A/N: Last year I wrote a one shot that eventually evolved into seven chapters called Live Forever. The story took place over the summer after Harry's fourth year and spent a fair bit retelling the same periods of time from different perspectives (Special shout out to Sirius Black and David Granger: You'll get your own Bad Boys treatment one day!). At one point, as my 'one shot' kept getting unplanned additions, I made a joke hypothesizing how long it would go and how many character perspectives I could squeeze out of the gimmick before I ran out of gas, specifically mentioning The Giant Squid as a potential option.
It was a joke of course; a dumb throwaway comment made in a dumb author's note. But a fellow author friend of mine (dragonfly117, writer of the AMAZING Harmony story The Boy Who Lived, The Brightest Witch Of Her Age and The Boy Who Wasn't and oh my god is that title long) from time to time would jokingly request that I follow through and actually do it. The topic came up again a few weeks ago on the Harmony discord and an accord was reached: If I wrote my Giant Squid magnum opus she in turn would write a second installment about Dave, the ghoul in the Weasley attic. It's called A Ghoul's Life and, in addition to having a much shorter title, is hilarious and sweet. I encourage you to check it out.
So that is a long way of setting up this brief tale of Cecil the Squid and his observations on the happenings of Harry's fifth year in the Live Forever universe..Also, Happy Birthday, Harry!
Underneath the sky of red
Is a storyteller sleeping alone
Cecil fought back a yawn as he floated along the surface of the Great Lake and stared at the afternoon sky. The students would be arriving soon for the start of term and Hagrid had once again asked him to monitor the first years as they made their way across the lake to the castle. It seemed like every few years there was a new arrival so overwhelmed by the majesty of the castle that they seemingly lost the ability to sit properly and fell into the lake. Humans, particularly children, could be a bit ridiculous sometimes.
But it was a small ask on Hagrid's part and a nice break from the dull monotony of the summer without students. Apart from his visits with Hagrid and the milder weather, those two months were always dreadfully boring, and there was only so many times that one could hide the merpeoples' tridents before it ceased being funny. Well, mostly ceased being funny.
But although he was looking forward to the increase in activity, he was hoping it would be a bit muted compared to the prior term. As thrilling as it had been to have a front row (fathom? league?) seat to one of the tasks of the TriWizard Tournament, the horrific pall that had hung over the castle after Cedric Digory's death made it all seem so silly and pointless.
He was broken out of his musings as a sea of torch lights came into view in his periphery. The students had arrived and he spotted one of the boys already standing up to, presumably, get a better look. It appeared that his one year streak of not having to fish out a first-year student was about to end. The things he did for Hagrid...
The first week of term had been slightly odd. Nothing particularly noteworthy had happened, but despite his hopes, the heaviness of the last term's end hadn't disappeared. If anything the mood had turned more sinister: The grief had been replaced by fear and confusion. It had been a decade or so since the castle had felt this off, and he hated it. His creator would be so disappointed at what a softie he had become.
It was Salazar's own fault. He really should have done some sort of personality assessment before plucking him from the ocean and transporting him here to be used as a weapon against his enemies. What good was a magically enhanced lifespan if it was spent terrorizing children? Besides, if anything, he related to the muggleborns most of all; he wasn't supposed to be here either. He'd left the terrorizing to Salazar's other dumb pet. Apparently Slytherin had learned his lesson in magically enhancing his sentience, because his basilisk was as dumb as a rock. Rest in peace, Barney.
The only students that seemed to be happy these days were a subsection of the Slytherins. He'd seen some of them wildly gesticulating in their common room...heard their excited murmurings about the storm that was coming as they idled around the lake...at times they were positively gleeful. That was expected though...most of their parents had been absolute knobs in their day and in Cecil's experience, the rotten apples generally didn't fall far from their rotted family trees.
Two names in particular kept being repeated by the students as they lounged by the lakeside. One of the names hadn't been surprising; Harry Potter had been a rather major topic of discussion over the last few years, but the other name, Umbridge, was new. It appeared that while most of the student body abhorred this person, that small subsection of Slytherins seemed positively giddy at her arrival. Thankfully, seeing as this person had taken the Defense position, they would most likely be gone in a year.
Harry and his friend had visited the lake several times since they had returned to Hogwarts, choosing the same remote spot the furthest away from the castle. This area of the lakeside was typically used by students looking to engage in a bit of extracurricular activity away from the prying eyes of the students and staff, and while Potter and his friend periodically took similar breaks, the majority of their time was spent with the girl reading passages from a book, followed by them taking turns pointing their wands at each other and casting spells.
Cecil found it slightly infuriating because it was clear that magic was being cast, but nothing visible seemed to happen. It was fascinating to observe as they seemed to go through the gamut of emotions as they practiced. The fascinating part was, in Cecil's experience over the years, the caster of the spell normally was unaffected, while the castee suffered the ramifications of whatever spell had been incanted. But the reverse seemed to be in play for whatever the two were working on. The girl in particular seemed to take turns between being furious, whimsical, or bereft after casting the spell.
He'd attempted multiple times to casually swim closer to sort out precisely what they were working on, but every time he made so much as a splashing noise along the way, the girl would give him a withering look that sent him swimming backward immediately. Apparently whatever they were working on required total concentration, and she would not suffer any distractions, regardless of his intent.
They'd repeated this process over the first two weeks of term, and despite his frustration at not knowing precisely what was going on, silently observing their machinations was oddly peaceful. Amidst all the current misery, it was comforting to see this pair working toward something, whatever it may be. And when they were done, they took up positions against a nearby tree, leaning against each other as they recovered from their spell casting. On more than one occasion they'd fallen asleep, and Cecil had to alert them that curfew was approaching with a rather loud splash. The last thing Cecil wanted was such interesting students being confined to the castle for being out after curfew.
It had been almost a week since he'd seen the pair, as the stubbornly awful Scottish weather had driven the sensible students inside. But this Tuesday (he thought it was a Tuesday), the clouds had cleared and the sun made itself known for the first time in days. The students had taken full advantage of this momentary respite from the elements that afternoon and had flooded out of the castle at the conclusion of the day's classes. To his delight the interesting pair appeared as well, taking their now standard spot as far away from the castle and their classmates as possible.
But as they sat next to each other, embedded into each other against their tree, it became clear that they had different plans for this evening. The girl didn't even notice or care that Cecil had drifted much closer than previously allowed. There was no spell casting, and very little talking, as both opted to relax and stare off into the distance. The girl seemed particularly content as she kept idly touching the necklace she was wearing. After a while a rather excited elf popped in with food, apparently the pair would be dining out tonight, and the ugliest pair of mismatched socks he had ever seen. The girl thanked the elf for the socks, but Cecil didn't think she meant it.
Beyond small talk, the pair remained relatively quiet as they ate, which was frustrating because over the years, these two and their other friend had the most interesting conversations. Given his inability to speak, listening to them trying to puzzle through Barney's attacks had been simultaneously fascinating and frustrating, but they'd eventually sorted it out and had taken care of that oaf posing as a snake.
He was broken out of his musings as an alarm sounded and the pair sat up. The girl pulled out a small square mirror. Cecil knew that mirror. There was a group of students years ago that worked on their creation by the lakeside. He still remembered their cries of delight when it finally worked, how they'd transform and prowl the grounds in their animal forms once a month. They had definitely made Hogwarts more interesting. She muttered "Mum and Dad" as she gave it a tap with her wand.
Several new voices chimed "Happy Birthday!" and the girl grinned before schooling her features.
"Not so loud," she admonished, "we'll get in trouble if anyone sorts out what we're doing."
"It's all right, Hermione," Harry reassured. "No-one beside the Giant Squid is close enough to hear and he won't say anything, will you?"
He turned his body as best he could, simulating a human shaking their head no, drawing a laugh from Harry.
"See?" Harry said in triumph.
"Don't be silly," the girl, Hermione, said. The Squid can't understand us." But based on the curious expression the girl shot him, she didn't seem very confident that she was right.
"I'm sorry," another female voice interrupted, "did you say something about a Giant Squid?"
Harry nudged the girl and she grinned before turning the square around.
The male in the mirror looked tremendously excited as he waved hello, and because he was a polite squid he waved back. The woman looked a bit confused, reminding Cecil of an overwhelmed first year.
"That's impossible," she finally managed, "squids can only survive in saltwater."
Hermione began to speak but was interrupted by mirror man. "I'm going to go out on a limb and say it has something to do with magic."
Harry laughed as Hermione spoke. "As I was going to say, no-one is quite sure how they came to be here, but according to Hogwarts: A History, they've lived in the Black Lake for centuries."
"So, like I said," the man replied, looking very pleased with himself, "magic."
Cecil bobbed his head back and forth and mirror woman looked even more stunned. "Did he just...nod?"
"I'm sure it's just a coincidence," Hermione answered, but now she really seemed uncertain.
"Can you splash?" mirror man asked, making a point of motioning up and down with one of his arms to signify his request.
Cecil rolled his eye, annoyed at the condescending instructions, as if he was a mindless idiot. Who did they think he was, Barney?
But all four faces looked genuinely excited, waiting for his reaction. And before he could think better of it, he lifted several tentacles and dropped them back into the water, drawing whoops of approval.
It always felt good to share these small moments with the humans, much better than murdering them he imagined. Salazar had to be rolling over in his Chamber.
Cecil knew something was wrong immediately as he spotted the pair approaching the lake. For one thing, the weather was awful. It was much colder than the humans preferred for a lakeside stroll. Secondly, Potter was doing anything but strolling. He seemed to be trying his best to flee, a stubborn expression on his face as he bounded ahead, only stopping when Hermione forcefully grabbed his arm.
"Just leave it," Potter ordered as he pulled his arm away,
"No," the girl replied immediately. "You've been avoiding me since your detention last night. We aren't doing this anymore. We promised each other we wouldn't do this anymore."
Whenever Cecil had seen the pair this term, Hermione's words always seemed to help calm Harry down, but today they had the opposite effect, spurring on his anger even more.
"Fine!" he roared as he held up one of his hands for inspection. "She made me use a special quill that did this to my hand! You were right, okay? I shouldn't have lost my head."
Hermione's look of horror seemed to take the wind out of his sails as he slumped down against a nearby tree. The girl joined him instantly, gently holding his hand, a mix of fury and despair on her face.
"You need to tell McGonagall," she said.
"Where do you think I was last night?" he replied. "She took my memory and said she'd see what the group could do. But seeing how they haven't managed anything yet, I just need to suffer through my other detention for now."
"No," Hermione replied.
"It's not that bad and I can manage," he answered. "It will be fine."
Hermione didn't reply, opting instead to call their elf friend, and ten minutes later they were sat quietly eating the sandwiches he provided.
"I wish it was still summer," Harry finally managed as he stared at the sky. Hermione remained silent, opting instead to burrow herself a bit further into his side.
After several minutes an alarm sounded, and Harry reluctantly began to pull himself up. He'd barely moved an inch before he was pulled back down.
"You aren't going," Hermione stated more than asked.
"It will be fine, Harry pleaded, "McGonagall had Madam Pomfrey treat my hand and she's expecting me after tonight's detention. It won't scar if she treats it right away and I keep my head going forward."
Hermione seemed to tighten her grip around his arm as she began to speak in a much quieter voice.
"A few days after I told my parents everything this summer, I caught Mum crying in her room. I thought she was crying about what I had gone through, but I was wrong. She was upset about you, Harry. How you had suffered...how you were still suffering. When she explained she was upset about you then I lost it. Really lost it. Poor Dad. He walked in a few minutes later and had no idea what was going on. We were a mess."
"If you say you're sorry I'm going to throw you in the lake," she interrupted, drawing a surprised chuckle from Harry.
"I don't care if it doesn't leave a scar. I don't care if we lose our Prefect badges. I don't care if Umbridge gets us expelled. You've suffered enough."
There was that name again. Umbridge. Cecil hadn't seen the woman, all he knew was that she was wretched. He'd been hoping she would take a stroll around the lake so he could accidentally/on purpose pull her in for a meetup with his grindylow friends , but so far he hadn't spotted the pink nightmare.
He heard Harry call out for Dobby once again and in an instant, the elf appeared.
"Harry Potter be needing Dobby's help again?" The elf seemed very excited.
"Yeah, in about an hour Professor Umbridge is going to be looking for me. When that happens can you let Professor McGonagall know I skipped my detention and that I'm out here with Hermione? Have her find Umbridge and come talk to us. We'll be waiting."
The elf looked nervous on his friends' behalf but nodded in understanding before popping out of sight.
Cecil heard Harry mutter "Sirius is going to be so proud of me," as he plunged below the surface.
He had a little over an hour and didn't have a moment to waste. He'd been subjected to multiple dissertations from the merpeople regarding Umbridge, the legislations on magical creatures that she was responsible for, and knew they would be quite pleased to voice their opinions personally. With any luck, they'd let him borrow a few of their tridents and join in the fun.