Chapter 35 — Improvising

Ginny pushed her eggs around her plate all through breakfast. She knew she should not draw attention to herself, but if anyone noticed her off behavior, they kept it to themselves. Her mind just would not quit racing. It was like a mental game of ping-pong, thoughts bouncing back and forth between Draco's plight and the conversation she overheard about the Ravenclaw dagger those few nights ago.

She really could not say why she was so concerned about the dagger. Yes, it was vital to defeating Voldemort, but there was nothing that she could do about it. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had found out about it, and now McGonagall was working on hunting it down. What more could little Ginny Weasley do to help?

Her mother finally bustled in from the kitchen and sat down for the first time, her face red with exertion from cooking. She plopped down a plate of pancakes and then scooped out some eggs and fried mushrooms alongside a piece of toast for herself.

“So, how is everyone feeling this morning?” Molly asked as she spread jam over her toast.

Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were all present, but it was Naomi who finally answered. “Wonderful, Mrs. Weasley. You're an amazing cook.”

Molly smiled, seeming to have warmed a little to the stranger already. Ginny reflected she was clever to praise her mother's cooking. Or else lucky.

“Better than French toast!” Ben chirped from behind a plate loaded fried potatoes and mushrooms.

“Oh, hush,” Naomi told him, and Ginny thought she looked a little embarrassed. “You liked French toast perfectly well before.”

“I did, but that was before it's all we ate,” he retorted. He said it with such a lofty air of exasperation in his child's voice that everyone laughed. He looked around nonplussed. “Wha?” he demanded through a mouth stuffed full of food.

Molly looked over then. “Ginny, dear, you've barely touched your breakfast.”

Ginny gave a mental curse. Leave it to her mum to point it out when everyone else seemed too caught up in their own thoughts to notice. “Just a bit of a tummy ache,” she said, which really was not entirely a lie. Her stomach did feel a little upset.

“I could make you up a nice tonic. It would only take me two seconds.”

Ginny made a face. “No, thanks Mum. No offense but your tonics taste like sewage.”

Ron snorted softly but for once actually had enough sense to hold his tongue.

Molly raised her chin importantly. “I never claimed that they tasted good. I only promise that they will cure any ache in your body.”

“I'll just suffer through, thanks.”

Her mum frowned. “At least let me get you a ginger ale or something.”

“Mum, I'm fine.”

“But you can't just not eat your breakfast. It's the most important meal of the day, haven't I taught you anything? You could do to put on a few pounds as it is.”

Ginny swallowed a bite of egg. She opened her mouth towards her mother. “See? I ate. All right?”

“Ginny, that's not lady like.”

She only just refrained from rolling her eyes. That would not go over well with Mrs. Weasley. “Can I just go have a lie down, Mum? I think I just need some sleep.”

Molly looked disapprovingly at Ginny’s nearly full plate, then sighed and waved her hand. “Fine. Perhaps it's for the best. Just don't complain to me when you're hungry and lunchtime is still hours away.”

“I promise.” Ginny scooted away from the table and walked towards her room, ignoring the eyes on her.

It felt odd walking through Grimmauld Place now. Before, she had always stayed in the summer when the professors were off and the place was a bustle of activity. Now it was eerily quiet with only herself, the trio, her mum, and Naomi and Ben there.

She had only just flopped onto her bed when she heard a knock at the door. She sighed before calling, “Who is it?”

“Naomi. Can I come in?”

Ginny sat up. “Sure.”

The brown-haired woman let herself in and sat at the desk chair. “You don't have a stomach ache, do you?”

“Actually I do.”

“But that wasn't what this morning was about,” Naomi prompted.

Ginny fell back into her pillows again. “No, it's not.”

“You told me things went well with Draco. They should have, you took long enough,” Naomi teased. “I thought I was going to have to take my top off to keep that guard distracted any longer.”

Ginny smiled weakly. “I really am sorry about that. And it did go well. I just don't know how to get him out.”

“I know. I tried to think of something for you, but...”

“But it's impossible,” Ginny finished miserably. “I know, I sort of came to the same conclusion myself. And I don't know what to do about it. And then a few nights ago...”

“Right, the conversation with Nott,” Naomi remembered. “What, did that go badly?”

“No, he agreed. It's not even that. It's...look, I'm probably not supposed to tell you this. Swear to pretend you never heard it?”

Naomi nodded solemnly. “Cross my heart.”

Ginny nodded. That was all the assurance she needed. Oddly enough, she trusted this woman, even though she could not quite place why. Naomi had a way of making a person believe her when she spoke. “Awhile ago I overheard my brother and Harry and Hermione.”

“You mean you were eavesdropping.” Naomi smiled.

Ginny shrugged, unconcerned. “They were talking about the final Horcrux.”

“The final wha-crux?”

Ginny was confused a moment before she realized that Naomi never would have heard about the Horcruxes. Ginny herself only knew because Harry had told her back when they were still dating. “They're these objects that Voldemort put bits of his soul into.”

“His soul?”

“Yeah. To make him invincible. It's how he survived dying the first time round. Or part of it, anyway. But Harry can't ever defeat him until he destroys these Horcruxes first.”

Naomi still looked a little confused, but nodded slowly anyway. “ what about this being the final one?”

“Well, all the other ones were found and destroyed by now. Except this last one. That's why Harry went away for so long. He was looking for it.”

“And did he find it, then?”

“Well, no. But he found out what it was. Rowena Ravenclaw's dagger.”

Naomi abruptly leaned forward at that. “Really? I thought that was lost! Where is it? It's practically a legend in my House!”

That caught Ginny's interest. “A legend? Why?”

“Rumor has it that it could do more damage than her wand, and Rowena Ravenclaw could do some damage with that wand. It had all sorts of properties: a poison edge, the ability to cut through any material you can imagine, spells only it could cast, and they say it was just plain gorgeous. A blade like pure platinum, but it couldn't have been so basic. And it's totally indestructible.”

Ginny felt her stomach sink. “Indestructible? You're sure?”

Naomi realized Ginny's distress. “Oh. Right. Problem for Harry.”

“Not just Harry. For every wizard everywhere.” Ginny shook her head. “There's got to be a way.”

“Maybe. It was a long time ago, and most of the really accurate records are hardly even legible anymore. A lot of what I know is half fact, half conjecture. It's possible.” Naomi did not sound very confident though. “You never did tell me, though. Where is it?”

“Well, that's the trouble. They don't know.”

“But I thought...”

“They just found out what it is, not where. McGonagall's working on that right now.” Ginny hugged her pillow to her middle. “So now of course I want to do something to help, but there really isn't anything I can do. Plus, I'm not technically meant to know about it.” She paused, then looked at Naomi curiously. “What's it look like?”

“I don't actually know.”

“But you said it was a legend in your House.”

“It was. Still is, as far as I know. But daggers aren't huge, so the portraits only show it as a little dot. There aren't any up-close paintings to my knowledge.”

“But some book must describe it somewhere. I mean if it's that big of a deal.”

Naomi looked thoughtful. “That's probably true.” She smiled ruefully. “There's Ravenclaw for you. All of us were only ever concerned about the magical properties and the how of it. We never thought of such mundane things as to research its looks. The only reason I know about the blade looking platinum is because that was important to its composition.” She stood up, wearing a familiarly distracted look. “You know, I think I saw a small library in here once. Maybe I'll go have a look...”

And she wandered out of the room. Ginny shook her head. Naomi reminded her of a less strict Hermione in a lot of ways. In fact, Ginny would not be surprised if the “small library” was actually just Hermione's room. But that was just the Ravenclaw in her, she supposed.

Ginny hugged her pillow tighter. So the dagger was practically indestructible. Perfect. She just hoped Naomi would think to look up ways to destroy the thing as she was researching its appearance. Maybe she should go find Naomi and help. At least she would feel like she was doing something then. She was just about to get up when her fireplace burst into brilliant green light.

Ginny let out a squeak of surprise as Nott's head appeared.

He smirked. “Frighten you?”

She glared. “How did you even know the address to Floo to?”

“I can't go telling all my Slytherin secrets, now can I, my darling Weasley?”

“I wish you would stop calling me that.”

“And I wish you would have just left me alone, but you'll find that life's full of disappointment, darling Weasley.”

She rolled her eyes. “I'm assuming this is important. Better be quick before someone walks in. Mum tends to do that.”

That drew out his half smile. “Your Mum? How charming.”

“Shut up. What is it?”

“We've got a bit of a problem, as it happens.”

Ginny felt her stomach drop a few inches. “You couldn't find my wand?”

“Oh no, I found it. I even managed to get it. Unfortunately, I also found something else.”

“Nott, I'm having a really bad morning. Would you just have done with it?”

“All right. I was trying to be gentle, but if you really insist...”


Again came his half smile. “Your wand was in Snape's study. I had a peek at his desk, and I found Death Eater plans to storm your precious headquarters in two weeks. Quite thorough plans, too. Leaves absolutely nothing to chance, really. Every Death Eater that the Dark Lord has is required to be there.”

Ginny stared at him, head spinning with the bluntness of it. “”

“I did say I was going to try and be gentle about it. I was only following your orders.”

“How can you be so damn calm?” she exploded, jumping to her feet. “This...all of them?”

“All,” he confirmed. “And I can be calm because I've had almost a day to pull myself together. Anyway, I thought you might like some warning.”

“That's how you found this address,” she realized. “From the plans.”

Nott inclined his head, a strange gesture since it was currently floating without shoulders.

“But how did they get the address?” Ginny's mind leaped with a sickening lurch to Naomi. If the woman had betrayed them, it was all on Ginny's shoulders. Oh, God...

Nott cut short her panic. “There was a letter from Lucius by the plans. He must’ve sent them to Snape to explain everything. Apparently, Pierce managed to weasel it out of one of you before he died. You know, back when he was still the ‘good guy.’”

Ginny’s mind spun on informational overload. At least Naomi hadn’t been the culprit. That would have been devastating. Then something Nott had said registered for the first time. “Wait, what do you mean, before he died?”

Nott blinked at her. “Well, obviously he didn't do it after he died. Far as I know, there's no ghost-Pierce wandering about.”

“Pierce is dead?”

“Of course. Didn't Draco tell you?”

“Why would Draco know?”

Nott raised his eyebrows. “Oh, no reason. Other than he was the one that killed our good professor. Just that.”

Ginny sat back on the bed in shock, slowly lowering her head into her hands. “Oh, Merlin...” It was too much. Far, far too much.

“He really didn't tell you?”

“Obviously!” Ginny snapped at him. She ran her hands down her face. “Never mind that. What else did the plans say, anything?”

Nott regarded her for another couple seconds before letting it go. He answered, “It's your basic old-fashioned storming. Every Death Eater he's got will rush the place. He's dividing his ranks in two. One half will apparate in first, and while your Order is distracted, the other half will Floo in. Catch you lot from behind. They will have orders to destroy everything and everyone they encounter. Women and children make no exceptions.”

Ginny's head swam. “Don't they know there are only seven of us here?! And one of those is a four-year-old!”

“I suggest you change that situation as quickly as possible.”

“Why thank you, Nott. Because I never would have thought of that on my own!” She was fast losing patience with Nott's dark, nonchalant brand of snarkiness. “I just can't understand why they're going so far when there's so few of us.”

“I don't know, but I can guess.”

Ginny waited for him to expand, then demanded, “Well?”

“Voldemort's downfall has always been that he's too confident. Maybe he's actually learning. It will quite pay off for him this time, won't it?”

Ginny almost threw her pillow in his face until she remembered that he was in her fireplace, and that would burn the thing to ash. She gave him a deadly look instead. Something occurred to her then. “Wait, every Death Eater?”

“Yes, Weasley,” he said with exasperation. “Would it help if I wrote it down for you?”

“No, I just mean...well, that includes you, doesn't it?”

His expression never changed. “Yes.”

“'ll be able to do that? I mean...” she swallowed, this next truth difficult to admit, “this might actually destroy us. You can live with that?”

His half smile surfaced. “Concerned about my mental health, my darling Weasley?”

“Cut it out Nott. Quit avoiding the question. How are you going to bring yourself to do this? How are you going to murder women and children and possibly eliminate the last opposition to You-Know-Who?”

The smile vanished, replaced by a hard look. “I won't have a choice, Weasley.”

“You have a choice!”

“Yes, actually, you're right. I could choose to die. But I'm not suicidal, and it won't make a difference anyway.”

“There must be some way out! This will be slaughter! Outright murder.”

“No, Ginny, this will be war.” It was the first time he'd used her first name. “And believe me, I'm no stranger to it. I have plenty to live with already.” Ginny had never seen him look, or heard him sound, so cold. “Now, I've done my part. I've warned you, which was risking execution as it is. You have time. Shut down the Floo, get reinforcements, whatever. My part is done.”

Ginny knew that he could escape. She knew it. The only problem was that he didn't. He saw himself as trapped, and she could tell that there would be no convincing him otherwise. So very softly, she just said, “Okay.”

“And don't forget to send your bloody owl to pick up your wand. I went through enough to get the damned thing.” Then he was gone, and her fireplace died down again.

Ginny's head reeled with everything she had just been told. It was too much to process all at once. She knew she needed to be doing something, telling someone, but she couldn't sort out who to go to first. And how would she explain knowing about this? No one knew that she was in contact with Nott except Naomi, and Ginny needed to tell an Order member.

She was still staring at the fireplace when Naomi burst through the door bright-eyed. “I found it! It was in the second book I looked in!”

“That's good,” Ginny replied dully.

Naomi faltered in her excitement. “What's wrong?”

Ginny shook her head.

“Ginny? Ginny, look at me!” She dropped to her knees in front of Ginny, shaking the girl's shoulders. “Look, I don't know what got into you, but I have to tell you something. Ginny, I know where the dagger is! I know where to find the last Horcrux. And I know how to destroy it.”

- - - - -

Draco was half-dozing when he heard the clank of the lock. He blinked open his eyes, struggling to push himself up from where he slouched against the wall. The door swung slowly open, and Draco felt a smile grow on his face when he saw Ginny slip through.

“I was wondering if you planned on visiting again,” he said quietly as she shut the door.

“I know, sorry.” She came over and knelt down beside him to unlock his manacles. “It's so hard to get down here to see you, what with Naomi having to distract the guard and needing to find something to do with Ben in the mean time.”

“Ben? Who's Ben now?”

“Oh, Naomi's son. He's adorable, you'd love him.” She paused and glanced up at his face, giving a slight smile. “Well...maybe you wouldn't. But most normal, less cynical people would love him.”

Draco shrugged. “I don't mind kids.”

She seemed surprised by this admission. “Really?”

“They're honest. At least with them you know they're not playing games or strategizing or anything. I always thought it might be sort of nice to have one around. Someday.”

Their eyes met. “Good to know,” Ginny said softly. Then she cleared her throat. “Uh, I actually came here for a reason.”

Draco massaged his wrists where the manacles were, wincing slightly at the red, irritated marks. “Of course you did. Before you start, though, can you do me one favor?”


He slipped his hand around the back of her neck and drew her to him, kissing her soundly on the lips. She sighed and slid her hands up to his shoulders, letting him pull her down onto his lap. He ended the kiss slowly, and when he opened his eyes to look at her, he found hers still closed. They fluttered open a second later.

“Prat,” she mumbled. He smiled at the faint blush spreading across her cheeks. “I told you I can't concentrate when you do stuff like that.”

“I know.” He felt no remorse, and he did not try and convey any into his tone either. “But you love me.”

He held his breath, almost waiting for her to shrink away, tell him that no, she'd made a mistake. She didn't really give a damn about him after all.

But she only smiled a small, sweet smile and leaned forward to give him a very light, quick kiss on the lips. “You know I do. Nutters as that makes me.” He smirked and made to pull her close again, but this time she put her palm over his face to stop him. “I really do need to talk to you, and if you keep this up, I'll forget all of it.”

“Would that be bad? I have a feeling I'm not going to enjoy this conversation.”

“Doubtful,” she admitted. “But nevertheless. Now, are you going to behave, or am I going to have to chain you back up?”

He grinned devilishly. “I had no idea you were into that. I'll keep it in mind.”

Ginny rolled her eyes and punched his arm. “Shut up, would you? I'm serious now.”

And he could see from the set line of her mouth that she was indeed. Something was bothering her a great deal. “What is it?”

She climbed off his lap and leaned into his side instead, pulling his arm around her and fiddling with his fingers. “The Death Eaters are going to attack the Order, Draco. All of them.”

Draco immediately turned her face up to his. “What? That's impossible.”

She shook her head. “I know, but in two weeks the entire Death Eater force is going to be at our front door. Literally.”

“Ginny, be realistic. Even if the Death Eaters were mad enough to try it, why would they send all their ranks against less than a dozen people, only one of those an official Order member? They don't even know where the place is.”

“You-Know-Who's not taking any chances anymore, and they do know. Apparently Pierce found out and told them...before he died.”

She was watching his face closely now, her eyes burning into his. Draco swallowed. “He...died?”

Ginny pulled out from beneath his arm and scooted back, eyes flashing. “Don't lie to me, Draco Malfoy. You knew he was dead all along! If we're ever going to work, you're going to have to learn I'm not one of your Slytherin pals. I won't be deceived. About anything.”

Draco felt walls crumbling down around him, but he clung desperately to old habits, tried and true. He tried to keep up the pretense. “What are you saying? How could I have found out down here?”

“Damn it, Draco! You're still doing it! You're still lying! You knew because you killed him!”

Draco felt the air rush out of his lungs. She knew. Bloody hell, she somehow knew. Now he was guilty of murder and lying about it, and how would she ever forgive him for both? Draco leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes, taking in slow steady breaths.

“I didn't mean to. I swear I'm not lying to you about that. I didn't want to kill him. I was just trying to stun him...then the wind...there was nothing I could do.” Draco squeezed his eyes shut tighter, trying to block out the disturbing memories. “I may be a bastard, but I never aspired to murder. You have to believe me.”

He heard a soft scuffing sound, and then Ginny was leaning against his side again, her arms wrapped around his middle. Her words came out soft. “Why didn't you just tell me?”

He looked down at her, amazed. “You don't hate me?”

“Don't be ridiculous. Now tell me why you felt you had to lie about it.”

“Because you're so good and righteous and all that shite. How could you love a killer? I didn't want to risk what chance I might have had.”

She pulled back and rose up to her knees so that they were eye-level. It was a strange feeling to Draco, who was used to towering over the petite girl. She gripped his chin and forced him to look at her. “Now you listen close, because I’m only going to say this once. First off, in the future, always tell me the truth no matter how you think I may react. Even if you cheated on me with some other little tart, you had better tell me the next morning. Lying is the one thing I will not tolerate from you, Draco Malfoy; you're risking your chances with me a lot more by doing that than just coming clean. Understood?”

He nodded — or, nodded as much as he could with his chin in her surprisingly strong grip.

“Say it,” she urged.

“I understand. I won't lie.”

“Good. Remember that. Because if this is going to work, I'm going to have to be able to trust you. I'll forgive most anything, but only if you come clean about it before I find out on my own.” She relaxed her hold on his jaw. “And you are not a killer.”

Draco tried to pull away then, but she only tightened her grip and jerked his face back towards hers.

“No, you're going to listen to me. You aren't some cold-blooded murderer. Pierce was a bad man. He might have seemed cheerful and nice, which makes it all more confusing, but when you get right down to it, Pierce was evil. He deserved what he got. No one's going to call Harry a murderer for killing You-Know-Who. Same goes for you. And third, if you're telling the truth, you didn't mean it, so there's no way you should have any guilt whatsoever. Okay?”


Okay, Draco?”

He met her eyes. “Okay,” he mumbled.

She let go of his chin. “Right, glad we got that squared away.”

Draco rubbed at his jaw. “Merlin, Ginny. I think you left bruises.”

“Consider it your punishment for lying to me.” She leaned into his side a third time, her shoulder tucked just under his.

Draco put his arm around her, feeling a little dazed. How had he ever managed to trick such an amazing girl into loving him? They sat in silence for awhile before Draco eventually asked, “Don't you want to know how it happened?”

She shrugged. “If you want to tell me. I know you'll explain when you're ready.”

Draco then leaned down to kiss her. “Thank you.”

“Mmm.” She smiled sadly. “I wish that was all of it.”

He let his head fall back. “Oh hell, what else?”

“We figured out where the final Horcrux is.”

“That's good, isn't it?”

“It's in Malfoy Manor.”

Draco paused. “Oh.”

“Naomi says that only someone with Malfoy blood can apparate in or out, or Floo in for that matter. That and whoever Lucius gives specific permission to. Naomi used to have it, but he's erased her from the wards by now.”

Draco did not like where this was leading. “How does Naomi know all this? And why would Father let her have permission?”

Ginny shrugged. “Truly? I'm not entirely positive. She was very vague, something about being forced to help him once a long time ago, and it sounded like it had something to do with why she was in Snape's with me, but like I said — she was very vague.”

“And you trust this woman? You barely know her. She could be leading you straight into a trap. Is she the one who told you about this massive Death Eater raid too?”

Ginny shook her head. “That was Nott. He found the plans when he was getting my wand. And I do trust Naomi. I know it's probably foolish, but I don't know. It's just a gut feeling.”

“You had a gut feeling about Pierce, too,” Draco reminded her.

Ginny frowned. “This is different. She's all right, Draco. Trust me on this, okay?”

He sighed. “So let me guess. You want me to scurry over to Malfoy Manor, destroy your little Horcrux, and come running right on back. What is it, anyway? The Horcrux.”

Ginny grimaced. “Something like that. And it's Rowena Ravenclaw's dagger. Do you remember seeing it?”

“I don't know what it looks like. Father has ornamental daggers all over the place.”

“Naomi says it's in his study, sitting on the mantle.”

Draco thought back. “I don't recall, but I've only been in the study a few times. It's pretty much understood that the study is his space.”

“Well, according to Naomi, it shouldn't be to hard to pick out. It's the only blade up there last she saw, and the hilt is a very elaborate black ivory raven.”

“I'm glad to see you and Naomi have been having fun making all these plans, but aren't you forgetting one little detail? Like that I'm a prisoner?”

“I overheard Mum tell Hermione that McGonagall's dropping in tomorrow. I'll tell her about the attack and the dagger, and then she'll have to let you out to destroy it. Then with You-Know-Who vulnerable, maybe we can organize a preemptive strike or something. We'll prevent a raid on the Order, you'll prove your innocence, and maybe we'll defeat Voldemort all in one blow. It's perfect.”

Her eyes were shining with determination, and Draco didn't have the heart to tell her that life never worked out as easily as all that. But he let her believe for now, mostly because he couldn't bear to break the truth to her.

“Well? Would you do it?” she asked.

Draco sighed. “Sure.”

It didn't matter. He doubted he would get the chance to follow through anyway.

- - - - -

Naomi practically fell out of the bed when the door slammed shut with an almighty crash. She only just managed to clutch the edge of the mattress in time to keep herself balanced on top of the sheets, heart pounding as an irate Ginny Weasley paced back and forth at the foot of the bed.

“That woman’s gone totally round the bend!” she shouted, face flushed. “I know people handle grief a lot of different ways, but she’s just turned into the super bitch from hell! She doesn’t even make sense anymore! Does she realize how mad she’s behaving? She’s like a child!”

Naomi struggled to sit up, mind having trouble processing all this upon first waking. “Who are we talking about now?”

Ginny spun on her. “McGonagall!” She halted then, seeming to see Naomi for the first time. “Did I wake you?” She had the grace to sound at least marginally contrite.

“Just a little bit.”

“Sorry.” She glanced at the clock. “But…you do realize it’s almost lunch.”

Naomi loosed a massive yawn and rubbed her eyes. “Yeah. Ben couldn’t sleep last night. Which meant he felt it was his duty to ensure I suffered the same problem. Your mum collected him this morning, though, so I managed to get a few hours.” She breathed in deeply, opened her eyes very wide, and forced her back straight. “Right, now what’s this about McGonagall going mad?”

Ginny slipped back into her rant with remarkable ease. “Not going mad, the woman’s gone!.”

Naomi pulled herself out from beneath the duvet regretfully and pulled a chair up for Ginny. “Sit down. I’ll go get you some water, then you can calm down, and tell me rationally what happened.”

Sense seemed to prevail, because Ginny nodded grudgingly and sank into the chair, shutting her eyes and breathing slowly. Naomi watched her for a second, thinking that the girl seemed far too jaded for being so young.

She’s probably only…what? Sixteen or seventeen? That made Naomi about a decade her senior. She could not remember ever having felt so old. And the thing of it all was that she was still young; really she was. But already she had lost the man she loved, given birth to a son, and now this teenage girl had apparently decided that Naomi was her crisis management when things went wrong. No wonder she felt ancient at twenty-six.

Ginny drank down the water slowly, eyes hard and fixed on the door all the while. She set the glass on the Naomi’s dresser with deliberate calm, then began much more coherently, “You remember how we came up with the plan of Draco getting the Horcrux before the attack so Harry could head off the whole thing?”

Naomi sat on the edge of her bed facing Ginny. “I take it McGonagall didn’t find it as brilliant as we did.”

“That would be putting it nicely, yes. She said she didn’t want to let Draco out only to waltz right back into his own home with no way to keep an eye on him. It would be like handing him right back. ‘We might as well offer them an apology note as well,’ she said. It’s ridiculous!”

Naomi frowned. “So what does she plan to do instead?”

“I have no idea. She ‘dismissed’ me because apparently I wasn’t controlling my temper.” Ginny scowled, and Naomi had to hide a smile behind her hand. She could well imagine what the girl’s temper had been like. “But when I left she was already closing down the Floo.”

That filled Naomi with foreboding. “You don’t think she would try to just fight it out, do you? I mean, now that we have some warning, we should do something to prevent it. If she doesn’t want to use Draco, fine, but she must do something.”

Ginny slouched down in the chair and massaged her temples. “I don’t know. I honestly have no idea what she would do. Ever since Dumbledore…she just hasn’t been the same. Sometimes she seems so kind, far nicer than she ever was in the old days. Then it’s like she’s a whole different person, and she’s this irrational woman refusing a perfectly good plan because of a grudge!”

Naomi felt sick. She could not foresee the Order defending against the entire Death Eater force. She had done some snooping, and most of the new recruits were barely trained. The long-time members made up only a fraction of their force, and even if the Ministry lent them Aurors, it would take a lot of them to be of any real help — and with the Ministry’s recent lack of cooperation, Naomi could not see them handing over nearly enough.

The prospect would have upset her under normal circumstances just because she knew that the Order of the Phoenix was the last real defense against Voldemort and his Death Eaters. But now the fear tore at her even worse — her son was at headquarters now, and short of going back to the villa where they would probably starve to death, she had nowhere to take him. When Ginny had related Nott’s report, she said that the Death Eaters would spare no one, not even women and children. She could not let her son be slaughtered like some swine in the yard.

“We’ve got to do something,” she said suddenly. “I don’t know what to tell you about your Headmistress, but we can’t let her try and fight this out. It’s suicide.”

“What are we going to do? If Draco doesn’t go destroy the Horcrux first, the only thing left that would stop it would be a full out attack on them. And that would be even worse than waiting for them here. At least this way we would be fighting a defensive battle on home ground.”

“There’s another way to stop them. Cut off the head of the snake.”

Ginny frowned. “You mean You-Know-Who?”

“Oh, for Merlin’s sake Ginny, say his name! Voldemort. See? Lightening didn’t come down from the heavens to strike me dead. And yes, I mean Voldemort. If we destroy him for good, I guarantee all his spineless followers will scatter like the worms they really are.”

Ginny’s mouth set in a hard line. “We can’t just saunter on up and kill him. Not unless we destroy the final Horcrux first. Otherwise You-Kn…Voldemort is still invincible.”

“We can at least weaken him, can’t we?”

Ginny raised her eyebrows. “If you’d like to give it a shot, please, be my guest.”

Naomi rose abruptly and stalked to the corner, leaning her head against the cool wallpaper. “I can’t let him kill my son, Ginny,” she said softly, desperately.

The girl walked up behind her and rubbed her back. “They won’t. We’ll…we’ll figure something out. Maybe the Ministry will — ”

“The Ministry’s about as useful as a quill without ink.” If only McGonagall would have cooperated. She knew Harry Potter would have agreed, at least if Ginny’s stories were true. He seemed hot-headed enough, eager to act even if authority told him otherwise.

That thought triggered and idea, and she pulled abruptly away, feeling excitement bubbling up in her. “Ginny, we could do it anyway.”

The redhead eyed her warily. “What do you mean?”

“I mean we could still follow our plan!”

“But McGonagall — ”

“Bugger McGonagall! We don’t need her. Harry’s not a stranger to breaking the rules, is he? If we explain it to him, then Draco can go destroy the Horcrux, and Harry can go destroy Voldemort.”

Ginny looked far from convinced. “I know you’re worried about Ben, but Naomi there are about a hundred problems with that plan. First off, without McGonagall’s cooperation, we’re going to have a time of it getting Draco out. Plus, I have a feeling the guards will notice he’s not there when they bring him food.”

“I figured out how to break us in, didn’t I? I can break him out, too. And who cares what the guards notice? Once he’s gone, he’s gone.”

“Because then he’ll just be a fugitive! It’ll make him look guiltier than ever. And I’m sorry, but I can’t just send Harry off to face You-Know-Who.”

“Why? He wouldn’t do it?”

Now the redhead started looking impatient. “Oh, no I’m sure he would. He’s the look after you leap sort, but I’m saying I can’t ask him to do it. It was one thing when it was going to be an organized effort by the Order. But this is way too dangerous.”

“And a full-fledged attack on headquarters is safer?” Naomi demanded.

Ginny frowned. “I don’t know…but Naomi, he’s my friend. He used to be my boyfriend, and now he’s practically my brother. How can I ask him to go and kill himself?”

“He’s faced him before, Ginny.”

“He got lucky before. I’d rather not tempt fate, thanks.”

“Don’t you want to see Draco free? They’ll kill him too, you know. First they’ll torture him, try to force him to serve by breaking his mind or his spirit, whichever comes first, and if he still resists…he’ll die, Ginny. That’s what’s going to happen if we don’t stop this attack.” Naomi didn’t really know what they would do with Draco, but she was desperate to protect her son, and she knew that would strike a chord with Ginny.

And it did. Her face was white and ashen, her expression ill. “Wouldn’t they just ask him first? Draco’s smart, and he’s a Slytherin — self-preservation and all that. He would know to just join them before all of that.”

Naomi raised her eyebrows. “And you would want that? Even if you’re right, he would spend the rest of his life just as much a prisoner as he is now, only he would have guilt and grief over you to add to the fun. Personally, I think I’d rather die.”

Ginny sat back on Naomi’s bed heavily, eyes fixed to the slightly warped floorboards. “There has to be some other way….”

Naomi shook her head. “I’ve looked at it every way I can. I know it’s dangerous for Harry, and I know it might risk making Draco look guiltier…but Ginny, when was there ever any great victory without just as great a risk involved first?”

“How would Harry even get near Voldemort?” Ginny said the name more easily this time, but it was still obviously a conscious effort. “They have detection wards, at the very least. He can’t exactly mosey on into the hideout without someone capturing him. We don’t even know where the hideout is!”

Naomi frowned. “What about Nott?”

Ginny put her head in her hands. “Oh, Merlin. What about him?”

“Well, he could help, couldn’t he? Tell us where Voldemort’s hiding, smuggle Harry in. At least tell us about the wards, if nothing else. I might be able to dismantle some of them.”

“It was a chore convincing him just to steal my wand back for me. You think he’ll be eager to smuggle in his master’s arch enemy?”

“If you explain that Harry has a very good chance of ending the war and the Death Eaters with it, then yes. It would mean his freedom. Put it to him that way, make sure and sell it like it’s only for his benefit. That’s all a Slytherin needs to believe in order to cooperate.”

Ginny stared at Naomi a long time. “You’re mad.”

“I’m a scared mother,” she corrected.

Ginny sighed. “Is there a difference?”

- - - - -

A/N – Oh my goodness guys, it’s getting so close to the end now it’s crazy! I’d say anywhere from one to three more chapters, depending on how I decide to write the last few scenes, and how much I ramble. Which we know happens quite often lol.

Wish me luck!
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