The Sugar Quill
Author: Seaspray  Story: Pets and Possessions  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Author’s Notes: I owe a big thank you to the Queens of Awesomeness (Dogstar, Songbird and Skruvsta) for being wonderfully supp

Author’s Notes: I owe a big thank you to the Queens of Awesomeness (Dogstar, Mullvaney, Songbird and Skruvsta) for being wonderfully supportive and commenting on this, and to Bren, who is every writer’s dream reviewer and, of course, to my wonderful SQ beta reader, Lone Astronomer.

Disclaimer: Not mine, Rowling’s.

Hagrid sniffed in a great breath of warm summer air and grinned. It was good being back again; he had forgotten how good. In Azkaban, when he tried to remember Hogwarts, all he could think of was how the slugs would be getting at his vegetables and the Forest animals would get sick and have no one to tend to them, and Aragog’s children would get in among his new herd of Thestrals. Now he was here none of that seemed so important. Nothing terrible had happened in his absence, after all; nothing that a little elbow grease couldn’t put right. He’d have a busy summer to put everything to rights before the next school year began, but just now that didn’t seem so terrible. It was a small price to pay to be home again. Hogwarts looked so peaceful now that the attacks had been stopped for good, the grounds blooming under the deep blue sky. After weeks of grey walls and greyer thoughts it was like paradise.

With a happy sigh, Hagrid picked up the bucket of slugs he’d been picking off his plants, and walked around the side of his cabin. He’d thought he’d heard the gate creak. He hoped he had – it would be nice to have another visitor, although most of the children at the school would be getting their things ready to leave by now. Hogwarts broke up tomorrow.

He’d had a lot of visitors these past couple of days. Harry had been to see him, of course, along with Ron and Hermione; then there was Dumbledore, and the other day, what seemed to be half the Gryffindor Quidditch team… even Minerva had made a point of popping down to congratulate him on his release. When he rounded the corner of his cabin, however, the garden path was empty, and the gate was swinging shut.

“Tha’s odd,” Hagrid muttered to himself, putting down his slug pail. Raising a hand to shield his eyes from the sun he looked out at the path in front of the gate. There didn’t seem to be anyone there, except – yes, there it was, a flash of red beneath the trees. A girl was walking away from his house. She’d stopped. The girl turned and started towards the gate again, her small face set. Just as suddenly she stopped and turned around again.

“Are yeh all right?” Hagrid called, walking over. The girl started as though she’s been stung by a fire crab, and then turned, pale-faced, towards him. It was little Ginny Weasley, Hagrid realised. She looked different, somehow, from the last time he’d seen her, although that must’ve been six months ago. She looked thinner, her small face drawn, although he noticed her eyes seemed clearer somehow. Brighter. Hagrid was reminded suddenly of the feeling of leaving Azkaban, drawing away from the shore, tired, worn but growing more clear headed by the minute. He hadn’t had a mirror at the time, of course, but something told him that his face would have had the same look.

“Hello Hagrid,” the girl said, attempting to smile. Her shoulders were tense.

“Hello, Ginny,” he said kindly. “Long time, no see.”

The girl bit her lip. Hagrid could see the white mark she had made with her teeth.

“Won’ yeh come in, have a cup o’ tea?” he suggested. “Better than staring at tha’gate.”

The girl nodded faintly. “Thank you.” She didn’t move.

“Come on in, then.” Hagrid opened the gate for her. She took a deep breath and set her face, walking up the path with the air of someone about to face a Chimaera.

Hagrid filled the kettle from the rainwater hogshead and hung it over the fire.

“Make yerself at 'ome,” he instructed, and Ginny climbed into a chair. Seated, her legs stuck out in front of her, almost a foot above the ground. “I’m sorry I can’t offer yeh anything ter eat. I’ve been meaning to make some more rock cakes when I have time.”

“That’s all right. I’m not really hungry,” Ginny said, with a half smile that made Hagrid realise what a pretty child she really was. He hadn’t noticed it before.

“Well, then, tha’s all right,” Hagrid said. He wondered why the girl had come here but some instinct – the same sixth sense that told him when an animal needed particular care or consideration – told him not to rush the girl. Whatever she had come here to say she could say it in her own time. “Here,” he said, “Tell yeh what. I’ve got somethin’ that might int’rest yeh.”

The girl, who had been frowning into the flames glanced up, curiosity defeating the unhappiness in her eyes.

“C’mon.” he walked over to the other end of the hut, where he had a large crate. “Look inside, bu’ be very careful. Yeh don’ want ter wake ‘em.”

Ginny stood up on her tiptoes, trying to peer over the edge. Hagrid got her a three legged stool to stand on.

“Oh!” she cried, as soon as she was able to look over the edge. “Oh, look!”

Hagrid grinned as they looked down at the sleeping creatures, a litter of baby gissups, their small, pig-like noses resting on their soft paws, and their plump little bodies squashed together like a pack of sausages.

“I found ‘em in the Forest,” he said. “Their mother had been killed, by a Thestral most likely.”

“Are you going to keep them?” Ginny asked, wide eyed.

“On’y fer a few weeks. Soon as they can look after themselves, I’ll let ‘em back out into the wild.”

“But their mother couldn’t look after herself. She got killed!” Ginny said, indignantly. “What if the same thing happens to them?”

Hagrid looked at her steadily. “Well, now,” he said. “There’s a difference between leavin’ a new born litter to fend for themselves, and lettin’ a grown up creature out into the wild, where it belongs. Yeh just can’t coop up some creatures. Gissups are wild creatures fer all they’re so cute looking. It would be wrong to keep ‘em inside and not let ‘em roam free.”

“But if they might die; I don’t see how you can let them go,” Ginny said rebelliously. “They’re so sweet,” she finished forlornly, gazing down at the sleeping gissup pups.

“Well, now, I didn’ say it was easy, did I? S’always hard saying goodbye to a pet.” Hagrid felt a lump in his throat as he remembered Norbert. “Bu’ yeh gotta learn, or yeh’ll be hurtin’ them in the end. Yeh… yeh musn’ think of it as bein’ a chance for ‘em to die. It’s more… a chance for them to live, y’see?”

Hagrid stopped, suddenly aware that he had been speaking more to himself than to the little girl who was looking at him, her eyes wide, her brow furrowed slightly in reflection.

“Here,” he said, feeling things had got rather too serious all of a sudden. “Tha’ one's waking up. Would you like to hold him?” He bent down into the crate and gently lifted out the yawning gissup. It wriggled a little in his arms, snuggling against his chest, it’s silky fur brushing his face.

“Here,” he turned to the little girl. “Yeh can stoke it, if yeh like.”

The girl held out a hand stiffly to touch it and then just as quickly withdrew it. All of a sudden she gave a choked sob.

“Here!” said Hagrid in surprise. “Here, now, don’t cry. What’s wrong?”

“I -” the girl swiped a tear away angrily with the back of her hand. “I – you wouldn’t let me touch it if - if you knew.”

“Knew wha’?” Hagrid asked as gently as he could, taking a step towards the weeping child, hoping to comfort her. The girl stepped back, raising a hand as if to ward him off.

“I was going to tell you, I was; only he always stopped me – and then you were so kind and I couldn’t…. Oh, Hagrid, I killed your roosters.”

Hagrid blinked in amazement at the girl. “You killed-”

“Yes,” Ginny nodded miserably.

“Well,” said Hagrid, still lost in bewilderment. “Well, I’m sure it was an accident...”

“It wasn’t an accident. I – I strangled them.” Ginny’s eyes were wide at the horror of what she was saying. “Only I didn’t want to, he made me. I don’t even remember doing it only – only he told me about it later in the Chamber. Told me what I did.”

“Who made yer?” Hagrid growled indignantly. He had seen some nasty cases of bullying in his time but making an eleven year old girl kill an innocent chicken counted among the worst.

Ginny looked at the floor, what little colour there had been in her countenance draining away. “Tom Riddle,” she half whispered.

Hagrid drew in a sharp breath, as suddenly the pieces of information he had been told and had overheard came together sharply.

“Yeh – yeh were possessed?” he whispered.

Ginny nodded, her eyes still on the floor.

“Well, now,” said Hagrid again, quietly. “Well now.”

Ginny looked up at him with eyes dashed with tears. “I’m sorry, Hagrid. It was all because of me. The Chamber, and you going to Azkaban, and the roosters – everything.”

Hagrid let out his breath slowly. That a little child like Ginny should be used like that – and that she been made to feel responsible for hurting all those other students – well, Riddle had done a lot of cruel things in his time, but this was one of the cruelest.

“It weren’t yer fault,” said Hagrid, gently. “Yeh wouldn’t have done any of them things if you could help it, I can see that.”

“No, I wouldn’t.” Ginny shook her head vehemently. “Those poor birds. You’re – you’re really not angry with me?”

“’Course not.” Hagrid patted her on the shoulder, making her stagger. “Oops, sorry. Bu’ between yeh and me, yeh're not the on’y person to blame fer all than’ stuff wi’ the Chamber. I had a fair hand in that too.”

“But you didn’t set that monster on anyone!” Ginny said indignantly. “You were innocent!”

“No, bu’ when I was at school I broke the rules. I ‘spect yer brother told yeh. Because I had been keeping a creature in secret everyone though' I was the Heir of Slytherin, and You – Know –Who got away wi’ it. P’raps, if it weren’t fer me he would’ve been caught when he was young, caught and stopped. Riddle always had a way of picking up on folks' bad points and using ‘em to do evil. Yeh musn’ worry yer head about it Ginny. We’re none of us perfect.”

Ginny smiled feebly at this. “Thank you, Hagrid.”

Hagrid smiled at her through his beard. “Well, then, if we’ve got that sorted, how about giving me a hand wi’ this gissup?”

Ginny looked at him in surprise. “You – you really don’t mind? Even after - ?”

Hagrid plopped the gissup puppy into Ginny’s hands by way of an answer. “Don’ be daft.”

She stiffened at first and then relaxed; giggling as the puppy energetically licked her face. “It tickles!”

“He likes yeh,” Hagrid said, enjoying the sight of Ginny Weasley, truly smiling once more.

“You know, Hagrid,” Ginny said, an hour later, when she managed to drag herself reluctantly away from the gissup pup. “I’m awfully glad you’re not angry with me. Fred told me you pull trees up by their roots and throw them when you get cross.”

“He did, did he?” Hagrid growled, and then he saw Ginny was giggling. The little minx! But somehow Hagrid didn’t mind little Ginny teasing him. “Well then,” he said. “Come again to see me again sometime when yeh come back ter school.”

“I will,” said Ginny, and to his surprise she flung her arms around his waist, squeezing what portion of this girth she could manage into a hug. “Goodbye!”

And Hagrid watched the youngest Weasley trip away down his garden path and pondered on the meanings of hurt, of betrayal, and of escape. He hoped Ginny Weasley would become a friend to him, after all.


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