- Ginny Weasley/Harry Potter
- Harry Potter
- The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
- Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Published: 04/17/2002Updated: 01/04/2004Words: 584,432Chapters: 31Hits: 808,247
Harry Potter and the Triangle Prophecy
- Story Summary:
- Harry's 7th and final year of school. In a time of uncertainty, the Muggle world has found a source of comfort and stability. Only Harry suspects that it isn't safe. Wizards are more concerned about themselves than Muggles since Voldemort's return, but are only Muggles at risk? Will anyone listen to Harry? He must decide whether to make a sacrifice that will change him--and the wizarding world-- forever.
- Read Story On:
Chapter 11 - Stations
- Chapter Summary:
- Harry's seventh and final year of school. In a time of uncertainty, the Muggle world has found a source of comfort and stability. Only Harry suspects that it isn't safe. Wizards are more concerned about themselves than Muggles since Voldemort's return, but are only Muggles at risk? Will anyone listen to Harry? He must decide whether Draco Malfoy is ultimately friend or foe and discover the identity of the Daughter of War and get her help in defeating Voldemort; and finally, Harry must decide whether to make a sacrifice that will change him--and the wizarding world-- forever.
- Author's Note:
- The quotes at the beginning of the chapter may be found on pages 471, 472 and 473 of
combined two architectural
forms....the train shed and the passenger
building....The technology that produced the rail-
road also provided the technique to house it, in the form of
metal-and-glass roofs. The passenger building could not have been
more different in function and form....In scale, materials and style, it was
urban--a new kind of city gate....Beginning with the 40-foot truss roof of Lon-
don's Euston Station (1835-39), the sheds, in the form of the trusswork arch, rapid-
ly grew toward the greatest single shed of all, St. Pancras Station in London (1863-
76)....for an interior it was extraordinary, especially extended in depth to form the wi-
dest and largest undivided space ever enclosed....A major issue for architects was the ex-
tent to which the train shed might be incorporated in the station facade....At St. Pancras
Station, the shed is hidden behind a florid, High Victorian Gothic railway hotel by G.G.
Scott. Conversely, the twin vaults of the train shed of King's Cross Station (1851-52) in
London, by Lewis Cubitt, are boldly revealed in its uncompromisingly functional facade.
--Marvin Trachtenberg & Isabelle Hyman, Architecture: from Prehistory to Post-Modern
Harry Potter strode down Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters with his new robes billowing out behind him, his Head Boy badge pinned to the ebony silk, smiling at the sight of the Hogwarts Express on this crisp, clear September first. The air was redolent of new leather and brass, from the first-years' trunks, but the prevalent scent was of autumn, even above the sulfur odor of the train engine, and Harry breathed it all in happily; it was the smell of going home, the smell of returning to Hogwarts.
"We're going back to Hogwarts!" he hissed at Sandy excitedly.
"Yes, Harry Potter. I know. That is the twenty-third time you have told me." She sounded just a bit impatient.
Harry thought for a moment before hissing, "You know, Sandy, I don't know why, but it never occurred to me that you could count."
"Just because I do not have fingers and toes does not mean I cannot count, Harry Potter."
Harry smirked and did not rise to the bait; she seemed a little touchy lately about anti-snake prejudice.
Humming happily, he headed for a clump of people out of which blossomed, like some exotic plant, the tall red head of his best friend, Ron Weasley. He stood outside the group for a moment, waiting for them to notice him, glad that he was going to be able to return to school in the normal way. It was the last time, after all, that he would be getting the Hogwarts Express at eleven o'clock on September first from King's Cross Station, London. He didn't want to miss it.
When Dean Thomas suddenly noticed him, all at once there was an uproar, and Harry couldn't help laughing out loud as his friends fell on him. Ron needed to be told not to hug so hard (he obviously still required some werewolf training regarding that), while Hermione trod on his toes as she jumped up and threw her arms around his neck. Neville grinned ear to ear, standing back shyly, Dean pumped his hand, and Seamus patted him on the back vigorously, then stopped, horrified, as he remembered Harry's burn injury. But Harry told him it was all right, he was completely healed.
"Harry," Ron sputtered in amazement, "what are you doing here?"
Harry shrugged, still smiling broadly. "I'm fine. Like new." He noticed Draco Malfoy now, his arm around Ginny as though restraining her, and he said to him, "Must have been that cousin of yours. After she took care of me, I was a new man," he said, grinning, letting him take that as a double-entendre if he liked. Ginny's eyes went wide and he winked at her, feeling puckish.
When he was trying to convince the hospital staff to discharge him from St. Mungo's, he had told Clancy, "That junior of yours, Anderssen, really did the trick. You've taught her well." He had decided not to tell anyone about Rodney Jeffries.
Clancy had been disbelieving until he'd examined Harry himself. He'd taken Nita off a little ways then and started speaking to her in a very irate tone. Harry heard her when she raised her voice and said, "I didn't do a damn thing but what you told me to do. Give me some Veritaserum if you like! I'll tell you the same thing!" Then she turned on her heel and strode off, but not before glaring hatefully at Harry. He wondered whether she'd be in trouble for speaking that way to her senior, but he wasn't sure he cared. Nita was friendly with Narcissa Malfoy, and that was enough for him.
When Clancy was satisfied that Harry really was completely recovered, he'd had an orderly bring Sandy to him, as well as some clothes that Sirius had dropped off, and they'd let him return to Ascog Castle. Since Sirius had already left with his trunk, all he needed to do was retrieve his Head Boy badge (Ron hadn't known he'd put it in a secret compartment of his top desk drawer).
He was able to Floo to Diagon Alley, since he wasn't bringing his trunk, and he'd carried his robes over his arm like an overcoat while he rode the Underground to King's Cross. He had a rucksack over one shoulder with the things Ron had brought to the hospital, so he looked like any other student on the Tube. He'd been positively giddy when he walked through the barrier between platforms nine and ten.
Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Draco took one of the forward compartments set aside for prefects; Ron hesitated for a moment, as the only one among them who wasn't a prefect, but Harry reminded him that he was Head Boy and Hermione was Head Girl; who was going to argue with them about their best friend being in one of the prefects' compartments?
The first thing Hermione did as the train started moving was put Crookshanks on Ron's lap, where Argent was already curled up, so she could pull out a rolled-up parchment and read it.
"Hey!" Ron yelled as the cats started hissing at each other and batting with their paws. "My lap is already taken. Here, Harry. You take Crookshanks." Ron nudged the large ginger-colored cat off his lap and toward Harry, who was sitting on his other side. Draco Malfoy, who was sitting across from them with Ginny, was clearly horrified. Harry noticed that when Ginny was holding her black cat MacKenzie on her lap--as she was now--her boyfriend sat several inches away from her, pale as a ghost.
Ron thrust his face between Hermione and her parchment. "What's this then? As Head Girl, you will be responsible for-- blimey, Hermione. Can't this wait until you get to school?"
She started to say, "I'm Head Girl now, and I have to--" but stopped when she saw the pleading expression in his eyes. She sighed and rolled up the parchment again, saying, "Oh, all right...."
Harry was amazed; he had always had a much harder time getting Hermione to relax when she was his girlfriend. He smirked at Ron. "If you're not careful, Ron, you'll be corrupting our Head Girl. Next thing you know, she'll be doing her assignments at the last minute....making up her Arithmancy homework...."
"Oh, as if I could!" she burst out indignantly. "It's not the same as Divination. Thank heavens I've seen the last of that."
Ginny bristled. "My sister is quite good at all forms of Divination, I'll have you know. And even Professor Snape, who wouldn't give Professor Trelawney the time of day, respects her abilities. And Maggie says that Arithmancy is just another form of Divination anyway, and one based on far more superstition than something like Astrology, which is very complex and requires much more in the way of calculations and knowledge of Astronomy. Why, she says Arithmancy is hardly better than Bibliomancy." Ginny sounded like she was challenging Hermione.
"What does that girl have against people with the Sight?" Sandy suddenly hissed at Harry from under his clothing. He chose to ignore her; the last thing he needed was to be a translator of Parseltongue in a three-way argument about Divination.
"Oh, really?" Hermione said tartly. "Well, Professor Vector says--"
Ron quickly intervened before his girlfriend and his sister could escalate the argument, and soon the Divination/Arithmancy wars were forgotten. After the tension had died out between the girls, Harry thought that it was his most enjoyable ride to Hogwarts in a very long time. They went through several rounds of Exploding Snap, and played with the cats (except for Draco Malfoy), and bought too many sweets and laughed and talked and laughed some more. Harry was glad to see that Draco Malfoy was letting himself be drawn out a bit; he even managed to laugh at his own ailurophobia (as Hermione knew his cat-fear was correctly termed). Harry was more than a little worried about him after his reaction to cursing Fleur Delacour.
It seemed in no time they were pulling into Hogsmeade Station and seeing Hagrid's head rearing up above the crowd of students, as usual. "All right, Harry?" he boomed out, grinning, as he strode toward him.
Harry beamed back at him. "I'm all right, Hagrid. And you?"
To his surprise, Hagrid shrugged. "I'll do, I suppose. Here; the headmaster wanted me ter give yeh this as soon as yeh was off the train." He extended to Harry a rolled-up parchment that looked just like Hermione's, and he assumed it began, 'As Head Boy, you will be responsible for--' Harry stuffed it into his robes.
"Thanks, Hagrid." Hagrid gave him a very small smile--he seemed rather subdued, to Harry's eyes--and then turned and strode toward the small dock, booming out, "Firs'-years, follow me! All firs'-years! Attention--"
The five of them left the platform and scrambled into a horseless carriage to Hogwarts. Harry watched the castle grow nearer, the windows glowing with light, the most beautiful sight he knew. When they walked into the Great Hall, the myriad candles floating over the tables and the ceiling a perfect image of the starry night sky, Harry truly felt that all was well with the world. He knew there were problems in the wizarding world still (not the least of which was the reason for Roger's and Alicia's wedding), but somehow the unchanging reliability of Hogwarts gave him faith that it would all work out in the end.
The returning students were seated and after a little while the new first-years finally entered, some of them slightly damp (the trip across the lake was sometimes a bit choppy). Hagrid nodded at Harry again without smiling as he made his way to the front table, and Harry watched very carefully as each first-year was sorted, knowing this was the last time he was going to be seeing this ritual.
One of the first students to be sorted was Gabrielle Delacour. When Harry saw her, his face fell. Her sister's mind is gone and she's sitting in St. Mungo's, where she'll eventually deliver her child with no understanding of what is happening to her...
Gabrielle was a good deal taller as a first-year than she was as an eight-year-old. She was one of the tallest, in fact. She advanced on the Sorting Hat, her gait stately as a queen's, and Harry could see that her veela charms were affecting some of the boys, in spite of her youth. He noticed, for instance, that Orion Pierson was standing on his toes to peer over some of the other first years to watch her.
"Gryffindor!" the hat decided after it had been on her head for a very brief time. A roar of approval went up from the Gryffindor table and Harry smiled at her as she approached it, remembering how grateful her sister had been for his not wanting anyone under the water to be left behind during the Second Task, regardless of whose hostage was whose. However, unlike many of the first-years who were over the moon about finally being at Hogwarts, Gabrielle looked back at Harry briefly with a flat, dead expression in her blue eyes. She seated herself well away from him, but whether this was intentional or accidental, he could not tell.
When Orion Pierson was finally walking forward to be sorted, he gave Harry a sideways glance, his dark eyes very large, and Harry grinned at him. Orion hadn't been at Ascog the night before; he and his dad had gone to London the previous evening, taking the last ferry to the mainland, and then getting the Knight Bus to the city. (They couldn't get the Knight Bus on the Isle of Bute as it didn't travel across water.) They'd stayed at the Leaky Cauldron overnight before getting a taxi to the station. Harry watched Sirius' nephew approach the Sorting Hat, looking very nervous, but soon after it was on his head, it was crying, "Gryffindor!" Orion took it off, a thrilled grin splitting his face, as the Gryffindor table burst into cheers and applause yet again.
Dumbledore stood to speak when the sorting was finished, but before he had even opened his mouth, Harry's jaw dropped. He had finally looked at the front table, really looked. He was glad to see Sirius (which meant his trunk had also arrived), as Ron had mentioned the operatives being involved in something important, and he imagined that he was probably very pleased that his nephew was sorted into Gryffindor. He saw that Snape was present as well, and he had very nearly forgotten about Mrs. Figg being the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. It was so odd to see her dressed in iridescent aquamarine robes and a pointed purple hat, rather than a blue shirtwaist and an ivory cardigan decorated with cat hair. He would have to remember to call her Professor Figg.
But the truly surprising thing was that Maggie Dougherty was sitting with the rest of the staff, wearing robes and a pointed hat for the first time, as far as Harry knew. It was the first time he'd seen her dressed this way, at any rate. She was seated between Snape and--Harry did another take--Professor Trelawney, who almost never came down from her tower. Trelawney didn't seem very pleased, he thought. In fact, she looked downright rebellious.
Dumbledore greeted them all cheerfully and bade them to eat up. The food appeared on the tables soon after that, and when the last crumb from the last pudding had disappeared, the headmaster stood again and smiled benignly at them all.
"Welcome, one and all! I know you are all looking forward to a new term! I need to give out some notices now, but be patient and you will soon all be in your common rooms. I have some exciting developments to tell you about! I am pleased to say that the Ministry of Magic has authorized Hogwarts to give instruction in Apparition to all seventh-year students during the autumn term, the goal being for those students to take their Apparition tests during the Christmas holidays. These lessons will take place in Hogsmeade at the village hall, as it is not possible to Apparate or Disapparate on the school grounds. The Apparition lessons will be taught by Sirius Black." He waved his hand toward Sirius, who half-rose out of his chair, smiling and nodding at the students. Some of them stared openly at him, wide-eyed and horrified. Obviously most of them still remembered him as Sirius-Black-the-escaped-murderer, Harry thought, despite the recent news that he'd been framed. Harry wondered how many students would actually opt to learn Apparition with Sirius for a teacher. He saw that Orion was shrinking down in his seat a little, and then Harry wondered whether the boy would admit to being Sirius Black's nephew.
"During the spring term," Dumbledore went on, "those sixth-years who have had their seventeenth birthdays during October, November and December will begin their Apparition lessons, with the goal of their taking their tests during the Easter holidays. During the summer term, sixth years who have had their seventeenth birthdays before the Easter holidays or right after will have their turn. If you do not pass your test during the Christmas or Easter holidays, you will have the opportunity to keep plugging away until the end of the summer term.
"Any sixth- or seventh-years who do not wish to learn Apparition need not attend the lessons. A student who wishes to cease attending the Apparition lessons may do so at any time. Not everyone finds they have a knack for it. Why, I had an uncle who once splinched himself so spectacularly that ever after, when he blew his nose--" Next to him, Professor McGonagall cleared her throat noisily and raised her eyebrows. He smiled ruefully and continued. "But I digress. Let me stress again that this is not mandatory. It is merely an opportunity which I, the Board of Governors, and the Ministry of Magic wished to extend to Hogwarts students who are of-age and who wish to avail themselves of it."
There had been a general buzz of conversation beneath Dumbledore's voice ever since they all understood what he was saying. Apparition lessons! Despite the trepidation some people seemed to have about Sirius Black being the teacher, many students seemed nonetheless to be very excited. Hermione's face was shining.
"Isn't that wonderful?" she asked Ron and Harry. "And here I thought I'd have to wait until after I'm out of school..." She stopped abruptly when she saw Ron's expression, and Harry remembered that Ron would not be attending the lessons, as werewolves could not Apparate. She glanced uncertainly at Harry, at a loss; he pulled his mouth into a line and shook his head at her, hoping she wouldn't say any more. Then suddenly, he jumped; Sandy was moving under his clothing. Now she put her face out of his collar, looking around for a few seconds before retreating again.
"What're you up to, then?" he asked her.
"I just wanted to see the world for once, Harry Potter. Is that permitted?" He didn't have a chance to answer her, however, as Dumbledore was speaking again.
"I would also like all of you to welcome Miss Arabella Figg as our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Many of you were taught by Professor Figg's brother, Alastor Moody, two years ago!" he said with a smile. Many of those students, Harry noticed, appeared even more alarmed than when they were informed of Sirius' new role at the school. Harry wondered whether Dumbledore was soon going to be caught in a storm of owls from parents questioning his faculty appointments.
"I have just one more new teacher to introduce to you all," Professor Dumbledore said, after the mumbling about Professors Figg and Moody had died down. "Joining our esteemed Professor Trelawney in the Divination Tower will be Miss Margaret Dougherty, a fine Seer who will be relieving Professor Trelawney of the third and fourth year students so that she may have more time to work on her nearly-completed book," he picked up a piece of parchment and peered through his half-moon spectacles at it, "How to Look Death in the Face and Laugh, or Accepting Your Own Grisly Demise with Grace in Twenty-Nine Easy Lessons." His blue eyes twinkled behind his spectacles. "I am certain we shall all be queuing up to buy Professor Trelawney's new book when it is published."
There was some amused snorting in the hall. Dumbledore continued, "Miss Dougherty is a witch, naturally, but, alas, due to circumstances beyond her control, she did not have access to a magical education in her youth. However, she has passed N.E.W.T.-level examinations in Astronomy, Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Muggle Studies and Divination with flying colors--" (Ron and Ginny were beaming proudly) "--and is looking forward to joining some of you in your classes in order to be able to attain her full magical credentials eventually. I know that you will be quite respectful of her admirable ambition to finish her magical education, even though you are not accustomed to having an older student present during your classes." He was smiling when he said this, but he also presented a very stern visage, and Harry knew that anyone giving Maggie a hard time would hear about it from Dumbledore himself.
"So, you didn't see that coming, eh Sandy?" he hissed softly toward his arm.
Sandy sniffed disdainfully. "Of course I did. That's what I was checking."
"Why didn't you say something, then?"
"I See many things, Harry Potter. Why should I tell you about something that you can see for yourself? With eyes, I mean, rather than with the Sight. She was sitting right there. You couldn't have guessed why?"
Harry was going to ask her what else she wasn't telling him because she assumed he knew, but the notices continued.
"Now, then, on to other issues besides the staff. I am sorry to say that with the exception of the prefects and those seventh-year students who choose to take advantage of the Apparition lessons, no students will be permitted to visit Hogsmeade this term, on the weekend or otherwise. Prefects below seventh-year will only be permitted to go when they are on school business, sent either by me or another professor. It saddens me to make this decision, especially as I am certain the third-year students were looking forward to going...."
"Too right!" Jules Quinn said grumpily, and Harry saw Will Flitwick gazing desperately at Jamaica Thomas, who raised her eyebrows and shrugged in a hopeless sort of way. (Dean Thomas, on the other hand, seemed quite pleased.) Had Will been hoping to take Jamaica to Hogsmeade on a date? Harry wondered. It was too bad for the third-years; he remembered how crushed he'd been by the Dursleys not giving him permission to go.
"Well," Harry said feebly to Gillian Lockley, who was sitting across from him; "at least none of you can go. It's not just one of you."
He was trying to put a good spin on the situation. This, however, was no help at all, evidently. Gillian actually broke into tears and started crying on Natalie McDonald's shoulder. She wasn't the only one in the Great Hall responding this way; Harry could see and hear the disappointment emanating from the other house tables. Some of the Slytherin third-years were grumbling rather loudly, and one struck the table forcibly. Natalie, who was a fourth year now, had just been able to start going to Hogsmeade the previous year and clearly also felt the loss. She patted Gillian's back and said softly, "As Head Boy, of course, you'll be able to go." It was impossible not to hear the slight edge of bitterness in her voice.
He cleared his throat awkwardly. "Well, erm, only on school business, of course," he said weakly. "And for Apparition lessons."
Natalie continued to pat Gillian's back and say, "There, there," in a comforting sort of way, but she still looked a bit disgruntled herself.
"--and finally," Dumbledore was saying now, ignoring the general grumbling in the hall, "Mr. Filch has made a recommendation which, in light of last term's tragic events, I think is highly prudent. Every evening, all students must be in their houses by nine o'clock. After that hour you may only venture forth accompanied by a prefect and with a note from your head-of-house concerning your reasons for being out and about in the castle. I do not intend to keep students from visiting the hospital wing when they need to, nor retrieving books from classrooms which were left accidentally and are needed for completing assignments. But you will need to have proper clearances to do these things. To prevent students attempting to circumvent this rule, all prefects and teachers will be assigned times to patrol the corridors of the castle in the evenings, and believe me when I say that if you leave your house without the proper permissions, it will be known."
Harry felt like Dumbledore's eyes were boring into his, and he wondered whether he had his own version of the Marauders' Map. He had never seen Dumbledore look more stern while giving out notices; he was usually rather jovial on the first day of term. No one was laughing now. He went on, very gravely. "Last term a group of students took the teachers prisoner in one of the common rooms." He did not say that it was the Slytherin common room, perhaps to avoid alarming the first-years. "While it eventually came to light that those students were victims themselves of the Imperius Curse, it never should have been possible for someone to curse those students and force them to imprison their professors. Expect," he said now, his voice steely, his face quite uncompromising, "to suffer very dire consequences if you are out-of-bounds this term. One infraction will warrant not one but three detentions; after that I will not hesitate to suspend students, even prefects," he said, this time looking at Draco Malfoy, Harry thought. Harry could see Malfoy swallow, and thought of the way he'd recklessly flown off to the Forbidden Forest. "If suspension does not convince a wayward student to mend his or her ways, I shall have just one more avenue open to me."
The Great Hall had never been quieter as everyone digested the meaning of his words. It was very clear what he meant. It was Hermione's worst nightmare:
Suddenly, Dumbledore clapped his hands and smiled, abruptly cheerful and upbeat. "And as usual, Quidditch trials will begin next week and anyone interested should speak to Madam Hooch. So! Let's all have a good term, shall we?"
The students sang the school song to over two-hundred different tunes, but all rather half-heartedly, as everyone was still reeling from the news about the canceled Hogsmeade weekends and the nightly patrols. (Every tune being used sounded like a dirge, to Harry, each more depressing than the last.) Harry wondered how much time he and Hermione were going to need to dedicate to patrolling. He was glad they were both done their Animagus training.
Harry and Hermione led the Gryffindor students up the stairs to Gryffindor Tower. Hermione asked Ginny and Lucy Bailey, one of the fifth-year prefects, to take the first- and second-year girls upstairs, while Harry asked Karl Fauth, the other fifth-year prefect, to take first-year boys and Tony Perugia to take the second-years. He and Hermione handled the third years. Before they separated to go up the curving stairs to the girls' and boys' dormitories, Harry whispered to Hermione, "I think our worst risk of out-of-bounds students may be the third years. They were expecting more freedom this year."
She nodded grimly. "I saw Gillian crying on Natalie. Amy Donegal wasn't too pleased, either."
"On the way up here," Harry told her quietly, "I think I already heard Andy Donegal and Jules Quinn plotting something." He sighed. He didn't relish the disciplinarian role in which he found himself. He would have found himself in this position even if he had still been just a prefect, as he would be the senior prefect in the house this year, but it was far worse to be Head Boy. His own behavior had to be beyond reproach. He hadn't counted on what kind of pressure he would be under as a result.
"And then there's Will and Jamaica," she whispered, pursing her lips and glancing at the pair of them, chatting near the fireplace, clearly completely absorbed by each other.
"What? At their age? You don't think--"
"No, Harry, of course not. Not that. But--well, some students do start snogging at that age. A little. Nothing more than that, but I still get the impression that Dean would throw a wobbly if anyone laid a lip on his sister. That means they might feel the need to do some sneaking around...."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I've got N.E.W.T.s, Voldemort, the safety of the operatives and a million other things to worry about, and now I've got to stay on top of third-years sneaking around to snog. Brilliant. Just what I need."
Orion Pierson waved to Harry as the first-year boys trooped up the stairs after Karl; he waved feebly back. He noticed Gabrielle Delacour following Lucy and the first-year girls, a listless expression on her face. He remembered Fleur in her fury, and made a mental note never to anger her little sister. Gabrielle might only be eleven years old, but she was still one-quarter veela, and his memories of what kind of danger that represented were still very vividly etched in his mind.
After the first-years had gone, Ginny and Tony led the second-years off to their dorms. Harry leaned close to Hermione and said, "I think we should also keep an eye on Gabrielle Delacour. Do you think--do you think Dumbledore will let her visit her sister in hospital? Especially after--after the baby's born?"
"I don't know. He was very stern tonight. But Fleur's circumstances are rather extraordinary. I think we should make sure Gabrielle doesn't get anywhere near Malfoy."
Harry opened his eyes wide. "I hadn't thought of that. You think she'd try to get revenge for what he did to Fleur?"
She shrugged. "Right now she just seems depressed. I don't see how she's going to get anything done in this state. She'll have no focus to her magic."
"Yeah, well right now I prefer veelas with no focus. Much safer, in my opinion."
She laughed and stood on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. "Goodnight, Harry. I'm glad you're well again. Get some rest."
"Here, now, what's this?" Ron said, striding across the room alarmingly quickly from where he'd been discussing Quidditch with Seamus and Neville. (Dean was standing with them, but not participating, choosing instead to glare at Will Flitwick.)
Hermione laughed and put her arms around his waist. "You wait here. I'll be back down to give you a proper goodnight."
A chorus of prurient ooooohs went up from the others in the room, making Hermione blush into her hair. Ron's ears turned bright red, but he was also grinning. "Come on, third year girls!" she said impatiently; Ginny and the second years having already disappeared, Hermione led the older girls to the staircase. Jamaica glanced over her shoulder at Will, who gave her a small wave and a smile.
"Can't you put a spell on his bed so it turns into a bed of nails in the middle of the night?" came a harsh whisper in Harry's ear.
He turned suddenly; Dean was standing very close to him, and he shouted in surprise; after he'd calmed down he said angrily, "Don't do that!" Now that he knew it was Dean talking, he had no doubt he'd been asking Harry to put a hex on Will Flitwick's bed. "I am not going to hex Will's bed, Dean! Get a grip!" he whispered fiercely.
He was feeling very irked, not having expected one of his friends to try to get him to abuse his authority. "Come on, third-year boys!" he said impatiently, wanting to get to bed himself. He herded them up the stairs and remembered doing the same with them when they were first-years, on their first night at Hogwarts. It seemed a lifetime ago. They were little boys at the time; now they already seemed quite grown up. Will Flitwick was almost as tall as Harry and Andy Donegal had grown a surprising amount, too. He towered over his twin sister Amy now.
Soon they had reached the dormitory. "Well, I won't hang over you all," he told them casually, not wanting to get into another conversation about Hogsmeade visits. "G'night, lads."
There was a half-hearted chorus of 'g'nights,' and Harry shut the door, glad he was done with his work for the night. He climbed the steps to the top tower room, which now had a sign on the door reading Seventh-Years. He paused to stare at it for a moment. My last year. It was such a strange feeling. It seemed like yesterday he was shopping in Diagon Alley for the first time with Hagrid. He traced his fingers idly over the words. Then he heard his dorm mates coming up the stairs and hastily turned the knob and entered the room. He was already in his pajamas when the Seamus, Dean and Neville entered. Harry started to get into bed when he realized Ron still hadn't come up. He lay back in the darkness after the other boys had extinguished the candles, falling asleep before Ron came upstairs, despite his best intentions.
The next morning, Ron wasn't in bed when Harry awoke, but the bed did look slept-in. Harry dressed for running and went down to the common room to meet the others. Ron was already dressed, stretching on the hearthrug beside Ginny, Tony and Ruth. (Tony and Ruth were now officially a couple.) Hermione came downstairs right after Harry. Annika wasn't coming running, Ginny informed them, but Ruth was. Harry thought Annika might only have been participating to try to interest Ron, who was now spoken-for. Apparently Tony had convinced Ruth to start participating in the morning run. Harry smiled at her; he preferred her company to Annika's, anyway.
They met Draco Malfoy and Mariah Kirkner in the entrance hall, as before, and the eight of them set off for the Quidditch pitch for their morning run. However, just as they reached the pitch, a booming voice rang out, "Stop right there!"
Harry whirled in surprise, just as Fang leapt on him with joy. The huge dog knocked him to the ground and began licking his face so enthusiastically that his glasses were completely covered with dog-saliva. Harry laughed and grimaced at the same time, saying, "Geroff, Fang," even while he was affectionately scratching the dog behind his ears. Fang's welcome notwithstanding, Harry had to admit to himself that Hagrid's tone had been quite worrying; the last time he had heard Hagrid use that voice was when he'd been throttling Karkaroff for insulting Dumbledore, just before the third task of the tournament. "Hagrid!" he said, trying to smile, although he could see that the half-giant wasn't very happy. He stood and started cleaning his glasses on his shirt while Fang sat next to him, panting happily. "I didn't get to talk to you much last night. How are--"
"You lot are out-of-bounds," he said gruffly, pulling a piece of parchment out of his pocket. He behaved as though he'd never seen Harry, Ron and Hermione in his entire life, let alone any of the others.
"What?" Harry said indignantly. "Since when is the Quidditch pitch out of bounds?" Feeling more irritated now than pleased about Fang's welcome, he wiped his face with his sleeve quickly before replacing his glasses on his nose.
"Well, er," Hagrid waffled, squinting at the parchment now. "Not out-of-bounds as far as location, see," he said uncertainly now, holding the parchment closer still. "More like--time-wise, see...."
"How are we out-of-bounds time-wise?" Draco Malfoy said now, a sneer in his voice, as though he doubted Hagrid could actually tell time. He'd never liked Hagrid, and clearly nothing had changed about that.
"Er, let me see--after nine-o'clock, all students must remain in their houses unless they have permission from their head of house to venture forth.... No, that's not it. Er--" he said, moving his eyes further down the page, searching for something and not finding it.
"Hagrid," Hermione said reasonably now. "The headmaster didn't say there was anything wrong with being out at seven o'clock, nor doing exercise on the Quidditch pitch. I doubt that parchment says anything of the sort. I received a parchment with all of the new rules and regulations, and I recall it saying that the patrols were going to take place each night starting at nine o'clock and going until seven in the morning. I read it through twice before going to bed last night." Harry realized now that his parchment--the one Hagrid had given him at the station--was probably the same. He hadn't even glanced at it yet.
Hagrid stared at it some more before admitting, "No, I serpose not, if you say so, Hermione. I just--blimey, I'm so jumpy with all these new rules. I didn' expec' ter see you lot out here and I was surprised--reckoned it couldn't be right for students to be on the pitch two hours b'fore classes...I'm not usually up this early meself, but Fang took on so I reckoned I should check...."
Fang had be anxious to see him, Harry knew, grinning at Hagrid. "Well, Ron and Ruth are the only ones who aren't prefects, so don't you think their being accompanied by the Head Boy, Head Girl and four other prefects is certainly adequate to allow them out of Gryffindor House?" Hagrid saw how his eyes were laughing and now he laughed too.
"Yeh got me there, Harry. I'm sorry. I'm not lookin' forward ter doin' them castle patrols, either. Prob'ly be jumpin' at ever' little noise. And Fang'll be worse." He patted the large dog affectionately and Fang lifted his head and whined for a moment.
"Well," Draco Malfoy said, sounding rather impatient. "Can we go running now that it's been determined we're not out-of-bounds?" Hagrid eyed him distastefully.
"I'll be keepin' an eye on you, Malfoy," Hagrid said ominously, his voice softer. "I'm not one of'em what believes that Imperius rot. I remember being locked up in yer excuse for a common room last term."
"That wasn't me!" Malfoy said indignantly. "I went off to the forest to try to rescue my head-of-house!"
"Aye, and 'twas Harry who wound up doin' it. Wound up savin' you, too." The unspoken words hung in the air, the words which questioned the wisdom of Harry doing this. Harry could tell Hagrid was itching to say them, but he was a teacher, besides being Harry's friend, and dared not.
"That's enough, Malfoy," Harry said sharply. "It's time we started running."
Draco Malfoy allowed himself to be led away from Hagrid by Ginny. "I already said," he commented, sounding petty. Ginny pursed her lips and met Harry's eyes. She looked very troubled. He hoped he'd get a chance to talk to her alone soon. He still had her amulet, and there were other issues to deal with as well.
Under Hagrid's watchful gaze (he went up into the Quidditch stands with Fang and seemed to be glaring at Malfoy the entire time) they did their running, then returned to the castle to shower and dress for breakfast. When they were seated at the Gryffindor table, Hermione passed out the timetables to the seventh-years. Harry examined it while spooning eggs into his mouth. The morning promised to be relatively uneventful, with Charms followed by History of Magic. Then he groaned; after lunch they had Double Divination. That would more than make up for the morning.
He was surprised when he arrived at the Charms classroom and discovered that it appeared larger than usual; a wall appeared to have been removed between it and the next room. Hermione, however, did not seem to notice anything out of the ordinary. Another unusual thing was that all of the seventh-year students were present, from all four houses.
"Sit, everyone, sit, sit," Professor Flitwick bade them, grinning happily. There were not quite forty students; desks were arrayed around the edge of the room in two rows, and Professor Flitwick stood on a dais in the centre, while they, predictably, segregated themselves according to house. Harry grimaced when he saw the Slytherins sitting clockwise from the Gryffindors. The Ravenclaws were across from Gryffindor, and the Hufflepuffs across from Slytherin.
"Welcome to Advanced Charms!" Flitwick crowed delightedly. "As you can see, at this level you take classes with all of the other students in your year. This class meets first thing on Tuesday and Thursday, and I expect prefects and those who are members of the Dueling Club to assist me in my instruction, so that we can sometimes break up into smaller groups for practical lessons." His eyes twinkled at Harry especially, as the captain of the Dueling Club.
On this first day, Flitwick restricted himself to lecturing about the charms they would be mastering in preparation for their N.E.W.T.s at the end of the summer term. He spoke from memory, without notes, pacing back and forth on his platform, and over three-dozen students diligently wrote down everything he said, the room silent except for his high-pitched voice and the sound of quills scratching on parchment.
When the bell rang, Harry flexed his hand, feeling like it was going to fall off. He followed Ron and Hermione down the stairs and out into a courtyard, thankful for the morning break. He collapsed onto the grass, groaning. Ron joined him.
"God, has he been taking lessons from Binns about how to be boring?" Ron whinged, while Hermione ignored the pair of them and pored over her Charms notes, making corrections here and there.
"Don't forget, Ron," Harry reminded him, "we've got the real thing now. Binns, that is. Another hour-and-a-half of writing, writing, writing...."
Ron groaned and closed his eyes. "I'm going to be snoring about ten minutes in, if that."
Harry shrugged. "Well, Binns generally doesn't notice people sleeping. What disturbs him is someone actually paying attention," he added, remembering how shocked Binns had been in second year when Hermione had tried to ask him about the Chamber of Secrets.
Harry was, in fact, looking forward to History of Magic, as he felt he could do with a little nap. However, they had no sooner reached the classroom after the end of break, than Filch stopped him and Hermione and told them, sneering the entire time, that the headmaster needed to speak to them. Before following Filch away from the room, he saw that History of Magic was also much fuller than usual, again being populated by the entire complement of seventh-year students. Draco Malfoy's mouth was twisting when he saw that Harry and Hermione were being called away; he looked more than a little jealous that they didn't have to sit through an hour-and-a-half of Binns.
Hermione, on the other hand was very grumpy as they walked in Filch's wake. She was the only person Harry knew who liked History of Magic, having read Hogwarts, A History numerous times (more times than the authors, Harry suspected).
When they reached the stone gargoyle that guarded the entrance to Dumbledore's office, Filch croaked out, "Chocolate Frogs."
The passage slid open and Filch stepped aside, after saying belligerently, "Did'ja both hear what I said?" They nodded mutely. "Good. Remember it. As Head Boy and Girl you'll need it. But--don't tell anyone else," he growled, "if you know what's good for you."
The hair was standing up on the back of Harry's neck. Hermione had gone pale beneath her tan. They both nodded, still not speaking, before turning away from him. The wall closed behind them and the rising spiral stairs brought them up to Dumbledore's office door quickly. Before they could knock, they heard the headmaster's voice saying, "Come in, come in, Harry and Hermione."
Harry opened the heavy oak door, smiling as he saw the September sunshine pouring in the windows of the tower room, seeing all of the familiar acoutrements--the model of the solar system, the Sorting Hat, the portraits of former headmasters and headmistresses, dozing peacefully in their frames, and Fawkes, Dumbledore's pet phoenix, dozing on his perch near an open window.
Dumbledore was not alone in the room; Maggie Dougherty already sat in a chair in front of the headmaster's desk, and Severus Snape stood next to her. The headmaster smiled at Harry and Hermione as they entered. Maggie beamed, then spoke as though she could no longer restrain herself.
"Harry! Hermione! I've just been Sorted. I'm a Gryffindor!"
Hermione rushed forward and hugged her. "Oh! That's wonderful!" Then she noticed Snape standing nearby. "I mean--er, well, that is--"
"You are allowed to be glad that someone of Miss Dougherty's calibre is in your house, Miss Granger," he informed her stiffly. "She will not, however, be actually living in Gryffindor House, as she is also on the staff. She will be living in the staff quarters."
Harry raised his eyebrows. He remembered living in the staff quarters himself. That meant Maggie and Snape wouldn't be that far apart. He wondered whether they would continue to have some kind of relationship now that they were both at Hogwarts, since Maggie was going to be studying Potions, among other things, meaning that she had dated her professor. This could get complicated, he realized. He wondered whether Dumbledore had spoken to the Sorting Hat to make sure she would not be in Slytherin House (not that there was probably any danger of that) so that the authority Snape would have over her would only be during Potions classes.
"If you have any problems, you may take them to Harry and Hermione, as the senior prefects in your house," Dumbledore told Maggie now, "or to your head-of-house, Professor McGonagall."
Maggie nodded deferentially to him. "Yes, sir. I'll remember that." Dumbledore waved her "sir" away impatiently.
"Now, now, you are a grown woman and also a teacher. You may call me Albus, as the other teachers do. You know, two of your brothers were Head Boys? And your sister is a prefect?"
She smiled. "Yes, I know. Do--do the staff and students know that I am actually a Weasley?"
Dumbledore sighed. "No, that is not generally known. Some people who see a resemblance between you and your sister may guess, but I would prefer not to have it be general knowledge that you are actually Peggy Weasley. There was a reason why Peter Pettigrew was told to kill you and your sister, and while I do not believe either of you is the Daughter of War in the Prophecy, that will not prevent others from trying to please Voldemort by eliminating all those who may be viable candidates. I do not discount the possibility that, even with all of the precautions that we have taken, Voldemort may have many eyes and ears here at the school. While I generally feel that Hogwarts is a very safe place, we were shown last term how easily breached it could be. I do not wish to see you endangered, my dear. The students shall call you Miss Dougherty when you are teaching them and Maggie when you are a fellow student, and the staff shall call you Miss Dougherty when they are teaching you and Maggie when you are in the staff room and other venues in which you are their peer."
Harry met Dumbledore's gaze now. "Won't that get a little confusing? Some of the students may be taught by her and then sitting next to her in class."
"Not as yet. She will be teaching third and fourth year Divination students, and attending a number of first year classes. However, I am counting on the pair of you to intervene if there should be any--complications resulting from this arrangement. Maggie has a very full schedule. She will be teaching three mornings and one afternoon, and taking Transfiguration, Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Charms, History of Magic and Herbology during the other class periods, although she has the option of simply reading the material for History of Magic and taking the tests, so that she will have something of a break in her schedule. Severus has also offered to tutor her in Potions on the weekend, so that she may advance more quickly and perhaps join the second-year students in the spring term." Harry raised his eyebrows, but Dumbledore did not seem to see any possible problem with this plan.
"Speaking of potions, sir, who, um, is tending to the class right now?" Harry asked uncertainly. Snape bristled.
"Thank you for being so concerned for my students' well-being, Mr. Potter, but I asked the fifth-year Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw prefects to stay after the morning lesson, and they are currently overseeing the class. Miss Dougherty--er, Maggie--and I will be returning to the dungeons shortly for the first-year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws to have their class. Which classes she attends will have no connection to the fact that she is a Gryffindor."
Harry felt his face grow warm. "Is that all for now, sir?" Harry asked Dumbledore.
"Yes and no. I must ask you to convey to Ginny, Ron and Draco Malfoy the importance of not broadcasting Maggie's Weasley background. If anyone else knows--actually, does anyone else know?"
Harry thought, his brow furrowed. "There's Sirius and Remus. The rest of the Weasleys--which might also include Lee Jordan and Angelina Johnson, since they live at Hog's End with Percy and the twins. And Katie Bell. She just started Auror training."
Dumbledore tented his fingers and looked thoughtful. "Hmm. That puts her out of reach for the moment. Trainees are sequestered. As for Sirius and Remus, they know not to say anything. I'll pay a visit to the Burrow and to Hog's End to speak to the other people involved." He gazed seriously at Maggie. "I'm sure Harry never intended for you to be in any danger, my dear, when he set out to find you. His intentions were good. He merely wanted to reunite you with your family. We will endeavor to make certain that you are perfectly safe here, and that you receive the magical education you should have had when you were younger."
Harry felt a bit uncomfortable. His intentions were good. That had gotten him in trouble before. But Maggie simply smiled broadly at him. "I can never thank Harry enough for finding me, Albus. Since that day I feel like I've been living a dream I don't want to wake up from. I know I'll be safe here."
Harry looked at Dumbledore, who, disturbingly enough, did not seem so sure himself. But he nodded at the fireplace and said, "You two should probably be off to the dungeons. Have a good class, Maggie," he said kindly, before she and Snape threw Floo powder into the fire and said, "Severus Snape's office!"
When they had gone, Dumbledore motioned to the chairs in front of him. "Now, we have one or two other things to discuss, so make yourselves comfortable." Harry and Hermione sat obediently, and Dumbledore opened his desk drawer and removed a sheaf of parchments. Harry took them awkwardly; it was a large bundle.
"What's this?" he asked Dumbledore, trying not to drop any of the parchments.
"Patrol timetables. You and Hermione should distribute them to the other prefects during lunch. Students are only patrolling four nights a week, staff are on six nights a week. Take a look so you know when you need to be on deck."
Harry unrolled one of the parchments and scanned down it for the name "Potter" while Hermione took another and did the same. The first shift started every night at nine o'clock, the second at eleven-thirty, third at two o'clock and fourth at four-thirty in the morning until seven. The castle would be patrolled by twenty-four people for ten hours a night, six people per shift.
"Here we go, Harry," Hermione said, having scanned it quickly. "On Sunday, I'm the first shift and you're the second; then I'm on third shift on Wednesday while you're on the fourth; we're both on second shift Thursday; then you're fourth shift again on Friday and I'm on third shift again Saturday."
Harry noticed that he was on duty with Ginny on Sundays at eleven-thirty until two in the morning, and swallowed. And he was with Malfoy on the fourth shift Fridays, from four-thirty to seven in the morning. Lovely, he thought. Then he noticed that Ginny was never patrolling at the same time as Malfoy, whereas Malfoy was patrolling at the same time as Mariah Kirkner on Monday from four-thirty to seven o'clock.
"So, I trust you will take care of that. Also, the pair of you will hold prefects' meetings on Sunday evenings between seven and eight o'clock, which is when I am also conducting a staff meeting. Just before eight o'clock you will adjourn the prefects' meeting so that you can come to the staff room and join that meeting, as you are the liaison between the student patrollers and the staff. Any questions?" They shook their heads, still perusing the timetables. He nodded. "Good." He opened another desk drawer now and took out a plain white envelope, which he handed to Harry. He awkwardly transferred the bundle of parchments to Hermione so he could take what Dumbledore was handing him. It didn't look at all like parchment, but the sort of envelope typically sold by a Muggle stationer. He frowned questioningly at the headmaster.
"Your aunt sent this to me with Arabella, Harry. I thought you should see it."
He opened the envelope and a piece of yellowed paper fell out of it; Harry bent to pick it up. It was his birth certificate. "I've been waiting for this! Can I--can I try out for the Welsh national team, Professor? I mean--may I?"
But Dumbledore was already chuckling. "Of course, of course. I will arrange your transportation. The trials are at a lovely castle in Wales, where the final is to be played later this year. And Ron has already received my permission to try for England."
Harry couldn't have stopped smiling if he'd wanted to. "Oh, thank you, Professor! Thank you so much!"
Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling. "You're welcome, Harry. But I think before you say anything else, you should read the letter in that envelope."
Harry unfolded it, and as he read, he felt the color drain from his face. He looked up at the headmaster, expecting him at any moment to be replaced by some monster, to have the Polyjuice Potion wear off and reveal his true form, as Voldemort or Peter Pettigrew or Lucius Malfoy. No, Harry thought, it couldn't be....
Hermione stared at him, concerned. "What is it, Harry?"
He turned to her slowly, letting the letter slip from his hands as he whispered, "Aunt Petunia is coming to Hogwarts."
Harry was never quite sure how he got through the rest of the day. Even Trelawney's most barbed remarks went unnoticed by him during Divination. (Sandy had made some barbed remarks of her own about Trelawney--Harry thought her tongue was definitely sharper than it had been--but he chose not to share these with Ron.) After classes were finally over, he threw himself into an armchair near the fireplace in the Gryffindor common room. Aunt Petunia at Hogwarts. He still couldn't believe it. Ron collapsed into the next chair, moaning about the homework Trelawney had already given them. Harry had told him about his aunt at lunch, but it seemed he'd already forgotten (or it just didn't have the impact on him that it had on Harry, which was to be expected). Hermione was sitting near the windows with a variety of books spread out on the table in front of her; she had had the last period of the day free, as the second period of Arithmancy met on Wednesday after lunch, when Harry and Ron had a free period. When she noticed Harry and Ron, she closed her books and went to join them. She rose and walked to them, kissed Ron on the forehead and perched on the arm of his chair, fixing Harry with a stern gaze that made him uncomfortable.
Finally, he burst out, "All right, tell me what I've done now...."
"It's not what you've done; it's what you haven't done. While I was waiting for you two, I realized that there's still something you haven't told Ron at all, and something you haven't told me in full--just a little, at Alicia's house." She raised her eyebrows meaningfully while Harry stared, perplexed. When he failed to catch on, she rolled her eyes. "You know, the reason for your being so distracted last year--"
"Oooohh!" Harry said suddenly, his eyes wide. "Yes, of course! I'm sorry. You're right. I forgot!" He had way too much to think about just now.
Ron eyes went back and forth between the two of them. "What the--"
"Let's not do this here," Hermione whispered, standing and walking toward the boys' stairs. Harry nodded, then stopped short.
"Wait--I'd rather not risk someone walking in, and it's impossible to put a fool-proof lock on the dorm door. We'll need someone to be a guard."
"But who?" Hermione said quietly. "Anyone you ask is sure to want to know why."
Then Harry spotted Ginny sitting with Ruth and Zoey. "Yeah, I know. But it's all right. I'll ask Ginny. She already knows."
"She already knows!" Ron said indignantly. "I don't even know what she knows that I don't know, but I know that I think I should have known before she knew! I mean--"
Hermione smiled and patted his arm. "That's all right, we understand. I'm sure there was a good reason Harry told her--"
"Er, yeah. I'll have to explain that too, I reckon," Harry said. "Wait a minute."
He went to Ginny, Ruth and Zoey and leaned over to whisper in Ginny's ear. "Ron and Hermione and I need your help. Do you have about an hour to spare?"
She frowned up at him, puzzled, but nodded and prepared to stand, putting her Transfiguration text down. "Bring a book," he advised her. "You may want something to read."
Now she appeared more confused than ever, but she picked up the text and followed him to where Ron and Hermione stood waiting. Harry led them all up the stairs and into the seventh-year dorm.
When they had closed the door, he turned to them all and said, "All right. The girls already know, and now you will too, Ron." He launched into the story about the previous September first quickly, having gotten into a pattern now that he'd already told Ginny and Hermione. Ron's eyes went wide when Harry explained to him why he'd seemed so odd when he'd gotten on the Hogwarts Express the previous September. As he spoke, Harry could hardly believe that all that had happened a whole year ago. It seemed like yesterday....
"And I'm going to explain some other things about that life to you too, Ron, and you, Hermione, but I'm going to use my Pensieve to do it, so we can't afford to be disturbed. That's where you come in, Ginny. Can you--do you think you could sit on the landing and stop anyone who wants to come in? Once we're in the Pensieve, we can't know what's happening outside it, and we couldn't stop someone from looking in to see what's happening. Do you mind terribly?"
Harry saw at once that she did, and he felt dreadful. Her face closed up. Harry grimaced, then took her hand. "Will you excuse us for a moment?" he said to Ron and Hermione, leading Ginny out of the room and closing the door.
"Is that why you asked me to come up here? So I could be a glorified guard?"
He drew his lips into a line. "There wasn't anyone else I could ask, Ginny. You're the only other student who knows about the time change. Professor Dumbledore and Professor Snape know, but I can't very well ask them, now can I? Please, Ginny?" he pleaded, touching her arm lightly. He could feel a shiver shudder through her under his fingers. "I'm so glad you're the first person I told after Dumbledore and Snape, I am. I'm so glad we had that night at Hog's End, talking....But I've only told Hermione a very small part so far, and until now Ron hasn't heard anything at all, and they're my best friends. You know far more than they do...."
"Will you tell Ron about me?"
"About--about what we were to each other in your other life."
Harry clamped his mouth shut, thinking about this. "I--I didn't include anything in the Pensieve that would upset him, concerning that. I don't think he--he wants to see me kissing you like you're my girlfriend--" Let alone shagging, he thought, which even Ginny didn't know about. He wondered whether she suspected it, though. "I think I should tell him you were my girlfriend, though. I am going to be a little selective. There are things which would really upset him if he knew, and there's no reason to do that that I can see. So you'll do it? You'll guard the door?"
She grimaced, as though she were doing it against her better judgment. "All right. Yes, I'll do it."
Then Harry remembered something else. "Oh! I just realized something. There's a way you could see a bit of what's happening from out here. Even though you wouldn't be able to hear."
She frowned. "What?"
He removed the basilisk amulet from his robe pocket. "I've been meaning to give this back to you since the day before the wedding. It's how I knew you were in danger when you were out riding."
She took it from him, wonderment on her face. "Oh! I wondered what I'd done with that. I thought maybe it came off while I was riding, but I obviously never put it on that day...."
Harry fastened it around her neck, then leant in to kiss her on the cheek. "You'll be able to see me in the Pensieve if you hold it. All right? Will that do for now?"
She smiled and nodded. "You go. You're right; Ron's your best friend. You should tell him what you can. What won't send him over the edge, anyway," she grinned. He resisted the urge to kiss her properly and returned to the dorm, where his friends were waiting.
Of course, he wasn't prepared for how they were passing the time while they were waiting. When he reentered the room, Ron and Hermione were on Ron's bed. Hermione was lying full-length on top of him, her lips traveling down his throat to where she'd begun unbuttoning his shirt. His robes were already open, and his hands were rubbing her back and lacing into her hair as he made agonized but happy sounds, his eyes closed. Harry cleared his throat noisily, then said, "Shall I go? Would you rather do something else than--"
"Harry!" Hermione cried out, rolling off of Ron too quickly, and then rolling right onto the floor with a thud that made both boys wince and cry out her name. She, however, sprang to her feet quickly, trying to be dignified as she brushed off her robes and smoothed her unsmoothable hair. She had probably never looked less dignified. Harry had to fight the urge to burst out laughing.
"Erm, are you two ready?"
Hermione was very red and Ron was buttoning his robes again, his ears bright pink. "Didn't know how long you were going to take," Ron mumbled. Harry went to his wardrobe and removed his Pensieve, placing it on his bedside table and pulling out his wand. "You'll both need your wands, too," he informed them. He knew Hermione knew what to do, but he was fairly certain that Ron had never been inside anyone's Pensieve before. Soon then had all fallen into Harry's room in Hog's End on the day he had asked it to be his room, when he was a little boy, before they'd bought the house. His best friends stared around the room, then at Harry, then at the Lily Evans and little Harry who were already there, oblivious to their presence. Ron's jaw had dropped and Hermione gazed in disbelief, perhaps not expecting to see this kind of evidence that Harry really had had a childhood with his mother.
He began to tell his best friends about his other life.
When they landed on the floor of the dorm again in a tangled heap, Ron's face was ashen and Hermione was sobbing. She threw herself on Harry, crying in earnest, and he patted her back, silent tears running down his face as well. Ron sat apart from them, his eyes swollen, an unmistakably guilty expression on his face. Harry separated himself from Hermione with some difficulty and said to his friend, "It wasn't your fault, Ron."
Ron's blue eyes were dark with pain. "You killed your mum for me," he whispered hoarsely. Harry shook his head.
"No. For her. How could I--how could I let my own mother become a murderer for me? I couldn't let Sirius and Remus do it when I was in third year. How could I let her?"
They had sat on the cave floor watching the Harry and Ron in the Pensieve walk to the still form of Lily Evans on the dusty ground before Harry decided they'd seen enough for one day; it had been bad enough when he'd removed these thoughts from his mind and placed them in the Pensieve. Seeing them again with Ron and Hermione had put him on an emotional roller-coaster. Harry had guided them up and out of the Pensieve after that. He felt empty inside, seeing himself disarm his mother again, seeing her fly backwards through the air, seeing the last expression she wore on her face before striking her head on the hard outcropping of rock that killed her.
He lifted up his glasses and wiped his eyes impatiently. He'd managed to leave out the part about his sleeping with Ginny; Ron only knew that they'd spent the night in the Quidditch changing rooms. He didn't seem to think this meant they'd slept together, so Harry didn't enlighten him. Hermione was giving him knowing looks, but she didn't say anything. She appeared to be a little hurt, and trying to hide it.
He had enjoyed showing them Jamie, though. Hermione had exclaimed, "Oh! She's so pretty, Harry!"
Ron had stood, staring, saying only, "Yeah...." Hermione had hit him impatiently with the back of her hand. "I was only trying to be agreeable," he said quickly, making Harry laugh. When Harry informed him that his girlfriend had actually been Cho Chang, the Head Girl, and that he was a prefect and considered the most likely person to be Head Boy the next year, Ron's jaw dropped.
However, after a few more displays of Harry/Ron interactions from his other life, Ron found himself grimacing and saying, "Well, a fat lot of good it did me to have a dad with more influence in the Ministry and to be a prefect if it made me such a prat. I'd have hated me too, Harry."
Harry shook his head. "I didn't hate you, Ron. It's just--well, in that life I was a Slytherin...."
It was Ron's turn to shake his head now. "I still can't imagine you as a Slytherin....and with Malfoy for your best mate...."
They sat silently on the cold stone floor of the dormitory. Ron wouldn't look at Harry. "What--what happened after that?" he wanted to know.
Harry swallowed. "The Longbottoms came to get me. I had a trial and I was convicted and sent to Azkaban."
Hermione gazed at him sadly. "That's why you didn't want to tell me how you wound up in Azkaban...."
"Right. Somehow I didn't think I should start with, 'You see, I killed my mum....'"
Ron shook his head. "That's just stupid. That law should be changed. Didn't you tell me that's why Katie Bell's dad went to prison? Killing his wife by disarming her? A person shouldn't go to prison for that. If you're protecting someone else, you should be considered a hero."
Harry sighed. "Sam didn't feel like a hero for killing his wife, Ron. And I sure didn't feel like one for killing my mum. I do wish I could have gone to her funeral, though...." he managed to say before the sobs unexpectedly started pushing themselves out of him. Where had that come from? he wondered abruptly as he continued to cry, helpless to stop it. He hadn't been to his mother's funeral. Why did this suddenly matter so much? Then the door burst open and Ginny rushed in.
"Oh, Harry!" she cried before sinking to her knees and taking him in her arms, as he sobbed on her uncontrollably and clutched at her back. "I saw. I saw!" she said, and she didn't need to explain any more than that. Then suddenly, "Get out, you two!" he heard her snap to Ron and Hermione. They scrambled to their feet and he heard the door slam behind them. He knew they would wonder what on earth was going on between them, but he no longer cared; they could have stayed if they'd wanted to see him have a complete breakdown. It wouldn't matter. He held her tightly and sobbed, his tears wetting her hair and robes. He didn't care if Draco Malfoy saw them in the amulet. He didn't care about anything else just now. He just clutched at her and let himself go, and she was there for him, warm and solid and loving him.
That was all that mattered.
Harry had been greatly comforted by having Ginny with him while he mourned his mother again, but he knew it had been risky. He needed to talk to her about Draco Malfoy anyway, who also needed her right now. They were going to meet in the common room at midnight. They weren't scheduled to patrol on Tuesday nights, and no one doing the patrolling would care as long as they didn't leave Gryffindor Tower.
When he saw her face as she sat by the fire, it was all he could do not to take her in his arms again. She had seen where he and her brother and Hermione had been, in the amulet. She had seen him disarm his mother when Lily Evans' wand was pointed at Ron and her lips were forming the words of the Killing Curse. She had seen him drag her out of the lake and take her to the Quidditch changing rooms. (The next thing they all had seen was the two of them emerging from the changing rooms the following morning.)
"Ginny," he said softly.
She raised her head, completely unsurprised, and smiled at him, making his heart turn over. She'd been clutching the amulet as she waited for him, wearing her old grey dressing gown and a simple white nightdress under that.
"Harry. I've had an idea," she said before he could say what he needed to. "I was watching you, in the amulet. At first I was worried, because I couldn't see anything, although I could feel your presence. But all I could see was black. Then suddenly, I could see you leaving the dorm, standing on the landing in the light from the torches on the walls. And I realized: I couldn't see you in the dorm because it was completely dark. I couldn't see you at all when you weren't where there was light. Do you understand?"
He furrowed his brow, but suddenly, she pulled out her wand and pointed it at the candles around the room, putting each one out, until the fire in the grate was the only light. At last, she extinguished that too, and Harry found himself standing in pitch darkness. He felt at sea, unable to remember how close any of the furniture was to him, or how far away she was. He held out his arms in the darkness and said uncertainly, "Ginny? Ginny, where are you?"
Then his fingertips touched soft cloth, and the next thing he knew she was in his arms and he was holding her, holding her closely enough to make her part of him, as he buried his face in her hair and felt his heart leap within him. They just stood there, holding each other and rocking back and forth, when he realized that her left ear was against his cheek. He turned his head and kissed it gently, then breathed into it, making her shiver. He nipped at the lobe with his teeth, and although he would have liked to see her, he was enjoying this dark exploration, the fact that of necessity he had to find his way like a blind man, with touch and taste and smell. He pulled her earlobe into his mouth again, then slid his lips down the side of her neck, pausing to suck gently at the pulse point, while she clung to him and sighed.
"Oh, Ginny," he whispered in her ear before kissing it again. "I love you so much...."
She turned her head suddenly, her fingers fluttering over his face, tracing his lips, and then she had pulled his mouth to hers and he pushed her lips open with the tip of his tongue. Force was hardly required, though, as she was wide open to him, drinking him in. Her hands moved deftly as they kissed, and when Harry realized this, he started moving his own hands. Soon they had each slipped off the other's dressing gown; both garments were heard falling softly to the floor. Harry's legs wouldn't support him anymore and he gently sank to the floor, taking her with him. They knelt, facing each other, kissing brows, cheeks, mouths, necks....
Harry wore only his pajama pants now--Sandy had disengaged herself and slithered off--and he felt Ginny slowly move her mouth down his neck, then onto his chest, her tongue creating a wet trail that was driving him mad. He reached out a shaking hand and unbuttoned her nightdress as she did this, removing it from her shoulders until it was around her waist.
When he lowered his mouth and took the tip of one breast in his mouth, she cried out his name with joy, and he thought he'd never heard anything so wonderful in his life. When she pulled his mouth up to hers again and placed his hands on her chest, she whispered against his lips, "I love you, Harry....I always have done...."
He moved his hands down to her waist, feeling the firm flesh there, and on her ribcage, rather than actually being able to count her ribs, as he could in his other life. There would be no possibility in this time and place, he suspected, of mistaking poor eating habits for a pregnancy. She wasn't fat, certainly, but not skeletally thin, either. She had some nice flesh on her, a healthy amount, enough to--
"Ginny," he said suddenly, desperately, trying not to touch her now. He needed her so....and yet, if it wasn't safe for reasons having nothing to do with Draco Malfoy....
"What?" she whispered, drawing her finger down his arm to his hand, which she tried to guide to her breast again. He was tempted to let her, but pulled it back before he could make contact.
"Have--have you taken the Prophylaxis Potion?"
Silence. "I--I was going to ask you whether you might have something--something Muggle. You know, from an apothecary."
"Chemist," he corrected her. "And no, I don't have anything Muggles use. If we--if we don't have any protection, we can't do this." Then he thought of something else, the thing he needed to talk to her about, which had flown clean out of his head after her first touch. There were other reasons they couldn't do this besides Harry not having been to a chemist and Ginny not taking the potion. One reason, anyway. A reason called Draco Malfoy.
"I--I never intended for this to happen tonight, Ginny. I just wanted to talk to you. About Draco. Please--please get dressed."
He found his dressing gown and pulled it on, tying the belt impatiently, trying to calm down. She'd gotten him very worked up, but this just wasn't the time. He tried not to think of her soft skin, of the warm weight of her breasts in his hands, the salty taste of her skin....
He attempted to make his way to a chair and barked his shins on a low table, swearing loudly. Pulling out his wand, he started to wave it, but stopped, not knowing whether she was dressed again.
"Are you decent?"
"You--you don't want to see me?" she asked softly, sounding hurt.
"Of course I want to see you!" he responded without thinking, then tried to squelch that thought. "I didn't think you wanted him to see you. What do you do to avoid that, anyway? Shower in the dark?"
"No, just very quickly. And we're usually doing it at the same time, after running, so I was hoping he might be a bit preoccupied and not trying to see me with the amulet just then."
Harry remembered that that very morning, when he'd been coming out of the showers in the boys' prefects' bath, he'd seen Malfoy in the large tub still, holding the amulet tightly, one corner of his mouth twisted upward slightly. He was getting an eyeful, he realized now, feeling conflicted about whether he should tell Ginny this.
"Anyway, are you dressed again?" he asked her once more, after hearing some rustling that might indicate this. She answered in the affirmative and he pointed his wand around him at random to get some candles to light. When three sprang to life, he found his way to the fireplace and lit the fire. Sandy was sitting on the still-warm hearth, and he picked her up and let her slither into his sleeve and around his arm once more.
"Are you done now?" she asked softly.
"Yeah," he said briefly, before sitting in a chair before the hearth, his heart still beating quickly from the encounter in the darkness.
He motioned for Ginny to sit in the chair furthest from his, which should make it impossible for Draco Malfoy to see Harry using the amulet. "Ginny, I need to talk to you about Draco Malfoy." She nodded. "You need to break up with him if we're going to be together. I--I didn't mean for--for that to happen just now. I don't want to be that sort of person. I've been that sort of person, and I don't want to do it again. I mean, when we--when we were meeting on top of the Astronomy Tower to go flying, I was still with Hermione. I wasn't in love with her, but I do love her, as my friend. I should have shown her more respect. I should have been honest with her and broken up with her. But--but I didn't see that until I fixed the timelines, until I could remember my other life.
"You see, in my other life, my mother was cheating on my stepfather."
Her jaw dropped. "Your mum was cheating on Professor Snape! Why?"
He sighed. "I was never sure. It seemed that she felt tired and overwhelmed, taking care of my twin brothers. They had porphyria, inherited from my dad--I mean, Snape. I don't know whether she originally turned away from him because she blamed him for giving her sons the disease, or she decided she was more attracted to Sirius--"
"Sirius! She was cheating on her husband with Sirius!"
"Yeah, well, there's no love lost between him and Snape, now is there?"
Ginny swallowed. "What if--what if my sister married him and the same thing happened? What if they had a child with this disease and she resented him for it?"
Harry looked at her levelly. "Then she should do what my mother should have done, what I should have done, and end the relationship cleanly. Except--well, in a way I understand why my mother didn't. She wanted the twins to have the two of them, united, supporting them. But still--I think that in the long run, if there had been a long run, the best thing would have been for her and Sirius to come clean about their relationship. Actually--my dad did know about them. He had accepted that their marriage was over and maintained the facade for my brothers' sake. I had to see all of this happening to other people before I realized I didn't want to do that again....
"When we're together, Ginny--and I believe that we will be, eventually--I don't want it to be the two of us sneaking around in the dark, behind Draco's back. I want to walk down the corridors of the castle holding your hand. I want to go to Christmas at the Burrow as your boyfriend. I want to make love to you in a sunny field in the middle of summer. I want--I want to see you. I want to see your face when--" He choked; he couldn't continue that train of thought; the memory of her was still too vivid. It hadn't even been a few minutes...."I--I know you think you can't break up with him, but you can. Only--not yet. You can't possibly do it just now. He--he needs you too much right now."
She frowned, sitting up a little more. "How do you mean?"
"I mean--I've only seen him like this one other time. In my other life, after my sister died. Ginny, he tried to throw himself off the parapets. I'm really worried about him. Yes, I know he goes out of his way to be a prat at every opportunity. But we can't let ourselves play his game of pushing people away when he needs them the most. He was a good friend to me once."
She squinted at him. "What are you getting at, Harry?"
"Ginny," he said slowly, "he needs you right now. You know this. Be there for him. In whatever way you can. In whatever way you feel comfortable...." Harry felt himself coloring. Ginny's jaw dropped.
"Are you telling me to sleep with him?"
"I'm--I'm just saying that--that if you did, I would completely understand. You already said you'd felt tempted. I just think that you need to give him time to heal, and then break up with him when he's no longer a possible danger to himself--"
"What about a danger to other people? Especially to you?" she said hotly, still evidently upset by the implication that he wouldn't be insanely jealous if she slept with Draco Malfoy.
"I--I don't think that would happen if you did the break-up in the right way, at the right time. You have to be honest with him when the time comes. You need to tell him you don't love him, make it about that. That's as good a reason as any, when you think about it. Whether or not you loved anyone else, not loving him means you shouldn't stay together...."
"And yet you want me to wait to break up with him. Oh, Harry....On the day of the wedding, we weren't inside when Fleur arrived because we had gone for a walk down to the stableyard. We were sitting on a bench outside the stables, talking, and Draco took my hand and apologized for--for making my horse bolt. He told me he loves me more than life itself. He actually said that. And what could I say? Could I say the same thing? No. It would have been a lie. What would I do if he said the same thing again after--after making love to me? What kind of person would I be if I couldn't return his love at such a time? I think--I think that's actually the biggest thing that's been keeping me from--from giving in to him. I'm not afraid of the act. That doesn't frighten me. It's the words that would come after....The words I can't say."
He sighed and looked down at his hands, unable to bear seeing her in the firelight, flushed with passion and anger both. "When I tried to break up with Hermione after Dudley died, Ron insisted that I couldn't. He was in love with Hermione, I know he was. It must have been so hard for him, and yet he went out of his way to show me that I needed her just then, and he was right. I did. Hermione--she let me forget. She let me just--"
"--just shag her repeatedly. Is that what you want me to do with Draco Malfoy?" She was seething now.
"That's not what--oh, Ginny! I haven't been a saint, you know I haven't! I wouldn't think any less of you if--"
"Well maybe I would think less of me, did that ever occur to you? Did it ever occur to you that I might be ashamed of the times when I actually wanted a man I don't love? Do you think I liked feeling that way? You don't know what you're asking me, Harry. I don't know how you can say you love me and sit there and--and--"
She couldn't finish, but went running up the steps to her dorm. He called her name, but he didn't want to be too loud, and finally, he turned around and stared at the fire some more, trying to forget holding her in his arms, her soft skin under his hands....but she crept into his dreams when he returned to bed, and he woke in the morning to find the sheets wrapped around him as he had dreamt her limbs were, and her name on his lips as he reached for the girl who was not beside him, the girl he was sending to another man's bed.
Classes were uneventful the next day. Harry and Ginny avoided each other while running, in the common room and at meals, but this didn't escape Hermione's notice, and she pulled him aside after Potions class was over.
"What's going on, Harry? First you fall apart over your mum--not that I blame you--and you're crying all over Ginny. Now the two of you seem to have had a fight. Would you like to enlighten me?"
He couldn't tell her about what had occurred between them, however. She might be as appalled as Ginny had been, and Ron would certainly be furious if it got back to him. He knew Ginny had once been convinced that she shouldn't give in to temptation because if Draco Malfoy slept with her, she thought it possible she'd never be able to get rid of him. Harry wasn't so sure anymore. Now it seemed to be the possible proclamations of love from Draco that Ginny feared. Harry did know for sure that Ron and Hermione could not know about what had happened in the common room the night before. "I--I can't tell you," he said, remembering that he had hoped to be able to stop saying that after showing Ron and Hermione his Pensieve.
"Well, I just hope you're alive in the morning," she said ominously.
Harry frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Didn't you notice? You and Malfoy are doing the fourth watch tonight. Tomorrow morning, I should say, since you start at four-thirty. Sirius and Professor Trelawney are also on the fourth watch together--poor Sirius!--and Professor Snape is on the fourth watch again, this time with Professor Sinistra. Last night he was on the fourth watch with Maggie," she added, waggling her eyebrows. "Didn't you notice on the schedule?"
"Er, no. I only looked for my name." Which wasn't strictly true, but mostly true.
"Well, tonight I'm on third watch, so I'm going to bed right after dinner. That way I'll still get about six hours of sleep before two o'clock. I'm on with Ernie MacMillan, from Hufflepuff, and the teachers are Maggie, Professor McGonagall, Hagrid and Professor Sprout. I'm going to try to get some work done in the common room when my watch is done; I think if I try to go to sleep again, there's no way I'll be up at six-thirty to get ready for running."
"Yeah, well can you come pull me out of bed at four-thirty? I don't know how I'll get up otherwise."
"Go to bed right after dinner, like me. That way you'll get a good eight hours."
"That's so early, Hermione! I can't just make myself go to bed at eight o'clock."
She shrugged. "Suit yourself. If I have to use force to get you out of bed at four-thirty, I will," she said, smirking.
He smirked right back. "Oh yeah? See what happens to you if you do...."
But his first watch went well. He didn't manage to get to sleep until ten o'clock, after tossing for two hours, but when he awoke at four, without help, he dressed quickly in the cold room and trod softly down to the common room. He sat by the fire, shivering, and Hermione was surprised to see him when she returned. He was not awake enough to trust his voice, so he nodded at her as she plodded to the armchair where he'd been sitting, collapsing with exhaustion. He thought it unlikely she was going to get any work done.
He met Draco Malfoy in the entrance hall, along with Hagrid, Maggie and Professors Sprout and McGonagall. They agreed on a way to split up the castle and began their rounds. Harry held his wand out as he walked, when he saw that Malfoy did too. What was truly disconcerting was that Draco Malfoy seemed to be behaving as though he'd never met him before. No insults, no snide remarks. Harry had wanted to try to draw him out, to find out how he was doing since the wedding, but there were no opportunities for introducing the topic. When their shift drew to a close, Malfoy revealed that he'd worn his running clothes under his robes; he waited for Harry to return to Gryffindor Tower to change. Harry came back to the entrance hall a little while later with Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Tony and Ruth, finding Draco and Mariah waiting. Draco left his robes in a bundle on the edge of the pitch while they ran and continued the not-talking to such an extent that even Ron appeared disconcerted, and like he might like to counter an insult or two about Weasleys.
Classes were finally getting more interesting. They had another Charms lesson, but this time they broke up into small groups for a practical lesson, with the prefects in each group leading the way. After that, they had their first Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson with Professor Figg, who reminded Harry so eerily of her brother that he kept expecting her to shout CONSTANT VIGILANCE any moment. (Crouch really had done a good Moody impression.)
And then, after lunch, they were to mount their broomsticks and fly to Hogsmeade for their first Apparition lesson. Only the Slytherins were joining them; the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaw would have their lessons at different times.
Harry noticed how fiercely Hermione clutched her broomstick handle as she flew, remembering how nervous she'd been before flying into the forest to rescue Professor Snape and Draco Malfoy. She was using a school broom, as she still didn't have one of her own. He suspected it would be even harder to convince her to get a broom once she'd mastered Apparition. She really wouldn't see the point, then.
All of the Gryffindor and Slytherin students attended the first lesson, except for Draco Malfoy and Ron. Sirius introduced himself, smiling at them all, but looking very nervous, as though everyone might start screaming and cringing from him any minute. Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil did seem to avoid getting too close to him, and Seamus' eyes were rather round the entire time. Pansy Parkinson, on the other hand, simpered and flirted shamelessly. ("He's a teacher!" Hermione hissed at Harry and Neville, indignant, while she glared at Pansy.)
After the class, Harry knew he had to finally speak to Sirius about the things he'd told Ron and Hermione. He'd told Snape before Sirius, and he just knew he shouldn't leave Sirius in the dark any more. He didn't think he'd need the Pensieve to convince him, and he didn't want to show it to him, anyway, lest any unflattering images of the Sirius in his other life crept in. His godfather let him talk and talk, as they sat in the echoing, empty village hall, and when the sun was going down, he pulled Harry to him in a hug, then released him, searching his face.
"You're not a child anymore, Harry," he said suddenly. Harry hadn't held anything back from Sirius except the other Sirius' involvement with his mother. He knew all about the pregnancy scare, and the Quidditch changing rooms. Harry shook his head.
"How could I be?" he choked out, trying not to cry again. Sirius clapped him on the shoulder.
"Well, I think you've made some mistakes you're never likely to make again. That's the important thing."
Harry nodded and they left the hall and mounted their broomsticks to return to the castle. He felt like a great weight had been lifted from him as he flew. He still missed his 'dad,' Severus Snape, but as Snape hadn't shown any interest in being a father-figure to him, even after seeing the Pensieve, Harry knew he had to give Sirius a chance. Sirius had wanted to be a kind of father to him since his third year. He found himself in the awkward position now of trying to be a father to a man, not a boy, but Harry wanted to let him know he still needed parenting, still needed someone to talk to, someone to advise him. He smiled at the dark man flying next to him, and Sirius nodded back with understanding. For once, Harry had no doubt that he'd done the right thing.
That night, Harry was paired with Hermione for the second watch. When they went to bed at two in the morning, Harry was glad that they didn't have any classes first thing on Friday. They had History of Magic before lunch, but the other runners allowed him and Hermione to sleep late. They ate breakfast with everyone else and then went running during the first period, showering before Binns' class. All day, Harry was very excited, since Saturday was drawing nearer, when he would go to Wales to try out for the national team. He tried not to think about his falling-out with Ginny, but it was difficult. When he had no control over his thoughts, in his dreams, she was in his arms again, evaporating when he awoke.
After spending the afternoon out-of-doors at Herbology (it was still good weather, so they were working in the gardens, not the greenhouses) and Care of Magical Creatures, they returned to the common room, where everyone seemed to be in a party mood. Someone produced some butterbeers and crisps, and Ron and Seamus went to the kitchens, returning with more substantial food and pitchers of pumpkin juice. Harry managed to relax and forget his troubles for once, but when he rose to refill his goblet at one point, a piece of paper fell from his robes, and it was Ginny who picked it up.
"Harry," she called to him, as though being helpful against her better judgment. "You dropped something." She unfolded it. "Oh! It's your birth certificate. Are you carrying this around for tomorrow?"
Annika and Zoey had been standing near her, and they pounced on the piece of paper now. "Oooh!" Zoey cried out, looking over Ginny's shoulder. "Look at Harry's little footprints! So cute!"
"Give me that--" he started to say irritably, but now Ginny was looking at the back of the paper, where his parents' birth dates were given.
"Funny," she said. "Your dad's birthday is less than a week after yours. The fifth of August, 1960."
Hermione's head swung round. "Really? Are you sure, Ginny?" He could practically see the wheels were turning in her head again.
"Very. It's right here." She showed Hermione while Harry made a swipe for the paper and missed.
"Oh, and look," Hermione said now, pointing to Harry's mother's birth date. "Harry--your mum's birthday is less than a week after Ginny's."
Harry stopped reaching for it and frowned at her. "Um, no it isn't Hermione. It's exactly a week. Has Arithmancy destroyed your ability to add? One plus seven is eight."
Hermione grimaced at him. "I know that, Harry. Why are you saying that?"
"Because my mum's birthday was the eighth of April, that's why."
Hermione opened her eyes wide. She glanced down at Harry's birth certificate, then back up at him. "Not according to this."
She handed the paper to him and he stared at it, wondering whether it was a simple clerical error at the hospital. How could his own mother not know when her birthday was, after all? He remembered her being very adamant about its being on the eighth, when he was small and had been eavesdropping on the adults in Lucius Malfoy's study, during the Christmas party.
He stared down at the paper again. And then he noticed something else. Not only was his mother not born on April the eighth, according to his birth certificate, but where it gave her place of birth, it said very clearly, "Appleby Magna, Leicestershire."
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