Stories from Sixth (and Seventh) Year
Valley of the Shadow - Part II
His head is throbbing as he stands. "I've gotta go," he mouths to Ginny as he leaves the Great Hall. The halls are deserted on a Sunday morning — the further he gets away from the Great Hall, the less chance there is to run into anyone. He wants nothing more at the time than to be alone.
"What were you doing when Death Eaters were burning my home?"
The encounter was more than an hour old, but the question was still ringing in his ears. He figured the question was rhetorical and should not have been answered. He knew that if he did answer truthfully that he'd been feeling up his girlfriend at the time that he'd go down in a withering crossfire, given the typical Weasley temperaments of Ron and Ginny. Well, at least part of Abelard's warning of 'danger without' made sense now. The thought of whinging about the unfairness of the situation never occurred to him. Now that the relative quiet of the summer had been broken, it was time to do something about things.
The unfortunate thing was that there was no clear set of instructions: 'to defeat Voldemort, do this, this, and then that, and voila, destruction of Old Snake-eyes is guaranteed.' Dumbledore was absent from the castle, Abelard was recovering in Capetown, and he didn't feel up to baring his soul to Professor McGonagall at the moment, so he wandered, paced, and then wandered some more. His pacing through the halls of Hogwarts took him into the vicinity of Barnabus the Barmy, so he guessed that a visit to the Room of Requirement couldn't hurt. He attempted to clear his mind as he passed by the door, hoping that the room would know what he needed, as he surely didn't know.
He hesitated, and then turned the doorknob, pushing the door open. The Room of Requirement had turned itself into a pretty fair replica of the kitchen at Grimmauld Place. A plate was set on the table with toast and eggs, a glass of juice and a steaming cup of coffee. Next to the plate was an envelope with his name on it. His blood ran cold when he recognized the handwriting.
Harry chuckled. Breakfast and a note from Sirius. Well, I probably do need to eat. I'll deal with the note after the toast is gone, he thought to himself, pulling the chair out so he could sit down. The toast was good, made from bread that was an odd cross between that normally prepared by the Hogwarts kitchen and what Molly served at The Burrow. It was good, but it would be better with a pot of Molly's strawberry jam. With a muted pop, a small pot appeared next to his still steaming cup of coffee. He felt his humour improve as his plate emptied. The coffee was excellent, giving him the courage to pick up the letter.
First off, this isn't really me, so don't get your knickers in a twist trying to figure out the theological implications of how I could be writing to you after I'm dead. The Room figured that you needed to talk to a friend, and it knew enough about me to craft a fair facsimile. That being said, I do know what you're worried about.
"How do I get strong enough to finish off Old Snake-Eyes, and what can I do to protect Ginny until that's done?"
I'll be totally honest with you — I've got some ideas about the first part of this problem, but I'm at a loss as to the second part. I know a lot about strengthening magic — I am, after all, the accumulated whimsy and magic of a school of wizardry that's been in the business for more than a thousand years.
Your first lesson with Abelard held an important truth — the magic is in the wizard. That magic can be increased — like a muscle, it needs to be exercised. During this summer you trained hard every other day, Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, allowing your magic to recharge on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, taking Sunday off to listen to Fr. Martin and hob-knob with my cousin and her fiancÃ©e. By the way I heartily approve: Moony's been alone too long. Do let him know the next time you see him.
Abelard pushed you hard, draining your magic close to zero with every lesson. This draining and recharging cycle was important — your magical reserves deepened with practice. While you've been studying your brains out back in school, the work hasn't been taxing your reserves the way Abelard pushed you this summer, aside from your sessions with Dumbledore.
So, you need to work out your magic in your spare time. I don't recommend cutting classes, otherwise Professor McGonagall will call you up short and possibly put an end to things. She has a very conservative view on a number of issues, training included. Some of the stuff you're going to be doing is a tad on the dangerous side. In your pocket you have some truly useful books from Abelard. They'll give you a pretty good curriculum for your training program. Now, all you'll need is a place, and a trainer.
As to the place, there are three Unplottable spaces within the castle: this room, the Chamber of Secrets, and what we used to call Rowena's Rookery. There is a room above the Owlery — invisible of course — and without access from within the Owlery tower, at least not normal access. The inner dimensions are larger on the inside than on the outside, which you'll find to be useful. The backside of this note can be activated once you're in the Owlery. You already know the password. To the best of my knowledge, Dumbledore doesn't know the whereabouts of the Rookery, although I'm sure he knows that it's somewhere in the castle. You need to train and train hard. Time is not on your side — it never has been. You will know when the time is right to bring your friends into this project; until then, you should exercise all of those Marauder skills you have inherited to keep this a covert operation. Once you're in the Rookery, the trainer part will work itself out — or not. We'll see.
In closing, I'm looking forward to seeing you on the other side, but not anytime soon.
P.S. You're going to have an opportunity to teach Snivelus a lesson soon — make it count.
Finishing the letter, he was torn between laughing and crying. For not being an authentic Sirius letter, it certainly sounded like him, especially the postscript. Well, he'd been planning for this encounter, and he hoped that he'd make Sirius proud.
"Oh, Sirius, why did you have to go and leave me? I could use a good joke right now," he said aloud. The note was placed carefully back into the envelope and into his shirt pocket. He nodded at the room as he turned towards the door. "Thanks."
The room shimmered into a grey mist as he closed the door.
It took a while to get to the Owlery. Concluding that he couldn't avoid everyone, he Vanished himself and engaged his Farsight. As he approached the Owlery, he heard voices. A pair of Hufflepuffs, probably in their fifth year, was sending off mail. Instead of leaving after their owls had started on their journey, they settled against a window, looking out over the grounds, stealing a lazy kiss from time to time.
Can't they find a better place to smooch? You know, like a guano encrusted cave?
He waited them out, stretching his senses to insure that no one else was heading towards the Owlery after they left. He pulled the note from his pocket, unfolding it and turning it over. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good," he intoned, watching wispy lines appear on the back of the note. It wasn't as detailed as the Marauder's Map, showing only the floor plan of the Owlery. The sketch showed a stick figure labelled "H. Potter" standing by the south windows. A door-frame appeared in the drawing on what appeared to Harry to be a blank wall between the north and east window bays. The stick figure moved towards the new door on the map, placing a hand on the door frame. Little words appeared next to the figure's head. "Help me" it said.
"Well," he said to himself. "Here goes."
He walked on silent feet to the northeast wall, placing his fingers gingerly on the wall where he reckoned the door should be according to the map. He cleared his throat. "Help me," he said, feeling slightly foolish. A cool breeze blew into the tower, stirring up the pellet-encrusted floor. A few of the owls hooted softly, shifting position to get out of the wind.
"Who asks for help?"
It was a woman's voice, which was about all that Harry could tell for sure; a richly textured voice reminding him of Madam Rosmerta.
"I do," he replied. "Harry Potter."
"I did not know that name. Are you known by another?" the voice asked.
Harry thought carefully. "Among the People I am called the Servant of the Light," he answered.
The wind blew again, making him squint as the dust swirled in circles.
"I did not know that name either. You sound like a young man, but you smell like a dragon. Show yourself," the voice commanded.
Harry extended his senses. Detecting no immediate threats, he cancelled his invisibility.
The voice laughed. "Well now, young wizard, when did the Snow Dragons teach you that trick?" she asked with a peal of musical laughter.
"This summer," he replied.
"What manner of help do you require?"
"I need to become stronger," he said.
"I have to stop a dark wizard," he answered.
"And if you fail?"
"Everyone I care for dies, the dark wizard rules this land, and I'll be dead," he said carefully.
The doorframe in the wall became visible. The door had no knob, but as he touched it, the door swung out, revealing a circular staircase.
"Well, in for a penny, in for a pound," he said to himself as he stepped through the doorframe. He dispatched Batty to scout out the stairwell and the area beyond. By the time he reached the head of the stairs, he knew that he was the only living thing on this level of the tower; which was of little comfort. Many a cursebreaker had been maimed or worse by hexes and curses left by wizards long dead, Bill had warned him this summer. The stairwell opened out into an empty room with large windows similar to those found a floor below in the Owlery. Anger surged through him as he considered whether or not he was being sent on a fool's errand through the castle.
Might I be heard, young dragon?
Sure, I could use a good laugh about now.
When you were in dire straights in the Chamber, what did you do?
I called for help.
What help responded?
Riddle mocked Dumbledore for sending me 'a songbird and an old hat.'
Harry nodded, looking about the room with his Farsight engaged. The walls of the room rippled with an odd display of magic. A mirror that he'd neglected on his first scan of the room was ablaze with magic. He walked up to the mirror slowly, examining it carefully. He wiped the layer of grime from the glass with his handkerchief, noting that the reflection was hazy and dim.
Any clues, M'lau?
Address the mirror.
The mirror is drenched with human magic, a human woman if I am not mistaken. Address the mirror as you would the changeling glossat.
Talk to it as I would Professor McGonagall?
Feeling not a little foolish, he cleared his throat. "Uh, good day, Madam," he said.
The mirror trembled a little, shaking it slightly on the wall. Harry could see the magical aura surrounding the object throb with an indescribable swirl of colour.
"Good day, Servant of the Light. What month is it?" the mirror said in the woman's voice he'd heard earlier in the Owlery.
"October," he answered.
"What year?" she asked.
"1996," he said.
"It's been a long time since anyone visited me. Thank you for coming," the voice said.
"Who are you, madam?" he asked.
"You may call me Rowena, I am the collected memories of Rowena Ravenclaw," she said. The mirror glowed briefly and then flashed with a bright burst of blue light. Harry looked closer, seeing only his own reflection at first, then he was startled as he saw a woman's face in the mirror, a face not all that different from the elegant portrait of the founder he'd seen in Dumbledore's office.
"You're one of the Founders?" he asked.
The woman smiled and nodded. "I don't suppose that you're one of mine?"
"Uh, no," he replied, "I'm in Gryffindor. Uh, at the risk of sounding impertinent, where do you keep your brain?"
"I beg your pardon," Rowena countered.
"A good friend of mine warned me to never talk to something if I couldn't figure out where it kept its brain," Harry explained.
"Oh," Rowena said thoughtfully. "Probably good advice. Have you learned yet about Pensieves?"
"Yeah," he answered. "I have a few myself."
"Indeed," Rowena said, arching a single brow. "This mirror is rather like a Pensieve, except that it's not so easy to put things in and take things out once the basic enchantment is set. Rowena — or, I should say, the witch who created me - came from a long line of witches all of whom succumbed to a mysterious dementia in their old age; they were sound of body, but their minds became feeble and bit by bit they would forget everything they'd ever learned. The prospect terrified her, so she built me; or rather she built several iterations of what would become me, storing all of her memories."
"Did it work?" Harry asked quietly.
"Alas, no," the mirror replied. "When she was but 100 years old, the dementia appeared. Within five years or so she was for all intents and purposes an empty husk. Godric made this place for Rowena's study shortly after the castle was built. In her dotage, he would come here once a year to speak with me, even after she finally died. I knew that after Godric died that visitors would be few and far between."
"What was Godric to Rowena?" Harry asked.
The mirror didn't answer for a moment, the woman's face lost in a thoughtful expression that turned into a sad smile. "They were not lovers, if that is your curiosity, although they did love one another deeply. She understood him as no other woman did — he often sought her counsel. No, Godric had but one love in his life and it was not Rowena," she said sadly, her voice dwindling to a whisper. "But enough of this; tell me of your struggles with this evil Wizard," she commanded.
Harry found a spot on the window ledge, pulling his knees up to his chin as he began the convoluted tale of Grindewald, Tom Riddle, the Marauders, the courtship of James and Lily, the Order of the Phoenix, the rise and fall of Lord Voldemort and Voldemort's return. Rowena's mirror, or as he simply thought of her, Rowena, was an avid and active listener, ooh-ing and ah-ing at all the right points, asking clarifying questions that revealed a lot of insight. They finished their discussion well after curfew, with Harry arriving back in his dormitory sometime after two o'clock in the morning.
The next morning he awoke shortly before his first class began, pulling on his trainers and throwing on the first clean robe he could find. The Common Room was empty; all the Gryffindors had long since risen for breakfast and classes.
One particular Gryffindor was heavy hearted as she trudged across the lawn to Hagrid's hut for her first class of the day. Harry had failed to show up for breakfast.
"Ron?" Hermione asked at lunchtime on Thursday, "have you seen Harry?"
"Hmph?" Ron answered, his mouth exceedingly full of bread, having shoved a large slab of buttered bread into his mouth after finishing the last of his soup. He stopped chewing for a moment and then swallowed. ''Come to think of it, no, I haven't — I mean, I see him at class and all, but he's always disappearing before and after class — I bet he's with Ginny," he said with a smile.
"I don't think so," Hermione said with a frown. "I heard Ginny asking Neville about him," she said.
"And?" Ron asked.
"Neville hadn't seen him either," she explained.
Ron scrunched up his face in concentration. "So why isn't Ginny asking you?" he inquired.
"We're, uh, not talking right now," Hermione stammered.
"What are you talking about? The two of you are thick as thieves," he replied.
"Not — recently," Hermione said. "Look, Ron, I really don't want to get into that right now. I'm worried about Harry, and I'm worried about Ginny too," she said with a sniff.
"You're always worried about Harry," Ron said, giving Hermione's knee a gentle squeeze under the table. "He's alright. All of his assignments have gone in on time this week and he's ahead of me on the Transfiguration readings."
"How do you know?" she asked.
"I couldn't find my book, so I nicked his book — it's underlined with those little comments he always makes in the margins," Ron explained.
"Well," Hermione said, "that's better, I guess, but I'm still worried."
"Of course you are, love, that's a given," Ron said, a certain twinkle evident in his eyes.
"Oh, Ron," Hermione said. "Don't ever change."
Thursday, 10 October 1996
What an utterly crappy day. I woke up with a headache today, PMS-ing to the max. My visitor is not due until Saturday, but I still feel like dung.
For reasons that are not entirely clear, it appears that Harry and I are not talking. I haven't seen him since breakfast on Sunday. It was bad enough seeing him withdraw last year, but that now I'm connected to him, it hurts like hell. I belong to him, and he to me, but for reasons that I can't quite figure out he wants nothing to do with me. Has he come to his senses and figured out that marking me was the biggest blunder of his life? Is he appalled that I'm such a slag for stripping the two of us and throwing myself at him during the Hogsmeade weekend? Is he pissed off that he's here in school when he thinks he should be out tracking Tom down? I wish I knew. Sweet Merlin, I need a hug right now.
Ordinarily I'd go to Hermione right about now, but she's not talking to me either. Well, that one I can figure out all on my own. She's so used to being the queen bee she can't handle the small show of independence I made on Sunday, so now; of course, I'm being punished by the silent act. Maybe I should just eat my pride and seek her out. I wish this cursed headache would clear up so I could think straight.
On the academic front, I'm doing okay in all my classes this week except for my tutorial with McGonagall. We keep going over the same things, but bleeding nothing is happening. Crimeny, it's time to go off to the D.A. meeting — perhaps the black-haired ghost will deign to acknowledge my existence. Well, time to close this out and make it off to the D.A..
Thursday, 10 October 1996
Well, the ghost graced us with his presence tonight, not that it did me any good. Hermione opened up the R.O.R. tonight. About 30 seconds after we all expected to start, Harry appeared at the head of the room and started in like he'd been at it already for ten minutes. I'd been watching the door and he didn't come in that way, unless he was invisible. I didn't want to engage my Farsight, as I already had a dull headache. Unlike Harry, who apparently can run his Farsight all day, using Farsight for more than a brief spell gives me a headache, which I already have in full measure, thank you very much.
The D.A. lesson was quite good, I'll admit, building nicely on some of the things that Jasmine was doing with us this summer. Before the big freeze Harry was saying that he wants to teach Apparation to the Ministry Crew (the six of us who went to fetch Sirius) but he hasn't figured out a way to do so on the Hogwarts grounds. The Anti-Apparation wards make Apparation anywhere on the grounds a pretty dicey proposition. Notwithstanding this limitation, Harry showed an ingenious application of the Banishing charm that has nearly much the same effect as Apparation, using an immovable object as the anchor, which has the effect of Banishing the spell caster. I was working with Hermione, tutoring some of the younger students during the meeting, keeping a steady eye on Harry. By the time the meeting ended, I was sure that I was going to be able to catch up with him, but poof! No Harry! I even kicked in my Farsight and scanned the room — but I couldn't catch any trace of a disappeared boyfriend.
Well enough of my heartache. I need to finish off tomorrow's assignment and be ready for revisions on Saturday. Hopefully this ridiculous lockdown of the castle will be lifted so I can attend services on Saturday. I could use a lift right now.
Maybe tomorrow will look better.
Harry entered the Rookery silent and invisible. Once he was certain that the area was still secure, he cancelled the silencing charm and made himself visible.
"Good evening, sir, are you not well? Rowena said.
"I'm okay, I guess — I have a bit of a headache," Harry said.
"How was the duelling club meeting?" Rowena asked.
"Uh, it went fine. The Banishing Charm exercise was well received," Harry said.
"Oh good, that was one of Godric's favourite tactics. Was your lady in attendance?" she asked.
"Ginny? Yeah, she was. She did well," Harry said in a distracted fashion.
"She must be jealous by now — apart from classes and practice, you're spending all of your time with me," Rowena observed.
"She, uh, doesn't know that I've been working on things with you here," Harry stammered.
"Lovers should not keep secrets from one another without reason, young sir," Rowena chided.
Harry said nothing at first, drawing a breath and then holding his tongue. Finally he spoke: "I have my reasons," he said. "Alright now, I got the book from the library on Magical Ward Construction. Explain to me how an Anti-Apparation ward works, if you would, madam."
"Certainly, let's begin by comparing the most simple and the most difficult wards in construction and operation. Watch as I draw this diagram . . . ."Rowena began, losing herself in the details of the magic, eager to have an inquiring mind before her after nearly a century of solitude.
To Ginny it seemed as though the week would never end. She'd caught Harry's eye during Saturday morning's Quidditch practice, his shy smile filling her with hope, but he was called back to the castle by the new Potions instructor just before the end of practice. For her part, Professor McGonagall caught her at lunchtime, advising her that the security lockdown was still in effect, but that religious services at Hooper would be continue, thanks to additional security provided by members of the Order.
Hermione found her that afternoon, deep in the library. She was one of the few people who knew of her favourite studying spot.
"Ginny? Tonks is waiting for you in the Common Room," Hermione announced quietly.
"What?" Ginny replied, staring blankly at her papers.
"Your escort for today's services," Hermione responded.
"Oh, right. I'm sorry — I'm not all here right now," Ginny said, plucking up her wristwatch from atop her books and tucking it into her pocket. Books and papers were pushed into her satchel before she stood and stretched.
"Is everything all right?" Hermione asked sombrely.
"Eh?" Ginny replied. "Yeah, I guess — most things are just fine."
"But some things aren't?" Hermione probed.
"Right. I just wish that I knew what was going on," Ginny replied.
"Exactly," Ginny said flatly.
"Look me up after Evensong if you want to talk," Hermione offered.
Ginny smiled and nodded.
"You need to be going," Hermione chided.
"Right then," Ginny said, hoisting her bag to her shoulder. She took off at a fast trot, picking her way around the tables that clogged the aisles between the bookshelves.
"No running in the library!" Hermione hissed.
Ginny made a gesture with her free hand and ran even faster.
Father Harper stood up, pulling at the fabric of his grey friar robes before he spoke. His usual attire for Evensong was a surplice over Muggle attire, so it was a bit unusual to see him in the uniform of his order. "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord," he intoned.
"Thanks be to God," the crowd of young wizards and witches replied. Chairs clanked as the undercroft emptied. While most of the worshippers left by the main doors that lead to the lane connecting Hogsmeade and Hooper, a few stepped into the fireplace. Tonks approached Father Harper, whispering something into his ear before giving him a hug. She then turned to seek out the pale, quiet red-haired witch who was still seated, her forehead resting on the back of the chair in front of her.
"Time to go, lass," Tonks called boisterously.
"Yeah, right," Ginny replied, pushing up from the chair.
Tonks slipped her hand onto Ginny's forehead. "Well, you're not feverish, but you still look like your Kneazle died," she said.
Ginny smiled weakly. "It's not that bad," she protested.
"Boy troubles?" Tonks asked.
Ginny bit her lips and nodded before she was embraced in a sisterly hug.
"Did you two get into a row last week at Hogsmeade?"
Ginny shook her head. "Hardly," she whispered into the witch's ear. "We had a brilliant time, but I haven't talked to him since then, and I don't know what's wrong. I think he's in one of his moods," Ginny grumbled.
Tonks chuckled. "Well, that's the witches' lot, isn't it? Pulling our wizards out of their funks. Moony got into a right blue funk after the last full moon," Tonks confided.
"So, what did you do?" Ginny asked.
Tonks released Ginny as she ran her fingers through her hair. It changed from gold with black spikes to a medium length shade of blue. "The cure involved an ambush using a plate of fresh biscuits, some raspberry-chocolate syrup and a towel," she said as she began to blush, "oh yeah, that worked well — you should try it," she mused.
"I don't think so," Ginny replied. "I kind of pushed the envelope the last time we were doing that stuff, which now that I think of it, might be the problem," she said with a frown.
Tonks laughed. "I doubt that — I don't think that Harry could get too much of you, Ginny. He's just got a lot on his mind these days."
Ginny untied the scarf covering her hair. "It's kind of hard to work my wiles on him when he's making himself scarce," she complained.
"I thought you could always find him with that bond thing," Tonks said.
Ginny shook her head. "He's doing something with his magic — I can still feel him, but I haven't a clue what he's doing or where he is," she muttered.
"That would explain a few things," Tonks said. "Minerva said that he's not showing up on her maps at the castle. Do you think he's doing it on purpose?"
"Count on it," she said, chuckling. "He doesn't like being watched — ever." She walked to the mantle over the hearth, pulling her school robes off of a peg. "Thanks for the chat, Tonks. I'm feeling a bit better — I guess it's time to go back to the castle."
"Right then," Tonks replied, holding out her hand. "We go together."
The time spent with the revision group was always good. Tonight was no exception. Hermione's notes were tremendous, of course. Beyond explaining the material, they cross-referenced issues across different disciplines: notes from History of Magic tied into concepts from Charms and Transfiguration. Notes from Potions cross-walked into topics alluded to in History of Magic. Ginny found that attempting to teach these nuggets to her revision group strengthened her grasp on the material. None of the members of the group would consider dropping this time together — they were all learning too much. But even magical learning has its limits.
After the revision group dissipated, Ginny stretched in her chair, sending out her senses. Whatever Harry was doing, he was still doing it — she could sense something from the bond, but not what he was doing, or where he was doing it.
"Well, he can't avoid me forever," she said aloud, putting her revision notes away before pulling out her still incomplete Transfiguration and Arithmancy papers. If she finished these tonight, she could justify her Sunday morning lie-in. With a power of concentration honed by growing up in a loud, crowded house she blocked out the commotion of the Common Room and immersed her thoughts into the Transfiguration essay, stopping only for a break at the loo, which wasn't much of a break, considering that she carried Topics of Advanced Transfiguration into the stall with her.
Transfiguration segued into Arithmancy. The now-finished essay was carefully stowed in its folder which in turn went into her satchel. The table was presently covered with papers bearing line after line of equations. She'd dropped a minus sign somewhere, she was sure of it, unless one really could incinerate a mountain with the energy stored in an acorn. She tugged at her scalp in frustration and then drew a line through the offending page of calculations; she would start anew, hoping that she could either solve the equation properly or at least find her dropped minus sign. She rubbed her temples, wishing that her dull, throbbing headache would relent to the potion she'd obtained from Madam Pomfrey.
Harry entered the Common Room through the portrait hole an hour later, minutes before the midnight curfew for upper division students on a weekend night. The Common Room was both quiet and dark, the only light coming from the now dying fire in the fireplace and a pair of wall sconces behind to the now slumbering form of his beloved. His heart warmed at the sight of her, and he was strongly tempted to wake her, but he knew that if he attempted to wake her under these circumstances she would range from cross to incomprehensible. He looked down at her scattered pages of Arithmancy; turning the crossed out page over to leave a note. "I've been busy this week. Missing you bunches. Breakfast with me at Chez D's on Sunday at 9:30 a.m.? Love you — H."
He stared at the paper for a minute before applying the Eyes Only charm to his message. He then considered kissing her as she slept, but then thought better of it; being hexed by an incoherent girlfriend wasn't high on his to-do list. Quiet as a shadow he rose up the stairs leading to his dormitory.
Hermione and Ron arrived a few minutes after 1:00 a.m., having finished their last rounds of the morning. The castle was safe, although they'd rousted several couples, reminding them of the limits on underage romance, and more importantly, the boundaries of curfew. Hermione clucked when she saw Ginny crashed on the table. She straightened her notes, carefully putting them into folders according to discipline and handed the newly loaded satchel to Ron while she applied a Mobilcorpus charm to pull her up the stairs to place her in bed. She stood on tip-toe to give Ron a final kiss for the morning and pulled her immobile friend up the stairway, bobbing along behind her like a lumbering balloon. Ginny's room was already dark, the beds that were occupied all properly secured with drawn curtains. Ginny's roommate Emily talked quietly when she was dreaming. Tonight's dream apparently involved a long conversation on how she didn't want to have to bake biscuits for her brother's birthday. Hermione quietly deposited her friend in bed, untying her shoes and placing them on the floor next to her satchel. The last thing she did before pulling the curtains was applying a silencing charm and disarming her alarm clock; Ginny obviously needed the sleep.
Hermione walked quietly up the stairs to her own quarters, humming a Muggle tune that had worked its way into her memory over the summer. It felt good to be able to take care of Ginny, even if it was just a trifle. Within minutes she was in her own bed, asleep, but not before she carefully checked her own alarm. It wouldn't do to miss breakfast; there were so many things that could be accomplished on a Sunday if one just got an early start.
Sunday, October 13, 1996
Well, the dear visitor is now officially late, and I still feel like cauldron scrapings. Normally I'm pretty predictable, but when I'm really stressed out, things get out of whack. The downside of this is that when she does arrive, it really, really hurts. I was bitching about this to Emily when Hermione came to take me to dinner tonight. She looked a bit weirded out by the topic. Come to think of it, she's rather reluctant to discuss bodily functions of any sort. Well, it takes all kinds.
Emily and Hermione tried to get me to talk about how things are going with Harry right now, but I let them know in no uncertain terms that the topic was off-limits, so instead we discussed fripperies like what we're wearing to the All-Hallows Eve Ball and other girly topics. I'm hoping that whatever funk Harry's experiencing will resolve itself before then, but I suppose I should make plans. If he doesn't come to his senses this week, I suppose that I'll have to ambush him after the Quidditch match this Saturday. Maybe Tonks can owl me some chocolate-raspberry syrup. Yeah, right. Look how well being forward worked last time. Still, it's worth some deep thought, if only I was capable of deep thought. This blasted headache just won't stop — I'm hoping that it will lift when her majesty arrives, but I'm not placing any large bets.
On the academic front, I'm still doing well, surprise, surprise, in all subjects except my Transfiguration tutorial, where, surprise, surprise, I still seem to be blocked. I even sunk so low as to ask Tk'lch what I'm doing wrong, but he simply replied that he had no notion how mammals transfigured into lower mammals. He reminds me of Percy at times — really smart, but not too helpful. With my now constant headache, it's hard to talk to him too — it's like we're talking at either ends of a long echoing hallway. I'd talk to Harry about it, but I can't bloody well find him. I have a live apart from Harry — I'm just not enjoying it a whole lot right now.
Well, enough carping and complaining right now — tomorrow's another day of adventure at Britain's premiere institute of magical learning where the flame-haired maiden will play yet another round of where's Harry, and what will I do to him once I get my pale, freckled, mammalian hands on him.
XOX - M'wah
Defence Against the Dark Arts had been a bloody pain this year. Although there was no doubt that Professor Snape knew his subject, his ability to impart knowledge with impartiality was no better with this course than it was with the prior five years of Potions. Harry kept his head down and his mouth shut, answering questions only when called upon. It was amazing, really, how many right answers Harry provided that ended up losing points for Gryffindor. He was learning things, however, and it was a N.E.W.T. course, so some suffering was to be expected.
"Today's assignment," Snape drawled as he flicked his wand at the board in the front of the classroom, erasing information that most of the students had not yet copied down, "is and essay on the creation, control, detection and destruction of Inferi — I expect that it will take at least three feet to adequately cover the subject, but as you are N.E.W.T. level students, I will leave the length of the essay to your good judgment, with the exception of Miss Granger. You, Miss Granger may not submit more than four feet of essay. I am tired of wasting my time reviewing all of your inane meanderings that go beyond the assigned topic. The essay is due next Monday. Very well then, class is dismissed," he said, striding to the back of the classroom to open the door, ignoring the raised hands that shot into the air.
Ron was beside himself. "But we're playing the first match of the season," he whinged to Hermione.
"Then I suggest that you finish it before the match so you can enjoy your weekend properly," she replied primly as she stood outside the classroom, apparently waiting for Harry to come out of the room.
"Potter," Snape spat, "a word if you — in private," he said, closing and sealing the door.
"C'mon, Hermione, let's go to lunch," Ron urged, "I'm starving."
"Oh Ron," Hermione said. "You're always starving. Go on ahead, I need to talk to Harry for a minute — we'll catch up with you in the Great Hall."
"Suit yourself," he said, giving her a wink before he loped off.
"The Headmaster says that you were tutored in Occlumency this summer," Snape drawled.
Harry stood still, his hands behind his back. He nodded his head slightly.
"So arrogant, so much like your peacock of a father," Snape oozed. "Legilimens!"
Snape noted that the boy's mind was calmer, more orderly, but still undefended. He pried back the most perfunctory of barriers and began to search for a memory behind the barrier: it was a jowly man speaking on television outside of some building Snape had never seen before. He paused to analyze the memory when he heard and felt a click, similar to that of a door being closed. The memory vanished. Whatever the boy had done, he was no longer in Potter's mind, but appeared to be in deep darkness. Snape attempted to place his hands on his abdomen to take a cleansing breath, but wherever he was he appeared to no longer have control of his hands.
He felt disturbances in the air surrounding him and flinched. Whatever was in the air was hunting, hunting smaller creatures like himself. He fluttered his wings, pushing off into the air, hoping that he could make it to safety before the predators found him.
He'd successfully evaded the hunters, but somehow in all the confusion had ended up tangled; tangled in sticky cords that threatened to break his limbs as he pulled away. He once again attempted to calm himself, but he could feel vibrations travelling through the cords. Whatever animal had made the cords was coming for him; there was no escaping death tonight.
The web tore, dumping him into the darkness; he was falling, falling and falling some more. He finally landed on a rocky hillside in the darkness, tumbling head over heels down the slope until he fell into the steaming, smouldering lake. The stench of the fumes was choking him; the lake was not filled with liquid, but instead consisted of slowly burning rocks. There was nowhere to seek shelter. By now he was in the middle of the lake, which stretched for miles in each direction. If he were able to make it back to the edge, it was doubtful that he could scramble up the steep edges of the surrounding hills — he was too weak. The heat from the rocks burned through the soles of his boots; the fumes scored his throat as he panted shallowly.
He walked endlessly, falling from time to time on the burning rocks, blistering his forearms and hands as he pushed himself up to walk erect again. Although he'd been walking for hours, he was no closer to the shore. A thin figure appeared on the shore in front of him.
"James," he croaked, "for the love of God, have mercy on me," he whispered.
He was in the classroom again, looking up into Potter's face, but the eyes were wrong, the face was James' cruel face, but Lily's kind eyes looked down on him as he reclined on the floor. He wasn't in Hell; he was back in his classroom at Hogwarts. He tried to push himself up, but his blistered hands sent spasms of pain up his arms. He noted that he no longer smelled the stench of burnt sulfur.
He was standing again, how, he wasn't sure. He pulled his robes around him. "Potter, I shall inform the Headmaster that your summer tutoring was — adequate," he said. "You may go now."
"Thank you sir," he replied. "Will you need assistance getting to Madam Pomfrey?"
"No, be gone!" he shouted.
"Yes sir, have a nice day," he said, opening the doorway wide. The accursed Granger brat was smiling at him from the hallway. It hurt to make a fist.
"This isn't the way to the Great Hall," Harry protested.
"Humour me," Hermione whispered, looking both ways in the hallway before pushing open the door to an empty classroom. Harry followed her into the room, thinking back to the last time a friend pulled him into a classroom; it seemed like a lifetime ago. Hermione sealed the door with several charms, brushed her hair from her face and then turned towards Harry. "I want to know what's going on, Harry," she said earnestly. "You and Ginny both look like Hell, you about took the head off of several third-year students at the last D.A. meeting, and I never see you any more."
He didn't say anything for a moment. Hermione fidgeted in the silence.
"The prisoner pleads guilty. I haven't been sleeping very well; I'm doing my best to keep on top of these classes and I'm working on a study project outside of classes that's taking a lot of time," he said, avoiding her eyes as he spoke.
"What's the project?" Hermione asked.
"Oh, you know, the usual stuff," Harry said, breaking a smile, "surviving the times, defeating dark wizards, stuff like that."
"I've missed you," she said.
"I've missed you too," he replied.
"Ginny misses you too," she said timidly.
Harry turned towards the window, not looking at her as he spoke. "Did she ask you to talk to me?"
"Of course not, I'm worried about her is all," she said quietly. "What's up with you two, anyway?"
Harry fiddled with the collar of his robes as he looked out the window some more. He took a deep breath, sighing as he turned around. "I wish I knew — we're — I — blimey, I don't know what's going on. She's keeping me at arm's length right now. I invited her to breakfast on Sunday but she stood me up," he said grimly.
"Are you sure she knew about the date?" she asked.
"Reasonably sure," he answered.
Hermione fidgeted some more, bursting when she finally spoke. "I think she's pregnant, Harry," she said, wincing in anticipation.
Harry snorted, thrusting his hands deep into his pockets. "Well, that's bloody unlikely," he said.
"What makes you so sure?" she asked.
"Well, I might not have been the most attentive of students when Professor Flitwick gave the third year health lectures, but I seem to remember that a witch and a wizard have to put their bits together to make a baby," Harry said wearily.
"And?" Hermione prompted.
"And Ginny and I haven't done that," he said, looking more tired than before as he turned again to look out the window.
"But," Hermione protested, cutting herself off.
"But what?" Harry asked over his shoulder.
"Are you sure?"
"That we haven't done that? Reasonably sure," he replied, making a wry smile. "I'm fairly certain that I'd remember something like that, but then again, I'm rubbish at this sort of thing anyways."
"You're not," Hermione protested.
"Yeah, right, that's why we're having this conversation, remember?"
"But her period's late!" Hermione exclaimed.
Harry looked at his wristwatch, doing some figuring in his head. "She's not that late. I don't think she's pregnant, Hermione."
"Well, that's settled then," Hermione said, looking rather sheepish. "Oh, Harry, you must think I'm terrible."
"Nah, bossy, overly curious, meddlesome, but not terrible," he said with a smile.
"Oh, you!" she said, flicking her wand, producing a string of hornets that flew towards his face.
Harry flinched briefly before waving his open hand at the buzzing insects. They turned into coloured bubbles, glistening in the sunlight before they popped. "Very nice charm work, witch," he said.
"Thanks, yours wasn't too shabby either," Hermione replied, appearing grateful that the subject had changed
"What do you say we go get some lunch before Ron starts looking for us?" Harry asked.
October 17, 1996
Well, with great fanfare, my visitor arrived during Herbology today. : ( I've been packing supplies in my satchel for nearly a week, so at least I was prepared for that part of it, but the cramps about cut me in half when they came on me. Professor Sprout was cool about it when I asked to visit the loo, but I almost got snagged by a Venomous Tentacula on the way out — I guess I smelled different. Yech. After the visitor arrived, my headache let up a bit, but it hasn't gone away yet.
I saw Harry briefly at lunch today, the first public sighting of the ghost in over a week. He looks tired, but he seemed pretty happy as he was sitting at the table, joking and carrying on with Ron and Hermione. I would have braced him then and there, but I had just sat down with the girls in my revision group and I didn't want to make a scene leaving them to join the golden trio. In hindsight, I should have knocked him off of his chair and dragged him out of the Great Hall.
I saw him again, tonight at dinner. The evening owls arrived, including a spectacular bird I didn't recognize that alighted at the Ravenclaw table. Shortly after the owls departed, I heard a squeal from Cho Chang, who bolted from the Ravenclaw table like a Hippogriff with its tailfeathers on fire, darting straight to Harry. More particularly, onto Harry's lap where she gave him a particularly loud smack on the lips. I know that Harry has no feelings for Cho beyond friendship, but still, that sight set my guts on fire with jealousy. By the time I screwed up my courage to give that boy what for, he was gone.
On a side note, I can't hear Tk'lch any more. I can still sense that he's there, but the garbly distortion is too loud to make out anything that he says, so I've stopped talking to him. I'd go to Madam Pomfrey to check it out if I had any confidence that she could treat this any better than my everlasting headache. I also doubt that the standard healer curriculum covers the care and maintenance of Snow Dragon Pyr'gs anyway.
In a change of pace from the usual whinging and snivelling that has filled these pages in the past two weeks, I proudly report that today I transformed into my Animagus form briefly. Yeah, Ginny! I thought it was going to be painful, but to my pleasant surprise, it wasn't. To put all of this into perspective, I was only able to hold the form for a few seconds, but still, after all the non-progress of the last month, this is a wonderful breakthrough. Professor M is chuffed about it for sure. She says that once an Animagus (I'm an Animagus!) makes the first successful transformation, the subsequent changes come easier and quicker. To no one's surprise I'm a tabby cat — a red tabby cat. Blasted Weasley genes! Why couldn't I have lustrous black hair for once? Huh? Just once, okay?
Well, enough for now. My insane brother, also known as the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain, has called an early practice tomorrow morning because he's worried about our performance in Saturday's match against the snakes. Personally, I think we could play our reserves against the snakes and still win, but that's not my decision.
It's time to chase after Morphia and see if I can get something resembling a good night's sleep before tomorrow's practice.
October 18, 1996
The red-haired tyrant, also known as the Weasley least likely to reproduce, has decreed that we will all be in bed by 9:00 p.m. tonight, even going so far as to co-opt Katie into doing a bed check in the girl's dormitories. I've half a mind to turn invisible when she drops by just to see what Ron would do if I were missing at bed check.
School was good today — I didn't have Defence Against the Dark Arts, which is always a good way to end the week. Snape's stopped looking me in the eye. Since the beginning of the year I've had my Occlumency shield running at full blast every time I know he's in the area. This hasn't stopped him from trying to get a look into my head. I don't know what is worse, men who try to look down my blouse or Legilimens who try to peek inside my head. Needless to say, this has inspired some pretty aggressive behaviour on my part, trying to lock eyes with him whenever I can. I draw the line at skin contact, however. I'm not going to voluntarily touch Snape.
Speaking of skin contact, or lack thereof, I finally caught Harry at practice today. After the usual drills and scrimmage, I naively thought that we were done. I landed next to Harry, who was drawing elaborate diagrams illustrating for Maddy the usual moves deployed by Slytherin, especially the moves they try against the Seekers. Maddy appeared to be completed captivated by Harry, so I was a bit surprised when she tugged on his sleeve, letting him know that I was waiting for him. Maddy disappeared when Harry turned to face me. I was all prepared to uncork a vicious rant when he smiled at me, causing me to forget the first half of the rant. Then he uttered three words that blew the rest of the rant out of the window: "I've missed you." I stood there speechless.
I hate my brother, I really do. It was at that moment that he decided that practice wasn't really done, and that the Beaters needed to run some more drills, which meant that the Chasers had to return to the sky. "After the game?" I mouthed to him. He nodded and walked off in the direction of the showers. By the time I finished the drills and got my own shower, Harry was long since gone, off to Potions if my memory holds true.
I had to run to make it to my next class on time, as Care of Magical Creatures is on the wrong side of the grounds from the Quidditch pitch.
New rant here. Of all the creatures that Hagrid has foisted off on us, I'd say it's a draw between the Blast Ended Skrewt and the Unicorns. Although I'm technically still a virgin, the fussy Unicorns have never cared much for me, which has given rise to all sorts of nasty rumours. Today was better than normal — they didn't run away, they didn't try to gore me, and in record time, I had my Unicorn under control. I didn't try to get it to fall asleep in my lap while I was sweetly singing, unlike certain classmates of mine in another house. Who knew that Luna had such rapport with Unicorns?
Well, Katie has informed me in no uncertain terms that I need to draw this diary entry to a close if I'm to make my 9:00 p.m. curfew. Tomorrow night, hopefully, I'll write about the humiliation of the snakes, unless, of course, I'm out breaking curfew with the ghost.
Hermione rose an hour earlier than was her normal practice for Saturdays. She carefully packed her Dyson's bag and padded off to the Prefect's bathroom, running through her normal ablutions before indulging in a ten-minute soak in the monstrous sized bathtub. After towelling off, she opened the package that Mum had sent that week. It was only knickers and a bra, but when she put them on she felt more confident, which is why Mum sent them in the first place. Today's makeup was very subtle eyeliner followed by an even more subtle blush before she dressed in her usual weekend wear: trainers, jeans and a long sleeved blouse. After dithering before the mirror for a minute, she left the Prefect's bathroom with the top two buttons of her blouse unbuttoned. It wasn't enough to show any cleavage, but it did show off the lean lines of her neck nicely, just as Mum said it would.
A brisk walk later she was back in her favourite chair, reading a trashy novel, her reward for being caught up on her studies. She didn't have long to wait before Ron arrived, crackling with nervous energy. He walked down the stairs with his playbook open in front of him. Not surprisingly, he didn't see Hermione standing in front of him until he ran into her.
"It's time to stop cramming, Ron; you know that playbook by heart," she said, deliberately pitching her voice just a little lower than normal.
"What? Are you mental? Today's the match, Hermione!" he said indignantly.
"Yes, today's the match," she said, locking his eyes with her own. "Today's the day that you're going to humiliate Slytherin," she said, pulling the playbook from his grasp and tossing it lightly into her bag. "You are the best Keeper in this school, Ron Weasley, and probably the best captain that Gryffindor has seen since Charlie held the job," she said, placing one hand flat on his chest. She ran her free hand up his arm until it was playing with the hairs on the back of his neck, noting with some satisfaction that he shivered slightly when she did so. "You're not playing today to show what a fabulous Keeper you are, or what a brilliant captain you are, or even to humiliate the ferret," she said in a husky tone.
"I'm not?" he asked incredulously.
"No, you're not. You're winning today's game for me," she said, pulling his head down to hers.
Half an hour later a calm, cool Captain addressed the regulars and the reserves of the Gryffindor team while a smirking Hermione Granger began to pen a quick note home.
You were right. What would I do without your advice?
Hermione had carefully prepared for this game. She'd read Quidditch Through the Ages, carefully jotted notes in the margins of her own copy of the Official Rules, and had even read through the playbook that Ron had carefully and lovingly assembled. George Weasley had sent her a prototype pair of Omnioculars which had an earpiece that that resembled an extendable ear, allowing her to hear the action down on the pitch as if it were taking place right next to her. She tried to tell herself that it was merely trying to gain a deeper understanding of Wizarding culture, but even Pavarti could see through that flimsy rationale. She was doing all this because of Ron.
It was a bright crisp day — a bit chilly for the spectators, but just right for the players in their heavy Quidditch uniforms. She wrapped her scarf around her neck and stood to cheer loudly when Ron violently blocked a goal, sending the Quaffle back with such force that the Slytherin Chaser, a nondescript fifth-year girl playing for the first time, narrowly avoided falling off of her broom. The Quaffle was captured by a whooping Ginny, who in turn passed it to one of her sister Chasers, ratcheting up the score for Gryffindor.
Ron was playing at the top of his game; for the first forty minutes Slytherin was unable to score at all. The Slytherin Keeper, however, was not so lucky. From time to time Hermione would find Harry with the Ominoculars, trying to read from his posture or expression whether he was merely enjoying flying on such a fine day, or whether he'd seen the snitch. Thus far, it appeared that he was just having a good fly.
Slytherin called a quick time-out, the Captain spending most of his time shouting at the regular team members while angrily gesticulating. Hermione tuned her Omnioculars to the huddle in time to hear him command the Beaters to "go after the Chasers, especially the red-head." After that, Slytherin pretty much abandoned its offensive game in favour of a particularly rough defensive game that appeared to be focused on maiming the Chasers. Hermione noted with satisfaction that Ron called out a particular play to neutralize such a strategy while gaining a few more goals against Slytherin. The score was so lopsided now that if Malfoy caught the snitch, Slytherin would still lose the game.
Harry, she noted with some satisfaction, began to run interference for the Chasers by flying intersecting routes with the Slytherin Beaters, a somewhat dangerous strategy, given the propensity of all Beaters to swing wildly at objects appearing in their peripheral vision. The next forty minutes was a game of attrition; the graceful Gryffindor Chasers against increasingly physical Slytherin Beaters. Harry broke off from hazing the larger of the two Beaters, diving to a point in mid-pitch with Malfoy following a half-length behind. Hermione quickly scanned the field, starting with Ron at one end of the field, catching sight of Ginny who had just gained possession of the Quaffle from an angry Slytherin Chaser. Ginny began to sprint towards the other goal when Fletcher, the larger of the Slytherin Beaters sent a Bludger towards her back. Hermione watched in mute horror as the Bludger closed in on an intercept course with the back of her head. A moment before impact, Hermione's field of view in the Omniocular was blocked as Harry suddenly appeared, blocking the Bludger with his chest. She didn't need the audio function of the Omniocular to hear the ribs cracking. Harry spiralled to a controlled crash while Ginny continued her sprint to the goal. Ron called a time-out, gathering the team to him, regulars and reserves. Madam Pomfrey had Harry in a stretcher, casting several charms on the visible sunken area of his chest before moving him to the sidelines. Satisfied that Harry's immediate needs were being cared for, Hermione swung the Omnioculars to the Gryffindor huddle, catching the screaming match between Ron and his sister on the field.
"He's hurt, Ron, put in my reserve so I can go with him to the hospital," Ginny said heatedly.
"Not a chance, Ginny. I'm willing to play with a reserve Seeker, but I still need you!" Ron shouted.
"Bollocks! Harry needs me now!" Ginny retorted.
"Harry's unconscious — he won't know you're there for hours, but he will know that you left your position. What would Harry want?" Ron shouted.
"He would want me to do my bleeding duty!" Ginny shouted back, her face a mask of rage.
"Good, get back on that broom. After we've beaten the snakes I'll make sure that you're the first one in the Hospital wing," Ron said.
"I hate you Ron!" Ginny shouted, angrily throttling her broom handle.
"I love you too, sis," Ron said, swirling his hand to indicate that the reserves should return to the bench and the regular players, minus a substitution or two, were to return to the air.
Hermione was caught with a conflict of emotions — she sympathized with Ginny, admiring her devotion to the game when she knew that she wanted to be at Harry's side; she admired Ron's handling of the situation — objectively Harry was probably going to be unconscious for hours to allow Madam Pomfrey time to repair bones and tissues; on top of all of this, she was worried for Harry.
The game continued — substitutions were made and the players returned to the air. The Gryffindor team was shaken, but determined. Madison was flying seeker, looking for all the world like a pint-sized echo of Harry, unruly black hair flapping in the wind as she buzzed the Slytherin Beaters and then forced their Chasers off course, feinting right and left after non-existent Snitches. In the last forty minutes of the game, Slytherin finally managed to score, leaving the final score when Madison found the Snitch from under a surprised Draco Malfoy at 350 to 20.
The pitch was awash with moving, screaming bodies. Hermione moved in the opposite direction through the stands, heading not out onto the field with her jubilant housemates, but towards the exit that would lead her to the castle, and to the Hospital wing. She noted with no surprise that well ahead of her ran a small, scarlet-robed figure with flaming red hair.
A stitch in her side forced her to slow down; by the time Hermione passed the entryway to the Hospital wing, Madam Pomfrey was nowhere to be found. Glancing a second time about the hallway, she noticed Professor Dumbledore sitting quietly on a bench opposite the door leading into the room that Harry had irreverently dubbed "the Harry room." He held one finger to his lips as he beckoned to her with his free hand.
Ginny's voice came blasting out into the hallway. "What were you thinking?" she screamed. If Harry was conscious, he didn't answer. Hermione heard a crashing sound followed by a muffled "Damn! That hurt!" again in Ginny's voice. Albus Dumbledore stood and traced an oval on the wall, tapping the space within the oval with his wand. The wall became transparent as glass, affording them an excellent view of the scene within Harry's hospital room. "I thought I meant something to you," she said in a loud voice. Hermione peered around Dumbledore to see Harry, propped up on a hospital bed, chest wrapped in fabric, his ribcage still ominously pushed in on one side. Ginny's lips quivered as she formed her words, her hands flailing in the air. "You — you said I was the best thing that ever happened in your life, but then you toss me aside like a dirty tissue. It hurts, Harry, it hurts when we are apart. I haven't been eating — can you believe that? My sleeping's been worth nothing, I've had a blasted headache for two weeks and my period was three days late." Ginny paced up and down the length of his bed, pushing the hair out of her face as she turned. "You never write me, I never see you for meals, you're always off doing something, Merlin knows what it may be. Why, Harry, why? Why won't you see me? Why won't you talk to me? Why won't you touch me?" she shouted as she stood over him. Dumbledore watched with rapt interest, tugging on his beard. "I won't be ignored, do you hear me Harry? I won't be ignored!" she screamed as she drew back her hand and slapped his face.
The crack of her hand sounded like a tree limb snapping in half. Hermione jumped up, attempting to bolt into the room, only to find Dumbledore's surprisingly strong fingers on her arms. "She's going to hurt him," she whispered loudly.
"You needn't whisper, Miss Granger," Dumbledore said calmly. "The room is charmed so that sound travels out, but no sound travels in — a charm that Madam Pomfrey is most fond of if I recall correctly. As to Miss Weasley hurting Mister Potter, while possible, that is not very likely," he said, turning so that both of them faced the charmed wall.
Ginny was draped over Harry's still form on the bed, weeping loudly as she stroked his face with her fingers, her back heaving from time to time as an enormous sob escaped from her small frame. A sweet melody began to waft into the hallway, a song of incredibly sweet and sad. A strain of harmony joined in, two voices calling and answering, waxing and waning in volume. "Is Fawkes here, Professor Dumbledore?" Hermione asked.
"In a manner of speaking, yes; I was most curious to see how this situation would resolve itself. Now that it has, I now find my curiosity waning to naught," Dumbledore said, tapping the charmed spot on the wall until it was once again opaque. "I believe it is time that I escorted you back to Gryffindor Tower, Miss Granger, where another Weasley has need of you. I shall then return to the Hospital wing, where, with any luck at all, I will be able to evict Miss Weasley from Mister Potter's bed before she is discovered by Madam Pomfrey," Dumbledore said with the quickest of winks, offering his arm as he turned to lead them away.
"Professor, do you know what's been going on between Harry and Ginny these past few weeks?" Hermione asked.
"Not in detail, but I know what is going on at the present, which is sufficient information for the moment," he answered. "Changing the subject, I note with some satisfaction that Gryffindor's Keeper played especially well. Do you have any explanation for that, Miss Granger?"
"Not a clue," Hermione said with a giggle.
When Madam Pomfrey returned from London that evening, she found her patient sleeping sounding in his bed, the bone-healing potions having finally taken hold. The curious thing was the small red tabby cat that was stretched across his chest, asleep under a protective hand. She wasn't aware that Mr. Potter had a second pet, but this one seemed quite devoted to him, going so far as to seek him out when he was in the Hospital wing. She made several notes in her chart and then charmed the doors shut for the night.
A firstie Hufflepuff was waiting outside the pitch as practice broke up. She solemnly approached and handed him a note written in a familiar thin hand on pearl grey parchment. Harry nodded at the firstie who turned on her heel and disappeared into the crowd of Gryffindor team members who were leaving the pitch and Ravenclaw players who were just arriving. He caught Ginny's eye and then looked down at the note. She'd received her own notes, so without drawing attention to the fact that she abruptly shut down a conversation, she withdrew from a catty discussion she was having with one of her sister Chasers about the upcoming Hogsmeade weekend and sidled up alongside her mate as he walked towards the castle.
"What's up with the old man?" Ginny asked irreverently.
"Oh, I'm doing just fine," Harry replied, tucking the note into his pocket.
"Not you! The other old man," she exclaimed as she attempted to slip her hand into the pocket.
"If you want to hold hands, love, all you have to do is ask," Harry said, extracting her hand from his pocket.
"Tuh! Like I'm not getting enough contact these days," she said, trying to Accio the note from his pocket using her non-dominant hand and a bit of wandless magic. Harry caught the note as it rocketed out of his pocket. There were days that it was not good to be the second-best Seeker at the school.
Ginny felt an odd pressure on her ears as Harry extended a silent space about them as they walked. "Dumbledore wants us to come up to the Hospital wing post haste, but clearly indicates that no one is hurt. Will that satisfy the curious cat?" he asked, rubbing his thumb between the knuckles on the back of her hand.
"Might," she said impishly, sticking her tongue out at him as she tossed her bag at him. Catching the bag, he slung it over one shoulder along with his own bag, smiling as he saw the hindquarters of a red tabby sprinting up the trail to the castle. The transformation was becoming more effortless as she gained experience. The biggest hurdle was learning how to transfigure clothes along with the Animagus shape. A nine pound tabby cat has no use for five pounds of school uniform and shoes, while a newly transformed girl under most circumstances desperately wants those same clothes at the end of the transformation cycle. Ginny called her animal form "Tick-tock" and had crafted a collar for the cat bearing a little charm that said "My name is Tick-tock and I belong to Harry Potter." The collar stored the transfigured clothes within its plaited strands.
As Harry reached the hallway leading to the Hospital wing, the now familiar tabby pranced across his path, rubbing alongside his ankle. In a practiced flash, Ginny was wrapped around him, kissing him below his ear. "It's Tonks and Lupin and Dumbledore," she reported as she pulled away from him. Neither of them liked surprises.
Opting for a direct approach, Harry pushed the door open, kissing Tonks on the cheek before grabbing Uncle Moony in an embrace.
"Harry, we got him," Lupin said hoarsely.
"Wormtail?" he asked incredulously.
"Almost as good, we got Fenir Grayback," Lupin said with some satisfaction.
"The dog that got you?" Harry asked.
Lupin nodded. "The same; this should break the back of Voldemort's efforts to recruit among my kind," he said with some satisfaction.
"Excellent! So, how long do you have?" Ginny asked, coming alongside Harry.
"Funny you should mention that," Lupin said with a brief smile. "I think we have time for dinner, assuming that you and your lady are willing to put us up at Chez Dobby."
"But of course," Ginny said in a thick ersatz French accent.
"I, alas, must content myself to dining at the head table tonight," Dumbledore said. "Once again, thank you for your excellent team work."
Tonks nodded, blushing slightly while Lupin bowed.
"So, let me look at you two," Tonks said loudly. "No bruises or obvious scratch marks, you two seem to be getting along. Are you going to give Auntie Tonks the full story or do I have to drag it out of your girlfriend when we visit the loo?"
"I suspect that you'll interrogate her fully no matter how forthcoming Harry is over dinner," Lupin said wryly.
"True, all too true," Tonks said, shaking her hair as she lengthened it, colouring it a bright tomato red. "Let's go eat."
Over soup, Moony told the tale of how he'd been tracking Fenir for a fortnight, acting on the last day, calling in his coordinates on a Muggle telephone after securing the area with a stout Anti-Apparation ward. Ginny noticed that from time to time Tonks would answer questions posed to Moony or complete his sentences when he paused to think of the right word. This was behaviour that she normally associated with the twins, but, come to think of it, she'd seen her parents do the same thing. She smiled inwardly, wondering if she'd ever start doing this with Harry.
As the main course was served a silence came over the group that was punctuated only by the clatter of knives and forks on plates and muttered "can you pass the . . ." and "More?" as serving dishes were passed back and forth. Tonks broke the silence as she stabbed her last piece of asparagus (delightfully out of season), bringing it up to her lipstick-decorated mouth. "You realize, of course, that once you get out of here you won't be eating like this, don't you?" she asked, looking at Ginny and Harry.
Ginny looked at Harry thoughtfully. "Oh, I don't know, Tonks," she said, wiping her mouth with her napkin. "Dobby has talked to me plenty of times about following after Harry once he leaves Hogwarts."
Tonks played with her hair, absentmindedly putting it back in an elastic that she'd conjured on the spot. "So, how long were the two of you not talking?" she said boldly, fixing them with a firm look.
"More accurately," Ginny replied, "how long were we not touching?"
"About two weeks," Harry said, looking into the bottom of his coffee cup.
"And how long before you started noticing the effects?" Moony asked.
"About two, three days," Ginny replied. "I got a headache that just wouldn't go away, then my internal magic started going wonky."
"Neither one of you noticed the symptoms?" Moony asked in amazement.
"In a word, no," Harry said, looking from Ginny to Tonks to Moony. "You know, Molly knows, Dumbledore knows, but you were out in the field, Dumbledore was abroad and Molly was back at the Burrow. Everyone around us, including us, thought that we were just having a spat."
"Actually, Molly was out in the field too," Tonks said, "but you never heard that from me," she said with a smile. "Are the three of you going to enlighten me as to what you're talking about?"
Moony cleared his throat. "Abelard warned us of a side effect coming from the bond that Ginny and Harry share. Until they're actually, uh, married, they can't go very long without touching one another — if they do, they get sick."
Tonks face was screwed into a curious expression. "Let me get this straight — the two of them are bonded, but it's not quite stable until they are married, and until then they have to keep touching or they'll get sick?" she asked.
Harry nodded. "That's about it," he replied.
"So, why aren't you married already?" she asked.
"Well," Ginny began, "there's the slight problem that he hasn't asked me yet, compounded by the fact that for the moment, both of us are still minors."
"Well, certainly it's not a ceremony that the magic is looking for is it?" Tonks asked. "This has something to do with lots of bare skin between the sheets?"
"Uh," Harry began, looking for the entire world like a deer facing the headlights of an oncoming lorry. "Yeah," Ginny answered, her ears turning red.
"So?" Tonks asked rhetorically. "I don't see the problem here."
Moony stifled a guffaw. "Dora, I think you're embarrassing them to death. Do you remember your Care of Magical Creatures section on Dragons?"
"A bit, why?" Tonks asked.
"Dragons conceive when they mate," Moony said.
"But Harry and Ginny aren't dragons!" Tonks protested.
"Biologically, no, but they have a great deal of dragon magic operating in their systems. When my nose is particularly acute towards the full moon, they don't smell like humans at all, they have a very unique dragon-flavoured scent to them," Moony said.
"You never told me that," Ginny protested, looking at Harry.
"Told you what?" Harry asked.
"The near certainty of having a baby part," Ginny pouted.
"If I remember correctly, the last time we came anywhere close to discussing this topic in private, we were interrupted," Harry said tersely.
"That changes things," Ginny said, nodding calmly.
"I would hope so," Harry said.
"Yeah, that means I'll have to wait until, what, October of seventh year if I don't want to be big as a barn when I'm sitting for my N.E.W.T.s," she said, smiling as she sipped some coffee.
"Am I to assume," Tonks said with some delight, "that he's making you wait until marriage?"
"Indeed," Ginny answered, "terribly cruel of him, not to mention old-fashioned."
"I hate to wait," Tonks said knowingly.
"Me too, but I've waited five years for him to notice me, so I'm used to it by now," Ginny said. "So, until then, I guess I just have to make do by sleeping with him."
Moony began to cough, while Tonks sprayed the table with the coffee that she'd previously been sipping. "I beg your pardon," Moony said.
"You know, bed, pillow, sleep, eight hours of rest and all that?" she said with a wicked grin. She pushed away from the table, stood alongside Harry and blinked. During the blink she shrank in size, transforming on the fly into her Animagus form. The red tabby cat blinked knowingly at Tonks and Moony before jumping lightly onto Harry's lap where she began to delicately lick the heel of her right rear leg before curling up.
"Very impressive," Moony said.
"Indeed," Tonks echoed. "What do you call her, Harry?"
"Tick-tock, which is both a play on the name of her dragon guardian and an allusion to her distinctive purr as she puts herself to sleep," Harry said. "It's quite hypnotic, really."
"Have your roommates figured it out yet?" Moony asked.
"Well, Seamus, Dean and Neville just think that I picked up a cat on the last Hogsmeade weekend. I think Ron knows, but we haven't had a chance to talk about it yet. He seems very interested in checking whether or not my curtains are closed at night," Harry said.
"I imagine," Tonks said.
"Darn, she's asleep," Harry muttered.
"That's a problem?" Moony asked.
"Yeah, if she sleeps now, she'll be up chasing after things all night," Harry said.
"Poor dear," Tonks crooned "perhaps I can conjure up some yarn for you before I leave."
As they laughed, the red tabby cat opened one eye and then glared at them all with two blinking eyes.
"Oops, we're in for it now," Harry said.
"You don't know the half of it," Moony said, reaching for the dessert cart.
Copyright © 2005 — J. Cornell — all rights reserved.
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