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.
Not mine, Rowling’s.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hagrid,” the girl said, attempting to smile. Her shoulders were tense.
Ginny,” he said kindly. “Long time, no see.”
girl bit her lip. Hagrid could see the white mark she had made with her teeth.
yeh come in, have a cup o’ tea?” he suggested. “Better than staring at
girl nodded faintly. “Thank you.” She didn’t move.
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.
filled the kettle from the rainwater hogshead and hung it over the fire.
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.”
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.
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.”
girl, who had been frowning into the flames glanced up, curiosity defeating the
unhappiness in her eyes.
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.”
stood up on her tiptoes, trying to peer over the edge. Hagrid got her a three
legged stool to stand on.
she cried, as soon as she was able to look over the edge. “Oh, look!”
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.
found ‘em in the Forest,” he said. “Their mother had been killed, by a Thestral
you going to keep them?” Ginny asked, wide eyed.
fer a few weeks. Soon as they can look after themselves, I’ll let ‘em back out
into the wild.”
their mother couldn’t look after herself. She got killed!” Ginny said,
indignantly. “What if the same thing happens to them?”
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.”
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
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,
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
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.
he turned to the little girl. “Yeh can stoke it, if yeh like.”
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.
said Hagrid in surprise. “Here, now, don’t cry. What’s wrong?”
-” 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.”
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.
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.”
blinked in amazement at the girl. “You killed-”
Ginny nodded miserably.
said Hagrid, still lost in bewilderment. “Well, I’m sure it was an accident...”
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.”
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.
looked at the floor, what little colour there had been in her countenance draining
away. “Tom Riddle,” she half whispered.
drew in a sharp breath, as suddenly the pieces of information he had been told
and had overheard came together sharply.
– yeh were possessed?” he whispered.
nodded, her eyes still on the floor.
now,” said Hagrid again, quietly. “Well now.”
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 –
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.
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.”
I wouldn’t.” Ginny shook her head vehemently. “Those poor birds. You’re – you’re
really not angry with me?”
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.”
you didn’t set that monster on anyone!” Ginny said indignantly. “You were
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.”
smiled feebly at this. “Thank you, Hagrid.”
smiled at her through his beard. “Well, then, if we’ve got that sorted, how about
giving me a hand wi’ this gissup?”
looked at him in surprise. “You – you really don’t mind? Even after - ?”
plopped the gissup puppy into Ginny’s hands by way of an answer. “Don’ be
stiffened at first and then relaxed; giggling as the puppy energetically licked
her face. “It tickles!”
likes yeh,” Hagrid said, enjoying the sight of Ginny Weasley, truly smiling
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
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.”
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!”
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.