The Sugar Quill
Author: Arabella (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Unseen Interlude  Chapter: Default
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Ginny plunged into the lake. She had gone around the opposite side, cutting across part of the Forbidden Forest, where she wasn’t technically allowed to trespass. But the forest didn‘t scare her anymore - and anyway, Ginny had always been a brave girl. That’s what it meant, didn’t it, being chosen for Gryffindor?

Her body sliced into the water and she felt every pore inhale the sweet, cold silence of being under. She just wanted to be under, away from all the noise, all the light, all the students moving in shocked packs through the corridors, whispering and telling rumors. She couldn‘t stand to listen to one more person try to make sense of the chaos Hogwarts had become.

"I can’t believe he’s dead." "Cedric Diggory - did you see Cho earlier? She looked like somebody Stunned her." "You heard they’re saying He’s back?" "You Know Who -yeah I heard that, but that’s ridiculous - my mum said He was dead thirteen years ago." "Yeah, Potter killed him, I thought." "Nah, Potter just got lucky." "Has anybody seen Potter, since..." "Yeah. He’s looking pretty bad, actually." "Well you heard that Moody almost killed him though, right?" "That’s not true is it?" "It can’t be - Moody‘s dead." "No, he’s not dead, he’s Bart Crouch, from the Ministry." "No, Crouch’s son, I thought." "Yeah, right. Now they’re both dead."

Ginny pulled her legs and arms in wide breast strokes, digging herself deeper into the lake. She wanted to deafen all the echoes. She was very tired. She was shaken and confused and wanted very much to know what was really happening. But she wasn’t interested in knowing anybody’s version of events except for Harry’s. And since Harry never told her anything important, she knew she’d be left out of it. She was just going to have to deal with all this by herself, as usual, in a world full of questions without answers.

She hit the spongy bottom of the lake with one white foot, bent her knee, and pushed up hard toward the surface. Her lungs were burning and she was glad of it. It took her mind off everything else. For five glorious seconds there was only the rocketing of her body up through the silent water, and the sensation that her chest might burst for want of air.

She broke into the sky and gasped, taking in every molecule of available oxygen. As she pedaled the water to keep her head up, she noticed other students swimming across the lake, in the permitted areas. She squinted across the way. Barely, she could make out that there were small groups of her schoolmates dotting the lake shore, sitting on the grass and shading their eyes from the sun. But there wasn’t any noise. Nothing at all. It was odd, Ginny thought, to be finished with exams, and practically right on top of summer -and not to hear anybody laughing. Usually this time of year meant shrieking and water fights, people running and flying like mad over the grounds of the castle. But this year everything was different.

Ginny shut her eyes, relaxed every muscle and sank like a sandbag back under the blue glass surface of the lake. The quiet pressure of the water calmed her mind slightly. She wished it were possible to suspend herself there for the summer - she wondered briefly what kind of enchantment Dumbledore had used on the hostage students during the second task. Maybe if she asked him, he’d let her sleep at the bottom of the lake for awhile - or maybe if she went deep enough underwater herself, the merpeople would spirit her away... she wouldn’t have minded. It was too hard being awake, too hard standing off to the side and watching Harry get tossed around from one crisis to another like a cork in a storm. She didn’t want to watch anymore.

She wasn’t the only person feeling anxious for him, Ginny knew. She remembered Ron’s pale face and Hermione’s bloodshot eyes, as they had looked on the evening following the third task. They’d both been wrecked. It was different for them, though, Ginny reflected. It was easier for them. Even though they loved Harry very much, even though they were frightened for him and confused about what the world was becoming, they at least had the liberty of talking to him about it. And they had the relief of being able to help, because he allowed them in.

Ginny bobbed to the surface of the water in order to breathe again, and then propelled herself into a face-up floating position. She felt the world drop away beneath her. In her vision there was nothing but open sky fringed with trees. In her ears there was only the amplified sound of her own breathing. But in her head she kept seeing Harry, the way he’d looked when he’d dropped from thin air onto the Quidditch pitch two weeks before, one hand clutching the Triwizard trophy, the other gripping Cedric’s robes, his face haggard from some terrible wear.

She wished there was something she could do to stop herself from thinking of him. There wasn’t any point in thinking of him. In three years, he’d hardly even seen her standing there. It was almost cruel, she thought, to be Ron’s sister and to have become so much closer to Hermione this year. It meant that Harry was always there - but always once removed. It was very difficult to take. She ought to be right there with him, she knew it, she felt it. She’d had her birthday already; she was fourteen, just like he was. She wished that he would notice, but she could hardly expect anything like that. He had other things to think about now.

Ginny sighed deeply against the ache in her chest, curled into a little ball and sank again into the darkness of the water, holding her breath as long as possible before surfacing once more. She began to swim silently inland, gliding toward the shore, her hair streaming behind her. She hoped she wouldn’t run into anybody on the way into the castle. She wasn’t in the mood to say a single word, not to anyone, not even ‘hello’.

She stepped onto the pebbly shore that lined that side of the lake, toweled off and pulled on her clothes, even though her suit was still wet. She pushed her damp feet into sandals and rung her hair tightly in her hands to get the water out. Then, carrying the towel over her arm, she slipped noiselessly back across the edge of the forest, emerging near Hagrid’s cabin. She looked to her left. There were students on the front lawn- she’d have to cut through them in order to use the entrance doors, and then she’d have to pass the Great Hall, which was sure to be busy, on her way up the stairs. The risk that she’d have to talk to somebody was too great. Needing to keep her privacy, Ginny turned away from the crowd and trudged toward another entrance - one that was usually deserted. The house elves had shown it to Fred, who in turn had shown it to her. Going in this way meant that she would only have to pass by classrooms on her way up to Gryffindor Tower. Nobody would be in the classrooms now that exams were done. And nobody was just what Ginny wanted.

She rounded the elliptical flagstone wall of one of the castle’s many stout towers, making for the side door. And then she stopped, her knees feeling strangely weak. Someone was sitting on the gray steps outside the side entrance. Because his head was bent, Ginny could only see his black hair and the back of his neck. But she knew it was Harry because of the way her chest was burning, just as if she were still far under the water, wanting air. She didn’t move.

Neither did Harry - indeed, he didn’t seem to have heard her approach. His head was hanging heavily toward the ground. His elbows were on his knees and his forearms and hands dangled loosely. Ginny had never seen his posture so defeated and she felt her heart go out to him - she wished that it wouldn’t, but there was no stopping it. She wondered what on earth he would do if she sat down next to him and held him - just quietly held him, nothing more - she wanted to give him that. But it wasn’t as if she could actually do it. This was his grief, not hers, and she didn’t dare to infringe on it without his consent.

Without a noise Ginny backed away, not minding the crowd at the front entrance if it meant leaving Harry undisturbed. She was successful in keeping completely quiet and was about to turn back and slip around the tower wall when Harry’s head came up slightly. She froze. He hadn’t looked at her, but she knew that he was aware of her presence. She wasn’t sure whether to keep walking away, or whether she should speak to him. She did neither; merely stood and waited. A moment later, he brought his eyes up to meet hers - the small movement took obvious effort, on his part - but Ginny could tell that he wasn’t really seeing her. His eyes seemed to focus through her face and out beyond Hogwarts. They were such tired eyes, Ginny noticed. So tired, and so green.

Harry’s eyes shifted to the towel on Ginny’s arm, and then back down to the ground. He gestured behind him to the door, carelessly. "Go ahead," he muttered, moving slightly to the right on the step, so that Ginny could get past him. She hesitated. She wanted to say that she could stay with him if he wanted someone - she wanted to ask if he had anything he needed to say - she wanted to sit on the step above him and let him lean back against her and go to sleep. But none of that was possible, of course. She nodded instead, and moved gently up the stairs without touching him or speaking to him at all. She pulled the door open - turning back slightly to see if he would follow her. But Harry had already dropped his head again. His position hadn’t changed. She looked at the back of his neck for a moment, then shook her head sharply and stepped inside. No good torturing herself about it. He was someplace else, and wherever it was, he didn’t want company.

Ginny shut the door softly, but couldn‘t bring herself to leave. Instead, she pressed her palms against the door and let her forehead rest on the wooden panels. For a long time - she had no idea how long and she didn’t really care - she stood without moving. It was only when she heard gravel shift on the steps outside, as though someone had just gotten to his feet, that Ginny turned and fled away down the corridor.

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The Sugar Quill was created by Zsenya and Arabella. For questions, please send us an Owl!

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