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The Night Diminished

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As the only daughter in a family of sons, Ginny always had her own room growing up. But she wasn’t used to all the space she now had, as the sole inhabitant of the sixth year Gryffindor girls’ room. Hester's mother was Muggleborn, and the whole family had fled the country before the start of the year. Gemma was Muggleborn herself, and Ginny had no idea where she was. Hadiya was Pureblood, but she had family in Canada, and her parents had taken her from school and sent her there as a precaution.

She wasn’t used to the quiet either. At the Burrow, Ron was always wailing at the radio about a Cannons’ match or Percy was lecturing or Mum was yelling at Fred and George over making something explode or Fred and George or Dad were making something explode. All Ginny’s earliest memories were full of people and noise, the steady, humming, sometimes claustrophobic comfort of a house full of people. Her memories of Gryffindor Tower were much the same - she and the other girls gossiping and chattering about class or Quidditch or crushes. Hadiya hummed when she wasn't paying attention, and Gemma mumbled to herself while doing homework, and all the rest of Gryffindor Tower talked and moved and laughed and fought in all the rooms around them. But now the Tower was half-full, its remaining students chastened or quietly plotting.

Neville had offered her use of his and Seamus’s dorm room, when Ginny had complained about the dead silence of her room. They had three empty beds. He had done it awkwardly, red-faced, but sincerely. Parvati and Lavender had done the same and offered her Hermione’s bed. Ginny had put on a brave face and refused. It was out of pride, mostly. She wouldn’t be chased from her own room because she couldn’t stand the emptiness or the quiet. But at night sometimes she regretted it.

She sat in her bed, her potions book open but unread on her lap. She had turned on all the lamps, but the light still seemed weak. It was not long past dinner, but night already pressed its face against the windows. Late November, and they spent most of their days in darkness. Ginny would swear, too, that the room felt draughtier than it had in previous years. It could have been the loss of most of its inhabitants, but Ginny wouldn’t have been surprised if Snape and the Carrows were trying to freeze the Gryffindors into submission as general policy.

She got out of bed and switched on the radio that Fred had given her at the start of term. Potterwatch was over for the night, but she was looking for something else. It didn’t take long. No matter what time it was, no matter that people were dying, someone, somewhere was playing Celestina Warbeck.

She closed her eyes and pretended she was home. She didn’t particularly like Celestina, but listening to her made her think of her mum cooking in the kitchen and singing along.

It’s not your wand that makes me fond, crooned Celestina. Ginny snorted. It’s not your eyes, like stormy skies.

What would her parents be doing right now? Ginny wondered. It was late enough that Dad would probably be back from the Ministry. Maybe Mum was listening to Celestina, too, she and Dad both sitting in the sitting room with tea, Dad tinkering with some Muggle experiment.

More likely they were in the kitchen, though, one eye on her mother’s clock, and both working on a life-or-death mission for the Order. But she didn’t like to think of that. She didn’t like to think of her parents, of any of her family, as connected with the war, but it was impossible not to, they were all so deeply in it. She closed her eyes and leaned her head against her hand, her elbow resting on the desk her radio sat on.

Someone knocked on the door. Ginny’s eyes flew open and she moved quickly to shut off and hide the radio. They were forbidden, and while McGonagall or the Gryffindor prefects wouldn’t fault her for it, McGonagall and the Gryffindor prefects weren’t the only ones who did rounds nowadays. She put on her sternest face, what she thought of as her general face, her leader face. “The Gineral” Fred had called her in one of his and George’s letters to her, and the silliness of it had made her smile for the first time in days.

“Come in,” she called, sitting straight and tall at her desk.

The door opened and Luna stepped into the room. Her robe was ripped at the neck and one of her sleeves was torn half-off. She was also bleeding from her shoulder. Badly.

“Are you all right?” cried Ginny, shooting up from her desk.

She strode towards Luna and took her arm gently. Closer, her wound didn’t look as bad as it did at first glance. There was a long, shallow cut, crescent-shaped, from her collarbone to the back of her shoulder. Whoever had hit Luna had struck only a glancing blow. It made Ginny’s stomach turn over to think what better aim would have done. She’d seen it once when it had been Seamus, and she wouldn’t forget the sight of him - staggering, face bloodless - for a long time.

“Oh, yes. I think so.” Luna’s eyes slid around the room. She looked disoriented. She let her bookbag drop from her good shoulder and stood swaying. “I could just use a little healing. Were you listening to Celestina Warbeck? Did you know her songs are actually code?”

“Are they? Code for what?”

She led Luna across the room and sat her at a desk, then tapped her wand against Luna’s collarbone, muttering a healing charm. Pale blue light spilled out and shimmered over Luna like waves.

“Oh, about how the Prophet is really being funded by the Canadian Wizard’s Council to bring despair and misinformation to British wizardry,” said Luna. She fidgeted, her mouth thin with pain. “Daddy wrote an article about it.”

“Huh,” said Ginny.

She frowned at the cut on Luna’s shoulder. She’d only gotten half of it to close. The rest of it was still oozing blood. She was getting better at her healing charms, but she didn’t have her mum’s knack for them. Or maybe Mum was just good at them from experience. At this rate, Ginny would be too by the end of the year.

“The Prophet spreading despair and misinformation I’ll buy. But why Canada?”

Luna gave her a very patient look.

“Canada was founded by dark wizards, Ginny. And the CWC is very closely allied with the members of the Rotfang Conspiracy.”

Ginny grinned and went to her bed and pulled her trunk out from under it. It was battered, covered in burn marks and mysterious stains, with a fading, peeled GW emblazoned in one corner. Her real trunk was in much nicer condition. But George's old trunk has a secret compartment, so she had left hers at home.

“I didn’t know that,” she told Luna. “I don’t think it ever came up in History of Magic.”

She popped open the secret compartment and took out a bandage and one of Madame Pomfrey's poultices. Pomfrey was forbidden from treating students without permission from one of the Carrows. Dumbledore's Army had exploited this by hexing Slytherins every chance they got and overwhelming the Carrows with requests. Then, when the Carrows had given out passes to their favorites, Ginny had hexed Pansy Parkinson, made off with her pass, and spent a glorious two weeks lending the pass around until Colin Creevey had gotten caught with it and punished.

But Pomfrey smuggled them poultices and potions still.

Ginny damped the bandage with the poultice and handed it to Luna. Luna took it without complaint, and Ginny was very grateful for it. Neville had a bad habit of refusing – someone else, he was sure, would need it more than him. They had to conserve their resources! He had only stopped because the last time he refused, Ginny petrified him and applied the poultice anyway.

“You’re very nice, Ginny,” said Luna.

“Thank you,” said Ginny.

She pushed Luna’s hair off her shoulder and held it back so Luna could apply the poultice. Her knuckles rested against the warm skin of Luna’s neck.

“But you don’t have to pretend to believe me if you don’t,” continued Luna gravely. “I don’t mind if you believe other things. It’s very open-minded of you to listen in the first place.”

“Oh,” said Ginny, surprised, and a little embarrassed. She blushed, combing her fingers through Luna’s hair. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

Luna squeezed her wrist.

“What happened?” asked Ginny, changing the subject. The DA hadn’t had an action planned for the night. They were lying low for a bit since they’d set a colony of pixies loose in both the Carrows’ classrooms.

Luna sighed.

“Millicent Bullstrode was being very rude to a first year. She didn’t think I was right to interrupt her.”

“That cow. Is the first year all right?”

“Oh, yes. She got away when Millicent decided it was more fun to pay attention to me. I don’t think she was expecting the staircase to move as quickly as it did though.”

Ginny nodded. She believed sometimes the castle was on their side. She'd fled from the Carrows and their cronies more than once and had a wall appear behind her where none had ever been before, or for a staircase slide faster than she’d ever seen, or for a suit of armor to suddenly fall directly in the path of her pursuers. It made her hopeful, which felt dangerous. But if Hogwarts itself was on their side, surely they could drive Snape and the Carrows out.

“How was the Fat Lady?”

The Fat Lady usually let Luna in with only a sniff, as long as she had the password. Ginny and Neville always made sure she had the password.

“Oh, fine,” said Luna vaguely, clearly tired already of recounting the evening’s events. "Can you bring me my bag?”

Ginny nodded and crossed back to the door, then brought Luna back her bag. It was the strangest bag Ginny had ever seen. It was shabby with use, painfully purple in color, and covered in embroidered stars and flowers and dirigible plums and birds. Large tufts of colorful, paper thin cloth dotted one side of it it. The strap was a rainbow of colored, braided leather, and its clasp was a complicated knot made of tarnished brass. Dumbledore would have liked it, she thought.

“Thank you,” said Luna. She bent down and dug one handed through the bag. There were several Quibblers inside it – any of which could have gotten Luna seriously harmed if she were caught. It made Ginny uneasy. Luna sometimes had a serene disregard for her own personal safety.

“They want to hurt us anyway,” she had told Ginny once, early in the term. “I don’t think it really matters if they have an excuse for it or not.”

Ginny had been unable to argue.

Luna pulled out a stack of parchment and a quill, accidentally knocking out a pile of bright blue dust which she claimed deterred thieves. Luna thought it very successful, and Ginny had never had the heart to tell her the real reason her housemates had stopped stealing her possessions was that Ginny had spent last year sending a good half dozen of them to the Hospital Wing with bats crawling out of their noses.

Luna spread the parchment on the desk and hunched over, then began to write. It took a second for Ginny to realize what she was going.

"You're doing homework?" she said incredulously. “You’ve just been attacked!”

"It's due tomorrow," said Luna, quill bobbing doggedly as she worked on the parchment. "And I won't understand the lesson unless I do the homework."

Ginny wanted to laugh. She suddenly missed Hermione with a fierce ache. It was a shame, she thought, that Hermione never saw this side of Luna. She would like this side a lot better.

“Which class is it for?” she asked. “And here. You might as well use both hands.”

She took the poultice from Luna and held it herself.

“Divination. We’re making star charts.”

“I don’t think Trelawney would notice if you didn’t turn it in,” said Ginny dryly. Every time she had crossed paths with the Divination professor that year, the cooking sherry smell had been stronger than the time before.

“Is there something we should be working on instead?”

Ginny thought about it. They could go talk to Neville, work on their schemes and their map of Hogwarts. There was a DA meeting in three days they needed to plan.

“No,” she said. “This is good.”

She stood there, holding the poultice to Luna’s shoulder and watching her work. The lamplight gleamed on Luna’s hair. Ginny’s own homework was forgotten. Charms, Transfiguration, and Herbology were the only times they ever learned anything useful nowadays. And none of the professors were assigning as much work as they had the year before. McGonagall, two weeks into the term, had given the greatest display of emotion Ginny had seen from her excepting Dumbledore’s death, and taken off her glasses and leaned against her desk for a moment.

“While this is still a classroom,” she’d told them, “and I have every intention of continuing to educate you to this institution’s standards, do know my highest priority this year is my students’ safety.”

But there were a lot of students McGonagall couldn’t protect, and it was easy for Ginny to let her mind wander to them when she wasn’t pushing her mind to focus on some immediate task. She thought about her parents again, and her mother’s clock with every arm pointing to mortal peril. No one had heard from Ron in months, but at least the arm didn’t point to dead. It would be winter soon – it was already cold enough to be winter – and what would the others do then, on the run and alone?

"I just wish I knew if they were okay," she said quietly. Harry and Ron and Hermione were fighting the real war. Nothing she did here would matter if the others lost. All Ginny could do was harass and hope.

Luna studied her star chart. She ran her thumb along the sweeping curve of some celestial object's orbit. She didn’t ask who Ginny meant. Luna was never bothered by non-sequiturs and always seemed to understand where they were coming from anyway.

"They're okay," she said. She tilted her head and looked up at Ginny, mouth pursed gravely. Upside down, she looked particularly elfin, her face thin and pale. She reached up and squeezed Ginny’s hand, still on Luna’s shoulder. "We shouldn’t give up hope."

Ginny laughed roughly, the kind of laugh Sirius Black had had – short and barking and desperate.

"The star chart tell you that?"

"No," said Luna mildly. She held Ginny's hand in both of her own and pressed her thumbs into Ginny's palm. She was giving her a hand massage, Ginny realized. "But I know they're okay."

Luna said this with the same calm assurance she used to talk about wrackspurts and heliopaths and every manner of impossible thing. But this time, Ginny believed her.

She smiled softly and removed the poultice and sat it down. Luna’s cut had been reduced to a long, reddish welt, and that would fade soon enough. She pulled herself up and sat on the desk next to Luna’s star chart and touched Luna’s silvery hair, tucking a strand of it behind her ear.

“I’m glad you came up tonight. Er. Not glad about the reason for it though.”

Luna set down her quill and beamed up at her.

“I did mean it when I said you were nice. And I’m done with the chart.”

“Are you?” Ginny scooted over, moving the star chart aside, so that she sat on the desk directly in front of Luna. “Do you have any other homework?”

“Nothing that’s due tomorrow,” said Luna. She smiled dreamily at Ginny. She looked tired, but cheerful, and her color was much better than it had been when she’d first come in.

“Good,” said Ginny, and she leaned down and held Luna’s jaw and kissed her carefully.

It was something they did sometimes, something they hadn’t talked about. The first time, they had both been high on adrenaline and giddy with relief, having sprung several manacled second years and narrowly escaped Amycus Carrow by jumping blindly through a tapestry and into a disused classroom. The door hiding behind the tapestry had immediately disappeared and Ginny had thrown her arms around Luna and kissed her out of sheer, euphoric delight.

Ginny didn’t like to think about what it meant. She liked Luna. She liked kissing Luna. She would think about what this all meant when the war was over. There were too many people Ginny was already paralyzed with fear over.

She pushed the fear from her mind and focused on Luna. Bending down from the desk was a bit uncomfortable, but Luna made a soft, sweet noise into Ginny’s mouth and curled her hands around Ginny’s waist, and Ginny’s heart sang and shivered in her chest. She pushed her hands back into Luna’s hair. Kissing Luna was always a strange experience. Having Luna’s full attention was a strange experience. Luna, it turned out, was a very good kisser.

Ginny slid down off the desk and into Luna’s lap. She was a little taller and had more muscle than Luna, but Luna didn’t seem to mind. She put her arms around Ginny and pulled her closer. Her mouth skimmed from the corner of Ginny’s mouth to along her jaw. Ginny shuddered pleasantly and closed her eyes. She held Luna’s face and brought her mouth back to hers and kissed her deeper. Luna hummed, her hands moving up Ginny’s back. Ginny trembled and she shifted so she was straddling Luna, their hips locked together. Her stomach flooded with heat.

They kissed for a long while. That at least was a benefit of not having dormmates, thought Ginny wryly, in the part of her mind that was still capable of coherent thought. No one to interrupt her snogging. Luna kissed her sweetly and needily. She squeaked and turned pink when Ginny passed her thumb along the edge of her healing cut, and Ginny laughed and very gently kissed the tender skin at the base of Luna’s throat.

They ended up on Ginny’s bed, Ginny propped up above Luna and her hands on Luna’s face, in Luna’s soft hair. Luna’s own hands bracketed Ginny’s waist. Finally, sleepy and peaceful and flushed, they pulled apart.

“You should stay over,” said Ginny, curled on her side. “We can plan with Neville in the morning. Terry reckons he’s figured out Snape’s schedule and we can use that for something.”

Luna rubbed her thumb over Ginny’s cheekbone. Her eyes were large and lamp-like, and very near to Ginny’s own. Her mouth was very pink.

“Are you always thinking?” she asked.

Ginny laughed tiredly.

“Not before this year,” she said. She smiled. “And I didn’t too much thinking tonight. Honestly, Luna.”

Luna smiled at her.

“Then I should probably spend the night,” she said.

Ginny beamed, and sat up. She spelled the lamps to darkness, and then laid back down and tucked herself around Luna.

“How’s your shoulder?” she asked.

“It’s much better. Thank you.”

“Please don’t thank me,” said Ginny, and she thought again about how much damage Millicent could have done if she had better aim. How long would it have taken for Ginny to know anything had happened at all?

A great, warm, dangerous tenderness unfolded in Ginny’s chest. Here was something tangible, something good, one more thing she needed to protect, and one more thing she could not lose. She pulled Luna a little more tightly against her and kissed the spot behind Luna’s ear. Luna’s hair tickled her nose.

“You should come over every night,” she said quietly. She noticed how even with the lights out and the curtains drawn, Luna seemed to shine palely all her own. She felt a dull, strange ache just beneath her ribs.

She kissed the spot behind Luna’s ear once more.

“Things are better when you’re here.”