Title: Common Ground
Author: Silver Symphony
Summary: Love lost and love yet to be gained; one of life's eventualities is discussed in the darkness of the Forbidden Forest between two people who don't like each other.
Author's Notes: This is another challenge fic for The Domain. The prompt is…
The story must have something to do with (yay loopholes! ;K) walking through mists, yearning for a lost love, stargazing, finding oneself, or going on an adventure with a new friend. Choose at leasttwo.
This is a crossover challenge. Any fandom can be involved, but there must be characters from at least two fandoms. Three or four is okay, but make sure that the readers can follow the characters and plot!
I chose yearning for a lost love and going on an adventure with a new friend. Hope you enjoy.
Ron knew sixth year would be a bother. He didn't predict that tonight he would have to slog through thick forest trees and dirt with pieces of raw meat in his hands and a miserable girl by his side.
"Hurry up, you two! We haven' got all night!"
No, it isn't a date. This miserable girl was the last girl on Earth that Ron would ever consider dating.
She's worse than Lavender Brown, but Ron admits to himself that the snogging didn't quite compensate for having her as a girlfriend. Fortunately, Ron ditched her weeks ago.
Who is this miserable girl that despises Slytherins, intimidates Hufflepuffs, bores Gryffindors, and humiliates Ravenclaws?
She's Galinda. She's blonde. She's stunning. She's as sharp as a tack. And she's the reason why Ron is suffering tonight in The Forbidden Forest.
She's the pushiest little Ravenclaw Ron has ever met. Hermione almost snapped her wand in half after debating fervently with Galinda about the inferiority of elf magic to wizard magic in Charms class. Naturally, Hermione was on the elves' side. Galinda was so furious that Hermione could vouch for, as she put it, "simple creatures that don't have the mental capacity of humans to use magic effectively" that Galinda accused Hermione of being a traitor to her own humankind. Ron, with Harry's help, had to keep a firm hold on Hermione's arms as they dragged her out of the room.
Poor Hannah Abbott was reduced to tears when she heard news of her mother's murder. And Galinda, being the insensitive nitwit that she is, launched into a lengthy speech about how her mother's 'sacrifice' would eventually lead to the liberation of the wizarding world from Voldemort's evil hands. Hannah Abbott had to be subdued with one of Madam Pomfrey's potions. She hasn't returned to Hogwarts since.
She even had the gall to say, to the entire Slytherin table during lunch, that all Slytherins are untalented, selfish gits intent on unleashing evil upon the wizarding world. Ron didn't quite understand the gist of her rant (she used phrases like "potential genocide against the half-bloods and Muggle-borns" and "over-inflated notions of self-worth and societal value") until Hermione had explained it to him in plain English. Pansy, Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle whipped out their wands and pointed them at Galinda; McGonagall dashed over to the table and lectured them—she screamed, actually— about unnecessary conflict in a time of such chaos.
Something about her has never sat well with him, but she has become a real thorn in every sixth year's side.
Galinda used to be sweet. No, sweeter. She'd light up rooms with her smile and her laughter was sweet on the ears. Her fellow Ravenclaws would flock to her side at lunch and would compete for seats next to her just to absorb her knowledge and wisdom. She didn't flaunt her intellect—she had a bit more tact in those days. She used to be a joy to hang around with.
That Galinda died last year. She returned to Hogwarts bitter and unpleasant. Her laughter was replaced with her constant shrieking about the war and Death Eaters— and that was only when she wasn't shrieking about her coursework. Instead of smiles, she was often seen frowning; her face didn't carry frowns well. Her eyes squint when she frowns; for the longest time, Ron thought that she had trouble seeing.
No one knew what was wrong, but rumors flew about that there was death in her family. She refused to speak of it.
Tuesday's Transfiguration class was when Ron resentment of her reached new heights. McGonagall wanted them to properly demonstrate the Geminio spell on a feather. McGonagall, who usually prefers individual work, assigned pairs for this particular task.
Harry and Hermione were paired with Seamus Finnigan and Parvati Patil, respectively. His partner was none other than Galinda. Ron cursed his luck.
Galinda tried to dominate the entire situation as soon as McGonagall urged them to start. She criticized Ron's wrists movements, his pronunciation—"Blimey, how many other ways can you say Geminio?"—and the lack of urgency in his voice. Ron gritted his teeth and amused himself with thoughts of Galinda choking on her own wand.
She declared that Ron's efforts were unsatisfactory; she decided to show him how it was properly done. Ron, his face red with indignation, told her off for her pompous attitude and her inability to close her sodding mouth.
And then it all went to pot.
Galinda glared at him with intense disdain, stabbed the feather with her wand, and shouted "Incendio!" Incendio, and not Geminio—the word that she had beaten into his head the entire time.
The feather burst into fierce orange flames. Ron's right hand was too close to the feather and it was burned by the spell.
Ron hopped out of his seat and screamed a host of swear words at Galinda. Galinda, either to help Ron or to embarrass him further, doused him with the Aguamenti spell. His hand wasn't hurting anymore, but he was soaked and furious. Galinda giggled. The entire class whispered to each other—pointing and smiling in Ron's direction. McGonagall looked as though she'd been struck with someone's fist.
McGonagall wasn't pleased with their antics and the result was detention with Hagrid in the Forbidden Forest. Ron has his reservations about the Forest. Almost being devoured by a flesh-eating spider and nearly pummeled to death by a grouchy tree hasn't endeared him to the Forest one bit. Galinda being his companion was more upsetting than being in the Forest.
"Hagrid, I can't see the bloody things," Ron says with a deep frown as they march deeper into the Forest. "How d'you expect me to feed them?"
"Oh, no need to worry a bit 'bout that," Hagrid says with a smug smile. "I'll be tellin' you when they come around and when ter hold out the meat for 'em."
"How reassuring," Galinda says; she scoffs and rolls her eyes. Ron's lack of enthusiasm has rubbed off on her.
"Here we are!" Hagrid announced happily as they reach an open, circular space illuminated by the moonlight.
"Right, now jus' stand there in the middle and they'll be comin' round."
Ron holds his arms out in front of his body and tiptoes to a spot directly underneath the moon. Galinda moves much more slowly behind him— her eyes wide and anxious. She's squeezing the chunks of meat in her hand so hard that blood drips between her fingers.
"No need ter worry, they're only gonna go after the meat!"
Hagrid's word hasn't been reliable in the past; Ron was not inclined to believe him now.
"They're comin'!" Immediately, Ron feels a piece of meat sliding off of his hand. In panic, he drops the rest of the meat.
"No, no, don' do that! They're not gonna hurt you!"
Galinda screams and leaps backward as one of the Thestrals brush against her arm. She throws her meat in the air and ducks into the shadows of the trees. Four of the Thestrals have already gathered at Ron's pile of meat.
"Calm down!" Hagrid walks over to Ron as he watches a piece of meat vanish with wide and horrified eyes. "Ain't no reason to panic! They're not gonna charge yer or anything."
"Can't you tell how relieved I am?" Ron says sarcastically, but his voice is shaking. "It's so good to know that something I can't see isn't going to try and kill me!"
"Didn't you ride one of 'em before, Ron?" Hagrid raised an eyebrow at him.
"D'you think I had the time of my life then?"
Galinda is beside herself with fear. She's hiding behind of one the trees.
"It's o'couple of them out tonight. Must be starvin', the poor beasts. Guess I outta run and fetch some more meat. The two of yer sit still!"
"Wait, you're leaving us?" Galinda says with absolute horror. She's still ducking behind the tree.
"Jus' for a quick second, you won't notice I've been gone!"
Hagrid stomps off. Galinda and Ron exchange brief looks of terror.
"He can't be serious."
"I can't believe this."
"You're the one that got us here, thanks." Ron shoots her a withering glare.
"Oh, shut your mouth! If you didn't start wailing like a baby over a little burn—"
"Let's see—how did I get that again? Oh, I remember!" Ron exclaims with extreme sarcasm.
"I tried to help you!" Galinda shouts. She moves from behind the tree and wags her finger in his face.
"Yeah, by drowning me. A fat load of help that did."
"You're such a lazy and unappreciative human being. Have you ever stopped to think that being so ungrateful could result in someone's death? Think of your friends and family!"
Ron scowls and gives her the deepest looking of loathing. "No wonder the entire school hates you."
"Hates me?" Galinda isn't used to being hated.
"Yeah, I said it!" Ron's eyes are severe; his scowl is sharper. "They all think you're a big-mouth, stuck- on-herself, stupid little girl who should just stick a fat sock in it!"
She blinks and takes time to digest the severity of his words. "I don't care what the stupid school thinks! All the people I've ever loved are dead!"
Galinda sinks to her knees; her body quivers with sobs. Ron instantly feels a pang of guilt. He had expected her to laugh it off or reply with some snobbish remark. Not tears.
"I didn't mean to make you cry."
"Rubbish!" She coughs as soon as she says it.
"I didn't. I just… I dunno, to be honest. You sobbing your eyes out wasn't what I was expecting."
"I don't need your sympathy." She hiccups and turns her back toward him.
"You're not the only one who's lost something, you know. Loads of people have."
"You've lost someone before?" And her fiery eyes are fixed onto his— she wants someone else to hurt as much as she has. She wants to know that she hasn't been suffering by herself.
Ron can't answer that demand. "Well, sort of. I almost lost my dad. And a few people that I sorta knew that died." He bites down on his lips, visibly ashamed of his words. She's grieving and he tries to undermine it by insinuating that everyone dies. It's a truth most people dwell on, but don't want to be reminded of once confronted with a grave.
Her eyes are softer; she's focusing on something just beyond Ron's shoulder. "A Thestral is right behind you."
"Wait— what? Where?" Ron stumbles back and waves his hands in front of his body as though trying to feel the Thestral.
"It moved away. You scared it." Ron moves on the other side of Galinda so that they're facing each other.
"You… you see them?" Ron has known since last year that only those who have witnessed death could see the creatures.
Galinda lowers her eyes to the ground. "My mom and dad were killed by the Death Eaters. Middle of summer."
"Don't be. It's my fault that they died."
"What makes you think that?"
She paws at a spot in the dirt. "I couldn't save them. All the spells I threw at them were deflected. I tried to hit one of them with my fists. He knocked me out."
Ron broods over this. "That's not your fault. I mean, if Death Eater are determined to kill people, they're gonna do it."
She shakes her head hard. "No. I could have done more. I could have worked harder in school. I could have focused more on a career like mom begged me to. I didn't. I'm so stupid."
"Maybe I'm just a bit thick, but I don't get it."
She looks at him with doubt and exasperation clouding her face. "They died because I only cared about my feelings."
"Are you gonna explain or have me guessing the whole night?"
"I… don't laugh." And she glares at him.
"I don't find anything funny." Galinda presses her lips together, looks at the ground again, and starts digging in a new spot.
"…I was in love with a boy named Fiyero."
"Was? Don't like him anymore?"
"No. The Death Eaters got to him." She claws harder as soon as she says this.
"Bloody Hell! Did he go to Hogwarts?"
"He did—but his parents were scared of letting him return for his fifth year and kept him home. I saw him the Christmas before he was murdered. It was early this past summer, a few months before my parents died."
"Blimey." Ron shakes his head. Words fail him.
"I loved him. I wanted to be with him forever. We talked about getting married. And it's all gone... "
"Not your fault, though."
"I lost my parents because I was still grieving for Fiyero," she says with anger; she stomps on the ground. "How do you figure that it's not?"
"You didn't lose them 'cause of something you did. You lost them 'cause there's some evil blokes trying to kill everyone in sight." Galinda's eyes well up.
"I didn't mean that in a funny way…"
She sighs. "No. It's okay." She wipes her hands on her school robes.
"Is it?" Ron asks with raised eyebrows.
Galinda digs her shoe into the ground. "…No. It hurts. It hurts a lot."
"I imagine so."
"Have you ever loved someone?" Her tone insists that she doesn't expect him to share these feelings, either.
Ron's face flushes. "Um… well… I might have fancied a few girls… nothing serious."
"Not from what I hear." Galinda looks him directly in the eyes.
"You fancy Hermione Granger, don't you?"
"I… maybe," Ron says, folding his arms and pursing his lips.
"You do. Everyone sees it. You look at her… the way Fiyero used to look at me." Galinda scratches her cheek, but Ron is sure that she's doing it to wipe away a tear.
"…Hermione doesn't like me back."
"You sure?" And she frowns at him.
"Pretty sure, yeah."
"Is that why you dated Lavender Brown?" Ron freezes. "Did you date her because you didn't think you had a chance with Hermione?"
"No! 'Course not! Lavender was…" He trails off. He can't seem to find any redeemable qualities in Lavender other than her good choice in lip-gloss. Galinda, sensing this, says—
"She likes you, silly. It's obvious."
"Talk to her."
"Nah. I can't."
"You'll lose her if you don't." She stands up and dusts off the back of her robe. "It hurts to lose someone to death, but to lose them and to have to see them every day, wondering and wanting to be with them…"
"You think it'll happen, do you?" Ron is disturbed by this. Deep down, a part of him wants Hermione. She's everything a guy like him could want. She's smart, she's beautiful, and she's feisty. Ron jokes with her sometimes that she'll put any man off, but he actually finds it attractive. He can't imagine dating anyone without a zest for life like her. No, he can't imagine dating anyone else that's not Hermione.
Lavender was a mistake that he needed to make. He can't stand the thought of making a second mistake with the girl he actually cares about.
"It could. If you love—"
"I don't!" His face is burning pink and he turns away so Galinda doesn't notice it.
"Okay. If you like her, you'll tell her how you feel. You won't let her slip away so easily." She shrugs. "I… I couldn't help losing Fiyero. You can help losing Hermione."
"And what if she croaks?" Underneath the humor is a reality he never wants to face.
Galinda's smile is feeble but placating. "Then you'll be able to say that you had her while she was still with us. But you have to tell her this before she dies, you know."
"Yeah, I guessed that much."
"There yer are!" Hagrid bellows out to them; he's carrying a huge bucket of raw meat in his hand.
"Right, now take a piece an' hold it out to 'em. I'll tell yer when they're comin'."
"I can see them."
"You don' say? Blimey, then! You shouldn't have any trouble feedin' 'em!" Hagrid drops a thick piece into her hands. She glances at the meat uncertainly; a curious Thestral is inching its way closer to her.
"I'm… scared. They look creepy."
"Eh, that's why they got such a bad reputation an' all that. People don' look beyond that. Gentle creatures, really."
"You've said that about a lot of creatures, Hagrid."
Galinda and Ron's eyes connect; they smile –and they're real smiles.
Galinda holds out her palms to the Thestral. It's hesitant at first and kicks at the ground anxiously. After some coaxing from Hagrid ("Come on, boy, ain't nothing to be 'fraid of!"), the Thestral gnaws at the meat.
Feeding the Thestrals are a breeze the rest of the night.
That next day, Hermione and Ron pass Galinda in the halls; he whispers a quick "thanks!" She notices Ron's stupid grin and Hermione's red cheeks as he puts a hand on her shoulder.
She knows he's done something right.