Harry has defeated Voldemort and saved all the people he cares for, so why do they all hate him? Harry wrestles with Ginny and the Diary in the Chamber of Secrets. Plus there are some strange OWLs.
Chapter Fifteen: Feeling Fine
‘How in the name of Merlin’s bloody bullocks did she get down here?’ Harry thought to himself as he slowly crept up the chamber. Ginny didn’t seem to see him as she knelt holding the diary like some sort of prayerbook, but Harry chose to take no chances and not rush her. As he drew closer, he could hear her whisper.
“Yes, Tom, I hear you,” she said. “I know you want me to write in you but I’m afraid.” There was a pause, as though she were listening to his response.
“I know you’re angry with me, Tom, but I was frightened.” Harry had to strain to make out what she was saying as he inched closer to her. “You were making me do things, Tom. Things I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to hurt those people.” Harry was almost up to her now, just a few more yards and he could snap the book from her grasp and be done with it. “Okay, okay, Tom. I know I’m weak. I know I could never go against you.” Harry was stunned as Ginny laid the book down on the stone floor and drew a quill from inside her robes.
She took the quill in hand and held it poised above a blank page. “I know, Tom. I know what you want me to do.”
Harry dropped to his knees beside the girl. He daren’t touch her for fear of pushing her over the edge. The quill was hanging, mere millimeters above the page and Harry somehow knew that one stroke of ink was all it would take to bring Riddle back.
“Listen to me, Ginny,” Harry spoke quietly, just barely above a whisper. “Listen to me, please. Don’t do it. Don’t give in to him, to his hate.” The small slip of a girl hesitated, the quill still hovering just above the paper. “You’re stronger than he is, Ginny.” She slowly shook her head. “Yes, you are; you were always stronger than he was.”
“No, he’s too strong. He won’t let me go. I have to do it. He’ll never leave me alone if I don’t.”
“He’ll never leave you alone if you do. You’re stronger than he is, Ginny. He needs you to give up because it is the only way he can beat you.”
She shook her head again, her hair swinging like a pendulum under her chin. “I could never be stronger than he is. I could never beat him.”
“But you already have, Gin. You’ve been beating him for years now. You are stronger than he is; don’t let him win just because you’re tired.”
Ginny turned at looked at Harry, for the first time she really looked at him. Her eyes were like glowing coals surrounded by pits of dark ash. Her cheeks were sunken with fatigue and their pallor was palpable.
“But I’m so tired. It seems like ages since I’ve rested. If I just give him what he wants then I can sleep. I’ll be able to rest.”
“There is no rest there, Ginny,” Harry pleaded. “He will never let you rest because he needs to keep you weak. You need to be strong. Just for a little while longer.”
“No,” she said in a choked voice. “I could never be strong enough. It was only because I couldn’t get back down here that I haven’t…”
“No, Ginny,” Harry said firmly. “That’s a lie. You could have opened the entrance anytime. You could have remembered how to say the words but you wouldn’t. You refused to. You tricked him. All these years you’ve been lying to him. Tricking him that you couldn’t remember. You’re stronger than you know, Ginny. That’s why he’s afraid of you.”
“No. I’m not. I’m weak and frightened.”
“No, you aren’t. He is. He’s so frightened of you that he has to destroy you to make himself feel safe again. You’re strong. Stronger than he is. You can beat him, Ginny. You just have to fight him a little bit more.”
Ginny turned a little more towards him and in doing so her hand rose a bit further from the diary. ‘If she would just move a bit more,’ Harry thought. ‘Just a bit more and I could…’
Suddenly, Ginny turned back towards the diary. “I have to do this,” she said and she stabbed the quill down onto the page. Harry’s eyes grew wide, his fingers just beginning to clutch towards the book as the quill point skittered across the page, leaving a ragged line of torn parchment. Ginny shifted the quill in her hand and stabbed down with an overhand blow. The quill point snapped against the book as two sheets tore under her attack.
Twice more she stabbed down, turning the feather quill into a useless mash. As she raised her hand again Harry grabbed her wrist and wrestled the broken quill away. He slapped the Basilisk fang into her palm and, with a feral grin, said, “Here, this ought to work a bit better.”
Ginny slammed the fang down into the paper and blue-black ink began to pour forth. She clawed at the diary with the fang, tearing the pages out. Ink pooled on the flagstones and he could have sworn he heard the hollow echo of screaming. Harry stilled her again and wrapped one of his hands around hers, holding the fang securely between them. He flipped the book closed and, with all the strength the two of them possessed, they plunged the fang straight through the leather cover and into the heart of the book.
There was a black flash and then it was done. The thing on the floor was once again just a book, a cheap dime-store diary that had for awhile been something so much darker. Ginny collapsed into sobs and clung to Harry’s robes. With nothing else to do, he wrapped his arms around her and rocked her as she cried.
In time, Ginny sobs quieted to wet sniffles, and when the girl wiped her nose on the sleeve of Harry’s robe he figured it was time for them to get moving again. He wondered for a moment where Dumbledore was. He would have thought that Luna’s message would have sent him running.
Harry casually dropped the ruined diary into his pocket and eased Ginny to her feet. She still clung to him as he removed the blocks from the doors and opened them. They passed back through the cavern, Ginny hiding her face as they passed the dried, shed skin of the Basilisk. At the foot of the long pipe/slide, Harry untied the end of the magical rope from his improvised hook and looped it around his forearm several times. Taking a firm grasp of Ginny, who wrapped her arms uncomfortably around Harry’s neck, he spoke the command word and the rope began to shrink again, pulling them back up the pipe.
Back up in Myrtle’s loo, they slid across the floor as Harry unwound the shrinking rope from his arm. Standing, he took out his wand to vanish the slime that covered him and looked around. He had expected to see a crowd of his fellow staff and maybe even some Aurors but he was disappointed. The only other person in the bathroom aside from him and Ginny was a rather frazzled looking Luna Lovegood standing beside one of the cubicles.
“H-hullo, Professor,” Luna stammered out.
Harry glared at her for a moment and felt a small guilty thrill as she cringed back. “I thought I told you to run and fetch the Headmaster if Miss Weasley here should waken?”
Luna dropped her gaze and nodded slowly.
“And it does appear that she did, in fact, wake up.” Again Luna nodded.
“So why isn’t the Headmaster here?”
“Because, Professor, you forgot to tell me how to unlock the door.”
“Shite!” Harry spat and the sound of his hand slapping against his forehead echoed around the tiled room. A moment later, he coughed, then coughed again. The cough quickly became a chuckle that the two girls echoed with relief. “Indeed, I did, didn’t I? Well, in that case, I apologize for sounding cross with you Luna. If I expected you to go for help I should have at least made sure you could get out of the room.”
The timid Ravenclaw looked up at him with a broad smile. “That’s OK, Professor Harris, we all make mistakes. I’m just glad it was you two coming back up the pipe and not Slytherin’s Monster.”
Ginny pulled herself deeper into Harry’s robes at Luna’s words and Harry, more out of reflex than anything else, patted her back reassuringly.
“Yes, well there is no need to fear that beast anymore.”
“You mean it’s…”
“Yes, Miss Lovegood, Slytherin’s pet is dead and the last of his line is one step closer.”
Luna looked quizzical at his comment but Harry waved any comment or question she would have made aside. He untangled himself from the redheaded Gryffindor clinging to him and inspected her. Several waves of his wand cleaned her clothing and then he finished doing the same to his own.
“Ginny, why don’t you wash your face and then I’ll have Luna take you up to see Madam Pomfrey.”
Ginny began to shake her head rapidly back and forth. “No! I don’t have to go there. I’ll… I’ll just back to my room. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
Harry rested a hand on her shoulder stopping her instantly. “Nonsense. You need a Calming Draft at the least, and you should probably get a healthy dose of Dreamless Sleep. A night in the Infirmary will be just the thing,” he said firmly.
“B…but what if she asks why I’m there?”
Harry shook his head once. “You just wash up. I’ll write Poppy a note saying that I was giving you a little extra tuition on Boggarts and you seemed to have a bad reaction.” He looked around and, spying Ginny’s school bag on the floor fished out a quill and parchment.
“She’ll believe that?”
“Believe me, she will be so thrilled to have something to complain about me to the Headmaster for she won’t take the time to give it the slightest doubt.”
“But you could get into trouble…” she said around two hands full of soapy water.
Harry laughed. “Bah, what’s the worst he could do? Sack me?” He looked over at the two girls who were staring slack-jawed at him in the mirrors. “I’m the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. If I’m lucky the only thing that will happen to me this year is that I’ll get sacked.” He chuckled a bit as Luna handed Ginny a towel for the girl to dry her face with. “It certainly beats what has happened to many of the others before.”
There were no angry confrontations with the school matron all that afternoon but the next morning at breakfast Harry entered the Great Hall to find the angry healer, with Minerva silently at her side, waiting before his usual seat at the staff table. Harry made his way in from the other side so that he could at least be seated as the women ranted at him.
He wasn’t to be disappointed; even before he had finished sitting the nurse began her lecture, “Professor Harris, I must protest, in the strongest possible terms, your treatment of the students! It’s bad enough that many of them are terrified of you…”
“Terrified?” Harry asked.
“Most of the students, if they see you in the halls, flee in the opposite direction!” she continued. “It’s a miracle that any of them even come to your class.” Harry looked above the matron’s head to see most of the students in the hall eavesdropping. At Harry’s glare most of them hid their faces, except for Luna who smiled widely and gave him a jaunty wave. “The use of Dark Creatures is a risk that I find simply unacceptable. The poor girl was nearly in hysterics! I will be filing a formal complaint with the Headmaster about your irresponsible methods and I hope you get sacked for it!”
Harry looked over at Minerva and raised an eyebrow in question. She fidgeted for a moment before answering. “I am reluctant, given your previous actions and their causes, to jump to any conclusions on this matter. However, I can understand how upset Madam Pomfrey is and would like to hear your side of the story before I make a decision.”
Harry took a deep breath, to give himself time to formulate a response that didn’t give away his true motives, when the doors to the hall opened and admitted a group of Gryffindors, including Ginny Weasley. Harry saw that they must have an early Quidditch practice, since they were all dressed in their kit for playing. He also noticed that Ginny must have shampooed and brushed her hair to within an inch of its life as it shown like spun copper in the sunlight pouring down from the enchanted ceiling. There were still dark circles under her eyes but it was plainly there for all to see that this was a tired girl and not a troubled one. Someone must have said something quite funny as at that moment Ginny let loose with a raucous bray of laughter that had both Poppy and Minerva turning to look. Ginny turned beet red as she covered her mouth with one hand.
“Yes,” Harry said dryly, “I can see why you are sooo concerned.”
Poppy seemed stunned for a moment before she turned back to Harry and asked in a small voice, “How?”
Harry gave her a sympathetic look and said, “Sometimes we must be forced to face our fears before we can begin to overcome them.”
The two witches watched as the Gryffindor team took their seats and began to dig into their breakfasts with gusto. Poppy then wandered away, shaking her head in confusion while Minerva turned back to Harry with a curious look.
“May I ask what…”
Harry shook his head. “I’m afraid that is something you will have to ask Ginny herself. I wouldn’t feel proper revealing her confidences.”
“Quite right, Odysseus,” came the voice of the Headmaster. Harry hadn’t even noticed him entering the room, so intent was he on his conversation with Minerva and Poppy. “We must hold the secrets our students entrust us with as sacrosanct. But I do wonder, Odysseus, what is it that you see when you confront a Boggart?”
“You mean: what is it that frightens me, Albus?” The old wizard nodded. “Other than myself?”
“You are frightened of yourself?” he answered with surprise.
Harry laughed. “Who among us isn’t frightened by the darkness we all carry hidden deep within ourselves?” Harry looked Dumbledore straight in the eye. “Only fools and those too frightened of what they may see there to even look.”
“Yes, well,” Minerva replied uncomfortably.
Harry obligingly changed the subject, “Your lions seem to be working hard to win the Quidditch Cup this year, Minerva. You didn’t happen to motivate them somehow?” Both Minerva and Albus looked at him. “Their first game is against Slytherin, isn’t it?”
McGonagall nodded. “They are playing in three weeks; Gryffindor versus Slytherin is traditionally the first game of the Quidditch season here at Hogwarts.”
“Yes,” Harry said smiling, “to get it out of the way before the fight for the cup becomes literal.”
Whatever was going to be said next was lost in the wake of the arrival of the day’s mail. In the middle of half a dozen Daily Prophets being dropped onto the Head Table, a rather ordinary looking screech owl landed in front of Harry with a letter clasped in its beak. This wasn’t the Malfoy’s eagle owl, the only correspondence Harry had gotten here at Hogwarts since the Ministry Summons for Sirius’ hearing, so Harry was at a loss as to who the note could be from. With a cautious hand he accepted the note and gave the owl some bacon. Then he spent almost a full minute casting all manner of detection spells to see it there were any curses or portkeys attached to the note. Albus and Minerva both looked surprised at the thoroughness of Harry’s inspection.
“Better safe than sorry,” he informed them.
“Have you ever met a man by the name of Alastor Moody?” Albus asked, causing Minerva to snort lightly.
Not knowing what else to do, Harry opened the letter and read it with growing surprise.
Dear Professor Harris… ahh bah to that! Hey Odd,
I expect you weren’t expecting to hear from me, but I have found myself with a bit of time on my hands and decided that I would like to get to know the man who got me out of that hellhole. So, I was wondering, if you weren’t doing anything come Saturday, if you would like to join me for lunch at my house? I understand a single and unattached Wizard of your age is likely already engaged for the evening but I thought you could be free earlier. So how’s about it?
Send an answer back with the owl if you can make it. Eat the blasted thing if you can’t. It bit me when it saw I was having problems spelling Oddis… Odysiu… Bah, your first name!
My house is in London at 12 Grimmauld Place.
Harry sat there stunned for a moment considering. He usually met Narcissa on Saturday evenings, if he wasn’t overseeing any detentions, but he was free that afternoon. He took a quill and sent the note back saying he would be there at noon.