Dissolving the Barrier
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns everything. I’m just doing this for fun.
Category: I had a rather difficult time trying to categorize my story and with good reason. See, it’s written with slight H/G inklings, but it’s not really romantic in the sense of a great, big, hunk of burning, fluffy love. It’s not, as Webster would define humor, written with a sense of the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous, but I would hope that it is somewhat amusing in proper places. Harry’s a bit angsty, but then, when has Harry been anything but? So I guess by default (and because I’m tearing out my hair trying to slap on one confining label), it’s General: Involving, applicable to, or affecting the whole.
Author’s Note: A little backdrop here – this is set during Harry’s sixth year, the first week back at Hogwarts, and he’s in the forest, obviously, as the challenge dictates.
An invisible barrier separated him from the rest of the world. – Harry, OotP pg. 855 AE
Harry stared moodily at the ground in front of him, thoroughly annoyed with himself and not really paying much attention to his surroundings, or to Ginny and Neville, who were carefully picking their way around the marshy area.
They were supposed to be gathering plants for Professors Sprout and Snape as part of their detention, but Harry found he could barely concentrate on anything besides his own thoughts. It had probably only been thirty minutes since Hagrid had disappeared in the underbrush to check on Grawp, who -- Hagrid had regretfully informed them -- had a tiny head cold, but to Harry it felt like hours. At any other time he would have been glad for the silence that the forest and the current task at hand left him with, but tonight the silence let his mind dwell endlessly on what the future held in store.
Kill or be killed, he thought dully for the millionth time since the previous June. No matter how many times he told himself that, the idea still made him nauseous, like a sharp jab to the stomach.
Harry jerked his head up. Ginny was staring at him, her face pensive.
“Are you okay?” she asked, without any preamble.
Harry clenched his jaw. Why the hell did everyone keep asking him that?
“I’m fine,” he said tersely, starting forward with a newly invested vengeance and pretending to search for the dittany he was supposed to retrieve.
“Right,” Ginny muttered under her breath, bending down to examine a red, spiky, mushroom-like thing.
Coupled with the fact that his current speed walk was forcing his breath out in pants, Ginny’s comment made him halt.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he demanded hotly.
Ginny raised her eyebrow, reminding him uncannily of Ron. “If you’re fine, than I’ll eat this horklump,” she said, pointing. The horklump gave a tiny quiver in response.
“Well, I hope your hungry then, because I’m fine!”
“Fine.” Ginny threw up her hands, apparently defeated. After a minute though, she hesitated, giving him a long appraising look. “You know, it’s a bit rich of you to get angry when people leave you in the dark about stuff since you go around doing the same thing,” she said quietly.
Harry gaped at her, his mouth working soundlessly in an effort to say something, but he found he had nothing in him but a new, slick feeling of guilt. “What d’you mean?”
Ginny sighed. “We know something’s been bothering you, Harry.”
Utterly helpless, Harry glanced over at Neville. The other boy was crouched on his haunches, a long skinny plant in his hand, but he was regarding Harry shrewdly. “Harry doesn’t have to tell us if he doesn’t want to, Gin --” Neville broke off suddenly, his eyes widening at something behind Harry and Ginny.
Both of them whirled around. Harry tensed, his hand flexing over his wand. “What --”
Ginny gave a little gasp and leaned forward. “Something moved. It looked almost like…” But what it looked like, they found out first hand as a small, furry, black blur rocketed towards Ginny and yanked a fist full of her red hair before spiraling out of reach.
“Ouch!” She massaged her scalp, squinting into the darkness after it. “Ugh, I knew it. Damn imps!”
“Imps?” Harry said bemusedly.
“Imps. Pixie-like little blighters. You were supposed to learn about them second year,” Ginny added pointedly.
“Second year we had Lockhart,” Neville reminded her, shuddering. Harry remembered instantly why; Lockhart had set loose a bunch of pixies in class and the result had been disastrous. He suddenly felt a bit cautious.
Ginny started forward, her wand out. “We’d better be careful, one of the things imps like to do – argh!” Three more tiny imps darted out at her, one diving at her feet and the others spinning about her head, grabbing at her hair. Letting out a noise of impatience, Ginny lifted her wand. “Stupefy!” she cried, getting two of the imps at once. Throwing her tousled hair behind her with an irritated flick, Ginny made for the other imp and suddenly toppled over, landing face first in the marshy, wet area with a large plop. Harry and Neville could only gape in an amused trance. It seemed as if the imp had tied her trainer laces together, for it cackled triumphantly.
“Let me guess,” said Harry, barely suppressing a grin while Neville quickly stunned the hovering imp. “One of the things an imp likes is tripping people?”
“Oh shut it you,” Ginny sputtered through a mouthful of mud.
“You’ve got to admit though, that was a bit funny,” Harry said, still smirking.
Ginny flung a bit of slime at him in reply. Dodging it, he sauntered towards her, intent on teasing her a little before helping her up. “I dunno Ginny, but --” His words caught in his throat as the first imp abruptly appeared again, latched onto his ankle, and with a surprisingly strong yank, sent him flying into the muck.
Harry blinked through his now-dirty glasses, staring nonplussed at his mud-encased robes before glancing up at Neville, who looked back at him in horror.
“Hmm, you’re right, Harry. That was a bit funny,” Ginny said before erupting into giggles.
Slightly stunned, Harry looked at her. The way the brown mud contrasted against the brilliant fiery redness of her hair and the paleness of her cheeks -- or maybe the fact that he knew his own scalp and face must look exactly like hers -- caused something warm to bubble in his stomach, something that crept along up towards his mouth, which curved into a smile. Before he knew it, he was laughing with her, great bouts of the shaking, mirthful laughter he hadn’t felt in a long time.
After a few moments of extended hilarity, Ginny pushed herself up from the ground, wiping her fingers on her cloak, and stretched her hand out towards Harry. He stared at it for a second; then raised his eyes to her still smiling face. An openness in her expression tugged at him.
She was right. He should tell his friends about the prophecy. The burden of it dragged on him more each day, slowly suffocating, isolating him. At the thought of telling someone about it, the wait lessened slightly, and suddenly, the words swirled in his throat and he wanted to say it aloud, if only to make it more real.
But even as the words threatened to tumble out, he hesitated. This was something he only wanted to say once. But he would say it. He would.
Resolved, Harry looked back down at Ginny’s outstretched hand and seized it, allowing her to pull him to his feet.
A/N: I bet some of you are wondering why the heck they were in the forest serving detention alone for Merlin’s sake. Well, see, I had a number of paragraphs where Filch was bringing them to the forest, muttering in his usual nasty way about how Umbridge was the best thing that ever happened to this school and blah de blah, but at least he could still haul students out to the forest for detention in order to scare the crap and any lingering sense of mischief out of them as punishment. Then Hagrid met them and took over, and told them in undertones that he simply had to check on poor Grawpy, who sadly was suffering from a slight cold, so he would leave the lot of them to do their detention in a marshy area where the centaurs never went if they could help it, because the mud turned their hooves into suction cups. So, I had all that, but it made my story waay over the imposed thousand word limit, and I cut it.