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SIYE Time:9:43 on 19th July 2024
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Our Buried Life
By the mystery tramp

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Category: Alternate Universe, First Week Challenge (2008-2)
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Ron Weasley
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Romance, Tragedy
Warnings: Mild Language, Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 29
Summary: ** Winner, a tie, of Best Angst in the “First Week” Challenge **
She felt as though she were sailing through a dream, gliding along amongst the ghost lights of the boats, the water sloshing loud against the wooden sides. A dream she’d dreamt a thousand times—the day she would finally arrive here, the day she would reach this heaven she’d heard so much about—and there it was.
Hitcount: Story Total: 9044; Chapter Total: 3038







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“Our Buried Life”
a story in two parts
by the mystery tramp

PART ONE


There was a fog around the castle as the boats crossed the lake, a strange, thick fog that appeared to stand perfectly still in the gusty blackness of the night. Rocking slightly more than she would have liked, Ginny Weasley sat in her boat and looked out at the towers and turrets that were all she could see of the castle–the castle she’d longed so long to see–towers blurry like written words obscured beneath tears.

She felt as though she were sailing through a dream, gliding along amongst the ghost lights of the boats, the water sloshing loud against the wooden sides. A dream she’d dreamt a thousand times–the day she would finally arrive here, the day she would reach this heaven she’d heard so much about–

And there it was.

They had come close enough now that she could see the castle itself behind the fog, could see a thousand dancing specks of light, candles in all the windows. It was just as she’d always imagined it, and yet somehow not the same at all–more real, of course, but something else as well. Or perhaps it was Ginny who was different–yes, that wasn’t much of a surprise. Everyone was different these days. Everyone had been different for months now.

But indeed, there was something almost melancholy in the sight of the castle, not at all the infinite joy that Ginny had always imagined. Something dark and mysterious lay ahead of her, she felt–felt deep within–the deepest she’d felt since the day the world fell apart.

* * *


The sky was grey, the clouds just barely spitting upon the checkered battlefield below. Ron Weasley sat high upon his horse, its ebony fur heavy with streaks of rain and blood. The field was filled with soldiers and horses–the shrill music of clashing swords–the sanguine dance of war.

His throat was sore, so that it hurt to breathe in the cold air–the battle was going badly.

His king was safe as yet, but the outlook was deteriorating sharply. They had lost too many men–they needed to force a victory soon, if they were going to claim one at all.

Another horse shrieked in the distance as its rider was slaughtered from its back, and Ron saw it: if he could charge forward in just the proper way, he could clear a path for his king to attack the enemy–he could clear a path to victory.

At once, he charged, mindless to the risk of sacrifice, mindless to anything but opening the way for his king. And suddenly he was there, and he swung his sword with every ounce of his strength, swung it with his very soul, and he felt that human resistance upon its blade, and he swung it once again as the first body fell. It lasted perhaps five seconds in total, but it was enough–the way was already clear as he felt steel pierce his side.

He fell from his horse to the miry ground, sure that pain should have been soaring through his body, but he couldn’t feel it. He was sure that there must have been blood everywhere, but he couldn’t see it–all that mattered was his king.

He lifted his gaze back to the battle to see his king charging through the opening to attack the enemy king–Ron couldn’t breathe as he watched–closer, closer and closer still–and just as his king lifted his sword to strike, the other king spun around in a flash that nearly stopped Ron’s heart–the enemy’s sword shone with some unseen sunlight as it swung through its curve–and it cut straight through Ron’s king with a harsh finality.

He fell, slow, from his horse as the enemy raised his sword into the air in victory, and Ron began to feel the pain in his side from his own wound, looked down to see the blood pouring everywhere, and relished in it. He had failed. He had failed, and his king was dead.

The sky was grey, but the world was crimson.


* * *


Ginny Weasley breathed a deep breath, sighed a deep sigh, and closed her eyes tight. It was almost unreal, the lot of it, just barely anchored to the realm of reality through the unmistakably palpable, undeniably tangible, indescribably real feeling of the smooth bedspread of the four-poster beneath her body. That bedspread was so foreign to her, so very not lumpy, so very not her own. And yet, for the next seven years, it would be hers.

She was at Hogwarts now.

Ginny tried to keep her eyes closed, to fall fast asleep so that she would be properly alive for her first day of lessons, but sleep seemed such a waste of time, such a futile pursuit what with everything just past those crimson curtains, just out of reach. Her heart was racing with thoughts of secret passageways, of ancient hiding-places she alone might discover, of the millions of fairy-tale mysteries that the old castle surely held for her, her new home, her storybook wonderland.

...and of course–buried deep down inside where she didn’t like to go–there was a darker, more dangerous hunger for mystery and magic than the fairy-tale yearnings of her youth... Deep down, she felt a pull towards the riddle of what happened last June–the day that Ron had hidden inside himself–the day the world grew shadowed.

Convincing herself that she was acting not because of that day, but from the innocent longing for exploration she’d held her whole, Ginny sprang up in her bed, carefully pulled aside her curtains and slipped out between them, slipped on her dressing gown, slipped on her slippers, and slipped down into the common room.

The room was enormous to her, having only seen it once before. She’d heard it mentioned so many times over the years by her brothers–always matter-of-factly, of course, for to them it was only the common room, to them it lived up to its name–that it had become this almost mythic location in her thoughts, this perfectly practical, perfectly perfunctory place. To be standing in the room itself–now, after all the times it had been spoken of off-hand by each of her brothers–only intensified the same epic dream-feeling with which Ginny had been walking around all day.

She breathed in the scent of the dead fire for a moment, breathed it deep into her lungs, and attempted to take everything else in along with it–the heavy-hanging tapestries, the dozing portraits of wizened old wizards, and the bits of timeworn stone that they didn’t quite manage to obscure. She took in everything around her, and when the sights were no longer enough, she began to feel–she ran her hand along the velvety back of one of a chair, slipped out of her slippers and slid her bare feet across the luxurious carpet, old and soft and rough at the same time.

This was Hogwarts. At last. At last–at last she could live out her own adventures like those her brothers had boasted of–at last she could explore the ancient corners and crevices for secrets–at last she could...

“Ginny?”

Her eyes flew open without having closed–for she hadn’t heard that voice for months. It was immediately familiar, of course, but its sudden appearance after such a long absence startled her.

“Ron?”

Ginny scanned the dark common room for the source of the voice, and finally spotted her brother, seated by the lifeless fire. Her heart skipped a beat, to see him looking strangely alive.

“Ron–Ron, you’re–”

“I know,” he said, and there was a coldness in his voice. He looked over her shoulder at the staircases, and then back at her. “Sit down, Gin, will you?”

Ginny did as he asked, and then started in on him immediately:

“Ron, what’s been wrong with you? You haven’t spoken to any of us in–”

“I know I haven’t, Gin, you don’t have to tell me.”

Ginny swallowed; she was unaccustomed to the harshness in his voice.

“OK,” she said. And she waited for him to explain. It took him a long time to speak again–Ginny could hear her own breath, abnormally loud, as she waited for him to speak once again. Finally, he began:

“I think it’s being back here that did it,” said Ron, and he didn’t look at her as he spoke, but at the barely-glowing embers in the fireplace. “It was like, everything happened and then next thing I knew it was summer and I was back home, and it was like none of it had been real.”

“But what happened?” she said. “What was it that happened that made you stop... made you stop talk talking?”

“You already know what happened,” he said, breaking into the silence again after another long wait. “I mean, everybody knows, all over the world–the Stone, and You-Know-Who and why Dumbledore got sacked–how everybody says it’s his fault–that’s bloody stupid, Dumbledore did everything you could imagine to protect it...”

He trailed off for a few moments, and then continued.

“It was our fault, all of it. Me and Hermione. We let him go alone...”

Ginny took a breath, and realized how cold it felt in the common room. Then:

“But you didn’t let–him–go alone... you were there–”

Ron shook his head violently. “We went down with him, but he was alone at the end. There was this... this chess game, you must’ve heard about it, that Skeeter woman wrote that bloody article about everything Dumbledore put down there–”

“Yes, I read it–”

“Well there was this chess game. And me being the bloody idiot that I am, I figured I’d play it like I always play it, you know, sacrifice the smaller pieces to bump off the bigger ones–and I sacrificed myself so they could go on. I’ve been thinking about it over and over again, I’ve been dreaming about it, for months, and there must’ve been another way. I could’ve stayed, and we could’ve all went on together, and he wouldn’t have been alone, and–and he wouldn’t have–”

His voice cracked slightly–from sudden use after so long a silence–or perhaps from something else entirely.

Ginny didn’t know what to say, and Ron seemed to have used up all his words, so she just put an arm around him and rubbed his back–like he used to do when she’d had a bad dream in the middle of the night, when she’d tip-toe up to his room at the Burrow with tears on her face–and he leaned into her hand.

“It’s... it’s all right, Ron,” she said, feeling more than a bit peculiar to be comforting her big brother this way.

He shook his head again, but remained silent except for a slight sniffle, and shifted slightly on the couch to move closer to his sister. Ginny noticed that he seemed to be holding something tightly to his chest–something silvery, that was poking out from beneath his folded arms. He was holding onto it for dear life, and now that she saw it, she was almost sure that she’d seen it before, on the few occasions that he’d been out of his room during the summer. What was it, she wondered?

She continued to rub his back, and he continued to sniffle softly, but neither of them spoke any more. After a long time, the sniffling subsided into an even sort of breathing, and then into the familiar snore she’d so often tormented him about when they were younger. He was asleep–and as soon as she knew it for sure, she ceased her rubbing and shifted to look at the strange silvery something in his arms.

She fingered the bit of loose material she had access to–it was unbelievably silky, smooth, and just breathtaking against her fingers–almost like a liquid.

Furrowing her brow, she thought, It couldn’t be...

Watching Ron’s sleeping face, she carefully lifted his arms away from the material, and pulled it out, slowly, slowly, and then she had it–it was larger than she’d expected, big enough to cover maybe three people at once.

There was no mistaking what it was, and Ginny swallowed–her heart was beating faster than felt healthy as she laid the silver cloth across her arm, which vanished before her eyes.

It is.

At once, without even a spare thought to the possible consequences, Ginny threw the Cloak over her head, exhilarated by the feel of it against her skin, the knowledge of her newfound freedom, and headed for the portrait hole.

This was his, she thought. And though no one had ever mentioned an Invisibility Cloak in all of the stories–and Ron had certainly never written home about it in any of his letters–there was simply no other explanation. Where else would Ron have gotten ahold of it? No–it must have been true: this Cloak belonged to Harry Potter.

And that, too, exhilarated her, perhaps more than it should have.

She stepped into the corridor, treading as lightly as she could, and felt alive for perhaps the first time in her life. She heard the snores of the Fat Lady’s portrait, and swung it carefully shut behind her–the Lady herself being otherwise occupied.

And then Ginny turned around, and looked down the corridor, feeling exquisitely anxious. She’d only been through in the corridors once, on the way from the Feast to Gryffindor Tower, and had absolutely no idea where she was going–she only knew that she was going, wherever her footsteps and the beat of her heart might take her.

Again, that dark desire began to brim deep within her–enraged by the chance discovery of this Invisibility Cloak–to discover something, anything about the mystery of that night in June–the night the articles started appearing in the Daily Prophet blaming Professor Dumbledore for allowing You-Know-Who to steal the Philosopher’s Stone–the night her parents started whispering to each other in worried tones when they thought she wasn’t listening–the night the wizarding world lost its savior, and she lost her dream.

She was thinking of that dark desire as she walked along the seventh floor corridor, but when she reached the end, and came to the stairwell, she heard a loud CRASH from the floor below her, and her eyes widened: there was someone else awake. What would they do to her if she was caught, out alone on her first night in the school?

Forgetting for a moment that she was wearing the Cloak, she turned back and began to run back the other way, trying to tread as lightly as she could, but there was another CRASH, and another, and another, and then a loud, cackling laugh–as though there were someone following below, knocking over suits of armor along the way.

She reached the portrait hole and the utterly terrifying sight of the Fat Lady snoozing calmly in her frame–it had not occurred to her for a moment that she would not be able to get back into the common room.

Her heart racing, she began to run back the other way, and the cackling continued below her, and she hadn’t the slightest idea what she was going to do–could she wait out here all night, hiding beneath the cloak until the Fat Lady woke up, and hope that no one found her? That sounded positively horrid–this was hardly the magical adventure she’d been hoping for when she left the common room, hardly the exciting quest for answers to the mystery of last June...

And suddenly, to Ginny’s complete and total astonishment, a door appeared from absolutely nowhere on the wall of the corridor, fading into existence before her very eyes. She merely stared at it for a moment, utterly perplexed.

Then the loudest cackle of all sounded, much closer than before, and she glanced down the corridor to see a brightly dressed little man pop out of the floor and begin bouncing around and knocking into things. This must have been Peeves the Poltergeist, and as all the stories she’d heard of Peeves ran through her mind, she quickly opened the mysterious door and slipped inside without another moment of hesitation.

Fittingly enough, the mysterious door led to a room that was the perfect image of mystery: it was dark and full of shadows, which seemed to slide and deform into various shapes without the need for any source of light at all. Ginny let the Invisibility Cloak drop to the floor, for she felt she was safe now, and it was only serving to obscure her vision further in the dim light.

Ginny looked around: the chamber was lined in mirrors, a million of them perhaps, mirrors of all shapes and sizes, a bona-fide carnival fun-house of a room, and as Ginny walked, a thousand more Ginnys walked along with her.

In the very center of the shadowy room stood the tallest and most magnificent mirror of them all, and as Ginny walked closer to it, with each step, the shadow beneath the mirror grew longer and longer, as though it longed to reach out and pull her in.

Finally, Ginny stood just in front of the mirror–looked into its glass–and nearly fell over.

For it was not her reflection that she saw in this mirror–perhaps her own reflections had all been used up by the mirrors on the walls?–but his. It was not her that stood there before her–but him.

Him.

Harry Potter.

Ginny’s mouth fell open and she blinked several times. How many times had she looked upon this boy’s picture, how many times had she stared into those eyes and wished she could really see them, close up?

She dashed up in a flash and pressed her face against the glass, her brown eyes only a few inches away from his emerald ones–and she could have stared at them–into them–forever, if only he had let her.

For before she knew what had happened, Harry Potter stepped away from the mirror–so that he was not standing where her own reflection should have been, but farther back. She followed suit, and looked at him questioningly.

He opened his mouth, and closed it again, over and over–and it was clear that he was trying to speak, but she could not hear the words.

She shrugged her shoulders hopelessly, trying to tell him, I don’t understand.

He frowned–not just a frown, but an utter defeated expression that encompassed his entire face.

And then he closed his eyes, and seemed to be concentrating hard for a moment, and suddenly a book appeared in his hands. He grinned, and opened it, and started to write something with a pen that had popped into existence along with the book. When he was finished, he walked close again and pressed the page against the glass.

HELP ME, he had written, and she was somewhat surprised to see the words were not backward.

How on earth could she help him? She longed for nothing more in the whole wide world than to be able to help him, but there seemed to be just no possible way that she could–

And she felt a weight in her hands.

She looked down and saw the book, and the pen, just as though they had been in her own hands the whole time. She looked quickly from them to Harry and back again, and grinned–Harry grinned as well, but his grin was somehow more powerful, she thought–recklessly joyous, somehow. He still held his own copy of the book, and was looking down into it, eager for her reply.

She opened her book, and below his two words, she wrote her own:

I’ll try.

* * *


The sky was black, unseen clouds pouring buckets of rain down upon the roof of the Burrow–pit-pit-pit-pit–as Ron lay in his bed staring at the shadows on the ceiling as they moved across the plaster.

Lightning flashed in through the window–illuminating the room like daylight for just a split second–and a few moments later, thunder rolled in after it. Ron shivered slightly, for he’d never been a fan of thunderstorms, alone up here at the top of the tall house.

But then he wasn’t alone at all, for his bedroom door swung slowly open with a creak and there stood a little red-haired girl in a nightdress, tears streaking down her face, her lip trembling visibly, even from across the room.

Ron propped himself up in bed, standing the pillows upright against the headboard, and called Ginny over with a wave of his hand.

“C’mere, Gin,” he said, and for all the discomfort he felt in the thunderstorm, none of it showed in his voice. She scuttled to the bed as quick as a flash of lightning, her bare feet pattering upon the wooden floor like the rain on the roof. She leapt up onto the bed next to him, burying her legs beneath the covers and burrowing against her brother.

“I had a bad dream,” she whispered. “And then I woke up and it was thunder-and-lightninging, and I was scared.”

He rubbed her back calmingly, soothingly, and said: “S’OK, Gin, it’s just a bit of rain.”

Another flash of lightning flickered in the distance, lighting up their faces and making the tears shine on Ginny’s face, all for just a second. Another roll of thunder.

“I just don’t like it,” she said. “I can’t sleep when it’s thunder-and-lightninging out... I’m afraid I’ll have the bad dream again.”

“D’you want to tell me about it?” asked Ron. “The dream?”

She nodded vigorously against him, but didn’t say anything for awhile. Finally, she sat up against the pillow–with his hand still on her back, of course–and began to talk about her dream.

“I dreamt I was at Hogwarts with Bill and Charlie,” she began, “and they were taking me through all these secret passageways and we were having an adventure and it was all really good... but then Bill and Charlie were gone, and I was lost, and I couldn’t find my way out. And then I was outside, but I was still lost, and it was dark out, and it started thunder-and-lightninging, and I got struck by lightning and then I woke up and it really was, and it was horrible.”

She’d barely stopped to breathe the whole time she was describing the bad part of the dream, and so when she finished, she was out of breath. Ron massaged her back more forcefully, yet still calm, soothing, until she was breathing evenly again.

“You’re not going to get struck by lightning,” said Ron. “D’you know how far away that lightning is?”

Ginny shook her head.

“Well, when it lightnings again, we can count as many seconds as we can before the thunder. For every five seconds it takes to thunder, that’s a whole mile away.”

“Really? I didn’t know that’s the way it worked,” said Ginny, furrowing her brow. “How do
you know?”

“Fred and George,” he said. And he grinned at her: “And don’t worry, they weren’t fooling–Fred and George used to be dead afraid of thunderstorms when they were little.”

Ginny grinned the widest grin in the world–almost conspiratorial. “Really?”

Ron nodded, and just then, a flash of lightning lit up the room once again.

Ginny gasped, and hurriedly began to count:

“One one-thousand, two one-thousand....”

Ron joined in and counted along with her:

“Three one-thousand, four one-thousand, five one-thousand,”–Ginny’s eyes lit up as they reached a mile–“six one-thousand, seven one-thousand, eight one-thousand, nine one-thousand, ten–”

The thunder clapped above their heads, cutting them off before they could finish the number.

“There, you see, Gin?” said Ron. “That lightning is almost two whole miles away. You’re perfectly safe.”

Ginny grinned once again, and said, “Of course I’m safe. I’m always safe when I’m up here with you.” And she hugged him around the middle and, before long, began to drift off to sleep. Ron smiled.

The sky was black, but the world was golden.


* * *


Ginny could barely keep her mind on her first day of classes–the only sleep she’d gotten she managed only by skipping breakfast–and throughout the day, as she struggled to copy down notes for each of her teachers, all she could think of was how much she’d rather be writing to Harry.

They had written back and forth a few times already, and during Potions class–which she had with the Ravenclaws–she decided to reread what they’d written while Luna Lovegood watched over their cauldron.

After her I’ll try, Ginny had scribbled, although I really have no idea what good I can do.

Harry had said: I’m sure you’ll be great, and she’d smiled so wide.

She didn’t really have anything to say to that, so instead, she asked what she’d longed to know from the start: So... what happened?

And he’d said he wasn’t sure.

I’d gotten the Philosopher’s Stone out of the mirror, and Voldemort–Ginny winced as she read the name–got it from me somehow, and it was over, everything, he’d won. And then he was going to kill me, he was pointing his wand at me and about to curse me and I just saw the mirror and the next thing I knew I was IN the mirror, and I was looking at him from the inside. And I’ve been stuck in here ever since.

And Ginny hadn’t known what to write back to that.

“What are you reading?”

Ginny jerked her head up from the book and looked at Luna Lovegood, who was peering at her with a bored-yet-curious look upon her face.

“Oh–nothing, Luna,” said Ginny.

“Really? Wow,” said Luna. “I’ve tried loads of times to read nothing and I haven’t quite managed it. It’s always been so much easier to read things that actually existed.”

Ginny just looked at her for a moment, and then cracked a half-smile. She had met Luna the day before on the train, and they’d gotten on well-enough, but Luna was quite simply the strangest person Ginny had ever met. She was inwardly somewhat relieved when she’d ended up being sorted into Ravenclaw, if only so that Ginny’s mind would not be strained quite so often in attempt to follow Luna’s thinking.

And then Ginny had an idea.

“Luna,” she said, “what would you think if someone were communicating with someone else, who’d become trapped inside a mirror through some unknown magical force?”

“What would I think?” asked Luna. “D’you mean what did I think? The first time I heard about it?”

Ginny was taken aback–“What?”

“Well, it’s not that uncommon is it? It’s happened loads of times. My daddy knows a man who routinely gets stuck inside mirrors and comes back out again with Ciler-Rirroms, which my daddy buys from him–”

“Ciler-Rirroms?”

“Mmhmm,” said Luna, nodding. “It’s Mirror-Relics backward, you see. They’re artifacts, like newspapers and books, with all the words written backwards, they’re evidence that he’s really gone there and back–”

“–thanks, Luna,” Ginny interrupted, and then, to appear slightly less rude: “We should check the potion.”

The potion didn’t really need checking, for it was perhaps the simplest concoction known to wizard (this being the first day of classes), but Ginny felt somewhat bad for Luna.

“So, erm,” Ginny began again, “how was it, exactly, that that man–the one with the Ciler-Rirroms–how was it that he got out? Of the mirror?”

“His true love, of course,” said Luna, as though it were the plainest thing in the world. She wasn’t looking at Ginny any longer, but instead intently watching the bubbles bursting one by one inside their cauldron. “Only someone’s true love can pull them out from inside a mirror, everybody knows that.”

“Oh,” said Ginny. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” said Luna. And then, almost offhandedly: “Let me know if your brother gets stuck inside a mirror, will you?”

Ginny blinked. “Which brother?” she asked, and then: “...why?”

“Ronald,” said Luna, in response to the first question, and to the second, she said: “Well, he’s very handsome, you know, and I suppose there’s no sense in not checking, just in case.”

Ginny half-grinned once again, and said: “Sure thing, Luna.”

“Thank you,” said Luna, “and enjoy your nothing.”

After Potions, Ginny had a break, and she nearly tripped over herself on the way back to the common room. When she crawled through the portrait hole, she heard Hermione Granger’s voice, somewhat loud, entirely irritated, and a more than a little bit anxious:

“Are you sure you brought it down here, Ron?”

“I’m sure,” said Ron, sounding like he might scream at her or burst into tears, at any moment. He was over by the fireplace, turning up sofa cushions, and all of a sudden Ginny felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, and she thought of the silvery cloak currently hidden in the bottom of her knapsack.

“What’s wrong?” Ginny asked, and before Ron could open his mouth, Hermione opened hers instead.

“Ron’s lost a... book,” she said, looking meaningfully at Ron. Ginny wondered if she knew how terribly obvious it was that she was lying.

Ginny looked at Ron as well, sure that he would contradict his friend and include her in the search.

“...yeah,” he said, instead. “I lost my History of Magic book down here, last night. You didn’t see it, did you, Ginny?”

Ginny, he said. Not Gin, but Ginny. She felt a cold, empty feeling in her chest, and shook her head.

“Can’t say that I have,” she said sharply, and sat down in one of the chairs by fireplace. “Did you look in your trunk?”

Ron furrowed his brow, looking like he was wondering what he’d done to deserve that tone, and didn’t respond. He just kept looking.

Ginny took a strange, extra pleasure in writing to Harry, then: it was as though she wasn’t just talking to him, it was as though he was hers, and only hers. Ron and Hermione thought that they would keep her out of all of their Harry business–if only they knew.

She wrote with the tip of her pen pressed to the paper with an extra bit of vigor, this time:

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write, she wrote, I didn’t really know what to say.

She waited a moment, and grinned as his words appeared beneath her own:

It’s all right. I was worried I’d lost you.

Ginny’s heart did a summersault in her chest–for just a moment–before it crashed back down to reality with his next sentence:

Where are Ron and Hermione?

Ginny glanced up from the book, towards Ron and Hermione–Ron was on his hands and knees, peering beneath the couches and armchairs, and Hermione was looking on with an expression somewhere between anger and anguish.

They’re in the common room, she said, which was true.

Harry wrote more quickly this time, as though excited, and Ginny couldn’t help but frown:

Can you get them? Can I talk to them? They’ll believe all this, I’m sure they will.

Ginny hesitated–this was the last thing she wanted to do, to share him when he’d heretofore been hers and hers alone–but there was no way to explain that to Harry, to convince him not to want to talk to his best friends. And so she called them:

“Ron? Hermione?”

They both looked round at her, Ron lightly bumping his head on the underside of the couch to do so, and Hermione looking slightly impatient.

“What, Ginny?”

She hesitated once again, and eyed the words in the book once more, longing in some dark part of herself to lie to Harry, to say she couldn’t find them, and keep him to herself.

“Come look at this,” she said, holding the book up in her hand.

Ron came, and took the book, peered at it for a moment with a puzzled look on his face.

“What is this, like, poetry or something?”

Ginny’s eyebrows shot up, for that had not been the expected response.

“What?”

“Is it poetry, I said? Or just random sentences?”

“What are you talking about?”

Hermione took the book from Ron, and read aloud:

I’ll try... although I really have no idea what good I can do.

She paused, looking perplexed, and then: “So... what happened? I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write... I didn’t really know what to say... they’re in the common room.

She looked back to Ginny, and said, “Well, it’s very free-verse, isn’t it, but I think it’s quite good. Sort of abstract, but some of the best poetry can be–”

“It’s not poetry–what about all the lines in between, the answers?”

Ron looked at Hermione, and Hermione looked at Ron, and then they both looked at the book.

Ginny grabbed the book from their hands, and pointed at Harry’s words.

There, the answers, that’s what I’m trying to–”

“There’s nothing there, Ginny,” said Ron.

“Oh!” said Hermione, suddenly a bit excited. “Are you speaking figuratively? That the answers lie between the abstract lines, in the blank spaces, because we can’t truly know the answers, and–”

“What, do you think I’m crazy?” said Ginny, and she was nearly shouting. Hermione shut her mouth quickly, looking like she’d had her tail trod upon. “It’s not bloody poetry, that’s Harry Potter’s writing! He’s writing to me through the book!”

Even as she said it, she knew how ridiculous it sounded, and how futile it was to exclaim–clearly, they couldn’t read Harry’s words, they couldn’t see them. And now she’d gone and blown everything.

The two of them stood perfectly still for a moment, staring at her, each with a look of disgust across their face.

“That’s not funny, Ginny,” said Ron finally, roughly pushing the book in Ginny’s hands back towards her chest. “I need to find the–my book.” And without another word, he went back to his search. Hermione went along with him, still looking deflated, and Ginny wanted to scream at them, but couldn’t. Instead, she took off towards her dormitory, and closed the curtains around her in her four-poster bed.

They can’t see it, Ginny wrote quickly, and a sudden sniffle caught her off-guard–was she starting to cry? They can’t read what you’ve written. They think I’ve gone completely crazy.

A minute went by before he wrote back, the longest minute of her life–she felt with each second that passed more and more sure that she was crazy, that she was writing to a stupid diary and had deluded herself into thinking it was real. She began to cry in earnest now, the tears sliding down her cheeks and falling upon the book, dropping one by one onto the letters she’d written until they were blurry and faded–blurry like the towers of a castle obscured by a thick fog.

And then, finally, he wrote back.

Are you crying?

Ginny gasped, stared at the smudges on the page and futilely attempted to wipe them away, to erase them entirely so that he might never have seen them at all. But it was impossible, and soon more words splotches appeared, falling fresh from her eyes.

Don’t cry...

She took one of the pillow cases from its pillow and attempted to wipe her face with it, and then wipe the page, to excise all the tears she’d wished she’d never cried, for she was so embarrassed, so infinitely embarrassed that she’d let him see her cry, him, Harry Potter–she’d let him see her cry and he couldn’t even see her face. And thoughts like those only made the tears flow faster.

And then:

Please, don’t cry, Gin.

Everything stopped–for a moment, she didn’t cry, didn’t even breathe, as she took in that word, those final three letters, that Gin.

She scrambled for the pen–lost somewhere in that once-flawless bedspread that was now a complete wreckage of blankets and pillows–finally found it, and scribbled furiously: Gin?

He wrote back quickly, clearly relieved that she’d finally responded:

I dunno if you like being called that, I’m sorry... I figured, we’re going to be dealing a lot with each other, and I just think you sound more like a Gin... Ginny sounds like a little girl, you know?

Oh yes, she knew.

So... do you have any ideas? she wrote. She thought of what Luna had said, the way that that man had supposedly gotten out of his mirrors, and then pushed the thought to the back of her mind.

Well, wrote Harry, I think the first thing to do is to talk to Dumbledore. He’ll know what to do. He knows all about this mirror.

For a second Ginny just looked at the page, thought he was being daft, but then realized that–of course–he couldn’t have known.

I can’t, she wrote. Dumbledore’s not here.

I can wait, he wrote. I’ve waited this long, I can wait for him to get back.

You don’t understand, he’s not coming back,
she wrote. He’s been sacked. They sacked him because they thought he let You-Know-Who kill you, and get the Stone, and that he should have been able to keep better watch of his students.

There was no reply for a long, long time, and it felt like a silence, even though there hadn’t been any spoken words to begin with.

Finally, the now-familiar handwriting appeared once again:

Bloody hell.

Another minute, and then:

So Dumbledore’s left Hogwarts? Voldemort comes back and they kick Dumbledore out of Hogwarts?

Yes, Ginny wrote. He was sacked at the end of the school year, and no one has heard from him since. It’s all over the papers, he’s disappeared.

Another moment, then:

He’s going to walk right in and take over.

Ginny blinked–for a foolish moment she thought Harry was talking about Dumbledore. What?

Voldemort. With Dumbledore gone, what’s to stop him?


Ginny scribbled furiously: You-Know-Who can’t just walk into Hogwarts, can he? This is the safest place in the world.

No sooner had she finished the word than the next letters began to appear:

Not without Dumbledore. Dumbledore’s the only wizard Voldemort ever feared. That’s the only thing that stopped him from taking it over the first time.

Ginny swallowed.

So what do we do? she wrote.

The words had a strange sort of finality to them as they appeared:

We need to find Dumbledore.

TO BE CONTINUED
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