|SIYE Time:0:18 on 17th March 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: 102552; Chapter Total: 1275
Happy Holidays, everyone!
Fear, Cruelty, Protection
The end of September was in sight, and Harry was feeling a giddiness growing in the pit of his stomach the closer and closer the dates were to Christmas holiday. At breakfast Wednesday morning, Ginny received a letter from her mother to tell her that Halloween weekend they would be returning to the Burrow to begin preparations for their wedding. Harry smiled at the thought of returning to the Burrow earlier than planned, and even more so at the thought of their wedding. He was a big sap, and he knew it, he couldn’t wait to properly marry his wife.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” Ron grumbled later that day, as he was prodding a frog with his wand in hopes that it would fall silent. “How come you two get to go home over Halloween and I don’t?”
“Ron, I imagine that they’ve got to get fitted for their wedding robes,” Hermione pointed out, waving her wand with a small flourish and adding a command of “Silencio!”, at which her raven fell silent mid-crow.
“Yeah, but they’re not having the wedding until Christmas!” Ron continued to complain. “Silencio!”
His frog let out a particularly loud croak and hopped off the table. He scowled at it, until Ginny jabbed her wand in its direction and summoned it.
“Christmas is barely a month after Halloween, I’m surprised Mum hasn’t called us back to work on this before now,” Ginny said as she shoved the frog into Ron’s chest. “Weddings take months to plan normally.”
“Yeah, how come she hasn’t called us yet?” Harry asked her.
“Because I told her before the term started that I have absolutely no idea what the hell a wedding is supposed to look like and that I honestly didn’t care about the tiny details.”
“You told Mum that she could plan your wedding for you?” Ron asked.
“I did,” Ginny said. “Unfortunately, she didn’t accept that. So we compromised, and she’s gotten everything necessary, three of each thing or whatever, and Harry and I just have to pick out which ones we like best.”
“That sounds reasonable,” Hermione said.
Ginny gave a nod, then flicked her wand at Ron’s frog. “Silencio!” The frog, its mouth open in a deep croak, was silenced, and its face arranged itself to express the biggest amount of shock and panic that a frog’s face could show.
“Hey!” Ron protested.
“You weren’t going to get it any time soon,” Ginny told him, “and its croaking was giving me a headache.”
This wasn’t true, Harry knew, she had just wanted the frog to stop croaking.
Ron crossed his arms over his chest and sulked. “I still think it isn’t fair.”
“Do you want me to ask Mum if you can come too?” Ginny asked with a sigh.
Ron’s sulky expression twitched, then he shrugged. “Sure.”
“Come to think of it, they both probably ought to come,” Harry said, “they’ve got to get robes for the wedding too, don’t they?”
“I have dress robes,” Hermione said quickly.
“But they’ve got to match Ginny’s dress, don’t they?” Harry said. “Aren’t maids of honor supposed to match the bride?”
“I’m the maid of honor?” Hermione said, her brow furrowing.
“Didn’t I already ask you?” Ginny asked her with a frown.
Hermione blinked at her. “No.”
Ginny’s frown deepened, then she shrugged. “Sorry. Would you be my maid of honor?”
Hermione simply rolled her eyes. “Sure, Ginny. I’m just glad you asked me before the wedding.”
“Did I ask you to be best man or not, Ron?” Harry asked.
“I don’t remember, mate, but my answer was yes if you did, and if you didn’t, it’s still yes,” Ron said. “But I don’t want to be all matchy with you if I don’t have to.”
“Shame, because you do have to,” Ginny said.
“Damn,” Ron muttered.
Ginny Floo’d her mother that evening before dinner to ask if she could get permission for Ron and Hermione to come with them over Halloween weekend, so they could get robes for the wedding as well. Her mother said yes, and thanked her for reminding her about the two of them. Mrs. Weasley said she’d ask Harry’s grandmother to give the Grangers a call, as she still had no clue how to use a ‘phely-tone’.
“It’s called a telephone, for starters,” Harry mumbled under his breath as Ginny and her mother said their goodbyes.
“I heard that,” Ginny called.
“I’m going to make a cup of tea, dear,” Harry said hurriedly and left the lounge as quickly as possible without making it look like he was actually fleeing.
The week finished and October dawned with weak sunshine followed by pelting rain. On Monday morning, the Gryffindors and Slytherins all huddled under the few umbrellas owned by students on the lawn while Hagrid taught them about wolddwellers, little creatures like hobgoblins that lived in mud bogs. The next day, Tuesday, Dumbledore was called out to the Ministry for an emergency meeting of the International Confederation of Wizards, so their lesson for the week was postponed. The next morning, the front page of the Daily Prophet told about the sudden resurgence of Scourers in America and the huge attack the American wizard government had suffered the day before, explaining why Dumbledore had been called away so suddenly. The rain continued until the end of the week and got so bad on that Saturday that Angelina had to postpone the tryouts for Gryffindor’s reserve team. Dumbledore was still too busy dealing with the ICW the following Tuesday, and on Thursday morning Tonks was unable to lead their dueling practice as she’d been called to America to aid in the hunt for the Scourers who’d led the attack on the American wizards the week before.
Saturday, however, was their next extra lesson with McGonagall. The six of them, Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Luna gathered in the Deputy Headmistress’s office while Professor Snape and McGonagall put the final touches on the potion they would be drinking to discover what their Animagus forms were. She had them all sit in armchairs or couches, and the only footstool in the room was claimed by Luna.
“Uyoga Isiyo ya Kawaida is a very tricky potion,” McGonagall said sternly. “You should all be very grateful that we have a skilled enough Potions Master on hand.”
They nodded, not wanting to actually thank Snape. A few minutes later, Snape murmured something to McGonagall, who nodded and Snape left. McGonagall drew her wand through the air over it, three times, then thick steam, more like smog, spilled from the cauldrons top and quickly covered the floor of the room. For a potion that had such disgusting ingredients as this one, the steam itself did not smell horrible, rather it was very sweet. The smell quickly made Ginny dizzy.
“Prepare yourselves,” their professor told them. “The potion is ready.”
The students all attempted to prepare themselves as best they could. Hermione murmured the incantation under her breath, Ron squeezed his eyes shut and inhaled deeply before letting out a shaky exhale. Neville muttered something Ginny could not decipher under his breath, Luna simply leaned back in her armchair and closed her eyes, a serene smile on her face.
“After I give you the potion, you must say the incantation three times, clearly and properly, mind you. I will place a Full Body-Bind on you so you do not get up and move around while in your hallucinations. Are you all ready?”
There was a quiet murmur of assent throughout the room. Ginny slipped her hand into Harry’s and gave it a squeeze.
Professor McGonagall went around the room, handing out goblets of the potion. There was steam coming out of her own glass that reminded her of freshly baked scones. “You must drink all of it for it to properly take effect. Drink up.”
The taste was foul. Ginny swallowed, trying her best not to gag on it, and shut her eyes. She could feel it sliding down her esophagus, then plop into her stomach. She did not vomit, thank Merlin, but it was a miracle she managed not to. She opened her eyes, then blinked as the room suddenly swam before her. She was grateful McGonagall had made them sit before drinking this stuff, as she felt very lightheaded then.
“The incantation, quickly.”
Ginny raised her wand, her hand shaking slightly. She half saw half heard the others around her doing the same, their hands leaving cream colored drag marks in the air. She blinked; that wasn’t right.
Ginny aimed the wand at herself, then began rotating it in a figure eight midair. She murmured, slowly and three times, Witiri Uyoga Tengeneza Wanyama. Bright sparks shot from the end of her wand, circled her body, then burst into a tinier shower of sparks which all landed daintily upon her skin. Ginny stared down at the wand in her fingers, then watched as it was plucked from her grip by Professor McGonagall, though something was off about her appearance; Ginny couldn’t tell if it was her large green hat or the cat whiskers.
“Lean back,” McGonagall commanded the group. Ginny did as she was told, letting her body fall backward onto the sofa with a soft thump. Her eyes widened as she looked up at the high ceiling; when had someone painted cherubs on it? And why were they shooting each other with arrows tipped with pink hearts?
She heard McGonagall say something else, though wasn’t paying much attention to it. Her eyes fell shut, then she felt her body stiffen slightly. Vaguely, she recalled the professor telling them earlier that she would be putting them in full-body binds to keep them from wandering off while under the effects of the potion, but Ginny felt sure that she had done that already. Probably ages ago. She tried to open her eyes, but they wouldn’t budge. She stopped caring, though, and started watching the fireworks display above her. Across her mind, she could hear Harry marveling at either the same fireworks or possibly something else, though his thoughts were quiet compared to hers.
She looked down, her eyes flicking around the room and over the tall green grass and the glistening blue surface of the lake beside her. She looked back up to the sky, taking another moment to watch the brightly colored stars dancing with each other, around each other, through each other. The stars danced downward, their light leaving trails of color through the air, to her and around her; the light carved intricate patterns into the air out of pure color.
The sound of her name produced sparks of vibrant red; she turned, her hair making a soft swishing sound that sent soft purple flares into the air, and looked for the source of her name. Harry was standing beside her, and his glasses were gone.
“Where are your glasses?” she asked.
“What glasses?” he asked; his voice produced waves of dark blue light, dancing around her. Ginny followed them with her eyes, then jerked her gaze back to Harry’s.
“The glasses you wear,” she said, taking a step forward. Her foot landed in squishy grass that gave way beneath her, and she plummeted down; down; down; she landed upon a pillowy lavender cloud that bounced underneath her and made a bright yellow sound, tossing her up into the air before falling back down. Harry lay next to her, his eyes wide at having suddenly fallen into the sky. She looked at him.
“This is the hallucination part, isn’t it?” Harry whispered.
Ginny giggled. She wriggled across the cloud to him and lay her head on his chest. The sound of his beating heart was comforting, mellow rusty red spots appeared above her vision at the sound. Harry locked his arms around her, his lips pressing against her hair. She felt the cloud rotating slightly beneath them, and when she looked up they were laying on a lily pad on the lake, surrounded by soft pink blots of neon light that floated gently upon the current of the wind. Ginny sat up, looking around with wide eyes. She heard a quiet sound, soft orange swirls floating towards her, and turned her head to find the noise. Harry saw it first, and he yelped lightly, making green lightning bolts.
“What?” Ginny said, turning again.
“There’s a snake in the water!” Harry cried. “Quick, quick, get up, it’s probably venomous!”
Ginny spotted it; a long black and red banded creature, sliding through the royal blue water with its eyes fixed on them and the lily pad. She didn’t move, her mouth hanging open, frozen in both fear and wonder. The snake lifted its head from the water, its tongue shot out in their direction, and it slipped its slender body onto the lily pad.
“Greetingsss…” the snake’s voice was quite, sending dark green ripples through the air and water. “I had wondered if I would be the firssst to find you.”
“… the hell?” Harry muttered.
The snake raised itself up to level its gaze with Harry’s, a hiss slipping from its lips in a wave of soft orange. “I am the fear in your eyesss. I am the anger in your belly. I am the hunger for blood in your mind. I am your ssservant.”
Then the snake bowed to him, its eyes falling shut, and its head rested upon Harry’s knee, becoming still. Harry looked up at Ginny.
“Is this my… my Animagus form?”
Ginny stared at him for a moment, then she shrugged. “I have no clue.”
The snake suddenly sprang to life; it shot forward and coiled itself around Harry’s arm, sliding up into his shirt sleeve. Harry shouted, jumping up in fright, the snake’s head poked out at the neck of Harry’s shirt, then back down to slid across to the other side of his shoulder. Ginny could feel the ghost of its scales sliding across her own skin as it moved over Harry’s. Its head came out of the other sleeve, its tail wrapped around Harry’s arm, and raised up its head. The skin of its neck flared into a hood, and it bared its fangs.
“I am one of three,” the snake said. “Exsspect what you do not imagine you should see.”
Then the snake vanished. Harry’s shirt fell flat against his skin, no longer being held up by the body of the snake. Harry looked up at Ginny, his eyebrows raised. “One of three?” he muttered.
“There are two of us,” she pointed out.
“Three is more than two,” he said.
Ginny paused. “That’s true.”
Harry looked around again, his mouth set in a deep frown. “I don’t understand any of this,” he muttered; the depth of his voice making dark blue lines swirl around him. Ginny shuffled on her knees to him and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
“We’re hallucinating,” she mumbled. “It’s not supposed to make sense.”
The lily pad rocked; they looked up to see that the lake had tripled in size and they were being buffeted away from the shore. Lightning flashed beside them and the lily pad turned into wood under the brief illumination. The wood rose up at the sides, forming a large bowl. The water threw them upward, then slammed them back down. A spray of white foam flew up around them, hitting them with a bright blue splash and soaking their skin with an icy light. Ginny spat out water that tasted more like sea salt caramel that sea water. Harry grabbed her hands and pulled her to his chest, his arms holding her tightly. His lips found hers, pressing feverishly against her. The water quickly turned warm as it calmed, lightly lapping at their ankles rather than crashing over their heads.
“Well, lookee who we have here!”
Harry released Ginny, though she did not step away. A fat cat was hanging from a branch by its tail. The sea had vanished, and they stood at the edge of a river with deep emerald green water. The cat’s voice send strikes of pink through the air, almost as vibrant as the patches of pink fur scattered over its body. The cat’s head was a little off, disproportionate to the rest of its pink and brown body as if it was slightly too large. Ginny guessed that the size of its head was to accommodate its wide, almost disturbingly so, grin.
“Harry and Ginny, sitting in a tree,” the cat cooed, “who knows, maybe they’re making babies!”
Ginny recoiled from the cat. “Buzz off,” she snapped.
The cat laughed, the sound sending spirals of warm purple curling around its head, as it rocked back and forth on the branch. “Methinks the lady doth protest too much!”
“Are you her Animagus form?” Harry asked the cat.
The cat giggled, biting its lip to stifle the sound. Then it swung up and around the branch, releasing its tail and somehow not falling immediately to the ground. Rather, it floated in mid-air and tip-toed over to them. It landed on Ginny’s head and settled itself down, becoming a rather comical fluffy pink hat.
The cat lowered its head to get on eye level with Ginny, its grin never changing. “I am the cruelty in your heart. I am the delight in your soul. I am the desire you will always feel. I will be your servant.”
“Get off my head!” Ginny said, swatting at the cat’s face. The cat laughed again, more purple spirals dancing through the air, and jumped up, up, floating away with its tail waving lazily through the air. Ginny scowled after it, watching it hop through the air away and out of sight.
“Didn’t McGonagall say that these would all be real creatures?” Harry asked.
“She did,” Ginny answered.
“Then that is one fucked up real creature.”
Ginny laughed at that and pecked at his lips. “It’s better than yours, snake boy.”
“Oh shut up.”
Ginny did not have the chance to reply, as a strong gust of wind knocked them backwards and onto a flat sheet of wood, which took them down river much faster than it should have. They saw a sign on the river bank, proclaiming danger for all who passed down-river by it, however, they were moving much too quickly to give it any heed. The river and the jungle around it became less wild, the trees losing all their draping vines, the water became less green and narrower. The forest became much more familiar, almost identical to the one near her home in Ottery St. Catchpole. The wooden raft bumped against the riverbank and they toppled off of it onto the mossy ground. The raft quickly drifted away, shrinking out of sight until it had vanished completely not five feet from where they had landed.
Something tickled the back of her neck. Ginny flinched and raised a hand to brush whatever it was away, her hand instead coming in contact with something soft, almost feathery.
“Harry…” she murmured. “Do you feel that?”
He nodded. Slowly, they both turned to come face to face with —
“A fox?” Ginny said.
“What were you expecting, a phoenix?” the fox asked. Its whiskers twitched.
Ginny glanced at Harry out of the corner of her eye. She kind of had been.
“Follow me,” the fox said, butting its nose against Harry’s shoulder. It turned, and padded away with swift strides. It paused, looking over its shoulder, and raised its eyebrows in expectation. Harry shrugged, and stood.
Ginny sighed and stood as well. They followed the fox from the riverbank deeper into the forest. It said nothing for a while, either a few moments or several days, until it finally stopped, sitting on the edge of a craggy cliff overlooking a suburban area.
“Look,” the fox murmured. “This is a time that has not yet come to pass.”
They leaned over the edge, to look down at the cottage directly beneath them. In the backyard, a man was playing with a young boy, tossing a ball between the two of them. The boy was laughing about something, the man grinning.
“It’s Sirius,” Harry murmured.
“Watch,” the fox told them.
Another man exited the cottage and called them in for supper. Sirius tossed the ball off to the side of the yard and held his arm out to the young boy, who ran up and hugged his side.
“Come on, Dad, Papa made pie earlier!” the boy said excitedly to Sirius.
“I know, I helped him!” Sirius laughed.
“More like you hindered me,” said Remus, the man who had called them over. Ginny felt something warm growing in her heart at this sight. She took it as a promise that Sirius and Remus would one day have their happy ending, this little cottage with a bright young child to call their own. She felt Harry taking her hand and squeezed it gently.
“Follow,” the fox said quietly. They did, down the edge of the cliff and to the level ground of the suburbs beneath the cliff. They passed by Sirius and Remus’s cottage, where they saw through the window the little family sitting down to dinner. The fox halted outside the next cottage, and they looked through the window.
“It’s Ron, and Hermione,” Harry said.
“Aww, look at the baby,” Ginny cooed softly, smiling at the sight of the redheaded infant in Hermione’s arms. “Oh, he’s so cute!”
“The little girl looks exactly like Hermione,” Harry murmured.
“But she’s got Ron’s eyes,” Ginny sighed.
“They look happy,” Harry said.
“Keep following,” the fox told them.
In the next house, they saw Fred, George, Angelina and Katie playing a board game together with three little children, then Ginny’s parents sitting by their hearth, her mother knitting a tiny sweater while Charlie read aloud from the Daily Prophet. The next house held Percy, who was helping a little girl with auburn hair do her homework. In the next cottage, Neville was bustling around in a frilly blue apron, making tea while Luna sat with her feet up on a poof and her hands resting on her belly swollen with pregnancy. With each house, Ginny grew confident that this was her future, that there would be a happy ending for them, all of them, eventually.
The fox finally stopped at the end of the row of houses and stepped closer to the window of this cottage. Ginny and Harry leaned in to see better.
A boy with freckles and very dark red hair ran down the stairs, waving a stuffed dog through the air. Another boy and a little girl ran after him, the both of them yelling something that they couldn’t hear. The little girl, her red braids bouncing on her back, was grinning as she jumped up and down, her bare feet pale against the dark hardwood floors. The littler of the two boys looked very distressed, his bright green eyes already welling with tears.
A woman came into the room, calling for quiet as she tucked a strand of red hair behind her ear. Ginny gave a soft gasp as she recognized her own eyes in the woman, who snatched the dog out of the older boy’s hand and handed it to the other boy. A man followed, one with unruly black hair and round glasses, a man that Ginny could see as Harry in a few years time.
“Is that us?” Harry whispered.
“Yes,” said the fox. “Watch.”
As Ginny’s older self was scolding the three children, Harry’s older self pushed his hand through his hair, exposing his forehead. Which was blank.
Harry raised his hand to touch his scar. “That’s… where’s my scar?” he muttered.
Then a second man, one very similar to Harry but several years older appeared going by the gray in his dark hair and the laugh lines by his eyes, holding in his hands a tray of cookies. He said something to the children, who all jumped up and down clapping their hands before quickly stifling themselves and standing still, or as still as young children could. Ginny’s older self smiled at the other man, touching his shoulder and moving out of the room. The older Harry sighed and took a cookie, earning a shout of protest from the three children. Before they could see him reply, a second woman appeared, standing directly in front of the window. They jumped back, startled and expecting her to cry out, however, she didn’t notice them. Rather, she pursed her lips and opened the window, saying as she did, “Harry, it is much too pleasant outside to leave all these windows open.”
“Whatever you say, Mum,” the older Harry called over his shoulder.
“Lily, would you believe that these three rascals are willing to be calm in exchange for their granddad’s famous snickerdoodle cookies?” called the second, much older man.
“I would believe anything of these three,” said the second woman. Ginny realized that her hands were at her mouth, in shock.
“Grammy, Jamie stole my dog!” the littler boy called out.
“Now why would Jamie do that?” said the woman, approaching them.
“He was going to see if it wouldn’t catch fire like my dragon!” the little girl said with a broad grin.
“Now, Jamie, you know that Lily-Luna’s dragon is specially charmed,” the older woman said, and she kept going but at that point, Ginny wasn’t listening, she was staring at Harry, who was staring almost blankly in the window. The only expression on his face was the way his eyebrows were knit together and the way his mouth hung slightly open.
“Harry?” she whispered.
“Are those….” His voice broke.
“Dad! Where did you put the butterbeer?” called the older Harry to the man with graying hair.
“Your parents,” Ginny said.
The fox stepped away from the cottage. They didn’t move.
“Look around,” called the fox.
They did and saw the color fading from the all the cottages. Across the road, they saw Fred and Katie and a child opening a door, presumably to their home. But then the house caught fire, and Ginny didn’t even have time to scream before the entire neighborhood was aflame, each cottage burning down. Remus and Sirius’s cottage was gone in seconds, but the two men and their child were still there, standing stock still with the ghosts of their smiles still on their faces that were slowly melting from the flames. Ginny spun around, to see the three children, and Harry’s parents, frozen in place as they were consumed by the flames.
And she did scream. She screamed in horror and shock and pain as the fire took the house, the children, Harry’s parents.
“I am the need to protect your loved ones. I am the horror you will feel. I am the cunning you will use to defeat your enemy. I am your slave.” The fox’s voice was almost as bright as the flames.
The fire burned all around them, and the fox sat itself between their feet, its head held low to the ground almost as if in shame. Harry dropped to his knees, his face tortured.
Hands gripped her shoulders, shaking her sharply. Ginny saw nothing but the flames, but heard a far off voice, calling her name and Harry’s. The fire was consuming everything and leaving the people where they were, slowly burning. She saw Harry’s parents collapse into piles of ash, then Sirius and Remus, then her own parents, Fred, George, Charlie, Ron, Neville, Luna, Hermione; everyone, every man, woman, and child, became ash until no one was left but herself and Harry, and their older selves.
Slowly, their older selves rotated where they stood, their faces not fixed the way everyone else’s had been, but displaying shock and hurt, something akin to betrayal.
“You did this,” they said. “This is your fault.”
“No,” whispered Harry. “No, I didn’t do anything!”
The two began to move, shuffling forward, their flesh melting to make a gruesome sight. “This is your fault!” they shouted. “You could have done something! You could have saved them!”
“No! I didn’t do anything!”
“Exactly! You did nothing! You could have saved them!”
“Harry, wake up!”
The fire vanished. Ginny blinked, once, twice, then rubbed at her eyes. She was in Professor McGonagall’s office, sitting next to Harry on a soft couch. McGonagall and Sirius were leaning over them, their faces concerned. Ginny met Sirius’s eyes and recalled the little boy that he’d been playing with. Hot tears swelled in her eyes, and she quickly buried her face in Harry’s shoulder.
“What’s wrong?” Professor McGonagall demanded. “What did you see?”
“It’s not my fault,” Harry mumbled. “I didn’t do it.”
“What’s not your fault?” Sirius asked.
It was a hallucination, Harry thought. It won’t be real. It couldn’t be. It was just a hallucination.
What if it is? Ginny asked.
No. No, it won’t be. I’ll make sure it won’t.
“What did you see?” Professor McGonagall repeated.
“Nothing,” Harry said, his voice shaky. “It was nothing.”
“Ginny was screaming,” said Hermione. Ginny lifted her head, to see that the other four had already gotten up, and they were all standing around them.
“You were out of it much longer than you should have been,” Sirius said.
“I… we had a vision, of sorts,” Ginny muttered.
“What was it?” McGonagall asked.
Ginny shook her head. “It couldn’t be real,” Harry murmured. “It couldn’t.”
“What happened?” asked Sirius.
“We can’t tell you,” Ginny whispered.
“Why not?” Sirius asked.
“It can’t be real,” Harry said again. “There’s no way it could.”
“It can’t. My parents… my parents are already dead.”
“What?” Sirius said. “Harry, what happened?”
“They can’t tell you,” said Ron.
Ginny looked up at him, surprised. The two adults did as well, their faces startled. Ron shrank back a little, then straightened his shoulders. “They said they couldn’t say, and that it couldn’t be real. That’s all they’re going to say.”
“He’s right,” Harry sighed. Professor McGonagall turned back to them with a huff.
“Very well,” she said. “At least tell us what animals you saw.”
“A snake, a pink cat, and a fox,” said Harry shortly.
“Wait, what?” Sirius said. “You saw three?”
“I think the snake is his,” Ginny said, her voice still shaky. “It addressed him mostly. And the cat is mine.”
“You saw three though?” Sirius asked again. “Really?”
“Yes,” Harry said. “The snake talked to me, the cat talked to Ginny, the fox… the fox talked to both of us.”
“A pink cat though?” Hermione asked.
“Could we discuss this a little later?” Ginny asked. “I would like some water.”
“Of course,” Professor McGonagall said, giving her wand a flick, and a glass of water appeared floating in the air; she took it and handed it to Ginny, who took a deep sip from it. Harry took it from her and took a gulp from it.
“So, a pink cat,” Sirius said.
Ginny nodded absently. “It had a large grin, and it hung from a branch by its tail. And after it was done talking, it floated away.”
“A Cheshire Cat!” Luna said.
“Those are fictional,” Sirius said.
“No, they’re not actually,” Hermione said. “Lewis Carrol was a maizoologist.”
“And what was the snake?” Neville asked.
“It, um, it was black, and had red bands,” Harry said.
“There are a lot of red and black snakes,” Sirius sighed.
“It had a hood, with a pattern on the back of its hood,” Harry said. “It looked like a star.”
“Well, you know what it looks like,” Professor McGonagall said. “Once we begin the process for you to transform into these animals, you can find out what exactly they are. But for now, I believe it would be best if you returned to your rooms to rest.”
Harry nodded, setting the glass of water on the professor’s desk. Sirius helped them up, then Professor McGonagall took a jar of Floo powder from her mantle. “It would be best if Floo’d directly there,” she said, gesturing them towards the fireplace.
“Thanks,” Harry said, his arm already wrapping around Ginny’s waist. They stepped into the green flames, and out into their lounge in Gryffindor tower.
Ginny dropped onto the sofa and leaned her head back, covering her face with her hands with a heavy sigh. Harry set himself beside her, his body enveloping hers, his warm weight sending a feeling of safety through her.
“What the hell did that mean?” Ginny murmured.
“It doesn’t matter,” Harry said. “It can’t be real. It was just the mushrooms.”
“But what if… what if part of it was?”
“My parents are already dead, so all of that was impossible. What they said… It won’t happen.”
“No, not that,” Ginny said, lowering her hands slowly. “I just… what if it meant something?”
“Like what?” he asked quietly.
“Like,” Ginny looked around the room, trying to find the words to explain what she was thinking. “I don’t know…”
“Like that fire was just a metaphor?”
“Yes, and the fact that your parents being alive making it impossible means that all of it was.”
Harry shook his head. “I won’t let that happen. We’ll defeat Voldemort, and everyone will make it out okay.”
Ginny heaved another sigh, but nodded. “I hope so,” she murmured.
Harry took her hand and squeezed it. “I won’t let Voldemort and the Death Eaters take away our family and friends’ chances at a happy life. I won’t.”
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