The Phoenix and the Serpent
Phoenix and the Serpent
entire Harry Potter universe belongs to J. K. Rowling. Any original
characters belong to the author and may not be used without
IV : In Memories
had not gone any easier for Harry that summer after Fourth Year.
was not as if things had changed in Number 4 Privet Drive, at least,
not on the surface. His foster family the Dursleys were still every
bit as nasty to him, Dudley every bit as fat, if not more so. They
still made Harry do all the cleaning and the cooking and he still had
to endure their caustic remarks. They never dared touched him,
though. Especially not Dudley, who still smarted from the memory of a
pigs tail sticking out of his bottom and the weight of an
engorged tongue hanging from his mouth. So they left him well enough
alone. As for Harry, he could still look forward to August, when he
was scheduled to go to the Burrow and be with Ron and Hermione once
wasnt the Dursleys that made his life difficultit was his
own thoughts. Memories of last school years events often came
drifting back to him, especially thoughts of Cedric. It seemed that
the solitude he was given allowed bad memories to fester. They
haunted him most in bed, in those odd moments between waking and
sleeping. While he sometimes felt like talking to someone about them,
he thought better of worrying either his friends or Sirius with his
can get through this, he thought to himself one night as he lay
in his little bed. Ive gone through worse. He
pulled the covers to his chin and tried to sleep.
night he had a dream.
dreamt he was back at Hogwarts, in the middle of a Quidditch
tournament. The Chasers of Slytherin and Gryffindor streaked below
him, the Quaffle nothing more than a red blur as it was passed from
one player to the next. A flash of gold suddenly caught his eye, and
in a heartbeat he was racing on his Firebolt straight down at the
Snitch that was hovering a foot above the grass. One twist of the
broom, one swipe of his hand, and the game was overGryffindor
had won the last match of the season.
drifted down onto the pitch as his teammates swarmed around him,
cheering loudly and slapping one anothers backs. Soon the crowd
joined in, and Harry found himself in the midst of an excited mob.
Before he knew it he was raised onto the shoulders of the Weasley
twins and the Quidditch Cup passed into his hands. Grinning broadly,
heartbeat thudding in his head, he lifted it high as the crowd around
him chanted, Harry! Harry! Harry!
seemed to go on forever. He had never felt happier, never more alive.
Then he spied something from the corner of his eye.
he saw that the Hufflepuff team had gathered in one corner of the
field. They stood in solemn, motionless rows, brooms clutched in
hand. The line of players was broken by a gap in the middle. When
Harry saw this gap he abruptly fell silent. And When the Ravenclaw
seeker, Cho Chang, walked onto the pitch, he felt a cold twist in his
was dressed in battered and muddied Quidditch attire, carrying her
broom in one hand. She approached the Hufflepuff team and spoke with
them. Harry could not make out what she said, but the team nodded in
understanding. When Cho handed them the broom in her hand, Harry
finally understoodthe broom was not hers, but Cedrics.
was no longer even a broom, Harry realized, but a coffin. Without a
word, four Hufflepuffs hefted it onto their shoulders. Then, led by
Cho, they all began to file out of the pitch in a funeral march.
Harry watched the whole line of them go. Without thinking, he let go
of the Cup, pushed himself off the Weasley twins shoulders,
and began shoving his way through the mob. He had to join them, just
had to. He owed it to Cho and to Cedric. But the crowd surged around
him, ruffling his hair, slapping his back, getting in his way. He
fought his way to the edge of them, calling out to the passing team.
turned to look at him. He had never seen her so beautiful and yet so
distant. All the life and sweetness that had once drawn him to her
had been bled from her featuresHer face was wan and gray, her
black brows etched over fathomless eyes. She said nothing; that blank
look conveyed all that needed to be said. She left him to the crowd
and the Hufflepuffs followed.
was when Harry woke. The night was still and deep, yet despite the
cold air he found himself drenched with sweat.
sat up slowly and covered his face with his hands. At that moment he
knew he could not face the Hufflepuffs out on the pitch. Neither
could he face Cho. It was not fair: they had both lost Cedric and he
was partly to blame. Why should he get to fly through the air while
Cedric lay beneath the dirt?
took all of two days brooding before he decided that he was not
going to play Quidditch that year, and probably not ever. It would be
his penance. It did not seem like much, but it was something.
that was left to do was tell themMcGonagall, his teammates, Ron
and Hermione. He could already imagine what they were going to say,
but he blotted the words out of his mind. They were going to have to
live with ithe had already decided.
he half-dreaded the last weeks of July, when he was set to go to the
Burrow once more. Still, he packed up his belongings, put his trunk
and Hedwigs cage out on the sidewalk, and waited. Presently, a
battered old Sedan driven rolled by. Mr. Weasley was driving and Ron
was there with him. Company car, Ron said to Harry as he
helped put the luggage in the trunk. Perfect disguise for
wizards on business, or so Dad says. I dont knowall that
clunking from the engine makes everyone stare.
think its perfect, Mr. Weasley said. Nobodyll
suspect a car like this to be owned by a wizard! Speaking of which,
Harry, does a Rolls-Royce really roll?
talked the entire long trip to the Burrow, but Harry only
half-listened. He could not stop thinking about how to even begin
telling any of them his thoughts.
in the Burrow was a world of a difference from Privet Drive, but they
were the same in the sense that, on the surface, things did not seem
to change. Gnomes still squatted in the garden, the ghoul kept making
noises in the attic when it felt things got too quiet, the odd
collection of objects remained scattered throughout the house, and of
course, its inhabitants were as lively as ever.
the burden on his thoughts, Harry was glad to be among friends at
last. The bustle of so many people was a welcome distraction. Mr.
Weasley still pestered him with questions on how Muggle stuff like
elvelators and refereegerators worked. Fred
and George gave demonstrations of several new gags and devices they
had developed over the summer, such as the Spitball Sniper and the
Bluster Bomb. Mrs. Weasley merely sniffed, unimpressed, and praised
Hermione for starting on lessons even during vacation. On her turn,
Hermione tried to get both him and Ron to join her study sessions,
and he and Ron made a sport out of finding excuses out of it. Ron
would talk incessantly of chess and Quidditch, and occasionally Harry
would spy him sneaking glances at Hermione at dinner, or lingering a
little too long by the room where she was studying.
then there was Ginny.
was his third day in the Burrow. Harry had just taken a late shower
and had come down into the dining room. Upstairs he could hear Fred
and Georges thundering experiments, and in the living room not
far away, Ron and Hermiones muffled argument. Mrs. Weasley was
by the stove, cooking lunch.
hello dear, she said as Harry walked in. How are you
fine, thanks. Do you need any help?
smiled at him. How sweet of you to ask, and shot an
irritated glance at the floor above her. Theres little
left to do here, unless you know whether the final ingredient to
Frugards stew is parsley or rosemary. I cant seem to
shook his head. Hed never heard of Frugards stew, but
Mrs. Weasley had never made a meal he hadn't liked.
she went on, thats all I need. Hmm, maybe Ginny
remembers. I thought I saw her go outsidewould you kindly go
find her for me and ask?
or rosemary, right? Okay.
went out into the garden. The sky was blue and cloudless and a warm
breeze was blowing from the distant, dreaming mountains. Ginny was
nowhere in sight, so he picked a direction at random and started
feet took him into the meadow beside the house. Like last year it was
covered with wildflowers, but until today he hadnt noticed just
how many there were. They carpeted the meadow with yellows and
oranges, nodding together as the wind blew through them. As Harry
strolled into the meadow his nose caught the mix of their fragrance,
and he smiled. It was as if the summer felt it had to put on its best
in the little time left before the fall.
what he had to do, Harry started walking towards a lone tree at the
edge of the meadow. There he spied a pair of worn brown shoes, its
laces striped like candy-canes, lying discarded on the ground. He
came closer and peered around the trunk.
was fast asleep. Her feet were bare, her elbows propped against the
trees thick roots, her head leaning against the trunk. Her
mouth was slightly open, a thin lock of bright red hair caught in its
corner. In her hands a pair of knitting needles lay tangled with a
half-finished scarf and a ball of red yarn. Another ball of gold yarn
lay on her lap, and a beige cloth bag hung on a low branch nearby.
was at a lossshould he disturb her just to ask whether parsley
or rosemary goes last into Frugards stew? He watched her for a
few moments, half-hoping she would wake up on her own. Then something
else caught his eye: a small hard-covered book lay open beside her
right knee. The title on the cover was Ginny Weasley's Treasury of
Written Muggle Works. Curious, Harry picked it up.
The book was turned to the last page, apparently the end of a short
story. Harry thumbed to the beginningthe title was Small
Things. For a few minutes he flipped through the pages, finding
an odd assortment of poems, stories, songs, quotes, and passages that
really didnt fit under any category, all in neat, cursive
was interrupted by the sound of yawning. Harry pried his gaze from
the pages and saw Ginny stretching and opening her eyes. Her gaze
fell on his feet, then flicked up to his face.
she squealed, leaping to her feet and nearly tripping over a root in
the process. Her face had gone completely pink. Caught, Harry opened
his mouth to explainand found no words. They stared at each
other for a long, uncomfortable minute.
she said, as if describing the impossible, how long have you
been standing there?
blinked rapidly. Er, not long
just a couple of minutes. I
was looking for you.
averted her dazed eyes. Looking for me?
your mum wanted to ask you something
realized something and began frantically untangling the yarn from the
went on, Um, your mother wanted to ask about some ingredients
for a stew
wasnt listening. She was trying to stuff everything into her
bag while attempting to fix her hair. She was only barely succeeding
let me help, said Harry. He stepped forward, and realized he
was still clutching her book in his hands.
realized this too. She stopped for a minute, staring at it. Harry
felt an absurd warmth on his cheeks.
is yours, I think
he said. Im sorry. I didnt
mean to pry. He thought that was a rather stupid thing to
sayWhat else could he have been doing?
started putting on her shoes. Um, thank you. Could you hold it
for a bit?
of course. He waited as she continued to fix her bag and her
she composed herself, drew in a deep breath, and said, Lets
start over, shall we? Good morning.
her calmed down made Harry relax as well. Good morning. Here,
he said, handing her the book. Sorry if I startled you.
no, its okay. I didnt expect to fall asleep like that.
motioned to the book. I
didnt know you liked to
its a new hobby. I started reading some of the fiction books
Hermione left lying around in our room. Seeing that I liked most of
much she read she started lending me more titles.
that hers? he asked, nodding at the book.
held it up and said. Oh, this? She gave this to me for my
birthday. Its enchanted. It reads aloud whatevers written
turned the book to the first page and said, Recitus!
The book began to speak in a cultured, female voice:
the winter come so soon?
after night I hear the hungry deer
weeping in the wood
from his house of brittle bark hoots the frozen owl.
the winter come so soon?
copied my favorite works onto it, she went on. Most of
what I have here is Muggle stuff from Hermiones collection,
although I started researching my own
supposed it was only natural that Hermione and Ginny had become such
good friends, being both girls and having to share a room. Thats
a nice gift she got you, he said.
she replied, grinning. Sometimes I just sit here and listen to
it for hours.
smiled himself and gazed about. Its really peaceful here.
I like it.
her hands, the book went on:
secret love has stars for eyes
face is wise and fair
snapped the book shut. Harry thought her face looked pinched. You
were saying something about Mum a while back, she said quickly.
started. Of course! Thanks for reminding me. Your mother wanted
to ask if the last ingredient for Frugards stew was
blinked. Yeah. How did you
threw up her hands. Its neither! You put in basilBASIL!
I swear she always forgets that one thing! Ooooo, come on. She
grabbed her stuff, took Harry by the sleeve and began to drag him
back to the house. Id better get back there quick before
she chooses one or the other.
hurried back into the meadow. Ginny seemed to realize something; she
blushed and let go of his sleeve. Harry decided to fill in the
So, you often spend time out here?
guess so. If anything it keeps those thugs Fred and George out of my
hair. She rolled her eyes. I mean that literally tooI
happen to like my hair color, thankyouverymuch. Why do you ask?
just curious. I havent seen you much over the last few days.
looked a bit embarrassed. Sorry, I havent been a good
host, have I?
no, thats not what I meant! I just realized, thats all.
quickly changed topics. So, you like reading stories then?
love reading stories, though I love listening to them more. All
around them, yellow and orange blossoms bowed with the wind. She
paused to pick up a flower that caught her eye.
Um, how about you? she asked, looking at him. Do
you, er, know any good books? She winced at the words.
Aunt and Uncle never got me any books, he replied. They
gave my cousin Dudley tons of books which Dudley never reads but
never lends either.
grinned at her sympathetic look. Its okay, I prefer
Quidditch to reading. Although if you stick someone like Hermione in
that situation I bet shed be climbing the walls.
laughed. Thats mean!
grinned at her. Well, its true!
reached the Burrow by then, and Ginny called from the door, Mum!
Its basil! Youre supposed to put in basil!
Weasleys voice floated out of the kitchen. Whats
that? Put it in a basin? Whatever for?
rolled her eyes as she removed her shoes. Im coming in to
helpdont touch anything! She placed the wildflower
into a nearby vase and turned to Harry. I better get over
there. Sorry about making you go out of your way to get me.
no trouble. It was nice out today, so Im glad I did.
Ill see you later.
Say, dont overdo the reading bit or you might end up another
tell her you said that! And she ran off before he could reply.
was the first time he spoke to her that summer and, he realized later
on, also the first time theyd had a real conversation.
was soon served, and the stew came out fine. For Harry, that wasnt
the problem. The problem was the buttered vegetables.
his end of the table, Harry gazed forlornly at the peas on his side
plate. Mrs. Weasley had laid it on thick todaythe mound of peas
was as tall as the saltshaker. He never liked them, but it was
impolite to leave them as they were. He had gone through about a
fourth of the lot when Mrs. Weasley insisted he take another helping,
and unceremoniously dumped another spoonful on his plate. Harry
looked to Ron beside him for help, but as usual he was engrossed in a
heated discussion with Hermione.
telling you, she was saying, Professor Vector was
correct! A five-ounce swallow simply cannot carry a one-pound
had a rebuttal for everything. But it couldve been an
rolled his eyes, and glimpsed Ginny who was sitting to his left. She
was slowly munching on a piece of broccoli with severely taxed look
on her face.
leaned closer to her and whispered, Hey, you okay?
snapped out of her trance. Im fine.
try and ignore them, okay? They can get really tiresome sometimes.
I dont mind them, she sighed, Its all this
broccoli. Whenever Mum serves broccoli she makes us finish it. She
used to trick me tooIt makes freckles fade away, Ginny
chuckled. You believed her?
put her fork down. I was six, what do you expect? Urrgh, am I
about, and your eyes are watering. Are you sure youll be okay?
a minute. Or five, She swallowed painfully, and eyed his plate.
You dont seem to be making a dent on those peas.
because your mother keeps sending reinforcements. I never took much
to them, but I cant refuse your mum that easily.
giggled. I never knew that. Whats wrong with peas?
I should ask you whats wrong with broccoli.
should try it.
Petunia serves it all the time. I have a pretty good resistance to it
stared at each other. A conspiracy had formed.
theyre not looking.
gazed around them. Everyone was engrossed in a big discussion;
apparently Ron and Hermione were infectious. They quickly brought
their side plates under the table, exchanged them, and brought them
back up. They shared a secretive smile before starting on their food.
Five minutes later, the offending meals were no more.
already, Harry? Mrs. Weasley beamed at him. My, you
certainly seem hungry enough. Why dont you have some more
Her hand reached for the serving spoon.
NO, er I mean, no, thank you Mrs. Weasley. Im very
him, Ginny hid her smile behind a small, freckled hand.
days passed by in idyllic peace, and for a while Harry had forgotten
all about his troubles. The one problem he had was how to refuse Ron
and the twins should they ask him to play Quidditch. He neednt
have worried though. For days on end black clouds hurtled across the
sky and rain came down in sheets. Mrs. Weasley absolutely forbade
them to play Quidditch.
tempt the lightning, for Merlins sakes! she said.
Mum, it doesnt matter what weather it iswe still have to
play Quidditch at Hogwarts! said Fred.
play Qudditch at Hogwarts. While youre here, you do as youre
English weather, Ron grumbled.
Ron and the twins wheedling, Harry complied with her wishes. So
they spent their time playing Wizard Chess and other games, playing
practical jokes, and finding ways to avoid studying with Hermione.
hadnt always gone so well. Some nights, the memories came back.
lay quietly in his bed, staring at the moonlight crawling across the
posters on Rons walls. Hed been trying to sleep for
hours, but somehow his mind always circled back to the image of a
coffin borne by four Hufflepuffs, and the cold, vacant stare in Cho
wondered if Cho would ever give him that look, if she or the
Hufflepuffs still blamed Harry for the loss of Cedric. Then again,
whether or not they did hardly mattered. What mattered was Harry knew
he was to blame. There was no escaping that.
been putting off telling Ron and Hermione about his decision, partly
because it was sure to ruin the summer for all of them. But there was
another reasonhe simply didnt know how to begin. The mere
idea of saying, Im quitting Quidditch, caused a
painful lump to swell in his throat. He threw a worried glance at
Ron, sleeping but a few feet away. He hoped that when the time came
to tell him, Ron would understand.
a cock began crowing. One glance at the luminous clock on the desk
told him it was five-thirty in the morning. He knew he wouldnt
be able to sleep, so he might as well get up and do something. Maybe
a cool bath would take his mind off of things.
sure not to wake Ron, he slipped out of bed, left the room, and
walked down the dimly lit hallway. The bathroom was just around the
corner. When he rounded it, he nearly ran into someone. One shrill
squeal immediately told him who it was.
Ginny gasped. She was clad in her nightgown, a fact she quickly tried
to hide behind her long bath towel. What are you doing awake?
Its not even dawn!
flushed and fumbled for an answer. What could he tell her? That he
was thinking of quitting Quidditch and couldnt sleep?
guess I just felt like taking a bath early, he said. I
sometimes do that because the Muggles I live with dont like to
see me using their bathroom. Then he peered at her curiously.
was going to take a bath myself, she explained.
dont know what its like living with six brothers and two
adults. Its always a race to use the bathroom first. I get
ahead by waking up really earlyno one else can seem to get up
before six. I guess I kept the habit even after Bill, Charlie and
stared at each other for a minute, then Harry said, Well, why
dont you go ahead then.
no! Please, you first. Youre our guest!
you live here.
Ill take forever in there. Go on.
okay. You go.
grinned a little. Not Hugo. Harry. And besides, ladies first?
laughed. Oh, fine. Why dont you get yourself something to
drink in the kitchen while youre waiting? Ill be quick.
kept her promise. Fifteen minutes and a change of clothes later, they
were sitting together at the dining table, having some tea. Talking
with Ginny wasnt the same as having conversations with Ron, but
at least it helped him forget what had happened earlier, even a
little. He was thankful for that.
told her, Next time, though, I think Ill wake up a little
earlier to take a bath.
guffawed and said, Sorry, but I dont think its
possible for boys to wake up earlier than girls. She sipped
lightly from her cup, as if the matter were already settled.
cocked his eyebrow at her. Thats what you think, is it?
I mean, look at my brothers. Look at Ron
well, I dont
really need to say much beyond that.
youve got a point. But I dont think all boys are that
grinned, mischief dancing in her brown eyes. Can you prove it?
grinned back. Is that a challenge?
pushed her teacup aside and said, Its really simpleall
you have to do is wake up early enough to take a bath ahead of me.
The one who makes the best of five days wins.
tough. Is there a prize involved?
I dont know. What do you have in mind?
gets to buy the winner one sweet of his or her choice at snack cart
on the Hogwarts Express.
And by the way, I prefer the Strawberry Creampuffins.
sealed the deal with a toast of their cups, and Harry went up to take
his turn in the bathroom.
next day, Harry woke up at five. Quietly slipping out of his bed, he
picked his way to the bathroom, fully expecting to get there first.
His hopes were dashed when he heard the water running inside, and
Ginny humming to herself.
he stood outside the door feeling like an idiot, he heard her say,
Why dont you make yourself some tea while youre
fine, he said, then added, Ill get here first
you will. And she resumed humming.
made good on his promise the very next day by waking up at
four-thirty. He managed this by sleeping with Rons alarm clock
under the pillow. Hastily shutting it off, he groggily made his way
to the bathroom. To his relief he got there first.
wasnt so lucky the next day. Ginny got up fifteen minutes
earlier than he did. Harry groaned and went downstairs again to wait.
Ginny came down to the kitchen, she found him washing dishes at the
Looks like your mum left some dishes over for the night,
he said. I was just trying to lighten the load.
not like Mum at all. She stared at the stack of unwashed
plates. Looks more like Fred and George came down for a
snack? Really? Looks like a full course meal to me.
me about it. She stepped forward to help. You dont
have to do this, Harry. How many times do I have to remind you youre
our guest here?
Ive been living off of you for two weeks. I should at least do
giggled. If you really want to help, you can pay rent. Heaven
knows we need it.
found himself smiling. It was the first time he heard a Weasley make
light of their being poor.
took the role of washing the dishes and Harry took to drying them. I
feel bad about you cleaning up after my brothers, she said. I
have a good mind to kick down their door and make them do the
told you, dont worry about it, said Harry. In any
case, I think its fun living with so many people.
snorted. Fun. Right. Its fun till you become the
object of amusement. She smiled and continued, But
theyre all okay, my brothers. They may be big fat headaches,
but theyre never bores.
have any favorites?
would be Bill, because he used to read to me a lot and give me
piggy-back rides all the time when he was still living here.
She brandished a fork at an unseen enemy. I was Sir Ginny and
he was my noble steed! Then wed fight dragons and giants and
rescue kindly grandmothers from evil tax-people.
was Ron, though, who took care of me when I started at Hogwarts. We
dont talk as much as we used to now. And he can be such a prat,
especially when it comes to Hermione.
grinned widely. You think so?
yes. Sometimes I think hes taking after the thugsI mean,
twins. She turned to him. Can I, uh, ask you a question?
whats it like living with Muggles? Ron doesnt tell me
much but I hear a lot from Hermione. They not really that horrid to
you, are they?
Harry did not reply, she turned her eyes back to the plates. Sorry.
That was kind of personal, wasnt it.
okay, he replied, I was just thinking. Therere all
sorts of Muggles, same as wizards. Im sure there are nice ones
out there; I just wish I could get lucky enough to find some. In any
case, the people I live with are
He searched for a word,
but found nothing to adequately describe his uncle, aunt and Dudley.
as radishes? Ginny supplied.
grinned. Yeah, thats about right. Not quite as bad as
Snape, but theyd be in the neighborhood. I have to cook and
clean for them and do their gardening and stuff. Otherwise Im
not allowed out. Im also the butt of my cousins jokes.
His idea of funny is me covered in soot from cleaning out the
chimney. He stopped and saw her staring at him, wide-eyed.
get by, Ginny, he reassured her.
shook her head. Its not that. I just find it amazing.
sounds exactly like how I get treated here!
They stared at each other for a minute. Then Harry found he couldnt
help ithe started laughing. Out loud. And Ginny laughed right
along with him.
they recovered, she said, Sorry, I didnt mean to be
impertinent. Its horrible that they treat their own relative
that way. It must really get you down. I wish I could do something
about it, like report them to the Ministry or something!
worry about it. Its sort of a relief that at least SOMEONE
knows how it feels.
do you get through it?
keep thinking of my friends and when I can finally get back to
Hogwarts. How about you?
do you expect? I fight back! She brandished the fork again. I
make my brothers realize that he who crosses Ginny Weasley does so at
his peril! And if they dont like the rules, they can cry me a
grinned again and dried the last of the plates. You know,
he remarked, Ive never heard you talk so much before.
lowered the fork, surprised. Huh?
mean, you were always so quiet. Your brother said you liked to talk,
but I didnt know just how much. Its nice to know youre
a while she just stood there, her face slightly pink. Then she huffed
and said, Is that so? Well, it would be fair for me to say I
find Harry Potters a normal boy after all!
do you mean by that?
mean I can have an actual conversation with him, she said with
mock petulance. Half the time he used to act like complete
snob, talking to my brothers while pretending I wasnt there.
stopped polishing his plate, feeling mortified. Did I really?
sniffled. Yes you did.
looked contrite for all of five seconds before cracking a grin. So
cry me a river.
of Harry's Quidditch reflexes could have saved him from what happened
next. The next thing he knew, she had dumped a cupful of soap water
down his shirt.
he cried, pulling the wet cloth away from his body. Im
glared at him and started taking the plates to the cabinet. So
cry me a river.
that, of course, Harry really had to take that bath.
next day Harry got up even earlier, but he only beat Ginny by a
margin of two minutes. With a tied score, neither could give ground.
Much to Rons surprise, that night Harry said that hed be
turning in at nine oclock.
he demanded as Harry climbed into bed. What the heck are you
going to bed so early for? Is Wood haunting you?
a bet with Ginny, Harry said. She said boys cant
wake up earlier than girls. I intend to prove her wrong.
blinked for several seconds, then said, Well, shes right.
Dont waste your time.
Says you. I can prove her wrong.
yourself, mate. Its your funeral.
true those words rang when Harry woke up at three in the morning and
felt like a corpse. Nevertheless, he pulled himself out of bed and
somehow made it to the hall. There was Ginny, red-eyed, disheveled,
and tottering. They made it to the bathroom door at the same time.
look so good, he muttered.
black, she replied.
isnt here. Her spirit hasnt come back to her body yet.
grinned and she sniggered. So, she said, who won?
said Harry, I dont even feel like taking a bath. So I
say, lets not and say we did, okay? Ill buy you the
Creampuffins. And since this is an official draw, Ill
buy you a sweet of your choice too.
Chocolate Frogs. Im going back to sleep.
And they promptly turned around and shlumped back to their rooms. As
he fell back into bed, Harry thought that the best thing about the
past five days was that he hadnt had a chance to get depressed.
talked more often over the next few days. Ginny would join them in
games and chores, give an occasional side-comment during a Wizard
chess match, or help Harry arbiter a debate between her brother and
Hermione. Harry found that her company gave yet another dimension to
his life with the Weasleys, and he was glad for it. Hed never
been bored or lonely in the Burrow, and now he was sure he never
was the day before the end of summer vacation when Harry abruptly
tried to tell Ginny something important.
were sitting together on the porch, gazing out onto the sunlit lawn.
She had been knitting her scarf then, listening to the lilting voice
of her book, and he found himself asking her, Keep a secret,
stopped working and gazed at him. Her eyes read the look on his face,
and she shut the book beside her. Yes I can, Harry Potter.
watched her wordlessly for a minute. Why was he going to tell her? It
had come so unexpectedly, that need to talk. But why her?
Maybe because he was nervous as hell about tomorrow and he had to
tell someone before he burst. Maybe because she was a third party, or
because she didnt care about Quidditch.
because he knew she would keep her word and never tell another soul.
took a deep breath and said, Theres something I have to
tell Ron and Hermione. Ive been putting it off for a long
while, but I cant anymore. Tomorrow I have to tell them. Well,
not just themthe twins, Professor McGonagall, a lot of people
at school. And
its not something anyones going to
looked at her worried expression and quickly said, Im not
sick or dying, Ginny.
I have to say, well, its a decision Ive made. Ive
given it serious thought over the past few weeks. I finally figured
out how Im going to say it, so Im planning on telling Ron
and Hermione on the Hogwarts Express
sat still for a while, gazing at one another.
a while, she said, You do realize havent really told me
anything yet, dont you?
gave a nervous laugh and brushed back his bangs. Er, right. I
I guess Im not quite
it that bad?
picked at a piece of grass near his foot.
nodded and said, You dont have to say anything, then, if
you dont want to.
thought for a minute, and decided he was more relieved than anything
else. He didnt have to say anything. Why did he feel he had to,
in the first place?
Yeah, okay. Youll find out tomorrow, anyway. I
guess everyone will be talking about it, so when you hear it, try not
to be shocked.
felt the need to lie down, so he got up to go inside. I think
Ill take a nap. Tomorrow then.
she said, then called after him, Youll be all right,
turned and smiled sadly at her. Well find that out
tomorrow too, wont we?
it turned out, things had gone bad the moment he told them.
sat there in shock for a while. "You...you can't quit, he
kept muttering. You can't."
was saying, "But Harry, Quidditch is something you love to do.
Please don't think quitting is going to help in any way..."
CAN'T quit! Ron cried, bolting from his seat. Youre
going to be the best Quidditch player there is and you're just going
to turn your back on it all?! You're going to throw it away? What's
wrong with you?"
nothing wrong with me, Ron," Harry replied, getting angry in
spite of himself. "It's just something I have to do"
you deliberately kept quiet until today, didn't you! You planned this
all on your own! You had all summer and you didn't say a word until
the last minute, didn't you!"
raised his voice right back, and not five minutes later they were
shouting loud enough to be heard five rooms away. Harry could not
remember all of what was said, even hours after the haze of anger had
settledHe supposed the mind shuts down under a lot of stress.
But he remembered how all that shouting made him feel as if he were
being pelted with pieces of glass.
the conductor came over and broke them up, saying they were
disturbing the other passengers. He made Harry take a separate room
further down the train. Without another glance at Ron, Harry marched
into the hall. There was a small crowd gathered there, and when he
came out they all averted their eyes. Except for Draco Malfoy. He
stood to one side with Crabbe and Goyle, all smiles. Why wouldnt
they be happy? High times for them, right? Potty and Weasel had a
falling out and they didnt have to lift a finger for it! What a
joke, right!? What a goddamn treat!
had used all his willpower not to slug that smirking face, and very
nearly did anyway. But he saw Ginny standing there in the crowd. She
hadnt looked away like the rest. Their gazes locked for a
second; somehow she looked paler, smaller. There had been concern in
her eyesfor her brother or for him, he could not tell. Harry
opened his mouth to say something (Well, what dyou think?
Pretty bad wasnt it?), but promptly shut it. Breathing
hard, he stalked past them all towards the end of the train.
he sat there alone in the compartment, he felt his anger fade,
leaving only a vast regret. Their argument that
had not shaken Harry as much as the look on Rons face. He had
looked utterly betrayed.
Harry felt so tired, drained. Mercifully, after some time he found
himself drifting off.
woke when the whistle shrieked and the train came to shuddering halt.
He rose wearily from the seat, head buzzing, a rotten taste in his
mouth. He didnt feel one bit like moving from his spot, but he
had no choice. Sighing, he brushed back his hair with one hand and
slipped on his glasses. That was when he noticed something lying on
the seat opposite his own. He reached over and picked it up. Then his
lips formed a wan, regretful smile.
was a small pack of Chocolate Frogs.
that first hurdle with Ron, the rest of the work was comparatively
easy. He did things with a single-mindedness that was almost
ruthlessness. First, he spoke with the Quidditch captains, Fred and
George. Neither had outbursts like Rons; apparently they knew
they owed him their lifes work. They begged and pleaded and
offered him all sorts of bribes, but Harry remained adamant. Next was
Professor McGonagall. When he told her, the Headmistress of
Gryffindor did not react. If she felt disappointment or anger, it did
not cross her mind to show it. She merely gazed at him coldly through
her spectacles and said, Very well, then went back to her
paperwork. Harry left her office feeling more depressed than he
expected to be. Lastly, there was Professor Dumbledore, who alone
took it well.
rest of the school was surprised by the news of his decision, but it
had been merely the first of a long line of surprises. Hogwarts had
two new teachers. The first was Professor Cowl, who replaced Snape as
Potions Master. Of course, rumors of Snapes whereabouts flew
thick and fast.
found a better job as new Headmaster of Durmstrang!
hiding from the Dark Lord and ran away to Finland with a jazz band!
theorized he was working as an agent for the Order of the Phoenix,
but there was neither proof of this nor of the Orders
existence. Snape had vanished with no more explanation than the
official onehe was on holiday in Siberia, for health reasons.
To this Ron commented, If there is anyone in the world who
could get healthier living in Siberia, it would be Snape. Amen,
said the Gryffindors.
Julius Cowl was a tall, balding man in his mid-thirties, with large
ears and spade feet. He was always immaculately dressed, but often
kept pushing up his glasses and nervously tugging at his robes, as if
these didnt fit him well. Hed also bring a dozen Potions
books with him to class, packed in two bulging briefcases. When he
lectured, hed read straight from a book without ever looking
up. He never asked questions. Exams were all written. He never made a
real potion let alone touched any of the instruments on the table. In
his own words, Potions were all about exposition, exposition,
exposition. This of course, was no problem with Hermione, but
did absolutely nothing for Harry or the other students. It got bad
for the Slytherins in particular, who practically lost a doting
godfather. They called Professor Cowl the cruelest things behind his
back and almost never turned in homework.
just plain awful! Hermione remarked one lunchtime. Some
of them openly sleep in class!
said Harry, its not as if the Professor notices.
against the Dark Arts class was quite the contrast. From the moment
Professor Adrianna Summershield swept into the room, all eyes were on
her. They stayed on her from the moment she said hello till she bid
them goodbye. And when she left, the room went abuzz with talk.
dont believe it! said Hermione. She must be no
older than twenty-five!
hope shes more than her looks, said Harry.
it turned out, she was a capable professor. Certainly not in the
caliber of Lupin or Moody (the fake one, that is), but close enough.
Her style was always the samelecture in the first half,
hands-on in the second. In this way they tackled stirges,
will-o-wisps, frostlings, and lastly, imps. The only complaint Harry
had was that she was rather slow in getting to the next topic. It was
as if there was not much road to cover, and she was purposely taking
one else seemed to notice, though. In the days that followed, there
appeared to be a gradual change in seating arrangementboys
occupied the front area more, and girls stayed at the back. Everyone
found her pleasant and accommodating, even if she was a bit of a
loner. Lavender and Parvati disliked her for some obscure reason.
Well, thought Harry as he observed the class, maybe not so obscure.
hadnt the chance to talk with Ginny again for a weekschoolwork
and that business with Ron simply took him away. Then one Saturday,
he spotted her sitting by herself at the Gryffindor table, idly
writing in the same book he had picked up in the meadow. As he gazed
at her, he was seized by a sudden thoughthe hadnt bought
her those sweets hed promised.
approached her and said, Hello, Ms. Weasley.
looked up at him in surprise, but only for a moment. Mr.
Potter! she said with measured cheerfulness. How nice to
see you again.
you saw me just yesterday, at Gryffindor. We said hi.
nice to see you up close, for once.
chuckled. Okay, okay, Im sorry we hadnt had a
chance to talk. Mind if I sat down?
said nothing, but looked down at her book and started writing again.
Ginny? he said, sincere as can be. Im really sorry.
she said nothing.
Ill get you the Strawberry Creamwhatsits on the next Hogsmeade
looked up again. Creampuffins. But she smiled this
time, and made space for him to sit beside her. They whittled away
the afternoon in the Great Hall, talking as they had in the Burrow.
Harry had a great time; Ginny never seemed to run out of stories.
I said Wingardium Leviosa and did the swish-and-flick
thing with my wand, but the feather didnt float! So Professor
Flitwick said, Try again, and when I did
shot off my table like a dart and struck him on the nose! Poor
Professor Flitwick was so shocked he tumbled off the stack of books
he was standing on.
had laughed so hard hed gone beet red. And that was when
the stack collapsed on him and you had to dig him out?
laughing! said Ginny. It wasnt funny. I was lucky
he was too nice to give detention to a First Year.
talking with Ginny was fun, it wasnt the same as talking with
Ron. However, they hadnt said a word to each other throughout
the whole of September. If Harry had to know something important, he
had to talk to Hermione. It was Fourth Year all over again, and this
time things were even worse. It was physically impossible for him to
study in the same room Ron was in, and even eating at the same table
became a chore. He could not be sure how Ron felt about it all, but
he was downright miserable: not speaking like this made him feel like
hed been holding his breath for far too long.
such, life with Malfoy had become even worse; he got vicious at every
are the lovebirds still having a spat?
so glum, Potter? Dont have your Ronniekins to hold your hand,
and make up! Kiss and make up! Kiss and MAKE-UP!
Slytherins would roar in laughter and join the chant. Harry would
grit his teeth as he walked past. He couldnt say anything. Not
if Ron wasnt fighting back either.
liked the situation between the two even less. She would spend her
time finding ways to get them to talk to each other. Shed
plead, cajole, threaten, stomp her foot, slap Ron upside the
headnothing worked. Ron remained adamant, Harry likewise.
Finally, Hermione decided on the extreme: she tricked them into going
inside a pitch-dark walk-in closet containing a boggart, and locked
had gotten nasty, but it worked. Despite opening old wounds all of
the first hour, they were forced to work together to get out and in
the process, made up. Of course, both of them ended up not talking to
Hermione, but that didnt take her half as long to patch up.
days went by in Hogwartslife was slow and uneventful, for once.
Perhaps it was the absence of Snape that did it. Perhaps because
there hadnt been a single sign that Voldemort was back in the
world. So for the most part, the students of Hogwarts went on with
their lives as if the last year hadnt happened.
Harry, there had been a thread of unease he couldnt ignore.
the school year began, his scar had been occasionally bothering him.
Sometimes it would itch or burn for a little while, other times the
pain would lance through his forehead before instantly vanishing.
Harry thought of telling Dumbledore about it, but then again, he was
not comfortable with the idea of running to his office with every
minor ache he had. Besides which, there was really nothing much to
tell. There was an itch, a sting, then nothing.
was the middle of October when finally Harry got an idea of how bad
things were eventually going to get.
night he woke in agony, screaming and clutching at his scar. Every
boy in the dormitory woke with a start. Ron stumbled out of bed,
demanding to know what happened. Harry remained huddled where he was,
trembling in pain and fear. It was as if someone had traced his scar
with a white hot razor. It took several minutes for the pain to die
away so he could finally think.
had done something very hatefulperhaps even murderous. But try
as he might, he could not recall enough of the nightmare to figure
out what it was.
of the answer came the very next day.
could clearly remember that moment. It was breakfast time and
everyone had gathered in the Great Hall. Harry had just finished
eating when an owl flew in and dropped the Daily Prophet in front of
Seamus who sat beside him. Seamus read the headlines aloud.
42-year old Muggle Michael Dunn and his three wizard sons Justin,
Douglas and Sean, have been missing for the past 72 hours. The Dunn
family was last seen in Balder's Hill, preparing for a weekend
camping trip. Officials believe they had lost their way to the
skin prickled as Seamus skipped to the description beneath the
Michael Dunn and his three sons. Rescue Wizards are combing the
forests south of Balder's Hill. If you have seen any of them, please
inform the Ministry of Magic
his will, Harry turned and looked at the picture on the paper. His
fears were confirmedboth the name and the kindly face of the
missing man were those from his dream. He felt his blood turn to ice
water as he watched the mans three handsome sons squeezing into
the small frame, waving up at him. Voldemort had called this man by
name, had personally done something to him and his sons.
had heard it, the high voice of the Dark Lord
them carefully, Michael Dunn. Can you see the life ebbing from their
eyes? I never tire of watching that.
the man was crying, screaming through the bars of his cage. No!
Please let them go! Ill do anything you askjust dont
let them die, I beg you!
deaths will not be in vain, my friend. They shall die for you. So you
will become stronger. So you will know what it is like to hate.
sat still, staring at Michael Dunns kindly face. In his mind,
it seemed to be twisting, turning feral, angry. It was something not
human. Something very, very bad.
him, Ron was commenting, Is it me, or are more people getting
lost in the woods nowadays?
theyre lost, Im sure they can use the Point-Me Charm to
find their way, Dean said.
not much help if they dont know where they are, Hermione
interjected. Its the Rescue Wizards job now.
whatre we doing for Potions later? someone asked. What?
Not another quiz! What is it with Cowl?
said, Dont get me started on Cowl! Did you know that
Colin and Dennis have started a poll? Which Professor is more
boring: Binns vs. Cowl! I heard they were thinking of a title
fight where both give lectures and we see which puts the most
students to sleep.
stop it, said Ginny. Dont make fun of Professor
Cowl. He gets enough of that from the Slytherins.
writing again? Lemme see
hear Summershield likes
someone pass the pepper?
Seamus suddenly said. Harry, are you all right?
skin had lost all feeling. Everything sounded odd and distant. The
faces looking at him had turned into bright blurs. His throat burned.
It hurt to breathe.
Ron was looking at him, puzzled. Harry felt him touch his shoulder,
and flinched as if stung.
need to get out, he said hoarsely. He stood and left his seat
without another word.
he got to the doors of the Great Hall, he broke into a run.
ran as if it meant his life. Shouts came from behind, some running
feet, but he did not stop or turn. He kept on goingout the
Hall, down the steps, swerving through a crowd, past bewildered faces
of students and teachers. Figures in paintings turned to watch. A
suit of armor he passed saluted stiffly. Somebody shouted, No
running in the halls! No running
hurtled through the main doorway and into bright sunshine. Before he
knew it he was sprinting across the grass towards the lake. When he
made it to the shore he started running along it, going clock-wise
around the lake. Presently he found what his mind had been
half-looking fora lonely copse of trees on a grassy hillock
hed once seen on the road to Hogsmeade.
ran behind the largest tree and collapsed on his hands and knees. He
felt his stomach convulsing, then came the bitter taste of bile. His
hand clamped onto his mouth. He didnt know how he held it down,
but he did.
crawled to the tree and sat down, leaning against it. His eyes
strayed to the lake on his right. It was a moving mass of deep blue,
glittering beneath an autumn sun. It looked beautiful, but it only
invoked a sharp ache inside of him. Somewhere on this earth, a man
and his three sons were never going to see anything like it ever
lake vanished like a mirage before his eyes as a pain-filled moan
filled his ears. It sounded like a dying animal, and at first he
couldnt convince himself that it came from him. He screwed up
his eyes and clamped his jaws shut, but all the same tears burned
their way down his cheeks and sobs broke from the deepest part of his
lungs. It seemed almost ludicroushe was crying, for someone
hed never met. But some internal voice told him he had to mourn
them, because no else could. No one else knew but him.
he also mourned for himself, for that same reason.
didnt know how long he stayed there, waiting for his grief to
empty itself. When he looked up again, the shadow of the tree had
shifted some feet away and the breeze was cooler on his face. He felt
empty and exhausted, but he knew that things would only get worse the
longer he stayed there.
his face, he got up to walk back to Hogwarts. But just as he rounded
the tree, he stopped.
was sitting on the other side. Shed been so quiet he hadnt
noticed her there at all.
looked up and met his gaze. Hi, she whispered. Do
you want to go back now?
stood there, wondering at her, until she repeated the question.
dont know, was all he could reply.
lowered her head, and in small voice, said, We could just stay
here, if you like.
he almost said, but pushed the thought away. He couldnt, not
looking like this.
right, he said.
seemed grateful and shy at the same time, making space for him to sit
beside her while keeping her eyes averted. Harry sat on the grass and
crossed his legs.
was afraid to ask, but couldnt help it. How long have you
been sitting here?
got here a few moments after you did
I saw you running
away, and everyone stood there staring. I couldnt
didnt think. Ron and Hermione are looking for you too. I ran
out here and
and I heard you. Im sorry, I
nodded. Guess I catch peoples attention no matter what I
not like you did anything wrong! Sometimes
people need to get
fingered a blade of grass beside her for a moment, then drew a breath
and said, Harry, what happened? Can you tell me? I
to help if I can. I dont like seeing you like this.
don't like it anymore than you do. But no, I dont think you can
but why? I dont understand.
longed to tell her. He wanted to let her know that he sometimes knew
these terrible things. He wanted to let her know how he felt so
helpless and angry. How much he hated being Harry Potter.
yet, he felt there was no way to describe its totality. He felt that
if he tried, his faltering words would burn him as anew, that hed
break down again and cry like a child in front of her.
He swallowed, tried not to shudder. Time. I
just need a little time.
watched him, disappointed that he wouldnt say any more. She
pulled her knees closer to her body. I
I could go
felt something tighten in his chest. Dont, he said.
Then, more gently, Dont.
sat still for a time. He waited for her to ask again. He knew she
wanted to ask why.
she didnt anymore. Side by side, they continued to stare at the
gentle waves on the lake, and at the sunlit wildflowers that nodded
with the wind. After a while she looked at him, smiled, and picked up
a dandelion near her shoe. She held it up. Make a wish, Harry.
returned her smile sadly. Do they count for anything?
do. They always do. Trust me.
he closed his eyes
wish that no one would ever suffer because of me
blew on the dandelion in her hand. The little tuft burst into a cloud
of spiraling wisps. Ginny picked up another dandelion and blew on it.
Her cloud mingled with his, and they watched the dandelions rise into
the air, borne gently by the wind.
was a good half-hour before they spoke again. Better now?
little better, I guess.
go back then. Ron and Hermione must be having seizures by now.
they stood up and dusted their robes, he caught her eye and said,
I havent even gotten you your Creampuffins
one of her little smiles lit up her face. Thats all
right. I only like watching them waddling around anyway. And Mum
always told me not to play with my food.
was strange to see her take his hand and look him in the eye, and not
you tell me, someday? she asked.
hand was small and soft and warm in his. It was an odd, sweet warmth
that spread throughout his body, easing his grief. And something in
him responded. He gave her hand a light squeeze.
will, Ginny. Someday.
though both Harry and Ginny did get separate detentions for missing
class, none of their friends mentioned the incident. The Gryffindors
never asked Harry if he was all right, though he sometimes saw them
watching him from the corner of his eye. It made him uncomfortable.
Once again it crossed their minds that he was different from them,
that he, as Rita Skeeter mentioned, was unstable. But he
could hardly blame them this time. Not with the way hed
and Hermione tried to ask him what had happened, but each time they
tried Harry always managed to change the subject. It worried Hermione
and frustrated Ron to no end, but to Harrys relief they
eventually quit asking.
Harry could not escape Dumbledore. The Headmaster called for him that
very evening, although not to his office. They met at a deserted
balcony, overlooking the expanse of the Forbidden Forest.
they stood together, gazing at the moon as it rose over the forest,
the Headmaster said to him, "I do not wish to add to your
burden, Harry, by having you recount what you have seen. I am also
sorry I have not given you time to recover. It is difficult, but
lives may depend on itI understand, sir, Harry finished.
He did not mean to be rude, but he felt very weary. He wanted this to
be over. He did not look at Dumbledore. He did not want to see pity
or sympathy in the old mans gaze. No one could ever understand
how much he was suffering. He did not want to see anyone try and
he told the Headmaster what he saw as stoically as he could, though
he still had to pause several times. Dumbledore did not interrupt or
bother to ask questions. Half an hour later, he let Harry go.
Harry lay in bed that night, he waited for another onslaught of
nightmares. They came, but only as repetitions of what he had already
seen. Just shadows plays in his head, destined to fade. No more
agonizing visions came to him in the months that followed, and for
this he was relieved.
friendship with Ginny grew as the year went by, something he was very
thankful for. They talked often, sitting together at Gryffindor Table
long after classes were done. She would go with them on trips to
Hogsmeade. She chose to stay at Hogwarts for the holidays, and when
Christmas Day came Harry found a gift from her sitting at the foot of
his bed. He read the attached letter, and opened the gaily-decorated
was the scarf she had been making all summer. Harry held it up and
gazed at it in wonder. Golden griffins played on a red background, no
two of them alike. At each end of the scarf, two large griffins stood
upright, wide wings outstretched like sun rays. In their beaks each
held a rose as if in offering. The edge of the scarf was trimmed by
golden vines. The wool was soft and carried a ghostly scent of lilac.
believing his luck, he left the dormitory to find Ginny and say thank
you. When he got to the balcony, he found her sitting in the Common
Room with some very amused Gryffindors, staring at the table where
she had placed Harrys gift for her.
the table were dozens of red and pink Creampuffins, waddling here and
there, looking over the tables edge and blinking up at the
onlookers with their caramel eyes. Ginny watched them in delight.
Then she seemed to sense him watching her and gazed up to where he
was. A smile formed on her lips, as it did in her eyes.
wouldve been perfect. It wouldve been one of the best
friendships hed ever had. Then one day in late January, while
walking with her from the Library, he accidentally dropped his
glasses on the floor, and she picked them up and put them back on his
face. Then everything changed.
main doors had long been locked, so Harry took a secret entrance
located behind a bush, on the east wall of the school. With his
Invisibility cloak on, there was no danger of being seen, but Harry
was careful as he picked his way through the dark, sloping passage,
one hand splayed on the wall to guide him along. Moody and Dumbledore
spoke of a spy in Hogwarts. He hoped he was sleeping right now,
whoever it was. He forced himself not to think about what would
happen if he got caught through his own carelessness.
tunnel exit was hidden behind a tapestry. Harry lifted it aside and
stepped back into the halls of Hogwarts. It felt odd to be back here.
He had walked through these halls countless times before during the
day and night, yet the wide, moonlit halls looked alien to him now,
its curtains and carpets only vaguely familiar. He didnt know
if this had to do with his leaving Hogwarts, or because an unknown
intruder was lurking somewhere in this school.
looked from one end to the other, listening for footsteps. Not a
sound could be heard. Nodding to himself, Harry slowly made his way
up to Gryffindor Tower.
walk seemed torturously long. Sweat pasted his hair to his neck, his
jaws hurt from the strain of being clamped shut. But he made it to
the portrait of the Fat Lady just the same.
was fast asleep on her enormous chair, one cheek cushioned by a hand.
Here, Harry had no choice but to show himself. After one last furtive
glance around, he took off his Invisibility cloak and said, Harry
he felt his skin crawl and swell as his own form returned. Tucking
his folded cloak beneath one arm, he then looked up at the Fat Lady
and coughed loudly. She snorted once, but remained asleep.
me! Harry said. When she did not respond, he rapped his fist on
nearly leaped out of the chair. Good heavens! she cried,
and peered down at him in drowsy anger. You?! Didnt I let
you in already?
yes, she said bemusedly. But I couldve sworn
had neither the time nor the mood to be polite. No you havent.
Do you mind?
huffed, but allowed the portrait door to swing open. Harry scrambled
into the Gryffindor Common Room, careful to leave the door ajar.
he had hoped, the room was empty. Despite his relief at this, Harry
thought there was something sad about seeing only the moonlight
occupy the cushy chairs, and only ash sitting in the normally cheery
fireplace. He did not want this to be his last memory of his Common
snapped out his reverie as he heard the Fat Ladys gentle
snoring from behind him. There was little time to spare. He hastily
made his way up the stairs to the girls dormitory. He was in
the process of turning the door handle when he abruptly stopped.
was he doing?
he really thinking of going in there, waking Ginny in the middle of
the night to tell her some fantastic story about Harry Potter and his
amazing double? Was she going to swallow all that? He could already
imagine the look of disbelief on her face, followed by a disgusted
glare. It sounded like a prank worthy of the twins. Maybe she
wouldnt even let him talkshe could just as well throw him
out the moment she laid eyes on him.
I really have to talk to her? he wondered. Maybe I dont.
Maybe all I need is to see her face again.
could settle for that. That had been the plan all along. He didnt
have to wake her. He didnt have to tell her anything. He could
just look at her face again as she slept. And, with that captured in
his mind, maybe he too could sleep.
added a little more pressure on the doorknob. It squeaked as if in
protest, and from the other side, a voice said, Whos
leaped back and nearly toppled down the stairs. At the sound of his
steps, the voice called again, Is someone there!?
Guilt and panic surged through his veins, and it took several seconds
before it occurred to him that the voice was familiar, that it
He stepped forward, relief washing over him. Hermione? Youre
door opened a crack and a pair of wide eyes peered fearfully at him
in the gloom. There was a gasp and the door swung open completely.
Harry hissed at her, stepping closer.
But, but is itI mean, its really you, isnt
it? She reached out as if to touch his face.
yes its me, Hermione, he replied, grasping her hand. Why
are you awake?
couldnt sleep. I was going to get a glass of water when I heard
a noise and
Oh Harry! Wait hereIll go wake Ron!
just a minute! he said, stopping her. You cant...I
mean, I dont have much time.
I thought you left already! The carriage
swallowed, looked her straight in the eye. I decided to take
some good advice before I go.
stared him, confused. Mustering his courage, he said, Can I
I go in and see Ginny?
eyes widened in surprise, and then filled with comprehension, then
just as suddenly, excitement. Wait here, she said. She
turned and ran down the corridor.
are you going?! Panicking, Harry made a grab for her hand but
missed. Youre not going to
she admonished, and vanished into the shadows.
waited in the doorway, palms dampening anew, heart pounding much too
loudly in his ears. Twice he started down the stairs, but something
kept him going back. He had come too far. He had to see this through.
did not take long for him to hear the soft sound of approaching
footsteps. His heart leaped to his mouth as he heard that familiar,
sleepy voice: Hermione, dyou have any idea what time it
minute, one minute, wheedled his friend. Its just
something you have to see.
stepped into the slant of moonlight from a nearby window. Ginny was
in her pale blue nightgown, rubbing her bleary eyes, her
pillow-tousled hair lying free on her shoulders. Harry was struck by
the sight of her; she had looked just like that once, back in the
Burrow. The memory filled him with a sudden, sweet ache. Somehow that
time no longer seemed so far away. He felt he could breach that
barrier of two summers here and now, if he so wanted.
whispered, Harry? Are you there?
the mention of his name, Ginny froze. The hand that had been rubbing
her eye fell to her side.
Harry said softly. He kept his eyes on Ginny as he stepped into the
light. Im here.
a moment, they merely regarded each other.
she broke the silence. Harry, she said, frowning. Isnt
it a little late for us to be talking?
flinched. Everything hed thought of saying fled from his brain.
It took every inch of his will to remain standing where he was.
right, he said after a moment. It sounded like the right thing
to say. Im sorry I bothered you
paused, eyes flicking to Hermione. Her eyes seemed to reassure him.
came here because I wanted
because I thought we could talk for a
dont know if weve anything to talk about, she
do, Harry said quickly. Theres something I have to
tell you. If youd only listen
I say no?
spoke up. Harrys leaving, Ginny. Dumbledores sent
him on some kind of mission, and he came here to say goodbye.
felt at once relieved and dismayed by his best friends
interruption. Helplessly he watched Ginny look at Hermione in
surprise, then drag her eyes back to him. He swallowed again, stepped
forward. Can we talk, then? Alone? Please?
did not respond, did not even seem to know what to say. Her white
hands clutched at the hem of her gown. He took another step towards
her. Ginny? When was the last time he said that name out
loud? And why did it feel wrong to say it?
stood there quietly, eyes shifting to and fro, looking at anything
but him. Finally she looked up and nodded once.
felt that odd mix of relief and nervousness surge again in his veins.
He nodded numbly to her as if in thanks, and turned to Hermione. Go
ahead, she said, and hurry up! Ill just go make
sure theyre all asleep. Heaven knows, she added, in a low
voice, Rons never going to forgive me if he found out you
were here and I didnt even wake him.
nodded again, turned and started down the stairs. He heard Ginnys
light footsteps follow behind him, not too closely. He swallowed. His
tongue tasted of sun-baked sand.
a few moments he found himself in the Common Room once more. The
moonlight from the window cut a pale box in the middle of the floor.
Harry stepped into it gingerly and turned around. Ginny followed,
watching him cautiously. Harry watched her red hair burn copper in
the ashen light. They stood together, half-illuminated, half-hidden
in the gloom.
it true? she asked. Youre going away?
he said. The journeys supposed to be a secret. Im
supposed to leave tonight. In an hour, in fact.
long will you be away?
think only two weeks.
averted her eyes. Is it
is it someplace dangerous?
dont think so. Dumbledores made sure Ill be safe.
She simply nodded, not knowing what more to say. He went on, Ron
and Hermione were the only ones who knew. After a while, I thought
thought it would only be fair if I came here and said goodbye to
the last minute? she asked, looking up at him.
felt shame burning in his cheeks. Hed never considered shed
see it that way.
wasnt sure if it was the right thing to do, he said.
Dumbledore wanted me to keep it secret.
why didnt you?
looked at her in disbelief. What?
didnt you keep it a secret? Why didnt you just go?
suddenlysurprisinglyfound himself defensive. You
wanted me to keep it secret? You didnt want me to tell you? Is
if it is?
thats niceI guess I wasted my time by coming here!
eyes flashed. I guess you did! Considering how youve
behaved over the past few months this would be a waste of time
bit down on harsher words. I may be late but at least I didnt
leave. At least Im here.
stepped forward, fists clenched. And I want to know why
youre here, Harry! After all this time! For half a year you
made me feel like Id fallen off the face of the earth, and now
youre suddenly here talking to me! Why do you want to tell me
all this? Dont you think I should know that?
said the only thing that came to his head.
I thought you deserved to know!
odd expression crossed her face, and she turned her gaze away. When
she spoke again, it was in a strangled voice.
not going to tell me anything more, are you.
suddenly felt dirty, like he had played a trick on her. He wanted
tell her something, to apologize, but she spoke first.
are you going away? she said, her voice still unsteady. Are
you allowed to talk about it?
Dumbledore made me promise. I cant even tell Ron and Hermione.
youll be back after two weeks.
he said, then added, I promise.
looked at him. You promised things before, you know.
he said, with sincere regret, I know. I
shook her head, saying, Dont say it, if you dont
gazed at her steadily. Then he said, Im sorry, Ginny.
mouth was silent but her eyes were not. Were there tears in them, or
was it just the moonlight? He didn't know. He only knew that he had
to keep talking.
said, Ginny, theres something else.
he told her all about the homunculus. It took all of ten minutes, and
as he spoke, Ginnys eyes kept widening in shock. When he was
done, she sucked in her breath and let out a long sigh.
is a bit much, she said, shakily.
me about it, he replied. When Dumbledore told me what had
to be done, I nearly fell off my chair.
turned her head to look out the window. I didnt think it
would be this bad, she said. I didnt think that
things would change so much or so fast, that wed have to worry
about such things. All we had before were grades and friends and
whos going out with whom
She turned, walked to a
chair, and sank down. Her eyes were large and shiny with fear.
Whats happening, Harry? I dont understand. It
didnt used to be like this.
sat down on an adjacent chair. I know, Ginny. I think theres
going to be a war. Dumbledore thinks so too. Things will be harder
for us from now on.
shook her head as if to deny it, as if she could make it go away.
if I succeed, Harry went on, if I make this journey worth
it, maybe this nightmare wont last.
half-regretted those words; he was already bending his promise. She
turned to look into his eyes. Youre going to face Him
again, arent you?
could not reply, realizing that part of the reason he could keep
going was that he had tried very hard not to think of the moment hed
have to fight Voldemort once more. This journey was a trifle compared
if he was going to die, he might as well come clean, and say the
things he wanted to say. Or at least
say the ones that wouldnt
do any damage.
looked down at the carpeted floor. Ginny?
He fought for words. His mind trembled at the
edge of memory, but he pushed the distracting thoughts away.
sorry about that time in February.
the corner of his eye he saw her look down as well.
Her voice was low, quiet.
was angry and stupid, he went on. I wasnt myself. I
didnt mean those things I said.
nodded, still not looking at him. He turned his head to watch her in
the dim light. Her cheeks had reddened, but she was shivering as if
you forgive me? he asked.
Harry. Its okay.
he wanted to touch her, to make her stop feeling cold or sad or
unsure. He reached for her hand, for the soft warmth he remembered
from that time by the lake. If he held her hand, maybe that day would
come back. Maybe everything would be all right.
spoke abruptly. Youd better go. Its dangerous for
you to stay here any longer. She stood up.
hand dropped to his side once more. Something sank inside of him.
slowly got to his feet and stood beside her. Without a word he
allowed her to lead him to the portrait door. There, she faced him
dont know whats going to happen, and I barely know whats
going on. But I do know well all be waiting for you to come
back. Ron, Hermione, and me.
you, too. For stopping by.
smiled a little and said, with measured cheerfulness, Well,
take care, Mr. Potter.
returned her smile as best he could. I will. You too, Ms.
pushed the portrait door open and slipped outside. It shut softly
stood there for long moments, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the
dark. Coming here had been a relief, yes, but he also felt the cold
comfort of their goodbye squarely in his guts.
shouldnt be feeling this way, he told himself, as he put on his
cloak. He found himself fumbling with the clasp; his fingers were
turning numb from his dried sweat and the cold air. I shouldnt
be feeling like this. I did what I came here to do.
feeling would not leave, promising sleepless nights ahead. Harry
pulled the Invisibility Cloak tightly around his shoulders, vanishing
did what I came here to do, the air whispered hoarsely.
there was only silence.
remained where she was, watching the square of light lying on the
Common Room floor. Was it just moments before that Harry was standing
there? It seemed surreal. It seemed like it happened years ago, or
that it happened with someone else and she was merely watching from
across the room.
kept on staring, picturing him there and straining to remember his
voice, and how the moonlight glimmered in his green eyes. She tried
to call back his wordsand it hurt to do so. She had not felt it
hurt in so long. And she had thought hed never be able to hurt
stepped into the box, breaking moonlight and silence. Is he
gone? I, I wanted to say goodbye too.
looked into her friends eyes, at the sorrow mirrored there.
her surprise, the last word came in a sob. Her hands flew to her
mouthshe could hardly believe she was crying, but she was.
Tears were running freely down her cheeks and onto her fingers. Her
vision was blurring, her breath hitching in her lungs.
quickly closed the distance between them and put her arms around her.
Ginny sank gratefully into her embrace, burying her face in her
okay, Ginny, whispered Hermione. Its going to be
okay. Hell be back, I know he will.
was not listening. She could only hear her sobs, and the wild
thudding of her heart, brimming with confusion and longing and fear.