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Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, or anything related to the Harry Potter universe, no matter how much I would like to. 

A/N Many thanks to the terminator at TDA for another fantastic chapter image!  I hope you  enjoy.


Lessons for Ginny and her classmates were, if possible, getting even worse. Especially in Muggle Studies and the Dark Arts. Just about everything was deemed punishable by the Death Eaters. Wrong answers were punished. Talking when not spoken to was punished. And sometimes even right answers were sneered at, if not accompanied by an insult. Ravenclaws were particularly prone to these taunts. Only Slytherins and favourites (who were very rarely from any of the other three houses) were awarded any lenience in regards to these punishments. The Death Eaters were extremely biased.


Nobody wanted to sit at the front of the room, and there were sometimes squabbles among students to secure those at the very back. Tardiness was always punished very severely, so being punctual, even if the lesson was truly horrific, was always better than being even a few minutes late. It sometimes made people wish they were knocked out in the hospital wing.


Ginny hesitated outside the Dark Arts classroom, which she could afford to do because she wasn’t late. Yet. She hadn’t been face-to-face with either of the Carrows since she lied about duelling with Colin. She just hoped that Madam Pomfrey didn’t spill on her and she would be able to get away with it. But she wasn’t too worried about it because Madam Pomfrey was strict on patient confidentiality, and Ginny knew that she was well-intentioned, so she could be trusted. Her loyalty to the school and its students greatly outweighed her fears of the Death Eaters.


Holding her breath, Ginny pushed open the heavy wooden door slowly. The room was dark and cold, as it was to be expected. The tell-tail touch of a Death Eater. It could turn even the Gryffindor common room into an unpleasant place.


In the few weeks the Death Eaters had had control of Hogwarts, they had definitely made their impact on the age-old school. Ginny swore the winter was colder than it had been in previous years. The fires didn’t seem as warm, though the house elves were trying their best. Nobody wanted to mingle in the corridors anymore, everyone strangely preoccupied about being on time to class, even for Care of Magical Creatures. Students could no longer talk in private without the fear of being overheard. The Christmas decorations in the Great Hall didn’t seem as spectacular as before. There was no mistletoe hanging from the ceilings in the corridors, with or without Nargles. To top this all off, there was no Quidditch to take everyone’s minds off things, even just for a few hours.


The Carrows obviously didn’t have two brain cells between the two of them, but there must’ve been some Death Eaters out there, namely Snape, who had a brain. Twisted, warped and evil, but it was a brain. Because their plan was working. They had the children under their thumb, and under the childrens’ thumbs were their parents. If they could do this in a few short weeks, who knows what they could do in the long term, should the war continue?


All in all, Ginny couldn’t wait to get home.


When the list went around for who would be staying at Hogwarts over the Christmas holidays, nobody even went near it. It was possibly the first time in history the school would be completely cleared of students for Christmas. Even when the Chamber of Secrets had been opened and the then-thought mass murderer Sirius Black was on the loose, a few students had always stayed. But not this year.


“Are you going to just stand there or are you going to move?” spat someone behind her.


She turned to glare at Joey Peterson, a sour Slytherin who was unfortunately in the same Dark Arts class as her.


            “No, I thought this side of the door was much better than the other,” she told him, crossing her arms across her chest.


He silently challenged her, staring into her eyes. She stared right back, refusing to back down and look away. In the end, after a fierce battle of the death glares, he finally looked away and pushed past her roughly, taking care to knock her painfully in the shoulder. She refused to follow him in until the room had filled a little more, though was still able to find an acceptable seat in the back corner.


            “What’re you so happy about?” Colin asked, dumping his books on the table beside her and falling into a chair.


            “I was just thinking about how much I’m looking forward to this lesson,” she answered sarcastically.


Colin laughed, grabbing her hand and kissing it.


            “I was thinking the same thing,” he whispered, his eyes sparkling.


Ginny’s heart was hammering in her chest. She smiled weakly and pulled her hand away gently. Colin sighed and started to say something when Amycus Carrow walked in. He shut his mouth immediately, scared of punishment should he continue. The room fell silent as the hunched man glared around the classroom. He took the register, and as usual, everyone was there and very much on time. He seemed a little disappointed before he started his lecture on the Crutiatus curse.


He was looking for someone to pick on. He always was. Everyone had their heads down, scribbling furiously and trying to hang onto every word he said, for fear that they would be called on next. Even Peterson flinched when asked the correct pronunciation of the incarnation for the Crutiatus curse. Of course, that was an insanely easy question. Ginny was asked to quote the exact year the curse was invented.


The rest of the lesson dragged on painfully. At least four students had received gashes or bruises after not being able to answer Carrow’s questions correctly. Ginny was sure he would’ve enjoyed giving someone detention, but no one gave him any motive to. When the bell went, he let them go reluctantly, giving them a three foot essay on the Crutiatus curse due for the next day. Ginny headed towards the Great Hall for lunch with Colin, curing Carrow’s very existence.


            “When do you suppose the next meeting will be?” Neville asked casually as he and Ginny sat in the library a week before the Christmas holidays. “You haven’t called one for quite a while.”

Ginny sighed, setting aside her quill. She had meant to finish her Transfiguration essay that afternoon, promising herself that she wouldn’t leave the library until it was finished. However, she had been meaning to talk to Neville for quite a while.


            “I don’t think I can do this on my own anymore,” she said softly, staring at her ink blotted hands. “And it’s not because of Him, either,” she added quickly.


            “I wasn’t going to say it was,” Neville answered, perplexed. “But you’re doing fine as it is. What’s with the change of mind? Is anything wrong?”

            “Everything’s wrong. Everything’s wrong, Neville,” Ginny spat suddenly, slamming the palms of her hands into the wooden desk, tipping over her bottle of ink. “This whole lousy situation is wrong.”

Her eyes were quickly filling with tears as Neville cast a hurried Muffliato charm and siphoned away the spilt ink. Madam Pince was lurking behind a nearby bookshelf, appearing moments later and giving them an untrustworthy glance. However, finding that they were doing nothing wrong, she moved on.


            “Ginny…” Neville started, but she turned away from him, quickly wiping away the tears.


She wouldn’t cry. She couldn’t cry. Not in front of Neville.


            “Damn it, Neville,” she cried. “I'm sixteen. I just can’t cope with this right now. You're of age. You're good at defence. Why don’t you lead them? Why me?”


Neville had gone very red, and was muttering something about ‘not good enough’ and ‘don’t know what to do’. Ginny was furious.


            “LOOK AT ME NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM!” she yelled, jumping out of her seat, catching him by surprise and gripping both sides of his face to force him to look at her. “You are good enough. Don’t you dare try to deny it.”


This action may have looked strange to any bystander spying from behind a bookshelf, watching Ginny bellowing at Neville quite openly, but not being able to hear what she was saying, but she didn’t care. She just wanted Neville to understand where she was coming from.


            “You’re already leading them,” she told him, shaking his shoulders roughly. “They look up to you. Look around every now and then. See them. They respect you, Neville.”


Neville was speechless, opening and closing his mouth stupidly.


            “Well… well what if… what if I don’t want to do it?” he asked eventually, sticking out his chest in defiance.


            “That,” she said, poking him hard in the chest. “Is not up to you.”


With that, she swung her school bag haphazardly over her shoulder, grabbed her half finished essay and left the library, leaving some of her books and a broken inkpot on the desk beside a spluttering Neville.


Ginny strode down the dark, empty corridor towards the Gryffindor common room; feeling rather pleased with herself having got that off her chest. She had finally told him what she had been meaning to say for such a long time. As she had told him back in her fourth year, he wasn’t a nobody. 


She had been so caught up in her thoughts, she didn’t hear the footsteps until she had turned the corner sharply and ran headlong into a person walking in the opposite direction. She stumbled backwards, the contents of her bag spilling all over the stone floor. The person caught her arm as she began to fall, and she looked up into the sneering face of Severus Snape.


Her head exploded in panic. She had run into the Headmaster. Stuff that, she had run into Dumbledore’s murderer. A bloody Death Eater, for Merlin’s sake.She muttered a hurried apology and tried to shove her books back into her bag so she could get away as quickly as possible, then realising the bag had split.


            “You'd better watch where you're going, Weasley,” Snape drawled disinterestedly, watching her on the ground. “Now that Potter’s gone…”


He huffed and continued on his way, stepping impatiently over her Transfiguration textbook. In spite of herself, Ginny found herself staring incredulously after him. What did Harry have to do with anything? Why did he even bother bringing that up at all?


Then suddenly it clicked. Well… maybe not Snape’s remark, but she now understood Fred’s clue, if it was meant to be a clue at all. The deluminator. Dumbledore’s will. Harry. The sword of Godric Gryffindor…


Stumbling to her feet, she grabbed her broken bag and sprinted towards the Ravenclaw common room. She needed to speak to Luna.


            “I still don’t see the significance of this sword,” Neville sighed as he sat with Ginny and Luna.


They were in an empty classroom up on the sixth floor, out of the prying eye of the rest of the school and, more importantly, the teachers. The classroom looked as though it hadn’t been in use for quite a while, its tables and chairs pushed back against the wall and only a teacher’s desk stood at the front of the room. Behind it was a very dusty blackboard.


            “Neither do I, but it must be important if Dumbledore left it to Harry in his will,” Ginny said defensively, tapping her wand nervously against her thigh, sending sparks flying.


            “Well if it is so important, why not involve the rest of the army? Why just us three?”


            “Because she doesn’t want everyone to know she’s still in love with Harry,” Luna explained, cutting in.


Ginny spluttered, staring incredulously at her friend. Where did that come from?


            “It’s not that!” she cried. “It’s too dangerous to have everyone in on it. We can’t keep risking everyone. I’d do it on my own if I could.”


            “How do you know that for sure?” Neville asked Luna, ignoring Ginny.


            “Because she’s annoyingly perceptive, that’s why,” Ginny spat, cutting in again ahead of Luna, annoyed that she was being ignored.


            “It’s blatantly obvious,” Luna said in a matter-of-fact way.


Ginny glared at her again, even though deep down she knew Luna was completely right.

              “Luna doesn’t have to be ‘annoyingly perceptive’ to know something’s going on,” Neville sighed. “Everyone knows it. Even Colin. So why are you still screwing him around?”


Caught completely off guard, Ginny choked, Neville watching quietly as Luna rubbed small soothing circles on her back to ease her breathing.


            “What makes you say that?” Ginny spluttered.


            “Don’t be ignorant, Ginny,” he snapped, sliding off the desk he was sitting on. “Colin is head over heals for you, and you haven’t noticed? Are you stupid or just blind?”


Ginny was incredibly hurt; there was no other way to put it. Without a word, she got up from her chair and left the room. It was like she was walking in a dream. Never had she expected those words to be spoken out loud, much less by a person whom she considered as a friend. Her fears had been realised. Her dreaded thoughts spoken. Three hearts hung in the balance.


There was no question that she still loved Harry, but he had shattered her heart when he left. She was certain he would return to her some day, but she didn’t know how long it would take him. When she was with Colin, however, her heart seemed to be temporarily patched. She was able to relax, melt into his arms, and act like nothing was wrong. Pretend her family wasn’t constantly in mortal peril. Pretend Death Eaters hadn’t taken control of Hogwarts. Pretend she wasn’t scared.


Either way, two hearts had to be shattered. One would no doubt be hers, however only one of the boys would escape whole, depending on which one she chose. Should she wait for the boy who left her to go on a dangerous mission that could claim his life, or go for the boy who was there for her in her time of need, willing and loving? She didn’t want to choose, but she knew that some day in the near future she would be forced to make a decision.


Harry or Colin?


She wandered along the corridor in a daze. She didn’t know where she was going, and only stopped when an arm grabbed hers.


            “Look, Ginny,” Neville panted. He must have run. “I’m sorry. It’s just the stress we’re under at the moment. It makes me say tactless things. I didn’t mean it in that way. I just don’t want any of you to get hurt.”


She looked into his pleading eyes, and she believed him. Neville was such a timid person, and though he had come out of his shell quite a lot, Ginny knew that she shouldn’t have reacted in such a way when he had only spoke the truth.


            “I should be the sorry one,” she whispered, putting her head in her shaking hands. “I just didn’t realise how stupid I was being.”


            “Come on,” he urged her, grabbing her hands and twirling her around to face him. “Are we going to get that sword or not?”

A/N I didn't really like this one.  Please tell me how I could improve it.  Is the last bit a little too dramatic?  Feedback is good. Oh yeah. How do you like the chapter images on the previous chapters? I think they’re pretty awesome…

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