Looking Beyond: Chapter Nine: Explorations
"There's something very wrong with Binns," Hope decided one day, scrutinizing the many ghosts that haunted Hogwarts.
It was the nicest day they'd had in weeks, since the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Slytherin, despite it being already half-way through December, which was why a great deal of the Hogwarts occupants were curiously absent. Including the three Hope had dubbed the Laughing Gas (which was in reference to the Weasley Twins and Lee Jordan; they approved), who were off playing a less competitive form of Quidditch. Hope was envious, but she had refused apologetically when they had asked her to join them, opting to remain in the Great Hall and wait patiently for Hermione and Ron to finish their homework.
She was actually a bit astounded that Hermione of all people had fallen behind in school work, because even Hope, who had Quidditch practice three times a week, was ahead in her studies.
Currently, she was flipping through her muggle playing cards –the first thing she'd ever bought, if how worn and frayed they were was an indicator–, playing her fourth game of Patience. She wasn't very good at it, but her only opponent was herself and when she was younger, that had a lot of appeal. She flipped over the card on top of her "excess" deck; Three of Hearts. She moved it to the pile that ended with a Four of Spades. She had said those six words out of sheer boredom, but they were completely true.
"Yeah?" Ron grunted. His fingers were spattered with ink, smudging his essay a little. It was supposed to be on the uses of the levitation charm, but he was quickly running out of reasons (and Professor Flitwick had pulled him aside to say that he couldn't use knocking out a troll as one of them).
"All his lectures are portraying goblins as vicious creatures," Hope said in a voice that made it seem like Ron was agreeing with her, "which seems a bit biased, since I've never met a particularly vicious goblin?"
"Have you met a lot of goblins?" Hermione asked, glancing up from her Herbology paper to glance over at her friend. That thought made her lips twitch at the corners. Having friends was still a new concept for her, but she liked it, and it was never boring when you were best mates with Hope Potter and Ron Weasley.
"Well, no," Hope admitted, realizing her whole argument was a bit flimsy, with rather large gaping holes in it, "but Ragnok and Griphook weren't like that when I met them. Granted, they weren't technically pleasant, but-"
Ron was staring at her like he had never done before (though, Hermione was sure she'd seen that same slack jawed expression on George's face one time or another). "You're on speaking terms with goblins?"
Hope shrugged her shoulders, placing a King of Diamonds onto the empty space between two piles. "It wouldn't do to annoy the ones in charge of my vaults." Her lips twitched. "I think they were the first ones who ever gave me a choice in anything." Her relatives, and she used that term loosely, has never given her any options, and even Hagrid, whom she liked well enough had carted her off without taking her opinion into account.
Hermione's eyes grew sad at that; she couldn't imagine not having a choice with anything. Even Ron looked a bit disconcerted.
Hope's attention had shifted from her friends to land on the ghost of Ravenclaw House, the Grey Lady. Her dark hair –it must have been– fell past her translucent waist, and she was clothed in a medieval sort of garb. Hope supposed she was beautiful, but she could hardly look at her straight since she kept turning invisible whenever she looked in the ghost's direction. Hope got the feeling the spirit wasn't really looking at her though. She frowned, hardly noticing when her hair coloured black, set in bouncy curls.
Hope hissing slightly in pain as she banged her leg suddenly against the table. "Ah…"
Hermione and Ron had grown used to the brave face she put on when in pain. She never tried to draw attention to it, and that was what impressed Hermione the most about her, so Hermione followed her lead and didn't mention it.
She messed the cards with her hand, the distinct frown lining her face from what thought, Hermione couldn't be sure. It was times like these that Hermione had actually see why she liked George so much; he was the brightness that banished the shadows that lay behind her eyes.
She brightened quickly, and this time it was half-genuine. "Hey, we should go exploring after this!"
Hermione was a bit stunned by how quickly she'd changed, it was as if someone had flipped a switch inside her head, but Ron, who'd known her the longest, wasn't quite so surprised.
"Exploring?" he repeated, glancing down. "Won't that irritate your leg?"
The soft-eyed smile she gave him in return startled him, but only slightly. One of the great things about Ron was that he didn't walk on eggshells around her concerning her leg. Most people were careful about what they said, but he was a bit blunt. Fred and George took her mind off it, yes, but Ron accepted it. My best mate has a serious injury, but it's healing, seemed to be his mindset.
"I'll be fine," Hope scoffed, waving her hand in a careless manner, "a little exercise could do me good."
"Ah, Miss Potter!"
Hope blinked as the short-statured Charms professor came up to their area of his bench, holding Hope's Nimbus Two-Thousand in his wrinkled hands.
"Professor?" she asked, her voice coloured with confusion; she hadn't seen the broom since the Quidditch game when it had undergone several extensive tests to see if there weren't any more charms on it.
"We've checked it over a dozen times," he assured her as he handed it back to her, "but the most we could find was an Expulsion Charm, and it has been removed."
Hope couldn't come up with a response to that. She had been a bit apprehensive concerning her most recent possession.
"It's not going to throw me off again, is it?" she inquired slowly, scrutinizing the broom in such a way that the Ravenclaw Head was distantly reminded of her mother so many years ago, staring intently at a teacup that she was attempting to make tap dance.
"I am certain, Miss Potter," he assured her, smiling slightly as the lines on her face disappeared and she relaxed. Or had they? As Professor Flitwick walked away, he glanced back and saw the lines had returned. The worry on her face was almost palpable, but he had a feeling that come a few days she wouldn't have to worry much at all.
Contrary to Hope's belief, the Laughing Gas –as she had so aptly named them– was not playing an epic game of pick-up Quidditch (how could they play when the best Seeker was stuck inside?). It was the last Hogsmeade visit before Christmas break, so everyone –including the aforementioned students– was out finishing their Christmas shopping.
Coming up with a gift for Hope was turning out to be more of a trial than George had originally thought. Of course, he, Fred, and their friends had clubbed together to get her some reasonably mild Zonkos products, but he wanted to get something else...something that meant a bit more.
The only problem was, he didn't know what to get her. She liked to cook (or, at least, she was good enough at it), he knew that, but Hermione was getting her something that involved that. She was smart, so he could get her a nice book, but that would be more like something he would get Percy (gag). They were passing by Tomes and Scrolls when he caught sight of it. T&S always set out free books that didn't sell well outside on the last Hogsmeade visit before Christmas, and they didn't disappoint.
The book in particular that had caught his interest was the Tales of Beedle the Bard. It was a collection of children's stories that their mum always used to tell them when they were little, but Hope had grown up Muggle, and she certainly hadn't heard any children stories. He lifted it from the pile. It was still good as new, he noticed. He thumbed through the pages, noting that the art was a bit better than the one his mum had, so he pocketed it.
If Fred noticed, he didn't mention it, because, either way, George still had to come up with a really nice Christmas gift.
"Oi, Angie!" Fred called over to Angelina where she was talking to Alicia, having just exited the local jewellery store, holding a small bag. He tried not to notice that his heart began to race when she lifted her head and smiled brilliantly.
"Got some advice for George?" Fred queried, his lips still upturned, gesturing with his shoulder towards the boy who was doing a mental analysis of his friend-whom-he-liked-a-great-deal and what she could possibly want as a gift.
Angelina grinned, an oddly feral grin not unlike Hope's, now that he thought about it. "Oh, I've got the best thing…"
Taking both twins by the arm, she dragged them inside the nearest shop, directing George's attention to the object in the corner.
It was perfect.
Hermione found herself pulling apart the curtains that hid Hope's bed from view the very next day, paling at once at the sight within. Hope, who had been complaining only of mild tingling in her leg the day previously, now looked worse for wear. Her skin was nearly a sickly sheen of grey and shimmered from sweat and her forehead was scrunched up in pain.
She shook the girl hopelessly, before all but fleeing to find Madam Pomfrey.
Unfortunately, Hope was awake and grumbling by the time the Matron arrived, being in a very bad mood.
"Argh...I hate stomach flu!"
Hope certainly didn't look as though she was enjoying her time being sick, but then, no one ever seemed to. Perhaps she wouldn't have felt quite so bad if her leg hadn't been acting up as well, but her friends thought it best not to comment; who knew how she would react?
Hope's arms were currently tightly wrapped around her middle, as if that would assuage the pain, but no such luck. Her face was pinched and pale, but not nearly as pale as the day before. And she looked less miserable, so that was something.
"Moving will only make it worse," the Matron warned from her office, "I'm afraid you will just have to wait for it to pass."
Hope muffled her frustration in her pillow. "And how long is that supposed to take?"
"It should be only a few minutes," Madam Pomfrey assured her, "but the effects might last for hours; you may feel a bit drained."
"Fantastic," she grumbled.
Hermione was still noticeably concerned for her friend, hovering close to her side. "Are you sure it's just flu?"
Madam Pomfrey's smile was a bit sad as she watched Hope stubbornly turn her head away, a frown set firmly on her face.
"It's not just the flu," she admitted, gazing intently at her patient who was doing a spot-on impression of James Potter that it was almost scary, almost, but not quite. "It's her leg as well."
Hermione looked closer and saw that the scar horizontally across her leg was angry and puckered, looking very infected.
"She's overstrained the muscles somehow," Madam Pomfrey explained.
"I am right here, you know," Hope said sourly, crossing her arms, looking extremely petulant.
"Hush!" The Matron admonished the girl as if she was an impertinent child interrupting an important conversation.
Hope's scowl deepened, but the healer wasn't perturbed. Hermione guessed that she had gotten so used to her attitude from having Hope as a patient for so long.
"The muscles need time to recover, so you'll have to be off your feet for awhile." This time, her words were directed towards the red-head who was still sulking. "This time, try to actually follow my instructions." The despairing voice she used was enough to earn a quirk of the lips from Hope, but nothing else.
"Keep an eye on her," Madam Pomfrey warned the brunette as she left, "you know how she is about following rules."
"Sadly," Hermione agreed with a sigh.
By some miracle, Hope had managed to get through a shower and pull on her clothes and hop down the stairs to the common room without using her leg, though, with her luck, she was beginning to suspect that she would over-strain the muscles in her good leg. And that would not do.
"I can't stand sitting still," she said in an aggrieved tone. "This sucks!"
The other Gryffindors who happened to be in the common room as she said this smirked and snickered.
"Maybe if you hadn't insisted that we go exploring, we wouldn't be in this mess," Hermione admonished from where she and Ron stood beside the armchair.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," Hope grumbled, hardly under her breath.
"You're impossible," Ron said, almost in awe.
"I do try," she drawled in response, waving them off. They were going to the library to try to look up some information on Nicolas Flamel. "Have fun."
Ron rolled his eyes at her sarcasm. "See you in a few."
They shared a smile at her huff of annoyance, leaving her to her devices.
Hope pulled an aged book from her bag, which had been conveniently left where it was the previous night. The Origins of Blood Magick, that was what it was called. It was a pity that Britons were so narrow minded when it came to truly extraordinary branches of magic. They quickly outlawed any magic that they couldn't and wouldn't understand, and Blood Magick was one such thing.
Sometimes Hope didn't understand wizards at all.
Blood Magick is one of the two most ancient forms of magic known to wizard-kind. It came into favour in the early Dark Ages and has been used in several well-known branches of magic, such as: Wicca, Alchemy, Astrology, Necromancy, Sigil Magick, and Hoodoo. Blood Magick is the magic that resides in one's blood, impregnated with the blood on a cellular level. The most common way to activate the magic within the blood is through what is commonly known as Blood Warding which was highly popular amongst the Pharaohs of Egypt. The frequent use of it deterred grave robbers so much that legends spread that the tombs were cursed—
"All by your lonesome?"
Hope lifted her head to gaze at the Weasley Twins.
"Peace and quiet is very nice once in awhile," she said with a slight smile, splaying her hand over the page so the curious third-years wouldn't know that she was reading about a subject that had been banned from the country. She highly doubted that they would recognize its contents but there was still an off chance that they could. "Not that you would know," she added dryly.
"Silence is so boring, though!" Fred complained.
"Noise is a much better alternative," George agreed in the same light sort of voice.
Ron and Hermione –who had only just left the library after a fruitless search– turned back suddenly, remarkably tense, to face the owner of the commanding voice. It was a young boy, maybe fifteen with tousled black hair falling into his pale eyes. He wore a black robe but no house symbol or a distinguishing tie to allude to his house.
He was holding out a rather thick tome towards them. "Give this to Elpis, would you?"
"Elpis?" Ron asked blankly in incomprehension. "We don't know an Elpis."
But Hermione frowned, understanding the allusion. "Isn't Elpis the name of the Goddess of Hope in Greek myths?"
The boy's smile twisted until it was condescending. "Aren't you a clever girl?" he mocked, smirking as her cheeks coloured. "I suppose Muggle-borns have gotten smarter since my day."
That was both a compliment and an insult. Hermione struggled to settle her face into a stoic mask like Hope did, but she was sure her eyes had flashed in irritation as he had dropped the weighty tome into her hands. She read the title curiously. "Ancient Magical Languages?"
"Elpis has a distinct fondness for ancient history. She is rather fascinated with Egypt and Greece, I gather, from her frequent trips to this library," he gestured to the one they had just exited after coming up with nothing on Nicholas Flamel.
Ron stared at him oddly, his eyes narrowed in suspicion at how he knew so much about his friend. "How do you know that?"
"That is hardly a matter to concern yourself with," he said with scorn, bearing a superior smile as he gazed down on them. "Tell Elpis it is a gift."
In the time it took them to blink, he had vanished, and they were befuddled, but they hurried back to the common room all the same, finding themselves unsurprised that Hope was being entertained by Ron's elder brothers.
She looked better than when they'd left, for now the pallor that had adorned her face had faded, leaving her with the light rosy hue that she had always had. She did look a bit tired, but that was normal, as Madam Pomfrey had said.
"How on earth did you manage to set off those Dungbombs while being surrounded by witnesses?" Hope was saying, tossing her friends a smile and a nod as they approached. "I didn't know there was such a thing as a spell that could delay the explosion time!"
They bore self-satisfied smirks.
"Ask us no questions—"
"And we'll tell you no lies."
She snorted, glancing over Ron and Hermione. "Find anything useful?" she queried, frowning at the thick tome in their hands.
Hope was goggling at the title. "Where the ruddy hell did you find that?!"
She practically ripped the weighty book from Hermione's arms, gazing at it in awe.
"A boy said you'd like it, he said it was a gift for Elpis, you know, the Godde-" Hermione started to say.
"The Goddess of Hope, yes, I know." Hope nearly sighed. She knew all too well the tale of Elpis (or Spes, if you wanted to go with the Roman name)
Hope's eyes scrutinized the worn cover. "This has been touched by a spectre," she mused aloud, but more to herself.
Spectres had been something else she had been reading up on and you could always see when one had touched something because it left a pale shadow on the item.
"A ghost?" Fred asked in confusion, sharing a glance with his twin who was equally confused.
"Not quite." Hope was squinting at the surface of the book, holding it up to her face so she could look across it. "Spectres can maintain a solid form for a short amount of time, but they rarely stick around for centuries after their death like ghosts do; Spectres aren't afraid of death." She bit her lip looking thoughtful. "I wonder who it was…?"
She was speaking more to herself as she inspected the locked keyhole ("why would there be a keyhole on a book?" "If you don't know how am I supposed to?"). Hermione and Ron were surprised to note that it opened without an ounce of resistance, but they didn't see the small prick of blood collecting on Hope's thumb. Hope opened it slowly, flipping gingerly through the pages in complete awe.
There were so many symbols, so many runes…it must be Christmas.
"I think you killed her," George mentioned dryly as he waved a hand to and fro in front of her face, but she never let on that she could see it.
"This is…perfect," she said disjointedly in complete shock.
Three of the four watching her allowed themselves to be faintly amused by the jealous frown that had settled onto George's face.
Hope tried to smother her giggles the next day as she watched Fred and George carefully enchant a series of snowballs while standing behind a tree so that they would bounce against Professor Quirrel's turban as he walked past. Christmas break would start tomorrow and the Christmas spirit was heavy in the air. A large portion of the school was feverishly packing up their things for the break, but obviously the ones that weren't were staying behind.
Hope wasn't too choked up (in fact she wasn't choked up at all), not even after Malfoy's jibe about her not being wanted at home. Sadly, it was true, and if there was any chance that she could actually have fun on a holiday, she would take it.
George sounded out of breath as he sat down on the stone bench beside her, barely glancing at her broom which lay forgotten beside her. He grinned; she had probably come down to fly but had gotten distracted by their enchanted snowballs.
"Hey." Her lips twisted into a smile, bringing attention to her light blue eyes and now strawberry-blonde hair. "Having fun?"
"Always," he chortled.
It lifted his spirits when she laughed with him. Her heavily gloved hand dropped to squeeze his.
Her eyes pooled with anxiety, surprising George. She liked to fly quite a bit, though, now that he thought about it, she should be nervous about being on the broomstick that tried to send her off it if not for George's interference.
"Do you think I'm being stupid?" she asked him suddenly, her eyes imploring. "Being scared of a big, bad broomstick." Hope gave a shaky laugh.
"Not at all," George refuted. "I'd probably be scared if it had been me."
"Really?" She sounded surprised, but then Fred and George had never seemed like the sort of people that would or could be scared of something as trivial (possibly) as being tossed from a broom.
"Really," he said, sounding oddly serious. "I'll go up with you, if you want."
She seemed to be caught between two decisions, biting the inside of her cheek as she did so. Finally, she sighed and nodded as George pulled her into a standing position, settling himself over her broom and gesturing for her to do the same. Unlike him, her movements were not eager, more like they were resigned, but she replicated his moves and linked her arms around his stomach; George could feel how tense she was.
"But, if you kill me," she said in a surprisingly calm voice, "know that I will haunt you until the day you die."
George laughed, disregarding the comment, since he was rather used to the death threats she typically threw his way. They were generally coupled with a smile. "Duly noted."
Slowly, very slowly, he pushed off from the ground, pointing the broom upwards in a gentle manner, but he could feel Hope's arms digging painfully into his sides, even so.
"It's alright," he hummed in a contented voice that he usually adopted when speaking with Ginny after she woke up from a nightmare. "Look down."
Hope did as he requested and laughed aloud; they were barely a foot above the ground. He spun the shaft in a lazy figure eight. "Want to go higher?"
Trust was something she had always had an extraordinary amount of difficulty with, but here with George, with him being the only thing that kept her from falling downwards, she didn't find it so hard. She smiled into his back as the nervousness and the anxiety melted from her body, fading into the snow and frost that caked the castle like the icing on a gingerbread house.
"George?" she whispered.
"Don't let me fall."
He chuckled ahead of her, one hand squeezing hers where they were still locked around him. "Never."