Disclaimer: I disclaim (I find I am running out of interesting things to write about in these disclaimers… sorry. Does anyone even read these anyways?)
Chapter Four: Defense Against The Dark Arts
Still giggling from their bout, the girls magicked the feathers away, and Tafariah tried her hand at conjuring pillows. Six perfectly plump pillows floated into place on the three beds, and they hurried down the common room stairs.
Ginny felt quite content with Ebony and Tafariah by her side. When the girls weren't being bitches, they were actually quite fun to be with, she mused, as they ambled arm in arm through the hallways.
The Great Hall, and lunch, beckoned.
Sitting in the middle of the Gryffindor table, the girls heaped their plates with mouthwatering dishes.
Through bites of her chicken sandwich, Ebony filled Tafariah in on her disastrous Muggle Studies class, and Tafariah shared her story of Charms.
"So after the bell rang, Professor Flitwick asked me to stay after class so he could go over some spells he's having me practice for extra credit, and then he couldn't find his grade book, and we couldn't use any Conjuring Charms obviously, otherwise students could just flick, and there, they'd have all the grades-," with an exasperated cough from Ebony, Tafariah hurried to the point.
"Anyways, we had to manually search for it. By the time I got out of there everyone was either in the dorms or at lunch. I was walking to the Tower to put my bag away, and I passed by the fifth floor corridor, you know, where Fred Weas-"
Suddenly Tafariah faltered, obviously registering that she was talking to Ginny. She bit her lip, looking away ashamedly, and a horribly awkward silence settled over the group.
"Shit, Ginny," Tafariah eventually whispered. "I'm sorry... I-"
"Hey, it's fine." Ginny spoke briskly.
At the mention of Fred's name, her chest had tightened and a familiar lump in her throat had risen. She had soon noted, however, that it wasn't incredibly painful to hear his name. Yes, she still missed her elder brother terribly, but now there was a definite feeling of warmth in her heart. Fred had gone much too early from the world, but he died happy, fighting for a worthy cause. A satisfying smile of pride grew on her face.
"It's fine, because I bet he'd be proud. You know, because he died fighting against Voldemort."
Ebony and Tafariah, still bounded by the uncomfortable constraints of the conversation, could only observe in silence. Ginny, however, felt limitless. She had become gradually aware over the last few months that the implicit reality and sorrow of Fred's death had lessened, but she had never really understood it until now.
Looking around the Great Hall, she fully grasped the magnitude of what had occurred in the sheltered walls of Hogwarts. Shaking herself back into the present, she focused on the two girls perched anxiously in front of her.
"Really, Taf. Please continue," Ginny said sincerely.
Tafariah, still looking tense, hesitatingly started again.
"Well, I was at the- the fifth corridor. Um…" Staring at her hands, she took a deep breath and continued.
"And, well. Both of you know that after the Battle last year, McGonagall and the teachers did everything they could to repair the castle. But there was so much Dark magic that not everything could be fixed… and there's that smashed wall in the fifth corridor where a curse hit, you know? So I was walking along, no one was around, and all of a sudden I heard this whining noise. I investigated…"
Here Tafariah leaned in close and furtively whispered, "And it turns out it was Martha Fittleworth! She was leaning against the wall just sobbing quietly… Of course, I didn't want to intrude so I turned and left, but I think she may have seen me."
All three turned to the Hufflepuff table and searched the fourth years, but there was no sign of the curly haired girl.
Martha's sister Amelia had been hit with several spells simultaneously during the battle, had become instantly immobile, and had been carted off to St. Mungo's.
Later, Hogwarts had been informed that the girl had started thrashing and flailing, the repercussions of a seemingly harmless combination of a particularly nasty Dark curse and a Shield Charm. Her condition stayed volatile for the next few days, shifting from a comatose state to writhing convulsions. The Healers could not wake her, despite their best efforts.
Her parents were agonizing over the grim decision of whether or not to terminate their daughter's life support when a Healer rushed in with the news that their daughter had collapsed, lifeless, after a final seizure. It was a tragic, mystifying event, of which none at Hogwarts could understand.
Tangible, definite evidence of death, Avada Kedavra, the Killing Curse- that could be comprehended, like the murders of Cedric Diggory and the Potters.
But Amelia's passing delved into the complex, primordial aspects of magic, which the Wizarding World had never quite grasped. This strange reaction of a protective spell and an incursive one had only ever happened once before: Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived. His mother's sacrifice shielded him from Voldemort's attempted murder. Yet Amelia did not survive her ordeal, and intellectuals and commoners alike came to the conclusion that because the Shield Charm was not offering up one's mortality, it did not foil death in the way that Lily Potter's sacrifice had.
Martha had not returned to school after her sister's funeral, and as Ginny was not close with the girl, she hadn't even seen her when she returned. There had been plenty of talk after the Battle of Hogwarts, but Ginny had moved through those last few weeks in a daze, so she had heard none of the rumors circulating.
Obviously, Martha must have been devastated to have her sister not only die, but to go through a horribly drawn out, painful process. With a grimace, Ginny remembered that she had yet to talk to Dennis.
The girls finished their meal in hushed conversation. The discussion was mostly about the various students who had lost family members, like Martha, and now had returned to Hogwarts.
Ginny, taking the last bites of her brownie, turned the dialogue towards their first D.A.D.A. class that afternoon.
Glowering, Ebony muttered, "I've asked other students. They won't say a word. Just kind of gape and scurry away."
Tafariah hadn't been able to discover anything either.
Wishing each other luck and rising from the table, the girls parted for their various classes after lunch with a pressing feeling of trepidation.
Ginny's walk through the gardens to Herbology was outwardly pleasant. The noon sun shone happily on the bobbing figures of students hurrying off to classes.
Madam Hooch was leading a group of first years off to the Quidditch Pitch, and a large mob of fourth years were meandering down the twisted path to Hagrid's newly resurrected hut and their Care of Magical Creatures class. The pumpkins were barely visible in the garden, and the air carried the scent of grass and wildflowers, the last hurrah of summer.
Ginny noticed none of this. She was preoccupied with the concept of her D.A.D.A. class that afternoon, and with each step the ball of tension in her stomach grew more tangled, snarling. The familiar whiff of earth and greenery could only quell her worry for a moment, and as she took her spot next to Luna, it twisted around her organs once again.
Pulling on her gloves, Ginny half-heartedly listened to Professor Sprout's welcome and explanation. It was only when Luna nudged her sharply as she left to grab an Angel's Trumpet from the pile in the front of the greenhouse that Ginny became aware of her surroundings and the plump professor's concerned face in hers.
"Miss Wealey? Really, Miss Weasley! Daydreaming on the first day of class... Well, hurry up, hurry up! Wouldn't want Miss Lovegood to take all the good Brugmansia, now, would we?"
Agitated, Ginny hastily grabbed three branches from the tub and returned to her spot. Luna was already squeezing out the sap into a small bowl. It smelled rather odd, like decaying fish and mint toothpaste.
Holding back a gag, Ginny slit open the root and watched as the clear liquid drained out. Next, she carefully chopped the stem into strips lengthwise (without touching them with her bare skin because they were poisonous) and laid them out on the table, drenched in the lazy sun, to dry.
The leaves she chopped so finely they were almost like dust, and when Eleanor Branstone sneezed, a number of students' piles blew up into the air, settling into cracks and grooves and several people's hair.
It was only when Professor Sprout, occupied with the cries of people who had the stinging powder blown into their eyes, had turned away that Luna and Ginny could talk.
Ginny recounted Tafariah's tale in the fifth floor corridor and Ebony's experience in Muggle Studies. She had just finished explaining to Luna about the unusual silence of the younger students after Malfoy's class when the bell rang from the castle.
Swiftly turning to her friend, Ginny stared into large aquamarine eyes that were as uneasy as Ginny imagined hers looked. Her friend could do no more than grip Ginny's hand tightly for a moment, and then the two parted.
Ginny, her bag swinging violently at her side, dashed up the steps to the Bell Tower and pushed her way through the growing crowd. Suddenly her bag caught on a corner and spilled.
Books, with pages ruffling, arced fluidly until gravity took hold. Parchment glided around the students' heads, and ink bottles soared gracefully through the air before fatally plummeting to the stone floor.
If Ginny hadn't been the victim of this mishap, she might have found the sight comical. The majestic flight of her bag along with her frantic motions to clean it up gave the onlookers some entertainment.
Merlin, this was the second time today her bag had spilled!
When she had gathered the majority of her things, she pushed past the thinning crowd in the hallway and continued on her way with flushed cheeks, the ever present knot of worry in her abdomen only growing tighter.
Her mind was rushing so fast that it was difficult to distinguish even a single thought, and she was vaguely aware that she kept tripping over her feet. In moments that seemed to stretch on for eons and at the same time passed almost instantly, she was sprinting up a staircase that would lead her to the third floor.
As it lethargically detached from its current landing and groaned its way across, Ginny pummeled the handrail, hollering insults as its leisurely pace. Various portraits, observing the seventh year creating a scene, shouted advice as well as reproached her for acting so foolish.
Ginny paid them no mind, and as soon as the staircase touched the landing, she pushed past the group of terrified first years and bolted down the corridor. Turning sharply around the corner, she saw the large door to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom close with an irrevocable snap.
It was funny, Ginny noted somewhere in the deep of her subconscious, that only two hours ago she had been pummeling Tafariah carelessly with pillows and now she was about to enter her first N.E.W.T. level Defense Against The Dark Arts class tardy. With someone she loathed and feared at the same time teaching it.
She heard the bell ring faintly over the pounding of her heart against her ribcage.
She was late.
Draco Malfoy, his sharp, aristocratic features flickering in the pale candle light, gazed around at the faces peering up, specter-like, from their desks. He laughed inwardly, noticing their apprehensive expressions playing out on their countenances. Gryffindors were always so easy to read.
He smoothly hid his discomfort and anxiety in true Slytherin fashion, his mask sliding back into place, the cold flames elongating their fingers and wrapping him in their embrace. He was thankful for their protection. His students were obviously rather unnerved by them, and Draco believed they added an air of mystery to the classroom. The forbidding light also concealed the bags encircling his silvery eyes, results of last night's broken sleep.
He had dreamed fitfully and remembered waking, gasping loudly in his sweat soaked bed, but had forgotten the nightmares. They were not the typical ominous terrors that had plagued him with their horrible screaming mouths ever since his sixth year. This dream was different, a whisper of a faint future that he had stretched for pitifully upon waking before it was whisked away into the wind like smoke.
Hauling himself back into inhospitable reality, he turned swiftly on his heels and prowled around the perimeter of his shadowy lit classroom.
"This course," he stated, "will be unfamiliar to many of you. I am sure you will find this class unlike any you have taken before. In previous years you have been taught about Dark Creatures, Unforgiveable Curses, and have probably read too many chapters in Defensive Magical Theory than you care to remember."
Even as he had enjoyed the dictatorial reign of Umbridge (for during the height of its power, he possessed much authority over the other students) he was still required to take her class.
He did not fondly remember it.
A slight strained pause as he returned to his podium, then: "The Dark Lord was-"
A creaking, groaning noise came from the back of the room as if to interrupt his speech with a superior point of its own.
All eyes turned and watched the door heave open as Ginny Weasley tried with all her might to quietly enter the classroom undetected. She soon realized that her plan had utterly failed, noting the many Gryffindors- her peers- twisted at unnatural angles to get a glimpse of the intruder.
Malfoy stared in anomalous silence as the girl pulled her courage together and straightened her shoulders. Her obstinate walk to the front of the classroom took a while, and by the time Draco realized she was standing below him expectantly, slow murmurs of unease were darting around the chamber.
Startled, he gaped for a few moments before shaking off his uncharacteristically baffled daze.
He thought he discerned a breath of a smirk cross the girl's lips before they were placed back in their indifferent position, brown eyes deep with nonchalance… and something else. A question, perhaps?
Maybe this Gryffindor has a Slytherin mask as well.
Aware of the disquieting pressure suspended across the room, he pulled his gaze from her mesmerizing eyes and flipped open the leather-bound grade book that rested pretentiously on the podium.
Leafing through, he found the attendance list and moved to make a mark under Ginevra Weasley's name, but suddenly paused, a hint of his old sneer playing across his face.
"Miss… Weasley, was it?" He asked the question without lifting his head and his voice was smooth, like chocolate.
The girl flinched slightly, her eyes boring holes into the platinum tresses. Draco knew without a doubt what she was feeling- You know who I am! He could practically feel the vexation pouring from her, livid and fierce.
Of course he knew who she was.
Had he not tormented her all those years ago? Here, in these very hallways! He remembered one of the first times he had seen her- in that shop on Diagon Alley, what was the name? Flourish & Blotts? What a long time ago that was.
And then she was at school. He recalled catching glimpses of the little first year in the hallways, clutching that black book of Father's in her arms protectively.
Vaguely, he wondered what had become of it.
In his fourth year, he caught sight of an older Ginny, waltzing and laughing in that fool Neville's arms.
Fifth year. Her assertive execution of the Bat-Bogey Hex in Umbridge's office. Rumors of the group of them at the Ministry, a mutter about the Department of Mysteries…
Sixth year (oh, that had been an agonizing one), a look of merriment on her pretty face after Quidditch practice, arm and arm with Dean Thomas. Then suddenly, clasping hands with Potter, grins on both their faces…
He wrenched his thoughts away from that despicable smile, a sour taste in his mouth.
Gripping the quill with probably more force than needed, he made a deliberate, bold mark under her name.
Feeling a sick sense of satisfaction but grudgingly remembering his obligation as a teacher, he turned his scrutiny to the girl still standing resolute in front of the podium.
"Well, Miss Weasley, would you please tell me why you are late, especially on the first day of class?" he asked with forced politeness, expecting a feeble excuse.
She opened her peach of a mouth, and out spilled the exact opposite.
"I was late because I didn't want to give you the satisfaction of controlling me, Malfoy."
The words fell like anvils to the floor, echoing against the stone walls of the classroom.
There was a sudden hush. It seemed the whole room, from the coarse curtains obscuring the windows to the slim, pallid candlesticks (which now seemed so foolish and juvenile), waited with bated breath.
Ginevra Weasley uttered the words with equal parts confidence and abhorrence, and Draco Malfoy understood that he was dealing with a true Gryffindor.
Well, two can play at that game, little Weasley.
Velvety pale lips parted and out fell emphatically pronounced words.
"Detention, Miss Weasley. Tomorrow night, 8 o'clock. Come to my office."
Oh, yes. Two can definitely play…
But only one can win.
A/N: Ah ha! I feel so evil leaving you with that. I will update soon, please R&R! Question: Do you feel like the chapters are too slow? I feel like the plot needs a little morsel of Energizer Bunny.