“I’m sorry, you’ve done WHAT?”
Her father looked at her somewhat nervously, whilst her mother just tutted.
“Don’t shout like that Ginevra,” she reprimanded, swirling her tea in its cup, “and don’t act so surprised – you were told a year ago that this would happen if you didn’t settle down properly.”
The red headed princess just gaped at her mother. “But I didn’t think you’d actually do it!”
Queen Molly simply raised her eyebrow at her daughter before sipping her tea. Her husband, King Arthur, carried on. “Now, Ginny – it’s your duty as a Princess to the crown,” he began, before Ginny cut him off again.
“Duty? Duty? What a load of rubbish!” she scorned, brown eyes flashing in anger. “You have seven children – seven – yet Ron and I are the only ones that are being married off against our will! If it’s our duty then why haven’t you arranged marriages for everyone else?”
Sat beside her, Ron remained quiet, though his eyes were glinting angrily. Arthur sighed, rubbing his eyes. It was situations like this that made him feel extremely old. “None of your brothers were ‘sold off’, as you put it, because they settled down into their responsibilities as princes of the realm – something you and Ron have yet to do!”
“Wait, you think we’re irresponsible? What the hell about Fred and George?!?”
“Enough, Ginny!” Molly snapped, putting her tea cup on the table. “We are the King and Queen and you will both do what we say.”
“But – ”
“No. No buts,” Arthur said, firmly. “And if you’re going to be argumentative about it, then I suggest you take some time to cool off.”
If that wasn’t a dismissal, she didn’t know what was. “Fine!” she snapped and flounced off, hearing the angry footsteps behind her that told her Ron was following suit.
“Can you believe this?” she yelled as soon as they were out of sight.
Ron scowled and kicked at a wall. “I know! Like I want to marry some Princess from France.”
“And you think I want to marry an Earl?” Ginny asked in exasperation.
“Well, at least the Earl is English,” Ron said gloomily. “My, ugh, ‘wife’ is going to speak French. FRENCH, Ginny – I can’t speak a single word except ‘merde’ and I doubt she’d appreciate that!”
“Languages aside, Ron, she’s probably at least our age,” Ginny pointed out, face now going red in anger. As it so often did when she got angry, her hair began to spark slightly with uncontrolled magic. “Good Merlin, mine’s probably about fifty with a moustache and a waist the size of a dragon!”
“They have no right to do this, none at all!” Ron agreed, quietly, eyes burning holes into a chest of armour.
“So what shall we do about it?” Ginny asked him, hands on hips.
Ron looked at her. “I don’t think there’s anything we can do,” he said, admitting defeat. “You know what Mum’s like when she’s made up her mind – and Dad won’t manage to do anything to change her mind...”
“We can always run away.”
Ron groaned. “Bloody hell, Gin, not this again,” he said, exasperated.
“It’s not like they’re lacking for heirs around here,” Ginny persisted, as her brother began to walk away from her. “If they’re going to imprison us by marriage we should at least see the world first!”
“It’ll never work.”
“Well, of course it’s not going to bloody work if you never try!” Ginny exclaimed, annoyed. “I’m talking about mountains, Ron – deserts, forests, jungles, seas, rivers... all our life the only places we’ve been are our schools and out into the town! Don’t you want to see more?”
“YES, Ginny, yes, I do!” Ron snapped, whirling around to glare at his sister. “But it’s not. Going. To. Happen. So stop daydreaming and wake up to reality.”
And he turned on his heel and walked away.
‘Well, I’ll show you,’ Ginny thought mutinously before turning around and heading towards her chambers. ‘I’ll show you all.’
thought it would never work – ha!’ Ginny thought victoriously to herself as
she inched her way down the tower wall.
‘Shows you what he knows.’
King Arthur and Queen Molly were not totally oblivious to the various escape attempts by their numerous children over the years. Usually – in the case of Fred and George in particular – it was just a quick tour of the local city in disguise, something which they both secretly encouraged. Both King and Queen felt it did their children – as prospective rulers – some good to understand the common man. Old King Ignatius hadn’t really cared at all and there had been quite a bit of unrest before Molly inherited the throne.
However, when it came to their youngest child and only daughter, both monarchs felt something more substantial than the odd guard here and there would suffice. Consequently, over the past three years various wards had been set up by the palace magicians that covered all forms of magical transportation, even broom travel (although they took the added precaution of confiscating Ginevra’s broomsticks when she was 10 under the pretence of unladylike behaviour).
What they had failed to consider, however, was the rather more classic escape method of using knotted up bed sheets to climb out the window.
‘Perfect!’ Ginny thought to herself, satisfied, as she dropped down to the ground outside her tower. ‘Now to get out of the castle...’
She did consider getting one of the horses, but realised that would be too big – too obvious.
‘Well, looks like it’ll have to be on foot until I reach the outskirts,’ she decided, creeping along the ornamental gardens. ‘I can always borrow a horse from there – or a broom if I’m lucky...’
Three hours later the sun was beginning to peer
over the horizon and Princess Ginevra Weasley was tired, cold, thirsty and
suffering from about a million and one scratches.
‘Not to mention one big fat blister,’ she thought with a sigh. She could easily heal herself with magic, but she wouldn’t put it past her parents to have put a tracking spell on her wand. Looked like she would have to just put up with them.
The first hour or so of her journey had been wonderful. Ginny, despite her great need for secrecy, found herself spontaneously bursting into happy laughs and twirling around as she made her way through the moonlit undergrowth of the Royal Forest. She felt like she was seeing the world for the first time all over again.
‘No more etiquette lessons,’ she had thought, beaming triumphantly. ‘No more long, boring meeting with court officials; no more idiotic noble men; and, best of all, no stupid Earl to marry!’ And she had laughed gleefully, terrifying a nearby owl that then promptly fell out of his tree.
The second hour had been less cheery. Ginny’s euphoria at her escape was beginning to wear off and weariness was starting to set in. She had been up all night, after all, and she hadn’t walked so much in years. Going through the main town had also been more than a little nerve wracking. Ginny didn’t think that the guards would be on the lookout for her yet, but she was not a fool. The streets were not safe for anyone in the wee hours of the morning and Ginny kept a tight grip on her wand the whole journey.
She had tried to conceal herself best as possible and had rather happily forgone the heavy, awkward dresses of her wardrobe, managing to sneak an old pair of Ron’s breeches and a simple shirt to wear instead. But boys’ clothes or no, there was no disguising her distinctive, long, Weasley red hair and she had found a simple black cloak with a hood to cover it. It also added an air of mystery, which Ginny was thankful for. She had seen a few men eye her warily, but none had approached, not wanting to risk whoever – or, indeed, whatever – could be concealed under the dark folds.
Her crown she had left on in a spur of the moment decision. Whilst she wanted to get away from the ties of ‘Princess’, there was no denying the benefits it would bring in her escape from the capital. A simple inn keeper or stable master would hardly say no if the Royal Princess Ginevra ordered him to give her one of his horses. She did have some money on her, but she wasn’t too sure how far it would go and she may need it for food. So, for now, the crown was to be her ticket out of there.
And, later on, she could easily melt it down for money.
‘Bother,’ Ginny thought as she tripped over a particularly gnarled root. She had exited the town about half an hour ago and was currently skirting round the edge of the main road leading south towards the coast. She had contemplated just walking along the road itself, but had decided against it. It was getting later now and she knew her disappearance couldn’t go unnoticed for much longer. Her long head start wouldn’t do her much good if the Royal Guard simply came up behind her as she was trotting happily in the open for all to see.
‘Aha! What’s that – looks like a manor...’ Ginny thought, spying something through the trees in the rapidly lightening skies. She squinted through the trees, trying to see more. ‘And it looks like they have stables... excellent!’
Stealing through the gardens was ridiculously easy – it didn’t look like anyone was up yet. Ginny frowned at this. In her experience servants were always up and bustling around at this time of day – just seemed to be what they did. But this garden was abandoned.
‘It would be just my luck to pick a house that’s currently unoccupied,’ she thought with a grimace, half a mind to turn back, but she steeled herself to carry on. ‘After all, there’s no harm in just looking.’
To her delight, Ginny’s initial assumption about the house had been right – there were horses there. And, even better, there were broomsticks.
Alright, so they weren’t particularly good ones, but there they were. ‘How lucky to find a house of wizards,’ she thought, gleefully, picking up what looked like the best broom. It was quite an old model, but obviously well cared for – the handle was polished beautifully and the tail neatly trimmed. She felt some guilt at taking what was obviously a treasured possession, but she shook it off. A broomstick was replaceable – her freedom wasn’t!
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing? Put that down!”
‘Bugger. Perhaps not as abandoned as I thought.’
When Hermione woke up that morning she didn’t
have the peaceful cushion of forgetting what had happened to her best friend,
for it was a thought that had kept her sleep light and restless. As a result her head was pounding and her
eyes were red and sore from crying, but at least she felt less helpless.
After they had revived Sirius (but left him tied up so he couldn’t rush off and do bloody murder) they had managed to flesh out a plan of some kind. They were going to stay on with the Dursleys until Tonks came back. They would have gotten in touch with her first, but they had no way to contact her – floo was completely forbidden at the manor and none of them had any money to send a message.
Once all together again, they would leave for the Castle and petition the King until he listened to them. Sirius, Remus and Tonks were all members of aristocratic families (if disinherited and disgraced) and they hoped that might be enough to get an audience.
‘Hermione Granger, jail breaker,’ she thought to herself, shuddering. She didn’t know what the punishment was for assisting in the escape of a felon, but she was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be pretty. ‘But if we do manage to break him out then that should prove our story, shouldn’t it?’
Hermione sighed. There was no point wondering and pondering ‘what if’s. Tonks wasn’t due back for at least another two days and she still had to get through all her normal chores in addition to Harry’s and Tonks’.
She glanced out her attic window at the early sun and rubbed at her burning eyes. It looked, she thought rather bitterly, as though it was going to be a lovely day. Before the events of two days ago Harry and Sirius would probably try and wrestle some free time to have an improvised game of Quidditch. She smiled sadly at the memory of Harry flying – he always seemed so much happier when in the air – almost free.
The smile dropped from her face.
Harry wasn’t free at all anymore.
Caught in her melancholy, Hermione almost missed the small figure creeping across the gardens. Almost, but not quite. She stared as the cloaked figure slipped through the stable doors, feeling anger stirring with her.
‘Great, what more do we need to go wrong?’ she thought, leaping out of bed and shrugging on a dress as quickly as she could. If someone stole a horse then the Dursleys would no doubt take it out of their wages and, right now, they needed all the money they could get.
Rushing through the manor, bare flag stones icy on her unshod feet, she reached the door in record time, breath hitching slightly. Ignoring the pain on her feet as the small stones cut them she skidded into the stables, horrified to see that, far from stealing a horse, the cloaked stranger was stealing one of their few broomsticks.
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing?” she yelled angrily to their back, watching as they jumped in surprise. ‘Oh, no you don’t, not Harry’s broom, you bastard!’ “Put that down!”
When the stranger hesitated, back still turned, Hermione whipped out her wand. “I’m warning you! Expelliarmus!”
The spell shot towards the stranger as a jet of silvery light but, to Hermione’s horror, the stranger whipped around and yelled, “Protego!” causing the spell to dissipate on their pearly shield.
But what caused Hermione’s horror was not the fact that her would-be-thief was a magic-user: no, it was the fact that, as the stranger turned around, the hood on their cloak had fallen and she could see exactly who she was attacking.
‘Bloody Merlin – bright red hair and a crown – it’s the bloody Princess!’
With a squeak, Hermione threw herself to the ground, face burning. ‘Oh sweet Merlin I’ve attacked Royalty!’ she panicked to herself. ‘I could go to jail for this – nay, I could be executed for this!’
“I’m so sorry, your Highness,” she babbled, eyes tearing and staring firmly at the hay strewn floor. “I- I did not see you.”
“Your aim would suggest otherwise.” The Princess’ voice was wry and friendly, but Hermione did not dare look up.
“And for that I know I must be punished, Your Highness,” Hermione said, feeling her voice tremble. She was suddenly thankful that she was on the floor because she thought her legs would have collapsed otherwise.
There was an uncomfortable pause before the Princess – ‘Ginevra,’ Hermione remembered suddenly – said, somewhat awkwardly, “Er, well, say nothing of this and all will be well.”
Relief instantly flooded through Hermione, making her feel even weaker than before. But... she was still going to take Harry’s broom... “We have other brooms, your Highness, if you want.”
Later Hermione would wonder what had possessed her to ask such a stupid thing.
“All I want,” the Princess said icily, “is to be left alone.” The soft thuds grew louder and Hermione half cringed as the Princess walked towards her. She was a witch – that much Hermione had already seen – and as Princess she was well within her rights to obliviate Hermione... especially if she was serious about being left alone.
The clatter of metal on the stone floor made Hermione jump. “For your silence, maid,” the Princess said and then she was gone.
For a few moments, Hermione stayed there, frozen in her bow on the floor. But eventually, when she realised that the Princess wasn’t coming back, she groaned and stretched out. She looked over to where the Princess had dropped something for her and felt her eyes bulge.
“Thirty galleons!” she cried in amazement. She had never seen so much money in her life! She reached out and grabbed one, as if to make sure it was real. The metal was cold in her grasp but quickly warmed up and Hermione smiled, before a sudden thought struck her.
‘If they can sell Harry to pay for taxes... then surely I can buy him back!’
Two minutes later Sirius and Remus were both jolted from their fitful dozing as Hermione crashed into the kitchen, eyes bright and cheeks flushed.
“Remus! Sirius! I’ve got a way to get Harry back!”
It had been a long time since Ginny had been on a
broom. When she was younger she was as
good a flier as any of her brothers – flying was something that seemed to run
in her family (with the exception of Percy, but then he did nothing that didn’t
involve a book) – but at 10 she had found her broom confiscated by her mother.
“Flying is not something Princesses do, Ginny, I’m afraid,” Molly said firmly, when Ginny protested that all her brothers were allowed to go flying.
Not that Ginny had let it go at that. At Beauxbatons it was impossible – the school was full of very proper noble ladies who wouldn’t know a magic broom if it whacked them in the face. Even the ones that were magical looked scandalised when she suggested it. When in the palace, though, she was constantly wheedling her brothers to let her have a go on their brooms, stealing a few exciting minutes in the air. Lately, however, that had gotten even more difficult. At every turn in the castle she now seemed to encounter one of her mother’s advisors, trying to steer her towards all sorts of meetings, receptions and even more lessons!
All in all, then, Ginny was very happy when the broomstick only gave a very slight wobble as she set off.
‘Now, this is all good,’ she thought to herself, gripping the handle a bit tighter than she used to. ‘Nice and steady to begin with... just a straight line... and not too high,’ she added, shuddering. ‘Don’t want to fall off and break my neck... mother would chain me to my tower if that happened!’
But despite the grim thought, Ginny found she was very pleased. She had successfully escaped her tower – and, more importantly, her arranged marriage – broken out of the castle, found a broomstick and was now heading quite nicely towards freedom. Once she’d gotten used to being back in the air she would be able to fly much faster and higher and the aurors – the Royal Guard – would never be able to catch her.
She felt a bit bad about scaring that servant girl, but she could probably buy about ten brooms with the money she had dropped at her feet, so she hoped that would be alright. Besides, she was quite impressed with the little broom. Most of the older models tended to have a few funny quirks in the system, but this one was heading forward quite steadily.
“To freedom!” she cheered impulsively. Nothing was going to stop her now!
“Help! Oh no, don’t! Help!”
Ginny brought her broom to a stop and peered up ahead her, gasping. Lost in triumphant daydreams she hadn’t been paying attention to the road ahead so had completely missed the train of caravans and coaches ahead.
Caravans that were now being attacked by bandits.
‘Oh, just great,’ Ginny thought annoyed, completely torn. She shifted on the broom as the voice rang out again, more panicked than before. If she stayed and helped then not only would it cut down on the head start she currently had on the aurors, but they would also be able to tell them exactly where she had gone.
Of course, if she didn’t help them then she would never be able to live with herself.
‘Bugger,’ she swore. ‘Well, into battle I go...’