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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: 9085; Chapter Total: 2776







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

PART TWO


The castle was strangely cold on that second night of September. The ancient flagstones felt frigid, even through Ginny’s slippers, as she let her feet fall from the portrait hole and onto the floor. With the Fat Lady’s snores muffled slightly by the Invisibility Cloak, which Ginny kept pulled tight around her, Ginny’s ears were filled predominantly with her own breathing–louder than it should have been, she thought, as she began her careful journey down the seventh floor corridor–toward the West Tower–toward the Owlery.

Harry and Ginny’s quest to find Dumbledore had been fruitless as of yet–Ginny had inquired after his whereabouts with Professor McGonagall, after her first Transfiguration lesson, but the new headmistress hadn’t been any help–she had, in fact, been keenly (and predictably) suspicious as to precisely why a first year girl would need to locate the former headmaster–and when Ginny had insisted it was very important, and that it had to do with Harry Potter, McGonagall had drawn her lips into an inimitably fine line, and ordered Ginny out of her classroom.

The rest of the day had passed uneventfully, until finally–as Ginny was about to retire for bed–she glanced at the book just as an idea hastily scribbled itself into existence:

Hedwig!

Ginny had been confused–she fumbled for the pen, and wrote: Hedwig?

YES! came Harry’s quick reply. Hedwig is my owl, and she’s unbelievable, she could find anybody, anywhere. I bet she’d be able to find Dumbledore.

That’s excellent!
wrote Ginny, grinning for the first time in hours. Then she frowned. But where is she?

She should still be in the Owlery, with any luck.


And so that was where Ginny was headed now–her second night at the castle, and her second night out after hours alone.

But I’m not really alone, she thought. I’ve got Harry with me.

She followed the directions that Harry had given to the West Tower, and began to climb up, up the stairs–they seemed almost endless, now, this late at night when she was dreadfully tired from her lack of sleep the night before. She had to walk slowly to keep her balance, and just as she wondered whether she would reach the top before sunrise, the final steps came into view just above her, then leveled out, and then she was there.

The floor of the Owlery was disgustingly dropping-strewn–she determined she’d have to clean her slippers vigorously the first chance she got–and the stone room was even colder than the rest of the castle, with its glassless windows open to the night.

Hundreds of owls were perched in the darkness above–and she assumed hundreds more were out, hunting in the night–feathery shadows that Ginny could not tell from each other for the life of her. Harry had said that Hedwig was a snowy, so she looked for any dim speck of light among that ocean of black, but it was hopeless–it was simply too dark.

Quietly, she called: “Hedwig!

A thousand hoots sounded together at the disturbance, and a number of the owls flew from their perches, circling the area before they settled down once more. Ginny’s eyes were fixed high above, hoping for any sign of the owl they needed. Perhaps Hedwig herself was out, hunting... or perhaps she had been taken away from the school, when Harry had been “killed”...

Resignedly, Ginny called once again: “Hedwig!

Hoot.

Ginny jumped a foot off the floor and let out a tiny scream–this hoot, unique among the cacophony, had sounded from right in front of her: a single, snowy owl was standing on the lowest perch and looking her over with its head quirked curiously to the side.

“Hedwig!” she exclaimed in excitement, setting off another chaotic reaction among the sleeping owls above. Ginny grinned, and pulled out the book, hastily tearing out the page on which they had composed a letter to Professor Dumbledore, informing him of the situation and pleading for his help. Lacking an envelope, Ginny folded the paper in half, and held it out for Hedwig.

“Bring this to Professor Dumbledore,” she said. When the owl made no move, she added: “It’s from Harry.”

Hedwig snatched the letter in her beak, glanced once more at Ginny, and took off through the nearest window.

And now we wait, thought Ginny. She watched Hedwig fly–nothing but a graceful curve illuminated by the moonlight as she faded into the distance–and resignedly set off on the long walk back to Gryffindor Tower, her slippers squelching slightly as she walked.

* * *


The sky was buried beneath the ground, and Ron couldn’t see for the darkness, couldn’t feel for the cold. He was shivering violently where he lay, flat on the grass of the battlefield, staring up into the void with his hands on his side, holding his wound.

For the longest time, he could hear nothing but the strongest wind in his ears, blowing harsh against his raw skin, so that he would have been in the most awful pain if he weren’t thoroughly numb. His mind, too, had gone blank along with his senses, and he could not quite remember what had happened.

Then–the memories rushed back, a battering ram against his skull, with the sudden, high-pitched sound of the evil king: laughing, laughing, ringing into the night.

And then the laughter was gone, replaced with the dead, broken silence inside Ron’s head.

And the wind was gone, replaced with utterly still, stagnant air.

And the darkness was gone, replaced with a single, shining light, reflecting from some distance away.

And the numbness was gone, replaced with an intense, throbbing-yet-just-barely-tolerable pain within Ron’s gut. He found himself able to stand, to move towards that strange ghost-light in the center of the room–and he realized that this was indeed a room, now, and not a field.

Ron stumbled his way towards the light–still holding his side–and saw that it was emanating from a great, imposing mirror, which stood perhaps a thousand times taller than Ron himself. It struck a chord in Ron’s brain–and the chord resonates: intensely familiar...

“Look in it properly, go on, stand where I am...”

Ron spun round, the voice–HIS voice–echoing within the empty chamber–or perhaps only within Ron himself. Perhaps only in his memory.

“Look at me!”

This was Ron’s own voice, loud, excited, and certainly not coming from Ron’s mouth. Ron looked back around at the mirror, this mirror which he knew, now.

“Can you see all your family standing around you?”

Ron edged closer to the glass, closer, closer, closer still.

“No–I’m alone–but I’m different–I look older–and I’m head boy!”

Except he wasn’t alone at all, he wasn’t older–he was younger, and he was with Harry.
For on the other side of the glass Ron could see the figures whence the voices came, Harry and himself, staring transfixed at the mirror.

“I am–I’m wearing the badge like Bill used to–and I’m holding the house cup and the Quidditch cup–I’m Quidditch captain, too!”

Ron stepped closer, placing his hands hesitantly upon the glass, almost afraid that he would tip the mirror over, that he would break it, that it would be gone. He watched Harry unblinkingly, stared at him, for there he was, alive, and well–only, in the mirror.

“Do you think this mirror shows the future?” said Ron’s reflection.

“How can it?” said Harry. “All my family are dead.” A pause–the last word echoing menacingly out into the chamber, reaching out to take hold of Ron, to snatch him away back into his mourning heart. Then: “Let me have another look–”

But Harry would not get another look, for all of a sudden mirror-Ron had vanished, and had been replaced by the evil king, standing over Harry, a blood-red stone in his long-fingered hand.

“It’s over, Harry Potter,” said the high-pitched voice. The evil king raised his sword–or was it a wand?–towards Harry, and hopelessly, Harry looked into the mirror–looked directly at Ron–and with a flash of green light, the king attacked, but then Harry was gone–the sword clanged against the stone floor, heavy and unbalanced–and the green light faded innocently into the distance.


Ron’s eyes snapped open.

* * *


Ginny breathed a sigh of relief as she approached the portrait hole, for the Fat Lady’s frame remained open, just a bit, as she had left it, and she was able to climb back into the common room without incident.

It struck her suddenly, as she began to cross towards the dormitory stairs, that she felt brilliantly, undeniably awake, which was quite ridiculous given her shortage of sleep. But something in her was keeping her eyes wide and alert, not even drooping the slightest bit from the fatigue that earlier had nearly overtaken her a thousand times during classes.

And so instead of heading back up to her dormitory where she belonged–and perhaps acting upon a deep longing to keep the adventure alive, a hesitance to go to sleep for fear it may all turn out to be a dream–she removed the Invisibility Cloak, shoved it into her bag, settled into one of the armchairs by the fireplace, and pulled Harry out onto her lap–or rather, pulled the book out, she corrected her thoughts hastily, almost guiltily.

And she began to write, and began to read–to converse with this boy she’d never met, with the name she’d always known. They spoke not of Dumbledore, and did not name He-Who-Must-Not-Be, not even once–instead, somehow, Ginny found herself talking to Harry Potter as though he were her very own friend–not the best friend of her brother, whom she’d dreamt of the previous year as she wished to be at Hogwarts with all of her heart–and not the famous Harry Potter, not the Boy-Who-Lived, but the Boy-Who-Wrote-Back, again and again, surprising her each and every time.

You know, despite everything, Ginny found herself writing, this is really kind of nice.

I mean, she added hastily, the words tripping over themselves on the way out of her pen, not the you-being-trapped-in-a-mirror-while-You- Know-Who-is-out-there-about-to-attack, that’s horrible, obviously, I mean this book and everything. It’s nice having somebody to talk to.

Yes, it is, wrote Harry. It’s a nice change, after a whole summer of nothing in particular.

It’s really sort of crazy, isn’t it?
wrote Ginny, her heart racing as each new word formed without her brain having a chance to really think through what she was saying. I mean, talking to you like this. You don’t seem like I thought you’d be like, you don’t seem like the Harry Potter I read about when I was little, the Harry Potter they put in the storybooks–

Harry quickly wrote, before she had a chance to ramble on further:

Storybooks? They put me in storybooks?

Ginny blinked.

Of course they did. You’re the Boy-Who-Lived. You’re practically a fairy-tale. You’re bigger than the Three Little Hinkypunks, Ginny wrote with a grin.

And there was a long pause, and Ginny couldn’t help the worry from creeping up inside–What if he doesn’t write back...?–but then, as they always were, her fears were assuaged.

Sorry for the delay, he wrote. I was laughing. I can’t remember the last time I laughed.

And Ginny felt like a big red balloon, sailing high above Hogwarts with a smiley face painted on. He kept writing:

You’re serious, though? Storybooks about me? That’s ridiculous!

Yes, I’m serious. And I had one myself, thank-you-very-much. “Ridiculous.” Hmmph.

You did, eh?


Ginny nodded, and then remembered herself, and wrote.

Yes. And without even thinking, she went on: When I was little, I think it was my fourth birthday, Ron got one for me. He didn’t really get it himself, of course, he was five... but he picked it out. And then, he’d read it to me sometimes, once he could read. When I couldn’t sleep. When I was scared.

Another pause, and then: Ron never told me about that.

Ginny bit her lip. I doubt he’s told anyone about that.

Why not?


She hesitated, and then: Well, I hadn’t. Until now. And he’s a boy. He’s probably embarrassed.

That’s a stupid thing to be embarrassed about. If I had a little sister, I would’ve done that.


She grinned once again. Cool, she replied. And as they wrote, back and forth, back and forth, deep down inside of Ginny–in that same place where Hogwarts was her fairy-tale wonderland, where each nook and cranny of the castle called to her as a beautiful, magical, mystery–she began to wonder if it was possible to fall in love with somebody you’d never met.

“Ginny?”

She’d been scribbling intently when she heard the voice, and then the pen was flying across the room and Ginny had jumped a foot in the air.

“Ron!” said Ginny, attempting to catch her breath.

“Don’t you ever sleep, Gin?” Ron asked, and there was something alive in his voice again, like there’d been the previous night, something of the old Ron, the Ron she’d used to know.

“Not very much, no,” said Ginny. She leaned over and snatched her pen back up off the floor–then she peered at Ron, who was watching the empty fireplace, and frowned.

“The dreams, again?” she asked.

“No,” said Ron, shaking his head before hesitating–“Well, yeah, but not the same. It was different tonight.”

She waited a moment to see if he’d continue, and then prompted him:

“Do you want to talk about it?”

He didn’t say yes–he just began:

“It started out where the other dreams end,” he said. “Just when he... you know. When You-Know-Who gets him. But then this time I was... I was in the room with the Mirror. Wait, you don’t know the Mirror–”

Ginny was silent.

“–well, there’s this mirror, it’s called the Mirror of Erised.” Ron’s voice was growing more strained as he spoke, and his breathing almost ragged. “Harry found it over the Christmas hols last year, and it shows you like, it shows you what you want most in the world.” He sniffled, once, so that Ginny almost thought she’d imagined it. “And in the dream, I saw me, and I saw him, when we were standing in front of the Mirror, and then suddenly it was him and You-Know-Who, and You-Know-Who tried to kill him, but it... it didn’t work, he–Harry, I mean–he looked at me, and then he was gone, but he was... he was OK. That doesn’t make any sense–”

And then he began to cry, and Ginny moved herself to the couch beside him, just as they had sat the night before, and she began rubbing his back.

“It’s OK, Ron.”

But she had only rubbed a few moments when the sniffling stopped abruptly and Ron was tense.

“What the bloody hell is that?”

Ginny pulled her hand back. “What’s what? I’m just–”

That,” said Ron, and he pointed to the foot of the armchair where Ginny had been sitting, where her bag was nestled with a very distinct silvery something pouring out the top–almost like liquid.

Ginny opened her mouth to speak, but had no words, and Ron stood and snatched the Invisibility Cloak out of her bag, quick as a flash.

“You stole this from me?” he asked, incredulous.

“I–”

“You think this is some sort of game, Ginny?” His voice grew louder, louder, from whisper-yelling to almost-shouting. “What in hell was I thinking, telling you my bloody dreams–I forgot, you think this is a game. First that hilarious book, earlier, and now you’ve–”

“What is going on down here?” hissed a voice from the girls staircase, and they both turned to see Hermione, standing on the steps, wearing a pink dressing gown and a fuming face.

And as an answer, Ron held the Cloak aloft. “This is what’s going on,” he said.

“You found it!” said Hermione, sounding relieved and friendly for a moment before she remembered the situation. “But why are you yelling–?”

“She stole it,” said Ron, pointing wildly towards Ginny with the cloak.

Hermione’s eyes widened. “What?”

“I didn’t steal it,” said Ginny, finally finding her voice. “I just–”

“You just what? Pried it from my sleeping hands?”

And there was something so horribly vicious in Ron’s tone, now, and Ginny couldn’t stand it anymore. Tears began to stream down her face from pure frustration–for there was nothing to say, was there? There was no defense against the truth. She had stolen it. But it had felt so... right... at the time...

“Ron, calm down, you’re making her cry...” said Hermione, noticing Ginny’s tears–and perhaps the savage look in Ron’s eyes. She swept across from the stairs to where Ginny was standing, and put a hand on her arm. It was strange, to have Hermione on her side, and Ron railing against her. “I’m sure Ginny had a good reason for taking it. Didn’t you, Ginny?”

But Ginny had nothing to say. She could only savor the last few precious moments before Hermione turned against her as well, and so she leaned helplessly into the hand on her arm.

Didn’t you, Ginny?” said Hermione once again, sounding a bit less sure of herself.

“She most certainly did,” came a voice–a deep, unexpected voice, which Ginny had never heard before in her life.

* * *


The sky was white with lightning as Ginny threw open Ron’s door for the second night in a row–and as the door swung, the usual creak was replaced by a vast rumble of thunder from up above.

“It’s really close tonight, Ron,” she said, her voice trembling. “I counted, like you said, and it’s only two one-thousand–”

“C’mere,” said Ron, and she scuttled as quickly as she could into the bed beside him. “You’ll be fine, Gin, I promise.”

“I’m scared,” said Ginny, shaking her head and burrowing into his shoulder.

Ron sighed, and watched her fire-red head shake as the world was filled with light once again, followed quickly by another explosion of thunder. He looked at the ceiling warily–he reckoned it probably wasn’t the best idea to be at the top of the house during this.

“I’ll tell you what,” said Ron, “let’s go down to your room.”

“No... it feels safe up here,” said Ginny.

“If we go down to your room...” said Ron, grasping for some motivation. Finally, he struck upon something: ‘I’ll read to you. Just like when you were little.”

Ginny’s chocolatey-brown eyes appeared suddenly from their burrow in his shoulder.

“Harry Potter?” she asked. “Like you used to?”

“Harry Potter,” agreed Ron. The sky cracked open once more. “Quick, let’s go, last one down’s a one-legged Quintaped.”

Ginny was off like a flash, and Ron doubted even the lightning could have beaten her downstairs.


* * *


“Professor Dumbledore!” exclaimed Hermione.

“The very same,” said the voice Ginny had never heard, which she now knew belonged to the Headmaster she’d never met. Dumbledore was a tall wizard, with an old-fashioned wizard hat crooked upon his silvery hair, and behind half-moon spectacles were the bluest eyes Ginny had ever seen–which were sparkling as though they had not sparkled in a very long time. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Weasley,” he said, extending his hand, which Ginny shook hesitantly.

“What are you doing here?” asked Ron, taken aback. He added: “Professor.”

“I received a letter from Miss Weasley,” he said, nodding his head towards Ginny. “A most interesting letter indeed.”

Ron and Hermione looked at Ginny, eyebrows raised.

“But I only sent it a few hours ago,” said Ginny. “How could–”

“Ah, but you sent it by means of a most remarkable owl,” said Dumbledore, somehow managing to interrupt without a trace of rudeness. “And indeed, I was not very far away, so I do not believe Hedwig had any trouble at all.”

Ron and Hermione’s eyes widened, and Hermione mouthed: Hedwig...?

Dumbledore smiled, and then: “Miss Weasley, would you mind showing the way to the Mirror?”

“Of–of course,” said Ginny, and she led the way towards the portrait hole. Dumbledore followed quite amiably, with Ron and Hermione trailing behind in stunned disbelief.

“Your letter was quite the unexpected breakthrough,” said Dumbledore as they walked. “You see, I have spent the last months searching the school for the Mirror, for it very notably disappeared from its home last June–and I had my own suspicions about the significance of the disappearance. If what you wrote is true, my suspicions will have proven correct. I was certain it would turn up eventually...”

They had reached the spot where the door to the Room of Mirrors had been.

“Erm,” said Ginny. “This is it. It was just here... it appeared on the wall, just there, a door–”

Dumbledore was smiling to himself, shaking his head.

“I might have known.”

“What?” said Hermione. “What might you have known?”

“The Come-and-Go Room,” said Dumbledore. “The Room of Requirement.”

Hermione’s eyes widened. “I’ve read about that! In Hogwarts, A History–”

Once again, Dumbledore gracefully interrupted: “The Room of Requirement is by far the most temperamental and... tetchy room in the castle. It tends to have its own ideas about who should be able to find it, and what exactly it is they will find.”

Ron whispered to Hermione: “So what exactly is going on?

“Miss Weasley, when the room opened itself to you, what was it that you were seeking?”

Ginny thought for a minute. She had wanted to find an adventure of her own within Hogwarts, an adventure like the ones her brothers had told her about, her own story to tell, that was it, wasn’t it?

She opened her mouth to speak, but Dumbledore raised a hand. “You needn’t speak aloud. Merely walk back and forth three times, and concentrate–deep down in your mind.”

Deep down in your mind.

Deep down in her mind, she hadn’t been merely looking for an adventure at all–deep down, she had longed to solve the mystery, to discover what it was that had happened on that night in June, to unearth the secrets of Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, the boy she’d dreamt about when Ron had written home from school, the boy whose story could calm her during even the most terrifying of lightning storms–

And the door appeared.

Dumbledore grasped the doorknob and pulled the door wide–he gestured with his other arm: “After you, Miss Weasley.”

Ginny began to run, quick as a flash of lightning, through the door and past the mirrors on the walls, so that her innumerable reflections could barely keep up with her. In another moment, she was standing before the Mirror.

Harry was sitting on the ground, the book open in his lap, and he was looking at it intently. Ginny couldn’t help noticing, however, that he was not merely watching the latest page, waiting for her to write something new–no, instead, he was rereading the pages they’d already written, reading the stories of their lives that they’d buried within those pages.

Ginny smiled, and knocked lightly upon the glass.

The sound reverberated loudly in the Room of Requirement, and it must have done so within the Mirror as well, for Harry’s head snapped up, and he greeted her with a limp smile.

The smile widened into a grin as Dumbledore walked into view from the darkness behind Ginny. Ron and Hermione hung back, unsure of what exactly was going on.

“There he is,” said Ginny, pointing. Harry had stood, and was now pressing his hands against the glass, eager, as though the mere presence of Dumbledore would cause the glass to vanish, so that he could walk out of the mirror.

Ginny turned around, then, to look at Dumbledore, expecting a merry smile accompanied by a chuckle–instead, his mouth was thin, and straight, and perhaps even grim.

“What’s wrong?” said Ginny, frowning.

Dumbledore said nothing, but continued to look into the glass with that most morbid expression fixed upon his features.

“Can’t–can’t you see him?” said Ginny, her heart suddenly forgetting to beat. “He’s–he’s right there, Professor!” And she pointed, and when he didn’t react to her pointing, she touched the glass, unconsciously lining her own hand up with Harry’s.

“Miss Weasley... I’m afraid I was mistaken in my suspicions.”

Ginny blinked. “What do you mean?”

“I had believed, perhaps only with my heart, that somehow, Harry had become trapped within this mirror, that Lord Voldemort had not killed him at all. And I have spent the last months searching for this mirror, expecting perhaps to find him within it. When I received your letter, I was positive that my suspicions had been confirmed.”

Ginny could not fathom why he was repeating all of this.

“Now, however,” continued Dumbledore, “now that I have found the Mirror, I am afraid all it contains is an old man wearing woolen socks.”

Ginny furrowed her brow. “What are you talking about?”

Dumbledore sighed, a heavy, heavy sigh.

“We have been fooled by the Mirror of Erised,” he said. “We believed we had found a miracle, when really, we’d only stumbled upon the visions and desires of a childhood crush.”

“What are you talking about?” said Ginny once again, almost shouting now, her eyes wide and her breathing heavy.

“Men have wasted their lives before this mirror, Miss Weasley,” he said. “It does not do to dwell on dreams, and forget to live.”

And with that, he turned and began to walk towards the door, picking up a confused Ron and Hermione in his wake.

“NO!” shouted Ginny. “He’s right there!”

But they were gone. Ginny was alone–except for Harry.

Ginny looked at him, now, Harry, his scarred forehead pressed up against the glass, leaning listless and looking heartbroken as he watched Dumbledore–his supposed savior–arrive and leave again. It was the saddest, most hopeless sight Ginny had ever seen, Harry Potter, the great hero, the Boy-Who-Lived, leaning broken, crying against the glass. She longed for nothing more than to be able to comfort him–to be able to hold him in her arms and rub his back as he cried onto her shoulder–to be able to speak to him, aloud, to tell him everything would be all right.

And then, it was.

The End


Author’s Notes: This story can, and likely will, be construed in many different ways. I actually didn’t originally intend for it to be that way, it just sort of happened–developed organically on its own. I’d like for you to just sit for a moment, and think–and I know that I have already taken a large amount of time out of your day with this 11,000-plus word tale–but I’d appreciate very much if you could reflect on it a moment longer:

What just happened? What did you read? Did you read what you thought you read? Did you miss something? I learned a thousand things about my own story I never thought I’d intended, while writing it. I do not know exactly what happened; I leave that up to you now. Sure, I’d like to think I know exactly what this is about, (and I do have my own theory, which I suppose you could consider the “truth”) but none of us–and by “us” I mean “authors”–really have a clue what our stories mean to each person who reads them.

So please, review, and tell me what you think happened. I want to see if I’m the only one who saw it the way I did. My first reader did not–not at all. So, please, tell me what you think–I will be infinitely grateful.

the mystery tramp
Reviews 29
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