The Sugar Quill
Author: Snooty Bob  Story: Last Night I Dreamt I Went in Slytherin Again  Chapter: Chapter one
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Last Night I Dreamt I Went in Slytherin Again - First chapter

Last Night I Dreamt I Went in Slytherin Again - First chapter.

By: Snooty Bob.

 

That night I dreamt I went in Slytherin again. It seemed to me I stood before the stone door leading to the Slytherin common room, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. No one had told me the password to open the door. I called in my dream to the prefect - and had no answer. Looking around in the corridor, I saw not a single person. No sound of students bustling around, although the sorting and the feast had ended just minutes ago.

Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed suddenly with supernatural powers, and I opened my mouth and spoke in a hissing, spitting, strange voice I did not recognise: a language I hadn’t known I could speak. I passed like a spirit through the stone door before me. At first, I was puzzled and did not understand. It was only when I saw the picture of the serpent on the door I had just passed through that I realised what had happened.

In front of the common room fire stood a dark woman with large wings on her back dressed in magnificent clothes of white, gold, and cobalt blue. I stared at the woman unable to look anywhere else. Her eyes, a mesmerizing ice-cold void, were made all the more frightening by the fact that they didn’t have any pupils. Light blue, they conveyed no emotion: just a cold un-averted stare that gave off heat in radiant waves.

“There are bars on your window Virginia. How cruel and unusual,” the stranger said. Her voice was a soft smooth hiss, and though barely audible, it felt strong and powerful, like I was hearing her inside my head. “You can see the summer outside and taste the freedom, but you dare not have it,” she continued.

I wanted to run or scream, but I couldn’t move or stop staring. Never taking her eyes from me, the woman continued in her hissing whisper,  “‘You did discover yourself ’, sang the Memphite poet, in the circumstance of one who made for himself a seat, and shaped the Two Lands. The Souls of the dead passed through every species of terrestrial, aquatic, and winged creatures. After a lapse of three thousand years, they entered a second time into human bodies.” She paused as if searching me for an answer. When only soft crackling from the fire disturbed the eerie silence, she continued. “Our kind are so few Virginia, we are always glad to welcome another into the circle of the flame.” As she spoke, the flames of the fire suddenly rose, roaring and reaching very high. The semidarkness of the room was replaced with an intense light. When I looked down at the floor, I saw it was filled with thick slithering snakes that crawled in heaps on top of each other, wheezing in a soft ominous way, their scaly skin, and yellow eyes glistening in the light of the maddening flames. Large shades of scorpions were cast on the wall behind the woman. I wanted to scream that I didn’t understand, that I didn’t want to be in Slytherin, and I didn’t want to see another revolting, slimy snake for as long as I lived, but I felt so afraid that I couldn’t say or do anything. I kept staring at the woman. Snakes wrapped around her ankles. “Don’t be afraid,” she said, as she slowly moved closer, soundlessly, seemingly without her feet moving, her ever-piercing eyes growing unnaturally large and close. “Remember how we agreed to help each other. I hope you will make good on your promise, Virginia..."

I woke with a start and a gasp. My forehead was cold and I felt drenched in sweat.

“Did you have a bad dream again sweetheart?” Dad was sitting beside me on the bed stroking my hair gently. “I went to check on you and you were moaning and thrashing about.”

I looked into the usually whimsical, and humorous eyes that were now thoughtful and concerned, and felt reality slowly coming back in the darkness.

“I’m alright Dad,” I said. “It wasn’t that bad this time.” That was not altogether true: the dream still seemed very vivid, and chilling, but I didn’t want to make Dad worry too much.

“Shall I leave the lamp on in the hallway?”

“Dad, I’m not a little girl. I really don’t need the light on to sleep.”

“No, of course not. I know what a brave girl you are, how brave you had to be. In fact, I think you are one of the bravest girls in Gryffindor. You know that don’t you? I’m really sorry you had to be, but it’s over now all the same, save for a few bad dreams. They will be gone soon enough, you’ll see.”

I wondered if this was true, considering what had happened in Egypt. I wanted again to tell him, but I couldn’t do it. I thought about how I became a monster in my dreams, but I didn’t say anything about it to Dad.  

“Maybe it would be all right if you just wanted to pretend to be a little girl,” he continued, smiling. “Perhaps it would make you feel better. No one needs to know but the two of us.”

“Alright then, to make you happy you can leave it on.”

“Yes, only to make your old dad happy, “ Dad said, smiling. ”You’d better sleep now so you have the energy for Diagon Alley tomorrow. Lots of things to buy, you know. It is going to be a busy day. ” He smiled, cheerful again and whispered “Lumos!” to the light outside my room as he stepped out.  ” Good night, sweetheart. Sleep well,” he said.

“Good night Dad.”

I thought about Diagon Alley. It made me calmer. It was going to be fun really, and Harry would be there. I sighed and fell back on the pillow. I entertained myself with a little scene of meeting Harry again after the summer. In my fantasy, I ruffled his black unruly hair and greeted him with, “Hello, my hero. Have the Muggles been treating you right?” He would look at me with those dreamy green eyes and smile. “Hello Ginny! What’s that you’ve done to your hair? It looks really good on you.” The warm fuzzy feeling and the light did help. I fell asleep again.

Coming down to breakfast in the morning, I didn’t feel very rested. Mother was busy in the kitchen making food for all my brothers and myself. I yawned and sat down at the table feeling tired.

“Well dear, aren’t you going to help me set the table?” Mum said. I stood slowly and started setting plates, forks, and knives. The bacon was spitting and crackling in the frying pan, along with Dad’s favourite sausages (no one would touch them except him, so Mum only made a few on the side). As I set bread and butter on the table, and scrambled eggs were magically making themselves along with baked beans on the stove, Ron came into the kitchen. His face looked swollen and tired, and his eyes were blood shot. He threw himself down at the table.

“Why do we always have to go to Diagon Alley so bloody early?” he asked, grabbing a bowl for his porridge.

“Language!” Mum said threateningly without turning. A tumultuous clatter of feet bustling down the stairs announced that Fred and George were coming down for breakfast as well. They sat down at the table noisily, chattering, pouring porridge, and before long Dad came into the kitchen with the paper tucked under his arm, still in his pyjamas with a Weasley sweater, the telltale mark of the Weasley male, and the result of my mother’s endless knitting efforts, over his pyjama shirt. He peeked at his sausages in the pan. 

“Did you sleep well sweetheart?” he said.

“Yes, very well thank you.” I said. Ron gave me a look. I suppose he thought my response sounded oddly formal, but I sure wasn’t going to let him in on the reason for my somewhat stiff manner. With such an onslaught of brothers, avoiding being teased to death was always prime priority.

“Lovely, lovely,” Dad said, opening the paper as he sat down. Mum served him the sausages on his plate.

“Now eat plenty dears,” she said beaming around at us, “we have lots to do today so you need energy.”

Parents, I thought with a sigh, all you have to do to make them happy is to eat with all your might and make sure to wear warm clothing- as long as you also refrain from being overly creative with vulgar language of course, but that was more of Ron’s problem. Some days I don’t know how I can be related to that boy.

“Is that what you are going to wear?” Ron said. “And what’s with the makeup? Do you think wearing Muggle jeans will make Harry notice you?”

“Why don’t you try a book on your head?” I sneered back at him. “Your precious Hermione might like you better.”

“What do I care what she thinks?” Ron tried to sound casual leaning for toast, all while his ears turned furiously red.

“Tuck in your ears, carrot head. The red light is blinding us.” I said with glee.

“Now, children,” Dad said from behind his paper.

“Actually, if Harry doesn’t think she’s pretty, he’d have to be daft,” Fred said with his mouth full of bread. Mother looked at him, frowning. Now it was my turn to become red. My cheeks burned unpleasantly as I busied myself with my egg and bacon. I did think my worn jeans and pink sweater looked nice, in a sort of cool way. However, that was only part of the reason for wearing Muggle clothing. I was hoping that I might get permission to slip into Muggle London for a while when we were going to Diagon Alley. I loved to go exploring for a bit on my own, but the prospects for being allowed that were uncertain. Wearing the right clothes just in case would be essential, though, to pass off as a Muggle. Robes tended to attract unwanted attention.

“Behave yourselves, or you’ll have to stay at home. Your mother and I surely wouldn’t mind some quiet and peace all by ourselves at the Leaky Cauldron, the way you lot go on all the time around here, so don’t tempt us,” Dad threatened jokingly from behind his paper. Mother winked to him with a look I thought seemed just a little bit naughty. “By the way,” he continued, lowering his paper, “I need to pop over to the Ministry for a bit to settle that thing about the cars.”

“What cars?” said Ron.

“The Ministry is going to help us all get our things over to Kings Cross station tomorrow.”

“What for?” said Ron.

“They're being helpful, that’s all,” Dad muttered, turning back to the paper.

“Dad, can I please come with you!” I said. Dad lowered the paper looking at me.

“What do you want to do at the Ministry? Wouldn’t Diagon Alley be more fun?”

“I wondered if I could go for a walk in London. Just to look around a little,” I said, cocking my head.

“That is out of the question!” Mum intervened rather sharply. “I will not have you wander around Muggle London by yourself, especially not now with Sirius Black on the loose!

“That’s not fair!” I said, angrily. “I know a lot about the Muggles! I can even ride on the underground, if I only had some Muggle money. It’s not that difficult at all.”

“What is it anyway with you and all the Muggle stuff lately?” Ron said. “Why do you want to be with the stupid Muggles when there is Diagon Alley?” Fred and George stopped eating and looked at him.

“Now Ron,” Dad said. “I won’t have any of that attitude towards Muggles in my house. Wizards should learn more about Muggles (the wizard on the front of Dad’s paper nodded furiously in agreement), or do you want to go live at Malfoy Manor? What if Hermione heard you talking like that?”

“Sorry Dad,” Ron said, looking down at his plate. Red colour crept up on his ears and cheeks once more.

“Here’s what we’ll do, Ginny,” Dad continued. “I’ll be quick at the Ministry and then we can go for a walk, maybe look at the Egyptian things at the museum. That could be interesting to compare to the things we saw on our holiday.”

“Excellent!” I said, smiling at him. Mum didn’t seem totally satisfied with the plan but she didn’t say anything as she got up from the table to busy herself with something at the stove.

“Good morning everybody, mother, father.” Percy greeted us as he came into the kitchen and sat down.

“Good morning Percy, old chap,” George said. He jerked Percy’s bowl away, right as he was about to pour porridge. Percy stopped himself just in time to avoid pouring on the table. “How is the young leader of tomorrow doing this morning?” George continued. Percy chose to pretend that George didn’t exist as he spread butter on a piece of bread.

 

 

It was almost lunch before Dad and I could step onto the London underground platform. The mandatory extra hour of Weasley confusion after breakfast, and the trip with the old Floo Network to Diagon Alley, not to mention a whole lot of fussing and lecturing, was over, and we had finally ventured out in the Muggle world.

It was brutal the way the train rushed out of the tunnel with a deafening roar and a wall of air hitting you in the face. People stood only a foot from the screaming mad metal monster that engulfed every conversation. I automatically took a step back. When the train finally stopped, the crowd of grunting, pushing people swept us inside and all I could do was to follow. 

Leicester Square, Tottenham, Warren Street, and Euston train station. Endlessly flashing underground windows, signs, red lights and green, carried us through the Muggle neon madness. It was fascinating and very strange. Imagine the trouble these people had to go through without the Floo Network every day just to get to work. You did get a little less dirty in the face, though.

“Dad, why are we going on the underground? Haven’t we missed the museum by now?”

“Actually, to be honest, we are travelling on the underground for a bit of fun,” Dad said. “I thought perhaps you’d like to stop by that nice little place with the antiques and the books. Maybe you would like to buy something to read at Hogwarts, something of the non-magical sort.”

“Yes please!” I replied. “No more bloody diaries!”

“That’s the spirit,” Dad said, smiling broadly. “Joking about it is the road to recovery. Although a lady shouldn’t forget her manners, you know,” he added, rearranging his face in what was supposed to be a serious look. Then he smiled again. 

I looked out at the people around us. I noticed a young boy sitting a cross from us, who had been listening to our conversation. He was quite handsome really, maybe a few years older than me. When I looked at him, he smiled. Before I could stop myself, I smiled back and then I felt very embarrassed. I had to look out the window, pretending to intently study something on the outside. This wasn’t very convincing, however, as we were going through a pitch-black tunnel at that exact moment.

Coming up the stairs from King’s Cross station, I was Virginia in the rain, a Muggle girl just like any other on her way to buy a book or look for some new fashionable Muggle clothes to show off to her Muggle girlfriends. A girl who had never heard of Tom Riddle, who never betrayed her friends, or nearly lured the love of her short life and her brother into certain death. Coming up from the underground in the late summer drizzle, it was at least something possible to imagine. In my inconspicuous Muggle clothes, I imagined I looked like just another girl. That dashing boy on the underground seemed to have thought so at least. That I had my Dad with me was decidedly un-cool, but life of the young is full of compromise, I thought to myself with a sigh. Had Mum had her way, I would be trailing after her helping carry her parcels in Diagon Alley right now.

Many on the street seemed to find the weather awful, hurrying with umbrellas flapping in the wind. I found it quite refreshing, though, and the city was beautiful with its grey and ancient worn streets and buildings, if you had the eyes to see it. Dad had the worst trouble trying to unfold a Muggle umbrella. It was not for lack of enthusiasm, but that man and technical contraptions never did get along. After a few minutes of fruitless attempts while we were both getting increasingly wetter, he finally leaned the umbrella against a wastebasket, eyeing it in disgust. He looked around at the busy Muggles rushing by us while he cautiously produced his wand from inside his parka.

“Do you think anyone will notice?” he said. Then he waved the wand above our heads and uttered as discretely as he could, “birrus!” Magically there was a little repelling sphere above each of our heads. It was quite a bit better than the umbrellas. I hadn’t minded the rain so much, but we would have become soaked eventually. We started down the street.

I glanced back at King’s Cross where the train for Hogwarts would leave tomorrow. We crossed the street passing a hamburger place on our left. I had tried it once, but hamburgers tasted like paper. According to Colin Creevey, Muggles were always in a hurry and didn’t have time to eat proper food. They seemed to be always building things and talking in telephones as well. We made it past a lot of construction work and two more blocks crossing the street again and down to the right. This street would be Kings Cross Road if I were not much mistaken. I wondered if that might be the Kings Cross church, if that was its name it would indeed be logical. It reminded me a little of Hogwarts. It was almost as if the Muggle buildings were trying to swallow it, for they stood high and very near on both sides. Of course, we had almost gotten lost on the underground, changing trains. I thought Dad knew the way, but I guess he didn’t usually travel by train to work. We would have to hurry a little to make time for all the things we had planned. Passing a tiny cramped Thai takeaway restaurant, an ordinary pub, and a place where the Muggles filled their cars up with petrol, we turned left and then into a small alley were the little shop lay. It was hardly noticeable if you didn’t look twice.

I loved that place. It had a friendly bell on the door to greet you when you stepped into the quiet, softly lit rooms. Although old and worn, it had an air of elegance and mystique about it. I felt as if it was somewhat in between the Muggle world and the magical world. Inside were usually no customers, but the keeper didn’t bother you or hang over your shoulder asking if you wanted to buy something or if you needed help. You could look for as long as you liked. I suppose it was an antique shop of sorts. The greying windows of the cramped sparsely lit rooms were in bad need of cleaning. They gave the light falling on pieces of furniture and antique machines with brass parts, that had once been shiny, but now looked rather grim, an odd subdued quality. Some of the things in the rooms were beautiful while others looked more like junk. Books lay in high stacks on tables in great disarray, and beautiful vases and marble sculptures stood crammed onto narrow shelves. Dad started looking around interestedly at all the Muggle machinery. He was like a little kid who had to touch everything. With a Dad like that, how could Ron question my interest in Muggles? I was hardly the fanatic in the family. I recalled accidentally overhearing Dad taking Ron aside and explaining how they needed to be a little understanding with me right now, and how difficult things had been. “Ginny is maybe a bit weary of magic and being a witch after all that happened. She will leave that behind her soon enough. You must be a little understanding, that’s all.”

“But she cannot choose to not be a witch,” Ron had said.

“No, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t need to think about it for a while,” Dad had replied. I smiled to myself as I walked around looking at the different things. I was so brittle and frail. Ron had agreed very understandingly in his best man-to-man voice. As if he wouldn’t be teasing me ten minutes later about one thing or another. That was the way I liked him best, though: us two sparring.

 I came to my favourite spot, the jewellery. On a small pretty table, lit by a spotlight, lay the most exquisite silver necklaces and earrings and some rings with diamonds and rubies, delicately and artfully arranged on a green cloth. I sighed to myself. These were the kind of gifts a romantic man would give to his beloved, perhaps on the spot where they had first met or kissed, handing over a tasteful and ornamented ring, delicately threading it over her finger, then kissing her hand as he assured her that no jewellery, however exquisite, could compare in beauty to her. The chance of anyone ever bestowing such extravagance on little Ginny Weasley seemed remote, to say the least, but a girl must be allowed to dream.

Instead, I went to the books and started shifting through the volumes, mostly novels with titles I didn’t recognise and some books with poetry. I opened one of them and read a poem. It seemed to be written by someone who loved walking around outside, describing trees and flowers and such. It was a little boring. I turned it over and looked at the author, Henry Wadsworth Longbottom. Could that be right? No, his name was Longfellow. No Muggle poets in Neville’s family, apparently. I was not sure if he would have been that thrilled anyway. “The song of Ilion.” Was Homer a rock band? It sounded vaguely familiar. I picked up a book about three men that went on a holiday on the Thames. I read a chapter about a red-haired man who was trying to put up a painting on the wall. It was very funny and his difficulties reminded me of Dad. I chuckled to myself, but then I put it away. I started leafing through a book about a young woman staying at a hotel in Monte Carlo tending to an older woman who was rather horrible to her. It caught my interest. She seemed very similar to me, shy and unsure of herself. I was intrigued and soon I had read the first chapter. 

I realised another customer was in the shop. The keeper was speaking with someone.

“Yes, sir that is a really lovely piece. I’m sure your lady friend will be very pleased with it.”

Oh, this was so romantic, a man buying jewellery for his girlfriend. Here I was, thinking about that and now it was happening. I strained my ears to hear, but the other man was talking in a low and even voice.

“I rather like it and I think she will too. I will need to have it engraved.”

There was something familiar about that voice.

“Of course, let me get a note. There you are. What do you want engraved on it?”

“Rebecca, you have come again to touch my heart. Accept this simple token of my affection, and my hope that nothing short of death, shall ever do our spirits apart.”

“Eh, yes I got it,” the keeper said. If he found the engraving strange, he didn’t let on. I found it quite enchanting though. It was touching, very personal, romantic, and ominous, especially the part about death. Of course, a married couple would have vowed to love each other until death did them apart, but saying it like that made it seem like it was expected sooner rather than later. It probably meant something special to the two lovers. “And will there be a signature?” the shopkeeper asked.

“Yes, ‘yours truly’. No, make it ‘Love, Severus.’”

Bloody hell! I thought that voice sounded familiar. I looked around for someplace to hide, but I was in plain view everywhere. I tried quickly, to leave the shop, but unfortunately, Snape had finished his business and had the same thing in mind. He stopped and stared at me, frozen for a moment. Then he chose to pretend there was nothing unusual at all about the situation.

“Miss Weasley.” He nodded politely and opened the door leaving. The man was walking around in London wearing his usual black robes like the Muggles didn’t worry him at all. Stunned, I looked out on the street, but he was gone. Of course, he was a grown wizard. He had obviously Apparated there.

I stood looking out the window when Dad came back from somewhere further in the rear of the shop. “Did you find any books?” he said.

“Errr... yes,” I said absentmindedly, looking down at the book in my hand. “This one seems promising.”

“Good, lets get a move on. We have to get back to Diagon Alley. Hopefully we can pop into the museum and get back before supper. Just let me pay for the book.”

“No, let me have some Muggle money. I can pay myself.”

“Certainly.” Dad smiled and handed over the money.

 

After paying for the book, we walked out in the street. The rain had stopped while we were inside the shop. I felt shaken by the encounter with Snape, and I wondered who Rebecca was. I felt embarrassed, as if I had been spying on Snape in a moment when he was carrying out some very personal business. We had been there by a mere coincidence, of course. I really had no reason to feel ashamed. Knowing Snape, I wondered what he might be thinking. I only hoped there wasn’t going to be hell to pay in Potions.

We walked along some more quiet streets back through the city. After a long and uneventful walk, we arrived at a little park that lay surrounded by busy streets on all sides. Tall hedges enclosed the park making it quiet and nice inside. People were strolling leisurely or sitting on folded up papers on the still wet benches, reading a book, enjoying the tentative sun that peered out between the grey clouds in the sky. We stopped before the statue of the man who had donated the land for the park. What a great thing to do. I wondered if he wouldn’t have been very pleased to know what a lovely little oasis he had created within the Muggle car madness. Apparently, he wasn’t still alive though. Muggles lived such short and hard lives.

“Now this is a nice spot,” Dad said enthusiastically. “Muggles often come here on their lunch break to eat sandwiches.”

“Do Muggles ever eat proper food?” I asked.

“In the evenings mostly. It is pretty much the same for us at the Ministry. Not many people have House Elves to cook for them like you have at Hogwarts. Speaking of food, do you fancy a bite before we go to the museum? There is a small café here in the corner.”

“Yes, that would be cool,” I said.

“Cool?” Dad said, cocking his eyebrow. “I sure hope they do serve warm food.”

We had a lovely lunch in the small park, although the food wasn’t that great. Dad tried the hamburger plate with enthusiasm while I settled for sandwiches. Lucky I had egg and bacon for breakfast.

 

In the museum, Dad went enthusiastic again. I wasn’t sure why he was so excited. We had, after all, seen all that during our trip in the summer.

“It is the Muggle perspective,” he said. “It is fascinating to see the way the Muggles describe Egypt and compare it to what we know as wizards.”

“Well, that is your specialty I guess,” I said. “I just wonder why they had to hack off all the stones of Egypt and drag them over to Britain.”

“Well, the Muggles were a lot for taking things home in those days. The Egyptians are still quite upset. However, if they hadn’t gone about it all we wouldn’t have tea.”

“Now we can’t have that!” I said, smiling.

As I mounted the stairs to the second floor, a class of small children passed me by in their green school uniforms, neat skirts for the girls and ties on the boys, although some of the boys’ shirts were flapping loosely, un-tucked from their trousers. They looked flustered and excited. Had I ever been that young? Well, just a few years ago. They looked very similar to Hogwarts students. A woman shouted to some of the more over-enthusiastic boys to "please not run!" I guess she must have been their teacher or guardian. I wondered when the Muggles started school. Perhaps they were lucky enough to start off the term with an excursion to the museum. I studied a Roman helmet in pure gold (or was it bronze?). Did they wear that while fighting? I was getting interested despite myself.

When I walked into the next room, I stopped dead and stared. I was looking at a picture of a woman with wings and long black hair. She had horns and something odd on her head. I stared, transfixed at the picture. I felt as though I knew that person. Something was written underneath the picture in strange picture-like writing. Odd, I thought, leaning closer. The writing too seemed familiar to me. It was very hard to make out, but if I concentrated, I could actually understand some words.

“Thugater …Wanak…Aiguptios” I read aloud, oblivious of anyone or anything around me. “gwou pharmakon. Daughter, King Egypt… Cow and medicine.”

“You read Linear B? Very impressive!” said a man beside me. I jumped almost a foot in the air.

“What!”

“Well, not many kids your age can read ancient Greek scripts. In fact, few adults can, but I happen to be one, so I can tell you got it right. How old are you?”

“Eh, twelve,” I said, confused.

“Very impressive indeed. Are you from one of those schools for very gifted children?”

“Yes I guess you can say that,” I said. “Who is that woman?”

The man tugged at his beard thoughtfully. He was wearing a baggy Manchester jacket and his hair was standing on end. His glasses were threatening to slip off the end of his nose as he spoke.

“It is the snake goddess Isis, but she is sometimes portrayed with a cow’s head. She is the patron of children and women and the bringer of medicine."

I looked at the picture. At least she didn’t have light blue eyes without pupils, although I had no idea why that should scare me so much, or what it meant. Suddenly, I could have sworn I saw the picture wink at me. It was very quick, but I was sure I had seen it. My heart pounded like a hammer and I felt a rush in my ears like a distant waterfall. I was used to pictures moving, but this was a Muggle place. Pictures were not supposed to be magical in here, especially not this one.

“I DON’T LIKE SNAKES!” I screamed, stalking out of the room. Everybody in the room stared at me, and the friendly man with the glasses' jaw dropped. I ran down the stairs, then went from room to room until I found Dad.

“I want to go. Now!” I said to him grabbing his arm.

“Yes, yes. That's right. Look at the time! We must hurry back to Diagon Alley. I expect the others have finished the shopping by now. Come along.” Dad hesitated when he noticed I looked rather upset. He frowned, but when I didn’t say anything he just looked at me for a moment, then let it be. “Right then.” 

We walked quickly out of the museum and I was very glad to leave it. I was beginning to calm down, but my heart was still pounding unpleasantly. Outside in the fresh air I felt better. Apparently, it wasn’t far to Diagon Alley from the museum. Dad said we didn’t need to bother with the underground as we walked past another small park. I was preoccupied with what had happened. Once again, I wrestled with myself whether I should tell Dad. But I didn’t want to worry him with my dreams again; maybe I had just imagined the whole thing, but that didn’t explain that strange language. How could I read a language like that, which was obviously ancient? I hadn’t even studied ancient runes in school yet.

“Now, Percy would like this,” Dad said, pointing at a street sign, smiling.

“Percy Street,” I read. “I’m sure he would, except he won’t be satisfied until they rename London after him, “ I said.

“Sometimes I worry about that boy,” Dad muttered to himself.

We walked down Charing Cross Road, turned, and stepped into the Leaky Cauldron. Dad peered inside at the bar and looked relieved to find it still empty. “Now, Ginny, you can go out to Diagon Alley for a while. If you run into Mum, you can help her with the shopping. She would like that, you know.”

“Yes Dad,” I said.

“Eh, let’s not tell Mum how much time we spent wandering around London,” Dad said winking conspiratorially. “You know how she sometimes thinks I get a little overenthusiastic about the Muggles.”

“No problem!” I said as I left him with his paper at the bar.

I walked outside into Diagon Alley. Idly, I looked into some of the shops at various things. Maybe I should have helped Mum with the shopping, but actually it had been quite fun with the Muggles, except for the thing at the museum. It must have been my imagination I decided. I didn’t sleep too well last night and I must have been drowsy or something. I tried to think of something else. I wondered what Ron, Hermione and Harry had been doing all afternoon. I was glad I hadn’t been tagging along with them. Ron would not feel comfortable with his little boring sister following him around like a dog. He had been so cute when we arrived at Diagon Alley and Hermione ran up and flung her arms around him. I wasn’t sure if she felt anything special about him; after all, she was acting very much like he was just a terrific old friend. He was most definitely a goner though. The crimson red face and ears and the awkward pat on her back did not look exactly like he was greeting any old Gryffindor school mate, and his smile had been brighter than the sun. Of course, Harry didn’t usually hug Ron like Hermione would. Despite all her brilliance and grown up manners, she was just such a girl sometimes. She didn’t have any brothers, so how would she know how to behave around boys? They were more like punching each other on the shoulder or slapping each other’s backs. Somehow, I thought Ron didn’t really mind the hugging as much as he would let on.

“Euw, Hermione, what was that for?”

“That was for all your shiny new freckles, stupid,” she had said, touching his nose playfully. Ron just couldn’t stop smiling as they walked away down Diagon Alley.  Then again, Hermione had barely been able to take her eyes off Ron to say hello to me. There was no doubt these two liked each other. I just wondered how much. Of course, give them five minutes and they would be at each other’s throats arguing about something.

Looking up, I saw Mum and the twins who were helping her carry lots of packets. Percy strode a few steps behind, looking like he owned the whole of Diagon Alley. 

“Oh there you are dear. Where is your father?”

“In the pub, reading the paper,” I said.

“Good. We should go in and meet up with the boys and Hermione now. Come along!” She held up one hand, steering me towards the entrance like a traffic policeman, a parcel dangling from a piece of twine in her hand.

“Yes, Mum, I know the way.”

“Yes, yes dear. Come along now,” she bustled.

 

Meeting Harry didn’t go at all like I had imagined. He stood by the bar looking in the paper Dad was reading. They were discussing Sirius Black, I think. I took a step towards him and he looked up and smiled. I wanted to hug him or at least shake his hand, but then I realised how I was only Ron’s silly little sister and I froze. Instead, I went red like a bloody lantern in the face and just muttered something, “Hello,” I think I said, or something equally inspired. I felt warm, stupid, and embarrassed, cursing myself for being such a silly un-cool person. Harry looked at me curiously, but he still smiled. Then pompous Percy strode forward shaking Harry’s hand like he was the Minister of Magic himself. “Hello Harry, how nice to see you.” Fred and George picked up on this quickly and made quite a number of imitating Percy. When Fred shook Mum’s hand saying, “Mum, how absolutely corking to see you!” I couldn’t help but crack up in laughter despite feeling so mortified. There is nothing like Fred and George to dissolve a moment of awkwardness. I could disappear in the general laughter, which was followed by a dispute about Fred and George not being made Prefects. As usual, I blended into the woodwork.

That evening we had a splendid dinner in the Leaky Cauldron. It was really festive and everybody was in a cheerful mood. Fred and George entertained everybody with funny jokes and snide remarks, mostly targeted at poor Percy. I’d say he brings it upon himself. If he would only relax for a millisecond and act his age, and by that I mean the opposite of what Mum usually means when she says that to Ron and me. Percy could always count on Mum’s approval, though. Imagine how boring the world would be if we were all like Percy? Fred said the Ministry cars were to escort him to Kings Cross, bearing flags with Humungous Bighead on them. I almost snorted chocolate pudding across the table. I thought that somehow it must have to do with Sirius Black. Harry told us the story of how he had been received by the Minister of Magic himself after running away. The Ministry seemed to go out of its way to have us all protected. I sensed Dad was pulling strings at the Ministry to see to it that his children were kept safe. He counted Harry as one of us, I was pretty sure.

I got to share a room with Hermione. What had I expected, the bridal suite with Harry? That would not have met with approval from my parents, nor Harry for that matter. I wouldn’t be entirely comfortable with the idea myself, come to think of it. Having him in the next room was perhaps close enough for now. Hermione had bought a really ugly ginger cat that afternoon by the name of Crookshanks that would also stay with us in the room. It sat grumpily in the corner and was not useful for anything as far as I could determine.

I smiled a little to myself when Hermione went into the bathroom to change. The fearless Hermione was a little shy, after all. Well, maybe I should educate her about boys sometime. Would it torture or titillate her, I wondered.

“So you like Ron’s freckles?” I called through the door. There was no answer. My unusual nerve faded away. Had I offended her? “You have a rather nice tan yourself,” I tried again. “Did you get that in France?”

“Well, thank you Ginny,” Hermione said as she stepped out of the bathroom in her dressing gown. She eyed my striped blue pyjamas and asked, “Which bed do you want? Can I take this one?”

“Sure,” I said.

I dreamed strange things that night, but nothing very terrifying. Later I couldn’t remember any of it very well, it was all sketchy and diffuse the way dreams often are, quickly fading.  There was a big black dog, which was the Grim. How I knew, I don’t know, but strangely it didn’t scare me because I felt like someone was with me all the time who was older and braver and wanted to protect me. The story Harry had told us about how he had taken the Knight Bus after blowing up his aunt blended in somehow, except it was I who took the trip and someone was reading from the paper about Sirius Black and spilled hot chocolate on me. I knew that Sirius Black wanted to murder me and wondered why that didn’t scare me. Then Harry said to me that I mustn’t think he didn’t like me and why couldn’t I just relax a little? Now that we were together in the mounting flame, we were related and should be friends. He laughed and said that maybe I saw him like just another big brother, but that had never mattered in the old country if you were of royal family. “Can you not feel the flame burning inside?” he asked. I sure could. It felt like a crazy wave of fire. Then he kissed me and it was not the little peck on the cheek I had used to dream of in my fantasies. This was something lustful and wicked and it would never stop. It was terrifying and wonderful and the feelings in my body made the abstract concepts taught in biology class concrete manifestations. Harry’s hands were going places and I didn’t mind the least. Maybe I had dreamed we got married after that idea about the bridal suite, but that kissing could be like that, I never knew. In the morning, I couldn’t remember most of it. I only remembered sleeping well all night and feeling safe, and that I probably kissed Harry quite a few times.

Going down the stairs for breakfast, I felt slightly dazed. I surely hoped I didn’t talk in my sleep. What might Hermione have heard if I did? Maybe I was still a little silly girl in daylight, but in my dreams I was pretty wicked and no one could tell me I was too young to feel anything for Harry. He was in my clutches. He shouldn’t be allowed to protest too much, it was my dream, I thought slyly.

Mum, Dad and Hermione were already having breakfast when I came down. Dad was reading the paper (as usual) and didn’t look like he was in a good mood. It was probably the Black business that weighted him down.

“You look rosy and cheerful this morning,” Mum said. “Did you sleep well?”

“Better than in a long time,” I said.

“No bad dreams?” she asked. Did she have to talk about that in front of Hermione?

“I think Snape has a girlfriend,” I said to avert the attention. It worked almost too well.

“How do you know that?” Mum said looking surprised.

“I met him yesterday and he was buying jewellery for someone. I overheard him by mistake.”

“By mistake?” Mum said.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, by mere coincidence. I don’t follow our Potions master around London spying on him.”

“Fancy that,” Mum said.

“Who would care for him?” said Hermione. “Did he brew up a love potion?”

“Now, you shouldn’t talk like that about your professor,” Mum said. “Besides, love potions never work the way they are supposed to.”

“How would you know that?” I asked. To my surprise, she blushed a little. “Don’t tell me you brewed a love potion. On Dad?”

“No, no, that was much earlier. I was just a silly girl then and didn’t understand such things.” She leaned forward to tell the story, and Hermione and I leaned in to listen. This sounded interesting.

“I had a crush on a teacher,” Mum said. Her eyes looked like she was travelling back into her memories. “He was twice my age of course, but quite young and handsome for Hogwarts. He had dark long hair and was very tall and thin, with very romantic thoughtful brown eyes. It was really just a silly little crush, like all young girls go through.” She giggled at the memory. Yeah right, I thought. Just like with Harry and me you mean. Thanks loads Mum for your support and understanding. Hermione giggled a little too and looked embarrassed. I guess she was thinking about Gilderoy Lockhart.

“Well, my friend Maud was pretty infatuated with Professor Smith as well, however we had somehow agreed that it was I and the professor that were meant for each other. This was quite noble of Maud. She would have to endure endless monologues about how handsome he was, and how cute his smile was, how dashing he looked when he did this and what had he meant when he had said that. We could talk about it forever and Maud always sighed and said ah, and oh,” Mum continued. Hermione and I listened in rapt attention. “Sadly, Smith never seemed to notice how much we adored him. I should hope he wouldn’t, or if he did perceive our attempts at flirting with him for what they were he wouldn’t let on, he just pretended like nothing. It would of course have been highly inappropriate of him to acknowledge such a thing. I’m rather glad he didn’t. However, at the time Maud and I felt sure he must understand eventually that we were meant for each other and our romance and love was written in the stars. However waiting for the inevitable became a little frustrating after a while so we cast about for a means to hurry fate. We had heard of love potions, but the books on love potions were in the restricted section of the library. For very good reasons too.”

“So what did you do?” I asked.

“We sneaked in at night.”

“You didn’t?”

“Yes as a matter of fact we did. You wouldn’t think your old mum would ever do such a thing would you? Well, the experience left me wiser in many ways. The potion was really complicated to make. You had to brew it for a fortnight together with a lock of hair from the person the victim was to fall in love with.”

“Like with Polyjuice potion,” said Hermione.

“What do you know about Polyjuice potion?” Mum asked.

“Eh, I read about it,” said Hermione.

“Yes, it is similar I believe.”

“What happened then?” I asked.

“Well, the tricky bit was to make the teacher drink it. We had many different plans but then Maud came up with the clever idea to sneak it into the teapot in the teachers staff room.”

“In the teachers tea?” Hermione looked astonished. “But then all the teachers would drink it, wouldn’t they?”

“Yes, It was a complete disaster. I had to endure a whole day of various teachers bursting in to my classroom declaring their undying love or bringing flowers. It was horribly humiliating.” I imagined Gilderoy Lockhart with a bunch of roses kneeling in her classroom reading some love poem. Hermione and I burst out in laughter.

“You think it was funny,” Mum said, smiling. “The funniest thing was Professor Smith didn’t even drink tea, he preferred coffee.” Hermione and I were doubled over the table laughing even more. Harry and Ron came into to the room wondering what was so funny.

“The tea-drinking teachers didn’t appreciate having been made complete fools of though. After the potion had worn off, I was assigned very hefty detentions indeed, “ Mum said, “from each of the affected teachers. I did quite a bit of Muggle cleaning that term I can tell you. Take it from one who knows, never dabble with love potions.”

“But what’s the use if it’s not real love anyway? If it was a potion making him feel the way he did wouldn’t he be in love with the potion and not you?” I asked.

“That is quite a philosophical question Ginny,” Mum said, “ but I suppose you are right. Maybe you are much more clever than I was at your age.” She smiled.

“I might just be,” I said knowingly.  

“Enough philosophy, we need to get going for King’s Cross. Are you all finished and packed?” Mum stood up and started ushering everybody around.

We all busied ourselves getting ready to leave for Hogwarts.

 

 

 

 

Author’s note: The beginning and title of this story is obviously stolen from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Spoofing the famous opening line and dream sequence was a plot bunny that got me started writing this, and the rest grew out of that. The plot-bunny eventually grew into a many chaptered fic. Since this story has a very different plot and set of characters, I hope the reader will forgive me for keeping this respectful attempt at a tribute and celebration of the genius of du Maurier. Should there be any similarities between some of the underlying themes in Ginny’s life that inspired me to write this story, and that of Rebecca, it is not for the author to tell but the reader to find out. The Egyptian quotes in the beginning are from EGYPTIAN MYTH AND LEGEND by Donald Mackenzie [1907].

I would like to thank Ada Kensington for beta reading this chapter. I am also very grateful to Birch Tree for beta reading the earlier version of the story. Thank you Meg for your great feedback on the early plot development, and for always being supportive, picking me up whenever my confidence falters a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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