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Disclaimer JKR gets the credit – characters, settings, etc. is all hers. Anything you recognize is probably not mine. I am so sorry for not updating in ages. I’ll try to update sooner next time.

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Chapter 5: Woods and Words


Soft daylight filtered through Ginny’s half-closed eyes. The sun was warm on her face and bright under her eyelids. She felt herself waking up, and tried to return to her dream. But that prooved impossible as she noticed a piercing pain in her back. She slowly opened her eyes and blinked quickly in the bright sunlight, then shifted her weight away from the tree that she was leaning against. She stood up slowly, her entire body aching.

The clearing that she was standing in was only a few feet into the woods, and she could still see the gate to the graveyard. The trees around her seemed to shimmer in the morning sunlight, and she rubbed her eyes tiredly.

Ginny stepped around the tree she’d been sleeping against and looked into the depths of the woods. She felt lost and exhausted, and for the first time, the weight of what she’d done truly hit her.

She was alone. Completely alone. No one in the world could help her now. She was no longer Ginny Weasley, and she knew she had to stop thinking of herself as this girl that she’d been for so long. And she realized that she’d condemned herself to start from scratch, and that now she had nothing. She had to show the Order that she was truly worthy to be part of them, and how could she do that when she was completely and totally unknown to them? She realized that she’d have to make up a new name for herself. What would that be? And she had to survive on her own for a while, homeless. She had no food, shelter, or money except for a few sickles and knuts. Not even a single galleon.

She took an uncertain step forward, and pain shot through her foot and up her leg. Tears welled in her eyes and she fell against the tree, wishing that she’d never made this stupid plan. She slid to the ground and found that she’d cut her foot on a glass shard that was lying on the ground. Something poked her side, and she pulled her wand from her pocket. She gasped. It had broken in two.

The tears in her eyes spilled over and she cried. She didn’t even have her wand now! How could she ever prove to the Order that she was good enough to work with them without her wand? She was lost, and now there was no way of finding her way back.

As if in a trance she stood up again, slipping the splinters of her wand back into her pocket. She tore some cloth off her skirt and tied it around her bleeding foot. Another shot of pain flew through her. But she forced herself to push on, and she walked as quickly as she could into the woods, knowing that on the other side was London, where she would find Number 12, Grimmauld Place.

***


Harry was lying on his bed in the Gryffindor boys’ dormitory. He had told Ron and Hermione that he would be studying for his NEWTs. His Potions book lay open beside him, and pages and pages of notes were tossed carelessly on top of it. In his hands was a picture of Ginny and him, arms around each other and laughing together.

A tear slipped down his cheek, and he bit his lip to keep from crying. Thoughts were racing through his head, chasing one another, haphazardly being contemplated. Another tear fell, and he shuddered as a chill swept through him. Suddenly his scar prickled, and he thought he could hear someone hissing, “So she’s dead, eh?”

***


Ron and Hermione sat together, staring at the fire in the Common Room. Their eyes followed the flickering dance of the flames, trying to keep all thoughts out of their minds. They weren’t the only ones in the Common Room, and most other students were sitting together just like them, subdued and sad. There was silence except for the flickering of the flames and the occasional rustle of papers as someone tried to study.

But everyone knew that it was all pretend, and that all they were thinking about Ginny Weasley’s death. No one moved or said anything, but they all knew. It was almost like a silent agreement that they all had decided not to talk about it.

Dean Thomas suddenly stood up and walked over to where Ron and Hermione were sitting. Slowly they looked up at him. “I – I think you should go check on Harry,” he said, so softly that it was almost a whisper. For a moment they just stared at him, then Ron got up and pulled Hermione with him. He gave Dean a strained smile and walked towards the dormitories. The steps seemed to echo around the Common Room, which followed their process as if captivated. Ron opened the door for Hermione and followed her through, closing it quietly behind him. He saw Hermione’s lip quiver and pulled her close to him.

***


Harry lay staring at the canopy of the bed above him, not seeing anything. The words replayed in his mind. So she’s dead... She’s dead... Dead... He was certain that it had been Voldemort who had said them, he knew the hissing voice only too well. But why had he heard Voldemort? Didn’t he know how to use Occlumency to his advantage? Or had he meant for Harry to hear?

Footsteps outside startled him, and he jumped up and grabbed his wand instinctively. The picture of Ginny floated to the ground, but he kept his eyes trained on the door. There was a soft knock and it was pushed open. Ron and Hermione entered, and looked slightly shocked at Harry’s ready position.

Harry fell back onto the bed, his wand cluttering to the floor. Ron and Hermione stood at the door, uncertain what to do. Harry sat up, resting his head in his hands. “What’s happened?” he whispered.

“Nothing, mate. W-we just wanted to check on you,” replied Ron quietly.

“I’m fine,” said Harry shortly, reaching down and picking up his wand and the picture.

“No.” Hermione was looking at him, her eyes full of concern. “You’re pale and you look sick. What happened?”

Harry glanced from her to Ron, then reached up to his forehead. They rushed to his bed and sat down on either side of him, looking at him anxiously.

“It – it was him. He was talking to someone... He said, So she’s dead, eh? And I thought... remember Occlumency? Well, wouldn’t Voldemort have mastered it by now? So I was thinking, either he wasn’t paying attention, or...”

“He wanted you to hear,” Hermione finished quietly. She sat still for a moment, then added, “Go to McGonagall. The Order has to know. Now.” She stood up, and Ron followed suit.

“Wait...” Harry said. “Do you know what this means? I’ve lost my family, Sirius, Dumbledore, and now Ginny. Whatever the proof, I don’t believe her death was an accident. I’ve lost so many people to Voldemort, and I’m afraid you two will be next. I can’t live knowing any moment might be your last. So please, do whatever you can to stay safe, and I’ll be able to sleep every night. Don’t ever lose focus and please, please be careful. I can’t lose you two as well.”

***


The first stars were blossoming in the evening as Ginny stumbled through the woods. She was scratched, cut, and bruised. Her hair was tangled and matted and tears streaked through the dirt coating her face. The pieces of her wand were clutched in her hand, and she was practically running through the brush. She had a horrible cramp in her side and her stomach ached of hunger. Somehow she knew that it wasn’t far now. If only she could get out of the woods before the night really started...

***


Harry followed Ron and Hermione through the Common Room and out the portrait hole. They hurried along the halls, almost running by the time they arrived at McGonagall’s office. Hermione knocked tentatively, and the Headmistress’s voice told them to enter.

Professor McGonagall was sitting at her desk, scrolls of parchment littering the wood. The three students approached her desk. She looked critically at each of them before Harry started talking.

“I was in the dormitory and my scar hurt again. I heard Voldemort, and he said ‘So she’s dead, eh?’ He must have been referring to Ginny. But two years ago, he had to use Occlumency against me because I kept seeing what he was up to. This time it was really faint. So I thought that either he was not paying attention, or he wanted me to hear. Hermione thought you should know.”

“Thank you for saying this, Mr. Potter,” she said gravely, watching him over the top of her spectacles. “I will think about this a little, and discuss it with the Order. If this happens again, please let me know. Also, I must ask you to go to Professor Dumbledore’s former office. The gargoyle has told me that it will open only to Harry Potter, so there must be something of importance for you there. Miss Granger, thank you for urging Potter to come. And Mr. Weasley, you cannot imagine how sorry I am for the loss of your sister.”

Ron nodded mutely, but Hermione glanced between her two friends before gathering the courage to speak. “Professor... Harry said that he believes Ginny’s death might not have been an accident. He thought Death Eaters got her. I think you could discuss this at the meeting too.”

McGonagall smiled slightly. “You have a good mind, Mr. Potter,” she said quietly.

***


Ginny stumbled, falling to her knees as her left foot entangled itself in a stray tree root. She pulled herself up and willed herself forward, pushing on, running. The stars and moon weren’t nearly bright enough to let her see the ground. But she kept running. The pain was building in her legs, and her arms felt heavy. Her head was spinning, and she felt feverish. All she could think was keep going, you’re almost there, keep going, almost there... But it wasn’t enough. Her lack of food and energy got the better of her, and she tipped over, the dark world around her swirling into blackness.

When she woke up, the darkness was fading. Gray light was taking the place of what had previously been dark black. Ginny pulled herself up, trying to run her hand through her hair, but entangling her fingers in a thousand knots. She coughed dryly, and her throat ached. Forcing herself forward, Ginny started walking. Somehow she knew that her situation was at its worst, and couldn’t get more horrible.

Hours later, she found that the trees were becoming thinner and more well-groomed. She came to a dirt path that was beaten through the bushes and she smiled. Not far now... she thought, walking on. She did not follow the path, but walked through the trees. The bushes were rapidly disappearing and the going became easier. Soon she was able to run. Finally, she could see though the trees into a well-kept green park. Laughing with relief, she hurried the last few feet and collapsed on the first park bench that she found.

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