The Pensieve and the Peanut Butter

by S. Risen

Voldemort had been gone for three years when Ginny first saw the Pensieve. Harry never told her exactly how he had come by it. It was simply there one morning, an incredibly expensive, semi-mythic artifact glowing innocuously on the coffee table. The swirling silver stuff in it gleamed at Ginny benignly.

It disappeared from the coffee table within a week, but when she started spending nights at his place, she discovered its new location the first time she went to brush her teeth. She snuck out of bed in the morning, careful not to wake Harry, padded into the bathroom, and opened the mirror cupboard in search of toothpaste. The Pensieve glowed quietly next to the aspirin.

The toothpaste foam was running down her chin by the time she stopped looking from the Pensieve to Harry and back again, momentarily in awe of this person who kept diamonds in his rock collection.

When he woke, he told her over breakfast that he just needed a place to put it.

"But—with the aspirin, Harry?" she said, vastly amused.

"All right, so that's a bit weird," he conceded, scraping scrambled eggs onto her plate, "but it's convenient, you know."

"Just hope it doesn't fall in the sink and shatter."

"I charm it to the shelf when I put it away, don't worry."

She watched him fry bacon and completely forgot to envy his talent in the kitchen. "May I ask what you use it for?" she said gently, though she thought she knew.

He took a long breath and turned the fork over in his fingers. "War stuff," he told the bacon. "So I don't forget."

Ginny nodded and Harry looked over his shoulder to exchange half-smiles with her. Three years later, and they still spoke of the war in fragmented sentences, significant glances, and helpless gestures. Ginny curled her hands tighter around her coffee mug and asked for more sugar.

The year they were married, Harry offered her the use of the thing.

Ginny was sitting at the kitchen table of their house, licking peanut butter from a spoon and going through a box of photographs from her mum. Many of them were of her and Ron as toddlers, though there was a liberal sprinkling of Bill carrying her around on his shoulders or making her fly with his wand. Eventually she came across a picture of herself combing Ron's hair with a fork. The fork was covered in peanut butter.

She glanced at the spoon in her hand, grinned, and went to show Harry.

When he saw he smiled too—her favorite smile of his, incidentally: the lopsided one—and rushed off to get the Pensieve. "I want to show you something," he called over his shoulder as he dashed down the hall.

He came back with the Pensieve cradled in his hands and set it down in front of the box of photographs. A wave of nervousness came over Ginny all of a sudden. The Pensieve had become in her mind the repository of every bad patch of Harry's past. It was dark, painful, and implicitly forbidden. But when Harry reached across the table for her hand, she put it in his willingly. He took a deep breath, looked into the Pensieve, and plunged into the silver mist. She felt a yank on her hand just before she was pulled in with him.

They found themselves standing in an aisle of the noisy, crowded Great Hall at Hogwarts, a few feet away from three very familiar teenagers seated at the Gryffindor table. The redheaded one was holding up a peanut butter-covered fork.

"I love peanut butter," a ten-years-younger Ron announced to his companions. "It looks disgusting and it sticks when it shouldn't and the chunky bits in this stuff are a bit gross, but altogether it's heavenly, you know?"

Ginny laughed in surprised delight and plopped down in the space next to him to have a good look. As was natural for a memory, he completely ignored her and continued waving the fork at the Pensieve Harry and Hermione.

Ginny took in the sight of him--sixteen, gangly, and without the Manly Dashing Battle Scar on his cheekbone (name courtesy of George). A smile stole over her face. When she realized it was there she promptly gave it to Harry in thanks.

"Peanut butter is the food of the gods," Ron was saying. "Most people called it ambrosia until some poor mortal sold his soul to get his greedy paws on it and brought it down here to us other poor mortals."

"Or," a voice said irritably from his other side, "some American made a paste out of some nuts to make sure people with bad teeth got their protein."

Ginny leaned across Ron to see a teenaged Hermione with her head bowed uncomfortably over an Ancient Runes textbook. Ginny had forgotten just how frizzy Hermione's hair could be; she usually tamed it for work nowadays. The look of dogged concentration was exactly the same, though.

"What?" Ron said, affronted to find that ambrosia began as a health food.

She spared him one peevish glance and went back to her runes.

"Oh, yeah…" Ron said sourly. "It was that George Washington bloke, wasn't it?"

"Huh?" Pensieve-Harry said from across the table. The current Harry snorted.

"Still, he probably did have to sell his soul…"

"It certainly was not George Washington," Hermione said scathingly. "He had nothing whatsoever to do with peanut butter. You're thinking of George Washington Carver, who experimented with peanuts. But it's a myth that he invented peanut butter."

"Hermione," Pensieve-Harry said incredulously. "You know that? About peanut butter? You know that?"

"She knows everything, mate," Ron said wisely, wielding his peanut butter fork as though using it to channel oracular power. "I don't see why you bother being surprised anymore."

At which point Hermione turned her head away from him in disgust so quickly that her abundant hair swung around over her shoulder.

There was a brief moment of anticipation in which the two boys and the two onlookers knew exactly what was going to happen next and Hermione had no idea.

And then her hair caught on the peanut butter fork.

Ron tugged it experimentally.

"Ouch, Ron, what are you…" Hermione stopped. She looked. "Not funny," she said, presumably as a preemptive strike. "Not funny at all."

But the boys were already laughing so hard that they were completely useless in getting the fork out, and Parvati Patil leaned over kindly and started to disentangle it. Then the edges of the memory began to fade. Slowly the kitchen rematerialized around Harry and Ginny.

"I'm glad it's not all gloom and doom in there," Ginny said, tapping the lip of the Pensieve.

Harry shrugged uneasily, leaning his chair back on two legs. "For a long time it was. It never occurred to me until recently to..."

"Do anything happy with it?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"Well, I'm glad you thought of it, however belatedly," she said, grasping his hand across the table.

"Actually," he said slowly, his thumb skimming her knuckles. "I've been thinking… if you wanted to use it… maybe keep some of your own memories in there… just if you wanted. And you're—you're welcome to explore in there. If you like. Though I'll warn you, it is mostly gloom and doom."

Her eyes widened a little. Even after ten months as his wife, sometimes she still found herself surprised when Harry invited her into the darker spaces of his head and heart.

"If you're sure you don't mind," she said quietly.

He shook his head, turning her hand over in his and playing with her fingers. "I don't mind." This was not a lie, she knew. But neither was it entirely the truth.

"Maybe someday," she murmured. She handed him the peanut butter spoon and they went back to sorting photographs.