|SIYE Time:4:31 on 21st June 2018|
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: 109810; Chapter Total: 2768
Awards: View Trophy Room
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
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.
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.
“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 —”
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?
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?
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?
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.
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