Disclaimer: Any familiar characters, settings or situations belong to J.K. Rowling.
"I thought I'd find you here," Ginny said quietly, sitting down beside Harry on the sandy banks of the Black Lake – the place that they had spent many afternoons alone together just last year, though it felt more like a hundred years ago now. Harry gave her a small smile as she placed a comforting hand on his knee. "Everybody's inside..." Ginny trailed off, not wanting to say grieving but not wanting to say celebrating, either.
Harry said nothing for a while, just simply continued looking out over the surface of the lake that the both of them had travelled across in their respective first years. Ginny remembered that even then, in his first year, Harry had been fighting off Lord Voldemort, and now it was all over.
"I'm sorry about Fred," he said after a little while, still watching the lake.
Ginny glanced at Harry. "It's not your fault," she responded, even though she knew he would continue to blame himself for some time yet.
"Maybe I can finally be normal now," Harry said bitterly, watching the sun rise slowly on the horizon.
Ginny shook her head. "You'll never be normal, Harry. You'll always be famous and in the spotlight because of what happened to you when you were a child, and because of what happened today. But you will be safe," she said, touching Harry's face and slowly turning it so that he was looking at her. "And so will I, and the rest of the students at Hogwarts and all of the people in wizarding Britain. People are safe now, Harry, because of you." She rubbed his cheek softly and he smiled a little before placing an arm around her shoulder and pulling her close to his side.
"Everything today aside," he said, kissing her red head, "how was your year?"
Ginny nestled in closer, a triumphant grin on her face. "Well, while you were gone –"
The compartment door made a terribly loud noise as it was flung open, waking Ginny Weasley from her sleep to see a dishevelled looking Neville Longbottom slump down on the seat across from her and next to Luna Lovegood, who was reading one of her many peculiar looking issues of The Quibbler.
"You alright?" Ginny asked, blinking back the sunlight streaming through the window a couple of times before getting up and closing the compartment door behind Neville, a little annoyed that he had woken her. She had a feeling that she had been dreaming, what the dream was about, though, was lost on her, as most dreams are when the dreamer awakes.
"No, Malfoy's ruddy Head Boy, isn't he?" Neville grumbled, folding his arms and looking out of the window moodily.
"Well it wasn't exactly unexpected," Ginny responded, taking her seat again beside Neville. "He's been Snape's golden boy since day one, hasn't he?"
"Yeah, but the Carrows seem to have taken a shine to him as well," Neville said, a dark look falling over his face.
"The Carrows?" Ginny asked curiously, the name ringing an alarm in her head.
"New teachers, they were supervising the prefects meeting. Death Eaters for sure," Neville said, "they were among the ones that Malfoy let into the school last year."
"What're they teaching?" Ginny asked, remembering some article in the Daily Prophet towards the end of the summer about the brother and sister teaching pair that would be helping Headmaster Snape turn Hogwarts around. The picture had shown the brother and sister, smug and smirking, and Ginny had recognised one as the witch she had dueled last year in the Astronomy Tower.
"Defence most probably," Neville said with a shrug. "Didn't want to stick around long enough to ask."
Ginny made a sound in agreement as two darkly cloaked figures opened both compartment doors on either side of the train.
"Well, well, what have we here?" Yaxley sneered, leaning into Ginny, Neville and Luna's compartment. "Have a good summer, Weasley?" he asked smugly. "Hope we didn't ruin too much of your brother's blood-traitorous wedding."
Ginny glared and it took all of her willpower to keep her wand in her pocket. Yaxley and the death eaters were the powers that be now that the ministry had successfully been infiltrated by Voldemort. And while hexing him into oblivion would surely make Ginny feel better; it wasn't worth the price she would pay afterwards.
"You're looking for Harry," Neville assumed, glaring at the Death Eater with just as much hatred in his eyes as Ginny's. "Well he's not here, so you can move on, thanks."
Yaxley laughed darkly. "I'd keep that tongue in order if I were you, Longbottom. Potter's not your little Chosen One anymore," he said, smirking at Neville and Ginny before turning and moving on to the next compartment.
"Of course Harry's still the Chosen One," Luna said simply, finally looking up from her Quibbler. "He's still alive, isn't he?" She said it as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, and Ginny couldn't bring herself to say, nor believe, that there was a possibility that Harry, Ron and Hermione were dead already. Ginny hadn't heard a thing from them since Bill and Fleur's wedding fell apart. The only thing that kept her and majority of the people in the wizarding community hoping was the knowledge that if Voldemort had finally found and defeated Harry Potter, he would surely make sure the whole world knew about it.
Nevertheless, Ginny could not help but feel swamped by everything going on in her life at the moment. Worry, it was all worry. Worry over Harry, and her brother, and Hermione. Worry over the Muggle-borns she knew that had gone into hiding over the summer. Worry over what would happen to the teachers and the students that won't lie down and be walked all over. Worry over what this year would bring.
"I think it's high time the D.A. restarted," Neville said, still glaring at where Yaxley had been moments ago.
"Huh?" Ginny asked, her mind snapping out of its reverie, alerted to Neville's mention of Dumbledore's Army.
"I said I think we should restart the D.A.," Neville repeated.
"But Harry's not here to teach us," Luna said slowly, leaning in hopefully nonetheless.
"He taught us enough, and no doubt we'll learn a fair bit in Defence this year. No, I reckon we bring the D.A. back to show Snape and the Carrows and the whole ruddy corrupt Ministry that we're not backin' down, we're gonna fight," Neville said heatedly, giving Ginny a look that seemed to be contagious.
As if inspired by his words, Ginny agreed. "It's what the D.A. was founded for," she said thoughtfully. "And it's what Harry and the others would want. Merlin knows it's what the school needs."
"As any literate person who reads the Daily Prophet will know," Headmaster Snape began his speech once the Great Hall was full, "I have been appointed Headmaster of Hogwarts, thus inducing many changes around here. Firstly, it must be reiterated that Harry Potter and his cronies, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, are wanted by the Ministry for Magic for the severest of crimes. Any information you may have about these undesirables' locations is welcome and heavily rewarded. Secondly, I would like to welcome Professor Carrow," Snape waved to where Amycus Carrow sat on his right, "who will be teaching the compulsory subject of Dark Arts," dark murmurs spread through the hall like wildfire but Snape ignored it all, "and Professor Carrow," he waved to where Alecto Carrow sat on his left, "who will be teaching the compulsory subject of Muggle Studies." Nothing was said about Professor Burbage, who had previously taken the Muggle Studies post, and Ginny, along with many other students, felt a terrible feeling that foul play had been involved in Alecto Carrow's appointment as Muggle Studies Professor. "Along with their roles as Professors, Professor Carrow and Professor Carrow are also in charge of discipline from here on out. Mr Filch would also like me to mention that the list of banned objects can be found in his office," Snape said quickly, seemingly finding it unimportant, "The competition for the Quidditch Cup is banned this year," the Great Hall really roared this time, though Snape still ignored it, "and the Forbidden Forest is, as always, out of bounds to any students who wish to live long and healthy lives. Now, eat quickly and get to bed," Snape snapped, taking Dumbledore's seat at the high table.
A feeling of rage welled up inside Neville and Ginny, who sat side by side and exchanged an infuriated glance before swallowing their frustration and beginning their dinner. Much sooner than previous years, the welcoming feast was over and students were being bustled by their prefects to their respective common rooms.
The first week of classes were more miserable than any Ginny and Neville had experienced in their entire Hogwarts education. It was normal that students feel a proportionate amount of depression during the first week back from summer holidays, but this was more than that. The Dark Arts classes jumped straight into Fiendfyre, a ferocious fire conjured by dark magic – only those adept and willing to embrace the Dark Arts (Slytherins) were successful in producing the curse effectively.
And Muggle Studies was no better, with Alecto Carrow screeching about the abominable race that is Muggles and the most painful ways of killing them. Though students did find some sense of normalcy and solace in the form of classes such as Charms and Transfiguration, where students were punished with normal methods by their respective teachers and not simply referred to the Carrows, something Slughorn had begun doing for fear of their wrath.
By the end of the week, though, Neville and Ginny had had enough, and after finding Luna in the library on Friday night, the three hatched a plan.
A/N: So if you haven't already figured out, this story follows Neville, Ginny and Luna through Hogwarts during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I'll be trying to stay as true to the book as possible while still creating something unique and untold. If you think something isn't quite right then let me know and I'll take a look at it. Praise, hate, and constructive criticism is more than welcome in the form of reviews. I'll try to update as much as I can, but until next time, here's a little teaser for next chapter:
...But no, it wasn't Filch. It was Professor McGonagall.
"Mr Filch has woken me with stories of my students out of bed and vandalising the school," she spoke to thin air as she surveyed the Gryffindor Common Room, her eyes passed over Neville and Ginny but continued to glance about, as if not really seeing them at all. "Alas, it seems nobody is out of bed in Gryffindor Tower and therefore punishment cannot be handed out to any of the students I am responsible for." And with that she turned on her heel and exited the Common Room, leaving Neville and Ginny to breathe one more sigh of relief before retiring to their warm beds...