Authors' Notes: DWS with the Author's Notes again. Anyhoo, as a warning: this chapter is less humor-ful than the other one, but it will get better. We promises. The problem is that Harry is so damnably . . . Harry, and therefore enjoys brooding and being depressed more than he enjoys cooperating and doing as we ask him.
So we had him stung up in the dungeons. We'll see how it works out in terms of punishment.
Anyway – moving on . . .
The Twelve Step Program
By Dress-Without-Sleeves and Opalish
Harry glanced nervously over his shoulder. Hermione glared at him, hands on her hips and one shoe tapping pointedly. "Do I have to?" he asked, glancing at the parchment and quill on the desk before him.
"We've been gone for nearly three weeks," his best friend replied shortly. "You said you'd write. So do it." Sighing, Harry turned back to the blank parchment. He picked up the quill and gnawed on his bottom lip, wondering what on earth he could write.
Ginny - Hermione says I should write. Not that she's making me, I mean, I want to write you, but I've been busy. Saving the world and all. Everything's going well. Please don't kill me. -Harry
"That didn't seem to take very long," Hermione said disapprovingly as he gave the letter to Hedwig.
"I don't have much to say," Harry retorted, flushing. "Hedwig, take this to Ginny, okay?" Hedwig hooted and set off. Hermione snorted, shook her head, and stalked away.
Ginny was sitting at her desk when Hedwig arrived, lazily drawing animated pictures of herself taking off Harry's head with her bare hands. The owl zoomed through her open window and landed easily on her bed, hooting boredly and offering a leg.
"Hullo, Hedwig," Ginny greeted casually. "I hope it was your flight that's made it take three and a half weeks for this letter to get here, not Harry's lack of writing-ness." The old owl simply hooted once more, almost rolling its eyes. Ginny untied the letter and placed it thoughtfully on top of her schoolbooks (oh, how delightful home schooling was). "I'm in half a mind not to read it," she told Hedwig petulantly. "If it's taken him this long to bother writing I don't know why I ought to put any energy into it. What do you think?"
Hedwig stared soundlessly at her and began to smooth her feathers. "You're right," Ginny agreed at last. "I ought to read it, to make sure he's okay. But my reply doesn't have to be long." She paused, a thought occurring to her. "Of course I have to reply, Hedwig," she argued firmly. "He's out fighting Voldemort, I might as well send him something to keep him sane. I'm not that awful."
She tossed the snowy owl a treat from her drawer and tore open the letter. She read all five sentences of it and then let out an irritated growl.
"THE INGRATE!" She shouted, and Hedwig hooted loudly in agreement. "HE WAITS THREE WEEKS TO WRITE, AND ALL I GET IS FIVE BLOODY SENTENCES! WELL! If he thinks I'm going to stand for that …"
She tore a piece of parchment from her desk drawer, dipped her quill in an ink blot, and wrote furiously:
Dear Hermione and Ron,
Life at the Burrow is boring at usual. I wish I could be out there with you, helping, but Mum would probably dig herself a hole and die in it if I tried to leave. How are you two? I miss you both terribly. The family send their love – enclosed is a piece of mince pie for Ron and a pocket-book for Hermione. It's one of Fred and George's … there are five classic Wizard novels in it, and you can choose which to read. I got it at half price but it was still expensive so I fully expect a long letter in thanks.
Hedwig says I should write. She's making me write, because I don't want to. I'm not busy at all, stuck in this house where YOU forced me to be. I'd work on your counter-hexes and jinxes before we meet again.
P.S. FIVE SENTENCES? YOU WAIT THREE WEEKS AND ALL I GET ARE FIVE SENTENCES! YOU THINK THE WRATH OF VOLDEMORT IS BAD, CLEARLY YOU DON'T KNOW ME VERY WELL!
She smiled, satisfied, and tucked it into an envelope. "Here, Hedwig," she said cheerfully. "Give the old boy a peck for me, will you? And don't look at me like that," she added as she tied the letter to Hedwig's leg. "He deserves it."
Harry swallowed nervously when he sighted Hedwig headed straight towards him. He was in the middle of a soggy, muddy field near a mansion where Mundungus had sold some of his loot. He was almost positive Regulus had been the one to steal the locket horcrux, and even more certain that Dung had sold it off to someone. He planned to approach the owner of the manor the next day.
Despite this minor triumph, he'd been feeling bedraggled and depressed and all-around horrible, and now he was scared for his life as well. He almost wished he could run into the tent he and his friends were sharing and ignore Hedwig's return altogether.
"Hey girl," he said tiredly instead.
She hooted, then nipped him - very gently - on his ear. He winced, but didn't protest. Swallowing nervously, he untied the missive from her talons, then unrolled it.
His heart sank when he saw it was addressed to his friends. But he caught sight of his name about halfway down the page.
Look, I happen to be trying to save the bloody world, okay? SO sorry I couldn't write you a ten page letter detailing every single bloody failure so far.
And obviously Hedwig likes me better than you. So there.
PS - Tell your mum and brothers I said hello. At least THEY don't yell at me when I try to save their bloody hides.
After sending Hedwig off with his latest missive - along with letters from Ron and Hermione - it occured to Harry that his letter might not be very well received.
He might have been a little rude. Maybe.
Ginny glared hatefully at poor Hedwig when she was finished with her letter. The owl sat tiredly on the redhead's desk, swallowing enough water to drown the Burrow. Ginny huffed furiously, hurling the parchment into the air and shrieking, "INCENDIO!" She watched with a disturbing sort of satisfaction as it burned.
"Hah," she said smuggled, stamping on it to put out the flames. "Take that, Mr. 'Excuse Me For Not Writing A Ten Page Letter'! And who does he think he is? Of course you like me better, don't you Hedwig, girl?"
The owl looked up briefly from her drink to hoot that she was quite decidedly going to play Switzerland in this whole affair.
Not that Ginny knew that, of course. She assumed that the hoot was an affirmative one. She gave the owl a treat in thanks. "Well, I think you're swell, too," she told her affectionately. "And you can tell Swot Number 1 I say so."
There was a pause, and Ginny thought carefully about what her plan of action would be. Then she grinned evilly – er, that is, smugly and set out three pieces of parchment. On the first she wrote:
You, being you, may think that this is not the best time to be extracting revenge on one Harry Potter for being a clueless twat.
However, you, being you, are wrong. This is the perfect time, seeing as it distracts him from his moodiness and adds a hint of normalness to his otherwise interesting life. Of course, I could do that in better ways if CERTAIN PEOPLE hadn't SHACKLED ME TO MY BED WHILE I WAS SLEEPING to keep me from following you three.
But that's a discussion for another time.
All I need you to do, if you see the intelligence of my plan, is to casually mention to Ron that I've been invited to France with Fleur (she's all right, I suppose) and Gabrielle (cutest little girl I've ever seen in my life!) to "get away from it all"; and that Fleur tells me she has "many French men" she wants me to meet.
It's actually true. The point is that I want you to tell the boys.
I'll send you something from there – stay safe in the meantime!
All my love,
She nodded, satisfied, and tucked it into an envelope addressed "Himerone". It was a nickname she'd though up for her friend years ago but hardly ever used; it drove the older girl nuts.
On the second she wrote to her sisters-in-law:
I'd love to come visit you in France! Thank you so much for the invitation! When can I come?
All my love,
Finally she wrote the last letter, this hexing this one so that when Harry touched it he'd get severely shocked – so much so that his hands would be left tingling for an hour.
I suppose you're right. It was so rash of me to expect my ex-boyfriend to act like anything other than a total swot. What was I thinking?
And anyway, I would like you to know that I am completely and totally over you. I suppose you were right; I need someone who isn't too busy being a hero to be my boyfriend.
Good luck saving the world.
All my love,
P.S. Hedwig is staying with me for a few days to rest. She's pretty worn out.
"I win, Hedwig," she said conversationally once the letters had started towards their destinations. "Take a biscuit."
Hermione reread Ginny's letter with a growing feeling of dread. This was getting nasty.
At least Ginny hadn't mentioned the Pillow of Doom yet. Things hadn't quite reached critical. But still...maybe she should try to head this all off at the pass, as it were. "Ginny, you idiot," she sighed, hoping the redheaded girl hadn't written about her trip to France to Harry. "This is going to backfire on you spectacularly."
Then again, Ginny understood Harry fairly well. Maybe she knew what she was doing. And Hermione sort of wanted to see what colors Ron would turn when he found out about Ginny's planned conquest of the men of France.
"Oh, Ron!" she called, fingers crossed.
Harry stared, stricken, at the letter. Ginny was over him?
Too busy being a hero... Well what else could he do? How was he supposed to juggle the fate of the world and a girlfriend? Frankly, figuring out how to deal with girls was harder than hunting down horcruxes.
And maybe it was better this way. It hurt like hell, of course, but if she was with someone else she'd be safer.
Gnawing on his bottom lip, he started to write.
An angry bellow interrupted his train of thought. Blinking, Harry set down his quill and turned in his seat as Ron stalked into the tent. His best friend was a dark, mottled red, and his ears looked like they'd been dipped in ketchup.
"France!" Ron spluttered, almost incoherently. "Ginny - France - boys!"
Harry frowned. "What?"
"Ginny's gone to France," Ron snarled, "and she's going to be meeting 'many French men', according to Hermione!"
Harry felt like someone had stuck his heart in a grater. "Oh."
Ron stared at him incredulously. "Oh?" he repeated loudly as Hermione crept in. "That's all you can say? 'Oh'?"
"What d'you want me to do, Ron?" Harry snapped, hands clenching. "She's obviously moved on, and even if I wanted to endanger her life by getting back together with her, I have to be the bloody hero and save the day!"
Hermione winced and muttered something under her breath that sounded like, "I knew this would happen", and Ron led out a wordless growl of frustration and stormed away.
"Harry," Hermione started, but Harry shook his head. "Just go away, please," he said tiredly. "I need some time."
She opened her mouth, then sighed and nodded. "Fine. But try and keep some perspective. Ginny's letters may not be completely honest about what she's feeling."
Harry didn't answer, just turned back to his response.
I'm sorry. I thought you understood why I had to leave, but I guess not. I'm glad you're moving on; you'll be safer this way. Have fun in France. I miss you.
And if he ground his teeth and envisioned decapitating nameless French boys as he wrote it...well, no one would ever know. Except poor imaginary headless Louis and Philippe.
It backfired. Harry thinks you've actually gotten over him, and that you're better off with someone else. I could have told you so. Oh, and Ron's on the warpath.