Sometimes Harry wondered if the weather was tuned in to his emotions. Whenever he was feeling especially sad, the rain would fall. On those rare occasions when he was happy, the sun would come out, as if to greet his positive feelings and reinforce them.
The morning after his discussion with Ginny was no exception. For the first time in days, the sky was free of clouds. Remembering the previous night made Harry smile – he had managed to talk to Ginny, and his friend Tom had supported him fully. Now if only his best mate would come around.
The rift between Harry and Ron had widened after his detentions with Ginny had made the rounds of the house. Before retiring the previous night, Harry had suffered countless dark looks and cold stares from his mate. He was not sure why his detentions would make her brother angrier, but by now he knew very well that Ron's actions were not always rational.
Sighing softly at the unfairness of the situation, Harry picked up his clothes for the day and left for the bathroom. He knew it would be empty as his dorm-mates were still sleeping. He decided that a quick shower was in order, because the previous night's detention had left him too tired to do anything but write to Tom.
The warm water chased away the last remnants of his sleep-induced haziness. He still marvelled at the magical showers at Hogwarts. They could read his emotions and needs and provide water at just the right temperature. As the lingering ache left his body, he absently wondered if that was a magical effect, too.
After his shower, Harry finished his morning routine and grabbed his robes after admitting defeat in taming his hair. As he dressed, he noticed that his school robes were slightly torn at knee level. He cursed. Snape's detention had obviously taken the same toll on his clothes that it had on his hands, and these were his last set of clean robes since the detentions ruined them faster than they could be cleaned. He had no clue how to mend robes, and for a moment he wished his clothes would heal as his skin did, but had no luck.
He returned to the dormitory and found Seamus and Dean just opening their eyes. He threw his pyjamas on his bed, took his wand from the nightstand, and, in a wild hopeful gesture, directed it at the tear in his robes.
"Reparo," he whispered.
Nothing. Nothing happened at all. Reparo was obviously more appropriate for fixing mechanical objects and simple breaks. Sighing in defeat, he left his robes as they were and hoped that someone could tell him the right spell for repairing clothes. He thought about asking Hermione, but that would just give her another opportunity to assault him with unwelcome questions. Then a new thought entered his mind. He could ask Ginny about it. Even if she did not know the right spell, at least he could show her that he thought highly of her. That idea brightened his day even more.
When he got down to the common room, it was empty apart from the two seventh-year prefects. Harry assumed they had just returned from the morning patrol. The two students were completely wrapped up in kissing and nuzzling each other on one of the sofas. He still did not understand that, but they definitely were not paying him any attention, so he approached the portrait-door and pushed it open.
As he closed the portrait, he noticed that the Fat Lady was also sleeping. He idly wondered why the portraits needed sleep. It was not as if they were really alive. He had never seen any indication that the ghosts slept, so why would a portrait need to do so? If he asked Hermione, he would probably get an answer, but again, that was out of the question at this time. With his mood falling, he glanced through the window and scanned the sky for clouds. There were none, and he took that as a sign to keep his mind on happier topics. Smiling a bit, he proceeded to the Great Hall.
The Hall had few occupants, which made it look larger than it actually was and gave it a more tranquil feel. Harry walked towards the end of the Gryffindor table and took a seat. Since it was so early, only toast had been served so far, and he took two pieces and started nibbling on one. He looked around the Hall for familiar faces, but there were none. A few minutes later, the bangers appeared on the table in front of him, and the students started arriving in bigger groups.
While Harry was pouring himself a glass of pumpkin juice, he noticed Ginny entering the Great Hall. She looked distressed and nervous, and he had trouble comprehending why she would look like that after the previous night. When she caught him looking at her, she flashed him a weak smile accompanied by a small hand wave, and then she went to the Slytherin table.
Again he watched her take the seat furthest from her housemates. She had no trouble finding it. The rest of Slytherins seemed to want to avoid her as much as she did them. Harry could not really blame her for that, but he wondered if there was another reason for her actions, apart from the obvious dislike.
He continued with his breakfast until he heard a familiar voice.
"This should be good!" Ron said with a wicked smile as he piled eggs on his plate and stared across the hall. Beside him, Neville was staring expectantly at the ceiling.
Following Neville's gaze, Harry saw hundreds of owls fly in and circle the Hall until they found the recipients of the mail they were carrying. He did not see any mail going to Ron, but Ron was not looking expectantly at the owls like Neville. He was focused on the Slytherin table.
Harry was confused, but his eyes widened in understanding as a grey mass of feathers dropped onto Ginny's plate. He recognised the bird as Errol, the Weasleys' owl. Ginny immediately started fussing over the old owl while the rest of the table snickered at her.
The Slytherins watched Ginny like an audience waiting for a crash, and it incensed Harry. But it was Ron's mirror image of the Slytherins' faces that sent a surge of anger through him. If not for the drama at the Slytherin table, and all the students, he would have spoken his mind.
Instead, Harry watched as Ginny slowly opened the letter after tending to the poor owl. He had trouble reading all of the emotions on her face from this distance, but he was bewildered to see her crying even as a soft smile plastered itself to her face.
He turned to Ron and caught a surprised look on his face. Any further thought about the situation was interrupted, however, when he heard Neville excitedly talking about the double Herbology lesson that afternoon. Deciding that he could use more time alone, Harry picked up his things and left for the greenhouses.
On his way across the grounds, he noticed the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher talking animatedly to Professor Sprout. The Head of Hufflepuff looked far less interested in the discussion than Lockhart did.
Wanting to avoid Lockhart, Harry started to turn around and go back the way he had come, but the attempt was not successful.
"Harry!" Lockhart said. "What a wonderful surprise to see you again."
Harry's experience in Flourish and Blotts that summer had not been particularly good, so he turned back around as slowly as he could, mentally preparing himself for anything.
Lockhart smiled at him for a moment, but suddenly his expression changed to a frown. Harry turned to glance at Professor Sprout, who looked thoroughly bothered but managed to throw him an apologetic smile.
"No, no, no, Harry. Going about in public like that simply won't do."
Harry had trouble following what his teacher was telling him, and Lockhart continued at Harry's confused look. "Now, I know you can't do much about the clothes – it's the uniform, of course – but you should at least keep it clean and whole," the professor said, his gaze falling to Harry's knees.
Harry face heated, but it was from anger rather than embarrassment. He was used to people commenting on his shabby clothes, but his teacher had no right to mention it. Why should he care about the way Harry looked?
Even though he disliked Lockhart, however, there was no need to antagonise him. "I don't know the spells," Harry said. "I wanted to ask someone to help me out." He hoped that would end the discussion.
"Ah, yes. Of course. That's a positive attitude. Never bother with simple things, and always have someone available to serve your needs." Lockhart flashed another bright smile as he said it.
"That's not what I–"
"No worries, Harry. I understand. I'll see you later." He strolled away without another word, the silvery threads in his cloak flashing in the sunlight.
"Ooh, that man!"
Harry raised his head to see Professor Sprout's face glow red. She seemed to have forgotten he was there.
"I'm sorry you had to hear that, Mr Potter. It would be best if you pretend you didn't." She raised her eyebrows expectantly.
"Of course, Professor. I'd like to forget it myself."
He mumbled the last part, but the Herbology teacher obviously caught it as she gave him a weak smile. "Would you like me to help you with your robes?" she asked after a moment.
"No. After... that, I'd rather you didn't. I'll ask someone else to help me later."
"I understand." She turned towards the school, and Harry followed her gaze to where his classmates were approaching in small groups. They all stopped in front of him, giving him strange looks. Hermione's expression was not suspicious, as some of the others' were, but she did look very inquisitive.
"All right, everyone! It's Greenhouse Three today. Come along now."
Ginny's shoulder ached. That morning, an older Slytherin girl had bumped her into a wall. The tall girl had slammed her petite frame into the wall hard enough to cause a large bruise. She knew it was there; she had even gone to a bathroom to check. It was painful enough, though nothing was broken.
She had just finished her first class that morning. All she could say was that Lockhart was an idiot. He had managed to brag about his accomplishments without realising he was making a complete fool out of himself. The trouble was that no one else realised it, either. Ginny had watched her female classmates with a mixture of amusement and disgust as they kept their eyes wide open during the blond teacher's so-called lectures.
She walked towards the Library, where she hoped to find Luna. She wanted to tell her friend all about her last detention. The blonde girl had been right, no matter how hard it had been to believe the day before.
On her way, she passed Fred and George amongst a large group of what she assumed were fourth-year students. Her twin brothers smiled at her, and Fred even gave her a tiny wave.
Ginny barely stopped herself from crying out of happiness. They had managed to accept that she was sorted into Slytherin. They did not hate her.
She also caught sight of Harry from a window. He was just coming back from the greenhouses. Harry was another good memory. Her school year contained only two of those so far, but she treasured them.
Thinking about Harry – and the fact that she might have another opportunity to talk to him – even made her shoulder hurt less.
Harry hurried out of the classroom after Transfiguration. He had barely paid any attention to McGonagall's lesson because a plan had started to form in his mind. He was not very hungry, so he could skip lunch and talk to Tom. Moreover, since everyone was bound to be in the Great Hall during that time, he would be alone.
As he rushed to Gryffindor tower, he mentally admonished himself for almost forgetting Tom's announcement about sharing his memories.
The common room and his dormitory were both empty, just like he had planned. He unlocked his trunk and took the diary out, tucking it safely under his arm. Clumsily, he picked up a bottle of ink and a quill, and then closed the trunk with his leg.
Setting everything on the desk, he pulled out the old wooden chair and sat, opening the old diary at the same time.
As soon as the book was open, writing appeared on the empty page.
Hello, Harry Potter.
Harry looked at the text in wonder. The diary had never done this before. He dipped the quill into the inkbottle and wrote a response.
How did you know I was here?
I told you I was getting stronger. Our friendship is helping me to recognise when you're near.
That's good, right?
So you can do it? You can show me my grandparents?
I believe so. But if it fails, don't be alarmed. It's just a matter of time.
I... I just want to thank you for this. It means... It's very important.
There was a longer pause this time, but Harry's eyes did not leave the diary.
I know. That's why I'm doing it.
Thank you, Tom.
You're welcome, Harry Potter.
So, how do we do this?
Just relax and let me take you where you want to go.
As soon as the last of the ink appeared, the pages started to turn as if a breeze had caught them. They turned faster and faster until they suddenly stopped. Harry felt drawn into the diary. As he lowered his head, he was suddenly swimming in the paper, and the chair under him disappeared.
He fell to the ground, but he was not in his dormitory anymore. As he rose to his feet, he noticed that he was in a large room full of people. At first, he was worried that they would see him, but then he remembered it was only a memory.
A long table sat next to the wall and held an assortment of drinks and food. He noticed a large tray full of chocolates, and next to that was a wide selection of wine bottles.
People's voices echoed so much that it was hard to understand what they were saying. A clinking glass caught Harry's attention. A short, overweight man with thick, straw-coloured hair and a large blond moustache stepped onto a small platform in front of the crowd and raised his hands. The echo of murmurs faded into complete silence.
Many of the people who were looking at the man wore Hogwarts uniforms, and Harry guessed that he was somewhere in the school. In fact, he recognised the very same room he had cleaned the night before. Colourful tapestries covered the walls, however, and the chains hanging from the ceiling looked new and shiny. Chandeliers with lit candles gave the room a bright, cheerful atmosphere.
So the room had been used at one point, Harry thought. Even so, since it was not used now, there was no reason to clean it. He decided Snape was just cruel.
A couple approached the short man. Harry had trouble deciding their age. The man was tall and had black hair, and wire-rimmed glasses rested on the bridge of his nose. The woman had dark brown hair, but her eyes looked exceptionally like his father's. He felt a surge of excitement go through him. Could they be...?
"The Potters!" the fat man bellowed jovially. Those were the first words Harry heard clearly. His heart sped up, and he started slowly walking towards the couple.
It was one thing to see his parents in the Mirror of Erised, but seeing his grandparents in front of him was something completely different, even if he could not talk to them.
When he was only an arm's length away from them, he started to see the similarities between his father's face and his grandparents'. Just like Harry, James had inherited his eyes from his mother, but the rest of his facial features strongly resembled his father's.
Harry wanted to touch them, even just to feel their clothes if nothing else. He knew it was only a memory, though, and he knew he would be disappointed if his hand went through them. That thought alone dampened his mood and kept him from trying.
He watched the students approach his grandparents one by one, each of them shaking hands with them. He felt a stab of jealousy that they had an opportunity to do something that would have meant so much to him.
As the procession of students ended, a tall, black-haired boy approached the Potters. He was somewhat older than Harry was, but he could not have been over fifteen. He started talking animatedly with them.
Harry strained to hear the conversation, but their words seemed distorted even through the little space separating them. He noticed his grandmother giving the boy a gentle smile, and Harry tried to make himself believe that smile was really for him.
The scene around him swirled into a whirlpool of colours before it went completely dark. Harry landed back on his chair with a hard thud. The diary was in front of him, but the inkbottle had toppled over and was spilling ink all over the desk. Harry cursed and started looking for a cloth to clean it. Then he cursed again. He was a wizard. One spell later, everything was clean, and the only remaining sign of the incident was the missing ink in the bottle.
Satisfied, Harry started writing.
They were really my grandparents?
Yes. The two people you saw were Audrey and Harold Potter.
That was Hogwarts. Why where they here? Who was that boy talking to them?
One question at a time. Professor Slughorn, the Potions teacher at that time, used to organise gatherings for successful students. Many times he invited prominent wizards and witches as guests.
My grandparents were famous?
They were... well known. Your grandfather was the Deputy Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot at that time. Your grandmother was the head of the maternity department at St Mungo's. Professor Slughorn liked to have strong ties with important wizarding families. The Potters were one of them.
When Harry had thought about his family in the past, he had only tried to give them faces. That was hard enough. He had never considered that they could have had jobs and been important. The idea was overwhelming.
And the boy? He spoke with them for a long time. Longer than anyone else.
That boy was me. I was an orphan, just like you, but someone had paid my tuition fees. I wanted to know if they were the ones who had done it. They were well known for supporting students financially.
They couldn't tell me. I later learned that donors sign a secrecy contract for such contributions.
Oh... Why couldn't I hear anything?
Some memories are stronger than others. This one stood out visually for me, but the auditory memory is weak.
Do you have more memories of them?
As the response started to form, Harry heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs. Worried that someone would discover the diary, he jumped off of the chair and snapped it shut without seeing the answer to his question. He threw the diary into his trunk and closed the lid.
The dormitory door opened, and Neville entered. Harry felt anger bubbling. This was the second time Neville had interrupted him.
"Oh, hi, Harry!"
"Did you forget something again?" Harry hoped he had managed to keep the anger out of his voice.
"Er... Yeah... Defence books this time. Were you writing a letter again?" the podgy boy said.
"Yes," Harry said, glad that he did not have to offer another explanation. "Want to walk to class together again?"
"Sure." Neville offered a small smile.
Maybe Neville's interruptions were not so bad. Both times Harry would have been late for class, and while he was not looking forward to seeing Lockhart, he still needed to be there.
Ginny was extremely happy that she had Charms with the Ravenclaws. Instead of sitting alone, she sat with Luna. Both of them received many weird looks from the Ravenclaws and malicious ones from the Slytherins.
Even so, Ginny did not need to deal with her troubles alone in that class. She and Luna left for a walk on the grounds afterwards. Their classes were finished for the day, and Ginny did not really want to be in the Slytherin common room on her own.
Luna broke the silence, her eyes wide open. "He'll talk to you again tonight."
Ginny did not even need a moment to figure out who he was. "How can you know that? What if Snape doesn't leave us alone this time?"
"That would defeat the purpose." Luna's voice was tranquil.
"What purpose?" Ginny asked nervously.
"Oh, just purpose." Finally, Luna blinked. "Don't worry, Ginevra. Everything will be all right."
"I really hope so."
"How can I leave them alone? What if he asks the question again?"
"He needs to know, Severus."
"Isn't it too early?"
"You may be right. A precise and subtle Confundus Charm might be the solution."
"That would give them more time."
"Yes. You are amazingly perceptive in the matters of friendship."
"I can observe it, even if I failed to experience it."
"Indeed you can. And you do have friends. Will you do it, or shall I?"
"I will. I can do it covertly. Your appearance would draw attention. And I will finally get some peace."
"I have ways of remaining unseen. But we'll do as you say."
"Harry, your robes are torn."
"I noticed, Hermione."
Hermione had badgered Harry since lessons ended. She avoided any topics that had angered him previously, but she kept talking to him. Ron was nowhere to be seen.
She lowered her book, looking at him. "Do you want me to fix them for you?"
"No, thanks. I'll do them myself later."
His wristwatch started beeping. It was time for his detention. "I have to go," he said, standing up.
"Harry, you still haven't told me–"
He closed the portrait and rushed through the halls. He had been hoping for an opportunity to finish his conversation with Tom, but he had not found any privacy after the end of lessons. It also seemed that Lockhart was haunting him even without his presence. He had settled for listening to Hermione as she ranted about not judging people for their mistakes. Even though he had nodded to keep the temporary peace, he was sure that the Defence lesson had been a complete disaster and not a mistake.
The air was dry and stuffy in the dungeons, and an unpleasant smell leaked from an open door. Harry immediately recognised it as the location of that night's detention.
He entered to find a large storage room containing numerous jars, bags, and containers full of potion ingredients. Snape was standing in the corner of the room, but he did not acknowledge Harry's presence apart from his usual glare.
Harry heard the footsteps down the hall, so he turned to the door to greet Ginny. He felt slightly woozy. Perhaps missing lunch had not been a good idea after all.
Ginny entered the room, and her face lit up when she looked at him. However, as soon as Snape announced his presence with a cough, her features darkened.
"This room is my private storage room. For your punishment, you will categorise all the ingredients and count them. That means count the jars, Potter, not the actual number of grains for the powdered bat wings." He fixed both of them with a glare. "You have been told what to do. Start now."
The work was tedious, and they had to be careful not to break anything. When Harry's side of the room was nearly finished, he looked up and saw that Ginny was not far behind him.
"As much as I hate leaving you when it prevents me from enjoying your woes, I have an important potion to prepare. Finish your work and wait for me here. No talking."
Harry had not expected Snape to leave them alone again, but it was a pleasant surprise. As soon as the teacher's footsteps faded away, he turned to Ginny.
"Hi, Harry." Ginny looked at the floor and only glanced at him while she spoke.
"Are you OK?"
"As much as I can be, I guess." Finally, she raised her head. "Isn't it strange how Snape leaves us alone every night?"
Harry shrugged. "It is, but I'm glad he does."
"Me, too." She reddened and ducked her head.
Harry was not sure why she was blushing, but it made him smile a bit. He remembered that he wanted to ask her something, but he could not quite recall what it was.
Ginny broke the silence. "I want to thank you."
"For talking to me. I... It means a lot." Even though she had started with confidence, her voice trailed off as she spoke.
"Of course I'd talk to you. You..." He wanted to say that she was Ron's sister, but that did not feel accurate at that moment. "I'd do that for any friend."
Her head came up again. "Am I?" she asked shyly.
"A friend." She blushed again, but she kept her gaze on him.
Even if she had not been one before, she was becoming a friend fast. "Yes. Unless you don't want to be."
"I'd like that," she said in a small voice. A slight frown appeared on her face. "Your robes are torn."
Harry laughed. "Yes, they are. It's from last night's floor scrubbing. I don't know the spell to fix them."
"I can do it for you."
She looked slightly hopeful, so Harry nodded immediately. Ginny took her wand out of her pocket and muttered a spell under her breath. A yellow light hit his knees, and the tears disappeared in an instant.
"There. That should do it." She pocketed her wand. "I learned that from Mum."
"Thank you. Well, this settles it. We're friends." He flashed her a smile to show that he was joking, and she returned it.
"If your clothes ever need fixing again, you come straight to me."
"I will." He paused for a moment. "Seriously, Ginny, we're friends, and if you need anything, I'll help if I can." He rushed the last part, but he meant every word of it.
"Do you really mean that?"
Why was she asking all of these questions? "Of course." Again, he felt that he needed to ask her something important, but he could not decide what.
"Because I need to tell you something. It's–"
Both of them jumped when Snape flung the door open as he entered. "I told you no talking! Finish your work! You have ten minutes or I will extend the detentions." His eyes were flashing, but he also looked slightly out of breath from all the shouting.
When Ginny returned to the Slytherin common room, she found it to be as mercifully empty as the corridors had been. Even her roommates were sleeping, so she took a shower and washed her hair. It was late, but the dust from Snape's storage room made her hair smell. If Ginny was proud of anything, it was her hair, and exhaustion was not going to stop her from keeping it clean and neat.
As she dried it with a soft towel, she started thinking about the detention. Again, Snape had ruined her chance to tell Harry about her problems, but at least they had made some progress. She would get another chance the next day. She felt confident about that.
As she ducked under the bed covers, a small smile appeared on her face. She had a friend now. The first one in what felt like a very long time.
Harry's tired steps echoed through the halls. The detention had worn him out, but his simmering anger at Snape gave him a bit of energy. Why did the man have to keep Ginny from telling him what she wanted to? Whatever it was seemed like it was important to her.
He had to wake up the Fat Lady to enter the common room, and he was not even sure if she recognised the password or just let him in. Everyone in his dormitory was asleep. Harry decided that was for the best, as it saved him from Ron's glares.
After a quick shower, he took a few minutes to talk to Tom. Harry was disappointed that the diary did not have any more memories of Harry's family, but Tom promised he would try to remember more about them. That had to do.
As Harry's head finally hit the pillow, he wondered why he had not asked Ginny what she had done to get her detentions. There was always the next one, he decided as he fell asleep.
AN: As usual, thanks to my betas, Sovran, Jonathan Avery and Ilovecats.