- 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 13 - Corridors
- 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.
Out in the dark corridor, Harry examined the Marauder's Map to check that the coast was still clear. Yes, the dots
belonging to Filch and his cat, Mrs. Norris, were safely in their office...nothing else seemed to be moving apart from
Peeves, though he was bouncing around the trophy room on the floor above...Harry had taken his first step back toward
Gryffindor Tower when something else on the map caught his eye...something dinstinctly odd.
--J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter Twenty-Five, The Egg and the Eye
Harry looked down the track, but there was no puff of smoke to be seen. Beside him, Dumbledore pulled from his pocket something that appeared to be a watch, but which did not actually have hands and numbers. Harry looked at the whirling planets and felt perplexed, but when he raised his eyes to the headmaster's, he saw that the old man was shaking his head.
"Late again. It always seems to get bogged down in the Midlands. That's why we run an Express on September first, of course. I don't know why they don't change the timetables to reflect the true times, but then, they haven't changed the timetables in the last one-hundred and twenty-seven years, so they are unlikely to do it in the next five minutes, eh Harry?" he added, his eyes twinkling at the Head Boy.
"Er, right. Yeah. Nice watch, sir," he said, nodding at the instrument.
"Ah, yes. Thank you. Family heirloom." Dumbledore snapped it shut and returned the watch to his pocket and they continued to wait for the London-to-Hogsmeade train, the only ones on the long lonely stretch of platform at the edge of the village. Harry could see the castle across the enormous lake, windows flashing in the setting sun. He tried not to think about the fact that Hogwarts was much more his real home than Ascog, and that this sanctuary was now being invaded by one of the people he'd hoped to escape all of his life.
When he finally saw the smoke, he couldn't help feeling very uneasy. Don't worry, he told himself. It will be fine. Maybe I won't even have to admit we're related...
The train pulled into the station and slowed to a stop. Passengers began to emerge; it was the usual collection of rather unusual-looking people Harry had almost become accustomed to encountering in the wizarding world. Witches and wizards short and tall, wearing robes and a great variety of hats (tall, pointed and traditional; squashy top hats, bonnets, and so on) and carrying a variety of luggage or parcels (or levitating them).
Harry scanned the crowd, frowning. He didn't see her anywhere.
Finally, he heard the familiar sharp voice and jerked his head around.
"What does a person have to do to get some service around here? I need my things moved and that means now!"
Harry rushed to the train and peered into the doorway from which the voice was emanating. A conductor was standing in the corridor, looking exasperated. "We don't generally levitate things for people, ma'am, when they can do it themselves..."
"I tried, you ninny! But this thing--" she waved a slim, pale stick at the conductor, "isn't doing what I want it to do--" She pointed it at the door to the compartment and it started sliding back and forth rapidly and lethally, like a sideways guillotine.
"I think we can take it from here," the headmaster told the confused conductor. He moved unobtrusively past Harry and onto the train, then put his hand gently on Petunia Dursley's arm and said to her, "You don't need that right now, Mrs. Dursley. Just put it away and Harry will show you to the boat." Harry wasn't sure when she'd acquired the wand; it was possible Mrs. Figg had taken his aunt to Diagon Alley for it. He wished he'd been there to see that.
"Boat?" She perked up. "Where? Where? Oh, that sounds lovely," she started babbling at him as Harry led her off the train and toward the small dock. "We went on a lovely cruise last summer to--"
She stammered to a dead stop and stared at the tiny boat bobbing in the water. Harry climbed in, having some difficulty avoiding stepping on his robes. He stretched his hand out to her to help her board, but she didn't take the proffered hand. She simply stared open-mouthed at the fragile-looking vessel. She looked up at the castle across the lake, swallowing, and Harry remembered when he climbed into one of the small boats with Ron, Hermione and Neville six years earlier, gazing awestruck at the vision that was Hogwarts castle.
Dumbledore arrived at the edge of the dock, casually levitating Petunia Dursley's luggage with his wand, including a small dog carrier, from which irate yips were heard. Harry closed his eyes, grimacing. Bloody hell, he thought. She's brought Dunkirk.
His aunt whirled on the headmaster. "I am supposed to get into--into that thing?" she said disdainfully, pointing at the small craft. "There aren't even any oars!"
Dumbledore levitated the luggage--including Dunkirk's carrier--into a second boat bobbing nearby. "There is no need for oars, dear lady, but if they would be reassuring to you--" He waved his hand toward the boats and oars appeared for each one. There were no oarlocks holding them in place, however; the oars merely hovered in position to begin rowing as though unseen persons were in fact holding them. He waved his hand toward the boat.
"After you, Mrs. Dursley. Harry, please assist your aunt."
Harry stood again, his legs a bit wobbly as the boat moved under him. He held out his hand to her once more. She still hesitated.
"Do I--do I have to?" she whined.
Harry felt an unexpected pang of sympathy for her, seeing her chin shake with fright. He didn't know whether she was asking if she had to get in the boat or whether she had to go to Hogwarts--perhaps she had changed her mind.
"I'm afraid so. All who are new to Hogwarts must cross the lake," the headmaster said smoothly.
She nodded, as if she understood something she hadn't before. "Ah, a rite of passage." Now that she had a label she could give to the trip across the lake, she climbed in gingerly, grasping Harry's hand painfully hard, and she was soon settled in the stern, sitting to one side so that the boat was listing rather severely. Once Dumbledore climbed in, the boat was on an even keel again. Harry sat in the prow, facing the castle. He turned to see what was surely one of the strangest sights the world had ever seen: Petunia Dursley, dressed like a witch, seated next to Albus Dumbledore in a tiny boat. Dumbledore waved his hands casually at the poised oars, and they began to move of their own accord, rowing both vessels across the glassy water.
Harry turned to face forward again, shivering as an unbidden memory of approaching Azkaban came to him. The water slapping on wood made his stomach clench, and he remembered the hollow, cold feeling he'd had inside as they'd dragged him to his cell... He shook himself and tried to clear his head, thinking about how clear and cool the night air was, and how beautiful the castle looked as they drew nearer to it.
At last, they reached the cave under the castle where the boats ran to ground. Harry climbed out first, getting his ankle-high boots a bit wet, and pulled their boat onto higher, drier ground, so that the headmaster and his aunt would not need to tread in the water.
Soon they were in the entrance hall, the luggage following behind. Mrs. Figg was waiting for them amid a flood of students streaming through to go into the Great Hall for the evening meal. Petunia Dursley choked out an anguished yet relieved cry when she saw Mrs. Figg; Harry noted that, while his old baby sitter was wearing robes, she was wearing them open like an overcoat that hadn't been buttoned, and her Muggle clothes were visible underneath. She wore a nondescript skirt, blouse and cardigan such as Harry had always known her to wear while he was growing up in Surrey. This seemed to serve to comfort his aunt by dint of its familiarity. She also wasn't wearing a hat, he noticed.
"Arabella! It's so good to see a familiar face!"
Harry grimaced yet again. What am I? He noticed that some students passing by were looking at his aunt apprehensively, perhaps fearing another new teacher. Then Draco Malfoy emerged from the dungeons and Petunia noticed him immediately.
"Yoo-hoo! Draco! Hello!" She waved to him, her voice a wavering sing-song. A number of students turned to stare at Draco Malfoy, and he reddened. Harry grinned, glad that he had a perfectly legitimate excuse for being there (his status as Head Boy) other than his familial connection. Caught out, Draco Malfoy dutifully strode over to Petunia Dursley to greet her properly.
"Welcome to Hogwarts, Mrs. Dursley. How was your trip?" Harry realized that he hadn't officially welcomed his aunt, nor enquired about the trip. He tried not to feel irked at how smooth Draco Malfoy could be. He forced himself to remember that in his other life he'd actually admired this in his best friend.
She smiled at him the way she used to beam at Dudley. "Fine, except--" Now she looked uncertain. "A woman came round selling sweets. Luckily, she accepted real money in payment, but unfortunately she didn't seem to have any real food for me to buy. I tried these 'Chocolate Frogs,' and they started leaping about the compartment! And then the, er," she paused, pulling something out of her pocket, "Every Flavor Beans were absolutely vile. They seem to have every flavor but food flavor." She held out the remainder to Draco, who put his hand up, politely declining to eat any. Just then, an excited yipping was heard from the dog carrier still floating nearby.
"Oh! Is that who I think it is?" Draco said, looking genuinely happy. He went on his knees to peer inside the small barred window in the door of the carrier. "Hello there, mate! Miss me, did you?" The yipping increased in volume and intensity. "Can I let him out?"
"Of course," Harry's aunt said as Dumbledore's mouth was just starting to form a word.
"Actually..." the headmaster started to say quietly, while Draco Malfoy flicked open the lock on the carrier. Dunkirk leapt out of the door and immediately jumped on Draco, licking his face and wagging his stumpy tail enthusiastically.
Just then, Harry noticed that Filch had entered the hall, followed closely by his eerie cat. Mrs. Norris stopped in mid-step, her luminous eyes focused on Dunkirk and nothing else. Harry felt an electric crackling in the air as the cat's back arched and its fur stood on end. Suddenly, Dunkirk lifted his head and saw the cat, recognizing his natural enemy, and a low growl was the only warning any of them received before he was off.
Harry had never known such mayhem. Mrs. Norris leapt from person to person, claws sinking deep into flesh, past layers of clothes, while Dunkirk snapped at the air and wove around the myriad legs keeping him from his quarry. More than one student (and a couple of teachers) tripped over him and fell, panicking, as everyone tried to avoid Mrs. Norris inserting those razor-sharp claws into their skin. Dean Thomas screamed shrilly (Harry thought it was his sister Jamaica at first) as the cat landed on his head, and Parvati started to take out her wand to help him, but wound up falling backwards over the terrier, looking like her both her bum and her dignity were injured as a result. Sparks flew from her wand and burnt Seamus Finnigan, who had been trying to duck behind a suit of armor. He promptly brought the shell of a knight crashing to the ground in a racket that echoed deafeningly around the entrance hall. And that was just what Harry could see going on near him; farther off in the crowd that had been attempting to enter the Great Hall, he heard more screams, saw more sparks above the sea of hats and heads, and heard more swearing than he usually encountered at a Quidditch match (some of it coming from teachers).
"Mrs. Norris!" Filch cried, genuinely concerned, and Harry remembered how distraught he had been when she'd been petrified by the basilisk. He leapt from person to person also (feet staying on the ground, for the most part) until, finally, the cat made a spectacular bound onto the marble banister, then onto the marble stairs themselves, streaking away up into the shadowy interior of the castle. Dunkirk, with his little legs, tried to follow her up the stairs, but he wasn't designed for this and quickly fell far behind the cat; Mrs. Norris had vanished from sight.
"Accio," Dumbledore said calmly, deftly catching the little dog in his large, gnarled hands when he came flying at the old wizard. He petted him briefly, then bent over and reinserted Dunkirk into the carrier, closing the door with an air of finality. Harry noted that Dunkirk had not growled at the headmaster. Dumbledore turned to Petunia Dursley, still very calm, ignoring the bleeding casualties of Mrs. Norris' frantic flight. He nodded at her grimly, his mouth every bit as thin as Professor McGonagall's when she was displeased, and Harry was gratified to see that she looked momentarily as cowed as if she had received a scolding. Whimpering students were putting healing charms on each other, while others were skirting Harry, Dumbledore, Mrs. Figg and Petunia Dursley very cautiously, before bolting into the Great Hall.
"You and I will be sharing a suite of rooms, Petunia," Mrs. Figg told her, patting her arm. "There's a nice little grassy courtyard nearby where Dunkirk can run about and get some exercise while you're busy doing other things. You needn't worry about my cats, either, as my brother Alastor is caring for them. And I'm certain Draco would love to take him for walks on the grounds, when Dunkirk finds the courtyard confining."
Draco straightened up uncertainly at the mention of his name; Harry just realized he'd been cowering behind him while Mrs. Norris was leaping from person to person. The Slytherin was turning quite red.
"And," Dumbledore added to Mrs. Figg's comments, "when, er, Dunkirk is not in your rooms," he nodded at the two women, "he will remain on a lead in the castle and on the grounds. Understood?" He raised one eyebrow at Draco and Petunia. Draco nodded.
"Yes, Professor," he said deferentially, surprising Harry. Petunia Dursley pursed her lips and looked at Harry's Head Boy badge.
"Well! Perhaps the Head Boy can make himself useful and take my bags to my rooms..."
Harry bristled. Dumbledore had let the luggage drop during the cat-and-dog-chase, but Harry aimed his wand at each piece--including the dog carrier--and levitated it all again.
"Lead on, Arabella. Come along, Harry," his aunt said imperiously, waving her hand at Mrs. Figg, who turned with a frown and began to ascend the marble stairs with a very stiff, straight back, her robes clutched in her hands so she wouldn't trip. Harry was still getting used to seeing her wear robes (even robes worn over Muggle clothes, as she was wearing this evening).
"Yes, Aunt Petunia," Harry muttered miserably. He saw now that his two best friends and Ginny were among the students who had not yet made it into the Great Hall. Hermione and Ron sent him sympathetic looks before they went into dinner. Harry caught Ginny's eye for a moment, feeling hopeful, but she turned slowly away and followed the other students in to dinner. He started moving the luggage up the stairs with his wand, trying not to notice how many other students were still thronging the entrance hall, even though a number had fled into the Great Hall. So much for no one knowing we're related, he thought.
He perked up his ears when they reached the tapestry that concealed the entrance to the staff wing; Mrs. Figg was explaining to his aunt that a password was required to gain admittance. Then he heard it: palindrome. That was the password.
"What did you say, Arabella?" his aunt said loudly. "Dromedary? Isn't that like a llama?"
"Camel. I did not say dromedary. Harry, tell her." She raised an eyebrow at him.
"Er, she said 'palindrome,' Aunt Petunia," he said, reddening, realizing that Mrs. Figg could tell that he'd been trying to hear the word.
"Right! And you're not to share that information with anyone, understand, Harry? I think you should know, as you're Head Boy, but no one else."
"Not even Hermione?"
"Oh, well--yes, all right. As she's the Head Girl I suppose she should know as well. I'm sure Albus would agree."
They had to walk down more than a few corridors and make a number of turns even after entering the staff wing. When they finally reached their suite of rooms, Mrs. Figg took out a large key and unlocked the door. She waved her wand and suddenly, she was holding two keys, one of which she handed to Petunia Dursley. Harry moved the luggage into the bedroom that seemed to be unoccupied while Mrs. Figg lit a fire. His aunt let Dunkirk out of his carrier, cooing over him, sitting on the couch in front of the fire, while Dunkirk jumped up on his mistress' lap.
"There's my widdle Dunky-wunky out of that nasty box..." she crooned to him in a high-pitched sing-song voice.
Harry sat on a chair adjacent to the couch. He looked down at his hands, frowning. He wanted to ask her about so many things; whether she was in good health and rid of the cancer; how his uncle was dealing with her being a witch and coming to Hogwarts; when she bought a wand... But years of conditioning had taken their toll, and he found himself unable to utter these questions right after she had done such an unimaginable thing as coming to live at Hogwarts. He had been told quite often, when he was young, not to ask nosy questions. Once or twice, when his aunt or uncle was sick with a cold, he had even enquired after their health, but had that impulse drummed out of him by their hostile and suspicious responses. ("Oh, we think we can have the run of the house while I'm laid up sick in bed, do we? Well, we'll just see about that...") So much had changed, and yet--so much had remained the same. Despite Dudley having become his friend and his aunt going to Rodney Jeffries for help....
Rodney Jeffries. There; that was it. He could ask about Rodney Jeffries.
"Oh, by the way," he said, trying to sound casual. "Have you heard anything about Rodney Jeffries?" He had to bite his tongue to keep from saying that he'd been healed by Jeffries. He remembered the letter Jeffries had left him and wondered whether he had followed through.
She brightened up as though she had learnt of some extremely juicy gossip about her next-door neighbor. "Yes! It was in the Times. He's back and bigger than ever! He's had an audience with the queen. Scotland Yard has said that the nutters who wanted to investigate him have been thoroughly reprimanded, and next month he's appearing at the Royal Albert Hall! He's going to be traveling round the country--proper venues this time, mind you, no more tents--and the BBC is going to carry it all! Even the Archbishop of Canterbury himself has made a statement in support of what he's doing, as well as two medical societies!"
Harry's jaw dropped. "But--what about the Ministry? Aren't they after him for doing magic in front of Muggles?"
Mrs. Figg shrugged. "There was also a statement in the Prophet to the effect that he was just a Muggle charlatan, that there was no record of him in the wizarding world, and that if wizards and witches want to waste their time going to see him, that's not the Ministry's lookout."
"He's not a charlatan..." his aunt began, bristling.
"Witches and wizards are going to see him?" Harry asked Mrs. Figg.
"Harry, these days everyone is. I admit, I'm rather shocked by that in particular," Mrs. Figg said, shaking her head.
He also shook his head in disbelief. "You're not serious! And all of this has happened in the last six weeks? How is that possible?"
Aunt Petunia shrugged happily, petting Dunkirk. "With Rodney Jeffries, anything is possible. Why, if it weren't for him, I wouldn't be cancer-free!"
Harry opened his eyes wide in shock. "That's wonderful! Congratulations. But--what does Jeffries have to do with it?"
"If he hadn't turned me into a witch, I doubt that the visualization techniques Arabella taught me would have worked. On my last visit to the doctor, he said he couldn't find a trace of cancer. He called it a 'spontaneous idiopathic cure.'"
He frowned. "What's that mean?"
Mrs. Figg sat in a chair opposite Harry. "A sudden unexplained cure. In other words, he hasn't got the foggiest idea what happened and he's probably worried that he misdiagnosed Petunia. Or someone else."
"Oh." Harry hoped the doctor didn't have a crisis of confidence over this. "Well, Uncle Vernon must have been glad to know you were cured."
His aunt pursed her lips again and let Dunkirk jump onto the floor. He went to the hearth rug and turned around three times, then curled up before the fire. "He--he'll be fine on his own for a while. Marge has moved in, to take care of him--"
Harry made a face. "Aunt Marge?"
"Well," his aunt said feebly; "Marge isn't so bad. She--just speaks her mind. There's nothing wrong with that."
"Right!" Mrs. Figg affirmed. She pulled out her wand, and, with a flick of the wrist, produced a tray with tea and crumpets. She would agree with that, Harry thought. But somehow, something just seemed a bit off about what his aunt had said about her husband. He'll be fine on his own for a while was worrying him, somehow. Had they parted on good terms?
"We should get down to the Great Hall," he said, feeling awkward, his voice shaking. "They'll be on puddings soon if we don't hurry..."
"You go on, Harry. I think we'll have our tea here tonight. Petunia can see the Great Hall at breakfast." Mrs. Figg was taking charge again.
Harry rose. "Well, goodnight then. See you in the morning, Aunt Petunia."
"Goodnight, Harry," Mrs. Figg said briskly as his aunt busied herself about buttering a crumpet, not saying anything. Remembering the way she also hadn't said goodbye to him before he left for Ascog, he decided that some things would never change. Then, just as he had put his hand on the knob, he turned and looked at the back of her head again, thinking about how Dudley would have been a blubbering mess at the thought of losing his mother. It's never going to change if I don't make the first move. It had worked with his mother, in his other life. Maybe they didn't have to have an adversarial relationship forever...
He strode back to his aunt and said, "I'm glad that you're going to be all right. Welcome to Hogwarts, Aunt Petunia." He bent over and kissed her cheek quickly. He was aware of a look of utter shock on his aunt's face (and Mrs. Figg's face) as he returned to the door and let himself out.
Harry started to turn left after leaving his aunt and Mrs. Figg, then thought for a moment and turned right instead. He recognized some familiar paintings from his other life and knew that he was walking in the correct direction now. Then, just before he turned a corner, he heard a familiar voice in the corridor he was about to enter.
"Why, Miss Dougherty," the smooth, deep voice said with a hint of amusement. "Are you making an improper suggestion to a teacher? Do I need to take away house points?"
Harry heard a sly laugh that sounded disconcertingly like Ginny's, followed by the unmistakable sound of kissing. "Mmm--you were planning on something that would cost me house points? Sounds nice--"
Harry winced; he wished he were anywhere else on the planet, but no one was miraculously whisking him away, and there was that kissing sound again.
"Changed your mind, Miss Dougherty?" Snape said when the kissing sounds ceased. He sounded slightly disappointed.
"Not entirely. It's just that Harry is probably already feeling uncomfortable enough, and he'd also probably like his dinner--"
Harry sheepishly poked his head around the corner and saw Maggie and Snape standing in the corridor, a nearby door slightly ajar, which Harry assumed was Maggie's room or suite of rooms. Or Snape's. Either way, he didn't know when he'd felt so embarrassed. "Oh, hello," he said lamely. "I was just helping my aunt settle in--"
Don't worry, Harry, said a voice in his brain. I knew you were there the whole time. I was just having a little fun. Sorry if we embarrassed you.
Maggie? he thought, confused and alarmed. You can talk to me through my mind?
I only did it sometimes, accidentally, when I was young. Since I arrived here I've been reading up on it and practicing more.
Harry was flummoxed. Can you--can you read my mind?
I can sense your emotions. That's how I knew you were there, around the corner. But I can't technically read your mind. If you think something at me, I can hear you just as though you'd spoken aloud. You have to mean for me to know what you're thinking.
"Er," Harry said awkwardly. "I think I'd like to go back to actually talking. Aloud."
Snape raised one dark eyebrow at her. "Were you doing what I think you were doing?"
She laughed. "Just practicing a little. I've stopped now. We should all get down to dinner." They walked down the last corridor together and left the staff wing, lifting the tapestry out of the way.
As they descended staircase after staircase, Harry glanced nervously at Maggie, wondering whether he was going to start hearing her in his head again. He practically jumped out of his skin when she spoke out loud.
"I thought it would be nice if you and Ron and Ginny and Hermione came to tea in my rooms tomorrow," Maggie said carelessly. "When I ran into Ron earlier, he said that the two of you don't have practice again tomorrow, that you're each having one more during the day on Saturday, before Sunday's match."
"Right. No practice again tomorrow." Several times a week, after classes, Sirius had been taking him by Portkey to Wales and Remus had been taking Ron to Kent. Harry and Ron had been trying not to think about the fact that they had to play each other in their first match. Whichever team won would be continuing on to the quarter-finals. Harry was glad that he wasn't playing Keeper for Wales and hoped he caught the Snitch before Ron managed to make the score too unbalanced for the Welsh team to recover. Ron had been beaming every time he returned from practice; Monty Mathers was over the moon about having snagged Ron. Apparently, he'd been with the team for over ten years and had had his eye on Charlie for Seeker when Charlie finished school. He'd been sorely disappointed when Charlie had gone off to Romania to study dragons.
"Well," Ron had said rather smugly, "he's finally got a Weasley on the team!"
"Er, yeah," Harry said to Maggie. "Tea tomorrow would be nice."
"Tell the others for me, will you?" she added as they reached the Great Hall. She had been walking arm in arm with Snape until they arrived at the top of the marble stairs; then she disconnected from him and walked next to Harry. She picked up speed, though, when they were at the doorway to the Great Hall, walking in ahead of Harry and striding toward the head table. Harry turned, wondering where Snape was, but found him in the shadows at the edge of the doorway, a smile creeping up at the corners of his mouth as he watched Maggie.
Harry edged over to him, trying not to grin maniacally.
"She makes you happy," he said quietly.
Snape's face closed up at once. "Do I need to take house points for impertinence?" he said in what would be a menacing voice, were it not for the fact that Harry could see how his eyes were dancing merrily. He'd never been so thoroughly reminded of his stepfather by the Snape in this life.
"No, no. But aren't you lucky I was leaving the staff wing when I was? See, this way, you can be seen walking into the Great Hall conversing with the Head Boy and captain of the Dueling Club, rather than the pretty young Seer who just found out she's a witch..."
Snape smirked. "Well. It turns out that you do have your uses..."
Harry stifled a laugh. "So. We should actually talk about something. The Dueling Club? Or how about--who do you think will win Sunday's match? England or Wales?"
Harry started walking into the hall, and now Snape was beside him, matching him step for step. "That depends. Are you planning to be under the weather so that Erica Welsh will be playing Seeker? If so, then my money would be on Wales."
"Very funny," Harry said, preparing to sit at the Gryffindor table beside Ron.
"You asked, Potter," Snape replied with a perfectly straight face, nodding at him and then continuing on to the head table. Harry felt happy for no reason he could explain as he sat next to his best friend. Perhaps it was the prospect of being on better terms with his aunt. Or feeling like he could talk to either Snape or Sirius, and not feel guilty about either one of them.
He started helping himself to some cold roast chicken and cold boiled carrots (since he didn't fancy cold, glutinous mashed potatoes), but when he lifted his eyes, he was looking directly at Ginny, and the sad expression on her face went right to his heart. She no longer looked angry with him, but as though she were trying to convince herself, as though staying angry with him would make it easier for her to stay away from him.
He forced himself to look away form her and turned to Ron, starting to spear some pieces of carrot on the end of his fork. "Well, Aunt Petunia's settling in. She and Mrs. Figg are having their tea in their suite tonight." He put some food into his mouth, trying not to meet Ginny's gaze.
It wasn't clear that Ron had noticed he'd said anything. "Oh, good," Ron said, looking up at the head table; "there's Snape. I--" He stopped suddenly when Harry guffawed and almost spit out his food. "What?" Ron demanded indignantly as Harry struggled to swallow without choking.
"It's just that--you're the last person I ever expected to say the words, Oh, good, there's Snape."
Ron picked up Harry's chicken leg, took a large bit out of it, then returned it to Harry's plate. "I 'ave t'get more poshun from 'im," Ron said around the bite of chicken he was harboring in his cheek pouch. The full moon was less than a week away and Ron had been taking potion for several days already.
Now Harry decided to pretend Ron hadn't said anything (and studiously ignored the large bite his best friend had taken from his chicken leg). It was as though they were having two different conversations. Harry had noticed that Ron became somewhat distracted during the time leading up to the full moon. He was especially worried about making certain that he took his potion every day during the week preceding his change into a werewolf.
"Speaking of tea, Maggie's invited the four of us to tea in her rooms tomorrow after classes."
"The four of who?" Ron asked, having chewed and swallowed the chicken.
"You and me and Hermione and Ginny." He did not look at Ginny when he said her name.
Hermione, sitting on Ron's other side, spoke for the first time. "That'll be nice!" she said brightly. "A very pleasant way to begin the weekend."
"Well, she thought that it would be a good time, since neither Ron nor I have to go to a practice again until Saturday."
"You'll understand, I hope, why Ginny and I have to cheer for England on Sunday?" Hermione smiled at him. "I mean--even if Ron weren't my boyfriend and Ginny's brother, we are from England--"
"So am I from England! Or at least, I've lived there most of my life." Harry grinned at her. "All the same, prepare to be disappointed..."
Ron laughed. "Oh, don't you know when I'm kidding?" Hermione said, smiling at Harry. "We'll be carefully dividing up our cheering between both sides. You know, cheering for whoever's ahead at the moment..."
"Oh, that won't get you in any trouble from the spectators sitting around you..." Ron intoned sarcastically, reaching for more food. Harry had also noticed that his appetite was greater near the full moon.
Neville, sitting next to Ginny, pushed his plate away and looked grumpy. "It's not fair that everyone in Gryffindor doesn't get to go. Two of our housemates playing in the match! But then--I didn't get to go to the World Cup, either. My gran hates Quidditch. She sent back the permission form, and she'd written across it, When pigs fly. I've been of-age for months now. I shouldn't need her permission..."
Hermione looked at him sympathetically. "Everyone needs permission to leave the castle grounds--except for Apparition lessons--whether they're of-age or not. I just hope Professor Dumbledore changes his mind about Hogsmeade weekends..."
"Don't worry, Neville," Ginny said, patting his hand. "No matter who's in the final, Fred and George are getting us tickets, as they have the concessions contract. We'll make sure they get you a ticket, too. You can say you're visiting some friends during the Christmas holiday--which will be true. Surely your gran will let you do that?"
The expression Neville wore as he gazed at Ginny made Harry want to throttle him. How dare he look at her like that!
"That--that would be completely brilliant, Ginny! You--you'd do that?" Suddenly, he seemed like the old Neville again, rather than the rapidly-matured Neville who'd spent the summer using a Time Turner. But a moment later, as he gazed at Ginny intently, the boyishness dropped from his face and he seemed suddenly far too serious again. Harry thought he was perhaps uncomfortable with being older without having experienced much during the intervening time. He hadn't gone to school, he hadn't socialized with anyone his own age. He'd just spent what amounted to six months gardening.
She smiled warmly at him, and Harry wondered how she could not see that this was tantamount to leading him on. "Of course." Harry looked at Neville again; his feelings were quite plain on his face, and Harry remembered how he'd tricked Ginny into going to the ceilidh, and he remembered Neville and Ginny walking in the snow together in his other life, and going to the Yule Ball together during the Triwizard Tournament. He'd been accused of being in the pining-for-Ginny-Weasley "club," along with Neville. Neville!
And now, Neville was so grown-up and--and different. Sometimes. Harry looked down at his food before anyone asked him why he was gawping at Neville. No, he thought. This can't be happening.
Soon they were eating their puddings, and Neville took a slice of chocolate cake, saying to Ginny, "I may not be able to finish this, Ginny. Would you like to share it with me?"
Harry tried not to watch them taking turns spearing chocolaty lumps on their forks, talking and laughing as Neville regaled her with some funny things Sirius had said during their last Apparition lesson. It's Sirius who's witty, you prat, Harry thought resentfully; you're just parroting his words.
Suddenly, Harry felt the hair on the back of his neck standing on end and a premonitory sensation prickle over his scalp. He turned and looked across the Great Hall. Draco Malfoy wasn't eating anything; he might have done, but he wasn't moving. A spoonful of trifle was in his hand, which seemed to be frozen in midair. Harry thought he might be glaring at him, but then he realized that he was actually glaring past Harry. His face was a mask of utter hatred and revulsion as he watched Neville Longbottom and Ginny Weasley.
The next morning, after their run, the eight of them were cooling down in the corridor outside Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, as the entrance hall was too chilly. Ginny removed the sweatshirt she'd been wearing over a T-shirt, briefly wiping the perspiration from her brow with the shirt before continuing to do more stretches for the cool-down. Harry tried not to stare, but it was difficult; the basilisk amulet hung down on the fabric right between her breasts, and he felt as though it would take a super-human effort to focus on anything else in the world. He finally did manage to wrench his eyes away, and saw that Malfoy's gaze had gone to the same place, a lopsided smile on his pale face. Harry grimaced and looked away, seeing Mariah giving Malfoy a somewhat hostile glare. She's jealous, Harry realized. He's cheating on Ginny with her, and she wants him all to herself. Harry wondered how he might turn that to his advantage....
But suddenly, he realized that Mariah was no longer looking at Draco Malfoy; her attention had been drawn by the basilisk amulet as well, though not for the same reason that it attracted Harry and Malfoy. She strode over to Ginny and picked up the amulet, holding it in the flat of her palm. She was wearing those fingerless gloves again.
"Where the haill did ye get this?"
Ginny frowned at her, then said, "Oh! You mean 'where the hell....'"
Mariah looked openly hostile now. "Stop makin' fun o' my accent. Ye know what I mean."
Ginny shook her head. "No, I'm afraid I don't. I--I bought it and gave it to someone, but he didn't keep it." Her eyes flicked briefly in Harry's direction, then back to Mariah.
"Bought it where?" Mariah demanded.
Ginny looked nervous; Harry remembered that she'd been in Knockturn Alley to buy the amulet, at Borgin and Burkes, and she looked reluctant to admit this.
"In London," she said quietly, which was technically true.
Mariah didn't question this. She was shaking her head, a disgusted expression on her face. "He had no right. He had no right t'saill it..." she said, as though seven baffled people weren't standing around her, waiting for some explanation. Who had no right to sell it? Harry wondered.
He was surprised when Draco Malfoy stepped forward and put his hand gently on her shoulder, saying softly, "Who had no right?" as though he had read Harry's mind. The care he was taking with her made Harry's heart leap with hope; maybe he wasn't just shagging Mariah. Maybe, somewhere deep inside, he had actual feelings for her.
She looked into Draco's eyes and spat, "Munro."
Tony stepped forward now; he had been helping Ruth do sit-ups when Mariah discovered Ginny's amulet, but they were both standing now. "Isn't that your brother? I think I remember you saying that once, in Potions..."
She looked as though Tony were the one with whom she was angry now. Her dark eyes blazed. "Aye, Munro's m'no-good brither. He had no right to saill that," she said, her eyes looking tearful now, as she nodded at the amulet, which Ginny was holding tightly. "Even if he was the one who--"
She stopped abruptly, and Harry's brain lit up with the answer. In my other life, her brother had never retrieved it from the lake. In this life, some time after 1981, he did. But Harry had had Gillyweed to help him breathe under the water. No one who went down that deep into the lake would be able to do so without some way of breathing for longer than a normal human could hold his breath. And it seemed that it was in the safekeeping of the merpeople. Had her brother somehow made friends with the merpeople and received it as a gift, as Harry had?
He moved near her now and whispered to her, "How did he get it out of the lake?"
She looked frightened then, her eyes opening wide as she stared at Harry. "How did you know--?" she started to say breathlessly, backing up from him, her face a mask of fear. Then she abruptly turned and fled down the corridor, and after that they heard her footsteps pattering down the marble stairs to the entrance hall, and, presumably, on to the dungeons. The sound echoed into the awkward silence. Before she left, Harry had been able to see the tears on her face. Without a word to any of them, even his girlfriend, Draco Malfoy ran after her, and Harry saw how concerned he looked. Good, he thought. She needs him. He sees that. Very, very good...
Then he looked up at the others; Ginny, Ron and Hermione were clearly uncomfortable, as they knew how Harry knew that the amulet had been in the lake. Tony and Ruth just looked lost.
"Er," he said to them, "let's just finish stretching. He'll talk to her. I'm sure it'll be fine." His voice shook and he glanced at Ginny, who had stopped grasping the amulet. She picked it up and put it under her shirt, so that it was out of sight once more. Harry realized then that Mariah must not know that Draco had an identical amulet. She'd probably be quite baffled by that. Did that mean that he went out of his way not to wear it when they were together? Or--was it actually possible that they weren't sleeping together, that they hadn't done anything that usually involved taking off all of one's clothes? He felt mildly disgruntled about that; if he had some way of knowing the true nature of Draco and Mariah's relationship, that would help tremendously.
After he showered (Malfoy wasn't in the tub in the prefects' bath, he noted), Harry went to the staff wing to see his aunt. He managed to find the right corridor and he rapped cautiously on the door to her suite. Mrs. Figg admitted him.
"Oh, good morning Harry. We're almost done here."
He stepped into their sitting room and saw that his aunt was sitting very still on a stool near the fire, wearing the Sorting Hat. He swallowed. Dumbledore was standing nearby, smiling at Harry, his blue eyes twinkling behind his half-moon spectacles.
"Good morning, Harry," he said, nodding, then turned to look at Petunia Dursley. Harry thought he heard some murmured conversation from under the hat, before it opened what passed for its "mouth" and said very clearly, "Slytherin!"
His aunt took the hat off, patting her hair back into place, looking rather pleased with herself. Harry grimaced. I should have known.
Mrs. Figg was smiling at her. "Well done, Petunia, well done," she said, as though his aunt had actually accomplished something.
Harry smiled feebly at her, while Dumbledore said, "I shall inform Professor Snape that he has a new member of Slytherin House. Slytherin has a long and noble tradition of turning out quite skilled witches and wizards," he said solemnly, looking at Harry out of the corner of his eye.
"Well, it wanted to put me into some other house, but I would have none of it," his aunt said, and Harry dropped his jaw.
"You had a choice, and you chose Slytherin?" But then he remembered that when he'd had a choice in his other life, he'd done the same thing. Mrs. Figg bristled.
"Well, I asked Arabella which house she'd been in, and she said she and her brother had been in Slytherin. Then I asked her which house Draco was in, and she said he was also in Slytherin. It seemed an obvious choice."
Yeah, thought Harry. That's what I thought in my other life...
The odd thing was that he had thought he had a choice of house because of having some of Voldemort's powers. Now he remembered that Jamie had also said she'd had a choice. Perhaps it was something in his family--specifically his mother's family--that had prompted the hat to do this. Then Harry had a sudden realization.
"Professor!" he said to Dumbledore. "Has this ever happened before?"
The headmaster frowned at him. "Has what ever happened before, Harry?"
"A Muggle-born witch or wizard being sorted into Slytherin."
He nodded in understanding. "Ah, I see what you mean. It is rare, true, but it has happened on occasion over the one-thousand-year history of the school." He looked up at the ceiling thoughtfully. "Now let me see...the last time I recall it occurring was somewhere in the nineteen-fifties...or was it the twenties...?"
Harry swallowed. Clearly it was a rare thing. He looked at his aunt, wondering if she understood the anti-Muggle-born prejudice she was likely to encounter from other Slytherins on the one hand, and the anti-Slytherin prejudice from other witches and wizards on the other hand. Then again, she was one of the most bigoted people he knew. If anyone could hold her own against petty, close-minded people, she could. For a moment, he actually found it touching that she'd opted to be in Slytherin because of Mrs. Figg and Draco Malfoy.
When classes ended that day, Harry was exhausted and half-wished he hadn't accepted Maggie's invitation to tea. The four of them went to the staff wing together; Harry gave the password, then lifted the tapestry, revealing the opening in the wall that was not visible before he'd said the word. Once they were in the entrance corridor and had let the tapestry drop again, Harry looked at the closed doors in confusion; he realized that he didn't know where Maggie's room was. There were no plaques on any of the doors, indicating which professor lived where, and Harry wasn't certain whether he had come upon Snape and Maggie when they were outside his rooms or hers. (He also didn't want to talk about this with Ron around.) He started to walk down the corridor uncertainly, looking from side to side. Then they turned a corner and saw golden light spilling into the corridor from an open door, where Maggie was standing, waiting for them.
"There you are! Come on, then. Severus has everything ready. He's shown me some wonderful spells...."
Ron raised his eyebrows at the mention of Snape's first name, and Harry hoped he would keep a civil tongue in his head and not get hot under the collar at the idea of Snape and his sister being together. They entered Maggie's sitting room and Harry realized immediately that she was staying in the exact same suite of rooms where his parents had lived in his other life, and where he and Jamie had lived when they were small, before moving to Hogsmeade. While the others chose seats on the couch or one of the chairs near the fire, Harry wandered to the window, which looked out over the grassy courtyard where he and Jamie had played. He was surprised to find that it wasn't empty; Dunkirk was gamboling happily across the grass, chasing a stick arching through the air, attacking it almost the second it landed on the ground. He trotted back in the direction from which he'd come, and when Harry moved his head to the left, he could see that the dog was bringing the stick to the person who'd thrown it: Draco Malfoy. When Dunkirk sat, tail wagging madly, and Draco removed the stick from his jaws, the blond boy was grinning broadly. Harry thought he had probably never seen him looking happier, in this life. He patted the Yorkshire terrier on the head playfully and Dunkirk lost his composure and leapt on Draco, licking his face happily, as Draco grinned and let him, laughing and closing his eyes. Harry's throat hurt as he remembered his best friend romping with some of the dogs that populated the grounds of Malfoy Manor....He saw in his mind's eye a nine-year-old boy, skinny and pale, his fair hair waving as he ran with the pack, laughing so hard he had a stitch in his side, then rolling on the ground with the animals, while they licked his face and nuzzled him....
He turned to the others, who had no idea what he was looking at. He walked back to the fire and said, "Er, Draco is outside. In the courtyard. My aunt must have let him into the staff wing so he could walk Dunkirk. Maybe he'd like to have some tea too?"
Ginny looked up at him in surprise, and so did Maggie. She started to open her mouth to say something, then caught Severus Snape's eye and closed her mouth again. However, as Harry found out soon after, she didn't really decide not to ask a question--she just didn't want her boyfriend to hear it.
Harry, he heard Maggie's voice in his brain now. Are you sure you want to invite him?
He thought of how unguarded Draco Malfoy's face had been, not knowing anyone could see his simple pleasure in the little dog. I'm sure, he thought back at her. She nodded.
"Why don't you go ask him if he'd like to do that?" she said aloud. "The way you get to the courtyard is--"
But Harry was already striding back to the outer wall, touching a carved pineapple on the window frame, causing it to open into the room like a door.
"--or," Maggie said, looking unusually flustered, "you could turn the wall into a door I didn't even know existed. Thanks ever so much," she added sarcastically. Harry grimaced. She was the only one present who still didn't know about his other life, although Draco Malfoy might soon be joining her in her ignorance. He stepped out into the courtyard and Draco jerked his head up in surprise.
"Potter! What the hell--? That's a door? What's going on here?"
"Erm, yeah. I just came from Maggie's sitting room. She's invited some of us to tea, and we were just wondering whether you'd like to join us." He nodded at the dog. "Without Dunkirk, I think. Although you could bring him a crumpet or something. He always likes it when Aunt Petunia gives him one."
Draco Malfoy no longer looked like the carelessly happy young man who had been playing with a dog, having it fetch a stick. A mask went up before his grey eyes once more and he looked at Harry suspiciously. Harry's stomach felt both empty and queasy as an overwhelming sense of loss threatened to paralyze his faculties; he suddenly missed his best friend from his other life so badly that it hurt. He remembered feeling the same way about Ron when Ron had been a Gryffindor prefect on the fast track to Head Boy and Harry had been the captain and Keeper of the Slytherin Quidditch team.
"I told your aunt that I was going to give Dunkirk some exercise," he said slowly. He looked up at what sky was visible above the confines of the courtyard. "It gets dark a lot earlier these days..."
"You can still give him some exercise. We're not going to be having tea forever." And then he thought of something that might make him respond positively. "Ginny's here," he said simply. To his surprise, Draco Malfoy frowned.
"Oh, I see. You've only come out here to fetch me because Ginny asked you to. Should've known that it wouldn't be you actually inviting me to tea."
Harry swallowed. Actually, now that he thought about it, Ginny would probably not be very pleased at all to see her boyfriend. He should have thought of that. But somehow, the way Draco had looked while playing with the dog...both happy and also very alone...
"Yeah, well, do you want to come in or not?" Harry asked, trying to sound more irritated that he was, and unwilling to tell the other boy that he really was the one inviting him into the cozy sitting room. If Draco Malfoy suspected that he, Harry, had been feeling kindly toward him, not his girlfriend, he would never hear the end of it. And it also wouldn't look good for Ginny.
"Yeah, I think I might. I could do with a cuppa."
He started to follow Harry toward the door to Maggie's sitting room, but Dunkirk trotted toward him with the stick in his jaws, whining piteously. Draco turned and sighed. He looked down at the anxious dog, appearing resigned. "I'm going to have to trick you, aren't I? All right then..."
He bent over and gently took the stick from Dunkirk, who willingly released it. Draco reared back and threw it across the courtyard, then made a mad dash for the door Harry was holding open. Harry closed it when they were both inside, and, seconds later, he heard the dog's frantic scrabbling, followed by more whining.
This prompted Maggie to come to the door. "Aaaaw," she said sympathetically when she saw Dunkirk looking up at Draco through the window, eyes large and dark and pleading.
"How do you open this again?" she asked Harry, pressing on the window frame. He showed her where the pineapple was--grateful that no one was asking him how he knew this--and she opened the door and let the dog in.
He immediately ran to Draco Malfoy, who picked him up, letting the dog lick his face for a moment before saying, "All right, all right, that's enough." He was looking at the other people in the room, clearly slightly embarrassed. Harry couldn't help notice that Ginny was looking at Draco rather sadly, and even Hermione seemed to be regarding him sympathetically for once. Ron clearly didn't care for the girls' reactions to the Draco-Dunkirk bonding; he was scowling. Snape looked as though he was trying to hide his amusement, and Harry marveled at the way he was reminding him more and more of his stepfather in his other life. Perhaps it was possible for this Severus Snape to be happy.
When Draco sat down, Dunkirk settled himself obediently at his feet while they went through the ritual of pouring the tea and passing the plates of biscuits and crumpets round the group.
"What do you like better so far?" Ginny asked her older sister as she poured milk into her tea. "Teaching or going to classes as a student?"
Maggie looked thoughtful. "Hmm. Well, I adore Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall. And Professor Flitwick is very pleasant and always so cheerful, plus I feel like I'm really learning so many useful things with him. Potions, on the other hand," she gave an exaggerated shrug and sigh, "I could take or leave..." A smile was pulling at the corner of her mouth and Snape raised one eyebrow, although Harry could tell he wasn't upset at her playfulness. Then she tapped a Tarot deck on the table with her finger. "And when it comes to teaching--well, let's just say I'm glad I'm doing the third and fourth years and not the older students."
Ginny looked saddened. "Really? Why not? What about us is so dreadful?"
Maggie looked alarmed. "Oh, Ginny! I'm sorry. That didn't come out very well. It's just that--well, I'm finding with the fourth-year students that there are a number of things that Professor Trelawney taught that--" She pressed her lips together. "Well, I don't want to criticize, but let's just say I would have--and I am doing--some things differently. Tarot, for instance. Nothing is discussed in third and fourth year concerning Tarot, usually, and then, near the beginning of fifth year, Sybill has the students doing readings. You can't just start off doing readings after looking at a book for an afternoon. You have to consider each and every card in the deck and meditate on it, really attempt to understand it on its own before you try to do a reading for anyone. You have to think of all of the good and bad things about it, so that you can imagine what it may mean for someone who's having a reading done where it turns up in a positive position, and in a negative position. And also, by understanding your own reaction to a card, you can attempt to filter out your own relationship with the card when you are doing a reading for someone else, to avoid muddling up the reading with your own issues..."
She looked around at them all and blushed. "Oh, listen to me. As if anyone cares about this. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to--"
"No, no," Harry said suddenly, remembering that Trelawney had done a reading for him near the beginning of his fifth year, on the day he'd worn Sandy to class and predicted that Parvati would set herself afire. "So, you're having the third and fourth years meditate on the cards?"
"And write essays about what the cards make them think about. That should keep them occupied for about half the year, as I've been assigning one essay a week, and then we discuss the essays in class, and the symbology of various things on the cards. They're coming out with some amazing insights. I've really been enjoying that. Some of them are rather impatient, of course, thinking from what they'd heard from older students that they would be reading tea leaves and seeing things in crystal balls the first week. I think some of them think I'm a bit slow. And the third-year Gryffindors are such pranksters! They think it's so funny to see how gullible I am, telling me ridiculous tales about what you can and cannot do with magic...Amy and Andy Donegal are the worst of the lot. But then, that's often true with twins."
Ron and Ginny burst out laughing, and then Maggie did too. "Oh, my! I forgot that I have brothers who are twins. And you've told me what scamps they were in school," she said to Ginny. "I'll bet they would put Amy and Andy to shame."
Ron nodded with feeling. "You haven't had any of their sweets yet, have you?"
Maggie frowned. "I started to, the first time I went--I mean went back--to the Burrow, but Molly snatched it out of my hand. It looked like an ordinary toffee...." Harry was confused for a moment, but then he realized that it would make sense for Maggie to call Molly Weasley by her first name, when she already had someone in her life she had called "Mum" for almost twenty years.
Hermione's eyes went wide. "Oh, good Lord. It's a good thing you didn't. Harry's cousin had one of those Ton-Tongue Toffees once. They're a nightmare!"
Ron shrugged. "Plenty of people think they're a hoot. Sales have been brilliant, Lee says."
The conversation went on, but somehow Harry had a hard time really hearing it. He drank his tea, but over the rim of his cup, he saw Ginny gazing at him, looking so heartbroken and forlorn that he wanted to do anything in the world to cheer her up. The words the others were speaking swirled around him, but they didn't penetrate his brain. At least, until Maggie spoke to him through his brain.
Are you all right, Harry?
He almost dropped his teacup and saucer, fumbling with them for a moment, so that he spilled some tea down his front. Draco Malfoy guffawed and shook his head, but Harry ignored him.
Well, truthfully--no, I'm not.
It's Ginny, isn't it?
He looked furtively at Maggie, who was quietly buttering a scone, not looking at anyone. Then she looked up for a moment and caught Harry's eye, before turning her eyes on her little sister, who was gazing into the depths of her cup and stirring her tea incessantly without actually drinking it.
Maggie didn't respond right away. Then, while she was chewing a bite of food, she thought at Harry, I could tell, the way you look at her whenever the two of you are in the same room. And I sensed your feelings toward her, as well. I'm sorry, Harry. It must be very difficult to have feelings for someone who already has a boyfriend...
She does, but--but she doesn't love him!
But--I've felt feelings of love coming from her. I just assumed they were for him.
Harry was silent. Was it true? Did she really love Draco Malfoy? He glanced at the other boy out of the corner of his eye. She told me that she doesn't love him. She said she loves me. And I love her. She said she's--afraid for me. Afraid of what he might do if she breaks up with him. A split second after he thought this at Maggie, he realized that he shouldn't have admitted all of these things, but then he realized that Maggie, though she was seeing Severus Snape, was not going to be blindly loyal to everyone in Slytherin. And he had a feeling that Maggie was more than capable of keeping this information to herself.
I see. Will you excuse me a moment, Harry?
Harry finished his tea and set his cup down, looking furtively at Ginny, whom he saw had a startled expression in her eyes. Maggie must be talking to her, he realized. The two of them seemed to be communicating without spoken words for some time. Harry tried to pay attention to what Hermione and Ron and Draco were saying; as usual, Draco was being disagreeable and baiting Hermione about something, and Ron was on the verge of throttling the Slytherin.
"I just think that Ireland have a much better chance in the European Cup than either Wales or England. I'd like to see England do well as much as the next man, but let's say that my hopes for England were recently dashed," he said pointedly, glaring at Ron as he chewed a biscuit with an insufferably smug expression. Ron was gripping the edge of his chair so that his knuckles were turning white, and Hermione was slowly turning red.
"They haven't seen a player as good as Ron in donkey's years! You're just jealous that--"
Harry tuned them out again. Same old same old. Malfoy knew how to set off both Ron and Hermione and they leapt at the bait. He sighed inwardly. Suddenly, Maggie's voice was in his head again.
As you may have guessed, I've been speaking to Ginny. She confirms what you said.
His heart leapt within him. That meant that--that she must have told her sister that she loved him. She still loved him! He looked at Ginny with his heart overflowing, trying not to reveal too much in his expression. Fortunately, Draco, Ron and Hermione were still consumed with their argument.
"I can't believe old Monty Mathers is still running things. I mean, shouldn't he have been put out to pasture by now? I think his hiring you, Weasley, just confirms that he's growing senile..."
Harry, Maggie said again, trying to get his attention back; Ron had raised his voice and it was hard for Harry to concentrate on anything else.
Right. I'm here.
I've been doing some reading about this, and--I'd like to try something. I'm going to attempt to be a medium for you and Ginny, so you can talk. Not the usual kind of medium, to be sure, but--I'm going to allow what Ginny says to me to pass directly to you, and what you say to me to pass to her. I'm going to try to stay out of it utterly. I don't want to eavesdrop or anything. She said the two of you can't really talk freely, so perhaps this will help a bit? You can just think of my brain as a passage allowing you to reach each other temporarily....
Harry felt like saying thanks a thousand times would never be sufficient for what Maggie was doing for them. She turned to Severus Snape, sitting quietly next to her, listening to Ron and Hermione and Draco argue with a bemused expression on his face. She said to him, "I don't wish to be rude, but I'm feeling a little migraine coming on and I'm just going to close my eyes for a few minutes and do a visualization exercise I know that often helps me a great deal. I've been doing this for years. I don't want anyone to think I've been so rude as to fall asleep or anything. Carry on; I'll be fine."
And with that, she leaned back and closed her eyes, looking very peaceful. Harry poured himself some more tea, trying to look very casual about it and not look at Ginny. Then Ron picked that moment to begin talking to him.
"Harry--has Ludo Bagman been hanging about when you have practice? He's been down in Kent with us a slew of times. Talks to Monty a lot. Think I should worry?"
Harry shrugged. "Only if he asks you to throw the game and you see a gaggle of goblins following him about...He's been at our practices a few times too. I just thought it was because of his Ministry job, with the Department of Magical Games and Sports. You know."
Draco Malfoy frowned. "Fix the game? Surely not. I mean--that would be unethical. Think of his position."
Hermione looked at him shrewdly. "Considering who your father is, you say some rather naive things at times, Malfoy."
Now the Slytherin looked like he'd just woken up. "You mean--"
"You didn't know!" Ron crowed. "Why, all through the Triwizard Tournament--"
He started; the voice in his brain was like Maggie's and yet not like Maggie's. He glanced briefly at Ginny, who was studying the inside of the bottom of her teacup. He looked away from her again.
Ginny? Is that you? Is this actually working?
There seemed to be a little bit of a delay as his words were filtered through Maggie and back to Ginny. Finally, a voice in his head said, It's me. Oh, Harry! I've missed you so much...
I've missed you too. But I thought--I thought you were hacked off at me. Because--because I said Malfoy needed you after what he did to Fleur. I thought perhaps you never wanted to talk to me again.
I wanted to talk to you every moment of every day. But I was afraid. What happened the last time we were alone together--
Right, he thought at her, drawing his lips into a line and taking a biscuit. He glanced at Maggie, leaning against the back of the couch with her eyes closed, two small vertical lines appearing and disappearing between her brows as she concentrated on helping Harry and Ginny communicate wordlessly. So you let me think you were still cross so that we--we wouldn't lose control and--
Right, she said, echoing him. But technically, I am still cross about what you said.
He grimaced, then tried to smooth his features out again, so no one looking at him would think he was mad. Ron and Hermione were still regaling Draco Malfoy with the tale of the almost-blackmail scheme that the twins had tried with Ludo Bagman, and Bagman trying to help Harry win the tournament because of his other debts to the goblins. The three of them actually seemed to be getting along now, however briefly. He was vaguely aware of Snape participating in the conversation as well, giving his opinion of Bagman (they knew each other in school).
I'm sorry about that Ginny. Sometimes--sometimes I think I'm just a selfish person at heart. I want you, and I want to have my former best friend back, behaving the way he did when he was my best friend. And I want to have my sister in this life, so she can be with him, and I want Ron to be my best friend too, and I want him and Hermione to be happy....And I want for Voldemort never to have gotten his body back, I want Cedric to walk in the room and start talking about the job his dad got him at the Ministry, I want Sirius not to know what it feels like to be in Azkaban for twelve years, I want, I want, I want--
Harry, Harry, I know. Oh, I know. So many dreadful things have happened.
He looked at her now; she was idly shuffling through the Tarot cards, looking at the pictures, moving on to the next one and the next one...He glanced out of the corner of his eye at the others, engrossed in speculations about corruption.
"Fudge? Oh, yeah. He was always kissing up to my dad. He could be rather funny, actually..." Draco Malfoy was saying.
Ginny, he thought at her. Look at me.
Harry! I don't dare. He sitting right there!
Please! I need you to look at me when I say this, he thought, even though technically he wouldn't be saying it but thinking it. Finally, she lifted her eyes to his and he swallowed, glad that he didn't have to try to get his throat to work, as he didn't think it would be likely to cooperate.
I love you. What I said in the common room--forget about that. I was--I was trying not to be selfish, for once. The truth is--if you ever slept with him, I'd go insane. I couldn't bear it. I love you and don't want him to touch you...
Oh, Harry. That's all I wanted to hear you say...
Well, technically I still haven't said it...
He heard a laugh in his head. I do love you, Harry...
I love you, Ginny.
He tried to direct his thoughts at Maggie now. You can open your eyes, Maggie. Thank you for your help.
Glad to be of service, Harry.
She opened her eyes and sat up. Severus Snape put his hand lightly on her upper back, looking concerned. "Feeling better?"
She smiled at him and Harry. "Much. Never fails."
Harry jumped into a lull in the conversation. "Anyway, I remember Rita Skeeter saying to me that she knew things about Ludo Bagman that would curl my hair...."
They all stared at him.
Ron cleared his throat. "Erm, Harry we're talking about Charms class now. Where've you been?"
"And it was my hair Rita said would curl. She turned it into a crack about my appearance, naturally..." Hermione said, sounding miffed, as though it had just occurred. Ron grinned and mussed her curls with his large hand.
"I love your hair..."
Hermione swatted his hand away, but a small smile was pulling at the corners of her mouth. Harry felt himself redden. "Oh. I, er, was listening to something Sandy was saying to me. Sorry. Distracted."
This meant, of course that Sandy actually did speak up. "Why are you lying, Harry Potter?" she asked him now.
He smiled feebly at them all. "Heh. Hear that? There she goes again. She's quite the chatty snake."
"But I didn't hear anything before," Hermione said, frowning.
"She may not think much of Seers," Sandy said to him now, "but that girl isn't stupid." Harry thought it probably would not be a good idea to take her out and throttle her.
"You all were talking so noisily you wouldn't have heard a little hissing..." he said hurriedly.
"So," Hermione said, raising her eyebrows. "Did she have anything interesting to say?" Harry knew what she meant. She was wondering whether Sandy was giving a prediction.
"Er, no. She was just asking a question about something. The human world still confuses her a bit, so she asks me questions about things."
"I am frequently confused, for instance, by your need to lie," Sandy said archly. Harry forced himself not to scowl.
Hermione was looking at him shrewdly. "But I didn't hear you answering her. You were just staring at your tea."
Harry didn't care for the way they were all staring at him. (Except for Ginny and Maggie.) "Well--I--"
"I'm afraid you haven't done a very good job, Potter, of covering up," Snape said now in his usual smooth way. Harry looked at him in panic. Covering up. He said covering up. Oh, bugger, he's going to spoil everything... "You're making a habit of this. Last week when you were staring into space during my class, you nearly added an extra star anise to your Credulo Potion, which would have turned it into such deadly poison that a single drop on your skin could have killed you. If Miss Granger hadn't noticed what you were about to do, you might not be among the living now."
Harry smiled feebly at him, grateful. Had Maggie said something to him, without words? Fine, he thought. I'll be a lazy dunderhead. He glanced at Draco Malfoy, who was rolling his eyes. Why can't you be like the Draco who was my friend for fourteen years? he thought. Why do you have to be such a git?
"You caught me. I'm just knackered..."
Ron laughed and slapped him rather too hard on the back. "Wondered why you were being so quiet." He nodded at Ginny. "And you've been uncharacteristically quiet, too. What's your story?" Harry couldn't tell whether he was suspicious. Luckily, as far as Harry knew, even his werewolf hearing shouldn't be able to pick up on telepathic conversations.
Ginny was still shuffling through the Tarot cards. "Oh, I was just looking at Maggie's deck. Her cards have different pictures than mine. See?" she said feebly, holding up one of the cards, swallowing, hoping she would be believed.
Harry noticed that the one she just happened to be holding up was the winged lion card that Trelawney had said represented him when she was doing the reading for him. He didn't remember much of the reading--not having put much credence in what she was saying at the time--but he remembered that card.
He looked at Maggie. "Which card is that?" he asked her disingenuously. "I can't see the number from here."
She picked the card gently out of Ginny's hand. "That's number five: the Hierophant. Also called the Priest. Usually one of the Priest cards shows someone looking like a king or emperor, enthroned. But this is a deck Sybill told me she bought in Venice. Probably some Venetian witch or wizard made the deck with the priest looking like this because the winged lion is the symbol of St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice. See the book under his paw? That's on the Venetian flag. The flag is quite lovely, really, all scarlet and gold. Very much like the Gryffindor banners I've seen in the castle, except that on the Venetian flag the lion has the wings and the book."
Harry frowned. Venice? Was there some connection to Godric Gryffindor--who'd also been a golden griffin Animagus--and Venice? He knew someone who had relatives from Venice, he knew he did, but who was it? As he wracked his brain, trying to remember, the conversation whirled around him again....
While he was eating his dinner, Harry felt as though someone's eyes were drilling holes in the back of his head. He finally yielded to temptation and looked behind him, seeing Mariah Kirkner's gaze fixed firmly on him. He swallowed, wondering whether she had perhaps been reciting an incantation to jinx him so that he became ill from his dinner. He had some food in his throat at that moment, too, and was now finding it very hard to swallow. He tried to fight a tide of panic rising in him as she got to her feet and approached the Gryffindor table. What if she asks me how I knew the amulet had been in the lake?
"Can I talk to ye fer a minute, Harry?" she said with her lilting accent. He nodded, and she motioned with her head to the entrance hall. "In private."
Dean and Seamus decided at that moment to act like a pair of ten-year-olds; next to him, Dean started putting his elbow in Harry's ribs and saying, "Go get 'er, Harry."
"Harry the girl-magnet strikes again," Seamus said, trying to sound like an American comedian he liked. Harry didn't especially like the comedian he was imitating, and he frowned as he rose and followed her, while Dean and Seamus got some of the younger students involved in cat-calls and whistles. Harry glanced momentarily at Ginny, who was clearly not happy about this.
Once they were in the entrance hall, Harry turned irritably to Mariah. "What is it?" he snapped. Then he relented, remembering how distraught she'd been when she'd discovered Ginny wearing the amulet.
"Not here," she said, glancing at the Great Hall. "A little farther away..." She climbed the marble stairs and Harry followed her up to the corridor outside Myrtle's bath, where they'd been stretching when Mariah had noticed Ginny's amulet. She twisted her robes nervously once they stopped. "It's nothing, really," she said, her voice quaking as though she'd meant to say the opposite. "I just--I have a taist to prepare fer in Potions. It's on Tuesday. Trouble is--I have fourth watch Monday night, which is really Tuesday mornin' at four-thairty. I was won'drin' whaither ye could switch shifts with me. Ye have fourth watch t'night. Ye could sleep in a bit t'morrow and I'll take yer shift at four-thairty. Ye'd take mine on the mornin' o'my taist so I can be waill-raisted fer it."
Harry scrutinized her. That's why she had to drag him up the stairs? To ask him to switch a shift with him? "That's it? We switch fourth shifts? You do tonight and I do Monday for you?" She nodded. He nodded back. "All right. It's a deal. I have practice tomorrow anyway, for Sunday's match; getting up at four o'clock for a four-thirty shift is probably the last thing I need."
She smiled at him and he noticed that she had a dimple in each cheek when she did this. "See? It wairks oot fer us both." He felt strange and light-headed, looking at her, and didn't notice that she was standing very close to him until she suddenly put one of her hands--in a fingerless glove--on his arm. He was aware of how dark her shining eyes were, how artfully messy her dark wiry hair was, how nicely her robes hung on her frame, far more developed and mature than when she'd asked him to the ceilidh when she was only in fourth year....
He shook his head suddenly, as if to clear it, and she backed up from him, laughing. "Thanks, Harry. Enjoy yer lie-in."
He watched her go down the stairs, wondering why he'd felt so strange and floaty. It was almost like when he'd been under the Imperius Curse, but not quite. And why should she try to curse him to get him to switch shifts with him? He was very confused. He didn't think she had cursed him, but then why did his head feel so strange?
He turned, surprised to see Ginny standing at the foot of the stairs looking up at him; her face appeared to be on the verge of collapsing into tears at any moment. She thinks I'm going to start carrying on with Mariah now, he thought. He had no words; he had been looking at Mariah and thinking about how pretty she was, beautiful even, not having any idea why these thoughts had entered his brain when he was completely and utterly in love with Ginny. She wouldn't look at him but hurried up the marble steps, her robes gathered in both fists. As she turned into the corridor where he was, she streaked past him as though he wasn't there, and he thought he saw the torches reflecting off a wet patch of skin on her cheek...
Harry was feeling at loose ends. It was Friday night, and he had previously planned to go to bed early, since he was going to get up at four o'clock. Now that he didn't have to, he felt odd and random, sitting by the fire in the common room, wishing he knew what Mariah's story was. Hermione was busy doing revision, as usual, but she looked up suddenly and frowned at Harry.
"What are you still doing down here, Harry? Oughtn't you to get some sleep? You have the four-thirty shift."
"No I don't. Mariah switched with me. I'm doing hers on Monday night. Er, Tuesday morning. You know what I mean."
"Oh. I wish people would do this properly..." she said, sounding irked as she pulled a parchment out of her rucksack and scanned down it, making the correction with her favorite quill. "That means that Mariah and Draco Malfoy are the fourth watch tonight..."
Harry frowned. "Draco Malfoy? That isn't his usual shift, is it? He's usually on fourth watch with me on Wednesday night. Or Thursday morning. Whatever."
"He switched. And again I had to find out second hand."
"I was going to tell you," he said quickly. "I just did, didn't I? That's what Mariah was asking me about," he added a little more loudly, for Ginny's benefit. She seemed to be ignoring him, though, and also hadn't shown any signs of hearing Hermione say that Draco and Mariah were going to be on the same shift.
Hermione sighed as she put her parchment away. "People around here have no sense of order..."
Ron grinned at her, and Harry felt a leap in his stomach. They were so lucky. Ron was clearly finding her need for order endearing (even though he'd once been irked by it). He and Ginny were playing chess nearby, and Harry was trying not to stare at Ginny, who still seemed to be more miffed than distraught with him after finding him talking to Mariah, even though he'd just said why she had wanted to talk to him. Dean and Seamus' antics at the Gryffindor table had also probably not helped, he thought. He wished that Maggie was there so they could talk without the others hearing them.
Then he thought about Draco Malfoy and Mariah Kirkner both being on the pre-dawn shift together, and the fact that they'd switched shifts to do it. They were planning something, he thought, sighing. Surely they weren't just going to be wandering up and down corridors. If only he could arrange for Ginny to actually catch them together! Not just spotting them on the map, but actually seeing them together, witnessed by Draco and Mariah, so that they knew she knew. Harry thought of how proud she was; if she were caught out that way, she'd have to break up with Malfoy on the spot. He hated the idea of humiliating her, but it would be far more humiliating for her to see the clear evidence of Malfoy's unfaithfulness and forgive him and stay with him. Besides, he reasoned, Malfoy could hardly blame him for a breakup if it came about because Ginny caught her boyfriend and Mariah red-handed (so to speak). Yeah, unless he spots that I've made it possible for her to "stumble" on their tryst...
He sighed, staring into the fire, vaguely aware of what was happening in Ginny and Ron's chess game. Hermione, in the chair opposite Harry's before the fire, had put the parchment away and was reading once more. I need some way of finding out their patterns, he thought. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be a pattern. It came rather out of the blue that Mariah wanted to swap shifts with him. He also wasn't certain how many other times the two of them might have conspired to be on the same shift together. He tended to let Hermione oversee the patrol schedule, and any changes made to it.
He glanced at Ginny again; she had just taken Ron's knight with her queen. He didn't realize that his heart was on his face until Ron made his move and then happened to look up and meet Harry's eyes. Harry's stomach leapt when he saw Ron's expression of comprehension; he glanced back and forth, back and forth, between Harry and Ginny.
"Ginny," he said suddenly, "I have to talk to Harry about something. We'll continue this when I get back." He stood and grabbed Harry's arm. "C'mon, Harry."
Harry staggered to his feet, stumbling after Ron. He couldn't have stopped him if he'd tried. He didn't dare look at Ginny as Ron pulled him up the spiral stairs to their dorm.
Ron slammed the door and turned to face his best friend. He didn't speak at first, but then finally he began pacing and running his fingers through his orange hair, making it stand on end.
"When were you going to tell me, Harry?"
Harry didn't have to wonder what he was talking about. He sat on the edge of his bed and looked at his hands. "I don't know. Should I have told you when you were holding me upside down that morning at Hog's End?"
"Wh--what?" Ron sputtered. "So you two really were--"
"No, Ron! I told you later that that's when I first told Ginny about my other life, and that's true. But there's something else we talked about as well--keeping our distance from each other the entire time, I might add."
Ron surveyed him shrewdly. "Why do I think that wasn't for my benefit?"
Harry grinned. "You're right. It wasn't. I'll explain about that in a minute."
"So what else did you two talk about?"
Harry swallowed, remembering how happy he'd been to hear her say the words. "She told me that she doesn't love Draco Malfoy. She loves me."
Ron's jaw dropped. Then he leapt up, a grin splitting his face, and he gave Harry a sudden crushing hug. "No more Malfoy! That's fantastic! I was afraid we'd be putting up with that sod for years to come! You know, Harry, that all joking aside, I'd rather you were with Ginny any day. You know that, don't you?"
Harry felt incredibly grateful to have Ron as a friend. He slapped Ron on the back and smiled grimly. "I know, Ron. And at other times, I know you're being protective of Ginny because you love her and don't want her to be hurt. It's natural. I had the same impulses toward my sister."
Ron laughed. "Except that your sister only had three brothers. Ginny has six. Plus, there's Maggie; she and Ginny have really bonded now, too."
"So I have to stand up to the scrutiny of all seven of you, plus your parents, in other words."
"No pressure, though." Then Ron's smile faded and he looked at Harry with a hostile frown. "Wait a minute. That was almost two months ago. Why's she still with Malfoy? And she was so worried about you when you were showing me and Hermione your Pensieve, and she came running in here...I just thought--she called you a friend--"
Then suddenly, he picked Harry up by the front of his robes and pushed him against the wall. "Did my sister spill her heart out to you and then get it stomped on? And now you're having second thoughts?"
Harry glared at him. "Put me down, Ron," he said evenly, trying not to be reminded of giving Fang orders. Reluctantly, his friend complied, still looking at him suspiciously. "Do you think that Ginny would have called me her friend the next morning when we were in Hogsmeade if she had told me she loved me and I said nothing? Of course I told her I love her. And that wasn't the first time. She knew how I felt about her. She's known for almost a year."
"A year! But--you didn't break up with Hermione until my birthday!"
Harry looked at him, arms crossed. "And you and Hermione were snuggling in the common room late at night."
"We were not snogging--"
"I said snuggling. Yes, yes, I told Ginny I loved her when I was still with Hermione. I should have broken up with her. But I didn't do it because you told me I should, remember? I was being contrary and you were being a prat. I thought we'd already covered this."
"Yeah, yeah, all right."
Harry sighed. "See, we started flying together. I would go up to the Astronomy Tower after classes and Ginny would ride on me in my griffin form. We used to come down in a clearing in the forest and talk or lie back and look at the clouds...and one day she was attacked by that Lethifold that escaped from Hagrid. I conjured a Patronus and we escaped back to the castle. After we landed, I was so glad she was safe, and--and I kissed her. And she kissed me back." Harry was glad to see that Ron was too shocked to hit him. "I--I was so sure she loved me. But she pulled back from me and said she couldn't meet me any more. Then, after I told her about my other life--you see, that was the reason why I walked into her room at three in the morning. It used to be my room. Anyway, after I told her all that, she said she didn't want to lie to me anymore. She had decided that she couldn't go flying with me any more because she was afraid Draco Malfoy would find out and retaliate against me in some way. That's why we couldn't sit too close together, so in case Malfoy was holding his amulet--"
"What? What are you talking about? And why did you give Ginny back the amulet she gave you? Wasn't that a birthday present?"
Harry sighed. "Yes, it was. And I also found it in my other life. I got it from the lake, remember? And then when I was at Godric's Hollow, talking to myself--I also mentioned this to you and Hermione, but you haven't see it yet--I gave it to myself. I mean, the me from the other life gave it to the me who had just arrived there from King's Cross. So when I got on the train with you afterward, I had two of them. One that I already had, and one from--from a time traveler. Me. I tried to give it to her at Christmas, and that's when I first told her I love her. She refused to take it. Later, after we rescued Snape, I decided I had to resign myself to her being with Malfoy and I gave the pair of amulets to him, for him and Ginny to wear, as a couple."
"I still don't understand. What does that have to do with the two of you sitting close together?"
Harry sighed. "When Ginny first went to buy the amulet, she said she decided to get it because when she held it, she saw me. Actually saw me at that moment, on Privet Drive."
"She saw you?"
Harry nodded, his lips drawn into a line. "I wish I understood it better. I think she may have seen me because--because she loves me. Now, when I first touched the amulet, I didn't see anyone. But whenever I held it, I felt--better. Contented. Calm. And holding it always reminded me of Ginny, because she'd given it to me. In fact, I think Hermione suspected that it made me think of Ginny, and that's why she didn't want me to be wearing it the first time we--"
Harry took one look at Ron's face and stopped short, swallowing. "Um, never mind. Anyway, she's pretty sure that Malfoy can see her when he holds the amulet, so we stayed separated. That night she also told me that she loves me and that she knew Draco Malfoy was cheating on her--"
Ron's eyebrows flew up. "He can see her any time he wants? And that bastard is cheating on my sister?"
"Would you rather he was sleeping with her or someone else?"
Ron faltered. "Er, okay. Good point. But if he's cheating on her, how can he see her with that amulet thing? How can he love her and do that?"
"I don't know..." Harry did his best to explain to his best friend Ginny's reasons for staying with Draco Malfoy. "And it's not like I didn't once have some of the same thoughts. In fifth year, I thought Ginny might be the only thing keeping Malfoy on the right side. And he did put his dad in prison."
"Self-interest," Ron ruled. "Like everything he does."
"Right. I agree. But--now we know about the Obedience Charm. It complicates things."
Ron made a face. "I'd forgotten about that. Blimey. You're damn lucky you don't have that, too."
"Don't I know it. I felt like I wanted to scream in frustration when I couldn't stun Riddle or anything. I was so close to fixing the timelines, and I thought everything I'd gone through to get back to the night my parents died had been for nothing--"
Ron nodded. Harry hadn't shown him and Hermione his encounter with Riddle, but he had described it. Hermione had been horrified when he said he'd tried to perform Avada Kedavra--but she had also understood. Ron wasn't horrified at all. He said he would have done the same thing.
He slapped Harry on the back. "Well, you managed to put things right again, and if you hadn't tried and failed to hex Riddle, we wouldn't even know about Malfoy having this Obedience Charm on him."
"No, it was my mum, remember? She told me in the cave, before she tried to kill you. That's why she tried to kill you, because if I received a direct order and refused, I'd die."
"Still. I was starting to think I'd be stuck in that other life forever..."
Ron clapped his hands together purposefully. "What we need to do is to break up my sister and Malfoy without it having anything to do with you."
"That's why I was glad that Katie decided to tell Ginny about Felice. I was hoping--"
"Who?" Harry explained the hedge maze incident to him.
"Why, that little--" Ron was fuming. "And then he wrote what in that letter?" Harry told him.
Now his friend was pacing again, running his fingers through his hair, the grey lock flopping back down onto his brow each time. Harry noticed now that there were a few grey hairs in his beard, as well, making Ron look more like he was in his thirties or forties rather than his teens.
"I can't believe that you didn't tell me Malfoy was shagging every girl in England!"
Harry made a face. "I only knew about the one. Well, and Mariah. Except that I don't know for certain how far that's gone."
More pacing and finger-combing. "We have to find a way to break them up, Harry."
"Don't you think I know that? Why do you think I'm trying to work out a way for Ginny to catch them at it? She's too proud not to break up with him if that happens."
Ron was nodding while he was pacing. "Right. But how to do it? We can't just stay awake twenty-four hours a day, watching the map..." He paced some more, then stopped. "I know! We can do it in shifts. I'll take the days, you can take the nights..."
"Don't be stupid, Ron. Most of the time they can't do anything. We should watch it at the obvious times. Like tonight, for instance. Both of them switched their shifts so they'll be on at four-thirty in the morning, when neither one of them is usually patrolling at that time. Only trouble is, I have a hard enough time getting up for one of those fourth shifts. Once I tried setting my clock to check on them during the third shift, and I never heard it go off. Neville told me off the next day because he had to do it. I was sleeping like the dead. What we really need is some sure way to wake up at a particular time..."
Now Ron was pacing the floor saying, "Time, time, time..." He stopped and his face lit up. "I know! Ever since you told us about--what's in the Pensieve--Hermione's been looking up time spells. The one you and Riddle did really fascinated her. She got permission from McGonagall to take this book out of the Restricted Section. That Tempus Fugit spell is in there too. I'll bet there's some sort of alarm clock spell, if we take the time to look."
Harry was skeptical. "Alarm clock spell? Oh, come on. Tempus Bonae Voluntatis is a complicated tandem spell, and Tempus Fugit is dark magic. I doubt that a simple alarm clock spell would be in the same book."
"Why not? It's a time spell. Can't hurt to ask. I'll ask Hermione about it. I'll just say that my alarm clock broke and I want to make sure I get up on time to go running every day."
"She'll ask you why I can't just wake you up. Which is what I usually do anyway."
"Hmm. All right. We'll say your clock is broken too. Because--because you accidentally set it for two in the morning and it woke up Neville and he bashed it against the wall because he was hacked off."
"She'll never believe that. Make it Seamus. That she'd believe."
Ron shrugged. "All right. But I'll just bet she knows about a time spell in that book that will get us up in plenty of time to catch Draco Malfoy cheating on my sister with Mariah Kirkner."
Harry nodded. "First, we need to verify exactly what they're doing. Then we need to find out a future time when they'll be getting together, and make certain Ginny stumbles on them, and that there's absolutely no possibility of their worming their way out of it with some ridiculous story. Mind you, it's Ginny who'd probably make up the story, so she wouldn't have to break up with him and put me at risk. We need to make it impossible for her not to break up with him."
"Right," Ron agreed. "Fourth shift tonight, you said? That doesn't give us much time to practice the spell, or test it first to see whether we've done it right. I'll go talk to Hermione first, to see whether she knows about a spell in that book that could do the trick."
Harry watched him go with trepidation. He thought it was possible that Ron was just a little bit too enthusiastic about trying to break up Ginny and Draco Malfoy, which meant that there was a danger that he would fail to be as prudent and circumspect as he needed to be.
Harry thought desperately, Please please please let this work....
Ron came trudging back up the stairs and into the seventh-year dorm looking gloomy and down at the mouth. "Sorry I took so long, Harry. I actually forgot I was playing chess with Ginny. I took a fall and let her win to cut it short." Harry snorted, knowing what a good player Ginny was, and Ron glared at him momentarily before going on. "I looked at Hermione's book." He sighed. "We'll just have to try to stay awake, Harry. The one page that had a clock spell is torn out."
Harry sat with his chin in his hands. "Brilliant. Now what are we going to do?"
Ron sat on his bed and sighed noisily. "I suppose we'll actually have to look for what we want ourselves," he said wearily.
"What? In our own books? Instead of just looking in Hermione's head?"
Ron nodded. It would have been nice if Hermione could have handed them the solution, as she had so many other times, such as when she decided that they were going to make Polyjuice potion, but that wasn't going to happen this time, it had become painfully obvious. Harry also didn't think it would be prudent to tell Hermione what he and Ron were up to. Harry rose and went to his trunk. He took out The Standard Book of Spells, Grade Seven and handed it to Ron. "Here, you check this." He dug further down into his trunk, deciding that the Dark Arts text probably wouldn't have a clock spell, nor the History of Magic text. The Potions text was clearly out. Then, at the very bottom, he found the book that Sirius had given him because he'd found out that Harry had a snake for a pet.
"I'll check this one," he said, settling down on his bed with Sorcerers, Serpents and Snakes by Colleen Colubra. Opening it, he saw again the inscription that Sirius had written: "Dear Harry--Happy Fifteenth Birthday! From your godfather," and the illegible scrawl that seemed to contain something resembling an S and a B.
He and Ron had been reading for some time when Harry turned a page and saw just what he needed. "Ron! Look at this! C'mere, you. I've found it. We can use Sandy. I can put a spell on her..."
"What?" Sandy hissed at him from under his shirtsleeve, sounding slightly alarmed.
"Oh, don't worry, Sandy. Remember when I put an Engorgement Charm on you during the dueling? It's nothing, you won't be inconvenienced a bit," he said, directing this at his left arm.
"Perhaps I should be the judge of that..." she sniffed at him from under the shirt. Ron looked baffled.
"What are you two going on about? Are you going to tell me or not?"
"Right. See here? It's not a clock spell, precisely, but it does have a time element. You cast the spell to last a specific amount of time, and when it wears off--"
"I see. But--what's the spell actually do?"
"Let me see...I'm not really clear about that yet..."
He read some more, then realized what he had. "It turns the snake into a woman for a pre-set time period, up to a day." He grimaced at Ron, who shrugged.
"So? You realize what this spell is used for, don't you?"
Ron looked blank for a moment, then, when realization dawned, his eyes were very wide. "I see," was all he could choke out.
Harry slumped again. "You're right, Sandy. You should be the judge of whether you want to help me," he hissed at her. "I don't want to subject you to being a woman if you'd rather not. And I don't know how we'd explain you to the other blokes..."
Ron looked like he was deep in thought. "She could hide under the Invisibility Cloak," he suggested.
"Let me understand this, Harry Potter," Sandy's unseen voice said to him now. "I would be a woman for a time?"
"Yes. So that you could wake me when the spell ends. I think that when you change back into a snake, even if you were asleep in your human form, you'd be sort of jolted. Then, being awake yourself, you could wake me. I'm sorry, Sandy. It's a stupid idea..."
"That is all I would have to do? When I turn back into a snake I wake you up?"
There was silence. Ron raised his eyebrows at Harry as if to say So? Will she do it?
Even before Harry could ask, Sandy was hissing at him, "I will do it."
Harry took her out of his sleeve and held her before his face, gazing into her inscrutable eyes. "You're sure?" he asked her.
"Yes, Harry Potter. I am sure."
He swallowed. "All right. Now, this is a Transfiguration spell. Like when I change into a golden griffin. You've withstood that before."
"Yes. I trust you, Harry."
Harry swallowed. She had used just his first name. He didn't know what to say. Her simple statement had utterly undone him. "All right," he told her. "Let me check on everything I need to do to perform the spell."
According to the book, he was supposed to imagine a specific woman's appearance to give to the snake when in its human form. "A specific woman?" Ron asked.
"Seems like it," he answered, trying to imagine who Sandy should look like in her human form. It was certainly nothing he'd ever considered before.
"You realize," Ron said ominously, "that if you make her look like Hermione, I will have to kill you. You're forewarned. Oh, and if you make her look like Ginny, and she ever finds out, she'll probably kill you. Actually, if you do that, I'll also have to kill you."
"Ron! What do you think I'm going to do with her? She's still going to be Sandy, my snake! And have you forgotten why we're doing this?"
"No. I'm just saying...I mean, she will have to be in your bed, won't she? So that she can wake you when the spell wears off?"
"Yeah. I reckon," he said, feeling uncomfortable. "I'll make certain that I turn her into someone I'd never consider sleeping with, all right? Will that make you happy?"
"All right then. Lavender it is." Harry swatted Ron's arm, laughing. "Or did you mean Millicent Bulstrode?"
"Or Pansy Parkinson?"
"Or Professor McGonagall?"
They were laughing uproariously now, each suggestion more absurd than the last. Finally, Harry calmed down and looked at the book again.
"All right, we need to get serious here. Let me look at the incantation..." After some time, he felt ready to try it. He put Sandy onto the bed and backed up. He checked his watch; it was a little after eleven o'clock, so they wanted the spell to last for five hours. Harry took out his wand and tried to concentrate. He raised his wand and opened his mouth...
"So, who's it to be then?"
Harry clamped his mouth shut again. He'd lost his concentration. He turned to glare at Ron.
"If you must know, my mum." He couldn't explain. He just couldn't explain it to Ron. The most prominent images he had in his mind of his mother were of her when he was young, like the day at the seaside, or lying dead on the cave floor, or in the front garden at Godric's Hollow. He could see her alive at other times, in his Pensieve, but most of those memories weren't especially good. Reprimanding him in Potions class, or upbraiding him for fighting with Simon and Stuart. He just felt like he needed to see his mum looking at him without that cloud of disappointment behind her eyes, the eyes that, for years and years, saw only a future Death Eater when she looked at him, and even after she knew he didn't want to be that person, he was the one responsible for Stuarts's death, and then he saw that thinly-veiled accusation behind her eyes instead...
Ron made a face. "I wouldn't much fancy seeing my mum without clothes..."
Harry's eyes opened wide. He stared at the small green snake, realizing why Ron had said this. He ran for his wardrobe, muttering, "Damn, damn damn..." while he searched for some clothes she could wear. He put a shirt, sweater and jeans on the bed, turned the blanket so that it was covering Sandy except for her head, and moved back into position.
"Now, Sandy," he hissed at her. "When you become human--you won't have any clothes on," he said, having trouble getting the words out. "I'll pull the curtains round the bed and you can put these on, all right? Do you think you can do that?"
"Is that why I am under a blanket?"
To Harry's relief, she didn't try to squirm out from under the blanket. Her slightly argumentative nature was starting to remind him of his sister, and he struggled to maintain his concentration. He tried to hold his mother's image in his head very clearly, pointed his wand at Sandy and said, "Serpentigena per horam quinque effemino!"
But--he couldn't quite hold onto the image of his mother, as they soon saw. When the smoke had cleared, He saw bright green eyes, just like his own, gazing through the haze. It took him a moment to realize, however, that they weren't his mothers eyes, but his sister's. They could see, lying under the blanket on his bed, on her stomach, looking more than a little dazed, the image of Jamie Potter.
"It worked," Sandy hissed at him, lifting his sister's head and using his sister's mouth. She started to rise, but Harry put his hand on her back and pushed her into the mattress before he or Ron could see too much, then pulled the curtains around the bed hurriedly.
"You--you're supposed to put those clothes on now. Re-remember?" he stuttered.
"Yes, Harry Potter," she hissed.
He heard her rustling around then within the confines of the bed. It seemed to take quite a while, and before she emerged, the door to the room swung open and Dean, Neville and Seamus entered, yawning and tired. Harry and Ron whirled guiltily.
"What're you two up to, then?" Seamus said suspiciously, seeing the pair of them standing before the drawn curtains of Harry's bed. Then a hissing noise emerged from behind the curtains and the three boys who had just entered the room frowned.
"What's that, a balloon with a slow leak?" Dean asked. Harry had heard what Sandy said, but he didn't dare hiss an answer to her at this moment; he was somewhat self-conscious about using Parseltongue in front of others, anyway. He was starting to realize that she probably could not speak English. Then, to their dismay, Harry and Ron heard a thud as Sandy's bare feet landed on the stone floor on the other side of the bed. She came walking around it, hissing at him, "I do not understand these fastenings, Harry Potter. I am not accustomed to having limbs. Or digits. I require assistance."
She was wearing Harry's jeans, which were rather baggy and not buttoned, although Harry was glad to see that she'd gotten them zipped. She was also, thankfully, wearing the shirt, although she was holding it closed with her hands. It was obvious that she wasn't wearing anything under it. Seamus, Dean and Neville dropped their jaws.
More information on my HP fanfiction and essays can also be found HERE.
Please be a considerate reader and review.