A thick mist clung to the ground, swirling around the scraggly trunks of the trees in the sparse wood. Up ahead, in the dark shadows of the moonless night, the sounds of someone gasping for breath and frantically running through the scrubby underbrush could be heard. Lights from a Muggle vehicle on a nearby road flared briefly through the trees as it passed. The mist glowed eerily and the silhouette of a young woman appeared.
"Help me!" she screamed as she put on a burst of speed in an attempt to reach the road and the possible aid of a Muggle passing by. "Somebody help me!"
Her cries startled an owl perched in a tree, and with a mournful sound, it spread its wings and soared away over the trees.
A burst of red light blazed through the trees, racing towards the retreating form of the woman. It slashed across the backs of her legs and sent her crashing to the forest floor. The air throbbed ominously as footsteps pounded towards the sobbing woman. She attempted to crawl away, still crying weakly for help even though the car had passed and the forest was once again plunged into darkness.
"No one can hear you," an indistinct male voice sounded beside her, flooding the woman with a bright light and she began to scream in earnest. His shadow loomed over her as he reached down to grab her long hair, tangled with twigs and leaves and wrenched her head back. Her cries filled the air as he moved around in front of her, pulling her to her knees by her hair as he did so.
Her breath came in ragged gasps, "No, no, no!"
"No!" twenty-three year old Ginny Weasley sat up in her bed, the sheets and bedcovers pooling around her waist. She shakily ran her hands over her face, smoothing the long, damp strands of her hair out of her eyes. Her soaking white nightdress clung to her body, and shoving the covers off completely, she slipped out of bed and stumbled over to the wash stand. Picking up the pitcher from the bottom shelf she poured the water within into the basin. Setting the pitcher down, she bent over the basin and splashed the cool water on her face several times before rising back up and allowing it to drip down her neck and the front of her nightdress.
Pulling the nightdress over her head, she dropped it to the floor and walked over to the window in her room and pushed it open. Standing naked in front of the open window, she sucked in deep breaths of the crisp, autumn air. The sun was just beginning to peek over the edge of the mountains that stood on the far side of the lake and she watched as the sky turned pink along the horizon fading upwards into the darkness where the stars still shone.
The stars she could see in the sky told her nothing, but she didn't need to read them to know she had just witnessed a murder. Whether it had already happened or was destined to, she could not be certain, but the sounds of the woman's cries still echoed in Ginny's mind. Shivering, she turned away from the window and pulled her dressing gown from the foot of her bed to wrap around herself.
It had been some time since she had had such clarity of vision, not that Ginny was complaining. She much preferred the small flashes of insight she received when she was near someone who had something eventful about to happen to them, either good or bad. If she wanted, she could open up the channels within her and read anyone anytime, but that was exhausting. As a child, she had experienced imprints of what her brothers and parents were thinking and feeling. Her mother had said that perhaps Ginny possessed some psychic ability, and when she attended Hogwarts, she could eventually take Divination to strengthen her gift. However, the start of her menstrual cycle the summer before Ginny began her third year at Hogwarts triggered something within her and suddenly she found herself not only accosted with the full brunt of her family's emotions, but clear visions of the future, as well.
Her first vision had come to her in a dream, much like the one she had just experienced and she had woken up screaming in the middle of the night. Her mother had soothed her as best she could and listened while Ginny blubbered over the horrific sight of witnessing a boy she didn't know being struck down by the Killing Curse. She hadn't known if it was real or merely a dream, but the shadowy images had been permanently burned into her mind.
Ginny had barely been able to function the remainder of the summer. Attempting to deal with the raging hormonal fluctuations of her own emotions, along with those of her brothers, and seeing flashes of future deaths brought on by the rapidly approaching war against Voldemort had left her reeling. Not to mention that she dreamed of the boy on a weekly basis. Try as she might, however, she could never clearly see who he was or the face of his attacker. All she sensed was the innate goodness of the boy and the immense evil that surrounded him.
She'd been dreading returning to Hogwarts, with good reason, but her parents had already spoken with Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall and they had arranged for her to study privately with the centaur, Firenze. Instead of taking Divination under Professor Trelawney, who Ginny had already decided was not only insane, but mostly a fraud, as well, she met with Firenze at the edge of the Forbidden Forest.
The first thing Firenze had taught her to do was to meditate. He had softly explained it was the best way to clear her mind of all the troubling thoughts and to focus on only one specific vision. With that thought currently in mind, Ginny sank to the round, braided rag rug that covered the centre of her room. Sitting cross-legged, she rested her hands lightly on her knees and closed her eyes. Taking deep breaths in, she reflected upon the dream once more, seeing the young woman’s retreating back. She had long dark brown or black hair, that nearly brushed her waist, and she was an average height.
Ginny stripped the surrounding forest and mist from her mind’s eye and focused on the woman’s aura. It swirled about her, faintly glowing a greenish-yellow, tinged with the red of fear with brief sharp flashes of light that told her the woman was a witch. Magic always sparkled like a lightning storm around magical being’s auras. The red in the woman’s aura grew as her attacker approached until it had engulfed the normal colour and the red throbbed, filling Ginny’s mind. It was all she could see, and was soon accompanied by the pain the young woman had already gone through and would go through at the hands of her attacker. Then he was there, surrounding her and the red turned to black.
Ginny hadn’t had a clear picture of him in the dream and could not read whether he was Muggle or magical, but she sensed his malice and his clear intent to have his way with the woman lying at his feet. The woman’s cries filled Ginny’s ears once again as she curled up in a ball, attempting to ward off her attacker with feeble bats of her hands.
Her eyes snapped open and she found herself curled up into a foetal position in the middle of the rug. Sunlight now streamed in from her still open window, and faint birdsong from the nearby forest carried through the air. With her channels of perception still open, she could faintly feel the castle coming to life around her as students and staff rose from their slumber. Closing her mind, she found herself alone with her own troubled thoughts of what had become of the woman and wondering if she would ever find out.
Rising, she walked to her vanity, and picked up a boar’s hair brush. Her wavy masses of flaming red hair hung to her waist, and taking a hank in her left hand, she began running the brush through it from the crown of her head to the end a hundred times. While meditation was good for focusing on specific images, brushing her hair was good at clearing her head of all visions. She continued the rhythmic brushing of each hank until her full head had been completed, her hair shone, and her mind was refreshingly blank. Knowing the disturbing vision had been set aside for the time being, Ginny deftly wove her hair into a thick plait, tying the end with a piece of yellow yarn before she retreated to the washroom to bathe and dress for the day.
Skipping breakfast in the Great Hall, she decided to head directly to her classroom, where she knew she would be able to brew a kettle of tea and kip a biscuit or two from the tin her mother had sent her just last week. Entering her classroom, which was situated where the previous Divination class had been at the top of the North Tower of Hogwarts, Ginny paused in the doorway. The first thing she had done when she had accepted the position of Divination professor was throw all the lace doilies, curtains, tablecloths and chiffon scarves Professor Trelawney had favoured into the rubbish bin. Instead, she had chosen to decorate her classroom with the comforts of home and patterned her classroom after the cosiness of her mother’s cramped kitchen at the Burrow.
Instead of lace doilies and tablecloths, homespun tablecloths adorned the twenty round wooden tables and colourful cushions sat upon the wooden chairs. Quilted curtains hung at the tall windows and fluttered in the slight morning breeze. A large iron kettle hung in the huge fireplace at the front of the room where Ginny’s desk resided. Even when she wasn’t teaching Tasseomancy, she always brewed a kettle of tea because she found the aroma relaxing and was fairly certain her students did, as well.
Walking to her desk, she waved her wand at the kettle, filling it with water before waving her wand once again to light the fire in the grate. Warm flames rose instantly, licking at the bottom of the kettle and Ginny settled into her desk chair, before pulling open a desk drawer and withdrawing her tea tin and her mother’s biscuits.
While the water was boiling, she glanced around her classroom and prepared the tables by waving her wand and arranging teapots and cups on each. Most of her third year students detested reading tea leaves, and Ginny had to agree that it was an imprecise art. However, it had its merits and aside from palmistry and tarot card reading, was the easiest introduction to Divination. While Professor Trelawney may have had many faults where it came to interior design and was not as gifted a seer, Ginny at least agreed with her syllabus of introducing the methods.
She was just pouring the water into her personal teapot, a sturdy, jade green pot with a Chinese Fireball dragon painted around it and the matching cup her brother, George, had given her after a trip to China, when her first class of the day began entering the room. They were third year Gryffindor and Hufflepuff students, a good combination, and their loud voices became hushed as they ascended the ladder leading to her class. She didn’t have many rules for her classroom, but she expected them to speak in hushed tones and attempt to listen to the world around them.
Firenze had taught her that not only could she learn from the visions she had, but she could also see many things from the past, present, and even future if she paid close attention to the her surroundings. She sipped her tea silently, observing her students as they took their seats. Most of the chatter was about the Hogsmeade trip planned for the upcoming weekend, and naturally, they all were excited about seeing the quaint village for the first time.
As was par for the course, the girls took the tables closest to Ginny, and looked at her expectantly. Whereas, the boys sat further back, hoping to go unnoticed and slide by and eventually receive a passing O.W.L. While not everyone could have visions, Ginny thought anyone could have the foresight to read tea leaves, palms, and tarot cards somewhat accurately, even surly boys.
She smiled over her students, picked up a potholder and took the kettle from its hook, before walking slowly about the class, pouring the water into the pots on the tables by hand.
“Today, we will be learning the art of reading tea leaves,” Ginny announced. “Any of you possess the ability to do this. The trick is to observe not only the message you think the leaves are telling you, but the drinker as well.”
There were grumbles from the boys and the titters of excitement from the girls. No doubt, the girls already had visions of the leaves foretelling future romances and the like. Ginny recalled the days when girls in school who took Divination spent hours reading each other’s palms and making up stories of what they hoped would happen. Ginny could have told them what was going to happen or, at least, given them a general idea if they had ever bothered to ask her. A few did, and some were happy with her predictions and others were not. She had even tried to foresee her own future in the romance department, but soon realized, while she could read others easily enough, she couldn’t read herself at all. Her future was a blank page, and try as she might, she could not see how her life was going to pan out.
“If you would, turn to page five of your textbooks, and look over the most common symbols found in Tasseography,” Ginny explained, and waited for her students to pull out their textbooks, Walking with Spirits: a Beginner’s Guide to Future Sight by Reza Singh. “When you are finished, drink your tea slowly, reflecting upon the one thing you most desire to know the answer to. Then give your cup to your partner and see what the leaves reveal.”
She finished pouring the water into the last pot at a table that contained two Hufflepuff boys who studiously had their noses stuck in their books, making a show of doing what they were told. If Ginny were honest, she looked forward to the boys’ predictions over the girls, because they were so entertaining. It never ceased to amaze her how differently boys thought than girls. While the girls would predict fairytale romances and the like, the boys tended to lean towards broken bones and illnesses, attempting to top each other with the number of gruesome injuries they could sustain. One boy last year had even predicted in great detail how his partner was going to break both his legs playing a game of Gobstones. Until that moment, Ginny had never thought of Gobstones being a particularly violent game that could lead to potential injuries, but had to give the boy credit for creativity.
Faint whispering began around her as her students began discussing the dregs in the bottoms of their cups. Two girls near the front of the class seemed particularly agitated and leaving the two boys who had yet to look up from their textbooks, Ginny headed towards the girls. Jessica, a curly-headed blonde, was holding tightly to the cup and sadly looking over at her best friend, Monica.
“Are you saying William is going to break up with me?” Monica asked, aghast as Ginny approached.
“I don’t know,” Jessica said, referencing the textbook beside her and looking in the cup again. “This bit here looks sort of like an arrow, which the book says means bad news. That could be anything.”
“What else do you see?” Monica pressed.
“A duck?” Jessica said without much conviction.
“There isn’t a duck in our book!” Monica exclaimed before railing on. “William isn’t going to take me to Hogsmeade this weekend. He’s going to go with that silly goose, Martha. I saw the way she was looking at him this morning.”
“Maybe the duck is really a goose then?” Jessica suggested.
Ginny had to contain the snort that nearly escaped at the girls’ conversation, instead she held out her hand and politely inquired, “May I see the cup, please?”
“Oh, Professor Weasley!” Monica said in relief before grabbing the cup out of Jessica’s hands and pressing it into Ginny’s. “Please tell me the truth. I can take it.”
Ginny raised an eyebrow at this remark, but said no more. She had already felt that there was some form of bad news in store for Monica when her hand had brushed against her won, but Ginny could not be certain yet what the news entailed. Studying the leaves a moment, she did see an arrow signifying bad news, but she also saw something that looked like a turnip. Vegetables meant unhappiness followed by contentment, so whatever the bad news, it couldn’t be that terrible. Lastly, she saw the duck, which looked more like a kettle to her and that meant a minor illness. She explained this to the girls and pointed out the symbols in their books that corresponded with what she saw in the cup.
“So, what do you think it means?” Monica asked in a small voice.
Setting the cup gently back in its saucer on the table, Ginny calmly looked Monica over. The girl looked pale, possibly from the fear of what she thought the cup portended for her, but if Ginny was not mistaken she had been coughing and sniffling when she entered the classroom. Her eyes were red-rimmed and her nose was slightly raw from blowing in her handkerchief, no doubt.
“The flu has been making the rounds the past week or so,” Ginny began, “and from the looks of it, Monica, you appear to be coming down with it. I suggest going to Madam Pomfrey as soon as class is over and taking a Pepper-Up. With any luck, you can head the cold off before it sets in and be able to go to Hogsmeade with William. However, if you do fall ill, I have no doubt you and William both will be terribly disappointed. I imagine he will bring you a small treat to boost your spirits.”
“Really?” Monica asked. “Well, that’s not such bad news, then, is it?” She looked over at Jessica who was eagerly picking her cup up and handing it to Ginny.
“Read mine!” she enthused and Ginny laughed, pushing the cup towards Monica.
“I can’t do all your work for you,” she gently admonished. “It’s your turn.” Jessica pouted slightly, but gave Monica her full attention as her friend attempted to make out what the leaves said.
Turning away from them, Ginny addressed the class, “By now, most of you should have already made some initial predictions. Please draw up what you think you see in the cups and write out your predictions and hand them in to me at the end of class.”
The rest of class ran smoothly, and she collected her students’ work as they departed. After the last pupil had left, she gathered the pile of parchment together, evening out the edges before tucking it away in a drawer. She would have time later in the day to look them over.
The lesson had effectively taken her mind off her disturbing morning, and not having another class until after lunch, Ginny decided to head down to the teacher’s lounge, hoping her best friend, Neville would have finished up with his morning class and be there, as well. Neville currently assisted Professor Sprout in the greenhouses and taught the lower classes, while she focused on the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. classes, but eventually Neville would take over her position as the Herbology professor.
Shoving the lounge door open, Ginny was glad to indeed find him there, already ensconced in a chair by the fire. He was reading the Daily Prophet, but looking up, laid it on the table beside him as she approached.
“Hi, Ginny,” he greeted with a smile, “I missed you at breakfast this morning.”
Ginny nodded, as she took the seat next to him. “Sorry, I had a bit of a slow start to the morning.”
He studied her a moment, concern clear in his eyes. “Are you all right?”
Ginny glanced over at him. She could never hide from him as he knew her too well. They’d been friends since her third year, when her world had turned upside-down, but she was still a girl who had needs and desires. The Triwizard tournament had been held that year and even though she was battling an internal struggle to make sense of the visions and feelings she was receiving, she still had longed to attend the Yule Ball. She never thought anyone would ask her until Neville shyly approached her in the library one evening and had. She had nervously accepted, even though she had never given him a second glance and had tried to use her limited abilities to see if she had a future with him. As she was soon to discover, she was unable to see her future and only saw meaningless, murky shadows. Instead, she went with her instincts, which told her what she already knew, Neville was one of the nicest boys in the school.
They had had a pleasant time at the ball, and afterwards had spent more time together. At the next Hogsmeade trip, they went together and Neville gave her her first real kiss in a booth at the Three Broomsticks. While it had been tender and sweet, it had left Ginny feeling disappointed, as there wasn’t the fire and passion she had expected. She sensed Neville felt the same disappointment at their lack of chemistry and not long after they both agreed they were much better off as friends.
It had been the right decision, and Neville remained her best friend. He understood her fluctuations in temperament and his gentle spirit and manner was exactly the calming rock she needed when she was feeling overwhelmed. He always listened when she had visions that troubled her.
“I had a disturbing dream last night about a woman,” she began. “She was attacked. Some of the detail was so clear, Neville. I haven’t had a vision like that since the war.”
Neville rubbed his fingers above his upper lip as he studied her. “Have you seen the Daily Prophet this morning, Ginny?”
Ginny shook her head, “No. Why? Is there something in there about a woman being attacked?”
He picked up the paper he had laid aside and silently handed it to her. Swallowing, Ginny took the paper from him and looked down at the front page. Pure-Blood Woman Found Dead was all the headline said, but it was enough. Blurry images began forming in Ginny’s mind. She could see the woman in greater detail, and realized she was nearer to Ginny’s age than she had first suspected. She saw the victim’s long, dark hair again as she struggled to escape her attacker, but this time when he flipped her over, Ginny could see the woman’s frightened brown eyes. She had pleaded and struggled as he beat and violated her.
Gasping, Ginny pushed the awful vision away once more and quickly scanned the article. It didn’t say anything about what the woman looked like or gave a name, which wasn’t too uncommon, but it blatantly stated that there were no signs of rape. Ginny groaned as her head began aching from the pressure of the vision.
“Ginny?” Neville’s voice sounded as if from the end of a long tunnel, echoing in her head and making it throb more. Leaning back in the chair, Ginny squeezed her eyes shut and laid her her head against the high back of the armchair.
“Same vision?” he pressed softly, leaning closer and gently rubbing her shoulder.
“Yes,” Ginny muttered. “They’re lying.”
“The paper?” Neville scoffed. “Big surprise there.”
“No, the Auror Office,” she explained. “And, I know my brother’s on this case. I can see him looking over the file.”
“Why would the Auror Office give the paper false information?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Ginny said, taking a deep breath and opening her eyes to look over at her friend. “But I intend to find out.”