Ginny closed her eyes, and opened them.
Next thing she knew, she was kissing.
Kissing. Harry. Potter.
She nearly fell over, and then returned the kiss, her hands around Harry's neck, butterflies flying up through her stomach and up into her brain …
And then Hermione came in, Ron following.
She and Harry broke apart. The four stared at each other, and Ginny felt her face go red.
Then she pushed past them, muttering, "There's the laundry."
Stupid, stupid, stupid! A little voice in her head slapped her brain … why! Why had she done that! She was meant to be breaking up with him, not kissing him! What was wrong with her!
The basket of washing waited on the kitchen table. Water drops skidded out of the clothes and onto the floor, and Ginny knew that she wouldn't see Harry again that day; her mother would keep her cleaning. She lugged the basket outside.
The washing line hung between trees in the garden behind the house, held taught by magic. Ginny flung clothes out of the basket, throwing them over the line and pegging them in place viciously. "How dare he!" she said to herself. "I was done. I was so done. I am so done. I am. So. Done."
She was silent at footsteps on the porch. She purposely ignored Hermione as she clattered down the steps and picked up a nightgown from the basket.
"What happened, Ginny?"
Ginny gave a sniff.
"Come on. I thought you two had broke up?"
"We were – I mean, we are." Ginny jammed a peg onto a vest.
The rest of the washing was hung up in silence.
"It's okay, you know, Gin," said Hermione, as Ginny picked up the basket, balancing it on her hip.
"I just don't know," said Ginny, and Hermione nodded understandingly, giving a little glance at the house where Ron was waiting.
The good thing about Hermione, thought Ginny, was that she didn't try to understand – she knew when to be quiet.
At Bill's wedding, Ginny danced with Harry.
He wasn't meant to be Harry, of course. He was her cousin come visiting from far away, and he was so disfigured that she could barely recognise him.
But the way he placed his hand around her waist and the way their hands held was so familiar that she felt something sad inside her let go, and float up and up into the roof of the tent.
He twirled her, and she gasped a little at the unexpected movement, but laughed as he brought her in close again.
He smiled at her, and she smiled back, and she knew right there that she could never truly forget this love of hers. Of theirs.
But then the dance ended, and Harry was swept off by Luna. Ginny retreated to a corner, to comfort herself in a tall glass of butterbeer and cake.
She knew it could never be, but she could always remember how it had been.
Hello, it's me again.
The Ministry Headquarters is full of souls waiting to be collected.
I know I will be very busy, but I cannot help pausing at the entrance to look at the portraits of old ministers of magic. Some of them were nicer than others.
I look at the portrait of Katrina Dolce. An orange and purple soul, I remember.
She sacrificed herself to save her love. Death for love. Death and love intertwined, their fates caught up in the same soul.
I shake my head. Humans have their own version of Love which I do not quite understand. There is no point in trying to understand it.
I take the List out of my cloak and peer down at the next name.
Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic.
I turn towards the main office, and glide off.
The train to Hogwarts had a different feel to it, considered Ginny.
The most obvious change was that the compartments had been taken out, replaced by rows and aisles of seats, just like a muggle train. The two Gryffindor Carriages were jam packed full of students, some second and third years sitting two to a seat.
The second change was that it was noisier. Obviously they were more bunched up, surrounded by students on every side. But there was a large amount of nervous and confused chatter that hadn't been present in previous years.
Lastly, thought Ginny, as her friend Ella Stilt added her cross to their game of noughts and crosses, everyone is scared.
The nervous energy flowed through the packed carriages. The Hogwarts Express had always had compartments. The change signalled something bigger.
Everyone jumped, and some people screamed, as the door at the front of the carriage opened with a bang.
A vicious looking man entered, glaring at everyone and everything. "Silence!" he roared, and he got it.
"Now," said the man, with a grin that gave Ginny chills, "Recently there has been a disappearance of several students, including Harry Potter. We simply cannot allow them to neglect their education like this. Does anyone here know the whereabouts of any missing students?"
The carriage was silent, and the train chugged on.
Students looked at each other awkwardly.
"Fine," said the man. "But continue to work on your memories, because this will come up again."
He left the carriage with a bang, and the space exploded into hushed chatter.
"Do you know where Harry is, Gin?" Ella whispered.
"Of course not! I told you we broke up," hissed Ginny.
"Oh, right, sorry," returned Ella, looking slightly hurt.
Ginny sighed and squeezed her friend's hand. "He disappeared at the wedding," she murmoured. "I don't know where he is now."
"Okay. I hope he's okay."
Ginny just nodded.
The hall was set up just like usual, minus the Sorting Hat, which immediately set Ginny's alarm bells ringing. She sat down at the Gryffindor table, preparing herself to applaud the First Years getting sorted.
Snape stepped out onto the podium, greeted by a mixture of polite and enthusiastic clapping. He raised his hand for silence.
"I am your new headmaster, Professor Snape," he said coldly. "You will treat me with the respect that I deserve as your headmaster. Bring in the first years, Flitwick."
A crowd of children were ushered into the hall by Professor Flitwick, all small and clearly terrified as they were led into a straight line on the stage. Ginny frowned at Snape. The Sorting Hat was still nowhere to be seen.
"We are doing things properly this year." Snape cleared his throat. "The following students, all of pureblood families, are to be accepted into the Slytherin House. Charlie Stoat. Alexis Ting. Malty Duste …"
As Snape read out the names, the new Slytherin first years stepped forward, a mixture of pride, disappointment, and confusion on their faces.
The hall was filled with angry mutterings. "Where's the Hat?" someone yelled.
Snape raised his hand, and there was something in his eyes that silenced the room. "The Hat is old, and gets thing wrong," he said. "We are sorting by tradition, and you will find it will work better than the old system. The next person to complain will see me after the Sorting."
He cleared his throat again, and looked at the list. "The Ravenclaws will be decided by those who can cast the best spell. Every First Year, get out your wands."
The children drew their wands from their pockets.
Snape peered out at the Gryffindor Table, and Ginny sat on her hands – "Miss Weasley, come to the front. Leave your wand."
Ginny stood up and passed her wand to Ella, who whispered "Good luck!"
All eyes were on Ginny as she made her way to the front of the hall. She placed herself firmly between Snape and the First Years, and he gave her a smile which made her back shiver.
Snape looked at the twenty something First Years yet to be sorted, and said, "Jinx her. The best jinxer will earn a place in the Slytherin House."
The First Years looked terrified, and Ginny couldn't blame them. She herself wasn't too worried – they were just First Years, they couldn't hurt her.
"To those worried," added Snape, "They are just First Years. They can't hurt a fly."
Suddenly, Ginny wasn't so confident.
The first eleven-year-old stepped up, and raised his wand. "Locomotor wibbly," he said, and immediately Ginny's legs got a little wobbly – she could still stand, but she gasped as her legs fluttered underneath her. She hadn't expected a small boy to know that spell. He yelled a 'sorry about that' as he hurried to the Ravenclaw table, making Ginny grin at him.
Snape lazily performed the counter curse. "Ravenclaw," he said. "Next."
The next girl dropped her wand and shook as she muttered the same spell. It did nothing, and Ginny gave a little sigh of relief. "Useless," muttered Snape. "Hufflepuff."
Most of the children's jinx's did nothing, though several performed a decent variety of jelly legs and colour changing jinxes. Eleanor Bradley made Ginny fall on her face at the petrificus totalus spell. The girl gasped at her success, running to Ginny's side on the floor and tugging on her hand. "I'm sorry, I didn't know it would work," she whispered, struggling to hold back tears.
Snape performed the counter curse. "Ravenclaw," he announced, and the hall erupted into applause. Ginny pulled herself to her feet. She smiled grimly at the girl, but Eleanor was too busy crying to notice.
The last boy made Ginny pause. His eyes were dark and cold, and he held his wand firmly in his left hand.
She spread her feet apart, folded her arms, and shut her eyes at the last minute.
She was hit with a whoosh of cold air which froze her very blood. The next second she was hit with heat, so savage that she felt her skin burning off. She let the pain out in a little scream, holding onto her arms, digging her nails into her arm as the temperature changed into a cold that chilled her bones – the temperature was changing all at once, and she couldn't breathe –
The counter curse found her lying on the floor, shaking uncontrollably. Ginny didn't want to get up, anger bubbling up through her stomach and into her throat. Snape was saying something about putting the boy in Slytherin, but Ginny didn't care.
The hall was muttering, and she could almost feel the anger spreading towards Snape.
Snape nudged her leg with his foot. "You can leave us now, Weasley," he said softly. "Your services are no longer required."
Ginny pushed herself up with an effort and stumbled towards her seat. Ella wrapped her in a hug, whispering soothing words which Ginny didn't hear.
Snape put the First Years with families who defied the Dark Lord in Gryffindor, and the ones who looked quieter in Hufflepuff.
Then he announced: "These are your new teachers, Alecto and Amycus Carrow. They will be in charge of discipline hear at the school."
Ginny recognised the man, Amycus, from the train earlier. His sister's smile was just as awful; they were smiling at their own thoughts, not from joy.
"I have one main rule for this year," said Snape. "You do exactly what is expected of you. If you do this, then you have no reason to fear anything."
He gave a smile which came from anything but joy.
One thing's for sure, thought Ginny, this is not going to be a fun year.