|SIYE Time:16:51 on 23rd May 2017|
Category: Pre-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, All, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Nymphadora Tonks, Other, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, General, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence/Physical Abuse
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*
Hitcount: Story Total: 71004; Chapter Total: 2237
Seventeen: The Goblet of Fire, Part Five
PMS and Reporters, What Fun! (Not.)
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.
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…”
“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.
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.”
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.
“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.
Harry looked up. Professor Moody was stumping across the hall towards him.
“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.”
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.”
“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.
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 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.
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