Had a Muggle seen him, that Muggle’s first thought would have been: there's a real ego-tripper for you. Had a wizard walked into the room, he would simply assume that Professor Lupin's shaving glass must be giving him quite a bit of lip. Both would be wrong.
More than seventeen years had passed since Professor Lupin had seen his face in this mirror. It wasn't talking to him. It never did. Lupin's eyes closed to summon the two youthful faces he had so often seen reflected in that glass - James and Sirius. After the Marauder’s Map, it had been their favorite tool for mischief. Mischief? Pandemonium!
Now Lupin waited patiently for a green-eyed version of James to appear in the mirror. Never had it occurred to Lupin that the two mirrors still existed....well, one and one-third mirrors to be accurate. Neither he nor Hermione were able to find a spell that could mend the one Harry had shattered, and the necessity of keeping the mirrors an absolute secret limited considerably the number of possible advisors. If I just knew what spells they used to charm the mirrors…well, just be grateful you have it, he told himself.
After the horrendous midnight explosion at Grimmauld Place, Mad-Eye Moody had insisted that Harry establish some form of contact with the Order. When more than twenty members of the Order had apparated simultaneously that night, each had the same question as they touched ground: was the last battle about to begin? There was no matching their consternation when they discovered the long-missing trio in Grimmauld’s drawing room working desperately to silence the Super-Secrecy Sensors their ‘explosion’ had set off.
While Shacklebolt worked to restore Ron’s fractured arm and Tonks walked an incoherent Hermione back and forth in the outside hall, Mad-Eye Moody bore down on Harry, who stood covered with soot from head to foot with a strange hint of smile on his lips. Moody’s squall of reproaches reached such a pitch of volume that two of the Sensors began to howl almost as loudly as the infuriated Auror.
The Order has tolerated your maverick attitude long enough, boy. Twenty wizards and witches had to disappear without a second’s notice. How the hell are we going to explain that to others? Ron with a five-piece arm and the girl acting like an escapee from St. Mungo’s Incurable Ward. There will be no Fawkes to save your hide the next time you go thundering after a basilisk. Have you forgotten that ni…
Lupin frowned into the mirror as he remembered stepping in front of Mad-Eye at that moment to mutter, “Enough, Alastor. You made your point.” For a second, it seemed like Moody might pop his eye. In any account, he was too enraged to see what the rest of them saw. Merlin, it was so beautiful, and yet, so terrible! Harry did not blink an eye during the diatribe. Indeed, the boy’s face remained impassive, not a single flicker, not even when Ron and Hermione moved in, flanking him on either side, their wands raised. Raised? Hermione gripped her wand with both hands, arms held straight at face level. She looked like part of a Muggle hit-squad. What had happened to these three teenagers in six months? What had they seen? What had they done that had turned them into three fighters ready to take on a squadron of well-trained wizards and witches?
Lupin shook himself. The alarm clock on his desk was shooting pink hearts at him. Tonks’s unofficial-engagement gift. It was pure Tonks. How the alarm worked was determined by the day. Halloween had sent three bats picking at his hair. That had been alarming. New Year’s meant listening to Auld Lang Syne in thirty-seven different languages. Mermish rivaled Gobbledegook for last place on his hit list. Now pink hearts pelted his cheeks to remind him it was Saint Valentine’s Day. It felt good to laugh again. He tapped the clock with his wand and stared into the mirror. There would be only a few minutes to talk to Harry before the honored Valentine’s guest arrived….
“Doom! Doom! Doom!
It’s going to happen soon.
Doom! Doom! Doom!
Perhaps right in this room.”
“Oh shut it!” Harry moaned as the alarm clock sounded. What macabre idiot Black thought up that clock he didn’t know, but its creator rated at least an extra decade in purgatory for his efforts…if he even made it there. That wizard had spared no labor to obtain the optimum of torment. Set the alarm for 10:00 A.M. and it would start its mournful dirge at 9:55, leaving its victim five full minutes to contemplate the terror to come.
Harry picked up the shining fragment of glass that lay on the rug beside him. The challenge was to place the broken piece of Sirius’s mirror in such a way that the viewer would see only the black wall behind him without a glimpse of Harry in the other mirror. He wanted the best view possible for himself.
“Wingardium Leviosa,” he whispered. A frown took hold of his face. Whispering again. Ron, Hermione and he had reached a point where it took concentrated effort to speak at normal volume. Well, it couldn’t last too much longer. There were only two more Horcruxes to find and they already knew where Nagini was.
With his wand, he tapped the fragment that floated above his head and adjusted it to reflect the wall behind him. The mirror nearly disappeared in the reflection of the black wall. Those walls had been a sooty ivory before the explosion. His stomach clenched. Would there ever come a day he could think of the explosion without the urge to vomit? He had been so certain she was dead.
Ron and he had stood by helpless as Hermione circled the table on which the locket lay. Because it had belonged to a woman, only a woman could work the spell that would penetrate the sealed locket and destroy whatever treasure it held. Treasure! That was biggest misnomer in wizarding history for what the elegantly carved locket held. Since he and Ron had been standing against a far wall, they were not hit with the full force of the explosion, although Ron’s left arm was shattered by one leg of the massive table that had flown towards them. Hermione, however, was thrown like a rag doll across the length of the long drawing room. The force with which her body hit the wall left a magical indentation in the plaster. Nothing could remove it. Obviously it was intended to be a morbid reminder of the victim’s death, but she turned it into a lasting tribute to the cleverest witch of her year, and probably of the century. Over and over Harry called her name as they knelt by what they thought was a lifeless body. All of a sudden her eyes opened.
“Well,” she whispered, “I think that was the best cushioning spell I ever worked.” Ron, his face a river of tears, pulled her up into a fierce hug, oblivious of his shattered arm.
Doom! Doom! Doom!…
Maybe a good Reducto curse was in order, but it would set off the alarms, and Harry had no desire to replay that piece of history. He stood up and looked into the fragment. There were years when Harry reckoned Valentine's Day was celebrated in February to lighten up the gloom and doom of the long winter months. He also reckoned the whole thing was a load of false hopes for most people, ending in an even deeper gloom. And so, here he sat, alone in this room, with a piece of metal chanting out his doom. There were still three minutes to go before the appointed time, but he could stand it no longer.
“Lupin? Are you there?” Harry whispered.
DADA Classroom, Hogwarts
Lupin almost dropped the mirror.
“Yes, Harry, right here. There is no need to whisper. We are alone. Where are you?”
“Ron and Hermione?”
“In downtown London, celebrating Valentine’s Day with a working date.” Harry’s voice sounded a bit strangled.
Something was wrong. Lupin leaned slightly toward the glass. Harry’s mouth was contorted, the lips stretching first up, then down, and then slightly puckered.
“A working date?” Lupin asked slowly, his mind racing through possible problems that would cause such a grimace on Harry’s face.
“Ya,…looks like you and Tonks are having one too.”
“Tonks?” What was Harry’s problem?
“Well, I sure hope that’s Tonks’s lipstick on your cheeks.” The green eyes squinted. “Although the lips do look a mite thinner than Tonks’s. ”Did I interrupt something, Lupin?”
A bark of laughter that sounded remarkably like Sirius echoed from the mirror as Lupin began patting his cheeks. Sticky. His cheeks were sticky. A quick look at his bright pink fingers told Lupin everything. If Tonks really thought this was funny, he would set her right today. What if someone had seen him?
Harry’s laughter filled the room. God, when was the last time he heard Harry laugh…or Ron…or Hermione? This is what Harry needed, well, at least part of what he needed, Lupin decided.
“Any other observations, Harry?” Lupin asked in his best professorial tone.
“How did she do it?”
“Are you asking me to tell you what kind of kisser Tonks is, Harry?” Lupin did his best to arch a shocked eyebrow, but he could feel his lips smiling. “Or do you want a demonstration? Harry, I could kiss you,” Lupin said gravely.
With a howl, Harry’s face vanished from the glass, and Lupin heard what sounded like someone pounding his fist on wood. Each pound was punctuated by a heavy gasp. After a minute, Harry’s face reappeared, a few tears clinging to the corners of his eyes.
“Blimey, Lupin. All I want to know is what charm was used to pull off such a prank.”
It was hard to let go of this moment. Obviously Harry was overstressed. How three teenagers bore up under a burden that would crush most adults he did not know. A bit more banter as to whether he, Lupin, one of the Four Marauders, really needed to charm a woman before she would kiss him was highly tempting. There was something addictive in Harry’s laughter. Perhaps because it sounded so much like Sirius’s laughter. Unfortunately their visitor could only be seconds from his door. “Are you ready to see her now, Harry?”
“Yes, I guess so. Will her hair really be brown?”
“Yes, Harry, it will be brown. Now get down and let me make sure you cannot be seen.
Ginny jumped over the final stair that led down to the DADA classroom. She brushed her long, red hair back from her face and turned to examine the stair. No sign that it was a booby-trap could be seen. No faint tint around the edges. Luna had alerted her to the Valentine’s Day trap three third year boys had set. Third year! She had only seen a flash of pink when Zacharias Smith ran past her with a wave of bright read hearts tailing him, each heart singing Tip-toe through the Tulips in a different key. Some said the charm was gender-triggered since the five victims thus far were all male. Be that as it may, she had no desire to test the stair and end up clothed in skin-colored leotard and stockings, fitted tighter than one’s own skin. Really, Fred and George would go toad-green with jealousy that they had not thought of it.
She hurried through the empty class room, and although she was late, she stood two minutes before the helmet-shaped knocker on the door. Ginny knew what would happen when she crossed the threshold into Professor Lupin’s office, and she did not like it. Taking a deep breath she reached for the helmet’s visor and wondered what it would do this time. As she lifted the visor, two green eyes appeared and a thin voice whined, “Ah, fair damsel, how long have I waited! And do you come to walk with me beneath the blossomed cherry tree? How do I crave…?”
“Trees don’t blossom in February, idiot!” and bang went the visor to emphasize her mood.
“No, most lovely of maids, do not deprive me of your fair face…”
Bang! Bang! Why the stupid helmet always had to have those green eyes, she didn’t know, but maybe she should just hex it…
“Come in,” Professor Lupin’s voice sounded.
Swiftly Ginny opened the door and slipped into the room, pausing just long enough to stick her tongue out at the helmet. What cheek from a shrunken piece of armor!
“Good morning, Ginny. Having a nice Valentine’s Day?”
“If you mean besides the newest box of Lover’s Treats that Fred and George sent, well, it’s been fun watching the different cards float through the halls.” At least they don’t sing, she added silently, or recite bad poetry.
The moment she dreaded began and her scalp tingled the way it did when one of Fred’s super-sized Hover Snowballs found its target. She could see Professor Lupin’s eyes dilate slightly, and realized that he still wasn’t use to it. But then, neither was she. Her red hair was gone. Any glamour was immediately nullified once the person stepped into the office of a Hogwarts’ professor. It cut down considerably on the time wasted with a student trying skid off class because of illness, injury, or after-effects of a prank. Now that the war had really begun, it was an added security measure. The Ginny she saw reflected in her teacher’s eyes had short brown hair, dyed with Muggle hair dye, and neatly cut in a Dutch Boy style.
Ginny wasn’t the only student in Hogwarts whose hair had had been dyed and given a different shape. At least a quarter of the Slytherins were walking around with a glamour that projected how they had looked before their families had incurred the wrath of the Death Eaters by the parents’ refusal to support the Dark Lord. Beneath the glamour was a child whose hair was dyed and given a style that sometimes rivaled Tonks at her most playful. If Hogwarts came under attack, these students would be the primary targets after the teachers themselves. The staff, under Head Mistress McGonagall, after much deliberation with the Ministry - Scrimgeour was eager to still the wave of panic - had decided to open Hogwarts for the new school year. What did the word ‘safe’ mean now as whole families were singled out and eliminated? Hogwarts was still a bastion by reason of its wards alone. They had made the painful decision not to admit any Muggle-borns among the first and second years. It was just too dangerous. Often a wizard’s child knew already how to ride a broom, to do simple spells that could make the difference between life and death in a full-out attack.
Ginny tilted her head and looked at Lupin quizzically, waiting to hear why she had been invited to his office.
He gestured towards his desk. “Here, Ginny, is why I called you: one of the secret tools of the Order that we are trying to perfect.” That part wasn’t too far from the truth. “We want to develop a mirror that will reveal any glamour charm when the wizard or witch is reflected in it.”
“But I cannot cast the glamour charm in here, Professor Lupin,” she stated as she leaned over to peer into the mirror.
Harry nearly stood up. Ginny with brown hair…but the eyes were still the same.
“Yes, well I can fix that in a second.” His wand swung about above his head as he silently mouthed the coded charm. As she watched, Ginny wondered what Fred and George would give to know that charm. She could already see the signs announcing next season’s line of Weasley Wonders.
She wiggled her wand carefully from inside her sleeve and thought the needed words.
“Good, Ginny! There you are: red hair as always.”
She peered into the glass. There was something strange about it, but Ginny couldn’t say just what bothered her. Then she decided to let the glamour fade slightly. There was a question she wanted to ask.
“Heard from them lately, Professor Lupin?” It was obvious whom she meant.
“Not recently…missing them, Ginny?”
“Of course? Why wouldn’t I?”
Harry caught his breath as her eyes flashed. Suddenly he understood why Ron would torment Hermione at times. There was a fire there….
“Well, I know you would miss your brother and Ron. But I wondered how you were handling the third one’s absence?” Lupin prepared to cast a shield charm if necessary. Everyone knew the combustion speed of the Weasley temper.
To his surprise - and Harry’s - there was no flash this time. Instead the brown eyes filled up and Ginny leaned even closer to the mirror, letting her red hair fall upon it. “Does it really matter now, Professor? Will he remember me that way when this is done?
Harry nearly shouted, “Yes!” How could she think that he...?
“I mean, the time we had was so short. The war will change him, Professor. It’s changing me. If you only…Professor Lupin, how wrong is it to want to kill someone?” She straightened slightly, but her face was still framed in the mirror.
“There is no man who can give a complete answer to that one, Ginny. Usually it is wrong, yet wars come, and they bring death, they bring killing with them.”
“Sometimes I want to kill her, Professor. I really want to kill Bellatrix. She killed Sirius, she tried to kill Harry, and in a sense she succeeded. Harry’s never been the same since Sirius fell behind that veil. If this war means I have to kill, then Bellatrix is the one I want to bring down. Do you truly think Harry will want someone like that? A face that will constantly remind him of his own nightmares?” She looked back into the mirror and suddenly the red hair was gone. “Maybe I will just stay like this. He never writes…it’s better if he forgets.”
A tear had fallen unto the mirror and Ginny wiped her finger across the shining glass to clear it. Then she turned away. “Well, congratulations, Professor. Your mirror will work just fine. May I use your fireplace? Some of us are beginning Occlumency lessons with Head Mistress. It’s supposed to be hush-hush. McGonagall said you knew about it and I could ask you to lift the charm from the fireplace this one time. The first three there get to practice the Legilimens spell, and I’ll be hexed before I let Zacharias Smith into my brain”
There was swish of powder and flame, then Lupin’s face appeared in the fragment.
“Harry, I had wanted to talk to you before you saw her. This is Ginny, now. We need her. You need her, but something is changing in Ginny. We rarely see her smile. She’s a fighter, Harry, but desperation is setting in and that is not good. I think you need to talk with Gin…”
“No, Lupin! Right now I don’t need to talk with her or anyone.” His voice verged on shouting. “Thanks.”
Harry slumped on the floor, the mirror fragment floating above his head.
“Why did I do this,” he whispered. “Why?”
Ginny was beautiful, brown hair or red.
“I like red,” he moaned. Her eyes were beautiful, even when they filled up with tears.
“I did that to her.”
Harry did not know what to think. What he did know was that he had never told anyone the whole truth as to why he broke off with Ginny. Everything Lupin tried to say, he had heard before. He had heard the anxious urging of Hermione as she glanced repeatedly over her shoulder to make sure Ron wasn’t near. He had listened to Tonks’s out front description of what the months had been like when Lupin was in a state of denial…” And if she does die Harry, do you want her to die thinking you didn’t love her?” For one insane moment he almost hexed Tonks right where she stood. There were Bill’s quiet words, “I understand what you’re doing Harry. Really, I probably would have done the same, but I would have been wrong. None of us knows the end of this war. Why not face it together?” And then Bill’s scarred face broke into a radiant smile. Harry wondered if that was the road his parents had taken. Hell, even Percy sent him an owl on the topic. Low morale makes for poor performance on the battlefield. And just how many battlefields had Percy seen?
The mirror floated down to his face and as he looked up, he saw the black wall again and Hermione’s body, hitting it like a race car out of control.
It was not just about Ginny’s dying, about Ginny being a target. It was about him. He hated that damned prophecy.
“Curse it! Curse it right to hell!” Harry shouted suddenly. Didn’t they understand? Couldn’t they see that it was he, Harry, who would die? No matter how many times he tried - at least two dozen times a day - to tell himself he would live, he always ended up looking at his lifeless body. Voldemort was going to die; of that Harry was certain. Once the last Horcrux was destroyed, any wizard could kill him if he got close enough. Even a Muggle could, with a rifle. But who could hold Voldemort’s attention so completely that the others could close in unseen…who but himself? No, Harry could not believe he had a future, and the best thing he could do for Ginny was what he had done. Cut it before it grew too deep, before the whole wizarding world branded her as the Chosen One’s Beloved. She would be tied to a dead man’s memory all her life, made to feel guilty if she turned to another man. Who knew better than he what it was to live up to an impossible role others defined for you? Stupid, cursed prophecy. No, he didn’t want that for her.
“She has already suffered enough,” Harry whispered as he stood up and walked over to a lamp on the desk. They had brought it with them: a battery-powered lamp. Lupin had warned them to use as little magic as possible in Grimmauld lest they set off a Secrecy Sensor. He flicked the light on, glanced over his shoulder, and then pulled out a thin, leather-covered folder.
At Harry’s request, Dobby had made it for him, casting every possible charm that the house-elf thought might help his Potter. The folder had become Harry’s talisman during the months of hunting. Had Dobby not made it almost indestructible, Harry would have worn holes in the leather. His fingers often sought it during the day, just a reach into his jumper to feel that cover. Sometimes he woke to find the folder in his hands. How it got there he was never sure, but those days always seemed brighter.
He opened the folder and smiled. The smile was for the faces who were smiling up at him. On the right was a photo of his parents. Lupin said it had been taken during their last Valentine’s Day in Hogsmeade. Two wedding rings glimmered as the couple held their hands up in display. Then Dad would twirl his young bride around and around until they were laughing too much to move. On the left was a photo Colin Creevy snapped in the Gryffindor common room just after Ginny and he had ended their famous Quidditch Win Kiss. Several pairs of hands applauding wildly could be seen on the edges.
Harry looked longingly at the second photo, admiring the redness of Ginny’s hair, when suddenly a long arm reached out from the right and caught Ginny by the hand. It was his Dad, who had leaned behind the leather strip dividing the photos. With one quick pull Ginny was now in his parents’ photo. His mother laughed as she took Ginny in her arms and danced her about while his Dad clapped to music Harry could not hear. Then the arm was again in the other photo, swinging madly in an attempt to catch the photo-Harry. But that small Harry would have none of it. He flattened himself against the outer frame and ducked every time the hand swept towards him.
Harry was stupefied. “What’s wrong with you? Get over there!” he hissed as the small figure again eluded his Dad’s hand.
“Move!” Harry was yelling now. He put his finger to the photo, determined to nudge himself to the other side. The small, green-eyed wizard took one look at the over-sized finger and drew his wand. Harry could not hear which hex was used, but it looked as if he had cried Impedimenta! Tiny sparks of red and gold filled the frame. Then it was empty.
On the other side Ginny began to cry, and while his father patted the small red-head huddled beneath his arm, his mother turned towards him. Her smile was gone and she shook her head sadly at him.
With a loud bang Harry slammed the folder shut. What was happening? Did it mean something? Was this suppose to be yet another cursed prophecy about the Chosen One, the Boy who Lived to Die? His whole body shook. Had he got it wrong? Would Ginny die while he, Harry, went on living, or would they both die? Doom! Doom! Doom! Who was controlling whom? Had he learned how to shut Voldemort out of his dreams only to let that fiend make his waking hours one, long nightmare?
Ginny. Somehow this was about Ginny. It was about them. He needed Ginny. Now.
“LUPIN!” Harry cried as he reached up and grabbed the silver fragment floating above his head.
DADA Classroom, Hogwarts
Lupin dropped the ailing Puffskein he was holding when he heard the cry. It fell to the floor, losing what little fluff it had left, and Lupin sprinted towards his office. He grabbed the mirror and hollered into it, “How many are there, Harry? Still at Grimmauld? Tell me fast and the squad will be there in thirty seconds.”
“Squad? Why I’m still here at Grimmauld….ooooh.” Harry’s voice went low with realization. “Sorry, Lupin, there is no attack here. But I need to talk to you. I must see Ginny right now!”
“See Ginny?” Now it was Lupin’s turn to sound confused. He stood there for the next three minutes, his mouth growing wider and wider with surprise as Harry described what had happened in the photos. “I don’t know Harry. How much action happens in a photo depends on the charm used on the film and anything that might have been added later. Colin hardly has that type of skill.”
“You have no idea then?” Harry was beginning to sound frantic.
“Yes, I have an idea, Harry. I think its time for me to get Ginny. May I?”
“Yes! Please! I need to talk to Ginny.” His voice sank into an incoherent moan.
Lupin went to the fireplace and tossed in a hand-full of powder. “Headmistress please.” His voice faded into a murmur as he spoke with McGonagall. Somewhere in the background Ginny’s voice shouted “Legilimens!” Behind him, the mirror moaned, “Ginny, are you there? Please get me Ginny.”
Another swoosh and Ginny stepped out of the fireplace.
“Professor Lupin?” She mouth opened to ask why she was here again, when she heard a faint voice.
“Ginny? Please get me Ginny. I want Ginny!”
Lupin cleared his throat. “Uh, yes, Ginny. I think you need to examine the mirror a little closer.” He started for the door when an excited squeal sounded and he turned back for a second, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Ginny.”
As Lupin closed the door behind him, he imagined Tonks’ face when he told her this one. Maybe she would even be wearing that same pink lipstick.