(A/N: This is the sequel to Harry Potter and the Year of Truth. If you haven't read that, this will make very little sense. Please read that first!)
It Took So Long
When Harry walked in the front door of Number Four, Privet drive, he didn't even hear his Aunt yell at him for his shoes tracking mud into the house. He walked in a daze up to his room. He set his things down on the floor with a thud, then sat slowly down on his bed.
From the beginning of the ride from the station, only now did he become aware of Sally's laughter.
"It isn't funny!" His words came out in English, though he had meant them to be Parseltongue, and his voice had been much to high.
"Oh, but it iss! You're sso densse! It took you sso long!"
"You knew!" Harry exclaimed. "You've known all along!"
Sally's laughter faded. "Of coursse I've known. I've known ssince lasst ssummer, ass ssoon ass I ssaw the two of you together."
"Why didn't you tell me?" That had sounded too much like a whine even to Harry's ears.
"It'ss not my place to tell you your own feelingss, Mr. Potter."
Harry fell face down into the pillow, burying his face, making his next words muffled. "What am I going to do?"
Sally smacked the back of his head with her tail. "Sstop being an idiot. What do you think you should do? Think it through, becausse if you upsset that girl again, I'll bite you."
Harry rolled over onto his back, and regretted it as the pain shot up his body, but he didn't move off it. "It'll go away. If I ignore it, then- ow!" Sally hit him sharply across the forehead with her tail.
"Oh, Harry, I'm ssorry! I thought maybe if I hit your head, your brain might sstart working again. I didn't mean to hurt you, really."
Harry glared at her out of the corner of his eye, then heaved a deep sigh. "Okay, so it won't just go away if I ignore it. It will only go away if I actually don't like her."
"Much better, maybe there iss hope."
Harry ignored her. He was much to occupied to care what she said. "I know she used to fancy me, but that was years ago, she said she's over it."
"Did she ssay that?" Sally asked, acting only mildly interested.
"Y-" Harry stopped and thought back to that day. "Well, maybe she never said it out loud, but it was implied in what she said. Wait a sec, Sally you know!"
"Know? What, how she feelss? Of coursse I know! I know everything that everybody feelss. No I'm not going to tell you."
Harry rolled of his back, which was a relief from the pain, and made his best puppy face at Sally. "Please Sally? Please, oh please?"
"No! It'ss not fair to you or her. I won't, don't assk again."
Harry gave up, and buried his face in the pillow again. "I have a crush on my Ron's sister! Ow! Stop doing that!" Harry said rubbing the back of his head. "I'm in enough pain."
"She'ss more then Ron'ss little ssisster, Mr. Potter."
"I know, I know." Harry sighed and looked out the window from the bed. "She's amazing. She's always there when I need her. She's always helping me. She's so understanding." He smacked his forehead. "Oh, why didn't I see it before?"
"Becausse you are a boy, which makess you completely blind to thingss like thiss."
"Anytime. Now, you've properly beaten yoursself up. Sso knock it off and figure out what you're going to do."
"Well, I don't have to see her again for a while. But, when I do," he paused. Moving carefully to avoid causing himself anymore pain, he opened his trunk and pulled out his photo album. He turned one of the pictures he had added this year of all his friends. His eyes landed on Ginny, and something inside him tightened. "Oh, it gets worse even when I'm looking at a picture! I can't imagine what it will be like when I see her."
"That'ss great, but what are you going to do?"
Harry ran a hand through his hair, then reached up to the ring hanging on his chest. But rather then fiddle with the ring, this time he fiddled with the chain. "What I have to do first, is I guess find out what she feels."
"Oh, he'ss on a role. Then what?"
"Tell her?" Harry asked.
"Very good! And then?"
"Keep Ron from killing me," Harry groaned.
"That'ss true. And there'ss not much I can do to help. I have very little control over hiss emotionss, and even lessss if it'ss anger or jealoussy. The only one I've sseen be able to calm him down iss Hermione."
"Sal, what happens if, if she, she doesn't feel the same? What will happen to our friendship? She's my best friend, I need her Sal. As much as I hate it, I really do need her. She keeps me going. I don't know where I would be without her."
"Harry, if tomorrow you get a letter from Hermione ssaying she doessn't really love Ron, and the one she really wantss iss you, what will you do?"
"I-" Harry stopped and thought about it. "I would tell her, that she is one of my dearest friends, but I just don't feel the same way."
"Would you ssuddenly sstop being friendss with her? Sstop helping her when she needss you?"
"No, I would just make my feelings very clear, and then let it go back to how it was."
"Rosse would do the ssame thing. If she doesn't return you're feelingss, she sstill won't let it ruin your friendship, even if you might."
"I wouldn't! I mean, no, I wouldn't. Having her as a friend is more important, well then, anything. I wouldn't."
"Then you have nothing to be worried about." Sally curled up on Harry's pillow. "It'ss a shame it took you sso long. It would be sso much eassier if we were at Hogwartss."
"It's not like you helped any."
Sally smirked at him. "Oh, but I did. With everything elsse you have going on in that poor abussed heart of yourss, I knew thiss would get pushed away for much too long. Why do you think it bothered you sso much? I made it bother you."
Harry groaned. "Sally!"
"Hey, you ssaid you wanted help. I didn't create that feeling, or make it sstronger. I jusst made you more dessperate to figure it out. I don't know how much good that did, but I'm not God and I didn't want to do anything more. It'ss not my place."
"Why me? This isn't fair!"
'Sweet revenge, Harry,'Sally thought. 'Oh, I'm going to enjoy this.'
Ginny woke up and glanced at the clock. '11:33; you've slept in,' it read. She grinned and settled back into the pillow. Nobody here to wake her up, or drag her out of bed by any means. They boys seemed to live by the concept that if they weren't asleep, nobody should be.
The house was quiet, almost silent if not for the sounds of her mother humming to the radio three floors down.
Percy was still in Brazil with Penelope. Bill was with his new wife, who was due any day. Charlie and his girlfriend Sandy were currently with his older brother, helping him dead with his new wife, who was due any day. Though only she knew about, being his favorite sister, Charlie had confided in Ginny that as soon as Bill's baby was born, he and Sandy were going to announce their engagement. Ginny was sworn to secrecy, as Charlie didn't want to take away from Bill's spotlight.
Fred and George were in Hogsmeade with the couple who owned Zonko's, being trained, as the couple was looking to retire in a few years, and as they had no children, they could think of nobody better then their two best customers to continue on the store. Ron was already at Hermione's house, learning his way through the Muggle world. Mr. Weasley was at work.
So to sum it up, the girls basically had the house to themselves. She sat up, stretching and yawning before climbing out from under the sheets.
"I'm up mum!" she yelled.
"I'll start your lunch," came the distant reply.
Ginny sighed as she stepped through the door that led to her very own bathroom. It was not very big, but it was hers, and she worked very hard to keep her brothers out of it. Though she had yet to find something that would scare Fred and George, though she thought that the mirror had been a great idea. But they weren't there, and for now she had nothing to worry about.
"Morning darling'," said a male voice from the mirror above the sink.
She took a quick shower, got dressed, and brushed her hair out just as the scent of her mother's cooking was drifting up to her.
Smiling at her clean, bright, and well rested reflection, she bid Jack farewell and took off down the stairs.
Ginny smirked. "Afternoon then. What are you making?"
Ginny pulled out a chair and fell into it. "No mail?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
"None that you would be interested in. Give the boy a chance, he just got home."
"No mum, he just left home, and he gets homesick fast."
"Well, he's probably still recovering. Let him get some rest."
Ginny frowned at the open window. That wasn't it, she was sure of it. Was he mad at her for something? Did she say something wrong? "You don't think he's angry at me, do you?"
"Ginny!" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed, spinning around to face her daughter with her hands on her hips. "Why would you say that?"
"Voldemort got away because of me."
Mrs. Weasley jumped at the name. "Don't say that!"
Ginny looked at her mother with concern. "I'm sorry mum. It's just, after you've seen him and lived to tell the tale, all that you know who stuff just seems so silly."
"Well," she struggled around the word, "V-volde-mort, was stopped because of you too."
"I guess that's true. But if I just hadn't sent that spell back at him, maybe Harry would have been able to stop him once and for all."
At loss of what to say, Mrs. Weasley set the bowls on the table. Just as Ginny was picking up her spoon, Hedwig flew in through the window.
"See, what did I tell you?"
Ginny didn't answer, if she even heard, as she took the letter from he owl. "What took him so long?" she muttered. Handing Hedwig some crackers from her soup, she pulled the letter open. In rather child-like hand writing it read;
We miss yuo.
Sally, anb Harry.
Below this very short message, there was a note in what Ginny knew was Harry's hand writing.
I'm teaching her to write. We tried this six times and this was as close to good as we got. You should see her hold a pencil. It's rather funny to watch. I'm not really feeling too well, but say hi to everybody there for me. See you.
Ginny grinned at Sally's writing, then frowned at Harry's note, but covered it before Mrs. Weasley could see. "What did he say?" her mother asked.
"He's teaching Sally to write, and he's feeling ill. I guess that means he won't be writing as often."
"See, there was a reason. Tell him that I hope he feels better."
"Will you stick around until I write my reply, Hedwig?" The owl hooted an answer, and flew to settle on the stair post.
"So Ginny, besides the ending which I've been told about over and over, what else happened this year? You didn't write very often, and I just assumed you were busy."
Ginny grinned. "I'm in love with the boy who lived. It's enough work to keep four grown women busy."
Mrs. Weasley laughed with her daughter, but her eyes grew quickly concerned. "But you're happy, right?"
Ginny's laughter faded, and she stared at the table and took a very long time to reply. "He tells me all his secrets. Only Sally knows more then I do, and only because it would take too long for him to tell me everything." She paused for a moment, searching for the words to convey what she was feeling. "Sometimes he says Ron's his best friend. Others, he says Ron is more like a brother, and that I'm his best friend." She paused again, but Mrs. Weasley knew enough to be silent. "Sally says he needs me and doesn't like it. She says he's trying to protect me, so sometimes he pushes me away. It's, frustrating. And when that happens, no, I'm not happy." She smiled slightly. "But then, just when I think that maybe this time is really the end, he gives up, and we're closer then before, but it still hurts." She stopped, but Mrs. Weasley waited a moment to make sure she was really done talking.
"Maybe this year, you'll all succeed in staying out of trouble, then it won't happen."
Ginny smiled and her mother. Any other parent would want their offspring to avoid the danger, and therefore avoid Harry. But not Mrs. Weasley. She, instead, practically adopted Harry, and Hermione too for that matter, as her own.
But if there was one thing Ginny didn't want, it was Harry to think of her as his younger sister.
'I always thought she was just like a younger sister.'As Harry laid on his bed, on his stomach this time, his thoughts always went back to the same subject, no matter how hard he tried not to visit that subject.
To take his mind off of things, he was reading one of his fathers journals. The entry he was reading was written the day after his father had experienced the 'transformation'.
I'd been sick for a couple of days, but Lily and I didn't think anything of it. Then, we were lying there, and I was uncomfortable, but I didn't say anything. It got really warm, and the scratch I had received in Quidditch practice earlier that day started to hurt much more then a little cut should. I was suddenly tired, and I think for a while I was asleep. But when I woke up, I had no memory of falling asleep, or any dreams. Then, it felt like my blood was boiling. My heart stated to race, and I could feel my blood shooting through my vanes, and magic starting to mix with it. Then-
Despite how interested he was, Harry couldn't concentrate on the journal.
The air conditioning was currently out of order in the Dursley's household. To get out of the heat, the family had gone out to dinner at an air conditioned restaurant. But Harry, was not part of the family.
His back felt like it was on fire. He carefully took off his shirt, but it did nothing to help. He considered taking the pills that had been sent home with him, and decided against it.
"Sal?" The word was in English, but it was a hiss nonetheless. He cringed at the pain that accompanied moving. "They left already, right?"
Sally looked up from her letter practice. "Yess."
"I'm going to lay in front of the fan. Want to come?"
"Yess. Harry, you don't look sso good."
"I don't feel sso good." He stood up slowly, trying to ignore the spinning from his head. "It's almost a comfort. I can't remember the last time I was just sick. Just sick, not with anything to go with it."
"Well, maybe not a comfort, but still."
There was only one fan in the house, and it was placed in front of the television, as that was where the family spent most of their time.
Harry walked slowly downstairs. He hadn't been down more then four times in the past two weeks. He only went to bring up supplies for the next few days. This summer, he just needed to be alone. Sally was always with him, but she really didn't count.
He turned on the fan and laid down in front of it, letting it blow cool air on his back, which had only just started to heal again. It burnt more the usual tonight, but Harry was assuming that it was the heat. It was making him feel very uncomfortable.
He didn't even realize he was asleep until Petunia's screech woke him. "Look at his back! It's hideous."
"Relax, dear. It's probably just a punishment. Misbehave?" he asked Harry's sleepy form.
Harry's whole body hurt. He didn't move, but he answered his uncle. "No, actually. For the, um, forth isn't it Sal? Yes, for the forth time in my life, I saved the world from the evil wizard Voldemort. He's the one who killed my parents, Dumbledore told you about him in that letter, if I'm not mistaken. Well, this is what he did to me before I got him. But I'm not dead, like the thirty-one other children he captured. If you think this is bad, you should have seen it five weeks ago."
The Dursleys said nothing for a moment. They were past the forbidden words thing at this point. They couldn't stop Harry from being what he was, so they just hated him passionately for it. Vernon spoke awkwardly. "Boy, you don't, look so good."
Harry's eyes popped open. He must have really looked sick if even the Dursleys were noticing, and worse, actually caring a little. Though they were probably more worried about catching what ever he had. He could hear his speeding heart beat in his ears.
Then it hit him. He sat up quickly. "Oh shit. It's happening. No, not here. Not for another few years." His heart beat faster, and his blood seemed to speed in his vanes. "It's happening," he moaned.
"What boy? You're sweating all over."
"Dudley," Harry said, for once praying that his natural leadership skills worked. "Go to my room. Sitting on the floor by the door, there is an object that looks like a clear plastic spider. Bring it quickly. Hurry!"
Dudley took off. "What's happening?" Vernon roared, very upset that his son had followed the order so quickly.
"I'm about to experience a lot of pain, Vernon. I'm probably going to scream. Do you want the whole neighborhood to hear me? I didn't think so. If he brings it quickly, that object will seal the sound in this room."
A few moments later, Dudley came hobbling into the room with the sound sealer in his hands. Only when he handed the object to his cousin did he wonder why he had done that at all.
Harry walked as best as he could over to the wall. Everything hurt a lot now, and his skin was starting to glow. He pressed the sealer against the wall. From every one of the spider-like legs, purple light spread out, and covered the whole room in a matter of seconds.
"If you leave the room, you'll break it." Harry squeezed his eyes shut in pain. "Whatever you do, do not touch me. I may lash out without knowing."
"Dudley, come away from him!"
Harry couldn't respond anymore. He collapsed onto the floor, trying to hold it in. Then, when he started to float in the air, any attempt to hold it in was forgotten. Everything was forgotten. All there was to Harry was pain. His blood was on fire. His head was exploding. And those pains were a comfort to what was going on inside.
Not physically inside. But something that he had only been aware of twice before, once in dueling class, once in advanced curses, was breaking. The block inside him, holding back more magic then his body would have been able to handle before, was coming down. As this new supply of magic started to pour into him, the magical source that was already inside him, was burning from the sudden increase in magical energy. But the amount of power pouring though him started to increase, as the block came the rest of the way down.
Harry wasn't aware that he was screaming, but he was. Not a scared scream, or a pain filled scream. But rather the blood curdling scream of a dying being.
The Dursleys didn't move. They stared, in shock, as Harry flailed in midair, screaming.
Only a total of nine minutes passed from the time when Harry left the ground to when he landed back on it with a thump. But to Harry, it taken a lifetime. Most of it was gone, the pain of the block coming down had stopped. But the pain of this new power burning him raw, hurt more then anything he had ever experienced.
"Sal-" he choked.
"I'm trying, hold on." His senses were raw and sensitive, not only his physical ones, so he felt what Sally did as she manipulated his emotions, blocking some of the pain. "That'ss all I can do, there'ss too much."
"Can you-" he had to stop from breath. "Pills? Six. Not three."
Sally sped away with more speed then seemed possible, and as soon as she left the room the sound sealer let out a fizzle, pulling the purple light back into itself, and falling to the floor.
With a gasp, Harry pulled himself up to lean against the foot of the couch. It should have hurt his back, but if it did, he couldn't feel it with the other pain he was dealing with.
Sally arrived, dropping six pills into Harry's hands. He popped them into his mouth and swallowed them dry.
The physical pain began to leave immediately, but it did nothing for what wasn't physical. He could still feel his blood racing, but his heart was beginning to slow again.
When he spoke, he forgot to use Parseltongue. "Sal, this wasn't supposed to happen yet. Dad got his when he was sixteen and a half. I'm still fourteen."
"He ssaid you would get it when you were ready. I guessss you were ready sssooner."
"How can I be ready sooner? It's twice as much power! More, if what Voldemort says is true!"
"You're a very sstrong persson, Harry."
"Oh, Sal, it hurts. I want to use it. It's so much power. I need to get rid of some of it."
"Harry, they'll detect you if you do any magic."
"How do they detect us? It's wand use, isn't it? They detect the use of a wand?"
"That iss what Hermione ssaid."
"I don't need a wand." Harry searched his mind. He wanted something that would take a lot of power, use some of it up. If he continuously used it, then his body could adapt to the amount of power slowly as he let himself recharge. He focused, and lashed out with energy, not caring what it did, as long as it was used.
Harry was sitting against the leg of the couch, but quite suddenly, he wasn't. He was sitting halfway across the room, by the window.
The Dursleys came out of their shock. Petunia screamed, grabbing Dudley and dragging him out of the room. Vernon glanced at Harry once, the followed.
Harry reached out with power and pulled, and in front of him appeared parchment, and his mother's pen. Falling over from a sitting position to a laying one, he relaxed slightly. He started to write.
Tell nobody. It happened already. IT. I think that's
why I was sick. Tell nobody.
Then, he closed his eyes, and thought about Ginny's room. He pushed with power, and the letter disappeared with a pop.
"Harry, what about becoming Animaguss? Did it happen? And are you a ssnake too?"
Now that he wasn't being overloaded with power, and had used enough of it that it would take some time to recharge, he was able to think clearly again. "I don't know. Lemme think." Harry tried to look inside himself, to see if anything was different. The problem was, almost everything was different. He couldn't place what would be his lion form, and even if he could, he didn't know what to do with it.
"I think it worked, but I don't know how."
"Do you think the ssnake worked too?"
"I- I think so, but I have no way of knowing."
"Let me ssee if thiss helpss. I'm going to show you what the world lookss like from a ssnake'ss point of view. I think I read that helpss. I'll show you, and then maybe you can ssee it for yoursself. Undersstand?"
"Yes, can you do that?"
Sally took a deep breath. "You're not the only one who jusst acquired a lot of magic. You not jusst feeding me power, you're shoving it at me. It would probably help if I ussed ssome too." Sally closed her eyes, and Harry, his body still sensitive and raw, felt her sending him something through the bond that they shared.
He blinked, and suddenly had a double vision. He was much lower to the ground, and his eyes had shifted farther back on his head. Other rather indescribable things happened to his sight, and to his other senses. He blinked again, and it was gone, he was back to seeing things from his own point of view.
Harry closed his eyes, and tried to picture that again. He tried to see the world the way a snake would. And when he opened his eyes again, he was seeing the world the way a snake would.
He was looking face to face with Sally. Suddenly, emotions that he had always known from her, like when she was smiling, or smirking, even though he couldn't see them, were apparent through body language. She was surprised, somewhat cautious, and even a little scared.
Harry closed his eyes again, picturing the world as he knew it as a person. Seeing it how he normally did. This time, he was able to feel the change, much faster then before, as he became human again.
"Sal, why were you scared."
"It wassn't you Harry. I mean it wass, but it'ss not, how do I explain thiss to a human?" Harry let Sally up onto his arm. "Animalss aren't the ssame ass people. We don't really have to get to know each other before we know if we like each other. We just know, if we acknowledge it or not. Our perssonalities are worn on uss, in just the way we are."
Harry nodded. "I kinda understand. But why were you scared?"
"Well, you're perssonality wass right there, for me to ssee, but it wassn't you're perssonality. It wass, jusst not all of it. It, well it wass only the bad qualitiess, really. And in more quantity then you have. And piecess were missssing, piecess of perssonality for that appearance you don't fill. Doess thiss make any ssensse?"
"In other words, you see Slytherin's descendent in the snake, and only the personality traits I share with Slytherin's descendent shine through. Is that it?"
"Exactly! That'ss exactly it. It'ss you, but not you."
Harry smiled slightly. "It didn't hurt, doing that. Or if it did, I didn't feel it. Do you think I could do the lion? I don't know what the world looks like from a lion's point of view."
"Well, couldn't hurt to try."
"I guess not." Harry closed his eyes, and tried to imagine what it would be like to be a lion.
Short legs, but built with powerful muscle to sprint. Hooked claws that retract into protective sheaths, like four swords on each paw. A tail to keep balance. Large canine teeth, a shaggy mane to protect the neck. Protecting the pride, and defending the territory. Sacrificing anything for the well being of the species as a whole. Sounding a roar from the back of the throat that can be heard from six miles away.
He opened his eyes, and at first noticed nothing different. But then he realized that the quickly fading light of the room didn't hamper his sight. His nose was picking up smells that he had never known existed. He felt, strong, and responsible. He grinned at Sally, and she grinned back, but he could smell fear in her again.
He didn't really have to try very hard to turn back this time. He looked down at Sally. "Why were you scared this time?"
"Jusst causse you were really big, and when you ssmiled, you had a lot of teeth."
Harry rolled his eyes, and smiled again. "That felt great. I mean, the snake was different, but it didn't feel good, not like that. And it doesn't disappear when I come back, it stays. The power, in a lion, is just so great, it makes me feel small in comparison."
"I'm glad you're happy. You haven't been that way for a while."
The feeling of being the lion started to fade, and in its place returned Harry's pain, and the effects of the double dose of pain killers he had taken. "Sal, I'm going to," he yawned. "Take, take a-" he fell asleep.
"Nap?" Sally asked his sleeping figure, but he didn't reply.