FOUR: The Wild Wood
Little Red Cap opened her eyes and
saw the sunlight breaking through the trees and how the ground was covered with
beautiful flowers. She thought, "If I take a bouquet to grandmother, she
will be very pleased. Anyway, it is still early, and I'll be home on
time." And she ran off into the woods looking for flowers. Each time she
picked one she thought that she could see an even more beautiful one a little
way off, and she ran after it, going further and further into the woods.
Rated PG: for rule breaking,
adolescent girls and subconscious threat
was no secret that Hagrid’s first Care of Magical Creatures lesson had not been
a great success. A Hippogriff had injured Draco Malfoy, and even though 75% of
the school agreed he probably deserved it, Hagrid was still on probation. Ginny
went down to see him as soon as she could; Esmé came with her, much to Ginny’s
surprise. It appeared that beneath her groomed appearance, Esmé had the heart
of an Amazon.
think all these creatures are absolutely fascinating,” she told Ginny, as they
made their way towards Hagrid’s hut. “I’m thinking of becoming a magical vet;
or maybe a conservationist, you know, preserving habitats. One of your brothers
does something like that, doesn’t he?”
Charlie, he’s the second oldest, he’s in Romania.” Ginny was touched
that Esmé remembered. “I could write to him if you like, see if he’s got any
Esmé exclaimed, her eyes lighting up as they smiled at each other.
Ginny first knocked on Hagrid’s door, there was no reply, but when she knocked
again, there was a grunt of, “All righ’, all righ’, I’m comin’!”
door swung back to reveal Hagrid’s enormous bulk. As soon as he saw who it was,
he beamed. “Ginny! And yeh brought a friend! Come in, come in.” He stepped
aside so they could enter. Fang rose from his basket, tail swinging through the
air, tongue already lolling out. Esmé cooed over him, rubbing his ears while
Fang slobbered all over her robes.
likes yeh,” Hagrid said with delight.
sighed. “I think he’s adorable.”
almost snorted out loud. She could think of many words to describe Fang, but
‘adorable’ wasn’t one of them. “This is Esmé Crosse, Hagrid,” she said. “We
share the same dormitory.”
friend o’ Ginny’s is a friend o’ mine,” Hagrid assured Esmé, grinning as she
sat down and Fang plopped his head on her knee. Esmé smiled up at him.
so nice to meet you, Mr. Hagrid, Ginny’s told us so much about you…”
there’s no need ter call me ‘Mister’,” Hagrid said bashfully, waving his hand
and creating a breeze strong enough to fan them.
right, it’s ‘Professor’ now, isn’t it?” Ginny teased, making Hagrid blush even
deeper. He hurried over to the fire and took off the kettle, which was
not really a teacher,” he said gloomily. “I’m still on probation.”
Dumbledore didn’t sack you,” Ginny pointed out. “So you’re still a teacher.
You’re still taking classes. That’s what matters.”
only grunted in reply, pouring the tea, adding milk to all three mugs, then
five teaspoons of sugar to his own.
think it’s outrageous!” Esmé said angrily. “Anybody who gets injured by a
Hippogriff only has himself to blame, surely the governors know that?”
are talking about the board of governors who removed Dumbledore last year,
right?” Ginny reminded her.
rolled her eyes. “Sorry, Ginny, you’re right. What was I thinking?” She blew on
the mug of tea that Hagrid had put before her, but didn’t drink from it quite
yet. “But I still can’t believe they’re upholding Malfoy’s claim.”
shrugged. “He jus’ wants ter remind everyone he’s still go’ power, even if he’s
not a governor.”
clenched her fists. It was Lucius Malfoy who’d put the diary in her cauldron,
just to get Dad discredited. There was no real proof, of course, but they all
knew, she and her family; and now he was trying to ruin Hagrid’s life as well.
“Lucius Malfoy,” she began hotly, then stopped. She had six older brothers and
she knew plenty of words to describe that man. But in front of Esmé and Hagrid,
she could only say, “He’s a worm.”
looked thoughtful. “There used to be wingless dragons called wyrms, didn’t
Hagrid agreed. “But they’re pretty rare now. Muggles put all those pipes down
and dug up the wells.” He sniffed, unimpressed.
about right for Mr. Malfoy,” Esmé said with a grim smile. “Lurking down a well,
just waiting for someone to try and draw water, then up he comes with those
cold grey eyes and has some poor innocent person for lunch.”
hope somebody sticks a sword down his throat one day!” Ginny said, then
realised her fingernails were cutting into her palms.
looked stern. “Now just hold on a sec,” he said, his voice rumbling. “There’s
going ter be no stickin’ swords or anythin’ of that nature. Yeh keep yer head
down, Ginny. Don’t get any funny ideas.”
won’t,” Esmé said, before Ginny could protest. “Is Buckbeak outside, Hagrid?”
Professor Dumbledore said it was probably a good idea to keep ’im apart from
the others, so ’e’s in the pumpkin patch.” Hagrid brightened. “It’s about his
feedin’ time – want to watch?”
love to!” Esmé said happily.
was fuming at being told – again – to
stay out of trouble, but she nodded anyway, because it was Hagrid. He was only
trying to look out for her and… well, she owed Hagrid something, she thought,
guilt suddenly dropping over her like a Lethifold. Those roosters last year…
the blood on her hands… it was all because of her.
followed Hagrid and Esmé outside. Buckbeak was lying down, head on his front
legs, looking bored. Ginny couldn’t blame him. As soon as he saw Hagrid, the
Hippogriff lifted his head with a harsh cry of welcome.
you’d better stay ’ere, girls, Beakie
gets a bit frisky when it’s feeding time,” Hagrid warned them, before stepping
Frisky? Ginny thought.
Then Buckbeak got up and she saw just how big he was; his wingspan was at least
six feet. Harry rode him? she
thought. Her heart pounded just at the thought. Buckbeak was so high off the
ground and he was not a broom, he had thoughts and feelings and a very sharp
my God, he’s amazing,” breathed Esmé,
who obviously thought differently. Ginny felt a sudden warm glow of affection
through her nerves. Esmé’s fascination was so very like Charlie.
Buckbeak,” crooned Hagrid, as the Hippogriff nuzzled his neck. “Got some
visitors today. Tha’s Esmay and tha’s Ginny, Ron’s little sister.”
beamed and waved. Ginny wondered why Hagrid was bothering to introduce them:
after all, it wasn’t as if they were going to be friends. Hagrid continued to
tell Buckbeak about his day. Esmé stood as close as she dared, but Ginny went
and sat on the back step with Fang. She stroked Fang’s head and gazed off into
the trees: the sight of Buckbeak tearing his dinner open made her feel slightly
Forbidden Forest came right up
to the fence around Hagrid’s garden, so it was possible to see a little way into
the trees. From here, it looked quite a pleasant place, full of rowan bushes.
Ginny wondered what it was like inside. She knew that Fred and George had often
gone in there, despite it being against the rules (maybe because it was against the rules). As a first year, she’d heard all
the tales about it, tales expressly designed to frighten first years so they
wouldn’t go near it. Werewolves, vampires, hags… you name it, it lived in the forest.
Still, it couldn’t be that bad, she
thought. It might be quite nice to go in there and get away from it all… if
nobody saw you, of course. And that dog had come out of the forest. Maybe if
she went in there, she could find it. Something moved among the trees,
interrupting her thoughts, and she saw it was Luna.
squinted: what was Luna doing there? She seemed to be patting something
invisible and talking to herself. No matter how hard she stared, Ginny couldn’t
see anything beside Luna, no animal or person. She turned her head and watched
Esmé talking to Hagrid, her mind whirling. She knew plenty of people who’d had
imaginary friends when little, but they were almost thirteen now. Luna might
already be thirteen. Thirteen-year-olds did not have invisible friends. Was
Luna really crazy? Ginny refused to believe that, but what else could it mean?
I’ll have to ask her next
time I see her.
* * *
problem was that even when Ginny did see Luna, she didn’t really have much time
to talk to her, let alone ask a rather important question like “What exactly
were you doing in the Forbidden Forest?” Apart from
the second year being slightly harder all round, they were working doubly hard
to catch up with Defence Against the Dark Arts. On top of that, she had those
mental exercises every evening. Not that she’d made any progress. September
gave way to October and opening the door still terrified her. She had managed
to walk to the door without screaming herself awake, but that was it. She still
had to go through the door and that prospect still made her wake up, heart
did you expect?” Professor Lupin said after she complained one Sunday
made a face. She didn’t get questions like that very often. They demanded
truthful answers. “I don’t know… a breakthrough… something different!”
raised both eyebrows. “I told you that this takes time and patience, Ginny.
It’s a continual process. It might take you months or even years.”
met her gaze calmly. “I don’t want to raise your expectations.”
hoped he was joking. “I thought this would make me stronger…” she said softly,
looking down at her hands. Then she confessed in a small voice, “I thought that
these exercises would make it so that I didn’t have to go through the door.”
waited for the laughter or derision, but it didn’t come. When she looked up at
him again, Professor Lupin was watching her with such empathy that she felt
tears come into her eyes and had to think of Fang slobbering on Esmé’s robes in
order to hold them back.
truth is, Ginny,” he said, “you’ve already gone through that door. You were
forced through it. Now you have to accept that and go through it on your own
terms. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Ginny nodded, trying to swallow with a swollen, sore throat.
know you don’t want to go through the door,” Professor Lupin went on, the
gentle tone of his voice making her chest ache. “I know that you wish you could
slam that door shut, lock it, and forget all about it. But that’s not possible,
not for you, not anymore. The sooner you realise that… the sooner you will be
able to face opening the door without fear.”
felt a tear slip down her face. Without a word, Professor Lupin pulled out a
handkerchief and handed it to her. She took it and let a few more tears slip
out, while he looked elsewhere.
wish I could make it easier for you, Ginny,” he said, as she took deep breaths
and forced her shoulders to stop shaking. “But even if I could… that would not
are helping me,” she said, lifting her head. “You don’t patronise me. You don’t
tell me that it will all go away. You always tell me the truth.” An idea
occurred to her. “Professor…”
He took back the handkerchief.
there any creatures – Dark creatures, I mean – that can be invisible to one
person and not to another?”
Lupin frowned. “Well, that depends, Ginny… hags are the only Dark creatures
which can cast magic, so they might be able to make themselves only visible to
I was thinking specifically of animals,” Ginny explained. “I saw… I saw someone
a while ago, they were talking and patting something, but there was nothing
there. At least, I couldn’t see anything.”
got up and took down a well-thumbed copy of Fantastic
Beasts and Where to Find Them. “The only animals with that power are
Demiguises and they’re only found in the Far East, Ginny, not the wilds of Scotland. It could have
been something very small that you couldn’t see from far away, you know.”
she was patting it and talking to
it,” Ginny repeated.
be a kelpie, I suppose,” Professor Lupin said, flicking through the book. “But
that doesn’t mean it would be invisible to you, just not exactly appealing.” He
shook his head. “I’m sorry, Ginny. You’ll have to ask Hagrid. He knows far more
about magical creatures than I do. He always did.” His lips twitched as he said
this, as if it were a sort of joke, but Ginny had no idea what the joke was
about, so she ignored it.
there anything about dogs in there?” she followed.
Now he really did look amused. “Only Crups, because they’re specifically
magical. Why do you ask?”
thought I saw one,” Ginny said, seeing it again in her mind, “on the edge of
the forest. Back in September. Just after we had our first meeting. I looked
out of my window and there it was. I know it was a dog,” she added. “It didn’t
look anything like a wolf, but it was huge.
And it looked so thin…” Her voice trailed off as she saw the expression on
Lupin’s face. He had turned pale and his mouth was set in a thin straight line.
But what shocked her was the look in his eyes: fear and anger and something
that she couldn’t describe.
saw that she was shocked and turned away, putting the book back. “Have you told
anyone else about this dog?” he asked, face still turned.
Why would I? I mean… well, I wondered if it might be the Grim,” she confessed.
“But its eyes weren’t glowing at all.”
are many animals in the forest,” Professor Lupin said, his voice hoarse. “I
wouldn’t worry about a stray dog, Ginny. Nothing to be scared of.”
nodded. She got up, thanked him for his time, and left the room, her stomach
tight. She had never seen Professor Lupin look like that before. He was so
calm, so controlled. He’d said it was just a stray dog. Nothing to be scared
of. But he was scared. Ginny had seen
it had brought up bad memories, somehow. She knew how the smallest thing could
open that black box in your mind, pulling you back into situations that you
wanted to forget. Yes, that was probably it.
the same… Ginny stopped on the stairs to Gryffindor Tower and stared out
of a wand slit. The Forbidden Forest stretched away
before her, a dark blanket of trees. All its secrets hidden away under that
am going to find out what’s going
on,” Ginny said out loud, the resolve crystallising inside her like a pearl
inside an oyster. Then she went back to the common room, thinking how she could
life went on. The girls (and Neville) came out to see her at Quidditch
practice. She still hadn’t made up her mind whether she’d train for Seeker or
not. She wished she could discuss her forest plans with Hermione, but Hermione
would certainly disapprove. At least they could talk about her lucid dreaming
efforts. Hermione was fascinated by the books that Professor Lupin had given
her, so Ginny brought them to the library. Hermione got to look at Magical Dis-Eases while Ginny had the
opportunity to flick through the dream section of Unfogging the Future. She noticed that this book wasn’t half as
used as Hermione’s other textbooks. There were no notes in the margins, no
pieces of paper marking interesting passages. In fact, it looked practically
don’t know why you’re looking in there. Divination’s a load of rubbish,”
looked up. She wondered if she was hallucinating. Hermione had never complained
about a lesson before. Hermione had never complained about anything
school-related before, not even Potions, where Professor Snape’s favouritism
meant that all her good work went for nothing. She decided to be cautious.
“What do you mean?”
mean Professor Trelawney’s a fraud!” Hermione whispered, her nostrils flaring
white. “She goes on and on about her wonderful Third Eye, which only states the
obvious, and she’s always moaning about Harry and how he’s going to die – it’s
not true, of course!” she added hastily, seeing the look on Ginny’s face and
belatedly realising how this news might affect her. “She’s only saying it
because Sirius Black’s loose.”
didn’t reply. She found the Dream Symbolism section and began to read through
it. Harry dying… It wouldn’t happen, Dumbledore wouldn’t let it happen! But
Harry was so reckless, she thought with a sinking heart. He was out for every
Quidditch practice and there was no way Oliver was going to tell him to stay
inside. Nor could she appeal to Professor McGonagall… after all, she would be
perfectly aware of the dangers. Ginny felt like flinging the book across the
room; maybe she would have done so if they hadn’t been in the library.
are Ron and Crookshanks getting on?” she asked, cutting off the beginning of
Hermione’s fumbled apology. Just as she’d hoped, Hermione was immediately
she said with a sigh of frustration. “He keeps insisting that Crookshanks goes
after Scabbers deliberately, like
it’s a personal vendetta. I mean, honestly! Crookshanks is a cat, they chase rodents,
thought of Crookshanks sitting outside the entrance to the boys’ dormitories
and the look of disappointment he’d give her when she refused to open the door.
While she didn’t think that Crookshanks had a vendetta against Scabbers, his
behaviour was certainly not normal. But she wasn’t going to mention that to
she began. “I’m not saying that Crookshanks is out to get Scabbers… but try and
look at it from Ron’s point of view.”
huffed, turning a page. “Which is?”
patience frayed a little. “I would have thought you’d understand now that
you’ve got a familiar of your own. Crookshanks may not be stalking him, but
Scabbers is sick and that matters to
Ron. Do you know what happened to Ron’s first pet?”
looked at her, startled. “No… I didn’t realise he’d had a pet before Scabbers.”
surprising, given how concerned
you’ve been,” Ginny said acidly. “But for your information, he used to have
this Puffskein called Custard. Custard was the first thing he’d ever had that
was all his. Until the twins decided to use him for Bludger practice.” She looked
down at the book again, satisfied that she’d made her point, found the dream
entry for ‘Door’ and began to read it through.
was the colour of danger, the colour of blood. A door symbolised an
opportunity. Going through a door signified moving forwards, a willingness to
let go. Ginny closed her eyes for a moment, sadness washing over her.
is it?” Hermione asked anxiously. “Ginny? What’s wrong?”
put the book on the table. “I’m afraid to move forward. I can’t trust
that’s not surprising, is it?” Hermione said, raising her eyebrows. “I mean,
it’s logical, considering what happened to you.”
looked at her for a moment. “You don’t understand,” she said, taking her book
out of Hermione’s hands and leaving the library before she started to cry. She
dodged Peeves, who was lobbing stink bombs at anyone trying to leave the
castle, and ran outside, swallowing her tears.
stopped and looked. The twins were walking near the lake, just the two of them.
Ginny wondered if she ought to go on running, but there wasn’t much point. They
were faster and stronger than her and she was carrying her books. “Hello, Fred.
Hello, George,” she said as they came up to her, trying to smile.
did it?” Fred demanded fiercely.
what?” She blinked at them.
going to have to lie better than that.” George folded his arms. “You’re on the
verge of tears and you never cry. So,
out with it. Who did it?”
if somebody’s hurt our little sister, that somebody is going to regret it with
every single bone in their body.” Fred had folded his arms as well. They were
both bristling with indignation.
laughed, high and thin, and brushed her eyes, just to make sure that they were
still dry. “Nobody’s hurt me, Hermione and I just had a bit of a fight.”
the twins looked oddly deflated. Ginny knew they had been hoping it was someone
bigger and preferably male. They knew that if they tried to do anything to
Hermione, they’d have Ron, Harry and
Percy on their backs. She giggled.
look so disappointed. And don’t worry. I’m fine. She didn’t mean it. I was just
going to visit Hagrid.”
books?” George repeated, raising an eyebrow. “Call me a sceptic, sister of mine
Hagrid doesn’t have much use for books,” Fred agreed. “So what are you really
Lupin gave me these books,” Ginny said, lifting her chin and thinking quickly.
She certainly wasn’t going to tell Fred and George about her idea of going into
the Forbidden Forest. They got funny
when she tried to do anything dangerous.
nice, but why?” Fred gasped. “Don’t tell me that our little sister is…
actually… taking on extra homework?!” He collapsed against George’s shoulder.
“George! Percy’s rubbed off on her! What are we going to do?!”
patted him manfully on the back. “Now, now, Fred. This is serious, but we’ve
still got time. After all, she’s only twelve, we’ve got years to turn her
I thought we were doing so well,”
Fred said mournfully, gazing at Ginny with dark, tragic eyes. “Oh Ginny, Ginny…
how could you do this to us?”
almost stamped her foot, but that would have only made things worse. “It isn’t homework. If you really must know,
it’s about what happened to me last year!” There, she’d done it. She’d killed
their joke. They were no longer play acting, no longer even smiling. “Professor
Lupin’s helping me to put last year behind me and these books are part of that.
Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to visit Hagrid. I’ll see you at dinner.” She
turned on her heel and marched off, refusing to feel sorry about what she’d
said. They had to know when to stop and if she had to play dirty, well, at
least they’d know how it felt. So what if Percy sucked up to the teachers? At
least he’d tried to find out what was wrong with her.
hut was empty and he wasn’t in his pumpkin patch. Ginny waved to Buckbeak as he
raised his head. “Where’s he gone?” she asked, not coming too close, wondering
what the Hippogriff would do. Buckbeak looked at her for a moment, his eyes
yellow and fierce, and Ginny shivered. Then he flicked his head towards the Forbidden Forest and laid it
down again. “Thank you,” Ginny said, and hurried off. The forest reared up in
front of her before she was properly aware of how fast she was walking.
paused and looked around. There was nobody to see her, nobody to stop her. She
looked into the forest. It was late afternoon. Amber glistened on the tree
trunks. Hugging the books to her chest, she stepped inside and held her breath.
Nothing happened. She’d almost expected to trigger an alarm of some sort but
everything was quiet and peaceful.
Ginny set off along the path. Hagrid couldn’t be far, and she would certainly
be able to hear him when she got nearer. She could smell the amber and the pine
needles that crunched under her feet. As she went further in, the pine gave way
to deciduous trees, along with bracken and brambles curling around the trunks.
Ginny stopped in a clearing and looked around. The path led off in three directions
and she had no idea which one Hagrid had taken, and no way of contacting him.
She sighed and looked around. Great. You
might as well go back.
something moved on the path to her left. Ginny gripped her wand and moved
forward quietly, trying to get a better look. The trees were so thick that it
was difficult for any sunlight to get through here, leaving most of the path in
a mossy gloom. Not very useful if you were trying to see more than five metres
ahead of you. She took about five steps forward and then stopped abruptly.
first clue was the shining white of its coat, the second the pale horn that
rose above its forehead like a cathedral spire. The unicorn turned its head and
looked at her with one dark eye. Its nostrils flared and it snorted, flicking
its long tail. Ginny saw that its hooves were not smooth like a horse’s, but
cloven, like deer or goat’s feet. Her chest began to hurt and she realised that
she’d been holding her breath. She let it out in one long sigh. Her heart was
pounding like a drum, even though she wasn’t scared. It wasn’t fear she felt,
but something else. She kept expecting it to turn and move, to disappear like
lightning among the trees. But it stayed. It stood there and watched her and
her heart pounded faster. She wanted it to go and she wanted it to stay, stay
like this forever so she could just look at it.
had never been sentimental about horses. She’d always preferred cats and dogs,
domestic animals. Yet here she was, holding her breath, transfixed. Her vision
blurred because she was staring so hard and she blinked, then realised that her
cheeks were wet.
the unicorn moved. It turned and came towards her and Ginny almost fell over in
shock. “No,” she whispered. “Don’t… don’t come near me… you don’t want to…” She
didn’t know what she was saying. She only knew that a creature like this should
not be near her. Not after what had happened. And it was still coming, closer
and closer. Ginny felt more tears run down her face but she couldn’t take her
eyes off the unicorn. Anybody could have come along, even Harry, and she
wouldn’t have noticed.
unicorn came right up to her and then stopped, its ears flicking this way and
that as it smelled her. Ginny swallowed and reached up to brush at her cheeks.
The unicorn stretched its neck out and breathed warm air on her face. Ginny
closed her eyes for a moment. “Hello,” she whispered, opening them again and
reaching out with one hand, holding her breath once more. The unicorn shivered
when she touched its neck, but it didn’t move.
don’t you run away?” Ginny said hopelessly, running the other hand down the
long nose to the soft muzzle. “Why can’t you see I’m not what you think? I’m
corrupted…” She sagged a little, resting her forehead on the unicorn’s brow,
just below the horn. It smelled of grass, good and clean and somehow
reassuring. Ginny felt as if someone had put their arms around her, as if she
was protected by some great invisible force. It was all nonsense but the
feeling was so strong that she couldn’t help smiling.
there was a rustle to her left. The unicorn pulled away, its eyes rolling, and
then another creature stepped onto the path. A centaur. Ginny wondered for a
moment if she was dreaming. She’d never been interested in any horses before,
now all of a sudden she was standing with a unicorn and looking at a centaur.
“Um,” she said, blinking. For once in her life, she had no idea what to say.
centaur looked at the unicorn and his eyes softened. “Go,” he said. “I will
make sure she returns safely.”
turned to say goodbye but the unicorn had already gone, as silently as it had
come. There was just a flash of white among the trees to let her know it had
been there. She put her hands to her face and rubbed the tears away, feeling
centaur was looking at her with unreadable eyes. Although he had blond hair and
a palomino body, he seemed dull and ordinary after the unicorn. “You are a
relative of the Weasley twins,” he said, a statement, not a question.
nodded, before realising that it might not be a good idea to do so. “I’m their
brothers often come in here. Looking for plants and mushrooms to feed their
experiments – at least, that is what they tell me,” said the centaur. “Are you
in here for the same reason?”
shook her head. “I was just looking for Hagrid.”
he ask you to come find him?”
had to look away. “No.”
you know which path he took?”
gritted her teeth. “No.”
what are you doing here on this one?”
saw the unicorn and I…”
are lucky it was a unicorn. There are far more dangerous things living here,
things you would have met if you’d continued down this path. She was worried
about you. I do not usually interfere in the affairs of humans but I promised her
I would keep you safe.”
really isn’t necessary,” Ginny said, looking down. “I just need to talk to
will escort you out of the forest and then I will tell him you are here. It is
not wise to linger here alone, even in the daylight.” And he turned, walking
back the way she had come. Ginny had no choice but to follow him, although she
would have liked to sit down and absorb what had just happened. The centaur did
not look back to check on her. He just kept moving forward with that same
stately pace which made Ginny feel strange and ungainly. They did not stop
until they were on the edge of the forest.
here.” And the centaur turned and leapt back into the forest with one push of
his powerful back legs. Ginny watched him disappear and let out a breath. She went
back to the pumpkin patch and sat down on the low stone wall that surrounded
it, staring into space.
the centaur and the unicorn, Hagrid’s arrival was audible. Ginny could hear the
crashing and crackling of undergrowth for some minutes before his bulky figure
appeared. She stood up and opened her mouth, but didn’t have time to actually
were yeh doin’?” Hagrid roared, sending a shiver down her spine as he emerged
into the clearing. “What possessed yeh to come in?! Don’t yeh know how
dangerous it is?!”
wanted to talk to you,” Ginny said, feeling as if she were speaking into a
lucky it was Firenze who found yeh, and not
another centaur!” Hagrid snapped, pacing about. “Who knows what the others
would have done! Oh, I’m not saying they’d have hurt yeh – they don’t hurt children – but they’d have made it clear
yeh weren’t welcome!”
just wanted to talk to you,” Ginny repeated. She couldn’t fight or argue. There
was no anger left in her. The unicorn had taken it.
yeh should have waited here!” Hagrid stopped and shook his head. “Yer a clever
girl, Ginny, yeh know the rules. Is this because of yer brothers?”
“No,” Ginny said with a sigh. “And I
don’t understand why it’s okay for them to break all these rules, but when I do
shook his head. “Yer brothers always had each other. Yeh went in alone. Never do that. Never ever do
that. And secondly…” He looked at her now, his eyes begging her to understand.
“Yer the youngest and the only girl, Ginny. Yeh know better than me why it’s
different for yeh. And more than that… after what happened to yeh last year, do
yeh really want yer parents finding out that yeh’ve been gallivantin’ about the
forest? And lookin’ for me.” He
looked miserable. “I’m always happy to see yeh, but if anyone found out that
you’d been lookin’ fer me in here…
I’m responsible for yeh, Ginny. I’m a teacher now. If yeh got hurt because of
drew a breath and looked down. She hadn’t thought of that. She hadn’t thought
that it would reflect badly on Hagrid if anyone found out that she was looking
for him in this place. “I’m sorry, Hagrid,” she whispered. “I didn’t think, I
just wanted to ask you something…”
I’m here now. Let’s have a cup o’ tea.” He put an arm around her shoulders and
led her inside, greeting a happy Fang, who left drool all over Ginny’s hands in
greeting. “Now,” Hagrid said, putting the kettle on the fire, “what’s this
I was here with Esmé, I saw Luna Lovegood… in
the forest,” Ginny added, giving Hagrid a look. “And she was talking to
something that wasn’t there. She was in there alone. Wasn’t she in danger?”
put some tea in his teapot and arranged the sugar bowl. “Jus’ because yeh can’t
see somethin’, doesn’t mean it’s not there,” he said gruffly. “She wasn’t
alone. I knew she was there. She comes down here sometimes, jus’ like yeh do…
for a visit, like. And to see the herd.”
You mean the centaurs? But I would have seen a centaur!” Ginny said, folding
I say ‘centaurs’? I don’t remember sayin’ ‘centaurs’,” Hagrid said,
deliberately obtuse. “I said ‘herd’. Plenty of animals live in herds. Luna’s
not in any danger, if tha’s what yer worried about.”
sighed. “I’m not worried, I just wondered… what kind of animal would be
invisible like that.”
kind of animal yeh don’t want to learn to see,” Hagrid said, taking the kettle
off as it started to whistle. “Trust me, Ginny. Yeh don’t want to know. Not
before yeh have to.” He would say no more, beyond telling Ginny that she
shouldn’t ask Luna, either. If Luna wanted to tell her, she would tell her.
Otherwise, it wasn’t Ginny’s business. Ginny was so frustrated that she forgot
to ask about the big black dog and went back to the common room. She found that
all three of her dormmates were waiting for her. Esmé looked irritated.
were you, Ginny? We went to the
library and Hermione said you’d gone to see Hagrid. But his hut was empty and
you were nowhere in sight!”
Esmé, didn’t realise that I had to keep you updated,” Ginny said dryly.
the last time you disappeared…” Rowena took a breath. “The last time you
disappeared like that, we found out you’d been taken into the Chamber. We all
felt so bad that we hadn’t seen you disappear. And so when we couldn’t find
you, we thought something else had happened to you, something bad.” She bit her
felt all the breath go out of her. “I’m such a thoughtless cow,” she said,
sinking into the chair they’d kept empty for her.
I wouldn’t go that far,” Catharine protested. “I mean, it’s not like you were
thinking of us, whatever happened to you.”
shook her head. “But I should have thought of it… I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to
worry you. If you really want to know where I was, I’ll tell you. But not here.
In the dormitory.”
piqued their curiosity, of course, and they all followed her up the staircase.
Ginny closed the dormitory door tightly and drew them around the hearth, where
the fire was laid ready for the evening. They all sat down, eyes fixed on her,
bright and expectant.
did go and see Hagrid,” she said. “Hermione wasn’t lying. But when I saw that
he wasn’t in his hut… I went into the forest.”
didn’t!” Catharine said, her eyes wide.
– but the forest’s forbidden,” Rowena
whispered. “There’s all sorts of
monsters in there.”
didn’t see any monsters,” Ginny told her. “Actually, it was quite nice in
Catharine repeated, wrinkling her nose. “What’s nice about a dark, creepy
forest full of who knows what?”
wasn’t dark when I went in there, and it was very peaceful and quiet. But I did
unicorn?” Esmé asked, leaning forward. Ginny hesitated for a moment. She knew that
Esmé would be so excited to hear about the unicorn but she didn’t want to tell
her. She wanted to keep the unicorn for herself.
sorry. No unicorns. But I did meet a centaur.”
and Esmé shrieked in disbelief, but Catharine looked puzzled. “What’s a
has a horse’s legs and body and tail, but a man or woman’s upper body,” Esmé
I’ve seen pictures of them, we studied Ancient Greece in primary school, but I
thought they were just myths,” Catharine said, turning to look at the window as
if she expected one to leap through at any moment.
what the Ministry needs the Muggles to think, so they don’t go poking about and
upsetting them,” Esmé explained. “Centaurs are very private creatures.” She
looked back at Ginny, lit up by this new information. “So there’s a herd in our
forest. Makes sense. I’m surprised it spoke to you, Ginny.”
said that he didn’t usually interfere with humans,” Ginny admitted. “But he
knew where Hagrid was, so he went to get him. Apparently, his name’s Firenze.”
he lush?” Catharine wanted to know.
they all shouted.
God’s sake, Catharine, he’s half horse,” Rowena said, making a face.
was just a question, God, don’t get
so antsy,” Catharine sniffed.
wasn’t exactly checking him out. He scared me a bit,” Ginny said, blushing
slightly. “I mean, he really was massive. Not as big as Buckbeak, but as big as
a cart horse.”
but you’re small,” Rowena said thoughtfully. “So he might not be that big,
on,” Catharine said, waving a hand. “You said that centaurs have the top half
of a woman or man.”
this Fureasy —”
him, was he wearing any clothes?”
course not,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes. “They don’t need clothes, they’ve
got their horse coats to keep them warm.”
if the women go about bare-chested like the men, doesn’t that mean their boobs
bounce about all the time?”
a moment, Ginny, Esmé and Rowena were speechless. Now they were all thinking
about female centaurs with bouncing breasts.
I s’pose so, yes,” Esmé said, shaking her head and trying to think of something
Catharine looked revolted. “They’ll be just like the women on the National
Geographic covers that my brother gets: their boobs are down to their bellies,
I’m telling you! It’s disgusting! Why doesn’t he just get a tabloid and look at
three?” Ginny repeated, feeling a huge bubble of laughter building up in her
you have page three here? On page three of the Muggle tabloid newspapers,
there’s always a girl who has her top off.”
shrugged. “To get men to buy them, o’ course. And they get paid loads of money
so glad I’m not a Muggle,” Esmé said, and then finally the laughter broke. They rolled on the floor, helpless and
gasping for air. It was a long time before any of them could manage to say more
than two words without collapsing into laughter again.
can’t believe you went in there on your own,
Ginny,” Rowena panted as they all sat up, holding their aching stomachs. “I
would!” Esmé was obviously inspired by the thought of Firenze. “I bet there
are all sorts of amazing things in there.”
Catharine snorted. “Appalling’s more like it. I wouldn’t go in there for all
the tea in China.”
shuddered and nodded in agreement. “Besides, we shouldn’t be wandering around
the grounds at the moment anyway!” she pointed out. “What if you run into a
Dementor, Ginny? What if you run into Sirius
Black? The Forbidden Forest is the perfect
place for him to hide!”
there? Why would anyone want to hide
in there?” Catharine said in disbelief, looking out of the window.
of what you just said, because nobody would think to look in there. Anyway, the
forest must be like a five-star hotel after Azkaban,” Rowena said, shivering
for an entirely different reason.
stop worrying,” Ginny said, hugging her around the shoulders. “Sirius Black
hasn’t been seen for months.”
the more reason for you to be careful!”
leaned over as Ginny tried to calm Rowena down. “If you want to go in there
again, let me know, okay? You shouldn’t go in there alone, and I’m not afraid.”
nodded, feeling a little better that next time, she might have someone
accompanying her. She couldn’t wait to explore more. Perhaps she would even see
another unicorn, although one was more than enough.
Harry began to distract her (not that this was anything new). He was looking miserable,
and Ginny couldn’t work out why: Quidditch practices were going extremely well,
there had been no sightings of Sirius Black and Hagrid was still teaching. It
was Ron who told her what was wrong: Harry’s awful relatives had not signed his
permission form, so he couldn’t go to Hogsmeade on Halloween.
what about McGonagall?” Ginny asked, making sure that Harry couldn’t hear her.
He was poking a lamb chop with his fork, his eyelids half lowered in obvious
shrugged. “That’s what I said, but she wouldn’t sign it. He asked at the end of
our Transfiguration lesson and she said that she wasn’t his relative or his
guardian, so she couldn’t. Stubborn cow. He spends more time here than he does
at that so-called ‘home’, she’s our Head of House, so she’s basically his
not in a legal sense,” Ginny said sadly. “If Harry got injured, his relatives
could sue the school.”
snorted. “They wouldn’t care. They wouldn’t even know how to get in touch, let
was undeniable, but they both knew that once McGonagall had made up her mind,
there was no point in arguing. As Halloween drew nearer, Harry looked worse and
worse. Ginny found herself longing to invite him to spend the day with her and
her friends, but each time she tried to walk up to him and say something, her
throat would swell and her cheeks would burn, and she’d end up in the toilets,
splashing water on her face and cursing her fair skin. Forget Harry, I’m never going to have a boyfriend at all if I keep
reacting like this, she thought.
could invite him,” Catharine said when Ginny complained about her handicap.
grabbed her arm. “No! No, please, Catharine, don’t do that! I couldn’t bear it.
I just couldn’t…” She could feel her face going red all over again at the
rolled her eyes. “All right, all right! Don’t make a fuss, I was just saying!”
wouldn’t mean as much coming from one of us,” Rowena said, turning her piece of
parchment over so that she could continue her sentence. “And besides… I doubt
that spending the day with us would make it better. No offence, Ginny.”
taken,” Ginny said, staring at her textbook and seeing a pair of emerald green
eyes instead. Her heart squeezed painfully in longing, and she rested her head
on her folded arms, letting out a sigh. The others began to talk of something
else, knowing that the subject was closed.
all spent Halloween outside in the grounds, because Catharine had heard that
the Ravenclaw boy she fancied was going to be walking there with his friends. Ginny went because anything
was better than watching the portrait hole for Harry. She ended up enjoying
herself: the Ravenclaw boys were a little snobbish, but that made it all the
more fun to catch them out. Rowena hung back shyly but Esmé joined her in
teasing them. Catharine frowned at them occasionally but they both ignored her.
The price for this was listening to her complain about their behaviour all the
way back to the castle.
never going to get boyfriends if you
act like that!” she finished.
rolled her eyes. “You sound like my mother, Catharine. ‘Don’t be such a tomboy,
Ginny, the boys won’t like it.’ Please.”
what if we don’t want boyfriends?” said Esmé, with a challenging stare. “It
isn’t the be-all and end-all of life. Not in our world, anyway.”
do you mean our world?!” Catharine
demanded. “I’m a witch, too!”
please don’t fight,” begged Rowena. “It’s Halloween, we’re supposed to have
fun. Esmé just meant that you have more options, Catharine. There’s no need to
act like marriage is the only thing you can do.”
pushed out her lower lip but said nothing. Ginny had mixed emotions. On the one
hand, she didn’t like Catharine’s implication that you had to behave a certain
way to have a boyfriend; on the other, she didn’t like the implication that
being a housewife was a bad thing. Her mother was a housewife and proud of it.
quarrel was forgotten when they entered the Great Hall. As usual, the
decoration was spectacular: candle-filled jack o’ lanterns were floating around
the room, making everything seem slightly orange; orange streamers had been set
on fire and were now dancing through the air like decorative comets; the
ceiling was full of stormy, flashing clouds (of course, that wasn’t planned but
it still looked good); bats were fluttering from one side of the hall to the
other. Nobody was sure if they’d been conjured or if one of the teachers had
simply ‘herded’ them inside.
sat down, drinking it all in, even happier for the knowledge that she was going
to remember all of it. The memory of last year’s Halloween was cut abruptly in
half: it began with a feast like this one and ended with cat hairs on her robes
and a wild sense of panic. She glanced up the table: Harry seemed happier now
that the day was over. Ron and Hermione were obviously still telling him about
Hogsmeade. Ginny let out a sigh of relief and dug into the goulash in front of
her, savouring the paprika and the chunks of beef that melted on her tongue.
She loved Mum’s cooking, but it was a bit traditional. At least the house elves
branched out sometimes.
don’t know where you put it,” Rowena said enviously as Ginny had her second
helping of mashed potato.
when you have six older brothers, you learn to eat as much as possible,” Ginny
told her with a grin.
learn it with just one older brother,” Catharine retorted, soaking up the sauce
with a piece of bread. “Our Martin’s a right pig. Thinks he owns the fridge –
that’s a machine we use to keep the food cold,” she explained as an
a refrigerator, my dad’s always going on about those,” Ginny said, rolling her
that, then?” Catharine asked, puzzled.
he’s just fascinated with Muggle machinery, especially anything that involves
eckel… electricity,” Ginny said, remembering how Hermione had pronounced it.
“He’s got a massive plug collection.”
Catharine looked a bit embarrassed. “Is he… all there?”
of the time,” Ginny said seriously. “But he does tend to pop off.” She spotted
Luna and waved at her. Luna raised a hand and waved back with a benign smile.
Ginny wondered for a moment if Luna had forgotten her, but when Luna drifted
over to say hello, she seemed to remember Ginny’s name perfectly well, and she
also remembered Rowena, Esmé and Catharine from Defence Against the Dark Arts.
Grey Lady said the ghosts were going to do something because it’s Halloween,”
she said. “I wonder if they’re going to have an invisible food fight like they
did last year, that was fun.”
it wasn’t,” Catharine said with a pout. “I got steak and kidney pie in my hair,
took me ages to wash that out.”
then, Nearly Headless Nick’s head popped up from the table and they all jumped,
Catharine and Rowena screaming. Ginny and Esmé looked at each other and
grinned. Luna simply took a deep breath and widened her eyes.
you have to do that?” Catharine
evening, Miss Watson, so glad to see you’re enjoying yourself,” Nick answered
with supreme dignity as the rest of his body appeared. He squinted at Luna.
“You’re not one of mine, are you?”
no, I’m from Ravenclaw,” Luna told him seriously.
all right, then,” Nick said, looking relieved. “Thought I was losing my memory
then, had no idea what your name was.”
is Luna Lovegood, Nick,” Ginny said and Luna waved, although Nick was only a
few inches from her.
Nicholas Mimsy de Porpington,” Nick said, making a deep bow, with the
inevitable result that his head tipped over and nearly landed in the pumpkin
Nearly Headless Nick, as we call him,” Esmé said with a mischievous grin.
was staring at Nick with great interest as he pulled his head back on properly
with an aggrieved expression. She did not seem to be at all put off by what had
just happened, unlike Catharine and Rowena, who both looked a bit sick.
it okay if she sits with us, Nick?” Ginny asked, in order to avert the question
Luna was dying to ask.
yes; if you’ll excuse me, I must go and find my position,” Nick said, patting
his ruffle, and he floated off without another word. Luna watched him go and
so lucky,” she said. “The Grey Lady never does anything like that. She just
borrows our books without asking and stares over our shoulders if we don’t do
our homework so you get these horrible cold shivers down your back.”
Catharine muttered. “If that’s ‘lucky’, what does she call ‘unlucky’?”
Rowena said, “the ghosts are starting.”
house ghosts (and the ones which didn’t belong to any particular house) were
flying around in the formation of a flower. This changed to a bird, then a
cauldron, and finally, the most complicated form: a dragon. Everyone clapped
and then Nick floated to the middle of the floor and began to sing a song about
why he hadn’t been properly beheaded. Despite the macabre subject, he did the
different voices and enacted the whole thing so brilliantly that they couldn’t
help laughing at him. He got lots of whistles at the end and the whole of
Gryffindor table gave him a standing ovation. Luna stood up as well. Ginny
noticed that the Ravenclaw table were giving her odd looks: some of them looked
insulted, some of them looked almost gleeful, as if they were saving this up
for later. Ginny wished that she could go back with Luna to her common room and
make sure that she was okay, but it wasn’t allowed. The feast ended late, so
they all had to return to their common rooms immediately. Luna said goodbye to
all of them and went back to her own house. Ginny stared after her, heart
twisting, wondering how Luna would spend the rest of her night: ignored?
know, she’s not at all bad, once you get to know her,” Rowena said
thoughtfully, as they walked up the stairs.
wouldn’t like to share a dormitory with her,” said Catharine bluntly. “She’d
always be doing weird stuff.”
may be eccentric, but she doesn’t have a malicious bone in her body, unlike some,” Esmé said, giving Catharine a
what’s that supposed to mean?” Catharine
demanded. “If you’ve got something to say, Esmé Crosse, just say it to my
if you think you can handle it!” Esmé snapped back, her eyes lit up at the
prospect of battle.
don’t,” Rowena wailed as they squared up to each other. “We’ll get in trouble!”
why don’t you just shut your gob?” Catharine snapped. “If you’re so worried,
you can run ahead and get to bed, like a good little girl!”
going to do that because nobody’s going into the common room,” Ginny said
loudly, frowning. The other three stopped fighting and looked around. The
corridor was completely full of people who should have been through the
portrait hole by now. Stranger still, they were all quiet. The atmosphere made Ginny’s
skin prickle. “Hang on, let me see if I can find Ron, he’ll be able to see
what’s going on,” she said and began to push through the crowd. She could see
her brother’s red head quite clearly, although it took a while to get to him,
because people weren’t always willing to move for her. Thank goodness for sharp
going on?” she demanded as she finally got through the last two people.
just told someone to go and get Professor Dumbledore,” said Hermione in a low
voice, looking at her with worried eyes. “He sounded…”
Ron said, his face very serious. “Something bad’s happened.”
the crowd parted to let Dumbledore through and Ginny followed Ron, Hermione and
Harry to get a closer look so she could report back to the girls. The next
moment, she almost wished she hadn’t. She heard Hermione gasp and Ron make a
strangled noise in his throat, but all she could see was the Fat Lady’s
portrait: it had been vandalised. The portrait hadn’t just been slashed, but
ripped apart, so that the wall showed through some of the holes. Slices of
canvas were curling on the carpet. The Fat Lady was nowhere to be seen.
Dumbledore turned and began to speak and Ginny saw that Professor Snape,
Professor Lupin and Professor McGonagall had arrived. She could hear Dumbledore
telling them to find the Fat Lady through the strange ringing in her ears.
be lucky,” said a voice above her head, maliciously amused, and the sound
kicked back in. Ginny looked up, even though she knew who it was: Peeves. He
was hovering over the crowd and grinning to himself, glorying in the
do you mean, Peeves?” Dumbledore asked, his voice perfectly steady.
didn’t dare taunt Dumbledore. Ginny was glad to see his grin fade but somehow
the expression of mock sadness that replaced it was even worse. “Ashamed, Your
Headship, sir. Doesn’t want to be seen,” he explained in a voice that made
Ginny’s skin crawl. “Saw her running through the landscape up on the fourth
floor, sir, dodging between the trees. Crying something dreadful. Poor thing,”
he added, but the satisfaction in his voice was so thick that nobody believed
she say who did it?” asked Dumbledore, who remained admirably calm. Ginny
wanted to throw something at Peeves, preferably a large Dungbomb.
yes, Professorhead,” Peeves assured him, his old grin slipping back onto his
face. “He got very angry when she wouldn’t let him in, you see.”
He? Ginny thought.
flipped over, looking at Dumbledore through his own ankles. “Nasty temper he’s
got, that Sirius Black.”
was a dead silence for a moment. Ginny felt all the breath leave her body and
found herself looking at Harry. His face was white, his lips parted in shock.
Then there was an explosion of sound as everyone began to panic. Ginny looked
at the ruined portrait. How are we going
to get back inside? she thought.
turned and held up his hands. “Silence!” he said, his voice ringing, and
everyone stopped talking. “There is no need to panic. Professor McGonagall will
take you all back down to the Great Hall, where you will be spending the night.
I must ask you to do exactly as the Prefects tell you and not to go wandering
for any reason.”
were put into a long crocodile and went back to the Hall. Ginny found the girls
and told them everything she’d seen. They’d forgotten their fight in the shock
of the moment.
knew it,” Rowena babbled, “I knew it! He was
hiding in the Forbidden Forest, just waiting
for his moment –”
when we were all in the Great Hall, eating?” Catharine said, looking shaken but
obviously making an effort to hold herself together. “Come off it, Rowena. He
must know it’s Halloween…”
probably lost track of time, given how long he’s been on the run,” Esmé said
quietly. “Besides, he’s crazy… look at what he did to the Fat Lady.”
other three houses joined them then, all looking very confused. Professor
McGonagall and Professor Flitwick began to close all the doors into the Hall
except for the Great Doors at the furthest end, which was where Professor
Dumbledore was standing.
teachers and I need to conduct a thorough search of the castle,” he announced.
“I’m afraid that, for your own safety, you will have to spend the night here. I
want the Prefects to stand guard over the entrances to the Hall and I am
leaving the Head Boy and Girl in charge. Any disturbance should be reported to
me immediately,” he told Percy, who was almost bursting with pride. “Send word
with one of the ghosts.” As he was about to leave the Hall, he turned with a
small smile. “Oh, yes, you’ll be needing…” He waved his wand twice: one flick
sent the dining tables to the side; the next produced hundreds of fluffy purple
sleeping bags. “Sleep well,” he finished and closed the door behind him.
Hall immediately filled with chatter as the Gryffindors began to tell the
others what had happened. Luna led all the Ravenclaw second years over to
Ginny, who told her story about ten times before the Ravenclaw prefects arrived
to chase them back to bed.
can sleep with us, if you want,” Ginny said to Luna in a low voice.
shook her head. “If one of us is missing, they’ll panic.” She gazed up at the
ceiling, which had stopped thundering. The clouds were clearing, allowing the
stars to peep through. “I hope the lightning doesn’t come back. It’ll make it
difficult to sleep.”
out in ten minutes!” Percy shouted, marching about among the sleeping bags.
“Into your sleeping bags, come on, all of you, bed!”
God, this is almost as bad as being at home,” Ginny muttered to Catharine, who
giggled as she snuggled into her sleeping bag.
these are nice,” she sighed. “And they smell good, too.”
looked around for a moment but she couldn’t see Harry. Deep inside, she’d been
wondering if she could drag her sleeping bag close to his, but it didn’t look
like that was going to happen. Oh well. She put her head down (the pillow of
the sleeping bag was soft and smelled of lavender) and closed her eyes,
listening to the other girls whisper about who’d replace the Fat Lady. She
didn’t want to talk about that. It made her think of the ruined canvas, the
wall gazing blankly through the tears…
there she was, standing in the clearing in the Forbidden Forest, moonlight
shining down on her. No dusty hallway, no terrifying door, just shadows and
light. Something emerged out of the darkness and Ginny caught her breath. It
was the unicorn, looking at her expectantly.
What are you doing here? she asked, walking
forward. She didn’t feel the same awe as before, just happiness and gratitude
that it was here. The unicorn seemed to feel the same way, for it lowered its
muzzle into her hand, nuzzling her gently.
was a low bark and she looked up to see the dog standing beyond them. Although
she had only seen the animal once, from far away, Ginny was not surprised that
he seemed so distinct. He had the body and height of a wolfhound, but the head
of a border collie, with big alert ears and wide pale eyes that were almost the
same colour as the moonlight. His coat was of a piece with the shadows,
although she could see enough to know that it was thick and shaggy, like the
wolfhound part of him. He looked at her for a moment, then turned and trotted
away. The unicorn nudged her shoulder, pushing her forward and Ginny followed
seemed they walked for a long time, the path uneven and often obscured by tree
roots. She could see flowers on either side of her, but if she ever hesitated
to pick some, she would feel the unicorn nudge the small of her back, its horn
gently pressing between her shoulder blades like an extra finger. The dog had
melted into the darkness, so she relied on the unicorn to let her know where
they were going. Then they came into another clearing and Ginny stopped dead.
door was there. Somehow the door was in the centre of the Forbidden Forest, with nothing
around it. She looked around, panicked, but the path had disappeared. The
unicorn moved forward and turned its head, looking at her expectantly. Ginny shook
I can’t do it, she whispered. I don’t want to go through.
already gone through,” said a familiar voice and she looked around to see that
a wolf was sitting on one side of the door, its grey coat flecked with brown.
It had Professor Lupin’s voice and his calm brown gaze. “I told you before,
Ginny, you have to make the choice. You have to do this on your own terms.”
saw that the dog was sitting on the other side of the door, as if it were the
counterpart to the wolf. Its eyes were on her, alert and expectant, just like the
unicorn’s. Ginny hugged herself and saw that she was wearing a red cloak, red
as blood against the black of the trees and the white of her skin. There was a
knock on the door from the other side, a voice calling her name.
What big ears you have, she whispered.
the better to hear you with.
What big eyes you have, she whispered.
the better to see you with.
What big hands you have, she whispered.
the better to hold you with.
knew what came next, but she wouldn’t say it. She wasn’t going to fall for it,
not like the girl in the book, not like the girl of last year. She was stronger
than them. She was smarter. The latch of the door rattled and she jumped, but
the anger was stronger than the fear.
I won’t be eaten! I won’t! You can’t eat me again. She walked forward to the door, fists
clenched. This is my dream. MINE. You
can’t have it! You can’t have me! I WON’T LET YOU, TOM RIDDLE!
put her hand on the latch, pressed down and pulled the door open with a wrench,
heart pounding. A wind rushed out at her but she pressed herself against it and
stepped through into darkness. She felt the ground disappear beneath her feet
and she was falling, falling…
awake to stare into a pale blue morning sky. For a moment, Ginny thought she really
had gone to sleep in the forest and woken up there. Then she remembered:
Halloween, Sirius Black, sleeping in the Hall. She remembered her dream. She
remembered what had happened.
was through the door.
threw her hands up to the sky and laughed out loud. She couldn’t wait to tell
Ginny, Remus and everything else belongs to J.K. Rowling, who kindly allows us
to borrow her characters every so often. I’m not making any money here.
NOTES: Well, another long gap between chapters, I’m sorry about that. I didn’t
intend it to be so long, but I can promise you that the next chapter will be
out much quicker, since I already have half of it written! Thanks for being so
patient with me. Thanks also to my beta reader, Jo Wickaninnish, who never lets me down.