Their first conversation had been late one night the summer after her graduation. Ginny had gone downstairs at 12 Grimmauld Place, unable to sleep. She had been surprised to discover Snape sitting at the table, the same table where they now sat, reading what appeared to be a potions text. She had commented on his choice, for she felt that Potions for the Modern Wizard explained things more concisely than his choice, A Guide to Horribly Difficult Potions that are Rarely Used. It had begun a discussion that lasted for several hours; indeed until her mother came down to see what all the shouting was about.
Since then, they had debated regularly on all manner of subjects. Although they had never planned it, each evening they both spent at the Black Residence found the two in a heated conversation on one topic or another. They never seemed to agree on much of anything, except that their debates were quite enjoyable and that what was said during the debate was not held against the other person at any other point. Usually after the others had gone to bed, they strayed into conversations without any hint of disagreement on their dreams and hopes for when Voldemort was finally defeated. It was never a question of if, but rather when, as neither wanted to think of the possibility of the Dark winning. At first it was very odd to speak of personal matters with her former professor, but she quickly accustomed herself to it, as his insights into her problems were usually quite helpful. It had surprised her that she was able to get Severus to open up to her. He didn‘t seem to have many close friends and the fact that he trusted her enough to discuss his past and future had touched her. She wasn’t sure what she had done to merit such trust, but she was truly glad they had begun talking.
Severus had remarked once to her father in her hearing that their conversations were a welcome distraction from all that was going on in the outside world. Ginny had silently agreed. With the war with Voldemort causing death and destruction all around, to be able to forget, even for a few hours, was a godsend. There was only so much heartache and pain one could deal with before it was impossible to see anything else, before it became the center of one’s life. To avoid that was the key to sanity in the insanity that their world had become.
In retrospect, she felt that her willingness to disagree with him had surprised him, though he had never admitted it to her. Arguing with the dreaded Potions Master and escaping unscathed had been a new and eye-opening experience for her as none had dared to do such at Hogwarts. She attributed the success of the first debate to her ability to think on her feet and explain her thoughts and opinions clearly. She didn’t think he had ever believed that someone from her family was capable of arguing without becoming outraged, with the possible exception of Percy.
Ginny winced internally at the thought of her brother. It was because of his choice to side with Fudge, rather than Dumbledore, that she was sitting here now.
“I feel, Virginia, that you would be better suited to another task,” Severus said coolly, not meeting Ginny’s eyes, but rather speaking to her parents and the other members of the Order that were gathered in the kitchen with them to discuss the latest mission.
Ginny felt her eyes narrow in anger. How dare he be so bloody condescending! He had no authority over her and if she had anything to say about it, she would prove him wrong. “Then who, Severus, might I ask, would be useful in this situation?” she asked, struggling to keep her tone to match his. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that Ron and Harry surreptitiously moved away from the table, wary expressions on their features.
The boys had walked in on a particularly vociferous debate between Ginny and Severus the past summer and had since declared that if the Order would simply put Voldemort right in the middle of the two having an argument, they would no longer have to worry about the evil wizard. Neither Ginny nor Severus had found that particularly amusing. Ginny supposed the two now saw a similar argument in the making and had decided to remove themselves from the potential battlefield.
“Anyone, really! The last thing I need is someone who has no idea of the meaning of the word subtle tagging along!” Severus snapped, raising an eyebrow at her.
Ginny had never seen Severus get this angry this quickly. What on earth was he trying to do? Why was he opposing her on this?
“Well, I hardly think you’ll find someone else who my brother will talk to, especially as he is now at odds with the rest of my family,” Ginny pointed out, attempting to keep control of her temper.
“Be that as it may, your lack of experience would be a detriment when trying to elicit information,” he replied quickly, leaning forward both hands on the table as he met her eyes.
“But my relationship with Percy would be an attribute,” she pointed out just as quickly, copying his movements.
“I believe the correct term should be your ‘former’ relationship. I was given to understand, by yourself in fact, that you haven’t spoken with your brother in quite some time.” Snape was unable to keep a note of triumph from creeping into his voice as he stood up, glaring down at her.
“If six months can be considered ‘quite some time’, then that’s true. However, I believe that Percy would welcome the chance to catch up with me. We parted on good terms and I have no reason to believe that he knows of my membership in the Order!” Ginny snapped in return, also getting to her feet to counteract some of the height advantage he had on her. Of course, this wasn’t entirely successful as he was still several inches taller than she was, even though she was rather tall for a girl.
Before either could elaborate, they were interrupted.
“Enough! This has gone on for far too long,” Albus Dumbledore commented, having entered the kitchen unnoticed by either Ginny or Severus. He turned to Ginny, his expression one of sympathy. “I am sorry, Ginny, but I must ask you not to accompany Severus on this mission. It is simply too dangerous for someone with no experience. I believe all involved would feel much better with you out of harm’s way.”
Ginny schooled her expression to one of obedience. She inclined her head, outwardly agreeing to the old wizard’s order to stay behind. She had been patiently waiting to take an active place in the Order for the past three years, since she had graduated from Hogwarts in fact. Her brothers were away quite frequently, doing various tasks for Dumbledore, however she was always relegated to taking care of 12 Grimmauld Place, treating injuries and what she had termed “womanly duties”. She felt so useless staying behind with her mother when the rest of the family (excluding her father) performed important and useful jobs.
Upon hearing that Severus was to approach her brother, Percy, to discover where his true loyalties lay, Ginny had been filled with hope. She was the only person in her family who had spoken with Percy in over four years. Percy’s soft spot for his baby sister had allowed her to owl Percy from time to time to ask after his health and well being on their mother’s behalf. He had dutifully answered each time. She had even received a letter from him congratulating her on her NEWT scores, for they were quite high.
To hear her request be denied, yet again, was an insult to her intelligence. She was far more intelligent than a House Elf, who surely could handle all her chores at the Black Residence! To continually be denied important jobs when they desperately needed more trustworthy witches and wizards was a sign that they didn’t feel she was capable of more than washing dishes.
She stood abruptly, the insult hitting her particularly hard this time. “I’m sorry you feel that I would be a detriment to the mission, sir. Though, how will I ever gain enough experience to be useful to the Order outside of this bloody house when no one will give me the chance?” she asked Dumbledore, stating boldly what had been on her mind for the past two years. She turned to her parents who were standing by the sink, expressions of relief evident on their features. “And to be truthful, Mum and Dad, I had hoped that you would let me stand on my merits, rather than on the fact that you still see me as a child. Apparently, I was wrong.” Without a word, she turned on her heel and headed for the door.
“Your parents had nothing to do with any of this, Virginia. It was I who asked Albus not to allow you to accompany on this mission. In fact, I told him if you were assigned, I refused to accompany you,” Severus informed her.
Ginny stopped with her back still to the table, shock washing over her. Severus? He knew how much she wanted to be useful, how she hated being left behind to wash dishes and mend clothing. By this point, surely he knew she was intelligent -- in fact, how could he not, the way she was able to outmaneuver him at times during their debates. She hadn’t expected that he welcome her with open arms on this mission, but to refuse to be a part of it if she was? To be so betrayed felt like a kick in the stomach. It was worse than Percy’s betrayal, for Percy had always been ambitious and siding with Fudge had guaranteed his eventual promotion. But Snape? There was nothing he would gain from keeping her out of the war.
She felt tears prick her eyes. She had thought she had a good relationship with Severus and had considered him among her closest friends, for all they didn’t agree on anything. It was clear that he didn’t share her feelings.
“Well,” she said softly into the very awkward silence that had encompassed the kitchen since Severus‘ admission. “If that is the way you feel, I wish you well on your mission, Professor Snape.” The last was said forcefully, her betrayal emphasized by her reversion to the title she had not used for two years.
Without another word, she strode out of the kitchen and hurried up the stairs to the sanctuary of her room. Quickly closing and locking the door behind her, the tears spilled over onto her cheeks. She refused to give into the sobs that tore at her chest and so stood, looking at the window into the night, her shoulders shaking from her hurt and anger. She knew it would only be a short time before her mother or one of her brothers came up to talk to her.
When Ginny heard footsteps come up the stairs several minutes later, she tensed, hoping that they would continue past and leave her be. A knock at the door confirmed her suspicious that someone was coming to berate her for her behavior.
Ginny raised an eyebrow, her surprise causing her tears to abate. She turned to the door, staring at it for a moment. He had never come up to her rooms before. In fact, she hadn’t known he knew which room was hers, though that could be explained if he had questioned her mother in the few minutes that had passed since the incident in the kitchen.
“Virginia?” Snape repeated, in what Ginny knew he thought of as a coaxing and kind tone. And to be truthful, for him, it was. For anyone else, it sounded rather like the wolf in the fairy tale of the wolf and the three little pigs, before he started blowing down their houses.
Quickly wiping away the tears and saying a quick charm to mask the after-effects of her crying, she drew herself up and took a deep breath.
Ginny’s mouth quirked. He never called her that, having told her once that he detested nicknames and refused to use them. She had replied that it was an acceptable way to show one’s affection for someone else and had threatened him with the use of ‘Sev‘ or worse, ‘Sevvie‘. The sight of his face at her suggestion was one of her fonder memories. He had been horrified at the thought and had told her in no uncertain terms that his revenge, should she ever use that, would be painful and lengthy. That particular conversation on the merits of nicknames as signs of affection had lasted for several days, until even normally placid Bill had asked them to please find another topic.
Her fingers grasped the doorknob and she turned it quickly, pulling the door open. She was rather surprised to see an expression of concern on Snape’s face, as he had always been particularly good at hiding his emotions behind a mask. So he thought she was mad at her? Excellent, because he was correct in that assumption. She had been angry often in the past, but only once before had she felt the same sense of betrayal and that was when she lay dying on the cold stone floor of the Chamber of Secrets.
“Professor Snape, is there something I can do for you?” she asked cordially, keeping her expression and tone polite. She saw his eyes flash in annoyance, much to her delight.
“Yes, in fact there is. I would like to address your un-called for and childish behavior downstairs!” he replied, his voice automatically taking on the authoritative tone he used while teaching while he glared down at her.
Ginny met his eyes squarely as she arched her eyebrow in response. “If I am acting like a child, it is because I am being treated like a child. And I would remind you that I am no longer your student and as such have no need to listen to you as you extol on my perceived faults. In fact, I believe I have nothing more to say to you.”
Without letting him reply, she shut the door in his face. His swear was heard clearly through the door, causing Ginny to feel quite satisfied with the exchange.
Ginny stayed in her room for the rest of the evening, until she was sure that Severus would have already left on his mission. Although she knew she was being childish, she couldn’t help but feel that she was also in the right. He was the one who had betrayed her, after all and if she didn‘t want to see him for a few days, then that was his loss, not hers.
When she finally emerged at eleven o‘clock, she discovered that that rest of her family had gone to bed. She wasn’t quite sure if she was pleased or not, as none had made any attempt at talking to her, though she really didn’t blame them after what she had said to Severus.
Shaking herself, for she refused to feel guilty over her treatment of him, she peeked into the kitchen. Relief flooded through her when she saw that it was empty. With a smile, she noted that her mother had left a plate of food with a warming spell on the table for her. As she sat down and began nibbling at the chicken, she gazed around the kitchen.
It felt rather empty with her here all alone. It wasn’t that she had never sat by herself in the kitchen for she had numerous times. It seemed as if the happy feeling she usually associated with the room had evaporated. For the first time in a long while, she felt truly lonely.
Ginny recognized that it was most likely due to her argument with Severus. The happy memories she had of this room with him were too numerous to count, and now this most recent argument, the first she would actually term a fight between them, had eclipsed them all.
The slight creaking of the kitchen door opening startled her out of her depressing thoughts. She looked up, curious to see who would be up this late and managed a small smile for the head that peeped in.
“Hey, Gin,” Ron said, stepping through the door completely before shutting it behind him.
“Ron,” she acknowledged, keeping a wary eye on him as she picked at her vegetables. She wasn’t sure if he would berate her or cheer her for her argument with Severus. The two still didn’t get along, despite the fact that they’d been working together for three years to defeat Voldemort.
“Can I join you?” he asked hesitantly.
Ginny raised an eyebrow in surprise. He’d never asked her permission to do anything before, why was he starting now? Curious despite her growing sense of trepidation, she nodded and continued eating. Neither said anything as Ron watched Ginny pick at her food. Deciding that if he wanted to sit with her he would have to begin the conversation, she didn’t say anything.
As the silence lengthened, Ginny fought a smile. Trust Ron to try to out-wait her. Didn’t he realize by now that it was impossible? Hadn’t the twenty years of seeing how stubborn she could be sunk in?
“Blimey, Ginny, you could at least say something!” he finally burst out, sighing rather huffily.
Ginny shrugged. “You’re the one who joined me,” she pointed out calmly. His growl in response was enough to make a smile grace her lips, though she tried to hide it.
“I think you aren’t being entirely fair to him,” Ron began.
Ginny sighed but didn‘t answer, not knowing exactly how to respond. So this is the way it would be, with Ron defending Snape. Truthfully, she was quite surprised. She hadn’t thought that anything would cause Ron to side with Snape, except for Voldemort of course. Well, tonight was just full of lovely surprises, wasn’t it?
“Well? Aren’t you going to say something?” Ron snapped a minute later when it became clear to him Ginny didn’t intend to reply.
“What do you want me to say?” Ginny asked in exasperation, putting her fork down on the plate with a muted clang. She picked up her plate and took it to the garbage bin. After dumping the contents in the trash, she took it to the sink and began washing the dishes that had accumulated in it.
Although she couldn‘t see Ron, she could hear the way he rolled his eyes. “Merlin, Gin, do you have to be so childish?”
Ginny felt her face flush in anger. She dropped the dish she was rinsing in the sink and turned around, her damp hands planted firmly on her hips. “Childish? You think I’m being childish when I’m not even let of this bloody house without an armed guard? Do you all really think I’m such a hindrance, such a complete idiot that I can’t go to Diagon Alley without an escort? Do you even know how it feels to watch you and Harry and even Hermione go off and do important things while I sit here and wait? Do you have any idea what I do all day, Ronald? I cook and clean and mend and wait anxious for you all to come home in one piece. When I compare that to what you all do it makes me feel utterly and completely useless. It’s been two years since I’ve graduated and I’m still treated like a child. If I’m going to be treated like one, I might as well act like one!
“And to have someone who I felt understood betray me like that, go behind my back and work against what I want to do, it hurt. It hurt so much because I trusted him. I suppose I should have known better. The last Slytherin I trusted betrayed me, too,” Ginny said, her voice cold as turned back to the sink and continued with the dishes.
Ron didn’t say anything for a moment. As she put a dish in the drying rack, she caught a glimpse of him -- his face impassive, for once showing nothing of what he was feeling.
“You know Snape is nothing like Riddle. And I really don’t think you’re seeing things from his point of view,” he said finally.
Ginny paused to turn. “His point of view? What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked, thoroughly confused. “He knows I’m fairly intelligent. I know I’m not as brilliant as Hermione, but I did well on my NEWTs, Defense Against the Dark Arts included! He’s worked with people who did far worse on their NEWTs than I did!”
Ron shook his head, and Ginny could see he was fighting a small smile. “It’s not about your intelligence, Gin,” he observed.
With a frustrated sigh, she met his gaze. “Then what is it about, Ron? Tell me because I have no idea what you’re blathering on about!”
“He’s trying to keep you safe,” Ron replied in a tone that clearly expressed his opinion that she was overlooking something incredibly obvious.
“And why would he be trying to do that?”
He shook his head, grinning. “That’d take all the fun out of it.”
Resisting the urge to stamp her foot, she settled on crossing her arms over her chest. “Do you even realize how obnoxious you’re being?” she asked, her eyes narrowing at his obvious amusement.
To her surprise he nodded happily. “I do. In fact, I’m acting just like you did when I was still being a prat about Hermione,” he noted.
“I most certainly wasn’t this idiotic! Besides, the two situations are completely different. You and Hermione were in love for years before you got up the guts to make a move. Severus and I are just friends,” she pointed out acidly, her annoyance at her brother growing by the minute. How dare he compare how he was acting to her own previous actions? There was no comparison!
“That’s what I thought about Hermione, too,” Ron said.
Ginny’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped at his implication. “Are ... are you trying to say you think I’m in love with Severus?” she asked in shock. Why on earth would he even think such a thing? She hadn’t ever had a romantic thought about Severus in her entire life! It wasn’t that she didn’t find him attractive, for once she had known him better and didn‘t notice the yellowed teeth and greasy hair, she thought he was rather handsome. But their relationship had never been one of romance. It was based on mutual respect and long, drawn-out arguments! What was her brother even thinking?
Ron shrugged. “You might not be,” he conceded. “But I think you are, and I’ve seen the way he looks at you.”
“The way he what? Ron, you’ve obviously been at the Firewhiskey again. Perhaps it‘s time you went to bed,” Ginny suggested, shaking her head.
In actuality, she was rather disturbed by his comment. Surely Severus didn’t think of her that way. He would have said something before now, wouldn’t he? In the space of time it had taken Ron to say the words, her entire relationship with Severus had been changed.
“He looks at you like I do at Hermione, Ginny,” Ron informed her. “Like you’re the absolute center of his world.”
“That’s ridiculous! I would have noticed something that sickeningly sweet. And do you honestly expect me to believe that, if you did indeed see him looking at me like that, you wouldn’t try to hex him?” Ginny asked, proud of her argument. After all, Ron disliked Severus with an intensity that was only outshone by Harry’s. Surely, if what he said was true, he would have tried to hex the older man? That’s the way he had dealt with all her previous potential boyfriends he found unsuitable. Of course, that hadn’t stopped her in dating them, but that was irrelevant to the argument.
When Ron didn‘t reply, Ginny smiled triumphantly. Her pleasure at winning the argument was soon disappeared with his next comment.
“I never thought I’d be saying this and if you repeat it to him, I’ll deny it forever, but he’s not as bad as I always thought. Besides, if you were ever to date the greasy prat, I know he’d treat you like a princess and what else can I ask for where my baby sister is concerned?” he asked logically, meeting her eyes.
Ginny swallowed, tears filling her eyes at Ron’s words. He had never been good with saying how he felt, always using his wand, rather than his words to express his feelings.
“Ron, that’s incredibly sweet of you,” she said, a small smile forming on her lips as she blinked furiously to dissipate the tears. “But I really don’t think Severus thinks of me that way.”
Ron shrugged and stood up. “I’ve got to get to bed, Gin. Good night,” he said, coming over to give her a kiss on her cheek.
“Good night, Ron,” she replied as he exited the kitchen.
Unsure of how to deal with the previous conversation, she sat tiredly in the chair.
Was Ron right? Could Ron be right? Wouldn’t she have noticed if Severus’ feelings for her were anything other than friendship? If he was being as obvious as Ron had indicated, for Ron wasn’t the most observant man she knew, she surely would have seen it.
Her own feelings for him were another matter, however. In a fit of teenage sap, when she was thirteen she had made a list of qualities her future husband would have. Ginny mentally checked off the items on the list and compared them to Severus.
He must be taller than she was. Yes, that worked as he had several inches on her.
He must be just as smart as she. No question about that.
He had to dance well, like the Weird Sisters and be fun. That requirement was obviously a childish one, though she couldn’t deny that she did enjoy her evenings with Severus and over the past few months had begun looking forward to them with an intensity that she hadn’t recognized previously.
But none of that meant that she had romantic feelings for him! Definitely not.
“We’re friends. I think of him as just a friend, nothing more,” she said out loud, as if hearing the words come from her own mouth it would convince her of their truth.
Ginny woke up late the next morning, having stayed awake until one, lost in her thoughts. She had half hoped that she would see Severus on his way back in, but he hadn’t returned before she went to bed. As she made her way down to the kitchen, she heard raised voices from within. Pushing the door open, she was surprised when all discussion stopped at her entrance. The looks she was receiving weren’t those of censorship or anger at her behavior yesterday, but rather they were of concern. Ginny felt her stomach plummet at the expressions on their faces. Something had happened.
“What’s wrong?” she managed to get out, having stopped in the doorway. When no one spoke, she swallowed, fearing the worst. “What?”
“It’s Snape,” Ron said.
“What’s wrong? Where is he?” she asked, hearing her voice trembling. She focused on Ron, knowing he would give her a straight answer.
“He hasn’t returned yet,” he admitted.
“But ... it was supposed to be a fairly short meeting, he should have come back last night!” she protested, her heart beginning to beat faster. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be happening. Although she knew that the likelihood of all her loved ones making it through the war was slim, she had never really thought Severus wouldn’t return. And she had been so absolutely wretched to him last night. She bit her lip, intent on not bursting into tears. It certainly wouldn’t help the situation.
“He didn’t, Gin,” Ron replied apologetically. “He disappeared from Percy’s flat. Mundungus saw him enter, but never saw him leave. When Percy went to work this morning, he broke in and found no trace of Snape.”
Ginny felt her jaw clench as she tried to master her emotions. “Is it possible that Mundungus is mistaken? Perhaps he went back to Hogwarts for the night,” she suggested in what she hoped was a calm tone.
“I’m sorry, Ginny, but that isn’t the case,” Dumbledore said from his seat. “If Severus had indeed chosen not to return here, for some reason, he was to have owled us immediately. No message has arrived, by owl or any other method to tell us that is safe, so we must assume he is not.”
Ginny’s eyes fixed on him, having not noticed the presence of the Headmaster when she entered. “I see,” she said, quietly, a sense of dread filling her. “What’s being done to find him?”
“We’ve several agents out, talking with informants,” Harry told her.
“What of Percy? Has anyone asked him?” she questioned. She wasn’t surprised to see Harry shake his head.
“He wouldn’t allow anyone to see him. His secretary said he was in meetings all day,” he replied regretfully.
Ginny raised her eyebrow. “Is that right?” she asked, her voice sounding entirely too calm and collected. “Well, I have to say I’m quite disappointed that you let him get away with it. We’ll just have to see about that.”
“Now, Ginny, you can’t possibly go to the Ministry,” her mother began, shaking her head furiously.
Ginny met her eyes, having already made her decision. She fingered her wand surreptitiously, intent on not letting anyone stop her. Not that she really wanted to hex her own parents, but the thought of what Severus could be going through steeled her. She knew that Ron had noticed by the way he tensed slightly. “Yes, Mum, I can,” she replied, her voice firm.
“I won’t allow it! Ginny, this isn’t your fight,” Molly protested, looking to Arthur for support.
Ginny gave a mirthless laugh at her mother‘s words and shook her head. “Mum, it’s been my fight since Tom tried to kill me nine years ago. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to just sit here and wash dishes while Severus is missing!”
Before her mother could say another word, she ran from the kitchen to the front door. Wrenching it open, she stepped outside and quickly ran to the gate. She couldn’t Apparate within the walls of the Black Residence and so needed to be outside the property. She ran through the gate in relief as she realized that she wouldn’t be stopped.
She turned to see Ron standing in the doorway as she closed the gate behind her.
“Be careful,” he said, making no attempt to stop her even though Ginny could clearly hear their mother’s voice ordering him to Stupefy her if need be.
“Thanks, I will,” she said, smiling at him as she raised her wand and Apparated away.
She waited outside of Percy’s office for a moment to collect herself. If Percy did turn out to be in league with Voldemort and responsible for Severus’ disappearance, then she would need to think quickly to remove herself from the situation. She mentally catalogued a variety of methods she could use to get away. Of course, she hoped that it wasn’t true, that Percy had nothing to do with it and Mundungus was wrong, but she knew that the possibility was quite slim.
Smoothing her hair and her robe nervously, she walked into Percy’s office. She was met with the a perfunctory smile from a small blonde witch behind a desk.
“Can I help you?” she asked, glancing down at Ginny‘s worn robe.
Ginny nodded, suppressing a snarl of irritation. “Yes, you can. I need to see my brother immediately,” she informed the woman, hoping she didn’t sound too desperate.
“You’re Mr. Weasley’s younger sister then?” the blonde asked, obviously quite surprised. She glanced at Ginny’s robe and it was clear that she felt her boss’s sister should have better clothing.
Ginny fought back the desire to hex the woman and nodded politely. “Yes, I am.”
“I’m afraid Mr. Weasley’s in meetings all day and can’t be disturbed. I’d be happy to make an appointment for you later this week.” She took out an appointment book and began to rifle through the pages.
Ginny frowned. “I’m afraid that just won’t do,” she replied firmly. “It is urgent that I see him immediately.”
“And I’m afraid that just isn’t possible,” the other woman responded, a touch of ice in her voice.
Ginny’s eyes narrowed as she walked up to the woman. “Have you ever seen my brother angry, Miss ...”
“Pattishaw. And yes, Miss Weasley, I have,” the other woman replied, obviously confused by the non-sequitur.
“Well, let me assure you that not only will you be dealing with his anger should he not have an immediately opening in his schedule, but you will also be dealing with my own. Let me assure you that I have a far worse temper than my esteemed brother does,” she said quietly, her eyes cold.
Ginny suppressed the surge of satisfaction as the blond’s face paled considerably. Although all of her family had tempers, hers and Percy’s had always been considered the worst by their siblings. It took quite a lot to raise Percy‘s ire, but when he was angry, it was best to get out of his way. Ginny’s temper was similar, though it took her far less time to reach the same point. Fortunately the two siblings hadn’t ever had a major row and so their tempers hadn’t been pitted against each other.
“Yes, Miss Weasley,” the woman whispered, standing up. “Pardon me.”
Ginny watched as she went to the door and knocked softly before entering. A moment later, the secretary returned, some color having returned to her cheeks.
“You may go in, Miss Weasley,” she said quickly, not meeting Ginny’s eyes as she sat down at her desk.
“Thank you, Miss Pattishaw,” Ginny replied pleasantly, heading for the door. She pushed it open and walked in.
“Ginny! What on earth did you threaten Marcia for? That was rather impolite,” Percy noted from his seat behind his desk. Several piles of paperwork littered the top and he held a quill in his hand, having obviously been in the middle of working.
“Lovely meeting you’re having here, Percy. Tell me, does the paperwork talk back?” Ginny asked, making no attempt to curb her irritation. So help her, if Percy even looked at her oddly, she’d hex him so quickly his head would spin. All this time, her prat of a brother had been doing paperwork! Who knew what kind of state Severus was in by now?
“Yes, well, I find I get far more done if I’m unavailable to those who simply show up at the door, expecting me to be waiting,” Percy replied, somewhat abashed but not particularly apologetic.
Ginny stared at him for a moment, unsure of how to continue. Taking a deep breath, she sat in a upholstered chair on the near side of the desk without being asked. “You’d be surprised how much you miss that way, Perce,” she said softly, having decided to go with the route of the heartbroken sister. She felt slightly guilty about manipulating her brother, but that was pushed aside as she remembered why she was doing it.
She was rewarded with a sigh from her older brother.
“Are you all right, Gin?” he asked, sounding quite like the older brother she remembered from her childhood rather than the distant one of the last few years.
“I - I’m ... fine,” she managed to get out, real tears springing to her eyes. Inwardly, she was hoping and wishing that Percy had nothing to do with Severus’ disappearance. She missed her brother so very much, even with his rather prickly personality. “I’ve just, there’s so much going on and you’re not around to see it.”
“You know that Father and I are having a difference of opinions,” he said rather stiffly.
Ginny looked up, meeting his eyes. “So you’ve decided to write off the entire family then? Is my life so unimportant, so trivial that I’m not worth a difference of opinion?”
“Of course not! I’ve owled you quite regularly,” he protested, a slight scowl forming.
“You never answered my last, Perce. It’s been six months since we’ve talked,” she said, putting a catch in her voice. “So much has been going on and ... and you’ve missed it.”
“Sorry, Gin, but I’ve been quite busy,” Percy said, his voice apologetic. He paused before continuing. “What has been going on?”
Having decided her course of action, she plunged ahead. “I’ve gone and fallen in love, Perce,” she replied quietly. She was surprised how right the words sounded. Her thoughts last night had led her to believe that she and Severus were just friends, but once she learned of his disappearance, it became clear that she had been deluding herself. Her worry for him far exceeded that of one friend for another.
She saw Percy’s surprised expression. “But, Gin! You’re so young,” he protested, his jaw hanging open.
Ginny smiled at her brother‘s reaction. “Yes, well, not as young as you’d think, then.”
“No, I suppose not,” he conceded with a nod of his head. “You are looking a lot older since I last saw you. So tell me, who is this man who’s captured your heart? Harry, perhaps?”
“No! Definitely not Harry,” she replied shaking her head. That particular infatuation had ended just after Percy’s initial fight with their father. “He’s ... he wonderful. I mean, you wouldn’t think it to look at him, but he can be funny and kind and he is so very brilliant.”
Percy smiled, obviously pleased with his sister‘s description of the man. “If it’s not Harry, then who is it?”
Ginny blushed, having realized that she would have to say it out loud and admit it to herself. “It’s Severus Snape,” she told him, eyes fixed firmly on him to see if he gave any indication that he knew of Severus‘ whereabouts. She was prepared for any reaction but the one she received. Percy’s laughter filled the office, causing her jaw to drop.
“Well, I don’t find that funny, Percy Weasley!” she said, forgetting that she might be in the same room with a Death Eater as she stood up, her features furious. “Nor do I find it funny that the insufferable git that I’m in love with is now missing!”
Percy’s eyebrows nearly met his hairline at her remark. “Missing? Since when?” He managed to get out between guffaws.
“Last night! He never got back,” she said, reaching for her wand. She pulled it out and pointed it directly at her brother. “And you were the last to see him.”
Percy swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing nervously. “Now, Ginny, it is hardly appropriate to be pulling a wand on a member of the Ministry of Magic, much less of your own family,” he stated, his eyes fixed firmly on the tip of her wand.
“You know what, Percy? I don’t think I care very much, especially as you haven‘t owled in months. You haven‘t acted like a member of the family so why should I treat you as one?” Ginny retorted, her worry over Severus outweighing her need to be subtle. She glared at her brother, her wand now aimed directly at his face. “Where is he?”
“At my flat,” he answered quickly, clearly not prepared to deal with his vengeful sister.
“You’re lying,” Ginny retorted, waving her wand in what she hoped was a menacing manner.
Percy’s expression of indignant outrage surprised her. “Ginny! I have never lied to you and I am certainly not about to begin now over the whereabouts of a very hung over Potions Master!”
Ginny blinked. It was true, Percy had always been truthful with her, but what was that last bit? “Hung over?” she asked, processing the words.
“Poor bloke shows up at my flat out of nowhere, saying he was in the area and thought he’d pop on by for a quick chat. Now, I’m not stupid so why he thought that excuse would be adequate when the man never said a dozen words to me in all the years I was at Hogwarts, I don’t know. It was clear something was quite off. When I tasted the Veritaserum in my tea, I knew it had to be something fairly important and once he dispensed with a few incredibly insulting questions as to where my loyalties lay concerning Voldemort, which I assure you are firmly against the wretched man, he began questioning me about you! Before long, he had finished my only bottle of Firewhiskey and was being quite maudlin over the fact that his relationship with a certain young woman was destined to failure as it was clear she had no feelings outside of friendship for him. Since I had to come to the office early, I let him sleep it off in my bedroom while I slept on the couch. As far as I know, he’s still there!” Percy said, obviously more than a bit peeved at her accusation.
Ginny stared blankly at him a moment. Should she believe Percy? Would a Death Eater be able to lie to his sister with such a story? Realizing that yes, it would indeed be possible she pulled her wand up to point at him again. Before she allowed herself to get her hopes up, she wanted to see him with her own two eyes. “Prove it,” she ordered, her voice trembling.
Percy huffed and stood slowly. “While I must admit I’m quite pleased that you would treat someone whom you think might do you harm so ruthlessly, I am a bit hurt that you think such things of me,” he said, moving toward the fireplace.
“If he’s really there, then I’ll apologize and treat you to dinner,” Ginny promised, hope flaring within her despite her earlier promise to herself.
She watched as Percy used the Floo Network to call his flat. Unable to quite believe her eyes, she saw Severus sprawled on Percy’s bed, look rather worse for the wear. An empty bottle of Firewhiskey lay tucked in his arm and he was snoring loudly, his robes hitched up to reveal black stockinged feet.
“Severus?” Percy called, causing Snape to sit bolt upright. “Over here, Severus, in the fireplace! Yes, now would you mind telling my dear sister that I neither kidnapped you nor am a Death Eater? She seems a bit confused as to the answers to both questions.”
Severus stared into the fireplace, obviously quite disoriented from being awoken so abruptly. “Virginia, what in Merlin’s name are you doing?”
Ginny kept herself from blushing, keeping her wand trained on Percy until Snape confirmed his story. “Looking for you, you prat,” she snapped, her relief at seeing him giving away to anger at him for worrying her so. “You never owled and since we couldn’t find you, we thought that perhaps you were in trouble somewhere.”
“Well, as you can see, I’m quite all right,” he said, attempting to pull together his dignity as he straightened his robes.
“Erm, Gin? Perhaps you can put down your wand,” Percy suggested hopefully.
“Severus has neither confirmed nor denied your story, Percy and until he does so you’ll stay exactly where you are,” she informed him, holding her wand an inch from his nose. Ginny glanced at Severus, searching for some sign that what Ron and then Percy had told her was true. All she saw in his eyes was contempt and annoyance. She looked away quickly, unable to bear his gaze for another moment, letting her wand drop slightly.
“Severus? Do you mind?” Percy’s voice was pleading as the tip of Ginny’s wind poked his cheek.
“Virginia, would you please put down your wand? Merlin’s teeth, girl, this is further proof that you are wholly unsuited to this sort of work! Why Albus and your parents let you go after me, I have no idea, but I’ll most definitely be having words with them! Sending a child was quite irresponsible,” Severus snapped from the confines of Percy’s bedroom as he rubbed his forehead with one hand.
Ginny lowered her wand and turned to Percy, horribly stung by Severus’ thoughtless words, especially since they were made in front of Percy who knew how she felt about the older man. “Percy, it appears I owe you both an apology and dinner. I am quite sorry for having doubted you. Please owl me when you would like to collect on the latter,” she said, fighting back the stinging in her eyes.
Without a word to Severus, whom she knew was still glaring at her, she turned and for the second time in twenty-four hours walked away from him without looking back.
Ginny Apparated to the front gate and quietly let herself in. She wasn’t surprised to see the door flung open to reveal her mother standing there, her wrath clearly etched on her face.
“Virginia Weasley! What did you think --” she started to say, stopping as Ginny pushed past her, suppressing tears.
“Mum, I really don’t need this right now,” she said flatly as she continued into the house. She headed for the kitchen, pushing the door open to reveal the assorted assemblage of Weasleys and members of the Order. She met Dumbledore’s eyes, knowing he saw the tears that were beginning to fill them. “He’s fine. He was at Percy’s the whole time, sleeping off a hang over.”
Ginny couldn’t explain further or else she’d break down in tears in front of them all. Although everyone present urged to stay and explain herself, she ignored them simply telling them that they could ask Severus for the full details, whenever he managed to drag himself back to the Black Residence. She left the kitchen quickly, intent on barricading herself in her bedroom for a few days until she got over the worst of the hurt. As she shut the door, she let her tears flow down her face unchecked.
That obnoxious prat! Yelling at her in front of Percy was completely uncalled for. Especially after she had gone off with every intention of confronting a suspected Death Eater to find out his whereabouts. And the look in his eyes clearly told her that Ron and Percy both had been mistaken. There was no affection for her in his cool gaze. In fact, if she didn’t know better, he despised her. Not that she could blame him after her actions yesterday, justified or not, but if she was willing to forget his own insults the previous evening, couldn’t he do the same?
Ginny lay down on her bed, suddenly exhausted and overwhelmed by the events of the previous hours. Her tears abated slightly as she lay down, her face buried in her pillow. It wasn’t too much longer before she heard a tentative knock on her door.
“Ginny?” Ron’s voice called through the door.
“Not now, Ron, please, just leave me be,” she said, raising her voice so it was loud enough to reach the other side.
When Ron didn’t answer, she sniffled and curled into her covers, deciding that everything would look considerably better after a nice, long nap. Another knock on the door interrupted her before she could get too comfortable.
“Ron, please, I really don’t want to discuss this right now,” she said tiredly, the tears evident in her scratchy voice.
She closed her eyes and sighed. Why wouldn’t he just leave her alone if he thought she was such a child? She didn’t answer, hoping that if she stayed silent, he would just go away and leave her in peace.
“I know you’re awake. I heard you answer you brother not long ago,” Severus said, his voice imploring. “I would like to speak with you.”
“Well, I’m asleep now so just go away,” she replied, giving into a childish whim. After all, if he thought her a child, then he was going to have to deal with her acting as such.
She heard the door knob twist and the door open. She raised her head to glare at him from her pillow. “I see you obviously have no respect for my wishes,” she noted crossly, flinging back the covers to meet him eye to eye as he shut the door behind him.
“Virginia,” he began, looking around her room surreptitiously before returning his attention to her direction. “I ... I feel you misunderstood what I said while at Percy’s.”
Ginny crossed her arms in front of her and raised an eyebrow. “Misunderstood? What was there to misunderstand? You made it quite clear that you thought of me as a child and that I had no business being concerned about you or your whereabouts,” she replied crisply.
“Well, the fact that you were pointing your wand at your brother was rather childish, now wasn’t it?” he snapped, stepping forward.
“Well, considering I didn’t know if he sided with Voldemort or not, I thought it was rather smart of me,” she fumed, glaring at him.
“You mean you went to his office thinking he might be sympathetic to Voldemort? Are you insane?” Severus thundered, outrage causing his cheeks to color.
“No!” she spat out in response, knowing her own face was now flushed as well. “I was worried. You didn’t owl Dumbledore like you were told, so what else was I to assume? And apparently Mundungus is a complete moron, for he broke into Percy’s flat and couldn’t find you!”
“Worried? Why would you be worried about me, since you informed me you had nothing more to say?” Snape queried heatedly, his face showing his annoyance.
“You had told me I was a hindrance to your mission! How did you expect me to react? By thanking you and giving you a gift? You know how much I want to be useful and important, and yet you prevented me the first chance you had!” Ginny retorted, hoping he could understand how he made her feel.
“You are important, you insolent little chit! You’re important to me! Why can’t you get it through your lovely little head?” Snape grasped her arms and shook her slightly while he said this, though it didn’t deter Ginny one bit from replying.
“Well, you have an awfully odd way of showing it! But no, you’re Severus Snape! Merlin forbid you actually use words to say it!”
“What do you think I just did?” He let her go abruptly and threw his hands in the air.
“I heard you perfectly, you git! I meant before today, and you know it! Honestly, do you think I’m really that dense?” Ginny shook her head in disbelief, though inwardly she was doing a rather undignified dance of joy. Severus had all but admitted that he cared for her. A smile threatened to break out on her face, but she schooled it away quickly, not wanting to be the one to concede defeat first.
“At times, yes! Do you have any idea what I’d do if you were injured or worse?” he asked his voice considerably less angry than it had been a moment ago, turning to stare at her with an intensity that made her knees go weak.
“Probably the same I’d do if you are,” she replied, gazing back at him as he took a step forward.
She felt his arms grasp her, sliding around to her back as he held her close. She brought her own arms up and around his waist, feeling him shiver as she touched him.
“Merlin, Severus, I was so scared,” she whispered, resting her cheek on his chest. “I was so afraid your last memory of me would be saying those horrible things to you. I couldn‘t bear that.”
He held her tighter, rubbing his hands up and down her back. “And when I realized why you had gone to Percy’s and what you thought you were walking into, I was so angry that you put yourself in harm’s way for me. I didn‘t think; I‘m sorry I hurt you.”
She pushed back so she could look at his face. “Apology accepted. And I’m sorry for what I said last night. But why shouldn‘t I put myself in harm‘s way for you? You put yourself in danger for me every time you leave the house,” she said, staring up at him.
His hand came up to stroke her cheek softly and she fought the compulsion to close her eyes, not wanting to miss any of his love-filled gaze. “You’re my world, Ginny,” he replied softly. “I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you.”
Ginny felt her eyes begin to fill with tears as his lips came down on her own. Their lips brushed together softly before their mouths opened, tongues lightly touching. After a few moments they broke away to gaze at each other, smiles gracing their lips.
“I’m going with you next time,” Ginny said softly, tracing his cheekbones with her finger, delighting in the shudder it caused in him.
“We’ll discuss it,” Severus promised reluctantly, eyes closed as he enjoyed her small caress.
Ginny felt a sense of triumph sweep over her. It’d take a little work and a lot of snogging, but she knew he’d eventually see it her way, for this was one debate she wouldn’t let him win.
Without replying, she pulled his face down to her again and kissed him passionately. “I love you, Sev,” she whispered, before bringing her lips to his neck and nibbling.
“I love you too, Gin,” he replied, before groaning and recapturing her mouth.