Ginny stood on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, clutching the handle of her trolley and staring blankly at the scarlet stream train waiting to take her to Hogwarts. She’d never left with such mixed feelings before; then again, she’d never left in circumstances like this before, either.
Predominant among those feelings was worry. Worry for her father, working at a Voldemort-controlled Ministry; worry for her brothers, doing who-knew-what dangerous work for the Order; worry for the other Order members, whom she’d become friends with over the past few years; and above all, worry for Harry, Ron and Hermione, who had effectively disappeared, embarking on an unknown and most definitely dangerous mission. A cold feeling settled in the pit of her stomach as she realised anew that she might never see them again.
Ginny also felt nervous anticipation, not knowing what to expect when she arrived at Hogwarts. What would it be like now? A Hogwarts without the benign presence of Dumbledore watching over them was almost unthinkable, let alone one with Snape as headmaster and two Death Eaters as teachers. The positions had been confirmed in that morning’s Daily Prophet, which had arrived just as Ginny, her mother, Fred and George were leaving. They had made the time to come and see her off, since Arthur Weasley had needed to get to work, and Bill and Charlie were both busy with Order work (not much of a honeymoon for Bill).
Ginny had known that at some point, she would be the only Weasley attending Hogwarts, but she hadn’t expected that time to come a year early. There were tears in Molly Weasley’s eyes as she drew her daughter close and hugged her, and Ginny had to blink rapidly to prevent tears forming in her own eyes. She had felt so frustrated that she wasn’t old enough to be in the Order, and that everyone kept leaving her out and treating her like a little girl. It had been her intent to argue against going to Hogwarts at all; it wasn’t fair that she should be the only one to do so. But then Ginny had overheard her mother saying to her father how relieved she was that at least Ginny would be safe, and out of the way of the fighting, and she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
“Bye Mum,” said Ginny, managing to keep her voice steady. She smiled slightly. “I’d ask you to write to me, but of course, they’ll be reading all the post… Still, let me know if you can whether everyone’s safe, won’t you?”
“Of course,” Molly answered. She stepped back as Fred and George took it in turns to hug their sister. Fred held on to Ginny’s shoulders and gave her an uncharacteristically serious look; Ginny wondered what was coming next.
“As the only Weasley left at Hogwarts, it is your duty,” said Fred, “to give Snape hell from us. Understand?” Ginny broke into a grin. “We’ve packed all our latest products into our Deluxe Box and given it to you, free of charge. So don’t waste it.”
Ginny glanced at their mother to see how she was taking this encouragement of wrong-doing. Molly had caught the words ‘Deluxe Box’ and was just putting two and two together. “Fred!” she admonished sternly. “There is no need to encourage your sister in troublemaking. If anything, she ought to stay out of trouble as much as possible!”
Fred was unfazed. “Ginny’s got to do her bit for the resistance, mum,” he told her. “She’s going to be stuck at Hogwarts, she’ll need some entertainment.” Ginny wasn’t sure she appreciated this reminder of her position, but she knew Fred meant no offence. He and George had had the time of their lives with Umbridge, and left a legacy that any wannabe-troublemakers would have a hard time outdoing. It was only natural then that she, as the only Weasley at Hogwarts, should do the same.
“Oh, and keep an ear to the ground,” added George. Ginny rolled her eyes. “We’ve been coming up with ways to communicate what’s really happening to everyone, since the Ministry’s keeping a tight hold on the Prophet and the WWN.” Neither the Daily Prophet nor the Wizarding Wireless Network was reporting the real truth about all the killings and raids, Muggle and wizard alike, so neither was an entirely reliable source of news any longer.
Fred and George helped Ginny lift her trunk into an empty compartment. Someone else stepped into the carriage, and Ginny spun around to see who it was. It was Neville, looking serious but with an air of more self-confidence than Ginny remembered him having. His hair was also a little longer than it had been last year. “Hey, Neville! Did you have a good summer?” she greeted him with deliberate cheerfulness.
“It wasn’t bad, considering what’s been going on; Gran’s finally starting to say she’s proud of me, after I helped fight at the end of last year. Something good came out of that, at least.” Neville grinned briefly, and Ginny remembered how he’d been taken to the hospital wing in order to recover after the fight with Voldemort’s Death Eaters. She was glad that his grandmother seemed to think he was starting to live up to his father, in whose shadow Neville had grown up. As Neville accepted Fred’s offer to help with his suitcase, Ginny wondered how he was coping with the fact that the Lestranges, who had tortured his parents into insanity, were once again at large, as they had been some twenty years ago.
The train began to move off. Ginny slid the door shut, and leaned out of the window to wave to her mother and brothers. She withdrew as it rounded the corner, and went to sit down with Neville. She was beginning to feel more like herself already, and felt a little silly that she had been so emotional about leaving her family; of course she would see them again. Harry, too. She and her friends could take whatever Snape and the Carrows decided to dish out; after all, they’d shown Umbridge, hadn’t they? Hmm, maybe they should re-start the DA… It wouldn’t be quite the same without Harry as leader, but it would be better than nothing.
Ginny looked up as the carriage door slid open and smiled at the sight of another familiar face. “Hi, Luna! Good summer?”
“Yes, thank you,” Luna replied happily. “Hello, Neville.” She was holding, as usual, a copy of the magazine her father edited, The Quibbler. An exclusive interview with Harry about the return of Voldemort had done a lot to improve the magazine’s reputation and circulation. “You’ve grown your hair.”
“Oh – yeah, I have. Gran’s a bit more lenient with my appearance these days,” said Neville. Luna nodded, as if she had expected nothing less. “I thought it was about time she recognised you as a grandson worth having,” she stated, opening the magazine and proceeding to read. Neville went a little pink, unsure how to respond to this strangely-worded compliment.
After a couple of seconds of slightly awkward silence, Ginny asked, “How’s The Quibbler doing?”
“It’s doing very well,” Luna replied proudly. “Daddy’s decided to print less stories about exotic creatures,” Neville and Ginny caught each other’s eye, both hiding smiles; Luna’s idea of "exotic creatures" was everyone else’s idea of ridiculous nonsense, and with names like ‘Blibbering Humdinger’ and ‘Wrackspurt’ it was easy to see why, “and more on the truth about You-Know-Who’s takeover. He prints the facts that the public has been blinded to, and always tells people to support Harry.” She displayed the magazine cover, which bore the headline, ‘SUPPORT HARRY POTTER’ in large letters. Underneath was the same picture of Harry that had been used for the original interview with The Quibbler two years ago: grinning in an embarrassed fashion, untidy black hair falling across his bright green eyes. Harry had matured a lot, both in appearance and in character, since that picture was taken. But Ginny had always been able to see the slightly awkward teenage boy, uncomfortable at being thrust into the spotlight again and again, underneath the heroic exterior that everyone else imagined. She felt a pang in her stomach; the picture brought home just how long it had been since she’d seen Harry last. To distract herself, she scanned the rest of the cover, which advertised features such as ‘Real-life Encounters With Dark Wizards’, ‘Top 10 Reasons to Support Harry Potter’ and ‘How to Heliopath-Proof Your Home’.
Just then, they became aware of some sort of disturbance in the next carriage: scuffling sounds, almost as if a fight had broken out. Neville glanced uncertainly towards the door; Luna, unperturbed, continued reading The Quibbler. Ginny was just about to go to the door and see what was happening, when she heard a loud, arrogant voice saying, “Make way, make way, pure-blood coming through.” Her first thought was of Draco Malfoy, but she couldn’t believe he would have bothered to return to school now that Voldemort was in power; he was a Death Eater, after all. So who…?
Her question was answered as the carriage door opened, and a brown-haired boy stepped through, followed by three other students. Ginny recognised the brown-haired boy as being Thomas Miller, a fifth-year Slytherin. He was of average height and build, unremarkable in appearance, yet he walked and talked as if he owned the whole school. She recognised one of the students accompanying him as well: Henry Trotter. He was a sixth-former of the same breed as Crabbe and Goyle: tall and heavyset, as mean as he was stupid. The other two students accompanying him she didn’t know: one was a fourth-year, small and nasty with black hair, and the other was a thin, sallow-skinned and dark-haired fifth-former with a permanent bored expression on his face. With a hooked nose he could almost have been related to Snape, Ginny thought with some amusement.
Miller surveyed the carriage occupants with contempt. “Well, if it isn’t two chief members of Potter’s fanclub and his girlfriend.” His eyes rested on Ginny. “Or has he dumped you? He doesn’t seem to be here, does he?” Ginny folded her arms and made no move to reply; what business of Miller’s was it, where Harry was?
Seeing that he wasn’t about to get an answer, Miller went on, “No need to ask what your blood status is, of course. Everyone knows the Weasleys are a bunch of no-good blood traitors. As for Loony Lovegood, well. Whatever your blood status, it’s obvious your lot belong in the lunatic asylum.”
Luna merely raised her protuberant eyes from the magazine, looking surprised to see Miller standing there. Ginny, however, wasn’t having any of that. Nor, it appeared, was Neville. He had already drawn his wand and got to his feet, pointing it steadily at Miller. “You take that back,” he said forcefully, and red sparks shot from the end of his wand to emphasise his point. Ginny drew her own wand and stood up, pointing it at Trotter, who took a step forward and cracked his knuckles.
Miller looked surprised for a moment, before the expression gave way to a smirk. “You’re Neville Longbottom, aren’t you? Of course, you’d know all about lunatic asylums, what with your parents-” The rest of his sentence was lost as Neville yelled, “Furnunculus!”
Miller staggered back into his cronies, who watched dumbstruck as boils began springing up all over his face. Gingerly putting a hand up to feel the boils, Miller’s face darkened and he drew his wand. Before he could retaliate, however, Ginny shouted, “Protego!” The shield charm expanded in front of Neville, and whatever hex or jinx Miller had tried to use – the incantation had been lost as Ginny shouted hers – dissipated harmlessly without reaching Neville.
Looking furious, the small fourth-year drew his wand, and so (looking serenely unconcerned) did Luna, making it three against three. The sallow-skinned student slouched against the doorframe, apparently having no interest in joining the battle. Before another round of spells could commence, however, a voice from behind Miller and his gang said, “What’s going on here, then?”
“Seamus!” exclaimed Neville, recognising the voice. Sandy-haired Seamus Finnigan pushed his way through the group of bullies, his wand at the ready. At first Ginny thought he was wearing some sort of strange necklace, then she realised that a frightened-looking first-year girl had her arms fastened around Seamus’ neck.
“That lot put a leg-locker jinx on her, and I can’t remember the counter-jinx,” said Seamus, casting a dark look at Miller. “Can you, Neville?”
“Yeah, Malfoy used to use me as practice for jinxes in first year,” Neville replied wryly. He performed the counter-jinx and the little girl’s legs sprang apart. She let go of Seamus and dropped to the ground; Luna guided her towards an empty seat and gave her a bright, disarming smile, which she returned uncertainly.
Seamus turned towards Miller, who seemed to recognise that Neville, Ginny, Luna and Seamus each knew more jinxes and hexes than he and his group put together. Muttering a resentful, “Come on,” he led the way out of the carriage.
“Stupid git,” Seamus commented as he closed the carriage door. “Thinks he’s all that just because he’s pure-blood. There’ll be plenty more idiots like him around now the Ministry’s introduced blood status.” He sat down next to the first-year girl. “This is Laura, by the way.”
“Where’s Dean, Seamus?” asked Neville, and Ginny realised with a start that her ex-boyfriend was not accompanying Seamus as he usually did.
Seamus looked grim. “I’d hoped you would know. Still, I think I have a fair idea; he’s Muggle-born, isn’t he? And this whole blood status thing was invented to stop Muggle-borns from coming back to Hogwarts. He's probably lying low.”
“My mum’s a Muggle-born,” piped up Laura unexpectedly. “And my dad’s a Muggle. Thomas knows that because we used to live next door to each other. I never liked him very much, but he never picked on me before.”
There was a silence, until Ginny said, “We need to restart Dumbledore’s Army.”
Seamus looked up, surprised; Neville nodded in agreement; Luna looked delighted, and Laura looked puzzled.
“Oh, yes, let’s do that!” Luna exclaimed. “I loved the DA. It was nice to be able to fight back, for once, and it always felt as if I had lots of friends.”
“I think we’re going to need it, with Snape in charge,” Neville agreed. “It’s a shame Harry can’t be here to lead us, like before.” No one enquired as to Harry’s whereabouts, for which Ginny was grateful.
“Are you talking about Harry Potter?” asked Laura, clearly awestruck. “My cousins have told me all about him! He’s nothing like the Ministry says he is.”
“Who are your cousins?” asked Neville with interest. Ginny had an idea of who might have instilled such a reaction into Laura.
“Colin and Dennis Creevey,” Laura replied, proving Ginny’s suspicions right. “They weren’t supposed to come back to Hogwarts, because they’re Muggle-borns, but we all got on the train together, and no one stopped us. I hope they’re all right.” She bit her lip, clearly thinking of what Miller might have done to them.
“They’ll be all right; they were in the DA the year before last,” Ginny reassured her. “Dumbledore’s Army was a group of students who used to learn spells that would enable us to hold our own in a duel.”
Laura’s face lit up. “Oh, wow! Can I join?”
“I don’t see why not,” Seamus said. “Gotta learn to defend yourself at some point. I wonder who else would be willing to join again?” he added to Neville, Ginny and Luna. “Who was in it last time? Lavender, the Patil twins, Ernie, Hannah, Michael Corner…”
“There’ll be loads of people missing, though,” Neville pointed out. “All the sixth-formers, plus Harry, Ron and Hermione… Hannah disappeared last year, too, after her mum…” He trailed off, but they all knew what he had been about to say: Hannah Abbot’s mother had been found dead last year, and since being taken out of Herbology to learn the news, Hannah hadn’t been seen.
“We’ll find new members,” said Ginny firmly. “Do you all still have your fake Galleons?”
Luna produced hers immediately; it seemed she’d been carrying it around in her pocket ever since she was first given it. Neville also found his quickly, in the pocket of his robes, which he had yet to change into. Ginny was sure she’d seen hers whilst packing her suitcase, and Seamus reckoned his would be around somewhere.
“We’ll need to get some more from somewhere though, for the new members,” he said.
“We can do that. We ought to make a list of the members, so we know who’s in… Does anyone know how to put a jinx on the parchment like Hermione did last time?”
They carried on making plans as the train drew closer to Hogwarts. It felt good to have a sense of purpose again, Ginny thought as the boys left in order to let the girls change into their robes. Maybe being ‘stuck at Hogwarts’ wouldn’t be so bad after all.