Author’s Notes: Just a little snippet of a (possible) missing moment from GoF :-) Written for the LJ Community Taking it in Turns fic exchange.
Many, many thanks to my beta, Sherry, who wrangles my drivel into something coherent.
Great, just bloody great, Harry thought with a sigh as he looked around his common room. The majority of the school was back to hating him, and those that didn’t hate him, didn’t believe him. Only Hermione seemed to believe that he hadn’t put his own name in that bloody Goblet.
“I need to get out of here for a bit,” he whispered to his friend. She looked up from the essay she was writing and gave him a sympathetic smile.
“All right, but don’t stay out too late,” she warned. “And for goodness sake, don’t get caught!”
“I won’t,” he said with a slight grin. It felt good to be able to smile, even only for a moment. Gathering up his books and parchment, Harry ignored the glare that Ron was giving him and took his things back up to his room. Grabbing the Invisibility Cloak from his trunk, he then slipped out of the Tower.
The quiet tranquility of the corridors was a balm to Harry’s frustrations. There were few students out this late in the evening, and if he avoided the paths near the library, he knew there was little chance he would run into anyone. And anyway, his intended destination was far from the library.
In the long summer that had followed his second year, Harry had spent a great deal of time thinking. Thinking about his life, thinking about the Wizarding world, thinking about everything that had happened in the past two years. And he came to one inescapable conclusion: magic must rot your brain even worse than all those drugs that his primary school teachers kept warning them about. It was either that or the Wizarding world had got a disproportionate number of truly incompetent individuals. But Harry was more inclined to blame the magic.
That was the only explanation he could come up with for why he — an eleven- and then twelve-year-old — had been the one to save the school from catastrophic harm. Any reasonable, rational adult should have been able to deal with things long before they got so out of hand that Harry had to take the actions that he did. Any reasonable, rational adult would have put better protections around the Stone than ones a first-year could get through; heck, a reasonable, rational adult would never had stashed the Stone in a school to begin with.
Harry snorted quietly and the sound echoed off the deserted hallway. And if first year wasn’t bad enough, his second was an absolute travesty. It really took a second-year to figure out that the monster was a Basilisk? Okay, maybe he didn’t help anything by not telling an adult that he could understand the creature. But after his first year (not to mention the way everyone had reacted when that particular secret got out), who would blame him? And did any of the adults ever think to question Myrtle or even Hagrid about what happened the first time the Chamber was opened? Of course not.
He shook his head in disbelief once again, still unable to fully wrap his mind around the sheer incompetence that the adults around him seemed to regularly display. The only good thing to come out of his second year was his discovery of the Chamber.
Slipping into an alcove devoid of paintings or statues or suits of armor, Harry quickly wrapped himself in his Invisibility Cloak. The corridors were deserted, but he was taking no chances that anyone could follow him.
Yes, the Chamber was about the only good thing to come out of that year, and it was his intended destination now. As soon as he had returned to school for his third year, Harry had set off on a concerted effort to find out all he could about the Chamber. One of the conclusions that he had come to over that summer was that there must be multiple entrances to the Chamber. For one thing, he couldn’t see either Salazar Slytherin or Tom Riddle willingly sliding down a long pipe to get there every single time. Not to mention the hassle of getting out again. Second, he remembered enough from primary school lessons on medieval castles to know that big metal pipes like that couldn’t possibly have existed when Salazar made the Chamber. And finally, the damned Basilisk had got out in four distinct locations — five, if you counted the time it killed Myrtle — and yet no one had noticed a thirty-foot snake wandering the halls. Logic (there was that word again — Hermione was right, most wizards didn’t have an ounce of logic in them) would dictate that there were other ways in and out.
And so Harry had explored. The Cloak had helped tremendously, and he was further aided by the Marauder’s Map that he had got from the twins. It was not long before he discovered three separate entrances to the Chamber, and several additional rooms within the Chamber itself. They were his refuge, and he retreated there now.
Absently, Harry hissed the opening command to the panel in the wall, and it swung open, revealing a tight spiral staircase. He pulled off the Cloak and clattered down the stone steps, his feet familiar with each one. It was that overwhelming familiarity - and his utter confidence that no one else could possibly get into the Chamber - that caused Harry to find himself being held at wand-point on the bottom-most step.
He blinked twice and held up his hands, showing he didn’t have his wand out.
“You know, I realize a lot of people are pissed off with me about that stupid Goblet, but I think this is the first time anyone has actually put me at wand-point,” he said with a slight smile.
“Dammit, Potter, don’t scare me like that,” said the owner of the wand with a huff. “I wasn’t expecting you to show up here.”
“Who else were you expecting, the tooth fairy? C’mon, Ginny, who else could possibly get down here?” Harry frowned at this new addition to his refuge. “Speaking of which, how the hell did you get down here yourself?”
Ginny Weasley’s mouth twisted into a mockery of a smile. “I’m the one that let the Basilisk out all those times, remember?”
“So you still speak Parseltongue?”
“Then how —?” Harry started to ask, puzzled.
“It took a bit to work out.” Ginny shrugged. “If I know the word, I can pronounce it just fine, but I don’t have a bloody clue what I’m saying. I can hear that snakes are speaking, but it’s like… they’re speaking in German or Chinese. I can tell that it’s a language, but I don’t understand a word of it.”
“So you remembered the sounds you had to make, but not what the word meant?” Harry looked at her steadily. “So if I spoke to you like this, you wouldn’t understand me?” he hissed.
Ginny shuddered slightly, but did not drop his gaze. She cocked her head slightly, and then shrugged. “You asked me a question, I think, but that’s about all I got out of it. Like I said, it’s like you were speaking any other foreign language.”
“Fair enough. Welcome to my refuge then, I guess.”
“You’re not going to kick me out?” Ginny asked in disbelief, and sagged in relief when Harry shook his head.
“Why should I? You probably have even more right to be down here than I do. What are you doing down here, anyway?”
“Spell-casting practice,” she replied, gesturing to several targets that had been set up at the far end of the room.
“Mind if I join you?”
Ginny gave him a real smile, and took her place in front of one of the targets. Harry stood before the other. They both raised their wands and began firing.
Harry was so engrossed in casting a variety of spells (largely suggested to him by Hermione, as ones that might be useful in nearly any situation), that it took a while for him to register what his companion was casting.
Ginny was casting only two spells. Harry stopped to watch as she cast the Cutting Curse five times in succession, and followed that up with the Reductor Curse five more times. She cast rapidly, barely pausing for breath between each set. Harry could see that her target, though clearly charmed to be resistant and self-repairing, was taking a beating.
Intrigued, Harry tried to match her. To his dismay, he found that only the first one or two of his spells had any power behind them, and by the fourth and fifth in a set, he was lucky to hit his target at all.
Finally, Ginny lowered her wand as she panted for breath. Harry looked at her, amazed.
“What exactly is a thirteen-year-old girl doing casting those spells? And where did you learn to do that?” he asked.
“Probably the same thing a fourteen-year-old boy is doing casting them — trying to not only survive, but win,” she replied, ignoring his second question.
Harry gave her a puzzled look and Ginny huffed in annoyance.
“You’re not stupid, Harry, you know exactly what I’m talking about. We both know that Tom didn’t die the night he attacked you. He’s back, he’s obsessed with you for some reason, and he’s going to keep coming after you. And if he ever finds out what happened to that diary, he’s going to come after me, too. I know too much about him.”
“Ginny, you shouldn’t —” Harry started to say.
“Shouldn’t — what? Shouldn’t worry about it? Shouldn’t concern myself? Shouldn’t get ready to fight him and his Death Eater followers? That’s bullshit, Harry, and you know it. Oh, don’t look at me like that. I’ve got six older brothers; I can probably swear better than you can, and I know what all the words mean too.”
Harry gave her a lopsided smile. “Neither of us is exactly a kid anymore, are we?”
Ginny sat down on the soft padding along the wall and the vibrant energy seemed to go out of her. “No,” she said quietly. “After I woke up here when you rescued me, everything was a blur.”
Harry held his breath, not daring to move, lest he break the spell; he had never been able to get Ginny to talk to him about their experiences before.
“I barely remember anything. I have vague impressions of being lifted up, and of Mum hugging me, and of going to the hospital wing. There are some lucid moments after that — like the train ride home — but for the most part, everything until about the third week of the summer is fuzzy. It’s like my mind was so busy trying to figure everything out that I didn’t have the energy to pay attention to the world around me.” Ginny’s voice drifted off.
“And then?” Harry prompted quietly, sitting down next to her.
“And then,” she said, her voice just barely above a whisper, “one morning I woke up.”
Harry couldn’t help himself. “Funny, what had you been doing, then? Sleeping in all day?”
Ginny smiled for the first time since she had started talking and smacked him on the shoulder. “You know what I mean, you prat.”
“Actually, I don’t.”
“It was like — like the fog in my mind had suddenly been lifted. I could see things clearly, and I understood. All of my childish illusions seemed to fall away at once, and I was perceiving the world as an adult would.”
“That must have been frightening.”
“It was terrifying. I hadn’t aged physically, and I didn’t even have the life experiences to relate all this new understanding to; it was just suddenly there. I see things differently now than I did before. I look at Mum and I see my mother, but I also see a woman who lost both her brothers to the first war and is terrified of ever losing anyone again. I see Percy, the biggest prat of all my brothers, but I also see a wizard who is driven to prove himself, clinging to book-knowledge and rigid structure because he knows he can’t measure up to the rest of his family in terms of sheer magical power.”
“I see a school and a headmaster that are so caught up in other things that it takes a twelve-year-old boy to rescue a fellow student, to save the Stone, to rescue the innocent man,” Harry whispered, half to himself. He started when Ginny put her hand on her shoulder, but when he looked up, he saw understanding in her eyes.
“Exactly,” she said.
“So what did you do?”
“I tried to hide it, but Dad knew something wasn’t quite right. So he took me to see a specialist, someone he knew from work. She helped me. At first we just talked, about everything. About me, about growing up in my family, about Hogwarts, about the diary. She never judged me, never told me I was stupid. She believed me when I told her about Riddle.”
“Wow, you’re really lucky. Who is she?”
“I can’t tell you. No,” Ginny quickly added when she saw Harry starting to scowl, “I mean that literally. I can’t tell you who she is. She doesn’t work in a secret department in the Ministry, and she definitely didn’t help me out.”
Harry’s look of confusion cleared as he heard the odd emphasis that Ginny was putting on certain words. “Oh! And I’m guessing they’re not the ones who taught you to cast like that, huh?”
“Exactly. And when I told her about this understanding, this awareness I suddenly had, she — well, do you know what a Pensieve is?”
Harry shook his head.
“It’s a device — usually a stone basin — that is magically prepared to allow it to hold someone’s memory and let other people see it.”
“Weird.” Even after three years, magic still surprised Harry on a regular basis.
“That doesn’t even begin to describe it,” Ginny agreed with a slight smile. “Well, anyway, she set something up so that I could experience memories of lots of different people — grownups. It helped, a lot. I still grew up way faster than I should, but now at least I have experiences I can relate the feelings to.”
“How do you mean?”
“I see Ron being a jealous prat towards you, and I still think he’s an idiot, but I also remember — from someone else’s memories — what it is like to always be in the shadow of another person, to always be compared negatively to someone you really like. But I can also see how much you hate being put in the spotlight, especially for something you have no control over. That’s the perspective I have now, that Ron still doesn’t. He’ll have to get it the old-fashioned way, by living through it.”
The two teens sat quietly for a moment.
“D’you think this person might help me, too?” Harry finally asked quietly. “I know my situation isn’t the same as yours, but… it might be nice to talk to someone who might actually believe me, who will encourage me to think for myself, and help me do that.”
Ginny smiled in understanding. “She might just do that. I won’t ask her the next time I don’t write to her, if you’d like?” she asked with a wink.
“I’d like that a lot.”
Harry glanced at his watch. “It’s almost curfew,” he said. “We should get back to the common room. Come on, we should both fit under my Cloak.”
“And, Ginny?” he said as they started back up the stairs. “Thanks. It’s nice to know there’s someone who can understand.” He hesitantly slipped his arm around her shoulders.
Ginny’s smile seemed to brighten up the whole stairway, and it lightened Harry’s heart. Maybe this year wouldn’t be so bad after all.