It was a dark and stormy night, the creepy voiced narrator began. Isn't that how it's supposed to go, Ginny wondered. Didn't Dad's wireless horror stories always start that way? Though I could be mistaken, I only ever heard them while hiding on the stairs. She huffed, her thoughts running rampant.

In any case, it really was very dark in her room (no, not my room, the room I'm staying in) and it was raining very hard outside. Every so often the wind would blow a sheet of water straight into the window pane, creating a loud thud as it rocked against the confines of the wall. How Hermione could sleep through it was beyond her.

What had Professor Lupin called this place? Grimand? Grimold? No, it was far easier to keep track of its other title, the one his 'friend' had used.

The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.

Ginny rolled over, clutching the blankets tighter around her.

Yes, she was expected to sleep in the same house as a man whom up until yesterday she believed to be a vicious murderer. In just about the creepiest room on earth too. Seriously, there may or may not be a dead snake hanging on the wall opposite her bed. Ginny eyed the dark withered husk suspiciously. It seemed likely to attack her if she so much as shut her eyes. Good luck sleeping now.

No, that was unfair. As disturbing as the house was, there had been no hope of sleep regardless. First, there was Cedric Diggory's death, an incredibly upsetting turn of fate. In truth, it brought things to the surface that she'd suppressed for two years now. Second, being told that Tom was back (I really should try to call him You-Know-Who or Voldemort or something normal), and wasn't that her worst nightmare. She knew what he was capable of, firsthand. Ugh, don't think about it, dangerous territory. Third, there was leaving the Burrow, her beloved home, only stopping after disembarking from the train to pack up her belongings. According to Lupin, who had shown up at their door within minutes of their arrival, there was no telling what He would do now and as known supporters of Dumbledore and Muggle rights, not to mention having several personal enmities with Death Eaters, the Weasleys were sure targets. Hermione was a natural progression of that thought. While Ginny could understand the obvious danger, privately she disagreed. The Tom that she remembered (no point resisting the memories now, far too deep anyway) was clever and manipulative. Before he (she) announced himself to the school on Halloween with the writing on the wall, there was the month and a half of rooster attacks. He waited until he had a firm hand on the circumstances before upping the ante. Ginny felt somewhat sure they were still in the rooster stage.

Oh, listen to me. A regular You-Know-Who insider. An expert on the workings of Voldemort's mind. Lovely, Ginevra, simply lovely.

With an irritable groan of frustration, Ginny shoved the duvet aside and sat up. If she was awake anyway, she might as well poke around a little. Couldn't hurt to explore her new living quarters a bit. It had to be after one o'clock, her parents were sure to be sound asleep, exhausted as they were from relocating and all. Her brothers — only Ron, Fred, and George were here yet, the rest were being contacted tomorrow — could sleep through anything. She'd been sneaking out after hours since she was six (mostly to steal their brooms, the tossers never did let her play Quidditch with them) there was no doubt she'd be safe.

Nodding to herself, she stood and tread carefully over the creaky floorboards. Having much experience with old moaning wood, she made barely the faintest whisper. Still her roommate stirred.

"Ginny?" Hermione asked groggily. Ginny cringed. Bloody hell, the girl could sleep through a bloody monsoon but she wakes up at that?

"It's fine, Hermione," She replied softly, "I'm just getting water." The lie was easy, and in any case the bushy haired brunette was already turning over to return to slumber at the sound of her voice. Giving a grateful sigh, Ginny gingerly opened the door and stepped out into the hall.

It was an eerie place, to be sure. She'd seen the elf heads Hermione had nearly fainted over, spooky but not devastating. The effect was only heightened by the night. Shadows were cast in menacing angles over the dark decor. It was probably very bad that instead of frightening her, Ginny felt thrills run down her spine. Shaking her head, she strode down the corridor. There were many doors, some of which she knew were bedrooms as they had to choose where to sleep earlier. She decided not to try opening the doors that were closed, but did poke her head in those that were open. Working her way down the stairs, she encountered three more guest bedrooms (what did those Blacks do with all the space, just host sleeping parties?), two sitting rooms (seriously, why need two, isn't one enough to sit in?), one room that seemed just for storage of sinister heirlooms (disgusting), and what might've been an office. Every single room was lavishly and expensively decorated, though absolutely abominable. She was getting a very clear picture of what the Blacks were like.

She was just passing a closed door on the first floor when it swung open. Ginny froze. Sirius Black was staring at her, sunken eyes wide, his dank black hair framing his unshaven face. She blinked. He blinked back. Ginny wondered if she knew any spells that might prevent him from hacking her to bits.

"Oh thank Merlin!" Black exclaimed, a look of utter relief on his frightening features. "I thought you were your mother."

"Er…" Ginny hedged, feeling completely out of place. What did one say to a convicted murder turned innocent war hero? "I'm not?" She said, voice lilting as if in question. Black was watching her, as if considering something.

"Ginny, right?" She nodded. "Want some firewhiskey?" He asked nonchalantly. Her eyes narrowed as she debated with herself. The lure of the forbidden proved too much.

"Sure." She pushed passed him into the room. It turned out to be another sitting room (surprise, surprise) though there were many differences between this one and the rest. The walls, instead of the dark green and black of the rest of the house, wore a crimson wallpaper pattern. The fireplace was lit, illuminating and bringing life to the room. The furniture was designed for comfort rather than the stuffy formality of the others. There was obviously a very different personality imposing itself into this room.

She plopped herself onto the sofa, a poof of dust flying up in response. Black followed, sitting on the floor and leaning against an armchair. He dug out a bottle from where he'd unmistakably just stuffed it. He handed it to her with a quirk of his eyebrow.

"Just to be clear," She said loftily, "You're not planning on getting me drunk and killing me or whatever, right?" Black barked a laugh, startling her with its mirth.

"Shouldn't you ask that before you accept the invitation?" He asked, a brilliant smile filling his face with youth. She shrugged, taking a swig of the liquid as she'd seen her Dad and Bill do many a time. She coughed at the burning in her throat, eyes watering. Black's grin grew at her distress. "What are you, twelve?"

"Shouldn't you ask that before offering alcohol to young girls?" She answered hoarsely, pounding her chest. He laughed again. Ginny smirked. Yes, this could work out splendidly.

"Wotcher!" A cheery female voice called out, a muffled crash sounding almost immediately after. Ginny's head shot up in alarm. Sirius stood, gesturing for her to hide, and rushed out of the room. She compliantly crouched behind the armchair.

It had been several days since their first wonderful encounter. She'd had a fantastic time that night, getting just a little tipsy and having a great conversation with Sirius. She'd been able to rewrite everything she'd known about him, and was pleased with the correction. He certainly was entertaining and charming, and with the best stories. Unfortunately, he was more responsible than she'd taken him for, sending her to bed at three am against her protests. She'd had pleasant non-Tom related dreams after that, waking the next day around ten feeling surprisingly rested. She wished they'd been able to repeat it more frequently.

As it turned out, they were not so much living under the protection of Order of the Phoenix (an anti-Voldemort organization that would have been really good to know about before) as they were indentured servants, cleaning in exchange for lodgings. Or exorcists purging the house of evil. In either case, she'd been totally knackered and hadn't needed Sirius' special brand of soporific.

But tonight, well, talk had turned to Tom, her brothers and Hermione all eagerly sharing suspicions and grousing about being left out of the meetings. While Ginny could relate to the latter sentiment, she hated discussing His next move, mostly because as soon as someone would suggest something she knew without a moment's deliberation whether it was plausible. She loathed having knee-jerk reactions to their speculation, resisting the urge to scoff and correct them, illustrate to them the exact way Tom would go about things. She could recall how he praised power, always encouraging her to cozy up to Harry, as surely he was a great wizard and 'friends' (his true meaning of the word was gag-worthy) like that were useful to have around. She knew Tom would be seeking out the most dangerous Dark creatures to aid him in the oncoming war. Giants, dementors, the list went on and on...

Her nails dug into the worn fabric of the armchair as her fingers clenched. Maybe, now she thought about it, she only wanted to sit in on the Order meetings to prove herself wrong, to confirm once and for all that she was a silly little girl whose convictions on such matters were baseless and far from the mark. It would be so very comforting.

Ginny hadn't even given it until 11 o'clock when she made her way to what Sirius termed his parlor. He'd looked surprised but pleased, and again offered her a drink.

But now someone was barging into the house after midnight, someone who might blow the whole operation.

"Sorry mate," The feminine voice reappeared outside the door, "It's that troll, I swear it's moving, it's like it wants to trip me!"

"Shut up," Sirius scolded her in a whisper, "Do you want to wake Molly? That is, if you haven't already with your bumbling."

"Hey, if I didn't rouse your mother, how could I have woken this… who's Molly?"

"Oh get in." He said grumpily, the door opening and closing with the slightest of creaks. He cast a charm, presumably to keep the noise from her parents. "Can you keep a secret?"

"Is Molly your new squeeze?" The woman asked, sounding both excited and appalled. "How do you get laid and I don't!" Ginny's mouth twisted in disgust at the notion of her mother having sex.

"No, of course not you blithering idiot! Mrs. Weasley, the mother of all the gingers I'm playing host to! The woman's almost stricter than my own mum! Now, secrets, how 'bout it?"

"Oh sure, yeah, tell me anything!"

"Really? You won't tell?"

"Yeah, come on!"

"Okay. Come out then." Ginny sighed once, then stood. Sirius was standing, an arrogant smirk etched on his lips, with a young woman in a Hobgoblins' T-shirt and torn jeans. She had a heart shaped face topped with shockingly blue hair in tight curls. She looked friendly enough, though Ginny remained wary.

"What's this then?" The woman said, her pale grey eyes sliding between them. "You not seducing little girls in your spare time there, Black?" Ginny stuck her tongue out at her, making her face light up in glee. "Oh, spunky! I like her!"

"Right, Ginevra Weasley, meet Nymphadora Tonks." Sirius announced, a twinkle in his charcoal eyes. Both girls scowled at their given names.

"Ginny," She corrected at the same time the woman said, "Just Tonks." They stared at each other.

"See," said Sirius jovially into the silence, "Knew you two'd get along!" He promptly sat on the floor, pulling the firewhiskey toward himself.

"Nice to meet you." Ginny greeted her politely. Tonks gave a crooked grin.

"Oh yeah, definitely likewise!" They settled into their seats, still eyeing each other thoughtfully.

"So what do you do?" She asked curiously. Tonks took the proffered liquor and drank a hearty gulp.

"I'm an Auror, actually." She replied smoothly, without a hint of the fire in her voice. "Old Mad Eye was my mentor, until he retired a few years back. He contacted me once Dumbledore set off his whole chain reaction. Knew I was pretty good at catching Dark wizards and I wasn't dumb enough to just follow along with the Ministry's idiotic head in the sand stance." Ginny glanced down at her hands, the memory of Percy's rejection still painful. Not that she cared about her pigheaded brother. It was all his fault, being so stubborn and making Mum cry. Humungous Bighead that he was.

"Go on, show her your special talent!" Sirius piped up, though whether he was being tactful or ignorant was anybody's guess. Tonks rolled her eyes, though it was clearly an act.

"I'm not a party trick, Sirius, you can't just go making requests."

"Blonde with green eyes." He demanded, deaf to her feigned protest. Immediately her face scrunched up, and with a pop, her hair had elongated into a straight platinum blonde and her eyes were an olive green. Ginny did a comical double take.

"Woah!" She marveled. "How did you do that?" Tonks reverted to her prior look with another pop.

"It's easy," She replied with a tinge of smugness, "I'm a Metamorphmagus, have been since birth, I can change any part of myself at will."

"Oh, I've heard of those!" Ginny exclaimed. "It's so rare though, I never thought I'd ever meet one."

"Consider me met." Tonks said with a crooked grin. Ginny couldn't help returning it. I like you, she decided, you're going to be fun.

"That's nothing!" Sirius interjected. "She was born like that. I had to work my tail off to get my transfiguration abilities." Both girls were visibly puzzled by this. With a smirk at their furrowed brows, Sirius transformed into a shaggy black dog. Their jaws dropped. He gave a cheerful wag of his new appendage.

"You cheeky blighter!" Tonks shouted gleefully. "No wonder we couldn't find you!" Ginny reached out a hand and scratched behind his ears. Sirius panted, his tongue poking out of what might've been a pleased smile. As she retracted her hand, he reverted to his human form.

"What can I tell you, cuz, I'm a dog of many talents."

"You're literally barking!" Tonks cackled to herself, clutching her stomach in her mirth.

"'Cuz'?" Ginny inquired. Sirius reluctantly tore his gaze from the chortling auror.

"My favorite cousin Andromeda's daughter." He explained quickly. "Married a muggleborn, always knew she'd get away from my family's nonsense."

"Not too far," Tonks spoke up, recovering from her giggling fit, "If she named her daughter 'Nymphadora'. What I wouldn't give for a name like Jill…" Shaking her head, she turned to Ginny. "So what about you then? What's your family doing in a charming place like this?" She gave a short harsh laugh.

"It's in the heart of the danger, isn't it? My family always seems to end up in it eventually." Tonks shot a questioning look to Sirius, who obliged her.

"Ron, Ginny's brother, is best friends with Harry Potter." Her eyes widened predictably at the name. Ginny resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

"It's not just that." She continued insistently. "The thirst for adventure is practically in our blood. My dad delights in ruffling Death Eater feathers, my mum had seven children to look after, six of them boys and you know how horrific that is, my brother Bill breaks into enchanted tombs for a living, Charlie works with dragons, Percy… well, he's sticking it out in the Ministry, just about the worst place to be right now, Fred and George provoke every authority figure they meet, Ron is chasing after The Boy Who Nearly Gets Himself Killed Once A Year, and I…" I befriend mass-murderers and set ancient evils on my classmates. Uncomfortably aware of the other's eyes boring into her, Ginny grabbed the bottle of firewhiskey and took a large scalding gulp. "I spend my nights drinking with escaped convicts."

"Padfoot, where are you? Sirius, you mangy — oh!" Professor Lupin ground to a halt in the doorway, taking stock of the scene before him. Ginny was sitting cross-legged in the armchair, rapt attention focused on the drunken game of patty cake Sirius and Tonks were currently engaged in on the floor. Sirius, who was quite a lot drunker than them, kept missing and breaking into laughter. He looked up, peering groggily at his friend.

"Moony!" Sirius exclaimed far too loudly. Ginny shushed him. "Come in, join the party!" Her old Professor cast his scrutinizing gaze over them.

"I see, quite the party." He remarked. His eyes narrowed in on the firewhiskey cradled in Ginny's lap. Belatedly she stuffed it under a pillow. "Miss Weasley, I expect you are abstaining tonight. By my calculation you should not be drinking for another four years."

"I'll be 14 in August." She retorted before getting control over herself. "And yes, of course I am." He nodded, though obviously skeptical. Tonks pushed off of the floor, arms windmilling to steady herself. Once she conquered her poor balance, she extended a hand to Lupin.

"Wotcher," She said cheerfully. He shook it firmly, looking over her eccentric features. Today Tonks had long wavy chestnut hair with many multicolored highlights and tawny eyes. She was also rather tall and slim today, wearing a short red skirt and deep burgundy tights, along with a Montrose Magpies' t-shirt and a Hufflepuff scarf. She made quite the picture. "Tonks. Nymphadora Tonks actually, but I'll hex you before you get to the third syllable if you use it."

"Remus Lupin." He answered cordially, his attention wavering between the strange new woman and his best friend, who was trying to scratch behind his ear with his foot even though he was still human. Something must have occurred to him because he focused instantly. "Sirius, didn't you have a niece or something by that name?"

"Still do." Sirius mumbled, becoming frustrated by his lack of flexibility. Tonks sent a dazzling grin at Lupin.

"First cousin once removed." She clarified. Her head tilted. "You're in the Order as well then?" He nodded. "I'm sorry, I don't seem to remember you at the last meeting." Ginny watched as her Professor tensed, the easy going smile slipping from his face.

"I'm afraid I was…" He wet his lips. "…Indisposed." Ginny felt a wave of sympathy for her old teacher. He had been the greatest instructor she'd ever had, and from what she'd gathered from the others, he was the best DADA Professor in years. That his curse had tainted that, was still stealing bits of his life, was truly cruel.

The hidden, flesh-chilling voice in the back of her mind considered it a fair match to the brutality of his other form. The things Tom would do for power like that. As soon as that thought came it was followed by another; he probably has a werewolf, dozens of them, maybe hundreds. Of course he would. She shook her head, trying to rejoin the conversation

"Oh," Tonks was saying, "You were sick?" Before he could answer, Sirius barked a laugh. He'd given up on his ear and had instead rolled onto his back, staring up at them.

"Oh yeah, yeah. Moon-sick's more like it." Lupin was visibly pained by his friend's lack of tact. Tonks looked more bemused by this than ever. Ginny scowled at Sirius.

"Shut up, Black, or I'll do it for you."

"Ginny," Lupin murmured, "It's alright."

"Go on then, Moony, tell her about your furry little problem."

"I'm sorry," Tonks said helplessly, "What's he talking about?"

"Don't worry, little Tonksie loves pets, don't you?"

"I'm warning you." Ginny drew her wand from the neck of her blouse.

"Hey, ha, hey cuz, fancy a howl?"

"Silencio!" She cried, rendering Sirius mute. He opened and closed his mouth wordlessly for a minute before folding his arms in a huff. Lupin sighed, rubbing his eyes tiredly.

"Thank you, Miss Weasley, your loyalty is admirable, if misplaced. For your sake I'm going to pretend you didn't do that." He said, leveling a stern stare her way. Ginny tucked her wand back down her shirt, still simmering at her Professor's unfortunate lot. He then turned to Tonks, saying with much resignation, "What my dear friend was so indelicately trying to convey is that I am a werewolf." Surprise colored her expression.

"Oh." She replied. Ginny closed her eyes. Please don't run away, please don't run away. "Well then…" She peeked out through one eye. Tonks heaved a sigh. "Makes a lot more sense now." Lupin blinked.

"Sorry?" He asked, brows furrowed.

"All his insinuations, seems almost funny now." Tonks explained lightly, though she aimed a gentle kick to her cousin. He made a soundless oomph and rolled onto his stomach "Still, his drunken sense of humor leaves much to be desired." She looked up beaming into Lupins extremely nonplussed face. "I was once a groupie for this all vampire band. I swear, all they drank were bloody marys! Got right boring, let me tell you." There was silence after this eccentric pronouncement. Sirius started silently giggling face down in the carpet. Lupin stared at Tonks as if she were either clinically insane or a gift from God. Ginny finally broke the tension.

"Yes!" She cried exuberantly, pumping her fist in the air. "Score one Tolerance! Take that Prejudice!"

"So there we were, right." Sirius said animatedly, drawing eager expressions from Ginny and Tonks. "The end of the corridor, the Heads of Houses bearing down on us, and James still clutching Dumbledore's knickers as if it's gonna sprout wings and fly him away." Both girls laughed uproariously at the mental image. Even Lupin cracked a smile from where he sat a little removed from their huddle. "Minnie's spitting fire, yeah? Practically setting poor Flitwick alight. She says," Sirius adopted a shrill pitch, "'How dare you parade the Headmaster's undergarments in front of the entire school!' And Remus, mister perfect prefect, goes…" He gestured to his friend who rolled his eyes. Tonks and Ginny gazed at him, waiting avidly.

"'You can see for yourself, Professor,'" He said with a fond smile at the memory, "'This is not our beloved Headmaster's underwear. It's merely a transfigured replica.'" Their eyes became wide as saucers as they looked between the storytellers. Sirius and Remus shared a sly glance.

"Well?" Ginny prompted.

"Yeah, what happened next?" Tonks added impatiently.

"Well," Sirius began, "Minnie takes out her wand and steps forward to test it. But right as she says the incantation…"

"Sirius aims a nonverbal transfiguration behind his back." Lupin finished with a rare look of roguishness on his prematurely lined face.

"No!" Tonks cried, placing a hand on his arm in her excitement.

"Oh yes!" Sirius jumped in. "Sooner than you could blink those knickers were a bright bouquet of flowers."

"James handed them to McGonagall with a flourish and we each took turns kissing our dumbfounded Professor on the cheek." Remus said with a smirk. Ginny laughed, holding her stomach tightly. Tonks slumped chortling upon a very uncertain Lupin, her arms winding around his neck as she buried her snickering into his shoulder. He pat her tentatively on the back and meeting Ginny's teasing glance. Maybe he was regretting only forbidding Ginny to drink. Sirius chuckled to himself, apparently oblivious to the scene his cousin and best friend were making.

"Walked away smooth as could be." He commented absentmindedly. "Like butter wouldn't melt. Even if Minnie did want to give us detention, good old Dumbledore just waved it away. Congratulated us on getting the pattern of little hearts exactly right with that twinkle in his eye." Tonks pulled away from Lupin as touch of seriousness descended.

"Dumbledore always gave us far more chances than we deserved." He responded, the firelight casting his scars into sharp relief.

"Still is." Sirius added. "Who else would admit a convicted murderer and a werewolf into their confidence?"

"Yeah." Tonks said, tugging on her straight ebony hair. "I remember when I arrived at Hogwarts," She confessed, "People had problems with my abilities. Teachers wanted to be sure I was who I said I was when I sat in their class. But I was still experimenting with my look so I didn't want to pick one and stick with it. Dumbledore outlined some rules for my shapeshifting. He was surprisingly lenient. Always stood up for my freedom, even when I hit puberty and went through that blonde and busty phase." There was silence.

"He's the most forgiving man in the world." Ginny said softly, staring at her hands. She realized her mistake and looked up. The adults were watching her intently.

"As I recall you were a model student." Lupin said with puzzlement clear in his expression. "Your mind may have wandered but you weren't a trouble maker like your brothers Fred and George."

"What would Dumbledore have had to forgive?" Sirius asked, voicing what they were all thinking. Ginny's mind whirred looking for an explanation.

"My second eldest brother Charlie taught me a spell a while back." She said calmly. This is the key to lying: half truths. It was yet another thing she had learned from Tom. "The Bat-Bogey Hex. I've only just gotten the hang of it."

"Oh I remember that hex!" Tonks exclaimed. "It was one of those fad spells that was big in my time. Makes the guy get attacked by hordes of his own flapping slimy—"

"Charming." Lupin cut her off, nose wrinkled in distaste. Tonks shrugged.

"It's effective," She defended, "And damn funny to watch." Ginny grinned in relief now that conversation had move on. She did not miss however the curious look that Sirius shot her. Perhaps she ought to stay away for a few days.

After all, a girl needs her beauty rest.

"Is it true?" Ginny asked as she barged into the parlor. The adults all looked up, startled by her sudden appearance. Sirius was in his usual position, sitting on the floor by the fireplace. Remus and Tonks shared the small sofa. They had reason to be shocked; Ginny hadn't spent her nights with them for an entire week. But circumstances had forced her hand.

Lupin eyed her warily as he replied, "Is what true, Ginny?" She barely restrained a scoff.

"I heard Ron and Hermione talking." She explained with fraying patience. "They said Harry was attacked by dementors. Now is. It. True?" Sirius was watching her again, that same calculating, almost suspicious look he'd been sending her all week. Ginny did her best to ignore it. Tonks nodded at Remus encouragingly. He gave a world weary sigh.

"Yes." He answered. Immediately she felt faint. She staggered to the armchair, a hand cradling her head.

"Is it…" She swallowed. "Is it Him? T—You-Know-Who?" There was a very long pause. Ginny could practically hear their silent communication.

"Maybe you ought to go to bed." Tonks suggested.

"No way I'm sleeping tonight." Ginny countered truthfully. She took a fortifying breath and sat up, meeting their concerned gazes. "You didn't answer my question."

"It might be Him." Sirius said, making no effort to soften the blow. Tonks glared at him for a second before facing her again.

"It probably is." She added sympathetically. Ginny pursed her lips.

"I'm… I'm not so sure." She admitted. Without warning she found herself speaking her mind. "He's… well, from what I've gathered from the Prophet, He's laying low. Yes, people are disappearing but… it's all cloak and dagger at the moment. If Harry were to suddenly turn up as the victim of a dementor attack… That's a whole other story. Why risk it? It feels…" The words out of character stall on her tongue. Their sudden scrutiny made her suddenly feel very small. Even though she knew the damage was done, she quickly shrugged. "But what do I know. You probably have a whole lot of intel I don't. Forget I said anything." Lupin cleared his throat, looking intrigued.

"An interesting insight." He remarked. Ginny avoided their eyes.

"So, he's coming then?" She asked. "Harry? If dementors are in Surrey you'll be moving him here, right? When are you getting him?"

"They're going tonight." said Sirius, a note of bitterness ringing in his voice. Lupin rolled his eyes.

"You can't leave the house." He told his friend firmly. Obviously this was an argument they'd been having for a while.

"He's my godson, Remus, not yours!"

"It's not a contest of who cares about him the most, you can't be seen!"

"Boys! Boys!" Tonks shouted, holding her hands up between the two. "This isn't the time for a pissing contest." The friends settled down obediently, still glaring at the other. Tonks sighed in a satisfied way. "Now," She started, addressing Ginny, "We are getting him tonight. We're just waiting for a few of our other members. But forget about that." Tonks took on a look of eager girly excitement to match her exuberant purple hair. "What's he like? Tell me everything!" Ginny grinned.

"Well, he's got messy black hair, glasses, and green eyes. He's sort of tall and scrawny but it works for him. He has… boyish good looks, I guess." Sirius barked a laugh.

"How many times did we hear this about James?" He said to Lupin. "I tell you, there's something about those Potters, the redheads go for them like mad!" Ginny colored in embarrassment.

"They're the facts." She retorted. "And besides, I have a boyfriend." Sirius continued smirking.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah." Tonks waved away their petty jabs. "I've seen his pictures before, 'specially from last year with the Tournament. He's probably changed a bit, but that doesn't matter. What's he like though? Funny? Sweet? What?" Ginny watched Sirius warily, daring him to make another smart comment.

"He's got a sarcastic sort of humor." She explained. "He's nice, kind, I dunno about sweet."

"Definitely humble." Lupin broke in.

"Gutsier than a knarl on a rampage." Sirius added proudly.

"Great flier." said Ginny.

"Superb." Lupin concurred.

"Loyal to a fault, sticking his neck out for… people." She blinked slowly. Another wave of somberness crashed over them all.

"He's a wonderful person." Remus said.

"James' mettle and Lily's heart." Sirius agreed, retrieving a half empty bottle of firewhiskey from among the pokers and taking a large gulp. After a moment he went on. "I remember thinking about him, in there. Fantasizing about things we would do once I was free. I had so many ideas about what he would be like and you know… he's surpassed them all."

"He's…" Ginny bit her lip. "He's brilliant, Tonks. You'll never meet a better person." This was it. The moment she'd been dreading. Yet it felt right, to confess this to her friends, now of all times. Perhaps she'd been waiting for it, hoping for it almost. "In my first year…" She took a shaky breath in, alerting the adults to her inner turmoil. "I placed my trust in the wrong book. My diary had a curse, inside its pages lurked the creature we're fighting today. I was… possessed. T—You-Know-Who used me to commit horrible things. I opened the mythical Chamber of Secrets. I nearly killed half a dozen muggleborns, including Hermione." Tonks gasped and Ginny had to look away. "I couldn't stop it, until finally I was the victim. I was dying… and Tom lived. That's his name. Tom." Another shuddering sigh. "But Harry saved me. He and Ron heard I'd been… abducted I guess and came after me. Of course they didn't know what I'd done. From what they told everyone later Ron got caught in a cave in and couldn't make it. Harry went on. He was only 12. He killed a giant snake and stopped Tom yet again. I woke up and there he was, bleeding, drenched in sweat and sewer water, covered in grime. He didn't even care that it'd been all my fault, that my stupidity should have lead to my own death instead of his. Harry just whisked me to safety on the back of a phoenix." She snorted in self-deprecation, finally meeting their stunned gazes. "Isn't that the worst fairytale you've ever heard?"

"I…" Lupin began hesitantly. "I've never encountered magic so dark as that."

"Half a dozen." Sirius repeated, almost in awe. "Most of the inmates couldn't boast that many." Ginny winced but recovered admirably.

"No one was permanently hurt." She told them. "But the school was almost shut down because of it."

"I remember hearing about that," Tonks said, sounding lost, "At the ministry. The groundskeeper was taken to Azkaban and that snake Malfoy got the Governors to remove Dumbledore."

"Yeah." Ginny confirmed. "But once it was over, when I told him everything, Dumbledore forgave me. Said I wasn't the only one Tom fooled. I was cleared of culpability."

"You seemed fine the next year." Lupin said. "I noticed you didn't have that many friends in the beginning of the year but that changed by Halloween or so. You appeared an outgoing well adjusted student."

"Thanks. It… it was hard in the beginning but I spent my summer fixing it. To be honest, I hadn't thought about Tom that much for ages, not until the end of last year." The thud of the downstairs door closing jolted them out of their contemplation. The screams of Walburga sounded and a gruff voice shouted at her.

"SHUT UP YOU OIL PAINTED MONSTROSITY!" Tonks stood quickly, nearly tripping over her own feet had Remus not offered a steadying hand.

"That's Mad Eye." She said. "He'll have rounded up the others." Before exiting the room Tonks stepped over to where Ginny sat and planted a kiss to her crown. "See ya, short stuff." She said with a smile, reassuring Ginny that her confidante did not think any less of her. With a wave, she strode out to meet her mentor. "CAN IT MAD EYE, DO YOU WANT TO WAKE THE WHOLE HOUSE!" Lupin chuckled and stood as well, extending a hand to his former pupil.

"Good night, Miss Weasley." He said in a warm voice as they shook farewell. "I hope to see you here again almost as much as I wish you would get a full night's sleep." Ginny grinned up at him. His face took on a long familiar look of mischief as he walked out the door. "BE QUIET THE BOTH OF YOU!" Sirius gave his usual barking laugh. They listened as their friends continued to yell and more and more footsteps sounded above them. Ginny jumped up as well, realizing the implications.

"I have to get back to my room before Mum catches me." She said quickly as she headed for the hall.

"Hey Ginny." Sirius stopped her. She looked back, finding a surprisingly sympathetic expression. "Drop in any time." Ginny nodded and the two shared another smile. Then she was gone.

How much sleep does a person really need anyway?

Hey all! It's me again! I delivered on that story I told you about in Breakdowns in Broomsheds. Hope it met all your expectations. As usual, I enjoy exploring different aspects to Ginny's personality, especially her lingering feeling about Tom. She's a tough person, but she's had more hardships than most.

There's a bit of Ginny/Harry and Lupin/Tonks insinuations because I'm a hopeless romantic. This is actually my first story that doesn't center around romance. Imagine that! I'd really appreciate feedback since I'm kinda out of my element.

Also, I choose to believe that this story is canon, and I have proof!

"...He distinctly heard others making their way upstairs... in fact, many-legged creatures were cantering softly up and down outside the bedroom door..." OotP, p 101.

Up and down... Hmm...

I'm currently working on the sequel to the wildly popular Arse Over Kettle. Let's just say, bells are ringing.


Laury the Barking.