None of this, obviously, belongs to me. While this makes
me sad, I acknowledge that itís in better hands than mine!
It was an extremely chilly night,
which was rather unexpected, since the day it followed had been unusually
warm for December. Harry pulled his cloak up around his neck and wished
that heíd remembered to bring his gloves. He was on his way back from
Hagridís, where he had spent a very comfortable half-hour with Fang and
Hagrid talking of nothing in particular and staring into the fire. It
had been nice to be out of the castle. This nameless restlessness was
easier out of doors. He should be in the common room right now working
on the stacks of homework he had not yet started, but he couldnít seem
to settle his mind on anything long enough to be productive. Scuffing
his foot along the ground, he deliberately slowed his stride. There was
no hurry to get back.
Snow had started falling heavily without
Harryís notice, but now he was beginning to realize that the world around
him was rapidly becoming white. He skirted around a shed and came within
view of the paddock, and unexpectedly found himself unable to move.
Hagridís success last year with unicorns
had inspired him to repeat the lessons with the fourth years this term.
While Harryís fifth year class was working with a variety of extremely
nasty invertebrates once again, he had heard the 4th year Gryffindor
girls chattering on about how beautiful the unicorns were. He hadnít really
paid much attention- he wasnít paying much attention to anything lately,
really. But, now, standing there in the snow by Hagridís paddock, he had
within his view the most riveting thing heíd ever seen.
Suddenly, he remembered quite clearly
what the girls had been so excited about. "Wasnít it the most beautiful
thing youíve ever seen? So white, and it let me touch it!" "Yeah,
but it really seemed to fancy Ginny, didnít it? Walked right up to her
and rubbed his head against hers. Iím jealous!" He was jealous, too,
he thought suddenly, not of Ginny, but the unicorn. For there, standing
no more than 50 feet away from him was Ginny, her bright hair speckled
with snow and her arms around the neck of the unicorn. He had never seen
that expression on her face before. She looked alight, uplifted, as the
unicorn delicately nuzzled the side of her face. She ran a red mittened
hand along its cheek soothingly and patted its neck. The picture that
she made against the backdrop of snow covered trees quite literally took
his breath away. Part of her red hair was caught in a black knitted muffler
wound about her neck while the rest was whipping about her face in the
breeze. It seemed impossibly bright in the moonlight, the only real color
against the black of her cloak and the blinding white of the unicorn.
He had quite a bit of experience with
how his stomach felt when he was in mortal danger, and it felt a bit like
that now, only there was a curious sort of enjoyment in it. He wondered
if he should walk over and talk to her, but that was flatly impossible.
Still, it didnít seem right to just stand here and stare at her- surely
he should do somethingÖbut in the next moment the decision was taken entirely
out of his hands when she turned her head slightly and saw him standing
there in the clearing.
Her eyes grew wide, and Harry felt
his cheeks grow hot. He knew he should say something quickly, something
casual, so sheíd know that this was no big deal, that there was nothing
going on here at all, that everything was casual, was normal, wasÖbut
he couldnít force a single word through his throat. "Harry?"
said Ginny tentatively. "What are you doing here?" Harry shrugged.
It was the best he could do. Ginny cleared her throat and looked away
from him. "Isnít she beautiful?" She asked, indicating the unicorn.
"I couldnít help walking down to see her." Harry nodded. "Er-
yeah. Really beautiful." He managed to croak. "I- Iím going
to go back up to the castle now," he said, not trusting himself any
further. "Itís- Itís getting pretty late. You should probably come
up now, too." Ginny caught his eyes for a moment, and then shook
her head. "Not yet. Iíll be up in a minute. You go on ahead."
He was relieved and disappointed at the same time. He didnít quite know
what was going on here, but he was certain that he was in big trouble.
"Ok," he said, finally. "Iíll see you back up in Gryffindor,
then." But Ginnyís attention was already back with the unicorn. "Mmm-hmm,"
she murmured soothingly, more at the animal than in response to Harry.
"Ok, Then." He felt like a fool. Go! he shouted at himself.
Just Go! But it was at least another minute before he managed to turn
away and start trudging up the hill in the direction of the castle, his
restlessness now with a name.
Continued in That
Corner of the Room