Weasley broached the topic over dinner. "Ginny, dear, I noticed you've been wearing one of Harry's sweaters," she said cautiously. "Don't you think that might be...making things worse?"
Molly sighed and continued eating her ham. "I just think-"
"Mum," said George, "let it go."
"Yeah, it's her choice if she wants to wear Harry's old clothes," said Fred. "Even if it's a bit creepy."
Defeated, Mrs. Weasley did not mention it again.
Ginny went to bed early. She put one of Harry's t-shirts over her pajama pants. She curled up under the covers and watched the moon rise outside her window.
She normally did not condone this kind of behavior in herself, but the pain was getting to her. Not physical pain; a much worse kind, a sharp ache in her chest that stuck to her like a Permanent Sticking Charm. Her insides felt empty and hollow, and it hurt her every time she breathed. The pain of it made her want to cry.
What she would give to know where Harry was! Was he alive? Was he alright? Did he think about her? Of course, she said, while another part of her scoffed. He's got those Horcrux things to look for, she thought to herself. In the madness of the past few weeks, she had completely forgotten about them. It was best to drop the subject, she decided. If anyone came poking around, she did not want them to know she had been asking about them. Though she did not know what they were, she knew that it was of utmost importance that no one else knew of their existence.
She turned her thoughts back to Harry and let her mind linger in stolen moments in the deserted courtyards. She fell asleep with his face hovering behind her eyelids.