October Assignment Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Class/Task Number: Herbology Task #3
Bonus Prompts (if used): [Genre] comedy [Action] laughing
Summary: During a weekend away, Harry and Ginny meet an unforgettable stranger.
Trigger Warnings: None
Word Count: 2218
Harry closed his eyes and settled back into the pillows. His fingers trailed lazy circles on Ginny's back. She shifted closer to him, resting her chin on his chest and cleared her throat.
'You know we can't stay in bed all day.'
Harry kept his eyes closed, still in a lovely haze from their activities. 'Why?' he asked in a low voice.
'Because that's just boring. We booked a weekend away for a reason, we could spend all day in bed at home if we wanted to.'
'So, just now, you found that boring, did you?'
Ginny rolled her eyes, but flushed slightly. 'I just think maybe we should go and look at some old rocks that the muggles call castles and see what the coastline is like,' Ginny said, then added, 'Otherwise what will we tell my parents we did while we were here?'
Harry frowned. Ginny sat up and threw a leg over him. His eyes lit up and his hands came to rest at her hips, but she shook her head and placed her hands over his.
'Come on, Harry, let's go learn about history and such.'
'Wow. You're really getting me riled up,' he said, deadpan. Ginny laughed and leaned down to kiss him, but before he could deepen the contact she was hopping off him and disappearing into the bathroom, he heard the shower start and rolled over in the bed, coming to lie on his stomach.
He hummed in reply, already slipping back into a haze, eyes almost closed and feeling impossibly comfortable.
'I said we couldn't spend the whole day in bed, I didn't say anything about the shower.'
Harry almost tripped on the sheets on the way to the bathroom.
After an eventful shower, the couple left their chalet for breakfast at a small café that the old woman who they had booked accommodation through had recommended. It was only a short walk down a beaten track, bordered by the rolling hills of the Scottish highlands. They walked lazily and close together, tightly bundled against the harsh weather. When they reached the café they found themselves the only customers, besides a weather-beaten looking old man in the corner, with a sheepdog lying at his feet.
'Do you reckon we should ask him to be our guide?' Ginny asked, biting into a piece of toast and subtly nodding her head toward the man, after they had been seated and served.
Harry laughed and handed her a cup of tea. 'I think he has better things to do. He actually reminds me of a bit of Mad-eye.'
'That's right!' Ginny said, pointing a finger at him, 'All the more reason to ask him. Imagine Mad-eye as a tour guide.' She hunched over in her chair and squinted one eye at him, then spoke in a gruff voice, 'If you look to your bloody right ladies and gentlemen, you'll see a blasted rock. Now I once cracked a rock open with my bare hands-'
Harry almost snorted out his tea. 'Surely that's a little bit disrespectful.'
Ginny shrugged. 'Mad-eye wouldn't mind, he loved me.'
Harry raised his eyebrows in surprise and Ginny elaborated. 'Oh yeah, he thought I was- 'Ginny flicked her ponytail over her shoulder '-spunky.'
Harry grimaced, still looking at her sceptically and Ginny leaned in close, eyes darting around the room dramatically as if she was about to divulge her greatest secret. 'To tell you the truth, Harry, and don't get angry,' she soothed, placing a hand over his. 'I had a bit of a crush on Mad-eye.'
Harry choked in earnest now, devolving into a strange mix of a violent coughing and laughter. Their waiter had been approaching their table but quickly turned around at Harry's display. 'I'm sorry?'
'I fancied Mad-eye, Alastor, if you will.' Ginny said, buttering another piece of toast.
'What, when you were fourteen?' Harry asked, humouring her.
'Yes. You know, when we were all at Grimmauld.'
'Well,' Harry said, clearing his throat. 'I don't know how that reflects on me then.'
'What? That I had a crush on both you and Moody?'
'Well, it just says that you were second choice,' Ginny said grinning despite herself.
Harry smirked. 'I don't recall Alastor getting a poem at Valentines day. How would that have gone, do you think? Your eye is as blue as a bicorn's horn?'
Ginny reached over and slapped him on the arm. 'That's it, you've used all your allowances for that little reference!'
'What? No I haven't, I have one more left!' Harry replied indignantly.
'You don't, you used the second last one at Angelina's party.'
Harry looked ready to retort but then closed his mouth, remembering the incident. 'Well I wasn't all there was I? Bloody George and his firewhiskey…' he mumbled.
Ginny made no effort to hide the smug look on her face and took a sip of her tea. They continued their breakfast over more banter and were soon pushing in their chairs and shrugging on jackets. Ginny had asked the waiter for recommendations on sightseeing and so they were set for a day of exploring.
They sent a half-hearted wave the way of the old man, who was still sat in the shadows, making his way through a cup of tea, and exited the café, emerging into weak sunlight that was trying to overcome the grey cloud cover dominating the sky. Ginny led Harry further up the road until they came around the corner. The coastline came into view and Ginny pointed some distance away to a rocky outcropping where the ruins of some ancient building struck out.
'That, dear Harry, is Findlater castle.'
'Yes, well, it's a bit of a bastardization of the Gaelic but indeed. Findlater.'
Harry clasped her hand and started them down the long path to the ruins. 'Well forget about later. Let's do it now.'
'That's truly awful, Harry.'
He shrugged, grinning back at her, and pulled her along after him. They didn't see a soul on the way down to the ruins, accompanied by the sounds of wind rushing through long green grass, coming in off the sea and carrying salty air with it. The trek got precarious as they got closer, and soon they were on the cliffs edge, traversing the narrow strip of land that led to the ruin.
'I think we should bring Teddy with us the next time we go somewhere for the weekend,' Harry suggested as they scrambled up the slope to Findlater. He had to shout above the sounds of the sea rushing below them.
'That should be nice. We might give Andromeda a heart-attack though.' Ginny said.
'I'll have you know I'm on very good terms with her right now. I reckon I should take my chances.'
'Well then let's do it. Where are you going to take me next? The Bahamas? The Swiss Alps?'
'I'm beginning to think that perhaps the Prophet is right, maybe you are just with me for my vast wealth.'
'Like I said, second choice,' Ginny quipped as she finally reached the plateau where the ruins seemed to grow out of the earth, weather-beaten and ancient. She ran her hands over the stone, panting slightly from the exertion of the climb.
Harry drew up beside her and put his hands on his hips. Looking around the dilapidated building. He moved further inside, to the far end, where he was allowed an unadulterated view of the coast. The sea foamed at the rocks below, and though he might have once found the view unnerving, he couldn't help but marvel at it. It was breath-taking.
He heard Ginny walking over to him and she took his hand, carrying his arm over her shoulders and then resting at his side. They stood in silence for a long while, faces becoming cold in the salty spray, hair looking windswept.
'This is nice,' Ginny murmured.
'Yeah,' Harry agreed, running his hand along her arm.
'You think wizards ever lived here?'
'Maybe. We should look it up, when we get back.'
Ginny separated from his side and walked the perimeter of the ruins, occasionally stopping to run her hand along the stone, and look closely at each etching and crack. Harry sat down and stretched his legs out in front of him. For the second time that day he closed his eyes and felt a contentment steal over him.
He heard Ginny murmur to herself every now and then, or she would call out with a question or some observation. A few times he opened his eyes to look back at her, somehow high up on top of crumbling pillars or stairs leading to nowhere. She would smile at him and claim the view was better from where she was, he would make eye contact and tell her he thought the view was perfect.
The sun passed directly over their heads, and it was only as it was beginning to touch the ocean on the horizon that Harry stood up and stretched and craned his neck to find Ginny. He saw red hair spilling over a wall and walked to it, coming around the other side where Ginny was lying down, her body at the same level as his head.
'I don't think you're supposed to sleep on ancient ruins, Gin,' Harry whispered in her ear.
She opened one eye and turned her head to look at him. 'This is how you really get a feeling for them though.'
'Well, I know a much more comfortable place for you to test that theory.'
She yawned and sat up, still on the edge on the wall. She placed her hands on his shoulders. 'Alright, but I'm afraid you'll have to carry me.'
'I'll take you as far as the road,' he said, and without hesitation she jumped into his arms. He stumbled a little at the surprise but then regained his balance.
'I do love this, but do you think we could do piggyback?' Harry grunted.
Ginny huffed but then very inelegantly swung her legs around, tugging on his hair a few times, almost pulling off his shirt and climbed around him. She came to rest against his back, legs wrapped around his waist, all without ever touching the floor.
Harry righted his glasses. 'Well that was one way to do it.'
'Let's go,' she whispered in his ear.
Harry set off down the slope, and it didn't take them long to devolve into a laughing mess. Ginny fell off a few times but would adamantly climb back on each time, refusing to give up on the mission. Harry couldn't help but pause every few steps, needing to catch his breath in between laughter. They were just stumbling over the strip of land back to the road when, in the dip ahead of them a figure rose from the hill. A matching hat and tweed jacket, that they soon realised, belonged to the old man from the café.
They tried to rein in their antics as he passed, his sheepdog running ahead. Harry nodded at him and the man returned the gesture, but then stopped, leaning on his cane.
'It was a good day for Fion laetir, wasn't it?' He asked, assessing them.
'It is beautiful,' Ginny replied. The man's sheepdog ran up to her and she bent down to scratch its ears.
'Don't mind Paulie. He just wants treats.'
Ginny looked up at the man and shook her head, not bothered. He looked wistfully up at the ruins which were soon becoming only a silhouette, ringed by orange rays from the sun that had finally been let out through the clouds.
'It has an interesting history this one. Some say that some of the later inhabitants were druids who performed strange ceremonies among these very hills, and it helped them defeat Mary Queen of Scots when she tried to take the castle.'
Harry looked down at Ginny, who raised an eyebrow at him. 'We were wondering actually,' he said. 'About the history.'
'Well.' The old man smiled, and his eyes crinkled pleasantly at the corners. 'An old friend of mine told me that story, though many knew him as Mad-eye, so I'd understand if you find it hard to believe.'
Harry was momentarily stunned, looking at the man who now had a warm twinkle in his eye. He laughed and shook his head. 'It does sound like some story.' He shrugged. 'But stranger things have happened.'
The man cocked his head, considering him. 'Yes, I suppose they have.'
And then, before Harry or Ginny could say anything more, he bid them a goodnight and moved on, up to the castle. His dog soon followed after him and Ginny straightened up, looking up the slope with Harry. She entwined their fingers and then stepped forward, beckoning him to walk with him, back to the old country lane that they had started on in the morning.
Harry chanced one more glance over his shoulder, seeing a silhouette at the head of the hill. He smiled softly, then focussed his attention forward. Hand in hand, Harry and Ginny stumbled down the lush hill, shouts and laughter carried between them and passed onto the wind, racing to get home before the last rays of sun escaped them.