With his feet still propped up on one of the tables in the Gryffindor common room, Harry Potter looked up from Unfogging the Future at his best friend, Ron Weasley, who sat across from him. "At least you've written something down," he told him, pointing at Ron's parchment. "Look at me. I'm just amusing myself with the really silly predictions in here."
"Sshh. Don't let them hear you." Ron jabbed a thumb at the girls who sat at the far end of the table. Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil, their fellow Gryffindors, looked very engrossed in the cards laid down in front of them.
"So what'll Hermione be?" Harry asked.
Ron's eyes lit up, as Harry expected. "Hermione? She's going to marry this nutter—who, for the record, isn't Krum," he added, smiling. "And he's going to let her do stupid things like build a house out of books, and she's going to hex him whenever they fight. But then again, they'll live happily ever after."
"Hmm. The nutter sounds like someone I know."
Ron's head snapped up. "Who?"
Why you, you incredibly silly prat, Harry thought. "Nah, I was kidding."
"If you say so." Ron looked relieved. "I don't know what you're gonna be yet, Harry."
"Don't even try. I never had much trust in these." Harry sat up straight and picked up his own stack of Tarot cards. "Let's say we trade these for Exploding Snap, would you agree?"
"Yeah!" Ron said without hesitation, slamming his battered copy of Unfogging the Future shut.
The sound made Lavender and Parvati look up from their cards and, seeing Harry shove aside his Tarot cards, the girls scowled at the two boys.
"You two are never going to take Divination seriously, huh?" Parvati said loudly.
"No," Ron said matter-of-factly without even taking a glance at them.
"With good reason," someone said behind his back.
Ron whirled around in his seat and found Hermione Granger, with a look on her face that was half-supportive, half-frustrated.
"Fine, hate Divination . We all do—" Hermione said, eliciting a more unpleasant frown from Parvati and Lavender"—but at least, do your work decently."
"How exactly do you do decent work in Divination, may I ask?" said Ron.
At this point, Hermione faltered. "Uh…well, at least learn the theory, or…." She looked up at Harry's and Ron's self-satisfied smiles. "Oh, never mind." She grinned back, sitting beside Ron. Parvati and Lavender, rolling their eyes, went back to work.
It was cold outside on that February evening, but as it had been in the past four years of Harry's stay in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Gryffindor common room was as warm as any comfortable home could be. Despite all of the assignments he had to do (such as predicting at least 20 close friends' futures using Tarot cards for Divination), annoying teachers to dodge, and Slytherin ambushes to watch out for, he felt quite happy, for on that evening he was with his friends. It was quite silly, he knew, to feel that way, for evenings in the Gryffindor common room were like that…always. Well, okay, almost. But that evening, staring into the fireplace with its flames crackling merrily, Harry let out a contented sigh.
"What?" Ron asked.
"What was that sigh for?"
Harry picked up Unfogging the Future again. "Nothing."
Ron and Hermione looked at each other, and shook their heads.
"Hey, guys." Another female voice was heard from behind them. This time it was Ginny Weasley, Ron's sister, who was in her fourth year. "Hi."
"Hi, Ginny," said Hermione, motioning for her to sit down beside her. "What's up?"
"Muggle Studies," said Ginny, sitting down and giving Harry a grin. "Can you help me a bit with this…electricity thing?"
It was another one of those times when Ginny's new attitude—at least towards him—amazed Harry. It was only last summer when, as Harry visited The Burrow, Ginny grinned at him—rather coolly, not in the shy way that she used to smile at him in their previous years. From then on, she always gave him that smile. He couldn't seem to shake it off his mind, even until now.
Not that her whole appearance hadn't changed. She grew her hair longer, so that straight, fiery red hair cascaded down her back. And she looked more…confident. She seemed to have outgrown her shyness, too. Her new smile, at least the one she saved for him, attested to that.
It was apparent that little Ginny had grown up. And her silly crush over Harry had…well, diminished—been sucked into oblivion. Harry had felt quite relieved when he noticed.
But then again…why was he noticing? Harry inwardly groaned, looking down at his book again, though not really reading.
"What about electricity?" Hermione was asking. "How does it work?"
"Well, you know Muggles use it to power things like lamps, radios, TVs…"
"Appliances," Ginny prompted. "But how do they get the electricity there exactly?"
"Uh, well…there are these…um, long cables that send electricity to houses and offices." Looking up, Harry noticed that Hermione looked rather uneasy. "From these power sources…." "Yeah, I think I understood that part," Ginny said softly, leafing through Sciences of the Muggle World. "I just don't get how small things get electricity without having to…what, plug them?"
Hermione shrugged. "Batteries?"
Ginny looked at her blankly. "What?"
"Batteries," Hermione repeated. "They're these small cylinder-shaped things that have some sort of electricity in them."
"Not all are cylinders," said Harry, butting in. "There are types that look like rectangles. Watches have these small batteries, just this size." Harry curled his forefinger towards his thumb to illustrate. "And, you know, cars run on batteries this size." Harry gestured once more.
Ron and Ginny were staring at Harry, apparently dumbfounded by the wealth of information he was giving them.
"Your watches run on electricity?" said Ron. "With…what? Batteries?"
"Yeah…well, some don't run on batteries," Harry went on, glancing at Hermione (who had begun to scowl). "Some are solar-powered." When Ginny still looked confused, Harry went on to explain. "You know, they get power from the sun's rays and convert it to electricity."
"You seem to know a lot about electricity," Hermione interrupted.
Harry looked at her. "You make it sound as if I don't know anything else."
"That's a lot of information I haven't found in the books in the library," Ginny said, scribbling notes on a piece of parchment. "Thanks a lot, Harry." Again, there was that cool voice.
Harry couldn't help but feel pleased, though. "Hey, ask anyone here who grew up with Muggles—they'll tell you the same thing."
"Hermione didn't say the same," Ron reminded him. Hermione rolled her eyes.
"I was…um, correcting her," Harry said, trying to stop the two from bickering. "Doesn't mean she doesn't know."
"How do you know a lot about them, anyway?" Ginny asked Harry.
Harry looked at her for a while. "You really wanna know?"
Ginny grinned. "Try me."
There was something about that grin that Harry wanted to know…if there was anything to know about it. Somehow, it seemed to be rather mysterious. Meanwhile, he wondered if he should go on and tell them why he knew a bit about electricity and electronics. He didn't want their sympathy for his horrible home life at the Dursleys. Not on a nice evening like this.
"Well," Harry began, his mind trying to hold on to a credible fib, "I…tinker with the old toys Dudley throws out the window. You know, out of curiosity."
That wasn't a complete lie. The thing is, Dudley's old and broken toys went either in his bedroom or in his old bedroom—the cupboard under the stairs. And that gave him a lot of chances to investigate electronic parts and a faint idea of how they really worked.
"Wow, brilliant," Ron said admiringly. "I never knew you were that curious about things."
"Yeah. So if I ever get thrown out of the wizarding world, at least I'll have a Muggle sideline."
Ginny gave him a dirty look. "Don't even think about that," she said seriously. "How can you ever get thrown out of here?"
"I was kidding," said Harry, smiling. "But, you know, I might even become something like your Dad."
"Great," Ron said. "Another nutter."
"Ron," Hermione said warningly.
"Yeah, yeah." Ron picked up his quill, dipped it into his ink bottle, and wrote on his parchment. "‘A very close friend, who supposedly will die sometime soon, at least according to a very dear professor who oh-so-accurately predicts everybody's death'—" Ginny looked aghast, while Hermione looked happy again. She peered into Ron's parchment. "You may want to remove that line if you don't want her swooping down on you like the bat you always say she is." "That was Snape," Ron told her. "Okay. Let me try again. ‘A very close friend will be unfortunate enough to hold the job of Head of Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office of the Ministry of Magic, will help defeat the most evil wizard of all time, marry and live happily ever after.' It isn't as terrible as she might like, but…." "Nah. That life would be cool." Harry looked into the fire and smiled, thinking of himself surrounded by a bunch of rowdy kids trying to pry an old PlayStation joystick out of his grip. Not a bad life, really…. "‘A close friend will become very successful in his chosen career. He will live in a beautiful house and have seven kids.'"
Professor Trelawney glanced up at the class, then at Harry, who had his chin propped up his fist. He half expected her to say, "What rubbish is this, Mr. Potter? All of your predictions are positive! Don't you see that this world is made up of nothing but negative aura?"
"Seven kids?" Ron muttered to Harry in an amused tone. "Who's that unlucky friend of yours?"
"Can't tell you, mate," Harry whispered back. "Best not to flaunt my Inner Eye."
Professor Trelawney continued reading Harry's assignment aloud. "‘His wife, another close friend, will also be successful. Both will be respected in the wizarding world, for they will help ensure security among the people.'"
"Then again," Ron was whispering, "it isn't so bad. Wish it were me."
Me too, thought Harry. Wish it were you.
"Without the seven kids," said Ron.
Professor Trelawney was looking straight at Harry. "How do I know you did not make these up, Mr. Potter?"
Harry had rehearsed what to say in case anything like this came up. "Well, Professor, I can't really prove it," he said confidently. "I could only say what the cards have revealed."
"Hmm. I say you are better in predicting the future with the stars and planets. I was more impressed with your performance last year," said Professor Trelawney, her usual eerie tone becoming a bit stronger. "Your predictions then were more accurate. Not as broad as this. What do you mean by ‘successful in his chosen career'?"
"Well…he has to choose, right?"
"Yes, but what career will he choose?"
"It won't matter, really, Professor," Harry went on. "What matters is that he and his wife will be successful."
"Loads of tosh," said Ron out of the corner of his mouth.
Professor Trelawney held his parchment up, looking quite angry. "Why does it seem like you're wishing for these things to happen rather than predicting them to happen? These don't look so…realistic! They seem to say that everybody will live to have families of their own! Understand, Mr. Potter, that we have to accept our destiny, whether it may be bad or not!"
Harry felt the heat rising in him. What was wrong with wishing that his friends would have a happy life and have families of their own?
"You can't really alter a wonderful destiny, Professor," said Harry, trying to stop his voice from shaking. "Understand that we have to accept our destiny, whether it may turn out to be good or not."
Professor Trelawney's nose flared. She fixed Harry in a steely gaze that he hadn't seen before. Harry, however, wasn't worried. He thought he knew enough of rough times to put more misery in his ‘predictions'.
Professor Trelawney took out another parchment. It was Lavender's. She scanned it for a while, but for once, she didn't seem impressed with her work.
"Miss Brown, I'm surprised at you. True, your predictions aren't so broad, but you failed to look further into the future. What's listed here are predictions for the future indeed—in the next six months! ‘Two classmates will admit they love each other and become a couple before the term ends'"—Ron, Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan broke into uncontrollable laughter—"‘Another classmate will develop feelings for a younger girl and have his heart broken by June, but will be perfectly happy again over the summer.' Not too many details here, either, Miss Brown. Very vague, indeed…."
Harry was glad to get away from the fumes in the Divination classroom after half an hour. Professor Trelawney had gone on and on, criticizing everyone's predictions. Apparently, no one did their homework properly.
"What does she expect us to do? Write a History of Magic-sized biography for the future for each of our close friends?" Ron complained.
"Maybe just the size of Hogwarts, a History," Harry said gloomily. "Ah, who cares. Let's go to dinner."
As Harry and Ron entered the Great Hall for dinner, Harry couldn't help but hear Professor Trelawney's words: "These don't look so realistic! They seem to say that everybody will live to have families of their own!"
Why doesn't having a family seem realistic to her? he wondered. Is having one really that impossible?
But… Harry stared at his plate. For him, Harry Potter, it was impossible. At least for now, it was. Until he married…or rather, if he ever married and had children of his own—he would never have a family where he felt he truly belonged.
His mind flashed back to his first year, to what he saw in the Mirror of Erised, where he looked into the faces of his family…his beautiful mother, his handsome father, his grandparents…all of them. For perhaps the thousandth time in his life, he reminded himself that although he knew that he and his parents used to be a wonderful threesome fifteen years ago, they were never going to be completely his again.
"What's eating you, Harry?" asked Ron, who had filled his plate with potatoes and chicken legs.
Harry shook his head. "It's Trelawney. Let's just forget it."
"Ah, come on," said Ron. "You did your best."
"Yeah right, my best. I'm a good guesser, then."
"I think I'm better than you, though."
Hermione joined them a while later, raving about her new lesson in Arithmancy (the correlation of the Muggles' principles of Physics to the principles of Arithmancy in relation to the science of the universe). After Ron had argued that he'd rather endure the boredom in the Divination classroom than take in all the Arithmancy principles that might weigh his brain down, the two had begun to bicker (for the nth time).
Harry kept to himself, watching the two. They'd make a lovely couple, he thought, if maybe they'd just stop fighting a bit. Although that could be their own version of being playful….
Harry, Ron and Hermione went back to the Gryffindor Tower after dinner, with Ron and Hermione still fighting.
"If Trelawney's talking realistic, then she should study a precise branch of magic. Arithmancy, for one," Hermione was saying.
"But it doesn't tell you what to expect for the future!"
That was, Harry knew, the complete contradiction of what Ron really thought. Ron always seemed to look for a reason to keep fighting with Hermione.
"If you'll excuse me," said Harry. They didn't even hear him.
Harry went up to their dormitory to drop off his things. But as he reached his bed, he found a fine-looking tawny owl waiting for him on his bedside cabinet.
"Hello," said Harry, taking a closer look at the owl. It seemed to have a small package tied to one of its feet. "For me?"
As if answering, the owl flew to him and perched on his outstretched arm. He used his other hand to untie the package, with difficulty.
It was a small box with a note tied to it.
He gave the owl a grateful pat and it flew out of the window that Harry opened. Harry turned to sit on his bed and read the note, which he immediately recognized as—he had to shake his head to fully believe it—coming from Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster.
Your parents are celebrating their seventeenth wedding anniversary today in heaven.
They would have wanted me to give this to their only son. It was found in Godric's Hollow on the second of November fourteen years ago. I just thought this would be the right time for you to finally receive this.
My parents were married on February twenty-third? Harry asked himself, bewildered. Dumbledore, he knew, was away at the moment, but perhaps decided to send the package on this exact date to coincide with his parents' anniversary.
It was as if he already knew what was inside the box. And he was right—it was a ring. Or rather, two rings clasped together. He tried to disengage the two, but he couldn't. They seemed to be clasped together permanently, no matter how hard he tried to pull them apart. But how come? If it had been his parents, the two rings would have not been clasped together unless they walked hand-in-hand even when they had to go to the bathroom…Harry smiled grimly at the thought.
He looked at the rings more closely. Both were made of silver—or perhaps white gold. One had an emerald stone on it—this was probably his mother's. The other was quite plain, except for the engraving of a stag on its band. Looking inside both bands, he found the words "I love you" engraved in identical flowing script on each.
He stared at the rings. They were his parents'. They wore them when they died. Harry reasoned that the rings clasped themselves together when his parents....
The reason why the rings were at that state was beyond his comprehension, but he didn't need to know why. All he knew was that here in his hand was his whole family, the family that he can never have, who loved each other until the ends of their lives, and the simple thought started a prickling feeling in his eyes.
Removing his glasses and wiping his eyes on his sleeve, he put the rings back in the little box, changed into his pajamas, and lay on his bed with his face buried in his pillow. He held the box close to his heart as he wept silently—the first time he ever cried himself to sleep.