Yo. Everybody doin' okay? I hope so. I got seasick from watching ballet. Only me...
This is one of those important chapters that may seem weird. It's not one of my favorites (the next one is pretty good!), but it's totally necessary. We have a new OC- anyone who can tell me the origin of his name gets a chocolate Dark Mark made by Molly. I'm the author, I can force Molly to make them! Anywho…
True to his word, Tom had Luna and Neville's memories modified. Yet she retained her memories of Halloween. Why? Ginny resolved not to tell a soul about what she had seen and experienced. When people asked about last night's mysterious earthquake, she pretended to be as confused as everyone else. She tried to push her newly acquired knowledge of Tom's past into the back of her brain. If she kept it hidden then she couldn't think about it. If she couldn't think about it, she couldn't empathize. If she empathized- well, that would be a bad idea. Lord Voldemort might now be handsome, but his nature hadn't changed. Maybe he told her he was a bastard child for the express purpose of making her feel sorry for him. It could have been a lie. That was very possible. No. He didn't mean to say that. But why didn't he erase my memory? He's messing with me. Something's up.
The dinner table that night was much larger. New faces were there, faces Ginny was sure had never seen Hogwarts, or perhaps any of the UK. They weren't as lucky as she had been; no one told them the rules before they passed into the room. She was certain she heard Greek voices, and perhaps Italian ones, before a Death Eater rapidly pointed their wand at each of the talking people in turn. "Silencio." Ginny sighed and picked at her food.
She noticed that Padma Patil was missing. Remembering that Padma was pregnant, Ginny shuddered. She was probably pushing out some little pureblood right now. Poor kid. It'll never know a normal world. The idea brought ominous thoughts to Ginny's mind. She had yet to become a 'hormonal adolescent', or whatever Tom had called it. There just wasn't anyone… right. But that wouldn't matter to Tom. She briefly entertained the horrific notion that for some reason she would be forced into a relationship with Malfoy. The taste of bile quickly overpowered that of her turkey. She shook the disgusting prospect out of her head. Neville looked at her curiously from her right. Neville!
Two days later she was able to ask Neville about her little idea.
"Luna," Ginny asked slowly, "do you think I could speak to Neville alone for a few moments?"
Luna nodded and skipped away to the other side of the exercise complex.
"Ginny?" Neville asked, looking utterly confused.
It was a sunny day, but the breeze bit. Ginny could have used these things as excuses for her flushed cheeks, but she didn't. She knew Neville would be just as red when she launched her proposition at him. Will this even work?
"Neville," she began, sucking in a cold breath of air. "Neville, I don't want to get in any more trouble. I think that going a few days without food wasn't really You-Know-Who's idea of a harsh punishment. Anyway, we're supposed to be all hormonal and all of that and this is really weird and I don't know why or how this is even coming out of my mouth, but we're friends and I thought we could help each other out, maybe break the rules but not get in trouble, you know, and I don't think we'd get caught unless one of us squealed and neither of us are stupid enough to do that so I'm wondering if maybe you'd be willing to pretend to sleep together so we can be okay and it won't be as weird since we know each other so well and it wouldn't be hard for anyone to imagine because we know each other and I think I just said that part and Neville I need you to say something to shut me up because I can't breathe if I don't stop talking soon and this is making me extremely nervous-"
"Ginny, calm down!" Neville cut in, red as a tomato. "I think… I think…"
"Yeah, it's probably a bad idea and it wouldn't work anyway-"
"Are you serious?" His jaw had dropped. "You'd ask me… over all of the other boys here? Ginny, you could have your pick!" He paused in thought, flushing. "But… well, okay. I guess."
"I understand why you won't, it's too weird. Wait- what?"
"I said I'll do it," Neville repeated, looking at his hands as he did so. "It may not work, but it's something, at least. Nobody wants to do what You-Know-Who has 'suggested'; if we can keep each other safe, even for a little while, then I'll do it."
"And you- you're not worried about being punished?" Ginny asked, shocked.
"Well, yeah, I am," he admitted sheepishly, "but still… if we pull this off effectively enough for even a week or so… I mean, Ginny, you're very pretty. It's only a matter of time before someone decides to go a little further than you'd like without your permission."
"Oh, Neville!" she exclaimed, hugging him. "You're so sweet. I don't want you to be put in danger for my sake, though. I'll handle… whatever happens… if you're even a tiny bit reluctant. I don't want to be protected at your expense."
"Hey, it's protecting me too, remember?" he smiled. "It's symbiotic."
"Yeah…" Ginny said. She looked to where the blue sky met the sea and retreated into her mind for a moment. "We'll find a way out of this mess, Neville. We have to."
He frowned a bit. "Let's make this plan official. Come on, shake hands. We'll vow to do our best to stay safe and to keep our friends safe, too."
"Agreed," Ginny nodded. They shook on it. She paused and bit her lip. "D'you think we should tell Luna about this?"
Neville shook his head. "The fewer people who know, the better. No one, not even Luna, can hear about this."
"Let's go inside and start… faking, then."
I hope this works…
It wouldn't work for long.
Getting to It
"Okay, let's, um…" Ginny stammered. "How about… okay, I guess I'll just rough my hair up a bit… better do yours too, Neville."
"And we probably should do jumping jacks or similar," Neville suggested. Ginny eyed him questioningly. "To look like we've been er, active," he clarified. Ginny nodded.
Fifty jumping jacks later, they were sufficiently tired and panting heavily. Neville started pinching his cheeks violently. "What are you doing?" she asked.
"Face stays redder longer," Neville explained. Ginny began to mime his actions, still short of breath. "Look convincing?"
"Yeah, actually," Ginny laughed. Her eyes widened with embarrassment. She had as much as told Neville that she wasn't a virgin. She looked at her feet meekly. Neville laughed at her.
"Come on, Ginny. Do you think I care?" he chuckled, reading her expression. "Or that I didn't know? Dean likes to brag… Sorry! I don't mean to embarrass you!"
Dean is a Muggle-born. Dean might be dead right now. I'm feeling anger towards a dead man.
"It's alright," she sighed. "Doesn't really matter anymore, does it?"
Neville shrugged. "I guess not. I mean, everybody knew about me and Hannah. They all made fun of us." He frowned slightly.
"I didn't." The air was pregnant with teenage shame. "Okay, crinkle your robes and leave secretly."
"Gran always says that the more inconspicuous you try to be, the more conspicuous you are."
"I'm counting on it. We need people to think something's going on. You leave now- go talk to Luna or one of the new people or someone, I don't know- and I'll follow in a few minutes."
Neville nodded. "Right."
The door opened and shut quickly. Ginny let out a sigh and fell backwards onto her bed. This was a bad idea, Ginny. Neville's gonna get in trouble because of you. You shouldn't have even asked. But what else could she have done? Selfish. But it helped them both, right? Friends needed to stick together. You know you weren't thinking of his safety. But he said it was symbiotic. It was, right? You're taking advantage of him. He didn't have to agree! You made him feel obligated. You're just using him.
"I am NOT!" Ginny shouted as she sat bolt upright. "Stupid inner voice. You aren't my conscience. You're just trying to freak me out. It's this atmosphere; I'm going nuts! Gah, I'm talking to myself out loud! Proof of insanity." She twiddled her thumbs, something she had seen her father do many times, and waited. After another minute or two she emerged. The taste of guilt mingled with self-pity lingered on her tongue. Bashfully she returned outside.
It had started to rain. Many of the others were heading inside; they would rather be alone in their rooms than under this cold shower. Ginny let the chilly drops hit her face. They stung. Clouds churned above the sea and large whitecaps were visible from every direction. Her mother had always said to come indoors at the first sign of a thunderstorm (she didn't even like the kids playing Quidditch in the rain), but Ginny pushed away that advice and simply sat on the ground. She tilted back her head and let the salty raindrops fall into her open mouth. She started when she heard the first mumble of thunder and saw the blue heat lightning in the south. Snuggling into her robes, she wasn't surprised to find Luna sitting nearby. Her flaxen hair was a dreary yellow curtain around her heart-shaped face, a face lit only by unusually bright blue eyes.
"I'd like to play in the ocean right now."
"My mother would pitch a fit at the idea. Too dangerous."
"I rather enjoy turbulent waters. They're much more interesting than stationary water. After storms, such wonderful things wash up on the beach." Luna smiled as a flash of lightning put spots in their eyes. "I saw my father today."
"Is he well?" Ginny asked carefully.
"As well as can be expected, I suppose. He's dreary, of course."
"Who here isn't?"
"True enough. We must try to keep optimistic, though. Hope is only really gone when we forget it's there."
"Things will turn out okay in the end," Ginny sighed. "They have to. There are still so many people out there, most of them missing family members. That has to spur them on- the thought of rebuilding their families. I know mine won't give up on me. We've already lost too much; Mum will fight tooth and nail to put this puzzle back together." She grinned. "You-Know-Who would cower before an angry Molly Weasley."
Luna let go a tinkling laugh. "Yes, you may be right. Wasn't your mum the only person who could keep the twins in line? That in itself is a feat."
"Yeah," she said with a smile. "When Hermione became prefect, all she had to do was threaten a letter to Mum to get them settled… or to pretend to settle." Luna ducked her head. "What?" Ginny asked.
"Nothing," Luna replied, shaking her head. A blush was creeping into her cheeks.
"Tell me," the other insisted, smiling and biting her lip.
"Since when do you get embarrassed?"
"Since now…" Ginny glared at her playfully, never once blinking. "Okay, fine. I'll tell you. But don't laugh! I have sort of fancied George for a long while."
"George?! You could tell him apart from Fred?!"
"Oddly enough, yes. Identical twins aren't nearly as identical as they seem."
"Well," Ginny promised, "when we get out of here, one of our first pieces of business will be to get you in with George."
Luna looked shocked. "You're not joking?"
"No; I think you could do him a lot of good." The thunder clapped closer and the rain fell in sheets. "We'd best go inside now."
"Yes; the Toxic Mongeese could arrive at any moment. They quite enjoy this weather."
It was during their third muss-up session that Ginny and Neville were discovered.
"Twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five…"
"Don't forget to breathe, Ginny. Jumping jacks can wear you out pretty quickly," Neville warned. He was slapping his cheeks a bit to give them some color.
"I knew I'd catch you sooner or later," a heavily accented voice came from the doorway. The color drained from Ginny and Neville's faces as they saw a Death Eater enter the room. "I heard about your plan," he explained, "but I didn't know if you would actually go through with it." He folded his long-fingered hands before him and gave a thin-lipped smirk. His gray eyes danced with delight.
"What plan?" Ginny asked, gasping for breath. Acting, don't fail me now…
"Don't play dumb, Weasley."
"Should I know you?" she asked evenly.
"Jean de Dannan," he introduced himself. "But that is inconsequential. You two have attempted to fool the Dark Lord."
"Sorry, Monsieur de Dannan, but you've got it wrong," Ginny said, flipping her long hair over her shoulder and tying it loosely into a ponytail. "I was exercising, that's all."
"And your friend has Tourette's syndrome."
"Yes, Monsieur, as a matter of fact!" Ginny snapped. She felt a little nudge at her mind.
"If that's true, then stop Occluding, ma cherie," he insisted strongly, fuzzy brown eyebrows knitting together.
"Don't address me so informally," Ginny replied coldly, "and no, I won't stop Occluding."
"I'll try your friend, then." Neville's eyes were wide with fear and his jaw went slack. He couldn't Occlude any better than Harry could. "Interesting," the Death Eater said smoothly after a moment. "A rotund little Squib like you with such a pretty pureblood. You could do better," he said to Ginny. Neville looked at the floor.
"No, I don't think I could. Neville Longbottom is one of the bravest people I've ever met, and he's hardly a Squib. He's a damn good wizard, and much easier on the eyes than- oh, let's say… you. Your frizzy brown hair isn't very appealing. Did you lick an eckelektric plug?"
"Quite an attitude, Weasley," de Dannan chastised, seemingly unfazed. "We'll see how that little tongue of yours wags when the Dark Lord arrives. I take my leave of you now."
"Au revoir, you Provincial sod!" She slammed the door behind the man. "I'm so sorry, Neville, but I think we're in deep shite."
"Hey, we got away with it for almost two weeks; that's something," he said. His voice held a fake smile. Puzzled, he looked Ginny in the eyes for a moment. Finally he whispered, "Did you mean it? What you said about me?"
"Every word," she assured him, putting a firm hand on his shoulder. "Except the part about you having Tourette's syndrome."
"I figured that," he chuckled.
"You'd best get back to your own room now," Ginny suggested. Neville nodded. As he began to walk away, she called after him. "I'm so sorry."
"It's me who can't Occlude. Let's call it an even trade."
"Okay, we're square, then."
Selfish girl. Now you'll both be tortured… or worse.
Ginny sat, waiting for the moment of reckoning, that moment wherein she would find out what Neville would suffer because of her foolishness.
Did that suck as much as I feared it would? Let me know in a review, please. I respond to all signed reviews.
Thanks again to the incomparable Juvy. She got me interested in Luna/George. Her logic is this: you wouldn't be able to tell if their kids were crazy or play-acting. Isn't that brilliant?