Another hot July morning. Not the first and certainly not the worst that Harry Potter could remember. Somehow, though, the stifling heat bothered him in a way that it usually didn't. Everything seemed so intense lately, and the heat just made it that much worse. Harry felt alone. He was cut off from the world that he belonged in, and he knew that it was his own fault. Regardless of what Dumbledore had said, he felt responsible for Sirius's death. If he just hadn't been so bloody stupid....
Harry lay in his bed, though he had heard a plate being pushed through the cat-flap an hour ago. He stared at the empty cage on his desk and at the open window. Hedwig had been gone for four days now, ever since Harry had run her off. The same day that he had returned from Hogwarts. The same day that he quit being a wizard.
"Back again, I see. Lived through another year. Well, I suppose there's no help for it." Vernon Dursley was as obnoxious as ever. The threats by the members of the Order had kept him silent and pale as far as the car. Once safely inside and on the motorway for home, Uncle Vernon had become nearly incomprehensible with rage. "The nerve of those people, lecturing me on what I can and can't do. I have half a mind to call the police and lay charges against them. But I suppose your kind doesn't know anything about proper civilized behavior."
Harry had endured it all in silence. Once he had arrived at number four Privet Drive, he unloaded his trunk and Hedwig's cage and took them both in the house. He shoved the trunk into his old cupboard and took Hedwig upstairs to his room. Harry had been thinking the entire ride home, and walking into his bedroom here, he made up his mind. He walked to the window and threw it open. Then he opened Hedwig's cage and allowed her to step out onto his hand.
"You're a wizard's pet, you know," Harry said as he stroked the feathers on top of her head. "Go and find a real wizard to live with, because I quit."
Hedwig had only a second to look at Harry reprovingly before he took her to the window and tossed her out into the night air. Harry's mind was set; if his only choices were kill or be killed, he would refuse to play. If that meant leaving the wizarding world behind, leaving his friends behind, then at least his friends would be safe. Harry felt responsible for too many deaths to want to ever kill again. With that thought in his mind, he lay back on his bed and began to cry.
Hedwig returned a few hours later as Harry was dozing fitfully. The noise she made coming in roused him, and he turned bleary eyes and tear-stained cheeks towards her. "I said go on!" he shouted angrily. Hedwig turned her beak up at him and watched as he rolled over on his side, facing away from her. The last thing Harry heard was the angry beating of her wings as she left the windowsill.
That had been four days ago. Harry hadn't seen her since. He hadn't left his room, other than for trips to the bathroom. Somebody had pushed food through the cat flap three times a day; sometimes Harry ate; more often he didn't. On the morning of the fifth day, Harry heard a knock at the front door, and voices that moved to the kitchen. Presumably one of them was Aunt Petunia; Harry couldn't really care less who the other belonged to. He had heard Uncle Vernon leave and knew that, by now, Dudley was well into whatever trouble he was making for the day. He rolled over and watched the sunlight creep across his bedroom wall, not bothering to look at the window ledge, where three letters sat for him.
"I have had enough of this." Aunt Petunia's voice startled Harry, who had been drifting between dreams. "Good Lord, boy, I thought that bird smelled bad. Into the shower, and get yourself cleaned up. I expect you downstairs in ten minutes."
Harry opened his eyes in time to see the back of his aunt retreating from his doorway. He looked at the clock beside his bed and saw that it was just after lunch on his fifth day back. He climbed out of bed, not bothering to put the sheets back when his foot dragged them off. A quick glance in the mirror confirmed what four days of pity and self-loathing had done to him. His cheeks were stained with dried tears, his eyes bloodshot. His normally unruly hair was plastered flat against his head on one side and he had snot crusting over his upper lip. At some point, he had bent his glasses, and he was wearing the same clothes that he had on at the station in King's Cross. Harry trudged to the bathroom and turned the water on, not even bothering to set the temperature. Clothes were pulled off and tossed lazily on the floor, even though he knew what his aunt would say. He grabbed a towel form the linen cupboard and tossed his glasses into the sink basin. Something nagged at his mind as he stepped into the tub and....
"ARRRGH!" Harry jumped back from the freezing cold water, suddenly realizing what had been trying to get his attention. Suddenly, Harry was as awake as he had been in days. He stepped out of the shower and around to the other side where he turned down the cold and added some hot water to the mix. Carefully checking the temperature, and furious at himself for doing something so careless, he stepped back into the tub. Harry allowed the now warm water to run over his body for a few minutes before he reached for the soap. Having forgotten to bring a washcloth, he soaped himself up directly from the bar. As he watched the suds being rinsed off, he noticed how gray the water looked as it rolled down the drain. He poured shampoo on his hair and lathered it up. More suds coursed down the drain as he stuck his head back under the water. When he felt that he had rinsed all of the shampoo from his hair, he shut off the water, grabbed his towel from the rack and began to dry off. Harry grabbed his glasses from the sink and inspected them. Bent, and I think I see a crack on the bridge, too. I'll have to see if I can get someone to cast ‘Reparo' on them....
Too late, he realized what he had been thinking and just as suddenly his actions of the last four days came flooding back. I've run off the only friend I had here, and without her, I can't even talk to my other friends. Part of Harry was appalled at his behavior, but another part reminded him of what seemed likely to happen to any friend of his. Maybe I'm better off without them.
Aunt Petunia was waiting in the kitchen when Harry came down the stairs. "It's about time," she stated. Her lower lip quivered, as she looked him up and down. "That will be quite enough of that. You have work to do around here, and I will not have you wasting food anymore."
Harry started to argue that he hadn't wanted the food, and he certainly hadn't asked for it, but he changed his mind and decided that it wasn't worth the effort. Better to just stand here and do whatever she says. For lack of anything better to do, he began to look around the kitchen to see what had changed since he left nearly a year before.
The television was still in its place of prominence, beside the toaster on the countertop. The dishwasher looked to have been replaced. Can't say that's surprising, considering the number of plates Dudley and Vernon go through. Two of the chairs at the kitchen table had been replaced as well by large, heavy reinforced oak chairs. The table seemed the same, centerpiece and napkins all in their assigned places. Sitting in the middle of one of the placemats was a piece of what looked to be a lemon candy. What's that doing...?
"Are you even listening to me? I said that Mrs. Figg called and needs her lawn cut. I told her you would do it." Aunt Petunia finally cut through Harry's thoughts.
Harry's eyes snapped back to Petunia. He knew that he hadn't heard what she was saying, but he knew the routine well enough. "Cut the lawn. Got it. Can I just go do it now?" Annoyance colored his words.
"Not our lawn, Mrs. Figg's. We have a service. I knew you weren't paying attention. When you're done with that, you can come back here and get started on cleaning up that pig sty." Petunia turned and walked to the counter by the sink. She picked up a glass and pointed it at Harry. "And another thing, I don't know what you did to this glass last summer, but you had better hope you can undo it. Everything that's poured into this glass tastes foul. It's part of a set that I got for my wedding, and I will not have you and your freakishness ruin it."
"I didn't do anything to that glass. I haven't even been here," Harry snapped. But thinking back, Harry dimly remembered Mad-Eye Moody cleaning his magical eye in a glass when the Order had come to rescue him last summer. Serve her right if Moody's eye did do something to the glass. Harry could feel all the anger that he had been holding in coursing through his veins. "Now, can I go? It seems I have a lawn to cut." He didn't care that it was rude; it felt good to let some of that anger out.
Petunia's face twisted as if she had been slapped. "No! I'm not done with you yet. If you think you can come here and lie around all day, and then act insolent...."
"What the hell do you know? What have you been doing for the last year? Spying on the neighbors, making sure that none of them have a better car than you? That's rich. Meanwhile, I've had the papers making everyone think I'm stark raving mad. I've had the worst dark wizard the world has ever known crawling around inside my head, and I watched my godfather get murdered by one of his followers." Harry choked back a sob and started defiantly at his aunt.
Petunia's face softened for an instant. "I know...."
Harry cut her off, "What do you know? Have you ever had Voldemort kill someone you loved? I didn't think so."
Petunia, on the verge of tears whispered, "Yes, I have...."
Harry rounded on her again. "You didn't love my mother. And don't you dare call her a freak. The only memory I have of her is hearing her voice as she pleaded for my life and then he cut her down." It was all coming out now, the years of anguish, the hatred he felt towards the Dursleys and the life they had forced on him.
"He killed my parents too," Petunia shrieked. Her hand flew up to cover her mouth, as if to prevent the words from spilling out. Her eyes widened in horror, and as she fled the room, Harry heard a muffled sob escape her.
Harry stood in the middle of the Dursley's clean white kitchen dumbfounded. What did she mean ‘he killed my parents too'? He admitted he didn't know much about the Evanses. He didn't know how they had died; he couldn't remember ever having seen a picture of them. Suddenly, it seemed important. Harry did the only thing he could do. He went to Mrs. Figg's.
Mrs. Figg's garden was much like Harry remembered it. Plants were scattered haphazardly and the lawn crept into the flowerbeds in places. Unlike the Dursleys', it had obviously been planted with love and care, if not experience. As Harry walked up the path to the door, he saw he was being watched by a gray tabby cat that was perched on a fence. Another smaller calico was playfully attacking a bush of catnip planted near the door. As he put his foot on the top step, the door was opened and Arabella Figg stood in the doorway.
"Come in, Harry; I saw you coming up the drive. I have some tea on, and the biscuits are ready." Mrs. Figg ushered Harry into the house and shut the door behind her.
"I hear that you've been spending a lot of time alone. That's not good for you, boy. I heard what happened, and I feel awful for you, but that is no excuse to lock yourself in your room and stop eating." Mrs. Figg busied herself at the stove.
"Did my aunt tell you that?" Harry responded dully. First the shock of what he had heard from his aunt, and now this. Harry couldn't imagine Petunia caring if he ate or not, and he was sure that she wouldn't tell anyone else about it. Where was Mrs. Figg getting her information?
Arabella turned away from the stove with a plate in her hand. As if she was reading his mind she said, "I wish that I could say that your aunt was concerned for your well-being, but Dumbledore told me. Have a biscuit." She offered a plate full of hot, sugary wafers to Harry.
"Dumbledore's been here? Is he coming back?" I really wish he would walk through that door right now. I have some questions for him, like what else hasn't he told me? Harry shifted in his seat and chewed slowly. He felt betrayed, again. Each time Harry thought he had the whole story, he would find another piece that didn't quite fit, and each time Dumbledore would fill in just enough to make it all fit. Harry could forgive him the first time, perhaps. Dumbledore was probably right then; he had been too young to handle it all. He was almost sixteen now, though. He had faced the Dark Lord five different times. He had lost first his parents, then his godfather. He had watched Cedric die because he wanted to be fair. If anyone deserved the full story, Harry did.
"Mrs. Figg, how well did you know my parents? I mean, did you know anything about them?" Harry wasn't sure how to ask what he wanted to know; for that matter he wasn't sure what he wanted to know. All he knew was that Aunt Petunia had left him with more questions and no more answers.
"Oh, I remember them. Especially your father. He and Sirius always had time for a joke; even during the darkest times they could make me laugh. I remember once when he and Sirius...." She fell silent and looked sadly at Harry. "Perhaps this isn't the best thing to talk about. We just got you out of your room after four days, and I won't have anyone blaming me for sending you right back there. I know that you miss him, but it won't do to be starving yourself. If you don't get out there and live, what's the point?" Mrs. Figg sighed, "Look at me, preaching to you."
Harry wanted to ask more, but now didn't seem to be the right time. He sat and thought about what Mrs. Figg had said, though. If you don't get out there and live, what's the point? Sirius hadn't been allowed out of the house for the last year. It seemed like the only time that he was enjoying himself was on those rare occasions that he and Harry talked about what Harry was doing. He was living through me. He died for me, too. Maybe I do owe him something more than sitting around wishing he were still here. "What about my grandparents? My mum's parents? Did you know them?"
Mrs. Figg looked at Harry curiously, "No, I can't say that I ever met them. Evans was their surname, right? Your mother though. Poor soul. It took her and Remus Lupin both to keep those two miscreants in line sometimes." Mrs. Figg smiled. "However, while we talk, my grass just keeps getting longer. And if you see Tonks out there, you can tell her tea is ready. Mundungus can just stay out there. I still haven't forgiven him for leaving you alone last summer."
Harry was shocked. "What do you...are they still watching me?" Harry thought about it for a moment. Of course they're still watching me. Nothing has changed from last summer, except there are more Death Eaters out there that hate me, and Voldemort has come out of hiding. Maybe if I know that they're out there I won't be quite so lonely. Harry stood up and walked to the back door. He opened the door, stepped out onto the top step and shouted, "TONKS! TEA'S ON!"
Nymphadora Tonks' head appeared floating next to Harry a minute later. Harry might have been surprised if she hadn't tripped and knocked over a birdbath on the way to the house. "Wotcha, Harry. Now move out, I'm famished." She stepped inside with Harry and took off the Invisibility Cloak she had been wearing.
Tonks was dressed quite conservatively today, Harry observed. Well, conservative for Tonks, anyway. She wore flat sandals that laced up her ankles to a point just below where here black stretch pants hit. Her white T-shirt was short enough to show just a peek of flesh. Emblazoned across the front of the shirt were the words ‘National Naked Quidditch Team' and on the breast pocket the words ‘I play naked Quidditch, how about you?' The whole idea left Harry somewhat flustered and at a loss for words. Surely she doesn't really play...naked?
"Hello, Earth to Harry. Eyes up here, please." Tonks finally managed to get Harry's attention. She pretended not to notice the flush spreading across his face. "As I was saying, this has been the easiest guard duty I've ever done, but would you mind moving around a bit more? That way at least we know you're still alive."
"I've had a lot on my mind. I guess I have been a bit rude, though. I ran Hedwig off. Haven't seen her for days. I don't know if she'll ever forgive me." Harry was sure that of all the people he had slighted, it was going to be hardest to gain Hedwig's forgiveness. Unfortunately, he knew if he was going to get any answers to his questions, he was going to need Hedwig.
"I saw her this morning. She's been hiding in the top branches of a tree overlooking your window. I'd say she was concerned about you, but take it from me; it's best never to offend an owl. They're right proud birds." Tonks massaged a small scar on the back of one of her hands. "We all know it's been rough on you, Harry, but all this brooding isn't good for you." Tonks wolfed down another biscuit and pointed out the back door. " A bit of time in the sun will do you wonders."
Harry took this as his cue, and went out the back door to get started on the grass. He pulled Mrs. Figg's dilapidated push mower out of the garden shed. The damp weather and lack of use had very nearly frozen the blades in place, so Harry found an oilcan and went to work on the bearings. When he had the mower turning freely, he started in on the high grass. Cutting the grass turned out to be cathartic. The warm sun and hard work left Harry feeling tired but satisfied. When he reached the halfway point he stopped and walked to the house to get some water. Just before he reached the steps he heard Tonks laugh and say, "Dumbledore in Muggle clothing, I never thought I would see the day. And not just any clothes, he was wearing a gray wool suit. Marched right up to the door and pressed the bell. Oh, you should have seen the look on that woman's face...." Tonks broke into fits of laughter again.
Harry quickly climbed the steps and opened the screen door. "Mrs. Figg, could I have some water please?" Harry was dripping with sweat and covered in grass; he knew better than to track through the kitchen like that. "What's so funny, Tonks?" he asked.
"Oh, nothing really, I was just telling Arabella about something funny I saw." She snickered again and turned back to her tea. "I really should get back out there. How about I wrap a couple of these up and take Dung a cup?"
"Well, as long as he stays out there and returns the cup. Give him a chance and he'll have the whole tea set, trying to flog it." Mrs. Figg came to the door with a large plastic cup full of ice water for Harry. "Here you are, dear. Take a rest; it's beastly hot out there."
Harry took the water gratefully and drank deeply. "Yes, Ma'am. I should be done in another hour." He heard Mrs. Figg walk Tonks to the front door, and sat down on the steps to think. Why did Tonks avoid my question? She didn't lie to me; none of them ever seem to lie. They just don't tell me all of the truth. And what was Dumbledore doing in Muggle clothing? Harry paused; the image of Dumbledore in a suit like Uncle Vernon wore to work was amusing. Who did he go visit? What is going on? With another surge of anger, Harry finished his water and went back to the grass. His mind churned as he struggled with the mower and with the much tougher questions he didn't have answers for.
The sky was beginning to darken by the time Harry got back to number four. He checked the drive and saw that Uncle Vernon was home, and the racing bike tossed casually in the front yard signaled that Dudley, too, was at home. Well, he had been cutting grass at Mrs. Figg's and had come right home after, so he had an excuse for being late. He stopped at the front stoop to remove his grass stained trainers and brush the dirt and grass clippings from his clothes. Mrs. Figg had insisted on paying him for his work, so he had a five-pound note tucked deeply in his pocket. I'll have to remember to hide this. While he didn't really care about Muggle money, he didn't see any reason that Dudley should benefit from his day's work.
Harry stepped inside the house and was relieved to find the living was empty. He crept down the hall and had made it to the stairs when his Uncle Vernon bellowed, "Boy! Get in here!"
Harry sighed and turned back to the kitchen. Vernon Dursley was standing at the stove. He wore his wife's apron, which did little to cover his immense girth. Smoke was billowing from a pot on the stove. "Blasted appliance. Never has worked properly," Vernon muttered. He turned on Harry. "I don't know what went on in this house today, but I am sure you are to blame. Your aunt has taken to her bed and left me to deal with the cooking. I won't have you mucking about with the peaceful running of this family. Now what did you do?"
Harry grimaced. "I didn't do anything. I‘ve been at Mrs. Figg's cutting grass all afternoon. You've got the burner too high," he commented.
"You know all about cooking now, do you? You can get over here and do it, then." Vernon stepped away from the stove and thrust a spoon at Harry. "And mind you, none of that funny business."
Harry walked to the stove and surveyed the mess. Aunt Petunia's largest Dutch oven was on the stove, full to the top with boiling water. At least, it might have been water. The mess on the counter beside the stove gave Harry a better idea of what was floating in the pot. The cardboard wrappers and foil pans from a pair of frozen dinners were littered among half a dozen open spice bottles ranging from garlic and parsley to tarragon and cinnamon. The spices were floating in the water, along with what smelt like olive oil. Harry checked and yes, there was a bottle of oil lying on its side behind the pot. Sitting on the bottom of the pot were the contents of the foil trays. Meat with gravy, peas and carrots, and two globs that looked faintly like apple strudel. Two brownish blobs floated to the top and then sank again with the action of the water. Harry looked at one of the cardboard boxes. Dinner rolls. It was all Harry could do to keep from laughing. "I don't think this is going to do," he said, diplomatically. "What would you like for dinner, Uncle Vernon?"
"I want what I was cooking there, boy. Use your head. Why would I have started it if I didn't plan to eat it?" Uncle Vernon headed for the living. "And make it quick," he snapped as he walked out of the room.
Harry took one more look in the pot and decided there was no saving it. Even if I was allowed to do magic, I wouldn't know how to fix this. He checked the freezer and was relieved to find two more frozen dinners. Following the instructions printed on the back, he preheated the oven and removed the foil packets. Inspecting the contents, he decided that dunking the whole thing in boiling water hadn't changed it very much. The meat was still a brownish gray, the vegetables looked soggy, even frozen, and the apple strudel was just nasty. When the oven had heated, he inserted the foil packets into it and set the timer. While those were heating, he strained the contents of the Dutch oven over the sink and tossed the whole mess in the garbage.
Harry turned his thoughts to what he was going to eat. For the first time in days he was hungry. I hope whoever is outside is taking note of this. I'm eating, not trying to starve myself to death. He found some thickly sliced precooked ham and provolone cheese in the refrigerator. On the counter was a thick loaf of crusty French bread. He sliced himself off two hunks of bread and added the ham to one side and the cheese to the other. A quick check of the timer told him that the frozen dinners still had five minutes to heat, so he inserted the two halves of his sandwich beside them.
When the timer went off, he removed all the food from the heat, and transferred it to plates. He quickly ran his plate upstairs to his room and came back down to announce dinner.
Uncle Vernon lumbered into the kitchen followed by Dudley. Vernon grunted once, which Harry took to mean that the meal was satisfactory.
"I'll just go to my room now," Harry said.
"Bloody right you will, after upsetting your aunt the way you did," Vernon replied.
Harry ignored the comment and grabbed his trainers. Once safely in his room with the door shut, he breathed a sigh of relief and looked down at his sandwich. It looked delicious. Harry congratulated himself. There was no way he would have been eating this if Uncle Vernon or Dudley had seen it. The first bite reminded him just how long it had been since he had eaten any proper food, and quickly the sandwich was gone. I watched Sirius eat like this once. He remembered sneaking food to Sirius and Buckbeak during his fourth year, when they were in hiding outside of Hogsmeade. The thought reminded Harry that Sirius was gone, and suddenly his mood turned sour again.
Harry glanced around the room, and his eyes fell on Hedwig's empty cage. Suddenly, he remembered what Tonks had said that afternoon. He looked out his open window and caught sight of a pair of glowing round eyes just before they turned away. His gaze fell back to the windowsill, and he noticed the unopened letters for the first time. Idly, he picked up the one on the top. The cramped and smudged handwriting had to belong to Ron, so he opened it.
Hope the Muggles haven't been too bad. I talked to Mum, and she said that you could spend August here with us. Guess that's better than nothing, huh? Hedwig just arrived, but she didn't have anything to deliver. I'll send this back with her, since I don't trust that ruddy owl of mine.
PS - Mum said that Dumbledore had something for you that would make the summer go better. Don't know what it is, though. Let me know when you get it.
Harry sighed. Nearly a month until he could escape this house again. That meant a month without anyone else to talk to. He could probably talk to Tonks or whoever else was watching him, but it wouldn't be the same.
Dumbledore had something for him. Great. Another mystery from Dumbledore. Just what he needed. Whatever it was, Harry wasn't sure that he really wanted it. Harry looked at the next letter and noted the Hogwarts crest on the seal. It's too early for OWLs, isn't it? Harry broke the seal open. Guess I had better get it over with.
To his surprise it wasn't his OWL results. It was a list of names.
Harry Potter Hermione Granger Weasley household Hogwarts (Albus Dumbledore) For further instructions, please see package.
Harry set the letter aside and looked around for a package. It wasn't to be found. As Harry looked under his desk, he heard a soft screech and the flutter of wings. "Hedwig! -OOF!" Harry banged the back of his head on the desk as he jumped out from under it.
Sitting perched on the windowsill was Hedwig. She had a small package tied to her foot, and she looked ready to bolt. As Harry advanced, she cocked her head and stared at him.
"I'm sorry, girl. I really am. I didn't mean what I said; I know you would never leave me. I was just really upset." The desperation in Harry's voice was evident.
Hedwig turned away from Harry and partially opened her wings. She turned her head back towards Harry, as if to say he only had one more chance.
"Wait! Don't leave. I really don't know what I would do without you." Harry was flooded with relief as she relaxed her wings. "You've always been here for me, even when I treated you horribly. Thank you. I love you, Hedwig." Harry reached out and touched her head. When she didn't pull away, he began to stroke her. When she finally held out her leg with the package, he gently untied it. Hedwig hopped off to her cage for some water.
Harry unwrapped the package and found a small hand mirror and a note. He unfolded the note and read:
This mirror will allow you a secure way to communicate with your friends. Speak the name of the person you wish to speak with into the mirror. You may connect to more than one person at a time, and they can speak to the other person. The mirrors have been treated with an unbreakable charm, and are locked so that only the owner can see and hear a conversation. Currently one resides in my office, one with the Weasleys, and one with Ms. Granger. Use them well. - A. Dumbledore
Harry was intrigued. He wouldn't be locked away from his friends for the next month. While he wasn't sure he wanted to speak to Professor Dumbledore right now, he knew that having a way to communicate with him could be useful. He decided that it was still early enough that he could try Ron.
Harry felt a little foolish as he held the mirror out in front of him. "Ron Weasley," he said, hesitantly. The surface of the mirror clouded, and he thought he heard a faint beeping. Suddenly, the scene cleared and he was staring at Ginny Weasley standing in what had to be the kitchen of The Burrow.
"Harry! Ron's in the shower. I'll get him for you." Ginny started to put the mirror down, hesitated, and held it back up closer to her face. "Erm, Harry? Did you get my letter? Only...I was just feeling, er, well..." Ginny's face flushed.
Harry was momentarily confused. Oh the third letter must be from her. "I haven't had a chance to read it yet. I just got back from cutting Mrs. Figg's lawn." Harry couldn't help but notice the look of relief that crossed Ginny's face as he spoke.
"Well, that's alright. It was nothing, really." Ginny's head turned away from the mirror and looked toward the stairs. "Hold on, I think I hear Ron now." Without another word she set the mirror on the table and ran off up the stairs.
Harry examined the mirror as he waited. The position that she had left the mirror in gave him an excellent view of a water stain on the ceiling over the kitchen table, part of the clock on the wall, and a bit of the staircase. After the third time that Harry caught himself trying to turn the mirror to get a better view of the room, he set his mirror down and propped it against a book. A minute later, Ron came pounding down the stairs, dripping wet, with a towel wrapped around his waist.
"HARRY! HARRY, CAN YOU HEAR ME?" Ron was shouting into the mirror. Perhaps it wasn't just telephones that had Ron befuddled.
"Ron, you don't have to yell. I can hear you just fine." Harry watched as comprehension blossomed on his friend's face.
"Oh, yeah, right. Hold on while I run upstairs. Ginny dragged me out of the shower and said that I had to come speak to you." Ron looked slightly annoyed. "I don't know what's gotten into her lately." Ron ran up the stairs, mirror in hand. "Did you get my letter? Hedwig was here, so I just figured I would send it back with her. Hold on." Ron tossed the mirror on the bed and stepped away. Harry could hear sounds of Ron getting dressed. Ron came back into view and picked the mirror up. "So how's life at the Muggles? They looked shocked when Moody and everyone from the Order talked to them."
Harry was beginning to get queasy from watching the view shift in the mirror so much. "Not too bad, I guess. Listen, Ron. I think I'm going to go to bed; it's been a long day. I'll try and call you tomorrow. Okay?"
"Sure, I'm working on loads of stuff for us to do when you come for the summer. Maybe we can get Hermione here, too...." Ron's voice trailed off and he got a dreamy look in his eyes. "I'll talk to you tomorrow then. Bye."
"Bye, Ron." Harry said and watched as the mirror clouded over and became a normal mirror again. I wonder why Ginny dragged him out of the shower? And what was in her letter than got her all flustered? Harry grabbed the letter in question, lay down on his bed, and began to read.
I hope that you are feeling all right. I just wanted to say that I am here if you need someone to talk to. I don't really know what it is like to lose someone that you care about so deeply. I liked Sirius a lot, but I don't think that what I'm feeling is anywhere near what you must be feeling. But I do know what it is like to have something traumatic happen to you, and then not be able to talk about it with anyone. I didn't get to talk to anyone after first year, and it changed me. I still have dreams about that place. Oh, Harry, if it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be writing this now. I know what it is like to try and live with all these feelings bottled up inside, and no way to let them out. I know that it hurts to let it out, but in the long run it hurts more to keep them inside. I was miserable for months after that. Fred and George tried to cheer me up, and I made the right noises so that they would leave me alone. Then one night, Hermione heard me crying in my dorm. She sat down with me, and all of this just came flowing out of me. I cried and I wailed and I beat on my pillow. Through it all, Hermione said nothing. She just seemed to know that I needed someone there to listen. When I was done, she helped me dry my tears and clean up, and then she explained about something she called primal scream therapy. She said that sometimes when all of this emotion builds up, the best way to let it out is to just go somewhere and scream until you're so tired you can't scream anymore.
You know, I really do love her. She's like the sister that I never had. Maybe one day she will be, if that damn fool brother of mine will get off his lazy arse and do something about it. I know this screaming thing sounds stupid, but it helped. I snuck out one night and went down to the Quidditch pitch and stood in the middle of the field and shouted myself hoarse. When I was done, I felt like all the suffering had just drained out of me. I wasn't better, but at least I could see myself getting better. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that I will listen to you if you ever want to talk, or whatever.
I need to send this to you now, before I go back and read what I wrote. Hedwig is standing on this letter waiting to take it, I told her I had something for her, and she came to my window to get it. I didn't want Ron trying to read what I wrote.
Harry was dumbfounded. He set the letter down on his bed and stared at the ceiling. Ginny had never said this much to him before at one time. He was sure she had never told anyone else some of this. Harry got up and changed into his pajamas and turned off the lights. He lay on his bed for a long time staring into the darkness and remembering Ginny and her letter before he finally fell asleep.