For In Dreams by Senator of Sorcery



Summary: Harry had never friends, so he imagined one: a red haired girl he kept forgetting to name. Ginny imagined a shy boy with untidy hair and bright eyes, who knew nothing of magic, so she told him. He dreamt of a world of magic and of a girl who wanted to be his friend. She dreamt of a boy who loved to hear her voice, no matter what. Then dreams become a reality when Harry met Ginny.

Rating changed for later chapters.

*Nominated for 2014 November/December DSTA for Best New Story and Best Romance* *Nominated for 2016 January/Feburary DSTA for Best Comedy, Drama, and Romance*
Rating: PG-13 starstarstarstarhalf-star
Categories: Pre-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters: None
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2014.11.13
Updated: 2017.09.11


Index

Chapter 1: Prologue/Chapter 1: The Boy Who Dreamed
Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Strange Things
Chapter 3: Chapter 3: Ginny's Day Out
Chapter 4: Chapter 4: Imagination Is Our Reality
Chapter 5: Chapter 5: Meeting Albus Dumbledore
Chapter 6: Chapter 6: A Revelation (Of Sorts)
Chapter 7: Chapter 7: The First Year In a Nutshell
Chapter 8: Chapter 8: The Chamber Condensed
Chapter 9: Chapter 9: The Prisoner of Azkaban Rewritten, Part One
Chapter 10: Chapter 10: The Prisoner of Azkaban Rewritten Part 2
Chapter 11: Chapter 11: Summer 1994 Part One
Chapter 12: Chapter 12: Summer 1994 Part Two
Chapter 13: Chapter 13: Summer 1994, Part Three
Chapter 14: Chapter 14: The Goblet of Fire Part One, Icy Flames
Chapter 15: Chapter 15: A Fourth Champion
Chapter 16: Chapter 16: Dragons?!?!?
Chapter 17: Chapter 17: PMS and Reporters, What Fun! (Not)
Chapter 18: Chapter 18: If Afraid of Burns or Incineration Do Not Read
Chapter 19: Chapter 19: The Yule Ball
Chapter 20: Chapter 20: A Mermaid's Call
Chapter 21: Chapter 21: Lake-Water Is My Favorite Poison
Chapter 22: Chapter 22: Sleep Is For Losers
Chapter 23: Chapter 23: Happy Birthday, Say Goodbye to Childhood
Chapter 24: Chapter 24: The Third Task
Chapter 25: Chapter 25: Sinister Voices
Chapter 26: Chapter 26: The Wretched and Divine
Chapter 27: Chapter 27: Wonderful and Wild Magic
Chapter 28: Chapter 28: The Fifth Hour
Chapter 29: Chapter 29: The Sweetness of Summer and Nightmares
Chapter 30: Chapter 30: G-g-g-Ginerva W-w-whu-Weasley!
Chapter 31: Chapter 31: Old Laws and New Rings
Chapter 32: Chatper 32: A Skeleton That Could Walk
Chapter 33: Chapter 33: Saturday Morning
Chapter 34: Chapter 34: Harry James Potter!
Chapter 35: Chapter 35: The Joy of Madness
Chapter 36: Chapter 36: Toadstools and Toads
Chapter 37: Chapter 37: September Is A Boring Month
Chapter 38: Chapter 38: Occlumency
Chapter 39: Chapter 39: I Know
Chapter 40: Chapter 40: The Art of Necromancy
Chapter 41: Chapter 41: Fear, Cruelty, Protection
Chapter 42: Chapter 42: The Impossibility of Reality
Chapter 43: Chapter 43: Death
Chapter 44: Chapter 44: An Orphan, A Monster
Chapter 45: Chapter 45: Pesky Gnats...
Chapter 46: Chapter 46: Something Old, Something New
Chapter 47: Chapter 47: Happy Halloween
Chapter 48: Chapter 48: Don't Mess With Ouija Boards
Chapter 49: Chapter 49: Lions Win, Snakes are Grim
Chapter 50: Chapter 50: November Air
Chapter 51: Chapter 51: Poof, Married
Chapter 52: Chapter 52: Wedding Bells
Chapter 53: Chapter 53: It's the Newlywed Glow
Chapter 54: Chapter 54: Tallies of the Dead
Chapter 55: Chapter 55: All In Favor
Chapter 56: Chapter 56: The Order of the Phoenix


Chapter 1: Prologue/Chapter 1: The Boy Who Dreamed

Author's Notes: I've been working on this for a while now, posting it on Fanfiction.net. I thought my readers here might like it.


Prologue

October, 31st, 1981


Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall gave Baby Harry Potter one more look, and Disapparated. Young Harry turned over in his sleep, and clutched the letter Professor Dumbledore had put there. The area was deserted.

Or, at least, it had been. In the time it took to blink, an old woman appeared at the end of Number Four’s driveway. If Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall had looked eccentric in their robes, this woman looked like she had come out of a movie, or perhaps a video game.

She was hunched over, and leaning heavily on a wooden stick that rose two feet over her head. The end was curved and carved, and resting on it was a crow, its yellow eyes fixed on the bundle on the doorstep. At the woman’s side, a pure black wolf stood lean and strong. One of the woman’s gnarled hands rested on the wolf’s head, stroking its ears. The woman wore a long midnight blue colored robe, and her cloak was as black as night, but interwoven with the fabric were little specks of silver, shimmering and glimmering in the light of the moon. Her face was brown, and lined with her old age. Her hair was pure white, setting a dark contrast against the night. Her eyes gleamed as she looked at the bundle of blankets that held Baby Harry. She lifted her hand away from the wolf, and pulled from a pocket of her robes a wand, about fifteen inches long and made of black wood.

She walked, without even a limp, to the doorstep, and touched the tip of her wand to the scar on Baby Harry’s forehead. She opened her mouth and her voice came out raspy and dark. She spoke in a tongue that had been long forgotten by man, each word resonating throughout the street, words of power. The wand tip glowed gold, the baby’s scar glowed along with it, then the woman closed her lips, and the glow faded. She stepped back, touched a hand to the wolf’s head, and as quickly as she appeared, she vanished.

Far away from Little Whinging, at a crooked house that could only be held up by magic, two adults slept soundly in their bed. At the end of the bed, were two hand carved wooden cribs. In one, a infant boy lay on his back, drool dripping from his chin, and in the other, a baby girl slept, with her red hair splayed against her pillow. Her tiny left hand was curled into a fist, and her right clutched the blanket that rested upon her.

The woman that had appeared and vanished by Number Four Privet Drive reappeared by the girl's crib, with her wolf and crow still and silent at her side. She touched the tip of her wand to the baby girl’s forehead, and whispered again in words long forgotten, but this time, the words were soft, to soft for the two adults to hear but enough to wake the baby girl in her crib.

The baby stared up at the woman in wonder and fear. The woman put away her wand, and, hesitantly, reached out and touched a finger to the baby girl’s cheek.

“You will not hear his voice until the time is right,” she said, her voice still raspy. “He will be dormant in your mind until you most desperately need him. Only when you turn inward to find solace will you hear him, and only when he does the same will he hear you.”

The baby girl blinked her chocolate brown eyes. The woman withdrew her hand, and lay it back upon her wolf’s head.

“Never let your dreams cease,” the woman whispered. “Never let your imagination dry up; always believe in the last few untamed branches of magic. Always trust the wild ways, always know you are true, and not just because of what I have done this night. Look up to the stars and know you are not alone in this world, Ginevra Weasley.”

The baby girl seemed to understand, even though this was impossible. She was a year old at least, but she seemed to understand what this strange woman said. The baby blinked her eyes once more, and the woman and her crow and wolf were gone.

In the apple orchard behind the house, the crow on the woman’s staff let out a mournful croon, and the wolf sat back on its haunches to look up to the moon and howled. The woman drew her wand once more, and pointed it into the sky. The moon’s light shone down on her, and her image faded. The wolf and her crow stopped their noise, and the three vanished once more.

They were gone, and this time, they did not reappear.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


One: The Boy Who Dreamed

Harry


Harry stumbled into the front hall, and ducked automatically as a soapy sponge flew over his head. Aunt Petunia screeched loudly in the kitchen, while his uncle roared back from the safety of the underside of the kitchen table. Harry dodged a wooden spoon, and slipped into his cupboard. Literally slipped. The floor was soaked in Murphy's' Oil Soap. Today had been Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon's anniversary. A loud chiming joined the din in the kitchen. Correction: yesterday had been their anniversary. Harry sighed, and tugged his soapy shirt over his head. He didn't bother undressing the rest of the way, just plopped onto the cot that served as his bed.

What happened?

Harry smiled slightly as her voice drifted into his mind. Uncle Vernon forgot their anniversary.

Ouch, poor him.

Poor me! I'll have to clean everything up in the morning.

Yes, poor you. The world pities you. You are the most pitiable thing on God's green Earth. She rolled her eyes.

Harry glared at the ceiling. She giggled, and said; At least they aren't mad at you.

Yeah. Let's hope they forget that I'm here like they did with Dudley.

Where's he?

Upstairs playing his video games. What did you expect?

Dunno, maybe crying because his parents are fighting.

Don't tell me your parents are fighting.

No, but Mum's really upset.

Why?

Fred and George hexed Percy so that his hair turned pink. An image of a disgruntled boy with vivid pink hair flashed across his mind.

Harry laughed softly. Maybe he ought to keep it that way. It looks good.

Don’t start. Percy's furious because Mum can't get it to go away, and he's leaving for school in a month.

Don't remind me, Harry groaned. The school year started soon, and he'd have to deal with the bullies again. At least this year, Dudley and most of his gang were going to a private school and he, Harry, would be going to the public school.

Oh, come on, her voice sang. It won't be too horrible. Look on the bright side, Dudley won't be there.

Yeah, big whoop.

What have I said about being negative?

That it's like inviting a Dementor inside.

Exactly. Be careful or it might suck out your soul.

But Dementors aren't real.

Yes they are. Daddy's had to interact with them, and they're worse than anything your uncle could do to you.

Harry sighed. The half bad, half crazy cool part about his imaginary friend was that she lived in a world of magic. With 'Dementors' and flying brooms and people who could turn into animals. But magic wasn't real, at least, not in his world.

Magic is real!

Yeah, yeah, I know.

Don't tease me!

I'm not!

No, stop. I hate fighting with you.

A pleasant, warm feeling came over him, and he smiled. You're right. Let's stop.

Good. What shall we talk about now?

Sleep? Harry suggested with a yawn. She giggled again. Fine with me. Sweet dreams.

Same to you. Harry shut his eyes, and fell asleep.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


Harry spent the next day cleaning up from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon's fight. Aunt Petunia was furious with him because he didn’t clean up during the fight. Harry tried to explain that anything that got within eight feet of her got skewered with kitchen utensils. She just sniffed, and made him scrub the floor.

While he was cleaning, Dudley played video games or watched TV while eating nonstop. Around noon, Aunt Petunia told Harry to make himself a sandwich and take it outside. Harry slapped together cheese, mustard, and bologna, between the heels of the last loaf of bread he'd made, and wandered out to the back yard with it on a paper towel. He ate in silence, watching his cousin eating lasagna through the dining room window. Harry glanced at his pathetic sandwich, sighed, and walked away. He came to rest in the side yard near his aunt's cherry tree. He finished his sandwich and leaned up against the tree to enjoy the last moments of his break. The sitting room window in front of him sat open, and Harry paused to listen to the TV playing. After a minute or two, the phone rang.

His aunt walked into the room, switched of the TV, and sat down on the couch. His aunt picked it up, said hello, and then gasped. Harry, feeling curious, crept closer to hear what she was saying.

"Yes, Vernon Dursley lives here." She paused, listening to the other person on the line. "He left his what?... And, where?" Aunt Petunia pressed a hand to her chest, and took a deep breath. "Thank you, sir. I'm sure he'll go back to get it." She winced, held the receiver away from her ear. Then she paled, and set her lips in a firm line. "Do me a favor, mister. Never call this number again." Aunt Petunia slammed the receiver down on the cradle, and hugged her self.

"That is it." She grabbed the phone again, and dialed.

Harry normally didn't listen to his aunt's phone chats, since she usually only called the neighbors or her friends from the local Ladies' Club. But as Aunt Petunia began speaking, Harry noticed that her tone wasn't one she used when talking to Mrs. Next Door. More like she was speaking to a person in a position of authority. She said something about schools and Dudley, then spoke her good-byes, and hung up. She sat there in silence for a moment, then stood, and left the room. Harry sat back, rest against the house, pondering the two calls.

"Harry! Get in here!"

Sighing, Harry stood, and rushed to answer his aunt's summons.

Aunt Petunia set him to work again, and finally, the kitchen was clean. There were no more marks on the table from his aunt's rubber spatula collection, and the hallway floor was no longer sticky with oil soap. By that time, his uncle had returned from work full of apologies with a bouquet of lilies and a bottle of Jack Daniel's finest. Harry, who was sore from the scrubbing, was setting the table and warily watching his aunt as Uncle Vernon dropped the bottle on the counter and handed the bouquet to Aunt Petunia. She hated lilies.

Oooh, he's in trouble! Said his friend in a sing-song voice.

I'll say, Harry thought. She snorted.

Aunt Petunia gave Vernon a tight-lipped smile, and set out a vase to hold the flowers. Harry glanced back at the whiskey bottle. Aunt Petunia didn't even bother hiding her displeasure at it. She glared at the bottle. Vernon pretended he didn't see his wife's glare, and placed the bottle on the table.

I know my mother wouldn't blow up at my dad if he brought the wrong sort of flower, but whiskey? She said. What kind of man brings his wife whiskey?

An alcoholic? he suggested.

Oh, Harry, I'm sorry, I forgot, She said hurriedly. Just promise me you'll follow your cousin's example and scram when he starts to drink.

I will.

Good. Oh, Mum's calling me. Talk to you later!

Bye, Harry thought miserably as Uncle Vernon took his place at the table. Aunt Petunia gave him another tight-lipped smile and banged a platter bearing a roast chicken on the table. Uncle Vernon nodded, she sat down, and Dudley said, "I'm hungry. Let's eat."

"Oh, of course, sweetums," Aunt Petunia simpered. "Vernon, carve the chicken."

"Right," he said, and did as he was bid. Dinner was quiet; Harry ate quickly and cleared the table as soon as his aunt and cousin were done. While he was washing the dishes, Uncle Vernon opened the bottle of whiskey.

"Vernon," his aunt said in a low, dangerous voice. "Remember what the doctor said?"

"Yeah, right," he snorted, and stood. He went into the kitchen, pulled a shot glass from the cupboard, and poured two fingers worth of whiskey into the glass. Aunt Petunia stood up quickly, grabbed the flowers from the vase gracing the center of the table, and threw them into the waste bin. She crossed the room, and blocked the sitting room door. Uncle Vernon threw back his drink, and left the kitchen, heading for the sitting room. Dudley glanced over at Harry, still washing dishes, then at his mother standing in the doorway to the sitting room.

"Petunia, I need to watch the news."

"Give me the bottle, Vernon," she said.

"No! I can have a drink if I want," Vernon said. And he threw back another shot of whiskey

"You've been drinking entirely too much, Vernon. You know who called me yesterday? Your boss! He wants to know why you're leaving work early all the time. And do you know who called this afternoon?" his aunt's voice rose shrilly. "The manager of a strip club downtown! He said you left your jacket! From now on, no bars, no clubs, no coming home late, no leaving work early, and no drinking!" She snatched the bottle of whiskey from his hand, crossed the room, and dropped it in the waste bin too.

Slowly, Uncle Vernon turned towards her, a look of pure rage on his face. It took three strides for him to cross the room and stick his nose in Aunt Petunia's face. Harry, feeling suddenly scared for his aunt, set down his dish towel, and backed up in the direction of the knife block.

"You've overstepped your line, Petunia," he growled, his voice slurring dangerously. "Your job is to cook, clean, and raise my son. Not to regulate my drinking! I'll spend as much time as I want in bars, and clubs too, if I want! I do what I want, not what you want!" He grabbed the whiskey bottle out of the trash, and took a long swig.

"Think about what you're doing to our family! You're spending half your paycheck on beer and whiskey and who knows what else! With your spending habits, we won't be able to send Dudley to Smelting's!" Aunt Petunia screamed.

"Oh, piss off, woman. I already paid for it."

"What about feeding us? And him?" she jerked her thumb over at Harry. "Don’t you think it would be a blot on your record if your family starves to feed your need for whiskey?"

"Honestly, you could do with a little less feeding. And Dudley won't starve, I'll make sure of that," Vernon snapped. "As for that runt, it would easier to dump him on the streets. Our financial worries would be cut in half without him!"

"I've told you before, that boy may be a pain, but he's not useless! He makes up for what we do for him. Besides, he’s my sister’s son, and no matter how freakish she was, I owe it to her to care for her son."

Harry was stunned. His aunt was defending him? And she'd done it before?

"Well, scream why don't you," uncle Vernon bellowed. "Let the whole world know, why don't you?"

"Vernon Dursley, I refuse to be treated this way anymore. Either you quit drinking, or I take my son and my nephew and we leave."

"Oh, putting that brat on the same level as Dudley, now are we?"

"I don't care how bothersome he is, he doesn't deserve to be with you! And don't change the subject!"

"You won't leave," Vernon laughed. "You're gonna stay right here and do as you're told!"

Aunt Petunia glanced at Dudley. "Go up to your room, Dudley."

"Mummy, are we really leaving?"

"If your father doesn't mend his ways, yes."

"'If your father doesn't mend his ways,'" Vernon mocked her. "You're not going anywhere."

"Dudley, go." Dudley stood up, and scurried from the room.

"We are leaving. And I won't let you stop us.'"

She pushed past Uncle Vernon, and stomped out of the dining room. A tiny glass angel on the china cabinet fell, and smashed.

Uncle Vernon glanced at the shattered remains of the cherub, and grumbled under his breath.

"Clean that up," he growled, and dropped into a dining room chair.

Harry grabbed a broom and dust pan, and crossed the room, eyes on his uncle. Slowly, he stooped down, and swept it up.

"She won't leave."

Harry looked up.

His uncle was squinting at him, the whiskey bottle sitting in his limp hand.

"She can threaten me all she wants, but she won't leave."

Oh, yes she will.

Will what?

Weren't you listening? Aunt Petunia's taking me and Dudley and leaving. We'll be gone by tomorrow. Uncle Vernon won't stop drinking for anything.

Won't that be good? You'll be away from your uncle.

Yeah, but where will we go? This is the only place we've ever been. Aunt Petunia doesn't have any real friends to take her in.

Maybe an inn? Wait, what about her parents?

Harry shook his head, and, keeping his eyes on Uncle Vernon, he crossed to the waste bin and hastily deposited the glass shards.

She never talks about them. I think they're dead.

He could tell that his friend was thinking hard about this as he walked across the kitchen, opened the pantry door, and dropped the broom and pan on the floor. He then ran out of the kitchen and into the hallway.

I wish there was some way I could help, She said.

Same here.

I have to go now; Mum needs me to peel potatoes for dinner. We're having roast beef and mashed potatoes and parsnips. I'm not too fond of parsnips.

I don't think anyone is.

She laughed. Vaguely, Harry heard a woman's voice, and the whistle of a water kettle.

Ignoring the noise on his imaginary friend's side of his mind, Harry shut the door to the dining room and kitchen. Through the stained glass windows, he could see his uncle pouring himself more whiskey. Sighing, Harry stepped up to the door of his cupboard, but stopped suddenly.

"…remember that teensy little drinking problem he had?" his aunt's voice, coming from the living room. Slowly, Harry edged to the living room doorway. Aunt Petunia sat on the couch, the telephone receiver in one hand, a pen hovering over a pad of paper in the other.

"He's an alcoholic now." His aunt paused, listening to the other person on the line. "Yes, yes, you were right. Listen, I told him that I'm leaving him, I can't stand him anymore. Could I come stay with you for a while?" Pause. "Yes, with Dudley. And Harry." He heard a muffled shout, and saw Aunt Petunia wince. "Yes, I mean Lily's son…. He's fine.... I wanted to tell you he was with us, but Vernon insisted I keep it quiet… No! I did not pretend he was my son. Horrible thing for you to suggest… Well, he's not very bright, nor very pretty. He's a strange boy; you can imagine Vernon's want to avoid discussing him, Lily being what she was… No, I can't say he looks much like her… Look, I'm not overly fond of the boy, and if you met him, you'd dislike him too!" Aunt Petunia winced again, and then, in a soft hiss, said, "My husband is spending all his money at bars and strip clubs, so at the moment I'd rather not discuss why I don't like Lily's son!" Aunt Petunia's eyes flashed, and she stood up, throwing the pencil and paper away. "Please?... Thank you, we'll be there as soon as possible. And, please, when we get there, don't mention Lily's school when we get there. I haven't told him about his, ah, heritage. Good-bye." She put the receiver down, and sank onto the couch, hanging her head in her hands.

"Tonight," she whispered, and stood back up. Harry scrambled up and hurried to his cupboard. But before he could get inside, his aunt exited the living room.

"What are you doing?" she snapped.

"Nothing," he answered quickly.

His aunt narrowed her eyes, and turned her eyes on the door to the kitchen. Harry looked too, and saw his uncle draining his glass.

"We're leaving now," she said softly. Aunt Petunia sighed, and turned to him. "Go in there and make sure he keeps drinking until he passes out. Be best if he didn't see us packing."

"Now?" Harry said, feeling like he should point out that his uncle didn't need help.

"Yes, boy, now go do as you're told!"

Harry opened the kitchen door, and darted in. Vernon didn't notice him. Slowly, Harry crept over to the liquor cabinet, and quickly opened the glass door, and then carefully withdrew a bottle of scotch. Harry turned around and found himself nose to nose with his uncle.

Gulping, Harry glanced down at the bottle in his hands.

"Oh, sho she shends her nepew to get my whishkey, does she?" Vernon growled.

"No, no, I was-" Harry stammered, racking his brain for excuses.

"Stealing from me, then?" Vernon hiccuped, and snatched the bottle away from him. He unscrewed the lid, and drank heavily. Air bubbles rose to the bottom of the bottle, as Vernon swallowed. He lowered the bottle, and looked down on Harry, his eyes bloodshot and face ruddy.

"You know, I regret taking you in more and more every day," he slurred. "Fact, I'd blame you for my incresh… incrash… loads of drinking."

"Do you?" Harry squeaked.

"Oh, yeah," his uncle burped, and Harry coughed as the torrid smell of whiskey mixed with the leftovers from his uncle's last dozens meals washed over him. His uncle laughed at him, and stumbled back to the dinning room table, and sank into his chair.

"You're the strangest thing I ever met, you are," he rumbled.

"You think?" Harry said with raised eyebrows.

Vernon took another swig of the scotch, and stared at him, cross-eyed. "I wouldn't have married that woman had I known 'bout her good fer nothin' sithter."

"You mean my mother?"

"Yeah, her. She a crazy bitch, I heard."

Harry felt anger rise in him. He wasn't exactly sure what 'bitch' meant, whenever Dudley said it, Aunt Petunia shushed him, and Uncle Vernon's sister, Marge, always referred to her female dogs as 'bitches.'

"She wasn't."

His uncle cocked his head.

"Wadn't what?"

"A- a bitch."

Vernon laughed deeply, and swigged at his scotch. "You don't even know what it mean, do ya?"

"No, but I know my mother was not one."

He laughed again, and set the bottle on the table. "Doesn't matter now. She dead as a doorknob. Gone and blown up."

"Blown up?"

"Argh, blown up. Mad girl, she was. Funny thing, she was, and that husband o' hers."

"But you said my parents died in a car crash."

"Argh."

"But my mother blew up?"

"Don't ask questions," Vernon snapped. "Best you don't know."

"Know what? What are you hiding from me?"

"You don't need to know!" Vernon roared.

"Tell me!" Harry yelled back, advanced on him. The kitchen door burst open, and Aunt Petunia ran in.

"Harry Potter, calm yourself!" she gasped. "You'll wake up the whole neighborhood."

"But- but he won't tell me about it!"

"About what?" Petunia turned to her husband, glaring at him in disgust.

"Blew up, she did," he growled. "Not my fault. She had it coming." His uncle's eyelids drooped as he took another gulp of the scotch.

Petunia's face paled; she grabbed Harry's elbow, and dragged him through the door into the front hall. She slammed the kitchen door shut. One of the stained glass panels cracked.

"Your uncle doesn't know what he's talking about," she said in a hushed voice.

"He was talking about my mother!"

"She didn't exactly blow up."

"Then what happened?"

"I've told you before, she and your father died in a car crash."

"Then-"

"The gas tank exploded. That's what your uncle was talking about. Here, take this," she shoved a ratty rucksack into my arms, "pack your things."

"But-"

"Don’t ask questions!" she snapped, and stomped away, upstairs. Harry sighed, and opened his cupboard door. The packing went quickly, and, after retrieving the last few socks from under his bed, he latched the flap of the bag shut, and left his cupboard. Dropping it at the foot of the stairs, he climbed them dejectedly, and went into his aunt's room. She stood by the window, staring down at something in her hands.

Harry stepped forward, glancing at the suitcase on the bed. It was full of neatly folded clothes. He glanced back at his aunt. She hadn't notice him. Harry turned to the dresser, and checked the drawers. They were empty. He went to the closet, and started to remove his aunt dresses. He laid the first load out on the bed, so his aunt could select the ones she wanted to keep.

"Aunt Petunia?"

"What?" she turned around, hiding whatever it was behind her back.

"Where's your hanging bag?"

"My- oh, on the closet shelf."

Harry nodded, and fetched the bag. He put in the dresses and skirt suits he knew his aunt liked best, while Petunia finished with the suitcase. After a while, Dudley wandered in to report he had packed his favorite toys and all his clothes. Aunt Petunia then stunned both Harry and Dudley by telling her son that he had to leave his toys behind. Dudley whined and cried, but Aunt Petunia was firm. Eventually, Dudley, grumbling under his breath, agreed and went to put the toys back. After that, Aunt Petunia called a taxi company, and arranged for transport to London.

Finally, Aunt Petunia was ready to leave. Both Dudley and Harry pitched in to carry her bags downstairs, Dudley taking her purse and Harry taking the suitcase and hanging bag. The clock read 9:58. Aunt Petunia wrote Uncle Vernon a note, and she taped it to the kitchen door. Uncle Vernon was slumped over on the table. Dudley waved half-heartedly at him as he left the house. Harry grabbed his rucksack, and carted it along with his aunt's bags out to the driveway. The taxi pulled up, and Harry loaded the bags into the trunk, and tossed his aunt's purse in the front seat. Then, the front door burst open.

Uncle Vernon strode across the front lawn. Aunt Petunia shielded Dudley behind her. Harry had a brief vision of a red haired woman doing the same thing in front of him.

"Where are you going?" Uncle Vernon growled. Aunt Petunia clenched her jaw.

"I told you, I'm leaving. I've had enough of your drinking and faithlessness. I'm taking these two with me."

"And I told you," Vernon stuck his ruddy purple face in hers, "I won't let you go."

"If you touch me, or my son," Aunt Petunia squeaked, "You'll be arrested!"

Vernon grabbed her arm. The taxi driver honked his horn. Harry rushed forward and Dudley gasped.

"You're not going anywhere," Vernon sneered. "Dudley, get in the house."

Dudley whimpered, shrinking against the taxi.

"I told you to get in the house!" Vernon snapped.

"Get in the taxi," Petunia said.

"Ignore her!"

"Dudley, get in the car."

Dudley opened the car door, and climbed in. Vernon glared at his wife.

"You dare defy me?"

"I'm keeping my son safe."

Harry felt a twinge of sadness. What about his safety?

"It's your safety you should be worried about," Vernon hissed, and he slugged her in the gut. Aunt Petunia fell to her knees, crying out in pain. Harry yelled "Stop!" Lights turned on along the street. Vernon kicked Aunt Petunia, she collapsed with a grunt, and he turned on Harry. Harry backed away, into the road.

"This is your fault," Vernon growled. "If you weren't such a nuisance-”

"Don’t blame me, I didn't make you drink!" Harry said quickly.

"Argh, but you were the reason. We should have left you on the street, you filthy thing."

Harry felt anger boil up inside him.

"Sometimes I wish you did!" Harry snapped.

"You drove her away from me!"

"You did it on your own!"

Vernon lunged at him, hands outstretched; his bloodshot eyes alight with fury. Harry reacted instinctively: He held his hands out in front of him, and shut his eyes. There was a flash of golden light, and Harry peeked through his lashes. His uncle sat on his rump on the pavement. There was a shimmery substance between Harry and his uncle.

Confused, Harry lowered his arms, and stared at his dazed uncle.

"Harry, get in the car!" his aunt snapped. Harry shook his head, and the shimmering wall vanished.

"Now!"

Harry did as he was told, and climbed into the taxi. His aunt took the front seat.

"What the hell just happened there?" the taxi driver asked.

"Just take us to King's Cross Station, in London," Petunia snapped. "Quickly!"

The driver floored the accelerator, and in no time at all, they were rolling down the highway to London.

Back to index


Chapter 2: Chapter 2: Strange Things

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG

Two: Strange Things

Harry


The taxi pulled up outside Kings Cross train station shortly before midnight. Aunt Petunia took them in, put their bags on a trolley, and stopped at a ticket booth. She conversed with the man on duty for a while, and then purchased three tickets to Ottery St. Catchpole, a small town, she said, in Devon. She did not explain her reason for choosing this destination. Harry shouldered his and Dudley's rucksacks, while Aunt Petunia gave Dudley the task of dragging her suitcase. She draped the strap to the small hanging bag from her shoulders with her purse, grunting as she did so.

"Our train leaves at 5:30," she said in a tired voice. "We'll stay in an inn tonight." She led them out of King's Cross. Standing on the curb outside, Harry felt very awake, even exhilarated. The rush of the cars speeding past, the chatter from the many pubs and taverns, even the neon signs and street lamps lighting the road, all gave him so much to look at.

"Take my hand," Aunt Petunia said. Dudley took it eagerly, looking around in fear. Harry kept his hands to himself, assuming his aunt meant Dudley.

"Harry, I said take my hand," his aunt snapped. Harry blinked, stunned.

"Why?"

"Because I said so!" she said, grabbing his hand. "Come on. And don't let go." Aunt Petunia pulled them down the streets, her grip on their hands tight. Harry glanced at Dudley, who looked just as confused as Harry felt. His aunt never showed any positive feelings for him, let alone care. And twice that day, she'd shown protectiveness of him.

Guess there's a first time for everything.

Hey, why are you still awake? His friend said in a groggy voice.

We have to find an inn first.

What?

Quickly, Harry explained to her what had happened, from the funny phone calls to his aunt's sudden need to protect him. He left out the bit about his mother, and the strange shield thing he'd conjured.

Wow, She said. Just, wow. And you're headed for Ottery St. Catchpole? Her voice sounded excited, but also confused. In his mind's eye, he imagined her standing in front of a mirror, frowning at her reflection.

Yeah. I think the person my aunt was talking to after dinner lives there. Either that or they're meeting us there.

I hope it's the former.

Why?

Because I live in Ottery St. Catchpole!

What? You're kidding!

No! Well, not really in the town, near it, but in the area. Maybe… She trailed off, and he imagined her frowning harder. Outside his mind, his aunt stopped at the edge of the curb, waiting to cross the street. Ahead, Harry could see a sign advertising Bailey's Inn & Tavern. He guessed that was where his aunt was taking them.

Maybe what?

Nothing, it doesn't matter.

Yes it does. Harry focused on her voice, and strained to read her mind. He saw a thought floating in her mind.

Maybe I could visit you? He said. In the real world, Aunt Petunia led them across the street, she paused, and let go of his hand. Startled, Harry glanced at her. Then she put her arm around his shoulders, and pulled him close. She did the same to Dudley, whispering to him to stay close to her. Harry glanced around, and saw why. Ahead of them, a group of raucous men and women stood outside a pub, laughing and drinking from mugs of beer. They quickly noticed Harry, and his aunt and cousin, and shouted to them. A few of the women threw back their heads' and laughed, but one or two of the group hushed them. One girl in particular, holding a tray and wearing an apron, yelled "SHUT IT!" The group fell silent, except for a few whispers, and giggles. The woman, Harry assumed she was the waitress, stepped toward them.

"Can I help you?" she said. Harry noticed that she had bright orange hair, pulled into two loose braids. The strands of hair escaping from her braids were frizzy, and Harry guessed that if she hadn't contained the rest of her hair, it'd look like she had a habit of sticking her fingers in electrical outlets.

"No, thank you," Aunt Petunia said, her voice clipped. She tightened her grip on Harry and Dudley. The waitress glanced at Dudley, and then her eyes fell on Harry. She glanced up at his forehead, and a look of surprise, almost awe crossed her face.

"These two yours?"

"I don't believe that is any of your business," Aunt Petunia snapped. The waitress held up a hand.

"I don't wanna be nosy, miss, but you might wanna head back the way you came with those two. Bit young for this neighborhood."

"I realize that."

The waitress' eyes narrowed. "Where's your husband?"

"Again, not your business."

"You headed for Bailey's?"

"As a matter of fact, we are."

"Best cross the street. Aim for Mrs. Honeycomb's B and B. She's a hell of a lot simpler, and what with the kids, Bailey's might not be the best."

"We'll only be staying the night."

"Bailey's get a lot of people like you, and a lot of them regret goin' there."

"Why?"

"The place is over-rated. The cheapest room is practically a closet."

"Had lots of experience with those," Harry muttered. The waitress glanced at him, then back at Aunt Petunia.

"Not only that but it sees a lot of one nighters, if you know what I mean. And the walls are pretty thin. With a bit of rotten luck, you'll end up right next to one. You really want those two to overhear that?"

Aunt Petunia stiffened. Then she glanced across the street. Harry did too, following her gaze to a quaint looking three story building. The sign said Honeycomb Bed & Breakfast.

"What's the charge for one night at the B and B?"

"Pretty cheap, considering the quality. I live there meself. Mrs. Honeycomb is sweet as can be, and she doesn't allow one nighters of that kind if she can help it."

"Mum, what's a one niter?"

"Never mind that, pumpkin," she said quickly. Harry opened his mouth, but Aunt Petunia shushed him.

"Thank you, miss," Aunt Petunia said. "We're very grateful."

"No problem," she said. Her eyes fell on Harry.

"How old are they?"

"What?"

"How old are they?" the waitress repeated. Behind her, one of the men shouted for another pint. She waved him off, her eyes returning to Aunt Petunia.

"Eleven, and ten," Aunt Petunia said.

"Which one's older?"

"Me," Dudley said. He grinned.

"Oh, yeah?" the waitress smiled at him. "You hungry?"

"Yes," Harry said.

"Wait here a minute, then." The waitress said, and then, smiling kindly at Harry, she hurried into the pub. Aunt Petunia hesitated, squeezing Harry's shoulder.

A minute later, the waitress returned, pushing through the crowd. She wasn't wearing her apron anymore, and was holding a plastic bag in one hand.

"I'll take you over to Mrs. Honeycomb's," she said. Aunt Petunia opened her mouth, but the lady shook her head.

"It's no trouble and my shift's over, anyway," she said, "follow me."

She crossed the street. Harry followed her, and Aunt Petunia followed him. On the other side, the lady led the way to the quaint Bed and Breakfast.

"By the way, I'm Anna," she said as she opened the door to the inn.

"I'm Harry," Harry said. "This is Aunt Petunia, and Dudley."

"It's very nice to meet you," she said, smiling again. Her eyes rested on Harry again. Then she ushered them into the inn.

The parlor before them was very cozy, and warm. Chintz armchairs and matching little couches sat in front of a heart. A crackling fire burned in the grate, and a round rug lined the ground. A desk and a straight backed chair sat on Harry's left. Ahead, a hallway led to the back, and a staircase led to the upper floors Anna smiled at the room.

"Best inn in London," she said. "Have a seat, I'll fetch Mrs. Honeycomb." She dropped the bag on the desk, and headed up the stairs. Dudley slipped out from under Aunt Petunia's arm let the suitcase fall to the ground, and flopped onto a couch. Harry followed his cousin, flinging the two heavy rucksacks by the suitcase, and dropped into an armchair. The cushions were soft, and warm from the fire. He felt tired instantly, and curled up in the chair, ready to fall asleep right then and there. Then, he suddenly felt a warm breeze on the back of his neck. He glanced around, feeling a sense of familiarity, like he'd been there before.

Hey!

What?

You gonna answer me?

Oh. Answer what?

Are you going to visit me?

Harry felt his insides twist, and knot together. Visit her? How?

"Welcome!" Harry sat up, and glanced over to the staircase. A plump woman with graying brown hair and dressed in a faded flowery dressing gown stepped forward, smiling broadly at them. Anna stood right behind her, smiling satisfactorily. The plump woman's eyes landed on him, and then traveled upward, onto his forehead. Harry fidgeted uncomfortably under her gaze, and reached a hand up to push his fringe over his scar.

"Ooh, you poor dears," the old lady simpered, stepping forward and grabbing Harry's hand. “You're cold as ice. Come, come, you two," she gestured for Harry and Dudley to get up; “you ought to be sound asleep."

"Uh, Mrs. Honeycomb?"

"Yes, dear?"

"We'd like to stay here tonight; do you have a room for us?"

"Oh, of course," Mrs. Honeycomb said. "Just write your name on the slip of paper there, dear, and I'll show you to your room."

"Shouldn't I pay first?"

"Oh, my guest's always pay in the morning, dear," Mrs. Honeycomb said. She crossed to the desk and handed Aunt Petunia a pen. "Cash or check, though dear, when you do pay."

"Well, we'll be leaving early tomorrow, so would you mind if I paid now?"

"Oh, you go right ahead, love."

Aunt Petunia nodded, and pulled her checkbook out of her purse. "How much?"

"Depends, do you want separate rooms?"

"Ah, well, maybe, how much is one room?"

"Forty pounds."

Aunt Petunia raised her eyebrows, but said nothing. "Two rooms then," she said, turning back to her checkbook. She signed it quickly, and handed it to Mrs. Honeycomb. Mrs. Honeycomb smiled, said thank you, and then tucked the check into her pocket. She pulled a ring of keys from a drawer in the desk, and crossed to the staircase. Harry followed her, grabbing his and Dudley's bags as he went, with Dudley and Aunt Petunia following him with the rest of the luggage. Anna trailed behind them, holding her plastic bag.

Mrs. Honeycomb stopped at the second floor, and turned down a hallway. Harry looked around, surprised. He expected to see electric lights lining the walls but instead, he saw old fashioned gas lamps, hanging from hooks in the walls. He even saw lanterns with candles. There were no electric outlets in the walls, either. It looked like what Harry expected a 19th century inn to look like. Except he could still hear the rush of cars and the shouting of drunks through an open window.

Mrs. Honeycomb stopped halfway down the hall, and riffled through her ring of keys. Harry strained his neck, looking at the keys. They were the old fashioned type, big and rusty brass. What were they called? Bone keys?

Skeleton keys… her voice came to him soft, and full of surprise.

What are skeleton keys, again?

Those, nitwit; I use skeleton keys in my house, and so do most Wizarding families, if they don't use magic.

Right. Why doesn’t she use regular keys?

Honeycomb Bed and Breakfast… She said, ignoring his question. I think I've stayed there once. Yeah, I have. Mum took me to London for my ninth birthday, and we stayed in Honeycomb Bed and Breakfast, because the Leaky Cauldron was all filled up.

All right, so four creepy things have happened today; what's next?

"Here you are, dears," Mrs. Honeycomb said, unlocking the door. She stepped inside, and light poured from the room. "I assume the boys will stay here?"

Aunt Petunia glanced into the room. Harry did too; and again was surprised at the lack of electric items. There were two gas lamps, one sitting on a table between two twin beds, and one on a dresser. Also on the dresser, sat a ceramic bowl, patterned with faded blue flowers, and matching pitcher. The floor was hardwood, like the floors in the rest of the inn. Aunt Petunia dropped her hanging bag on the floor by one of the beds.

"Dudley and I will stay here," she said. "Harry can stay in the other room."

Mrs. Honeycomb frowned, but didn't say anything. Harry disentangled Dudley's bag from his, and dropped it on the floor.

"Well, here's the key," Mrs. Honeycomb said. "Bathroom's three doors down on the left, I'm upstairs, and Anna's right next door. Yell if you need me." Mrs. Honeycomb shut the door, and shook her head.

"It's a crying shame she's leaving you all by your lonesome, Mr. Potter," Mrs. Honeycomb said, turning to the other wall. Harry froze, stunned, while Mrs. Honeycomb fumbled with her keys.

"You think you'll be all right by yourself, Harry?" Anna asked. Her eyes were wide, and full of something… concern? Harry was further shocked.

"There you go, Mr. Potter," Mrs. Honeycomb said, unlocking the door. Then, she pulled something from her dressing gown pocket, a long thin stick. She brandished it at the room, and the lights came on. Harry's jaw fell open.

"How- how…" he stammered.

"It's a simple charm, Mr. Potter. You'll probably learn it at Hogwarts this year."

"Oh, next term, I'm sure," Anna said, "they learn mostly theory first term."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, my cousin Molly's children are students there, and none of them learned household charms until the second term of their first year."

Harry shut his mouth, feeling rather stupid.

"Er, excuse me?"

"Yes, dear?"

"What- er, how- first, how do you know my name?"

"Well, everyone knows your name, Mr. Potter. You're the Boy Who Lived," Mrs. Honeycomb said.

"I'm- I'm what?"

"Oh, my!" Anna clapped her hands to her mouth. Slowly, she lowered them. "I don't think he knows!"

"Knows what?"

"Dear, how did you get that cut on your forehead?" Mrs. Honeycomb asked.

"In the car crash, when my parents died."

"You're name is Harry Potter, right?" Anna said, holding the plastic bag closer to her chest.

"Yes."

"And what were your parents' names?"

"James and Lily," Harry said, glancing between the elderly inn keeper and the waitress.

"It's definitely him," Mrs. Honeycomb said.

"Then why-" Anna stopped mid sentence. In creepy unison, Mrs. Honeycomb and Anna both turned towards the door to Aunt Petunia and Dudley's room.

"That's why," they said.

"What's why?"

"You haven't got your Hogwarts letter, then?" Anna asked.

"My- my what?"

"She's hidden it from him, I bet," Anna said.

"Or she doesn't know."

"That lady-"

"Aunt Petunia?"

"Yeah, her. Is she really your aunt?"

"Yes," Harry was thoroughly confused now. What were they talking about?

"On your father's side?"

"No, my mother's side."

"She'll have to know then. Obviously, she hid it from him," Mrs. Honeycomb said.

"Hid what from me?"

"Well, maybe she didn't tell him for a reason," Anna suggested.

"Maybe. A thing like that could really mess with a child."

"A thing like what?" Harry asked.

"Should we tell him, Mrs. H?"

"I don't think so, Anna," Mrs. Honeycomb said. "We'll leave it be."

With that, Mrs. Honeycomb handed Harry the key to his room, and walked away.

"Miss Anna?"

"Yes?"

"What's Hogwarts?"

"Oh, dear," Anna rubbed the back of her neck. "Well, it's a school."

"Oh. I've never heard of it."

"It's a private school. In Scotland, I think."

"Why would I have a letter from them?"

"Well, er, it's complicated, Harry. Best put it out of your mind." Anna looked down at the bag in her hands. "Oh, I almost forgot!" She handed him the bag. "Homemade pumpkin pasties and cauldron cakes, some sugar quills, and a box of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. Be careful with the beans, some of them are right nasty." Anna then turned on her heel, unlocked the door next to Aunt Petunia's, and stepped inside, shutting the door.

Harry looked down at the bag in his hands, then at Anna's door. Shaking his head, Harry entered his room, and shut his door. The room was smaller than the one his aunt and cousin occupied, but just as cozy. There was a bed bearing a patchwork quilt, a night stand with a gas lamp, a dresser with two bowls and pitcher and another lamp, this time burning a candle, a full length mirror by the dresser, and a hearth.

Harry stepped towards the hearth. Like the one downstairs, it was lit. The fire set the walls dancing in its glow. On the mantel, two pretty glass jars sat. One of potpourri, the other one full of a grayish green powder that he couldn't recognize. A miniature grandfather clock sat between the two jars. The hands read 1:24. Harry turned to the bed. The thing was honestly enormous. Bigger than his aunt and uncle's bed, back in Little Whinging. He assumed this one to be a king size bed, because his aunt's was a queen. Harry dropped his rucksack and the plastic bag onto it, and ran a hand over the quilt. It was soft in some places, rough in others. He liked it.

Harry pulled back the covers, and felt the sheets. They were soft, and fuzzy. Flannel. Harry grinned. Tonight might just be the best night of his life.

Eager to get to sleep, Harry pulled his pajamas from his bag, and pulled off his shirt. Harry rubbed his hands over his bare arms. They were filthy from all his work. He raised an arm, and sniffed. He wrinkled his nose in disgust. He dropped his shirt on the floor, and glanced around. His eyes fell on the bowl and pitcher. A rag and a bar of soap sat there. Stepping forward, Harry peered into the bowls. One was full of clean, clear water. The other was empty. Harry picked up the rag, and dipped it into the water. Surprisingly, it was warm. Harry shrugged, and dropped the soap into the bowl. Quickly, he washed his upper body, and once he was finished there, he rid himself of the rest of his dirty clothes, and washed the rest of him. His feet stank, but were mostly clean.

Along the way, Harry figured out that the second bowl was for dirty water. He squeezed out the rag over it, and then dipped it back in the clean water. Eventually, he was clean, and he dressed himself in clean underwear and his pajamas. Just then, the clock chimed out 2 o'clock. Harry felt very tired by this time, and he slipped into the bed. The blankets were warm, and the mattress was soft. His head hit the pillows, and he closed his eyes.

Oi!

What? Harry said sleepily.

We need to talk about this. Right?

No. And honestly, I just want to fall asleep.

Hey! Listen to me!

Harry felt very annoyed at her insistence, but rubbed his eyes and focused.

So… what are we talking about?

You are an absolute idiot.

Okay, Harry yawned.

We're talking about what's happening!

What's happening?

I- I don't know.

So why are you keeping me awake?

You're not hearing me! Something mad is going on.

Yeah, Aunt Petunia carted me and Dudley of to London in the middle of the night, Harry grumbled.

And she's taking you to my hometown.

Can we deal with this in the morning? Please?

You'll have to visit me.

How?

I have no clue.

Good night.

Hey!

Harry ignored her. She kept on babbling about Ottery St. Catchpole and him visiting her, but Harry had already fallen asleep.

Back to index


Chapter 3: Chapter 3: Ginny's Day Out

Author's Notes: Sorry for the wait guys; been very busy over Thanksgiving! Don't forget to review!


HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG

Three: Ginny's Day Out

Ginny



The next morning dawned warm and bright. Ginny rolled over in her bed, blocking the light spilling in from her window. She was tired, and her mind felt worked beyond belief from her night's dream. She'd dreamt that her imaginary friend was coming to visit her. She'd seen snippets of London in her dream, eavesdropped on some of his conversations, and even thought she'd seen Cousin Anna Prewett.

Ginny sat up, rubbing her eyes. She yawned and stretched, and turned to look at her clock. It was a cuckoo clock, and sat on her desk. The hands read 8:22.

Hello?

Ginny smiled as the voice of her imaginary friend floated into her head.

Hi. Thanks for waiting for me to wake up.

No problem. I happen to be a good person who appreciates sleep. Unlike someone else I could mention.

Sorry.

Apology accepted. I'm on the train.

Oh, yeah! When will you be here?

Aunt Petunia said since we left at seven o'clock-

I thought it left at five thirty?

It was late.

Oh. Continue.

Anyway, we left at seven so we should be there about eleven o'clock.

I think Mum is taking me into the village this afternoon. We're celebrating.

Celebrating what?

I got my Hogwarts letter yesterday! Dad took Ron out already, but Mum wanted to have a girl's afternoon.

Good for you, He said. For some reason, he sounded a little confused to her. Ah, did Ron happen to look horrified when he came back?

I- I didn't notice. Why?

Just a thought. Be prepared for the Talk.

What talk?

The Talk.

You're making no sense.

You know, where babies come from and all.

Oh, yuck!

Yeah, that Talk.

Changing the subject. Keep me posted on your progress. I want every little detail.

Okay. Dudley just puked.

Eww!

You want more details on that?

No, I meant- forget it.

Don't worry, I'll let you know everything that happens.

Keep it G rated, please.

Says the girl who knows more swear words than even my uncle does.

I'm sure he has plenty hidden up his sleeve that I don't know.

Oh, of course.

"Ginny!"

Ginny jumped out of bed, crossed her room to the door, opened it, and stuck her head out.

"Yes?"

"Ginny, love, get ready to leave! We're going to the village in about half an hour!" her mother called.

Ginny's heart leapt. "Yes, Mum!"

She ducked back inside her room, and shut the door. She stepped over to her closet, and started going through it. She pushed aside old Sunday dresses that no longer fit and fancy clothes her grandmother had made that she had never worn, searching for what to wear. Usually, jeans and a tee shirt would have been fine, and preferable, but today, Ginny felt like dressing up. Near the back of her closet, she stopped. She cocked her head, and then pulled out the dress. It was a creamy white, one of the ones her older cousins gave her. She held it up against her, turning to her mirror. She studied it, wondering whether or not she was willing to wear it. It was really a pretty dress and simple too. The fabric was lacy but not fancy. The hem reached her knees easily. The sleeves would stop just above her elbow.

Ginny shook her head, and put it back. She riffled through the closet some more, pausing at some of the more plain dresses. A green wrap around patterned with orange flowers. A peachy pink Sunday dress that probably would be too small. A dark blue dress with a sailor collar. Another lacy dress, this time a light brown. A baby blue skirt with a matching sweater. Ginny stopped, and pulled out the skirt and sweater. The skirt was made of a soft fleecy fabric, one of those skirts that made you want to twirl around and watch it flare. The sweater was too, but was decorated with little plastic jewels. Ginny put the sweater back. But she laid the skirt out on her bed, and turned to her dresser. She pulled a plain white tee shirt from a drawer, and clean underclothes from another. She quickly dressed, and then started searching for some shoes. Finally, she dropped to the ground and dug a pair of white sandals from underneath her bed. Ginny slipped them on, stepped in front of her mirror, and examined herself. She looked girlish, and Ginny liked it.

She grabbed a hair clip from off her dresser, twisted her hair up into a knot and fastened it with the clip. She pulled a pair of jean shorts from a drawer, and pulled them on underneath her skirt, just in case she decided the skirt was getting to be too much.

"Ginny, darling, almost time to go!"

"Coming Mum!"

She left her room, and took the stairs two at a time. Mum waited for her at the bottom of the stairs.

"Well, don't you look lovely!" Mum said, grinning. "Spin for me, precious."

Ginny giggled, and did a lopsided pirouette. Mum laughed, and took her hands before she fell over.

"We're going to have a wonderful time, my pet!" Mum told her, smiling warmly.

“Mum, guess what,” Ginny said.

“What?”

“Guess!” Ginny said, giggling.

Her mother smiled and tapped her chin thoughtfully. “You found a unicorn?”

Ginny laughed, but shook her head.

“Ooh!” Mum snapped her fingers and grinned. “I've got it! Harry Potter's coming to visit!”

Ginny blushed scarlet. “No, Mum, but somebody is coming to visit.”

“Who?”

“My friend, the one I told you about.”

Mum's smile faltered for a second. “Your imaginary friend?”

Ginny crossed her arms over her chest. “Mum, he's real! And he's coming here!”

Mum sighed, and smiled wearily. “If you say so, Ginny,” she said, leaving Ginny very unsatisfied, and then she turned back to the stairs. "BOYS!" she yelled. Bangs and shouts came from the upper floors of the Burrow, and soon, every single one of brothers bounded down the stairs, and lined up for their mother, in varying forms of disarray and wakefulness or lack of. Her twin, Ron, in particular looked like he'd been dragged from bed, and from the way he was glaring at Fred and George, he probably had been

"All right, listen up," Mum said. "Ginny and I are going out for the day. While we're gone, I want you all to clean your rooms."

Collective groans issued from her brothers, except Percy. He was already dressed with his hair combed (though still bright pink), glasses perched perfectly on the bridge of his nose, and his brand new prefect badge pinned to his polo. Obviously, his room was already clean.

"No buts!" Mum said. "Ginny and I will be back around two o'clock this afternoon, I'm guessing. When we get back, I want to see clean rooms, and clean boys. It's all right if you're not done when we get back, but that doesn't mean you can slack off, you hear me?"

The boys nodded, Fred and George saluted playfully, and Percy said in a somber voice "Yes, Mother."

"Good. Bill's in charge. If you finish your room before I get back, help one of your brothers, all right?"

"How come Ginny doesn't have to clean her room?" Ron grumbled.

"Because she cleaned it yesterday," Mum said. "You lot ought to take a leaf out her book and tidy up every night so your rooms don't get messy in the first place."

"Mother, my room is already tidy," Percy drawled, "Must I help the others?"

"Yes, Percy," Mum said. "Please help Ron; his room looks like a particularly angry tornado went through it."

Ron scowled her description of his room, but said nothing.

"What about our room?" George whined.

"How come we don’t get help?" Fred continued.

"Because you two share a room, boys. You help each other."

"So?" the twins chorused.

"So you can do by yourself. Bill, around noon, heat up some leftovers; I think there's half a pot roast in the icebox. And if you find you're still hungry after cleaning out the ice box, then make sandwiches."

"Yes, ma'am," Bill said.

"Mum, has my letter from the Dragon Reserve come yet?" Charlie asked.

"Yes, dear, it's on the kitchen table," Mum said, gesturing to the kitchen. Charlie pumped his fists, and hurried into the kitchen. "Oh, Percy, after lunch, could you start on dinner? I've got everything laid out for pot pies."

"Yes, Mother."

"Thank you dear," Mum smiled at him, then turned to Fred and George with a determined expression on her face. Charlie re-entered the room as Mum advanced on her older set of twins.

"Now, before you start on your room, I want you to fix Percy's hair."

"Mum!" they groaned. "We told you," George said.

"It'll go away on its own," continued Fred.

"Just wait a few days!" the twins finished.

"I don't want to wait. Fix his hair. I want no pink hair in this house when I come back, are we clear?"

"Yes, Mum," they grumbled.

"Good," Mum said, a little more gently, and hugged the two. She then entrapped Ron into her arms, then Percy, who patted her stiffly on the back, then Bill, and finally Charlie, who was focusing on the letter in his hands. Ginny, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet, waited while her brothers said good bye a little impatiently. In the back of her mind, her imaginary friend's side, she heard a train whistle, and snoring. She guessed He was asleep.

"Good bye," Mum said. Mum stepped over to her, and opened the door. Ginny turned to go, but hesitated. Then she turned back, and ran to Bill. Bill grunted theatrically as she collided with him. She hugged him tightly around the middle.

"Bye, Bill," Ginny said.

"Bye, Firefly," he said with a kind smile. "See you after lunch." Ginny grinned at him, and then, waving to her other brothers, she skipped out the door, grabbing her mother's hand as she went.

In the yard, Mum led her to the family's beat up Ford Anglia, while fiddling with the keys to the car. After they climbed in- Mum let her sit up front!- Mum started the car and they rolled out of the yard and down the dirt road to the highway. They drove for about half an hour, and by the time they reached the village, it was past nine thirty.

"What are we doing first, Mum?" Ginny asked as her mother parked the car in front of the local grocery.

"I thought we'd go window shopping," Mum said, opening her door. Ginny got out too, locking her door as she went.

"Good girl," Mum beamed at her. "Come on, there's a flea market over yonder. I'd thought we'd have a look."

"Why would someone sell fleas?"

"Oh, it's just a name. A flea market is a collection of little shops that sell various things. You never know what you'll find in a flea market."

"Okay," Ginny said. She took her mother's hand, and they left the parking lot. Mum and Ginny talked about this and that while they walked down the road. Mum told her about the day she received her Hogwarts letter, and Ginny laughed loudly at her mother's memory of accidentally getting her Uncle Gideon's letter instead of her own. Since the pair of them both had mild dyslexia, they hadn’t paid close enough attention to the name’s on the front of the envelope or the “Dear Miss/Mr. Prewett.”

"It really said you had already passed your OWL's?" Ginny giggled.

"It did," Mum chuckled. "And your uncle was very confused at his lack of OWL results. Oh, the look on his face when he saw his first year book list; I thought he was going to have a heart attack."

"I'm glad I got my letter, and not Percy's," Ginny said. "I bet I would have been the youngest prefect in history!"

Mum laughed, and then pointed. Ahead, there was the local Muggle high school's soccer field. It was crowded with people, cars, tables, boxes, and all sorts of things.

"Whoa," Ginny gasped.

"Your first flea market."

"Come on!" Ginny squealed, and tugged her mother forward. They spent the next hour wandering through the little stalls and vendors. They didn't buy anything other than a bag of cotton candy. Around ten thirty, Mum suggested they head back into the village and get some brunch. That's when she saw it.

It was a display set up over two long card tables. Covering it was a mix of objects: stuffed animals, porcelain dolls, packs of cards and paper weights. But what caught Ginny's eye was the display of jewelry. Specifically, a necklace with blue and whitish stones strung along it. Most of the items were in boxes, and the saleswoman was loading the boxes into the bed of a rusty pickup truck.

"Mum, look!" she pointed, and her mother looked.

"My, my, that is pretty," Mum said. Ginny ran over to the stand, her eyes fixed on the necklace.

"Hello, hello!" said the woman attending the stand. She looked old, older than Ginny's mother, but her eyes, bright green, glinted with mirth and youth. She brushed off her hands, and stepped forward. "See anything you like?"

"That necklace," Ginny said, pointing to it. "It looks very interesting." And it did. The chain was silver, and other little chains branch off from it, with little white stones that shone blue in the light at the ends of each little chain.

The woman smiled and nodded. "You have a good eye, little girl. That necklace has quite a story behind it."

"It does?"

"Oh, yes. It's been in my family for years. The story goes that my great-great-great-aunt received it as a gift from the man she hoped to marry."

"She did?"

"Yes. Now, this man was a sailor, but a very kind one. He loved my aunt very much, so much, he asked her to marry him. Somewhere, there's an engagement ring that matches the necklace, but it was lost decades ago. But before they were married, the man was sent out to sea."

"What happened then?" Ginny asked. Behind her, Mum placed a hand on her shoulder.

The woman held up her hands. "Nobody knows for sure. Some say he died of scurvy. Some say his ship was wrecked and he drowned. But the most common tale is that he met a very pretty French maiden, and that was that. My aunt, of course, was heart broken. When she got the news about her fiance, she got sick."

"Sick? Did she catch a cold?"

"Nope. She got melancholia."

"Melon what?"

"Melancholia; means she got really, really sad. She got so sad; she stopped eating; stopped sleeping, just sat there, and cried."

"Then what happened?"

"Well," the woman put her hands on her hips, looking down at the necklace, "the story gets garbled again after that. Some say she starved to death. Some say she got the influenza, and died of that. Others say she jumped off a cliff."

Ginny gasped, clapping her hands over her mouth. The lady nodded.

"Yep, she was that sad. There's another theory bout what happened to her, though, one I'm more inclined to believe."

"What is it?" Ginny asked, lowering her hands, and looking up at the woman eagerly.

The woman glanced around, then leaned forward and said in a hushed voice. "Some say my aunt was a witch. They say she made a magic potion and turned herself into a…."

"A what?"

"A marigold flower."

"Really?"

"Yep. They say she turned herself into a flower. And now the marigold is a symbol of sorrow and hard times."

"Wow," Ginny said, now looking at the necklace with new interest.

"How much is the necklace?" Mum asked.

"Well," the lady crossed her arms, "it depends on whether or not you're willing to take on the curse."

"What curse?" Ginny asked.

"Those who believe my aunt to be a witch think that before she became a flower, she cursed the necklace so that anyone who was unfaithful, but wore it was doomed to an unhappy life alone."

"I'm not unfaithful," Ginny said.

"Well of course you're not," said the lady.

"But how much is it?"

"Oh, twenty quid, if you're willing."

Mum nodded, then started going through her purse.

"Are you going to buy it Mum?" Ginny asked excitedly.

"Do you like it?"

"Yes."

"Are you going to wear it?"

"Oh, yes!"

"Right then," Mum pulled out her coin purse, and riffled through it until she had an assortment of Muggle money. Mum fiddled with it, then handed the lady two ten pound notes. Ginny felt glad that Dad had drilled how to use Muggle money into them. "Here you are," Mum said.

"Thank you kindly, ma'am," the lady said, smiling. "You go right ahead and try on that necklace, love," she said to Ginny.

Ginny lifted it up, and undid the clasp.

"Let me, sweetheart," Mum said, taking it from her. Mum put it on her, and Ginny grinned down at it.

"Thank you!" Ginny said. Then, her stomach rumbled. Mum and the lady laughed while Ginny blushed.

"Best get that one fed," the lady chortled.

"I will, come along, Ginny," Mum took her hand, and they turned to go.

"Miss?" Ginny asked.

"Yes?"

"Are you closing?"

"Yeah, I am, I've got to go meet my daughter at the train station. Why?"

"Just curious," Ginny shrugged. "Bye!"

"Bye," she said, waving.

Mum led her away, through the many stands, back to Main Street, to find a nice place for brunch.

Back to index


Chapter 4: Chapter 4: Imagination Is Our Reality

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG

Four: Imagination Is Our Reality

Harry



The train was late, of course. Half way between London and Devon, the train had to stop to let a farmer herd his cattle across the tracks. There were a lot of cows.

By the time they got to Ottery St. Catchpole, it was almost twelve o'clock. And since they didn't have time to get breakfast that morning, Dudley had whined to high heaven and back about his hunger. Harry, of course, wasn't particularly hungry. He'd taken out the bag Anna had given him, and munched on pasties filled with sweet pumpkin filling, little cakes that tasted like chocolate and strawberries, sugary things that looked like feathers, and jelly beans. The jelly beans were the most interesting thing there. They had the strangest flavors. There were the normal ones, peppermint, berry, green apple, and others, but there were also one he'd never guessed could be put into beans. Like chocolate. And cinnamon. And a few disgusting ones, like liver, and dirt. He even came across one that reminded him of puke. He spat that one out. (Possibly the bean was the cause of Dudley puking, rather than motion sickness, because Harry could swear Dudley ate the bean.)

Once the train had stopped and Aunt Petunia hurried them off the train, Harry tugging along the majority of their luggage, they made their way through the bustling crowd, albeit a very small crowd to accommodate the tiny train station, and exited into the street beyond. Aunt Petunia kept glancing around nervously, and Harry was pretty sure she was on the guard for Uncle Vernon. How he knew, he wasn't sure. Aunt Petunia stopped by a telephone booth and made a quick call. When she came out, she looked, if it was possible, even more nervous.

"Our ride will be here soon," she said, guiding them to a nearby bench.

Harry was unsure of this fact, but stayed quiet. They sat on the bench for near to an hour before a rusty pickup truck chugged to a stop in front of them. An elderly woman climbed out, and advanced on them. Aunt Petunia jumped up and hugged the woman, who held her tightly in her arms, stroking Aunt Petunia's hair.

"Boys," Aunt Petunia said once she had let go of the woman, "come and say hello."

Dudley stood up shakily and waddled over to the woman, who hugged him too. Harry stayed where he sat. The woman patted Dudley on the head, but her eyes were on Harry. She gave Dudley a quick kiss and walked over to him. She knelt down in front of him, and reached out with a trembling hand to touch him. Her hand landed on his cheek, and Harry, who was looking at her in wonder and confusion, saw a tear slip down her face. He noticed that her eyes looked just like his.

"You look so much like him," she whispered. That's when Harry noticed that her eyes were a bright green, exactly the same shape and shade his were.

"I look like who?"

"Your father," she said, "but you've got Lily's eyes." Then her eyes traveled to his forehead, and she reached up, and gently touched the scar.

Harry blinked, even more confused at her actions. He did not have the slightest idea who this woman was.

"Harry, do you remember me at all?"

"No, ma'am."

"I'll have to have a little talk with your aunt then," the woman said, glancing over at Aunt Petunia.

"Uh, pardon me, but who are you?" Harry asked.

"I'm Thea Evans, Harry. I'm your grandmother."

Harry blinked at her. "You are?"

"Yes," Thea Evans gave him a teary smile. "Last time I saw you, you were just a babe, not even one year old. But even then, you had your daddy’s hair and your mum’s eyes. My eyes.”

Harry blinked at her. He had assumed that all of his blood family but Aunt Petunia had long since died. Now, standing before him, was his grandmother. He looked over at Aunt Petunia, the only family he had ever known. Her hands were gripping Dudley’s shoulders, who looked upset that he was not the center of attention. Aunt Petunia nodded, almost imperceptibly. Thea Evans stood up, pulling Harry with her. She hugged him tightly, and then led him over to her truck.

“Come on, I’ll take you to lunch.”

She lifted Harry with only a little grunt, which surprised him- he may have been skinny, but he wasn’t that small!-, into the bed of her truck. Then she helped Dudley up. Aunt Petunia climbed into the passenger seat, and Thea took her place in the driver’s seat. She turned the key in the ignition, the engine groaned, and it backfired suddenly. Dudley grabbed a hold of the side of the truck bed, and Harry laughed at him.

“Hold tight, boys!” Thea called as the truck rumbled to life. They drove down a couple blocks before Thea parallel parked the truck in front of a corner dinner. Harry hopped down from the truck bed, feeling very happy, knowing that his hair was in a right state. Thea helped Dudley down, and then, ruffling Harry’s hair, messing it up even more, she led them into the dinner. The hostess, a young Spanish girl, was talking with a red haired woman. By her side was a little girl, nine or ten, with the same red hair, looking up expectantly at the woman, who Harry guessed to be her mother. Thea and Aunt Petunia started talking to each other, while Dudley sulked by his mother. Harry watched the little girl. Then, as if sensing his gaze, she turned. And Harry felt a sensation akin to being punched in the gut, something he knew quite well, unfortunately. The little girl’s mouth opened to form a perfect ‘o’, and, Harry let his jaw drop.

You? His friend said in his mind. His imaginary friend, the one that only existed in his brain and his dreams.

But- but you’re my imagination! Harry thought stupidly.

You’re my imagination!

“Can it be?” he whispered.

“Are you real?” she whispered back. Without knowing it, Harry had moved forward. So had she.

“Of course I’m real; it’s you that’s supposed to be a figment of my imagination!” Harry said.

The girl’s mother had stopped her conversation with the hostess.

“Ginny, come over here, dear,” she said. The little girl- his not-so-imaginary friend- didn’t move.

“Harry?” Aunt Petunia called. “Come here, now.”

Harry glanced back, but his eyes wandered back to her again just as quickly. She cocked her head, and slowly stretched out a hand to touch his face. She laid her palm on his cheek, and gasped, jerking it back.

“I must be dreaming!” she insisted.

“You’re not,” Harry said, touching the spot her hand had touched. “I am.”

“Harry, what are you doing?” Aunt Petunia said, stepping forward. She grabbed his arm and tried to tug him away from the girl. There was a short blast of light, his aunt gasped, and backed up quickly. She cradled her arm close to her, staring at him in confusion. Harry looked back to his friend, and shrugged. She frowned too, and poked him hard in the shoulder.

“Ow!” he said, rubbing the spot. “What was that for?”

“Do people normally do that when they try to touch you?” she asked, pointing to Aunt Petunia.

“No,” Harry glanced back at his aunt.

“Who is she, anyway?”

“My aunt Petunia,” he said. “I’ve told you about her.”

“OH!” the girl said, now beginning to smile. “The Queen of Cleaning.”

“Ginny, come over here,” the girl’s mother called. She stepped forward and tried to pull her away from Harry, but another blast of light and the girl's mother let go with a gasp of pain.

“Is that something that happens a lot around you?” Harry asked. She shook her head.

“Mum, what’s going on?” Dudley said in a loud, whiny voice. She glanced at him, and then her eyes found Thea.

“Mum, that’s the lady who sold us my new necklace!” she said happily. Harry turned to look over at his newfound grandmother, and then turned his eyes back to his friend. “This necklace, see?” She said, touching the necklace around her neck. Harry reached out to touch it, and his fingers slid over the largest blue stone, which rested at her clavicle. She smiled, looking down at it.

“It’s pretty,” he said. “I thought you didn’t mess around with things like jewelry, and skirts!” he let out a laugh, reaching down and fingering the blue fabric of her skirt. She shrugged.

“I am allowed to be a girl at times,” she sniffed.

He laughed. “Of course you are.”

“Ginny, who is this?” her mother asked. She turned.

“Oh, Mum, this is my imaginary friend, the one I told you about, his name’s…” she trailed off, and then turned back to him. “Who are you?”

“Sorry?”

“What’s your name?” she corrected herself.

“Oh,” Harry said, feeling warmth spread to his cheeks. He stuck out his hand, and she took it. She had a firm grip.

“I’m Harry,” he said. “Harry Potter.”

She let go of his hand so quickly you would have thought it had turned to a live snake. She stared at him, mouth open in a silent question, eyes wide and cheeks growing to a light shade of rosy pink.

“What?” he asked, glancing between her and her mother, who looked just as stunned as she did.

“Imaginary friend?” he heard Aunt Petunia ask.

His friend’s mother brushed a strand of hair from her face. “Ginny, I want to know exactly what is happening.”

“So do I,” Harry said. “What’s so special about my last name? Half the people I meet nearly jump a foot in the air when I say my name’s Potter, and complete strangers walk up to me on the street wanting to shake my hand. So what’s so special about me?”

His friend shut her mouth and swallowed. “You- you’re famous.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “You’re taking the mickey,” he said.

“But you are!” she said, taking a step back. “Your story is my favorite bedtime story, and I have friends who have Harry Potter dolls, and Luna Lovegood’s father does a piece on you every Halloween in the Quibbler. You- you’re the Boy Who Lived.”

Harry blinked. “The people at the B and B said the same thing. But what’s it mean?”

“You lived when you should have died,” she whispered. “You should have been killed ten years ago, on Halloween, but you lived.”

“I still don’t understand,” Harry said.

“Perhaps we should explain over lunch,” Thea Evans interrupted, and Harry turned. She nodded in the direction of the hostess, who was looking just as confused as Harry felt. Thea knew as well?

“Quick question,” Harry turned back to his friend while Thea went to his friend’s mother and persuaded her to join them for lunch. “What’s your name?”

She shook her head slowly. “You really are stupid at times.”

“What?”

“Mum’s said it over and over,” she sighed. “It’s Ginny.”

Harry nodded, feeling his already warm cheeks grow warmer. Thea and Aunt Petunia and Ginny’s mother had spoken with the hostess by then, and she was counting out menus.

“What should I call your mother?” he asked as the hostess led them to a booth in the back.

“Mrs. Weasley,” she said. “What do I call your aunt? And the other lady?”

“Oh, my aunt is Mrs. Dursley, and that’s Mrs. Evans. She’s my grandmother. You were right, by the way,” he added as they slipped into the booth. “She’s Aunt Petunia’s mother.”

Dudley, who had been looking very surly ever since the conversation had started, chose that moment to stick out his fat hand to Ginny.

“I’m Dudley,” he said. “And if you’ve got any brains, you’ll drop him. He’s a freak.”

Ginny, who had reached out to grasp his hand, pulled back. “I think I’ll stick with him, thanks.”

Dudley scowled, but sat beside his mother. Mrs. Weasley took the seat beside Ginny, and Thea sat next to Dudley.

“So, Harry,” she said, “you want to know why you are the Boy Who Lived. I would have thought that my daughter would have been kind enough to tell you. But I guess I was wrong. It all starts years and years ago…”

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


“Mum!” Lily Evans called. She ran into the dining room, holding a letter in her hand. Mrs. Thea Evans, who was sorting through that day’s mail, looked up and smiled at her youngest daughter. She was a delight, already beautiful at eleven years old. She had her father's red hair, but her mother’s bright green eyes. Thea set aside the bill in her hands and pulled out a chair for Lily. She sat down beside her, her face flushed with excitement.

“What is it, my flower?” Thea asked.

“You know that letter I got?” Lily said. “Well, it said that I’ve been accepted at this school”

“How lovely darling,” Thea said, feeling a little confused. She had signed Lily up for any schools, just the local primary school. “What school?”

“A magic school!” Lily said.

Thea raised her eyebrows. “Now, now, dear, I’ve told you, magic isn’t real. You must stop all this nonsense. You’re a big girl now, Lily.”

“But Mum! I’m telling the truth!”

“Lily, stop it,” Thea insisted. “There is no such thing as magic.”

Just then, the doorbell rang. Petunia, Lily’s older sister, called from the foyer, “I’ll get it.”

Thea stood, shaking her head at Petunia’s blunder. She always volunteered to get the door, no matter how many times Thea told her to let her get the door. Lily followed her mother into the foyer, where Petunia had already opened the door.

“May I help you?” Thea asked, putting a hand on Petunia’s shoulder. The woman at the door smiled. She was rather short, and quite plump. She had curly black hair, and gray eyes.

“My name is Augusta Longbottom, and I’m here to see Lily Evans.”

Thea crossed her arms. “I’m Lily’s mother. How can I help you?”

“Oh, well then, I am sure that Lily has received her letter already,” Augusta Longbottom said. “From Hogwarts?”

“Oh, yes, I got it this morning!” Lily piped up behind her mother. Thea turned and pressed a finger to her lips. Then she addressed Longbottom.

“What’s it to you?”

“I am sure then, that you are rather confused,” she said. “My job is to explain to you the nature of Lily’s abilities.”

“What abilities?”

“Her magic, of course.”

Thea raised her eyebrows, then, she gently pulled Petunia aside and gestured for Longbottom to enter. She did so, smiling genially.

“Through here,” Thea said, leading the group into the adjoining sitting room. Longbottom took a seat on the couch, still smiling. Thea sat in an armchair, and Lily climbed into her mother’s lap. Petunia took a seat on the floor.

“Now what is this about?” Thea asked.

“I have never had the patience for subtlety, so I will be blunt. Your daughter is a witch.”

Thea raised her eyebrows for a third time that day. “A what?”

“A witch. An honest to goodness witch,” Longbottom said. “Hogwarts is a school for children like her, who have magical abilities, to learn how to control their magic, and how to use it.”

“You’re joking,” Thea laughed. “There’s no such thing as magic!”

“Oh, is there?” Longbottom said. She smiled, and then pulled from the pocket of her jacket a long thin wooden stick. “I am a witch as well, Mrs. Evans, and I will prove to you that magic is very real.” She pointed her stick at the coffee table, and said “Evanesco.” The coffee table vanished. Petunia gasped, and Lily clapped her hands in enjoyment. Thea stared in shocked silence at the place where her coffee table had been. Mrs. Evans waved her stick once more and the table reappeared. “And so, magic is real.”

“Do more, do more!” Lily said, grinning rather broadly. Longbottom smiled, and pointed her stick at the grate. “Incendio!” Fire erupted from the end of her stick, and lit the grate. Lily squealed with joy. “Orchidus,” Longbottom said, and a bunch of flowers spouted from her stick. She handed the bouquet to Lily, who looked overjoyed.

“You’re saying that Lily can do that?” Thea said, staring at the flowers in Lily’s hands.

“Not right away, but once she has completed her training at Hogwarts, she will.”

Thea took the flowers from Lily, and laid them on the newly returned coffee table.

“So there are witches still in England?”

“All over the world!” Longbottom said. “In America, in Asia, in Africa. Everywhere. In fact, there is a witch and her son living not far from here, in Spinner’s End.”

“Snape!” Petunia said. “That greasy old git who’s always spying on us?”

“Severus doesn’t spy, Tuny,” Lily said. “He’s lonely. He wants to be friends.”

“Yes, Severus Snape is a wizard,” Longbottom said. “I went to school with his mother.”

“Oh, wonderful!” Lily said. “I’m really a witch, just like Sev said!”

“You knew?” Thea said, turning to her daughter.

“Sev told me,” Lily said, looking at her feet. “But he made me swear to not tell anyone else.”

“Why?” Thea asked, looking at her daughter in confusion, though a little worried.

“He said it was our secret,” she said, her smile fading.

“Uh, Mrs. Evans,” Longbottom interrupted. “As you and your husband are Muggles, or non-magical, I must ask you to not divulge what I have revealed to you to anyone outside your family. Grandparents, close family members, you may tell them about Lily’s abilities but make sure they do not tell anyone else. We, that is to say, the magical community find it easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of the Muggle community in secrecy.”

“So we can’t tell our friends?” Thea asked. “I mean, this is extraordinary; Lily has had these abilities for forever, and some of our friends know about them, but they, like us, have never understood it. Now we understand, and you are saying they are not allowed to?”

“If you can trust them to never reveal her abilities, then yes, you may tell them. But if they have a tendency to be a little loose lipped, then no, do not. I am telling you this not to restrict you, but to protect Lily. There are still some people out there that will look down on her because of what she can do, even detest her. You have heard of Lenard Lament?”

“The serial killer?” Thea said. “He caused quite a panic. But they caught him, didn’t they? Three years ago; he’s in prison.”

“Lament is in prison, and he will never escape I assure you. He was caught purely because the Ministry of Magic, our government, found the connection between his victims: they were all wizards and witches. We tracked Lament down and he confessed, under the influence of a truth potion, to having killed more than thirty witches and wizards. Why? Because of their abilities. I’m not saying this to scare you, but to warn you. Lament wasn’t the only Muggle to hate wizards: the many witch burnings during the seventeenth century are proof of that. I ask you to be cautious of whom you tell about Lily’s abilities to keep her and your family safe.”

Thea hugged Lily to her tightly, gesturing for Petunia to come over to her. When Lament had still been at large, a young girl down their street had disappeared. The police were sure that she had been one of his victims. It had terrified everyone on the street. It was then that Thea quit her job and stayed at home with her children twenty-four-seven. In particular, she had ordered Lily to stay indoors, and never go outside, because Lily and the girl down the street had been very similar, and she had some of the same powers that Lily had. Petunia wasn’t allowed outside either. The thought that Lily could have been killed because of her abilities struck too close to home.

“With that said,” Longbottom said, “I have one last thing to say. Lily will need school supplies and I will be the one to escort you and Lily to Diagon Alley. Since you are not a witch, and Lily isn’t a proper witch yet, you will need my help.”

“What is Diagon Alley?” Thea asked.

“It is a Wizarding shopping mall, basically. There are more across the world, but Diagon Alley is closest, and it is the home to the England branch of Gringotts, our bank. There you can have your Muggle money converted to Wizarding money.”

Thea nodded, trying to take it all in. “When do we go?”

“Whenever it is possible for you,” Longbottom replied. “But soon, she will need her supplies by August 31st at the latest. The sooner, the better.”

Thea smiled. “Well, we have this Saturday free. How about you swing by Saturday morning about nine, and we go then? And Petunia can come with us if she wants, right?”

“Of course, of course!” Longbottom said, smiling. “Well, I must be going. Did you send your reply to your letter before I arrived, Lily?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Well, how about you go write your reply, and I will take it to the post office for you.”

Lily smiled, jumped up, and ran from the room. About five minutes later, she returned with a sealed envelope. She handed it to Longbottom, who took it with a smile.

“Thank you, Lily,” Longbottom said. She stood. “I must take my leave. Thank you, Mrs. Evans, for being so understanding.”

Thea nodded once more, and showed Longbottom out.


HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG



“After that, things were never the same,” Thea added to the conclusion to her story. “Lily’s father wasn’t exactly happy with her being a witch. He was a religious man, and he believed witchcraft to be a terrible sin. He kept quiet about it, fortunately, but he never delighted in the feats of magic she showed over the years, and he did not approve of James. Still, Lily was excellent at magic, and she never let it go to her head. She didn’t brag about it to Petunia, but she wasn’t tight lipped about either. She told us all about Hogwarts in her letters, about her friends; and as she matured, I never had to worry about boys because Lily just wasn’t interested in that sort of thing.

“Then, in her very last year at Hogwarts, she started dating James Potter. He was such a nice boy, so polite and very handsome. Lily was enamored with him. They got married about two years after finishing at Hogwarts, and they had you almost immediately. Lily and Petunia hadn’t been as close as they once were during that time, but Lily wanted to change that, I think, because she made Petunia your godmother. And then, Lily stopped sending us letters as often. The last one I got was just a few weeks before she died. She told me that she had to go into hiding with James and you, because her world was at war. There was a man named Lord Voldemort who wanted power, and he wanted to kill people like Lily, people who had Muggle parents. I still don’t understand completely, but Lord Voldemort had made personal threats to Lily and James, and so they went underground. But it didn’t help. I was visited on November first, ten years ago, by the Minister of Magic himself- the wizards have their own government you know- and he told me what had happened. Lily and James had used some sort of magic to hide them, and the only person who knew where they were was a close friend of James’s, but that close friend betrayed them, and told Voldemort where they were. He went to the place where they were hiding, in a small village called Godric’s Hollow, and killed them.

“But for some reason, he couldn’t kill you. He tried to, but he could not. That’s why you’re famous Harry. When Lord Voldemort tried to kill you, the spell he used rebounded, and he was killed, but you lived! I would have taken you myself, but Petunia was your godmother, and she insisted to have you,” Thea said. “I would have visited, but that dreadful husband of hers never let me. And I told you,” she said, turning to Petunia, “I told you he was no good. And now look what’s happened!”

“Mum, can we please discuss this sometime else?” Aunt Petunia said.

“Yes, all right,” Thea sighed.

“But what about Ginny?” Harry asked. “Why can we read each other’s minds?”

Thea frowned. “I don’t rightly know.”

“Neither do I,” said Ginny’s mother. “We should ask Dumbledore.”

“Dumbledore?” Thea said. “The Headmaster of Hogwarts?”

“Yes, he ought to know,” Mrs. Weasley said.

“In the meantime,” Aunt Petunia said, “let’s order lunch.”

Lunch was low-key. Harry tried to order water, but Thea told him to get whatever he wanted so he ordered a root beer. He'd never had one before, but Dudley got it a lot, so it seemed like something that would be good.

After lunch was when it happened.

They had left the restaurant and stood by Thea's truck. Harry glanced between the beat up old car Mrs. Weasley was standing by and the truck.

“Harry, we have to go,” Aunt Petunia said. “We'll stay with your grandmother for a while, all right?”

Harry frowned. “But what about Ginny?”

Aunt Petunia smiled tightly. Harry knew she was faking it.

“Your friend will have to wait. It's been a long day. Dudley needs to rest.”

Thea turned on her daughter with a steely look in her eyes. “Now, Tuny, we ought to think this through. These two are connected, they should be together. We don't want to stretch the connection.”

“They've been apart for their entire lives, they'll be fine,” Aunt Petunia sighed.

Ginny gripped his hand. He felt warmth spread up his arms, starting from his fingers.

I don't want to leave you, he thought.

I don't want you to leave either, she thought.

“Can't I stay with her?” Harry asked.

Mrs. Weasley stepped towards them. “Harry, I'm afraid Ginny and I have to go home.”

“Mummy, can't he come with us?” Ginny asked.

Mrs. Weasley looked hesitant. She glanced at Thea and Aunt Petunia. Thea shrugged and Aunt Petunia frowned.

“Well, it would seem better to keep you two together,” Mrs. Weasley mused.

Ginny stuck out her bottom lip. Harry fought the urge to laugh.

Shut up, she thought.

You're funny! Harry thought back. It's cute.

Mrs. Weasley sighed. “If his aunt says he can, then yes.”

“Well, I don't.” Aunt Petunia grabbed his arm. “Harry, come on.”

A flash of light erupted between them, throwing Aunt Petunia backwards. She hit the ground, and stared up at him in shock.

“I didn't do that!” Harry said quickly.

Aunt Petunia pushed herself up, brushing off her slacks. She glanced around, but no one was watching.

“Harry, come here,” she ordered.

Harry glanced at Ginny. She was looking at the ground, down at her sandals.

What should I do?

Ginny looked up at him. Her face seemed sad. I don't want you to go, but your aunt told you to go.

Harry furrowed his brow. All his life, he'd done what he'd been told. Harry, do this. Harry, do that. He'd obeyed every command he'd been given.

Could he obey this one?

Back to index


Chapter 5: Chapter 5: Meeting Albus Dumbledore

Author's Notes: There was an error and the chapter was originally cut off about half-way. This is the full chapter.


HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG

Five: Meeting Albus Dumbledore

Ginny


Harry was biting his lip. He looked deep in concentration. She could hear him thinking it all over.

He looked over at his aunt. “I have to go with them,” he said. “I can't leave Ginny.”

Ginny grinned. She squeezed his hand quickly. He squeezed it back.

Mrs. Dursley looked even more stunned than when he knocked her down. “What do you mean?”

“I mean I need to be with Ginny,” he said. “I can't leave her.”

“Why not?”

“I don't know exactly why, but something tells me I shouldn't leave her.”

“You only met her today!” Mrs. Dursley said in exasperation.

“Aunt Petunia, I've known her all my life,” Harry said. Ginny's smile changed to a more warm and sweet smile.

Mrs. Dursley looked at Harry as though he had just grown an extra pair of arms. “You have lost your mind,” she said.

Mrs. Evans touched Mrs. Dursley's shoulder. “You should let him go,” she said.

Mrs. Dursley turned to Mrs. Evans with the same expression. “You've all gone mad,” she breathed. “He is a ten year old boy. He does not know better than me. And I know it would be madness to let my charge go frolicking off with a stranger.”

“Ginny's not a stranger!” Harry said.

“Well, excuse me for thinking that her mother and her family are,” Mrs. Dursley said. “Harry, come to me. Now.”

Harry's grip on her hand tightened. “No. I need to stay with Ginny.”

Mrs. Dursley glanced around, her expression both frustrated and flustered. She set her eyes on Ginny. “You, girl, tell him that he's being stupid.”

Mrs. Evans grabbed Mrs. Dursley's arm. “Petunia, watch your attitude.”

Mrs. Dursley jerked her arm away from Mrs. Evans. “Mother, my godson is being the disobedient little brat that he is, and I will not sugar coat my words to make him feel better. He needs to know that he is acting ridiculous.”

Mrs. Evans scowled. “What happened to you, Petunia? You used to be so sweet.” She sighed. “Never mind. We'll sort that out later. Sweetheart, Harry isn't being ridiculous. He's being sensible. It is his connection to Ginny, his instincts. I think it would be wise to allow him to stay with Ginny, until we figure out what's happening.”

Mrs. Dursley scowled even deeper than Mrs. Evans. “He has an overactive imagination.”

“Mrs. Dursley,” Ginny said, catching the attention of the older, sterner woman. “Harry thought I was his imagination until today. And I can feel it too, Harry should stay with me.”

Mrs. Dursley narrowed her eyes at Ginny. Ginny swallowed nervously.

Then, she threw her hands in the air. “Fine. I don't care. Take him away, do whatever.” She opened the truck door and pulled a rucksack from it. She tossed it at Harry, who caught it with a grunt. Ginny decided the Queen of Cleaning was more evil than she'd originally thought.

Mrs. Evans gave Mrs. Dursley a strange look, and approached them. She smiled warmly, and knelt down before them. She touched Harry's shoulder. Ginny half expected a flash of light to push her away, but no light came up. Maybe it only came when someone tried to separate them.

“Harry, darling,” Mrs. Evans said, “you be on your best behavior for Mrs. Weasley, okay? I'll come see you as soon as that Dumbledore can come and try to muddle out what's happening, or, if you need me.” She pulled something from her pocket, a little card, and handed it to him.

“My telephone number and my home address in on that,” she said. “You come and see me, call me, anything, if you need me, all right?”

Harry tucked the card into his pocket. Then he frowned.

You don't have a telephone, do you? He thought to her.

A what?

I thought so.


“They don't have telephones,” Harry said. Mrs. Evans glanced at her; she nodded. Mrs. Evans smiled again.

“Well, then come see me,” she said. “Now, you be good.”

Mrs. Evans gently kissed his forehead. Harry looked startled as she stood up, and walked back to her truck.

Never been kissed before, then? She thought.

No, but I've seen it happen. It's not as wet as I expected.

Ginny laughed. “Come on, Mum's waiting.”

She pulled him to the car. Mum looked like she had no idea where the afternoon had gone as she opened the door for Harry and her.

Ginny climbed into the backseat, Harry followed her.

“Buckle up,” Mum said and closed the doors. Ginny watched her suck her breath in and let it out slowly. Then she climbed into the car too.

“How am I going to explain this to Arthur?” Mum mumbled in the driver's seat. She started the car, and pulled out into the street.

Harry watched out the window as they passed Mrs. Evan's truck. Dudley was watching them drive away.

Ginny gripped Harry's hand again.

You okay? She reached out.

Yeah, I'm fine.

You're lying. Honestly, I can read your mind, silly! You'd think you would have learned by now not to lie to me.

Yeah, I know.

What's up?

It's just, Aunt Petunia, I almost thought for a minute that maybe she did really care about me. Because she was refusing to let me go. But, I guess not.


Ginny's heart broke, watching him. He'd been hurt so much, too much. Ginny didn't really know how to respond to his quiet disappointment, so she unclipped her seat belt and slid across the bench to sit right beside him. She curled her arm through his, and rested her head on his shoulder. He glanced at her, surprised, but then he smiled.

I'm glad I have you, he thought.

I'm glad you have me too, she thought back. So, Harry Potter.

I'm famous,
he thought, his mental voice was full of awe and confusion.

Very famous, she replied. You have dolls and picture books and everything.

I don't suppose you have any of those, then?


Ginny blushed, and Harry smirked. Her fascination with the story of the Boy Who Lived was always something she kept under lock and key in her mind. It was just something she thought her imaginary male friend wouldn't understand and therefore didn't need to know about it.

All right, I have picture books, and one doll. Just one!

Wow, I never knew being famous could have so many perks. Dolls, picture books, I must be rich from that stuff!


Ginny laughed. Mum glanced at them in the mirror, but sighed and looked away.

I think we're confusing Mum, Ginny thought.

Of course we are, Harry thought, smirking. We're talking to each other in our minds, Ginny, she's probably confused to America and back.

Ginny laughed again. Mum glanced back at them, one eyebrow raised.

“It's nothing,” Ginny said.

“If you say so,” Mum sighed.

Harry and Ginny did not speak again the rest of the trip. Harry commented this and that, the countryside, the strangeness of the car and the afternoon, but he never spoke a word. Ginny couldn't help but grin; she was going to have a lot of fun with her not so imaginary friend.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG

Harry


Ginny's house was as different from Aunt Petunia's as night is from day. As they approached, they passed a wooden sign stuck in the earth reading 'The Burrow.' The house itself looked as though the bottom floors had been built several decades ago, but had been added onto over the years. It was leaning over to the left, and Harry was surprised it had not fallen over years ago. The steps to the kitchen door were littered with rusty caldrons, old rubber boots, and dirt. The kitchen itself was wide and open and merrily preparing dinner, with no one around. Ginny's mother dropped her hand bag onto the counter and sighed. She withdrew a long wood stick, a wand, Ginny said in his thoughts, and waved it in the air. The fire in the old fashioned wood stove fizzled out. The pots and pans washing themselves in the sink ceased their cleaning. The knife chopping up various vegetables and potatoes dropped to the counter.

“I told Percy to make it himself,” Mrs. Weasley sighed.

“Percy, that's the one with pink hair, right?” Harry asked. Mrs. Weasley looked at him sharply.

“How-”

“I told him, Mum,” Ginny said. “Ages ago.”

“Two days ago,” Harry said. Ginny punched him lightly in the arm. Mrs. Weasley seemed to accept that the situation was not going to be something she would understand, and led them from the kitchen to the room beyond, past a scrubbed wooden table large enough to seat a dozen, to a comfortable looking sitting room. A boy with faded pink hair was sitting in one of the armchairs, turning the pages of his book idly.

He looked up as Mrs. Weasley entered, and quickly stuffed the book behind him as he jumped up.

“Mother,” he said, almost breathlessly, “I- I was just about to... to...” he trailed off, for his eyes had found Harry.

“Who is that?” he asked.

Mrs. Weasley glanced back at Harry. “Well, it is rather a long story, one I don't want to repeat multiple times. This is Harry Potter.”

Percy let out a little gasp. His face colored behind his glasses, as his eyes traveled upward to the strands of faded pink hair falling over his eyebrows.

“Sweet Merlin,” he muttered. “Mr. Potter, please excuse-”

“The pink hair?” Harry said, hiding a smirk. “It's okay. Ginny said Fred and George hexed it.”

Percy nodded. “I- I'm just going to- to m-make dinner,” he stammered, and he darted past them and into the kitchen. Mrs. Weasley shook her head.

“He's always been very formal,” Mrs. Weasley said to Harry. “It must be torture for him right now.”

“I know,” Harry said. Mrs. Weasley nodded, muttering, “Of course you do.”

Mum isn't used to this sort of thing, Ginny thought.

I can tell,
Harry thought back, smiling at her. Mrs. Weasley glanced between the two of them, then sighed and turned towards the stairs leading up to the upper floors.

“BOYS!” she hollered. Thundering footsteps sounding, and Harry immediately thought of an army marching into battle. He had a sudden thought of what he knew of Ginny's brothers, and wondered if he should be afraid. He stepped backward, and closer to his friend. Ginny glanced at him and shook her head, but she was smiling.

Just be yourself, she thought. You'll be all right.

Easy for you to say, Harry thought grumpily. The army of Ginny's other brothers stampeded down the last few steps to line up in front of their mother. He recognized them one by one. The one on the far right was Bill, going by the ponytail and fang earring. Then next was Charlie, short and stocky. Then in the middle were the two identical twins. He couldn't tell which was which. Last was Ginny's twin, Ron. All five of them had caught sight of Harry, and all five were staring curiously.

“Percy, come back in here,” Mrs. Weasley called. Percy came back out of the kitchen, pink haired head hanging, to join his brothers.

Mrs. Weasley laid a hand on Harry's shoulders and steered him out from behind Ginny. “This is Harry Potter.”

A collective intake of breath from the brothers, all but Percy. Harry waved shyly.

“He will be staying with us for a while,” Mrs. Weasley said. “He's- well, I'm not quite sure what to call him.”

Ginny stepped forward. “He's my imaginary friend,” she said.

All six boys looked to her with similar shocked expressions.

“Your what?” Percy said in a stunned voice.

“He's the imaginary friend I've told you about,” she said. “The one I forgot to name.”

Bill and Charlie glanced at each other. Percy seemed disbelieving. Ron, Fred and George looked like they were still trying to process it all.

“We don't quite understand it,” Mrs. Weasley said. “I'm going to call Dumbledore and ask him for help, but in the meantime Harry will be staying with us. Ron, would you mind letting him bunk with you?”

Ron turned as red as his hair. “B-bunk with me?” he stumbled over the words, looking even more shocked.

“Yes,” Mrs. Weasley said. “You're the least likely to pester him.”

Harry felt reassured that Mrs. Weasley was on his and Ginny's side.

Ron will still pester you, but not as much as the others, Ginny thought.

I'll live, he thought back.

Ginny flashed him a smile, he smiled back.

The brothers were eyeing him again. Mrs. Weasley glanced at them, and sighed.

“They can read each other's minds,” she said, almost reluctantly. “And no, you may not ask them about it,” she snapped at one of the twins, who had opened his mouth curiously. The twin scowled. “Ron, show Harry your room, please.”

Ron nodded, and waved at Harry to follow him. Ron looked thoroughly confused as he led Harry up the stairs. Ginny waved to him as he mounted the steps. Harry waved back. Today had been crazy, and he was loving every moment of it.

“So,” Ron said as they climbed higher and higher. “How did you become my sister's imaginary friend?”

“I have no idea,” Harry replied. “One day, I just got fed up with being shunted and ignored, so I made up a friend and she was Ginny.”

“Shunted?” Ron repeated, frowning. “What would you be shunted for?”

“I live with my aunt and uncle, or, I used to. They don't particularly like me.”

“Used to?”

“My uncle was a drinker,” Harry admitted. “My aunt got fed up with him, packed up me and my cousin, and brought us out here to stay with my grandmother. At least, that was the plan. Then I met Ginny for real, and my grandmother and your mother decided it would be best to not separate us.”

“And they're Muggles, right?”

“Yes.”

Ron seemed a little less confused than he did when they started up the stairs. He stopped on a final landing, and turned to Harry.

“If you're Ginny's imaginary friend, then she must have told you everything.”

“She does.”

“What's she say about me?”

Harry thought about it for a moment.

What? Ginny thought.

He wants to know what you say about him.

Tell him it isn't his business.


“She says it's not your business,” Harry said aloud.

“Says?” Ron frowned. Then he made a look of vague understanding. “Right, the reading each other's minds thing.” Harry nodded.

“Maybe I'm dreaming,” Ron mumbled as he turned to the door. He turned the handle, and the door swung open.

It was like walking into an explosion. Everything was covered in bright orange: The walls, the floor, the ceiling, even the bedspread. Harry already knew Ron was a huge fan of the Chuddly Cannons, but this was just too much orange to live in.

Ron fidgeted with a miniature figurine of a Quidditch player as he waited for Harry's reaction. (Ginny had explained the rules of Quidditch to him AGES ago.)

“It's just like Ginny said it was,” Harry said.

Ron raised one eyebrow and narrowed the other eye. He seemed too confused to do much else.

“Right,” Ron muttered, dropping the figurine. It flew away on its miniature broom. “So, you know everything about us?”

“Only what Ginny's told me,” Harry said quickly.

“And you're the Boy Who Lived.” Ron's eyes drifted away from his, to land on Harry's scar.

“Well, yes,” Harry said. “Um, I don't really know much about being famous, so...” he trailed off awkwardly.

Just be yourself, Ginny thought.

Harry sighed, and glanced around. “Um, where will I sleep?”

“Oh, right,” Ron looked around, and then stepped over an overflowing box and to something that Harry had guessed to be a desk or something similar, but Ron swept his arm over it, sending the junk covering it crashing to the floor, and Harry saw it was another bed. Harry instantly knew whose it had been. The quilt covering it was a creamy white, patterned with different flowers. Ginny's.

“Ginny used to sleep there, but Mum and Dad gave her her own room a few years ago. We never bothered to get rid of the bed,” Ron explained. Harry knew this already, but didn't let on that he knew, seeing as Ron was already befuddled.

“I'll get a different blanket,” Ron said.

“No, that one's fine,” Harry said quickly. Ron raised an eyebrow.

“I'm not fond of orange,” Harry said.

“But it's got flowers and it's all girly,” Ron said.

“I don't mind,” Harry said. “Don't go to any trouble.”

Ron shrugged and navigated over more piles of stuff to the other bed. Harry stepped over the same box filled to the brim with comic books and toys to the bed. He sank onto it, heard the groaning of old bed springs, and set his rucksack on the ground beside it.

“Now what?” Harry asked.

Ron looked over at him, then around the room awkwardly.

“Um...” he said.

“Er...” Harry said.

Ask him to tell you about the Chuddly Cannons, Ginny thought. That will get him on our side quickly.

What do we need him on our side for?

In case Dad decides I'm too young to have a boy in my head. We'll need backup.

You've had me in your head for ages!

I know that but Dad doesn't!


Harry let out an aggravated sigh.

“Ginny says I should ask you about the Chuddly Cannons,” Harry said. Somewhere, Ginny smacked herself in the forehead.

Why didn't you just ask instead of saying I told you to?

Because I have no idea what I'm doing.

Boys.


Ron raised an eyebrow.

“What would she want you to know about my Quidditch team for?”

“She says it will get you on our side.”

“You have a side?”

Harry shrugged. “I guess. She's afraid your dad won't like the fact that I can hear her thoughts.”

“She's confused. All Dad will care about is the fact that you live with Muggles,” Ron said.

Harry frowned. “He will?” Ron nodded.

“Dad LOVES Muggles. He thinks they're fascinating.”

Harry was relieved. Ginny had told him that some wizards thought Muggles were scum and anyone to do with them were scum too.

“So,” Ron said.

“Um...” Harry said.

If this situation gets any more awkward, I'll eat my hat.

Are you wearing a hat?

No, but I've got hats.

You're silly.

You're thick-headed.

Shut up.

You shut up!

Yes ma'am.


Downstairs, Harry knew Ginny was laughing. Harry smiled.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Harry said. Several seconds of awkward silence ensued. “Um, maybe we should, you know, get to know each other a bit,” he suggested.

Ron nodded slowly. “All right. Er, how?”

Harry shrugged. “I'll say something about me, and then you say something about yourself, and so on.”

“Okay. You first.”

“Right. Um.... I'm turning eleven at the end of July.”

“My birthday's in May.”

“My favorite color is red.”

“Mine's orange.”

Harry laughed. “I figured,” he said, looking around the room. Ron smiled.

“What else?” Ron said.

Harry thought a moment. “Favorite foods?”

“Mine's apple pie.”

“I've never had apple pie,” Harry said.

“You've never had apple pie?” Ron asked in disbelief.

“My aunt and uncle never let me.”

Ron stared at him, mouth agape. “Come on, let's go ask Mum to make some. You've got to try it.” Ron leapt up off the bed, and bounded across the room. Harry followed as quickly as he could in the mess. They ran down the stairs, causing quite a ruckus, to see Mrs. Weasley bent over the fireplace in the living room.

“...it's quite confusing, the whole thing,” Mrs. Weasley was saying. “Albus, tell me you have an explanation.”

“What's she doing?” Harry whispered to Ron.

“Making a Floo call,” Ron hissed back. “Probably to Professor Dumbledore.”

Harry nodded. Vaguely, he remembered Ginny telling him about Floo calling.

“I will look through my books and speak to the previous Headmasters,” said a man's voice, a soft, merry voice. “I will do my best to discover what connects them.”

“Will you want to come speak with them?”

“Yes, but not now. It is a wise idea to keep them together until we know more. You are comfortable with having Harry stay with you for the time being?”

“Of course.”

“Good. I shall Floo you again when I know more.”

“Thank you, Professor.”

There was a slight whoosh and Mrs. Weasley straightened. She turned, and spotted Ron and Harry standing by the stairs.

“What is it, dears?” Mrs Weasley said.

“Harry's never had apple pie,” Ron said. “Could you make some for dessert?”

Mrs. Weasley smiled. “Of course, dear. I'll whip up some in a minute. Are you settled in, Harry, dear?”

Harry nodded. “I'm very grateful that you're letting me stay with you,” he said.

“Oh, it's no trouble,” Mrs. Weasley said. “One more child isn't going to upset things around here.”

“Is there anything I could help with?” Harry asked.

Mrs. Weasley shook her head. “No, dear. You just relax. Ginny's gone outside, if you'd like to be with her.”

Harry smiled at Mrs. Weasley. “Okay, thanks. Come on, Ron.”

The two boys left the room with thundering feet and smiles. They found Ginny in the garden, which Mrs. Dursley certainly would not have liked. Harry loved it. The plants were overgrown, their perfumes mixing together to entice and delight his senses. Ginny was sitting with her back to a wide but short tree, the branches weighed down with delicious looking peaches.

Harry sat beside her. Ron stood there, looking awkward.

Hey, Harry thought. Ginny smiled at him and laid her head on his shoulder.

I'm really tired, Ginny thought. Harry wrapped his arm around her shoulders and gave her a little squeeze.

Okay. Harry glanced at Ron.

“She's tired,” he said.

“Yeah, I know,” Ron said, his voice just a little bit annoyed. “She's my sister.”

Harry's cheeks warmed. “Right. Um...”

Ginny poked him in the ribs. “Keep playing that game. I'll just listen.”

Harry nodded. “Okay. Um, what's your best school subject?”

Ron sank onto the ground, sitting Indian style. “Quidditch.”

Harry laughed. “Mine's lunch.”

Ron grinned.

“Does lunch count as school?” Ginny asked.

“When it's at school, it does,” Harry said defensively.

“Fine,” Ginny yawned.

“What's your favorite thing to do?” Ron said. “I like to play Quidditch and chess.”

“I don't get to play much,” Harry said.

“Why not?”

“My aunt and uncle-”

“Never let you,” Ron guessed, scowling. Harry nodded. “They sound like evil people.”

Harry shrugged. “They're mean to me, sure, but they're not evil. They just don't like me. I'm abnormal.”

“That doesn't mean they can treat you so horribly,” Ginny said.

“Let's talk about something else,” Harry said, feeling awkward.

“Let's stop talking altogether and let me nap,” Ginny said.

Ron and Harry laughed.

“Ron!” Mrs. Weasley called. “I need you!”

Ron pushed himself off the ground. “Coming, Mum!” he yelled back. “See you later,” he said to Harry and Ginny. He turned, and walked back to the house.

“Harry,” Ginny said suddenly.

“What?”

“What do you suppose this is?”

“What is?”

“This,” she said, “us. Hearing our thoughts.”

Harry thought about it. “I don't know, Ginny.”

Ginny yawned again. Harry looked down at her, resting on his shoulder, and couldn't help but notice that he quite liked having her there.

Where did that come from?

After a while, Ginny fell asleep. In the shade of the peach tree, Harry rested his head against the tree's trunk, and fell asleep too.

A long while later, after quite a few dreams, the sound of voices and footsteps roused Harry. As he blearily looked around, his eyes still gummed with sleep, he saw three adults approaching.

Ginny, he thought. Wake up.

“Go 'way,” Ginny mumbled.

“Wake up,” he said aloud, shaking her gently. Ginny stirred, waving a hand in the air as though warding off a fly. But she opened her eyes and looked around. Her eyes found his, and her cheeks colored bright red.

“Oh!” she said, sitting up quickly. His arm was still around her. “It wasn't a dream!”

Harry laughed quietly. “Nope. But people are here.”

Ginny looked around, and the three adults came into the garden.

“Ginny? Harry?” Mrs. Weasley's voice. “Where are you?”

“Over here, Mum!” Ginny called back. The three adults worked their way through the bushes and stopped by the tree.

“There you are,” Mrs. Weasley said. “Professor Dumbledore would like to speak with you.”

Harry pulled his arm away from Ginny quickly. He had noticed the third person in the group, a tall man with a receding red hairline. His face burned and he avoided Ginny's father's gaze.

Professor Dumbledore lowered himself onto the ground, sitting with his legs tucked beneath him. Professor Dumbledore was a very old man. He had long silver hair, and an equally long beard. He wore half-moon glasses, perched upon a very crooked nose. His blue eyes twinkled behind his glasses, and he was smiling gently at them.

“Hello, Harry,” Professor Dumbledore said. “Ginny. How are you?”

“All right,” Harry said.

“Sleepy,” Ginny yawned. Professor Dumbledore chuckled softly.

“I would imagine,” Professor Dumbledore said. “It has been a very interesting day, hasn't it?”

Ginny nodded.

“I was wondering if you could tell me about this connection of yours,” Dumbledore said.

“We can hear each other's thoughts,” Ginny said.

“No matter where you are?”

Harry nodded.

“Before you met, did you know that your imaginary friend was Harry Potter, Miss Weasley?”

Ginny shook her head. “I kept forgetting to name him,” she said.

“Same here,” Harry said.

Dumbledore nodded slowly. “I see. And, tell me, do you know what the other is doing even when you can't see each other?”

They nodded.

“When did you first hear each other?”

Harry frowned, trying to remember. “I- I can't remember. It was a long time ago.”

Ginny nodded her head in agreement. “I've always been able to hear him.”

“I see,” Dumbledore mused. “You were asleep when we walked up, correct?”

Ginny nodded. Harry's face burned redder as he nodded as well. Dumbledore glanced at Ginny's father and smiled.

“He doesn't bite, Harry,” Dumbledore said, smiling gently. Harry prayed it was true.

“Do you remember what you were dreaming about?”

Harry frowned. “Not exactly.”

Ginny shook her head. “All I remember is seeing Harry.”

“And did you see Ginny in your dream, Harry?”

Harry nodded. Professor Dumbledore nodded again, and stood. “I have no further questions. I will Floo call you when I know more. Molly, Arthur.” Dumbledore bowed to Harry and Ginny, then to Ginny's parents, and left the garden.

Mrs. Weasley offered a hand to Ginny. “Supper's ready, dears,” she said, helping Ginny up. Harry stood, and moved to follow the, but Mr. Weasley lay a hand on Harry's shoulder.

“So, Harry Potter,” Mr. Weasley said. “My daughter’s imaginary friend.”

Harry gulped. “Yes, sir,” he said.

Mr. Weasley smiled at him. “Dumbledore was right, you know. I don't bite.”

“I realize that, sir,” Harry said. “I just thought it would be a good idea to watch my step.”

Mr. Weasley's eyes twinkled with amusement. “And a good idea that is. And I realize that you are not yet eleven, so I will leave you be for now. Just be good to Ginny, all right?”

Harry nodded. “Yes, sir. I will.”

Mr. Weasley patted Harry's shoulder. “Come along, Molly's made pot pies, and apple pie too.”

Mr. Weasley steered him out of the garden, and into the brightly lit kitchen.

Back to index


Chapter 6: Chapter 6: A Revelation (Of Sorts)

Author's Notes: I have left you! No, actually, I haven't, I've just forgotten you. Sorry. Please don't hex me. Have another chapter before you start cursing me.


HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG

Six: A Revelation (Of Sorts)

Ginny


Dinner was delicious, as usual. Harry was startled when Mum offered him as large a portion of the pot pie as she did to the rest of us, maybe even a bit larger. Ginny remembered how his aunt and uncle tended to give him the smallest portions possible. Harry took it gratefully, giving her a wide-eyed stare of amazement, which then turned into a wide grin after his first bite.

The conversation was only a little bit awkward. Percy was overly formal, almost to the point of hilarity. Fred and George had seemed to accept Harry's sudden insertion into the family, and were treating him like they had known him for years. Ginny knew Harry was glad they were treating him so nicely, and she herself was glad they weren't interrogating him about their connection. Ron and Harry had become fast friends; Bill was polite and his normal cheerful self, and Charlie was quiet, listening to Mum and Dad and to the rest of the conversations. Ginny knew was waiting for the right opportunity to say something about his dragon reserve job. Mum had quickly taken Harry under her wing, and Dad was only a little bit confused by Harry's presence.

After dinner, Mum sent Ginny, Harry, and Ron straight to bed. It was late, Mum said, and they had to be up early for their trip to Diagon Alley the next day.

Diagon what? Harry thought.

Diagon Alley, Ginny thought back. It's were we go to get our school supplies and other stuff we can't get in Muggle stores. It's in London.

Do I get to come?

Of course!

Would it be all right for me to ask your mum if we stop by my grandmother's house first, just so we know she and my aunt are okay with me going to London?


“Mum!” Ginny called.

“Yes, dear?”

“Harry wants to make sure his grandmother and his aunt are okay with him going to Diagon Alley with us tomorrow, is that all right?”

“Of course, I was planning on asking them anyway.”

Ginny smiled at Harry. Harry smiled back.

“This is weird,” Ron said quietly.

“What is?”

“You two,” he said. “Telepathy, and all that.”

Ginny smirked at him. “You're jealous.”

“Am not!”

“Are too!”

“Am not!”

“Ron, Ginny, stop that,” Mum said absently. Ron crossed his arms over his chest. Ginny shrugged at Harry.

Are you two always like that? Harry thought in her head.

Mostly. It's because we're always around each other. Things will be different when we get to Hogwarts, and he gets more friends.

All right. Do I count?

As what?

As... as his friend?

Course you do! Don't worry.


Harry smiled, but Ginny knew he was still worried. He couldn't help it. He was a worry wart.

Am not!

Ginny laughed. Harry smiled for real. Ron gave them a confused look.

“Go on up to bed, you three,” Mum said.

Ginny pushed back her chair. She picked up her dishes, as Harry picked up his, and followed her into the kitchen. She set her dishes in the sink, took Harry's, and set them down as well. They passed Ron on their way out, but Ron caught back up with them on the stairs.

“See you tomorrow?” Ginny said, standing outside her door. Harry nodded. Ginny smiled, and gave him a quick hug. She waved to Ron, and stepped inside her room.

Haven't you ever been hugged before? Ginny thought.

No. It feels weird.

Ginny sighed. Mum will hug you nonstop.

Go to sleep.


Ginny giggled, as she heard on his side of her mind, Ron shutting the door to his room.

I'll talk to you later, all right? Harry said in her mind.

Okay.

Ginny changed into her pajamas quickly, combed her fingers through her long hair quickly, and braided it. She climbed into bed, staring up at the ceiling.

Today had been very, very interesting.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


That night, as the sliver of moon rose over the crooked house, a specter that had not been seen for ten years appeared in the fields behind the Weasley home. A woman, her skin the color of wood and hanging in wrinkles, pure white hair and yellow eyes like that of a hawk's. In one hand, she held the same carved staff, and the other hand rested on the head of a lean, black wolf. A crow rested on the staff, its beady eyes fixed on the overbalanced house. If anyone were to look on, they might think that they were on a stage, observing perhaps the Scottish Play or some other representation of hags playing witches.

“So they have met,” said the crow, its voice as only a crow's could be. “I told you, Night; I told you it would happen soon.”

The wolf let out a low bark that sounded almost like a scoff. The old woman stroked his ears in an effort to appease him. The crow turned an eye on the wolf.

“Have you no response, Night?” the crow croaked. It seemed the crow was speaking to the wolf. The wolf, Night, sniffed the air. “You CAN talk now, you know, no one can see.”

Night swished its tail and bared its teeth at the crow. The crow, however, rolled its eyes.

“Hush, Chaos,” said the old woman.

The crow, Chaos, looked down on Night, and then turned its back on it, fluffing its tail feathers. Night seemed startled, and then offended. The old woman sighed.

“We are here with a purpose,” she growled. “I will send you back if you do not behave.”

Chaos fluffed its feathers again. Night growled. The old woman raised her hand, a threatening eye upon both the wolf and the crow.

“Behave,” she repeated.

Night let out a sound that could only be described as a huff, and sat back on its haunches. Chaos ignored Night, and indeed the woman's threat. The woman sighed again, and turned her attention towards the house. Her eyes fixed on a window facing them, to the east. Her eyes narrowed, her vision focused on the window, and suddenly she could see into the room.

A young girl lay sleeping soundly in her bed. She lay facing away from the window, tucked under the blankets. The woman's withered lips turned up in a smile. Then her eyes moved up, to the window above. She saw two beds now, with two boys. One with vibrant red hair, the other with hair as dark as the wolf's pelt.

“And now, we watch,” the old woman said. She conjured a chair with a wave of her hand, and sank into it. Night lay down at her feet, Chaos fluttered onto the chair's high back, and the woman lay her staff down by Night. The woman rested her head against the back of her chair, and closed her eyes. She concentrated, focusing on the two children lying asleep in the house, and with a rush of magic, she saw their dreams, but the two powerful imaginations would not see her, for she was just looking in through a window into the world they had created in their dreams.

Both children sat by a pool, dipping their toes in the water. The old woman saw, amazed, a spectacular landscape, a waterfall pounding the pool into a rage of white water, green trees and bright vegetation gave the air that scent that only plants and fresh water could give. The children were not the only moving things, for the old woman could see, and sense, animals moving through the forest behind her. As she looked over the waterfall, a jet of steam issued from behind it. She could sense a cave, and in the cave, she sensed a dragon. The water vapor fell on her ancient face, cooling her skin and reminding her of days long since passed. The children sat facing her, enjoying the spray of the waterfall, chatting as though they did this every day.

“My lord,” the old woman whispered. Perhaps these two were more powerful than she thought. Certainly, they were more powerful than Night had thought. The dream felt unnaturally real, as though she really were standing by a waterfall; sensing a dragon resting behind it, a nest of Phoenixes in the forest, and a herd of centaurs running through the trees some five miles away. The old woman turned her attention on the children, and her ears caught their words.

“I'm hoping for a phoenix feather in my wand,” Ginevra said. “But unicorn tail hair would be nice too, I suppose.”

“Would I get a wand tomorrow?” Harry said. Ginevra seemed to ponder this a moment.

“I'm sure Mum wouldn't mind,” she said finally, “but I think it would depend on whether or not you've been accepted at Hogwarts. I'm sure you have, but it would be better for you to get your letter before your wand.”

“Tell me about Hogwarts,” Harry asked. Ginevra let out her breath slowly, and leaned her head on his shoulder.

“It's amazing,” she said, “or at least, I've heard it is. Bill said that in the Great Hall, where they have meals and school assemblies as stuff, the ceiling is enchanted to look like the sky outside. And Fred and George say that the castle's full of secret passageways and hidden doors, so you never quite know what to expect. I can't wait to go,” she said with a sigh.

Harry put an arm around her. “Hey, I bet we could do something like that here,” he said.

“Like what?”

“The enchanted ceiling. We could make the sky look like something.”

“Yeah? What?”

Harry thought about it a moment. His eyes roamed the pool around him, searching for something. Once, his eyes passed over her, and he furrowed his brow, but moved on a second later. The old woman was not concerned. Once was fine. If he showed a reaction a second time, then she would have to worry. His eyes traveled over the animals in the area, the plants, and the waterfall. The small amount of worry that she had collected when his eyes lingered on the place she stood dissipated.

Then his eyes moved back to where she stood, and locked onto hers. Suddenly, Ginny looked up and gasped. The air around the old charged with power, reacting to the two children's shock.

“Who are you?” Harry asked, his voice careful, as though trying not to betray the annoyance she knew was beginning to bubble up inside him.

“And why are you in our dream?” Ginny snapped. She made no effort to hide her displeasure.

The old woman hesitated for a fraction of a second. She had not prepared for this. The earth at her feet gave a low growl, and began to rumble. The sky darkened and the water took on a fiercer sheen.

“I am Fate,” she said finally. “And I came here to observe you.”

The earth settled, and the water calmed, if only to its previous state of rage, the dark clouds faded to stormy gray. The sky paled from black to a dangerous blue, and the air remained charged with magic.

“Fate?” Harry repeated. “Like fate fate? Destiny?”

“Yes,” she said. “I am the original spirit of fate.”

“Is that your name?”

“No, but to speak my name now and here would shatter the world you have created, and quite possibly your minds. Names are powerful, and the more powerful the being, the more powerful the name.”

“Why do you want to watch us?” Harry asked.

“I was to observe and choose the best time to give you insight into your connection.”

“You know?” Ginny asked, her eyebrows raised.

Fate nodded. “I am Fate,” she said. “I knew it before it began.”

Both children scowled. “I hate dramatic announcements,” Ginny muttered. Harry murmured a word of agreement with her.

“Will you tell us?” Harry asked.

Fate considered it a moment. The fact that Harry had been able to see her was a show of his power. The world they had created, that seemed to react to their emotions but remained under their will was impressive to say the least. But their power was not what she was looking for. They did not yet have what they needed to bear the knowledge. Fate looked over them, and sighed.

“I am afraid that the knowledge, if you were to gain it now, from me, would impair your journey,” she said gravely. “You must learn it on your own.”

Both seemed frustrated. The sky darkened again, and the earth growled once more. Fate decided a quick retreat was best.

“Why?” Ginny asked.

“I cannot say. I will leave you to your dreams now. Do not be surprised if you do not remember this dream when you wake.”

Fate bowed to them, and, pulled herself from their dream.

“Well?” Night croaked.

Fate closed her eyes. There were times when Night got on her nerves. Now was one of them.

“They are more powerful than I imagined,” Fate whispered. “Their bond is strong.”

Night pushed himself to his feet. The wolf nuzzled her hand. She lifted her staff from the ground, and used it to pull her from the chair. As she stood, it vanished. Chaos gave an indignant squawk and fluttered into the air. Chaos gave her the evil eye as he fluttered down onto her staff. Fate gave him no apology.

“Let us go,” she said. She rested a hand on Night's head, and, in the time it took for an eye to blink, they disappeared into the darkness.


HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG

Harry


The next morning dawned bright and clear, and Harry awoke to the sound of someone rummaging around in the room where he slept. Harry sat up, yawned, and saw Ron staggering on one leg as he pulled on a sock. He overbalanced, and fell onto the bed.

“Dang it,” Ron muttered. He looked up, and saw Harry sitting up. “Oh, you're awake. You had better get dressed. Mum let us sleep as late as she could, but we've got to leave soon. Where's my shoe?” he added, looking around

Harry sat on his bed a moment, his eyes on the window, trying to remember the dream he had last night. It had been different from most of his dreams, because something had happened that he had not been able to control. But what was it? He struggled to remember, but it stubbornly refused to come to his conscious mind. Harry sighed, pulled a clean tee shirt and jeans from his rucksack, and hastily pulled them on. By the time he had pulled on socks, his glasses, and trainers, Ron had found his left shoe, and was on his knees, digging through a box for the other one. Harry spotted it lying on the ground just beneath his bed.

“This it?” Harry asked, picking it up.

“Yes!” Ron said in relief, and Harry tossed it to him. Ron tugged it on, not bothering to do up the laces, and bounded for the door. “Come on, last one out has to wake up Ginny!”

Harry ran after him. Ron took the stairs two at a time, jumping steps every other landing and banging into the walls. Harry followed more slowly, and less hazardously. Ron laughed at him he rocketed past Ginny's door.

“Have fun waking up Ginny! She'll rip your head off probably!” Ron called back to him. Harry rolled his eyes.

On the landing to Ginny's room, Harry stopped. Ron didn't seem to notice, bounced off another wall, and jumped to the next landing. Harry fixed his eyes on Ginny's door, wondering whether to knock. He pressed his ear to the door. Was she awake? He didn't think so. He could hear her gentle breathing, through the door and through her side of his mind. He grasped the handle, and gently turned it. He stuck his head in, to see her curled up, the blankets around her waist. She was still fast asleep, dressed in a pale yellow tank top and faded striped pajama pants. One arm dangled off the edge of the bed, the other was draped over her eyes. Her red hair was contained in a long braid, which lay on her pillow, gleaming in the light of the sun, pouring in through her window.

Harry slipped inside, and crossed to her bedside on tip-toe. She looked very peaceful. He hated to wake her, but he knew she'd want to be woken sooner rather than later since they would be leaving sooner, rather than later.

He gently shook her shoulder. She groaned, and waved him away. Harry grasped her hand, and lifted her arm off her face. Sunlight hit her closed eyes, and she squinted quickly to block it.

“'M sleeping,” she mumbled.

“It's time to get up,” Harry said.

Ginny blearily opened one eye. “Hello, Harry,” she mumbled again. She yawned widely. Then, her eyes shot open, and she yanked the blankets up to her chin. Harry jumped back, as she blushed bright pink.

“Harry!” she gasped. “What- what are you-”

“I'm only here to wake you up,” he said, blushing himself now. “Ron said we've got to leave soon.”

Ginny's eyes were still wide. “I- I'm my pajamas,” she stammered.

Harry raised an eyebrow. “So? They're not any different from your normal clothes.”

Ginny was still blushing. “You're in my room, and I'm in my pajamas,” she muttered.

“I'll go, if you're uncomfortable,” he said.

Ginny shook her head. “No, I'm not uncomfortable. You just surprised me, that's all.”

Harry shrugged. “Well, all right. I'll wait here for you while you get dressed.” Then he blushed again. “I-I mean, I'll wait outside-”

“I know what you meant,” Ginny said. “This awkwardness has got to go away soon, it's weird.”

Harry laughed. “All right. Don't take too long, now.”

He stepped back outside the room. Five minutes later, Ginny came out, now dressed in cut-off jeans, and a green tee shirt. She grabbed his hand and tugged him downstairs. Harry felt a smile spread across his face as she pulled him on; he could get used to this.

When they arrived in the kitchen, they found Mrs. Weasley stroking an owl, a letter in her hands.

“Harry, dear, it's yours,” she said.

“Mine?” Harry asked, frowning.

Mrs. Weasley handed him the letter. The print on the address read “Mr. H. Potter, The Burrow.”

Open it! Ginny encouraged him in his mind. Harry pulled open the envelope. He withdrew the letter, and his eyes scanned it quickly.

It's from Hogwarts, he thought.

What's it say?

His eyes traveled farther down the page. I've been accepted.

Ginny let out a squeal and hugged him very tightly around the neck. He half choked, but smiled.

“What?” everyone in the kitchen called.

“Can we get Harry's school things will we're at Diagon Alley too, Mum? He's going too!” Ginny asked.

A brief look of worry flashed across her face, but it was gone as quickly as it came. “Of course, dear,” Mrs. Weasley said, smiling. Both Harry and Ginny grinned.

Breakfast was noisy and amazing. When Harry offered to help clean up, Mrs. Weasley hushed him and told him to go outside with Ron and Ginny, saying it was Fred and George's day to clean the kitchen.

Bill and Charlie weren't coming to Diagon Alley. Charlie had his summer job and Bill had job interviews. Fred, George, and Percy were coming though. Percy was still oddly formal, even though his hair was still pink. Fred and George grumbled about the kitchen, but did it anyway. Ten minutes later, they were all waiting outside the car for Mrs. Weasley.

Mrs. Weasley was fumbling with the car keys. “I swear, this thing is going to be the death of me,” she muttered, as she found the right key for the door. The doors unlocked and Ron opened the back door.

“Youngest in the back,” Mrs. Weasley said. “Percy up front with me.”

Ron made a face, Percy dutifully took the passenger seat as the rest of them climbed into the back seat. Harry ended up squeezed between Fred and George, how, he didn't know. He glanced at Ginny, hoping she could save him somehow.

Ginny grinned wickedly and shook her head at him.

You've got to learn how to stand up to them eventually, she thought.

Now? Harry thought, a little panicky.

Ginny shrugged and settled into her seat. Harry sent a silent prayer that Ginny's brothers would leave him be, and in one piece.

Mrs. Weasley started the car, and they pulled out of the driveway. George and Fred caught eyes above Harry, and then looked down at him in unison. Harry gulped.

“So, Harry Potter,” they said together. Harry couldn't tell which was which still.

“Er...” he said.

“How old are you?” said the one on his left.

“Eleven next week,” Harry said.

They exchanged looks.

“He is rather young,” said one.

“Still, our sister worships the Boy Who Lived,” said the other.

“I don't!” Ginny called hotly. She was blushing again.

I really don't worship you, Ginny said. I know you're a thick little goose.

Harry smiled at her. I know you know. Don't worry.

“Boys!” Mrs. Weasley called. “Leave him alone.”

They both scowled and crossed their arms over their chests. Harry mouthed 'thank you' at Mrs. Weasley, who smiled at him in the rear-view mirror. The older set of twins sulked the rest of the drive. Harry gave Mrs. Weasley the card with his grandmother's address on it, and apparently, she knew the roads well enough to navigate without a map. Percy sat stiffly in the passenger seat.

“Mum, on the way back, can I sit up front?” Ron asked rather hopefully.

“Ron, it's Percy's week. You'll have to wait your turn.”

Ron scowled and slumped back in the seat. Ginny rolled her eyes at Harry, or at least, Harry knew she rolled her eyes, as she wasn't actually looking at him.

The rest of the drive was quiet. Mrs. Weasley muttered to herself as she drove. Ginny's head drooped onto Fred's arm. Harry sat nervously, dwarfed between Ginny's brothers.

They don't bite! Ginny's voice teased him.

Yes they do, you've told me, Harry shot back.

Ginny shrugged. They'll get used to you.

Until then, I'm scared.


Ginny sighed. Don't be. I've got your back.

She reached around Fred and squeezed Harry's hand. He smiled gratefully at her. Ron, Fred, and George all gave them a confused look.

“Oh, right,” George said.

“Telepathy,” Fred added.

“Strange,” Ron muttered.

Ginny caught Harry's eye and grinned. He shook his head at her, but smiled back.

What, does my amusement of their confusion amuse you?

Harry laughed. No, your ridiculousness amuses me.

Ginny laughed and Harry grinned. Her brothers looked further confused. Harry didn't bother to explain.

“I think this is it,” Mrs. Weasley said. Harry looked to see her parking the car in front of a wide white farmhouse. He saw Thea's rusty pick-up parked in the drive.

“Harry, Ginny, if you'll come with me, please,” Mrs. Weasley said. Ginny stepped over Fred's knees and pushed past George and Harry to the door. Harry followed her. They followed Mrs. Weasley up the walk to the farmhouse. Ginny's hand slipped into his and gave it a squeeze. He smiled at her. Mrs. Weasley knocked on the front door.

It opened a moment later to reveal Thea Evans, wearing a plain blue apron covered in flour stains.

“Ah, Mrs. Weasley,” Thea said with a smile. “Nice to see you. Can I help you?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Weasley said. “We- that is to say my children and I- are heading to Diagon Alley today- do you know-”

“Yes, I know,” Thea interrupted. “Continue.”

“Anyway, we are going to Diagon Alley today and we wanted your permission to bring Harry along. He got his acceptance letter this morning from Hogwarts, see.”

“Oh, of course it's all right with me,” Thea said, “it's Petunia you'll have to worry about. Hang on a mo'.” She turned back to the house. “Petunia, darling, come here please!”

Harry's aunt came to the front door with a scowl. She looked so little like the woman standing next to her, that Harry wondered how it could be that they were mother and daughter.

“What is it?” Petunia asked.

“Mrs. Weasley here says that Harry has been accepted at Hogwarts,” Thea said. “She's going to Diagon Alley to get school things for her children and wants to get Harry's while she's there.”

Petunia's scowl deepened. “I'm not paying for-”

“Petunia,” Thea said sharply, “you won't have to. James and Lily left him money when they died. I've got the key to their vault, his parents can pay.”

That solves Mum's worries about paying for you, Ginny thought. Harry only nodded.

Petunia crossed her arms over her chest. “How come you got their key?”

Thea glanced at Mrs. Weasley. “Another time, dear. What do you say?”

Petunia glanced at Harry, her eyes narrowed. She seemed to be thinking it all over. Finally, she sighed. “I'll let him go, but I want to come with him.”

Harry's jaw dropped. “Really?” he said. “What do you want to come for?”

“Someone's got to watch you,” she snapped. “Don't ask questions!”

“I can go with them,” Thea said.

“No,” Petunia said. “I'll need someone to watch Dudley.”

Thea sighed. “I'll go get the key,” she said softly. She slipped past Petunia and into the house.

“I'm going to fetch my coat,” Petunia said, and turned away. Mrs. Weasley glanced at Harry.

“Is she always like this?” Mrs. Weasley asked him in a low voice.

“Normally,” Harry said with a shrug. Mrs. Weasley pursed her lips. He guessed she was trying not to appear judgmental.

What's this mean then? Ginny thought. What's your aunt want to come with us for?

I don't know.


Aunt Petunia reappeared at the door way, holding her coat and purse. She moved onto the porch with them. Thea came back a moment later, holding a small golden key in her hand.

“Here you go,” Thea said, pressing the key into Harry's hand. “I haven't been inside the bank in a long time, and my memory isn't what it used to be, so I can't tell you what to expect.”

“That's fine, I know,” Mrs. Weasley said. “Well, we'll be gone most of the afternoon, but we'll return Petunia before dinner.”

“Thank you,” Thea said. “I'll see you then.”

As she closed the door, we walked back to the car.

“How far is it to London?” Harry asked.

“I'm not sure,” Mrs. Weasley said, “but it doesn't really matter. We'll go back to the Burrow and Floo there.”

Have I told you what Floo powder is? Ginny's voice asked.

Er, I think so. It's the thing that lets you go places by fire, right?

Yep, that's it.

Okay.


“I'm sorry, Floo?” Petunia asked.

“I'll explain it on the way,” Mrs. Weasley assured her. She tapped the passenger side door. “Percy, I'll need you to sit in the back,” she said. Percy opened his door and solemnly transferred to the back seat. Ginny rolled her eyes at Harry. He smiled at her, and climbed in after her. Fortunately, now he sat between the door and Ginny. Fred and George were on the other side of Percy. He now felt quite safe.

Mrs. Weasley spent the next five minutes explaining to Aunt Petunia what Floo powder was. The rest of the ride was silent.

Back at the Burrow, Mrs. Weasley parked the car and they all climbed out, Aunt Petunia not bothering to hide her disgust at the state of the place. Harry felt a sudden rush of anger towards his aunt. When he moved past her to go through the kitchen door, he accidentally on purpose stepped on her foot.

Floo travel was not so bad, since Ginny was there to guide through the steps. Percy went first, then the twins, then Aunt Petunia. Aunt Petunia looked very skeptical, and Mrs. Weasley practically had to shove her into the fireplace for her to go.

The shopping trip was very interesting. First was Gringotts, where the goblins were intimidating. Next was book shops and then to get robes. Then the apothecary. Aunt Petunia waited outside for that one. Then we got the rest of our stuff, until we only need a wand.

Mrs. Weasley didn't seem to want to acknowledge that she had very little money to pay for things, but she did let each of her children get one thing new. Percy wanted robes, Fred and George wanted fireworks- Harry didn't want to know why- Ron asked for a broom, but Mrs. Weasley reminded him that first years weren't allowed one, so he settled for new robes too. But Ginny said she wanted a new wand. Harry didn't need to worry, as his parents had left him quite a lot, but agreed with her that a brand new magic wand was what he wanted most.

So they stood in the dark wand shop, looking around. Mrs. Weasley had turned her son's loose so they would not get in the way. Aunt Petunia sat in the corner reading a book.

The owner of the shop was called Ollivander. When he came out from the back of the shop, Harry was startled by his wide silver eyes, fixed on him.

“I was wondering when you would be visiting me, Mr. Potter,” Ollivander said in a soft voice.

“Er, hello,” Harry said. Ginny stifled a laugh. Mr. Ollivander turned his large misty eyes on her.

“Ah, another Weasley,” he said. “The first girl in seven generations, I believe.”

Ginny turned pink and nodded.

“I think you should go first,” Ollivander said. “What is your wand arm, my dear?”

“Right,” Ginny replied. Ollivander whispered something under his breath. He turned the back of the shop, and then returned with a long, thin box. He opened it, and held it out to her.

“Here, try. Poplar, with unicorn tail hair. Ten and a half inches.”

Ginny pulled it from the box, but just as soon as it touched her fingers, Ollivander snatched it from her and turned back to his wall of boxes, muttering, “No, no, that wasn't it.” A minute later, he returned with another box.

“Apple and phoenix feather, twelve and a quarter inches.”

But apparently, that was not it either. Nor was the next, nor the next. Many wands were tried and cast aside. Harry caught woods like Cypress and Rowan and Cherry, but each was tossed onto the desk. Finally, Ollivander held out a box to her, and when she took it, he did not immediately snatch it away.

“Hawthorn,” he said, “and dragon heartstring. Thirteen inches. Firm.”

Ginny lifted it out of the box. As her fingers closed around it, sparks shot out of the end, gathered in the air, and formed a shape. A lightning bolt. It held that shape for a second, before exploding in brightly colored sparks.

Ollivander clapped. Mrs. Weasley smiled. Ginny grinned at him. Harry grinned back, and then it was his turn.

After the tenth wand, Harry stopped paying attention to what wands he was holding. The pile on the desk was growing larger than Ginny's had been. Ollivander for some strange reason, seemed to be having fun.

“I love a tricky customer!” he said, flitting through the shelves.

After a half hour, Harry found his ears listening to what Ollivander was saying as he stood in the back.

“I wonder,” he said quietly. He glanced back at Harry, then came back out. “Holly, with phoenix feather core. Eleven inches, supple. Try.”

Harry took the wand from the box. Instantly, warmth spread from his fingers up his arm. Red and gold sparks shot out of the end, and, like Ginny's had, formed a shape in the air. A winged something. Harry couldn't tell what it was.

“Oh, yes, very good!” Ollivander said, beaming. “Hmm... curious.”

“What's curious?” Harry asked.

Ollivander glanced at the others in the room, and then lowered his voice. “I remember every wand I've ever sold, Mr. Potter. It just so happens that the phoenix whose tail feather rests in your wand gave just one other feather, and it is the core of a yew wand I sold over fifty years ago. That wand is the wand that gave you that scar.”

Harry's hand shot to his hand. “My- my wand and Voldemort's wand are connected?”

Ollivander made a face. “Do not say the name, my boy, please.”

“Sorry.”

“But, yes, your wand and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's wand are brothers. Keep that in mind, Mr. Potter.”

On that strange note, they paid for the two wands. They met the boys, and headed back to the Leaky Caldron. It was nearing half past five.

Mrs. Weasley left them at the Burrow while she took Aunt Petunia back to Thea's. Harry and Ginny wandered back out to the garden while Ron kept working on his room.

Ginny rested her head on his shoulder again, yawning. Harry gripped her hand.

“So, your wand and You-Know-Who's wand are brothers?” Ginny asked suddenly.

He started. “You heard?”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Harry, for the last time, I AM IN YOUR HEAD! Of course I heard.”

He nodded. “I wonder what it means.”

Ginny yawned again. “I wonder too.”

“Go to sleep.”

“I'm not tired.”

“I'll use your words here, I'm in your head!” he said, laughing. “Don't lie.”

“Fine, I'm tired.”

“Go to sleep.”

Ginny closed her eyes, her grip on his hand loosening. “You too, Harry. You're tired too.”

He smiled at her, rested his head on hers, and let his eyes shut.

Back to index


Chapter 7: Chapter 7: The First Year In a Nutshell

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG

Seven: The First Year In a Nutshell

Ginny


The rest of the summer passed by in a flash. September First rushed headlong at the Weasley family plus one, and ended up knocking the wind out of them. The morning before they had to leave found them all rushing around, trying to get last minute packing done without incurring the wrath of Mrs. Weasley.

The ride to King's Cross was over and done with before Ginny could blink. She was past the barrier. Her mother was hugging her tightly She was on the train. She was waving good-bye to her parents. The train was pulling out of the station. And she was gone.

She sat alone with Harry in a compartment, staring out the window. Harry sat beside her, accepting her silence and providing silent comfort. She was gone, and she would not see her parents again until Christmas. Even though she had been looking forward to going to Hogwarts for years, she still felt like she had left a small part of her behind.

Sometime after lunch, her head drooped onto Harry's shoulder, and she curled up on the bench.

“Is all you ever do is sleep?” Harry asked her teasingly. Ginny lightly punched his arm.

“I'm not sleeping,” she said. “I'm getting comfortable.”

“What, you weren't comfortable before?”

Ginny smacked him again. He moaned in fake agony, but smiled at her. She smiled back. She felt a little better now.

It did not last. Moments later, the door to their compartment slid open, and three boys strutted in, led by a boy with sleek white blonde hair.

“So,” he drawled lazily, “it's true. Harry Potter has come to Hogwarts.”

Harry frowned. “Uh, hello?”

The boy glanced at Ginny, and made a face, but turned back to Harry. “My name is Malfoy, Draco Malfoy.”

Ginny made a face too. He scowled at her.

“What?” he said. “Think my name's funny, do you?”

“No, not in the least,” Ginny snapped. “Go away.”

Harry glanced at her.

What are you doing? He thought.

Dad's met his father, and he's a right horrible man. I highly doubt his son will be much better.

“I think you should be the one to leave,” Malfoy sneered. “I know who you are. Red hair, second hand robes, freckles. You're a Weasley.” The name rolled off his tongue like it was dung in his mouth.

“You got a problem with that?” Harry asked. Ginny knew Malfoy was getting on Harry's nerves.

“You ought to know that some wizard families are better than others,” Malfoy said. “The Weasley's are the worst of the lot. You can do better. I can help you there.”

Malfoy stuck out his hand for Harry to shake. Harry would rather eat dung.

“In the few minutes you've been in here,” Harry said slowly, “you have given me the impression that you're an arrogant, spoiled child. I'm not interested in your offer. Please leave.”

Malfoy's face twisted in anger. “You'll regret that move, Potter,” he said softly. He turned on his heel, and was gone. Harry sank back against the seat with a huff. Ginny squeezed his hand and lay her head on his shoulder again.

No one else bothered them the rest of the trip. When a voice announced that they would be reaching Hogwarts soon and advised them to change into their robes, Harry stepped outside so she could change, and then they traded places.

The squeal of the brakes could be heard. The train huffed and puffed as it pulled into the station.

On the platform, a large man called for all the first years to follow him. They piled into boats and floated across the lake.

The castle was large and warm and inviting. The first years filed inside, and waited for the doors to open so they could be sorted. A strict looking woman, Professor McGonagall, explained about the houses and how the sorting worked.

Ginny clutched Harry's arm as the doors opened, and Professor McGonagall led them inside. They walked past four long tables, where the rest of the students already sat. McGonagall stopped before a raised platform, by a little three legged stool on which sat a patched and ragged old hat.

Everyone was watching the hat. Ginny and Harry watched it too, curiously. Then, much to Ginny's surprise, a rip near the brim opened, and the hat began to sing.

“Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,
But don't judge on what you see.
I'll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me!
You can keep your bowlers black,
And your top hats sleek and tall,
For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat,
And I can cap them all!
There's nothing hidden in your head
That the Sorting Hat can't see,
So try me on and I will tell you,
Where you ought to be!
You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart.
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil.
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you've a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind'
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You'll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends.
So put me on! Don't afraid!
You're in safe hands (though I have none),
For I'm a Thinking Cap!”

And the hat fell into silence.

Professor waited for the applause to end before calling out names. Ginny wasn't really paying attention. She was thinking about the song. So when Professor McGonagall called Harry's name, she jumped. He squeezed her hand, gave her a smile, and walked up to the platform. All around her, people were whispering 'Harry Potter?' 'The Harry Potter?' He took the hat from McGonagall, sat down, and dropped it onto his head.

“Well, well, well, what do we have here?” a voice whispered in her ear. She looked around, frowning. No one was near her, they were all staring up at Harry.

“A joint mind,” the voice said. “How very interesting.”

Uh, sorry?
Harry's voice said.

“Come now, young miss, speak up. This is your mind just as much as it is his.”

Ginny blinked in surprise. She had not expected this.

Hello, she thought.

“There,” the Hat said. “That's it. What is your name, young miss?”

Ginny.

And this is Harry Potter, of course. Your mind is much like your mother's, Harry.

It is?
Harry thought.

“Yes. Now, to sort you two. I can't read Ginny's mind right from here, so I will sort Harry and then Ginny will wait her turn like the rest. It would be best if the school did not realize what it is you two have just yet.”

Okay,
Ginny thought.

The Hat was silent a moment. Then, it spoke again. “You have a very powerful mind, Harry Potter. I see great potential in you, bravery and loyalty, intelligence and ambition. But I think the two houses you are most fit for are Gryffindor and Slytherin. What say you?”

Didn't Slytherin turn out to be mostly bad wizards?
Harry thought, and Ginny knew it was aimed towards her.

Well, yeah, she answered.

“It is true,” the Hat said. “But it has also turned out many great wizards in the past.”

I don't want evil.

“Of course you don't. Slytherin is not evil. Many Slytherin students chose that path, yes, but not all. And regardless of their morals, every student had great power, much like yourself.”


Ginny was silent, but she could hear Harry thinking. She kept her thoughts quiet, not wanting to influence him.

“I think you would flourish in Slytherin,” the Hat said.

I don't. I don't want Slytherin, Harry said. Ginny let out a sigh of relief.

“Are you sure? You are destined to be great indeed, and Slytherin would aide you in ways no other house could.”

Not Slytherin.

“If you insist.”


“GRYFFINDOR!” the Hat yelled for the whole hall to hear. The table behind her erupted in cheers. Harry pulled off the Hat and grinned at Ginny. She grinned back as he handed McGonagall the hat. As he passed her, he touched her shoulder with a smile of reassurance.

The line emptied slowly. But, soon, McGonagall called out “Weasley, Ginevra.”

Ginny winced. She hated her full name.

Your real name is Ginevra? Harry thought as she walked up to McGonagall.

Yeah, but I never use it. I don't like it.

I think it sounds pretty.


The blush that crept up her cheeks was not because she tripped on a step on her way to the stool. She took the hat from McGonagall, and seated herself on the stool.

“Ah, Ginny, you have returned. Very good. I got a fairly good reading when Harry was wearing me, so this should not take long. I assume you wish to be in the same house as he is?”

Yes.

“Are you sure? You do have the potential to be in Ravenclaw, or even Hufflepuff.”

Gryffindor, I'm sure.

“I see. You won't even consider others?”

I want to be in Gryffindor with Harry.

“Very well.”


“GRYFFINDOR!” the Hat shouted. Ginny beamed as her brothers all cheered for her, but as Harry cheered, a warm feeling spread through her. Even though Fred and George made a space for her to sit between them, she dropped down beside Harry.

Knew you'd make it, Harry thought with a grin.

Then why were you biting your fingers and panicking? Ginny thought back teasingly. That shut him up for a good five minutes.

Dinner was amazing; she ate so much that Harry teased her that her robes would not fit her. She punched him lightly and returned the compliment.

Dumbledore gave a few announcements, including a ban on going in the Third Floor corridor, which she found odd, and sent them off to bed.

The first few weeks of school were great, even though they were hard. They jumped right into learning, and half their time was taken up with homework. In October, Harry was inducted into the Gryffindor Quidditch team, even though he'd only ever ridden a broom once. Malfoy had hoped that he would get in trouble, but he was disappointed. Ginny felt like punching Malfoy when he challenged Harry to a duel and didn't show up. She kept that nugget of information to use for later blackmail. And, when they- they being herself, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville- ran from Filch when Malfoy didn't show, they ended up in the Forbidden Corridor, right in front of a three headed dog. Needless to say, they were out of breath and scared near witless when they got back to the common room.

By the time Halloween rolled around, both Ginny and Harry were looking around to figure out where the time went. Halloween night brought on excitement, because a troll got into the dungeons. Ron, Harry, and Ginny ran off to go save Hermione, and ended up getting only ten points for Gryffindor.

Harry was a wreck of nerves before the first game, but he did amazing. Nearly swallowed the Snitch but Gryffindor won. But during the game, Ginny nearly had a heart-attack when his broom suddenly tried to buck him off. Hermione fixed it by setting Snape on fire, but she still had to pinch her cheeks before she went to congratulate Harry so she didn't look white as a sheet.

Time flew again. Before either Ginny or Harry could look up, Christmas was charging them head on. Ginny wrote home two weeks before Christmas begging her mother to save her because she'd forgotten to get Harry a gift. A few days later, her mum sent her a reply telling her that she had made Harry a sweater and was giving him the normal gift of pies and candies. Ginny's panic lessened but she still didn't have a gift for him. Then Mum sent her a catalog and some money, and she bought him a new pair of Seeker gloves.

Christmas morning, Ginny woke up to Harry practically shouting in her brain.

WAKE UP! I'VE GOT PRESENTS!

Even thought Ginny was still half asleep, she smiled. Harry had never gotten presents on Christmas. He sounded shocked, excited, and amazed. She rolled over, trying to go back to sleep, but Harry woke her up again.

Meet me down in the common room so we can open our presents, he thought.

Sleep... she thought in a mumble.

Presents!

Ginny sighed, and sat up slowly. She had a pile of presents at the bottom of her bed too.

I'm bringing Ron, you drag Hermione out of bed. Ever since Halloween, Hermione had joined their group, and the four of them were inseparable.

Fine, but I'm blaming you if Hermione hexes me.

That's okay, just come downstairs!


Ginny rolled her eyes, swung her legs out of bed, and shoved her feet in her slippers.

“Hermione!” she called.

“Go back to sleep,” Hermione mumbled. They were the only ones in the dorm, since most people had gone home for the holidays. Ginny had stayed because Harry wasn't going, her brothers had stayed because their parents were visiting Charlie, and Hermione stayed because her parents were going to a dentisty or something conference, and she wasn't particularly interested in dentisty.

Ginny poked her head through Hermione's curtains. Hermione lay on her side, hugging one of her pillows and curled up in a ball. Ginny nudged her shoulder.

“Come on, we're going to open presents in the common room,” Ginny said.

“Why?” Hermione whined.

“Because this is the first Christmas that Harry's got presents and I want to see his face when he opens them. Get up.”

Hermione rolled onto her back and glared at Ginny. “This is your fault,” Hermione growled.

“Nope, blame Harry.”

Ten minutes later, Ginny and Hermione- still yawning- made their way downstairs with their presents. They found Ron sitting in an arm chair, vibrating like he was a dog wanting to chase a squirrel as he stared at his pile of presents before him, and Harry sitting on the couch. Harry jumped to his feet when they entered the room. Ron raised an eyebrow at him, and Harry dropped back to the couch blushing. Hermione giggled. Ginny rolled her eyes again, but smiled at Harry.

The instant she and Hermione were seated, Ron tore into his presents. Ginny was used to his frenzy on Christmas morning, and Harry had heard about it from her, but Hermione had never seen him. She stared in shock a moment, before opening her own presents.

Harry opened each of his presents with care. Ginny was almost too focused on her friend to open her own presents, but managed it. Harry beamed as he opened the gifts from her mother, and grinned wider when he unwrapped the gloves she'd given him.

“Open that one next,” Harry told her, pointing to a medium sized box near the bottom of her pile. Curious, Ginny extracted it without toppling her pile. She pulled aside the paper, and gasped. She pulled out a wooden box. She ran her fingers over the flowers and dragons carved on the lid, and lifted it open. There was a mirror inside the lid, but she was more interested in the picture tucked inside. It was a photo of her, Ron, Hermione, and Harry, all grinning madly and waving.

“Like it?” Harry asked.

“It's amazing,” she said, beaming at him. “Thank you!”

A while later, Ron, Hermione, and she had finished their presents. Harry had only one left, and everyone was watching him, wondering what was in the unmarked package. He tore open the paper, and shook out a cloak.

This was no ordinary cloak though. Ginny watched it fall open like a jug of water turning over and spilling its contents over the floor. The cloak shimmered in the half-light pouring through the windows and glimmered in the glow of the fire. Ginny reached out a hand and felt the fabric. It did feel like water, softer than any silk she could imagine.

“What is it?” Ron asked in a low voice.

Hermione clapped her hands to her mouth, her face registering shock.

“What?” Harry said, frowning.

“That- I think, oh, Harry!” Hermione said, obviously at a loss for words. “Try it on, if it's what I think it is- put it on!”

Harry glanced at Ginny, and shrugged. He swung the cloak around his shoulders, and suddenly he vanished.

Ginny gasped and shot to her feet. Ron let out a yelp and knocked his chair over. Harry looked down at his body, but it wasn't there anymore.

“It's an invisibility cloak!” Hermione said, “I was right!”

“Look, something fell out,” Harry said. His head bent down and lowered, Ginny guessed he was now squatting, and a slip of parchment was lifted into the air as though on its own. Ginny shivered. It was creepy, and awesome.

“'Your father left this in my possession before he died,'” Harry read aloud. “'It is time it was returned to you. A very merry Christmas to you.' No signature. Huh, wonder who it was,” he said, looking down at the paper with a frown.

Ginny stepped forward, staring open-mouthed at the floating head of her best friend. She reached out, and poked what she guessed to be his chest, since she couldn't see him.

“Ow,” he said pointedly, dropping the note onto a table.

“You're invisible,” Ginny muttered. A grin broke her face. “We are so pranking Fred and George with this!”

Hermione made a noise as if to argue her statement, but Ginny flicked her wand over her shoulder and Hermione found herself unable to talk due to the fact that Ginny had conjured a gag over Hermione's mouth.

“Will it fit over two?” Ginny asked. Harry lifted the cloak, revealing his body, and grabbed her arm. He threw it over her too, and Ginny found herself standing very close to him and invisible. She could see Ron tugging at the gag, and Hermione looking around to see where they had gone. Harry had pulled the cloak over his head, so they were both completely invisible. Her heart thumped in her chest. Harry's breath fell on her face.

What charm did you use? Harry thought as Ron and Hermione started looking around the room for them.

Praeligus charm. Fred and George taught it to me.

Nice,
Harry thought. Teach me?

Of course.


Harry grinned. She grinned back.

The cloak was tugged off them by a very not amused Hermione.

“That's enough of that,” she said. “Come on, it's lunch time.”

That night, Ginny was half asleep when Harry's voice startled her so badly, she fell out of bed.

Ginny, wake up!

Rubbing her bum, and a glower on her face, Ginny rose to her feet. It is bloody half past one. WHAT?

Geez, no need to be irritated. I want to show you something.


Ginny sighed. An image of Harry sticking out his bottom lip, clasping his hands together below his chin, and his eyes wide made her smile. He rarely resorted to using his begging face on her, whatever it was had to be important.

Fine, but promise to let me sleep past nine tomorrow.

Deal!


Ginny grabbed her robe, slippers, and wand and hurried down to the common room. Hermione slept on.

Harry? She thought, looking around for him.

Suddenly, something grabbed her arm and tugged her forward. She let out a yelp of surprise, and found herself standing next to Harry beneath his brand new invisibility cloak.

“Come on,” he whispered, still holding her arm.

Ginny glared at him. “Don't do that again,” she chided him.

He shrugged. “Come on, I have to show you what I found!”

His hand moved from her arm to grasp her hand, and he pulled her from the common room, through the halls, down stairs, until she had no idea where they were, and stopped before an opened door.

They were both panting, but Harry pulled her through the door before she could catch her breath.

It looked like an unused classroom. All the desks had been pushed up against the walls, there was dust floating in the moon's glow. But what caught Ginny's eye was the huge mirror leaning against the opposite wall.

Harry, she thought, since she was still too winded to speak, we are still wearing the cloak, right?

“Yeah,” Harry panted.

Then why can I see us in that mirror?

Harry shrugged again. He pulled her forward, until they stood right before it.

“I saw something in the mirror,” he said, looking at her. “And I just had to show you.”

Ginny glanced at the mirror. Show me what?

Harry let out a little groan. “Can you please talk?” he said.

Ginny crossed her arms over her chest. Why?

Because I like to hear —
“Never mind,” his voice interrupted his thought. Ginny raised an eyebrow, and he blushed.

“You like to hear what?”

“Forget it. I want to tell you what I saw.”

Ginny sighed. She'd get it out of him later. “What is it?”

“Well, look!”

She looked at the mirror, at her confused expression and Harry's eager one. “I only see us.”

“Look at it properly, here, I'll move.” Harry pulled the cloak off her and stepped back. She glanced at him, and saw him reappear by one of the desks, dropping the cloak onto it. She glanced back at the mirror, and clapped her hands to her mouth.

“What?”

She was looking at herself now, but Harry was still standing by her. She glanced around, and Harry was standing by the desk. Slowly, she lowered her hands.

“What does this mirror do?” she asked quietly.

“I'm not sure. But when I stood in front of it earlier, I saw my parents, Ginny. And a bunch of other people that looked like the rest of my family.” Then his cheeks colored, and Ginny frowned at him. She saw the image that came with the memory Harry was focusing on. Him standing before the mirror, looking on in shock at a room full of people. A dark haired man with glasses and a woman with red hair like hers. And her, standing beside him with her hand in his.

Ginny glanced back at the mirror. Harry by the desk watched her curiously. Harry in the mirror smiled and took her hand.

“Harry,” she said softly. “I don't see your family...”

His shoulders shrugged. “I figured you wouldn't. Do you see your family?”

She shook her head, and, deciding there was no point in not telling him, she said “I only see us.”

Harry frowned. “But I'm over here.”

Ginny nodded. “I noticed.”

She glanced down at Mirror Harry's hand holding hers. Her eyes flicked between the two faces, as the Harry in the mirror leaned over and kissed her cheek. Her hand flew to her cheek.

“What?”

Real Harry walked back over, and then there were two Harry's standing on either side of her.

“I- it- but-” she stammered. Harry frowned at her. Wordlessly, she thought of the image of mirror Harry leaning down and kissing her cheek; it was the only way to convey her surprise. Harry blushed scarlet. Ginny realized with a start she was too.

“Well, it doesn't show family,” Harry said, still blushing.

“Quite right you are, Mr. Potter.”

The two children jumped around, Ginny with her wand drawn. Sitting on one of the desks in the corner by the door, was Professor Albus Dumbledore.

He slipped off the desk and approached them, a twinkle in his eye.

“It shows neither the past nor the future,” he said. “Take a look at the inscription.”

Ginny turned, and her eyes flew over the words carved into the metal frame. Her eyes darted over it again, the gears in her brain turning. It didn't look like Latin, maybe Irish? She'd seen a letter from one of her mum's friends written in Irish, and this looked similar. But, as her eyes went from the end back to the beginning, she noticed something.

The very last word was 'erised'. But when her eyes moved over it in the other direction, it looked like 'desire'.

You getting what I'm getting? Harry thought.

It's backwards?

Like in a mirror.


Ginny nodded absently, and ran her eyes over the words again, this time end to beginning. The words had been jumbled up and scrambled, but, with Harry's input, she translated the simple sentence into English.

“I show you not your face but your heart's desire,” she said, turning back to Dumbledore. He smiled, a smile of pride, at her. She'd seen a similar smile on Fred and George's face when she'd turned all of Ron's underwear into the classic cartoon white with red hearts boxers. Harry caught her eye and raised an eyebrow at the image that had popped up with it. She explained quickly, and he stifled a snort.

“It is indeed,” Dumbledore said. If he noticed Harry's snort, he did not acknowledge it. “This is called the Mirror of Erised. I trust you now know what it does?”

Ginny looked back at the mirror, and thought of Harry holding her hand. She'd held his hand before. It wasn't all that special. But that kiss... It had felt strange, even if she'd only seen it, but a good kind of strange. 'I show you not your face but your heart's desire'... It had shown her standing side by side with Harry, and it had shown Harry his family and her. She set her mind working. Harry had never had people who cared about him until he met her family, until he met her. He wanted someone to care about him. He had seen his family, so the inscription had to mean that it showed the onlooker what their heart wanted most.

Why aren't you in Ravenclaw again?

Shut up.

Yes ma'am.


“It shows us what we want most,” she said aloud. Dumbledore beamed at her.

“That it does,” he said. “The deepest desire of our hearts, even if we have not yet realized what it is.”

She could have sworn his eyes rested on her when he said that.

Before she knew it, Christmas holidays were over and school was back to bother her. January flew by in a flurry of snow, February rushed them with a load of lacy pink paper and giggles, March took its time stopping the snow, April showed clearer skies and warmer weather, and before she knew it, it was May and her birthday choose to smack her upside the head with a two-by-four. On the morning of the eleventh, Ginny was expecting a lie-in because it was Saturday, but apparently, Harry had other ideas.

WAKE UP!

Like she had on Christmas, Ginny gave a startled gasp and fell off the side of the bed.

Quit that, you're going to hurt yourself.

You try having someone scream inside your head while they're sleeping!

Okay, gimme a second to fall asleep, then you can yell.


Ginny smacked her forehead with her palm.

“Ginny, are you okay?” called one of her roommates, Lavender Brown.

“Fine,” Ginny called back. See what you did? You woke up Lady Lavender.

And here I was thinking only a hurricane could. I feel so accomplished.
Ginny rolled her eyes at his sarcasm and stood.

What did you want?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

STOP YELLING! What?

I said happy birthday.

It's my birthday?


It was Harry's turn to roll his eyes. Ginny glanced around and spotted a calender by Hermione's bed. Hermione had gone somewhere already, so her bed was empty and made. Ginny scrambled over to the calender, and her eyebrows shot up when she saw the date. May 11th, her birthday.

Wow, I forgot my own birthday.

Seriously? How do you do that?

Guess it's easy when Mum isn't pestering me about what I want to do.
A second later, she realized her mistake. I'm sorry, Harry, I forgot-

Yeah, it's easy to do that.
He didn't sound angry with her. It's okay. Relieved, Ginny turned to her trunk and pulled out clothes. She dressed at top-speed, forgot shoes, and ran downstairs, nearly knocking Harry over when she came rocketing from the girls' dorms.

“Sorry,” she said, blushing. For some reason, she had been blushing more around him ever since Christmas.

“It's okay,” he said again. “Come on, I got Fred and George to tell me how to get into the kitchens. We are going to have a good Saturday brunch.”

“Ron and Hermione coming?”

“Nah, I gave Ron his present earlier. I wanted to give you yours in private.”

Ginny fought down images of just what could happen in private, and, after cursing whatever part of her mind that had brought them up, she prayed Harry hadn't seen them. Harry grabbed her hand- he'd been doing that more often since Christmas- and pulled her from the common room.

When he finally stopped dragging her, they stood in front of a large painting of a bowl of fruit. He reached up and tickled the pear. It giggled — could pears giggle? — and turned into a large door-knob. Harry turned it, and led her into the kitchen.

The kitchen was alive and bustling with house elves. They seemed to expect her and Harry because they surrounded them and led them over to a small table set up by a fireplace. Harry gave a low mock bow, and Ginny laughed.

“All this for me?” she said, taking a seat.

“My best friend deserves the best birthday.”

Ginny couldn't help but smile. Harry grinned at her and dropped into a chair. House elves swarmed them again and plates with pancake stacks were set down before them, drowning in delicious smelling boysenberry syrup.

Ginny did not hesitate to eat her fill. After the plates had been cleaned, Ginny propped her elbows up on the table and looked at Harry, who for some reason didn't want to meet her eye.

What's up? She thought warily.

Can't I give my best friend a great birthday?

You only use the best friend card when you're hiding something. What's up?


Harry sighed. “You got me.”

“Course I did. I know everything about you.”

He nodded. “You really are my best friend though,” he said.

She blushed. “I know,” she said. “You're mine.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“So what's this about?”

Harry propped his chin on his hand, looking at her. His intense green eyes were full of something she had never seen there before.

“I'm going past the trapdoor,” he said suddenly.

Her eyebrows shot up. “You're what?”

“I'm going down the trapdoor. Snape will steal the stone if I don't.”

Ginny stared at him a moment. Then she reached across the table, grabbed his hand, and gave it a squeeze. “You mean we.”

His eyes lit up. “It will be dangerous.”

“Danger is my middle name.”

“I thought it was Molly?”

“Don't change the subject,” she said, shaking a finger at him. “I can hold my own in a fight, you know that.”

He did know. The two of them were tied for best marks in Defense Against the Dark Arts.

“It won't be easy.”

“I'll live. I'm going with you.”

I can't convince you to stay behind?

“No.”

Harry nodded slowly. “Knew it. I told Ron you wouldn't stay behind, but he wanted me to try.”

“Ron's in on it?”

“Yeah, I had to tell him. Not mad I told him first, are you?”

Ginny shrugged. “Not really.”

Harry squinted at her. “What?” she said.

“I'm trying to decide whether you've been taken over by a Martian or a a unicorn.”

She laughed. “When are we going down?”

“I can't be sure, so stay on your guard.”

They didn't go after the Sorcerer's Stone that night, not even that week. By the time exams came around, they still had not chased it down, so Ginny was beginning to wonder if they were going at all. But the last day of exams, Harry came to her with a look of determination.

Tonight, he thought.

Ginny squeezed his hand. Tonight.

That night, she, Ron, Hermione, and Harry were crowded under the invisibility cloak. Ginny still felt guilty for hexing Neville, but he couldn't stop them.

Harry played his wooden flute to lull Fluffy to sleep. They jumped past the trapdoor, and landed in devil's snare. Hermione beat it by conjuring fire. Then they had to fly on brooms to catch a flying key, Hermione stayed on the ground for that one. Then, giant chess, and Ron led them to victory. But he was injured pretty bad, so Hermione stayed back to care for him. She and Harry moved on. They passed a knocked out troll and pinched their noses, and went on to the next room.

The instant they passed over the threshold, purple flames sprung up in front of the door and black flames before the next. A table stood with seven bottles and a roll of parchment on it. She and Harry moved towards it warily.

Ginny unrolled the parchment.

“What is it?” Harry asked. Ginny's eyes flew over the paper, and she let out a sigh.

“Logic,” she muttered. “Why logic?”

“What?”

“It's a logic problem,” she said. “Here.”

Harry read the paper quickly. “Okay, how do we do it?”

Ginny took the paper back and spread it across the table. Seven total, one would take them forward, one would take them back, two were nettle wine, three were poisons. The poisons would be on the wine's left, the ones on the end would not bring a person forward, the biggest bottle and the smallest bottle were not poisons, and the second on the left and the second on the right looked different, but tasted the same. The second on the left and right seemed to be the wine, which meant that the poison would be to the left of them, so the left end was poison. The bottle to the very left of the second on the right, which was the biggest, was most likely poison. The one on the right end was not going to move someone forward, but it was also not a poison nor a nettle wine, so it had to be the one that took you back. The smallest was to the very right of a nettle wine, and it was also not a poison, which had to mean that it was the one that brought someone back.

Again, you should be in Ravenclaw.

Ginny smiled at Harry. She picked up the two potions, and looked at them worriedly.

“It looks like only enough for one person,” she said, looking at the bottle to move a person forward. She glanced at Harry, and sighed.

“I've got to go on,” Harry said. Ginny nodded.

“Just be careful,” she told him. She took the potion to go back, he took the one to go forward, and, together, they downed the contents.

Ginny watched Harry cross the flames, and, for the first time in her life, she couldn't hear his voice in her mind.

When she, Ron, and Hermione got back out to the school, they ran into Dumbledore, who didn't even pause to ask why they were out of bed. He just asked “He's gone after it, hasn't he?” and ran off.

Ginny refused to return to the tower, or even go to the Hospital Wing, and waited outside the door to the corridor for Dumbledore and Harry to return. She still could not hear Harry's voice in her head. When they did, Harry was unmoving and silent in Dumbledore's arms. Ginny nearly had a heart attack, until Dumbledore assured her that he was just unconscious.

Ginny would not leave his bedside in the Hospital Wing. Dumbledore let her off classes while she waited for her best friend to wake up. She held his hand and begged him to open his eyes. Madam Pomfrey had fixed his physical injuries in a heartbeat, but said she could not be sure how his mind had been affected until he woke. Ginny prayed that he would still be fine when he finally woke up.

Three days after they had gone down the trapdoor, Ginny was slumped in a chair, her fingers loosely clasped around Harry's, asleep, when Harry opened his eyes.

Gin?

Ginny started, to see Harry's eyes open, unfocused, and looking at her.

“Harry!” she gasped, and flung her arms around his neck.

“Whoa, don't strangle me!” Harry said, patting her back. Ginny pulled back, suddenly angry.

“Don't you ever do that to me again,” she snapped. “You hear me? Never!”

“Wait, what? What did I do?”

Ginny hugged him again. “I thought you would never wake up,” she mumbled in his ear. Harry was silent a moment, then he gave her a gentle squeeze.

“I won't,” he said. “I promise.”

Ginny sank back in her chair, blinking back tears of relief. “I couldn't hear you,” she said. “After you passed through the fire, I couldn't hear your thoughts.”

“I know, I couldn't hear you. I nearly panicked.”

Ginny let out a small chuckle. “You're a goose, you know,” she said.

“Oh, I'm hurt,” Harry said sarcastically.

Ginny laughed.

The rest of the year passed quickly. All too soon, the Leaving Feast was over and they were boarding the train. She and Harry sat with her twin, Hermione, and Neville on the ride back to King's Cross.

Ginny ran to hug her mother when they left the platform, and her father too. Hermione left to find her parents after hugging Ginny and telling her and the boys to have a good summer. Harry, almost shyly, hugged her good-bye, and walked over to where his aunt stood waiting for him with his shoulders slumped.

You'd better come visit me, Ginny thought. Harry turned back to her, and smiled.

You know I will.

And then, he was gone.

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Chapter 8: Chapter 8: The Chamber Condensed


Eight: The Chamber Condensed

Harry


That summer, Harry stayed at his grandmother's farm. Aunt Petunia was out almost every day — looking for a new place and a job — and Dudley spent all of his time indoors, but Harry was outside every day. Thea drove him to The Burrow in the mornings, and Mrs. Weasley drove him back in the evenings, or he just stayed there for the night. Aunt Petunia grew nicer with each day, even coming to tell him good night when he wasn't at The Burrow. He and Ginny puzzled over it, and decided that his grandmother was a good influence on his aunt. Uncle Vernon would phone once a day, and never got an answer. Aunt Petunia actually had to restrain Thea from picking up the phone and giving her 'no-good son-in-law' a piece of her mind.

One evening, Harry was in his room at his grandmother's, reading a book Ron had lent him on the Chudley Cannons when a loud CRACK startled him into dropping it.

Before him stood the strangest creature he had ever seen. It was three feet tall, had leathery green skin, enormous green eyes, ears like a bat's, and was dressed in a dirty cloth that resembled a pillowcase.

The creature said his name was Dobby, he was a house-elf, and he was there to warn him to not return to school. Harry flatly refused to not go back to Hogwarts. Dobby begged and begged him, but Harry would not budge. Eyes watering, the house-elf vanished with another loud CRACK.

A few days later, Mrs. Weasley took him, Ginny, her brothers, and his aunt to Diagon Alley to get their school things. He, Ron, and Ginny wondered why Aunt Petunia insisted on coming again, because all she did was look like she didn't want to be there. For a brief moment, Harry wondered if she was there because she missed magic, but he abandoned the theory when she turned her nose up at Quality Quidditch Supplies. They met Draco Malfoy and his father in Flourish and Blotts, and Harry was very pleased to say that when they left, Draco was sporting a flowing nose bleed and Malfoy Senior a black eye, though Mr. Weasley got to claim credit for Mr. Malfoy's injury. They also met Gilderoy Lockhart, whom Mrs. Weasley seemed very fond of and every other Weasley — including Ginny — regarded with distaste. Harry had to agree with Ginny, the man was self-centered, and, in Ginny's words, “Looked like someone had tried to make him handsome and tried too hard.” Of course it didn't help Lockhart's case when he dragged Harry out of the crowd and made him stand for the Daily Prophet photographer's pictures. It turned out that Lockhart would be taking the job of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts as well. Harry's afternoon was fully ruined by the time they left even though he did manage to rearrange Malfoy's nose.

As August rolled past, Harry had noticed something odd in the way his aunt looked at him; like she was feeling both guilty and angry at the same time. By then he had also noticed that Ginny was looking at him funny too. Sometimes he'd catch her thinking about him, but not to him, and when he asked about it, she would tell him to mind his own business. To be honest, it did sound like his business — since she was thinking about him — but he didn't dare bring it up. He didn't want to risk a fight.

On the morning of September 1st, Harry was staying with the Weasleys. They agreed to take him to King's Cross with them, so he found himself in their car, looking out the back window and wondering when he'd see The Burrow again.

Of course, he was back five minutes later. And five minutes after that. First, Fred forgot his fireworks. Then George his broomstick. Then, just as they were about to pull out onto the main road, Ginny shrieked in Harry's ear that she'd forgotten her diary. He asked her when she even got the diary, but she didn't answer, just turned pink and ran to get it.

They pulled into King's Cross at quarter to eleven. They all rushed to the barrier, and Harry, Ron, and Ginny ended up the last ones to go. But, when Harry tried to get past the barrier, it wouldn't let him through.

So that was how he found himself back in the car with Ron and Ginny flying it to Hogwarts.

They crashed into a tree, and got detention. Hermione was cross with them, the other students were impressed, and both Ron and Ginny received a Howler from their mum a week later. To make matters worse, Ron's wand had been snapped when the tree started pummeling them. He attempted to repair it with Spellotape, but the results were just short of explosive. Then, a first year called Colin Creevey started following Harry everywhere, talking nonstop and waving his camera around. One morning during break, he asked Harry for a picture and — to make it more embarrassing — asked him to sign it. Then Lockhart showed up and made Harry stand for the photo — again.

First term started out excellently, Harry found himself thinking sarcastically.

As the year moved on, Ginny started spending less and less time with him, Ron, and Hermione. She spent hours holed up in her dorm or the library, and there were times when Harry couldn't even hear her voice in his mind. He tried to get her to talk to him about it, but she would just brush him off by saying that she was working on homework, or spending time with her other friends. Harry was growing even more worried about her, and very confused. One minute, she would be cheerful and laughing with him, the next she looked tired, and would just walk off, claiming she needed to do homework. She developed dark circles under her eyes, and she wasn't smiling as much as she used to do. But even when she did, her smile did not quite reach her eyes. Harry thought he was being driven around the bend as she became more and more distant because as September turned into October, her voice wasn't the only one he could hear in his mind. A second, soft voice appeared. It was never loud enough for him to hear what it was saying, but the sound of it sent chills down his spine.

Around Halloween, Harry's worry turned into panic.

He was at Nearly Headless Nick's deathday party, having Ginny tease him about the feast he'd left behind, when suddenly, he couldn't hear her anymore. He panicked, and ran flat out up towards the Great Hall, but he ran right into Percy, who told him she'd gone back up to the Tower, that she wasn't feeling right. Ignoring Ron and Hermione asking him what was happening, he started up the stairs to find her. Before he could take two steps though, he froze as the second voice touched his ears, but this time he could hear what it was saying.

“Come, come, let me rip you, let me tear you... let me kill you...”

His panic growing greater and greater with each second, he followed the voice, Ron and Hermione running after him.

He stopped on the second floor, staring in horror at a wall painted with ominous warning and the frozen body of Mrs. Norris.

Dumbledore kept him, Ron, and Hermione a while after that as he examined Mrs. Norris. Harry fidgeted as Dumbledore looked over the cat, anxiously glancing at his watch. By the time Dumbledore pronounced Mrs. Norris petrified and Harry innocent, his watch was ticking closer and closer to midnight. Dumbledore let them go, and Harry sprinted up to Gryffindor Tower with Ron and Hermione on his heels.

He finally found her, slumped on a couch in the common room over a little black book.

“Ginny!” he said in relief, shaking her awake.

“What?” she said, blinking up at him. “What's up?”

“I couldn't hear you!” he said. “I was talking to you, and halfway through a sentence you vanished!”

“What?” she said, frowning. She opened her mouth, still looking confused, but then shut it abruptly, her eyes becoming hollow. “Look, I'm tired, I'm going to bed.”

“Ginny!” Harry called after her, but she just walked up the girls' stairs, sending him a quick mental good night.

The school was buzzing the next day. Hermione got Professor Binns to tell them about the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry heard Ginny stifle a minute of mental panic as the ghost explained the legend. He tried to ask her about it, but she shut him out, startling him. He didn't even notice when Binns picked up his lecture about Goblin Rebellions.

He, Ron, and Hermione decided to do something. Harry tried to get Ginny involved, but she just told him she didn't have the time and walked away. This bothered him, but Ron and Hermione did their best to keep his mind on the plan they were hatching. Or rather, they were helping Hermione hatch. There was a potion — Polyjuice Potion she said — that could make the drinker look like someone else for a while.

Hermione got Lockhart permission to check out the book with all the information from the Restricted Section of the Library. It wasn't hard; Lockhart was so full of it that he would sign anything that stood still long enough. Next, they locked themselves in Moaning Myrtle's Out of Order bathroom. Harry and Ron were both very startled when Hermione asked them to spend all that time brewing the Polyjuice Potion in a girls' bathroom, even more so when they found out that to actually brew the potion they would have to steal ingredients from Snape. But, it was for the greater good, and they bowed to Hermione's superior wisdom. So their plan was set into motion.

His next Quidditch game a rogue Bludger broke his arm, and Gilderoy Lockhart — Harry was getting very very ticked with the idiot — vanished all the bones in it, making it look like a large rubber thing had been attached to his shoulder. He spent the night in the hospital wing, tossing in a fitful sleep. Ginny had visited that evening, but left rather quickly after only five minutes.

Harry woke rather suddenly to find Dobby the house-elf sponging his forehead.

“Get off!” he said, sitting up and knocked the elf away.

Dobby squeaked and dropped his sponge. “Harry Potter, sir why isn't you listening to Dobby? Why isn't you staying at home?”

“What do you want Dobby?” Harry asked, sitting up and rubbing moisture off his forehead.

“Dobby wants to apologize for his Bludger, sir.”

“Your Bludger?” Harry repeated, frowning. “You mean you messed with that bludger? You told it to kill me?”

“No, not kill you, sir, never kill you!” the elf cried with wide eyes. “Dobby just wanted you to be sent home, sir.”

Harry flopped back on his pillows. “Well, if they're going to they haven't told me. Why are you trying to get me mutilated, then?”

“Dobby wants you to be safe, sir!” the elf squeaked.

“And charming a Bludger to break every bone in my body does that how?”

“Better to be sent home severely injured, sir, than to stay here while the Chamber of Secrets is opening again!”

Dobby clapped his hands over his mouth like he had let out a disgusting swear word. The little elf grabbed the bottle of Skele-Gro on the table beside Harry and raised it, ready to crack it over his own head. Harry snatched the bottle out of Dobby's hands before he could start beating himself.

“Don't do that,” he admonished. Dobby's fingers inched towards the dark lamp on the night table. “Don't!” Harry insisted. The elf's hands dropped to his sides.

“Thank you, Harry Potter sir,” Dobby said. “You is great indeed.”

“What did you mean, again?” Harry asked. Dobby glanced at the lamp again. “Tell me what you can without hurting yourself,” Harry added.

Dobby thought a moment. “The Chamber is real sir, it is being opened fifty years ago. The monster inside is attacking many students then, and is killing one girl before it is stopping. The person that is being punished for it is innocent though sir. He is not opening the Chamber.”

“Who was punished?” Harry asked, frowning.

“The gamekeeper, sir, Hagrid.”

These words hit Harry like an anvil. “What?” he gasped.

“But Hagrid is not doing it sir! It is being a bad boy, a bad — bad —” Dobby lunged for the lamp. Harry grabbed him and tugged him away from the heavy object, the elf struggling to punish himself.

“Okay, I get it, you can't tell me!” Harry said. “Why not?”

Dobby stopped struggling. He looked up at Harry with reproachful eyes. “Dobby is not supposed to be telling his master's business, sir. Dobby is supposed to be keeping his master's secrets, but Dobby is knowing that if he is not helping Harry Potter then Harry Potter will be losing his most precious!”

“Precious what?”

“His most precious!”

“Yeah, you said that, but what is it?”

Dobby opened his mouth, but just then voices reached their ears, coming from the hallway beyond.

“Dobby must go, sir!” Dobby said, and with a crack, he vanished. Harry fell back against the pillows and quickly pretended to be asleep.

It was Dumbledore, McGonagall, and the petrified form of Colin Creevey. Harry listened them, and his spirits sank as he heard Dumbledore confirm what Dobby had been saying. The Chamber of Secrets was open and it had been opened before. He told Ron and Hermione as soon as he could, but as he had both dreaded and expected, Ginny didn't care. So their foursome became — for what Harry hoped would be a very short time — a trio.

Lockhart started a dueling club, but it turned out to be useless. In fact, Harry found himself fervently wishing that Lockhart would just pack up and leave, because he kept embarrassing Harry. First it was the Daily Prophet article, then Colin and his stupid desire for a signed photo, and now Parseltongue. Harry was could speak to snakes, and he had to go and find that out for the first time in front of the entire school. Now it wasn't just Ginny who avoided him, it was the whole school except for Ron, Hermione, and for some reason, the twins. Fred and George seemed to find it all very funny, and made a huge deal about marching in front of him calling “Make way for the heir of Slytherin!”

Christmas holidays meant that the castle was near empty, but for the Weasleys and a few other students, including Malfoy. Ginny was disappearing from Harry's mind more and more often. Each time she vanished from his head, his worry and panic grew, but when he found her, she would snap at him or just give him a blank look and leave him confused and hurt. He tried to reconcile whatever he had done in every way he could, he even tried to carry her books for her. But Ginny's behavior grew more and more erratic, either giving him a smile or a glare. Christmas day, he sent her a box of the best chocolates he could find and waited for her in the common room.

When she came down, she was still in her pajamas, her red hair escaping from a loose braid. Her eyes were weary, purple circles resting beneath them. She gave him a tired smile and sat down next to him on the couch.

“Are you all right?” Harry asked. She shrugged.

“Fine.”

“Why haven't you been talking to me? Why have you been avoiding me?”

Her eyes flashed sparks. “Just because I don't spend every second with you, Potter, doesn't mean I'm avoiding you!”

“You have!” he insisted. “What's been happening to you? I'm worried about you.”

Ginny flopped back against the couch with a sigh. “Nothing's happening,” she said, but he knew she was lying. He gripped her hand with both of his, a frown creasing his brow.

Something's wrong, Ginny, he thought. She glanced at him. In her eyes, he could see exhaustion, and angst. She glanced down at her hand in his, then met his eyes again. His heart skipped a beat; there was something in her eyes that raised the hairs on the back of his neck and made his blood run cold. She opened her mouth, but then her eyes darkened, and became hollow again. She tugged her hand out of his and stood up, walking away from him without a backward glance, without responding to him when he called after her.

That night, he, Ron, and Hermione took the Polyjuice potion. Hermione didn't go with them to question Malfoy, and when they returned they found out why. She had a tail, and whiskers, and fur everywhere that they could see. They took her straight to Madam Pomfrey, who fortunately didn't question them. Their efforts to get into the Slytherin Common room were useless, because Malfoy wasn't the heir of Slytherin. The only good thing that came out of that night was that they knew to tell Mr. Weasley to search for a hidden cellar in the Malfoy's house.

New Year’s usually was fun, but this year, it crushed Harry. He and Ginny were sitting at the Gryffindor table, enjoying an excellent dinner. During the past few days, she had been more alive; not as exhausted or upset, and more friendly to Harry. He was so grateful for her talking to him like she used to, that he didn't question her. At the New Year’s feast, she was quiet, but she sat with him and smiled at him for real. As the food vanished from the plates and puddings appeared, she leaned her head on her palm and gave him a strange look. He was about to reach for a dish of treacle tart, but stopped as she stared at him.

“What?”

“I miss this,” she whispered. “I miss talking to you.”

“I miss it too,” he said. “Why have you been so distant if you don't want to?”

She opened her mouth, but didn't say anything. Her eyes, which had been their normal bright brown despite the dark circles beneath them a moment before, darkened for a second before going blank.

“Never mind,” she said, looking away. He frowned; he tried to hear what she was thinking, but something prevented him from hearing her thoughts. A short burst of anger shot through Harry. He grabbed her arm, making her to look at him again.

“Stop blocking me out!” he said. “Stop pushing me away!”

She tugged her arm out of his grip, a glare growing on her face. “Leave me alone,” she snapped.

“Ginny, I'm your best friend; why won't you tell me what's wrong?” Harry demanded. Ginny straightened in her seat, looking him in the eye.

“A real best friend wouldn't nag me,” she said quietly.

He slumped in his seat. “Are you saying you don't want me to be your best friend anymore?” he asked, and immediately regretted it. But he let the question stand. He needed to know; he couldn't just keep going through the vicious cycle anymore

Ginny was silent a moment. Different things flashed through her eyes. He saw hurt and thought maybe she wasn't saying what he thought she was saying, but then it was replaced with anger and she clenched her jaw. Darkness and hurt fought in her eyes, battling fiercely; he reached out to take her hand, but she stood up quickly as the darkness won.

“Yes,” Ginny said softly.

Harry felt like the wind had been knocked out of him. His vision blurred as tears prickled at his eyes. He blinked them away quickly and stood too.

“Fine,” he spat. He stood there a moment, his gaze locked with the girl he had thought he knew, before she turned away and walked quickly out of the Great Hall. He watched her go; this time, he didn't blink away the tears that spilled from his eyes. He glanced around, and left the hall just as quickly to hide his pain.

The weather seemed to agree with him as January went on. The skies were dark before six in the evening, and the sun only half-heartedly attempted to melt the snow that had covered Hogwarts. Icy winds ripped at robes and carried away any loose clothing unless one took the precaution of staying inside. Harry and Ginny kept away from each other whenever possible, and when it wasn't possible they were anything but civil. January was gone soon, and February gave Harry a pounding headache.

Lockhart had brought it upon himself to cheer up the school. Unfortunately, his definition of a pick-me-up was quite different from everyone else. On the morning of the fourteenth, Harry walked into the Great Hall and stopped in the doorway. The whole hall was draped in pink lace and heart shaped confetti. For a moment Harry wondered if he was dreaming, but then he remembered: Valentine's Day. Muttering a curse under his breath, he hurried to the Gryffindor table and grabbed some toast, giving a suddenly giggly Hermione a glare as he did so.

The decorations weren't the worst of it, though. Lockhart had somehow gotten a dozen dwarfs to dress up as little cupids and run around the castle delivering valentines. Harry did his best to ignore them, but they were loud and obnoxious and insist on embarrassing everyone as much as they could. He thought about sending something along the lines of an olive branch to Ginny, but didn't in fear of her hexing him.

Easter came and went. Ginny was growing more and more irritable, and Harry found himself breaking a bit more with each harsh word they traded. People started noticing that they weren't getting along anymore. Percy confronted him after dinner and told him to keep his personal affairs quiet and out of the way of student life. Harry almost punched him, since he didn't really know a good enough hex to express his anger, but didn't because it wasn't worth detention. Ron didn't really say much about their bitter exchanges, only giving Harry confused looks, but Hermione sat him down one evening and told him that he would just have to go and apologize for whatever he had done to annoy Ginny. Harry felt both angry, frustrated, and saddened. He told her everything that had happened, and while she still thought he ought to apologize, he did his best to make it clear that a simple “I'm sorry” would not fix their broken friendship.

Exams loomed over them menacingly, and Hermione began drawing up study schedules for him and Ron. Ginny's voice in his mind was stubbornly quiet, and he guessed that she had closed off their connection. He tried to talk to her but after she forced him out for the tenth time, he gave up. She really did not want to be his friend anymore.

And then Quidditch was canceled. Hermione and a Ravenclaw prefect had been attacked, and now lay in the hospital wing petrified. Madam Pomfrey closed off the Hospital Wing, security was increased, there was talk about closing the school, and Ginny still hated him. Ron and Harry went to go ask Hagrid about what Dobby had told him, but before they could get an answer, the Minister of Magic and Dumbledore showed up. Hagrid was arrested, Lucius Malfoy told Dumbledore that he had been suspended, and they were left with a very upset Fang. The only clue Hagrid could give them was “Follow the spiders,” which didn't really make sense but they followed a string of spiders into the Forbidden Forest anyway. Harry kept his wand lit, Ron kept his in his pocket since it was likely to explode in their faces if he tried to do anything with it, and they stepped into the dark woods with Fang.

It was horribly quiet in the Forest. Harry's heart tried to make up for it by pounding in his ears. Ron was the color of parchment as they followed the spiders deeper into the trees. Half an hour into their walk, the trail of spiders moved off the path. Ron and Harry exchanged looks, and followed them. They ran into Mr. Weasley's car, and then into more spiders. Literally.

Three, giant spiders stood over them. Ron froze with fear. The giant spiders took them to their nest, where they were dropped on the ground. The spiders flocked around them, and started clicking their pincers loudly. Harry heard a word in the din of clicking.

“Aragog! Aragog!”

The ground rumbled as another spider, larger than any he had yet seen, crawled out into view. Milky white eyes stared up at the sky, hairy gray legs feeling around as it moved towards them. Harry's heart beat faster as the old spider came closer.

“What is it?” the old spider called. The spider had carried Harry clicked out a reply.

“Men, Aragog!”

“Is it Hagrid?” Aragog asked.

“Strangers!” Ron's spider said.

“Kill them,” Aragog said dispassionately.

“We — we're friends of Hagrid!” Harry called out as the spiders crawled closer in. Ron whimpered by Harry.

“Friends of Hagrid?” Aragog said. “Hagrid has never sent strangers into our hollow before. What are you doing here, friend of Hagrid?”

“Hagrid's in trouble,” Harry said. “We came because he told us to come to you for answers.”

“Answers to what?”

“The Chamber of Secrets.”

The old spider clicked its pincers angrily. “Hagrid never opened the Chamber of Secrets! He had nothing to do with those attacks!”

“We know he was!” Harry said quickly. “But the Chamber's been opened again, and more people have been attacked. We wanted to know who did it last time, since it wasn't him.”

“I do not know,” Aragog rumbled. “I never saw anything of Hogwarts but for the box Hagrid kept me in. He released me into this forest when a girl was killed. He feared I would be discovered and blamed for the girl's death.”

“Do you know what killed her?” Harry asked.

Aragog shifted his weight nervously. “It is a dark creature, one we spiders fear above all others. We do not speak its name.”

“Can't you tell us?” Harry begged. “Please!”

“I never even told Hagrid what it was. I begged him to let me go when I felt it stirring in the school. He only did after the girl was killed.”

“If we don't know what it is, we can't help Hagrid! He's been sent to prison and he could be there for the rest of his life or worse, unless we prove that it wasn't him!” Harry said. The sea of spiders around them pressed closer still. Their hairy bodies were trembling, either in desire for meat or fear of the monster Aragog was talking about.

“I care deeply for Hagrid,” Aragog said. “He raised me from an egg. It is because of this that I will help you, friend of Hagrid. The monster is a Basilisk.”

The spiders around Harry and Ron shuddered and scurried away from them. Aragog shifted nervously again, but stood his ground.

“A Basilisk?” Harry repeated.

“Yes; I won't say it again! A giant snake, armed with both poisonous fangs and a poisonous gaze. That is how it prefers to kill its victims, but looking them in the eye. Sometimes it doesn't work and the victim is petrified.”

“Who did it kill?” Harry asked.

“A girl, I don't know her name. But I know she died in a bathroom.”

Harry glanced at Ron, who still looked terrified.

“Thank you,” Harry said. “We'll go now.”

The spiders inched forward again. Aragog clicked out something Harry couldn't understand, and the spiders retreated.

“Go now. Help Hagrid. Perhaps if you run fast enough, my children won't catch you.”

“Catch — catch us?” Harry said, his eyes widening.

“They are hungry, and I cannot deny them fresh meat when it wanders so willingly into our midst. I would rather you save Hagrid, but my children feel different. I suggest you run.”

The other spiders pressed closer. Harry jumped up and tugged Ron up too. Fang trembled by Harry's side. The spiders clicking pincers pounded in Harry's ears, and Harry silently cursed Aragog for being so helpful in telling what they needed to know and then decided they weren't worth keeping alive. Ron spoke for the first time since the spiders got them: He swore very, very loudly.

And then the roar of an engine broke the din of spiders rejoicing their new meal. Bright headlights split the sea of spiders, and Mr. Weasley's car skidded to a halt in the dirt before them. Ron swore again, Harry shoved him into the car and the car shot backwards, away from the spiders wailing and clicking their pincers too fast for Harry to catch what they were saying. The car left them at the edge of the forest; they left Fang at Hagrid's hut, and ran back up to the school. One thought kept Harry awake that night: The girl the Basilisk had killed. Aragog had told them that she had died in a bathroom. Harry kept thinking What if she never left? What if she was still there, haunting the toilet? Moaning Myrtle's ghostly face swam before his eyes. What if it had been her?

There was no chance to go and talk to Moaning Myrtle over the next few weeks, since students were required to be back in their common room before six and patrols in the corridors increased heavily. They were escorted everywhere by teachers, so they couldn't sneak off in between classes. Harry tried to get a chance to talk to Myrtle after Defense Against the Dark Arts one afternoon by getting rid of Lockhart, but just as soon as they got away, McGonagall caught them. Harry told her they had been trying to go see Hermione, which made McGonagall soften. She took them to the Hospital Wing and let them sit there for a few minutes before taking them to their next class.

Harry took to haunting the library, looking for books that said anything about his and Ginny's connection. If she didn't want him in her mind anymore, then he was going to find a way to give her what she wanted. He pulled every book that mentioned mental links, mind reading, everything. He read about something called Occlumency, and figured that if he could not find a way to break their connection, they could use that to keep each other out. He spent so much time in the library, that Ron started claiming that he was channeling Hermione while she was petrified, except he wasn't doing schoolwork.

One night in June, Harry was bent over a huge leather bound book, fighting to stay awake as the candles around him burned lower and lower and the clock by Madam Pince's desk ticked closer and closer to closing time. Rain pounding at the high windows behind him, dark storm clouds matching the turmoil fighting in Harry's mind. He listened carefully for Ginny's thoughts in his mind. She was ominously quiet. Even though she was blocking him out, he could normally still hear something on her side of his mind, but tonight she was silent. He valiantly tried to ignore the lack of noise on her side of his mind, to focus on the book before him, but his concentration kept slipping.

“... Occlumency was first discovered in 942 A.D.,” he read. What is she doing? Harry shook his head to clear it and tried to focus on his reading again. “The discovery of this branch of magic was prompted by Merlin's ability to 'read' the emotions and, occasionally, thoughts of his enemies.” Where is she? He let out a low groan and dropped his head onto the book. This is hopeless! Harry thought, I'm never going to find a way to break our connection. She'll just be stuck with me the rest of her life. Harry stared bleakly at the page half an inch from his eyes. I'll have to listen to her hating me for the rest of my life, he thought despairingly.

Harry sat up quickly, staring at the page. Two words stood out against the rest of the page, in a small footnote at the bottom. “Soul bonds” Harry's eyes scanned the page as quickly as he could process it, and then he shot out of his seat and walked as quickly as he could without drawing Madam Pince's ire to the section where he had found the book on Occlumency. He ran his fingers along the spines of the books before him, looking for 'Magic of Merlin's Age'. He found it, and tugged it off the shelf. He started back towards his table, when the unpleasant figure of Madam Pince pounced on him.

“The library is now closed,” she snapped.

Harry was about to open his mouth to protest that it wasn't yet eight, but as he did, the chiming of her clock announced that it was indeed eight o'clock. He shut his mouth quickly.

“Put that back,” Pince said, gesturing at the book in his hands.

“Can't I check it out?”

Her lips pursed, her harsh eyes displaying that she was considering it. “Very well, you may,” she said, and tugged the book out of his hands. He grabbed his bag as they passed his table. Madam Pince stamped the card on the inside of the book and shooed him out of the library. He walked back up to Gryffindor tower, gave the Fat Lady the password and chose an armchair by the fire to read. Most people were still out in the main castle, some still at dinner, so the common room was empty. He remembered as his stomach growled that he hadn't eaten dinner. Ignoring this, Harry cracked the book and started reading. He scanned the table of contents, passing over the lists of spells and potions. He found what he was looking for and flipped to the back of the book.

“Soul bonds are of the rarest branches of magic. It is for this reason that there is very little known about them, and what is known is mostly speculation. There are two types of bonds documented: One being a bond of true love, made at the marriage altar, the other being a bond of mind and soul, made typically when the bonded are of a young age. This soul bond occurs only when two already powerful souls find themselves in need of help from the other. However, this kind of bond should be impossible because at the time such bonds are created, the bonded are too young to control their magic and, in rare cases, the pair had not even met when the bond commenced.

“There are dangers that come with being bonded to another as well as benefits. One such benefit is that the pair will be constantly aware of where the other is.”
Harry let out a snort at this. He rarely knew where Ginny was these days. Maybe the book didn't have their kind of bond recorded. “Not in the conventional way but that they would be aware of their proximity to the other. Another is that they would have a mental connection of sorts, able to sense the other's emotions. In a few cases, the pair was able to read the other's thoughts when touching.” Harry frowned. He and Ginny could always hear each other's thoughts, no matter where they were. At least they could until Ginny decided she didn't want to hear him anymore. “Souls bonded in this way have great magical powers, advancing in skill faster than most their age. The reason for this is not known.” Harry strained to remember a time when he had been excelling at any kind of magic. Other than at flying, he came up blank. Ginny was great at Charms and Transfiguration, but he wasn't top in anything.

“Soul bonds are, however, nothing to be trifled with due to the dangers that can occur when one tries to create a soul bond where it is false or to break a soul bond where it is true.” Harry frowned harder at this. Did that mean that he would never be able to let Ginny go? “If someone tries to break a soul bond, the results are explosive. One thing that has happened in the past is that the pair simply dies at any attempt to separate their bond. Another is that they become mentally unstable. There are many things that could and have happened, and none of them are pleasant.” Harry's spirits sank. There was no way to break their connection, not unless he wanted to kill himself. For a moment he considered that option, but the next sentence ended that as a possibility. “In the event that only one of the pair dies, it would simply be kindest to kill the other because the repercussions of one dying are dangerous and painful, not just to the one still living but to those around him or her. Their magic would become unstable, as well as their mind.” Harry scrapped that idea then. He didn't want Ginny to go mad because he tried to break their connection. He stared down at the book half-heartedly. Guess she's stuck with me whether she likes it or not, he thought dejectedly.

“Harry!”

Harry sat up quickly, looking around. There was no one in the common room apart from him. He glanced back down at the book in his lap, when he heard his name again. He glanced around the room, but there was still no one there.

“Help!”

The book went flying as he jumped to his feet. Ginny, he thought. He could hear her like she was standing next to him, but she wasn't there. No one was there.

Harry, help me!

He swore. He ran flat out from the common room, cursing himself for not realizing that he hadn't been hearing her call him, he had been hearing her thinking.

Where are you? He thought desperately.

Chamber …

What?

Moaning Myrtle. Parseltongue. Diary.

What?
Harry thought, even more confused. Where are you?

Help! Stop him!


A sudden image of a teenage boy flashed before his eyes, coldly handsome features twisted in sick laughter. He felt a rush of pain and shame from her, and stumbled as he ran.

And then he didn't need her to tell him where she was. It clicked. He ran faster, pushing past a sudden throng of people going up the stairs. Vaguely he heard McGonagall's voice booming through the corridors, but he ignored her. Ginny was in the Chamber of Secrets.

He turned a corner on the second floor and thudded to a halt. Ron stood in his way. Both boys fell over, and both swore loudly.

“Ron!” Harry said, scrambling up. “What are you doing?”

“Have you heard?” Ron said. “Someone's been taken down into the Chamber of Secrets by the heir of Slytherin!”

“We have to find Ginny,” Harry said, starting past Ron. But Ron grabbed his arm and stopped him.

“What's the matter?” Ron said, frowning. “She should be up in the common room with everyone else. I was going to tell Lockhart what we found out about the Chamber; he's supposed to go and rescue whoever's down there.”

“Forget Lockhart, he's useless! Ginny's the one down there!”

Ron turned white. “Wha-what? How do you know?”

“There's no time to explain, I have to go rescue her!”

“Harry, you can't go running off half-cocked! We need help, okay?”

“There's no —”

“Yes, there is. We'll get Lockhart. He's not totally useless.”

Ron started dragging Harry away from Myrtle's bathroom, towards Lockhart's office. Harry glanced down the hall to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom door, groaned, and ran to Lockhart's office with Ron.

They pounded on the door. It cracked open, showing a sliver of Lockhart's face.

“Ah, Harry,” he said, his eyes darting around. “Now isn't the best time —”

“My sister's in danger, Professor, you've got to help her!” Ron said.

“Erm, yes, about that — urgent business, can't avoid it, I am sorry, but —”

“But you're the Defense teacher! You're supposed to help with stuff like this!”

“Well, it is regrettable, yes, but I'm afraid there's nothing I can do,” Lockhart said.

“But what about that stuff you talk about in your books? About chivalry and all that?” Harry questioned.

“Uh, books can be misleading,” Lockhart said with a nervous laugh.

“But you wrote them!” Harry and Ron shouted together.

Lockhart threw up his hands, knocking the door open. Two open trunks sat in the room, which looked half stripped of its contents. “Harry, I am misleading! I didn't do any of that stuff, and I don't plan on risking my neck for some silly little girl.”

Harry's wand was drawn and nearly shoved up Lockhart's nose before Ron could even form a look of anger. Lockhart's face turned paper white, his eyes crossing as he tried to keep the tip of Harry's wand in sight.

“You're a coward!” Harry spat. “Ginny is in serious danger, there's someone down there with her and he's hurting her! If you don't save her, I will!”

“Harry, calm down!” Lockhart said in a squeaky voice. “You can't save her, you're just a kid. No one can. She's gone. Nothing you or I can —”

“I can save her!” Harry shouted. “And I will. And then I'll tell Dumbledore that you're a fraud.”

“Oh, dear,” Lockhart said. “No, I'm afraid I can't let you do that.”

“Watch me,” Harry snarled. He turned towards Ron, ready to storm from the office and find Ginny, but Lockhart was determined.

The professor drew his wand and aimed it at Harry's back. Ron grabbed Harry's arm to warn him, as Lockhart shouted “Obliviate!”

The blue light of Lockhart's spell shot from his wand and flew through the air towards Harry. Harry jumped around, and flung out a hand. The spell collided with Harry's palm.

Lockhart smiled maliciously for a moment, but his eyes widened in horror as Harry closed his fist around the fading light, and flung it away from him. The spell intensified in color and enveloped Lockhart.

Lockhart's eyes drifted out of focus, and he fell to the ground.

Ron and Harry stared at Lockhart, stunned.

“H-Harry?” Ron said in a higher voice than normal. “Are you — Do you know who you are?”

“Yeah,” Harry said, frowning at Ron. “Why wouldn't I?”

“That was a memory spell,” Ron said. “It should have wiped your memory.”

Harry glanced at Lockhart and then at the door. “We can worry about that later, Ginny needs our help.”

Ron poked Lockhart with his toe. The man grunted. “Well, he's not dead,” Ron said. Harry glanced at him again, then grabbed Ron's arm and tugged him out of the office.

The two boys ran down the corridors and skidded to a halt in front of Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Harry pushed open the door and led Ron in.

“Why are we in here?” Ron asked.

“The entrance to the Chamber of Secrets is here,” Harry said.

“How do you know?”

“Because Ginny knows,” Harry said quietly. He stepped in front of one of the sinks and glanced over it. On the faucet, there was a small carving of a snake.

“How do we get in?”

Harry stepped back. He focused on Ginny, his eyes shut tight.

How do I get to you?

Flashes of ghost pain shot through him. He winced as pain seared into his left arm. He focused harder, his fists clenching as he pressed into Ginny's mind.

Parseltongue, her voice said.

He opened his eyes and his mouth.

“Open,” he said. Ron jumped as the word left his mouth.

Silence. All was still for a moment. And then a low rumbling sounded, and the sink in front of them slid backward. Harry peered into the hole beneath the sink; a long tunnel, leading out of sight.

“Let's go,” Harry said. Ron let out a sound akin to a whimper. Harry ignored him, and jumped.

The tunnel walls were slimy and cold. Harry slid over rough stone in darkness. Ron's yelp and string of expletives told him that his friend had followed. Abruptly, the tunnel ended and he dropped onto a carpet of hard, pokey things. He winced as he stood up. Ron came shooting out of the tunnel, still swearing. Harry helped him up, and pulled him down a passage, lighting his wand as he did. They moved slowly, carefully, wary of the monster that waited for them.

The turned a corner, and both boys dropped to the ground. Harry poked his head up, squinting through his eyelashes at the thing before them. It was a husk of snake skin. Long and wide enough for him to stand in, the snake skin glistened in the light of Harry's wand.

“Come on,” Harry whispered to Ron, standing shakily. Ron held his wand at the ready, despite the Spellotape and the fact that his hand was trembling just as much as Harry was. They stepped forward, edging around the skin.

And then several things happened at once. A long, terrible scream tore at Harry's ear drums and stopped his heart. Ron tripped over a loose rock as he darted ahead and crashed into the skin. Harry ran forward, sparks flying from his wand, towards the end of the passage, where the scream was still coming.

“Ginny!” Harry yelled. A blast of light shot from his wand and flew randomly upwards. It hit the ceiling, and Harry froze as the passage groaned. Rocks tumbled from the ceiling; Harry flung himself farther down the passage as Ron ran in the other direction. When he turned back, a pile of rocks blocked the tunnel.

“Ron, are you okay?” Harry yelled.

“Yeah,” came Ron's muffled voice. “Go get Ginny! I'll try and clear the rocks!”

Harry didn't need telling twice. He turned, and ran. The scream had stopped during the cave-in, but Harry's blood was still running cold. His thoughts focused on one thing: Finding Ginny.

The passage opened up into a huge cavern. Ghostly green light flickered across the wet stone, reflected in the water surrounding the stone path. Harry glanced around, and his eyes found her.

“Ginny!” he cried, half in relief, half in horror. He ran to her side; she lay on the ground at the feet of a huge statue. Harry dropped his wand, and fell to his knees beside her. Her eyes were closed, and her chest was still. Her right hand was clasped over the little black diary. Bruises covered her arms, her left arm was flung out beside her, and her sleeve was bloody. “Wake up, please! Wake up!” Harry grabbed her left wrist, feeling for a pulse. As he did, her sleeve fell away, and his stomach turned over. The skin of her upper arm was torn up, long gashes forming a word. Worthless. He fell back, his eyes wide with horror.

“She won't wake.”

Harry turned around with a gasp, to see a teenage boy standing behind him, twirling a wand between his fingers. But he wasn't really there. His outline was blurred, and the lines that formed his body were imprecise.

“Who are you?” Harry said.

“My name is Tom Riddle.”

“What do you mean she won't wake?” Harry asked, glancing down at Ginny. A sudden feeling of even worse panic filled him. “She's not — She isn't —”

“She's still alive,” said Tom Riddle, “but just barely.”

Harry slipped his arms under her back, trying to lift her up. “Please, Tom, you've got to help me!” he said as his arms and legs trembled under Ginny's limp weight.

Tom just smiled. “There's no point,” he said. “You see, as little Ginny grows weaker, I grow stronger.”

Harry found that his scrawny form couldn't hold her up any longer, and he collapsed onto the ground. “What do you mean?”

“Little Ginny Weasley has been writing in my diary for almost a year now,” Tom said. “She poured her heart and soul into me, and after a while, I started pouring a bit back into her. I was able to take over her body, make her do things that she didn't want to do. She opened the Chamber, and petrified those students and the caretaker's cat. I forced her to write that message on the wall. I made her open the Chamber and attack the Mudbloods.”

“No,” Harry whispered. “She — she wouldn't —”

Tom let out a cold, unfeeling laugh. “She fought me, of course. She didn't want to do it, but I had control of her. She could not resist me.”

“But — but what are you doing to her?”

“I am feeding off her energy, and once I finish, I will be strong again.”

“But you'll kill her!”

“Yes, I know that.”

“No!” Harry said, shooting to his feet. “I won't let you!”

Tom Riddle laughed his cold laugh. Harry noticed with a jolt that the wand in Tom's hand was his. “You won't let me? You? A twelve year old boy with no remarkable talent, stop me, the greatest wizard of all time?”

“Dumbledore is the greatest wizard of all time!”

Tom's blurry face twisted with anger. “Dumbledore has been driven out by the mere memory of me! Me, the one to become the Dark Lord, Lord Voldemort!”

“You're — you're Voldemort?”

“I am!” Tom boasted. He raised Harry's wand, and drew in the air three words, Tom Marvolo Riddle. He gave the wand a flick, and the letters rearranged themselves to say 'I am Lord Voldemort'. A stone dropped in Harry's stomach. Tom's lips twisted in a sick smile. “I have many questions for you, Harry Potter. Ginny told me you supposedly defeated me, but she did not know how. So, how is that a baby managed to defeat the greatest wizard of all time?”

“I told you,” Harry said, his hands shaking, “Dumbledore is the greatest wizard of all time.”

Tom's face became less handsome as anger moved his features. He opened his mouth to retort, but he froze. Music had filled the cavernous Chamber. Both Harry and Tom started, looking around to see where it was coming from. It was unnatural, eerie, but it filled Harry with a sense of hope, and from the look on Tom's face, it filled him with fear.

The music swelled, its unearthly sound echoing through the Chamber, and as it reached a peak, a burst of flame appeared above their heads. A bird formed in the flames, fluttering on its red feathered wings, and clutching a ragged bit of cloth in its glinting talons. The bird flew down, dropped the ragged cloth at Harry's feet, and landed on his shoulder.

“Fawkes?” Harry breathed. The bird's talons squeezed his shoulders briefly. Harry bent and picked up the ragged cloth, and shook it out. It was the Sorting Hat. Tom laughed, putting on a brave face, but Harry saw in his eyes that the fear the song had inspired in him still lingered.

“So this is what Dumbledore sends his great defender!” Tom laughed, sneering at Harry and Fawkes. “A songbird and an old hat.”

Harry felt a twinge of disappointment, along with a boatload of fear. How was a hat going to help him?

“Poor Ginny,” Tom said, clucking his tongue, “she was so certain that great, brave Harry Potter was going to come and rescue her.”

And then, anger surged in Harry. His hands shook as he held the hat, the edges of his vision tinted red, and the little stones and pebbles along the stone floor began to vibrate. Tom suddenly looked alarmed, but he quickly masked it. Fawkes' talons dug into his shoulder as the great bird flapped its wings and took off into the air.

“You can talk all you want, but there's no way I'll just stand by and let you kill Ginny! I'll die first!” Harry shouted.

“Harry, Harry,” Tom sighed. “You make an offer I cannot refuse.”

Harry frowned., then his eyes widened in fear and realization.

Tom was striding up to the statue, and then he was speaking in Parseltongue at it. Harry remembered with horror what creature was supposed to be in the Chamber. A Basilisk.

The great snake slithered out of the statue's mouth. Harry was forced to run from Ginny, whose closed eyes would protect her from it, to hide. Tom ordered the snake to kill him. Harry ducked behind a pillar, when he heard an animal's cry of pain. Through his eyelashes, he peeked around the pillar to see the great snake swinging its head through the air, droplets of blood falling like tears to the ground. Fawkes was flying around the snake's head, dodging the Basilisk's fangs. Harry watched in horrified fascination as the phoenix dived towards the snake's head. It let out a roar of pain, and its head turned towards Harry. Before Harry could close his eyes, the Basilisk's gaze landed on Harry's.

Its eyes were crying blood. Both yellow eyes had been popped. It was blind.

Harry felt a surge of affection for the phoenix. And then he was fighting again. Tom hissed at the snake to smell him out, and as it slashed its tail in frustration, something soft was swept into Harry's arms. The Sorting Hat. Harry tugged it on, thinking that it was his last, desperate chance, and begged it for help.

Nothing happened. Harry thought that his last hope had been squandered, but then, the hat twisted, squeezing as though an invisible someone was contracting it, and something heavy and hard thudded onto his head. Stars winked in front of his eyes, and he gripped the hat. Something hard and slim was in it. He pulled it off, to reveal a gleaming silver sword.

The Basilisk was still lunging at the walls, blindly trying to catch him. Harry looked between the sword and the blind snake, and tossed the hat aside, his mind made up. He could either die, and Ginny would too, or he could kill the stupid snake and save his best friend.

Harry charged the Basilisk, yelling to make sure the snake knew where he stood. As the snake turned towards him, and lunged, Harry threw his weight behind the sword, and drove it through the roof of the snake's mouth.

But even as the snake writhed and screamed in agony, hot pain spread over Harry's arm. He ignored it, anger and adrenaline holding him up despite his fear. He twisted the blade out, and the snake fell to the ground with a crashing thud.

When it fell, a single fang broke away from the snake's jaw. Harry looked down in horror and shock at the fang protruding from his arm.

Tom was staring at him in shock too, his gaze flitting from the snake to Harry, as Harry stumbled forward and fell to his knees by Ginny.

“Well,” Tom said, evidently trying to remain calm, “this doesn't matter. You're dead anyway. You'll be dead in minutes.”

Harry knew this. He grasped the fang, and pulled it out of his arm. It glistened with blood and poison. It fell from his numb fingers and clattered to the ground. The red at the edges of his vision turned to black spots. Tom's face showed both triumph and shock now.

“So ends Harry Potter,” he said with a sneer. “Alone and afraid, at the hands of the very person he supposedly defeated.”

Harry looked up at Tom, not afraid but sad. He wasn't afraid, but he was alone; even though his best friend lay beside him, he was alone. Ginny didn't want to be his friend anymore anyway. She wouldn't really care if he died, only that her life would be unstable because of it.

His eyes moved to Ginny, to the diary in her hands. He suddenly knew why she had been vanishing from his mind. She had been possessed. Tom had stolen her from him. It was all because of that diary.

He grabbed it, and laid it on the ground in front of him.

“What are you doing?” Tom asked as Harry picked up the fang again. Harry looked back up at Tom, the fang held over the diary. Tom's outline was still blurred. He had not claimed Ginny's life yet.

“I'm saving Ginny,” he said, and stabbed the diary.

Ink poured from the pages like blood. Tom screamed, his face twisted in ugly pain and anger. Harry pushed the fang clear through the leather cover and the pages. Tom fell to his knees, clutching his head, screaming in pain. And then, he was gone.

Beside Harry, Ginny drew in a sharp breath. Her eyes opened, she sat up slowly, and her eyes locked on Harry's.

“Ginny …” Harry breathed, barely noticing Fawkes landing beside them. Ginny's eyes took in the bloody sword, the Basilisk's body, the diary, the fang, and finally his bloody and numb arm.

Her eyes widened and her lower lip trembled. She stretched out a shaking hand and touched his arm, her cold fingers brushed over his wound.

“Ha-Harry?” her voice came out soft and scared. “Wha-what happened?”

“I killed the Basilisk,” he said. “But it got me.”

Ginny's eyes filled with tears. Her hand now bloody, she threw her arms around his neck and broke down in sobs. “It was me!” she cried. “I opened the Chamber, but I swear, I swear! I did-didn't mean to! T-Tom made me! Oh, Harry, I hated being alone! I c-couldn't hear you half the time and Tom s-said you would hate me be-because I was the one attacking everyone and he said I ha-had to ignore you and be mean — and I hated it! Oh, Harry, I'm sorry! I'm really, really sorry! And — and now you're hurt and it's my fault!”

Harry awkwardly patted her back, even though the numbness was spreading through him. “It wasn't your fault,” he said, “it was Riddle's fault.”

Ginny only cried harder. Her tears soaked the shoulder of his robes. Harry held her tightly to him, his uninjured arm trembling and the other lying limply by his side. Fawkes laid his head on Harry's arms, and Harry saw that Fawkes was crying too. The bird's tears mixed with Ginny's, running down his arm.

Harry let out a gasp. His arm suddenly started stinging. Ginny sat up at his gasp and looked down at his arm, tears still falling from her eyes. Harry watched one of her tears splash right into the center of the gash, but as he watched more tears fall, his arm stopped hurting. The stinging stopped, and the wound started to heal. Both he and Ginny watched in stunned silence as skin regrew over his arm, and the wound disappeared, leaving only a white scar.

Amazed, Harry lifted his arm and ran a finger over the scar.

“How?” Ginny breathed, her eyes wider than before.

“I have no idea,” Harry murmured. Fawkes trilled, lifting both Harry and Ginny's spirits. Harry glanced between Fawkes and Ginny, still stunned.

“Wait a second,” Harry said, “Fawkes is a phoenix. Dumbledore said that phoenixes have all sorts of powers.”

“Like healing tears,” Ginny said, nodding.

Fawkes blinked up at them, then trilled again. Harry ran a hand down Fawkes' feathers. The bird cocked its head and pressed its head into Harry's hand.

“Thank you, Fawkes,” Harry whispered. The bird let out a trill, and hopped over to Ginny's side. Harry glanced back over her, and his stomach twisted again as his eyes fell on her arm. She glanced down at it, and her face drained of blood.

“What happened to you?” Harry asked. “What did he do to you?”

Ginny's eyes stayed on her arm. Harry reached forward and cupped her cheek in his palm, tilting her face up at him. Ginny's wide eyes told him she didn't want to tell him.

“What did he do?” he repeated forcefully. She swallowed anxiously; her eyes refused to meet his. Harry touched a finger to her arm; blood still oozed from the wound, running down her arm and dripping to the floor. Ginny winced and he pulled his finger back quickly.

He beat me, Harry.

Harry's jaw clenched with anger. “Did he — did he touch you?”

Ginny's face flushed pink, though she was still pale. “No, not like that.”

“How did he cut your arm?”

Ginny's eyes fell to the ground. “My wand. He took it and used it to hurt me.”

Harry glanced around, and saw his wand lying next to hers. He reached over and grabbed them. Ginny took hers from his hand, twisting between her fingers. Harry glanced over at Fawkes, then at her arm.

“Could you heal her too?” he asked quietly. Fawkes blinked up at him and trilled. He hopped closer, and rested his head against her arm. Ginny let out a little gasp of pain as fat tears slipped from the phoenix's eyes, mixing with her blood and dripping down her arm. Slowly, the bruises faded, the blood stopped oozing, and the cut sealed itself, leaving behind the word in a scar. Fawkes shook a few more pearly tears onto her arm, but the scar stayed stubbornly white against her skin. Ginny looked down at her arm, her face a mix of emotions, and then smiled gratefully at the bird. Harry patted Fawkes' head, and he trilled warmly.

Harry picked up the diary, the hat, and the sword, helped Ginny to her feet. She was shaky; and had to lean on him, but he lent her all the strength he had and the two of them, with Fawkes, left the Chamber. They found Ron clearing a hole in the cave-in. Ron grabbed Ginny in a hug the second he saw her, his face split in a joyful grin, and Fawkes carried them up the passage back to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Fawkes then led them to McGonagall's office, where Dumbledore and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were waiting.

McGonagall took Ginny and her parents to the Hospital Wing, Mrs. Weasley exclaiming loudly and tearfully about how she was going to murder whoever scarred her little girl. Ron went to owl Azkaban, and Dumbledore kept Harry back to explain about the sword. Harry was stunned to realize that it was the Sword of Gryffindor, but Dumbledore did not seem surprised. Dumbledore then thanked Harry for what he had done, and explained why his arm had been healed when Fawkes cried on it; Harry and Ginny's guess had been right. They then were surprised by Lucius Malfoy, who was enraged that Dumbledore was had dared return to the school. And yet another surprise came in the form of the small creature who was bobbing around Mr. Malfoy's feet. Dobby gave Harry the final clue about the diary, and then Harry returned the favor by tricking Malfoy into freeing Dobby. Harry sat with Ginny at the celebratory feast that night, and they sat together on the train back home.

Aunt Petunia and Thea were waiting for Harry when they arrived on the platform, and Aunt Petunia startled everyone when she wrapped Harry in a tight hug. Harry hugged Ginny good-bye, and promised to visit her the next day. Even though she was still in his mind and he would see her the next morning, Harry felt a definite sense of sadness when Ginny's family climbed into a rented car and drove away.

It seemed that Harry's adventure in the Chamber of Secrets had reached his aunt and grandmother, because the instant the Weasleys were out of hearing range, Aunt Petunia started harping on Harry for risking his life and not letting an adult handle the situation. Harry was too surprised by this sudden show of care for him to tell her that he had tried to let an adult handle it, but the adult had ended up wiping his own memory in an attempt to get out of saving Ginny. Thea said he had been both brave and foolish, and then they took him to lunch before going home. Dudley was still at school apparently, so Harry had three extra days without his annoying cousin. He still got to see Ginny every day, and sometimes he spent the night at her house with Ron, but every time he left her, he felt sad, and the old worry that had come about while she was writing in Riddle's diary would return, even if in a vague form.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


One blisteringly hot night in late June, while Harry was at his grandmother's house, Fate appeared by Thea Evans' chicken coop, with Chaos and Night, but this time with a cat by her side. The cat's tabby fur almost glowed in the dark, sleek shades of red and purple, an unnatural color for a cat. The cat was just as large as the wolf, and its eyes gleamed an angry red. Night was perched on the cat's back, and the crow was seeming to enjoy irritating the cat. Night was steadfastly ignoring both the cat and Chaos. One blisteringly hot night in late June, while Harry was at his grandmother's house, Fate appeared by Thea Evans' chicken coop, with Chaos and Night, but this time with a cat by her side. The cat's tabby fur almost glowed in the dark, sleek shades of red and purple, an unnatural color for a cat. The cat was just as large as the wolf, and its eyes gleamed an angry red. Chaos was perched on the cat's back, and the crow was seeming to enjoy irritating the cat. Night was steadfastly ignoring both the cat and Chaos.

Fate leaned heavily on her staff. The moon high above them set her black cloak glimmering. Her eyes were heavy with all her knowledge and having to deal with her squabbling companions. Night was pecking at the cat's head, poking her with his talons and squawking in her ear.

Just then, the cat seemed to be fed up with Chaos. Her claws flashed out and Chaos let out a croaky squawk, launching from her back to Fate's staff.

The cat bared its teeth at Chaos. Night fluffed his feathers at her. Night growled at Chaos, the cat hissed, and Fate pressed the hand not holding her staff over her eyes wearily.

“Chaos,” Fate said softly, “leave her alone.”

“What?” Chaos crowed. “I'm only being friendly.”

Night bared his teeth at Chaos. Chaos flapped his wings and crowed mockingly. The cat pawed the ground with gleaming claws.

“You are being childish,” Fate snapped at the crow. “Apologize.”

Chaos let out a bird's version of a huff.

The cat flicked her tail angrily. Night’s hackles were raised. Fate glared at Chaos, eyebrows raised.

“Fine!” Chaos croaked. “I apologize.”

The cat gave a final flick of her tail, and turned her back on the crow. Night nudged her flank with his shoulder, and the cat shot him an appreciative look.

“Oh, stop it!” Night squawked. “It's bad enough you two don't get off each other when we're normal, but it's freaky when you do it in animal form!”

“Let them be,” Fate snapped. “Or I'll put you in a cage.”

Chaos huffed again. Fate sighed. She conjured a chair with a wave of her hand, and lowered her ancient bones into it. Chaos fluttered to the top of her chair, Fate lay her staff across her knees, and the cat and wolf lay down at her feet. Fate rested her head on the back of her chair, and whispered spells beneath her breath. A millisecond later, her mind was connected to Harry and Ginny's.

She found herself in the middle of a nightmare. The fuzzy figure of Tom Riddle was bent over Ginny, laughing as he touched her and as Ginny begged him to leave her alone. Harry was standing a few feet away, shouting at Riddle, but Riddle was ignoring him. Harry was trying to get to Ginny, but something was holding him back. Ginny was crying. Fate pressed a hand to her mouth. No child should have to experience such sick things, but Fate knew that without this experience, Ginny would not have the strength to carry out her duty in the coming storm.

But to relive it in her dreams was too much. Fate waved a hand, and the nightmare faded. The Chamber was gone, and the two children were in the oasis Fate had first spoken to them in.

Harry had still been fighting against whatever had been holding him away from Ginny when Fate relieved them of their nightmare, and he fell forward when there was suddenly nothing holding him back. He staggered forward, and caught himself before he fell flat on his face. Ginny stopped crying, and looked around. Harry grabbed her hands and pulled the trembling girl to her feet. He wrapped an arm around her, and looked around as well.

“Who's there?” Harry called. Fate made sure that she was as invisible and non-present as she could be without actually leaving. She needed to watch them.

But, as they had been before, her efforts were in vain. Harry spotted her at once, and raised a hand.

A group of animals burst from the forest behind her, and darted around her, growling and snarling. Fate was stunned to see lions, griffins, manticores, hippogriffs, and even a small dragon; all circling her.

“What are you doing here?” Harry demanded. Fate was shell-shocked, but she retained her power of speech.

“I came to observe,” she said. “As I have done in the past.”

Harry narrowed his eyes at her. “I remember you,” he said. “You visited us two years ago.”

“And, like then, I did not intend to speak to you.”

“Why did you want to watch us?” Ginny asked, her voice soft and shaky, but her eyes flashed with indignation.

“I cannot say.”

“Can't or won't?”

“Will not,” Fate said. “I apologize, but you must discover it on your own.”

Harry scowled. “Why?”

“I cannot say.”

Both of them groaned. “Can't you tell us anything?”

Fate paused, thinking. “You are stronger than we thought,” she said. “Especially your bond.”

“What's our bond supposed to be?” Ginny said.

Fate bowed herself out. Next time, she would have to take even greater precautions to avoid being noticed.

“Well?” Chaos crowed in her ear. Fate winced. The cat at her feet batted a paw at the crow, making him fly out of her reach.

“You were incorrect, as always, Chaos,” Fate said.

“Then I was right,” said the cat in a low, purring voice.

“Yes, you were,” Fate sighed. Chaos fluffed his tail feathers at them. Fate glared up at the crow, and flicked a finger at him. With a squawk, Chaos vanished.

“Where did you send him?” said Night. His voice was deep, rhythmic, enchanting.

“Back,” Fate replied simply. “We will join him soon.”

“Why not now?” the cat asked.

Fate lay her head back on the chair. “I want silence for a moment,” she said. The cat's eyes gleamed with mirth, though still an angry mirth. Night settled his head on his paws, and stared up at the sky.

There was one thing she could have mentioned to Harry and Ginny, and Fate did not know why she had kept it from them. When Harry's arm had been pierced with the poisonous fang, he had been doomed to die. And then, against the odds he survived. Dumbledore and the pair of youths had thought it had been Fawkes' tears that had saved him, but that wasn't entirely true.

Phoenix tears alone are not enough to cure Basilisk venom, at least not the amount of venom that Harry had taken on. But when combined with the magic of a powerful bond, they can heal anything. Fawkes had not been the only one crying.

Ginny's tears had healed Harry, not Fawkes. Fate just wished she knew how.

Back to index


Chapter 9: Chapter 9: The Prisoner of Azkaban Rewritten, Part One

Author's Notes: A/N: Note that I found the idea that Ginny had Tom Riddle's memories from Brennus' story, the Thorny Rose.


Nine: The Prisoner of Azkaban Rewritten, Part One

Winner Winners, Snuffles, and Valentine's

Ginny


That summer was blistering. Ginny wondered if the weather was trying to make up for the overly cold winter, yet she spent as much time as she could outside, and Harry would spend as much time as he could with her and Ron. They swam in the pond, climbed trees, played Quidditch in the orchard, or just watched clouds. One night they stayed out to watch the stars, and fell asleep beneath the night sky. When Ginny woke up, the sun was rising and she lay tucked in Harry's arms. He was still asleep and did not see her blush. She slipped out of his arms as gently as she could, and fell back asleep a foot away. When Mum came for them, Ginny woke up with her fingers entwined in his. She didn't say it, but she was glad for his presence beside her as she slept. It kept away nightmares.

The memory of the Chamber was burning brightly in her mind still. Every now and then, she felt phantom pains in her arm, where Tom had used her wand to carve Worthless into her skin. All of her scars had healed but for the faint word, and the scar on her soul. She had been possessed and tortured, and she knew it would haunt her to her dying day.

That wasn't the only thing bothering her. As she moved slowly on from what had happened, thoughts and memories that she swore weren't hers, nor Harry's, popped up in her mind. At first, it didn't bother her so much as it was just spells and vague recollections of years at Hogwarts. But then the dam broke.

While Ginny was in her room, working on summer homework, whatever was keeping those thoughts and memories from flooding her brain exploded. She found herself on her knees, pressing her hands over her head as sharp blinding pain moved through her head, followed by flashes of things she had never seen, never done, people she had never met nor heard of but hated with a burning passion.

An hour later the pain had died away, and Ginny sat with her back to the frame of her bed, hugging her knees to her chest. Fear and hate and anger warred in her, while memories replayed themselves randomly, overlapping each other. She could see bodies twisted in pain, heard the screams of victims long gone, felt power and an almost sexual pleasure in seeing them in such pain. It horrified her. She sat huddled in the shadow of her bed, trying to block out the memories and thoughts, but they refused to die away. Horror kept her frozen where she sat, staring ahead into space while screams and laughter echoed in her ears.

There was a knock on the door. Rage flashed through her, an alien feeling of anger at being disrupted by whoever was at the door. But the outside stimuli broke the cycle, and the images and sounds faded to the back of her mind. Quickly, she schooled her features into a plain expression, and called "Come in."

The door opened. Harry stepped into the room and shut the door behind him.

"Are you okay?" he asked immediately.

"Fine," she lied quickly. "Why?"

"You're not fine," Harry said, crossing the room and sitting down beside her. "I felt it. What happened?"

"Nothing," she said, averting her gaze.

"Ginny," Harry groaned, "I quote you "I'm in your head." What's wrong?"

She pulled her knees in closer and rested her chin between them. Now that Harry was there, the visions were less vivid, still present but faint.

I don't know, she thought.

Show me.

I can't, it's horrible.

It's all right, whatever it is it's probably not real.

Probably?

Trust me,
 Harry thought, giving her a small smile.

Ginny let out a sigh, and closed her eyes. Harry wrapped his arm around her shoulders, lending her silent support. And they were back.

Some small girl was lying on a stone floor, twisting and writhing, screaming in pain. Ginny saw from the eyes of someone taller than she, holding the wand that was hurting the girl and laughing cruelly. Flashes of satisfaction and sick pleasure battled with rage and her own fear.

And then it was gone. She opened her eyes to find her face buried in Harry's shirt, her body trembling and Harry's arms locked around her.

"That's not real," he whispered. "It's a hallucination or something."

"It feels real," she mumbled.

"It isn't," Harry insisted.

"What if it is?" Ginny said. "What if Tom turned me bad?"

Harry cupped her chin and stared into her eyes. "You are the most amazing, kind, and brilliant girl I have ever met. If a memory of someone could flip your morals, then the Chudley Cannons can win the World Cup."

That brought a hesitant smile to her face. Harry looked pleased with himself, and he let her sit back against the frame of the bed.

"Do you want to talk to Dumbledore about this?" Harry asked a moment later, with a more somber expression.

Ginny was silent for a minute. Dumbledore could help explain to her what she was experiencing, but did she want to share? This was something horrible, and one doesn't go telling powerful figures that one's mind has been invaded by the memories of a monster.

"I don't know," she said. "I definitely don't want to tell anyone in my family — I might tell Ron but that's only because he's my twin."

"I'm not saying you have to," Harry said. "But this is serious: What if they become sentient and try to possess you again? I don't want you to go through what happened to you last year again, and I don't want to lose you."

"I know," she said, folding her arms over her knees and resting her chin on them. "I'm just worried."

Harry put his arm around her again and gave her a gentle squeeze. "I know you are. This freaky stuff."

"Can we wait until school so if I do decide to tell him, my parents don't suspect anything?"

"If you want to," Harry said.

Ginny glanced at him. There was a small spark of confusion in his thoughts. "You want to know why I don't want Mum and Dad to know?"

"Kind of."

"I don't want them babying me anymore than they already are," she said. "They always treated me like I was a little kid because I'm the youngest, but since — since the end of school they've been walking on eggshells around me. It's frustrating to no end, and if they knew about this they'd be worse."

Harry nodded slowly; she could tell he understood and was accepting her decision. This was one of the qualities she liked best about him: He trusted her judgment no matter what.

"You ready to go have dinner?" he asked.

"Sure," she said. Harry stood up and offered her a hand up. She took it, and — upon impulse — gave him a swift hug. "Thank you, Harry," she said as she pulled back.

"For what?" he said. She was pleased to notice that his cheeks were quite pink.

"Just being you," said Ginny gratefully. Harry beamed.

That night at the dinner table, Dad told Mum about how he bought a lottery ticket from one of his friends in the Finances Department in the Ministry. Mum was skeptical, but since he'd bought it second hand for less than the regular price, she couldn't complain.

"Shall we see who won?" Dad called out as the family plus one tucked into treacle tart. Winners of the Daily Prophet draw were usually announced in the paper, but this was the Grand Prize Draw so the winning numbers were announced on the official Daily Prophet radio station, the Nightly Sooth-sayer. Dad stood up and crossed to the radio, and twiddled the dial. Celestina Warbeck warbled for a moment as the radio woke up, but then Dad switched the station and a male voice spoke.

"...Hollyhead Harpies beat the Wimborn Wasps 430 to 420. Captain and Lead Chaser Gwenog Jones will be coming for a chat next Saturday about the stressful and exhilarating match at eight. And now for the winning numbers of the Daily Prophet Semi-Grand Prize. Hold onto your seats, witches and warlocks." A drum-roll issued from speakers; Dad held up his ticket in one hand and crossed the fingers on the other. "7," the announcer read, "9... 0... 6... 9... 0... 5... 3... 3... and the last one is... 2. 7906905332! Congratulations, whoever's got those numbers, you've won 5000 galleons!"

"Is that your number, Arthur?" Mum asked gently.

Dad glanced at his ticket. "No. But they're going to announce the Grand Prize in a minute, be patient."

Mum rolled her eyes. Ginny stifled a snigger.

"And now the Grand Prize. Starting with 2... another 2... 7... 1... 6... 7... 3... 9... 0... 5. That's 2271673905, witches and warlocks. Congrats whoever has that number, because you just won 7000 galleons!"

"Well?" Mum said. Dad was staring down at his ticket, an expression of shock on his face. "What's your number?"

"2271673905," Dad mumbled. "That's the winning number."

"See, I told you, the lottery is a tax on fools," Mum said.

"No, Molly, my number is 2271673905," Dad said, looking up. "I won."

"What?" the whole table shouted.

"We won!" Dad yelled, glee growing on his face.

Mum jumped up and grabbed Dad in huge hug, laughing like a little girl who'd received a unicorn. Ginny turned to Ron and the two yelled with shocked happiness. Ginny threw one arm around Ron and the other around Harry, pulling them both into a hug. Fred and George tried to high five each other, but Fred missed and hit Percy in the nose while George gave his twin a smack in the face to match Percy's. Despite the fact that Fred had just face-palmed him, Percy stared in shock at their father.

That week was full of celebrations. There was enough money to buy everyone new school robes, Muggle clothes for the teens to hang around in, and Ron a new wand, and they had plenty left over. Dad and Mum decided they wanted to visit Bill in Egypt, where he was working as a Curse-Breaker, and they stayed in Egypt a week, still leaving them with more than half of Dad's winnings.

Even though Egypt was amazing and it was wonderful to see Bill, Ginny found she couldn't wait to go home. Harry couldn't go with them — he had caught the stomach flu — and although his voice was always in her mind, she really missed him. She knew he missed her too, and his voice woke her up every morning. Sometimes at unholy hours, such as seven thirty in the morning, which really was later for him because of the time difference.

Despite her family's good fortune, not everything was going well. A mad mass murderer, Sirius Black, had escaped from Azkaban not long after they won the lottery. Ginny had overheard her parents talking about it, and her blood chilled whenever she thought of what they had said. She had told Harry instantly, and he had been quiet for most of the evening after that. Sirius Black had escaped from prison to hunt down Harry.

When they returned from Egypt, Ginny unpacked and did her few chores as fast as she could before grabbing her bike — Dad had given it to her for a birthday — and peddled as fast as she could to Mrs. Evans' house. She had barely put down the kickstand when Harry came running out of the house and grabbed her in a hug. Ginny was startled but amused when he picked her up and spun her around.

"I missed you too!" she said, laughing.

Harry put her down, grinning. "Hey, guess what?" he said. He was practically bouncing on the balls of his feet, grinning at her like the Cheshire Cat, and his eyes bright with excitement.

Ginny copped a serious pose, stroking her chin and looking at her best friend with one eyebrow raised. Harry laughed at her

"I have no idea," she said, dropping the pose.

"I got a dog! Gram and I found him at the animal shelter the other day, cause it was Dudley's birthday and she wanted to get him an animal. We got Dudley a turtle, but that dog just looked at us so lonely-like, Gram said we had to take him in too, as an early present for my birthday."

Ginny squealed and threw her arms around Harry's neck. "That's wonderful!" she said, grinning. "What's the dog's name? Boy or girl? Where is it?" she asked rapid-fire, letting go.

Harry turned towards the house, and whistled. "Come here, Snuffles!"

"Snuffles?" Ginny repeated, raising an eyebrow as a great big black dog came lumbering out of the front door. He had shaggy fur, lolling ears, and a long tail that wouldn't stop wagging. A leather collar was around his neck, the tags jingling merrily. Ginny was reminded of a picture she had once seen in Harry's photo album — a gift from Hagrid two years ago —, of Harry as a small baby and a black dog like this one, but this dog was thinner, his eyes sadder, and his fur was shot with gray along his muzzle and chest. She put it aside as it merely being a resemblance as the dog stopped in front of them, looking up at Harry expectantly.

"Gram's idea. He kept sneezing when we found him, so she decided to call him Snuffles," Harry said shortly. Ginny bent down and held out her palm for the dog to sniff. Snuffles licked her palm, and Ginny scratched his ears. She noticed that he wasn't just thinner than the dog in Harry's photos, he was downright emaciated. She could see his ribs through his black fur.

"He's beautiful, but he needs feeding," Ginny said. Snuffles barked happily, his tail wagging, and licked her face. She laughed, and hugged the dog around the neck.

After that, Snuffles followed them around everywhere. He was always by Harry, always wagging his tail. He acted like an overgrown puppy, despite his gray hairs. Ron, Harry, Ginny, and Snuffles found themselves sleeping outside more and more often. Snuffles seemed to be just as fond of Ginny as he was of Harry, and would let her curl up with her head on his stomach. Harry would always have an arm draped over his dog, and Ginny would always be holding his hand. For some strange reason, he was aggressive towards Scabbers, so they kept the rat in Ron's room whenever Snuffles followed Harry to the Burrow. After they found Snuffles trying to sneak into Ron's room to get at the poor rat, Mum put a spell on the door to keep him out.

Being only thirteen, neither child knew exactly why they slept with their fingers intertwined. Of course, Ginny felt butterflies in her stomach whenever her skin touched Harry's, and Harry's heart would imitate a race-car whenever she smiled at him, but they didn't really understand why. What Ginny realized though, was that when she slept outside, using Snuffles as a pillow and her hand in Harry's, she didn't have nightmares.

Harry's birthday was approaching rapidly, and Ginny knew exactly what she wanted to get him for his birthday. She convinced her mum to take them to Diagon Alley before his birthday so she could get his present.

Robes were bought, Ron got a new wand and rat tonic for poor Scabbers, Hermione bought a pet that was either a very big cat or quite a small tiger that seemed to dislike Scabbers as much as Snuffles did, and Harry had forgotten that his birthday was coming up. Ginny and Hermione snuck away while the boys were looking at the brand new Firebolt in the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies. Mum knew where they were going, so they did not stop to explain to anyone. Ginny ducked inside the little shop, with Hermione at her heels. The owner looked up as the bell tinkled, and gave them a wide smile.

"Hullo, girls!" she said through a thick Irish accent, coming out from behind the counter. "How may I help ye?"

Ginny moved to a counter displaying glass sculptures. Most of the little glass creatures sat on their own, sleeping or pawing the ground, but a group of glass dogs was playing tag in the middle of the counter. She bent, examining them, as a glass retriever stopped chasing a bull-dog to sniff her curiously.

"Like those, do ya?" the owner said with a grin. "I'm quite fond of 'em meself."

"How much are the dogs?" Ginny asked.

"Three galleons, seven sickles," she said. "But, if you buy one now, you get another half off."

Ginny picked up the retriever. It barked up at her silently, wagging its tail enthusiastically.

"I like this one," she said. Her eyes scanned the counter, and landed on another dog, sitting away from the others. Unlike most of the sculptures, this dog was made of black colored glass. It had shaggy glass fur, floppy ears, and looked identical to Snuffles.

"This one too," Ginny said, picking it up. The dog seemed startled at first, but then started wagging its tail hopefully.

"Aye, that one's a beauty," said the owner, smiling down on the glass dog fondly. "But, no one's ever wanted to buy 'im before now. Said he looked too lonesome, people said. Just out o' curiosity, why do you like him?"

Ginny shrugged. "He looks like my best friend's dog, but since we'll be going to back Hogwarts soon, I don't think Snuffles will get to come with us."

"Well, I think a few well chosen words with the Headmaster might get your friend's dog in," the lady said. "When I was at Hogwarts, me brother had this mastiff that followed 'im everywhere. Dumbledore didn't have the heart to make the poor pup wait for Jimmy to come home."

Ginny smiled at the shop owner, who smiled warmly back. "Anyway," she said. "Five galleons, ten sickles for both of 'em."

Ginny paid the woman, and watched as the shop owner charmed a box so the two dogs would not get broken on the way home. The miniature glass Snuffles was overjoyed to have been bought. Hermione then bought a colored glass barn owl, and the two of them went off.

Harry questioned her and Hermione's absence, but shut up when Ginny told him it was 'girl stuff.' Honestly, the boy was thicker than a troll sometimes and just as easy to trick.

Harry's grandmother was all in favor of holding a huge party for his thirteenth birthday, but Harry convinced her to hold a small one. Dudley was conspicuously absent from the festivities, but Mrs. Dursley hung around. Harry loved the glass dogs, so much so that he planted a kiss on her cheek. It was a chaste kiss, Ginny knew, but she couldn't help the swooping sensation that stole her stomach when his lips touched her cheek. Harry didn't seem to notice her reaction, and she kept it that way. Dumbledore even came to visit, and Ginny asked him if she could have a private word with him after term started and if Harry could bring Snuffles with him. Dumbledore was surprised at her request for a meeting, but agreed and as for Snuffles, the Headmaster said that as long as Hagrid would agree to keep him, Snuffles could come. Harry was even more ecstatic after that. She kept her appointment to herself for the time; no need to darken his mood.

The reason she had decided to talk with the Headmaster were the nightmares she had when she slept inside. She knew exactly where these visions were: They were replays of Tom Riddle's finest and darkest moments, accompanied by emotions that weren't hers and nor did she want them. She was hoping he could deaden the memories or remove them completely.

Before any of them knew it, it was September and time to leave for Hogwarts. Mrs. Evans, Harry, and Snuffles - the real one, not the glass one - joined them on the car ride to King's Cross. Mrs. Dursley had caught a cold recently, which meant that Harry's grandmother brought him.

Dad pulled Harry aside before they got on the train, and Ginny, curious, listened in to what Dad was saying. He was warning Harry to not go looking for Black, which sounded extremely odd to Ginny, and confused Harry endlessly.

Harry had not yet told Ron and Hermione about Sirius Black wanting to kill him, so after they all filed onto the train - Snuffles on a leash that Ginny was currently holding - Harry admitted that he had something to tell them.

"Go away, Ginny," Ron said, once again displaying his affinity for being tactless.

"Oh, that's nice," she said indignantly. "For your information, Ronald, I'm his friend too."

"Ginny, don't go away," Harry said, shooting Ron an annoyed look. "Come on." He led them down the train, searching for an empty compartment. People stuck their heads out in the hallway, looking at both Harry and Snuffles. Whoever had owned Snuffles first had must have trained him well, because he didn't get overexcited by all the people around him. He stayed close to Harry's side, and quiet.

Most of the compartments were full, and the only one they could find that was even remotely empty was one at the back of the train, occupied by only a man curled up under a traveling cloak and fast asleep. He looked quite young —maybe thirty—, but his sandy brown hair was shot with lines of gray and a few strands of white, his plain but handsome face was lined with worry wrinkles and scars and there were dark circles under his eyes. Snuffles ears perked up when he saw the man. They paused at the doorway, wondering whether to use the compartment or not. Since the train was usually only used by students, the only adult they had ever seen on the actual train was the witch who pushed the food cart. Ginny rolled her eyes at her friends and brother, and pushed her way in. Snuffles jumped up onto the bench immediately, and began sniffing the man.

"Snuffles, no," Harry said. "Let him be."

The dog let out low whimper, and curled up on the bench by the man, resting his head on the man's knee. Ginny and Harry exchanged looks; Harry pulled Snuffles off the man before he could wake up. They hadn't ever seen Snuffles behave like this before.

"Who do you reckon he is?" Ron asked.

"Professor R. J. Lupin," Hermione replied instantly.

"How do you know that?" Ron said, goggling at her.

"It's on his case," Hermione said, pointing up to the luggage rack above his head, where a battered brief case sat, held together mostly by a load of knotted string. 'Prof. R. J. Lupin' was printed across one end, the name was peeling away but the 'Prof.' looked new.

Ginny took the seat next to Snuffles, and draped an arm across his back. Harry sat next to her, and Ron and Hermione took the other bench, with Crookshanks, her new cat, held in a wicker basket on the bench beside her. Ron made sure Scabbers was out of both Snuffles and Crookshanks' reach by putting his cage on the luggage rack before dropping into his seat.

There was a short discussion on what they thought he would be teaching — Defense Against The Dark Arts, obviously — how well a job he would do — Ron remarked that one good hex could probably knock him over — and why he was on the train.

"Never mind him, listen," Harry said rather hurriedly, and he explained about Sirius Black being after him. Snuffles looked up at this, and while Harry was talking, Snuffles was growling. Ginny stroked his ears, trying to calm him.

What do you think is up with Snuffles? Ginny thought.

Probably the train, Harry thought back. Don't worry.

It was strange to have Harry tell her to not worry, since it was usually him that did the worrying.

I heard that.

I am aware of this fact.

You read too many books.

You don't read enough!

"Quit it!" Ron said, his voice exasperated. "Honestly, all this telepathy is driving me insane!"

Snuffles' ears rose up. Ginny could swear he was raising an eyebrow, but dogs don't have eyebrows.

"You're just jealous," Ginny told him. "If you had it, you'd never stop."

"That's beside the point," Ron said, though his ears were going red.

"That may be true, but Harry and I will continue our telepathy, whether you like it or not!" Ginny snapped.

Ron crossed his arms over his chest. Hermione shot him a look of deepest annoyance, and turned to Harry.

"So Sirius Black really escaped Azkaban to - to try and kill you?" she asked timidly.

Snuffles let out a particularly agitated bark. Professor Lupin let out a snort and shifted in his sleep. Harry reached around Ginny and bopped Snuffles gently on the nose. "Quiet," Harry said. "What's got into you?"

Snuffles whimpered softly and lay his head on Ginny's knee. Harry sighed at his dog, and ruffled his fur.

"Yeah," he said to Hermione, "at least that's what Mr. and Mrs. Weasley reckon."

"You've got to be really careful, then, Harry," she said, eyes wide with worry. "Don't go looking for trouble!"

"I don't go looking for trouble," said Harry, annoyed, "trouble usually finds me!"

"How thick would he have to be to go looking for a nutter who wants to kill him?" Ron asked, scowling still.

Ron's right, for once, Ginny thought. Why was Dad worried you'd go looking for Black?

A frown etched onto Harry's face. I have no idea.

Ginny met his eyes with her eyebrows knitted together as a slight worry entered her mind. You wouldn't go looking for him, would you?

No! Of course not; Black's a madman. I'd be just as mad as him to even think about looking for him.


"What are you thinking about now?" Hermione asked, looking as annoyed as Ron, but also a bit amused.

"Forget it," Ginny said. Snuffles, sensing she was upset, licked her hand. Ginny pulled her legs up on the bench and tucked them beneath her, leaning on Snuffles. Sometimes Snuffles treated her like he was her dog rather than Harry's. Not that she minded. She loved Snuffles, and it was nice to think of him as her dog too.

"He was my dog first, you know," Harry said.

Ginny stuck her tongue out at him. Ron and Hermione looked between the two of them, with familiar looks of bewilderment on their faces. Harry stuck his thumbs in his ears, giving himself cartoon antlers, went cross-eyed at her, and stuck his tongue out too.

Snuffles let out a bark that sounded just like a laugh. Ginny laughed too; Harry grinned, obviously pleased with himself. Ron choked up snorting, and Hermione shook her head in amusement.

The rest of the train ride proceeded much like the beginning, with Malfoy visiting in the middle to exchange a few choice insults and running back with his tail between his legs — literally: Ginny had found a hex in Tom's memories that gave the victim a long furry tail —, save for the last twenty minutes.

The brakes squealed, and the train lurched to a stop, almost throwing Snuffles off the bench.

"Finally!" Ron said, making to stand up. "I'm starving!"

"We can't be there yet," Hermione said, frowning.

"So why are we stopping?"His question was never answered. The lights flicked out. Neville came stumbling into their compartment, nearly sat on Crookshanks, and did end up sitting on Snuffles. Ginny stood up, maneuvered past Neville - who had elected to sit on the ground rather than the bench where there were too many animals - to the window.

"I think someone's coming aboard," she said softly.

"Who?" four anxious voices asked.

"Dunno," she said. Suddenly the train lurched again, and Ginny stumbled backward. She tripped over Neville, and, as the train lurched again, she fell over backwards, straight into Harry's lap.

"Hey, I'm here!" he said, almost indignantly, but Ginny heard his voice, which had just recently started to change, had taken on a higher tone. Even in the dark, Ginny saw that his cheeks were a bright pink. Hers probably matched.

But embarrassment fled as the compartment door slid open.

Ginny's breath caught in her throat. A tall, hooded, thing stood in the doorway, drawing in long, rattling breaths, like it was trying to suck more than air into its lungs. One rotted-looking scabbed hand rested on the handle of the door, looking like something disgusting that had decayed submerged in water. An instant chill spread through her, and, going by the fact that his arms had suddenly locked around her waist, it had also gone through Harry. The thing turned is hooded head towards her and Harry, and drew in another rattling breath.

Flashes of a memory she had been suppressing for the entire summer hit her. Tom's laughing face, the feel of his hauntingly cold fingers on her neck — ready to squeeze the life from her —, his cruel words. But mixed in with the Chamber, she heard a woman screaming, begging someone for mercy. She felt Tom's breath on her ear, saw a flash of green light, and blacked out…

"Ginny..."

Someone was calling her name.

"Harry! Ginny!"

Something warm and soft tickled her face. She wrinkled her nose. A rough, wet something ran over her cheek.

Her eyes shot open. Snuffles was bent over her, his wide eyes anxious. Could a dog be anxious? She registered Ron, Hermione, and Neville hanging over her with identical expressions of worry, saw Professor Lupin standing behind them, and felt an arm around her. The thing, whatever it was, was gone. She turned her head, to see a mess of black hair tucked in the crook of her neck.

"Harry?" she said groggily. He let out a sound akin to a whimper and tightened his grip on her. "Harry, are you all right?"

"Are you all right?" Ron questioned. Ginny ignored him, and prodded Harry in the shoulder.

He raised his head. His glasses were off. His eyes were out of focus, but still startlingly green. They were oddly bright though, and a second later Ginny realized they were bright with tears.

"Harry," she said softly, and, without really thinking about it, pressed her lips to his forehead. It was cold beneath her mouth. "Calm down. It's all right; it's gone."

Harry glanced around, then his eyes widened when he took in his arms wrapped tightly around her. He quickly let go and sat up. He sat up too quickly and moaned; Ginny knew he was dizzy. She sat up, but more slowly, and squeezed his hand reassuringly.

"What was that - that thing?" Harry asked. Professor Lupin answered him. It was a Dementor, and it had been looking for Sirius Black. Snuffles whimpered at this. He was shaking horribly. Ginny wrapped an arm around the dog, who licked and nuzzled her hand. Professor Lupin gave them all chocolate and Snuffles a strange look before going to see the driver.

Harry moved around Ginny to wrap his arms around Snuffles, who was still trembling uncontrollably. He asked Ron and Hermione what happened exactly, and, after receiving his answer, asked if anyone else had passed out.

"No," said Ron, who was still very white. "Snuffles was shaking like mad though."

Way to point out the obvious, Ginny thought. She was still very spooked, and so was Harry, but he was doing a better job of hiding it. Seeing Ron watching her anxiously, Ginny pulled her legs up on the bench and buried her face in Snuffles coat. Her hand found Harry's and she gripped it tightly.

Did you hear screaming? Harry thought.

Yes, she thought back. Who do you think it was?

I dunno. I saw Tom as well...


Ginny sucked in her breath. Yeah. I saw him too.

What do think it meant?

I don't know.


After the train pulled into the station and they pulled all of their things onto the platform, Ginny holding Snuffles leash as well as her trunk while Harry cartied Hedwig's cage and his trunk, and they all climbed into a carriage together. Snuffles sat on the ground by Ginny's feet, and Harry sat close to her and his dog. They had left their luggage on the platform as per normal, as someone would bring it up to the castle later. As they passed through the gates, they saw two more hooded Dementors. Harry closed his eyes and leaned his head against the seat until they had passed out of sight. Ginny gripped his hand like a life-line while the Dementors' chill still affected her.

Up at the school, they met Hagrid outside the Entrance Hall.

"Dumbledore told me yeh brought yer dog, Harry," Hagrid rumbled pleasantly. "He told me I was to let him stay in my cabin. Tha' all righ' with you, Harry?"

Harry gave his 'yes' and Hagrid walked off with Snuffles towards his cabin. They went on to the Great Hall, until McGonagall stopped them, saying she wanted a word with Harry. Ginny, Hermione, and Ron went on without them, taking their seats in the Great Hall. On Harry's side of her mind, she could hear Madam Pomfrey fussing over him, but in the Great Hall, the Sorting Hat was beginning its song. It sounded just like the one it had sung before her sorting, Gryffindors are brave, Slytherins are cunning, blah blah; Harry came back after the Sorting was through, and Dumbledore gave a few announcements. The Dementors were there to guard the school until Sirius Black was captured. Professor Lupin was to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, which meant Hermione guessed right. Hagrid was the new professor for Care of Magical Creatures. Filch had added new stuff to the banned list. There was the usual reminder to not go in the Forbidden Forest, since it was, as its name implied, forbidden. Ginny thought Dumbledore had looked right at her twin and best friend when he said this. Dinner was excellent, as usual. When the puddings had vanished, they stayed behind while everyone else went off to bed to talk to Hagrid. After talking to him a moment, McGonagall sent them off.

School started with its usual gusto. Hermione and Ginny headed off to Muggle Studies, while Ron and Harry went off to Divination. The Divination teacher predicted Harry would die; Ginny told him that she predicted deaths every five minutes, and her Muggle Studies teacher — Charity Burbage — asked her about her father's job, working with Muggles every day. Malfoy didn't listen in their first Care Of Magical Creatures class, and because of that got attacked by a Hippogriff. Not only that, but Ginny found that half of her lessons she already knew, thanks to Tom's memories. All in all, a good first day back.

The first Wednesday of term, Ginny received a note from Professor Dumbledore about the meeting she had requested. He had set aside an appointment for that evening at eight. After reading it through, she handed it to Harry, who glanced over it.

You're going to tell him?

Yes,
Ginny thought. You made a good argument.

What's that at the bottom? He likes sugar quills?

It's probably the password to get in.

Oh. Okay. I'm coming with you.

Fine with me.


Harry smiled reassuringly, and went back to his breakfast. Ginny was nervous the rest of the day, and come eight o'clock, her knees were trembling and resented having to walk up to Dumbledore's office, with Harry by her side. She stopped in front of the gargoyle, and gave the password. The statue stepped aside, and the wall split open to reveal a spiral staircase.

Up at the top, Ginny gave a hesitant knock.

"Enter," Dumbledore said from within.

She turned the doorknob, and they stepped inside.

"Miss Weasley," Professor Dumbledore said, smiling warmly. "I was not aware that Mr. Potter was invited."

"I hope you don't mind," Ginny said. "It concerns the both of us, what I've got to tell you."

"Not in the slightest," Dumbledore said. "Please, have a seat."

They did, and Ginny clasped her hands in her lap. She always did that when she was anxious.

"So what did you wish to tell me?" Professor Dumbledore asked her kindly.

Ginny had never had much patience for subtlety, nor for dancing around the subject. So, she blurted it out. "I've got Tom Riddle's memories in my head."

Professor Dumbledore's gentle expression switched immediately to shock. He stared at her a moment; she dropped her gaze to her lap.

"You have Tom Riddle's memories?" Dumbledore repeated.

Ginny nodded.

"Please elaborate," Dumbledore asked slowly.

"Well, after what happened in the Chamber, I noticed that I had these memories that weren't mine, but at first they didn't really mean anything. They were just random facts and thoughts about places and people. But then one night in July, the memories got horribly vivid; they practically attacked my mind. I got a terrible headache, and I could barely move. It wasn't just memories, I felt the emotions that came with them. They were like visions."

"I see," Dumbledore said.

"I didn't know what to do, but then Harry showed up and the visions sort of faded," she plowed on. "He convinced me to tell you. Lately they've just been sitting there, and I've done my best to stay out of them, but sometimes they come up as nightmares."

"You said that they were simply facts at the beginning," Dumbledore mused. "Can you still access those facts without triggering any memories?"

"A few," she said. "I, uh, I've been using some of those to help me in classes."

"Have you? And how does that work?"

"Well, I'm pretty sure I've got all his memories from birth to sixteen, when he stopped writing in the diary," she explained, "so I know about every class he took."

"I see," Dumbledore said again.

Ginny bit her lip. Dumbledore was looking at her strangely, almost in an appraising way.

"Do you know how he stored his memories in his diary?" Dumbledore asked suddenly.

Ginny shook her head. "I tried not to go through them much, so I didn't figure that out."

"I see," Dumbledore said once more. "Very well; thank you Miss Weasley. I will do some research on this and I ask you to keep this to yourself. As soon as I get some answers, I will inform you of them. In the meantime, keep doing what you are doing and avoid dwelling on Tom Riddle's memories."

Ginny and Harry exchanged glances. Harry shrugged, and Ginny frowned. "All right," Ginny said. "Thank you, Professor."

She and Harry left the office, and walked slowly up to the tower.

What do you think? Harry thought.

I think he'll take his time, Ginny said. Like he is with our connection.

It's a soul-bond, remember?


Ginny nodded. He had told her about his reading on their connection during the summer. But that only halfway confirms one suspicion. We still don't know exactly what it is and how it happened.

True.

Ginny leaned her head onto his shoulder as they were walking. She was feeling exhausted. Harry wrapped an arm around her; she let her eyes drift closed and allowed Harry to guide her up to the tower.
Ginny leaned her head onto his shoulder as they were walking. She was feeling exhausted. Harry wrapped an arm around her; she let her eyes drift closed and allowed Harry to guide her up to the tower.

September passed by quickly in a flurry of essays and new spells. Snuffles stayed at Hagrid's cabin, and they visited him whenever they could. Halloween brought the first Hogsmeade trip, and Ginny reluctantly left Harry at the castle to go, but brought him back a load of sweets. Hogsmeade was interesting enough, but she felt a strange sense of deja vu. She supposed she had Tom to thank for that. November was gone before she turned around. One very rainy Quidditch match, the Dementors came onto the grounds, and ended up making Harry fall off his broom. Even though she was far from the Dementors' reach, she heard screaming and Tom's laugh in her mind. At the same time Harry fell from his broom, Ginny collapsed in her seat. Ginny had never been so worried, but he recovered quickly though saddened. Not just by the fact that his broom had been destroyed after the wind took it to meet the Whomping Willow. They had figured out whose screaming they had been hearing: His mother's.

Christmas came with another startling event. Ginny left with the others for Hogsmeade, feeling slightly guilty, but all the same, she needed to do Christmas shopping. She had instructed Harry not to peek while she was shopping, and wasn't really listening to his side of her mind. She was standing in Honeydukes, looking at a a display of Chocolate Frogs, rolling her eyes at what Ron and Hermione thought Harry might like, when a pair of hands clapped over her eyes, causing her to jump in surprise.

"Guess who?" said a voice in her ear. Ginny knew that voice, but it couldn't be...

"Harry?" she guessed.

The hands retreated, and she turned around to see Harry's grinning face.

"Harry!" she gasped, gobsmacked. "What - how -"

"Look at this," he said, showing her a yellowed piece of parchment. It was a map. Fred and George had given it to him. He had sneaked out of school using a secret passage that led right into Honeydukes.

"Those little prats!" she spat when he finished. "They never told me anything about a map!"

They put his — albeit not allowed — presence to good use. She showed him around Hogsmeade, hiding the gifts she had bought of course, and they stopped for lunch in the Three Broomsticks. While drinking their butterbeer, the two of them were hit over the head with a conversation Ginny wished fervently that they had not overheard. Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, and Hagrid arrived, causing Harry to jump under the table, with her father's boss, the Minister of Magic. Ginny tried to ignore them, but for some reason they chose a table right behind her and her hidden friend. She couldn't keep out their conversation, and was shocked to hear that Sirius Black wasn't just a madman who wanted to kill Harry. He was a traitor; he had given Voldemort the secret of where Harry's parents were living, allowing the dark wizard to find and kill them. Ginny's blood chilled as she heard McGonagall reveal that Sirius Black was Harry's godfather.

Ginny almost risked awkward questions to go with him back down the secret passage from Honeydukes to Hogwarts, but Harry convinced her not to. She was afraid of what he might do.

She finished her shopping as quickly as she could, and nearly sprinted back to Hogwarts. She found Harry in his dorm, looking at a photograph of his parents' wedding day. She didn't say anything. She sat down on the bed beside him, one arm wrapped around his shoulders, and listened to his angry thoughts.

She stayed there until he fell asleep. She put away the photo album, pulled his blankets over him with a flick of her wand, and, as an after thought, kissed his forehead. She was really worried about him. She pulled the curtains around his bed closed, and left the room. She passed Ron on her way out, who gave her a confused look.

The next morning, Ginny waited in the common room with Ron and Hermione for Harry to wake up. Ron was nodding off in his chair and Hermione doing homework. She hadn't told them about Black, since it was really Harry's decision.

When he did come down, he looked terrible. He had dark circles under his eyes, and a scowl on his face to match Snape's.

He didn't want to tell them about Black. They could tell something was wrong, but Ginny refused to say. She took him down to Hagrid's to see Snuffles, where they found Hagrid bent over a huge tankard of ale. He had not been sacked, but Malfoy's father was taking the case of Buckbeak versus Malfoy's lack of common sense before the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures. When Hagrid rid himself of most of his drunkenness, he yelled at them for sneaking out, even though it was the middle of the day. Ginny convinced Hagrid to let them take Snuffles back with them, since most people had gone home for the holiday, before he escorted them back to the castle. She knew Harry would need the comfort, even if it meant that they had to put Scabbers in his cage and charm the curtains around Ron's bed so Snuffles would not be able to get in to attack the rat.

Christmas morning dawned brightly, as Ginny woke to Harry yelling in her mind, which had become their tradition. He had perked up since the Hogsmeade visit. She snapped at him, even though she wasn't that annoyed, and turned to her presents, noticing Hermione opening her gifts. Mum had sent her a sweater, Hagrid candies, Hermione a pack of teen romance books - which made Ginny blush brightly and Harry tease her - and other assorted gifts from friends and family. Harry had sent her a bracelet, which meant it was his turn to blush. She nearly ran from her dormitory, not answering Hermione's queries as to where she was going, and up to his.

Before he could speak a word she had thrown her arms around his neck and was hugging the life out of him. Ron laughed at his red face when she planted a kiss on his cheek.

"It's just a bracelet," Harry stammered, still very red.

"I love it!" Ginny said, beaming. Ron tugged the bracelet out of her hand. "Hey!"

"'Harry James Potter'," he read the engraving. He looked up, eyeing Harry suspiciously. "What are you giving my sister a bracelet with your name on it for?"

Harry shrugged. "Just 'cause."

Ron looked at Harry with such an accusatory look it was comical. Ginny plucked her bracelet out of Ron's hand and stuck her tongue out at him.

"Help me put it on, please," Ginny said, almost shyly, to Harry. He did. She grinned down at the bracelet, and at Harry.

Christmas brought more than just a bracelet from Harry. In the midst of his presents was a brand new Firebolt. Ron and Harry gushed over it, but Hermione wasn't very pleased. She grabbed Ginny's arm and tugged her away from where the boys were examining it. She whispered her theory that Sirius Black might have sent the broom, and Ginny, seeing the validity of her worry, grabbed Harry's arm and tugged him off the broomstick. After Christmas dinner, McGonagall took the broomstick away to make sure it hadn't been jinxed. Ron was furious, Harry was upset, Hermione ran off before they could yell at her, and Ginny tried to get Harry to see the point. It took a while, and a threatened hex, but he finally understood.

New Years meant that Snuffles had to return to Hagrid's cabin, and brought the rest of the students back to Hogwarts, Lupin's lessons to Harry about warding off Dementors, and mid-year exams. Lupin was teaching him the Patronus Charm. Ginny had a memory of Tom learning about it in his sixth year, but Tom had never been able to master it, so Harry relayed everything he learned to her. Soon both of them were producing silver vapor, but neither one of them could make a true Patronus. A rift was driven between Ron and Hermione when Scabbers vanished; Ron accused Crookshanks of eating him, but Hermione stood by her cat. January brought more snow than was necessary, and another illegal trip to Hogsmeade for Harry. This time, Ginny insisted he bring his cloak.

February was more interesting, as the Valentine's Day Hogsmeade trip brought a curious event. Ginny was suddenly being asked left right and center by boys to go with them to Hogsmeade. The first boy to ask was a fourth year Ravenclaw she didn't know, and she turned him down as soon as she got over her surprise. At the time, Harry was at Quidditch Practice and wasn't paying attention, so she didn't bother to tell him. All the same, she couldn't help but feel a bit giddy that someone thought she was worth asking out.

That giddy feeling quickly turned to annoyance as more and more boys asked. A fifth year Hufflepuff she hadn't exchanged even two words with before stopped her in the corridor with a corny poem. Dean Thomas asked her to accompany him one morning when she was rushing to get to breakfast before class. He seemed rather put out that she said no.

For some reason, though, no one ever approached her when Harry or any of her brothers were around. She decided to not tell any of her brothers, as they were likely to go pounding and pranking every boy who even looked at her, and not to tell Harry because he was likely to help her brothers. After all, she found herself thinking almost bitterly, he was practically another brother.

But it seemed that a particular fourth year Gryffindor had not received the memo about not asking her in front of one of her brothers.

"Hey, Weasley!" Ginny turned in her seat at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall to see who was calling her. Harry, sitting across the table, kept eating his potatoes.

A well-built fourth year boy was walking towards her, smiling in a way he probably thought was charming and Ginny thought looked a bit sinister. He stopped in front of her, and dropped onto the bench beside her.

"Heard you haven't got a date for Hogsmeade yet," he said, still smiling creepily. "The name's Cormac McLaggen. How about being my date, eh?"

Ginny was about to answer when a load of half-chewed potatoes splattered the left side McLaggen's face, effectively wiping the smile away.

"What the?" McLaggen cried, a look of disgust taking his face, slightly marred by the potatoes. Ginny roared with laughter, and turned to look at Harry, whose mouth was hanging open still from when he spat his mouthful of potatoes across the table. Ginny grabbed a napkin and handed it to McLaggen, who hastily scrubbed his face clean of the offending starch.

"Sorry," said Harry, however his voice portrayed no apology.

You're not sorry.

Your point?


Ginny let out a half-concealed snort, and turned back to McLaggen. "I am flattered by your request, Cormac —"

"So you'll go with me?" he said. "Good." He dropped the napkin onto the table, and mocked a bow to her. "I'll meet you in the Entrance Hall at nine Saturday morning."

"Wait —" Ginny said, eyes wide, but Cormac was already walking away. She sank in her seat, and turned to face Harry with a scowl, who was scowling just as hard.

"You are not going with him," Harry said, before she could even begin complaining.

Ginny swelled in her seat with indignation. "I beg your pardon?" she said icily.

"I'll tell him," Harry said, standing. "You are not going out with him."

"I rather think that's my decision," she said, now angry with him as well as McLaggen.

"You don't want to go with him!" Harry said, but he dropped back into his seat.

"That may be true —"

"It is!"

"He asked me, not you!"

"But you were going to say no!"

"So? You don't have to jump up and insist I say no!"

Harry crossed his arms over his chest, glaring at the retreating back of Cormac McLaggen. Ginny considered for a moment going with Cormac, just to spite Harry. Harry turned to her with a look of anger and hurt, telling her he had heard her thought, and she sighed.

"Fine," she said, "let's go tell him."

Harry was out of his seat and half way down the Hall before she had even set down her fork. She shook her head and followed her friend. The found McLaggen in the Entrance Hall, talking to a group of boys with triumph on his face.

"Hey, McLaggen!" Ginny called. McLaggen turned around, and smirked at her.

"Yeah, Weasley?" he drawled.

"I think you misunderstood me," she said, smiling gently at him. "When I said I was flattered, I didn't mean that I wanted to go with you."

His smug expression changed as quickly as if someone had splattered his face with potatoes.

"What?" he spluttered. "But — but -"

"So, that's a no," Ginny said. "Sorry."

"But — but — I -"

"I'm sure you are a lovely person," Ginny said, "I'm just not interested, that's all."

McLaggen turned red as her hair. He glared at both her and Harry, who stood just behind her with his arms crossed over his chest.

"Fine," McLaggen spat. "But you're making a mistake."

McLaggen stormed off. The group of boys were all sniggering behind their hands. Harry grabbed Ginny's arm, and pulled her away from them, towards the stairs.

"Hey!" she said, a little surprised. "What's gotten into you?"

"Come on!" he said, pulling her up the stairs. Ginny sighed and let him drag her into an empty classroom. He turned to her, still scowling.

"How many people asked you to go with them?"

"Beg pardon?" Ginny asked, trying to feign innocence.

"You heard me!"

"What's it matter to you?"

"How many?"

Ginny sighed. "A few. It doesn't matter, all right? I said no to all of them."

Harry scowled harder. "How many is a few?"

"Why are you so grumpy about this?" Ginny shot back.

He didn't answer. He didn't need to. Ginny felt a sudden wave of aggression from him, and not only that but a sense of possessiveness as well. Her fingers found the bracelet on her wrist, and she fingered his name engraved into the metal.

"I see," she said softly, sort of pink. "You're jealous."

"No!" Harry scoffed, turning bright pink. "No I'm not!"

"Don't lie!" Ginny snapped, though she was beginning to feel amused by the situation. "I'm in your head, you goose!"

Harry scowled. He seated himself on one of the desks, looking down at his feet. "Fine. I am."

Ginny slipped onto the desk beside him. "A few is about ten. I turned them all down, Harry. I didn't even consider saying 'yes' for a moment."

"I know," he mumbled. " I — I just — It's complicated —"

"It doesn't have to be," she whispered. She slipped her hand into his and gave it a squeeze. He looked up at her, a frown still etched into his face. His eyes met hers, and her heart skipped a beat.

"How can it not be complicated?" Harry asked.

"I don't really know," she said, "I just know that you don't have to say anything."

Harry nodded slowly, his gaze drifting to the opposite wall. He closed his eyes, and Ginny listened to the thoughts that were rocketing through his mind. He was confused. He was possessive. He was shy. He was a thirteen year old boy with a crush.

Ginny lay her head on his shoulder.

I understand, she thought.

I don't, Harry thought.

Yes you do. You just don't want to admit it.

Harry sighed. Fine. I... I like you.

She smiled. I like you too.

You do?

You are an idiot. You are in my bloody head and you couldn't tell?

No! Girls' minds are confusing!

Your mind is confusing you.

Huh?

What?

See what I mean?


Ginny smacked his arm, but she was smiling. Harry mocked a look of deep pain, then grinned at her. He lay back on the desk, and pulled her down with him. Ginny let her head rest on his shoulder, and his arm pinned her to his side. He grinned at her from ear to ear.

So, now what? Harry thought.

I dunno. Do you want to kiss me?

You don't know how badly I want to.

Why don't you?


Harry looked down at her, his eyes wide and bright. She could hear his heart thumping in his chest and wouldn't have been surprised if he could hear hers. Her tongue shot out and licked her lips. His eyes went from her eyes to her mouth, and his lips parted a little.

I don't think we should yet, he thought.

Why not? She thought, a bit disappointed.

I want it to be special. I don't think a classroom is special enough.

Ginny cocked her head. "All right. That makes sense."

Harry smiled at her, and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "That should tide you over until I find a special enough place."

"You know it won't."

"Can't blame me for trying, though can you?"

Ginny laughed, and dropped her head back onto his shoulder. She let herself just enjoy the feel of him next to her, his breath stirring her hair and sending slight shivers down her back. The light in the room slowly faded, while they fell into a shallow sleep, fingers intertwined.

Sometime later, Ginny was shaken awake to see her brother, Percy, looking down on her disapprovingly. He dragged them out by the ear and escorted them to Gryffindor tower, going on about inappropriate behavior and what her mother would say. Ginny got fed up with his preaching by the time they had reached the Fat Lady's portrait, and said if her behavior was inappropriate, then his rolling around the dungeons with Penelope Clearwater was downright disgraceful.

He left them with a very red face. She and Harry shared a laugh as they approached the stairs. Harry squeezed her hand with a smile, and sort of shyly kissed her cheek. He ran up his stairs just as red as Percy had been. Ginny just about floated up the stairs to her dormitory, beaming and bright pink. Hermione practically ambushed her with a rampage of questions, where had she been, what had she been doing, why was she so happy, but Ginny shrugged these questions off and settled into her bed with a contented sigh. She pulled her curtains closed in Hermione's face, and shut her eyes.

Ron was right annoying.

He always is,
Ginny thought. Hermione wouldn't stop asking what we had been doing.

That's to be expected. Ginny?

Yes?

I know I'm not really supposed to go to Hogsmeade, but would you go with me anyway?


She grinned into the darkness. Of course I will.

Up in the boys' dormitories, all of Harry's roommates wanted to know why he wouldn't stop smiling.

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Chapter 10: Chapter 10: The Prisoner of Azkaban Rewritten Part 2

Chapter Ten: The Prisoner of Azkaban Rewritten, Part Two

Spring and Sirius

Ginny


The Valentine's visit to Hogsmeade was, though her date was invisible, wonderful. Harry went un-invisible long enough to buy her a rose and a box of chocolates. They went up to the Shrieking Shack, in hopes of some privacy - and in Ginny's hopes for a kiss - but were sadly met with Malfoy and his cronies. Harry, under the cloak, splattered them all with mud, and sent them running back down the hill shrieking like little girls. Ginny cleaned the mud off his hands, and they walked back to Honeydukes. Harry kissed her hand before disappearing down the passage, and Ginny went back up to the castle smiling.

Ginny gave the Fat Lady the password and stepped into the common room, sniffing her rose, and was accosted by Ron and Hermione.

"Where's Harry?" Hermione asked stiffly.

"I'm not sure," Ginny lied easily. "He said he needed to get some homework done, so probably in the library."

"Where'd you get that?" Ron asked, gesturing to the flower in her hands.

"Hogsmeade," she said.

"Who gave it to you?"

"I believe that is none of your business," Ginny said, sticking her nose into the air.

"I know all about your boat-load of admirers," Ron said, "so which one gave you that?"

"I don't have a boat-load of admirers," said Ginny, as the portrait hole opened behind her.

"Yes you do!"

Ginny opened her mouth to retort when a pair of arms wrapped around her from behind. She turned around, and smiled at Harry.

"Where were you?" Hermione asked instantly, as Ron's jaw dropped from his face to hit the ground.

"Library," Harry said shortly, pressing a kiss to Ginny's cheek. She smiled at him warmly.

"Get your hands off my sister!" Ron spluttered, having finally recovered his jaw from his feet.

"Get your brain back in your skull," Ginny snapped.

"What?"

"Ronald," Hermione sighed, "if Ginny didn't want Harry to do that, do you think she would have let him?"

"I, uh, well..."

"Get a clue, Ronald," Hermione said. "The important thing is that Harry was not in the library!"

Uh-oh, Harry thought.

I smell trouble, she thought back.

I smell something really good…

Stop flirting! Focus on Hermione! She's going to figure it out!

I don't wanna focus on Hermione!


"Stop thinking!" said Hermione in an utterly flustered voice.

"Hermione, shush up about it," Ginny said. "And he was in the library, he was just wearing his invisibility cloak." She quickly came up with an excuse and sent it to Harry.

"Why?"

"I might have annoyed Madam Pince," Harry said. "I spilled ink on one of her books, so she kicked me out. I thought it would be better to not bother her further and wear my cloak."

Hermione looked between Harry and Ginny, let out a frustrated sigh, and brushed past them, no doubt heading to the library. Ron glanced between them, and stalked off towards the couches. Harry looked down at Ginny and grinned.

You should have been in Slytherin.

I thought I was supposed to be in Ravenclaw?

That too, but you are unceasingly cunning.


Ginny chuckled, and pulled him over to the couches. She pulled out the box of chocolates he had bought her and shared with him. Ron kept shooting them annoyed looks, and Hermione mumbled under her breath about Charms and annoying friends. Both Harry and Ginny were tired from their trip to Hogsmeade, so they sat on the couch, just thinking.

February was quickly gone and March was prancing past. Harry still hadn't deemed a situation special enough for a kiss, but Ginny didn't mind as much. April brought rain and beautiful days. Hermione questioned Ginny about the possibility that Harry was sneaking into Hogsmeade without telling anyone. Ginny said that it wasn't likely, since — obviously — he was sneaking into Hogsmeade and telling her about it, but she didn't mention that to Hermione. McGonagall gave Harry back the Firebolt and they won their next game.

May came, and her birthday was a Tuesday. Harry promised to give her her present that Saturday, as someone had obviously decided to give her and Ron a treat and make that Saturday a Hogsmeade weekend. That Saturday morning, Ginny got up early, while Harry was still snoring, and got herself ready for a special day. Her heart was beating loudly in her chest, and she was so nervous her hands shook. She hoped that today would be the special day Harry had been waiting for.

She enlisted Hermione's help, though she refused to say why, to curl her hair and do her make-up. She wore a flowing pale blue chiffon skirt, a creamy white peasant blouse, jangly earrings her mum had given her for her birthday, and the bracelet Harry gave her for Christmas. She looked down at his name, and smiled like she always did. He was still asleep. Ginny glanced at the clock, and decided to have a bit of fun with him. She closed her eyes, and focused on Harry.

WAKE UP!

In his dorm, Harry let out a sudden shout of surprise and fell off his bed.

How's it feel to be on the receiving end of the shout?

You're mean.

And yet, you somehow can't get enough of me.

Shut up.

You shut up.

Yes ma'am.

Get ready, it's half past ten.

When are we leaving?

Eleven.

Right. WHAT? I ONLY HAVE HALF AN HOUR? WHY DIDN'T YOU WAKE ME UP EARLIER?

If you needed more time, you should have set an alarm.

You — you — you —

Yes, yes. Half an hour.


While Harry rocketed around his dormitory, throwing on clothes at random, Ginny took her time in painting her fingernails and toes a dark shade of blue and pulled on sandals. She pulled her hair back with a clip so the curls cascaded down her back, checked her make-up one more time — she rarely wore it —, tugged on a denim jacket and said goodbye to Hermione.

"Have a good time!" Hermione called. "Who are you meeting?"

"Nice try," Ginny said as she stepped out the door. "You going with Ron?"

"Sort of," she said. "Want to tag along so it's not awkward?"

"Nope!"

"Bye," Hermione said miserably. Ginny gave her friend a sympathetic smile and went down to the common room.

Remember the plan. I'm going straight to Hogsmeade, you go to the One Eyed Witch and meet me in Honeydukes.

I remember. See you soon.


Ginny handed Filch her permission slip and started down the path to Hogsmeade. She held her breath as she passed the Dementors, but they were soon behind her and she was standing in Honeydukes.

She was looking at a display of sugar quills while she waited for Harry, when Ron and Hermione stopped by to say hello. Ron gave her a once over and asked who she was meeting. She just smiled and sent them on their way. As the door closed behind them, Harry pulled the cloak off from behind the sugar quill display and stuffed it into his bag.

"Oh, hello there," she said, smiling at him. He wasn't looking at her, but watching Ron and Hermione disappear down the street.

"Good thing they walked away when they did," he said, turning to look at her. "I wouldn't want our... our..." he trailed off, his eyes wide as dinner plates as he stared at her.

"Cat got your tongue?" Ginny said, now smiling smugly at his reaction.

"Uh..." he said, rather intelligently.

Ginny linked her arm through his. "Come on, I want my present and you owe me a birthday dinner."

Harry recovered his wits by shaking his head jerkily. "You're wearing a skirt!" Or rather he recovered his power of speech.

"I am; glad you noticed."

"And — and make-up!"

"Yes, I am."

"You — you look really nice," he finished, a bit lamely, but Ginny beamed.

"Thank you; you look nice too."

Harry turned a lovely shade of pink, and turned to the street. He did look good: He'd worn a pair of khaki slacks, a white button up with the top button undone, and combed his hair —though that did little good. He glanced down it, making sure no one who could report him to one of the teachers was looking, and led her to the Three Broomsticks. Ginny made sure Ron and Hermione weren't in there before they found a table and ordered food and drinks. Harry was increasingly nervous as they finished their lunch. He fidgeted around, gulping down his drink, and kept staring at her. After half an hour of his behavior, Ginny was beginning to regret the skirt.

Harry, you're staring again, she thought as she sipped her butterbeer.

Harry shook his head with a jerk. "Sorry. It's just — you're really pretty."

She blushed. "Thank you, Harry."

"I should probably give you your present now," he said, almost to himself. Ginny smiled and nodded. "Right." He pulled a small box out of his bag, and handed it to her.

"You had better not have spent a lot on me, Potter," she said as she took it. Harry scoffed and waved a hand.

"Course I didn't," he lied. Ginny sighed, resigned to the fact that he would never get it through his skull that she was in his head and therefore knew when he was lying, and turned to her gift.

It was a small box, and fit in the palm of her hand. It was very thin, and light. She pulled the paper off, to reveal the velvet outside of a jewelry box. She opened it, and clapped a hand to her mouth.

"Harry!" she said, in a low and shocked voice. "This — this is —"

"Not incredibly expensive," he said quickly. "But I thought you would like it."

In the box was a gold chain with a simple heart shaped pendant, but there were gems set into the edge of the heart that Ginny — even though she was a tomboy and usually rejected anything girly — knew to be diamonds.

"It's not real gold, is it?"

"Um… yes?"

"Real gold?"

"Well, the chain is sterling silver plated in gold, but the pendant is real gold."

Ginny's eyes were probably as big as Harry's had been when he saw her skirt. "Seriously?"

"Open it."

"It's a locket?"

"Yeah. Open it!"

Ginny saw the hinges and the clasp, and opened it with shaking fingers. There was already a picture inside; she and Harry sat on the dock by her family's pond, dipping their toes into the water and just looking at each other. She smiled; Mum had said that they looked so perfect right there, that she just had to capture the moment.

"Thank you, Harry," she said. She leaned over and kissed his cheek, letting her lips linger on his cheek a moment longer than necessary. He grinned at her. She pulled the locket out of the box, and raised her eyebrows at him. He took it from her, she turned her back, pulling her hair from the back of her neck, and he slipped the locket around her neck. His fingers brushed the back of her neck, and she shivered. She let her hair fall, and smiled at him again.

"And I've got one more thing for you," Harry said.

"What?"

"This."

He leaned forward, and pressed his mouth to hers. Ginny practically melted. He pulled back, smiling, and Ginny grinned.

"This is the best birthday ever!" she said. "And yes, I know it isn't actually my birthday," she added, as Harry opened his mouth. He shrugged, and took her hand.

"Was that a good first kiss?" he asked shyly.

She nodded, beaming. "You know what would make it better?"

"What?"

"A second one."

Harry laughed, and complied happily. After a few more minutes and a few more kisses, it was just about time to leave. She and Harry left the Three Broomsticks for the street beyond, and walked hand in hand back to Honeydukes.

She left him there to walk back to the castle. She didn't bother heading for Gryffindor Tower. She met Harry by the One Eyed Witch, and they found an empty classroom. They alternated between kissing and talking and thinking. When Harry's watch read quarter to seven, and their stomachs rumbled, they left the classroom for dinner, where Ron and Hermione met them with suspicious looks. Ron was eyeing their joined hands, and Hermione brought up the old argument of whether or not Harry had actually stayed behind.

Your turn to think of a way to distract her, Ginny thought.

Why me?

I did it last! And you're the one who's sneaking out!

I don't hear you complaining.


Ginny blushed. Harry smirked at her. Ron groaned and hung his head in his hands.

Fine. How do we distract her?

I dunno. You're the one who has all the brilliant ideas.

Flattery will get you nowhere.

I may have to disagree with that comment.


Ginny raised an eyebrow. He smiled hopefully, wiggling his eyebrows. She chuckled, shaking her head.

"So where were you?" Hermione asked again.

Harry dropped his fork, turned to Ginny, and put both of his hands on her cheeks. Before Ginny could ask what he was doing, he crushed her mouth with his.

When he pulled back, not only was Hermione distracted, but half the table had ceased their conversations to gawk at them. Ginny was a very bright shade of pink. But she went back to her shepherd's pie as though nothing had happened.

Hermione did not try to interrogate Harry again that evening. Ron was in too much shock to threaten to pound Harry.

From then on, she and Harry did not bother to keep silent about their relationship. One evening, while she and Harry were sitting on one of the couches, McLaggen walked up to them and gruffly said that he would have been a better choice for a boyfriend. Ginny sent him to the hospital wing with a face full of blisters, courtesy of a hex Tom had learned in his fifth year. Her friends were happy for her, even if Pavarti Patil huffed about it initially. Hagrid let out a booming laugh of approval when he realized what had happened between them, and when Harry kissed her in front of Snuffles, the dog barked in what seemed to be amused joy.

Not only that, but during his next anti-Dementor lesson with Lupin, Harry created a perfectly formed Patronus; a strong and regal stag. When Ginny asked him what memory he had used, he turned pink and said the memory of kissing her. Though she was rather pink too, she tried the spell with that memory, and a silver tiger burst from her wand. To celebrate, she and Harry snuck off to an unused classroom, alternating between thinking and kissing. Sometimes both at the same time. It was very enjoyable.

All in all, life couldn't be more perfect.

And then Hagrid lost his case. Buckbeak was to be beheaded. There was still the appeal, but he had little chance of winning it. On top of that, Professor Trelawney made an ominous pronouncement to Harry at the end of his Divination exam.

Ginny, Harry, Ron, and Hermione grabbed the Marauder's Map and Harry's cloak straight after dinner and sneaked down to Hagrid's cabin. Hagrid told Ron that he had found Scabbers hiding in the vegetable garden and gave him back the rat, but there was nothing they could do about Buckbeak. Hagrid shooed them out as the committee members approached for the appeal.

Under the cloak, they walked slowly around Hagrid's hut, warily watching the adults. Ron's fists were clenched in anger. Hermione kept sniffling. Just as they moved out of sight of the hut, Snuffles bounded towards them.

"Snuffles!" Harry whispered. "Go back! What are you doing?"

Snuffles ignored Harry's command. The dog bared his teeth, and growled at the group.

"Snuffles!" Harry scolded. "What's the matter? Be quiet!"

Harry reached out from under the cloak and grabbed Snuffles collar. He dragged the dog under the cloak with them.

"Scabbers! Stop that!" Ron was saying, as he shifted the squirming rat in his hands. "Yeouch! He bit me!"

Ron dropped the rat, and Scabbers streaked out of sight. Snuffles lurched forward, catching Harry by surprise. The dog tore after the rat, barking and snarling.

"Scabbers!" Ron said, tearing after Harry, Snuffles, and the rat.

"Snuffles!" Harry yelled. "Come back!"

Harry ducked out from under the cloak, and ran off after his dog.

"Harry!" Hermione called. "No!"

Harry, you idiot, get back here! Ginny thought desperately. She glanced at Hermione, who sighed, and they ran after the two boys and their pets, the cloak flying after them like a sail.

Ron dove into the shadow of a tree, yelling "Gotcha!" Harry lunged at Snuffles, trying to grab his collar, but the dog ducked out of Harry's reach and ran for Ron. Ron let out a yelp of surprise as Snuffles barked in his ear. Harry tripped over a tree root as he tried to grab Snuffles, and his glasses flew off his face. Ginny dropped the cloak and darted towards the dog, but she was too late. Snuffles' teeth had gripped Ron's sleeve, and was dragging him towards the tree. Harry was yelling at him to stop, Ron was smacking the dog's flank with the hand that wasn't holding Scabbers, Hermione was trying to find Harry's glasses, and the tree was angry.

A branch swung out of nowhere and caught Ginny in the stomach. She flew backwards, the wind forced out of her. She hit the ground, and gasped for air. Harry stumbled towards her, squinting to see without his glasses. He grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet. Ginny saw another branch swinging towards them, and pulled Harry out of the way. Ginny looked around, to see that Snuffles and Ron were gone. Hermione threw Harry's glasses at her, and jumped out of the way of a branch. And, with a gasp of surprise, vanished.

"Hermione!" Ginny shouted. Harry shoved his glasses back on, and pulled Ginny out of the way of another branch. As she stumbled forward, she saw why Hermione had vanished. There was a gap in the roots, leading down to a tunnel.

"There!" she gasped, pointing to it. She pulled Harry forward, and jumped down the hole.

They slid down a tunnel, to hit hard dirt floor. Hermione was standing bent double in the tunnel in front of them, anxiously looking around.

"Where are we?" she said. "Where does this go?"

"I have an idea," Harry said glumly, pushing himself up, and accidentally hitting his head on the low ceiling. Rubbing the top of his head, he added, "But you're not going to like it."

"Why do all of your ideas end badly?" Ginny grumbled, taking his hand and standing.

"Oi! Not all of them!"

"Shush!" Hermione said, flapping her hands wildly at them. "I hear something."

Harry pulled out his map, and lit his wand. Ginny and Hermione did too. "Hang on, hang on... Yes! Ron's down here! And — and... oh no..."

"What?" Ginny said, looking at the map. Her jaw dropped. "No!"

"What?" Hermione said, looking flustered. She couldn't read the map upside down.

"Sirius Black..." Harry said. "He's got Ron..."

Harry shoved the map into his pocket. "Come on. We have to save Ron."

He led them down the tunnel, each one with their wand drawn. After several long, tense minutes, they reached an exit. Harry pushed it open, and climbed out. He turned, and helped Ginny out, then Hermione.

"Where are we?" Hermione whispered.

"I think the Shrieking Shack," Harry whispered back. "Follow me."

Everything was covered in dust, but for a stripe on the floor where something had been dragged up the stairs. Upstairs, Ginny could hear Ron moaning. She darted up the stairs, keeping her feet as light as she could, and spotted one door open slightly. She pressed a finger to her lips, and tiptoed towards it. She peeked in, and saw Ron sitting on the floor by a four poster bed that probably would have been elegant if it had been clean.

Ginny darted inside, dropping to her knees by her brother. Hermione and Harry followed her.

"What happened, Ron?" Ginny asked. "Where's Snuffles? Harry's map said Sirius Black —"

"He's Snuffles!" Ron gasped. "Sirius Black is Snuffles!"

"What?" Harry gasped, shocked.

"Snuffles is Sirius Black! He's an Animagus!" Ron raised a shaking finger, and pointed to the other side of the room.

The door shut with a crack. They jumped around, to see a ragged man standing by the now closed door. Matted black hair hung to his elbows, dark eyes stared out at them from sunken sockets, yellow, waxy skin clung to his bones. He had the weak, stretched look of a starved person who had just begun to gain weight. Ginny jumped up and stepped between him and Harry.

"If you want to kill him, you'll have to kill me first!" Ginny said.

"Ginny, no —" Harry started, standing up behind her.

"Only one need die tonight," the man rasped. He leaned his head to the left, and, with a grimace, cracked his neck. "Merlin, it feels good to be a man again."

"Did you hear me?" Ginny snapped. "I will not let you hurt him!"

"The filthy rat needs to die," Black spat. "You don't understand —"

"We understand a lot better than you think!" Harry shouted. "You killed my parents! You're the reason they're dead!"

"I won't deny it," Black said, his voice suddenly full of sorrow. "It was my fault. But I doubt you know the whole story —"

"The whole story?" Ginny said, shaking with anger. "You sold Harry's parents to Voldemort! Now you want to kill Harry!"

"What?" Black said, frowning. "Who said anything about killing Harry?"

Ginny faltered. Black looked confused as heck, and Ginny felt just as bewildered.

"Don't — don't you want to kill Harry?" Hermione asked in a small voice. "Because of — of You-Know-Who?"

Black opened his mouth to say something, but then the door burst open, and Professor Lupin strode in, his wand out. He stopped, looking between Black and Ginny standing in front of Harry and Ron still clutching Scabbers.

"Black," he said, turning his wand on the ragged man by the door. "What are you doing here?"

"Remus," Black said stiffly. "I came to commit the murder I was sent to Azkaban for."

"What?"

"Will someone explain what the ruddy hell is going on?" Ron shouted. Lupin glanced back at Ron, and stepped towards him.

"What happened to your leg?" Lupin asked.

"I think I broke it," Ron said. Lupin bent and touched Ron's ankle. Ron hissed out a sound of pain.

"Broken," Lupin agreed. He waved his wand, and splints and bandages wrapped around him. "We'll have Madam Pomfrey see to it back up at the castle." Lupin turned back on Black.

"You understand I have to turn you in," said Lupin sadly. Black nodded.

"If that boy takes his rat up with us, I'll come quietly," Black said. "If I can't kill him, at the very least I should be able to prove my innocence."

"What?" Lupin said, frowning. "But — but it isn't — it can't be — Did you switch without telling me? How could he be alive?"

"We did," Black said. "Peter was Secret Keeper, not me. After Lily and James — after they died, the dirty rat faked his death."

"But his finger —"

"He cut it off," said Black gruffly.

Lupin stared at Black in confusion.

"Will someone answer Ron's question?" Ginny asked.

"You aren't after Harry?" Lupin asked. Black shook his head.

"But — But Mr. Weasley said you talked in your sleep — 'He's at Hogwarts,' he said you said," Harry stammered.

"You're not the only one at Hogwarts, Harry," Black said. "The rat's here too."

"What rat? Who are you talking about?"

"Peter Pettigrew," Black spat.

"Ron, let me see that rat," Lupin said, turning to Ron. Ron clutched Scabbers closer to him.

"What are you going to do to him?"

"I want to see if Sirius is right. If that rat really is just a rat, it won't hurt him."

Ron looked down at the rat in his hands. Scabbers was squeaking madly, flailing around and trying to escape his grip. Reluctantly, Ron handed Lupin his rat.

Lupin prodded the rat with his wand. Scabbers glowed blue. The rat squirmed harder, and Lupin quickly cast a Stunning Spell. The rat fell still in his hand. Ron let out a shout of indignation, but Hermione kept him from running to snatch his rat away from their professor.

"It is him," Lupin muttered, seeming to ignore everyone else. He stared at the rat a moment, then with a wave of his wand conjured a cage. He stuffed the rat unceremoniously inside, and shut the door with a snap.

"Back up to the castle," Lupin said. "I'm not saying I believe you, Sirius; I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt."

Ginny and Harry exchanged glances. So far, that evening was like something out of a book.

Lupin conjured a pair of shackles and chained Black's hands behind his back. Harry and Ginny helped Ron stand. Hermione was given the cage with the still cowering Scabbers. Lupin kept his wand on Black as they moved out of the tunnel. Harry scooped up the cloak as they passed it and stuffed it into his robes. They marched up to the castle, Lupin finally taking the time to berate them for sneaking out past curfew. Lupin led the way to Dumbledore's office, his wandless hand firmly gripping one of Black's arms. Lupin gave the password, and brought them up.

Dumbledore looked up in surprise when Professor Lupin stepped inside with Black, and even further bewildered when Ginny and Harry followed with Ron, and Hermione brought up the end with Scabbers' cage.

"What — Remus —" Dumbledore spluttered.

"I found him in the Shrieking Shack, along with these five," Lupin said, gesturing to them. "He claimed Mr. Weasley's rat was Peter Pettigrew. I performed a detection spell and determined that the rat is definitely an Animagus, but I did not want to force him to show who he really is in the shack."

Dumbledore, for some reason, glanced out the window, where the sun could be seen sinking down over the mountain. "Remus, it is close to nightfall. Did you —"

Lupin's face paled. "I — I forgot — I saw them enter the tunnel — and it slipped my mind —"

Dumbledore shot from his chair, and darted to the fireplace. Ginny and Harry exchanged confused glances. Dumbledore threw a handful of powder into the fire, and called "Severus! I need you!"

The flames roared bright green, and Snape stepped out. He gave Harry his usual sneer, then stopped in shock at the sight of the chained Black.

"Remus needs his potion," Dumbledore said. "Fetch it, quickly."

Snape spared Black one more confused look, before stepping back through the fire. A moment later, he returned with a smoking goblet. He handed it to Lupin, who gulped it down quickly with a look of disgust. He turned back to Dumbledore, still pale.

"I am very sorry, Headmaster, I cannot believe I did not think of it before I went after them — I just knew something was wrong —"

"I understand, Remus," Dumbledore said. "You have taken it now, and there has been no harm done. You were worried about the students, and you have been taking it all week. I understand."

"Headmaster," Snape said, "where did he come from?" Snape gestured to Black, his black eyes narrowed in loathing.

"Professor Lupin was about to explain," Dumbledore, returning to his seat behind his desk. "I would very much like to know as well. Severus, you may go."

Snape looked for a moment as though he would rather stay, but a look from Dumbledore seemed to end it. He turned and stepped back through the Floo.

"Mr. Weasley, please have a seat. It would be best if you stayed off your leg until Madam Pomfrey looks at it," Dumbledore said. Ginny helped Ron into a chair.

"Remus, please explain, and quickly."

Lupin began his explanation. He started with how he had been watching Hagrid's cabin, worried about Buckbeak and worried that they would try to go and see him. He had seen Snuffles chase Scabbers, and Harry and Ron chase the dog and the rat. He had watched the tree attack them, and them go down the tunnel, and had then decided that he couldn't watch anymore and went after them. He explained how he had found them in the Shack, and what Black had said and the consistencies with Black's story and what he, Lupin, already knew. When he finished, Dumbledore turned to Harry.

"And what is your side, Mr. Potter?"

Harry looked down at his feet as he explained their version of the evening's events, though tiptoed around the subject of the Map, since Dumbledore would probably want to confiscate it. When Harry finished, Dumbledore turned to Black.

"As you are aware, Sirius, I am Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. At the time when you were sentenced to Azkaban, I was over-ruled by Barty Crouch in the area of your trial."

"I didn't get a trial!" Black spat.

"Precisely," Dumbledore said. "I was in favor of hearing your side of the story, but Mr. Crouch was not. Given that he, nor any other Ministry official, is not here, however, he will not stop me from giving you a, albeit unorthodox, trial now. Please state your story."

Black blinked at Dumbledore, stunned for a moment, before launching into his story. "You know how James and Lily used the Fidelius charm to try and protect themselves, right? Well, they wanted to make me their Secret Keeper, but I convinced them to switch to Peter at the last minute. Everyone knew I was James's best friend, so people would assume that I was the Secret Keeper, but no one would suspect Peter. We thought we could trust him, but he was the mole. He betrayed James, and he framed me! The night they died, I went to find him, and he yelled for the whole world to hear that I betrayed them, and then he faked his death. He cut off his finger and blasted the street apart before I could stop him."

"How did he disappear, though?" Dumbledore asked.

"We're unregistered Animagi," Black said. "James, Peter, and I did it because of Remus."

Ginny, Harry, Ron, and Hermione all exchanged a glance. What did Remus have to do with this?

"What is your form?"

Black looked at his shackles a moment. "Can I take these off so I can show you?"

Dumbledore nodded to Lupin, who tapped the shackles, and they fell off. Black closed his eyes, and, with a pop, vanished. In his place sat the shaggy black dog Harry had adopted the previous summer. Harry let out a groan and hung his head in his hands.

“I thought — I almost thought that I recognized him on the train,” Lupin said, half to himself. “At the time, I thought it was impossible.”

The dog nuzzled Harry's hand, but Harry pushed him away. Snuffles looked at him sadly, then, with another pop, turned back into Black.

"I've been alone with Harry plenty of times over the year," Black said. "If I wanted to kill him, I could have done it already."

"And I am to assume Peter's form was a rat?" Dumbledore asked, one eyebrow raised.

Black nodded.

"Please open that cage, Miss Granger."

Hermione turned the cage on its side so Scabbers couldn't get out and unlatched the door. Dumbledore crossed to her, and lifted the rat out of the cage. Dumbledore pointed his wand at the closed door, which glowed white for a moment, before turning his wand on Scabbers. He whispered a spell, and Scabbers squeaked in terror as he glowed brightly. Dumbledore set the rat on the floor, and a second later it was no longer a rat. A small man crouched on the ground. He had very little hair, and retained the looks of the rat. He had the look of a person that, in contrast to Black, had lost a lot of weight in a short time.

"Peter Pettigrew," Dumbledore said, his wand still on him. "I would like you to confirm something for me. Were you James and Lily Potter's Secret Keeper rather than Sirius Black?"

Peter Pettigrew sniveled, showing his buck teeth and squinting through his watery eyes. "I was," he said, in a voice that sounded just like Scabbers squeaking.

"And did you sell them to Lord Voldemort?"

Peter let out a moan. "I d— didn't mean to! He would have killed me if I didn't say!"

"You coward," Black spat at Peter. "You should have died rather than betray James!"

"And, if my calculations are correct, Peter, you were passing information to Voldemort for over a year before James and Lily made you Secret Keeper," Dumbledore said calmly. "What have you got to say for yourself?"

Peter's eyes darted around the room, taking in Ginny and her friends standing by the desk, the door, the windows that were too high off the ground to escape through, and Remus and Sirius standing between him and the door. "I— I— didn't want to! The Dark Lord — he has tools — evils found in only the worst nightmares! Please, understand! He would have tortured it out of me if I had not told him!"

"I hear only excuses," Dumbledore said. "Show me your left forearm, Peter."

Peter started. "My — my what?"

Dumbledore grabbed Peter's left arm, rather roughly, and pushed up his sleeve. Ginny leaned forward to see what was on his arm. A faint image of a skull, and a snake wrapped around it, rested upon Peter's skin. This image triggered one of Tom's memories, one from his sixth year.

"That's a Death Eater mark," she said, before she could stop herself.

Dumbledore turned to her, eyebrows raised. "Yes, Miss Weasley, it is. How did you know?"

Ginny turned pink. "My, er, dad told me," she lied, rather flatly.

The others in the room seemed to accept her amateur lie. Dumbledore frowned slightly at her, but after a moment his eyebrows rose nodded; he turned back to Peter. "This proves you are a Death Eater, Peter. I will have Professor Lupin and these students stand as witnesses to this trial; you have confessed to a weighty crime. I charge you with treason, murder of twelve Muggles, and aiding Lord Voldemort in at least two murders, and find you guilty. I will recommend to the Wizengamot that you be sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban, pending a formal hearing."

Peter's small eyes widened to the size of saucers. "No! Please!"

"My verdict does not change," Dumbledore said. "Sirius, I find you innocent of the crimes you were wrongfully convicted of and sent to Azkaban for."

Black's eyes grew to be larger than Peter's. "Really? I thought — I was sure you would take more convincing!"

"If the situation had been different, I would have been," Dumbledore said, "but upon seeing you enter the room, I activated a truth ward on my office. There was no way you could have attempted to deceive me without my knowledge."

Truth ward? Harry thought. Is that possible?

I think so,
Ginny thought. Bill's a Curse-Breaker and he knows all about wards. He's told me a lot about them.

Do you think he'll know we left the Map out?

No, you didn't say anything about it, so the ward shouldn't recognize deception. If you had stumbled and mentioned something related to the map, and then covered it up, the ward would have noticed it.

Good. What about what you said about the mark?

He'll realize that I know because of Tom's memories, and let it go.


"Professor Lupin, would you please place shackles on Peter?"

"Certainly, Headmaster," Lupin said. He waved his wand and Peter's wrists were encased in a set of heavy black shackles. Peter let out a moan and sank onto the floor.

"Sirius, I would like to extend a official apology for the miscarriage of justice that ended in your imprisonment. I would like to know, though, how did you escape?" Dumbledore said, sitting back down behind his desk.

Black shrugged. "I transformed into my Animagus form and slipped through the bars when the Dementors opened my cell to give me food one day. The only reason I didn't go insane was because I knew I was innocent."

"I see. Thank you, Sirius. You know I will have to say that you and Pettigrew are unregistered Animagi, and will have to insist that you register yourselves."

"I know," Black said.

"Now, if I could have you all sign this paper," Dumbledore said, as he waved his wand and a slip of paper dropped onto his desk, "and then, Miss Granger, would you please escort Mr. Weasley to the Hospital Wing? Please be aware that the paper is charmed to hold you to your agreement."

Hermione nodded, and helped Ron stand. They both signed the paper, and left the office. Ginny read the paper quickly before signing it. It was a simple agreement, everything that was said was true, there were no exaggerations, and she was willing to be witness to Dumbledore's verdict. She signed it quickly and stepped aside so Harry and Professor Lupin could sign.

"Harry, if you would wait a moment," Dumbledore said, "there are a few things that should be explained to you. Miss Weasley, you might as well stay, since you will hear the whole thing anyway."

"Wait," Professor Lupin, said, frowning, "how will she hear?"

"Miss Weasley and Mr. Potter have a unique bond," Dumbledore said. "I suppose you deserve the full details. In short, their minds are connected and they can communicate telepathically."

"They mentioned telepathy before," Black said. "It always confused me."

"When have you mentioned it before?" Dumbledore asked, frowning at the two of them.

"Only when no one else could hear us," Harry said quickly. Dumbledore nodded understandingly.

"Now, Harry, you should know the exact details of Sirius and Remus's relationship with your parents."

Should we say we already know? Ginny thought, looking at Harry.

Nah. It would just get me in trouble.

Me too. Fine.


"First, Siriusis your godfather, Harry."

Harry did his best to look surprised. Ginny knew Dumbledore could see through it, but it seemed to satisfy Black and Lupin.

"Second, he is also your legal guardian. The reason you have lived with your aunt is because he was in Azkaban, as Lily made your aunt your godmother and therefore second in line to care for you. Now, Remus, if you would tell him the story?"

Remus let out a sigh. And then he explained everything. Sirius, Remus, James, and Peter had all been in the same year at Hogwarts. They were pranksters, and inseparable. They had made the Marauder's Map, and had gotten their nicknames from their forms. Sirius was Padfoot, as he turned into a dog, James was Prongs, as he turned into a stag, and Peter was, obviously, Wormtail as he was a rat. Remus was Moony, and a werewolf. They had become Animagi to keep Remus company during the full moon. That was what all the fuss was about when Remus mentioned that he had forgotten to take his potion that night. Sirius explained how they had suspected Remus was the mole, and that was why they chose Peter to be Secret Keeper. While they were speaking, Ginny remembered what Hagrid had said at Christmas, how Sirius had offered to take Harry the moment he learned James and Lily were dead. She compared this with the behavior she had seen that night and his behavior in his explanation, and came to the conclusion that Sirius Black really cared for Harry.

When the two men finished, Sirius glanced over at Dumbledore. "Professor, since I'm free now, Harry could come and live with me if he wanted to, right?"

Ginny's heart skipped a beat. Harry looked up sharply.

Could I? Harry thought. I wouldn't be with you.

You'd be with your father's best friend,
Ginny thought.

My father's, not mine.

Dumbledore took his time answering. "Harry is currently living at his grandmother's house in Ottery St. Catchpole, where his aunt and cousin also reside."

"I know that, that's where I found him."

"Harry's aunt is in the process of finding a new home for herself and her son, and while I doubt she is planning on bringing Harry with her, she is taking her time about it. However, I do not see a reason to insist that she do, as long as he remains with his grandmother. Mrs. Evans continues to treat him better than his aunt, despite great changes in Petunia Dursley's character. But, I am afraid that Harry will need to continue living with his grandmother, rather than moving in with you Sirius."

Sirius opened his mouth, as though to argue, but Dumbledore raised a hand. "I have reasons for this, Sirius, and if you will listen, you might agree. First off, you don't have a place to live. Yes, I know about your family home, but it has been sitting empty for ten years or so, and I doubt your house-elf has kept it in good shape, nor will he be glad to see you back. Second, when Lily died to save Harry, she implemented a very old magic, an old magic that requires Harry to live with his blood relatives. He is protected with blood wards, among other things, and they would expire if he did not live with his grandmother or aunt. In the event that Petunia decides to move out of her mother's house and not bring Harry with her, I will transfer the wards from her to his grandmother. All in all, Harry must remain in his grandmother's home until he is of age. The only reason he lived with his aunt and uncle so long was because Petunia had legal hold over him and did not wish to relinquish it."

Sirius looked crestfallen. Remus patted his arm in a consoling way.

At least I don't have to choose between you and him, Harry thought.

Ginny didn't reply. She had rested one elbow on her knee, and had cupped her chin in her palm, thinking.

"Mr. Black," she said finally, turning to Sirius.

Sirius jumped and looked at her like she'd grown an extra head. Remus nudged him with an elbow.

"Don't call me that," Sirius said, his expression showing both disgust at the name and horror to think that someone would call him that. "You'll make me think I'm in trouble. Call me Sirius."

"Right, Sirius, what if instead of Harry coming to live with you, what if you came and lived with him? Or near him?"

Sirius thought about it a moment. "I suppose that could work," he said. "I wouldn't want to impose on Mrs. Evans, though I'm sure she would let me stay without batting an eye, so I'd have to get a flat near there. My house in London will definitely be uninhabitable for a good long time. I stopped by it last summer and it's right wild. I do need a place to stay." Sirius glanced at Remus, who shook his head.

"Sorry, Padfoot, but I haven't got a place for you. I have to start looking for a place to live during the summer."

"Why haven't you got a place?" Sirius asked, a bit demanding.

"I was evicted," Remus said with a wry smile. "My landlord decided he didn't want the liability of renting to a werewolf. Professor Dumbledore was kind enough to offer me quarters here, which is another reason I was so eager for the job."

"If you do not find a place, Remus, you are welcome to continue using your quarters here," Dumbledore said. "The same goes for you, Sirius."

"But, there are plenty of flats up for rent in the village near my home!" Ginny said quickly. "And, since it's a Muggle village mostly, no one will know about your lycanthropy, Professor."

Professor Lupin smiled at her. "Thank you for the information, Ginny. I would like to be near Harry as well; I haven't done James and Lily much service by staying away from you, Harry."

Harry smiled at their professor, albeit shyly.

Not used to this much attention, are you?

You'd think I would have learned after your mum and Gram.


Ginny let out a small laugh. Sirius and Remus frowned at them. "Nothing," she said, "just something he thought."

The two adults exchanged looks and raised eyebrows. Ginny looked at Harry and smiled. Obviously, his newfound 'uncles' would need to get used to their connection.

"I think this is all settled now," Dumbledore said, glancing out the window again; Ginny followed his gaze and saw that the sun had only just disappeared behind the mountains, leaving a red glow against the sky. The moon was nowhere in sight. "Professor Lupin, if you would escort Miss Weasley and Mr. Potter to Gryffindor tower-"

"Wait!" said Harry, as Remus made to stand. "What happened at the appeal? What happened to Buckbeak?"

For some reason, Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "Oh, well; as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, I was asked to oversee the appeal, and since I happen to hold rank over the committee member that presided over it, I made sure that Buckbeak would be pardoned."

Harry and Ginny's jaws dropped, then Harry whooped in glee and Ginny jumped up and hugged Dumbledore. The old wizard seemed a bit surprised, but smiled at her, rather like a grandfather, and hugged her back.

"Now, off to bed," Dumbledore said when she pulled back. "Sirius, if you would be so kind as to accompany me to the Ministry, we will file the record of the trial and take Peter to the Aurors."

Aurors? Harry thought as they left the office.

Dark wizard hunters, Ginny thought back. They handle the big stuff like mass murders and serial offenders.

Got it.


Remus took them back up to the tower. At the Fat Lady's portrait, he gave the password and held it open for them.

"Sleep well, you two," Remus said, and, with a twinkle in his eye, added, "in different beds."

Both of them turned bright red. "Professor!" Harry spluttered.

Remus laughed. "Harry, you needn't call me 'Professor' in private anymore. I would much rather you called me 'Remus.'"

Harry glanced at Ginny and grinned. "Could I call you Uncle Moony?" he asked, grinning.

Remus turned faintly pink. "Touche, Harry. And, I suppose you could if you wanted to. Good night, Little Prongs."

He shut the portrait gently. Harry grinned at Ginny.

Nice evening, he thought, chuckling. She laughed, shaking her head at him.

Wanna disobey Uncle Moony? She thought teasingly. Harry turned, if it was possible, redder. She laughed again, and kissed his cheek.

Oi! You can do better than that!

Better?
Ginny thought, raising an eyebrow at him.

Yeah, like on the lips... he thought, the thought trailing off into a hastily buried image of the two of them locked together in a close embrace.

Ginny smiled. She gently pressed her mouth to his, letting it linger a second longer than normal.

"Good night, Harry," she whispered against his lips. She turned away quickly and darted up her stairs, leaving Harry standing in the common room with a goofy grin cracking his face.

The next day, the school was buzzing with the news that Sirius Black had been caught. As they prepared for leaving the following morning, students gossiped about how he had been caught, who did it, why Black let himself be captured, and other such things. It seemed Dumbledore had not yet told them Sirius was innocent. After a quick discussion with Harry, the foursome agreed to not bother telling people he was innocent, since they would find out on their own soon enough, and, to be honest, who would believe a couple of third years?

However, they did not have to wait long for an explanation. Dumbledore announced at the Leaving Feast that Sirius had been found, and due to new evidence, had been proven innocent. Over the eruption of the shocked students, he said they would be able to find the whole report in the Daily Prophet the next morning. He announced that Gryffindor, thanks to the Quidditch team's spectacular performance, had won the house cup, for the third year in a row. Harry grinned across the table at Ginny, but didn't think anything because the cheers and shouts that had sprung up at their table made it hard to hear each other think.

The ride back to Hogwarts the next day was interesting and eventful. Malfoy showed up at some point with Crabbe and Goyle, and, thanks to not only Tom's extensive knowledge of hexes but Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the twins' as well, ended up in the corridor with blisters, tentacles, rubbery knees, and bogeys flapping around their faces. All three were unconscious.

They met her family on the platform and Harry's grandmother. Mrs. Evans greeted them with the news that she had a surprise for them, and that Aunt Petunia had decided to not leave the farm but had gotten a job in the village. Ginny hugged Harry, but did not kiss him since her parents were watching, and promised to see him the next day.

All in all it had been an interesting year. Little did they know that the next would prove to be even more interesting.

Back to index


Chapter 11: Chapter 11: Summer 1994 Part One

Author's Notes: Yes, I know next to nothing about farming, and most farmers probably don't plant corn midsummer, but there is a method to my madness. Neither do I know that much about riding, but I love horses, so I hope that any proper riders in my reading audience will forgive my mistakes. Whether information in this chapter about farming is correct or not, it happens anyway.


Eleven: Summer 1994 Part One

Harry


The summer Harry turned fourteen turned to be very eventful. Firstly, he managed to make Dudley faint with only four words (“This is Sirius Black”). Next, he just about got himself suffocated with kisses from Ginny when he told her about his grandmother's surprise.

The first part of it wasn't completely wonderful. She was going to begin growing crops again, which meant he had a few more chores. She told him that before Aunt Petunia had come to her, she had decided to stop growing most of her crops because she couldn't do it by herself and didn't want to hire a couple of farm hands, but after Aunt Petunia brought her two young boys, she reconsidered. She had let the land rest the past couple years, and was ready to get cracking again. She informed him that the jobs would be split between her, Dudley, and himself. Dudley got the foul part: pigs, cows, and dealing with the bean plants she had started. Thea had an apple orchard she was going to bring back into use and a strawberry field, but due to her arthritis she'd need help from time to time. Harry got corn as his lot, and horses.

“But we don't have horses,” he said as they ate their traditional lunch after she picked him up from the station, feeling confused. “Or a cow or pigs.”

“We didn't before,” Gram acknowledged. “I went and bought a cow and a couple of hogs last week, and I've already got Dudley started on them. Mind you, he keeps complaining, but I hope the work will knock some sense of responsibility into him. Heck, just sense in general would be nice. I hate to criticize my own daughter, but she's spoiled the boy to the core.”

Harry tried to imagine a world where Dudley wasn't fat, lazy, and a bully. It was hard to think of, but when he managed it, a grin broke his face.

“And as for the horses,” Gram added, “I've taken the liberty of reserving a slot at a horse show in the village tomorrow, and we'll get a couple there. I want you to pick yours out yourself, and make sure you get one that’s strong enough to pull a plow. And do you think your friend will want a horse too? I always had horses when I was growing up, and we had them on the farm until your grandfather died, and I've always said they bring out the best in people.”

Hey, Gin, do you want a horse?

Her reply wasn't exactly a thought, per say, but more of a jumbled mix of ecstatic joy, disbelief, and a very huge “YES!”

Thought you might, thought Harry, smirking.

But I don't know how to ride, Ginny thought.

Hang on, I'll tell Gram.

“Ginny would love a horse!” Harry said, grinning. “She loves them, but she doesn't know how to ride.”

Gram waved a hand. “Oh, don't worry about that. I taught your mum and Petunia to ride, and both of them could have gone into professional riding if they wanted to. Right, we'll bring along Ginny tomorrow, along with Dudley and Petunia.”

“Dudley wants a horse?” Harry said, frowning.

“Not really, but Petunia and I agree that it would be best for him to learn. Knowing to ride a horse is a useful skill, and one that can change a body.”

After they finished their lunch and headed back to the farm, Harry found Dudley out behind the house by a newly erected pigsty, shoveling muck.

“Hey, Dudley,” he called. “Having fun?”

Dudley dropped his shovel and made a rude gesture at him. “Just wait until Gram puts you to work! She'll work you into the ground!”

“Gram has promised me I'm not a slave and I have a choice in what I do,” Harry said. “Besides, horses are cool, and I've only got one plant to take care of.”

Dudley pointed to the large field south east of them. “It's not just one plant, Potter! It's a whole corn field!”

“So? It can't be that hard.”

And he was proven quite wrong when he finally began his chore.

After they went to the horse show, where Harry picked out a large black stallion dubbed Captain, Ginny a chestnut filly called Saturn, and Aunt Petunia a gray mare the woman who sold her affectionately referred to as Darling because Dudley refused to choose for himself, they went home and had their first riding lesson. Ginny stuck around to keep practicing with Aunt Petunia, who proved to be very good, while Gram set Dudley to caring for the bean plants while she showed Harry how to begin plowing the cornfield.

She had an old-fashioned iron plow, not the kind driven by a tractor, which was why he had to choose a strong horse. Captain seemed perfectly willing to pull the plow, and Harry thought it couldn't be too hard if his elderly grandmother could do it. Gram showed him how to hold it and the reigns, how to keep Captain in check while he plowed, and everything else he needed to know. The actual corn field didn't take up all the space Dudley seemed to think it would, really less than a third of the large field, but it was still quite a lot of land. It turned out that plowing was not as easy as it looked.

By the time Gram was satisfied he could manage on his own and went to go tend to the strawberry field before going to make dinner, he had tugged off his tee shirt and had plowed about a quarter of the land. He was sweating profusely, and keep gulping down the water Gram had left him. Captain was sweating in the hot sun too, and Harry doubted his dark coat was helping. Several times, he stopped him and mopped him down with his tee shirt, as it was the only cloth he had around to do so. Gram told him to plow until six thirty rolled around. She said she doubted he would be done in the hour or so he had, and didn't want to find out that he had overworked himself and his new horse. He glanced at his watch every now and then, finding that time was inching by.

However, plowing seemed to have a good side to it. A few weeks into it, and he was beginning to notice a changes in his physique. He had always been skinny, but after finishing plowing the corn field and starting the actual planting, he noticed his arms were much more toned, and his chest had begun to fill out. He made comments to Ginny every now and then, but she assured him that it was normal. Riding Captain helped too; he may have been a docile animal, but he was still a very powerful horse, and it required a good deal of strength to reign him in after he got going.

As his fourteenth birthday approached, he stopped paying much attention to these changes. One afternoon, Harry was finishing up his chores before heading over to Sirius's flat with Ginny and Ron (he had found the flat just recently and they were going to celebrate a bit), when both Ron and Ginny came walking up to him.

He was out in the strawberry field, picking ripe strawberries (Gram had a business thing she had to go to and had asked him to look after the field that afternoon) when they came. Since it was so hot out and no one was around, he had removed his shirt ages ago and had left it over by the stables.

“Hey! Harry!”

Harry looked up, squinting against the glare the sun left on his glasses. He saw two red blobs moving towards him, until he brought his hand up and shielded his eyes. The two blobs turned into Ginny and Ron. He waved to them, grabbed the bucket of strawberries, and stood.

They had reached the edge of the field, and Ginny stopped suddenly. Ron kept walking for a few steps, then turned to see why his sister had stopped.

She was still a few feet from him, but he could see the stunned look on her face. He remembered with a jolt that his shirt was still in the stables, and felt his face go red. However, he was still able to tease his girlfriend.

Like what you see? Harry thought, managing a grin.

Ginny stepped forward, her eyes a darker shade of brown than normal, and grinned back at him.

Immensely, she thought. She raised a hand, and laid her palm on his bare chest.

“Oi!” Ron yelled, but by his tone Harry heard that he was more amused than annoyed. “No feeling up in front of me!”

“Oh, does that mean we can do it behind your back?” Ginny asked innocently. Ron turned as red as his hair.

Hey, I haven't got objections if you don't, Harry thought, still grinning.

Oh, you know I don't. Ginny smirked at him. Then, aloud, she added, “Come on, Harry, Sirius is expecting us.”

After a hasty shower and a replacing of clothing, they started towards the village. Ron rolled his eyes and pretended to retch into one of Gram's flower beds when Harry took Ginny's hand. Ginny smacked Ron on the arm.

At Sirius's new flat, they found not only Harry's beaming godfather, but Remus, and a young witch with vibrant blue hair, as well.

“We have news for you,” Remus said as they stepped inside.

“What's up?” Harry asked, dropping into a chair.

“You know how every Defense teacher has only ever lasted a year?”

“Yeah,” Ginny said, pulling up a chair by Harry. “People say the job's jinxed.”

“Well,” Remus said, drawing in a long breath. “Jinx's over. I'm staying as the Defense Teacher.”

Harry clapped Remus on the shoulder, grinning. Ginny jumped up and hugged Remus around the neck, who laughed and hugged her back. Ron cheered through the mouthful of food he had managed to accumulate already.

“Well done, Moony,” Sirius said. “Now, party time! By the way, kids, this is my second cousin, Nymph—”

“Oh, no you don't!” Sirius's cousin snapped, tugging out her wand. “You're not calling me that!”

“Nymphadora,” Sirius finished with a smirk. “But she hates that name so call her Tonks.”

“And this is what will happen if you do call me that,” Tonks said. A blink later, Sirius's face was bright, neon green, he had tentacles sprouting from his nose, and his eyebrows had grown to three times their length and bushiness. Sirius yelped, and Remus hastily remedied the jinx. Harry, Ginny, and Ron burst out laughing, and Remus chuckled as he removed it.

“Tonks is an Auror,” Remus said. “So when she says don't do something, it's generally good for your sanity and your health that you take her advice.”

“Damn right,” Tonks grumbled.

“You know I'll get you back for that, cuz,” Sirius said warningly.

“I know,” Tonks said, tucking her wand into the waistband of her jeans. Harry noticed Remus's eyes following the wand along its path, and the slight flush that came up the back of his neck. Or rather, Ginny noticed it and reported it to him. “But I didn't go through years of Auror training for nothing.”

“Tonks has decided to share the flat with us,” Remus said. "She's his 'parole officer.' And at the moment, Sirius's bank accounts are frozen until Pettigrew is convicted and I don't have very much even though I've got a steady job so she'll be paying most of the rent until we have enough.”

“And when they do, they'll be paying me back,” Tonks said.

“Of course,” Sirius said with a scoff. “What kind of men do you take us for?”

Tonks did not reply, but — as he noted rather than Ginny — gave Remus a look that Harry had sometimes seen on Ginny's when she was looking at him.

They spent a few hours at Sirius's flat, laughing and talking, discussing the new term and occasionally Harry's parents. Somehow the topic of Harry as a baby came up, and Harry was as red as any Weasley head as Remus and Sirius told embarrassing tale after tale of Harry's baby years. By the time they headed home, Ginny had serious teasing material on Harry and he was worried that his face would be red for the rest of his life.

The next week was the formal hearing to convict Pettigrew. Everyone who had been in the Shack the night they found Sirius was asked to attend, and Hermione — who was traveling with her parents — came back from France for the hearing.

Gram drove Harry to the Burrow to get Ginny and Ron, then to Sirius and Remus's flat to pick them and Tonks up. The drive to the Ministry was long, but Gram wanted to try out the new van Petunia had bought as a thank-you gift. Of course, there was also the matter of Sirius not supposed to use any kind of magic until after the hearing. It had been decided that since Sirius couldn't travel by Floo, none of them would. Except Hermione, but that was only because she was in France.

Sirius and Tonks squabbled like kids over who would get to ride up front, but in the end, Ron got the front seat, Harry and Ginny in the short bench in the middle, and the three adults got squashed in the back seat, with Tonks in between the two men since she was the shortest of the three. Remus looked somehow disgruntled and pleased for a moment, but hastily stifled it. Tonks did much less to hide her look of glee at the thought of being smushed next to Remus, and Sirius grumbled about it the entire time. Ginny and Harry exchanged amused looks, Ginny letting out a giggle that Ron questioned her about.

The hearing was to begin at ten that morning but unfortunately they had to be there by nine. And since London was about four hours away they had to leave very early that morning, at half past 4 a.m. Ron was quickly snoring in time with the radio, Ginny was curled up on the bench tucked under Harry's arm, Sirius's cheek rested on the window with his mouth hanging open, and Tonks was leaning on Remus. Remus and Harry were still awake; Harry because he didn't want to sleep and Remus because — Harry suspected — Tonks was asleep on his shoulder. Gram was humming along with the radio, rain pattered on the roof of the van and splattered the windows, and the windshield wipers swished over the windshield rhythmically. Harry's head drooped onto Ginny's. Gram hummed the soothing hymn that was playing. Ginny's weight warmed his body. Gram gave him a kind, grandmotherly smile in the rear-view mirror. His eyes fluttered shut.

The left side of his body was uncomfortably lit up. Harry cracked open one eye, and shut it quickly. The sun hung just above the horizon at the corner of the window, staring him down menacingly. The rain had stopped. He sat up; his back felt stiff and his side hurt from leaning over. That was odd; Ginny had been holding him up when he fell asleep. He glanced down and found out why: Ginny had shifted, and now lay on the bench with her head in his lap. Harry ran one hand down her silky hair, and looked around the car. Ron was still asleep but both Sirius and Tonks had woken up. Tonks had pulled out a book and was reading, Sirius look only half awake and was looking out the window. Remus had a thick textbook on his lap and his hand rested on a bound notebook, holding a pen, but his eyes were on Tonks, who seemed aware of attention and amused by it.

Harry looked towards the front of the car; Gram had changed the station and now Muggle rock music was coming from the speakers, but quietly.

“You all right, love?” Gram asked him suddenly.

“Fine,” Harry said. “Why?”

“You look like you've seen a ghost,” Gram said. “It might be your girl in your lap, but you're white as a sheet.”

“I'm fine,” Harry said again with a grateful smile. He saw Remus looking up in the rear-view mirror, and moved his gaze down to Ginny.

The light from the dawn drew veins of gold and copper in her red hair, lit up the freckles dotting her nose and cheeks, and gleamed on her long eyelashes. The corners of her mouth were turned down and her eyebrows knotted together. Harry ran another hand through her hair, letting the soft strands run through his fingers. Ginny shifted, moving from her side to her back, and her face relaxed. The sunlight hit her cream and blue flower patterned shirt, putting emphasis on her gentle, young curves. Harry rested his head against the seat, letting his eyes shut again.

“We'll be stopping for breakfast soon,” Gram said. “Next exit.”

Harry nodded, eyes still closed. The hum of the engine was enough to lure him back to sleep, but the music was counter-acting that. He cracked open one eye and turned it to the digital clock above the radio. Quarter to seven. Gram flicked the turn signal and changed lanes.

“Where should we eat?” Gram called.

“Anywhere with coffee,” Sirius called back. Gram let out a laugh, and glanced over at Ron. She reached over, and poked him in the shoulder. Ron grunted and turned aside.

“Wakey wakey mister,” Gram said. “Where do you want to eat breakfast at?”

At the mention of breakfast, Ron sat up groggily. “Bacon and eggs,” he mumbled, and flopped back over. The car at large all chuckled.

Harry bent over and brought his mouth close to Ginny's ear — she had shifted again —. “Wake up, Gin. Breakfast is in a minute.”

Ginny groaned and flapped a hand vaguely. Harry leaned closer and pressed his mouth to her cheek. She smiled, and opened one eye.

“I like it much better when you wake me up than when my brothers do,” she said. He grinned and sat up. Ginny stayed with her head in his lap; her lips parted in a yawn. “So what's this about breakfast?”

“Where should we go?”

“We've got a drive in place, but their coffee's bound to be rubbish,” Gram said as she pulled off the highway. “There's a couple of diners, and a Waffle House.”

“Not Waffle House,” Remus, Tonks, and Sirius said loudly.

“Not Waffle House,” Gram said, smiling with mirth. “Which diner, then?”

“The closest one,” Ginny said.

“Uncle Sam's it is,” Gram said, moving into the turn lane.

After a quick breakfast, Gram filled up the car and they got back on the highway. Ginny took out the book she'd brought and set to reading. Ron, Harry, Gram, and Sirius played a game called Twenty Questions, where one person thought of an animal, vegetable, or mineral and the others tried to guess it with only twenty questions. Remus kept going through his text book and Tonks listened to the game while watching Remus out of the corner of her eye. After they got bored of Twenty Questions, Sirius 'borrowed' Tonks' book, and read it aloud to the car, fighting to keep Tonks from snatching it the entire time. It turned out to be one of those cheesy romance novels women read, called The Angel and the Rogue. After Tonks wrestled it back from him, she hit Sirius over the head with it almost hard enough to knock him unconscious. After that, he didn't touch her stuff.

They pulled up to the Ministry entrance at quarter to nine. Gram dropped them all off while she went to find a parking space, and Tonks led them inside to wait for her. About twenty minutes later, she walked in and looked around at the high ceiling atrium in wonder. They met Hermione and her father at the Floo gates, and left for the trial.

They took the elevator to the ninth floor, then down a set of stairs to the courtrooms. Tonks escorted Sirius away while the rest of them took their seats in the stands, and then returned to stand at the back of the courtroom. Men and women in purple robes slowly filled two thirds of the stands. A stand almost like a pulpit at the forefront of the courtroom held Minster Fudge and two others as the clock ticked closer and closer to ten. On the left side of the pulpit, Professor Dumbledore sat with his hands folded. Ginny slipped her hand into Harry's. He gave her a grateful smile. He couldn't help but be worried: What if the members of the Wizengamot didn't agree with Dumbledore and put Sirius back in Azkaban?

It'll turn out all right, Ginny thought.

I hope so.

A gavel banged, interrupting their thoughts. Harry turned his gaze to the judge or whatever the wizarding equivalent of a judge was called.

“I hereby bring this court meeting into order,” called Minister Fudge. “This is the formal hearing of Sirius Black vs. the Justice System —”

“Your Honor that is incorrect,” said a burly woman next to him. “This is the criminal trial of Peter Pettigrew.”

“Oh, yes, thank you Madam Bones,” Fudge said very ungratefully. “Criminal trial of Pettigrew, yes. Presiding Official Minister for Magic Cornelius Oswald Fudge, Court Official for the Prosecution Madam Amelia Bones,” he gestured to the woman who had corrected him. “Official for the Defense Sir Lenard King,” he pointed to a weedy man beside him. “Bring in the defendant.”

A set of double doors opened into the hall, and a pair of guards in Ministry uniforms led Peter into the hall. His wrists were bound by heavy metal shackles as were his ankles. The guards led him to the single chair in the middle of the floor and pushed him into it. Chains sprung from the arms of the chair and bound him to it.

“Please state your name and date of birth,” Fudge called.

“Peter Raymond Pettigrew,” Peter said, “June 5th 1958.”

58? But wasn't he in the same year as my parents? Harry thought.

Maybe he was held back, Ginny replied.

“You have been charged with treason, multiple murders, and aiding He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in at least two murders,” Fudge said. “What do you plead?”

“I was threatened!” Peter whined. “He would have killed me!”

“What do you plead?” Fudge repeated, waving a hand at a guard. The guard pulled out a vial of something, moved forward and said something to Peter. The rodent-like man grimaced, but a moment later took the vial and sipped from it. Peter sagged in his chair.

“Guilty,” Peter mumbled.

“You confessed to Professor Albus Dumbledore to be guilty of betraying James and Lily Potter's location to You-Know-Who,” Fudge said. “At the time of that confession, were you persuaded, threatened, or forced in any way?”

“No.”

“I hand the interrogation to Madam Bones,” Fudge said, leaning back in his chair. Madam Bones rose from her chair and placed a monocle in her eye.

“Peter Pettigrew, what caused you to change allegiances to You-Know-Who?” she said in a gruff voice.

“I was recruited to spy on James Potter in my seventh year and try to recruit him for the Dark Lord's cause,” Peter said. “When James married Lily, my master told me to keep tabs on the both of them.”

“Who recruited you?”

“I was originally brought into the Dark Lord's ranks and commanded by a man called Rowle.”

“Originally? What changed?”

“Rowle did not have a strong enough hold over the school,” Peter said, “so I was told to work with Severus Snape and to report to Lucius Malfoy, who was in the process of becoming a governor for the school.”

“In addition to betraying the Potters and killing twelve Muggles to fake your death, what crimes did you commit under You-Know-Who's orders?”

“Not many,” Peter confessed. “I was mainly a spy. But I did help with four raids on the Hogsmeade village.”

“What did you do on those raids?”

“I stole money from the stores and captured people for the Dark Lord's ranks.”

“Did you kill or torture anyone?”

“I killed a shopkeeper,” Peter said. “And tortured his sister.”

“What were their names?”

“Martin and Heidi Fortescue. Martin owned a jewelry store and Heidi worked for him.”

“Thank you, Peter. I am finished questioning you.”

“Does the defense have any questions for the defendant?” Fudge asked.

Sir King stood up. “Peter, if you were to refuse Rowle when he recruited you, what would have happened to you?”

“I'm not sure,” Peter said. “I didn't ask.”

“And if you tried to leave the Dark Lord's ranks?”

“They would have killed me.”

“Were you threatened or forced to commit the crimes you confessed to?”

“At first, I was told that if I tried to refuse any assignments I was given, I would be punished severely. But after a while, I wasn't so opposed to what they were asking me to do so I didn't try to refuse.”

“But you were threatened?”

“Yes.”

“When you killed Martin Fortescue, did you do that out of your free will, or were you ordered to?”

“I was ordered to take everything of value from Fortescue's shop and to kill anyone who stood in my way.”

“And Martin Fortescue fought you?”

“Well, no, he was willing but his sister was not compliant. So I killed Martin to get her to obey me.”

What's King trying to do? Harry thought.

Probably make sure Peter gets the lowest sentence possible.

“Who ordered you to?”

“The leader of the raid, Dolohov.”

“Did anyone help you rob Martin Fortescue, kill him, or torture his sister?”

“I was aided by another Death Eater, a woman younger than me called Veronica.”

“What was Veronica's surname?”

“I don't know.”

“You said you were recruited in your seventh year. When did you begin doing field work for the Death Eaters?”

“When I graduated from Hogwarts.”

“What was the nature of your spying on James Potter?”

“To see if he would be a threat to the Dark Lord's cause.”

“Not to kill him?”

“Not until after Severus Snape overheard part of a prophecy concerning the Dark Lord and —”

“Your Honor, the nature of that prophecy is irrelevant,” Professor Dumbledore cut off Peter. Ginny frowned, and Harry felt suspicion rise in her.

“Noted,” Minister Fudge said. “Pettigrew, comply with Professor Dumbledore's request.”

Peter looked confused. “Um, okay.”

“Sir King, you may continue.”

“When did you begin looking for an opportunity to kill James Potter?”

“In the spring of 1981.”

“Why?”

“Objection,” Dumbledore said.

“I will let the question stand,” Fudge said.

“Because of the prophecy I mentioned,” Peter said.

“You did not give James's location to the Dark Lord because of any personal feelings?”

“No. I was sad that James, Lily, and Harry had to die, but my Lord commanded me to betray them.”

Wait — all three of us had to die?

We'll ask Dumbledore after the trial.


“What would have happened if you refused?”

“The Dark Lord would have tortured it out of me.”

“So you were forced?”

“Not exactly,” Peter said.

“Then why did you do it?” Madam Bones asked. Sir King gave her an annoyed look.

“The question stands,” Fudge said before King could protest.

“I did it because I wanted to obey the Dark Lord; I believed he was right and he promised me great rewards.”

Sir King sat down and hung his head. “I'm finished,” he said shortly.

“I would like to call Sirius Black to the witness stand,” Madam Bones said.

“Bring in Sirius Black,” Fudge said. Ginny noticed a note of anger in his voice.

A guard went through the double doors, and returned with Sirius. Harry crossed his fingers. Another guard retracted the chains holding Peter in place and took him to the back of the room. Sirius sat down in the chair, and threw Harry a wink.

“Please state your name and date of birth,” Madam Bones said.

“Sirius Cademus Black, November third, 1959.”

“You were convicted without a trial for the crimes committed by Peter Pettigrew, is this correct?”

“Yes.”

“Please tell the court how Peter Pettigrew became the Secret Keeper for James and Lily Potter instead of you.”

“When we were told that Voldemort —” there was a collective intact of breath from the Wizengamot members, Sirius ignored them, “— personally wanted James and Lily dead, Dumbledore advised them to use the Fidelius Charm and offered to be their Secret Keeper, but James wanted to make me Secret Keeper. But I thought that I would be obvious to everyone, so I begged him to choose Peter. We knew someone was leaking secrets to Voldemort, but we thought at the time that it was Remus. James agreed with me and they made Peter Secret Keeper. A week later, they were dead. I went to find Peter, and he claimed that I had betrayed James. Then he blasted the street, cut off his finger, and changed into his Animagus form and escaped.”

“Professor Dumbledore made us aware of the fact that you, Pettigrew, and James Potter were all unregistered Animagi,” Madam Bones said. “When did you become Animagi?”

“Our fifth year at Hogwarts,” Sirius answered.

“Why?”

Beside Harry, Remus stiffened. Gram, who was on his other side, patted his shoulder.

“Madam, if you wouldn't mind, the reason is irrelevant,” Sirius said.

Madam Bones frowned. “Why did you become Animagi, Mr. Black?”

“It concerns the personal affairs of someone very close to me and I would rather not say it for the entire court to hear.”

“He is correct,” Professor Dumbledore said. Madam Bones sighed.

“Very well. Then please tell the court how you escaped from Azkaban.”

“When the Dementors opened my cell to give me food one day, I transformed and slipped past them.”

“Your Animagus form is a dog, correct?”

“Yes.”

“And what is Mr. Pettigrew's?”

“A rat.”

“Thank you, Mr. Black. I have no further questions.”

“Does the defense have any questions for the witness?” Fudge asked. Sir King nodded, and stood.

“What made you suspect Remus Lupin of being the spy rather than Mr. Pettigrew?” he asked.

“Because we knew there was a spy, but the only one close to James and Lily who was acting remotely oddly was Remus,” Sirius said. “Peter was just being his normal fidgety ratty self.”

“In what way was Mr. Lupin acting oddly?”

“He kept asking when meetings were when he already knew, what was going on, who was on patrol where, stuff like that.”

“Meetings?”

“Of the Order of the Phoenix,” Sirius said.

“That would be the organization formed by Albus Dumbledore to resist He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, correct?”

“Yes.”

“And Mr. Pettigrew did not ask many suspicious questions?”

“Well, no.”

“So it is plausible to think that he did not wish to report the group's every move, nor Mr. Potter's?”

“If you want to look at it that way, yes,” Sirius answered. “But Peter is a better actor than you'd think. Yes, he did not ask suspicious questions, but he did ask questions. Just not about the group.”

“Only questions that concerned James Potter?”

“Yes.”

Sir Lenard bent and made a note on a stack of papers in front of him. “The defense has no further questions.”

Back to index


Chapter 12: Chapter 12: Summer 1994 Part Two

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG

Twelve: Summer 1994 Part Two

Harry


“The prosecution would like to call Professor Dumbledore to the stand,” Madam Bones said. A guard moved forward and escorted Sirius back out the double doors as Dumbledore complied with Madam Bones' request and moved towards the chair.

“Please state your name and date of birth for the record, Professor,” Madam Bones said.

“Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore,” the professor said. “Born the 21st of April, in 1844.”

“You were a high-ranking official of the Wizengamot at the time of these crimes,” Madam Bones said. “You called for Sirius Black to have a trial, but were over-ruled by Bartemius Crouch, then Presiding Court Official; I am correct?”

“Yes.”

“Why did you call for Sirius Black's trial?”

“I believed there to be more to the case than was apparent.”

“And what fueled this belief?”

“Sirius Black is a very loyal person,” Dumbledore said calmly. “He was very against everything Lord Voldemort stood for: Pureblood superiority, Muggle segregation, especially the Dark Arts. I am a very hard person to trick, and I had my eye on Sirius in case he altered his mindset and began to appreciate Voldemort's ideals.”

“So you thought it possible he could turn his loyalty from his previous views on the Dark Lord's cause?” Sir King asked hastily. Madam Bones opened her mouth, but Fudge laid a hand on her arm, and she sat back, apparently grudgingly.

Look at Dumbledore, Ginny thought.

Harry moved his gaze to study Dumbledore's face. The old professor was obviously thinking over the question, but his eyes were narrowed and his brow furrowed.

“I thought it a remote possibility,” Dumbledore said. “I wished to be prepared for anything.”

“You took your time answering,” Sir King said.

“Yes. However, that does not change my answer.”

“What then —”

“Objection,” Madam Bones said. “It is the prosecution's turn to interview the witness.”

“Sustained,” Fudge said.

Sir King looked irritated, but he leaned back in his chair and turned to look at Madam Bones.

“The prosecution may continue.”

“Why were you watching Sirius Black rather than Peter Pettigrew?” Madam Bones asked.

“Peter was not the most courageous of people,” Dumbledore said. “Nor the smartest.” Harry glanced at Ginny, and followed her gaze to Peter, standing with his guards and looking ahead blankly.

What's the matter with him? Harry thought.

They probably gave him Veratiserum; it puts you in a sort of trance and you can't lie, Ginny answered.

Harry nodded and tuned his ears back to Dumbledore. “But despite that, he admired James Potter to the point of hero worship. I think perhaps he was smitten with the idea of everything James was: Popular, handsome, clever, and good on the Quidditch field. I was worried at first that that admiration could turn to jealousy, but as time went on and Peter continued to fawn over James and his accomplishments, that worry lessened. I grew complacent in thinking that Peter was satisfied with admiring his friend, and failed to notice when he changed allegiances.”

“So you never noticed him gaining a Death Eater's point of view?” Madam Bones asked. “You never saw him sneering at Muggles or Muggle-Borns, or any sadistic actions, or any of that?”

“If he did take pleasure in the pain of others, he did not show it in front of me.”

“But anything else related to a Death Eater's actions?”

“After he graduated Hogwarts, he did begin working at a shop in Knockturn Alley,” Dumbledore said. “When asked about it, he would say it was his only option, or that he was watching Death Eaters buying dark objects.”

“Was that all?”

“No. In addition to that, he began to suggest more and more offensive plans at Order meetings. Things that would end in greater casualties on our side.”

“So you think he was attempting to thin out the numbers of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's opposition?”

“It is possible,” said Dumbledore.

“That is not the question I asked,” Madam Bones boomed. “What did you think of his suggestions?”

“I thought that it was odd of him,” Dumbledore said. “But it did not appear to me as traitorous at the time. In fact, when he would suggest the plans, it was not immediately obvious that our side would suffer losses at the end of those plans. They were of a level of subtlety not possessed by him.”

“You think he was getting the plans from a Death Eater?”

“I thought nothing of it,” he replied. “At that time, I thought he was simply trying to help but not thinking through what he was suggesting.”

“Would you please tell the Court what Peter Pettigrew said to you the night he was captured?” Madam Bones asked.

“Word for word?” Dumbledore asked.

“That is not necessary, but if you can remember it word for word that would certainly be helpful.”

“When I asked if he had been James and Lily's Secret Keeper rather than Sirius, he admitted that that he had been. He then confessed that he had been passing information to Voldemort for a while, while making up excuses as to why he had been.”

“What was your impression of him?”

“That I was observing a desperate man trying to wheedle his way out of punishment.”

“That was your honest opinion?”

“It still is.”

“Thank you, Professor. The prosecution is finished.”

How long is this going to go on? Harry thought.

A while. What do you think of Sir King?

King? That he's fighting a lost cause.

Did you notice that he called Voldemort 'the Dark Lord' instead of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?

Yeah, so?

How many people have you heard call Voldemort that?

Peter, Snape,
Harry thought, scanning his memory. Not many.

And how many of those were Death Eaters?

All of them except Snape, but he's just evil.

I think he was a Death Eater at some point, but that's not it. Why would Sir King say Dark Lord?

Um...


“Does the Defense have any questions for the witness?” Fudge asked almost lazily.

“No, sir,” King said, looking through his papers.

And remember he said 'cause.' He called what Voldemort was doing a cause. Peter said that earlier, but I've never heard someone else call it a cause.

So?

What if Sir King is a Death Eater? Or was sympathetic to Voldemort?


“Then you may return to your seat, Professor. Madam Bones, do you have another witness to call?”

“Yes, I would like to call Harry Potter to the stand.”

Harry sat up straight quickly. They want to talk to me? Why?

That's why we're here; get going! Don't get them annoyed.


Harry stood up and made his way down the steps to the main floor. He walked on unsteady feet to the chair and sat down slowly. He looked up to Fudge and the two beside him; they looked a lot more intimidating from here.

“Please state your full name and date of birth,” Madam Bones said.

“Harry James Potter,” he said. “July 31st, 1980.”

“You were there when Professor Dumbledore took Pettigrew's confession?”

“Yes,” he answered.

“What was your impression of Peter Pettigrew when you first met him?”

“Er,” Harry said. “That he was kind of pathetic and whiny.”

There were a few chuckles throughout the court. A corner of Madam Bones' lip twitched, but she kept it in place. “And your reaction when you learned that Peter had betrayed your parents rather than Mr. Black?”

“I was shocked, sort of,” he said. He really hadn't expected to be called to the stand and was therefore completely unprepared. “And then a little disgusted by the way he kept groveling and whining to Dumbledore.”

“What punishment do you think he deserves?”

“Why are you asking me?” Harry said.

Madam Bones' eyebrows rose. Harry felt a little more self-conscious in the single chair.

“Because it was your parents he betrayed, Mr. Potter. Please answer the question.”

“Er, forty or so years in Azkaban?”

“It was recommended to the court that we sentence him to life,” Madam Bones said. “You disagree?”

“Er, yes.”

“You do not seem sure.”

“I am.”

“And why do you think this?”

“Well, I think that life in that place is too much for anyone.” He hadn't ever been to Azkaban, but Mr. Weasley had, and Ginny had told him what Mr. Weasley had said when he got home. The place was disturbing to even think of.

“Anyone? Even the man you brought about the deaths of your parents?”

“Yes.”

Madam Bones adjusted her monocle and looked down at him with an unreadable expression.

“Thank you, Mr. Potter. The prosecution is finished.”

“Does the defense have any questions?”

“No, sir.”

“You may return to your seat, Mr. Potter.”

Harry stood up and walked back up to the stands where his group sat. Ginny took his hand as he sat down, and leaned her head on his shoulder. He gave her a smile.

Why did you say forty years? She thought.

Harry shrugged. Like I said, life is too much for anyone.

Ginny smiled warmly at him. What? He thought.

Nothing, she thought back. I just think you're amazing.

I thought I was a thick goose?

That too,
she thought with a giggle. Harry grinned at her and turned his eyes back to the pulpit.

“Does either the defense or the prosecution have any witnesses to call to the stand?” Fudge said.

“The prosecution rests, Your Honor.”

“As does the defense,” Sir King said. He looked hopeless.

“Very well; we will adjourn while the court makes its decision.”

The group stood and made its way out of the stands into the hallway beyond. There they met Sirius, Tonks, and Dumbledore waiting for them.

“So, anyone hungry?” Ron said.

Ginny rolled her eyes, the adults smiled, and Hermione muttered “Ronald,” under her breath irritatedly.

“I could eat,” Sirius said. Harry checked his watch, it was indeed past noon.

“There's a cafeteria on the first floor,” Tonks said. “How about we feed the little ones while we wait for the recess to end?” She ruffled Sirius' hair as she said this; Harry took it to mean she was referring to her cousin when she said 'little ones.'

They agreed and made their way towards the first floor, which was above them funnily enough. During lunch, Hermione took that opportunity to begin chatting with Ginny about France, and soon the two of them were discussing French alchemists and other boring historic stuff. Gram got to talking with Remus and Tonks about dueling and Auror stuff. Ron and Sirius were discussing the upcoming Quidditch World Cup final. Harry listened in.

“... but Lynch isn't quite world class,” Sirius said dolefully. “America almost won their match with Ireland back in March because he was too busy watching the female players instead of the snitch.”

“But they've got the best Chasers in Britain!” Ron said. “Bulgaria doesn't stand a chance!”

“That's true for the most part,” Sirius acknowledged.

“The most part?” Harry jumped in.

“Well, as long as they keep their focus on the game they're superb,” Sirius said. “But Troy gets distracted too easily.”

“Hey, everybody listen up!” Tonks said above the chatter at their table. Conversations halted and they all turned to look at her. “Mr. Weasley said to tell you guys that he’s taking his family and us somewhere tomorrow. I’m not allowed to tell you what it is. I wanted to say this now because otherwise, I’ll forget. Carry on.”

Despite pestering from almost everyone, Tonks refused to say what was happening the next day. So conversations resumed.

After they finished their sandwiches (or salad in Hermione and Tonks' case), they headed back down to the ninth floor. The Wizengamot weren't ready for them yet, so they waited outside and kept talking. Harry sat down by the wall and just listened to the different conversations. Hermione was telling Ginny about a museum she'd visited with her parents — the Love? Lurve? Something like that — and about this famous painting called the Mona Lisa. Ginny seemed interested, but Harry was never the biggest fan of art, so he let his attention fade and rested his head against the wall.

They were called back in about twenty minutes later. Sirius, this time, came to sit with them but Tonks resumed her place at the back of the room. Harry took his seat between Ginny and his grandmother and leaned his elbows on his knees to wait.

The red robed Wizengamot sat at attention; all eyes rested on Minister Fudge. He was in quiet discussion with Sir King and Madam Bones. Finally, he turned his gaze from the two to Pettigrew, sitting chained in the single chair.

“Peter Pettigrew, you were charged with high treason against the Ministry of Magic, the murder of one wizard and twelve Muggles, the torturing of Heidi Fortescue, and aiding He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named with two murders. You pleaded guilty to all of these counts under the threat of torture. The recommended sentence is forty years to life.” Fudge cleared his throat and moved his gaze to the Wizengamot members. “Will the Wizengamot present their verdict?”

A tall man with a slight pot-belly rose from his seat. He handed a slip of paper to a guard, who brought it to Fudge. Fudge slit it open with a thin silver letter opener.

“Peter Pettigrew, you have been found guilty and sentenced to fifty years in Azkaban, with a chance to parole in thirty years. Sirius Black, the man —” Fudge paused a moment before contemptuously spoke his next word — “wrongly arrested and punished for the death of the twelve Muggles and the death of James and Lily Potter, has been cleared of all charges.”

Peter gave a moan and bent over in sobs. It seemed the truth potion that kept him calm had worn off. Sirius gave a whoop and grabbed Harry and Remus in a hug, catching Ginny too by accident. Harry grinned at his godfather; Sirius let go of them and planted a kiss on Ginny's cheek, then on Gram's. Gram looked amused and Ginny looked startled.

How come they gave him parole? Ginny thought after recovering.

I don't know, Harry thought back.

Minister Fudge banged his gavel and said over Peter's sobs, “The case is closed. Spectators and witnesses, please wait until the Wizengamot has left the courtroom to leave.”

So they waited. Peter was led from the hall flanked by six guards, with Tonks trailing them and then the Wizengamot filed out. As soon as they were gone Harry's group got up and cheerfully followed.

“We shall have dinner at the most expensive restaurant I can find!” Sirius crowed gleefully. “I wish to waste my parents’ ludicrous amounts of money on frivolous pastries and succulent steaks!”

“Now, hold your hippogriffs, Padfoot,” Remus said with a chuckle. “I know you want to celebrate but before you go 'wasting' your money, you ought to check that you are still filthy rich.”

Sirius adopted a thoughtful face. “Yes, that might be a good idea,” he said. Harry, Ron, and Ginny sniggered. “To Diagon Alley!” Sirius cried. “I insist you all accompany me, and after I assure Moony that I am still quite wealthy, I will buy you all something that is very nice and very expensive and then dinner!”

Remus rolled his eyes.

“Sirius, that isn't necessary,” Mrs. Evans said. “It's very kind of you but —”

“No, Mrs. Evans, I insist. In fact, if you spurn my advances I shall pout and throw a tantrum. And then buy you something anyway.”

“Well, nothing really expensive,” Ginny said. “You need that money.”

“The last time I visited the family vault, my dear, there was at least one million galleons piled up by the front door,” Sirius said. “And by now my father's investments will have made it one billion. If I don't spend it on something, it will all rust.”

Ginny blinked. “Oh,” she said, intelligently.

You shut up, Potter.

What?

I am smarter than you with one hand tied behind my back.

I know!

So shut up.


Harry sighed. “Yes ma'am,” he muttered. She liked it when he obeyed with a simple 'Yes ma'am.' Ginny smiled and took his hand. The others glanced around in confusion, then all seemed to get it at the same time. Ron and Hermione exchanged their 'Telepathy' look, and Ginny grinned.

“So, you planning to celebrate?” Tonks said, walking up.

Sirius threw an arm around her shoulders. “My dear cousin, of course, we are! I'm buying you a gift, what do you want?”

“Anything you’d like to give me, for any amount of money,” Tonks said, “considering how long I spent putting up with yours and Remus’s crap.”

Ginny and Ron made a Floo call to their mother to let her know Sirius was taking them to dinner but left out the bit about the gifts, as Mrs. Weasley was likely to refuse, and that would do no good as Sirius was intent on buying something for them anyway. Tonks spoke with Molly a bit, then whispered something in Gram’s ear, who nodded understandingly. Gram took Hermione to a pay phone outside the Ministry so she could inform her parents, and then they all Floo'ed to Diagon Alley. Gram and Tonks offered to take the teens for ice cream and to peruse shops so they'd have an idea of what they wanted to get but Sirius said Harry needed to come with them. Which meant that Ginny came too.

“Guess you and Hermione get to go on a date,” Ginny teased her brother. She ducked his swinging fists and, laughing, ran towards Gringotts with Harry in tow.

“Why did we have to come?” Harry asked Sirius as they mounted the marble steps.

“As your magically legal guardian, I thought it best we take stock of the Potter vault,” Sirius said. “And I wouldn't want to do that without you. Anyway, it's time you learned.”

“Learned what?”

“When a wizard becomes mature enough, his father usually takes him to the family vaults and teaches him about the family business if there is one, money, investments, things like that,” Remus said. “Most boys learn at sixteen or fifteen, but you show remarkable maturity for your age and such deserve the opportunity to know.”

“How long will it take?” Harry asked.

“We won't go over all of it today,” Sirius said. “Just what we can only do at Gringotts. I don't even know how many investment your parents had and I doubt your aunt would want to do this or even know how. So, it is up to me and Moony.”

They had reached entry hall. Sirius glanced around and found a goblin who was not occupied and approached him. The goblin looked up slowly and raised an eyebrow.

“My name is Sirius Black,” Sirius said with a smile. “You don't need to call the guards, I was cleared this afternoon,” he added as the goblin raised a hand to gesture for a guard. “I will wait while you verify that.”

The goblin had already stood up and hurried down the hall. An unusually large goblin stepped forward and watched the group. Sirius whistled uninterestedly and stuck his hands in his pockets.

“Do you have a key to my vault?” Harry asked softly.

“Yup. James gave me one once they heard Voldemort was looking for them, just in case.”

Harry nodded. Ginny slipped her arm in his and laid her head on his shoulder. He smiled at her, and at her subtle warding off of his depressing thoughts of his parents' deaths.

The goblin returned. “I have verified that you were cleared,” he said. “What may I do for you, Mr. Black?”

“First, I'd like to visit my personal vault,” Sirius said, “then the Black vault. And then we'll go from there.”

“Of course, Mr. Black. I shall send for a goblin to accompany you.” The goblin slipped off his stool and walked away. A minute later, he returned with another goblin holding a lantern.

“I am Boldblood,” said the goblin with the lantern. “I am Deputy Head of the Family Affairs office; I will assist you today.”

“Thank you, Boldblood,” Sirius said. “Lead on.”

They followed him through the doors and into a cart. Boldblood set down his lantern and placed a hand on the cart control, and the cart shot forward.

Harry peered over the edge of the cart, watching stalagmites and stalactites fly past them at neck-breaking speed. Ginny leaned next to him, looking up at the high rock ceiling.

I've never been this far down, Ginny thought.

Neither have I, Harry thought back. I still don't know what the difference between stalactites and stalagmites is.

Stalactites point down.

Oh.


Ginny shot him a glance, then over her shoulder. Look at Moony.

Harry turned, and spotted Remus sitting with his eyes shut and fists clenched. He looked a little green. Ginny and he exchanged glances, then Harry slid over and patted Remus gently on the shoulder.

“Carsick?” Harry asked. Remus nodded jerkily.

I dunno what to do, Harry thought.

Ginny rolled her eyes and drew her wand. She pointed it at Remus and said “Remedium Nauseae.”

Remus sucked in his breath. “What — what did you do?”

Ginny tucked her wand back into her pocket. “Simple charm, Mum taught it to me ages ago because we kept getting motion sickness and she couldn't cure us all at once. Ron got it the worst.”

Remus blinked and glanced around. Sirius glanced back at them before turning his gaze back on the track.

“Thank you,” Remus said.

“No problem,” Ginny said. “You did look like you were about to splatter the walls.”

Remus smiled dryly. “I felt like I would.”

“We are here,” Boldblood declared and the cart jerked to a stop, halting the conversation. The goblin clambered out of the cart with the lantern onto a stone platform. Harry glanced around, counting several vault doors going down the stone corridor. Boldblood led them to the fourth vault down and set the lantern on the floor.

“You have the key?” he said to Sirius. Sirius nodded and pulled a thin skeleton key from his pocket. Boldblood took and inserted it into a keyhole in the center of the vault door. The door swung open, and Sirius stepped closer. Harry was two heads taller than Boldblood and so could see over him into the vault. It wasn't overflowing with gold, but it was nowhere near to being empty either.

“How much is here, exactly?” Sirius asked.

“Exactly I can't say, but approximately you have in this vault seven hundred Galleons, with a few Sickles and Knuts on the side,” Boldblood told him. Ginny's eyes went wide. Harry ruefully guessed that she had never seen so much money in one place.

“Ah, I see,” Sirius was silent a moment, his lips pursed and his eyes fixed on the pile of gold. “Can we move everything from my personal vault to the Black Vault?” he asked Boldblood finally.

Boldblood raised his eyebrows and glanced at the vault. “I don’t see why not,” he said. “It will take some time; I will call for someone to begin transferring it. Would you like to see the Black vault in the meantime?”

“Yes, please,” Sirius said. “I’m just going to make a small withdrawal from here first.”

“Of course,” Boldblood said, bowing. “Do you have a coin purse on hand?”

“Yes, I do, thank you,” Sirius answered, pulling a little bag from his pocket. He bent and filled the bag to the brim with gold Galleons and the only Sickles and Knuts in the vault. Once he finished, he shoved the bag back into his pocket and gestured for Boldblood to lead on.

They returned to the cart and rocketed off again. Harry thought the ride was quite similar to a roller coaster, because the track curved sharply in many places, sometimes shooting up and down, even flipping upside down twice. Also, Ginny had to use the anti-nausea charm on Remus two more times. He kept getting sick, but Ginny said that too many uses of the charm would end in worse nausea. Remus decided to live with it.

When they arrived at the Black Vault, Remus stepped out of the way to catch his breath. Sirius had a quick word with him, but Remus shook his head, muttering that he was fine. Sirius shook his head and patted Remus’ shoulder, then turned his attention to Boldblood.

Boldblood pressed his palm to the door, and the very door melted out of sight. Harry raised his eyebrows. Sirius was not bothered by it, it seemed, for he stuck his head in and looked around.

“How much is in here?” he asked Boldblood.

“In Galleons, approximately seven hundred fifty million. There are also several thousand Galleons worth of jewels, spell books, relics, and bonds. We can have it all counted and summed up down to the very Knut if you wish, Mister Black.”

“You needn’t count the Galleons, but if you would be kind enough to inventory and appraise everything else in there, I would be very grateful,” Sirius said.

“Of course,” Boldblood bowed again. “Whatever you wish.”

“Thank you, Boldblood.”

Three more goblins approached from behind, all carrying several money bags each.

“Master Black,” said the closest, “We have brought everything from your personal vault. We understand you wished to have it stored in the Black Vault?”

“Yes, please,” Sirius answered. “Thank you, sirs.”

The goblins nodded and lugged the money bags into the Black Vault. Boldblood spoke up. “I assume that by moving all of your money to this vault, you wish to close that one?”

“Yes, that is true,” Sirius said.

Boldblood bowed again. “Very well, I shall close it. Is there anything else you wish to do?”

“Yes, there is.” Sirius glanced at Harry and motioned him forward. “As you should know, I am Harry Potter’s magically legal godfather. I wish to open the Potter Vault and have a look in there.”

“Mr. Potter, would you confirm that he speaks true?” Boldblood said to Harry.

“He’s right,” Harry said. “And, I was just wondering, Sirius said that the Potter family had a lot of investments and stuff, and I wanted to know who was overseeing all my money since my parents died?”

“Gringotts has been,” Boldblood said. “When James Potter passed on, you became the sole heir of the entire Potter family fortune. Previous to his death, your father made Sirius Black the steward of the Potter fortune, so he could oversee the fortune until you were of age. But since he was imprisoned, we took the responsibility of managing both your personal vault, your parent’s personal vaults, and the family’s vault.”

“Since I was arrested, have there been any attempts by anyone other than myself to take over management of the Potter account?” Sirius asked.

“The only thing resembling an attempt to take over stewardship was an inquiry made by Albus Dumbledore not long after James Potter was killed. He wished to know who would oversee the accounts with you in prison; we informed him we would, and that was the end of it,” Boldblood answered.

“Thank you, Boldblood,” Sirius said. “Would you lead us to the Potter Vault now? And, do you think we could walk? My friend is very susceptible to motion sickness.”

Remus only nodded stiffly. Boldblood considered it before agreeing. After closing the Black Vault, he led them down the path, past other vaults, until they reached a thick door with the word “Potter” engraved on the metal surface.

Boldblood placed his palm on it, and the door melted out of the way. Sirius guided Harry to the front of the vault, and his jaw dropped.

The vault was even larger than the Black Vault, with huge piles of gold on one side, and treasures and antiques taking up the space on the other end.

“There are at least several hundred million Galleons in this vault,” Boldblood said, “perhaps even one billion. It has not been counted in quite some time; we will do that soon.” He glanced at Harry, and one corner of his mouth twitched. “You may enter,” Boldblood added evenly. Harry stepped over the threshold, gazing around in awe.

I knew you were loaded, but I never expected this much! Ginny thought.

Neither did I, Harry thought back. He turned and pulled Ginny into the vault; her eyes skipped over the gold to the many bookshelves lining the far wall.

“Hermione is going to love this!” she laughed, stepping over Galleons to get to the books. Harry rolled his eyes. Just his luck to have a girlfriend who went straight for the bookshelves in a room full of treasure, he thought sarcastically. Ginny shot him a look, and he gave her a sheepish smile.

Sorry, darling, he thought. She perked back up and turned back to the books with a wide smile.

“So, Harry m’boy,” Sirius said, stepping up and clapping him on the shoulder. “What do you want to do with all this?”

“Er…”

Inventory everything, and get it all appraised. Once the inventory and appraising is done, you’ll want to go through it yourself and see if you want to sell anything. Oh, and make sure there isn’t anything unsavory, though I highly doubt there is, Ginny reeled off mentally as she pulled a book off the shelf. And you might want to bring some of these books home. I expect they’ll be very useful.

“I’d like to inventory it all, and appraise everything,” Harry repeated. “And check to make sure there isn’t anything unsavory in here; I don’t think there will be, but I want to be certain. After that, I think we should go through everything ourselves and see if there’s anything we want to sell. And can we take some of those books home?”

“Sure, Little Prongs,” Sirius said. He turned back to Boldblood. “You got that?”

“Yes, sir,” Boldblood said, bowing again.

“Thank you, Boldblood,” Harry said.

“Yes, thank you very much,” Sirius echoed.

You are so good at taking orders, Ginny thought with a grin.

Harry snorted. Only from you.

Exactly.


Harry shook his head and made his way over to her. He slipped his arms around her and gently kissed her cheek. Ginny smiled warmly at him.

“Oi!” Sirius called, “hands where I can see them!”

Ginny stuck her tongue out at Sirius, then proceeded to turn around in Harry’s arms, wrap hers around his neck, and pressed a quick kiss to his mouth.

“Lips too!”

“You’re no fun,” Harry complained loudly.

“Oi! I am loads of fun!” Sirius protested. “But I rather fear Mrs. Weasley more than I fear being accused of being no fun.”

Reluctantly, Harry let go of Ginny, who just as reluctantly stepped back.

“Anyway,” Ginny said as if nothing had happened, “I think we should bring this one with us.”

Harry remembered that she had been holding a book in her hands before they started kissing. He took it from her and looked it over.

“I can’t read it,” he said, frowning at the title.

“Of course you can’t, you don’t know Gaelic,” Ginny said. He raised his eyebrows at her.

“You do?”

“A little bit. Mum taught us the basics before we came to Hogwarts.”

“So what is it?”

Ginny touched a forefinger to the second word in the title. “I’m pretty sure that says ‘Transfiguration.’ And that,” she pointed to the fourth, “means Charms. I think it’s a book of practical spells.”

Harry flicked through it; most of the text was in Gaelic, but there were notes written in the margin in English. He halted at the beginning and read one note.

“Chapter Twenty-Six would be very useful in handling Remus’s furry problem.” Harry raised his eyebrows and turned ran a finger down the table of contents. He could recognize the page numbers, they were normal at least. He found what he guessed to be Chapter 26, with Ginny’s mental help, and flipped through the book to find it. At the forefront of the page, beneath the chapter title, was a drawing of a man with the hindquarters of a bird.

Animagi? He thought.

I think so, Ginny replied. The title has Animal in it.

I think it might have been my dad’s, Harry thought. Ginny looked up, and they locked eyes.

What makes you think that? She thought.

Well, a note at the beginning said that this chapter would help with Remus “furry problem.” I think that meant his lycanthropy.

She raised her eyebrows and thought it over. You could be right. We’ll check it out later, okay?

Deal.


“We’ll take this one home,” he said. “Is there a bag we could put it and the other ones we want to take in?”

“Sure,” Sirius said. He glanced around and grabbed a handbag off a shelf. “Ginny, would you like to borrow Madame Helena Potter’s dragonskin purse?”

“Uh, I guess,” Ginny said, with a glance at Harry. He shrugged, thinking that it was fine with him.

She took the bag, which turned out to already have a few books in it. All, however, were fictional titles and were pushed onto the shelf. Into the bag went the Gaelic Transfiguration and Charms book, a book on magical creatures, an encyclopedia of every Jinx, Curse, Counter Curse, and Hex invented as of 1973, a copy of Potion Making for Dummies (Harry was unsure as to how it had gotten into his family’s vault), and — at Ginny’s insistence — a biography of Merlin. Remus then added to the pile a book of advanced and intermediate Charms, A Study of Lycanthropy, and A History of Sentient Magical Beings. And then — they were testing the limits of the seams — Sirius contributed The Evolution of Wizard Rock, Muggle Transportation, and The Fine Art of Dueling. By the time they had finished, the handbag had been given a Strengthening Charm, an Expansion charm, and had been shrunk to fit in Ginny’s pocket. Boldblood watched them pick out the books, and wrote down the titles, authors and publication dates of each so they would be included in the inventory list.

“Anything else you want, Harry?” Sirius asked.

Harry glanced around the room, looking for anything that might catch his fancy, and his eyes fell a velvet box near where Sirius had found the bag. He stepped over a battered trunk to get to it and picked it up. It was heavier than Harry had expected and longer.

What’s that? Ginny thought as she moved to his side.

Dunno. Harry opened the lid, and Ginny’s hands flew to her mouth. Inside, was a dagger made of what Harry suspected to be gold, with dark purple and red stones set into the handguard and pommel. Beside it was a metal scabbard, also made of gold with the same dark gems forming the shape of a rampant griffin.

“Whoa,” Sirius murmured as he looked over Harry’s shoulder.

“Would you look at that,” Remus said with a whistle.

Boldblood stepped forward and looked over it. “May I see it?” he asked. Harry nodded. Boldblood lifted the dagger from the case and held it up against the light. He studied it a moment, then swapped it for the scabbard. Again, he scrutinized it before setting it back in the case. “Pure golden blade, as is the handle and the scabbard. The stones are spinels of a deep purple variety and classic garnets. This garnet on the pommel is, strangely, uncut. I cannot say why. Though the blade is unmistakably of Goblin make, neither the handle nor the scabbard were made by Goblin hands, though they were, I believe, made in a Goblin forge with Goblin magic. There is a magic in them that I cannot identify in it, however. I would say it is probably worth over five hundred thousand galleons.”

“Wow,” Harry whispered.

Boldblood took the case from him, closing it as he did. “We will inventory it, and have it professionally appraised. There are several Goblin made weapons in this vault, and, as you can see,” he added, pointing to a burnished suit of armor standing in a corner, “Goblin made armor. I suggest you come back as often as you can until term at Hogwarts starts, to go over everything yourself.”

“Uh, okay,” Harry said, glancing at Ginny. She shrugged.

I don’t see a reason not to, she thought. Besides, it sounds like fun.

And it’s just my luck to have a girlfriend who enjoys going through dusty old antiques.


Ginny rolled her eyes.

Back to index


Chapter 13: Chapter 13: Summer 1994, Part Three

Thirteen: Summer 1994, Part Three

Ginny


Since it was getting close to three o’clock, Remus suggested the goblins transfer the gold and objects from Harry’s parents’ personal vault to the family vault, and Harry asked for everything in his personal vault to be transferred as well. Boldblood agreed to do as the two of them asked, and returned them to the main hall on the cart.

They left Gringotts with both Harry and Sirius’ pockets filled with gold. Harry tried to give some to Ginny, but she stubbornly refused it. She was willing to accept a gift from Sirius, but straight out money she had to turn down out of honor.

They met Harry’s grandmother, Tonks, Ron, and Hermione in Florean Fortescue’s ice cream parlor, where Harry bought a large chocolate sundae and shared it with her and Sirius bought more ice cream for everyone else. After finishing their treats, they left the parlor and wandered Diagon Alley. Harry went with Ron, Remus, and Sirius towards Quality Quidditch Supplies while Hermione and Tonks pulled Mrs. Evans and Ginny towards a new shop on the alley, called The Jade Dragoness, very reluctantly in Ginny’s case. The shop was larger on the inside than it was on the outside, and filled with not only wizard fashions but Muggle ones too, ones that appealed to her small — very small — girlish side.

“Okay, since it’s so big and we have very different tastes, let’s split up,” Tonks suggested. Mrs. Evans opened her mouth to say something, but Tonks raised a hand before she could. “And, yes, without leaving the minors all by their lonesome. I’d say that Hermione would benefit from you, Thea, more than me, and Ginny me more than you; so I’ll take Ginny and you take Hermione, deal?”

Mrs. Evans thought a moment, then shrugged. “Sounds fair. When and where should we meet back?”

“Here at,” Tonks glanced at her watch, “near five. That gives us an hour and a half. Oh, and Thea, mind what I told you earlier.”

The two of them exchanged odd glances, and Mrs. Evans nodded. “Hermione, you lead the way, dear.”

Hermione waved to Ginny and started off towards a section of Muggle fancy clothes.

“Ginevra, if you would follow me, I shall instruct you in the art of dressing in a gorgeous way without trying,” Tonks crowed gleefully, throwing an arm around her and pulling her towards a section of mixed Wizard and Muggle clothing.

Tonks grabbed several things before Ginny could even protest, then tugged her towards the back and a set of changing rooms.

“First, I’ll need to figure out what looks good on you,” Tonks said, handing her a stack. “Put that on and then show me.”

“What the heck am I doing this for?” Ginny said, flustered.

Tonks looked around as though checking for eaves-droppers, then leaned in close and lowered her voice. “I’m not supposed to tell you, but something is happening at Hogwarts this year, something grand and dangerous at the same time. In addition to that, this Christmas there is going to be a formal dance for which you need formal dress robes. You need to try those on because, A, the owner of this shop is doing a very large sale that ends very soon and I want to take advantage of it by getting you a new wardrobe — don’t interrupt yet! — and B, you need dress robes and, since your mother knows nothing about the current fashions nor how to take advantage of a bargain, I offered to pick out the dress; your mum gave me some money to pay for it. To figure out what best flatters you, you need to update your style from hand-made and second-hand. Okay?”

“Um… wait, why are you getting me a wardrobe?” Ginny asked, still flustered.

“Late birthday present from me and Sirius,” Tonks said. “The gifts he’s insisting on buying are a cover for thanking you, Harry, Ron, and Hermione for helping him capture Pettigrew. I am helping pay for yours and Ron’s because your mother trusts me and will believe me when I tell her that it was all fairly cheap. Mrs. Evans is getting Hermione’s, and in about fifteen minutes, Sirius is going to announce that he needs a new wardrobe, drag the boys into a shop, and get both Harry and Ron new clothes. Remus is getting new stuff too, but his is already bought and is being delivered today. Any more questions?”

Ginny blinked. “Okay. Uh, no, not really. Uh, is it really cheap?”

Tonks shrugged. “With the sale, it is less expensive than it would normally be, but even with that, your parents probably would not be able to afford it all at one time. That is the truth. Anything else?”

Ginny glanced down at the stuff in her hands. “Err, no, I guess not.”

Tonks clapped her on the shoulder. “Good girl! Now, go try that on.”

Half an hour later, Ginny had tried on several things, and half of it she did not like. So, Tonks dropped the rejected things in a bin and what she did like was folded up and set aside. They went back to the section they came from, and Ginny picked out a few more things. After that, they moved on to dress robes. Ginny was very nearly overwhelmed by all the Muggle formal gowns and Witches’ dress robes taking up half of the store.

“What about this,” Tonks said, picking a Muggle dress off the rack. It was bright pink, had a fluffy skirt that would not reach her knees, and no straps let alone sleeves. Ginny shuddered and vehemently shook her head. Tonks laughed and pushed it back.

“See, it’s not that hard,” she said, giving her a one armed hug. “Now, do you want to show off your legs, boobs, or back?”

Ginny looked up at her friend with a look of utter confusion. Tonks laughed again.

“Do you want a long dress?” she asked. Ginny thought a moment, after double checking that Harry was not paying attention.

“Yeah, ankle length please.”

“Do you want a high neckline, a low neckline, or a modest one?”

“Modest, I guess.”

“And do you want straps or sleeves?”

“Depends. No really thin straps, though.

“Backless?”

“No!”

Tonks grinned. “We’ve narrowed it down now. What color do you want?”

Ginny thought back to what she had picked out earlier. “A cool color,” she decided, proud that she had remembered the correct category.

And so they turned to the racks of dresses. Tonks pulled out a few, Ginny pulled off one or two, and soon they had finished the first rack, then the second and finally the third.

“Modeling time now!” Tonks said, steering her towards the changing rooms again. As they went, Tonks grabbed a pair of shoes. “You’ll want to wear these while you’re trying them on, just for kicks.”

The first dress Ginny tried was higher in the front than the back, so the front hem rested in the middle of her shins. It was a bluish green, and had see-through sleeves that reached her wrist. The neckline dipped a little in the center, but not much. It was, as Tonks described it, a mermaid dress. Ginny failed to see how it made her look mermaidish; she was lacking scales, a trident, and wild weed-like hair. The shoes were a glossy black, had a very high heel, and made her wobble as she walked. Ginny glanced in a mirror and groaned. The dress was tight enough to show off her immature curves, yes, but also the fact that she still had some baby fat left.

Tonks studied her. “First, we’ll need a lower heel. You’re taller than Harry in those. And some shapewear. Stay put, I’ll be right back.”

Ginny frowned. Shapewear?

Tonks returned a minute later with a full slip that looked a bit too small for Ginny. “Put it on under the dress,” Tonks told her.

“It looks a bit small,” Ginny said.

“It’s a body shaper, it’s supposed to. It’ll smooth out everything.”

Ginny turned pink as she returned to the changing room. “I don’t really like this dress,” she called over her shoulder as she went.

She peeled off the mermaid dress, and tugged on the body shaper. Without looking in the mirror, she pulled on the next dress: a deep blue gown with short sleeves that like the other dress was fairly tight but it didn’t flare at the knee like the last one had. She stepped out, and Tonks clapped her hands. Ginny looked in a mirror, and was quite impressed. Now, there were no flaws in her figure that she could see, and her curves were curvier! But the dress was not so hot.

And tried on the next. Over the next half hour, she tried on dress robes, mermaid gowns, something called a Cinderella ball-gown that Tonks had picked on the next trip to the dress racks — she did not even finish the zipper in that one, but discarded it hastily — dresses with ‘empire waist’s that seem less empire-like and more older girl, and a single dark green sheath dress that lacked sleeves.

Standing in the green sleeveless one, Ginny frowned at herself. The green complimented her hair and even her freckles fairly well, but that was the only good thing about it. Tonks agreed.

“Green is good on you, but that one is bad,” Tonks said. “Here, try this one next.”

She handed her a black dress. Ginny took it, and wearily went back into the changing rooms. She hoped that Hermione was having more luck on her side of the store.

She swapped the sheath dress for the black one, and stepped out. Tonks gasped.

“Spin around!” Tonks commanded. Ginny fought an expression of exasperation, and did. “It’s perfect!” Tonks cried.

Ginny turned to the mirror, and her eyebrows rose. It was another mermaid gown, but unlike the other ones, it worked. The lace sleeves were slightly off the shoulders and were tight to her arms down to her wrist, where they flared out to drape over her knuckles. The neckline was a sweetheart neckline, as Tonks described the curve of it that dipped down and exposed just the smallest amount of cleavage. The black fabric shimmered in the lights, and was smooth to the touch. The way it flared at her knees was subtle and elegant.

“That one,” Tonks declared. “If you refuse it, I will do a Sirius and buy it for you anyway.”

“It does look nice,” Ginny agreed.

“Nice?” Tonks said with raised eyebrows. “Girl, that is gorgeous! You’ll turn Harry into a puddle of goo with that beauty.”

Ginny thought it over. None of the other gowns had felt as comfortable as this one, nor as beautifying. She glanced at the tag on her sleeve.

“I can’t,” she said with a sigh. “It’s too much.”

Tonks flung an arm around her shoulders and gaped her reflection. “Too much? There’s no bloody thing as too much in this situation! You buy this, you’ll have it for life. Every black tie occasion, you’ll never need to buy another dress, only want to. Hell, the only occasion I can think of where you couldn’t where this is your own wedding, but that’s only ‘cause you’ll want white. Come on, Ginny! And remember that it’s thirty percent off the original price.”

Ginny glanced back at the tag, then did a quick mental calculation, silently thanking Hermione for her insistence that Ginny should take Arithmency. What she had left once she subtracted the thirty percent seemed a little more approachable.

“Well…”

“Ginny, agree or disagree, I am buying this for you.”

Ginny sighed. “Fine,” she relented. Tonks let out a girlish squeal and hugged her.

“Now you need a smaller heel and professional make-up,” Tonks said. “Come on.”

The clock had ticked past five thirty and was getting close to five fifty by the time Tonks was satisfied. Ginny also had two new pairs of shoes: A dark velvet green peep toe pump — whatever the heck peep toe meant — for the formal occasion Tonks would not name and a pair of glossy black wedges, as well as six different tubes of make-up, two blushes, one bronzer, four eye-shadow palates, two perfumes, and three lipsticks. All of which Tonks swore to demonstrate to her before term started.

“What’s our total?” Ginny asked, looking over the three stacks of casual Muggle clothes, two sets of nice but not formal robes, three other sets of robes for everyday wear, her formal gown, shoes, and make-up. Tonks pointed a finger to each, one eye half shut, and mumbling under her breath.

“Less than I expected,” Tonks said with triumph. “Which means less than our budget. And Sirius expressly told me that I had to be at least ten Galleons over the limit when I finished with you.”

“Let’s say we are, and quit while we’re ahead,” Ginny said.

“Nope, let’s get you another pair of shoes. That should put us ten Galleons over, as promised.”

“Tonks!”

“No, I’m doing it. Stay put, I’ll be right back.”

Ginny sighed and shook her head. Tonks was almost as stubborn as she was. Tonks returned with a pair of fancy sandals.

“We are now nine Galleons over,” Tonks said with a victorious smile. “I have nothing further to get you.”

“This is a lot,” Ginny said with raised eyebrows.

Tonks waved a hand. “Didn’t you see how much Sirius has? He wants to do this for you, Ginny. He feels like he owes you, which really he does because you did help bring Pettigrew in.”

“But this is still a lot of money!”

“You heard him, turn any of it down and he’ll buy it anyway. Please, please, please, don’t let Weasley pride get in the way of this very generous and half off the original price gift!”

Ginny sighed, again, and nodded. “Okay,” she said, “fine.”

Tonks clasped her hands together and mouthed ‘thank you!’ “Come on, let’s go pay. We should meet with Thea and Hermione too.”

Hermione turned out to have even more than Ginny, with at least five pairs of shoes and four sets of robes. Tonks dropped a fat bag of money that Sirius must have slipped her along the way onto the counter, and the clerk handed her two Sickles change.

“And now we meet the boys,” Tonks said, shrinking each of their bags with a tap of her wand. Ginny’s four shrunk backs were pushed into her pocket with the bag of books, and they left the store.

They met the boys outside a shop of odds and ends, where Ginny’s eyebrows rose and smiled appreciatively at the brand new clothes that Harry wore. He grinned at her and threw an arm over her shoulders.

Like the new threads? Harry thought.

Ginny suppressed a snort. Threads? What on earth does that mean?

Sirius told me to say it. Anyway, like ‘em?


Ginny let her gaze drift over his well-fitting jeans, Weird Sisters tee shirt, and plaid button up that was un-buttoned with the sleeves pushed up.

Did Sirius pick it out?

Yeah, but I like it. Sirius said that I’ll need to fix the sleeves and button it when we go for dinner, so I meet dress code. Did you get anything?


Ginny nodded. A few robes, some shoes, jeans and shirts.

Nice! Did Tonks or Gram say anything about formal robes?

Actually, yes. Tonks made me get a formal dress and Hermione has new dress robes. Tonks told me that something is going to happen at Hogwarts this year, something she called both grand and dangerous. And that there’s going to be a formal dance at some point.

Dance, huh? Wanna go with me?


Ginny shoved him lightly with her shoulder. Of course, goose! Who else would I go with?

I dunno, McLaggen?


Ginny suppressed a shudder and Harry chuckled.

Do you even know how to dance? Ginny mentally asked him.

A bit. Gram showed me a few moves. Do you?

Not really. I’ll ask your grandmum to show me the same ‘moves.’

Cool. Are you wearing perfume? You smell more intoxicating than normal.


Ginny smiled and nodded. Harry grinned at her and kissed her cheek.

“Watch it!” Sirius and Ron called out. Both Ginny and Harry stuck out their tongues.

They ate dinner at an Italian place called Luigi’s, where Sirius told them they were not allowed to get any dish that cost less than twenty pounds. He needn’t have bothered; there were only three dishes less than twenty and all were appetizers. Harry and Ginny shared something called Surf and Turf, and after dinner the adults had wine and everyone had expensive and delicious desserts. With their belts loosened, they all Floo’ed back to the Ministry. They said goodbye to Hermione and her parents, then piled into Mrs. Evans car. Tonks offered to drive since Mrs. Evans had drunk three glasses of wine, and they left for Ottery St. Catchpole.

When they arrived home, Mrs. Evans dropped Ginny, Ron, and Harry off at the Burrow. Tonks had instructed her to keep the bags with her casual wear and make-up shrunk, but to show her mother the new dress and shoes. Ginny agreed, because she suspected that if her mother knew exactly how much Sirius had insisted on spending, she’d have to return it all. Ron and Harry showed her parents their new dress robes, then ran up to Ron’s room to do ‘guy stuff’.

“All right, missy,” Ginny’s mum said, with her hands on her hips. “Let’s go see what you got. I want to know what dress Tonks got you, and if there are any modifications that I need to make.”

“There aren’t any,” Ginny assured her. “It’s very modest.”

“Well, let’s go see!” Mum said. They went up to their room, and while her mum was turned around for her to change, Ginny stuck the shrunken bags under her bed.

“Oh, it’s wonderful!” Mum gasped when Ginny had finished changing. Ginny curtsied and spun in a circle. “I love it,” Mum said.

“I’m good?” Ginny asked, raising her eyebrows. “No modifications needed?”

Mum glanced over the dress again, and nodded. “I’d say you’re good. And you know, this will probably last you a long time, since we can just alter it when you finish filling out.”

Ginny let a wide smile spread across her face. “Awesome! Oh, and Tonks got me a few other things too. Do you mind?”

“Well, as long as it’s appropriate I don’t mind,” Mum said. “Did Ron get much else other than his robes?”

She shrugged; “I wasn’t with the guys.”

“Ah, well, Arthur can handle them. Did you enjoy your day out?”

Ginny grinned broadly at her mother. “It was great.”

Mum smiled again. “Good. All right, time for bed. See you in the morning, sweetheart. Remember, you’re leaving early for Dad’s surprise.”

“Where are we going?” Ginny asked. Mum didn’t answer, but hugged her and left the room. Ginny sighed, and pulled out the shrunken bags and prodded them with her wand. They became full size with a pop and Ginny stared at them for a moment. To be perfectly honest, she wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. Finally, she took everything out of the bags, sorted them into piles and pulled her trunk over. Opening it, she glanced over the second-hand clothes and few new ones they’d bought the previous summer already in there. She had several pairs of jeans, a few tattered shirts and a few less abused ones, and a single pair of sneakers that had once been a crisp white but now was a dull cream. The sneakers she decided to keep, but she pulled out almost all of the shirts and the majority of the jeans, since they were mostly all too snug. When she finished, the only Muggle clothes remaining in the trunk where two pairs of jeans, a single tee shirt, a Quidditch jersey that had been Bill’s she slept in, and an old sweatshirt.

She dropped the old clothes on the floor of her closet to be dealt with later. Most of her old robes joined them. And into the trunk went the brand new jeans, shirts, sweaters, robes, the formal dress, and everything else Tonks had bought her. The make-up went into a case Mum had given her for her twelfth birthday that she had never used, and the shoes were tucked under all the clothes at the bottom of her trunk. She shut the lid and pushed it out of the way. Ginny glanced at the clock — 12:47 — and pulled out her pajamas. She plopped onto her bed and stared up at the ceiling.

Aren’t you supposed to be asleep?

Ginny rolled her eyes at Harry’s comment. I was packing.

Why couldn’t you do that in the morning?

Because I wanted to do it now.

Fine. What does your new dress look like?

It’s a surprise.

Come on! I’ll tell you what my robes look like.

Nope. It is a surprise.


Harry huffed. Ginny closed her eyes and peeked through his eyes. He was staring up at the ceiling of Ron’s room. Ron was in his bed, one arm dangling over the side of the bed and snoring.

Night, Ginny thought.

Yeah, yeah.

Harry,
she thought warningly.

He huffed again. Good night, my dearest spoil-sport.

Ginny scowled at the ceiling. Good night, my pestering boyfriend.

Prettiest stubborn girlfriend.

Kiss-up.

Oops, I meant to make that sound rude.


Ginny rolled her eyes again. You’re being sulky. I just want to surprise you.

Yeah, I know,
he grumbled. Fine, you’re not a spoil-sport.

Thank you. And for the record, you are not a pest.

I feel so special.

Good night.

Night, darling.


Ginny smiled as she fell asleep.

The next morning, Ginny woke up to thundering feet on the stairs and her parents shouting for them to wake up. She jumped out of bed, startled, and tugged on her bathrobe. She tugged open her door and stepped out into the hallway.

“Watch out, squirt!” George hollered as he ran past.

“Careful, little sis,” Fred paused in his stampede downstairs to ruffle her hair. She slapped away his hand as he kept going.

“What’s going on?” she asked Percy; he was walking rather than running.

“Father and Mother have something to tell us,” Percy said. He was already dressed with his hair combed neatly and his glasses perched upon his pompous face. He walked past her in a way she was sure he thought was mature and regal, but Ginny thought it was more bratty and smug than anything else.

Rolling her eyes at her older brother, she darted up the stairs to Ron’s room. She knocked on the door before sticking her head in. Ron was still in bed with his hands holding firmly onto the bedframe; Harry was tugging on his ankles, grunting with the strain.

“What are you doing?” Ginny said.

Harry dropped Ron’s feet. “Your brother won’t get up.”

Ginny walked over and prodded Ron. “Up. Mum and Dad want us.”

“Ffomph,” Ron mumbled.

“No. Up.”

“Sleeeeeep.”

“Get up.”

Ron clamped his pillow over his head. Ginny huffed and set her fists on her hips. Then she glanced at the door, and stepped off to the side.

“Back up,” she said to Harry. He did as he was told.

“Ron, Fred and George are eating your bacon!” Ginny said loudly.

“The gits!” Ron roared, and a second later he had shot out of bed and was rocketing down the stairs to defend his nonexistent bacon.

Harry turned to her with raised eyebrows. “I’m impressed,” Harry said.

“Thank you,” Ginny smiled and kissed his cheek. “Come on, let’s go see what Mum and Dad want.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him out the room.

Downstairs, Ron was standing in the kitchen with confusion on his face.

“Where’s the bacon?” he said.

“In the icebox, Ron,” Mum said, one eyebrow raised, setting a plate of toast on the table. “I can make some if you want it.”

“Ginny said…” then Ron scowled and rounded on her. “You evil little liar,” he growled.

“How else was I going to get you up?” Ginny asked with a smirk. Ron raised a scolding finger and wagged it in her face, but dropped into a chair with a scowl when Mum turned her gaze on him. Everyone else was seated, so Ginny and Harry sat down by Ron.

Dad walked into the kitchen sipping a cup of tea; and then walked in Bill and Charlie. Ginny squealed happily and ran forward to throw her arms around each of them in turn. Bill laughed and Charlie ruffled her hair.

“What are you doing here?” she asked. “Not that it’s not good to see you.”

“They’re coming with us,” Dad said, dropping into a chair.

“Where are we going?” George asked.

Dad pulled a sheaf of papers from his trouser pockets, and waved them at the group. Every jaw dropped.

“The World Cup?” Ron gasped.

“You’re joking!” Fred and George shouted.

“I am not,” Dad said with a chuckle. “We leave in about half an hour to catch a Portkey there. We might be staying a few days, so go pack some clothes. We’re going to meet Sirius, Remus, Tonks and Hermione there too. Hurry now!”

Ginny darted from the kitchen with her brothers and Harry hot on her heels. Except Percy. Perfect Percy must have already known since he wasn’t running to pack.

Ginny threw open her door, grabbed a rucksack from her closet, then tugged open her trunk again to get her new clothes. She shoved three pairs of jeans, two sweaters, Bill’s old Quidditch jersey and a pair of shorts, two tee shirts, one blouse and three sets of underclothes. She paused, then pulled one sweater out and tossed it onto the bed to wear later. Ginny added one of the books Hermione had given her for Christmas the previous year, a comb, a sketch pad and a case of pencils, and half a dozen socks. Then she tossed the rucksack into the hallway, shut her door, and changed quickly into jeans, a Weird Sisters shirt, and tugged on her sweater.

Throwing her rucksack on her back, Ginny ran down the stairs and skidded to a stop in the living room. She set her bag down by the door and calmly walked into the kitchen.

“Need any help, Mum?” she called.

“Yes, thank you, dear,” her mother said over her shoulder as she stirred a pan of eggs. “Can you go and get the bacon from the icebox?”

“Sure.” Ginny turned from the kitchen and walked to the pantry and laundry room, where the icebox stood. She pulled a pack of bacon from it and went back to the kitchen. “Got it, Mum.”

“Thank you, Ginny, would you mind cooking it?”

Guess the joke’s on you now, Harry thought.

Shush yourself, Ginny thought with a shake of her head. “Sure, Mum.” She pulled a pan out of a cupboard and set on the stove while her mum started rolling out dough for scones. She prodded the burner with her wand and it ignited. Soon the pan was beginning to smoke; Ginny laid several pieces of the bacon into it.

“I smell bacon!” Ron shouted joyously from the dining room. He darted into the kitchen and threw an arm around her shoulder. “You are an awesome sister, you know.”

Ginny raised her eyebrows at him. “Really? I thought I was evil.”

Ron shrugged. “That too, but you’re making me bacon. That makes you awesome.”

Ginny shook her head and flipped the bacon in the pan. Ron gave her another squeeze and went to steal some of the sweetened scone dough from their mother.

Ten minutes later, Ginny, her brothers and boyfriend were seated at the dining table, scarfing down breakfast.

“Come along, gang, we’ve got to leave in about five minutes!” Mr. Weasley shouted, gulping down the rest of his tea. Ginny glanced at Ron, and stifled a snigger at the sight of his bulging cheeks.

“Don’t choke yourself, brother mine,” Ginny warned, standing up with her plate. Ron managed to stick his tongue out at her through his mouthful of food. Rolling her eyes, Ginny went into the kitchen with her plate.

Another ten minutes later, they were waiting outside for Mum to finish screaming at Fred and George about the Ton-Tongue Toffees. Ginny checked her watch and huffed.

Be patient, darling, Harry thought, weaving his fingers with hers.

We were supposed to be gone by now! Ginny groaned mentally.

“What are you thinking?” Ron asked.

“That I’d like to whip George’s hide,” Ginny grumbled. “He’s probably the one who thought to try and sneak the sweets out.”

“Probably,” Ron agreed. Bill and Charlie came out the back door, Bill paused to ruffle Ron’s hair. Ron swatted his hand away.

“Dad said we could head off,” Bill said. “He’ll catch up with Fred and George.”

“What about Percy?” Harry asked.

“He’s Apparating,” Charlie replied. “He’ll leave later.”

“Let’s go then,” Ginny jumped up, adjusted the straps of her rucksack, and started down the lane.

“Gin?”

Ginny stopped. “What?”

Bill pointed west. “We’re going that way.”

Her cheeks tinged themselves pink. “Right.”

Dad and the two trouble-makers caught up with them about twenty minutes after they left. They walked about an hour before Dad stopped them on Stoatshead hill. Ginny glanced around, and found two people walking towards them.

“Are we meeting anyone?” Charlie asked.

“Amos Diggory,” Dad said. “And his son, I think.”

“Hullo!” called the older of the two people. “Pleasant morning, eh?”

“Yes, it is, Amos!” Dad called back. Amos Diggory and his companion climbed the hill to stand before them; Ginny recognized the boy, Cedric Diggory, Hufflepuff’s Quidditch Captain and Seeker.

“Good lord,” Amos chortled, “are all of these your children, Arthur?”

“Ah, all but one,” Arthur chuckled. “This is my oldest boy, Bill, and Charlie, these two are Fred and George, then Ron and my daughter, Ginny.” He pointed to each of them as he introduced us. Bill and Charlie shook Mr. Diggory’s hand. Fred and George waved politely, but Ginny noticed they didn’t smile. Seems they still weren’t over the fact that Cedric had beaten them at Quidditch the year before.

Mr. Diggory turned his eyes on Harry. “And this young lad? What’s your name, son?”

Here we go again, Harry thought as he stepped forward to hold out his hand. “Harry Potter, sir.”

“Merlin’s Beard!” Mr. Diggory said. His gaze shot instantly to Harry’s scar. Ginny huffed. Mr. Diggory pumped Harry’s hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Potter. A great honor.”

Harry forced a smile and stepped back.

“Uh, well, shall we gather ‘round the Portkey?” Arthur asked.

“Oh, yes, let’s.” Mr. Diggory moved to the crest of the hill, where the Portkey, a worn out boot, was waiting. He touched a finger to the tongue of the boot. Ginny’s brothers gathered around, each touching a finger to the boot.

Er, what is that?

The Portkey,
Ginny thought. Portkeys are usually things like that so Muggles won’t pick them up by accident.

Oh.


Ginny grabbed a shoelace between her thumb and forefinger. Harry raised an eyebrow. Ginny raised both. Harry shook his head and grabbed the shoelace. Dad checked his watch.

“Three, two, one…”

The Portkey glowed bright blue; something jerked Ginny forward by her navel, the blue light expanded over them, and they dropped onto flat soggy ground.

They checked in and left for their campsite, saying goodbye to the Diggorys as they did. Harry helped Dad build the tents, one for the guys and one for Ginny, Hermione, and Tonks, while Ron and she went to get water for tea.

About an hour later Percy showed up, followed by Sirius, Remus, Tonks and Hermione. Ludo Bagman visited, asking for bets. Fred and George bet all they had that Ireland would win but Krum would get the snitch. Tonks pulled them into the girls’ tent, which was magically expanded on the inside, for the make-up tutorial she had promised when Percy’s boss, Barty Crouch, showed up. After she finished, they goofed around for a while, doing girl stuff, until lunch. Tonks agreed to charm Ginny’s hair to have green highlights. Later, Harry laughed and told her she looked like a leprechaun. A cute one, he admitted, after she drew her wand. And after lunch, it was time to start off to the stadium.

Ginny was in awe as she gawked at the huge stadium. It rose hundreds of feet in the air, and even the lowest seats were far above her head. It was packed with people, decked out in red and green to support their teams. Vendors sold memorabilia, rosettes that shouted the names of the players on their team, little models of the players, programs, scarves, hats, everything. Sirius bought Irish scarves for everyone and personally wrapped Remus’ around his face. Remus rolled his eyes and jinxed Sirius’ dark hair to flash Ireland’s colors. Sirius laughed and left it that way. Tonks mimicked Sirius by turning her hair green with white stripes. Harry bought Omnioculars for her, Ron, Hermione, and himself. Ron bought a model of Bulgaria’s seeker Victor Krum. Hermione bought a program.

Ginny bought a green and white rosette and pinned it to the front of her sweater. Fred and George took a leaf from Remus’ book and painted their faces green and white. Dad looked on with amused bewilderment. They head off to their seats in the Top Box ready for a good match.

Ginny ended up between Tonks and Harry, with Hermione and Ron on Harry’s other side. Hermione was reading trivia from the program, while the boys ignored her and discussed possible outcomes. Ginny had her eye on the opposite end of the Box, where a little house-elf sat with her hands covering her eyes. She stood up, and walked towards the house-elf.

“Are you all right?” she asked the elf.

The elf peeked from between her fingers. “Oh, miss, Winky is fine, miss.”

“You sure? You look a little green.”

“Well, Winky is not liking heights, miss, but Winky is being told to save her master’s seat.”

“Where is he?”

Winky glanced around, her large green eyes flicked to the seat beside her, then fixed on Ginny. “Master Barty is having lots of work to do, miss. Winky thinks he should be here soon.”

“Oh,” Ginny said. “Barty Crouch, you mean?”

“Yes, miss.” Winky glanced out of the box and shuddered. “Winky is really not liking being so high up.”

“I’m sorry,” Ginny said. “I could sit with you and keep you distracted if you’d like.”

Winky turned her large eyes back on her. “Miss is very kind.”

What’s up? Harry thought as he stepped up behind her.

“Harry, this is —”

“Dobby?” Harry said, cutting her off.

Winky looked startled. “No, sir, I is Winky. Do you knows Dobby, sir? Dobby is being a friend of mine.”

“Yeah, I’ve met him,” Harry said. “How is he?”

“Oh, Dobby is not good, sir,” Winky said with a shake of her head. “Freedom is getting to his head, sir. He is going around asking for a pay, sir.”

“He is? What’s bad about that?”

“House elves is not meant to being paid,” Winky said solemnly. “Winky is telling him sir, ‘Get yourself a nice family and stop being so silly,’ but sir, he is not listening.”

“I hope he does get someone to pay him,” Harry said. “He deserves it.”

“Oh, sir, Winky is not hoping that. Winky is hoping he is going to be coming to his senses soon. All the elves Winky is knowing is agreeing with Winky.”

“Well, maybe he will, maybe he won’t,” Ginny said. “Anyway, would you like to come sit with us?”

Winky glanced at the empty seat next to her again. “Winky would like to, miss, but Winky is needing to stay here. Winky must save Master’s seat.”

“Oh, okay,” Ginny said. “I hope he gets here soon, then.”

Winky nodded meekly. Ginny patted Winky’s shoulder and turned to go back to her seat. Harry waved and followed her.

The match was just about to start, when more people filed in. Ginny was a bit startled to see the Minister for Magic and the Bulgarian delegates, but it did make sense since these were the best seats in the stadium. She got to shake hands with them all. The Bulgarians recognized Sirius from his wanted posters, but Minister Fudge quickly explained that he had been cleared. They recognized Harry as well, and the Bulgarian Minister for Magic got a photographer to take their picture. Barty Crouch never did show up.

She was less pleased when the last of the people seated in the Top Box entered. Draco Malfoy, his father, and a woman Ginny assumed was Mrs. Malfoy climbed into the box and moved down the aisle. Mrs. Malfoy stopped when she caught sight of Sirius. Sirius turned, and stood up with a scowl. Tonks glanced up, and stood hastily.

“I heard you had been pardoned,” Mrs. Malfoy sneered. “Shouldn’t you be drinking yourself into a stupor in some tavern?”

“I might say the same thing to you, Narcissa,” Sirius spat. Mr. Malfoy glanced over his shoulder at the two, then continued to his seat.

Narcissa Malfoy straightened herself, glancing at Ginny’s family, Remus, and Tonks. Tonks green and white hair tinged red at the tips.

“You’ve sunk even lower, Sirius,” Mrs. Malfoy said with contempt. She turned her scowl on Tonks and wrinkled her nose.

“I suggest you walk away, Cissy,” Tonks said. Ginny frowned. Cissy? What did that mean?

Mrs. Malfoy looked burned by the comment. She glared a bit longer, then tossed her hair and moved to join her husband. Draco lingered to sneer at Sirius and Tonks, then stepped forward to exchange insults with Harry.

“Not worried your friend’s going to do you in, Potter?” Draco snapped.

“He was cleared,” Harry said calmly. “I’m not interested in anything you have to say, Malfoy.”

“Yeah? Do you know how the bloodtraitors managed tickets? I’m sure not even their hovel could be worth one ticket.”

Ron shot to his feet, his ears bright red. Hermione tugged on Ron’s sleeve; he shook her off.

“Shut your face, Malfoy,” Ron growled.

Malfoy chuckled coldly. “Did you sell your dignity, Weasley? Wait, I forgot, you haven’t got any to spare.”

Ginny jumped up and grabbed Ron’s arm before he could take a swing at Malfoy. “Sit down,” she warned her brother.

“Yeah, listen to your baby sister,” Malfoy sneered. “Don’t strain yourself.”

“Hey, Draco,” Tonks said, stepping up. She clapped Malfoy on the shoulder. “Walk away. Now.”

“Who’re you to tell me what to do?” Draco snapped.

Tonks pulled something from her pocket. She flipped it open, showing him an Auror badge. “Walk away,” she repeated. Draco glared at her and shoved her hand off his shoulder. He scowled at them once more and moved to his seat. Tonks smiled at them and patted Ron’s shoulder before sitting down again. Ginny pushed Ron into his seat and gave him a warning look before returning to her own.

Ludo Bagman bounded into the Top Box, grinning at them all. “Let’s get this party started!” he said, then touched his wand to his neck. “Sonorus.” He stepped to the edge of the box and opened his mouth once more.

“Welcome, one and all,” Bagman said, his voice magically ringing throughout the entire stadium, “to the final of the 422nd Quidditch World Cup! I give you… the Bulgaria National Team mascots!”

Ginny leaned over the edge to stare down at the field, where about a hundred women were streaming out onto the field.

“What are they supposed to be?” Harry asked.

“Veela,” Hermione, said consulting her program.

“Bird-women?” Ginny asked, looking down. Hermione nodded, but her attention was taken by Ron, who was staring at the veela with his mouth hanging open. Ginny glanced around; all her brothers were gazing at the veela, who were now singing something, with similar expressions. Even Draco Malfoy rose to his feet to gawk.

“What’s gotten into them?” Harry asked, waving a hand in front of Ron’s face. Hermione glanced at Harry, then at Ron, then at the veela, then back to Harry.

“What’s gotten into you?” Hermione said, looking at him with surprise in her eyes. “You should be gawking too.”

“Why?”

“They’re veela!”

“What are veela?”

“They’re bird-women,” Ginny answered. “They’ve got this magic that enchants all men around them. It makes the men think that the veela are the most beautiful people in the world.”

Harry looked back at the veela, then at her, then back to the veela, before turning back to her with a shrug.

The veela stopped singing. Hermione smacked Ron’s shoulder to catch his attention, as Bagman introduced the Irish mascots. They were real leprechauns. Harry pointed out the similarities between her and her green hair and one of the leprechauns, while Ginny shook her head at him.

After the mascots came the teams. And then, the game begun.

Two hours later, Ireland was ahead by more than one hundred and fifty points, so when Krum caught the snitch, Ireland still won. The players all came up to the Top Box to receive the trophy, and Ginny went a little starry eyed at the sight of all the professional players just feet from her.

They went back to their tents and talked most of the night until Dad insisted they go to bed. Tonks, Hermione, and Ginny left the boys’ tent for their own.

But not long after they fell asleep were they woken up.

“Get up!” Tonks shouted. “Get up, get a jacket, now!”

Ginny rolled out of bed, rubbing her eyes. “What’s the matter?” She glanced around, Tonks pulled jeans over her pajama pants and a cloak over her tank top. There were lights outside the tent, people were shouting and Ginny heard something disturbingly like spells firing.

“Something’s happened, you need to get to safety,” Tonks said throwing Ginny’s sweater at her. Hermione climbed down from the top bunk and tugged on a jumper. Ginny pulled the sweater on over her jersey and shoved her feet into her sneakers. She grabbed her wand as Tonks shepherded them out of the tent. The lights Ginny had seen turned out to be fires; there were tents blazing and torches swinging through the air.

Dad had rallied the boys already, they were waiting for them. Dad wrapped an arm around Ginny and kissed her temple. “We have to go help,” he said. “The adults, I mean. Fred and George, you’re in charge. Take Ron, Ginny, Hermione and Harry into the woods over there. Stay on guard, keep your wands out, don’t let them out of your sight.”

The two nodded, their faces serious for once. Dad was still dressed, as was Percy. Bill and Charlie had on jackets over their pajamas, Remus was wearing a cloak, and Sirius stood with his wand drawn wearing only a pair of sweatpants and a white tee shirt. All of them look grim in the firelight. Dad squeezed Ginny’s shoulder and let her go. “Go!” he said, waving a hand. “Get going!”

Fred grabbed Ginny and Hermione by the hand while George pushed Harry and Ron forward. Fred pulled them towards the trees by the edge of the moor. Harry grabbed her other hand as they ran.

“Light your wands,” Fred ordered. Ginny dropped Fred’s hand to pull her wand from her pocket.

Oh —

Harry!
Ginny thought, cutting him off before he could begin swearing. “Lumos. What’s the matter?”

“My wand,” he groaned, turning out the pockets of his jacket. “I’ve lost it!”

Ginny glanced around, shining her light over the ground. Hermione and Ron lit their wands and looked with her and Harry while Fred and George stood guard.

“It’s not here,” Harry said, panic rising in him. Ginny laid a hand on his shoulder to calm him.

“It’s probably back in the tent,” Ron said.

“We’ll have to find it later,” George said. “We need to get going again.”

“Right,” Harry mumbled. Ginny slipped her hand into his and squeezed it gently. It’ll turn up.

He nodded glumly, but let her lead him through the trees. Ginny held her brightly lit wand up to cast its glow over the trees. Hermione fell into step beside her.

“Is your wand brighter than normal?” Hermione asked. Ginny glanced at it, then at Hermione’s wand tip. Her friend’s spell did seem a bit dimmer.

“I don’t know,” Ginny said with a shrug. “Maybe you’re just more tired than I am?”

Hermione nodded, her eyebrows knit together. “Maybe.”

Ginny let go of Harry’s hand briefly to push a strand of hair behind her ear. “Look!” Hermione said, pointing.

“What?” Ginny asked, taking Harry’s hand again.

“It — it got darker for a second,” Hermione said. Ginny shrugged. Hermione stared at Ginny’s wand tip contemplatively, until she tripped over a tree root.

Ginny?

What?

Your spell is brighter than normal,
Harry thought. And it did dim down when you let go of my hand.

Ginny narrowed her eyes, staring at her wand. She let go of Harry’s hand; her wand tip dimmed slightly. She took his hand again, and the spell brightened.

Interesting, Ginny thought. We’ll have to tell Dumbledore later.

They stopped walking about ten minutes later. Ron dropped onto the ground and leaned up against a tree. Hermione paced between two oaks, while Fred and George stood with wands drawn watching the trees.

Ginny leaned against a tree, looking at her wand tip. Harry wrapped an arm around her, yawning tiredly as he did.

A minute later, a soft rustling sounded behind them. Ginny turned, her wand raised. A clump of bushes trembled slightly. Harry stuck his hand in his pocket before he remembered that he had left his wand behind.

“Who’s there?” Ginny called. The others looked up; George walked over, his wand held at the ready.

“Morsmordre!” a voice shouted from the bushes. Green light shot out of the bushes, and came to rest in the air. Ginny clapped a hand to her mouth, hastily stopping a flow of foreign memories ignited by the word and the image in the sky.

Ginny grabbed Harry’s hand and tugged him away, calling to the others “We have to get out of here now!”

“Why, what is that?” George asked.

“We have to run!” Ginny insisted. “That’s the Dark Mark, George! It’s Voldemort’s mark!”

Fred grabbed Ron’s arm and pulled him to his feet; Hermione darted away from the green skull and snake hanging above her head. Harry stared up at the mark in horror.

Several loud cracks came from behind them; Ginny turned to face a line of Ministry officials, all with their wands drawn.

“Get down!” Ginny said just as the Ministry workers shouted “Stupefy!” She dropped to her knees, pulling down Harry; Fred shoved Ron back to the ground; George pulled Hermione down with him as he crouched. The red spells shot past them, soaring through the trees. From the bushes where the spell had shot, Ginny thought she heard a gasp of surprise.

“Stop! Stop, those are my children!”

Ginny looked up at the sound of her father’s voice. Dad pushed through the line of wizards, running to them. He grabbed Ginny’s hand and pulled her up.

“Are you all right?” he asked, pressing a palm to her cheek. He glanced at the boys, and Fred and Ron by the tree and George rising with a hand still on Hermione’s shoulder.

“We’re fine,” Ginny said. Dad nodded distractedly; he hugged her quickly, then went to hug George, Fred, and Ron.

“Which of you conjured it?” said a harsh voice. Ginny turned to see Barty Crouch stepping forward. “Which?”

“It wasn’t us!” Fred snapped.

“Why would you think that?” Hermione asked, her voice shaky.

“Someone was hiding in those bushes,” Ginny said before Crouch could answer her. “A man, I think. He conjured it.”

Crouch hissed an obscenity under his breath. “They’ll have gotten away by now.”

“Our stunners went right through there,” Amos Diggory said, moving forward. “Maybe we caught him.”

Diggory parted the bushes, and let out a shout of surprise. “Blimey! I don’t believe it!”

“What? Who is it?”

Diggory pulled from the bush the limp body of Winky.

Crouch was horrified. He checked the bushes himself before Mr. Diggory revived Winky and questioned her. It turned out that she had been holding a wand. Harry's wand. Mr. Diggory checked it and declared that it had been the wand to conjure the Dark Mark. Then Crouch, saying that Winky had dishonored him by picking up the wand, gave her clothes. Winky begged him to let her stay, but he turned his back on her. Diggory returned Harry's wand, and Dad led them back to the tent, where Sirius and Remus were waiting. Dad went back out to help, while Remus and Sirius gathered them in the boys' tent. Ginny fell asleep on the couch, to be awakened a few hours later by Tonks saying they had a Portkey back to Ottery St. Catchpole.

They hurried home; Mum surprised them all by nearly choking George and Fred in hugs, sobbing that she had been panicking that Voldemort had gotten them and her last words to them had been out of anger. Mrs. Evans was there too, she grabbed Harry in a tight hug, silent tears slipping from her eyes. Ginny understood what the woman was feeling.

Hermione stayed that night before Flooing back to her parents’ house. Harry went back to his house, to find out that his aunt had been worried enough to hug him when he got back.

There wasn’t much left of summer, and September was coming very quickly. Before long, Ginny was hugging her parents good-bye on the platform before boarding the Hogwarts express. They found a compartment, and the train pulled from the station.

Back to index


Chapter 14: Chapter 14: The Goblet of Fire Part One, Icy Flames

Author's Notes: Please note that some of the dialogue has been taken from Chapter 16 of the Goblet of Fire, pages 253-256 and 269-271.


Fourteen: The Goblet of Fire, Part One
Icy Flames

Ginny


They met up with Hermione, and Ginny's friend Luna Lovegood. Luna smiled serenely at them over the top of her upside down magazine. Ginny noticed that Hermione was sitting rather closer to Ron than normal, and that Ron's ears were rather pink. She and Harry exchanged glances.

What do you think? Harry thought.

Ten kisses Ron finally notices she's a girl this year.

Make that twenty.


Ginny grinned at him and held out her hand. Harry pumped it once, while Ron and Hermione watched them in confused amusement. Luna just looked on dreamily; no doubt she found nothing odd in their silent exchange.

“Will we ever understand them?” Ron asked Hermione in a stage whisper. Hermione chuckled and shook her head.

Can I get those twenty early?

Ginny laughed at him, and rested her head on his shoulder. Harry draped an arm around her, and pressed a gentle kiss to her hair.

Malfoy stopped by, as per usual, making vague comments about what was happening at Hogwarts. He left rather hurriedly after both Ron and Ginny threatened to hex him. By the time the train pulled into the station, they were all hungry and eager for the feast.

The filed into the Great Hall and took seats at the Gryffindor table, noticing that there were a few extra people at the Head Table. Fred and George found the need to make kissing noises at Harry and Ginny as they sat down side by side. Ginny reacted by sticking her tongue out at them, and Harry reacted by kissing her, which sent them, and Ron, into fake gales of retching.

When the puddings cleared away, the students all turned expectantly to the head table. Dumbledore rose to his feet and opened his arms in welcome to them.

“Good evening, all!” he called, smiling fondly. “I do hope you have enjoyed yourselves and that you are all ready for an exciting year! We have many new events coming our way, but first, teacher announcements.” Dumbledore turned to face the left end of the table, his hand extended to where Remus sat smiling. “For the first time in years, we have a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher stay for a second year! Please welcome once more, Professor Remus Lupin!”

The applause in the hall was deafening, especially at the Gryffindor table. Ginny and Harry clapped so hard their palms stung. Remus stood and waved, beaming widely at them. Dumbledore grinned at them all, and once the clapping died down, he extended a hand to the other end of the table. “This year, unfortunately our Potions Master has had to take a
sabbatical —”

Cheers filled the hall. Harry whooped loudly, Ron jumped up and shouted with glee, students were standing up to give Snape’s absence a standing ovation. Dumbledore raised a hand for quiet, his smile faltering a bit. “Yes, yes, I assumed this would happen. Anyway, Professor Snape shall not return until mid-term, so between now and then the role of Potions Master will be filled by former Auror Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, who is an accomplished Potioneer for the Auror department of the Ministry.”

The students cheered and clapped for Professor Moody, even a few Slytherins. Dumbledore waved for quiet once more. “The role of Head of Slytherin house will be filled by Professor Sinestra; I’m sure our Slytherins will welcome her warmly.”

There was polite applause for Professor Sinestra at the Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw tables, but the Slytherins applauded loudly, some even cheered. Once the students had quieted again, Dumbledore resumed the announcements. “This year there are several things happening. One of things is not the inter-house Quidditch tournament —”

“WHAT?!” Fred and George bellowed. Students booed this loudly, Harry even gave Dumbledore a thumbs-down. Dumbledore tried to stem the flow of boos, but eventually had to gain their attention again by setting off a cannon-blast with his wand. That got them quiet.

“There will be no Quidditch this year because a different tournament will be taking place,” Dumbledore said. “This year, we shall host an event that has not occurred for several hundred years. Not even I have seen it held before. This year we shall be competing with two other schools in the Triwizard Tournament.”

“YOU’RE JOKING!” George bellowed. A few people chuckled, but most were staring up at Dumbledore in shock.

What’s a Triwizard Tournament? Harry thought.

Shh! Dumbledore will explain in a minute, Ginny thought back. To be honest, she wasn’t sure. In the back corner of her mind where she kept Tom’s memories, she could vaguely recall him studying it once, but he never got far into the project.

“No, Mr. Weasley, I am most assuredly not joking,” Dumbledore chuckled with amusement. “We are indeed hosting the Triwizard Tournament. For those of you who do not know, the Triwizard Tournament is a grand magical challenge between three champions. Once student from each school will be selected by an impartial judge to compete in three very difficult, very dangerous tasks to win a cash prize of ten thousand galleons and glory for them and their school. The tournament shall take place as always had, under one rule change. No student under the age of seventeen shall be allowed to submit their name to the impartial judge for selection.”

“Aw, come on!” Fred yelled. Several other students were calling out in annoyance as well. Dumbledore raised his wand and set off the cannon blast again; the students calmed down.

“This restriction has been placed for the safety of the students participating,” Dumbledore continued. “The tasks are designed to push the champions to their limits, physically, emotionally, and magically. It has been debated over greatly, and the heads of the other schools and our governments agree that students under that age would not be able to complete the tasks safely. The two schools participating with us are Durmstrang School and Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. They will be arriving in October.” Dumbledore glanced at his watch. “But now it is time for bed. Rest up for classes tomorrow; pleasant dreams to all. Off to bed, pip pip.”

Ginny chewed on her lower lip all the way up to the tower. Fred, George, and Lee Jordan were exclaiming all about the Tournament and how they were going to get around the rule. Ron was listening in rapt attention, evidently looking for ways to enter himself. Harry was staring ahead in silence, and hadn't even reacted when she slipped her arm through his.

What are you thinking about? She asked him silently.

That tournament. If it’s so dangerous, why are they doing it?

Ginny shrugged. I don’t know. I know that we haven’t had much connection with the other schools in a while. When Tom was at Hogwarts, they had a program for getting to know our neighboring schools called Pen-Pals. Tom was given a student from Durmstrang. I can’t remember his name off the top of my head, but it was something funny like carcass. Anyway, we’re very under-educated when it comes to other societies. This tournament is a good way to learn about other wizards.

While putting students at risk?

You know that before Quidditch, the main game on brooms in Ireland was a race where ten men would strap caldrons to their heads and tried to catch boulders in them? Usually they died; sometimes one of them would live and he would be crowned champion.


Harry shook his head. I didn’t know that. But they stopped doing that, right?

It was banned in the 18th century.

So this tournament is so dangerous that underage students shouldn’t participate, why are we participating at all? Sure, we could connect and learn, but couldn’t we do that other ways? Heck, we could have a giant Quidditch tournament between the two schools. Why not do that?


Ginny shook her head. I don’t know. They were at the stairs to the dormitories. Ginny kissed Harry’s cheek before saying goodnight and going up to bed.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


Ginny couldn’t see well, her surroundings were hazy and unstable. Her eyes wouldn’t focus; her head spun. She fell backward as silver fireballs danced with drops of dew on sharp green blades. Her legs and arms felt like she was lying on a bed of nails. Flashes of lightning struck the ground at her feet, reversed, and stabbed the ground to her left. The sky fell to its knees and the ground swelled around her, rumbling with anger as the lightning attacked it. Nothing was straight, nothing was the way it should have been. Her eyes darted around; she was unable to move from dizziness.

Lightning ripped the sky again, tearing it like a zipper falling open. People and places flashed in the three dimensional darkness behind the sky. Lightning surged from the ground and struck the sky, and suddenly Ginny was in the sky, lying on her back on top of a silver crescent, looking up at a field of green blotted with trees. The dew drops danced, squirming together to form images. She saw herself lying in bed; she saw an old man bent over a stone basin watching a woman draped in beads and bangles speak; she saw a thick reptilian body sliding over dusty floorboards towards a wing-backed armchair. It shifted, and she saw two men looking at a blackboard with names written on it, a diagram of sorts, and still photographs pinned to it; photos of a large, decrepit house, an unsmiling handsome man Ginny could swear she knew, another old man scowling as he held a small board in front of him, and dozens of others. She saw a room full of people, taking notes as a ghost read to them. Ginny knew the boy in the front. It was Tom Riddle, older than when she last saw him, but there was no mistaking those cold eyes. She was seeing him, but not from his point of view. Why? Before she could discern it, it changed again, to a similar room where a short woman dressed in pink paced between rows of desks, watching students read from a textbook.

Then it was gone. A wall of murky water formed from the dew drops; Ginny didn’t have time to fathom it before it crashed upon her. She was no longer lying down; Ginny floated by a stone statue. She tried to scream, but no sound came from her mouth. Panicking, she tried to swim for the surface, but after only a few strokes, she was jerked back to her original place. She glanced down, and saw a rope strung with algae binding her to the statue. Her lungs pressed together as air fled her nostrils; she was running out of oxygen. She grabbed at the rope, her arms and fingers going limp, feebly trying to break it. Black blotches danced before her eyes.

Ginny!

The rope fell from her fingers. She floated upwards as her body went numb, revolving around. Ginny’s eyes darted around, and then she spotted a shape moving rapidly towards her. Her brain hurt without oxygen, but she focused on it.

Harry!

Ginny’s lips curled in a smile. Harry would save her. He swam unnaturally fast towards her, but she wasn’t paying attention. He came to a stop right in front of her, and pressed his lips to hers. Had she not been drowning, she would have thought that illogical, until Harry forced her lips apart with his tongue and exhaled into her mouth.

Her lungs filled with the used air. The throbbing in her brain lessened. Harry pulled back and severed the rope with a sharp rock. He flicked back to her and exhaled into her mouth again.

How — how are you breathing? Ginny asked him. He didn’t answer her, but grabbed her hand and tugged her upwards. There was something odd about his fingers; she couldn’t lace hers in them. Harry drew her to his chest and pressed his mouth over hers, breathing into her. Ginny, now a little more aware, glanced around. She started as her eyes fell on Harry’s neck; there were slashes on his skin. But it wasn’t bleeding, and as he swam, they moved gently.

They were gills.

Her head broke the surface, startling her. She blinked several times, and when she looked around, she was standing in the Entrance Hall. Water dripped from her hair and her pajamas, pooling on the ground.

What on Earth? Ginny thought as her eyes scanned the hall. Not fifteen feet from her stood a wooden cup on a post. She stepped towards it, her brows knitting together. Suddenly blue flames leapt from the rim of the cup; she jumped backwards, startled. In the flames, a slip of paper floated, the edges blackening slowly. Something was written on it.

Harry Potter; Strawgoh.

Ginny raised an eyebrow. What the heck was Strawgoh?

She glanced around the hall. Her eye caught on an open door. She stepped towards it, and peered around it. She heard a low rhythmic thunking, and saw the edge of a cloak vanishing past the corner.

Ginny stepped through the doorway, and onto empty air. She plummeted, a scream tearing itself from her throat, arms and legs flailing widely.

“Ginny! Wake up!”

“Wha — what?” Ginny sat bolt up-right, looking around her in a panic.

Hermione, Lavender, and Parvati stood over her, looking at her with worry.

“What were you dreaming?” Hermione asked softly.

“I, uh, it was nothing,” Ginny said. “What time is it?”

“Sixish,” Lavender said. “We only noticed you thrashing about because your alarm started beeping but you weren’t switching it off.”

“Oh,” Ginny mumbled. “Sorry.”

Lavender waved a hand. “It’s fine. We had to get up anyway. I get first shower!” She walked away, towards the bathroom. There were four shower stalls, but they had discovered the night before two of them only had cold water and the third didn’t give any water at all. Someone would come fix it soon. Parvati gave Ginny a little wave before going back to her bed. Hermione stayed back, her expression worried.

“Was it the Chamber?” Hermione asked her quietly.

Ginny frowned at her, then shook her head. “No, no, it was… weird. I was in this field, looking up at the sky, then I was in the sky and the dew drops on the grass made these weird pictures and then I was underwater, drowning. But then Harry came and he had gills; he breathed into me so I didn’t drown, and then I was in the Great Hall and there was this cup with fire in it and there was a piece of paper in the fire with Harry’s name on it, and someone was leaving the Hall. When I tried to follow them, everything just vanished and I was falling.”

Hermione sat down on the bed, her face contemplative. “That is weird,” she said. “There wasn’t any kind of order to it?”

“Not really.”

“What was in the pictures?”

“A bunch of things,” Ginny answered. “I saw myself in bed, an old man, a snake, these two men looking at a blackboard with all this stuff taped to it.”

Hermione frowned. “Stuff?”

“Yeah, Muggle photos, pieces of paper, and there was a list of names written on it.”

“What were the men wearing?”

Ginny frowned, thinking back. “Err, one was wearing this blue or black vest sort of thing with a badge or something on it, the other man had on brown trousers and a white shirt.”

“That sounds like a policeman,” Hermione said.

“A what?”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Ginny, we learned about them first week in Muggle Studies. They’re Muggle law enforcement.”

“What would I be dreaming about Muggle law enforcement for?”

Hermione shrugged. “What were in the photographs?”

Ginny paused again, remembering. “An old house, a man holding up this board or plate thing with words on it, don’t remember what it said…”

“I bet they were investigating something,” Hermione said.

Ginny yawned widely. “Yeah, probably.” She tossed back her blankets and stood, stretching. “I’d better get in line for the shower before Parvati.” Hermione stood up as well and went back to her bed. Ginny opened her trunk and pulled her toiletry bag from it along with clothes. She walked to the bathroom door and leaned up against the door-jam to wait.

You awake? She thought.

Nooo… Harry groaned.

Wake up.

Nooo!


Ginny hummed a tune, and began singing the lyrics in her head. Good morning to you, good morning to you —

No! Please not that!

GOOD MORNING TO YOU, GOOD MORNING TO YOU, WE’RE ALL IN OUR PLACES —

NOOO!

WITH SMILES ON OUR FACES!


Harry groaned aloud; Ginny felt him grab his pillow and clamp it over his ears.

What good is to cover your ears when the noise is in your head? Ginny asked him.

Sleeeeeep…

Sorry, sweetie, but I’ve got to talk to you.


Harry groaned and rolled over. Whaaat?

I had a weird dream.

You always have weird dreams.

Weirder than normal.


Harry rubbed his face vigorously. What happened?

Ginny recalled the strange events and showed them to him. Then she guessed Harry had jumped up or something because she was suddenly vaguely dizzy.

I know that man!

What man?

The old man, the one in the photo holding a board. I dreamt about him a few weeks ago.


Ginny scowled up at the ceiling. Why didn’t you tell me?

I forgot. Anyway, I saw the old man go into this big house — the one in that photograph — and he went upstairs.


Harry’s thoughts faded. Ginny frowned. What?

He went upstairs… and that snake you saw, it was there. It slithered past him, into a room with a fire going, and there were two men in the room. One of them didn’t look human; I don’t remember exactly what he looked like or why but… and the other man had his back to me most of the time, and when he did face me his face was in shadow so I don’t know who it was. But the snake spoke to the weird man, and he called in the old man, and then he killed him.


Ginny fell silent. She thought back through her dream, comparing the moments with the old man to Harry’s dream.

What about the rest of it?

Ginny shrugged. I can’t make sense of it. That thing with the water was really weird. I actually thought I was drowning.

In his dormitory, Harry frowned at the canopy above his bed. That was strange. You’ve never had a fear of drowning before. And why would I have gills?

I don’t know.


Lavender left the bathroom with a towel on her head. Ginny slipped inside and shut the door behind her. All right, out for now. I’ll be done in a minute.

Harry mumbled something, and Ginny closed the mental door between them. Fifteen minutes later, she was brushing her teeth. She had left the door shut since Harry had shouted through it that he was going to take his shower. He’d open the mental flow from his side when he was done.

Ginny left the bathroom and shoved her stuff in her trunk. Then, grabbing her shoes and a hair brush, she dropped back onto her bed. She inhaled and attacked her mane of hair with the brush.

“Oh, stop, stop, you’re going to rip it all out!” Lavender said, running over. “All that lovely red hair, and you’re treating it like a rug!”

“It IS a rug,” Ginny said irritatedly. Lavender tugged the brush out of her hands and started picking at the strands.

“Parvati, can you hand me that bottle of leave-in conditioner?” Lavender called. Parvati nodded, pulled a bottle out of Lavender’s stuff, and brought it to her. Lavender squirted some of it out and massaged it into Ginny’s hair. Five minutes later, Lavender ran the brush through it without a single snag.

“There,” Lavender said, setting down the brush. “Now just dry it with your wand and it will be beautiful!”

Ginny nodded. “Thanks,” she said. She wasn’t sure what else to say; Lavender smiled at her as though she had just given her a million Galleons and walked back to her bed. Ginny put the brush back in her trunk and pushed her feet into her sneakers.

Hermione flopped onto Ginny’s bed with a sigh.

“You got us up an hour early, you know,” Hermione said. Ginny shrugged flopped down next to her. Hermione sniffed, and looked at her.

“Did you put something in your hair?”

“Lavender did,” Ginny answered. Hermione nodded slowly.

“It smells nice.”

“Thanks.”

“Hey,” Parvati called. “Us two are going down to meet up with some boys. You want to join?”

Hermione and Ginny exchanged looks. “Sure,” Ginny said. She sent a mental explanation that she was going down early. Lavender led them out of the dorm and to the common room. Parvati linked arms with Hermione and Lavender threaded her arm through Ginny’s.

“So, how was your summer?” Lavender asked sweetly.

“Good,” Ginny answered. “We saw the Quidditch World Cup.”

“That’s nice,” Parvati replied absently. She waved to someone in the common room. “You meet anyone?”

Ginny frowned. “Er, a few people. Why?”

Lavender giggled. “No, silly, she means boys.”

“Oh!” Ginny blushed gently. “No, none that I remember.”

“So you’re still with Harry Potter?” Lavender asked quietly.

“Yes,” Ginny answered stiffly. She did not like being questioned about her love life. Both Lavender and Parvati’s smile didn’t seem as genuine as they had been a moment before.

“What about you, Hermione?” Parvati asked.

“Oh, no one in particular,” Hermione said, but her cheeks tinged pink. Ginny smirked. Was ‘no one in particular’ what Hermione was referring to Ron as these days?

“Come on, you can tell us!” Lavender pressed. Apparently, she hadn’t fallen for it either.

Hermione blushed harder and shook her head. “No, no one new this summer.” Lavender sighed but seemed to let it drop.

They reached the Great Hall and the two divas left to join another group of girls. Ginny picked a spot that was mostly deserted and dropped onto a bench. Hermione sat beside her and poured herself a glass of pumpkin juice. Ginny cupped her chin in her palm and stared blankly at a bowl full of bacon.

I’ll be there in a minute, Ron’s trying to find his other shoe. Ginny received an image of Ron lying flat on his bed, staring under it with his hair brushing the floor. Ginny smiled.

The rest of the day passed by like normal. She and Hermione left Ron and Harry first period for Muggle Studies while they went to Divination, met up at Transfiguration, stuck together during lunch, and then went to Defense Against the Dark Arts. Remus’ first lesson of the year was a great success; he presented the class with a spectacular duel between him and Sirius, demonstrating two different counter-curses, Impedimenta Jinx and the Stunning Spell. By the end of class, Ginny could cast a decent Impedimenta and a more than decent Stunner. She had even knocked out Sirius!

Their first Potions lesson of the year was second period on Friday. Ginny was crossing her fingers in anticipation of it. As the day and hour approached, Hermione crammed on her notes from the previous years, Ron and Harry discussed Professor Moody’s career in the Auror Department, and the entire school buzzed. Snape had held the position of potions master for 12 years; they were all eager for a new one.

The fourth year Gryffindors and Slytherins had all filed into the classroom by 9:45, all chattering excitedly. Ginny sat on her hands to keep from fidgeting. Hermione was chewing on her lip; Ron was watching her do so with a funny look on his face.

“CONSTANT VIGILENCE!”

The entire class jumped in their seats. Harry had drawn his wand and was looking around in surprise. Professor Moody stood in the doorway, his face in shadow, leaning on his walking stick.

“That caught your attention,” he remarked in a gruff voice. Everyone was silent as he limped to the teacher’s desk, his wooden leg clunking horribly with each step. He turned to face them, and his magical eye shot around the room unnaturally, scanning each face.

“How can you tell if someone’s poisoned your food?” he barked. No one raised a hand, not even Hermione. He raised an eyebrow. “No one?”

Ginny pondered a moment, then reached cautiously into Tom’s memories and searched them. Then she shyly raised her hand.

Both of Moody’s eyes fixed on her. “Yes, Miss?”

“Weasley,” she said. “It depends on the poison, but if it’s a poison brewed by a Wizard, there is a spell to reveal if anyone with magic has tampered with your food.”

Harry glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and raised an eyebrow. She showed him the thought trail that had brought her to the spell. Moody nodded at her, and his magical eye flicked towards Harry.

“That’s one way to do it,” he said. “Anyone else?”

Ginny thought harder. Obviously, he wasn’t looking for a spell. Moody’s eye whizzed around the room, then stopped suddenly somewhere behind Ginny.

“Yes?”

Ginny twisted in her chair, to see Neville looking up at his hand in surprise. He gulped, and lowered it quickly.

“There’s, er, a root that if stewed long enough will show if someone put stuff in your food if your pour a few drops of the water you boiled the root in onto it.”

Moody nodded again. “What’s this root called, Mr.?”

“Longbottom, sir,” Neville replied, glancing down at his feet. “It’s the root of a flower called Garederen. It’s found in tropical climates near fresh water springs.”

“Good,” Moody growled. He turned back to the class at large. “Garederen root is difficult to procure, but fortunately for you I have been to a region where it grows in abundance recently. Like Mr. Longbottom said, when stewed for seven hours it will expose any harmful substance on any food except for a few fruits and alcoholic drinks. Another thing, if you take the stewed root and mash it with ordinary parsnips, peppermint extract, and crushed bezoars to make a paste, it can counteract most poisons in addition to revealing them. That is what we are doing this afternoon. I need everyone to come up here and take your roots and bezoars,” Moody turned away; the class stood up hastily, scraping their benches back, and moved to Moody’s desk.

Ginny waited behind Hermione, and once she received her root, which was held in small glass jar, and bezoar, returned to her seat. A minute or so later, the entire class returned to their seats. Moody dropped into his chair with a sigh, and put his wooden leg up on a stool.

“First thing you need to do,” he said, “is put down that magazine!” Moody’s magic eye fixed on a desk in the back; Ginny turned and saw a group of girls blushing and one hastily putting a glossy magazine into her bag. Moody grunted and his magic eye flicked down to a paper on his desk. “First, you need to boil your parsnips until they get soft. Now!”

Ginny threw open her potion making kit. Parsnips weren’t commonly used in potion making, but it was a required ingredient on her list this year so she had plenty. She pulled out a handful of the white carrot-like vegetables and put them into her caldron. She pulled out a measuring cup and went to back of the class to fill it with water. Soon the water was bubbling gently in her caldron.

“Once it comes to a boil, you need to heat up your Garederen roots,” Moody said. “Use your wand and warm them until they reach about 99 degrees. Quick tip: Your internal body temperature is normally about 95 to 98 degrees, so if you stick your finger in the root and it does not feel warm then it is less than 95 degrees. If you stick your finger in and it is warm, but only mildly so, then it is the correct temperature. If it is hot, then you’ve exceeded 99 degrees.”

Ginny raised her eyebrows; she hadn’t known that. Judging by the look on Hermione’s face, she hadn’t known that factoid either. Ginny tapped the jar of roots with her wand. Steam fogged the glass within a minute; Ginny stuck a pinkie in the glob of brownish green root. It was warm.

Moody continued. “After heating the roots, drain the water from your caldron and add the roots.” Ginny did so. “Take a wooden spoon and stir it until the parsnips and Garederen roots are completely mixed. Then add one tablespoon of the peppermint extract.” They followed his instructions; Ginny measured her peppermint extract carefully and poured it into the caldron. “Increase the heat, cover it, and let it sit for twenty minutes.” Ginny added more fuel to the fire under her caldron and put the lid on top. Moody checked his watch, and turned back to the class.

“While we wait, I want everyone to pick a partner,” he growled. Ginny glanced at Harry, who shrugged at her. People were getting up and moving around the room. Ron glanced around, spotted Neville moving toward them, and threw an arm around Hermione. Hermione started, then blushed and avoided Ron’s gaze. Harry rolled his eyes at the ceiling. Ginny sniggered, but her smirk turned to a frown when she saw Parvati edging her way through the crowd towards them.

Look out, Ginny thought. Harry looked up, then turned back to her and raised an eyebrow.

What?

You know she was asking about you this morning?
Ginny replied. She wanted to know if we were still together.

She was probably just curious,
Harry thought. He scooted closer to her on the bench just the same.

“Hey,” Parvati said, smiling warmly at them, “would you be my partner, Harry?”

Harry turned pink and looked down at his fingers. Ginny pursed her lips, trying not to seem amused by her boyfriend.

“Er, no thanks,” he said, grabbing Ginny’s hand. “I’m already Ginny’s.”

Parvati’s smile soured slightly. She opened her mouth to say something else, but Moody banged his walking stick.

“Miss Patil,” he boomed, “partner up with Mr. Longbottom.”

Parvati scowled, but obeyed. Moody turned around and tapped the black board with his wand. A grid wrote itself onto it.

“We’re going to do a quick activity,” Moody said. Harry and Ginny exchanged confused glances. "I want all of you to open your books and choose a poison or other mind altering potion and then find its antidote. Write down a description of the poison and its antidote on two pieces of paper and bring them to me.”

Ginny glanced at Harry and shrugged. The students all opened their potions books; Ginny ran her finger down the contents table, then flipped to the chapter on poisons and antidotes.

How about this one? Harry asked mentally. Ginny found the poison he was looking at; which was the very first one. She rolled her eyes.

You can put a little more effort in, you know.

Harry huffed. Fine.

Ginny gazed blankly at her book. Most of these were either obvious or overly-simple.

What’s wrong with simple?

I’d like a little bit of elegance,
Ginny replied, turning a page.

What about this one? Ginny glanced at his page. A poison made from powdered dragon claw and the mucus of a dart frog. It made the victim spontaneously combust. Ginny raised an eyebrow. Also some subtly. Harry shrugged. Ginny turned back to her page. An entry at the bottom of the right page caught her eye.

Look at this one, Ginny pointed it out and Harry turned back to read it. Vida ido Frio, invented in 1676 by Spanish alchemist Philipito de Valencia. It is easily slipped into any food, but is only for the patient as the poison is very slow acting.

It enters the blood stream and slowly builds up blood clots by freezing blood vessels,
Harry continued. Once the victim is dead, the blood clots melt and it appears as natural causes. One dose is not enough to kill, it requires three separate dosages before the blood clots become large enough to cause damage.

Ginny raised her eyebrows. Sounds good.

Harry shrugged. As long as we get a good grade, I don’t really care.

Ginny glanced at the ingredient list, then examined the antidote. It seemed that the antidote they were already brewing would also counteract this poison, but only if they added a kicker like cayenne or chili peppers to melt the ice. She copied the descriptions onto paper, and stood. Moody glanced up at the sound of her bench scraping the stone floor. She stepped forward and handed him the paper. Moody’s normal eye moved over the paper, his magical eye whizzed around to fix on her.

“Good choice,” Moody growled; he ripped the paper in half and set each into a bowl on the desk. “You can have a seat.”

Ginny smiled and resumed her seat. Harry checked his watch. Ten more minutes before the antidote’s done.

Ginny yawned; amidst her crazy dreams, she hadn’t slept well. She dropped her head onto Harry’s shoulder and closed her eyes. Harry put his arm around her and kissed the top of her head. She smiled.

Ten minutes later, Moody called for the last of the poison/antidote pairs. “Uncover your caldrons,” he said gruffly. Ginny picked up her head and lifted the lid on her caldron; tan colored steam rushed out, filling her nostrils with the sharp scent of peppermint and a musty smell she guessed came from the roots.

“The solids should have sunk to the bottom and burned, I want you to scrape everything out into another bowl, a medium sized one should work, and blend it together.”

Blend? Ginny thought, glancing at Harry. He shrugged. Moody stood and moved towards the desks. He stuck what was left of his nose into the steam issuing from Ginny’s caldron. Ginny bit her lip. Moody picked up her wooden spoon, and set out a metal bowl. He flicked his wand and the caldron lifted up and started pouring into the bowl.

“Every bit of crust on the bottom needs to come out,” he said gruffly as he began scraping. Around her, the other fourth years copied Professor Moody’s actions. Ginny’s ears were warm. Moody got the last of it out and the caldron set itself down. He tossed aside the spoon and pointed his wand at the goop in the bowl.

“The spell you need to use is the Miscest Charm. Move your wand in a circular motion and use the incantation Misceo until it becomes a thin fluid.”

The goop folded in on itself, rapidly becoming a liquid. Moody lifted his wand and returned to his desk. Ginny picked up her own wand, but the mixture was already thinned out.

The bell rang a minute later; Moody barked out the homework, bring in six inches of parchment on the poison of their choice and another three on the antidote.

So proceeded September. They began a study of the progression of technology from the colonization of America to the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution in Muggle Studies. McGonagall started a unit on animal transfiguration; turning mice into bars of soap and tea pots into kittens and the like; Remus continued teaching them counter-curses; Binns drawled on about Goblin rebellions. Ginny had no more strange dreams, until the Friday the students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons arrived.

They were lined up by year, Ginny stood between Harry and Ron, talking quietly with Hermione over Ron’s crossed arms. It was cold, he’d forgotten his cloak, and he’d missed lunch because he had to do last minute Charms homework. He was irritated.

“When are they going to get here?” Ron growled. “I want dinner.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. Ginny gave her twin an exasperated look. Ron stuck his tongue out at her; she pushed it back into his mouth with a gloved finger. Unlike him, she had expected it to be cold outside.

“Look!” someone down the line shouted. Every eye was drawn upward, to a dark speck coming rapidly towards them.

“What is that?” someone behind her asked.

“It’s a UFO!” squeaked a third year girl.

“No, stupid, aliens aren’t real,” a fifth year said.

“It’s Santa Claus!” shouted Denis Creevey.

Ginny raised an eyebrow. Harry chuckled, and thought of a drawing from a children’s book, of a sleigh crossing in front of the moon pulled by reindeer. The speck turned out to be close; a carriage the size of a house thudded to the ground, huge winged horses trotted to a stop in front of them. The door to the carriage bore a coat of arms; two wands crossed and shooting sparks. It opened, and a boy in royal blue robes stepped out and set out a stool.

Then a foot exited the carriage and set itself on top of the stool. Ginny raised an eyebrow; the foot was inside a size hundred black pump. The woman that stepped out wore rich blue robes like the boy, glinting jewels at her neck and fingers, dark hair drawn into a bun at the nape of her neck, and was at least ten feet tall.

“Madam Maxine,” Professor Dumbledore said warmly as he stepped forward. “Welcome to Hogwarts.” He took her huge hand and kissed her jeweled knuckle.

“Dumbly-door,” Madam Maxine purred deeply in a heavy French accent, “eet iz good to see you.” She turned back to the carriage waved a hand to the people now coming out. “My students,” she said. The Beauxbatons’ students shivered in the wind, clutching meager cloaks and shawls around their shoulders.

“I expect it’s quite warm still in France,” Hermione said in a stage whisper around Ron.

“Shouldn’t they have expected it to be cold here, though?” Ginny whispered back.

“Well, Ron didn’t and he lives here,” Hermione replied. Ron scowled at her.

Dumbledore spoke with Madam Maxine a moment longer, then gestured to another teacher. Professor Sinestra stepped forward, then led the French guests inside. Dumbledore adjusted his pointed hat and turned back to face the grounds.

“Now the Durmstrangs,” Harry muttered. Ginny slipped her arm through his and leaned her head on his shoulder. She closed her eyes, but snapped them back open a second later as another cry sounded. Ginny’s eyes scanned the sky, but found nothing. Harry nudged her and pointed to the lake, where a flag-topped pole was rising out of the water. Ginny raised her eyebrows. The pole, Harry told her that it was a mast, moved towards them, rising still. A sail rose up, followed by another, until a full ship rose up out of the water. It came to a stop, and dropped anchor. Then a group of people boarded a row-boat and sailed for the shore. Ginny saw as they stepped onto the shore that these people were dressed in thick coats and fur caps. They fell into two lines, led by a man dressed in white furs that Ginny could tell were quite expensive even from the distance.

The Durmstrang students came to a stop before Dumbledore. Many of them saluted him; Dumbledore smiled welcoming at them all.

“Albus,” said the leading man with a grin. His teeth were yellowed, and though his curly goatee was pure black, the hair curling out from beneath his fur cap was shot with gray. Dumbledore extended a hand, and the two shook.

“Professor Karkaroff,” Dumbledore said cheerily, “welcome!”

Ginny sucked in her breath.

What? Harry thought, glancing at her with a frown.

Karkaroff, Ginny thought with a slight tremor. Remember when I told you Hogwarts used to have a pen pal program?

Yeah?

Tom Riddle’s pen pal was called Karkaroff.


Harry raised his eyebrows. I’ll keep an eye on him.

Ginny nodded vaguely. Her eye had been caught on one of the students at the head of the line. She nudged Ron.

“Is that?” she whispered.

Ron frowned as he focused on the tall, droop-shouldered boy. Then he gasped. “It is!” he said in awe.

“What?” Hermione asked.

“Viktor Krum!” Ginny and Ron said in unison. The other students had noticed this as well; somewhere to Ginny’s right a bunch of girls were giggling and whispering about autographs. Ginny rolled her eyes at them, but she was bouncing on the balls of her feet as well. The very same hands that caught the snitch at the final of the Quidditch World Cup would be at her school for the rest of the year!

Dumbledore led them all inside, Ron muttering about how it was about time; they filled the Great Hall for dinner. There were several foreign dishes on the tables; Hermione guessed they were there to make the guests feel at home. One of the Beauxbatons girl’s felt at home enough to come over and ask for one of the French dishes. Ron was drooling by the time she walked away, and Hermione was huffing into her steak and kidney pie. Ron swore the girl had to be part veela. Harry simply shrugged and went back to his potatoes. Then, as the dishes cleared themselves, Dumbledore rose and called for quiet.

“To our guests, I say welcome once more,” he said, spreading his hands wide. “Now, the moment has arrived. The Triwizard Tournament is about to officially begin. I would like to say a few words of explanation before we bring in the casket —”

“The what now?” Ron hissed.

“Shh!” Hermione hissed back.

“— just to clarify the procedure we will be following throughout the tournament. But first, let me introduce to you, Mr. Bartemius Crouch, Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation —” Ginny clapped politely along with the rest of the Hall as Crouch stood up —“and Mr. Ludo Bagman, Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports.” This time the applause was much louder, was Bagman rose from his seat and waved cheerily.

“Mr. Crouch and Mr. Bagman have worked tirelessly over these last few months on the arrangements of the Tournament,” Dumbledore continued. “They will be joining Professor Karkaroff, Madam Maxine, and myself on the panel that shall be judging the champion’s efforts.” The restlessness in the hall seemed to stifle, as every mind refocused on Dumbledore’s words. The old professor smiled, as though he had noticed them redirecting their attention, and waved towards the door at the end of the teacher’s table. Filch had been standing there, unnoticed. “The casket, if you please, Mr. Filch.”

Filch nodded stiffly and disappeared through the door. A moment later he came back out carrying a weathered, wooden chest. The surface of the old wood was laden with bright jewels, all blinking in the lights. Ginny eyed it uncertainly. She had a funny feeling in her gut, almost like déjà vu.

“The instructions for the tasks the champions will face this year have already been examined by Mr. Crouch and Mr. Bagman,” Dumbledore said as Filch set the chest almost reverently on the table before him, “and they have made the necessary arrangements for each challenge. There will be three tasks, spaced throughout the school year, and the will test each champion in different ways: Their magical powers, their daring, their powers of deduction, and, of course, their ability to cope with danger.”

Ginny held her breath; briefly her mind conjured an image of herself defeating each of the three tasks and winning.

“As you know, three champions will be selected to compete, one from each school. They will be marked on how well they perform each of the tasks and the champion with the highest total at the close of the Tournament shall be crowned the winner of the Triwizard Cup. These champions will be chosen by an impartial selector: the Goblet of Fire.”

The entire hall was silent as Dumbledore took his wand and tapped the chest before him three times. The old hinges protested as the lid swung open. The professor reached into it, and drew out an over-sized, hand-carved wooden cup. Dancing in its depths, almost spilling over the rim, were white blue flames. Ginny’s breath caught in her throat. The feeling of dèjà vu turned into leaden dread in her throat. She had seen that cup before…

Dumbledore closed the chest and set the goblet on its lid. The flames danced innocently, but Ginny suddenly felt like their icy fire was clenching her heart.

“Anyone wishing to submit themselves into the Tournament should write their name and school on parchment and drop it into the flames,” Dumbledore said. Ginny’s eyes grew even wider. “Any aspiring champion has twenty-four hours to do so. Tomorrow evening, Halloween, the goblet shall spit back out the names of those it has deemed most worthy to represent their school. The goblet will be placed in the Entrance Hall tonight, where it will be available to all.

“To ensure that no underage student attempts to enter the Tournament,” Dumbledore said, “I will be drawing an Age Line around the Goblet of Fire once it has been put into place. No one under the age of seventeen will be able to cross that line.”

Ginny glanced at Harry. He frowned and mouthed “What?” She shook her head, mentally telling him to wait. Dumbledore wasn’t done.

“I would like to impress upon those wishing to enter that this tournament is not to be taken lightly. Once you place your name in the goblet, there is no going back. Entering your name creates a binding, magical contract that demands that if you are chosen, you must participate. Before entering, please be sure that you are wholeheartedly willing to endure the challenges the champions must face.” Dumbledore smiled again. “Now, I believe it is time for bed. Good night to you all.”

The benches scraped against the stone floor as students stood and made their way to the doors. Ginny linked her arm through Harry’s as she walked, fighting the urge to look over her shoulder at the Goblet of Fire.

What’s the matter? Harry asked her.

That cup, she thought. I’ve seen it before! Something bad is going to happen, I know it.

Harry laced his fingers with hers and squeezed her hand. We’ll be fine, he thought. Ginny nodded, but she wasn’t sure she could believe him. The cold dread had spread from her throat to her chest.

“Where do you think the Durmstrangs are sleeping?” Ron asked. “I wouldn’t mind giving Krum my bed. I could kip on a cot.”

“They’re probably staying on their ship,” Hermione said. “Likewise for the Beauxbatons’ students.”

Ginny glanced at the group of Durmstrangs. Karkaroff had come down and was leading them back out, talking with Viktor Krum. The excitement she had felt earlier at the Quidditch player’s arrival had faded now. The four of them reached the door at the same time as Karkaroff and his students; they paused to let them pass.

“Thank you,” Karkaroff said, glancing at them uninterestedly. Then he froze and his gaze snapped back to Harry’s face. His students stopped moving too. Karkaroff turned to face Harry properly, his face showing surprise. The others were staring at Harry too now. Ginny felt Harry’s irritation at them all staring at him, or rather his scar. The corners of her mouth turned down; she’d like to hex Karkaroff’s rude butt through the door. Several of his students were whispering and pointing now.

“Yeah, that’s Harry Potter,” growled a voice behind them. Ginny turned, to see Professor Moody standing behind them with a scowl on his scarred face. “If you’re all done gawking, you’re blocking the doorway.”

Karkaroff turned to face him; the Durmstrang Headmaster paled. “You!” he rasped.

“Me,” Moody agreed irritatedly. “Do you mind?”

Karkaroff set his jaw, then, glancing back at Harry, gestured to his students to keep moving. Ginny scowled at their retreating backs.

“Come on,” Ron said, pushing past them towards the stairs.

Ginny and Hermione left the boys in the common room; Ginny took a hot shower, trying to drown the dread that still persisted. She could not remember for the life of her why that cup meant foul weather in the future.

That night she tossed and turned; sleep eluded her actively. Blue white fire burned over her eyelids, and once she did finally slip into dreamland, her dreams still battered her. She kept seeing the Goblet of Fire. Its flames turned scarlet and spit out paper, but try as she could, she never could snatch them out of the air before they combusted.

Hermione woke her the next morning around eleven. Ginny’s muscles were sore and she felt anything but rested. They gathered in the common room where Hermione insisted they do homework. Ron and Harry were off doing something else, so Hermione asked her to tell Harry to come join them. The two of them had more homework than they did. Ginny did, and twenty minutes later Harry dropped onto the couch beside her, a grumbling Ron on his heels. Five minutes later, Ginny had curled up with her head in his lap and was sleeping. Harry joined her dreams not long after that.

Ginny? Ginny, wake up.

Ginny groaned and squeezed her eyes shut.

“It’s time for dinner,” Harry said softly in her ear.

“No,” she mumbled. Harry kissed the tender flesh behind her ear. She smiled as her spine shivered.

“The champions are going to be selected,” he reminded her. Ginny sighed and opened her eyes. The common room was dark; it seemed most people had already left for dinner. Ginny sat up and ran a hand through her hair. Harry stood up and offered her a hand. Smiling, she took it and let him lead her from the common room.

Dinner was tense; everyone was waiting for the naming of the champions. The Goblet of Fire stood before the teacher’s table, burning brightly. Ginny picked at her food and ended up dropping her head onto Harry’s shoulder.

As soon as the desserts vanished, Dumbledore called for quiet again. Ginny straightened, all the students fell silent.

“Well, the goblet is almost ready to make its decision,” he said. “I speculate that it requires a moment more. Now, when the champions’ names are called, I would ask them to please come up the top of the hall, walk along the staff table and go through into the next chamber —” Dumbledore extended a hand to the door to his right —“where they will wait for their first instructions.”

Then Dumbledore passed his wand over the hall, and every candle went out, plunging them into semidarkness. The only source of light came from the Goblet’s flames, flickering gently. The flame illuminated each eager face, stretching to the very back of the hall. Ginny watched the fire, and was reminded of something. Her eyes went wide, her heart beat faster in her chest. The dream she had had at the beginning of the year; the flame-filled cup that had emitted a slip of parchment. Parchment that had Harry’s name written on it.

The flame turned red; Ginny bit her lip. It convulsed, and spat out a smoking paper. Dumbledore caught it and unfolded it.

“The champion for Durmstrang is,” Dumbledore called, “Mr. Viktor Krum!”

Cheers came from the Slytherin table where the Durmstrang students were seated. Viktor Krum stood, his stooped silhouette casting a shadow in the Goblet’s light, and made his way to the top table. Dumbledore shook his hand, and Krum exited through the door. Ginny scanned for Karkaroff’s face, the headmaster was smirking.

The flame reddened again, and out flew another slip of paper. Dumbledore snatched it from the air.

“The champion for Beauxbatons’ Academy is… Miss Fleur Delacour!”

Ginny turned to see the Ravenclaw table, where the Beauxbatons were seated as the hall applauded again.

“It’s her!” Ron cheered. The girl who resembled a veela had stood up and was walking towards the teacher’s table.

“They’re disappointed,” Hermione said, “look.” Indeed, the other Beauxbatons’ were not cheering, in fact, two of the girls had started crying into their hands. Ron was not looking, rather he was watching Fleur walk to Dumbledore. Hermione caught sight of his expression and scowled. Ginny felt the need to elbow him very hard in the ribs.

As Ron stifled obscenities, the Goblet of Fire spewed a third piece of paper. The hall went silent. Ginny bit her lip, praying what she feared would happen would not. Dumbledore caught it; he brushed aside stray sparks and read the name.

“For Hogwarts,” he called, “the champion is Mr. Cedric Diggory!”

Ginny joined in the applause with relief; the entire Hufflepuff table erupted with cheering as Diggory stood and made his way proudly to the top of the hall. It hadn’t been Harry; Ginny clapped hard enough to make her palms sting.

Dumbledore waved for quiet, and eventually quiet came. “We now have our three champions!” Dumbledore called. “I am sure I can count on all of you, including the remaining students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, to cheer on your champion as they face each task. By supporting them, you are contributing in a very real —”

Dumbledore stopped midsentence, turning to face the Goblet again. The hall seemed to hold its breath. The flames had turned red again. Ginny’s heart stopped in her chest.

The fire sparked as a fourth piece of parchment flew into the air. Dumbledore, almost automatically, reached out a trembling hand to catch it. He unfolded the paper, slowly, painstakingly, and read it by the light of the now blue flame. Ginny’s fists clenched in her lap.Please no, please don’t be —

“Harry Potter,” Dumbledore called in shock.

Back to index


Chapter 15: Chapter 15: A Fourth Champion

Author's Notes: Some dialogue taken from the book, chapter 17 to be exact


Fifteen: The Goblet of Fire, Part Two
A Fourth Champion

Ginny


Ginny’s fists clenched, her fingernails digging into her palm. Harry’s face went pale; his mind frozen. Every eye had turned to stare at him.

“Harry Potter,” Dumbledore called again. Harry didn’t move.

You are fu —

Harry!
Ginny thought hastily. Just go. You need to go.

No, no I am not moving. I am hearing things, he is calling someone else.


Ginny glanced at Dumbledore; the professor’s face was unreadable. Ginny pushed Harry up. He did call you. You have to go.

Harry glanced at her; his eyes were wide but his jaw clenched. Ginny gave him one more push, and he started down the aisle. Whispers reached Ginny’s ear; she cracked her knuckles in annoyance. Couldn’t they just shut up? Did they have to mutter about his every move?

Harry reached Dumbledore; the old man didn’t shake his hand, he just touched Harry’s shoulder and said something in his ear. Harry nodded and left the hall through the door. Ginny closed her eyes and focused on his thoughts. His hands were trembling as he walked. Portraits along the walls fluttered about, whispering to each other and watching Harry apprehensively. One woman darted out of her frame and out of sight. Harry pushed open a door and stepped inside a small room. Fleur Delacour, Cedric Diggory, and Viktor Krum all stood at the other end of the room, facing a fire. He felt dwarfed by their shadows, she could tell. Harry hesitated in the doorway.

What do I do? he thought.

Ginny bit her lip; Dumbledore, Madam Maxine, and Professor Karkaroff were all talking amongst themselves. Both Madam Maxine and Karkaroff looked angry.

She focused on Harry’s thoughts again. The other champions had turned to face him.

“What is it?” asked Fleur Delacour. “Do zey want us back in ze Hall?”

Ginny felt his awkward confusion as he stood in the doorway. Movement at the top table caught her attention; she re-focused and caught sight of Ludo Bagman pushing his way past the other teachers’ chairs and moving through the door.

Harry’s thoughts were muddled. What should I say? What the hell did I get picked for? Why me?!

I don’t know,
Ginny thought back. Something’s very wrong.

Oh, no duh, Sherlock.

What?

Nothing, never mind. But what do I say?


Harry’s attention shifted, Ginny strained her mind to see what he saw. Ludo Bagman had entered the room. She saw him as though through a clouded window, the image warping at the edges and color appearing faded at the sides. Bagman came forward and gripped Harry’s arm, pulling him forward.

“Extraordinary!” Bagman cried. “Absolutely extraordinary!”

I’ll show you something extraordinary, Harry thought irritatedly. My wand up your —

Listen!
Ginny scolded.

“Gentlemen, lady,” Bagman continued, his voice was slightly distant, and sounded as though she was listening to a radio in another room. “Might I introduce to you, incredible though it may seem, the fourth Triwizard Champion?”

The three older champions looked taken aback. Krum straightened and crossed his arms over his chest, his face dark. Cedric Diggory simply knitted together his eyebrows at Harry. Fleur, though, smirked, tossing her long, silvery hair.

“Vairy funny joke, Meester Bagman,” she said, her thick French accent reaching her mind garbled.

“It’s no joke,” Bagman assured them, “Harry’s name has come from the Goblet of Fire!”

Cedric looked even further confused. Krum’s eyes fixed on Harry; Ginny even could feel the intensity of his gaze. Fleur frowned, looking between Harry and Bagman with sudden bewilderment.

“But evidentially zair ‘as been a mistake,” Fleur said, her voice dismissing Harry. “’E cannot compete, ‘e is too young.”

Young? I’m barely three years younger than you! Harry was getting more irritated as his confusion increased.

“Well, it is amazing,” Bagman said, rubbing at his chin and looking down at Harry in a way Ginny did not like. “But, as you know, the age restriction was only imposed this year as an extra safety measure. And as his name did indeed come out of the Goblet… I mean, I don’t’ think there can be any ducking out at this stage. It’s down in the rules, you’re obliged… Harry will just have to do the best he —”

The door behind them opened again. Harry turned and looked over his shoulder, giving Ginny view of Professor Dumbledore striding in; on his heels were Karkaroff and Maxine, as well as Mr. Crouch, Remus, Sirius, Professor McGonagall, and Moody.

Where did Sirius come from? Harry thought.

He’s staying at the castle, Ginny answered. Remus told me at the beginning of the year that he’s staying on as an assistant for DADA.

“Madam Maxine,” Fleur said, pushing past Bagman and Harry to reach her headmistress. “Zey are saying zat zis little boy is to compete also!”

Little boy? Both Harry and Ginny echoed indignantly.

Madam Maxine was standing with her spine rod straight. “What is ze meaning of zis, Dumbly-dorr?” she barked.

“I’d rather like to know that as well, Dumbledore,” Karkaroff said, his eyes glittering darkly. “We were never told that the host school was allowed a second champion! I demand that Madam Maxine and I be allowed to submit our students’ names again, so that all will be fair!”

“We were under ze impression zat your Age Line would keep younger students away,” Madam Maxine said.

“We are being treated most unfairly!” Karkaroff said. “If you are allowed an underage champion, we should have been allowed to bring underage candidates!”

“There has obviously been a mistake,” Sirius interjected. “Harry didn’t submit his own name, I’m sure of it!”

“Oh, zen he must ‘ave asked an older student to do eet for ‘im!” Madam Maxine snapped.

“Harry would do no such thing,” Remus said; Ginny saw he was trying to remain calm, but his eyes were flickering with worry.

“Did you put your name in the Goblet, Harry?” Professor Dumbledore asked.

Harry shook his head.

“Did you ask an older student to do it for you?” Karkaroff barked.

“No,” Harry said in exasperation. “I didn’t want this!”

“Ah, but of course ‘e is lying!” snapped Madam Maxine. “’E would not admit to ‘is crime!”

“I’m not!” Harry insisted.

“I believe him,” Remus said.

“So do I,” Sirius added. “Harry does not enjoy being in the spotlight.”

“Bah,” Madam Maxine scoffed. “All young children desire glory.”

“I do not trust the word of an ex-convict, regardless,” Karkaroff said.

Sirius opened his mouth angrily, but Remus caught him and held him back, whispering something quickly in his ear.

“Then take mine.” Professor McGonagall stepped forward. “Potter prefers to remain out of the center of attention; any and all fame he gains through his actions is because others made the news known.”

Karkaroff sneered at her. “You are obviously biased.”

“I trust Harry’s word,” Professor Dumbledore said, stopping McGonagall from responding.

“Meester Crouch,” Madam Maxine said, “Meester Bagman, surely you agree wiz Professor Karkaroff and I zat zis is unacceptable!”

Mr. Crouch took his time in answering. He stood on the outskirts of the group, in half-light that gave him a skeletal look. Ginny felt something else was going through his mind in addition to the problem before him. “I do agree that this is irregular,” he said finally.

“Then he should be kept from competing!” Karkaroff said.

“I’m afraid that cannot happen,” Crouch replied, shaking his head. “By having his name entered, Mr. Potter accepted a binding magical contract, willingly or not, and the Goblet of Fire completed it. He must participate in all of the tasks, without any interference from outside, fully and completely, or face dire consequences.”

“What consequences?” Remus asked.

Crouch gave Remus a sideways look. “I’m afraid the punishment of breaking such a contract would demand the government to banish him from magical communities and strip him of all his rights as a wizard.”

Ginny’s attention snapped. Hermione shook her shoulder, and Ginny blinked to readjust to the environment.

“Everyone is heading back to their dorms,” Hermione said. “Do you want to wait for Harry?”

Ginny nodded. “I’m trying to eavesdrop,” she whispered. “Pretend you’re talking to me about something I don’t have to respond too.” Hermione blinked, a bit startled, but Ginny simply closed her eyes and focused on Harry’s thoughts again. She struggled to form a mental picture of what he was seeing. Slowly, it came back.

“After all our meetings and negotiations and compromises,” Karkaroff was saying angrily, “I little expected something of this nature! I have half a mind to leave now!”

“Empty threat, Karkaroff,” growled the voice of Professor Moody. Harry’s gaze found him standing by the door, leaning on his walking stick. Through Harry’s eye, he seemed almost demonic to Ginny. He stepped forward, his wooden leg clunking rhythmically against the stone floor. “You can’t leave your champion now; he’s got to compete, at risk of forfeiting his rights, like Crouch said. Convenient, eh?”

“Convenient?” Karkaroff repeated, his face attempting to show disdain, but his knuckles were white and balled into fists. “I’m afraid I don’t understand your implication, Moody.”

“Don’t you?” Moody said, his voice barely audible. “Someone put Potter’s name into that cup, knowing he’d have to compete if it came out.”

“Someone ‘oo wished to give ‘Ogwarts two bites at ze apple!” said Madam Maxine, her tone agitated.

“I quite agree,” said Karkaroff, gesturing to Madam Maxine, “I shall be lodging complaints with your Ministry of Magic and the International Confederation of Wizards!”

“If anyone’s got a reason to complain, it’s Harry!” Sirius snapped.

“Yes,” Moody agreed, “but… funny thing… I don’t hear him saying a word.”

All eyes turned towards Harry. Ginny could feel another straw drop onto his back.

“Why should ‘e complain?” burst out Fleur Delacour, and the attention shifted. She looked like a child being denied her favorite toy. “’E ‘as ze chance to compete, ‘asn’t ‘e? We ‘ave all been ‘oping to be chosen for weeks and weeks! Ze honor for our schools! A thousand Galleons in prize money; zis is a chance many would die for!”

“Maybe someone’s hoping Potter is going to die for it,” mused Moody; his tone seemed observational, but both Ginny and Harry detected a trace of a growl in it.

Those in the room seemed not to know how to respond to this ominous pronouncement. Finally, Bagman laughing nervously. “Moody, old man, what a thing to say!”

“We all know Professor Moody considers the morning wasted if he has not discovered at least six plots to murder him by lunchtime,” Karkaroff said mockingly. “Now he is teaching his students to fear assassination as well? An odd quality in a teacher, but Dumbledore, I am sure, had his reasons.” He didn’t sound sure, however.

“Imagining things, am I?” Mood said, the growl now unhidden. “Seeing things, eh? It was a skilled witch or wizard who put his name into that goblet —”

“Where is ze evidence of zat?” Madam Maxine snapped.

“In the fact that they hoodwinked a very powerful magical object! It would need an exceptionally strong Confundus Charm to bamboozle that goblet into forgetting that only three schools compete in the tournament; I’m guessing they submitted Potter’s name under a fourth school, to make sure he was the only one in his category.”

“You seem to have given this a great deal of thought, Moody,” Karkaroff said, his tone almost vicious. “And a very ingenious theory it is — though, of course, I heard that you recently got into your head that one of your birthday gifts was a cunningly disguised basilisk egg, smashing it to pieces before realizing it was merely a carriage clock! So, you’ll excuse us if we don’t take your theories very seriously.”

“There are those who will take advantage of a perfectly innocent occasion, Karkaroff,” Moody growled. “It was once my job to think as Dark Wizards do; I’m sure you remember that.”

Karkaroff turned red, but he fingered his left forearm nervously. Dumbledore put a hand on Moody’s shoulder, a warning look on his face. He turned back to face the others, and his face seemed weary.

“How this situation came to pass, we do not know,” he said. “For the time being, however, we must accept that both Cedric and Harry have been chosen to compete. This, they shall do.”

“Ah, but Dumbly-dorr —” Madam Maxine began.

“If you have another solution, my dear Madam, that will not end in either boy being banished from the magical world, I would be glad to hear it” Dumbledore cut her off. Madam Maxine did not, apparently, for she closed her mouth with her cheeks burning.

Wish she did, Harry thought sullenly.

We’ll figure it out, Ginny told him. Just be patient.

Not many else looked happy with the situation either; Professor McGonagall’s face was tense, Sirius seemed angry still, and Remus’ face was worried. Bagman, however, was now smiling broadly.

“Well, shall we crack on then?” Bagman asked. Dumbledore nodded, and waved to the two other Headmasters to follow him from the room. Karkaroff shot Moody one last look of loathing, but followed Dumbledore out. Madam Maxine murmured something in French to Fleur and left the room. The other teachers left as well, Remus giving Harry a reassuring smile.

“Barty?” Bagman said, looking over at Crouch. “You want to do the honors?”

“Ah, yes, instructions,” Crouch said, stepping farther into the light. Against the flames, his face looked tired, even ill. There were bags under his eyes and fresh wrinkles in his forehead. He inhaled deeply, and flicked his gaze, in turn, to each of the champions. His eyes lingered on Harry’s face a moment longer than before.

“The first task is made to test your daring,” Crouch said. “So we will not reveal any specific details regarding it. Courage in the face of ignorance is important; very important.”

“It will happen on the twenty-first of November,” Bagman added. “You’ll be judged by the three Heads of the schools, and by Barty and I.”

“You are not permitted to ask for or accept help of any kind from your teachers,” Crouch continued. “You will face the challenge armed only with your wands, your wits, and your nerve. We will give you information on the second task when the first is completed.”

“And since you’re going to be busy with the tournament, you don’t have to take the end of year exams,” Bagman said.

No exams? Harry thought hopefully. Maybe this has a bright side!

“Is that it?” Bagman asked Crouch, who nodded.

“You are now dismissed,” Crouch said. “I suggest you get some rest. Good night.”

Crouch beckoned to Bagman, who followed him out. Harry glanced over at the other three.

Someone nudged Ginny, breaking her concentration once more. Someone’s coming; I’ll be outside waiting for you, she thought quickly, and opened her eyes. Remus and Sirius had seated themselves across the table from her and Hermione.

“You were listening?” Sirius asked quietly.

Ginny nodded. “I don’t like it,” she said.

“I don’t think any of us do,” Remus sighed. “But Dumbledore is right; we can’t keep him from participating.”

Ginny blew a strand of hair out of her face. “I should have seen this coming,” she muttered.

“You couldn’t have,” Remus said. “It caught everyone by surprise.”

“But I did see it coming!” she said in frustration. “I should have understood what it meant!”

Sirius frowned. “What do you mean?”

“I had a dream at the beginning of term,” she said. “I saw the Goblet; I saw Harry’s name come out of it.”

Remus and Sirius exchanged glances. “This doesn’t bode well,” Remus said.

“You saw other things too,” Hermione said. “What else?”

Ginny ran a hand through her hair, and caught sight of the door out of the hall opening again, and the group of champions exiting. She waved to Harry, and he slipped past Krum and Cedric to hurry towards them.

“What’s going on?” he asked, dropping onto the bench beside her. Ginny laced her fingers through his, giving his hand a squeeze.

“Remember that dream I had?”

“Which one?”

“The really weird one, with all the pictures.”

“Oh, yeah. What about it?”

“She says she saw your name in the Goblet of Fire,” Sirius said.

“I didn’t put it in,” Harry insisted.

“We know,” Remus said quickly, raising a hand. “The question is: Who did?”

“What else did you see, Ginny?”

Ginny bit the inside of her lip, trying to remember her dream. “It started with small clips of things; a large house on a hill, a couple of police officers reviewing a case, Tom in class years ago, and some woman pacing down a classroom. Then I was underwater, drowning, and Harry came in, but he wasn’t answering any of my questions. He had gills, and webbed hands. He took me to the surface, then I was in the Great Hall, and the Goblet was there. The parchment with his name was just beginning to burn, and I heard something.” Ginny shut her eyes, trying to remember. “I can’t remember what it was! I followed it, but all I saw was someone’s cloak going around a corner. I can’t remember what that sound was.”

Sirius and Remus exchanged looks again. “That’s a lot of information,” Remus said.

“The house she saw, and the police officers,” Harry began, “they reminded me of a dream I had during the summer. I saw an old man going into that house, and he went upstairs, where three men were talking. One of them wasn’t… He wasn’t human. I couldn’t see the faces of the other two. This huge snake came in, and the thing spoke to it, then he called the old man in. They said something to him, then they killed him.”

“That old man was in one of the photos the police officers were looking at,” Ginny said.

Remus frowned. “This is very odd,” he said.

“Dumbledore will want to know,” said Sirius.

“Probably,” Ginny said. “I want to know how he’s going to keep Harry alive during the tasks.”

“I don’t think there’s much he can do,” Harry said. “Crouch said that no one can help me.”

“No teachers can help you,” Ginny corrected. “But, they can help me.”

Remus quirked an eyebrow. “Are you interested in taking any extra-credit this year, Miss Weasley?”

“That I am,” she said. “I’ll help you, Harry, every step of the way.”

“I will too,” Hermione piped up. “You couldn’t keep me away.”

“And I am not a teacher,” Sirius said. “Technically.”

Harry smiled gratefully. “Thanks,” he said softly. “That means a lot.”

“We’ll do our best,” Remus said. “Indirectly in my case, unfortunately.”

“First, you need to get to bed,” Sirius said, checking his watch. “You’ve got DADA first thing tomorrow, and I think Remus is suddenly going to be teaching you more advanced defensive spells.”

“Yes, I think that is an excellent idea,” Remus said. “Shield charms tomorrow.”

Harry nodded; “That might be a good idea.”

“Go on,” Sirius said, flapping his hands at them. “Bed; in different locations.”

Harry flushed, Ginny averted her eyes. Hermione smirked. “I’ll make sure they follow directions,” she said. Sirius winked at them.

“See you tomorrow,” Remus said.

Hermione led them from the Great Hall up the marble stairs to the seventh floor. She gave the password to the Fat Lady, and the painting swung forward.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


Harry stepped through the portrait hole and was met by a wall of sound. Every Gryffindor, it seemed, had been waiting for them; for him. Students were cheering, people were shouting congratulations.

“How’d you do it?” Fred and George roared, their faces filled with delight.

Harry faltered. Crap, he thought. Ginny squeezed his hand again.

“Coming through!” she shouted, charging forward determinedly. “Harry’s very tired; let us through!”

The crowd parted, a bit startled. Ginny pulled him forward. “Pardon us, Harry wants to go to bed. You can ask him about it in the morning!”

Fred and George caught up with them. “Come on, Harry, you can tell us!” said George.

“Ask him tomorrow,” Ginny said.

“We never saw you with a beard!” Fred ignored her, which was his first mistake. The crowd pressed closer.

Ginny drew her wand. “Back up!” she called. “Back up or I’m going to start hexing people!”

The wall of bodies stumbled backwards. Fred and George did not.

“Come on!” they said together.

“I warned you,” Ginny said.

“You wouldn’t hurt your favorite brothers,” Fred said dismissively; that was his second mistake.

Ginny leveled her wand. “Nos Vespertiliones,” she cried.

Large, brown things erupted from their noses. Ginny pulled Harry forward as the bogeys started attacking their faces.

“Hermione, would you fix them in a minute?” she called over her shoulder as Fred and George started yelling expletives. The rest of the students were all laughing, but none of them got in her way.

Ginny stopped outside the door to the boys’ stairs. She pressed a kiss to his cheek; Harry closed his eyes and inhaled the smell of her flowery shampoo. Tension fled from his shoulders; he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into a hug.

Thank you, he thought.

Ginny smiled and brushed hair out of his eyes. “You’re welcome,” she murmured.

“Kiss!” someone shouted. Harry’s cheeks heated. Ginny shot whoever it was a glare, but she kissed his cheek again.

“Goodnight,” she said.

“Night,” he replied. He let go of her and climbed up the stairs. He heard Ginny yell something else at the crowd, probably telling them off for invading his business, and then Fred and George stopped cursing. Hermione must have used the counter-charm.

He pushed open the door to his dorm. The room was empty, but the curtains around Ron’s bed had been drawn closed. Harry hesitated, then gripped the edge of the curtain.

“Ron?” he said. “Are you there?”

“No.”

Harry pulled back the curtain. Ron was lying on his back, staring up at the canopy roof with an irritated look on his face. He glanced at Harry, then returned to glaring at the roof of his canopy.

“What can I do for you, Oh Great Boy Who Lived?” he spat.

Harry was taken aback. “What?”

“You heard me.”

“I didn’t put my name in,” Harry said. “I need you to believe me.”

Ron said nothing.

“Please, Ron.”

Ron raised his hand and folded down his fingers, leaving only the middle one standing. Harry fell back, startled.

“Ron?”

“I don’t exist to be your servant,” Ron snapped. “I’d go get one of your many followers to do whatever it is you want if I were you.”

“I don’t want anything,” Harry spluttered. “I — I just need you to believe me.”

“Well, I don’t. You could have at least told me you were entering.”

“I wasn’t!”

“Sure you weren’t,” Ron scoffed. Harry clenched his jaw.

“Fine,” he said, “stay here and sulk.” He pulled the curtain shut with a jerk and turned to his bed. He dropped onto it and glared at his own canopy.

Harry? What’s the matter now?

Ron thinks I did this myself,
Harry thought.

Ginny conjured a few different methods of torturing Ron, along with several curse words. That idiot!

Harry didn’t reply. He felt more hurt than angry at his friend.

I’ll make him see sense, Ginny continued.

No, don’t. It’s not worth it.

But he’s being a git!


Harry sighed. Yeah, well, he’ll have to get over it on his own. We’ve got more worries.

Harry felt Ginny’s anger subsiding. First Karkaroff and Maxine, then Fred and George, the rest of the school. Does no one but Hermione, Sirius, Remus and me believe you?

Diggory doesn’t,
Harry thought. He didn’t say so, but I could tell.

Ginny didn’t reply immediately. Harry scowled. Don’t tell me you fancy him.

What? Are you joking?


Harry huffed. So I’m not only competing in the tournament against him, but now I’m fighting him for your attention? Are you joking with me?

Harry, don’t be an idiot,
Ginny thought. I don’t fancy anyone.

You like Cedric!

Harry, shut up! That doesn’t matter!

You admit it!
Harry thought. He felt Ginny’s ears beginning to burn and her anger returning.

Cedric Diggory is good-looking, I admit, she said, but I am not interested in him!

Harry huffed. Great.

Ginny mentally kicked him. You’re getting off-topic.

You’re always the right topic.


He felt her smile, and his stress lessened a bit.

Thank you, Harry, but you do need to focus on this.

What are we focusing on?

The tournament. We have to find out what the first task is.

I thought I wasn’t supposed to know.

They said that they couldn’t tell you, they didn’t say anything about someone else telling you.


Harry grinned. You’re awesome.

Yes, well, first we have to find someone who knows. Keep a look out for people involved in the tournament who will talk. None of the teachers can, so that rules out Remus. Sirius might be able to help, but I don’t think they’ll let him in on it.


Harry yawned. That’s a good idea.

You’re falling asleep.

No, I’m listening.

I am in your head, Harry, I know when you’re lying. Go to sleep already.

You’re still talking.


He could tell she was rolling her eyes, mental link or not. Goodnight, silly.

Night, darling.
He pulled his shoes off and shoved them under his bed before taking off his robes and swapping them for pajamas. Ginny closed the mental flow from her side, probably because she was going to take a shower, as he collapsed onto his bed again. His other dorm mates started coming up, so he pulled the curtains closed.

Back to index


Chapter 16: Chapter 16: Dragons?!?!?

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG
Sixteen: The Goblet of Fire, Part Three
Dragons?!?!?

Ginny


They had two weeks to train Harry for the first task. Ginny and Sirius began reconnaissance to find what he would be facing, while Remus poured more and more counter curses into DADA lessons and Hermione trained Harry after classes. Remus had stressed to the class that the Shield Charm was incredibly important, so Harry worked his hardest on that particular spell. Every afternoon, Ginny and Hermione took him to an empty classroom and they threw hexes at him while he tried to block. He could effectively block a few minor spells, but every one of Ginny's Bat Bogey Hexes got past his shield, and most of Hermione's Jelly Leg jinxes as well.

"This is hopeless!" Harry cried, wobbling towards a chair for the fifth time. It was the Wednesday before the task, and they were practicing in the Charms room before dinner.

"You're getting better," Ginny said, as Hermione applied the counter-spell. Harry stood shakily.

"Not quickly enough," Harry said. "The task is Monday! And we still don't know what it is!"

Hermione checked her watch. "How about we go to dinner and try again after?"

On cue, Harry's stomach grumbled. "Fine," he mumbled. Ginny linked her arm through his and kissed his cheek.

"We'll work it out," she reminded him. Harry nodded, a bit less irritated with himself.

At dinner, Harry loaded his plate until food spilled off the edge. "Are you channeling Ron?" Hermione asked, eyebrows raised. Harry shoved a forkful of pot roast into his mouth and shook his head.

"Just hungry," he said, after swallowing.

"At least he's not talking with his mouth full," Ginny said dryly.

Hagrid passed them, and dropped a hand onto Harry's shoulder.

"'Ello, you lot," he said cheerily. "How are you?"

"Hungry," Harry said, taking another mouthful.

"Good, good," Hagrid rumbled. "Listen, Harry," he added in a lower voice, "can you stop by this evenin' 'round midnight? I've got somethin' to show yeh."

Harry frowned. "Why?"

"Just trust me," Hagrid said. "I've gotta go; see yeh, Harry."

Harry raised an eyebrow to Ginny as Hagrid walked away. What do you think? Worth staying out past curfew?

Ginny considered this. Suppose. It's up to you.

You're going with me, though.

What makes you say that?
She asked, raising an eyebrow.

Harry shrugged. I know you.

Hermione cleared her throat. "This is pleasant for you, I'm sure, but I'd like to say that it's probably a good idea for Harry to go."

"Yes, but —" Harry began, then frowned. "Did you just say I should go?"

Hermione nodded. "He must have valuable information for him to ask you to come out past curfew. I think it's worth it."

Ginny and Harry exchanged glances. I think we've had a bad influence on her, Harry thought.

I think it's good that she's coming out some, Ginny said.

Hermione rolled her eyes and went back to her dinner. Harry began eating again, continuing to think as he did.

At any rate, do you think it's about the task?

Ginny nodded, taking a bit of roast potato off Harry's plate. He shot her a scowl. Get your own.

These are mine too, she thought, taking another. We share a mind, therefore we share everything else.

I think that's marriage, darling.


Ginny shrugged. Same thing. Harry smirked and his cheeks turned pink, but allowed her to continue stealing from his plate.

"Hey," Sirius dropped onto a seat by Harry. "I need you and Ginny outside the tapestry of Barnibus the Barmy seventh floor tonight."

"Can't," Harry said. "My night's booked."

"You can fool around with Ginny some other night," Sirius said dismissively — Ginny's ears burned —, "this is important."

"I'm not fooling around with Ginny," Harry said, redder still. "Hagrid said he needed to show me something."

"What? Fine, come after that. I've found something and I need to show you."

Harry shrugged. "Hagrid wants me to come around midnight, and I don't know how long it will take. If it's too late when he's done, I'm just going to bed."

"Fine, I'll wait until 2 for you." Sirius stood and clapped Harry on the shoulder. "Have a good evening."

Harry and Ginny met eyes.

"Does everyone want your attention tonight?" Ginny asked.

"Hey, Harry!"

Harry mentally groaned. Why did I take a seat opposite you?

What difference would that have made?
Ginny asked him, watching Parvati Patil approach.

I could have just started snogging you; that would have deterred her.

Ginny was pink when Parvati slid onto the bench.

"How are you coming on the task?" Parvati asked.

"Fine," Harry said, not meeting her eyes. "Great."

"Good," Parvati said, smiling prettily and fluttering her eyelashes. Ginny raised an eyebrow, pondering over Parvati's motive. "You know, Saturday's a Hogsmeade trip. What if you took a break from all your hard-work and came out with me?"

Harry blinked. Ginny gritted her teeth and tried not to hex her room-mate. Who did she think she was?

Uh, Ginny? Harry thought. Help?

Ginny sipped at her water, trying to remain calm. If I open my mouth, all that will come out is a bunch of curses, magical and otherwise.

Is she trying to ask me out?

Yes,
Ginny thought angrily. Harry glanced desperately between her and Hermione.

"I'm afraid Harry's got a lot of work left still," Hermione said. "I can't let him go anywhere."

Parvati pouted. "Oh, come on, Harry, you don't have to listen to her!"

"She's right," Harry said. "And, uh, I've got, uh, spells to, er, work on."

Parvati sighed. "Well, I'll be cheering for you on Monday," she said, patting Harry's shoulder. Ginny bit down on the tines of her fork hard. "Good luck!" Parvati gave his shoulder a squeeze, and left.

Ginny withdrew her fork, glaring after Parvati's back.

"Uh, Ginny?" Harry said. "Your fork is bent."

She glanced down; the metal tines were bent from where she'd bit down on them. At least I wasn't attacking her, she grumbled silently. The nerve!

Harry went back to eating. That was kind of awkward.

Awkward! My room-mate just blatantly flirted with my boyfriend right in front of me!

Well, no matter where she did it, it would have been in front of you,
Harry pointed out.

Not helping! Ginny stabbed a piece of chicken with her fork and began slashing at it with her knife. Who does she think she is? How dare she?! Harry reached out and gripped her hand, pulling the plate away.

Darling, you're going to break your plate, he thought. Ginny huffed. Harry took her fork and knife and cut her chicken into strips, then pushed her plate back, keeping her knife.

"That was quite rude," Hermione said. "I wonder what she's up to."

Ginny blew a strand of hair out of her face with a sharp exhale. "Probably she wants to have a piece of one of the champions, and since Harry's already famous, she's set her sights on him."

Harry turned pink. Well, there's another bad side to being the Boy Who Lived, he thought.

F —

If you're about to say what I think you're going to say, no. Bit too young for that.


Ginny turned pink. Not what I meant!

Harry shrugged. "Definitely not sneaking out of the castle without you now."

Ginny shook her head and impaled a piece of chicken on her bent fork. "At any rate, you need to hurry. I want to keep working on your Shield Charm before we go see Hagrid."

Harry began to eat with renewed gusto. Twenty minutes later, they left the Great Hall and returned to the Charms room. The minutes ticked by slowly; eventually Harry was able to block the majority of the spells she and Hermione threw at him, even though every now and then, one got through. They went back to the common room at curfew, and huddled in a corner with books, homework for Hermione and Ginny and a book on defensive spells for Harry, until the clock struck midnight.

"Good luck!" whispered Hermione as Harry pulled out his invisibility cloak and threw it around Ginny and him. Harry had grown taller since the last time they'd worn it, so to fit both him and Ginny without any worry of their feet being seen, she had to stand closer to him. Harry put his arm around her, tucking her into his side, and held the Marauder's Map in front of him.

Ginny tapped it with her wand. "I solemnly swear I am up to no good," she whispered, taking it from him. Harry opened the portrait hole. No one's near us, she thought.

We're going to the shortcut at the North end, Harry thought.

The one by the tapestry about the Witch Trials?

That one.


Ginny scanned the map, searching for the safest route. Turn left here, she thought. Harry shone his wand down the corridor. Step quietly as we pass the paintings, they're a restless lot.

They only had one close call between the tower and the shortcut; one of the suits of armor had sneezed violently and a Ravenclaw prefect came over to inspect. The passage led from the seventh floor down to the second, and from there they took another short-cut to the Great Hall. The doors creaked quietly as they pulled one open and slipped through.

Ready? Harry asked mentally. Ginny nodded, and they broke into a run. They crossed the grounds to Hagrid's cabin, and Harry raised a hand to knock.

Hagrid opened the door after the first knock.

"Eh? You there, Harry?" he asked in a stage whisper.

"Yes," Harry said. "Where are we going?"

"Follow me," Hagrid muttered. They jumped out of the way so Hagrid could move past them, towards the Beauxbatons' carriage.

Ginny raised an eyebrow. Harry shrugged. A minute later, Madam Maxime came out of the carriage, and Hagrid held out his arm to her.

Seriously? Harry thought, He wanted to show us Maxime?

Be patient, Ginny replied. Harry huffed, but they followed Hagrid towards the edge of the forest. Harry checked his watch, then Hagrid turned into the trees.

Worth it? Ginny met Harry's eyes. He nodded, and they kept following.

Within twenty minutes, they saw lights, heard shouting, and something roaring. Harry wrapped an arm around her waist, drawing her closer to him. Ginny peered around Hagrid, trying to see what was ahead of them. Anther ten minutes gave them a clear view.

Dragons.

Harry inhaled sharply. What?! Dragons?! I have to fight a freaking dragon?!

Ginny stared in awe. The closest dragon was a large, sleek blue scaled beast; its hackles were raised and it was snarling at any trying to come close. About ten yards past it, an even larger crimson dragon blew a mushroom cloud of flames into the air. She recognized the third dragon; a Welsh Green. She'd seen one when she was nine, when she and her family had visited an aunt in Wales. The last dragon, also the farthest away, was the largest. Its scales were a gleaming bronze, its spine lined with spikes and its thrashing tail embedded with more. The creature's face was framed by horns, and its maw was opened wide, roaring into the sky. Its fangs were at least a foot long.

You're turning into Hagrid, Harry commented, though he sounded more overwhelmed than anything else. Holy —

"Hagrid!" a voice interrupted Harry's thought. Ginny gasped as one of the dragon handlers came forward and she recognized hair the same color of the flames.

"Charlie!" she whispered gleefully.

"Hullo, Charlie," Hagrid said cheerfully. "What have yeh got here?"

Charlie gave Madam Maxime a suspicious look, but she wasn't paying attention to him. "Won't she tell her champion?"

Hagrid waved a hand dismissively. "She's fine. So, what have yeh got?"

Charlie turned back to the dragons. "A Chinese Fireball over there, the red one, that blue dragon is a Swedish Short-snout, and that horned one is a Hungarian Horntail. Speaking of her, you'd better keep back. Their range is usually thirty-five feet, but I've seen her do fifty when she's angry."

Hagrid took a step back, and Madam Maxime backed away hurriedly.

Charlie nodded. "Anyway, that fourth one is a Welsh Green. We brought her in last minute when we heard there was a fourth champion. Once again, speaking of, how is Harry?"

"He's doing good," Hagrid said. "Your sister's been a great load of help."

"That's good," Charlie commented. "I hope he gets the Green; it would be easiest for him."

With my luck, I'll probably get the Horntail, Harry thought wryly. Ginny squeezed his hand.

"What are they supposed to do with 'em?" Hagrid asked.

"To be honest, I'm not sure," Charlie said. "But they requested nesting mothers so I'm assuming something to do with the eggs. Or they just wanted the nastiest dragons they could get their hands on."

Harry groaned, then checked his watch suddenly. I reckon we've seen all of what Hagrid wanted us to see. We'd better get back before Sirius leaves.

Ginny nodded, tearing her eyes away from the dragons. Harry pulled her away, heading back the way they had come. Just past the edge of the trees, Ginny spotted a dark shape coming towards them. She pulled Harry out of the way, as Professor Karkaroff strode past them.

Probably spying too, Harry thought.

Probably, Ginny replied. Come on.

They moved as quickly as they dared across the grounds and into the castle. Harry took the map and navigated them from the Entrance Hall back up to the Seventh floor, then Ginny directed him towards the tapestry of Barnibus the Barmy.

Are you sure Sirius said here? Harry thought as they turned a corner. There's nothing here except that tapestry.

Maybe this is just a rendezvous, Ginny thought back.

Maybe, or — wait, where'd that door come from?

The two of them stopped before a slim, oak door opposite the tapestry and stared at it in surprise.

I'm positive that wasn't there before, Ginny thought.

So am I, Harry replied. Where'd it come from?

I don't know. Should we go in?

Might as well.


Harry turned the knob from behind the cloak, and pushed the door open. He put a hand on Ginny's shoulder, guiding her in front of him. Had anyone else done that, she probably would have hexed them, but with Harry, she let it go. Ginny ducked out from under the cloak as Harry shut the door, and cracked her neck.

"What's this place?" she asked, looking behind her. Harry appeared, bundling up the cloak, and he stepped forward. The room was large and long; lined with bookshelves and tables. The lights were low except for the far side of the room, where a hunched figure sat over a book next to two more, both with better posture. There was a lamp sitting on a table beside them, so their faces were black against it.

"Sirius?" Harry called.

The hunched man straightened. "Over here, Harry."

Ginny pushed her hand into Harry's and pulled him forward. They crossed the room quickly, moving around the tables and books. As they approached, the faces came into better view, and Ginny recognized them as Sirius, Remus, and Professor Dumbledore.

"Have a seat," Sirius said.

Harry did not sit. "What's going on?" he asked. He glanced between Remus and Sirius, then Dumbledore. Ginny could feel worry rising in him.

"You're all right, Harry," Professor Dumbledore said calmly.

"Why did this have to happen at night?" Ginny asked, suddenly suspicious.

"We didn't want anyone overhearing," Remus said.

Harry and Ginny exchanged glances. She raised an eyebrow. He frowned, but shrugged. Harry pulled out a chair, looking back up at her. Ginny raised the other eyebrow; he curled one corner of his lip up. She sat. Harry took the chair next to her, and they turned back to the adults.

Sirius blinked. "You have identical expressions right now. It's kind of creepy."

"We practice it," Ginny quipped. "What's so important that the Headmaster would ask us to break curfew?"

"Your bond," Dumbledore said. "I have finally discovered more about it."

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


Floorboards creaked beneath his feet. The man stepped forward gingerly, taking each step as though stepping around sleeping children. He rested his palm on a crystal doorknob and turned it carefully.

"Is that you?" called a sharp voice; it made the man's eye twitch with an urge to wince. The voice sent prickles down his back; it made him want to turn and flee. But he moved into the room, and towards a large, wing-backed armchair before a flickering flame.

"I have finished your draught, my lord," the man whispered.

"Good," the voice sighed. "I am not hungry now; you will have to feed me later."

"Yes, my lord."

"What news do you have?"

"Our spy within Hogwarts has succeeded; Potter is participating in the tournament."

"Good," his master said again, sounding pleased. "And what of Dumbledore? Does he suspect anything about Potter's entry?"

The man drew back his lips in a sneer. "I doubt he suspects our spy. He will be wary, but it is more likely that he is ready to blame Karkaroff than the spy."

"Excellent. And have you begun the preparation for the potion?"

"Yes, my lord. I have collected the first of the ingredients."

"Just the first?"

"My lord, the instructions are difficult to decipher, let alone translate. We are lucky that I am able to read it at all."

"You are lucky," the voice corrected. "If you had been unable to translate it, I would have had to find a new helper, and Nagini would be fed for weeks."

The man held back a twinge of both fear and anger. His master demanded much from him, almost too much. "My lord, I apologize for the slow development."

"As you should," his master hissed. "Now, set down the draught and return to your translating."

The man set the flask of milky potion on the table by the armchair, averting his eyes from his master's form. It was not a pretty sight. He backed away to the door, then left the room.

"Oh, one moment," the voice called back. The man stopped, and returned to the room.

"Yes, my lord?"

"Do not talk back to me," his master ordered.

"Yes, my lord." The man bowed, even though his master could not see him, before once again leaving the room.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


"What is it, then?" Ginny asked eagerly.

Sirius pushed forward the book he'd been looking at. "Albus found this in a very old library, complied by one of Hogwarts' original Headmasters. It was originally in Greek, but Albus put a spell on it to translate it into English."

Ginny shifted the book so both she and Harry could read it at the same time.

"I believe it to be the journal of Thaon Kyrillos," Dumbledore said. "The pages are laden with magic, and resist my attempts to translate it, so there is only a small amount translated."

Ginny nodded, having no idea who Thaon Kyrillos was, and turned her eyes onto the page.

"The seventh day of the eighth month, in the year of our lord 1124. This morning I returned from my homeland to Hogwarts to prepare for the students arrival in three weeks, though I am unfocused on my work. Whilst on my travels, I spent time with my great-niece, Eirene, who is fourteen years of age. I was asked to give her lessons over the summer, as her grasp of magic does not always allow her to learn as quickly as her fellow students in Greece. I came to know her well, and discovered something of great interest.

"When children are young, I know, they crave friends. And when there are no friends to be made, they turn to their imagination to create non-corporeal friends. I myself had imaginary friends as a child, but I began to lose touch with them after my descent into puberty. Eirene has admitted to having such imaginary friends, but that one of them has persisted to follow her and remain constant in her mind even now. She tells me that this friend is a boy her age, a squire to an Anglo-Saxon knight, one who is devoted to his magical studies and is skillful with a blade. I was only vaguely curious as to why she kept pretending that this friend existed, until she mentioned that she never came up with a name for him.

"The idea of an unnamed imaginary friend caused me to return early to Hogwarts, for I was sure I had heard of such an account before. I returned to Eirene's parents, and told them that I suspected that Eirene's imaginary friend might not be quite so imaginary, and might in fact be real, flesh and blood.

"Naturally, they do not believe me. I shall endeavor to find Eirene's squire, to prove to them that Eirene is not merely imaginative — although she does have a powerful imagination, but that is not my point. I believe Eirene is part of an ancient magic, one not yet considered by warlocks of our times. I believe she is only half of what she could become, once this squire is found.

"There is a myth that man was once of two minds, a being with four arms, four legs, and two heads. One male, once female. The myth states that the pagan god of my homeland, Zeus, feared humans in this state, and so separated them into two halves: One head, two arms, two legs. This myth says that humans spent the rest of their lives, trying to find their other half, hence such a phrase as 'my better half.' But what if this myth is true, at least partially? What if we were once connected to another human, perhaps not in body, but in mind? What if, somehow, humans were disconnected with their partner, leaving them to look forevermore for the ideal of a 'soulmate?'

"And what if, what if, some humans retained that connection? What if my niece, in her imaginative and willful ways, is connected to another human through a mental link of some kind?"


Ginny reached the last of English; the rest was slanted, strange letters she couldn't decipher. She looked up at Harry; he was still reading. In a minute, he had finished and looked up to meet her eyes.

What do you think? He thought.

I think there's more.

Ginny pushed the book back to Sirius. "What about this needed privacy?"

Dumbledore cleared his throat. "There is a passage at the end that was written in English. This was what made me think it was written on the subject of soul bonds such as yours." He turned through the pages, and stopped at the very end. Harry pulled the book back, and they turned their eyes back to it.

"The thirteenth day of the second month, in the year of our lord 1134. I am dying. My hands can no longer hold a quill, so I am dictating this. Eirene has grown past the depression of her childhood, and as I predicted, she has married the squire of her thoughts. Thomas will be an excellent husband. He adores and reveres her even more now than when he first met her, and he swore to me he loved her even then. I have found all I can on the subject of soul bonds, and leave Thomas and Eirene to discover the rest. This journal is my proof, that sometimes imaginary friends are not merely imagination, but power untold.

"I leave two last notes. Long ago, my daughter told me she heard voices. I did not know what she meant then, but now I do. I believe she, like Eirene, was one half of a whole. My greatest regret is that I did not believe her then, and therefore did not look for the source of her voices. I can only imagine what her other half went through, but I surmise he did not live much longer past her death. My daughter committed suicide because she both thought she was insane and because she had remained from her other half for so long. I do not know who that was, where he was, or even what he looked like. I will never know.

"I can only say this: Children like Eirene and my daughter should never be kept from their other half. Eirene almost paid the price for her half's absence, and that was before she even truly met him. This bond is not merely a connection, but a life source. Only a few weeks ago, Thomas left to be made a knight, and Eirene fell more ill than ever before. He did as well, and almost failed his final mission as a squire. He was gone only four days, but I fear what would have happened had he remained away longer.

"I do not know how long it takes for a pair to reach the point where days alone make them ill; perhaps it is marriage, perhaps it is adolescence. Perhaps it varies, perhaps some pairs cannot spend hours away from each other, perhaps some can survive weeks. All I can say for sure is that to anyone looking to my journal for answers must be careful to never let one half leave the other. When they are alone, be always watching them. Do not let them fall into the depression that caused Eirene to brew the Draught of Living Death before she met Thomas, or that caused my daughter to end her own life.

"I can feel life leaving me even as I speak. Five weeks previous, Hogwarts was visited by a travelling circus. They were mostly Muggles, very lost ones to end up here, but in their group was a fortune-teller that I ended up hiring to teach Divination here. The fortune-teller called herself Rhiamon, but I do not believe that to be her true name. I hired her only because she told me three things: The first was that I would soon be in the company of my daughter, though she did not know that my child is dead, nor that I had little time left myself. The second was that a child I consider to be a daughter will be having a child of her own soon. Rhiamon looked to Eirene and added onto this, saying "That one has got the glow, master, sir, she has got the glow of a mother-to-be." Eirene had wedded Thomas only weeks before, and they had just returned from their honeymoon, so I have no doubt that this is true. The third, I do not know how to comprehend, but I shall record it anyway. I must hurry, for my breath is fading.

“She said to me "Your work is vital." I asked her why, and what work she was speaking of, and she replied with "You study the bond of souls, the kind not heard of." She said, "Your work is vital, for a long time from now, two children will dream of each other long before they meet. Those two children have a great destiny, I can see it even now." She told me that the two children would be followed by fate herself, though I am not sure how a non-corporeal ideal can follow a pair of children. "I can see them," she said. "I can see that he is strong but invaded, that she is broken and determined, but that they both will save the world." I cannot know what she means, and I will not be able to see it. I am almost through, and I must sleep soon.

"The last thing she said to me was this: "Two children will dream so hard, their dreams will bleed from their minds and change the world even before their birth."

"I think Rhiamon has a future not even she can see. I entrust this journal to Eirene, and ask her to complete it. I also ask that she might work with Rhiamon, for I believe she has great potential. I have done all I can on this earth… farewell."


Ginny looked up; Harry was re-reading the second to last paragraph. "'Bleed through before their birth'?" she repeated.

"It does seem ominous," Dumbledore agreed.

"Forget ominous," Harry said, "it's downright frightening. Do you think that fortune-teller was seeing us?"

"There are certain elements that remind us of you," Remus said.

"Like what?" Harry looked back down. "'Strong but invaded…' What does that mean?"

"I don't know," Remus said. "I can't put my finger on it, but I'm almost positive she was speaking of you."

"I don't like that invaded bit," Ginny said, her eyes locked on Dumbledore. He was looking back at her calmly, but there was something in the back of his eyes. "Have you any idea what it could mean, Professor?"

"I cannot be sure," Dumbledore replied. "I will have to translate more, as quickly as I can, but I fear it will take time."

Ginny looked at Harry out of the corner of her eye. I'm not sure he's telling us everything.

Harry frowned. Why would he keep something from us?

I don't know, but I intend to find out.
Ginny closed the book and pushed it back towards Dumbledore, who set it aside.

"What we have to worry about, is the 'bleeding through' part," Sirius said.

"I shall research this Rhiamon, but if Thaon was correct in assuming that it was not her true name, we might hit another roadblock," Dumbledore added. "In any case, I shall ask around if anyone might be able to interpret her words."

Harry nodded. "Anything else you need to tell us?"

Dumbledore shook his head. "That was all."

"Then, I've got information about the task." Harry paused, looking at Dumbledore. "Uh, am I allowed to have information about the task?"

"As a matter of fact, I am suddenly very tired," Dumbledore said, standing up. "I am afraid I must retire to my quarters. Good night."

Dumbledore took the book and strode from the room. Harry raised his eyebrows, but smiled. "Okay, so, the news."

"They've got to fight dragons," Ginny said.

Sirius's jaw dropped. Remus looked stunned. "They've got what?"

"Dragons," Harry said.

"A Chinese Fireball, a Swedish Short-Snout, a Hungarian Horntail, and a Welsh Green," Ginny ticked them off on her fingers. "One each."

"My word," Remus whispered. "Dragons? I haven't been teaching anything that could help you with a dragon!"

"The Shield Charm might help," Sirius said. "Block the fire before it could turn Harry into a charred roast."

"Hey!"

"Not helping, Sirius," Remus snapped. "Dragons… Okay, I'll change the lesson for tomorrow to be something to help… Dragons!"

"I'm sure there's something somewhere that you can help with indirectly," Sirius said, patting Remus's shoulder. Remus did not look too reassured.

"But how can I fight a dragon?" Harry said. "What would I have to do, kill it?"

"No, you won't have to kill it," Ginny said quickly. "Dragons are a protected species. Remember, Charlie said that the dragons are all nesting mothers, so it must have to do with the eggs."

"Do I smash the eggs?" Harry asked.

"Still a protected species," Ginny said.

"We can figure that out later," Remus said. "Right now, you need sleep."

"I'm not tired," Harry said. "This is too big for me to sleep."

"Shame," Remus commented dryly, "because you're going to bed anyway, before I give you detention for being out past curfew."

"Hey!" Harry protested.

"You'd better get out of here," Sirius warned. "He's serious about that. He once gave James and I a week of detention because he caught us setting up a prank that he had planned!"

Ginny pushed back her chair and grabbed the cloak. "We'll go," she said. "Come on."

Harry huffed, but stood up anyway. He stretched, then took out the map. "See you in the morning," he said as Ginny spread the cloak over them.

Are we actually going to bed? Harry thought. Ginny nodded and took the map. She unfolded it and checked the seventh floor. Seriously? Harry asked. Ginny raised an eyebrow at him.

You have to fight dragons in four days and you want to stay up late?

Fair point. But it is four days.

I'm putting you to bed,
Ginny thought, shaking her head at him. Harry opened the door and they ducked outside. Halfway up the corridor, the door opened again and Sirius and Remus came out. Ginny glanced over her shoulder, then stopped in her tracks. Harry froze before he pulled the cloak off her and backed up.

What?

The door,
she thought. It's gone.

Harry looked over, and his eyebrows shot up. You're right! The door they had exited from had vanished the instant Sirius closed it behind him. Do you want check it out?

Not now,
Ginny thought. We'll ask them about it later. She grabbed his hand and started forward again.

What did you think about that journal? Harry thought a moment later.

Ginny gathered her thoughts on the subject before answering. I think it's definitely worth working on.

But what about the part about getting sick if we spend too much time apart?


Ginny squeezed his hand. Then we won't spend too long apart.

At least we know we can spend at least eight hours apart,
Harry thought. That's usually how long we spend sleeping.

That's true,
Ginny thought absently. And I was gone over a week last summer; you didn't get sick then did you?

Well, I was already sick,
Harry thought. That's why I didn't go with you, remember?

Oh, yeah. But did you get any worse?

No, not really.


Ginny nodded. Then we're probably fine.

Let's hope so,
Harry thought. He looked down at the map, but Ginny felt that his thoughts had drifted elsewhere. What's the matter? She asked him.

Nothing.

Ginny rolled her eyes. Liar. You're worried about something.

Harry rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. It's just — I might have been hoping that we might turn out to be the kind that can't spend longer than a few hours on our own.

Ginny smirked, although her cheeks were warming. Really? You'd want to spend that much time with me?

Harry frowned at her. Why wouldn't I?

Ginny shrugged. I don't know. I just thought never leaving each other alone for longer than a few hours might get old fast.

Well, we do that now,
he thought with a raised eyebrow. Are you getting tired of me?

Ginny blushed, thought she wasn't sure why. No, of course not. But that would include sleeping, wouldn't it?

Harry's eyes widened, and his neck got red. He looked down at his feet, then up at the ceiling, then at the map. Ginny felt him close part of his mind off as he started reciting the definitions of charms. Ginny smirked, even though she was blushing too, because she knew what he was trying not to think about. She should have been trying too, but it was a rather nice thought.

Harry cleared his throat, and Ginny realized with a start that she hadn't blocked those thoughts from carrying over into his. She blushed brighter pink and looked away.

They made it back into the common room without any further awkwardness. Harry kissed her cheek, and took the cloak and map. Ginny hooked a finger in his collar and pulled him back. She kissed his lips gently, and Harry seemed to forget what they were supposed to be doing. His hands rested at her waist; he pressed his lips against hers with increasing vigor. Ginny went from pulling at his collar to holding onto his shoulders, as the way his lips were moving over hers were making her feel like Hermione had hit her with a Jelly-Legs-Jinx.

Harry pulled back; his breathing was coming out in heavy exhales and his eyes were still closed. Ginny raised a hand, pressing it to the skin of his neck. His flesh was warm under her fingers. She brushed her thumb over his pulse, feeling it throb and quicken.

We were supposed to be going to bed, Harry thought.

We were?

He nodded. Ginny ignored the thought, and pushed her fingers up into his hair. Harry raised a hand to her face, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. Ginny pressed her cheek against his palm, and he leaned in to kiss her again.

Seriously, you were insisting we hit the sack, Harry thought, pulling back. Ginny still ignored him; she brought her other arm up and draped it around his neck, pulling his mouth back to hers.

"In a minute," she whispered. She felt him shiver, and smiled.

"Seriously," he repeated. Ginny huffed, but stepped back.

Good night, she thought.

Night, he thought back, giving her hand a squeeze. Ginny let go, and pushed open the door to the girls’ stairs.

Back to index


Chapter 17: Chapter 17: PMS and Reporters, What Fun! (Not)

Seventeen: The Goblet of Fire, Part Five
PMS and Reporters, What Fun! (Not.)

Ginny


That night, Ginny’s dreams were confusing again. She was running through a maze of hedges taller than Hagrid, and there was roaring behind her, rushing her on. Her feet stung as she stumbled over gravel and grass and dirt alike. Flashes of fire appeared in her peripheral vision. She crashed into the hedge as she ran around a corner, and vines tried to entangle her to the wall. She ripped through them and kept running.

The roaring got louder. Her heart pounded against her ribcage like a trapped beast. Ginny met a ‘T’ in the path; she turned to the left and saw fire licking at the plants. She spun around, and was met by the same predicament. The fires ran over the ground, catching everything it passed in its mouth and spitting it back out flaming. Ginny glanced up at the hedge, wondering if she could scale it. The sound of a heavy, and angry creature crashing through the vines and plants came from the direction she had come. Ginny grabbed at the hedge, trying to haul herself up.

The plant collapsed beneath her weight. She landed on her back, and the breath was thrust from her lungs. Ginny lay there, gasping for air, as the creature broke into the pathway she was in. Ginny flipped over, and, still trying to catch her breath, assessed to the two fires, and picked one. She looked over to the beginning of the path, and caught her breath.

A dragon, ten times the size of a normal man, sat on its haunches, breathing heavily in through its mouth and sending out smoke through its nostrils. The dragon roared; it thrashed its tail and shot three foot spikes from it. The spikes passed cleanly through the hedge behind it. Ginny took off to the left.

She jumped over flames and hissed as they bit at her flesh. Her skin screamed in protest as she hit the ground on the other side, but she kept running. The dragon roared behind her, and she put in a new burst of energy. Ginny dodged a puff of flame as it reached out to snag her clothing. Her vision was tinged orange from the flames and she began to choke on smoke. The hedge on her right suddenly ended; Ginny saw fire-free ground and dived through the gap.

She landed on her stomach in a circular section of the maze. There was no smoke; she gasped for the clean oxygen. The light was pale, coming from the moon above and a pedestal over her. There was no sound of the dragon. Ginny pushed herself off the ground and took a step towards it. Sitting on the pedestal’s surface was a large, decorative goblet, like a trophy. The light was coming from the cup itself. Ginny examined it, searching for a reason for the light. It just seemed to glow. On the front of it, were the letters TWT. She reached out, and traced the letters with a finger.

Her body surged forward and upward at once. Her hand seemed glued to the trophy. The cup folded in on itself, sucking her along behind it. Ginny crashed onto the ground again, landing hard on her feet, but her legs buckled. She hit her knees and caught herself with her hands.

She looked around; the maze had disappeared. She now knelt in a large room, lit only by a fire contained by a grate on the opposite end, halfway blocked by an armchair. Ginny straightened up, keeping as still as possible. The door to the room entered and a shadowed figure walked inside.

“My lord,” the figure said in a deep voice that Ginny could almost remember, “I have translated the next section of the book.”

“Good,” said a chilling voice in reply. Ginny shivered from a draft that wasn’t truly there, hugging herself and trying to shrink into the corner. “But is it deciphered?”

“Not completely, my lord,” the servant said, bowing at the waist. “The code remained intact despite translating into English.”

“Then return to work,” the second voice sighed. “Leave me.”

The figure bowed again, and retreated from the room. A thin, decrepit hand appeared from behind the chair and lifted a small cup from the table beside it. Ginny clamped a hand over her mouth to prevent gasping and retching at the same time. What flesh there was of the hand stuck to the bones so much so that it was almost nothing but bones. In fact, she couldn’t really call the covering over the bones flesh. It was gray and sick looking and covered in festering patches, as if the skin had died years ago but the body hadn’t received the message. The hand retreated behind the chair with the cup, hiding its bones and rotting skin from view.

Ginny swallowed bile and looked around for an escape. She couldn’t leave through the door in case the creature in the chair saw her or the shadowy servant returned. The cup had skittered across the floor when she had landed, stopping behind the chair. She wondered if the way in might also be a way out.

But the creature in the chair… if she tried to get the cup, would it notice? Ginny took a hesitant step forward. The thing made no movement that she could see. She crouched, moving forward as carefully as she possible could, towards the faintly glowing cup. Her outstretched fingers were inches from the handle, when the voice came hissing out from the chair again.

“Be still,” it said. Ginny froze. Every cell of her body vibrated with fear and adrenaline pushed her blood through her heart, making it thump loudly in her ears.

“Be still, Nagini,” the voice continued. It did not sound malicious or even angry, just as though something had annoyed it.

Then another sound reached her ears. The sound of a heavy, reptilian body sliding over the paneled wood floors. Ginny’s eyes went wide, and slowly, moved up. The tail of a snake disappeared behind the chair, then the head appeared next to the cup. Ginny jerked her hand back. A long, forked tongue came from the mouth of the triangular head, and it slid forward again. It reached the cup, paused, and then moved straight through the trophy as though it were dust in the air.

“Come to me,” the voice hissed. Ginny was confused; how could the beast pass through a solid object? Unless the cup wasn’t solid. But she had touched it, and it had felt perfectly solid against her fingers. Ginny looked down at her hands, then at the cup on the floor. The creature in the chair was speaking softly to the snake, whispering words she wasn’t paying attention to. Ginny reached forward, and held her fingers before the back of the armchair.

She touched it. Or she tried to. Her fingers passed through the fabric, leaving it shimmering as she pulled her hand back. She wasn’t solid either. Did that mean she could make no noise?

Ginny took another step forward; the boards weren’t creaking beneath her, which was odd because they had creaked beneath the shadowy servant. She looked down at the cup, then back at the chair. She leaned forward to peer over the top of the chair.

Ginny clapped her hands back to her mouth at the sight. The creature wasn’t human; it couldn’t be, the thing was too disgusting. Its head was over long, the skin a nauseating gray covered with more patches of rotting and dead flesh. She could see every vertebrae in its back and every rib. The back of its neck glistened despite the shadows, and she didn’t want to know what made it do so.

The creature bobbed its head as it whispered to the snake. Knowing that she wasn’t solid made her a little less uncomfortable, but it didn’t erase every bit of fear. Ginny looked down on the snake with hatred and a bit of terror.

“We shall soon be powerful, Nagini,” the creature hissed quietly. “We will need to be patient, but as soon as the Third Task comes, we will be ready.”

The snake flicked its tongue again. Ginny wondered why this mad thing kept speaking to a snake, and if it knew that the snake would not reply.

Patience, whispered a voice. Ginny started, trying to find where it had come from. Patience is a convoluted virtue.

“That it is,” the creature sighed. “But necessary.”

How shall we rise, lord?

“From the blood of my enemy,” the creature said, its voice swelling with malevolent mirth. “With the death of Harry Potter.”

Ginny’s eyes widened; she bent hastily and snatched the cup from the ground. Again, the trophy imploded silently, and she was sucked from the room.

Ginny woke to her alarm blaring its irritating beep. She sat up slowly; her limbs felt tired and numb and her vision looked like Harry’s without his glasses. She blinked quickly, however, and it cleared. She turned around, blearily trying to find her alarm clock. Ginny slapped at it aimlessly, and it shut off; she narrowed her eyes and tried to focus on the time. 6:23. The alarm was set for 6:15, so it must have taken eight minutes for her to wake up.

She lay flat on her back, trying to think. The dream had been interesting, she thought, but what had it been exactly? It seemed the harder she thought about it, the harder it was to remember.

“Morning, Ginny,” Hermione said as she passed the end of her bed. Ginny waved vaguely in her direction. She cracked her neck and stretched her arms over her head. She twisted, and her spine cracked.

“You know, that’s really bad for you,” Hermione told her. Ginny shrugged, then pulled her shoulders down as hard as possible, stretching the muscles.

“Better than being stiff,” she yawned. “What’s our first class?”

“Potions,” her friend said, “did you finish that essay with Harry?”

Ginny froze in her spot, staring wide-eyed at the opposite wall. Oh, sh —

Morning,
came Harry’s voice. It’s much too early for that kind of language.

Shut up, Potter, it’s too early to be awake. We didn’t finish the Potions essay.


Silence from Harry’s end. Then, Sh —

Too early for language!
Ginny snapped, a bit miffed with him. Hypocrite.

Well, I didn’t realize what it was about!

You’re in my head, for bloody Merlin’s sake,
Ginny huffed as she stood up. Can’t you tell what’s bothering me in less than a second?

Well, usually, but it’s early! You’re always grumpy in the morning, especially after a late night.


Ginny scowled at her trunk, but she was aiming the scowl at Harry. I am not grumpy!

She heard Harry stifle a chuckle. Yes, dear, he thought. This seemed to irritate her more. Ginny opened the lid of her trunk with a jerk and yanked robes and Muggle clothes to wear underneath from it.

Git, she thought, striding towards the bathroom.

What did I do? Harry thought. He seemed quite flummoxed.

Everything, she thought sarcastically.

Is this because I made you go to bed before you wanted to?

Ginny stopped before a sink, her expression in the mirror confused. What?

Last night, you were, y’know, intent on kissing me.

Oh.
Ginny blushed. Oh, no, no, that was fine. Why would that bug me?

The having to leave before you wanted to?

No, that was fine. You had a valid point.

I was right?
Harry sounded surprised.

Ginny rolled her eyes. You are right on occasion, you know.

I am?


Ginny shook her head and shut the door, both mental and physical, so she could change. In a minute, she had swapped her pajamas for jeans and a tee shirt with her robes on top of them and was brushing her teeth. She re-opened the mental flow, just to have Harry slam it closed again, shouting OI! I’m indecent! Ginny almost choked on her toothpaste, and bolted the door shut from the outside. She had to respect his privacy, she could not peek.

Ginny focused on scrubbing her front teeth. Lavender walked in and got in a shower stall. Hermione entered a minute later and started running a wide wide-toothed comb through her explosion of hair. Ginny was still brushing her teeth. As Hermione finished, she glanced at Ginny and smirked.

“You’re going to ruin your toothbrush,” Hermione said.

Ginny frowned, then removed it from her mouth and turned pink. The brush was much more frayed now than it had been when she began.

“Did your teeth do something to offend you?” Hermione asked, raising an eyebrow.

“No,” Ginny said thickly through the toothpaste. She spat it out and rinsed her mouth. “I was just distracted.”

Hermione nodded, a knowing look entering her eyes. “Harry?”

Ginny nodded as well, but did not elaborate. She gargled some water, then put away her toothbrush. Her bladder demanded attention, so she went into a toilet stall. A minute later, she swore very loudly.

“What?” Hermione asked.

“It started!” Ginny groaned. “I’m not due for another week!”

She heard Hermione groan in sympathy. “Must be all the other girls affecting your hormones. Do you want me to get you some clean underwear?”

Ginny muttered to herself as she drew her wand. “That would be helpful.”

She heard Hermione’s footsteps leave, then come back and her hand held out a pair of her more plain underpants under the door. Ginny took it with a thanks and double checked the mental door before changing. She grabbed some extra pads from the dispenser on the wall and shoved them in her pocket. She glared at the dispenser’s logo: Mrs. Magic!’s Sanitary Napkins. The woman holding up one of the products to the sky was way too happy.

Ginny washed her hands and glared at them. “Stupid period,” she muttered. “Did it have to happen now?”

Hermione patted her arm. “Maybe it’ll go away before the first task.”

Ginny groaned even more loudly. “I forgot! That must be why; it always shows up right when I need to not have it most!”

Hermione winced. “Sorry.”

Ginny nodded. “I feel sorry,” she said. “Bloody period, bloody female organs, bloody Mrs. Magic and her stupid cartoon…”

“What?”

“Never mind,” Ginny shook her head and grabbed her pajamas. Hermione followed her from the bathroom and dropped onto her bed while Ginny shoved her pajamas under her pillow and half-heartedly straightened the blankets. I suppose this might be why I was so snippy with Harry, she thought absently as she pulled her hairbrush out and tugged out the band that contained her hair.

What was why you were snippy with me? Harry thought.

Are you decent now? Ginny asked cheekily.

He was starting to blush, but he replied with a snarky tone. As a matter of fact, no I’m not, I just decided to pop over whilst completely naked.

Good for you,
Ginny thought, ignoring the implications. She knew he was rolling his eyes at her now.

Anyway, what made you be snippy with me? Harry asked. Ginny started brushing out her hair.

My period started, she thought back. Harry cringed.

Seriously? There was no other way to phrase that?

Ginny huffed again. You asked.

That’s like personal, private, girl stuff information!


Ginny frowned. You’re in my head; you would have noticed if you hadn’t been so oblivious. Usually you do figure it out before I tell you, anyway.

Still!


Ginny sighed and rolled her eyes at the ceiling. She yanked out the last of the knots and tossed the brush towards her trunk. You need to get over this, Harry. You’re going to know when I get my period every single month for the rest of our lives.

Harry huffed; he was a bit grossed out. I’m not ever going to get used to this. Ginny shook her head and slipped off the bed. She considered fixing the blankets, but decided not to.

“I’m going to get Harry,” Ginny said, waving to Hermione. She grabbed her school bag and slung it over her shoulder. “We need to finish that essay.”

Hermione waved back. “See you later.”

Ginny trudged from her dorm room down to the common room. Not many people were lingering, either they had already gone down or were still in bed. Ginny checked her watch; classes didn’t start for another hour and a half anyway. She pushed open the door to the boys’ stairs and paused, checking Harry’s thoughts to be sure there was no one wandering around in their underwear. From what she could see of what Harry could see, no one was. She jogged up, not particularly worried over being flashed. If there were many boys up, they were all in their rooms. Ginny found Harry’s door quickly, turned the handle and walked in.

Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnegan looked up, both startled. Dean quickly clutched his robes to his chest, even though he had on an undershirt. Seamus got over it quickly; he waved and kept looking in his trunk for something.

“Morning, Ginny,” Seamus said warmly. “Bright day, eh?”

“Mostly,” Ginny said. She waved at Dean. “You okay?”

“Fine,” Dean said. His voice had taken on a higher tone. “Good afternoon — I mean morning.”

Ginny smiled awkwardly at him and kept going towards Harry’s bed. Neville came out of the bathroom and said a sleepy ‘hullo’ as he passed her. He was the only one completely dressed. She didn’t see Ron, which was probably a good thing. Harry’s curtains were drawn for the most part, except for a section by his nightstand. He wasn’t by his bed, so he must have gone into the bathroom. Ginny pulled the curtain open the rest of the way and dropped her bag onto the bed. She plopped down beside it and dug around for her Potions book and some parchment.

Harry came back and waved to her. Then he stopped, looked around, and gave her an utterly confused look.

“Ginny?” he said.

“No, I’m an alien,” Ginny said. “I’m here to suck out your brains.”

“What are you doing up here?” Harry asked in a hushed voice.

“Potions!” Ginny said. “We’ve got to finish the essay and it’s too cold everywhere else.”

Harry glanced around, opened his mouth, then looked back to her with a strained expression. “One of them could have been naked, Ginny!”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “I checked before I came in. Your eyes don’t lie.”

Harry shushed her. “You shouldn’t be up here!”

“It’s fine, Harry, now get your book.”

“Ron will murder me!”

“No, he won’t.”

“They’ll never find my body! He’s mad enough as it is!”

Ginny crossed her arms over her chest and gave him a stern look. He shut his mouth quickly.

You look like your mum, he thought. Ginny sighed.

“Potions, Harry. We’ve got an hour.”

Harry grumbled under his breath but got out his Potions book and a quill. Ginny handed him a foot of parchment and took out a quill and inkpot for herself.

“Won’t we spill that up here?” Harry asked worriedly. Ginny counted to five — ten took too long — and waved her wand over the ink pot. It rose into the air and hung suspended in midair.

“Page two hundred and eleven,” Ginny said.

They only needed a total of nine inches of parchment; six for the poison and three for the antidote. Harry wrote down everything she said in a large, loopy scrawl. She found nine inches worth on their poison, Vida ido Frio, within thirty minutes. Just as she was taking Harry’s parchment to copy onto her own paper, while altering the words of course, Ron came around the end of Harry’s bed with his hair dripping water onto the collar of his robes.

He glanced at them absently; Harry stiffened; Ginny began writing. Ron stopped in his tracks, turned slowly, and frowned at Ginny. Much like Harry had done when he first walked up.

“How long have you been there?” Ron asked suspiciously.

Ginny checked her watch. “Since about 6:50.”

Ron glowered. “What are you doing up here?”

“Homework,” she said. “We forgot to do the essay for Moody."

“We’ve been watching ‘em, Ron,” Seamus said.

“They do anything?”

“Ron!” Ginny exclaimed.

“What?” he asked. “You’re not going to tell the whole truth if you were messing around.”

Harry’s cheeks turned red. Ginny scowled. “You don’t trust your twin? And your best friend?”

Ron’s ears were tinging red as well. “You, maybe. Him, no.”

“We were just doing homework!” Harry insisted. “And we’re not done, so would you please back off so we can finish?”

“Whatever.” Ron turned away and shook his hair, spraying water everywhere like a dog. A drop landed on Ginny’s parchment, and another hit her in the face.

That’s it, Ginny pushed her scroll and quill at Harry. He caught them, a bit startled.

Wait, what? Don’t attack Ron!

Ginny ignored him. She wiped out her wand and grabbed a fistful of Ron’s robes. He looked over his shoulder, eyebrows raised, and she jabbed her wand in his face, nearly sending it up his nose.

“You listen to me, Ronald Weasley,” she spat. “I don’t care how screwed up you are in the head, you cannot turn your back on your friends like this!”

“Leave me alone, Ginny,” Ron said dismissively, trying to turn away again. Ginny redoubled her grip on his robes and poked her wand into the tip of his long nose.

“You’re jealous because you think Harry entered his own name in the tournament, aren’t you?” she asked. Ron said nothing; she shook her fistful of his robes. “Aren’t you?”

“Maybe,” he admitted. “Will you please get that out of my nose?”

Ginny removed the tip from his nose and jabbed into the side of his cheek. Ron winced. “You’re a bloody prat, Ronald! Stupid, bloody, arrogant prat!”

“What did I do?” he shouted.

“Harry told you he didn’t do it and you didn’t believe him! That’s what you did!”

Ron’s eyes darkened. “Let go, Ginny.”

She released his robes, but left her wand pressed into his cheek. “He didn’t do it, and it’s time you got your head out of your arse long enough to realize that!”

Ron slapped her hand away from his face. “Leave me alone, Ginny,” he snapped. Ginny opened her mouth, furious, when a hand closed on her arm.

Let it go, Harry thought. It’s not worth it.

Ginny jerked her arm out of his grip. He’s hurting you, she shot back. I know he is.

Harry took her hand in his. Ron grabbed his book bag and strode from the room, stretching his long legs to hurry without making look like he was. He always did that when he felt cornered.

I’ll be fine, Harry told her.

Ginny raised an eyebrow at him. He nodded, giving her a smile to prove it. She sighed, then remembered that there were other people in the room. She looked up, to find Neville, Seamus and Dean watching them. Neville looked downright scared of her and also impressed at the same time. Seamus looked confused and a little bit frightened, but Dean looked strangely awed. She raised an eyebrow at him. He shook himself and looked away.

Ginny pushed past Harry and dropped back onto his mattress. Harry joined her, more gently, and handed back her parchment. She sent a mental thanks and started copying down the words.

Another twenty minutes had gone by the time she had finished. Seamus and Dean left but Neville lingered. As Ginny was screwing the lid back onto the inkpot, Neville came forward, almost nervously.

“I’m, uh, sorry Ron’s doing this,” Neville said, speaking to his feet. Harry looked up at him, and nodded.

“I am too,” Harry said.

“Do you have anything left to do for the first task?” Neville asked quickly. “I — I could help, if you needed —”

“Not much,” Harry said with a shrug. “Just some final practices.”

Neville’s cheeks were faintly pink. He nodded absently, still looking at his feet. “Right. Uh, see you later, Harry. Bye, Ginny.” He waved to them and walked away. Ginny thought she could still see a remnant of fright in his eyes from her outburst at Ron.

“We should go,” Ginny said, getting up and draping the strap of her bag over her shoulder. “You need to eat before Potions.”

“So do you,” Harry insisted. Ginny shrugged.

“I’m not really hungry,” she said. “That usually happens during this time of the month.”

Harry averted his eyes. “Right. Still talking about that.”

Ginny rolled her eyes and nudged his shoulder. “Harry, if I can tell you about my period without me feeling uncomfortable, I’m going to.”

“What about me?” he asked.

She smirked. “Well, that doesn’t matter as much in this area.”

Harry groaned.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG
Harry


After Potions, they had Charms. Flitwick was trying to teach Summoning Charms, but most were failing at it. Except Hermione of course. After that was Herbology. On the way out, Ginny had to run to the loo, and Harry overheard her mentally cursing her cycle again. He did not listen very hard.

While he was waiting for her, he started thinking about the task. He had no idea how to fight a dragon. What if he got killed? He shuddered. If the dragon killed him, they’d have to kill Ginny too, because according to the book he’d read in second year — not to mention Dumbledore’s ancient journal — she would be horribly sick within weeks. He shook his head quickly; they wouldn’t let him die. Harry groaned and let his head thunk against the wall. He still did not have a plan.

A group of older students came past him, laughing loudly over something. One of them pushed another in the shoulder, making him stagger towards Harry. Harry straightened up, pulling his feet back towards the wall so the staggering boy wouldn’t trip over them. The boy waved to Harry as he regained his balance. Harry gave him a lazy two fingered salute, which was when he recognized him as Cedric Diggory. Harry dropped his hand quickly. Cedric was smiling at his friends, enjoying himself despite the looming task. Harry wondered if he knew he’d have to face a full-grown, very angry, fire-breathing mommy dragon on hormones in four days.

Harry glanced back at the bathroom, then at Cedric’s back. He probably didn’t know. Delacour and Krum would, as Maxime and Karkaroff had seen the dragons, but Dumbledore wouldn’t have told Cedric. He would have respected the rules. Harry ran a hand through his hair, thinking it over. Cedric deserved to know, even if Harry wasn’t too fond of him. He adjusted the strap of his bag on his shoulder and started to follow the group of Hufflepuffs. How could he get Cedric on his own? It certainly wasn’t a good idea to tell him in front of his friends; they were likely to either hex Harry for having become a champion or call him a liar, or something equally un-Hufflepuffish. He’d have to be sneaky about this.

As they were going up the stairs, Harry pulled out his wand and pointed it at Cedric’s school bag. He muttered a spell, and the bag ripped. The Hufflepuffs all echoed Cedric’s groan, and went to help him, but he waved them on.

“I’ll catch up,” Cedric said. “Tell Professor Flitwick I’ll be there in a minute.”

Harry waited until he was alone before coming forward. Cedric was picking up his books and siphoning ink off them with his wand. He looked up as Harry approached.

“Hi,” he said, smiling kindly, “tough break this is. It’s a new bag and everything.”

“The first task is dragons,” Harry said shortly. That wiped the smile of Cedric’s pretty face.

“What?”

“We have to fight dragons,” Harry clarified. “For the first task.”

The color was fading from Cedric’s face. “Are you serious?”

“Yes,” Harry said. He turned on his heel, then paused. “Good luck,” he added as an after-thought. Cedric nodded dumbly.

“Yeah,” he muttered. “You too.”

Harry walked back to where he’d been standing by the girls’ bathroom, leaving Cedric to clean up his books.

“Oi, Potter.”

Harry looked up. Professor Moody was stumping across the hall towards him.

“Yes, Professor?”

“I want a word with you,” Moody growled. “Come on.”

Harry glanced at the bathroom door. “I’m actually waiting for a friend,” he said, hoping Moody would leave him be.

“Come anyway,” Moody said, walking past. His wooden leg thudded loudly against the marble floor.

Harry resigned himself to it and followed Moody down to the dungeons. The ex-Auror nudged open the door to the Potions Master’s room and limped across to the desk. Harry lingered in the doorway, looking around. Many of Snape’s creepy jars had been removed, though he could still see some in a cabinet that was halfway closed. Instead, Moody had lined the shelves with books and artifacts, many of which were lit up or rattling. On the wall by the desk hung a large polished glass surface, like a mirror, but instead of reflecting the room, the glass was fogged over and figures walked about in the background.

“Sit,” Moody grunted, pointing to a chair before his desk. Harry sank into it. Moody sat down in the desk chair and propped his wooden leg on a stool. The end of it was carved like a clawed foot. It didn’t particularly help Harry’s feeling of uneasiness.

Moody leaned his walking stick against the wall behind him and turned both his magical eye and his normal one on Harry. “So, what are you going to do about your dragon?”

Harry was taken aback. “Sir?”

“The dragon,” Moody said. “What are you going to do?”

Harry blinked. “Er, I’m not sure what you’re implying —”

“You know what I’m talking about, quit dancing around it, you aren’t a ballerina,” Moody snapped.

Harry didn’t know how to respond to this, so he said nothing. Moody propped an elbow up on his desk and leaned on it. “What’s your plan?”

“I —” Harry faltered. “I’m not sure I have one.”

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he heard Ginny asking where he was. Harry took a mental picture of the room and of Moody’s glowering face, and showed it to her.

“You don’t have a plan?” Moody asked. Harry shook his head. Moody grunted again, sounding irritated. “You’re just going to show up and pray it doesn’t barbecue you?”

Harry shrugged. “That’s the best idea so far.”

Moody scowled harder. “That’s a rubbish idea, Potter, and you know it. The other three are bound to have a plan of attack, at least the majority of one! Krum might have sawdust in between his ears, but Karkaroff will be filling it with advice. And Delacour, she’s just as much of a fairy princess as I am, she’ll be ready for it. Cedric Diggory even, now that you’ve told him, will be figuring out how to fight a dragon. And you know what all those plans will focus on?”

Harry shook his head. “Their strengths!” Moody barked. Harry jumped a bit in his chair as a bit of saliva hit him in the face. “They’ll be playing to their strengths, Potter! And they’ve got plenty of them! What are your strengths, eh? What can you do to fight a dragon?”

“Try not to die?” Harry suggested. That didn’t seem to amuse Moody.

“You’re good at spellwork, I’ve been told,” Moody said.

“Well, good enough to pass classes, but I don’t know anything that will help with a dragon! The only thing I can do well is fly, but how’s that going to keep me from being incinerated?”

Moody seemed to consider this. “You can dodge a Bludger, can’t you?”

Harry frowned. “Yes.”

“How’s a fireball any different?” Moody asked.

Harry thought there were many differences, the chief one being that the most damage a Bludger could do was break some bones, while a fireball could burn off his face, but he didn’t say that.

Moody jabbed a gnarled finger in Harry’s face. “You need to play to your strengths, Potter. If you can doge a Bludger, you can dodge that dragon’s breath.”

“But I won’t be allowed to bring my broom!” Harry said. “How am I supposed to fly, on my flaming coattails?”

Moody didn’t have the temperance to smile. “You’re allowed a wand.”

Harry merely looked at him. He knew he was allowed to have his wand, but how would that help him fly? Was he supposed to transfigure something into a broom?

Moody kept scowling. “You’re allowed to summon things, Potter! You can summon your broom!”

Harry had the ‘oh!’ moment. “So I should summon my broom and fly around the dragon’s head?”

“Yes,” Moody said, apparently glad that Harry was finally understanding him. “It’ll be more useful than you think.”

“It will?”

Moody nodded. “You should work on that Summoning Charm, Potter. You’ve got four days to master it. Now, get out.”

Harry’s chair scraped the stone floor as he stood up. “That’s it?”

“That’s it,” Moody growled. “And if anyone asks, you were here to discuss your essay.”

Harry nodded. “Er, how was our essay? In case someone asks.”

Moody squinted at Harry. “Let’s just say I’m glad you’re not the kind to use slow-acting poisons.”

Harry walked back up to the ground floor, thinking about how on earth he was going to master a spell he was complete rubbish at in four days, then remembered that he was late for Herbology. He broke into a run and sprinted through the Entrance Hall to the front doors. Halfway through the hall, his foot flew out from beneath him and he hit the floor with a loud crash and a mangled curse. Harry groaned. Lady luck must really hate him right now. He looked down and saw that he’d slipped on a miniscule puddle of ink. Probably ink spilled from Cedric’s bag. He cursed again under his breath, this time blaming karma, as he pushed himself up and rubbed at his now very sore backside. Harry wondered if he had broken his tailbone in the fall, as it was throbbing painfully. He walked more slowly now, glaring at the floor to make sure he didn’t step in anything else. Although, he thought as he was walking, it was probably payback for dumping Cedric’s bag all over the ground.

Harry walked into the greenhouse as Professor Sprout was in the middle of a sentence. She looked up at him, and pursed her lips.

“Ten points from Gryffindor,” she said, and the Gryffindors in the greenhouse all groaned. “And another five for dripping ink. Go to the back, Mr. Potter.”

Harry looked down; his robes were wet from falling in the ink. He nodded glumly and followed her instructions.

What happened? Ginny thought as Sprout kept talking.

Slipped, Harry thought back. There was an ink spill in the hall. He relayed the memory of his fall, and Ginny winced slightly.

Are you okay?

I’ll be fine.


Ginny narrowed her eyes at him, but said nothing else. They got through the class without many more mishaps, although Harry did accidentally hit himself in the nose with a pair of pruning shears. After Herbology was lunch, and by that time Harry was starving. Ginny kept stealing bits of food from his plate, but he didn’t really mind. He told her and Hermione about what Moody had said, and Hermione instantly started lecturing on the theory behind the Summoning Charm. Harry wasn’t really listening to it, since there wasn’t much to it in his opinion other than a way to encourage laziness.

Remus had them break into pairs and practice the Shield Charm in DADA that day. Fortunately, that was Harry’s last class. Unfortunately, Hermione still had Arithmency so Harry couldn’t get her to drill the Summoning Charm into him yet. Ginny was cranky again, even though she swore she wasn’t, and told him she was going to take a nap. Harry waited in the common room for Hermione to finish Arithmency. He did some homework, which included reading up on the Summoning Charm for Flitwick and to save his skin, but ended up nodding off on the couch. The day and the night before had taken more from him than he’d thought.

When Hermione woke him up, he felt slightly numb and very slow. Ginny was with her, looking similarly bleary. Hermione took them to an empty classroom on the fifth floor, set a wooly hat on a desk, and turned expectantly to Harry.

“Just start by trying to get the hat,” she said. “Focus.”

Harry tried. Except, for some reason, every time he tried to focus on the hat, a large, angry dragon popped up in his brain and started spewing fire all over his mind.

“Ignore everything else, Harry!” Hermione said. Harry kept trying.

It took the rest of the day for the hat to even twitch in Harry’s direction. Once, it flew up and hit Hermione in the face, but that wasn’t a help. They only left for dinner, but it was almost curfew when they finished eating so they went back up to the common room. Hermione dropped the hat on the floor five feet from Harry and fixed her eyes on him.

“It’s simple magic,” she said. “You have to want the hat!”

“I want the hat!” Harry snapped. “I want to rip it into tiny pieces and burn it!”

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Are you PMSing?”

Harry blinked in confusion. “What?”

Ginny groaned and covered her face in her hand. “He is.”

Hermione smiled, then quickly hid it behind her hand. “It’s carrying from you to him, isn’t it?”

Ginny nodded. “This hasn’t happened much before.”

“Must be new,” Hermione speculated. She was still trying not to laugh.

“Excuse me,” Harry asked agitatedly, “but what is PMS?”

“Premenstrual Syndrome,” Hermione said. Harry groaned.

“I hate your cycle,” he grumbled at Ginny. She scowled at him.

“You hate it?” she said. “How do you think I feel?”

“You loathe it worse than Snape,” Harry said, slashing his wand at the hat. “Accio hat! Accio hat! Accio, Accio!”

Something fuzzy hit his face. Harry snatched it off, then turned his wand back on the hat. Then he frowned. The hat wasn’t there.

Hermione and Ginny were looking at him with mild surprise.

“You got it,” Hermione said. Harry looked at the spot where the hat had been sitting, then down at his left hand. The hat was sitting in his clenched fist.

“I did,” he said, raising his eyebrows.

Ginny shrugged off her sweater. “Summon this, Harry.”

Harry pointed his wand at the sweater on her lap. “Accio Ginny’s sweater.”

Nothing happened.

“Maybe we need to get him upset again,” Hermione suggested.

“Accio Ginny’s sweater!”

“Try just saying ‘Accio sweater,’” Ginny suggested.

“Accio sweater,” Harry said, more firmly.

The sweater flopped off Ginny’s lap and landed on the floor.

“Accio sweater!” Harry repeated. One sleeve lifted up and vaguely waved in his direction. Harry gritted his teeth. “Accio sweater!” he growled, putting emphasis on every syllable.

The sweater rolled over, slowly moving towards him like it didn’t want to move. Harry jabbed his wand at it, and it shot towards him. Again, he got hit in the face. At least it smelled like Ginny.

Harry tossed the sweater back to her, then Hermione set her Arithmency textbook on a table and started digging through her school bag. “Accio book!” Harry said, jabbing his wand.

He probably should have thought about that more.

The book jumped off the table and flew towards him, straight towards his face. “Uh oh,” Harry said. He threw his hand out, trying to catch it. The book swerved around his outstretched hand, still aiming for his face. “Crap!” he yelped, ducking. The book turned and hit him on the back of the head, then flew around to the front and smacked him on the nose.

“Ow!” he moaned, sinking to the floor. The book flopped down and landed heavily on his lap. Harry let out a squeak of pain, then fell over backwards. He heard Hermione laughing on the other side of the room, and saw Ginny bending down beside him, also laughing.

“Ow,” he muttered quietly.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG
Ginny


On Friday, first period was free so they kept practicing in an empty room. Harry’s attempts to summon things ranged from them lazily floating toward him to trying to attack him. He did not try to summon a book or anything hard again until the frequency of violent attacks thinned to almost nothing. Yet he still refused to summon one of Hermione’s books.

Second period was Transfiguration, where McGonagall started talking about Switching Spells. Third period, they had Care of Magical Creatures, where Hagrid had Blast-Ended Skrewts for them. He told them to be extra careful about their eyes, since, like most creatures, they were vulnerable. For some reason, he winked at Harry when he said this.

As they were leaving lunch for Charms, someone stopped them in the corridor.

“Harry, Harry!”

Harry turned then looked to Ginny with a panicked look. Ginny frowned, and found the source. She clenched her jaw and her fists.

Parvati Patil jogged up to them. She flashed a smile at them both, Ginny felt like hexing it off her face, then focused on Harry.

“Professor McGonagall asked me to fetch you,” she said. “The champions are all gathered for a wand weighing.”

“A what?” Harry said. He seemed surprised she wasn’t trying to flirt.

“A wand weighing,” Parvati repeated.

“They want to test your wand to be sure it’s working properly,” Ginny said, glaring at Parvati. She didn’t seem to notice. One of these days, Parvati was going to wake up with her perfect teeth crooked and black and her lovely luxurious hair all cut off. Oh, she would enjoy transfiguring her nose into an ugly splotch and hexing pimples all over her clear caramel skin.

“Oh,” Harry said. He was fighting a smile, since he had overheard her plans. “Where are they?”

“I’ll show you,” Parvati said.

“Actually, I need to ask you something,” Ginny said, forcing a smile. “I need your help.”

Parvati’s smile faltered. “Oh, okay. Er, they’re two corridors over, in room 312.”

Harry nodded his thanks, then walked away, head down. Ginny stepped over to Parvati and linked her arm through her roommate’s.

“So, you like Harry?” Ginny asked sweetly.

Parvati looked at her suspiciously. “And if I say yes?”

“Just answer,” Ginny kept the anger from her voice.

Parvati nodded. “He’s hard not to like.”

“Yeah, he is, isn’t he,” Ginny chuckled. “Of course, I wouldn’t begrudge you that if you simply fancied him, but you’re flirting with him.”

Parvati shrugged. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”

Ginny fingered her wand. “Oh, maybe because it’s incredibly rude to flirt with a boy in front of his girlfriend? Not to mention hazardous to your health.”

Parvati tried to tug her arm away, but Ginny held on. In the back of her mind, she heard Harry say something about ‘damned interviews.’ “It’s especially bad for you if the girlfriend is the kind who likes to hex people for fun.”

Parvati tugged harder. Ginny shifted her grip so her hand was clamped onto Parvati’s upper arm. She tapped her wand on Parvati’s chin, no longer smiling.

“You’ll stop bothering Harry if you know what’s good for you,” Ginny growled.

“Let go of me,” Parvati snapped

Ginny pressed the tip into her chin. “Some people don’t leave marks,” she said. “I do.”

Parvati’s brown skin turned tan. She wrenched her arm out of Ginny’s grip. “Don’t touch me,” she said.

Ginny smiled her worst smile. “I don’t need to,” she whispered. Parvati lifted the hem of her robe and ran.

You’re freaky sometimes, Harry thought. Ginny tucked her wand into her pocket and walked towards the Charms room.

Only when I need to be, Ginny thought back. She slipped into the classroom and took a seat in the back before focusing on Harry’s thoughts again. Parvati was sitting next Lavender at the front of the classroom, and they were talking quickly in hushed tones. She closed her eyes, not really listening to Flitwick talking about Banishing Charms, and saw through Harry’s.

“So, Harry, what made you enter in the tournament?” a woman with sharp blonde curls asked Harry.

“I didn’t,” Harry told her.

“Miss Weasley,” Flitwick called. Ginny snapped her eyes open and looked up. “Can you tell me the theory behind Banishing Charms?”

Ginny bit her lip. Flitwick nodded, pursing his lips. “Yes, I thought as much. Please pay attention, Miss Weasley.”

Ginny nodded meekly. Flitwick continued, and she kept one half of her mind watching Harry and the other listening to the talk. The blonde woman was Rita Skeeter, and she was interviewing him for the Daily Prophet. Not long later, Dumbledore interrupted and Harry’s wand was weighed. It was in perfect working order, according to Ollivander. Then, Skeeter insisted on a photo. Ginny stopped paying as much attention to Harry and listened to Flitwick.

Every now and then, Parvati glanced over her shoulder at Ginny with a worried expression. Ginny caught her eye once and twirled her wand in her fingers. Parvati looked away quickly. Ginny smirked.

Harry came in ten minutes before class ended. Ginny gave him a fast recap, and after the bell rang, Hermione promised to give him her notes. She had a whole roll of parchment of them. After their last class, they met back in the Charms room and Harry summoned Flitwick’s pillows from Hermione.

“How was the wand weighing?” Ginny asked.

“Wand weighing?” Hermione asked.

Harry nodded as he jabbed his wand at a pillow. “That was why I was late. My wand’s fine, but that’s not all that happened. Did you see that reporter, Ginny?”

Ginny nodded, and nudged the pillow surreptitiously as Harry spoke the incantation. It surged forward about five feet. “She looked right nasty, in my opinion.”

Harry grimaced. “I don’t like her either. I read some of her notes, and she had it written down that I was crying about my parents!”

Hermione frowned. “What was her name?”

“Rita Skeeter,” Harry said. Hermione groaned.

“I’ve heard of her,” Hermione said. “She writes horrible articles, practically rumor-mongering. She’s really cruel with a quill.”

Harry groaned as well. “Just my luck,” he said. “I get the reporter who’s out for everyone.” He jabbed his wand at the pillow. “Accio!”

It flew up and struck his face. Harry snatched it off and flung it away.

“At least it wasn’t a book,” Ginny said helpfully. Harry glared.

Back to index


Chapter 18: Chapter 18: If Afraid of Burns or Incineration Do Not Read

Author's Notes: So, I haven't updated in a while, but that is due to the fact that first: I haven't been at home for about a month; second that I spent two weeks with no electronics at summer camp, and lastly that I've just been binge watching Bones a lot. Anyway, here's the next chapter; I'll try to update more often.


HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG
Chapter Eighteen: The Goblet of Fire Part Five
If Afraid of Burns or Incineration Do Not Read
Ginny



By Sunday night, Hermione had convinced Harry to attempt to summon larger, heavier things than simply hats and pillows. Ginny held his Firebolt on one end of the Common Room, and held it tight. Harry stood on the other and said, “Accio broom!”

The broom tugged itself from her hands and shot across the room. Harry bent his knees, preparing to duck if it decided to spear him on the handle, but it hit his palm without turning the sharp end towards him.

“You’re getting it Harry!” Hermione said gleefully. Harry set the broom down and turned to Hermione. “Accio pillow!”

The pillow flew from Hermione’s hand and caught Harry in the chest. He tossed it towards the couches. “Ginny, come get the broom.”

Ginny took a step towards him, then paused. She didn’t really want to walk all the way there if there was a better way. She raised her wand. “Accio broom!” she said.

The broom lifted itself off the ground and turned towards her. It flew across the room, then stopped just before her.

Harry and Hermione stared.

“Wow,” said Hermione.

“Not fair!” said Harry.

Ginny smirked. Harry jabbed his wand at her. “Accio broom!”

The broom shot from her hand and landed in Harry’s. Ginny pointed her wand at him. “Accio broom,” she said again, calmly. The broom plucked itself from his hand and flew to her again, stopping in the air so she could pick it up.

“So not fair!” Harry said. “How come you can do it perfectly first try?”

“Was that your first try?” Hermione asked.

“Yeah,” Ginny said. “Maybe it’s just easier for me.”

“Why?” Harry said. “Accio broom.”

“Maybe because I get stuff like this faster than you,” Ginny guessed. “Accio broom.”

The broom passed between them for a while longer. It was like they were playing catch. Hermione threw in a random object every now and then, but mostly they summoned the broom from each other. It came to Harry with increasing ease, and to Ginny in the same, calm but quick the way it had done on her first attempt.

“Maybe it’s because you learned it first, Harry,” Hermione mused, sometime around one o’clock in the morning.

“What?” Harry said, catching the broom.

“Accio broom,” Ginny said. The broom left Harry’s hand as Hermione continued.

“Maybe it was easy for her because you already knew it.”

Ginny thought about that, fingering the handle of Harry’s broom. She heard Harry repeat the incantation and let go, the broom fell an inch before catching itself and flying towards him.

“Maybe,” Ginny said. She glanced at her watch then looked to Harry. “Do you feel satisfied?”

Harry yawned in answer. Ginny walked across the room and poked Hermione’s shoulder. She had been sitting in an armchair, eyes closed, for the past half hour.

“I’m awake,” she mumbled.

“We’re done, I think,” Ginny said. Harry nodded. Hermione sighed and pushed herself out of the chair.

“I’ll let you say goodnight in private,” she said. “But don’t take too long.”

Hermione went up the stairs, yawning as she did. Harry set his broom in the vacated chair and opened his arms. Ginny walked into them and rested her head on his shoulder.

Thank you, Harry thought. Ginny smiled faintly.

You’re welcome, she replied.

I really needed all that help, Harry mused.

Yup, Ginny yawned too. Are yawns contagious?

I don’t think so,
Harry thought. Then he yawned. Maybe.

Ginny chuckled and kissed his cheek. Harry brought his lips to hers, catching them quickly. She smiled as he released her mouth, and he kissed her nose. That was a nice thank you, she thought.

Harry grinned. Glad to be of service.

Ginny squeezed her arms, hugging him tightly. You should get to bed. The task is in ten or so hours.

Harry sighed. Don’t remind me. He retracted his arms and gave her one last kiss on the cheek. Good night, darling.

Night, sweetheart,
she thought back. Harry grinned as he picked up his broom and started up the boys’ stairs. Ginny picked up the jacket Hermione had left behind and went up the girls’ stairs.

Her alarm woke her up instantly the next morning. Her hands shook as she shut it off, and she sat there, staring up at the ceiling for a moment, trying to order her thoughts. A dragon, she kept thinking. Harry had to fight a dragon. Now that she was awake, she wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep, even though she really wanted to.

Harry was still asleep, and it was only seven, so Ginny left him alone. The task didn’t start until 11:00 and he didn’t need to be there until ten thirty at the earliest. She made sure the door was closed though, before going into the bathroom and taking a shower. She stood under the stream of hot water, trying to wake up. She didn’t have nearly enough sleep.

It was quarter to eight by the clock in the bathroom when she shut off the water. The room was instantly cold without the water; Ginny shivered and wrapped a towel around herself. She stepped out of the shower stall to the little changing space outside and grabbed her wand. She muttered a quick spell, and hot air started pouring from the tip. She rubbed away the water with the towel and then twisted it around her hair while she dressed.

Ginny went back into the dorm itself and closed herself inside her curtains. Her wand was still spewing warm air, so she started drying her hair. Her alarm clock said it was eight thirteen. Three hours. Harry was still asleep. She had a feeling he’d forgotten to set an alarm. Ginny finished drying her hair and tidied her space a bit. She made the bed, pushed back the curtains, and scraped all the loose junk on top of her night table into a drawer. Eight twenty nine. Two and a half hours until Harry needed to head out. Bagman had told him Sunday afternoon to wait in the Entrance Hall for him at eleven. Ginny sat down on her newly made bed and took out a book. She tried to read, but her thoughts kept straying. What if Harry got hurt? What would they do? What if he got the Horntail, the worst of all of the dragons? What if the Summoning Charm didn’t work and he couldn’t fly? What if he couldn’t complete the task? What if he was killed?

Ginny shook her head with a jerk. Harry would be fine. He was the best flier she’d ever seen, better even than Viktor Krum, and the spell hadn’t backfired since Saturday. Although, that last thought wasn’t much comfort.

Ginny glanced at her clock and fell back against her pillows with a groan. It was barely eight forty. She couldn’t just sit here and be bored much longer. So, she put the book away and left the room, walking as quietly as she possibly could. Ginny went into the common room and dropped onto a couch, attempting to arrange her mind into an ordered fashion. Her thoughts seemed to be bouncing around and pinging off the walls, and random dragons ran around spewing fire. Ginny rubbed at her temples, fighting a headache. In her agitated state, the presence of Tom’s memories felt like a physical weight on her shoulders. In the back of her mind, she felt them poking and prodding at the barriers she had created in her brain. This always happened when she was stressed, or when her period came around. When both happened, Tom’s memories felt like they had a mind of their own.

Ginny let her head fall onto the back of the couch and squeezed her eyes shut. Her eyelids were red, like dragon fire. She felt jittery and worried. Somewhere, she heard faint, humorless laughter. There was a sudden chill on her neck, like a cold finger stroking her skin.

Ginny pushed herself off the couch and started towards the boys’ dorms. It was almost nine o’clock, Harry could wake up now. She jogged up the stairs and walked quickly to Harry’s dorm. She could have just shouted mentally at him until he woke, but Ginny just felt like she needed to see him. Vaguely, she wondered if this had anything to do with what the journal had said, that it was unwise for them to spend long apart. She pushed this aside as she did the door, and tip-toed inside.

Seamus and Dean were still asleep, their curtains wide open to prove this. Neville’s bed was empty and made, but he wasn’t in sight. Ron’s curtains were drawn, but she knew he was present by the sound of his snoring.

Harry’s curtains were pulled shut as well. Ginny gently pulled them open, revealing her best friend lying on his side, curled up with a pillow clamped in his arms like a teddy bear. She smiled. The sight seemed to displease and frighten away Tom’s memories, as the flickering images that had grown faded. There was a sudden ache in her chest, something that almost screamed with a need to simply touch him. Ginny reached out and combed her fingers through his hair. Harry stirred, and his hand came up to grasp hers, although his eyes remained shut. The skin on skin contact soothed her frayed nerves.

Wake up, Ginny thought. Harry pressed her palm against his cheek but still did not open his eyes. Wake up, the task starts in two hours.

Harry rolled over, releasing the pillow but still holding her hand tightly. Ginny stumbled forward, and collided with the edge of his mattress.

Harry! Ginny thought. Her hand was at an awkward angle, and it hurt a bit.

“Wake up,” she said, trying to tug her hand free. Harry’s grip tightened, and he tugged back. Ginny fell against the bed and caught herself by locking her elbow and dropping her other hand onto the bed. Harry rolled over again, knocking her arm out. Ginny fell with a sharp intake of breath, landing on top of him. Harry grunted, and he finally let go of her hand. Ginny tried to get off him, but then his arms came up and locked around her waist.

“Bugger,” Ginny muttered. Harry’s breath fell on her hair; it sent shivers down her spine. “Harry, you need to wake up!” she hissed. He mumbled vaguely in words that were either of his own creation or complete gibberish. Her back didn’t like the position she was in, and her legs were beginning to complain as well.

Ginny tried again to rise, but he tightened his grip. Harry shifted again, so he was lying on his side in the same way she’d found him. Her legs shouted in protest, now the position was worse.

Ginny sighed and drew her legs up onto the bed, so she was now lying beside him rather than standing bent double. Harry inhaled and exhaled, still asleep.

Ginny lay there for a moment, trying to figure out how to remedy the situation, or even if it needed remedying. Harry’s rhythmic breath on her face was calming; she felt like simply returning to sleep. Her eyelids drooped and she inhaled his scent deeply.

But the task was soon. She glanced over her shoulder and checked his clock. Quarter past nine. Ginny sighed. Harry had to be ready to fight in just ninety minutes.

Ginny nudged his shoulder. Her arms were trapped between their chests, so she couldn’t do much. Harry grunted in his sleep and turned his face down, bumping his forehead against hers.

She had an idea. Ginny slipped her arm up and pushed her fingers into Harry’s hair. She felt his breath shudder. Ginny pulled his head closer and touched her lips to his. Harry murmured something. Ginny kissed him harder.

“Wake up,” she whispered.

“Uhmmm,” Harry mumbled.

Ginny caressed his scalp. “Wake up, love.”

Harry opened his eyes and squinted at her. “Huh?”

“It’s time you wake up,” she said.

Harry knit his eyebrows. “What are you doing there?”

“I came to wake you up, but it proved to be difficult.”

His cheeks reddened. “Difficult?”

“You seemed to want to hold me.”

Harry glanced down, at his arms locked around her waist. Quickly, he let go. “Sorry.”

“I don’t particularly mind,” Ginny said with a shrug and a half-smile. “But you do need to get up.”

“What time is it?”

“Quarter past nine.”

Harry let out a strangled curse and jumped off the bed, almost tangling himself with the curtains on the other side of the bed. “Why didn’t you wake me sooner?” he asked incredulously. Ginny sat up with an indignant expression.

“I tried, thank you very much, but you were insistent on sleeping.”

Harry smacked himself in the forehead. “I’m going to start setting an alarm.”

That’s a great idea, Ginny thought, leaning back on his pillows. She closed her eyes again as Harry went around to his trunk to get clothes.

“I need a shower,” Harry muttered. He glanced at her with a bemused expression. “I don’t smell bad, do I?”

Ginny shrugged. “No more than usual.”

Harry scowled. “Gee, thanks.”

“Welcome, love. Go!”

Harry nodded, and started towards the bathroom. Then he stopped in front of the door and turned back to her. When did you start calling me that? He thought.

Ginny thought about it. Just now, I suppose. Do you mind?

Harry grinned. Nope! Keep doing it.

Ginny smiled as he went into the bathroom, and she felt him close the mental door. She stretched, and slipped into a prone position. She rubbed her cold fingers together and tucked them under Harry’s blankets. The bed smelled strongly of him, and the scent was dulling her brain. She inhaled deeply, feeling quite content. She reached around and closed the curtains, blocking out the light. Ginny settled down on his pillows, thinking she could catch a quick nap while he was in the bath.

A moment later, something poked her shoulder. She waved it away and buried her face in a pillow.

I have to get up, but you don’t? Harry’s voice asked her.

Ginny opened her eyes and blinked. Harry must have showered quickly. She sat up, stretching. “You ready to go to breakfast?”

“Yeah, I just need shoes.”

Ginny pushed back the curtains and was met by Ron doing the same thing. Ron looked startled.

“What the —” he said, gaping.

“Morning,” Ginny said coolly. She hadn’t forgotten how he’d acted on Thursday.

“What are you doing up here?” Ron asked. His face was quickly reddening, but she noticed that he had been rather white.

Ginny stuck her nose in the air and looked at him in disapproval. He seemed taken aback by her expression.

“I’m standing by my friend and helping him,” Ginny said coldly. “You might want to try it for a change.”

Ron clenched his jaw and his expression hardened. “Did you stay the night, or were you just here to support him in the morning?” he snapped. Ginny’s eyes flashed. She felt Harry’s temper rise, but it was nothing compared to her own anger.

“Is that what you think of me, Ronald?” she asked, reaching for her wand. “As some kind of — of a scarlet woman?”

Ron dropped his gaze to the floor. He got out of his bed and moved to his trunk, not answering her. Ginny bit her lip and moved over to where Harry was sitting on his trunk, lacing his shoes. His fingers were fumbling with the laces, and as she watched, he tied a knot around his thumb. Ginny bent and waved his hands away.

“Stop, stop,” she muttered. Harry sat up with a huff and crossed his arms over his chest.

It’s bad enough he’s like this with me, Harry thought after a moment. Why does he have to be cruel to you?

Ginny tied his shoe instead of answering. She pulled the laces as tight as possible and tied them with an equally tight bow.

“That’s a bit tight,” Harry said. Ginny blinked, then realized that Harry was wincing.

“Sorry,” she muttered, untying it and trying again.

He got to you, too, Harry thought.

Of course he has! Ginny’s thoughts burst free. She dropped onto the trunk next to Harry and mimicked his pose. He actually asked if I slept with you! My twin! He should know better!

Harry unfolded his arms and wrapped one around her. I’m sorry, Ginny.

Ginny bit her lip harder. There was a different kind of ache in her chest, and her eyes felt watery. She blinked them away quickly. She would not cry, not now, not here. She would not give Ron the satisfaction of knowing that he’d hurt her.

I don’t think he would be satisfied, Harry said in a mental whisper. Ginny drew in a shaky breath. She glanced at Ron; he was gathering his things for a shower and kept his eyes anywhere but near her.

Ginny looked down at her feet, at Harry’s laces tied upside down, anything but at her twin. Harry was right, Ron wouldn’t feel victorious if he saw her crying, but she wasn’t sure if he would feel remorseful or indifferent anymore. There once was a time when they had been inseparable, when they did everything together and the world be damned if they couldn’t. That time hadn’t been so long ago, but right then, it felt like centuries.

Now she had to keep Harry alive.

Ginny stood up and held out her hand to him. Harry laced his fingers through hers and she led him away, out of the dorm room and out of Gryffindor tower. She didn’t pay attention to where she was going, merely keeping her hand fixed in Harry’s. The nerves she had woken up with now felt like her every emotion was battering at her like tsunamis, and now she felt depressed because Ron didn’t trust her anymore.

Harry squeezed her hand. We passed the Great Hall, darling.

Ginny looked up; they were headed towards the ground floor classrooms. “Oh.”

Harry tugged gently on her hand, guiding her back to the Great Hall. She was unsure as to how she had missed it, as the noise coming from it was tremendous. Everyone was awake and nervous for the first task. Harry stopped by the doorway; Ginny heard his spirits deflating further.

“Maybe we should eat in the kitchens,” Ginny whispered.

“Okay,” Harry said. Ginny tugged at his hand and they turned away again.

“I’m sorry about Ron,” Harry said as they walked into the basement. Ginny nodded, her eyes downcast.

“I’m sorry too,” she murmured. “I wish I had known he would be like this.”

Harry squeezed her hand. “He’ll come round.”

“Hopefully,” Ginny said. She glanced at Harry and immediately felt bad. “I’m sorry, I’m going and making this about me, but it’s you he’s betraying —”

“Both of us,” Harry interrupted. “The way he’s treating you, it’s about us both.”

Ginny nodded again. Harry tickled the pear and opened the entrance as it giggled.

The house-elves were eager to assist, and soon they were seated in a corner with the same food the students were eating above them. Ginny had to pester Harry into eating, even though he protested with claims of nausea. He still ate two helpings of everything.

Harry’s nerves were so jumbled when they finished eating that they bled over to Ginny. Her hands shook as she pushed away her plate and Harry thanked the house-elves. He was always so polite, even when he had to fight dragons.

Ginny glanced at her watch and stood. “We should go.”

Harry nodded. He took her hand as they left the kitchens.

“Remember the Summoning charm,” she muttered, her heart pounding while they climbed stairs back up to the ground floor. “Remember to use the Shield charm just in case you can’t dodge in time. Remember —”

“I remember,” Harry cut her off. They entered the Entrance Hall, and their eyes landed on Ludo Bagman’s bouncing figure at the same time. Ginny squeezed his hand, not wanting to let go.

“I’ll be fine,” Harry insisted. Ginny bit her lip.

You’d better be, she thought. Harry smiled nervously.

“Harry, m’boy, at last!” Ludo said, clapping his hands together. “It’s half past ten already!”

“I hope you don’t mind,” Harry said, “but I’m not overly eager to —”

You don’t know anything about dragons! Ginny thought hastily.

“To begin the task,” Harry corrected. Ludo didn’t seem to catch his almost-slip.

“Ah, well, neither would I if I were you,” Ludo sighed. “But, the show must go on!” Then he seemed to notice Ginny for the first time. His eyebrows raised and his face brightened. “Oh, hullo, lass! Harry, would you kindly introduce us?”

Harry glanced at Ginny. “Er, this is my girlfriend, Ginny Weasley.”

Ginny stuck out her free hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Bagman,” she said.

Ludo took her hand, and, instead of shaking it, bent and bestowed a light kiss on her knuckles. “The pleasure is mine, Miss Weasley,” he said warmly. Ginny smiled back, although her hand now felt oddly cold. Ludo released it, and she tried not to pull it back too quickly. In the part of her mind that was Harry’s, she felt confusion, protectiveness, and even a faint sense of jealousy. He gripped her hand more tightly.

“Now, shall we go down to the stadium?” Ludo asked, beaming upon them both.

“I suppose,” Harry said glumly. Ludo bowed at the waist and held out his arms, gesturing them ahead. Harry pushed open the door and held it open for Ginny, then for Ludo. Ginny released his hand so Ludo could pass by, and waited for him to follow.

“We’ve got a stadium set up down by the lake,” Ludo said cheerily. “Miss Weasley will have to go sit in the stands, however, while you and I enter the champions’ tent. There, Barty and I will tell you about the task.”

Harry nodded quickly. Ginny felt him pushing back waves of nervousness, just as much as she was ignoring her slight nausea. Ludo kept talking, something about how much planning had gone into the first task, but Ginny wasn’t listening and neither was Harry.

All too soon, they reached a tent pitched outside a large stadium, not as large as the Quidditch World Cup stadium, but larger than the Quidditch pitch at Hogwarts. Ludo opened the tent flap for Harry, but he hesitated.

You’ll do fine, Ginny thought quickly. Harry nodded, his jaw clenched. Ginny bit her lip, then threw her arms around his neck. He locked his arms around her waist; burying his face in her hair. Good luck. Harry leaned back, then quickly kissed her cheek.

I’ll need it, he thought back. She smiled tightly at him, then stepped back. Ludo put a hand on Harry’s shoulder, guiding him inside the tent. He gave Ginny a wave, then followed Harry in.

Ginny pushed her hands into the pocket of her sweater and started walking towards the stadium. There were a few people, older students getting extra credit for community service she guessed, standing around, to direct the spectators into the stands. One glanced at his watch in a bit of confusion, but directed her towards the empty stands. Ginny found a seat in the top most row, and closed her eyes as she sat down to focus on what Harry was seeing.

The champions were all gathered in the tent. Each of them looked tense and somewhat excited, but mostly tense. Krum was off by himself, glaring at everything that moved. Fleur was sitting in a corner, her normally haughty face was pale and there were faint circles beneath her eyes. Cedric was pacing the length of the tent, his hair unkempt and he was wringing his hands. She felt Harry’s nerves grow as he stepped into the tent. Mr. Crouch was standing in the center of the tent, holding a dark, silk bag in his hands and looking like he didn’t really want to be there.

“Ah, finally, Mr. Potter,” Crouch said. “Come in, all of you gather round.”

Ludo gently pushed Harry forward, she felt him flinch at the foreign touch. Ginny filled with irritation at the man. The other champions came forward, and Crouch held aloft the bag.

“First, I must wish you all luck,” Crouch said. “What you are about to face is meant to test your daring, your courage. I shall not reveal the danger quite yet, we will wait until the audience is assembled for that.”

Ginny snorted in her seat. She knew for a fact that the Hogwarts champions were aware that they would be facing dragons, and was almost willing to bet her life savings that Fleur and Krum knew as well.

“But when they are, I shall offer you this bag, from which you will retrieve a model of what you are about to face, which will determine exactly which one you face, and also the order in which you face them.”

Please, whatever Lady Luck thinks of me, let me not get the Horntail! Harry thought. Ginny echoed his plea.

“The object of this task is simple,” Crouch said. “To collect the golden egg.”

Harry nodded; her view shifted up and down. Then, something poked her shoulder and she was brought back to her own mind.

Ginny looked up to see Sirius, Remus, and Hermione joining her. She smiled at them, but it wasn’t really a genuine smile.

“How is he?” Remus asked as he took a seat beside her.

“Nervous,” Ginny answered.

“We tried to find him this morning,” Hermione said, “to wish him luck, but he wasn’t at breakfast.”

“I took him to the kitchens,” Ginny said in reply. “There were too many people in the Great Hall.”

“That’s what I told them,” Sirius said, dropping down on her other side. “He hasn’t told us what his plan is.”

“You’ll see,” Ginny replied. Hermione caught the hint and said nothing either.

Ginny closed her eyes, again, listening to Harry as the stadium filled. His thoughts were a jumble, and though she tried to help sort them, he kept scattering them again. Quickly, the chatter of excited persons waiting for the first task to begin rose and it became more and more difficult to focus on Harry’s thoughts. Remus switched seats with Hermione because people were pressing in on all sides and she was getting a bit nervous about it. Hermione had never liked crowds. Sirius bounced in his seat, Harry’s thoughts pinged off the walls of her skull, Hermione started biting her fingernails.

Ginny, listen! Harry thought suddenly. Ginny crammed her fingers in her ears and tried to block out the sounds of the crowd.

“Ladies first,” Mr. Crouch said. Ginny saw through Harry’s eyes as he held out the silk bag to Fleur. She reached inside, and withdrew from it a small, living model of a Welsh Green.

Dammit, Ginny thought, I was hoping you’d get the Green.

Fleur looked determined as she gazed down on her dragon, which had a tag bearing the number two around its neck. There was no sign of shock in her face; they had been right in assuming Madam Maxime would warn her student.

Crouch offered the bag to Krum, who withdrew a model of the Chinese Fireball tagged number three. Krum stepped back and looked down at his dragon with a surly expression.

Cedric reached into the bag next. Ginny bit her lip, begging whoever was listening to give him the Horntail.

He got the Swedish Short-snout.

Ginny mouthed swear words. Harry’s spirits were sinking and there was dread in his heart as he reached into the bag and withdrew the Hungarian Horntail.

Harry caught his breath. His mind was spinning even worse now, with waves of fear, dread, and anger at the unfairness of it all clouding his vision. Ludo was saying something else, but Harry wasn’t really listening.

Sit down, Ginny thought quickly. Harry didn’t have any other idea so he obeyed. Ginny focused on trying to be calm, hoping her emotions would bleed into his mind and affect him. Harry began to breathe more slowly.

“… you will enter the arena at the sound of the canon,” Ludo said. “First, Mr. Diggory, then Miss Delacour —” he bowed slightly to Fleur as he said this —“then Mr. Krum and finally Mr. Potter. Good luck, champions.”

With that, he and Crouch swept from the tent. Ginny squeezed her eyes shut, transmitting reassurance to Harry. He was staring down at the Hungarian Horntail in his palm, which roared up at him and raked its small talons over his skin.

Someone jostled her from behind, forcing her eyes open and breaking her concentration. Ginny looked up, ready to tell whoever it was off, but faltered at the sight of half-moon glasses flashing in the sun and a long white beard.

“Pardon me, Miss Weasley,” he said politely, stepping past her and towards a roped off section of the stands where Karkaroff and Madam Maxime were already seated. Ginny glanced around, spotting Ludo Bagman and Barty Crouch coming up behind her as well. She scooted forward in her seat to allow them to pass. Ludo shot her a wide smile, and patted her shoulder as he passed her. A cold shiver went through her as his hand landed on her shoulder, and remained in place as he removed it. Ginny smiled tightly back, and turned her gaze onto the rocky arena. Right then, it was empty. She wondered where the dragon was.

A canon blast rang through the stadium. Ginny clenched her fists. Cedric Diggory appeared from the shadows of a tunnel entrance, his face set in grim determination.

Another barred door opened, one much larger, and a loud roar split her eardrums. Thudding feet carried the body of a large, blue scaled beast into the arena. The dragon made straight for a nest resting in the center of the arena, where several eggs rested. As the Swedish Short-snout settled on top of it, Ginny caught a glimpse of a golden gleam.

Ginny watched Cedric fight without really paying attention. Harry was watching through her eyes as well, and she felt his emotions swell and collapse throughout the fight. Ludo Bagman commentated like he had done during the World Cup, but she wasn’t listening.

It was over before she realized it. Cedric fled from the arena, clutching the golden egg and his burnt left arm. Ten wizards ran in and started casting spells over the dragon, calming it into a stupor. Ginny saw her brother’s red hair catching the sunlight as he bent to collect the remaining eggs. The Short-snout was led away, and the judges scored Cedric’s performance. He got a total of 42 points.

Fleur came out next. The Welsh Green spewed fire everywhere, catching her robe, but in the end, she got the egg without great injury. Harry’s nerves were mounting. She was given 36 points, ten of them coming from Bagman.

Krum’s first action was to cast a Stinging Hex on the Chinese Fireball’s eyes. The dragon’s scream of pain and rage rattled Ginny, almost as much as the sight of the female staggering and crushing several of her own eggs. She felt an almost physical pain as the eggs were smashed, as the small lives growing in them were destroyed. Once the Fireball realized what she had done, her roar was stricken with even more pain, bordering agony, and she launched herself at Krum.

Krum’s battle was the longest by far. The Fireball roared and shot fire indiscriminately, as though she was determined to roast Krum alive, and Ginny was certain she was. The smashed remains of her eggs oozed over the few that had come unscathed.

Krum managed to get the egg, but not without severe burns. The dragon tamers rushed out to console the Fireball, while medi-wizards helped Krum into another tent. The Fireball sent one last mushroom cloud of fire into the air, her voice still filled with rage, and collapsed from exhaustion and the spells of the tamers. Three of the tamers huddled around the nest, examining the eggs. One of them shook his head; Ginny craned her neck to see. Charlie raised four fingers into the sky, looking up at the judges. She fell back into her seat. Of the dozen eggs the Fireball had, only four were left alive.

Krum was brought back out to receive his score. Dumbledore gave him the same score as the eggs still left: Four. He was left with 35 points, though Ginny, her fists shaking with anger, felt that he deserved zero for causing the destruction of the baby dragons. Yet, she was even more appalled at Karkaroff’s reaction; he gave Krum a full ten.

The nest was cleaned and Charlie and another dragon tamer brought in the eggs of the Hungarian Horntail. They cast spells over them, pulsating blue light, before placing the golden egg amongst them. Ginny hoped those spells were protection, in case the Horntail went into a rage like the Fireball did. Of course, she was certain that Harry wouldn’t do anything to harm the eggs on purpose, but precautions were best.

The canon sounded again. Ginny bit down on her lip, her eyes darting from the champion’s tunnel to the dragon’s entrance. From the dragon’s entrance, another roar sounded.

What if I just don’t come out? Harry thought.

Please, Harry, Ginny returned, you’ve got to put Krum further into last place.

Before Harry replied, the bars over the dragon’s entrance rose and the Horntail soared out. Ginny’s breath caught in her throat; the dragon was fearsomely beautiful, her long tail wiping around and crashing into rocks and the sides of the arena as she flew for her eggs. She roared, and blew flames fifty feet into the air. Ginny bit harder.

Slowly, Harry’s figure came from the shadows. His face was white, and so were his knuckles as he clenched his wand.

You can do this.

Harry nodded, she saw even from a distance. I can do this.

He raised his wand into the sky. Ginny closed her eyes, silently praying it would work.

She didn’t really hear his words, but she knew what he said. “Accio broom!

At first, nothing happened. Harry took a tentative step towards the dragon, and leapt back as she coated the ground with orange flames. She felt his rising panic, and then a speck in the distance caught her eye. Her attention shifted, and a grin grew over her face as she saw the broom shaped speck flying closer and closer.

It’s coming!

Harry looked up, and she felt hope rise in him at last. The broom was catching the attention of more and more people, and they were pointing at it as it neared the stadium. Harry stuck his hand out in the air, and the handle impacted with his palm. He mounted it, and kicked off, as another burst of flame scorched the ground where he had stood.

The crowd ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ as he shot through the air around the Horntail, dodging the dragon’s fire and attracting her ire. Ginny chuckled to herself at the rhyme, then her stomach dropped as Harry barely evaded a blast of fire. But she felt elation in him anyway as he performed his aerial acrobatics.

The Horntail was sitting on her haunches, almost standing on her back legs, trying to catch Harry in her jaws. She seemed just as agitated as before, but less irritated, more like Harry was a bothersome fly rather than a danger to her young. Harry soared a hundred feet in the air, getting almost too far to see, then dropped suddenly. The dragon rose up, spreading her wings, almost in triumph as she opened her jaws, but Harry shot past her and to the nest. She roared, ducking down, but he had scooped up the false egg and was shooting out of range before her clawed fee hit the ground.

Ginny jumped up and cheered as Harry flew out of sight into the champions’ tunnel. The whole stadium jumped up and cheered; even the ones who had despised Harry for his gall to be in the tournament. The dragon tamers came out and took away the Horntail, as the noise was agitating her further, but the crowd shouted on. Ludo Bagman was trying to shout over the roar, but failing. Ginny jumped over her bench and started pushing and shoving to get off the stands, with Sirius, Remus, and Hermione on her heels. She made it out of the crowd, and ran for the medical tent.

The other champions were visible, being treated for their burns and scratches, but Ginny made a beeline for Harry. He grinned at her, despite his arm covered in purple salve. Ginny threw her arms around his neck, and Hermione did the same, so Harry was smothered by both of them at once.

“Oof! Ow! Argh; gerroffme!” he grunted from beneath them.

“Oh, my goodness, Harry that was wonderful!” Hermione shrieked.

“You were perfect!” Ginny crowed, kissing his cheek with a broad grin.

“Let the man breathe,” Sirius said, but Ginny heard a smile in his voice. Hermione retreated, her face pink, but Ginny just dropped down onto the cot beside him and left her arm around his waist.

“That truly was marvelous, Harry,” Remus said, beaming down on them.

“Marvelous?” Sirius grunted. “That was bloody brilliant! How’d you think of it?”

“Moody gave me the idea, actually,” Harry said. Sirius grinned wider, if that was possible, and thumped Harry on the shoulder.

“Best performance possible,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave you fifty points!”

Neither would I, Ginny thought, kissing his cheek again. Harry grinned.

The sound of someone clearing their throat interrupted the exchange. They turned, and saw Ron standing in the tent entrance, his ears clearly red even from there.

“Er…” was all he said.

Remus grabbed Sirius by the arm and muttered something in his ear. Sirius muttered something else, and let Remus lead him out. Hermione glanced between Harry and Ron, then followed. Ron took a hesitant step forward. Ginny stayed where she stood.

“What do you want?” she snapped, her cheerful mood gone.

Ron cleared his throat again. “I, uh, well, you — you flew good out there, Harry,” he mumbled, his gaze on the ground.

Harry raised an eyebrow. “That it?”

Ron’s ears turned a darker red. “Look, I just came to say that I’m sorry, all right? I’m sorry I didn’t believe you, and I’m sorry I’ve been acting like a git to the both of you. I’m… I’m sorry.”

He hung his head, and turned away. He took half a step away, eyes still on the ground. Ginny glanced at Harry, a bit stunned, then slipped off the cot and grabbed Ron’s hand. Her twin met her eyes, and she saw genuine shame in them.

She hugged him. Ron seemed surprised at first, but he let his arms encircle her and patted her back.

“We forgive you,” she whispered. Ron pulled back, looking relieved. Harry stepped up to them, and held out his hand to Ron. Her brother took it, and her boyfriend pulled her brother into one of those handshake-man hugs. Ginny smiled at them.

“You really were brilliant,” Ron said. Harry grinned.

“What made you decide to believe him?” Ginny asked Ron.

Ron looked uncomfortable. “Uh, well, I’m not really sure —”

Ginny raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

He glanced at his feet. “Well, honestly, I had — I had this dream last night.”

Harry’s grin faded. “What dream?”

“I don’t really remember all of it, but I remember hearing two people talking about you, and about how their plan was working perfectly, and I remember thinking how weird it was, but I kept seeing this paper with your name and it wasn’t your handwriting —” Ron shrugged. “I woke up feeling weird, and when I saw the dragons, I guess I decided that you must have been completely mad to have entered yourself.”

Harry clapped Ron on the shoulder. “That’s what we’ve been saying!”

Ron smiled sheepishly. “Sorry.”

Ginny smiled too, but his story bothered her. She had been having weird dreams for years, but Ron had never mentioned ever having a dream that didn’t involve Quidditch or food. It was almost ominous.

“… and the judges have decided on their scores,” they heard. Ginny gasped, then grabbed Harry’s arm, and dragged both him and Ron out of the tent to see Harry’s score.

Dumbledore gave Harry a nine, eights came from Crouch and Madam Maxime. Ludo gave Harry a ten, Ron supposed for his flying, but Ginny wasn’t quite as sure. Karkaroff gave Harry a:

“Four?!” Ginny and Ron shouted in rage.

“You gave Krum full marks!” Ron continued.

“And Harry didn’t make his dragon kill half her young!” Ginny steamed.

“Still, he’s got 39 points,” Hermione said. “He’s in second behind Cedric.”

The Gryffindors all gathered around Harry; Fred and George lifted him up on their shoulders and cheered loudly, so much that you could barely hear the Chinese Fireball still lamenting her young.

The resulting party in Gryffindor tower lasted until well after midnight, when Professor McGonagall came to tell them to get to bed. Once Harry was finally released from the crowd, Ginny guided him back up to his dorm with Ron on his other side. He was so tired, that he nearly fell asleep on the walk. Ginny gave him a gentle kiss goodnight before going to her own dorm. She collapsed onto her bed with a sigh. It had been a very long day.

Back to index


Chapter 19: Chapter 19: The Yule Ball

Author's Notes: At the very bottom, the story that is inserted is parts of the Little Match Girl, originally written by Hans Christian Anderson, although the version I have was edited by Sheila Black, no relation to Sirius Black. I think. I got it from A Treasury of Children’s Literature, which was published in 1992. The book is frickin’ older than I am, so I’ve got no idea where I got it or who Sheila Black is. Anyway, story is Hans Christian Anderson’s the Little Match Girl, retold by Sheila Black. And here’s another long chapter. Have fun!


Chapter Nineteen: The Goblet of Fire Part Six
The Yule Ball
Harry



Harry slept through morning classes the day after the first task, and when he panicked about it, Ginny told him that McGonagall had given him permission. Apparently, fighting a dragon qualified as a good reason to skip classes.

Despite this, his classes seemed to be getting aggressively difficult. Flitwick was pleased with Harry’s performance with the Summoning Charm and showed this by drilling them on the opposite, Banishing Charms. Divination with Trelawney got steadily worse, Transfiguration he could barely comprehend, and History of Magic only got drearier.

The last of November felt like a funeral for the students’ sense of freedom. Homework piled up, dark circles appeared under their eyes, and Harry wished for either a clone he could send to lessons or a time machine. Sometimes both at once.

None too soon, the last Hogsmeade trip of the year came, and the week before, the announcement of the formal occasion Sirius and Tonks had equipped them for came along. The Yule Ball; it would be held on Christmas Eve and was open to anyone fourth year and above, though if an older student wanted to take someone from third or second year, they could. Harry didn’t particularly worry about it, since he had Ginny. He had asked her during the summer, but asked again just to be sure. She rolled her eyes as she said yes, but she was also smiling.

While they were in Hogsmeade, Ginny went shopping with a bunch of girls from her year, what for Harry had no idea. Harry got his dorm-mates all together and they went Christmas shopping. Ron ended up asking Seamus’s advice on what to get Hermione, as Seamus had already gotten the reputation for being popular amongst the females. Seamus went on and on about how they liked to feel ‘pretty’ and ‘special’ and ‘wanted’ and therefore advised Ron to get her a really sparkly necklace, that looked like it was covered in diamonds but Harry was fairly certain that all of them were glass. Harry ended up telling Ron that Hermione would much rather receive a book than the necklace, but Ron agreed with Seamus and bought the necklace.

Seamus tried to give Harry advice on what to give Ginny, but being able to read the mind of your girlfriend has perks, such as not having to be confused and lost as to what to give her on their first Christmas as a couple. Honestly, Harry wasn’t sure how Christmas was a milestone in their relationship, but he was sure that it was important. He spent some time thinking about her gift, then decided to get two things, one more personal than the other, because he happened to see a pair of earrings that he was positive she would like. The second, more personal gift… Harry had to rack both his brains and hers to figure out what.

At the end of the day, the five of them got a drink in the Three Broomsticks and the girls’ Ginny had joined stopped by. Seamus ended up asking Lavender to the dance, and Neville, emboldened it seemed by Seamus’ success, asked Hermione.

It didn’t end well. Ron got red in the face, and Harry was sure he was going to start yelling at Neville when Hermione startled him further by saying she already had a date.

“What?” Ron spluttered. “But — but I — you can’t have —”

“Yes, I can, Ronald,” Hermione snapped, suddenly irritated.

“But —” Ron’s face went from red to pink, though his ears were still cherry colored. “Who?”

Hermione looked away. “I don’t have to tell you,” she said.

“Go on, tell us,” Harry said.

“I won’t,” she said. “Stop pestering me.”

“Why not?” Ron asked, his tone suspicious.

“Because,” she snapped again and walked away. Ron glared at her back, then turned away muttering about how he should have bought a book. Harry met Ginny’s eye from across the room, and she sighed. He glanced at Neville, who had walked away with a red flush when Hermione said no, and silently asked Ginny for aide on his friend’s plight. Ginny thought it over, then pulled one of her friends from the group’s center. Harry started towards Neville as Ginny came towards him as well.

“Hullo,” Neville said hollowly.

“I, uh, I’m sorry you didn’t beat Hermione’s date to the punch,” Harry said.

“Yeah,” Neville agreed glumly. “I was hoping to actually have a date, but she was the only girl I could think of who would consider me.”

Harry opened his mouth to say something encouraging, though he was completely clueless, when Ginny reached him, arm in arm with the blonde wisp of a girl, Luna Lovegood.

“Hello, Neville,” Ginny said cheerfully, “Luna, this is my friend Neville Longbottom. Neville, Luna Lovegood.”

Luna stuck out her hand. “Enchanted to meet you, Neville Longbottom.”

Neville shook Luna’s hand cautiously. Harry edged closer to Ginny, concealing his baffled expression with a smile.

Uh, was there no one else? He asked.

Ginny smiled at him, but discreetly she kicked him in the shin. Harry muffled a yelp and glared at her. She smiled sweetly and kissed his cheek.

Luna is a perfect match for him, she thought. Just watch.

Harry decided not to argue further.

“So, Neville,” Ginny said, smiling even more warmly, “Luna’s been telling me about how she wishes she could go to the Yule Ball, but unfortunately all the boys we know have dates.”

Neville raised an eyebrow. “Really? Are you not a fourth year, Luna?”

“No,” Luna sighed. “I had the unfortunate timing of being born in January, 1981. Had I only been born half an hour earlier, I would have arrived in 1980, but I still would be a third year.”

Neville raised the other eyebrow. “Really? That’s quite… interesting.”

“Yes, I’ve been told so,” Luna said dreamily. “Many people think it romantic to be born within the first hour of the new year, but it does make either my birthday or the holiday less important. I don’t really mind, though.”

“Oh.” Neville was looking less glum, in fact, he looked almost fascinated, but mostly bemused. “But, you don’t have a date to the ball?”

“Oh, no,” Luna said with a shake of her head. “As Ginevra said, all the boys we know either have dates or are infested with nargles, and I shan’t spend the evening with someone infested with nargles, as that would be quite unproductive.”

Neville blinked. “What are nargles?”

“They are invisible little creatures that fly into your brain through your ears or your nose, depending on the weather, and make your mind go all fuzzy,” Luna said simply.

“I see.”

“Fortunately for you, you seem to have a minimal amount of nargles, in fact almost none.”

“How can you tell?”

“By the whites of your eyes,” she said. “They’re quite clear.”

Neville smiled nervously. “Er, okay.”

Luna returned his smile, but rather more vaguely, and just stood there.

Neville cleared his throat and looked at his feet. An awkward silence settled between them. Harry glanced at Ginny; she flashed him a ‘be patient’ look.

“So, do you want to go to the ball?” Neville asked, his voice even more nervous than his smile.

“I would like to,” Luna answered. “I hear that Professor Dumbledore has commissioned a group of wood elves to sing Christmas carols.”

Harry frowned. Are there other kinds of elves besides house elves?

Ginny shook her head subtly. No, I don’t think so, but Luna believes in a lot of strange things; such as nargles.

Harry nodded, though he wasn’t quite sure. Neville looked equally unsure, but he kept on. “Would you like to go with me then?” he asked quietly.

Luna bestowed him with one of her rare, wide smiles. “I would love to, Neville Longbottom.”

Neville brightened considerably. “Really?”

“Why, yes, you seem to be naturally resistant to nargles, in fact.”

He looked a bit confused, but pleased that he now had a date. “Great!”

Ginny threaded her arm through Harry’s. I suspect our work here is done, she thought smugly. Harry smiled at her, then waved to Neville and Luna as Ginny led him away.

Do you know who Hermione’s going with? Harry asked Ginny. She gave him a stern look.

Do you think I would tell you?

Harry shrugged. Maybe, if you wanted any kisses between now and the New Years.

Ginny huffed. You wouldn’t survive that either.

Harry sighed. I had to give it a try.

She smirked and rested her head on his shoulder. I know.

The day ended far too soon, and they were heading back to Hogwarts with lighter purses and full stomachs. Harry and Ginny walked with their arms linked and their hands shoved deep into their pockets to avoid the cold. It began to snow as they walked through the front gates, and they were running rather than walking as the wind picked up.

The last two weeks before the end of term flew past compared to November, what with everyone talking nonstop about the upcoming dance.

The day of, Ginny insisted he not peek into her mind without her permission, to ensure he didn’t see her dress, she said. Harry grumbled about this, but let her go. He participated in an epic snowball war — not a fight, a war — that ended about an hour and a half before the Yule Ball began. Fred and George insisted on approving his and Ron’s appearances before letting them go.

Harry looked at his robes in a bathroom mirror, then looked over at Neville, who was buttoning his up to his chin. Ron was struggling with his while Fred and George pretended to help, and Dean and Seamus were wearing Muggle suits. Harry looked back to the mirror, slightly pink.

The robes were a dark shade of green and made out of a shimmery material. There was a cloak, a robe, then trousers and a dress shirt with a vest. The trousers and cloak were black, the vest was a lighter green, and the dress shirt was the same emerald color with a black bow tie. Harry had gotten on the trousers, shirt, and robe just fine, but his vest was unbuttoned and the tie sat in his hands innocently. He had no idea how to tie it.

“Oi, Harry, get these two off me!” Ron called from the other room. Harry draped the tie around his neck and left the bathroom.

“I think he’s had enough help,” Harry said.

“Oh, but he hasn’t gotten his robe on straight yet!” George said with an impish grin. Ron’s robe was anything but straight, that was true, but Fred was trying to button it upside down and backwards while Ron fought to take it off.

“Get off!” Ron snapped at Fred, waving a hand over his head at his brother. Fred ducked Ron’s flailing hand but he did let go. Ron stumbled forward at his sudden release, and into a bed post. “GITS!” Ron yelled. Fred and George laughed, Harry grabbed the robe and tugged it off Ron’s head. Ron’s hair stuck up everywhere, and he turned to glare at his brothers.

Harry shook out the robe. “Here,” he said, handing it back. Ron shrugged it on right, and started doing up the buttons.

“I’m going to murder you two,” Ron growled.

“Just don’t get the blood on your shirt,” Harry warned.

“Harry, you’re tie’s done up wrong,” Fred said.

“Here, let me help,” George added, stepping forward. Harry whipped out his wand and held it between them.

“Oh, no you don’t!” he said. “I’d rather you not choke me, thanks.”

“Oh, you wound me, Harry,” George said, clasping a hand to his chest.

“Why would we choke the Great Boy Who Lived?” Fred added, faking a starry eyed look. “The Fourth Champion!”

“Our sister’s favorite male!” George added.

“Our bodies would never be found!” they said together as a look of utter horror at the prospect of upsetting their sister crossing their identical faces.

Harry shook his head at them. He walked away, moving back to the bathroom mirror, and stared at his tie. He seriously didn’t know how to tie it.

“Need help with that, mate?” Seamus asked. Harry looked around, and noted Seamus’s perfectly knotted tie.

“Uh, yeah, that would be great,” Harry said. Seamus came over and knotted his tie.

“There ya go,” Seamus said, patting Harry’s shoulder. “Ginny’ll be speechless.” He winked, and moved back towards his bed. Harry looked back to his reflection, and nervously tried to flatten his hair. There really was no point, but somehow it made him feel better to try.

Ten minutes later, Fred and George ushered them down to the common room. The twins immediately left with Alicia and Angelina, and Seamus and Dean left not long after with Lavender and Parvati. Ron didn’t have a date — he was still sulking about it—, and Neville’s was in a different house, but they waited with Harry for Ginny.

Harry checked his watch every thirty seconds. He could hear vague giggling on Ginny’s side of his mind, but that was all he could hear.

All right, we’re coming, Ginny’s voice suddenly said.

Harry straightened up instantly and tried to flatten his hair. Ron rolled his eyes at him.

The first to step down was Hermione; she had on a pale blue robe, with a high lace collar and billowy sleeves. She had flattened her hair, and it was hanging in a straight curtain around her shoulders. She looked quite nice. Harry was impressed and wondered vaguely if she would share the secret to taming unruly hair, when Ginny followed.

Somewhere, he heard Ron laughing at him, and Neville chuckling, but Harry wasn’t quite sure he was even in his own body anymore. Ginny curled her red lips in a smirk and waved a hand.

Her dress was long and black and hugged her curves. Harry felt his ears and neck heating up as his eyes followed the cut of her dress. The fabric glimmered in the lights, and it looked like the light was attracted to her. Her sleeves were tight to her arms until her wrist, where they flared over her knuckles. She had painted her nails black to match the dress. His gaze drifted back up her arm, to where the dress slipped off her shoulders, exposing creamy skin dotted with freckles. She had curled her hair as well, and left it loose around her shoulders. She’d painted her eyelids with smoky grays and blacks, making them look larger and her older. Her eyes sparkled as she smirked at him.

Ginny stopped in front of him and closed his mouth. “You were about to start drooling,” she said with amusement.

Harry shook his head. “Uhhhh…”

Ginny smiled wider. “Earth to Harry, come in, Harry.”

He shook it again. “Uh, you are, you look, um, you’re…”

Ginny curled her arm through his, which made his tongue decide to completely fail him.

“Thank you, Harry,” she said, giving him a small peck on the cheek. Harry beamed.

Then he noticed that Ron had stopped laughing, and his gaze was fixed on Hermione. She was steadfastly ignoring him.

“Shall we go down?” Hermione said.

“Yeah,” Neville said, rising from his seat on a couch.

“Ron, close your mouth, before a fly makes it its home,” Ginny said, glancing at him. Ron snapped his jaws closed.

I think Ron’s noticed she’s a girl, Harry thought.

I think so too, Ginny replied. You owe me twenty kisses.

Happy to oblige, my lady, just say the word.


Ginny giggled. I see you have recovered your speech.

No I haven’t, I’ve just recovered my thoughts.


The two of them kept grinning as they walked down to the Entrance Hall.

The Entrance Hall was filled with noise, as students waited anxiously for the doors to the Great Hall to open. Neville found Luna standing in a corner of the hall, staring into space. Harry thought her dress was interesting to say the least: Long, layered, and soft purple. She wasn’t wearing her customary necklace of butterbeer caps, but she still wore her normal radish earrings.

“There you are, Potter!”

Harry turned in the direction of the voice, to see Professor McGonagall coming towards him in robes a similar shade of green to his. She put a hand on his shoulder, and squeezed it gently.

“I’ve been looking for you,” she said, sounding just a bit flustered, “the Champions are nearly ready to enter the Hall.”

“Oh,” Harry said. “Er, what’s special about that?”

McGonagall squeezed his shoulder again. “Because you shall enter the Hall in procession, Potter.”

Harry internally groaned. Ginny patted his hand and gave him a tender smile.

“Yes, Professor,” Harry sighed. McGonagall took his elbow and began leading him away. “Good evening, Mr. Weasley, Mr. Longbottom, Miss Lovegood.” Harry looked around, wondering why she hadn’t greeted Hermione, but she wasn’t there anymore. McGonagall steered Harry with Ginny in tow towards the doors, heading for a spot off to the side where Harry could see Krum and Fleur standing with their dates, and Cedric’s ugly mug standing beside Cho Chang. Ginny pinched his hand. McGonagall stopped Harry at the end of the group, and clapped her hands. “Please, form a line with Champions on the right and your dates on the left.”

The four complied. Krum and his date stood right in front of Harry. His date had pulled her hair off to the side, exposing her neck, and Harry saw that her ears and neck were flushed. Also, the girl had pearl droplet earrings. He had seen earrings like those before; he’d given a pair to Hermione for her birthday in September. The girl fidgeted with her skirt with the hand not linked with Krum’s arm. Her sleeve was long and billowy.

Wait a minute, that is Hermione! He thought with a gasp.

Ginny nodded vaguely as Hermione heard him and turned; she blushed.

“Hi,” she said, even though she’d seen them only a minute before. Krum glanced over his shoulder and frowned at Harry.

“Hermy-oh-ninny,” Krum said; Harry winced at the mispronunciation of her name, “you know him?”

“Yes, we’re friends,” Hermione said. “You know Harry, of course, but this is Ginny Weasley, his girlfriend.”

Krum nodded stiffly, though his expression had relaxed. “It is a pleasure to meet you officially, Harry Potter, and you, Miss Weasley,” he said, bowing slightly. Ginny smiled, but Harry heard her freaking out mentally: Viktor Krum is talking to me; the best international Seeker in the world is talking to me! Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes, and Ginny resisted the urge to elbow him in the ribs.

McGonagall clapped for their attention again, and Harry noticed that the students were filing into the Great Hall.

“Once all the students have entered, the six — eight of you shall enter the Great Hall, walking in line, to the top table where the Heads of Schools are seated. After dinner is finished, you will be expected to open the dancing.”

Harry scowled at this. Great, more attention. Ginny squeezed his hand again.

The last of the students entered, and Professor McGonagall told them to follow after a minute as she went in. They waited one minute, then Fleur and her date, Roger Davies Harry thought, started to move, and the others followed. Harry tried to ignore all the staring faces and focused on Krum’s round shoulders. They reached the top table, and Harry saw Percy sitting next to Ludo Bagman. Percy tapped the empty chair beside him, and grinned at him and Ginny. Harry was reluctant, but Ginny led him to the seat beside her brother.

The meal was good, but Harry found himself wishing that it would be over so he could get over having to open the dancing. Ginny squeezed his hand and reminded him that he knew more about dancing than she did, but that did not help much. She was nervous too, so her attempts to reassure him only ended in increasing her nerves, which increased his.

As the plates vanished, Dumbledore rose from his seat and quiet fell over the hall. The old Headmaster smiled, and gestured to the orchestra that had set up on a stage to the left. “Music,” he began, “is truly a magic greater than we could ever create with wands. On this note,” Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled and he chuckled a moment at his pun, “I ask the four champions and their dates to stand and open the dancing for us.”

Ginny nudged Harry as the other three champions stood. Harry grumbled silently, and rose to his feet. He followed Diggory out from behind the table and to the dance floor. Harry put his hand on Ginny’s waist and held her other hand up. He inhaled, and then the music began.

Step forward, step back. Step to the left, step to the right. Harry tried to remember his grandmother’s instructions as the sound of the merry waltz filled the air. One, two, three, four, she had kept saying. Harry stepped forward, Ginny stepped back. He stepped back, she stepped forward. Slowly, they rotated in a circle in time with the music.

Halfway through the song, Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall joined the dance. Professor Karkaroff joined next, dancing with Professor Sinestra. Madam Maxime was the last of the Heads to join, on the arm of Hagrid. Harry flashed a smile at his giant friend, who grinned back. The students began to join in, and the waltz ended.

Ginny convinced Harry to dance the next song, and the next, but after the third, the floor had filled and she agreed it was getting too crowded. They found Ron, Dean, and Pavarti Patil sitting at a table in the back. Pavarti took one look at Ginny, and grabbed Dean’s arm.

“Let’s go dance,” she said, dragging him off. Dean glanced at Harry and Ron, a helpless expression on his face. Ginny smirked.

“No one to dance with?” Harry asked Ron. His friend shook his head.

“Nah, besides, I dunno how.”

Ginny rolled her eyes as she sat down. “That’s only because you never listened when Dad was teaching you.”

“Neither did you!”

“He wasn’t teaching me, he was teaching you boys!”

Ron huffed as he fell back in his seat. He eyed the dance floor with a scowl.

“Who are you looking for?” Harry asked him. Ron started, his ears turned red, and he looked away quickly.

“No one! What makes you think I’m looking for anyone? I’m not looking.”

Ginny, again, purposely rolled her eyes, but Ron was too busy studying his cup of punch to notice. Harry smiled at the two of them. He did feel just a bit jealous that he had no siblings to bicker with the way they did, but it was easily pushed aside. Ginny linked her arm through his and dropped her head on his shoulder, letting her eyes fall shut.

You can’t be tired already! Harry protested mentally. Ginny smacked his hand half-heartedly.

Dancing is more difficult than you’d think, she thought back. Besides, I was up early.

You always are. What was it this time?

Weird dreams.

Those are happening more often than not,
Harry remarked. Ginny nodded slowly. What kind of weird?

Nothing bad,
she thought quickly. I was just swimming again.

Again? Maybe your subconscious is trying to tell you that you’re part mermaid.


Ginny smacked him again, but she was smiling. Shush up.

Yes, ma’am.


Ron shot them an irritated look. “If you two keep acting like that, someone’s going to notice you’re reacting to stuff that isn’t happening,” he hissed

Ginny simply stuck out her tongue and dropped her head back in place. Harry pulled his arm out and wrapped it around her shoulders. His fingers rested on skin bared by the dress’s off-shoulder sleeve. They began to trace patterns on her skin, smooth and warm beneath his hand. Ginny shivered slightly and grasped his other hand. Harry smiled.

After a while, the crowd on the dance floor thinned and Ginny insisted on dancing again. Harry agreed, pretending to groan and moan about it, but he enjoyed the dance just as much as she did.

The evening went on. Harry danced with Professor McGonagall — Ginny’s idea —, Luna, and Hermione once. Ginny got Ron to dance with her twice, though he protested the entire time. As the sky darkened further and the crowd in the Great Hall grew louder, Harry found the noise oppressive, and Ginny agreed. While Ron found himself roped into dancing with George while Fred danced with Lee Jordan, Ginny led Harry out of the hall away from the dancing and the noise.

Harry gripped Ginny’s hand tightly. They snuck through the front doors and were greeted by a large garden lit by bobbing fairy lights. As far as he could see, there was no one in the garden.

Ginny glanced at Harry and grinned. He grinned back, though he wasn’t exactly sure why they were grinning.

Let’s go this way, Ginny thought, tugging him towards a group of bushes off to the left. Harry let her lead him forwards, until they reached a stone bench. They did pass two other people in the garden, and Harry got a pretty good idea of why the garden looked deserted; everyone in it was absorbed in snogging.

Ginny sat down on the bench and patted the seat beside her. Harry joined her, his heartbeat speeding up for some reason, and twiddled his thumbs a bit in awkward nervousness. Ginny linked her arm through his and rested her head on his shoulder. Harry glanced at her, then gently pulled his arm out and put it around her waist. Ginny inched closer.

You’re very clueless, she thought.

I am?

Ginny rolled her eyes. She reached up and set her hand on the front of his shirt, then pressed her lips to his.

Harry decided to agree with her, as long as it meant she kept kissing him. He shifted his position on the bench to pull her closer to him, his arms encircling her. Ginny’s left hand tugged on his tie, her right pressed flat against his chest. Their brains turned off mostly, with the sound of their heartbeats being the only thing they heard.

At least, it was until louder voices interrupted. Harry looked around wildly, almost panicky, while Ginny continued to kiss his face along his jaw.

Someone’s coming, he thought. Ginny ignored him; she wrapped an arm around his neck and pressed a palm to his cheek, bringing his face back to hers. Seriously, we should move!

It’s fine,
Ginny protested. She kissed him harder. Harry tried to remember what it was he was worried about.

“You should have listened to me and left this corpse of a school long before now!” a man was saying.

“They pay me better here than you would ever be willing to,” a woman scoffed in reply. “Besides, I don’t have any marks. They don’t suspect a thing.”

“I have the mark,” the man growled. “And it is getting darker with every waking moment!”

Harry pulled his mouth away and looked around again. This time, Ginny did too. The voices were closer than Harry would like.

“How is that my problem?” snapped the woman.

Harry glanced back at Ginny. Somehow, he had straddled the bench, she had moved so that sat facing him with one leg tucked beneath her, and his arms had wrapped around her waist rather than her shoulders. She was very close. He blinked quickly and jerked his gaze back up to her face. We should move, he thought.

Listen! Ginny said, pressing a hand to his lips. That didn’t really help him think; his mouth decided to start kissing her palm.

“It’s your problem because if it burns, even for a second, that would mean —”

“Davies! Ten points from Ravenclaw for skulking! Get back in the castle with your date!”

There was a sound like people tripping over something, then Harry spotted fairies zooming out of the way of two laughing teenagers as they exited the garden.

There was silence for a minute, and Ginny lowered her hand. Immediately, Harry pressed his lips back to hers.

“You should watch what you say,” said the woman’s voice. Harry pulled back; Ginny’s ragged breathing fell on his face and neck as he strained his eyes to see who was speaking.

“You should too,” growled the man. Harry frowned as he focused on the voice. He knew it, but couldn’t place it. It should have been obvious. Ginny rested her face in the crook of his neck, her warm breath now falling on his collar; it felt like somehow his tie and collar had been loosened.

“I want no part of this, Igor,” the woman said, her tone final. “You should let it go.”

Igor? Harry thought.

“Let it go?” the man replied angrily. His voice had a foreign accent. Foreign man called Igor… Harry knew this, why couldn’t he place it? Ginny’s lips connected with a spot on his neck, and Harry found his attention wavering again. He lifted her chin with a finger and kissed her mouth again.

“I should like to see you try to let something like this go!” the man continued, his voice rising. Harry’s heartbeat nearly failed to drown it out.

“Please, keep your voice down!”

“The mark is darkening, Aurora! It is completely opaque, look!”

“No, don’t show me here! Someone could see, you fool!”

“You are the fool to discount this information. This can only be the beginning!”

Footsteps caught Harry’s attention. He broke the kiss, looking around, to see the bushes trembling as though someone was coming through them. Ginny pressed her palm to his cheek, turning his face back to kiss him again.

If they think we were listening, we could be in trouble, she thought. Focus on me.

Harry obliged. He tightened his grip on her waist and pressed his mouth to hers as hard as he could. Ginny slanted her mouth, wrapping her other arm around his neck again, as her lips parted and her teeth bit down on his lower lip. Harry forgot about the argument they’d been half eavesdropping on and about most everything else other than her mouth on his.

“You should dock points from them as well,” said the man’s voice, now much closer.

“I doubt they can hear anything other than each other’s moaning,” the woman said. The two voices were now much softer, not from distance but the owners of the voices controlling themselves. “Leave them be.”

“You disrupted that last couple, why not them?”

“That was because I nearly stepped on Davies. Come on, let them alone.”

The footsteps retreated, and the voices faded. Harry fought to catch his breath, his heart thudding wildly in his chest. Ginny didn’t seem discouraged by a lack of oxygen; she kept kissing him.

I need to breathe, Harry thought. Ginny sighed and withdrew her lips from his. She leaned her forehead on his, their breath mixing.

I bet Ron’s wondering where we went, she thought.

I don’t really care, Harry thought back.

Ginny laughed softly. Harry reached up and brushed a strand of hair from her eyes. She caught his hand and pressed his palm to her cheek, her eyes fluttering shut.

Did you recognize either of those voices? Harry asked.

Ginny nodded vaguely. Karkaroff and someone else.

Karkaroff? Of course! I’m an idiot.

Ginny smirked. I think I had something to do with your decreased brain power.

Harry chuckled, Of course, you always do.

Ginny pecked at his lips, then placed her head back on his shoulder. He kissed the top of her head and let his eyes close. He inhaled the scent of her sweet perfume.

Another teacher came along a minute later and ushered them back inside the castle. Harry wouldn’t stop grinning, and Ginny held onto his arm as though for dear life because her knees were still shaky from their kissing. The second they entered the Great Hall, Ron pounced on them, wanting to know where they’d been. Ginny shook him off by saying that Hermione was coming over, then tugging Harry away when Ron turned to look over his shoulder. They danced for a while longer, most of the songs slow, until the evening ended and students were sent up to bed.

Harry kissed Ginny goodnight at the door to the girls’ stairs, and kept kissing her until Ron told him that they was going to suffocate. Ginny shot her brother a glare, then stole one last kiss. Harry watched her go, a stupid grin still on his face.

Christmas morning he awoke quickly, and thought as loudly as he could:

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

He heard a satisfactory gasp from her side of his mind, then Ginny swore at him.

It’s six bloody thirty! She thought angrily. Why couldn’t I have slept longer?

Harry jumped out of bed and grabbed his bathrobe. Because, if we get up before anyone else we can open our presents in the common room together without any disturbance.

Ginny grumbled, but got up, gathered her gifts and donned her dressing gown without more cursing. Harry pushed his feet into slippers, pulled all his gifts into his arms, and left the dormitory as quickly as he could without dropping anything. He dumped his things onto a couch and waited, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

Ginny took more time than he did. He let her drop the gifts into a chair before pulling her into his arms and kissing her.

Sometime later, Harry released her from the kiss. Ginny was breathing heavily and her expression was dazed but happy.

“Are you awake now?” he asked quietly. She simply nodded. Harry grinned and pulled her onto the couch with him. Ginny curled up beside him and buried her face in his chest. Harry kissed the top of her head, then breathed in deeply.

“Presents?” he said.

“Right,” Ginny replied, sitting up. She grabbed her gifts from the chair and Harry lifted one from his pile.

Harry opened the gifts from everyone else first. Book about counter-curses and jinxes from Hermione, Seeker’s gloves from Ron, a new sweater from Mrs. Weasley that had a dragon gracing the front, a hat and scarf set from his grandmother, a leather bomber jacket and leather gloves from Sirius, another book from Remus, this one on dark creatures, and a box of Filibuster Fireworks from Tonks. Ginny received a book from Hermione too, a Weird Sisters tee shirt from her older brothers, an emerald green sweater from her mum, a hat and scarf that matched Harry’s from his grandmother, a chocolate frog cards display book from Ron, a set of paints and brushes from Remus, more fireworks from Tonks, and a leather jacket like Harry’s from Sirius.


At last, Ginny reached the two boxes with Harry’s gifts inside. Harry picked up the package from her, and waited for her to finish inspecting her boxes.

Together? He thought.

“Together,” she agreed.

They ripped back the paper, and Harry a simple, pine wood box beneath the wrappings. Ginny found two boxes, one larger than the other, both velvet covered jewelry boxes. Harry waited until she had lifted the lid of the first and found the earrings he’d picked out, and for her to kiss his cheek with gratitude, to open the pine box.

The box had soft cushioning on the inside, and in the center of the cushioning was a small glass box, and in each surface of the glass there rested charcoal drawings. Each of them held exquisite detail, and each had been enchanted to move. The first was of the Quidditch pitch, where the Gryffindor team was grouped together, holding up the Quidditch cup in triumph. The second was of a sleeping Hedwig, her head under her wing. The owl’s chest rose and fell slightly as she breathed within the drawing. Third was a group of people; himself, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Gram, Tonks, Remus, and Sirius. There was a large cake in front of Harry and Sirius was ruffling his hair. The fourth drawing was just Harry and Ginny, the same scene that rested in her locket. The fifth was just them as well, both asleep and leaning on each other in the common room. The sixth held Harry’s parents, beaming both up at him and at the bundled up baby in Lily’s arms.

“I got the photos from Colin and your gram,” Ginny said. “That last one was taken just after you were born.”

Harry reverently placed the glass cube in the pine box, then grabbed his girlfriend in a tight hug. Ginny let out a squeak of surprise, then she smiled and hugged him back. Harry buried his face in her long, silky hair.

“You’re welcome,” she whispered. Harry drew back and kissed her quickly.

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “Thank you so much.”

Ginny gently kissed his cheek. I’m glad you like them. Harry connected their lips again, trying to pour all his gratitude into that kiss. Ginny was grinning when they broke apart, and he was too.

“You should open your other gift,” Harry said. Ginny started; she seemed to have forgotten the second box.

“You do like to give me jewelry, don’t you?” she said teasingly as she picked up the second velvet box. Harry simple grinned wider and shrugged.

Ginny lifted the lid and clapped a hand to her mouth. “Oh my word!” she whispered. Slowly, she lowered her hand. “That’s not jewelry, Harry.”

“I know,” he said, rather smug at his success in surprising her. “Did you think your wish would go unnoticed?”

She shook her head slightly as she lifted the golden calligraphy quill from the box, and fingered the long raven feather. She touched the many jars of colored ink, then looked up at Harry with a grin.

“They’re beautiful,” she said softly. “Thank you, Harry.”

“The quill is goblin made, so it’ll never rust or get ink caked on it, and the tip will always be sharp,” he said. “The ink is specifically made for drawing, and they’ve got refilling and unbreakable charms on them. There’s two empty, shallow jars that you can mix inks in to make different colors, and the box is charmed so that when it’s closed, the ink won’t ever spill even if you drop it from the astronomy tower.”

Ginny kissed him again to shut him up. Harry did as told, responding to her kiss eagerly.

They took their gifts back to their dormitories, then scurried out of sight as the other student began to wake up. Ginny dragged him from the tower to the classroom they had been training for the first task in, and spent the rest of the morning wrapped up in each other.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


Christmas morning was pleasant in the halls of Hogwarts and in the homes of the unassuming Wizards and Muggles across the world. Yet there was an unease that lay just above the happy air that was ushered in with the wrapped gifts, the many tellings of the Nativity story, and firm belief in Santa Claus. It was present even on Hogwarts soil.

That unease gathered in a rundown house that was barely visible in thick, English rain. The sky seemed to have sensed the hurt and sorrow filling the little house, and was now weeping for the two souls inside it.

A dark haired man sat at the bedside of a frail woman, reading aloud from an old storybook as she lay quiet. The man’s voice was even, but behind his eyes there was dread.

The woman coughed, and the man faltered in his reading. She waved a trembling hand, gesturing for him to keep going, but the man set down the book and drew a wand from his cloak.

“I am fine,” the woman insisted in a raspy voice.

“Mother, please,” the man said. The woman shook her head.

“I will not leave this world bogged down by drugs,” she said.

“Mother, you’re not going to die now,” the man said, trying to smile reassuringly at his mother but the dread in his soul seeped into the smile.

“Any day now,” she muttered. “Keep on reading, son.”

The man hesitated, then set his wand on the table beside him and lifted the book.

“It was the last evening of the year, and it was very cold and dark,” he read aloud. “Snowflakes fell thick and fast. Through the empty streets wandered a poor little girl with no hat on her head and no shoes on her feet.” The woman resettled herself on her pillows, and drew in a deep, rattling breath as she closed her eyes. “When she left home that morning she had been wearing a pair of slippers, but they had been so large that she’d lost them as she’d dashed across the street to avoid a huge carriage rolling toward her. One of the slippers had disappeared, and a young boy had picked up the other and ran off with it. So the little girl was barefoot, and her feet were not blue with cold.” The man paused as he was reading, and glanced over the rest of the story. “Maybe I should read a different one,” he murmured.

“No,” his mother said in her rough and tar-stained voice. “I like this story.”

The man hesitated once again, then sighed and resumed reading. “In her hands she carried a bundle of matches, and the pockets of her apron were stuffed with them. All day long she had tried to sell her matches, but no one had bought a single one or given her a single penny. Shivering with cold and hunger, she crept along the icy streets.”

The man’s voice continued to fill the cold bedroom, and the old woman took heart in the story. She felt rather a lot like that little lost match girl, unable to get warm or go home.

“At last, in a corner between two houses, she sank down, pulled her feet under her and huddled close to the wall. Still she could not keep off the cold.”

The old woman drew in another shallow, rattling breath.

“How much good would a single match do? thought the little match girl. Would she dare pull one from the bundle and strike it against the wall? She did. It burst into flame, and as it burned it gave off a warm, clear light like a candle. The little match girl held out her hand to the beautiful brightness.”

A very faint smile crept across the old woman’s face as she listened. The freezing child saw the best things of Christmas in the matches she lit, wrapped presents, roast goose, a Christmas tree, and most importantly, warmth.

“The lights of the Christmas tree seemed to rise higher and higher until the little girl realized she was looking at the twinkling stars in the sky. Then she saw one fall, leaving a bright trail of light behind it. Someone must be dying, thought the little girl, for her dead grandmother, who was the only person who had ever truly loved her, had once told her that whenever a star falls a soul goes to heaven.”

The old woman nodded very slowly, as her aching and inflamed bones would only allow. A falling star indeed.

“She struck another match against the wall. This time, in the center of the bright light stood her grandmother. Her face looked so gentle and loving that the little girl cried out, ‘Oh Grandmother, please take me with you. I know that when the match blows out you will go away just like the warm stove and the roast goose and the lovely Christmas tree. Please take me with you!’

“The little match girl quickly lit the whole bundle of matches, for she so wanted her grandmother to stay with her. And the matches fared with a light that was brighter than the noon sun. Never had her grandmother looked so beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and together, they rose far above the cold streets and the dark town to where there was no hunger and no pain, for they climbed all the way to heaven.”


The old woman let out her breath in a painful exhale. Falling stars indeed carried souls off to heaven, but if a star fell from the heavens, then where did it carry the soul that rode on it?

The man did not notice his mother’s quiet thoughts. He continued to read the last paragraph of the story. “The next morning, some people found the little match girl still sitting against the stone wall. Her cheeks were pale and her little hands were blue, but she was smiling. She’d frozen to death on the last night of the year, and in her hand was the bundle of burnt matches. ‘The poor child,’ the people said. ‘She must have tried to warm herself.’ But none of them could know what beautiful things she had seen, nor with what joy she had entered into the New Year with her grandmother.”

The man looked up from the storybook, feeling the sadness begot by the little match girl, and tried to catch his mother’s eye. She lay with her hands folded over her chest, the blankets drawn up to her chest to fight off the cold that had come from inside her.

“Mother?” he said quietly.

There was no answer for him.

Back to index


Chapter 20: Chapter 20: A Mermaid's Call

Author's Notes: I'm sorry I've taken so long; I've started school again and I'm taking an English class at my local community college so I have a lot of stuff I've been busy with. Don't forget to review, even if just to complain at the gap between updates



Chapter Twenty: The Goblet of Fire Part Seven
A Mermaid’s Call
Ginny



The New Year brought more snow and the occasional hail, and classes began again on the 16th, leaving a lengthy holiday. On the 15th, Dumbledore gave an announcement at dinner that many groaned loudly at.

"We have been enjoying the tutelage of Professor Moody in Potions, but Professor Snape shan't remain away for good. He will return to teaching next week, but I'm afraid that he has more work to do than anticipated since his absence, and therefore will only be able to teach fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh-year classes. Professor Moody will remain to teach first through third until Professor Snape has completed his work."

Pity he can still teach fourth, Harry thought with a grumble.

The week was gone all too quickly. They had had their last class with Moody on Tuesday, who ended it with a verbal pop quiz on common poisons and assigning them a foot of parchment, summarizing all they had learned since Snape's sabbatical. Monday and their return to Snape's class was approaching rapidly. Friday morning, Ginny woke up in a cold sweat after what had started out as a plain nightmare, where she had forgotten everything she'd learned and Snape took one million points from Gryffindor. On Sunday, Ginny, Harry, and Ron reviewed everything they'd written down about Potions since Moody had arrived and Ginny crammed as much of the information as she could into one 18 inch roll of parchment. Harry eavesdropped as she wrote and Ron read over her shoulder. Ginny wished that she could have Hermione's assistance, but she and Ron were still giving each other the cold shoulder and Ron needed her more then.

Monday morning, they filed into the Potions classroom and took their seats with nervousness. Ginny tapped the tip of her quill against a stack of parchment waiting for notes. On her left side, Ron bounced his knee and his eyes darted around the classroom. Harry, seated with his chair nearly connected to hers on the right, drummed his fingers on his leg.

The door to Snape's office opened, and the greasy, bat-like professor himself entered. Ginny frowned instantly and her thoughts faltered, because he no longer fitted the description.

His hair did not glimmer with oil in the low lights for one. In fact, it looked very dry. His robes were the same long black material, but they no longer billowed as he walked. He moved with his eyes on the floor and his hands tucked inside the sleeves of his robe. Where he had once walked with long, angry strides, he took shorter, calmer steps. His very skin seemed to be more pallid and subdued.

Snape took the seat behind the desk and glanced at the piles of scrolls on its surface, every essay from the students.

"Morning, class," the professor said.

Every student's jaw dropped in astonishment. Never had Snape greeted them that way, almost civilly.

"I hope you haven't gotten worse since I left," Snape continued, his tone sharpening. "I was told by Professor Moody that you've mostly been covering poisons and their antidotes. What was the very first you studied, its characteristics, and its antidote?"

Ginny glanced around. Hermione's hand had already shot up, but hers was the only.

Snape scanned the room, then his eyes fell on Hermione.

He'll probably pretend she's not there, Harry thought.

"Granger," Snape said.

Ginny glanced at Harry, then at Ron, who were both shocked. Hermione seemed to be surprised as well at first, but she quickly got over it and launched into the story of Cahlner's poison.

Snape had them name every poison Moody had drilled them on. Hermione named quite a few, including the first five, but soon the other student started to jump in. Snape made notes in a notebook as they spoke, and stayed mostly quiet. Ginny was confused by his lack of snide remarks, how he never turned down Hermione's eagerness the way he used to. He even forgot to treat Neville with his usual horridness.

That wasn't to say he was nice; in fact, to a fresh eye he seemed uncaring and harsh still, but there was no trace if the blatant favoritism that he gave the Slytherins, no sign of a sneer when a student stumbled, and he didn't give put a single insult. Neither did he compliment anyone, not even the Slytherins, but the change was drastic. Ginny was almost unsure how to react to this suddenly detached and nearly civil Snape.

Snape's attitude, however, was quickly forgotten by the next morning. At breakfast, Ginny was talking, more arguing, about Quidditch with Seamus Finnegan. He was of the opinion that the Hollyhead Harpies were a weak team, and she took a great deal of offense to that. Until, she heard Hermione gasp loudly from her left.

Ginny broke off telling Seamus how many times the Harpies had beaten the Wimborn Wasps -- his favorite -- to look over at her friend.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

Hermione was a pale color now; she opened her mouth, shook her head, and held out the newspaper she'd been reading to Ginny with a look similar to nausea.

Ginny frowned but scooted down the bench closer to her. She took the Prophet from her and looked down. Then she too, gasped, and swore.

"What?" Seamus asked, raising an eyebrow at her. "Did the Harpies lose their last game?"

"No, Finnegan, they flattened the opponent," Ginny said. "How the hell did this happen?"

"What?" said Seamus again, now very confused. Harry looked over her shoulder and his jaw dropped.

"No!" he said. "Are you serious?"

The headline on the very front page read "Potter Fooled by Pretty Faces", by Rita Skeeter. Below this caption, were four photographs, the largest a snapshot of Ginny hugging Harry outside the champions' tent the morning of the first task. The second one was of Ginny dancing with Lee Jordan, which George had conned her into doing. The third depicted Ginny with Neville, and the fourth and final photo was of Ginny dancing with Ron, but Ron's back was to the camera so all was visible was the back of his head.

Beneath the photos was the article itself.

"Our favorite hero and Tri-Wizard Champion Harry Potter seems to have found love at his young age, with none other than Ginerva Weasley, the only female born in the Weasley family for about seven generations. Now, being the first girl in over one hundred years must place a great toll on Miss Ginerva to marry well and bring her family good fortune, however, I doubt any of my readers could excuse the flagrant behavior of this seemingly poor Weasley child.

"Despite being attached in a relationship with our dear Harry, Ginerva has been seen flirting with many of the boys at Hogwarts, sometimes right in front of Harry! A friend of Harry's says "Ginny's a horrible flirt; she can't help but throw herself on any and every guy she comes across. Her favorites range from years below her to even one of the teachers!" Another friend, Miss Pansy Parkinson said about Miss Weasley: "I saw her last week, talking in low, secretive tones with one of the teaching assistants, and it wasn't about homework. I wouldn't believe that she would put herself out that way, especially when she's barely thirteen, but I saw it with my own two eyes!" Miss Weasley is not only notorious for her flirting, however, she's also been seen threatening other students if they were to dare speak of her unladylike activities. One such victim of her blackmail spoke out at great risk: "The girl is a nightmare; I wish I had never let her fool me into thinking she was as innocent as she claimed. If she's honestly thinking of herself as innocent, she needs to look the word up."

"Clearly, Ginerva Weasley does not have Harry Potter's best interests at heart. With all the blackmail, illicit activities, and who knows what else, she's only after him for his money. If I were a close friend of Harry, I would tell him to be rid of this gold-digger straight away, before she brings even more dishonor to her family's name and his."

"Yet, it seems that poor Harry is attracted to the kind of girl who would ruin him, for not only is he dating the promiscuous Ginerva Weasley, but he is very close with another gold-digging girl. Hermione Granger, a Muggleborn in the same year, seems to have attached herself to Mr. Potter since before even Ginerva. Hermione is with Harry almost constantly, but recently, at the Hogwarts Yule Ball to be exact, Miss Granger appeared to have given up on entrapping Mr. Potter and has branched out to other famous names.
Miss Granger was seen on the arm of International Quidditch Player and fellow Tri-Wizard Champion with Harry Mr. Viktor Krum. Many of the other girls at the school recall being shocked to see Miss Granger entering the Ball with Mr. Krum, because Miss Granger is nothing like Miss Weasley in flirtation skills, nor is she as pretty. Yet she danced with Mr. Krum multiple times, and the Quidditch Star did not dance with many other girls.
"However, there does seem to be a logical explanation to Mr. Krum's fascination with Miss Granger. Several of Hermione's fellow student's report that Miss Granger is one of the top academics at the school, and therefore would have no trouble brewing a potion such as Amortentia, the incredibly powerful love potion. Miss Parkinson says "I wouldn't put it past her [to have drugged Viktor Krum into liking her]. She's always looking for a new trick, something to put herself above the rest of us, because otherwise, she's just plain Jane. In fact, I wouldn't find it hard to believe that any of her so-called 'friends' really liked her, that she'd enchanted them into hanging out with her. Maybe she's even charming poor Harry into ignoring the fact that his girlfriend is a lying cheat." Miss Parkinson might be right, and it would certainly explain why Mr. Potter has remained with Ginerva Weasley so long. But with this expose, maybe officials can step in and prevent Miss Granger from hoodwinking Harry any longer. I can only hope that dear Harry can get out from the thumb of his oppressive and unfaithful girlfriend."

Ginny looked up at Harry with a horrified expression and found that he had finished the article already.

"I don't even know what to say," she said in an equally horrified voice.

"She spelled your name wrong! And she got your age wrong, you're older than I am!" Harry said.

"Harry, this is serious! She's made really horrible accusations!"

"Well, it's simple really," Harry said. "Hermione, are you giving me a love potion?"

Hermione shook her head with a jerk, her hand pressed over her mouth. Ginny glanced at her, then rubbed at her shoulder with a hand.

"Ginny, are you cheating on me?" Harry continued.

"I'm not cheating," Ginny said. "And I don't blackmail people."

"Exactly," Harry said. "Skeeter just wrote crap as usual. Remember the article she put out about the Tournament? She barely said anything about anyone but me and how often I cry over my parents."

"Yes, I remember," Ginny said, glancing at the paper again. "But why would she write this? Oh, Mum is going to be so angry!"

Harry patted her shoulder. "You should write her then, and tell her that this is all just slander."

Ginny nodded vaguely and glanced at Hermione again. The girl still looked nauseous.

"Are you all right?" she asked quietly.

Hermione nodded with a jerk of her head. "Fine," she managed.

Ginny put her arm around her friend and squeezed gently. "Harry's right, all that cow wrote is crap. You shouldn't dwell on it."

"Speak for yourself," Hermione mumbled. "She said worse about you."

"Well, it's not true," Ginny insisted. "And if I let what other people thought incapacitate me, I wouldn't have gotten past our second year."

"We should find some way to get back at her," Harry said firmly. “She spelled your name wrong!”

“Harry, seriously, out of all that, that’s what you’re choosing to be indignant about?” Ginny said.

“It’s G-I-N-E-V-R-A, not G-I-N-E-R-V-A,” he continued. “It is a beautiful, Italian name meaning fair, as in beautiful, as in you! I take offense to this.”

Ginny opened her mouth, closed it, turned pink, and slipped her hand into his.

Okay then, she thought. Harry smirked and shook his head, then leaned over and kissed her cheek.

“Right. Hermione, you and I are going to the library this afternoon to look for any records containing the name Skeeter.”

Hermione nodded vaguely. Ginny rubbed her shoulder again.

“We will get back at the cow,” Harry promised, glaring down at the article. “She’s crossed the line.”

By spelling my name wrong?

With that, with calling Hermione plain, with calling you promiscuous. What does that mean, though, exactly?


Ginny turned pinker. Er, you don’t know?

I haven’t had time to expand my book of insults.

Er, it’s uh, it’s… Look it up in a dictionary.

Why?


Ginny took out the page with Rita’s article, folded it neatly in half, then crumpled it up into a tiny ball and set it on the tabletop, where she tapped it with her wand and set fire to it. Hermione looked over and a brief, satisfied smile crossed her face.

Ginny! Harry reminded.

I am not thinking that to you. Look it up yourself.

Harry shrugged and poured a cup of tea, which he handed across Ginny to Hermione.

“Thanks, Harry,” she said quietly and took a shaky sip.

After their classes, Harry led Ginny and Hermione to the library. While he went on his quest to shame Rita Skeeter, Hermione sat down at a table and began writing a Transfiguration essay, and Ginny began to look for clues about Harry’s golden egg.

She had asked Harry to bring it with him and found it at the bottom of his bag. She sat with her chin resting on the edge of the table and the egg standing on the table-top before her, staring it down. The egg seemed to be split three times, and there were hinges at the bottom that made her think it opened. The latch at the top looked simple enough, but she didn’t particularly want to open it without having some knowledge first. Strange objects that could be opened sometimes had bad consequences.

“What do you think it is?” she asked Hermione. Her friend glanced up from her now six inches of drying ink and cocked her head at the metal egg.

“Well, obviously it holds the clue inside it,” Hermione said.

“But how will we get to it?”

“Open it, of course.”

“I don’t want to do that just yet,” Ginny said.

“Why not?”

“I don’t know what it is. I don’t like poking things that I don’t know what they are.”

Hermione nodded. “That makes sense. Then how do you propose finding out what it is?”

Ginny picked up her wand and prodded the metal. Nothing happened. She thought carefully.

“We could go searching the books,” Hermione suggested.

“Maybe,” Ginny said.

There was another store of knowledge that she had access to. But she really didn’t want to go looking through those memories just yet. Ever since having those weird dreams, she had trusted the benign nature of his memories less and less.

“Could we ask Madam Pince?” Hermione asked.

“We could try,” Ginny said, sitting up and looking around.

Hermione set down her quill and stood up. “Come on, let’s go find her.”

Ginny pushed herself to her feet and grabbed the egg, following Hermione away from their things and towards the front of the library. Madam Pince wasn’t at her desk, so they started moving through the shelves. Ginny checked Harry’s eyes to see if Pince was near him, but couldn’t see her through his eyes.

“What are you looking for?”

Both girls jumped and turned to see Madam Pince and her feather duster standing right behind them.

“Hi!” Ginny said, startled.

Madam Pince shook the duster at them, Ginny coughed at the dust coming from its feathers. “Loitering is not allowed.”

“We were looking for you, actually,” Hermione said quickly. Ginny nodded, fighting the urge to wave away the dust floating up her nose.

Madam Pince lowered her duster and eyed them suspiciously. “Why would you want to look for me?”

Good question, Ginny mentally muttered. Aloud, she said, “We were hoping you could help us with something.”

Madam Pince raised an eyebrow. “What?”

Ginny held out the egg. Madam Pince looked down her long nose at it, then raised her eyes slowly to meet Ginny’s.

“This belongs to a Tri-Wizard Champion,” she said.

“It’s Harry’s, yeah,” Ginny said.

Pince narrowed her eyes. “Why do you have it, then?”

“Well, we’re helping him, aren’t we?” Ginny answered.

Pince thought it over, before she hooked the duster on her belt and took the egg from Ginny. She examined its surface, felt the hinges, peered at the latch, then turned to a table. She set the egg down and drew her wand.

Specialis Revalio,” she said.

Ginny looked over the librarian’s shoulder and at the egg. It didn’t look like anything had happened.

“You can use that spell to help yourself,” Pince said, turning back to face the two girls. “Reference books for it can be found in section E7, case four on the third and second shelves. Other books of interest to this case can be found in section M2, the fifth and sixth cases.”

With that, Madam Pince turned away, drew her feather duster, and disappeared between two shelves.

Ginny looked at Hermione blankly. Hermione shrugged.

“Section E, then,” she said. Ginny picked up the egg and followed Hermione.

Hermione pulled down half a dozen books from case four in Section E, and Ginny picked the skinniest of them. She flicked through it, found the theory, and then tentatively reached into Tom’s memories.

She found his recollections of the spell in his sixth year. Apparently, it was a difficult spell that he had hated because it had taken him so long to master. She separated the spell from the rest of his memory, then moved through his memory of getting the spell the first time. She glanced over the diagrams and explanations in the book one more time, read through the theory again, then pointed her wand at the egg.

Specialis Revalio,” she said.

Her hand tingled. Ginny glanced down at the book as a melody started playing her head, then she tried it again. Still, nothing happened.

"What's it doing?" Hermione asked.

"Nothing," Ginny said, now frustrated.

"Let me see." Hermione slid the egg over, looked through the book, then turned her wand on the egg. She repeated the incantation, then waited. "It's music," she said, looking up. "The egg plays some kind of music.

Ginny frowned. That melody was still playing in her mind. Wait, she thought. A melody. Music, a melody contained in the egg. "Oh. So… do we just open it, then?" she asked.

"No, not in here. Madam Pince wouldn't be happy. We'll try it back in the common room."

"What did she say about Section M2? That there were other books about this stuff?"

Hermione nodded. "It's probably the music section; I've never checked that part of the library."

Ginny raised her eyebrows. "Really? I thought you had the entire library memorized."

"Oh, shut it, you," Hermione said, playfully shoving her shoulder as she moved around the table towards section M.

Section M was in the very back of the library on the second level. Once they found it, Hermione located the twelfth subsection and the fifth and sixth cases. As she found them, Harry mentally called that he was getting hungry and could they finish up. Ginny told him to find them and they'd discuss it.

Hermione pulled a book off the fifth case and looked over it. She frowned. She turned back to the case and started examining the spines of the books.

"Mermaids," she said.

Ginny furrowed her brow. "Mermaids? Are you sure we've got the right section?"

Hermione checked the sign on the nearest case and nodded. "Section M2, cases five and six."

"The related topic to the egg is mermaids?" Ginny repeated.

Her friend shrugged. "Must be. Madam Pince knows the library like the back of her hand."

Ginny moved to the sixth case and looked over the titles, for something that crossed over with music. She spotted one called the Siren's Song at the very top and pulled it down.

"Hey," Harry's voice came from behind her. "What are you looking at?"

"Mermaids," Hermione said.

Harry quirked his brow. "Mermaids? What for?"

"According to Madam Pince, they are related to what's in the egg," Ginny said, looking at the table of contents in her book.

Harry raised the other. "You figured it out?"

"It is a music box of sorts," Hermione said.

"Cool! What's the music?"

"We didn't open it," Ginny answered.

Harry dropped both eyebrows. "Why not?"

"Because, Madam Pince would have our heads if we made noise in the library," Ginny said. She turned back to the shelf and grabbed two other books. "Let's check these out then head to dinner." Hermione took a few others and began walking away towards the front desk. Harry held out his arms and raised his eyebrows. Ginny sighed, but she handed him her pile of books. Harry smiled, then leaned over and kissed her cheek quickly.

“Come on, you two,” Hermione called. “No PDA.”

Both Harry and Ginny rolled their eyes.

Madam Pince stamped the books then shooed them out and they headed to dinner. They ate quickly at Hermione’s urging, gathered their things, and then went back up to the tower. Ginny spotted Ron sitting in a corner playing chess against Seamus, and as usual, it looked like Ron was winning. She almost waved, then glanced at Hermione, saw her downcast eyes and decided against it. Harry picked a table surrounded by armchairs on the other side of the tower, dumped his bag, and flopped into the largest chair, pulling over an ottoman as he did. Ginny slipped the strap of her bag off her shoulder and pushed Harry off to one side of the chair so she would fit too. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and quickly kissed her temple. She smiled at him, then opened her bag.

“Honestly, you two are both adorable and annoying,” Hermione sighed as she took her own chair. Ginny couldn’t help but notice her glancing over at Ron.

“Okay, so, how do we open this?” Harry asked, tugging the egg out of his bag.

“I think we should do some quick reading first,” Hermione said. “If that’s mermaid song in the egg, we don’t know what it will sound like.”

“But we don’t know what kind of mermaid it is,” Ginny pointed out. “Mermaid song varies by region like dialect.”

“True,” Hermione mused.

“Hey, look, there’s a latch!” said Harry.

“But we should read up on common merpeople first,” Hermione added.

Ginny shrugged. “Whatever makes you happy.”

Hermione smiled, then pulled out a large volume from her bag. “This is an encyclopedia on mermaids, all kinds. And you got some books on mermaid song specifically?”

Ginny nodded, taking out the Siren’s Song from her bag. “I think the most common kind of mermaid —”

“SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

Ginny clapped her hands to her ears with a shout of surprise, dropping her book. The screech was still going, getting louder by the second. “SHEEEEERRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

“WHAT THE HELL?” Ginny shouted. She saw Harry fumbling with the egg, the screech got louder, then it cut off suddenly.

Ginny lowered her hands slowly and glanced around. The silence was abruptly deafening; the entire tower stared at them with anger, shock, and a weird mix of horror with pain. Ginny turned her head to the side and met her boyfriend’s eyes. Harry looked at her sheepishly.

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

“I don’t think they heard you,” Ginny said.

“Sorry,” he repeated, louder this time. Gradually, the Gryffindors looked away and returned to what they had been doing before the unexpected noise. Ginny fixed her eyes on Harry. “I’m sorry!” he said again, raising his hands to defend himself. Ginny crossed her arms over her chest and glared. He hung his head.

“Did you not hear us saying we wanted to do more research before we opened that thing?” Hermione asked.

Harry nodded morosely. “Sorry.”

Ginny shook her head at him, but she put a hand on his cheek and gave him a quick, soft kiss. Harry looked up with a hopeful smile.

“It was a mistake,” she said. “And now we know that we’re looking for a mermaid that screeches instead of sings.”

Harry’s smile turned smug. Ginny heard Hermione huff in irritation. She picked up Siren’s Song and began reading.

As the clock ticked on, the tower emptied bit by bit. The moon rose in the window behind them, the fire burned itself into a stupor. Ginny’s eyelids felt heavier and heavier by the minute. At half past twelve, Harry put his feet up on the ottoman, his head fell onto her shoulder and he began to snore softly. Hermione propped her face up on her fist but forgot to prop her elbow on anything and nearly fell forward onto the floor.

“I think we should go to bed,” Ginny said.

“Mmm… yeah,” Hermione mumbled. “Nice idea.”

Ginny glanced at Harry. He snored on. She poked his nose gently. He did not react.

“Do we have to carry him?” Hermione asked, her tone clearly stating her displeasure with that idea. Ginny looked down at him, unsure. Her own muddled mind did not agree with having to carry Harry, even though he was rather light and they would probably be able to. She shook her head.

“You go on to bed,” Ginny told Hermione. “I’ll get him in bed.”

Hermione nodded gratefully. “Just make sure you use protection,” she said as she shoved her book back into her bag. Ginny’s face heated.

“That’s not what I meant and you know it!” she said in a vehement whisper, but Hermione was already leaving, giggling under her breath as she darted up the stairs. Ginny grumbled a curse, then turned back to Harry. “Come on,” she muttered, poking him again. “You need to wake up.”

Harry waved a hand vaguely and readjusted his position, scooting closer to her. Ginny poked him harder. “If you want to sleep you need to do it in your own bed!”

“Shove off,” he mumbled. Ginny shook his shoulder. He batted away her hand, mumbling under his breath still. She grabbed his hands and trapped them against his chest while she shook his shoulder with the other hand. “Wake up! Wake up or you’re going to have to sleep in this uncomfortable chair all night.”

Harry’s arm escaped and grabbed her around the waist. He tugged, and she found herself pressed against his chest.

“Bugger,” she muttered. Harry kissed her cheek then rested his chin on her shoulder. Ginny narrowed her eyes.

You are awake, aren’t you?

Little bit.


Ginny huffed, then twisted around to face him. He opened one eye and smiled dazedly at her. She shook her head.

“Get up, you buffoon,” she said.

“You wound me, darling,” he said; he leaned in and kissed her quickly. Ginny put her hand between his mouth and hers and tried to scowl at him, but she actually wanted him to kiss her again so it didn’t really work. Harry laced his fingers through hers, then pulled her hand out of the way. Ginny’s resolve began to weaken, and she also didn’t feel tired anymore.

Ginny pulled back. “Harry, we have to go to bed.”

He stuck out his bottom lip. Please?

Ginny shook her bed. “I’m tired, Harry.”

He sighed. “Fine.” Harry pushed himself into a more proper sitting position and stretched his arms wide over his head. Ginny reached out and tenderly brushed his bangs from his eyes. Harry’s lips curled in a warm smile. Ginny leaned up and softly pressed her lips to his.

“You need a haircut,” she whispered.

Harry snorted. “Come on,” he grunted, slipping out of the chair. Ginny stood up and grabbed her school bag from the floor as well as Harry’s, which she handed to him. They parted with one more kiss at the bottom of the stairs, then up to their dorms for sleep.

The rest of the week went by slowly. Saturday and Sunday were spent reading up on mermaids as well as homework. Ginny dozed off at least twice before Harry and Hermione banished her for a nap, which lasted a little over an hour. During dinner, Harry went to eat with Ron and Seamus while Hermione and Ginny sat at the end of the table with their roommates. Neither girl talked much, and surreptitious eye-rolls were common that night.

Monday, once again, they descended into the deep darkness of school-work. First period they had Defense Against the Dark Arts, where Remus and Sirius demonstrated two new defensive hexes: the Full Body Bind, which both Hermione and Ginny could perform perfectly thanks to their first year, and the Reductor Curse. Ginny quite liked that second curse. Next, they went out onto the freezing grounds for Care of Magical Creatures, where Hagrid had for them the Blast-Ended Skrewts. One of them ruined Hermione’s gloves with its flatulence and nearly set fire to Ron’s cloak while they were trying to subdue it into a nap. Then they had a free period, which was spent in the tower reading. After lunch, Hermione and Ginny left Harry to attend Arithmency while he joined Ron for the long trek up to the North Tower. Ginny doodled absently on her paper since the teacher was doing a review, even though Hermione was scribbling down everything Professor Vector was saying. She peeked into Harry’s mind, heard Trelawney say something about dream interpretation as it related to the planets, then turned her attention back to the dragon she was drawing. The last class of the day was Charms, where Professor Flitwick thought they were ready for the Aguamenti charm.

Tuesday was fairly similar: Transfiguration, Potions, Charms again, and lastly Herbology. Wednesday was drearily the same, although it rained that day. Thursday Hermione and Ginny had Arithmency again, and Professor Vector gave them very little homework while at the same time Trelawney gave Ron and Harry a boatload. After classes, the two boys sat in the middle of the room with their star charts and notebooks while Ginny sat with Hermione in a corner and worked on Arithmency. However, Ginny wasn’t particularly interested in homework.

The 18th… I think I’ll botch a potion, Harry thought.

We’ve ruled out sirens, Ginny mused, not seeing the sheet of numbers before her. Their voices are enchanting no matter what…

Next day I will be… betrayed by someone!

And Selkies don’t sing anything we could understand at all. They sound more like whales than anything else.

Ginny, you’re not helping.


Ginny dropped her head onto her textbook. Sorry, love. This is just a very daunting problem.

Well, how about you let me finish my homework and you finish yours, and well take the egg off to some secluded corner and open it again, just to see what happens?


Ginny smirked slightly. A secluded corner?

Yeah, what’s wrong with that?

We ought to bring Hermione, to be sure we get actual work done.


She heard him mentally curse and pout; Ginny shook her head with a smile and turned back to her homework. Half an hour later, Hermione was done, and then five minutes later so was Ginny. Hermione took her bag and Ginny’s back upstairs and brought down the mermaid books, while Ginny checked how much Ron and Harry had left to do.

“Oh, hi,” Ron said, looking up.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Writing down dire predictions for our month,” Harry said, finishing his sentence with a flourish and beaming up at her. “You’re leaving me next week.”

Ginny raised an eyebrow. “I am?”

“And then you’re going to hex me so badly I end up in the hospital same day,” Ron added.

“Because Venus and Mars crossed in the sky,” Harry told her.

Ginny shook her head. “Well, thanks for letting me know,” she said, bending down and kissing Harry’s cheek. “Are you nearly done?”

“Nope!” Ron said. “We’re only halfway into the month.”

Ginny sighed. “Well, as soon as you’re done, Harry.” She patted his shoulder and turned away, a smirk growing on her face because of the blush growing on his.

Hermione came back a minute later and dropped the stack of books on the table they’d been using. “Right, so, there are two basic kinds of mermaids: Fresh water and Salt water. After that, the species varies by water temperature and the size of the body of water.”

“We know that whatever it is, it isn’t a Siren,” Ginny said.

“Correct; Sirens live mainly in warm, salt waters: the Mediterranean Sea, the Aegean, the Indian Ocean and their voices are always ethereally beautiful whether they are out of water or under it. They often use their voices to lure sailors into the water so they can drown and then eat them.”

“Nice lot,” Ginny commented.

“And it won’t be a Selkie either,” Hermione said. “They live only on the coasts of northern countries, always in cold salt water.”

“What about fresh water?” Ginny asked. “What are the kinds that live there?”

“The most common is a Naiad, which lives in warm waters,” Hermione said, opening one of the books and flipping through it. She found a picture, then showed it to Ginny. It depicted three young girls sitting on rocks in a small cove with a waterfall. “They don’t sing to humans at all except to warn them of extreme impending doom.”

“That’s nice of them,” Ginny said. “Why?”

“Because apparently, they enjoy seeing the humans run around in panic,” Hermione said, her eyes fixed on the book.

“Oh, well then,” Ginny huffed.

“Right, the next most common is just called mermaid and they live in cold waters. That kind does sing, but you can only understand what they’re saying if they’re underwater,” Hermione said.

“What does it sound like if they’re above water?” Ginny asked.

“It doesn’t say,” Hermione answered. “Anyway, after that is the — Ginny? Where are you going?” Ginny had turned away and was running up the stairs to the boys’ dorms by the time Hermione looked up. She ran past two startled boys in disheveled robes and skidded to a halt outside Harry’s dorm room. She turned the handle, stuck her head in with eyes half closed in case someone was in there and indecent, then darted over to Harry’s bed and threw open his trunk. She started digging through it when Hermione came up behind her.

“What are you doing?” she asked, bewildered.

“Looking for the egg,” Ginny replied. “Aha! Got it.” She shut the lid of the trunk and started towards the bathroom.

“Hey!” came Ron’s voice from the dorm-room door. Ginny looked up to see him striding over with his arms crossed. “What are you doing up here?” Harry was behind him, looking confused.

“Follow me and I’ll show you,” she said, pushing open the bathroom door. She crossed to one of the showers and pushed aside the curtain. There was, thankfully, a deep tub there. She turned on the tap and set the egg on the edge of the tub.

“You’re putting into the water?” Hermione said. Then she gasped. “Of course! Fresh water mermaids in cold climates don’t make any sense unless they’re under the water!”

“I am still confused,” Ron said.

Ginny impatiently waited for the tub to fill; she stuck the egg inside as soon as the water was high enough, rolled up her sleeves, and flipped the latch. Harry and Ron instantly covered their ears with their hands. However, no screeches came out. Instead, soft music trickled out from beneath the water.

“Well, stick your head in,” Ginny said to Harry.

“Me? Why me?” her boyfriend protested.

“It’s your egg,” Hermione reminded him. Harry grumbled as he knelt down before the tub and bent over, submerging his face beneath the water. Ginny waited anxiously for him to come back up. When he did, his expression was a mix of stunned and bewildered. A common expression for him to make, actually.

“Well?” she asked.

“I can’t sing it,” he said. “Er, come and seek us, hang on.”

Ginny, wanting to hear it herself, pulled her hair back into a ponytail and copied Harry, sticking her face beneath the surface of the water. Eerie music came from the egg, then words began playing. “Come seek us where our voices sound, we cannot sing above the ground, and while you're searching, ponder this: We've taken what you'll sorely miss, an hour long you'll have to look, and to recover what we took. But past an hour — the prospect's black. Too late, it's gone, it won't come back.” She waited, listening to it again, then withdrew her head, dripping and spluttering for air. Harry came back up as well, and raised his eyebrows.

“It’s a riddle,” Ginny said, looking around for a towel. Hermione guessed what she wanted and summoned one for her and another for Harry. She said a thanks then dried off her face and wrapped it around her hair.

“What does it say?” Hermione asked.

“Come seek us where our voices sound,” Harry began. “We cannot sing above the ground…”

“While you’re searching, ponder this, we’ve taken what you’ll sorely miss,” Ginny continued. “an hour-long you have to look?”

“An hour long you’ll have to look,” Harry corrected, “to recover what we took. But past the hour —”

“Past an hour,” Ginny corrected him now, “the prospect’s black, too late it’s gone.”

“It won’t come back,” they finished together.

They were quiet a moment, then “Spooky,” Ron said. Hermione glanced at him for the first time, and her face went suddenly pink. Ron seemed to notice her only then as well, and he took looked embarrassed. Ginny chose to ignore them for the moment.

“What does it mean?” she said.

“Well, obviously ‘we cannot sing above the ground’ refers to mermaids who live in cold, fresh waters,” Hermione launched into an analysis. “Though we established that already. I think that it means that the second task will consist of something of Harry’s being taken and hid in the Black Lake.”

“The Black Lake?” Harry repeated.

“Well, it’s a rational assumption,” Hermione answered. “It’s cold, it’s fresh water, and the last task was on the grounds as well.”

Harry nodded seemingly wisely, though Ginny knew it was only because he was taking her word for it.

“So that’s the first part de-riddled,” Ginny said. “Where they are and that they’ve taken something, but what will it be?”

“Something I’ll sorely miss,” Harry said. He looked at her. “What’s something I’d really miss if it was taken?”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Can’t you figure that out by yourself?”

“Well, yeah, but if you do it that makes it objective.”

Ginny paused. That actually made sense. “All right. I suppose you’d really miss your broom.”

“Or you wand,” Ron added.

“No, they wouldn’t take that,” Hermione said. “It would have to be something very dear to Harry and also something very hard to replace.”

“Well, I’m kind of rich so there’s not much I own that can’t be replaced,” Harry pointed out.

“The Invisibility Cloak?” Ginny suggested.

“Or something you were given as a baby by your parents?” added Hermione. “Or by Ginny?”

Harry shrugged. “I don’t have much from my parents, but something from Ginny might be it. The glass cube of drawings maybe?”

“I hope not,” Ginny said. “I may have charmed that thing not to break, but I didn’t do anything about it being waterproof.”

“It would probably be a bit bigger than that,” Hermione speculated.

There was a sudden rumbling. All eyes turned to Ron, who went pink. “Er, it’s dinnertime,” he said.

Dinner that night, Ron left them by themselves, and Hermione very pink, to eat with Seamus and Dean. Harry, Ginny, and Hermione sat at one end, eating and discussing the mermaid’s riddle. After they finished, it was actually fairly late and they were all quite tired so they went straight to bed. Or rather, Hermione and Ginny went to bed. Harry stayed up and played chess with Ron again.

That night, Ginny found herself submerged in water again. Her night shirt had been replaced with a flowing gown that was held in an enchanting way by the water and her hair was spread out behind her. She could breathe, which had become normal in her watery dreams lately. Only the very first dream had she found herself unable to breathe. Ginny fingered the material, wondering why her dreams would put her in something she would never ever wear in real life. Letting go of it, she turned her gaze up and examined her surroundings. There was a statue behind her, and what looked like a sunken ship. Behind it were several other sunken structures, like tiny houses. There was no sign of life around her.

Ginny moved her hands through the water to propel herself forward. She drifted forward a few inches, then was stopped by something. She turned back, and found a rope tied to her ankle. Ginny raised her leg to try and untie it, but her leg didn’t move. She couldn’t move anymore; she was suddenly frozen. Her body drifted upward, then hung in the water unmovingly. Her mind, however, didn’t seem to want to stay still. She blinked, and she was suddenly far away from her body, moving quickly through bunches of seaweed. Hands extended into her view, hands that were webbed and not belonging to her.

She was moving faster than any human should have been able to. Soon, she found herself out of the weeds and before a sunken ship. Behind it, she could see herself, suspended in the water with her hair and gown spread. Whatever held her eyes now paused, then darted around the ship and towards her body. A webbed hand reached up and slowly it pressed itself to Ginny’s face. Again, her mind moved and she was back in her own body, and it was Harry whose hand was pressed against her cheek. Ginny could move again, she opened her mouth to draw breath, and suddenly water filled her mouth. She began to choke; water was all she inhaled. Harry seemed startled; he hesitated, then he pressed his mouth over hers and exhaled. Ginny swallowed what water was in her mouth, and Harry exhaled again. This had happened to her before, in her first underwater dream, Harry had breathed for her. Then the water was gone, and so was Harry. She was perfectly dry, lying in her bed, but she was still dreaming. The room was smaller than she remembered, the canopy of the bed hung lower than it should have, and the air felt somehow thinner. Her lungs struggled to inhale as if she was still beneath the lake. Her eyes darted around, trying to find a source, but all she saw were the shadows. The shadows that seemed to move.

She blinked and flames leaped beneath her eyelids. She opened them and the shadows were closer. She drew the blankets closer to her chin, sucking in the thin air and feeling like a child again, afraid of the monsters beneath her bed. There was a sudden voice whispering from the shadows, speaking too softly to understand, but her mind could hear enough to see that the words were not friendly, and yet it tried to fill in the gaps anyway. Her mind recognized the voice even if it couldn’t recognize the words. She shut her eyes tightly, pulling the blanket over her very head. Blood dripped before her eyes, the whispers grew louder, and hissing came from beneath her. Slick, cold scales pressed against her skin; her mouth stretched wide in a silent scream.

And then the dream was gone. She could breathe, she heard no voices, and sunlight was filtering through her curtains. Her alarm was beeping loudly, its shrill voice vibrating her head annoyingly. She closed her eyes and saw only a faint orange color made by the light.

Ginny sat up slowly and pushed aside her curtain. She looked around and saw that the room was completely empty, or at least no one was out of bed. The sun wasn’t visible in the window, but it filled the room with light. Ginny reached over and turned off the alarm, and the sudden silence pressed on her ears. Ginny pulled her legs out from beneath the blankets but hesitated. She glanced around, then leaned down and peered underneath the bed.

Nothing was there.

Feeling rather silly, she straightened up and slipped off the bed. Of course, there was nothing there, monsters weren’t real. Well, technically they were but they couldn’t get into the castle. Ginny glanced at her calender and grimaced. The second task was in three weeks, but then again they had part of the egg’s riddle solved. She went into the bathroom to get a shower, deciding that she wouldn’t let it bother until classes were done.

Said classes, in fact, made her progressively more exhausted. They had reviews that day, for Charms, Transfiguration, Defense Against the Dark Arts and Potions. Harry fell asleep in the middle of Charms, which earned him a detention from the normally amicable Flitwick after school. When Ginny and Hermione took their bags up to their dorm, both of them collapsed on Hermione’s bed and fell asleep. Ginny woke up some time later to find that she had flung out both arms in her sleep and Hermione was curled up next to her with her head on Ginny’s arm, snoring faintly. Ginny scratched her scalp, rubbed her eyes and stared up at the canopy.

Oi, she thought.

I fricking hate Seamus and his stupid need to chew gum nonstop and stick it under his desk…

How much was there?

Flitwick told me that the last time someone cleaned these desks was three years ago.


Ginny chuckled softly, thinking: So there are three years of Seamus’ slobbery chewing gum under his desk?

Yes!


Shaking her head, she closed her eyes again as Hermione shifted, rolling over to press her back into the curve of Ginny’s side. Her bushy hair was crimped so that it peaked above her ears, reminding Ginny of a cat.

Lucky, Harry thought contemptuously.

What, I waited to nap until after class?

Stupid Seamus…


Ginny left Harry to his scrubbing and extracted her arm from beneath her friend, swapping it for a pillow. Hermione mumbled something unintelligible and slept on. Ginny moved to her bed and pulled out her Transfiguration homework, thinking she could get some work done until Harry finished his detention. She turned to the chapter on changing inanimate objects into animals and other non-sentient, non-magical creatures and began reading. Her eyes glazed over several times, but she persisted. Eventually, Flitwick released Harry and it was dinner time anyway, so he headed for the Great Hall and Ginny woke Hermione.

After dinner, Harry and Ginny went to the library. Hermione declined to come, saying she would do her homework in their dormitory. Ginny did bring her homework, but made the mistake of sitting directly next to Harry. He got distracted from his work by her hair, and began playing with it. Then he was, or so he claimed, distracted by her neck, and it went downhill from there. However, Ginny did not mind in the slightest.

They, unfortunately, were forced to flee the library at eight o’clock when Madam Pince came around wagging her feather duster at them. She was not pleased to see them intent on each other rather than the books. Harry and Ginny walked back to Gryffindor tower, hand in hand, bad-mouthing Madam Pince for no other reason than they had been greatly upset at having to stop kissing. They entered the common room and did manage to finish at least half the work that was due Monday before abandoning school and getting into a game of Exploding Snap.

Saturday was spent being lazy. Sunday they scrambled to finish their homework before classes the next morning. Monday morning began early because Professor Sprout wanted the fourth years to study a species of crawling vine that was active only in the hours just before dawn. Ginny almost fell asleep at breakfast later. Lucky for her, the next class was Potions where Snape took fifteen points from Gryffindor when Ron yawned. At that, Ginny pretended that the scarab beetles she was crushing were miniature versions of the Potions Master. She wished he would settle his emotions, rather than fluctuating between highly irritable and expressionless. Preferably expressionless.

The rest of the day proceeded without incident, and so ended another school day. Then began another, which was not inherently different than the last. And then another, again not changing much. Soon, the week was gone and Ginny had piles of homework without much sleep. Friday evening she spent in the library writing every essay that was due the next week and finishing every project she could to avoid Hermione nagging her when she refused to get out of bed until noon the next morning.

Back to index


Chapter 21: Chapter 21: Lake-Water Is My Favorite Poison

Chapter Twenty-One: The Goblet of Fire Part Eight
Lake-Water Is My Favorite Poison
Harry



As each day ended, Harry crossed it off on a calender over his bed. February 24th was circled and the words ‘second task’ were written in the circle in Ginny’s handwriting. He was grateful she had circled it, but the fact that there were only a few days left between him and the next task he wasn’t as grateful for.

Technically, there were ten days left, and while that was not much comfort it felt a lot closer. He still had no clue what he would need to find, and how. Hermione had said that ‘come seek us where our voices sound’ meant that the task would be beneath the lake, and ‘an hour long you’ll have to look’ meant exactly what it said. Later, he had realized that it wasn’t very likely that the thing he needed to find would be floating at the top of the lake, but it would be on the bottom. That had not been the least comforting.

How the hell am I going to breathe? He mused one afternoon, gazing absently at a star chart. Beside him, Ginny shrugged, scratched out a name on the chart, and wrote the correct one beneath it. Harry huffed; he crossed his arms on the desk and lay down his head.
It’s a giant lake, he thought, looking up at his girlfriend. Probably miles deep. I can’t just pop up to the surface every few seconds to breathe.

How about when we finish here, we go to the library and look for solutions?
Ginny thought as she labeled the last of Saturn’s moons. Harry nodded vaguely, then reached up and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Ginny glanced at him with a small smile, then went back to labelling the chart. Harry ran the back of his knuckles down her hair, watching the light dance off the strands and turn them gold. Ginny closed her eyes for a moment, inhaling deeply as she smiled. He pushed his fingers amidst the silky strands and brushed through her hair. Ginny looked down at him, her expression warm.

What are you doing? She thought.

He shrugged. It’s just so pretty.

Ginny blushed, and turned back to the chart. Harry continued combing his fingers through her hair, enjoying the feel of it between his fingers.

You’re beautiful, he thought.

Ginny’s eyes jumped off the page. Her already pink cheeks turned magenta. Huh?

You’re beautiful,
he thought. I’ve said that before.

Not — not randomly,
she sputtered mentally, looking at him with wide eyes. I mean, I’m not dressed up, my hair’s a mess, I’m not wearing make-up, I’ve got on your old tee-shirt —

Harry sat up and kissed her. She stopped thinking. When he pulled back, she was smiling again.

“You don’t need that stuff,” he murmured.

Her blush became, if possible, deeper. “I — um…”

He pressed his lips to her cheek. You’ve never liked that stuff, why do you think you need it?

Ginny didn’t say or think anything, but simply shrugged. Harry knit his eyebrows. What’s the matter?

Nothing, nothing, I just never thought — I mean, I’m really kind of plain —

No you’re not,
Harry interrupted, why would you think that? You’re extraordinary, amazing, brilliant; why would you think that you’re plain?

Ginny looked down at the star chart. I — I don’t know.

Harry kissed her again. You’re beautiful.

She smiled again, still very pink. Thank you, Harry.

He beamed at her. Ginny, smiling shyly, looked down at the nearly-complete star chart. Harry grabbed a quill and pulled the chart towards him. He found Venus, the crossed out the name.

“What are you doing?” Ginny asked.

“Venus was the Roman goddess of beauty,” he said, carefully writing out the new name. “There!”

He pushed it back towards her. She raised her eyebrows, then laughed. He had re-named the planet Ginevra.

“Thank you, Harry,” she said again, pecking him on the cheek. He grinned wider.

“Hey, guys,” Hermione said, dropping into a chair across the table. Both of them looked up with equally pink expressions. She immediately scowled. “You two were supposed to be doing homework,” she said, her tone indicating an impending lecture.

“My fault,” Harry said, trying to head her off. “I got distracted.”

Hermione pursed her lips. “Boys,” she muttered, dropping her armload of books onto the table.

Ginny merely giggled, as she wrote Venus and put her name in parenthesis. Harry lay his arms on the table again and stared at his beautiful girlfriend. Ginny heard him, and blushed again.

Ten minutes later, she had finished the chart and they had started towards the library. Harry wrapped his arm around her shoulders as they walked, and Ginny was still slightly pink.

When they reached the library, they found Madam Pince at the front desk furiously stamping books. A very small third year girl stood before her, looking at her feet in slight embarrassment.

“I should place a limit on how many you can check out at a time, Collingwood,” Pince said as she set a book on the stack of stamped books and took another.

“You already did!” Collingwood protested. “No more than twenty!”

“Well, next time you come, no more than ten!” Madam Pince snapped.

Ginny gave the third year a faint smile of pity and pulled Harry towards the back of the library. Collingwood waved sorrowfully at them as Madam Pince stamped the next book with a loud thud.

“So where should we start?” Harry asked.

Ginny peered sideways at the titles. “I have no idea.”

Harry huffed. “We should have brought Hermione.”

Ginny nodded with a sigh. “We’ll have to ask someone.”

Harry scowled. “I’m not speaking to Pince,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest. He was still miffed about last week when she interrupted the two of them snogging. Ginny rolled her eyes, reminding him mentally that the library had been about to close anyway, and looked around for anything to indicate where spells that allowed a person to breathe underwater were.

The third year girl who Madam Pince had been irritated with walked past them with her stack of books tall enough to cover half her face. Ginny glanced at her, then at Harry. He shrugged.

She’s probably as knowledgeable as Hermione about the library, considering what Madam Pince said, he thought.

“Hey, Collingwood!” Ginny called after the third year. The third year jumped and the books on the very top of her stack toppled off to the floor. Ginny stepped forward and picked them up.

“H— hi,” the girl stammered. “Erm…”

“We were wondering if you knew where spells about breathing underwater would be,” Ginny said.

The girl’s eyelids blinked rapidly behind a pair of glasses in plastic blue frames. “Oh, um, magic concerning underwater life is over there in section B,” she pointed towards the beginning of the library, “there’s charms about air in section C4,” she pointed up to the second level, “and creatures and plants that provide alternate methods of breathing three cases that way,” she pointed right. Her voice had a funny ring to it, Harry thought, other than her obvious nervousness.

“Oh, okay, thanks,” Ginny said, setting the books Collingwood had dropped on her stack. “See you.”

Collingwood nodded vaguely, her eyes still very wide, expressing that she doubted they would ever speak to her again and that she was still shocked that they had. Harry waved to her as Ginny led him to the right, towards magic concerning underwater life, as the skittish third year had put it.

Ginny examined the titles and selected a few. Harry glanced around and grabbed one at random. He glanced at the back cover, then put it back and grabbed a different one.

“We want something that is easy to get,” Ginny said, cracking open one of the books. Harry nodded in affirmation. “But not something that will have any adverse effects.”

“Right,” Harry said.

They spent the next two or so hours searching the books without luck. At seven o’clock, they checked out stacks of books and dumped them in Harry’s dorm before going back down for dinner. After dinner they returned to the common room and got both the books and Hermione. When the clock struck ten, Hermione insisted going to bed. They had an early Herbology lesson again, more studies of that vine Sprout so loved. Next day, with eight days left, Harry returned the unhelpful books to the library with Ron and checked out ten more during their free period while Ginny and Hermione went to Arithmency. After classes, the four of them joined at a table in the back of the library, Ron and Hermione awkwardly avoiding each other’s gazes, and set to work. Unfortunately, they had just as much luck as the day before. Meaning none. The next day was almost the same, as was the next. Saturday Harry overslept and barely made it to lunch before hitting the books. He was beginning to panic. The task was Thursday, and he still had no clue how he was going to breathe or what he was supposed to find. Sunday they tried the mermaid section again to see if there was anything there. There was not. Monday Harry considered asking Madam Pince, and Hermione did, but the vulture of a librarian said she could not assist him. Harry thought that was really quite annoying because she helped Ginny and Hermione just a few weeks ago. Tuesday, Ginny and Ron got themselves two days of detention from Snape after Ron made their cauldron explode, and still no method of breathing underwater. Harry tried asking Flitwick, who apologetically said he could not help and to tell Ginny not to try. Sirius came by after dinner and told them that there was a spell he’d learned in sixth year, the Bubble Head charm, that could work but when Hermione looked it up the difficulty was far beyond Harry. Ludo Bagman stopped by to wish Harry luck. On Wednesday, Harry really was panicking.

“It’s hopeless!” he cried, letting his head fall onto the table with a thud. “I’ll just have to fail or drown.”

“You’re not drowning,” Ginny said determinedly. “We will find something.”

“We’ve been through every book,” Harry grumbled.

“Not every book,” Hermione corrected.

“Just most of them,” Ron added. Harry did not smile.

“We have 16 hours left,” he said. “And no spell. I still don’t know what the hell I’m trying to find!”

Hermione passed him a thin paperback book. “Here, this is a detection spell. I asked Mr. Bagman if they would tell who exactly what you were looking for before the task, and he said that they probably wouldn’t but that he would be willing to let you know given your circumstances.”

Harry nodded sharply. “Great. How’s that spell work?”

“It’s very simple,” Hermione told him. “We’ll keep looking for a way to help you breath, you read this and familiarize yourself with it. It’s very similar to the Summoning charm.”

Harry picked up the book and opened it. Ginny touched his shoulder and thought: We will find something. He nodded again.

Two hours later, they packed up temporarily to go to dinner. Harry had gotten half-way through the book on the detection spell and was mumbling the incantation under his breath when Ludo Bagman walked up to them.

“Hullo, Harry, Miss Weasley,” Mr. Bagman said genially. Ginny smiled tightly and slipped her arm through Harry’s.

“Hi,” Harry replied. Mr. Bagman smiled at Ron and bowed to Hermione, then turned back to Harry.

“How are you coming with the task?” Bagman asked.

Harry shrugged. “Getting there.”

“Ah, well, the task is tomorrow morning,” Bagman said, flashing his yellowed teeth. “I do hope you’re close.”

“Very close,” Ginny said. “We just paused to get some dinner.”

“Ah, very good,” Bagman clapped his hands together with an even wider smile. “Well, just let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with.” He winked at Harry and stepped away, touching Ginny’s shoulder as he passed her. Ginny shrunk back from him and laid her head on Harry’s shoulder. He raised an eyebrow at her, but she just shrugged.

“Come on, I’m starving and Snape said we’ve got to show up by seven,” Ron said, striding into the great hall. Hermione rolled her eyes as she followed him.

Harry loaded up his plate with potatoes and chicken; Ginny added green beans and carrots before he could fill the empty space with gravy. He scowled at her playfully and she smirked. Rolling his eyes, he speared a carrot on his fork.

“You two,” Hermione muttered at them.

“Who, us?” Harry said.

Ginny stuck out her tongue at her friend. Hermione rolled her eyes again, then grabbed a spoon from Ron before he could take a fourth scoop of stew.

Choosing to ignore his friends beginning to argue again, Harry tucked into his dinner. When they finished ten minutes later, he asked Hermione what she knew so far. She opened her mouth and launched into an extensive recap. Halfway through, Professor McGonagall walked up behind them.

“Miss Weasley, Miss Granger?” the teacher said. “I need you too to come with me for a moment.”

Hermione nodded and hastily swallowed her last bit of stew. Ginny glanced at McGonagall with a frown. “May I ask why, professor?”

“It’s nothing, I just have to talk with you,” McGonagall answered. Harry wondered why her gaze trailed on the ground, and her expression seemed to fighting something grim. “I shan’t keep you long.”

Ginny sighed and pushed back her plate. “Okay, we’re coming. Harry, finish quickly and go back to the library. I’m sure that spell is just in the next book.”

“Right,” he said without much confidence. Ginny kissed his cheek and stood up. Hermione was already standing, and the two of them followed Professor McGonagall out of the hall.

Ron shoveled a mouth full of mashed potatoes into his mouth. “Wha ew ‘ecko’ de wants?” he mumbled around the potatoes. Harry, used to Ron’s habit of speaking with his mouth full, simply shrugged.

“I’ve got no clue,” he said.

Ron glanced at his watch and let out a garbled curse. He swallowed rapidly and shot to his feet. “It’s almost seven,” he said after swallowing. “I’d better go, before Snape decides to poison me. See you, Harry, best of luck!”

Ron grabbed his bag and took off towards the dungeons. Harry sighed and pushed aside his plate. He wasn’t hungry anymore. He felt more like he’d eaten a bundle of worms rather than chicken, potatoes and vegetables. He draped his school bag over his shoulder and started back towards the library.

He sat down and began reading again. He figured the detection spell was easy enough, so he got back to trying to find a way to breathe. Not long after he sat down, Ginny told him mentally that she would be running to Snape’s office the minute McGonagall was done with her and that her detention lasted until ten. He acknowledged her with a grunt and kept reading.

At eight o’clock, Madam Pince came round with her feather duster to kick him out. She wouldn’t let him check any of the books out, saying that he had exceeded his limit, but he figured she was just being irritable as normal. Being that he still hadn’t found anything, he ran back up to the tower and swapped his school bag for his invisibility cloak. He snuck back inside as Madam Pince was closing up and moved swiftly and silently back to his table. At nine, he had no update from Ginny but her detention wasn’t finished yet, so he kept reading fervently. Around ten, he was rather frantic and tossed aside another book. Ginny was probably being kept late by Snape, he figured. He glanced at his watch every few minutes and began to worry around eleven. She would have told him if she was going to be really late. Despite his panic about the task and worry over Ginny, he began nodding off around 11:30, and sometime around twelve he closed his eyes for just a moment until something started poking him in the shoulder.

“No,” he muttered. “I’m reading, I’m reading.”

“Harry Potter must be getting up, sir!”

“I am reading, Hermione, leave me alone!” he grumbled, trying to bat her away.

“I is not Miss Granger, sir.”

Harry cracked open one eye and peered around. The library was much brighter than it had been a few seconds ago. He found the source of the noise and the poking, about two inches from his face.

“Dobby!” he said, sitting up. “What are you doing here?”

“I is working at Hogwarts, now sir,” Dobby told him. “But there is being no time for that, Harry Potter must be going to the lake! Harry Potter must be going to save his most precious!”

“What?” he said.

“The second task, sir!”

Harry shook his head. “No, no the task doesn’t start until ten.”

“It is ten til, sir!”

Harry’s heart skipped beat. “What?”

“It is being ten minutes until ten o’clock,” Dobby squeaked. “Harry Potter must be going now to go save his most precious! Here, Dobby is taking something for you.”

Harry, completely flabbergasted, took the squishy green glob that the elf pushed into his face. “What? What’s this; what am I going to save?”

“This is being gillyweed, sir,” Dobby said. “Dobby is hearing Master Moody and Madam Sinister discussing it last night, and Dobby is hearing Mr. Bagman telling someone on the Floo that Harry Potter isn’t ready for the task yet, so Dobby is stealing this from Madam Sprout to help Harry Potter!”

Harry glanced down at the green glob. “What do I do with it?”

“You must be swallowing it, sir, so you can be breathing water,” Dobby said. “Now, come! You must be running!”

Harry stood up, his knees popped and he felt his lungs tighten. “It’s nine fifty,” he muttered, looking down at his watch. He swore, very, very loudly. “Dobby, what did you say I was going to save? My most what?”

“Your most precious, sir!”

“You’ve said that to me before,” Harry said, suddenly recalling the night two years ago when the elf put him in the hospital wing. “What is my most precious?”

“The thing you’ll miss most, sir, they that you love most!”

Harry gaped at the elf. “What does that mean, though?”

“You must be going, sir, it is nine fifty-three!”

“What is my most precious!”

“Miss Wheezy, sir!” Dobby said, almost exasperated.

Harry’s stomach dropped. “Ginny?” Ginny? Ginny!

Her voice was silent.

Harry took off, not paying attention to what Dobby was shouting after him. He sprinted from the library, jumped down half the stairs, and bolted from the Entrance Hall. He ran out onto the grounds and spotted the crowd at the edge of the lake. Harry put in a burst of speed, clutching the ball of green weeds in his closed fist.

Harry skidded to a halt in front of the judges table as a clock on it struck nine fifty five.

“Harry, my boy!” Bagman cried, sounding very relieved. “We were worried that you wouldn’t make it.”

He nodded vaguely, leaning on his knees while he tried to catch his breath. Bagman clapped him on the shoulder and pushed him towards the waters’ edge where Cedric, Krum and Fleur were standing.

“Know what you’re going to get?” Bagman asked in a whisper. Harry nodded, his jaw clenched. Bagman patted his shoulder again and turned away.

He was barely listening as Bagman announced the rules of the task. His heart was beating rapidly in his chest as he inhaled and exhaled sharply. He heard a loud blast, and saw Cedric, Krum and Fleur run into the lake. Harry started forward, then paused to rip off his shoes and socks. He discarded his over-robe as well, leaving him wearing trousers and his white uniform shirt. The water was bitterly cold, but his chest felt colder. He waded in until his hips, then raised the glob of slime to his lips. He threw it back, swallowed despite the nauseating feel of it, and waited.

He suddenly could not breathe. Not that it had been easy before, but he literally felt like something had shut off his airways. He gasped for a moment, then his brain screamed instinct at him and he dived.

Water filled his mouth and he felt his body begin to process the oxygen in it. He touched his mouth, then his nose, then his neck to see how he was breathing and found there were ridged slits in his neck. Gills. Then he noticed that his hands were webbed and his feet had elongated into flippers. Harry blinked and his eyes felt perfectly normal. He began to swim.

He had no idea where Ginny would be, but near the bottom made sense, so he swam down and forward, towards the center of the lake. The water got colder, but he ignored it. He kicked his legs furiously, propelling himself rapidly through the water. He didn’t see either of the other champions, nor did he care. A tentacle drifted past him and then the giant squid floated in front of him, but he simply swam under it. He had to go forward, towards the darker water.

Eventually, he reached the bottom and looked up. The surface far above him looked faint, but that did not matter just then. He looked around, and took off to the right. He had no idea where he was going, but somehow he knew Ginny was in that direction.

He swam around sunken statues and strands of kelp. His flipper feet propelled him forward much faster than what was normal and his brain focused on only one thing: Ginny.

Where are you? He thought.

Harry closed his eyes, carefully treading the water to remain still, and focused. Ginny was close, only a few minutes swim from him, and towards the middle of the lake. He opened his eyes and looked around. Where was the middle of the lake? As he had been treading water, he had turned around several times and he couldn’t remember what direction he had come from. He tried to run his hands through his hair in frustration but found that the webbing between his fingers didn’t allow for him to comb his hair.

“Ginny!” He shouted, but the word dissipated in a bubble of air.

Harry turned his face upward. He scanned the far distant surface of the lake and found a spot of light to his left. He glanced at his watch and found it frozen at 10:02. How long had he been under the water? It couldn’t have been more than half an hour, so it was sometime around 10:30. That meant that the giant spot of light was to the east. He swam upwards a ways, looking for the mountain chain that ringed the lake. The mountains were behind him. They had been directly in front of him when he went into the water, so he had gotten turned around somehow. Now, facing the mountains, he found the sun behind him to the right. He needed to go southwest.

Harry kicked off towards the southwest. An instinct inside him told him to go right, so he curved in that direction.

“An hour long you’ll have to look….”

Harry paused. That was mersong. He didn’t know how he knew, but he knew it was mersong and he knew it was coming from the south.

“And to recover what we took…”

Harry swam faster.

“Your time’s half gone, so tarry not. Lest what you seek stays here to rot.”

Harry kicked his legs violently. He tore through patches of kelp; a grindylow shot out of one particularly thick bundle of the algae, looked at him, and shot back out of sight. Harry ignored it completely. His heart was pounding in his chest.

Where are you? He thought more forcefully.

He darted around a strand of kelp and stopped. Just ahead of him was a clearing in the underwater vegetation. There were little stone huts with what looked like gardens in front, roads lined with small pebbles, sunken objects and statues covered in algal slime from the world above. And amongst these things were the merpeople.

They looked nothing like they did in storybooks. For one thing, they weren’t pretty. For another, they were ugly. Their skin was gray and clung to their skeletons, their hair looked just like the kelp they’d been swimming in, and their teeth were sharply pointed and stained yellow. All of the adults were carrying tridents and were watching Harry with narrow, yellow eyes.

Harry hesitantly moved forward. He searched the little village and found a large statue near what was probably the center. Near the statue was a splotch of bright red.

Harry shot forward. A merman jumped out of his way as he cut through the water. He vaguely registered the mermaid singing her warnings to the champions as Ginny came into view. There was an algae bound rope tying her to the statue, along with two other girls; the Asian Ravenclaw, Cho Chang and a small girl with silvery blonde hair. Maybe she was Fleur’s sister. All three girls were dressed in white robes and their bodies were limp, asleep.

Harry entered the town center and passed the mermaid. He could sense Ginny’s sleep, but at the same time her mind was anxious.

He didn’t know why, until he reached out to touch her and her eyes opened. She gasped, coughed, and began to choke.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


Mid-morning was his least favorite time of day. Mid-morning, the sun leeched through the grimy windows and illuminated the cold tile floor, the desk strewn with papers and the thin mattress that served as his bed. Mid-morning he would open his eyes and remember every other morning before the incident, when she would wake him up in whatever way she thought would be most ridiculous or embarrassing for him, though why she kept trying when they were married confused him. And then he would remember that last morning when she’d woken him up with breakfast and roses and they’d forgotten all about the food to focus on each other. After remembering that with a sad smile, he would remember what had happened mid-afternoon that day, and then the rest of the present day was ruined, not that they ever had good prospects.

How long had it been then? Ten years? Twenty? He didn’t even know what year it was then, so how could he tell. He had tried counting days but there had been so many, so many long, tiresome days that he’d forgotten. In the beginning, he could see her and hear her voice in the cell across from him, and when they stretched enough they could touch the tips of their fingers together. She couldn’t see him, however. She couldn’t see anything anymore.

Now there was only the musty papers written in merged dialects of Greek, scrambled and encoded to prevent anyone from reading them. The code was not made by magic, but had been devised by the mind of someone incredibly brilliant and even more paranoid. He had only just finished translating it into English, but the code stumped him. He feared he wouldn’t be able to break it, which meant he would never see his wife again.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


Ginny’s lungs struggled for air and received only water. There was sudden panic in her mind and even more in Harry’s. She couldn’t breathe. They were underwater. She was drowning.

Harry’s body acted on its own; he grabbed her arm and forced his mouth over hers. Water passed through his gills and he exhaled into her mouth. Ginny spat water into his, he pulled back and pushed out the water, then pressed his lips over hers again, exhaling as forcefully as he could.

Don’t try to breathe, he thought. Keep your mouth closed.

Her eyes were wide but she nodded. Harry inhaled and placed his mouth over hers. Second-hand air filled her but there was still panic. Harry looked around for a way to cut her from the statue. He exhaled into her mouth, drew his wand, and jabbed it at the rope. It snapped immediately and Harry started to kick his legs. He wrapped one arm around Ginny’s waist and she wrapped both of her arms around his chest. He breathed for her again and swam as fast as he could towards the distant surface. Ginny tapped his back every few seconds and he exhaled into her mouth but he could tell that it was working well. Halfway up, she was going limp again. Harry pressed his mouth over hers and held her head in place, inhaling through his nose and exhaling into her mouth, but her mind was still slowing. His leg kicked faster and the panic grew. Ginny was getting more and more limp in his arms.

Stay with me, Gin, he thought, exhaling into her again.

My head.

Stay with me, we’re almost there!

My chest…


Harry exhaled into her again. There was too much water in her lungs. She was still drowning. His legs were aching from swimming and Ginny’s weight was not helping.

I’m not… that heavy…

Harry exhaled into her mouth. No, you’re lighter than feathers. Focus on me.

You’re a great kisser….
Ginny coughed suddenly and water shot into her mouth. Harry sealed his lips over hers quickly and exhaled.

Stay with me, please, love…

Ginny touched a hand to his face and tried to kiss him. No, I need to breathe for you, he thought. Ginny pressed her lips against his anyway, making it difficult for him to exhale her oxygen. Ginny! His swimming slowed; he pulled back to focus on getting to the surface, then put his mouth over hers again so he could keep breathing into her. She was so limp.

Harry’s free hand broke the surface and at the same time his gills closed together. With one last, powerful kick, both his and Ginny’s heads burst out of the water and he gasped for breath. It was suddenly odd to be breathing air instead of water, but that wasn’t what he was concerned with. Ginny’s head was lolling onto her shoulder, her mouth still under the water.

Ginny, he thought, shaking her. Her head fell backwards, bringing her mouth out of the water, but she did not respond.

“Ginny,” he said aloud, now struggling to keep his own head above the water. A wave broke over their heads and he coughed as water entered his nose. He looked around for sight of the shore and saw a boat coming towards him.

“Help!” he shouted. “Help!”

He saw Ludo Bagman in the boat, along with Dumbledore, Karkaroff and Maxime as well as Mr. Crouch. Harry waved his hand through the air, screaming himself hoarse. Ginny was still motionless; he couldn’t tell if she was breathing or not.

Wake up! He thought, shaking her more. His panic growing, he tried to swim towards the boat but his skills at swimming had diminished greatly since the effect of the green slime had worn off. He struggled to keep Ginny above the water, swallowing a lot of water along the way. The taste was foul in his mouth but he didn’t care. Ginny was not moving.

A hand gripped his shirt and pulled him up; Harry grabbed at Ginny’s arms but whoever was hauling him had added their other hand; they were very strong. He lost his grip and Ginny drifted away, falling face forward into the water.

“Ginny!” he shouted. Someone else grabbed her arm and yanked her face from the water; Bagman got his hands under her arms and lifted her up. The white cotton dress clung to her frame and the sleeves were pushed past her elbows; on her left arm a corner of a ‘W’ was visible. Harry grabbed her around the waist as soon as Bagman had hauled her into the boat.

“She’s not breathing,” he muttered.

“Harry, step back,” someone behind him said.

“She’s not breathing!”

“Harry, move out of the way!”

Someone grabbed his arm and wrenched him off of Ginny’s limp body; Dumbledore was kneeling beside her and waving his wand over her chest. Harry watched with wide eyes. Her chest was still, too still. Dumbledore jerked his wand upward and Ginny suddenly turned over, vomiting lake-water all over the deck of the boat. Coughing, she looked up and reached for Harry. He pulled himself out of the grip of whoever was holding him and wrapped his arms around her. Her body was shaking violently and she was still spitting up water.

“H-Harry?” she mumbled.

“You’re all right,” he said, “you’re okay.”

“I — I saw him,” she whispered in his ear. I saw him…

Harry pressed a kiss to her forehead. It’s okay, Ginny, you’re okay.

I saw him, Harry!

It wasn’t real,
he thought.

Ginny’s eyes were wide still, but slowly, she nodded her head. She gripped his arms tightly, and pressed her body into his chest. She was taking deep, ragged breaths and she was still coughing up water.

“How did she wake up?”

Harry looked up. Barty Crouch was standing over him, looking both worried and angry. Dumbledore did not answer immediately; Karkaroff and Maxime both had unreadable expressions — his was very tense while hers looked almost thoughtful —, and Bagman spluttered incoherently. His eyes were focused on Ginny, and Harry felt a sudden desire to get her a blanket. He looked around and saw towels behind him; he grabbed one and draped it over her shoulders. Bagman’s gaze still did not move.

“How in the name of Merlin did that spell not work?” Crouch demanded. “You promised the children that they would be perfectly safe, yet this girl has almost drowned. Answer me that, Ludo!”

Harry glanced at the former Quidditch player. He was still babbling.

“Dumbledore, where is the fourth champion?” Crouch asked. “We have Mr. Krum and Mr. Diggory and their hostages, where is Miss Delacour and her sister?”

“The hour is up,” Karkaroff said. “She failed.”

“Miss Delacour is on the shore with Madam Pomfrey,” Dumbledore said. “Her sister will be returned to her shortly.”

“I thought that the hostages would be lost if we failed!”

Harry turned and realized suddenly that Diggory was sitting behind him. As was Cho Chang, wrapped in a towel, and behind them were Krum and —

“Hermione?” he said. She pressed a finger to her lips then waved, mouthing ‘Later!’

Crouch still did not look pleased. He turned back to Bagman and glared at him with thin lips.

“I — I — I don’t know!” Bagman protested. “I tested the charm myself before placing it on the girls; it should have kept her asleep! I do not know how to explain this!”

Ginny coughed up one last mouthful of water, then closed her eyes and leaned against Harry’s chest. Her mind was weary, and her body was exhausted. He locked his arms around her and pulled her onto his lap so she could curl up more comfortably.

Madam Maxime suddenly came around Harry and Ginny; she grabbed a towel and put around his shoulders, then got another and put it around Ginny’s legs. She touched Harry’s hair, then backed away and stood watching them with a curious expression. Harry tried not to feel awkward, but the other adults were not paying attention to them or the half-giant French woman.

“She should have remained asleep until she came above water, I have no explanation as to why she didn’t!” Bagman insisted.

“But there must be one!” Crouch shouted back.

“I believe I have it,” Dumbledore said softly. Both men went immediately silent and stared.

“And?” Crouch said after a moment’s silence.

Dumbledore stayed silent a moment longer, his eyes fixed on Ginny’s tired and still frightened face. “Miss Weasley is a very unique individual,” he began. “She has had… experiences that have made her resilient to certain magics. Magics such as ones governing her behavior.”

Ludo frowned, but Crouch looked as if he suddenly understood. “Oh, yes,” he said. Harry could almost see him remembering an event two years before where several students were petrified by a giant snake and two nearly killed.

“So I believe that Miss Weasley’s will did not register exactly that she was a willing participant in the task, and therefore struggled to break the enchantment. She has been tricked into allowing spells to be cast upon her in the past.”

“What do you mean?” Karkaroff spoke for the first time.

“It is a long story, Igor,” Dumbledore said simply. “For the moment, we should both be impressed by Miss Weasley’s strength of will and keep in mind that we should not put her in such a situation again.”

Crouch nodded stiffly and Ludo Bagman muttered something under his breath. Ginny squeezed her eyes shut and pulled the towel over her head. I saw him, Harry.

Harry kissed her forehead and rubbed her shoulder. It’s all right, love, he can’t hurt you.

She shook her head at him. I’m not worried about me. He’s alive, Harry.

Harry frowned at her. Wait, who are we talking about?

Ginny opened her eyes and fixed them on his. There was a manic glint in them that worried him. Voldemort.

What?

He’s coming back!


Harry glanced at Dumbledore, now frightened himself. How do you know?

Ginny bit her lip. Those dreams I’ve been having, I never really thought about them much but I dreamt that I was going to be trapped underwater and you were going to save me by giving me air; I dreamt that you would be put into the tournament; I dreamt that you’d fight a dragon. All those things came true. I even got stuck in this stupid dress that I dreamt I was wearing!

Okay… so how do you know Voldemort is coming back?

While I was under the water, I could see him… I dreamt about him before; he’s doing this, he somehow got you put in the Tournament I know it!


Harry kissed the top of her head again in an effort to calm her down. We have to tell Dumbledore.

She nodded vaguely. Do you think he’s going to do anything? He hasn’t worked very hard on finding out about our bond, or about Tom’s memories, or anything else we’ve told him.

He’ll figure it out,
Harry assured her. She bit her lip again but did not reply.

The boat must have been moving without being controlled and without their noticing for at that moment it bumped into a dock that Harry didn’t remember being there that morning. Bagman jumped out and tied off the boat before helping Diggory get up and out of the boat, then Cho and Hermione and then Krum. Karkaroff got out without taking Bagman’s outstretched hand and Madam Maxime did not take the offered help either. Dumbledore stepped over and helped Ginny to her feet, then Harry. They exited the boat and Dumbledore led the two of them along with the other dripping champions and hostages to a tent on the shore. Karkaroff strode off immediately and Madam Maxime passed them on her way to the tent. Bagman came up behind Harry and Ginny and offered Ginny his arm to lean on; she was still shaking. Ginny declined with a shake of her head.

In the tent, Madam Pomfrey immediately shoved Pepper-up potions under their noses. Harry was about to drink his when Dumbledore said that Ginny had woken up before reaching the surface.

“What?!” the matron demanded. She grabbed Ginny’s arm and pushed her into a chair before Dumbledore could answer and began casting numerous spells. Harry gulped down the potion and sat down beside his girlfriend.

Hermione plopped into a seat beside Harry with a sigh. Ginny waved vaguely at her, but Madam Pomfrey reprimanded her to remain still.

“What happened?” Hermione asked in a hushed tone.

Harry shrugged. “I reached out to take her hand, and she just woke up. Started choking immediately.”

“How did she not drown?” Madam Pomfrey asked with shock in her voice.

“I gave her air,” he said. “Mouth-to-mouth until we reached the surface.”

Madam Pomfrey raised her eyebrow. “How did you know that would work?”

Harry glanced at Ginny, then shrugged again. “I just did.”

The matron looked mildly impressed for a moment, then quickly stifled it. “Drink that potion, Miss Weasley,” she said in a scolding tone. Ginny rolled her eyes and raised the steaming goblet to her lips.

“Ginny!”

The four of them looked up to see Ron, Fred, George and Percy running towards them. Or rather, Ron, Fred and George were running. Percy was walking speedily.

Ron collided with Ginny’s chair and engulfed her in a bear hug, making her grunt with surprise; Fred and George went around her to hug her from the back and Percy tried not to skid as he stopped to wait his turn.

“You drowned!” Ron shouted. “They said you drowned!”

“No,” Ginny croaked from under one of the twins’ arms, “almost though. It’d be nice if I had air.”

Instantly all three boys let go. Harry had never seen any of them look so worried.

“What the hell happened?” Percy demanded.

“Perce!” Ginny said in shock.

“Wow, he does know the ‘h’ word,” George said in even more shock.

“Where did you come from?” Harry asked.

“Back away!” Madam Pomfrey shouted. “Away from my patient!”

Ron, George, and Fred jumped back and lined up beside Percy. Madam Pomfrey glared at them, then at Ginny until she raised her goblet to drink what was left in it.

“But what happened?” Percy asked again.

“Dumbledore thinks Ginny’s subconscious overcame the enchanted sleep because it didn’t recognize that she had agreed to participate in the task,” Hermione answered.

Ginny nodded, but didn’t add to that because she was still drinking the Pepper-up potion. Madam Pomfrey glanced at Harry and scowled to see that his wasn’t finished either. Quickly, he took a large gulp. She nodded and drifted away to attend to another patient.

“Why would it?” Ron asked.

Hermione raised her eyebrows. The boys still looked confused.

“Because I was possessed multiple times a few years ago,” Ginny said, setting down her empty goblet. Harry thought it helped her to finish that Ron had knocked it out of her hand and caused most of it to spill on the ground.

All four boys looked suddenly guilty. Ginny smiled dryly at them.

“Easy to forget when it isn’t you,” she muttered. She rubbed the inside of her left arm, her gaze drifting to the ground. Harry reached over and grasped her hand in both of his, stopping her from at least dwelling physically on the scar.

Everyone was staring at their feet in awkwardness now. Each Weasley boy looked up briefly at different moments as if to say something, but they never had anything worth saying, so they looked back down at the ground.

“What are you doing here, Percy?” Ginny asked finally, looking up at him.

“Oh.” Percy blushed. “Er, Mr. Crouch requested I come to assist him,” he answered. “I remained on shore while he went out on the lake in the boat.”

“Of course,” Ginny muttered. “Does he know your name yet?”

Percy opened his mouth to answer when the man himself stuck his head in the tent and shouted “Weatherby! Come here!”

George, Ron, Ginny and Fred burst out laughing. Harry and Hermione chuckled slightly while Percy turned beet red.

“Yes, sir!” he called back, turning on his heel and marching out of the tent.

Ginny suddenly started coughing and Madam Pomfrey rushed over instantly. “Away, away! You may speak to her later!”

The remaining Weasley boys backed away until Madam Pomfrey stopped glaring at them. The matron pulled a bottle of potion from nowhere and poured it into Ginny’s goblet. “I will need you to spend the next few days in the Hospital Wing, so I may observe you.”

“I have to stay with her,” Harry said instantly.

Madam Pomfrey opened her mouth, probably to rebuke him, when Dumbledore touched her shoulder. “Given their circumstance, Poppy, I would allow him to stay in the Hospital Wing as well.”

“What circumstance?” Madam Pomfrey asked.

Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. The Matron pursed her lips, but jerked her head up and down. “Very well, Albus, but you will need to explain yourself later,” she said stiffly. She turned to Ginny and scowled. “Drink, Miss Weasley, drink!”

Ginny sighed but raised the goblet to her mouth. She made a face as she took a gulp. “Merlin, what is this?”

“A Replenishing Potion,” Madam Pomfrey said. She turned away and bustled across the tent to where Diggory and Cho Chang were seated.

Professor Dumbledore turned his gaze onto Harry and Ginny. “You are required to remain here until my fellow judges have agreed on scoring, but once you have received your score, Harry, I will escort you to the Hospital Wing personally. Madam Pomfrey will not be able to return to the castle immediately so we will have up to fifteen minutes in privacy. I will have questions for you both and new information.”

And the Headmaster left the tent. Ginny turned to Harry with raised eyebrows.

Questions? New information? Nearly drowning? Today is our day, isn’t it?

Harry suppressed a snort and took her hand. I’m curious what he has to tell us.

Ginny nodded slowly. “Indeed.”

Hermione looked between the two of them with total confusion written across her face. “You two make no sense,” she muttered.

“Attention!”

All three of them looked up; the five judges were visible from the tent entrance, Ludo Bagman standing before the rest with his wand touched to his throat, amplifying his voice.

“The judges have prepared the scores,” Bagman said. “Three of our four champions completed the task, as Miss Delacour did not reach her hostage and will not receive points. She is in fourth place with 36 points from the first task. Mr. Diggory returned with his hostage just outside the time limit, and was given 32 points, leaving him in third place with 74. Mr. Krum arrived with his hostage only moments before the limit and was given 42 for a total of 77. Mr. Potter returned more than 20 minutes outside the time limit.”

Bagman glanced at the other judges and continued. “However, the mer-chief reports that Mr. Potter was the second to arrive at the village. His hostage, due to unforeseen complications, woke up prematurely and was unable to breathe. Mr. Potter prevented his hostage from drowning by giving her second-hand air. Our judges deemed this very courageous and a show of remarkable cool under pressure and have given him 40 points, added to what he was given at the first task, a total of 79 points.”

Harry and Ginny met eyes. Slowly, both of them began to grin and Ginny grabbed Harry in a hug.

“You’re in first place!” Hermione shouted.

“You might actually win this thing!” Ginny beamed at Harry.

“The important thing is, you’re not dead,” Harry said. “But that is nice too.”

Ginny kissed Harry quickly; quickly because Madam Pomfrey rushed over saying “No no no, you must be calm!”

Ginny scowled as she took another gulp of her Replenishing Potion.

Back to index


Chapter 22: Chapter 22: Sleep Is For Losers

Chapter Twenty-Two: The Goblet of Fire Part Nine
Sleep Is For Losers
Harry



Dumbledore returned to the tent a few moments after the announcement of the points. He spoke briefly to Madam Pomfrey, then beckoned to Harry and Ginny. Hermione waved to them as they got up and left the tent.

The walk back to the castle was cold. It was windy for February, and their wet clothes did not help. Harry was glad when they made it back to the castle.

Once in the Hospital Wing, Dumbledore found them uniforms and they drew curtains to change. Harry balled up his wet trousers and shirt, then scrubbed the last of the sand off the bottom of his feet. He pushed back his curtains and flopped onto his bed.

Dumbledore conjured a squashy armchair as Ginny moved her curtains. He lowered himself into it and wove his fingers together over his chest.

“When exactly did you wake up, Ginny?” Dumbledore asked.

“Um,” Ginny began. “I — Harry was reaching out to take my hand, I think. I — I don’t remember a lot.”

“You hadn’t yet touched her?” Dumbledore asked Harry.

Harry shook his head.

Dumbledore sighed faintly and drew from a fold in his robes a worn leather book. “I have deciphered more of Thaon’s diary. There are many passages containing no pertinent information, speaking merely of his own day or repeating old information; however, there are several that do contain news. One such passage I will read to you.”

Dumbledore flicked through the pages of the book and cleared his throat.

“The first day of the ninth month, in the year of our lord 1125. Eirene performed a magick on herself this morning. She is alive, but asleep and will not wake. I have tried everything, but she remains unconscious. I write this by her bedside, as she sleeps. Our nurse, Alasdair MacArthur, has promised to do his best, but he fears, as I do, that this might not be a sleep we can end. I fear it might not be a mere spell, but a potion. I curse myself for teaching it to her, yet Alasdair insists there was no way for me to predict she would use it on herself.

The Draught of Living Death is a complex potion, yet somehow Eirene must have brewed it. A simply spell could not have produced the effect that we are seeing in Eirene. I do not know what conditions she put into the potion for her awakening, or if she desires to wake at all. I fear that she has designed the potion to keep her in eternal sleep, never – It is time for the feast. I shall finish this later.”


Dumbledore turned the page and Harry and Ginny glanced at each other. She raised an eyebrow, he shrugged.

Dumbledore resumed. “Midnight has passed, making it the second day, but I am elated.” Ginny raised the other eyebrow. “I was required to be present at the Welcoming Feast for the students, but as the last of the new students entered the hall, one of them collapsed in the midst of the hall. Not that this was a good thing, but what happened later was. I assisted Tiberius in bringing the student, a boy about fifteen, to the medical wing for Alasdair to inspect. We laid him on a bed near Eirene’s and as Alasdair moved to check him for injuries, he surged up, and jumped away. He ran to Eirene, shouting aloud what Tiberius and Alasdair took to be nonsense, but I could understand. “My imagination!” he had shouted. “Impossible!” The boy froze before Eirene, simply staring down at her in shock. I explained what had happened to her, which alarmed the boy further.

“‘Is that why I could not hear her?” he asked me. “I thought I was just growing up, that I was growing out of it, but she’s here! She’s real!’

“I was just as confused at first, but then something seemed to click inside my mind. I asked the boy if he was a squire to a Saxon, and the boy answered yes, he served a knight who protected a monastery in Ireland. I asked him exactly what he meant by ‘hearing’ Eirene, and he answered, rather bashfully, that he had retained a fictional companion in his imagination and that my great-niece was this fictional companion, he was sure of it.

“‘Sir, I have loved her for a long time,” he answered. “But I was certain that I was merely creating a love for myself, since I was so lonely at the monastery. I thought she was my imagination.’

“This came as though music to my ears. I asked the boy to take her hand, just to see what would happen. The boy complied, but no sooner than his fingers touching hers, the boy bent and touched a kiss to her lips, gently and quickly. Eirene’s eyes opened, she gasped, and then slapped the boy. It was actually amusing, if I am entirely honest. The boy spluttered, let go of her hand, and backed away, as Eirene sat up. She seemed to have not noticed anyone but the boy, her face was shocked and disbelieving and there was a glimmer of hope in her eyes that I had not seen in such a long time.

“Eirene and the boy were silent a long time; they only stared into each other’s eyes, until finally she asked for his name. “Thomas,” he answered. She gave him her name, and Thomas’s face seemed to light up. The air around them was suddenly warm, in fact he was literally beginning to glow. Thomas took her hand again, and the dark circles beneath Eirene’s eyes seemed to erase themselves. I could practically see the cracks in her spirit mending, all her broken pieces coming back together. This was what I had been imagining: Two halves reuniting into one whole.”


Ginny looked at Harry with a thoughtful expression. Dumbledore looked up at them.

“This, I thought, was most important because Eirene was in an enchanted sleep and Thomas woke her up despite the fact that she had intended to not ever awaken. In the light of what happened this morning, I thought that the same thing might have happened. However, you say that you had not yet touched her when she awoke?”

Harry nodded again. “I was maybe a foot from her.”

Dumbledore ‘hmmed’ as he looked through the book again. He sighed and closed it, then tucked it back into his robes. “I must translate more to see if there is anything speaking of such a thing. I believe that it was a combination of Ginny’s resistance to such enchantments and your bond that caused her to wake before the proper time, but we will not be able to duplicate such a thing without drawing suspicion or risking further harm to your life, Ginny.”

“So what do we do?” Harry asked.

Dumbledore thought for a moment before answering. “We watch you, to see what side effects come up. Ginny, Madam Pomfrey wishes you to stay in the Hospital Wing four days so she may watch you; you will be excused from your lessons. Harry, I have convinced her to allow you to remain two days; on the third you will need to attend lessons but you may stay the night here. While Ginny has her final day, you will not be allowed to sleep here.”

Both Harry and Ginny nodded, then glanced at each other. Harry raised his eyebrows. Ginny narrowed hers.

They’re your dreams, he said.

I don’t like talking right now.

Seriously?


Harry sighed and turned back to the headmaster. “Sir, we have one more thing to tell you.”

Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “And that would be?”

Harry looked back at Ginny. She stuck her nose in the air. He sighed again. “Ginny doesn’t want to explain it. She’s been having these… dreams.”

“And what about these dreams, pray tell, makes them odd?”

“Well, they’ve been coming true…”

Dumbledore looked intrigued. “How so?”

“The first one she dreamt was about the Tournament, that I would be entered.”

“Indeed?”

“And the next one, actually a recurring one, was that she would be swimming in the Black Lake, and in two of those she dreamt that she would drown.”

Dumbledore furrowed his brow. “Indeed…” he repeated, more softly.

“While I was in that enchanted sleep,” Ginny spoke finally. “I had another dream. And this has been playing off bits and pieces that have appeared in my normal dreams throughout the year; I dreamt about a — a thing, something sentient but not quite human…” she trailed off, looking down at her lap.

“She thinks it might be Voldemort,” Harry said.

Dumbledore’s eyebrows shot up. “What makes you say that?”

“It — it’s really complicated,” Ginny said. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

Dumbledore drew his wand and conjured a small glass flask. “Ginny, there is an artifact called a Pensieve. It is a way to contain and replay memories. May I ask you to concentrate on the memories of these dreams and allow me to remove them from your mind?”

Ginny narrowed her eyes. “Remove them? How?”

“I will touch my wand to your temple,” Dumbledore said, holding out his wand, “you will focus on the memories, bring them to the forefront of your mind, and I will ‘capture’ them, you might say. A trace of them will remain in your mind, you will remember having those memories and the details, but you will not be able to recall the specifics of them. Do you consent?”

Ginny glanced at Harry and raised one eyebrow. He considered it, then shrugged. What’s the harm?

Ginny turned back to Dumbledore. “Yes, I consent.”

Dumbledore touched his wand to her temple. Ginny closed her eyes, then the headmaster’s wand tip began to glow.

“Do you have them all in mind?” Dumbledore asked. Ginny nodded. Dumbledore began to pull his wand away from her forehead. A strand of silver followed it; slowly, the strand broke and coagulated onto the wand tip. Dumbledore lowered his wand tip into the flask and the silver dripped from his wand.

“Thank you, Ginny,” Dumbledore said, stepping back. “I will examine these tonight and come back to you with my conclusions.”

As Dumbledore tucked the flask into his robes, the doors opened and Madam Pomfrey bustled in in a huff.

“Hungarians,” she grumbled, crossing the wing to Ginny’s bed. Dumbledore bowed his head and strode from the room. The matron began mumbling spells as she ran her wand over Ginny. Ginny turned to Harry and rolled her eyes.

“The Headmaster has insisted you be allowed to stay with Miss Weasley while she is recovering, Mr. Potter,” Madam Pomfrey said as she checked Ginny’s pulse, “so I must tell you that I have a no tolerance policy for shenanigans.”

Harry knit his eyebrows. Madam Pomfrey stared stonily at him.

She means you have to stay in your bed, Ginny thought.

Harry turned red and chose to focus his attention on his feet. His toenails needed clipping.

That’s disgusting, Harry.

Harry chose not to respond and tried to think of any spell that might clip them for him. He felt the need to hunch over as well and prop his head on his hand, resting his elbow on a knee. He flicked his gaze at her and she rolled her eyes.

“Yes, Madam Pomfrey,” Ginny said. Harry nodded, trying to avoid speaking as well. Madam Pomfrey huffed and strode away, muttering something about saltpeter.

Why, Harry?

What? I didn’t do anything! It’s a natural —

That is not what I was talking about, you were supposed to respond to Madam Pomfrey!

Oh.


Ginny sighed and flopped back on her pillows. Harry stayed hunched over for the moment. She’s not pleased with you.

Well, it’s not my fault!


Ginny shook her head and rolled over. I’m tired.

Harry glanced around the wing, then slipped off his bed and sat down by her. He awkwardly rubbed her shoulder. I’m sorry, Ginny. I never meant for any of this to happen.

I know. None of us guessed that it was a person that riddle was talking about.


Harry nodded vaguely. He heard a door and jumped up, quickly dropping onto his own bed. It wasn’t Madam Pomfrey, it was Hermione, Ron, George, Fred and Percy.

Hermione immediately went to hug Ginny while the four brothers stood there looking uncomfortably protective and rather awkward.

“We get to stay a few minutes before we have to go to lunch,” Hermione said. “Madam Pomfrey said you two would get to stay here the next few days, how’d you manage that?”

“Dumbledore,” Harry said simply.

“Of course,” George said.

“Genius man,” Fred responded.

“Lucky,” Ron grumbled. “You get two days off school.”

“I’ll make sure to take extra notes so you don’t miss anything,” Hermione said, looking between the two of them. “Ron, you should too.”

Ron looked at her like she had two heads. “What for? You’ll be copying down what the teacher says word for word anyway.”

Hermione pursed her lips and looked away from him. Ginny met her gaze and rolled her eyes, causing their bookish friend’s expression to soften.

"Time is up,” Madam Pomfrey called as she strode across the wing with trays of food floating in front of her. Hermione jumped up from the bed as Madam Pomfrey lowered a tray onto Ginny’s bed.

“You may visit again after the afternoon lessons,” the matron told the group with a stern look at Ron and Hermione in particular. They waved and said their goodbyes, then left the wing. Madam Pomfrey lowered a tray onto Harry’s bed, then took the last one to a bed across the hall, where another student was sleeping.

Watch out for saltpeter, Ginny thought.

Harry looked quizzically at her. She raised her eyebrows and smirked. He rolled his eyes and stabbed a spoon into a pile of mashed potatoes.

The rest of their day was extremely boring. After lunch, Madam Pomfrey gave Ginny a dreamless sleep potion and set a small, silver object on her nightstand. She told Harry it was a device to monitor her as she slept, and if anything went wrong, it would shriek very loudly. Harry reached out to pick it up as the matron was leaving and accidentally knocked it onto the floor, where it commenced to shriek very, very loudly. Madam Pomfrey was back by Ginny’s bed in a flash, righted the object and silenced it. She glared at Harry for half a minute before leaving again.

Ginny didn’t wake up until close to seven, but that was only because Madam Pomfrey shook her awake for dinner. She ate about half of what was on her plate then fell back against her pillows to sleep again. Harry almost asked for a sleeping potion himself, but considering that the matron seemed very miffed that evening he decided not to.

It took a long time for him to fall asleep that night. He got up more than once and simply walked around the wing, because it felt like his joints were literally itching. Around one a.m., he knelt down by Ginny’s bed and brushed her hair away from her face. She stirred faintly, but didn’t wake.

The next two days were dull and empty. They spent a large amount of time conversing mentally, discussing everything from her dreams to Quidditch scores. In the afternoon, Hermione and Ron came by, Hermione with homework, Ron with news of Hogwarts. Or rather gossip. Harry could not understand why Ron was fascinated by gossip, but it must have run in the family because Ginny hung on to his words.

The third day, Madam Pomfrey kicked Harry out of the wing before breakfast, insisting he eat in the Great Hall. He did, with resignation, then went to his classes. That day’s schedule consisted of Divination for himself and Ron and Arithmency for Hermione in the first period, History in the second, followed by lunch, then a double period of Herbology. Harry ran back during lunch to drop off Hermione’s notes from Arithmency and History with Ginny, stealing a quick kiss before Madam Pomfrey could shoo him away.

The fourth day was less empty. First period was Potions, where Snape had them brew a Sleeping Draught and Ron added too much lavender and heat, ending with Neville getting woozy from the fumes and spilling his own potion when he leaned over Ron’s cauldron. Curiously enough, Snape didn’t give either of them detention. He did take thirty points from Ron and another ten from Harry for not helping. It was strange, Harry thought. The Potions Master was being nearly docile. Second period was Defense, and Remus had them trying their Shield charm’s strength against the Jelly-legs Jinx. Harry’s was fairly strong, at least he thought until Ron and Hermione switched places and her jinx hit him squarely in the stomach. Third period they had Transfiguration, and the day ended with another History lesson.

As Ginny’s fourth day in the hospital wing came to an end, Harry waited in the common room for Ron and Hermione to return from dinner. Dumbledore had asked him to stay out of the hospital wing that evening while Madam Pomfrey performed one last checkup on Ginny. He had also asked if they had felt any differences in their bond since then, but the answer had been no.

Harry did feel anxious for some reason. He had spent almost every minute with Ginny the past three days, but that day he hadn’t even been able to visit her for more than two minutes during lunch, due to Hermione’s insistence that they visit the library so she could pick up a stack of books on Shield charms. Now, with her conspicuous absence, something didn’t feel quite right.

You should have told Dumbledore that, Ginny thought.

I know, he replied. But I don’t know what’s wrong. How was I supposed to tell him what’s happening when I don’t know what that is?

Ginny huffed mentally. You should have said at least that you were worried about nothing.

Harry shrugged. He caught movement in the portrait hole out of the corner of his eye and turned to see who it was. It was just Dean and Seamus; they were laughing about something. They waved to him as they crossed the common room and he waved back.

How about we discuss something else? Harry asked Ginny.

Ginny ‘hmm’ed in her mind. How about what might be wrong?

Or about today’s Defense lesson! Remus is really drilling those Shield charms into us, isn’t he?

Isn’t that a 5th year spell?
Ginny asked.

I think it might be. But, hey, pretty much everyone is getting it.

Harry felt her nodding. Remus is doing good. They rested in silence a moment, then Ginny thought: How’s Snape doing?

I can’t tell. He didn’t do much today; just wrote the recipe on the blackboard and had us go at it.

I think it’s odd that he didn’t take many points or even give a detention.

He took 30 points from Ron for what happened to Neville and 10 from me for just being there!

But considering he usually takes upwards of 50 points from Gryffindor…

True,
Harry replied with a sigh.

The portrait hole opened again, and this time it was Ron and Hermione. Harry waved to them before Ginny replied.

I think something is wrong with him.

What do you care?
Harry asked. He’s not giving us detention for no reason and not taking a hundred points from Gryffindor each lesson. I think there’s finally something right with him.

Ron and Hermione dropped onto the couch on either side of Harry.

“What’s up?” Hermione asked.

“Ginny thinks there’s something wrong with Snape,” Harry said.

“She’s right,” Hermione replied with a sigh.

“She is?” both Ron and Harry said.

“He’s depressed,” Hermione continued. “I asked Professor McGonagall about him after Transfiguration, and she told me that his mother died on Christmas. That was why he was gone last semester; he was taking care of her.”

Harry and Ron exchanged looks of shock.

“Snape has a mother?” Ron said with disbelief in his voice.

Hermione glared at him. “Of course he does; he had to be born somehow.”

“But she died?” Harry repeated. “On Christmas day?”

Hermione nodded. “Professor McGonagall told me she had some terminal illness. Probably cancer.”

Harry looked back at Ron with raised eyebrows. “Wow,” he said softly.

I hate to say this, but I’m almost sorry for the git, Ginny thought.

Harry tried not to snort. Hermione frowned, then she rolled her eyes. “You two,” she muttered, getting up and walking away. Ron looked confused for a moment, then he shrugged and looked at Harry.

“Wanna play some chess?” he asked.

Harry inhaled deeply. “Well, you won’t be challenged at all.”

“That’s all right, Harry, maybe you’ll learn a thing or two.”

Harry chuckled as Ron got off the couch. “I’ll go grab my set.”

“Let’s play upstairs, there are too many people in here,” Harry said. Ron frowned.

“There’s only a few,” he said.

“Well, there’ll be more in a minute.”

Ron shrugged and turned towards the stairs. As they mounted them, the portrait hole opened and a gaggle of girls entered the common room. Ron glanced at them then kept going.

About an hour later, Harry lost three times and was rapidly spiraling into a fourth loss. Ron had just taken his queen and had put him in check when his lungs decided to stop working.

His hand shook as his fingers hovered over the king to move it away from Ron’s queen. His stomach flipped over and stirred with nausea. Harry opened his mouth, but he couldn’t force air out either. Ron looked at him quizzically.

“What’s the matter, mate?” he said. Harry shook his head, trying to suck in air, but his diaphragm refused to budge. Instead, his chest tightened. He looked around; the walls were suddenly pressed against him. The ceiling was lower than it should have been, and it was getting closer. Harry opened and closed his mouth; no air would cross his lips. He clapped his hands to his neck, maybe the gills had returned, but his neck was smooth.

“Harry?” Ron asked, shifting so he sat on his knees. “What’s the matter?”

Harry’s vision got splotchy. The ceiling was too close; it was pushing him against the ground. The walls; the walls were stopping him from breathing, that was it. He needed to get away from the walls.

Harry stumbled to his feet, scattering the chess pieces. They screamed in protest, but it sounded distant to Harry. The room swam before him; he staggered towards the door, then tripped over Neville’s trunk. Ron had shot to his feet and was by his side, saying something but Harry couldn’t hear it. His brain hurt from not having oxygen.

Something hit him in the back very, very hard. He coughed suddenly and violently, and air was forced into his lungs. Harry drew in a ragged breath, then the walls squeezed his chest again. There was faint shouting in the room, and whatever it was hit his back again. He coughed, and once again air was forced into him. A face swam before him; taller than him and darker. The face had arms attached to it; it pulled Harry forward and out of the dormitory. The walls pressed against Harry’s chest; the darker person dragged Harry down stairs and pushed him into a high ceilinged, spacious room. Then his back was hit again, and he coughed. Then he could draw in a gasp of breath, then another, then another. The spots faded.

“What’s the matter with him?” he heard an Irish voice saying.

“Claustrophobia,” said the figure before Harry. Harry drew in another wheezing breath; the walls were still just too close, but his lungs were stronger now. His vision steadied and he realized it was Dean in front of him, and that he had been clapping Harry on the back to force him to cough.

“What?” Ron’s voice. Ron came into sight; he gripped Harry’s shoulder with a hand. Harry pushed him off, stumbling farther into the room.

“Don’t touch him,” Dean said. “He needs to get over it.”

“What?” Ron said. “Get over what?”

“The claustrophobia,” Dean answered. Harry turned around and faced his roommates. Dean looked serious; Ron and Seamus were both confused. Then he noticed Neville, who looked scared.

“I — I — I’m not —” Harry stuttered. They all looked at him then. His tongue felt awkwardly large in his mouth suddenly. “I’m not — I’m not claustro —”

“Claustrophobic?” Dean said. “Clearly, you are.”

Harry shook his head. “But — but I’ve never — never before —”

Dean shrugged. “It happens like that. My little sister has it, probably worse than you, and she gets episodes all the time. Random, no trigger, they just happen.”

Harry opened his mouth and closed it several times. “But — but this never happened —“

Ron stepped forward and held out a hand. “Are you okay now?” he asked.

Harry tried to say yes. He would be okay in just a minute, once he got his breath back. He was okay; there was nothing wrong.

Empty laughter rang through his skull. Harry’s felt suddenly cold.

“Ginny,” he muttered.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


Time was running out. He had to decode the damn book in just a few weeks, then begin the spell. It was almost March, but the spell and the potion both needed to be finished before June 24th. He had so little time; the damned book was resisting him. He had tried every decoding spell and every combination, every key, every random thought that crossed his brain that might crack the code, but nothing was working. It was as if the author had known every method he might use to crack it, and had installed safe-guards in the very binding of the book just to foil him. And while not breaking the code would be good for the Wizarding World at large, he had to break it; he had to prepare the spell and the potion. His wife’s life depended on it.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


Harry shoved himself out of the portrait hole with four voices calling after him. The cold, cruel laughter was echoing still through his brain, but it wasn’t loud enough to drown out the sound of Ginny’s mind on overload. The hallways were barely wide enough for him to squeeze through, and his lungs, his lungs; they kept seizing up as the corridors got narrower and narrower. The ceiling hung low over his head, and Harry stooped so it would crush him, but with every inch he bent down, the ceiling would get closer still. His brain screamed for air, his lungs screamed for space, and Ginny screamed. Ginny screamed.

Hands gripped Harry’s arm and pulled him off the ground. Harry hadn’t even noticed that he had fallen; he had just begun crawling on. He looked over and saw Ron pulling his arm over his shoulders. A wave of gratitude hit Harry. Ron probably had no clue what was going on.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Ginny,” Harry rasped.

“In the Hospital Wing?”

“Go!”

“All right, all right,” Ron grumbled. He and Harry moved forward like some grotesque, squeezed tight three-legged race. One whose track got smaller and smaller with each step. Harry struggled to inflate his lungs, then he felt a hand slap him on the back and he was forced to cough. He saw Dean jogging beside them, one hand on Harry’s back. He smiled weakly at him, then he had to shut his eyes tightly because of the screaming. She wouldn’t stop screaming. It wasn’t Ginny; her screams were louder and yet silent. This woman, she screamed and screamed in Harry’s ear. She screamed one word: “Mercy! Mercy! MERCY!” over and over right behind him. Ginny screamed in his mind; she screamed in his ear; he needed the screaming to stop.

Ron and Dean pushed open the doors to the Hospital Wing. Harry hadn’t even noticed that they had gone down the stairs, but they were there. He stumbled forward, pulling his arm away from Ron. Ginny seemed silent, but she was still screaming in Harry’s mind. The other woman’s screaming had faded to a whimper, and he could tell that there was more than one voice now. How many exactly, he didn’t care just then. Ginny was crying, and he was still laughing.

Harry dropped to his knees by Ginny’s bed. She was sitting with her knees pulled to her chest, her face resting on them and covered by her hair. His ears heard only faint whispers, but her mind was in such turmoil. He was still laughing.

Harry touched her arm. Ginny sniffled and looked up. She met his eyes and there was horror in hers.

“What happened?” she whispered.

“I have no idea,” Harry said.

“I was asleep,” she said, her gaze drifting away. “Madam Pomfrey gave me another Dreamless Sleep Potion, but I dreamt anyway. There was a man,” Ginny suddenly grabbed Harry’s hand. “A man, he’s trying to break something but it’s not working and if he doesn’t they’ll kill his — his something, I don’t remember —”

“Harry has severe claustrophobia,” Dean piped up helpfully.

“You what?” Ginny said, her attention jerking back to Harry.

“Er, yeah, I s’pose,” Harry mumbled.

Ginny frowned. You think that you’ve got severe claustrophobia and you’re worried about me?

Harry shrugged. You were screaming?

I wasn’t screaming.

Yes you were, I heard you. Mentally.


Ginny bit her lip. I was screaming?

Harry nodded. He — he was laughing…

Ginny’s hand drifted to her left arm. I don’t remember…

Harry took her hand and squeezed it. Your mind was pretty freaked out. Think it was that dream that triggered it?

Ginny shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know,” she said softly.

“Should I get someone?” Ron asked. Ginny looked up at him; her eyes unfocused a moment, then sharpened and she held out her arms. Ron frowned. He glanced between Harry and Dean, then hesitantly stepped forward and embraced Ginny. She buried her face in his shoulder, and whispered something. Harry didn’t hear with his ears what she said, but he knew what it was.

“You-Know-Who’s coming back.”

Ron’s face drained of blood. He stepped back with his face slack. Ginny glanced at Dean, then mouthed ‘later.’ Ron nodded, his brow furrowing.

“What is going on here?”

All four of them turned to see Madam Pomfrey hurrying from her office as she hastily tied her dressing gown. Her hair was falling from its braid and her eyes looked gummed from sleep.

“Err,” Harry said.

“Uhhh,” Ron added.

“Hi,” Dean said squeakily.

Ginny rolled her eyes.

Madam Pomfrey looked with irritation between all three boys. “It is nearly ten o’clock; explain yourselves!”

“Er, well, you see,” Ron began.

“Harry was — he was kind of feeling squished —” Dean stammered.

“I’m claustrophobic?” Harry finished.

Madam Pomfrey did not look satisfied. “Unless there is something wrong with you, all three of you boys must return to your dormitories immediately!”

“Harry threw up,” Ginny said.

All three boys looked at her with confusion. Then, in unison, they understood, and looked back to Madam Pomfrey with nods and attempts to look like this was not new information. Harry had felt nauseous, so it wasn’t much of a stretch.

Madam Pomfrey narrowed her eyes. “You did?” she asked Harry. He nodded again.

Madam Pomfrey sighed and stepped forward. She pressed her fingers to his forehead, frowned, then pressed the back of her hand against it. She drew her wand and touched it to his neck. Her eyebrows shot up.

“Your temperature is 89 degrees,” she whispered.

Harry’s eyebrows rose. “I don’t feel cold,” he said. Madam Pomfrey snapped her fingers and a blanket soared off a shelf beside her. She took it out of the air and wrapped it around his shoulders. “Lay down here, Potter,” she said, pointing to the bed beside Ginny’s. He pushed himself up and dropped onto the bed.

“You two, thank you for bringing him,” the matron said to Dean and Ron. “I will call Minerva to take you back to your dormitory.”

“Uh, is 89 degrees bad?” Ron asked.

“Bordering hypothermia,” Madam Pomfrey said. “Wait here, Potter, I will be right back.”

She bustled past Harry’s friends and entered her office. Harry and Ginny met eyes.

You’ve got hypothermia, she thought.

Bordering it, he said.

Ginny shook her head. She didn’t even check me.

She will when she gets back.

I look fine.

You look like you’ve seen a ghost.

The Gray Lady passed through here about half an hour ago.

Well, then the kind you weren’t expecting.


Ginny shrugged.

Madam Pomfrey returned and held out a steaming glass to Harry. He groaned. “Not a Pepper-up Potion!”

“Yes, a Pepper-up Potion,” Madam Pomfrey said. “With a Nausea remedy in it.”

Harry took the glass and sniffed it cautiously. It smelled like ginger. He took an even more cautious sip and grimaced. It tasted like she had poured ginger ale into a glass of pepper stew.

“Drink,” she insisted. Then she turned to Ron and Dean with stern looks. “You should have summoned Professor McGonagall to begin with,” she said, “however I am grateful you brought him to me.”

“He had a really bad episode of claustrophobia,” Dean said. “That’s why we brought him down here —” Ron elbowed him —“ aside from the vomiting,” he added.

Madam Pomfrey pursed her lips. “There is no cure for an ailment of the mind. I will speak to Professor Dumbledore about it if you wish, though, Potter.”

Harry shrugged his shoulders. “It —”

We should talk to him.

“— would be good,” he finished.

Madam Pomfrey nodded, glancing at Ginny. Then she knit her eyebrows together and looked back at her. “Miss Weasley, are you feeling all right?”

Ginny nodded vaguely.

You are most certainly not all right, Ginny.

You heard her; there’s no cure for an ailment of the mind.


Harry looked at his feet. He wasn’t wearing shoes or socks.

Madam Pomfrey nodded slowly. She stepped up to her and touched her forehead; she frowned then touched her wand to her neck.

“What in the name of Merlin?” she whispered.

“What?” Ginny asked.

“You have the exact same temperature as Mr. Potter,” said the matron softly.

Ginny and Harry met eyes. That’s weird, she said.

You feel cold?

Nope.

Neither did I.


Madam Pomfrey summoned another blanket with a snap of her fingers, then after wrapping it around Ginny, she hurried back into her office. As she did, the doors to the wing opened again and McGonagall entered the hall followed by Dumbledore, Sirius and Remus.

What are they doing here? Harry thought.

Beats me, Ginny thought as she yawned. Harry pulled his blanket tighter around his shoulders and stared in curious confusion at them.

“Poppy?” McGonagall called.

“Here,” Madam Pomfrey answered, coming back out of her office. She didn’t look twice at the co-teachers of Defense Against the Dark Arts or the Headmaster. She strode to Ginny’s bedside with another steaming glass and handed the potion to her. Ginny grimaced and took a gulp.

“What happened?” Sirius asked hoarsely.

Ginny narrowed her eyes, taking in his unkempt appearance as well as Remus’s haggard one.

"Both of these students have low temperatures,” Madam Pomfrey said. “Both exactly at 89 degrees.”

“Fahrenheit?” said Remus.

“Yes,” Madam Pomfrey said, looking back at Ginny and Harry. “Mr. Potter has apparently also had a bout of nausea and claustrophobia.”

“Claustrophobia…” Dumbledore repeated softly. Madam Pomfrey nodded.

“How do they have the exact same temperature?” Dean asked. “Isn’t that statistically improbable?”

Harry raised an eyebrow at his friend. Since when had he used words like improbable and known what the statistics of matching temperatures were?

Ginny caught his eye and shrugged hopelessly.

“Very improbable,” Professor Dumbledore agreed. “But coincidences do happen.”

Professor McGonagall cleared her throat. “I will take Mr. Thomas and Mr. Weasley back to Gryffindor Tower. Poppy.” McGonagall inclined her head to Madam Pomfrey then beckoned to Ron and Dean. Ron waved at them as McGonagall led them away.

Professor Dumbledore watched them go, then turned back to the matron as the door shut behind them. “Poppy, you recall the talk I had with you a few days ago about Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley’s conditions?”

Poppy’s eyes narrowed. “Only that you were unwilling to give me many details.”

Dumbledore sighed. “Well, if what I suspect is true, this might occur more frequently in the future, so therefore you should know.”

Dumbledore then turned away and drew his wand. He waved it through the air towards the door, then turned it on each window, the entrance to Madam Pomfrey’s office, and the only other occupied bed. He gestured for Remus and Sirius to step closer to Harry’s bed as he himself stepped forward, and moved his wand in a slow circle over their heads.

“That should prevent our voices from carrying,” Professor Dumbledore said as he tucked his wand back into his robes. He clasped his hands together and rested them on his chest. “Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley are what you might call connected.”

“How so?” Madam Pomfrey asked. “And what do you mean that this might happen more frequently?”

“How so, you ask, I answer with this: They have a soul bond,” Dumbledore replied. “And why this situation might occur again, I believe it might —”

Madam Pomfrey raised a hand to cut him off. “Soul bond?” she repeated. “They are bonded?”

Professor Dumbledore nodded. “The first pair bonded as tightly as they are in my own lifetime that I know of. There are others who have a much looser bond that attend Hogwarts as we speak, but as far as I can tell there has not been a pair bonded so closely since the end of the Dark Age.”

Madam Pomfrey’s eyebrows shot up. “Soul bond?” she repeated once more. “As in, they share each other’s souls?”

Dumbledore nodded. “Two souls shared equally between two bodies.”

Madam Pomfrey touched a hand to her chest. “Oh my,” she whispered. “So — so on Friday, when she nearly drowned —had he not given her mouth to mouth as they were swimming —”

“Had she not survived, Mr. Potter would have either died or lost his mind,” Dumbledore said solemnly.

Harry met Ginny’s eyes. He hadn’t realized that, and by the look on her face, neither had she. He held out his hand, and Ginny stretched hers out as well. The beds were just close enough for their fingers to curl around each other.

Madam Pomfrey looked stunned. “A soul bond,” she whispered.

“Yes, but what about this happening more often?” Remus asked.

Dumbledore withdrew the worn leather journal of Thaon Kyrillos. “I translated more, and by accident I translated an account from several years later, one detailing an experiment involving two of Thaon’s students, who, incidentally, were bound even tighter than his niece and her squire.”

Madam Pomfrey looked confused. Dumbledore met her eyes and smiled. “I shall explain the journal later, Poppy. Anyway, the experiment consisted of the separation of the pair, for only nine hours. By the end of that nine hours, both were violently ill, the man had lost all his balance and the woman had begun to see and hear things to the point where she lost control of her magic in her irrational fear. According to Thaon, she nearly destroyed the North Tower in her hysteria, and her bond-mate wrecked the corridors going from the West Wing to the North Tower with his inability to move in a straight line.”

Ginny snorted. Harry shot her a look. It’s not funny!

She smiled sheepishly. It just sounds like they were drunk, she thought. Harry’s look of scorn intensified.

Dumbledore cleared his throat. Ginny sobered as quickly as she could.

Sobered. Heh.

Shush!


Dumbledore looked down at the journal. “The point is, Thaon describe what he thought were the four levels of soul bond. The first level appeared to be that of a pair that simply clicked without any effort but could separate for years at a time. The second was the same though the separation period seemed to be shortened to months. The third he thought of as his niece and her squire; very emotionally connected, and able to separate for only a few weeks, though it eventually shortened to a few days. They experienced physical and some emotional pain when forced to separate, but again, the shortest was only a few days. The fourth level was the same as the two in the experiment, those who could not bear mere hours away from each other.”

Dumbledore met Harry’s eyes. “When was the last time you had physical contact with Ginny?”

“Around 1:30,” he answered.

“And when did the claustrophobia first begin?”

“Errr…” Harry said. “Around 9 or 9:30, I think.”

“Eight hours,” Dumbledore murmured. “This… might prove to be problematic…”

“How so?” Remus asked.

“If they begin to feel violently ill after eight hours of separation, then their sleep would be disturbed,” Dumbledore said. “For their age, they require up to 10 hours of sleep each night, and now they cannot leave each other for more than eight.”

“They won’t get enough sleep?” Sirius said. He sounded a little incredulous. “This worries you more than the fact that for some reason they have eight hours apart when a few days ago they could handle more than two weeks?”

Dumbledore frowned at Sirius. “Their immediate physical health is my first concern. What caused this must come after.”

Sirius clenched his jaw and did not reply. Dumbledore looked back to Madam Pomfrey. “Please, allow the beds to be moved closer together so they may have contact as they sleep. Clearly, they need to learn to hold hands now.”

All eyes snapped to Harry and Ginny and their clasped hands. Harry turned pink.

“Of course,” Madam Pomfrey said. She flicked her wand and Harry’s bed shifted a foot to the left. It was easier to hold Ginny’s hand now.

“Thank you,” Dumbledore said. “They should remain here tonight, and in the morning we will discuss the problem of their sleep.” He inclined his head to Madam Pomfrey and turned to leave.

“Wait!” Ginny said.

Dumbledore stopped.

“I had another dream,” she blurted.

Dumbledore’s eyebrows knit together. Sirius, Remus and the matron looked confused.

“What occurred in your dream?” the Headmaster asked.

“A man is trying to break a book,” Ginny began. “It has a spell of some kind that will help You-Know-Who.”

The other three adults looked to Dumbledore with greater confusion. Dumbledore looked apprehensive.

“He is trying to break a book?” Dumbledore asked.

“A code,” Ginny corrected herself. “It’s encoded, and the writer made the code extremely difficult to break so he’s worried that he won’t be able to get it in time for — for something.”

“I see,” Dumbledore mused. “Was there anything else?”

“It was written in a weird language,” Ginny said. “I heard him muttering something about it being so weird that he could almost guess where the author was from.”

Dumbledore nodded slowly. “It was a specific dialect.”

“Yes,” Ginny said.

“And that is all you remember?”

Ginny bit her lip. “He — he has to do this,” she said. “He’s trying to save something precious to him. He feels guilty, but he has to do it. Whatever it is.”

Dumbledore nodded again. “Thank you, Miss Weasley. I will work on this new information.”

Back to index


Chapter 23: Chapter 23: Happy Birthday, Say Goodbye to Childhood

Chapter Twenty-Three: The Goblet of Fire Part Ten
Happy Birthday, Say Goodbye To Childhood
Ginny


Eight hours.

Ginny was at first worried that this would seriously interrupt their sleeping schedules. Dumbledore was right; they both needed around 10 hours of sleep each night and she did enjoy sleep, however he underestimated how much time they spent on homework. As it was, both of them usually went to bed after eleven and Ginny woke Harry up before seven. So they didn’t need the specially charmed watches that Dumbledore gave them except on the weekends, but even then they went to bed after eleven and Harry woke Ginny up before eight. The watches themselves were good as Harry’s had broken when he went into the lake and Ginny didn’t have one. They were charmed to detect the presence of the other watch, and when they parted, the watches began a countdown of seven and a half hours, so that when it reached the end, they began vibrating and beeping loudly until they were reunited. One night, Harry left his watch in his room all day and Ginny’s went off in the middle of dinner. Ginny threatened to use a Permanent Sticking Charm on Harry’s watch in the future, but he promised not to leave it off again. Fortunately, their internal clocks did a good job of getting them up before the watches went off.

And so proceeded March. They got enough sleep to get by, and every Saturday afternoon they escaped Hermione’s homework plans to nap for a few hours. It helped that Harry didn’t have Quidditch practice and Oliver getting him up at four a.m. every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

April was no different. The weather got better, brighter and warmer, and the homework level got drearier, heavier, and harder. Ginny began looking forward more and more to her naps on Saturday with Harry, sheltered under a willow tree near the lake. Snape got more and more irritable, and began giving out weekly detentions again. Ginny thought he was picking on her and Harry more than the other Gryffindors, but the man had no regular schedule as to who got detention each lesson so she couldn’t prove it.

In Defense, Remus and Sirius had fallen into a smooth, synchronous pattern, demonstrating the new counter-hexes and jinxes and mock dueling each other with ease. Remus kept the classes on focus and Sirius kept it interesting. Ginny had learned more than twenty new defensive spells that semester alone, and each of them she was sure would be useful. Remus even taught his female students gentle but effective spells to use against over-insistent males. Ginny was sure she saw more than two girls look relieved at the end of that lesson.

While Potions was getting worse and Defense was getting awesome, Ginny’s other classes were getting tougher. In Transfiguration, McGonagall was giving them not only spells but the theory behind them. While she found magical theory fascinating, Ginny didn’t particularly enjoy sitting through an hour of why the Color Changing charm worked differently on animals than humans. Hermione, of course, found it enrapturing. They were getting the same deal in Charms, though the theory in this case was a little more interesting. It was a good thing Hermione was taking extensive notes because even Ginny found it hard to write down every point the professor made, and Ron used lecture hours as naptime.

In Care of Magical Creatures, Hagrid took ‘care’ to a new level by giving them all a new pet to keep for a week long assignment. Ginny’s wasn’t too bad, Hagrid gave her a Crup — a Terrier like creature with a forked tail — but others had worse pets. Draco Malfoy got a Jarvey, which Harry, Ron, and Ginny all found absolutely hilarious. The ferret looking creature even begun a huge list of foul names to describe the blonde Slytherin the instant Hagrid had turned away. Malfoy was disgusted, to say the least. Ron only stopped laughing when Hagrid gave him a caged Clabbert.

Arithmency got into more difficult equations. Divination made less and less sense as Trelawney became less and less focused. Astronomy lessons seemed to get longer as Professor Sinestra began teaching them the legends behind each constellation. Only the random showers accredited to April made her lessons halt.

April ended finally and Ginny suddenly realized that she was nearly fifteen the way one does when childhood is nearly spent. It was both sobering and almost depressing as it meant that she was nearly grown up, nearly an adult. When she looked in the mirror on the morning of May first, she wondered when it was that she had gotten tall? When had she gotten hips? When was it that she had begun filling her shirts more? It wasn’t that she hadn’t really noticed these things before, but they had never really registered. Really, what was the matter was that only a few months ago she had been slim, not curvy. She had had rounder cheeks, lighter eyes; even her hands now looked somehow older. Not only was she getting older, but she was growing up. She wasn’t a kid anymore.

And it wasn’t just her. As she walked down to the common room, she slowed to watch Harry and Ron talking with Neville. When had Ron gotten taller than Harry? When had Harry gotten taller than Neville? When had Neville gotten taller than her? How did she not notice Ron’s broader shoulders, Harry’s squarer jaw? She should have seen that even Neville was thinning out. Ginny walked over to them and Ron and Neville waved before continued their talk. Harry took her hand and kissed her knuckles briefly before going back to the conversation. Ginny studied Harry’s hand in hers, how the bones were more present against his skin and how his forearm was lined with soft, pale hairs. Her gaze drifted up his arm, to his shoulders and how his chest seemed more proportionate to them even though they’d gotten wider. How had she not noticed that they were growing up?

This strange, sad but somehow warm feeling remained with her during the week, and she found herself studying Harry’s frame more and more often. He’d caught her a couple times and blushed, but never asked why until the night before her birthday. They were seated on a couch in the common room watching Ron spectacularly beat Hermione at chess, or rather Harry was. Ginny was staring into deep space, watching his fingers lazily caress the back of her hand.

What’s up? he asked.

Ginny shrugged. I don’t know. I’m just…

A few hours away from turning fifteen?


Ginny nodded. That’s it. I feel like I’m growing up.

Harry chuckled softly. Well, you are!

Shut up, that’s not what I meant.

You’re missing the good old days when you could make mud pies in the backyard and your mum would only scold you because you tracked muck all over the kitchen and when you could act like nothing in the world was going wrong because you thought that was true.


Ginny nodded. We’re growing up.

But we’re not grown up yet,
Harry thought. We’ve got a few years before your mum starts casually mentioning every Sunday dinner that she likes the idea of grandchildren.

Ginny groaned. Oh, lord above, let that never happen. Let Bill hurry up and get married and have children quickly so she never pesters me!

Harry laughed softly again.

“Harry, you’re laughing aloud again,” Ron murmured as he took Hermione’s last rook.

Harry waved dismissively in Ron’s direction. “Leave us alone and checkmate Hermione already.”

Ron looked like he was going to reply, but Hermione moved her bishop and he had to stop so he could explain for the third time that she couldn’t because it would put her king in check from his queen.

I think you’ll be okay, Harry thought. You’re only turning fifteen, after all.

Ginny bit her lip but nodded. Can I just stop? Can we just go back to being kids again so we can randomly fall asleep together all the time and not have anyone freak out cause I might magically sprout a freshly grown human?

Harry had to bite his finger to keep from laughing. Err, I’m not sure how we would go about doing that…

I mean, Mum sent me a letter last week regaling how often her birth control potions failed on her and that she really wants me to be careful but she worded everything like an eight year old was going to read it. It was ridiculous and horrible at the same time.

I’m going to think of something different now.

She literally told me that she doubted infertility potions worked with Weasley genes!
Ginny thought. Though I find that reasonable, couldn’t she wait until I was a little older? Like twenty-five? I might be better about hearing that stuff then!

Harry surreptitiously crossed his legs. Ginny knit her eyebrows a second then snorted. Harry smacked her arm. Shut up, he thought. This is not funny.

It so is. Guys’ biology is ridiculous.

Well, you shed your uterus every month!

More like the lining of it, but that’s so not as silly as random —


“What?” Hermione shouted. “I thought I took your knight!”

“No, that was my white bishop,” Ron said. “Another game?”

Ginny shook her head as Hermione pouted over the checkmate. Honestly, Ron could have beaten her over half an hour ago. He was going soft in his old age.

Your brother is barely five minutes older than you.

Ginny smacked Harry’s chest, then lay her head on it and closed her eyes.

Her birthday was a Wednesday, and unfortunately full of her least favorite classes. The morning started with a double period of Potions, after lunch she had to part ways with her boyfriend and twin for Arithmency, then the day ended with a daytime session of Astronomy, where Professor Sinestra quizzed them about the moons of Saturn.

At the end of the day, she and Ron dropped into chairs near the fire and faced Harry and Hermione, who were bearing gifts; in Hermione’s case like it was a box of Blast-Ended Skrewts.

“We would like to wish you a formal happy birthday,” Harry said. Ginny rolled her eyes; Harry had been saying — no, shouting happy birthday in her mind all day. Hermione nodded, but she wouldn’t look at Ron. Ginny glanced at her brother, who was staring at his lap.

Git, she thought.

Hush! Harry scolded. He cleared his throat and held up the two boxes in his hands. “So, I’ll go first. Here.” He handed one box to Ron and one to Ginny.

Ginny elbowed Ron. He looked up, then narrowed his eyes. She narrowed hers. Ron held the box to his ear and gave it a light shake. Ginny ran her fingers over the wrapping.

Then they ripped through the paper.

“Oh, mate!” Ron said, almost in a moan, as he lifted out the pristine, soft leather Keepers gloves. “How’d you know?”

“You tacked that page from Quidditch Monthly to your bed,” Harry said, quirking an eyebrow. “I figured that was for a reason.”

Ginny shook her head as she opened her box. Then she gasped. “Why, you little —”

Harry cut her off with a laugh. “You like ‘em?”

Ginny narrowed her gaze at him. “I did my best to keep that from your sticky little fingers,” she said. “How’d you figure it out?”

Harry shrugged. “I guess I’m just good at reading your mind.”

Ron rolled his eyes, then peered into her box. “Did you get us the same thing?” he said.

Ginny shook her head. “You have Keepers gloves. I have Chasers gloves.” She picked up one and pressed it to her face, inhaling the sweet smell of the leather. “You really are good at reading my mind,” she said to Harry. Even Hermione rolled her eyes. Harry grinned and shrugged.

Hermione cleared her throat. Ginny set down the glove and looked at her. She held up the two boxes in her hand, but she was still looking downward. One box was aimed towards Ginny, and the other wasn’t.

“You didn’t have to get me anything,” Ron said quietly.

“Take it,” she said. “Before I change my mind.”

Ginny took hers, because it was Ron’s pride between him and Hermione just then. She looked at Ron expectantly. Ron worried the edge of his lip as he thought. Hermione glanced up, her face turned pink, and she looked down at her lap again. Ron took the box.

Ginny smirked. Ron elbowed her this time, but she only smirked more. They ripped away the paper and opened the inner boxes.

“Oh, Hermione!” Ginny said. “This is lovely!” She lifted the thick book from its box; its brown surface was embroidered, and small pieces colored glass and seashells were pressed into it. There was a tree, with leaves made of blue and green and yellow glass, but its trunk was made of thread words; sweet, precious, kind, important, warm, and other beautiful adjectives. The shells formed the soil the roots were planted in, and pink, red and orange glass made up a sun-streaked sky behind the tree.

“That’s really pretty,” Harry agreed. “Where’d you get it?”

“A friend of my mum’s makes them,” Hermione said. “Special journals, dream diaries, yearly planners, things like that.”

Ginny reached across the couch to hug her friend. “Thank you,” she said.

“You’re welcome,” Hermione murmured. Ginny looked to Ron, who still hadn’t unwrapped his present.

“Go on,” she said.

Ron tore at a corner. He glanced at Hermione, then slit open the end of the paper. He unwrapped the box and opened it. He lifted up and shook out a red and gold scarf with ends folded over to make pockets, tasseled, and his name stitched into one pocket.

“Uh, wow,” he said.

“I meant to give it to you at Christmas, but…” Hermione trailed off. Then she stood up and hurried away up the stairs to the girls’ dorm. Ron half rose from his seat, then sunk back down. He looked down at the scarf in his lap with an expression that wasn’t quite as happy as it had been a moment before.

“I’m an idiot,” he muttered.

“Tell us something we don’t know,” Ginny replied.

Ron shot her a dirty look. “Oh, shut up.” He stuffed the scarf into the box, grabbed his new Quidditch gloves, then strode upstairs to his dorm.

“I’ll talk to him,” Harry said. “You talk to Hermione?”

Ginny nodded. “I’ll come back down to say goodnight,” she said.

“Good. I’ve got one more thing for you.”

Ginny smiled as she picked up her things, then pecked his cheek and started up the stairs. She found Hermione sitting on her bed, knitting what looked like a hat but it was very lumpy so she wasn’t sure. She sat down on her own bed, setting the book and the gloves beside her, and watched her friend knit.

“I’m best with scarves,” Hermione mumbled after a minute.

“Did you make the one you gave to Ron?”

She nodded. “Took me three months.”

Ginny pulled her legs up onto the bed beneath her. “It was very lovely.”

Hermione nodded again. “I wanted to give it to him at Christmas, but then the thing at the Ball happened and I never did. I enchanted the name into the pocket, so I couldn’t take it out and give it to someone else. I figured it would just be best to give it to him.”

“Ron feels horrible, you know.”

“Well, so did I,” Hermione grumbled.

“He’s thick, ‘Mione,” Ginny said. “He doesn’t know anything about girls, and he does like you, which makes it worse.”

“Well, screw him, then,” Hermione sighed. “He’s been so clueless for months.”

“He’s been clueless for years,” Ginny corrected. “You knew that; you know it. Never stopped you from falling for him.”

Hermione looked down at the lumpy hat in her lap. “God,” she mumbled. “This is horrible.”

Ginny slipped off of her bed and sat beside her friend. She wrapped her arms around and rested her head on her shoulder. “I know, luv.”

“Your boyfriend can read your mind,” Hermione hissed.

“My brother can’t.”

Hermione fell silent.

You two all right?

Hush, Harry, we hate men right now.

I’ll call back later.


Hermione dabbed at her eyes with the hat. “He really is very immature,” she said, softly, but there was a hint of a smile in her voice suddenly.

“He’s a fifteen year old boy.”

“And silly.”

“I refer you to his age.”

“And he doesn’t take homework seriously.”

“I refer you to his age, once again.”

“But he is sweet.”

“I refer you to his upbringing.”

“And he’s funny.”

“I refer you to his family in general.”

Hermione nodded slowly. “I’ll take your referrals.”

Ginny smiled at her. “There you go. Better?”

“A bit.”

“He likes the scarf,” Ginny assured her. “And I bet he feels even worse because he could have used it back in January after the Skrewts ate his Gryffindor scarf.”

Hermione smirked a little. “Probably.”

Better?

Yeah,
Ginny thought. Ron still beating himself up?

Yep.

Let him keep going for now. He’s got thinking to do.


She felt Harry sigh and his mind drift away from the situation between their best friends. So, can I give you that other thing now?

“Harry’s got one other thing he wants to give me,” Ginny said. “You okay if I go chat with him for a minute?”

Hermione nodded. “I’m fine, Ginny, really.”

Ginny wasn’t sure Hermione was telling the truth or not, but she patted her shoulder and got up. “I’ll be back in a bit.”

Hermione readjusted the yarn in her lap and began clicking the needles again. Ginny left the room and walked downstairs. Harry was sitting in one of the widest armchairs, holding a small box tied shut with a bit of ribbon. Ginny dropped down beside him and laid her head on his shoulder.

“Ronald,” she muttered.

“I know,” he sighed. “He’s upstairs grumbling about everything. ‘Specially Krum.”

“He can’t blame Krum,” Ginny snorted. “It’s his own damn fault.”

Harry shrugged. He held out the box. Ginny took it and pulled the bow out of place, then opened it.

“Aww,” she said, lifting out the thin silver band. It had small emeralds set in the face of it, and music notes engraved in between each stone. “Are you proposing, Harry?”

“It’s just your birthstone,” he said, shaking his head. “I figured I was running out of nice, special things to give you by excluding rings.”

“You were excluding rings?” she asked, raising one eyebrow.

“Well, I didn’t want anyone to assume things, did I?” Harry said. “We’re teenagers.”

Ginny pecked his cheek. “Thank you, Harry. I’m going to have to start giving you nicer things.”

“Or I could just stop giving you nice stuff,” he joked. “I’m not made of gold, of course.”

Ginny rolled her eyes, recalling the image of the thousands of galleons piled in his family vault. “Of course not.”

Harry kissed her quickly. “I just liked that ring,” he said.

“I like it too,” she said. “So much that I will wear it every day we don’t have Potions or Care of Magical Creatures.”

“That’s a wise plan,” he said.

Back to index


Chapter 24: Chapter 24: The Third Task

Author's Notes: Hey, I'm so sorry that there's been a missing chapter for so long. I should have realized it when I originally posted it, and I hadn't checked the site since October. Go on and yell at me in the reviews, I deserve it. I hope everyone had a happy Holiday and that you'll all have a great New Year.


Chapter Twenty-Four, The Goblet of Fire Part Eleven
The Third Task
Harry


May was not as long as it should have been. It seemed like once Ginny and Ron’s birthday passed, the hours blended together seamlessly and the days took two-thirds of the time they were meant to.

Most of May he remembered as time spent in the Defense classroom. Remus had them mock dueling each other every week with a new hex or jinx. Most days Harry fought Ron or Ginny, but sometimes he dueled Hermione or Neville. Once, in the first week of June, Sirius asked for him and Malfoy to demonstrate that week’s hex in front of the class. Having to stand in front of the entire class was made better only by the fact that his instinctive Shield charm repelled the hex so perfectly that it hit Malfoy.

The Saturday after the Shield charm incident, Harry and Ginny were taking their weekly nap by the lake, having just written three essays for three various subjects and escaped Ron and Hermione’s next big bicker. Harry couldn’t remember what it had been about, so as he slept, his mind decided to try and figure it out. In his dream, he dreamt that he and Ginny were in the common room watching their two friends fight. Because he couldn’t remember the nature of the fight, every time one of the two said something referring to the cause of the argument, his mind replaced it with “Snarglepod.” Harry couldn’t imagine why.

“You said Snarglepod!” Hermione cried.

“No, you said Snarglepod,” Ron pointed out. “Does anything make sense in Harry’s mind?”

“No, never,” Hermione agreed for once. “But the Snarglepod was with you, it was your Snarglepod that caused the Snarglepod!”

“Hermione, just kiss the damned Snarglepod goodbye because it is gone,” Ron retorted.

“Well, I’d very much rather kiss you than a Snarglepod,” Hermione snapped.

“Fine, then kiss me!”

“Well, maybe I will!”

Harry clapped his hands over his eyes suddenly and hissed in protest as they grabbed each other’s faces and began some strange dance with their lips.

Is this what Ron feels like every time I kiss you? Harry asked Ginny.

I imagine so, yes.

Harry lowered his hands, but the scenery had changed.

They were asleep, but at the same time, they weren’t. They were sitting beneath the tree’s branches, watching three children play in the shallows of the lake. Two of them had black hair, slicked back by water but messy still, and the third, the only girl, had two long brilliant red braids falling down her back. They were throwing water at her and the smaller of the boys was creating bubbles with his hands. Ginny smiled contentedly at the children and closed her eyes. Harry kissed her forehead and chuckled as the girl caused the lake to send a tidal wave over the two boys.

“No, no, you’re doing it all wrong!”

Harry lazily drifted his gaze from the three children to a clump of trees nearby. He blinked, and he was standing in a clearing, Ginny at his side, and there was a young girl, maybe three or four, sitting in the middle. Her cheeks were round and rosy, her hair was pure white and tied into pig-tails, and her dress was pale yellow covered in grass stains.

“Wrong, I tell you!” the girl shouted, being rather eloquent for a toddler. The object of her frustration blinked and squawked. It was a raven or a crow, Harry couldn’t tell.

“You should introduce a new person, not make one of them nearly drown!” the girl yelled. “Jealousy is much more interesting than a near death experience.”

The bird cawed loudly.

The little girl crossed her arms over her chest and pouted violently. Her eyes landed on Harry and then Ginny, and a wicked grin instantly replaced her pout. “Oh, look, Crow!” she squealed. She pushed herself up and tottered across the grass towards them. She grabbed Harry’s arm and pulled him back to the bird, which he now supposed was a crow. “We have guests.” The little girl grabbed Ginny and pulled them both onto the ground.

The crow eyed them and cawed.

“Er…” Harry said.

“Oh, that’s mighty interesting,” the child said. “And you, dear?”

Ginny frowned at the child. “Who are you?”

The girl smiled brightly. “I’m me, and me is I.”

“That does not make sense.”

“I am you, but you are not me.”

“What?”

“In the end, you all die.”

Ginny spluttered. “What the hell?”

The little girl did her best to look angelic. “See? I am me, and me is I.”

Harry and Ginny exchanged glances. He shrugged. She scowled.

The crow cawed.

“Yes, you’re quite right, Crow,” the girl said. “We should drink the tea soon or it will grow cold. But where did I put the sugar?”

Harry was about to say they actually would need tea to drink any of it, except there was a gaily painted cup perched on a saucer in his hand.

“That wasn’t there a moment ago,” he said.

The girl spooned a cube of sugar into her tea and sipped it. “Oh, no, much too sweet.” She pitched the cup over her shoulder, then a new cup appeared sitting on her palm. She took a taste of the sugarless tea and smiled. “Perfect.”

Ginny furrowed her brow at Harry. “The hell…” she mumbled.

“NO!” The little girl reached out and bopped Ginny on the nose, startling her. “Bad language, bad Ginny. We do not curse.”

“How do you know my name?” Ginny demanded.

“What’s the magic word?” the little girl asked, taking another sip.

“Err, please?”

“NO!” The girl shouted, and bopped Ginny on the nose again. “Never mind.”

Ginny was bewildered. So was Harry. The little girl grinned angelically at them, then turned back to the crow. “Now, as I was saying, what you should do is take that lovely little porcelain doll that’s with that boy and plant seeds of desire in her for one of the two, whichever one is male, and then kill the boy.”

The crow cawed.

“No, don’t kill the male, kill the useless pretty boy!” the little girl yelled again. “My word, you are so belligerent, Crow!”

The crow cocked its head at Harry as if to say: “Women.”

The girl sipped her tea, smacked her lips, then tossed the cup over her shoulder to join its fellow. “Kill the pretty boy, make the porcelain doll like the one that’s male, then make another person like the one that’s not male. It’s that simple.”

The crow ruffled its feathers.

The girl glared at him. “They’re not ready for Felix Commisurra; don’t nearly kill the one that’s male again.”

The crow squawked. The little girl swung a fist at it, but the bird danced out of the way, still squawking. The girl gasped, turned pink, and then glared. “Bad Crow, bad Crow, we do not use language! And later, love, we have guests.”

The crow landed on Harry’s knee and sighed. Or, Harry thought he sighed. Was it possible for a bird to sigh?

The girl tapped her chin and gazed into the distance. “Then again… Felix Commisurra would rush many of my sisters’ plans… It would cause great… discomfort.”

The crow cawed. The girl smiled. “Then it’s settled. Kill the one that’s male but not completely, just a little bit, then Felix Commisurra will occur prematurely and wreck my sisters’ plans. Their pathways will twist and jumble, ending in, as I can see, seven different ways to die and twice the end of the world. However, there will still be at least one path that provides life, but at such a great cost. So many will die…”

The crow croaked and pecked at Harry’s jeans. The girl smirked. “Yes, all of those deaths will be spectacular. I’m sure my sister has great plans for each of them! Yet we will dash it all by merely provoking Felix Commisurra.”

With that, the little girl pushed herself up and snapped her fingers. There was a sudden puff of purple smoke and the little girl was suddenly not little at all. She was tall, perhaps six feet, with a slender frame and still pale skin. Her white hair was the only thing paler. Her dress was still girlish and grass-stained, but it somehow befitted her. She raised her bare forearm and the crow took off from Harry’s knee, then landed on her arm. The crow squeezed its sharp talons, and Harry winced in sympathy for the girl, but she seemed not to have noticed.

“And off we go!” she cried. “Time to provide Abraham with his final key so that the little beast may provoke Felix Commisurra.” She snapped her fingers again, and again appeared the puff of smoke, but not before Harry noticed that the crow’s talons had broken the girl’s skin. She was bleeding, but her blood was not red. It was gold.

“Harry James Potter, you listen to me right now!”

Harry groaned and blinked slowly. Hermione’s face came slowly into view; she was standing bent in front of him with her fists resting on her hips. Harry had a sudden flash of Mrs. Weasley doing the same thing.

“You have mountains of homework still to complete!” Hermione snapped. “How can you nap so nonchalantly with so much work left to be done?”

“Practice?” he suggested, yawning as he did so. He poked Ginny gently in the ribs; she caught his finger and squeezed it tightly.

“Ronald Weasley I will break your finger,” she growled.

“I’m not Ron, love,” Harry said. Ginny immediately released his finger and grabbed his whole hand.

“Go back to sleep,” she grumbled. “That stupid little girl’s bleeding gold.”

Harry frowned. “Yeah, that was weird.”

“What?” Hermione said. “Never mind; just come on, it’s almost dinner and you’ve got a whole lot of homework, the both of you.”

“It’s not that late,” Ginny said as she stretched open her mouth in a cat-like yawn. “We only just fell asleep ten minutes ago. You and Ron were arguing over the Snarglepod.”

“What?” Hermione repeated.

“Was that you or me?” Harry asked. “I can’t remember.”

Hermione spluttered. “How — what — Snarglepod?”

Ginny straightened her spine, lifting her head off Harry’s shoulder, and stretched her arms above her head. “We couldn’t remember what you and Ron were fighting about this time, so every time you had to say something specific to the fight, you said Snarglepod.”

Hermione stared at them. “I give up,” she muttered, throwing her hands up in the air and turning away.

“Are we really awake?” Harry murmured.

“Hermione doesn’t give up…” Ginny replied.

Hermione turned back to them in resignation. “No, you caught me. You’re not awake.”

Hermione was not as tall as she seemed, Harry knew. Nor was the sky that dark. Hermione’s skin paled to gray and so did the trees and the grass. Slowly, everything withered. Harry gripped Ginny’s shoulders. Hermione wasn’t Hermione. She was tall and masculine and —

Bald?

This broad beast of a man stood before them, his eyes and lips completely black and his head shiningly bald in the sun’s wane light. The man smiled with those black lips and bared pointed teeth.

“What is really the difference between waking and dreaming?” the man rumbled. “Reality is no real thing; it is conceived at dawn and aborted at dusk, never given any real chance to live. So then where is the line between your pale pathetic reality and the truth of your dreams? Answer me that, oh great one.”

“What?” Ginny spluttered.

The man smirked. “Ah, of course. Your mind is that of two children. What a shame. The sisters chose a poor receptacle for your power.”

Harry meant to draw his wand, but something in the back of his mind told him not to. Instead, he raised a hand, palm held outward and smiled at the man. “This is not your place,” he said calmly. “You do not belong here.”

“Oh, come now, don’t be that way,” the man chuckled. “You allowed dear and dumb luck to remain. Why shan’t you treat me such the same way?”

Harry lowered his hand and spoke the first thing that came to mind. “Because, they did not make sense and therefore did not harm me. You make sense, and I want to know why you refer to us as ‘great one,’ when clearly we are two. But if I were to ask you, that would not end well.”

The man pondered this, it seemed. He finally smiled and bowed low to them. “Very well, I concede. Your friend with the bushy hair really is here to wake you, but you do not have that much homework left. I believe it is merely an exercise from Professor Sinestra on the movements of Saturn in relation to Venus. Before I leave, I desire to frustrate my wife more than I already have so I must tell you: There is a traitor in your midst. I will not indicate a gender, as that would be too obvious, but this traitor has everything to gain and nothing to lose. They have no mercy and too much rage. Chaos has filled their dreams with his element and Night has not noticed their anger. So I now bid you farewell, oh great one. I would wish you luck, but that never ends well.”

Harry glanced at Ginny, confused, but then the man was gone. Instead, Hermione was once again standing over him, her fists on her hips and a sour expression on her face.

“You’ve been sleeping for over three hours,” she said. “It’s nearly dinner.”

Harry rubbed his eyes. Then he slapped his cheek. Hermione jumped back, startled. “What did you do that for?” she said.

“I wanted to make sure I was awake,” he mumbled. “Ow.”

“We’re awake,” Ginny said. She locked eyes with him and furrowed her brow.

What the hell just happened?

Harry’s gaze drifted to the shore of the lake, where the water was rising and falling very slowly, like the breath of a person asleep. I don’t know.

Hermione ushered them to dinner where they both pecked at their food, conversing mentally about their shared dream. It had been very strange, and it worried Harry. He kept saying that they ought to tell Dumbledore, but Ginny was hesitant.

We don’t know how to explain it, she kept saying.

But something was wrong, he kept telling her. Who were those people? Why did that man call us great one? Why was that girl talking about dolls and pretty boys?

Because she was a child,
Ginny replied.

Her blood was gold, Harry countered.

So? We were dreaming. It meant nothing.

Oh, right, because none of your other dreams ever meant anything. You never dreamt that you might drown, or that I’d fight a dragon, or even that I’d be stuck in a huge Tournament where I could die each minute.

Sarcasm does not help.

Neither does silence.


Ginny did not reply.

They did not go to Dumbledore that night. Nor the next, when in someone’s subconscious a sphinx tried to eat one of them. Not even the next night, when a giant bird landed in Harry’s dorm and told him that he was meant to be sleeping in the tower, even though Harry was already asleep in Gryffindor tower.

It was June 6th, and while the rest of the castle was preparing for exams, Harry was preparing for the final task. As they had with the first task, he, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione all met in any empty classroom and practiced spells. Harry mock-dueled with either Ron or Hermione every week. He did not duel Ginny, for they had found that when they tried, they could never gain any ground because they kept seeing the other’s next move and preventing it. On the following Sunday, Remus and Sirius stopped by to quiz Harry on his skills. Remus staged a duel with him, and he would have won if it hadn’t been for Sirius adding a hex every few minutes. His reasoning was that in a real fight, there would be others around him and stray hexes were likely to come his way. The only problem with that was he only aimed his ‘stray’ hexes at Harry, and never Remus.

Monday the 12th, Bagman cornered Harry in the Great Hall at breakfast. He gave Ginny a cheerful hullo and told Harry that he needed to be at the Quidditch pitch by four thirty that afternoon for his clue before the third task. His last class was Herbology that day, so he did not have to run to the pitch to meet Bagman and the other champions. He found Krum and Diggory already there, but Fleur and Bagman were late. Fleur arrived five minutes after Harry and Bagman was there right after her.

“Right-o,” he said, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “If you would please, step forward.”

The four of them looked at him strangely. Then Diggory took a step, stumbled, and fell face-forward into the grass. Harry clapped a hand over his mouth to stifle a snigger. Fleur tsked and Krum frowned. Bagman chuckled as Diggory pushed himself up, ran into something else, and fell onto a hedge that had appeared from nowhere. Harry’s eyes followed the hedge and he gasped. The entire pitch was spread with them: Almost four feet tall and wild-looking, they twisted and turned and wrapped around each other all over the pitch.

“What the —” Diggory said softly.

“It is a maze,” said Krum.

“Yes, indeed it is!” Bagman crowed gleefully. “And there is your clue; don’t worry, Mr. Diggory, once the task is finished we will restore your pitch to rights,” Bagman added upon seeing the horrified look on Diggory’s face. “Hagrid is growing them; should be about fifteen feet in the air by the day of the task, June 24th. The object will be to reach the center and the prize within.”

Harry nodded slowly, his eyes traveling across the pitch slowly. A maze? A small smile curled his lips. Fifteen feet tall would not be much of a problem. He could just ask Ginny to fly above him in his Invisibility Cloak and give him directions.

I will do no such thing, Ginny thought.

Why not? Harry whined mentally. It’s perfect!

Because that would be cheating!

Fine.


He’d try harder later. Possibly with the promise of several long kisses.

I don’t break that easily, Potter.

He didn’t reply to her as Bagman was speaking again. “The maze will be filled with obstacles, each designed to prevent you reaching the center. You will have to be on your guard constantly.”

Harry nodded, as did the others. Bagman clapped Diggory and Krum on the shoulder with a grin, gave Harry a pat and Fleur a gentle touch, then began walking back to the castle. Harry glanced at the other four, thought about waving, didn’t, and started following Bagman.

You are so anti-social, Ginny thought.

Well, I’ve got this voice in my head that provides almost all the companionship I need.

Oh, well thank you — wait, almost?

Well, I do like hanging out with Ron and Neville and such.

Oh, of course.


Harry climbed the front steps and felt a sudden wind behind him. He glanced around, wondering why it was so cold in June, then dismissed it and entered the castle. He didn’t see Bagman, assumed that the man had headed for the nearest Floo, and started up the stairs.

What room are you in? Harry asked.

Second floor, two doors down from Charms.

Down being to the left?

Yep.


Harry climbed the steps without great haste. He was thinking of ways to convince his very beautiful girlfriend to help him cheat.

Flattery gets you nowhere, Potter.

Well, it got you calling me by my last name!

That is irrelevant.


Harry chuckled softly. A portrait on his right gave him a bemused look. He averted his eyes and tried not to respond to Ginny aloud.

Harry found Ginny with just Hermione that afternoon; Ron had been detained by Professor McGonagall to scrub desks. Harry wondered if he would find years’ worth of chewing gum under Seamus’s desk.

They practiced for another hour before Ron arrived and another hour and a half before they left for dinner. The news that the third task was a maze filled with obstacles didn’t seem to bother either Ron or Hermione; from Hermione’s point of view it was only more reason to train harder. Ron simply thought that watching the third task was going to be more boring than watching the second.

It seemed to him that there really was little he really could do to prepare for the third task. He would wake up around 6 every morning, get a shower, go to breakfast, go to lessons, have lunch, take more lessons, research more spells and practice them, go to dinner, practice some more, and go to bed. There was little variation in each day, and it seemed to him that they blended together too well. He lost track of the days, and not even the looming third task bothered him. It was just an inevitable thing he would have to do. There was just cold dread rather than panic in him, and it spread to Ginny. They had a calm sort of resignation about the third task. It helped that he finally had a real plan.

As the maze had been growing, Harry had flown over it several times on his broom. He borrowed Colin’s camera and took photographs of it. Then he and Ginny sat down and drew a map of the maze. The night before the task, they flew over it together one last time and finalized the map. Hermione enchanted it to show where Harry was standing while he stood in the maze, Remus taught Harry a spell to track his location, and Ginny promised that if something went wrong she would fly above him with the invisibility cloak. Harry was as prepared as he could be.

That didn’t stop his heart pumping wildly as he left the castle on the morning of the 24th.

HGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG


He set down the metal spoon and mopped his brow. It had taken days, weeks, but there it was. His worst nightmare, bubbling and steaming and spewing out a foul smell.

“Is it ready?”

His master’s voice came from behind him. Quickly, he bent into a low bow, averting his eyes from his master’s visage.

“Yes, my lord,” he said in a voice that was hoarse from screaming.

“Good,” his master hissed. “Bring it to the yard; let it boil there as we wait for Potter.”

“Yes, my lord,” he replied. He put out the fire with a flick of his wand and gripped the cauldron’s handles. He felt sure that they were hot since the liquid had been boiling just a moment ago, but the skin of his hands was so destroyed already that he did not care. He lifted it carefully and stepping slowly, he exited the small room and moved through the kitchen to