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Disclaimer JKR gets the credit – characters, settings, etc. is all hers. Anything you recognize is probably not mine. The Goulds are mine though.

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Chapter 16: To Believe


Ron froze, his hand resting against the door. “What did you say?” he asked, his voice deathly quiet.

Ginny looked around at the Goulds and Kingsley, who were watching, looking both horrified and relieved at the same time.

She turned to face Ron and stood straight. “I said I can walk by myself, Ron,” she told him, trying to calm down her beating heart.

“No, after that,” he snapped, watching her with a guarded expression.

“It’s Ginny, not Monica,” she repeated, looking him straight in the eye.

Ron’s ears reddened and without warning his hand flew out and slapped her across the face. “Don’t you dare insult me about my sister!” he yelled, furious.

Ginny’s eyes watered in pain, and she stared at him, at a loss for words. “Ron, you – ”

“Shut up!” he yelled, his face reddening now too. “Just – just shut up! I don’t care! You pretended to – to be on our side and then you insult me about – about Ginny and – and how dare you!”

She held his furious gaze for a few seconds, then turned to the door and marched out, head held high. What had she expected? Not this, for sure. Had she automatically thought that Ron would believe her? No, said a little voice in the back of her mind. You didn’t think at all.

She sighed, now following her brother along a corridor that looked somewhat like a basement. The tears that had sprung to her eyes when Ron had hit her fell, one by one. This wasn’t how she was supposed to tell them! She’d take the Veritaserum, yes, and then they’d know…

Ron stopped so suddenly that Ginny walked right into him. “Sorry,” she muttered, reaching up to touch her still burning cheek. It felt somewhat warmer than usual.

He ignored her, fumbling with a lock on the door that they were facing. She noticed that his ears were still red. He finally managed to unlock the door, though his hands were shaking violently. He pulled it open and pushed her in, snapping it shut behind her.

Ginny found herself at one end of a long, wooden table. There were three chairs on each side and one on each short end. All but two chairs were occupied. Her eyes traveled around the table, briefly meeting Lupin’s, Moody’s, McGonagall’s, Tonks’s, Hermione’s, and finally Harry’s eyes. They were all watching her with a sort of calm anger. Her heart resumed its frenzied pounding, and she felt her hands start shaking. Since when did they hate her so much?

“Sit down,” said McGonagall shortly, nodding at the chair closest to Ginny.

Ginny sat. Silence. She looked around nervously, trying not to start crying again. They all watched her, as if waiting for her to say something.

Just when she couldn’t take it anymore, the door behind Ginny opened again. She twisted around to look at who was coming in. Kingsley, Joseph, and Jenna holding Ellie entered, followed by Ron who locked the door. Ron motioned the four of them into a few vacant chairs along the wall, which had strangely colored bubbles glowing around them. The instant they sat down, the bubbles contracted into ropes that wrapped around their legs.

Ginny’s hands started shaking. Mrs. Weasley came into the room from a door on the other end, holding five goblets of clear liquid. Mr. Weasley followed her, holding a book and quill. He sat down in a chair against the wall and looked coldly at Ginny. She felt a lump rise in her throat. No one should have to get that kind of a look from their own father! she thought. Her mother set one goblet in front of her and moved towards the Goulds and Kingsley. They took theirs without a fuss, Ellie looking terrified.

“Veritaserum,” said a quiet voice. Ginny looked around to find Hermione watching her. “It makes a person tell the truth. You helped make this potion, Monica. Did you ever think it might be used against you?”

“No,” Ginny replied truthfully. “And it’s still not Monica.” Ron’s face reddened again. She locked her eyes onto his, raised the goblet to her lips, and took a long sip. A most peculiar sensation started spreading through her. She felt a wonderful, warm feeling at the thought of telling the truth. She felt repulsed at the idea of lying, and she was absolutely disgusted with herself for what she had done the past year.

Still holding Ron’s gaze, she felt a small smile spread across her face and finished her sentence. “It’s Ginny.”

He stared back at her, eyes wide in disbelief and shock. The silence was heavy and seemed to stretch forever before Kingsley cleared his throat. Everyone turned to look at him to see him swallow some of the Veritaserum as well.

“What do you mean? What do you mean, about Ginny? Monica… Ginny… they’re… what do you mean?!” Harry demanded angrily.

Kingsley looked at Ginny, who was watching Harry nervously. Her eyes flicked to his and she sighed. Her expression said clearly, go ahead. Her secret was out. Almost afraid, she took her eyes off of Harry as Kingsley started talking to look at everyone else.

Hermione was staring at her with astonishment. Her hand rested in Ron’s and Ginny saw that it was slowly turning purple as Ron squeezed it. She caught Ron’s eyes again and saw that they were filled with tears and hurt. She looked away, fighting a rising lump in her throat. Looking up again she saw Tonks watching her, frowning. Remus was looking at her calmly, seeming somewhat nonplussed. Moody was looking at her with such disbelief and distrust written all over his face that she couldn’t help but let a silent sob escape her. McGonagall was looking at Kingsley, who was explaining Ginny’s story. She didn’t care to listen. Her eyes sought out her parents. Her mother was leaning against her father, tears running down her face. Ginny’s breath caught in her throat. She turned back to Kingsley and saw the pained expression on his face as he talked. Looking back at Harry she realized why. Her heart jolted as she looked into his brilliant green eyes, which now contained no love or friendship for her, but horrible, inescapable anger.

Ginny drew in her breath, shocked. Why was Harry so angry with her?

“You think that I will believe this?” Harry hissed, fists clenched. He rounded on Kingsley again, this time with his wand firmly in his hand. “You think that I will believe that Monica is Ginny? How stupid do you think I am? I loved her! I loved Ginny! I was at her funeral! I saw her, dead! You can’t bring a person back to life! And now you want me to believe this story? I thought I was past the age of silly fairy tales.” And before Ginny or anyone else could stop him, he stormed from the room.

“Ginny…” Kingsley said quietly, uncertainly. There was a hint of nervousness in his voice.

She turned back to face the rest of them, humiliation and shame burning in her cheeks as tears flowed freely from her eyes.

“You lied to us,” came an accusing voice from across the room. “If you’re really Ginny, then you lied to us! Why?”

It was Hermione. She looked more hurt than Ginny had ever seen her.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I did it to keep you safe.”

“What?” asked Ron. “You’re not my sister Ginny. I know Ginny. She wouldn’t have done this.” Hermione placed a hand on his arm, but he ignored her. “My sister Ginny would have stayed with us no matter what. She wouldn’t have left us to keep us safe. Whatever happened in the Chamber – she’d have ignored it. She cared so much for us! She’d never have left us. It was her spirit that kept us sane for so long. She wouldn’t have left willingly, no matter what. She would have cared for us.”

Ginny looked back at her brother for a moment before realising that he was right. Why had she done this? It wasn’t like her! Had she been too blind to see what would really happen… or had she just not wanted to? Her vision blurred as another wave of tears engulfed her and she managed to choke out, “I’m sorry…” before falling into a pair of strong, comforting arms. She looked up and saw her mother, tears running down her face as well. “Mum…” she whispered.

“Ginny… I know my daughter,” she replied, wrapping Ginny in her arms.

As Ginny relaxed against her mother, she heard a soft stream of comforting words flowing from her lips. Through her tears, a slight smile slipped onto her face as she realized that her mother understood.

Mrs. Weasley turned back to the rest of the Order with tears in her eyes a few minutes later, Ginny’s face still buried in her hair. They looked at her expectantly, and she nodded, saying in a strong voice that nevertheless quivered slightly, “It’s her.”

***


Ginny hardly remembered what happened after that. All she was aware of was a wave of confusion. People were arguing madly. After a few minutes, she found herself being dragged from the room to face the rest of the Order. Faces upon blurry faces stared at her in shock and questions and accusations rained down on her head. She clung tightly to her mother, still crying, answering nothing, trying to ignore it all. When she finally came back to her senses, she was sitting in the kitchen with a bottle of butterbeer in front of her. Her mother was setting the table for five people. Looking around, she saw Kingsley, Joseph, and Jenna holding Ellie, who looked like she was about to die of fright.

“What’s going on?” she managed to choke out. Her throat felt strangely dry.

The others looked at her. “We’re about to have dinner,” Jenna answered finally.

“And – and what happened… earlier?” she asked, half afraid and half eager to know.

“Are you sure you don’t want to wait and see?” asked Kingsley nervously. He was fidgeting. He never fidgeted. This wasn’t good.

“Just tell me,” Ginny replied, her voice shaking slightly. Her mouth was dry and she took another sip of butterbeer, her heart pounding painfully. She wished it would relax.

“McGonagall believes us,” Joseph started, “and so do Moody, Remus, and Tonks. Almost everyone else is trying to accept it. They’re – they’re shocked. They know it’s the truth but they can’t accept it yet. It’s too much for them,” he finished.

“Did you tell them everything?” she asked quietly, not sure what to think.

“Yes,” answered Kingsley. “Everything that happened between Bill and Fleur’s wedding and now. They’ll have to accept it sometime.”

“Is – is Ron terribly angry?” Ginny asked nervously.

“He’s in shock. He doesn’t know what to think,” Jenna replied. “You should probably talk to him after dinner.”

She nodded. “And Fred and George? Charlie? Bill?”

“Same,” Joseph said. “Only they’re taking it a bit better. They’re all a bit shocked, but they understand. The twins want you to visit them in the joke shop tomorrow.”

She couldn’t help smiling slightly. “And – and Harry?” she whispered.

Kingsley, Joseph, and Jenna exchanged nervous looks. At that moment, Mrs. Weasley returned with five bowls of soup floating along beside her. She set these down in front of all of them and gave Ginny a warm hug. “Oh, honey,” she whispered sadly in her daughter’s ear. “He’s in a terrible rage. He thinks… well, you’ll see soon enough. But he’ll understand. It may take a while, but he’ll understand.” Then she left, telling them all to eat up.

Almost mechanically, Ginny picked up her spoon and started eating. This was too much. Half the Order didn’t understand and Harry hated her. Why had she done this? It was so stupid! Almost angrily, she noticed that she was crying again. She slammed her spoon down on the table, splattering soup all over her napkin. She muttered something about being right back and got up and ran into the kitchen, pouring herself a glass of water that she dumped over her head. She welcomed the cool sensation. It cleared her head and she turned to the sink, staring at her reflection.

The girl had blonde hair and dark green eyes. She looked tired and sad. Her blouse was loose and pale blue with small flower designs sprinkled all over it. And as of a few minutes ago, it was absolutely drenched. Her jeans were slightly too big, held up by a leather belt. She looked somehow unfamiliar, and in that moment, Ginny hated her more than anything else in the world.

But even as she watched, the face began to change. Freckles bloomed across her nose and cheeks, the eyes turned brown, the blonde hair grew and grew steadily redder as if it was blushing. In a moment, everything stopped, and Ginny found herself staring at a face that she hadn’t seen in over a year – her own.

She felt tears stinging at her eyes. She let them flow. She leaned against the wall and started laughing, still staring at her reflection. Over her shoulder, she saw Jenna standing in the doorway, pocketing her wand. Ginny turned and rushed towards her. She enveloped her friend in a tight hug, feeling her red hair swing around her face. She was back. After a year, Ginny Weasley was back.

***


They ate the rest of the meal cheerfully. Ginny told them plans for what she would tell the rest of the Order, what she’d tell Ron, how she’d convince Harry that it was really her. Through it all, Ellie watched her in amazement. Ginny knew that she recognized her as the girl Kingsley had caught such a long time ago in the backyard. It must have been strange for Ellie to see Monica transform into her after such a long time.

They ate for what seemed like hours to Ginny. When her mother finally came back to clear the table, Ginny helped her. She washed the dishes by hand just to stand near her mother. When she was done, Mrs. Weasley told her to go up to Harry and Ron’s room.

Slowly she trudged up the stairs, nervous again. It had been so pleasant to stand by her mother, to be accepted, to be Ginny again. Would Ron take it as easily?

She came to the door and knocked quietly. There was the sound of rustling paper and then a few footsteps. The door opened.

It was Ron, and he was crying. His eyes were red and his hair was standing on end. He looked exhausted. He stared at her for a few moments, a tear trickling down his cheek. “I’m dreaming,” he whispered. “Tell me I’m dreaming. Tell me this never happened. Tell me you didn’t die!” He grabbed Ginny in a tight hug, nearly choking her. “Ginny, tell me you don’t know who Monica is! Tell me she doesn’t exist!”

Ginny cried into his shoulder, holding tightly to him. “Ron… you’re not dreaming. It happened, all of it. I’m sorry. You know that,” she replied. “But Monica does not exist. It was me the entire time.”

Ron broke away, smiling through his tears. “I’m sorry. I was just so angry. I couldn’t believe you. It was just – just too hard. But you’re really alive. Really here. And you were with us the whole time,” he said, collapsing at the table.

She sat beside him. “Yeah,” she confirmed. “I never did die. I’m sorry I even started this. I can – I can be so stupid sometimes,” she sighed.

To her surprise, Ron grinned. “That’s my Ginny,” he said, patting her on the head.

“Hey! How many times have I told you not to do that?!” she cried, slapping his hand away. But she was laughing.

“Not enough, obviously,” he replied.

For a while they just sat there in silence. Finally, Ron picked up the book he’d been reading before she came and showed it to her. “Ever read Hogwarts, a History?” he asked.

“Of course not,” she replied, grinning. “Listen, Ron, will you come to Fred and George’s with me tomorrow?” she asked, getting up again.

“Sure,” he replied, opening the book. As she was about to close the door, he called out, “Hermione’s in her room.”

Ginny, getting the hint, made her way there, trying to calm down. Ron had reacted pretty well, considering she had almost returned from the dead. She had never been so grateful – Ron being Ron, she’d thought that it would have been difficult to convince him.

She shivered; and turning she saw an open window. A breeze was floating through. She looked outside. It was autumn now – the trees were turning orange and loosing leaves. It was a beautiful sight. Ginny leaned out the window, taking a deep breath. This had always been her favorite season.

She heard a sharp intake of breath behind her and turned to see a very shocked Hermione staring at her as if she had just risen from the dead.

Ginny smiled, slightly uncertain. Would Hermione forgive her as easily as Ron had?

Hermione looked back at her. For a few minutes there was a heavy silence. Then Hermione shook her head, smiling. “Where’d you learn to act like that?” she asked proudly.

Ginny stared at her in disbelief. “What d’you mean?” she asked uncertainly.

“Never, in a full year, did I expect anything of this sort. Never, in a full year, did I have the slightest suspicions that you might not be dead. And not until recently did I suspect that Monica Gould was a disguise. How did you do it?” Hermione asked, looking at Ginny with something that she thought must have been pride and anger mixed together.

“I was determined,” Ginny replied.

For a moment the silence returned. Hermione seemed to be having some sort of internal debate with herself before finally bursting out, “I should be really angry at you, but I’m just glad you’re alive. Ginny, don’t ever do anything like that again!” she cried, pulling Ginny into a tight sisterly hug.

When they broke apart, Ginny looked seriously at Hermione. “It was a stupid thing to do. I’m – I’m sorry,” she said.

Hermione nodded. “Did you talk to Ron?” she asked concernedly.

“Yeah,” Ginny replied. “He was actually pretty, well, pretty relaxed considering… what happened. I expected him to be more angry, I guess.”

“Oh, Ginny, I’m so sorry,” Hermione said, biting her lip, “but it’s – it’s Harry that’s angry. He’s furious. He thinks – he thinks you’re still trying to trick him. It’s his thing about everyone close to him dying. He’s convinced that you’re dead, and nothing any of us have done has done any good. And the day after tomorrow, if Lupin returns as planned, we’re going to have to go destroy the last Horcrux, and oh Ginny, I don’t know how we’ll do it with him like this!” she finished desperately.

It was what Ginny had been afraid of. Harry didn’t believe them, Veritaserum or no Veritaserum. He was just so stubborn! Once he’d decided on something, it had to stay that way no matter what, and so on and so forth. Ginny clenched her fists. This time, Harry was really starting to annoy her. Couldn’t he, just for once, allow himself to be happy? Did he always have to be the hero?

“He’s scared, Ginny,” said Hermione, bringing her back to the present. “I think that’s it. I think he’s scared of letting himself believe that you’re still there. Because if he let himself believe you were there, and then you weren’t, it would double the disappointment. He’s afraid of losing you again.”

Ginny held her friend’s gaze for a moment, nodding slowly. “He’s scared,” she agreed. “I understand that. But how can I make him see that he’s wrong?”

“You can’t. He’ll have to do that by himself,” Hermione replied. “You can only wait, do your best, and hope.”

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