Ginny bounded down the creaky stairs of Aunt Muriel's home two at a time, Arnold the Pygmy Puff squirming unceremoniously in her loose clutch. It was Thursday evening, 18:50 to be precise. It had been over two weeks since the last episode of Potterwatch. And, to Ginny, that was two weeks too long.
The radio show was the highlight of her week: hearing, knowing, having real solid proof that there were actual people out there, standing up to Tom. Much to her protest, her mother had strictly decreed that Ginny was 'too young to even consider doing anything for the Order', and her dad had agreed, 'for the time being.'
But what good was it doing for anyone, shut up at home? It wasn't even her home, for Merlin's sake! She was one of the few people who were eager to do something, however dangerous, for the war, but no, she was too young.
Even Harry seemed to think so.
Did they not remember how Ginny had already lived through the trickery of Tom Riddle, years ago? As though that was not a good enough reason for her parents to understand her desire for revenge, furthermore proof of her willingness had been presented when they had been told (albeit a watered down version) of how Ginny had attempted to swipe the sword of Godric Gryffindor, along with Neville and Lu – the familiar pang of loneliness throbbed at Ginny's heart at the thought of her friends.
She jumped the final step particularly powerfully, urging herself not to dwell on the suspicious situation of Luna, or what Neville would undoubtedly be getting up to at that current moment. Landing in the pastel corridor, Ginny subconsciously looked to the windowsill, overlooking the endless cornfields of the glorious English countryside – or in other words, thought Ginny, endless blocks of greenery and boredom.
Perched on the crowded windowsill was many pictures, primarily of flowers and late Uncle Bill, but her Aunt had in fact spared several frames for her family members that were very much alive. Minus the treacherous bleeder (widely known as Percy), Ginny noted, feeling bittersweet. Up until recently, Aunt Muriel had also not considered the twins to be worthy enough citizens to behold a place on that windowsill either, but apparently their recently displayed courage in hosting the notorious Potterwatch had deemed them eligible above all of their years of trouble making and torturing the old woman. Ginny smiled thought of her childhood shared with those boys, back when their biggest worry had been getting caught mid-prank, as opposed to mid-anarchistic-and-highly-illegal-radio-show. The fact that Fred and George had moved onto bigger and better things; first the joke shop, now Potterwatch, made Ginny feel slightly envious of their lives, in that she had to mope around this blasted house all the time. Ginny felt very proud of the boys and was anxious to hear their voices once again. Tonight she was even more excited, or perhaps nervous would be a better word, than usual.
You see, it had been a while since the whole ministry fiasco and word had gotten out that Ron was not in fact ill in bed with Spattergroit, but more likely than not, out on the run with Harry Potter. That had also lead to suspicions about Hermione, of course, and now the three of them happened to be Desirables no. 1, 2 and 3, with hefty price tags on their heads. Ginny wondered fleetingly where it had all gone wrong. Why them? Why England? On top of the fact that Ron Weasley was Ginny's brother, it was now a common (as far as she knew, accurate) presumption that the Weasley's were the last known wizards to be in touch with the trio, at the wedding. It was for these reasons that Ginny had abruptly had to leave Hogwarts and go into hiding with her family. She had been reluctant to ditch Luna, Seamus, Neville and everybody else involved with Dumbledore's Army behind at first, but the Newspapers had begun to print articles speculating Ron's absence. Ginny soon saw the entirety of the compromising position of which she was putting her family under, for they refused to go into the state of complete isolation that hiding was without her.
In the winter alarming news had reached the family, that a group of snatchers had caught up with Ron and had almost, for lack of a better word, snatched him. But get this, he had been alone. This had been reported to the Ministry and with it now being fact that Ron was on the run; it was presumed that Hermione and Harry had been nearby. Ginny had fleetingly wondered if that was the case, but she always quickly dismissed the idea, for one simple reason.
Her heart constricted at the thought of Harry. She tried to shake it off, sourly reminding herself how when- no. If,anything happened to him; it would be broadcasted widely and she would soon know about it
Alas, Ginny had regretfully left Hogwarts and she, Molly, Arthur, and occasionally other random Weasley's or Order members, had taken a long term refuge at Great Aunt Muriel's, much to the distaste of the arbitrary and bigoted woman.
By now it was the spring of 1998, and Ginny Weasley was perpetually bored. She had always considered herself to be a very active girl, and was finding that a sedentary lifestyle really did not suit her.
At first, it had been bearable. Ginny was used to playing Quidditch on her own at home, and continued to upon arrival to Aunt Muriel's. Now, having had experience playing alongside the Gryffindor team, combined with the fact that she had now been given permission to play (rather than stealing her brother's brooms), playing on her own didn't hold quite the same appeal as it once did, yet it was better than nothing. Aunt Muriel owned several acres complimenting her house; which were, of course, riddled with concealment charms. Ginny wasn't allowed out of the perimeter of the garden, nor to fly any higher than the 50 feet, yet she found solace in those sacred hours of letting the wind whip through her fiery red hair, her scrambled thoughts all of a sudden unravelling in intensity; her fears simply seemed less potent. Flying had been Ginny's guide to survival those first few weeks of captivity; it was one of her two constant cravings. Her second was Harry, but that desire was less easily fulfilled as of late.
However, Aunt Muriel soon got fed up of Ginny stealing the fruit from her trees for use as a snitch, and one too many a flowerbed had been ruined beyond repair either as a result of a Bludger Charm gone wrong, or a dodgy rushed landing. She had cornered her niece, and Great Aunt Muriel attempted to drum it into Ginny's head, with what she must have thought to be a perfectly viable excuse, that no proper lady would ever let her hair get so knotty. Muriel had therefore forbidden Ginny to fly, sparking, even on Ginny's scale, a huge row to which the ever thick skinned Muriel refused to back down, claiming that 'Ginerva should consider herself lucky that she was letting her live there at all'.
Since then, Ginny had been taking advantage of whatever little time Aunt Muriel spent napping or shopping or otherwise out of the house, and in the meantime, became an expert at Exploding Snap, very adept at the art of magical knitting, and even thought that she would stand a fair chance at winning the next time she were to play Ron at Wizard's Chess.
A spasm of familiar worry brought Ginny out of her little daydream as she sat down on one of the stiff, floral settees which were situated just in front of a stumpy oak coffee table, upon which, a radio that was emitting crackling noises as her father excitedly, albeit with growing desperation, attempted to tune it. Looking down at the battered old radio bought Ginny back onto her original point, making her remember why she was downstairs in the first place. Then she scoffed at herself for the incorrect wording – how could she possibly have forgotten?
She had been waiting for this moment ever since last Friday.
Ginny was slouched in a rickety chair; her bowl of soggy Cheery Owls in front of her as she lazily stirred them, watching with a lack of intensity as they sloshed around in the milk. The screech of an Owl startled Ginny out of her daze, her hand reflexively jutting out to her wand, causing her to knock over her mug of hot chocolate which had long ago turned cold.
Ginny jumped back to avoid getting the murky brown drink all over her pyjamas and as luck would have it, barged straight into the Owl in question. The Owl released another indignant squawk, which Ginny acknowledged to announce the arrival of Aunt Muriel's pet Owl, Beatrice.
Ginny had at first scoffed at the name, as it was so typical of her contemptuous Aunt to make sure that even her owl shared her high level of haughtiness. However, Ginny had soon realised that Beatrice wasn't much like her owner at all but was, however, in fact very clever, and had managed to avoid the claws of the Carrows and therefore succeeded in keeping Ginny in contact with Neville. In return for her deviousness, Ginny had nicknamed the owl 'Rice' and treated her much nicer than she had previously. After all, Rice was pretty much the only company that Ginny had.
Once Ginny had mopped up the drink, cursing the fact that she wasn't of age until August, she finally turned her attention to said bird. Rice had been joined by a smart-looking Owl, which bore a crested badge – their usual Newspaper Delivery Owl. Simple things likes receiving Newspapers had been made available only by insiders of the Order of Phoenix who worked at various posts. Rice herself was gripping three letters, and upon further inspection of the handwriting, Ginny noticed that they all looked to have been written rather hurriedly.
Ginny dropped a couple of coins into the Delivery Owl's pouch, as she uncurled its claws from the Newspaper. For once, Ginny didn't bother to give it a second glance as she turned her attention to the letters. For safety reasons, it was rare that they got one a week, never mind three in one morning! Ginny then felt slightly pathetic, that she had been reduced to becoming excited over this.
Ginny sat down as she unrolled the first one, spooning a lump of cereal into her mouth. She scanned the piece of paper, tiredly at first, before speeding up noticeably, her eyes growing wide in a turmoil of horror, confusement and denial, as she yelled in an urgent voice for everyone to come to the kitchen immediately. She didn't know what she had hoped to achieve by this, but it was the first piece of information they had heard of the trio in weeks, and she knew her family would want to know ASAP. She had finished with the second letter and was scrambling for the third as her parents rushed in, wands at the ready.
'What is it?'
'Are you okay?'
Muriel sidled in a few moments after, looking bored. 'Ginevra?'
'Do you need some tea?'
Ginny didn't take her eyes off the piece of paper as she thrust the other two letters at her family. Her parents shared an anxious look between before Molly snatched the piece of paper from her and skimmed through it, her face paling more and more throughout.
'It's Remus and Tonks, "sending us their well wishes and condolences, and that they're sure that Ron, Harry and Hermione will be just fine".' Molly said as she looked up. 'But what do they mean?'
'I can tell that this one's from Charlie,' Arthur said, as calmly as possible, taking the letter from Ginny. 'It says:
'Mum, Dad, Ginny, and whoever else there.
Sorry this letter's so short, but I need to set my affairs in order now that everybody knows the truth. I'll be leaving the Dragons as soon as I can today without arising suspicion, for the safety of myself and the other Dragon Keepers. I was wondering if there's a spare bed around? But don't worry, Aunt Muriel, I should add before you have a seizure, that I'll only be staying until this whole fiasco's blown over. I can almost hear mum's voice right now saying 'better safe than sorry!' but really, when has, or will, that ever been my abiding motto?
P.S. don't worry about Ronnikins too much, he's been in similar situations before and by the looks of it, he's got out of them all alive.''
'Arthur,' Molly said, her voice raising a couple of sopranos. 'What do they know that we don't?'
'I believe,' Muriel cleared her throat. 'That the letters may be of regards to this.'
Ginny's Aunt was looking at the disregarded Newspaper on the table. On the front page was a moving cartoon of Harry, escaping what seemed to be Voldemort's clutch once again.
With a million horrible scenarios crashing around in her head, Ginny grabbed it and began reading it at a furious pace of which Hermione would have been proud. The article was an interview from an anonymous Snatcher who had 'been present at the time of the events'. It told the Wizarding World of how the previous day 'Harry Potter and his two close friends, Blood-Traitor Ron Weasley and Mudblood Hermione Granger had been snatched as they were setting up camp in a desolate forest, by the works of the Taboo'. The trio were taken directly to the Malfoy Manor, where they were met by several so-called Death Eaters, including serial killer Bellatrix Lestrange. Potter and Weasley had been thrown into the dungeons whilst they awaited the Dark Lord, whereas Granger was taken into another room for questioning. However, the trio had escaped before the Dark Lord had arrived.'
Shortly after the shock of reading that letter, Fred and George had sent Ginny a Patronus letting her know that they had been very busy indeed, had tracked down the Snatcher who had given the interview, and had tricked him into using a product which was riddled with Veritaserum. They had the full noble story and would be sharing it on their next episode of Potterwatch.
Ginny had been waiting in growing anticipation and desperation for the past two weeks, but at last, the day had come.
"Two minutes, everyone!" Ginny's dad called.
Eager, tell-tale footsteps galloped down the stairs, and soon the room was full. Molly and Arthur were sat next to each other on a loveseat, to comfort one another when they heard the inevitable. Muriel was sat in an armchair, her hands focused on her knitting, but her eyes darting around anxiously every now and again. Ginny watched, thinking amusedly how, perhaps the old hag had a heart after all. Ginny was sat next to Charlie, who was tapping his foot impatiently. Finally, Luna Lovegood sidled into the room and sat on the other side of Ginny, tucking her feet up.
Ginny's curiosity had reached its peak when Luna had shown up on their door step two days ago, saying that she had been sent there by Bill and Fleur. Extra Camp Beds had been conjured; Luna was sharing Ginny's room. Luna had barely spoken to Ginny since her arrival, and she knew only that Luna had been captured as a result of what the Quibbler had been printing about Harry, and that Dean Thomas had been with her, along with several other victims. As eager and curious as Ginny was, she was not cruel or inconsiderate. Luna would bring it up in her own time, but for now, she was clearly not in the best frame of mind to want to say anything about it just yet.
'So what is Potterwatch?' Luna asked conversationally, once she had settled down, wafting away some 'nargles' in the process.
'It's an anarchistic radio programme hosted by Lee Jordan, Fred and George,' Explained Mr Weasley. 'It's a breath of fresh air for those of us who are rebelling against You-Know-Who and are in full support of Harry. It opposes the deceptiveness of the Death Eaters by exposing the full truth, and it boosts moral for people like us.'
'You'll love it,' Ginny assured her friend.
'Isn't that awfully dangerous though?' Luna didn't ask it in a chiding way, more of a curious and intrigued way.
'Yes,' said Mrs Weasley sourly. 'It is.'
'But they take precautions,' Charlie defended. 'They use passwords and code names and everything.'
'Well, Fred's is 'Rodent', you know, Weasel – Weasley. George is 'Rapier', because of his 'rapier wit' apparently. Anyway, Lee's code name's 'River' because of the famous River Jordan,' Ginny explained.
'There are other codenames too, for guests obviously, but they have different guests every week, depending on the main story. If you don't recognise the voice then – well, you're a Ravenclaw; you should be able to figure it out.'
'Do you know what the main story is this week?' Luna asked.
'Yeah,' Charlie said. 'Have you heard of how about two weeks ago, Harry, Ron and Hermione were captured, but then escaped?'
'Yes, I know quite a lot about it already, actually,' murmured Luna.
'Oh, right. Well it's 'the full inside story' of that, apparently.'
Finally, the radio tuned in to the telling opening chords of music to Potterwatch and a tense hush swept throughout the room.
'River here! Good evening to all you Potterwatchers!'
'Potterwatchers? That's seriously the best you can come up with?'
'No one asked your opinion, Rodent!'
'For the last time, why does he get to be Rapier, whilst I got stuck with Rodent!?'
'Ooh, what am I?' A familiar voice interrupted.
Ginny's eyes widened in surprise. "It's Dean!"
'Wasn't he one of your many boyfriends?' Charlie asked.
'You, my friend, are Dodger.' Ginny's retort was lost behind George's voice. 'Which leads us on to our main topic today.'
'As I'm sure you've all heard; Harry Potter has escaped the Death Eaters once again. But, you haven't heard the full, honest story.'
'We, being the good, kind citizens that we are, went out of our way to hunt down the very same Snatcher that snitched to the Prophet, and we got the full version of events from him.'
'Now, of course this Snatcher will get into a lot of trouble if You-Know-Who caught on to whom it was that had blabbed.'
'And of course we wouldn't want to get dear old friend into trouble now, would we?'
'Not at all. But either way, a shout out to the Snatcher Eugene Barnsley is deserved for all of your unwilling help.'
'But we don't do things half-heartedly, do we Rodent, River?'
'Of course not, Rapier. Which is why we've also got our little Dodger here to come and give us his version of events also.'
'So, without further ado, Dodger, if you'd like to explain to Potterwatchers how you got your name, and we'll fill in the blanks.'
'I was on the run,' Dean confessed. 'Not sure whether I'm Muggleborn or Half-blood, to be honest. Met a few men, the odd Goblin. It worked for a while… but they caught up to us eventually.'
'Who did?' George asked, presumably for the sake of the listeners.
'The Snatchers. Took us to the Ministry. Made me watch they murdered my new mates for supposed Treachery.'
'Were you the only one who lived?' Fred asked, looking at Dean.
'No. They decided that Griphook- the goblin- would be useful too.'
Everyone was silent, waiting for Dean to continue.
'So like I said they took us to the Ministry, went through the Muggleborn Registration Act with all us Wizards – which of course we all failed as we had no proof. They then took us into another room and, like I said, killed off everyone they didn't consider to be of use, and then it was my turn. Just as my name was called though, new code name: Umbitch stopped the assassinator. She walked up into the light and inspected me. She knew who I was; she taught me in my Fifth Year at Hogwarts, and knew I was part of the Resistance group that Harry Potter formed whilst we were there. But on top of this she knew that I'd been the Gryffindor boy's dormitory with Harry for the past six years, and that I had some close connections to the – uh, what's the code? – Weasel family.'
Ginny took a sharp intake of air, knowing the connection was her.
'Before I knew it they'd taken me to Malfoy Manor, saying that I 'could be useful'.'
'Do you know what they meant by that?' Lee asked, although it was obvious.
'Well Lucius Malfoy questioned me about him. Must have thought that Harry would have told me something about what he was up to. When they figured I knew nothing, and wouldn't tell them even if I did, they put me in the dungeons, which became my home for the next few months. Thought they could use me as bait or something. Said it had worked before, but I'm not too sure what they meant by that.'
'So Harry, if you happen to be listening somewhere out there, don't be the heroic fool you are and fall into any of their traps.'
'So what then?' Lee pressurized, as keen to hear the rest as they were.
'Ollivander was already there, and Griphook had been bought with me. Don't know why – he never was the friendliest of Goblins. Couple weeks later we had another addition, this time – can I make up a nickname? – Loony joined us.'
"Loony?" Charlie asked confused. "Who do you reckon that could be?"
Ginny barely heard him. She was looking at Luna shocked and horrified.
'My father had been supporting Harry in his writing. So they took me,' she simply said, receiving bemused, sympathetic, pitying and respectful looks, before refocusing her attention on her broadcast. Ginny followed her example, but shot Luna a look that said, this is not over, whilst Molly poured the girl some more tea and Charlie shifted closer to her on the couch, as though for extra support.
'What happened after you were captured?'
'Well, obviously, we tried to escape,' Continued Dean. 'But it was futile.'
'Whilst Dodger was lolling around in the Malfoy's basement, Harry Potter, along with his friends, King and Bookworm, after over Eight Months of seclusion and diversion, were captured,' Added Lee. 'Details of where, we won't be sharing for their sake.'
'They made a break for it, and almost got away,' Fred continued. 'Led the Snatcher's on a right goose chase, they did.'
'Eventually, Fenrir Greyback caught up to Bookworm and the other two came back to help, despite Bookworm's demands that they didn't. It was none or all, apparently.'
Once they'd finished with their inside information, Dean started his tale again. 'The other prisoners and I had pretty much given up hope of ever seeing the light of day again, when we heard commotion coming from above us. Soon after, Harry and King were thrown down to the dungeons.
'They were livid. A few minutes after Harry and King joined us, we started to hear Bellatrix Lestrange yelling at Bookworm. Calling her really foul names, and asking questions to which the answers Bookworm didn't appear to have, or give away, at least,' Dean started, his voice shaking from the memory. 'Anyway. We could hear Bookworm denying everything, crying out 'I don't know', but it got out of hand. We could hear Bellatrix casting Crucio on her-'
George butted in, 'It's one of the Three unforgivable curses.'
'It is a curse of torture, inflicting excruciating pain on a victim. It targets the pain receptors and more often than not, the people of whom it is cast upon are driven crazy but the sheer agony.' Lee said gravely. 'On that joyful note, carry on, Dodger.'
'Bookworm was just screaming and screaming in pure, indescribable, excruciating agony. We could hear her banging around on the floor above us as though she were writhing about. But the screams just would not stop. Her-Bookworm was crying and pleading, she wasn't the only one. It was just awful. There was the little girl who we all depended on for gaining back our deducted House Points when we were just eleven years old, being tortured, and we couldn't do anything about it.'
Molly Weasley burst into loud wracking sobs at this point, and Ginny was astounded to see that even Luna had silent tears streaming down her face.
'I'm not too sure how, but Harry managed to contact the outside world, something that we'd been trying to do for weeks. Suddenly, a House Elf turned up, and Harry didn't think about himself, but he told the Elf to first take all of us prisoners to safety. We tried to get Harry and King to come with us, but they refused to leave Bookworm up there, even if it looked like a suicide mission. That's when I left.'
'According to our reliable source,' Fred said. 'Bookworm was practically left for the dead,'
Ginny's hand clapped over her mouth of its own accord. Hermione – left for the… dead? She looked around to notice Molly's shoulders were shaking in huge rattling sobs, as Arthur wrapped his arm tightly around her, as though seeking comfort also for himself.
'and so Bellatrix was bored of the Cruciatus Curse. Instead she pulled out her knife and engraved the word 'Mudblood' onto Bookworms forearm, so deeply that it slit open Bookworm's veins.'
'No, no, no, no, no,' Molly whispered repeatedly to herself, and Ginny felt like screaming the same as the first hopeless tear wormed its way out of her eye. She saw that Luna's posture was drooped, for the first time ever, and that's what set Ginny off to the point of no return.
'The younger Potterwatcher's may want to cover their ears for this next bit,' George said. 'After that, Fenrir Greyback was wanting to take Bookworm away so that he could 'have his way' with her. If you don't understand what I mean by that then you're most likely too young to know.'
'Either that or you're really thick.'
Ginny stood up, feeling like she was going to be sick. This was Hermione. The girl who loved to spend her days in the library reading a book which was twice her weight. Hermione, who had given her the only successful advice about Harry she had ever received. The same girl who went to the World Cup with them and became ecstatic over the notion that a tent could come with a chimney. Ginny started to pace. She needed to get out, but more than that, she needed to stay and hear the rest of the story.
'But somehow Harry and King got there in time. They had managed to sneak out of the dungeons and distract Death Eater's from Bookworm. A battle ensued where the dup managed to win back their wands, and together they then fought their way to Bookworm and managed to get out of there.'
Dean seemed to agree. ' All I know from there on, is that around about half an hour later, Harry, King and Bookworm apparated to where we were. They were in a bad state, but it didn't matter so much, because they'd escaped again.'
The rest of the broadcast passed by in a bit of a blur. Nobody could say anything, as they were all trying to comprehend what had just happened and mentally compose themselves.
They sat in silence for a couple of minutes even after the theme tune to Potterwatch had played out, until Arthur quietly broke the silence.
'Bookworm was crying and pleading, she wasn't the only one,' he quoted. 'What did that mean?'
'Ron was too,' Luna replied simply.
'I thought they said Ron was in the dungeons,' Molly asked quickly.
'He was,' Luna assured her, 'But he was crying in distress and horror, about as loud as Hermione I'd say. He was desperately pleading and screaming up the stairs that they take him, and not Hermione. It was just as horrible to hear, as he's in love with her, you see.'
Not even Molly commented on this little revelation, because everyone was thinking the same thing, especially after the todays reveals; whether they had thought the words or denied them from seeping through their subconscious. How it was likely that Ron and Hermione's romance story was going to end up a tragedy.