Chapter 18: Fairy nonsense

Ginny woke up in a girl's lavatory again with no recollection of how she got there. This time, she was startled awake by the shrill lamenting of a crying girl, whose voice echoed off the moldy walls. It became clear why that lavatory was always empty. The ghost called Moaning Myrtle haunted it regularly and had no respect for the privacy of the living.

Ginny ran out of there and made her way through the castle. It was getting dark already. As Autumn moved in, it brought in short days and a constant chill in the corridors, which seeped into her bones and accompanied her all day long.

On her way to the Gryffindor tower, she saw Mrs. Norris, the cat of the Caretaker, Mr. Filch, sitting on top of a windowsill, chattering at the birds outside. It was the cutest sound. Everyone always said nasty things about the old cat, but Ginny didn't see any reason to. There was no reason to dislike her just because her human was unpleasant.

Ginny approached her and cautiously let Mrs. Norris sniff her hand. The old cat gave it a good whiff and rubbed against her finger. Ginny scratched her behind the ear and was rewarded with a loud purr. Mrs. Norris was an affectionate cat. Her dust-colored fluffy coat looked disheveled but was in fact very soft. Ginny felt an urge to cuddle up with her.

"Get away from my cat!" Filch yelled from the end of the hallway, making Ginny jump.

A damp handkerchief dangled in his hand as he hobbled over. His nose was purple and drippy, completing a picture of someone who didn't look well enough to be out of bed. Mrs. Norris, still purring, looked in his direction and blinked affectionately. She loved him as much as he loved her.

"Take care of him, Mrs. Norris," Ginny said. "He looks rather sick," and she scurried away from the scary caretaker before he could yell at her some more.

It seemed as if she had climbed a thousand stairs by the time she reached the Gryffindor common room. Why couldn't it be on the ground floor? She made her way in and collapsed into an armchair. While she rested, she had a good view of her fellow Gryffindors and observed them with a detached interest of an outsider.

Harry was playing a game of chess with Ron. She couldn't see from her spot who was winning and was too tired to get up, but he seemed to be in a good mood. She smiled to herself. She liked seeing him happy. "Good job, Ron," she said to herself.

Merlin was sitting on a sofa close to the fireplace, next to Hermione who was explaining something to him with passion, unaware of his yawning.

There was a hushed commotion on the other side of the room. Unsurprisingly, Ginny's brothers were at the center of it. She peeked from her seat to see what they were doing.

"Where did you get a salamander from?" an older student asked.

"We were studying them in Care of Magical Creatures class, and this one looked like it wanted to be liberated," Fred said. "They eat fire, you know. I wonder if they can eat Filibuster Fireworks."

"There's one way to find out," George said.

They held the salamander firmly and stuffed a firework in its mouth. The little lizard swallowed and everyone watched in silent anticipation. Ginny worried that the poor animal would be hurt by this. Then, the firework must have ignited because the salamander launched into the air and flew across the room. It zoomed around for a while, leaving behind tangerine stars to everyone's delight, and finally landed near the fireplace. The twins ran to catch it, but the lizard was faster and jumped into the fire to hide.

Ginny breathed a sigh of relief. At least it was alive.

"What is happening here?" Percy yelled from the top of the stairs.

"What is happening here?" Fred imitated his voice, and George snickered.

"I am a Prefect. Show some respect!" Percy said with his nose raised high.

"Oh, sorry. We haven't noticed we're in the presence of a Prefect," Fred said and got back to poking at the fire to watch the salamander jump around.

Percy looked down at her. "Ginny, are you alright?"

Ugh, Percy. Why did he have to find her now? She hoped he didn't notice that her robes were still a little damp from the wet bathroom floor. She did not need a lecture from him.

Percy put a hand on her forehead, and she swatted it away.

"I don't have a fever."

"You're too pale. Did you catch anything? There's a nasty cold going around."

"I'm not sick, Percy. Go away."

She didn't feel sick, maybe tired. Thanks to him, she was tired and grumpy.

"You obviously are. Madam Pomfrey entrusted me with Pepperup Potion," he showed her a small brown vial, "to distribute to anyone displaying the symptoms. We need to stop this virus before everyone gets infected."

Ginny crossed her arms and glared at him. She hated how bossy he was acting now that he had a title to go with his ego. "I'm not drinking that stupid potion."

"If you don't drink it, I will write to mum."

"You wouldn't!"

"Test me," he said, dangling the vial in front of her nose.

Faced with the emotional blackmail of worrying their mum, she finally agreed.

The liquid felt warm on the tongue, but once it reached her stomach, it heated her like a spicy dinner. Within a minute, heat spread through her body, and just when she thought she would explode—she did. Steam shot out of her ears as if she was a kettle. All she needed was a ruddy whistle to complete the picture. She guessed that her face was red enough to blend in with her hair. It was time to hide. She tried to discreetly make her way out of the common room and ran into Harry on the way.

Ginny cursed her rotten luck. There was literal steam coming out of her ears. Of all the people she could have run into when looking so ridiculous, it had to be Harry. He smiled at her awkwardly, and she guessed that he was suppressing a laugh. She ran up to her dorm without a word and hid under a blanket.

Once the initial shock was over, she poked her head out just enough to properly breathe. This wasn't a good day. She needed Tom.

Tom reassured her that it was going to be okay. He had an explanation for everything. She worried about why she lost track of time again and woke up in a lavatory, but he suggested that maybe she was sleepwalking. That made sense. It would even explain why she felt so tired all the time. She complained about Harry seeing her in such a comical state, and Tom suggested that it was a good thing.

It's good to show people our vulnerable side, like when we're sick. It gives them a reason to feel protective of us and to care about our wellbeing.

Tom was so smart. He found an opportunity in every problem. She hoped that he was right, and Harry was now thinking tender thoughts about her.

》《

Jack loved Herbology because it was held outside and also because he loved all the magical plants he got to play with. While all plant life held faint traces of nature magic, the plants in the greenhouses were pulsing with it, drawing him in. He liked to put his hand over each and feel how different its energy was from its neighbor.

"Don't touch anything venomous again," Elsa scolded Jack, and he glowered at her. He wouldn't make the same mistake twice.

His sister was annoyingly unadventurous, so he let her work on her own while he looked around. He wandered away from other students and found a plant that had long leaves and small delicate flowers. The tag said it was Asphodel, a common potion ingredient. His hand hovered over it, and he picked up two distinct trails of magic, one of which was very strong. A movement caught his eye. He parted the leaves and couldn't believe his eyes. There was a small winged creature hiding in the plant. Upon seeing Jack, it made a small squeal and looked for an escape route.

"Don't be scared. I won't hurt you," Jack assured.

"I sure hope not," the creature responded in a soft voice.

Jack smiled reassuringly and moved a few leaves aside, trying to get a better look. "Are you a fairy?"

"What else would I be?"

"I don't know. I've never seen a fairy before."

This one was small enough to fit in his palm, had curly brown hair falling to his shoulders with long pointy ears sticking out of it. He was wearing a green tunic which looked like it was made of some plant material. His translucent wings shimmered with multiple colors, reflecting the light.

"You can understand me?" the fairy asked.

"Of course I can. I'm Jack. What's your name?"

The fairy's wings fluttered in excitement. He squeezed between the long leaves, as interested in Jack as he was in him.

"I'm Reed. What are you, Jack?"

Jack looked around to ensure that he was alone and then whispered, "Winter Spirit."

Reed gasped and put his tiny hand against his mouth. Jack hoped that fairies didn't have anything against his kind. Seeing no negative reaction, he put a hand out palm-up in invitation. Reed looked at his hand with hesitation but then climbed on top.

"Do you live in the greenhouse?" Jack asked.

"Don't be absurd." Reed scoffed. "Do you?"

Jack grimaced, imagining how uncomfortable it would be to sleep in a humid place like this. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm looking for supplies."

Reed sat on Jack's palm, and they studied each other for a moment. The potent tingling of fairy magic that came off him made Jack feel warm on the inside. He wondered what his magic felt like to the fairy.

"What you got there, boy?" Professor Sprout asked, coming up behind him.

Jack froze, startled. He didn't hear her approach. He looked up hesitantly, wondering what she would think about a fairy in his hands. Could he explain it?

"Oh, a Garden Fairy," she said. "Great catch. If you don't need its wings, I'll take them. I need to make a Girding Potion and fresh wings are the best."

She approached Jack with an outstretched hand.

He brought the fairy to his chest protectively. "What?"

"If you don't know how to pull its wings, I can do it. Just hand it over."

Jack cried out with horror, "Pull his wings? That's barbaric!"

Professor Sprout looked surprised. "It doesn't kill them if that's what you're afraid of. The wings will grow back."

"Professor, how can you even talk about it so casually?" Jack asked. "He's a living creature. That's… that's… heartless!"

"You tell her!" Reed yelled back, giving the witch his middle finger, which she probably couldn't see from that distance.

Professor Sprout sighed heavily and walked away, murmuring something under her breath. Jack clutched the fairy in his cupped hands and swallowed hard, realizing how close he came to witnessing the mutilation of a fellow magical creature.

"I can't believe this. They do this to you? They steal your wings?"

Reed nodded with a resigned sigh. "Unfortunately, wizards know just how to lure and bribe us. We fall for it too easily."

Jack winced, visualizing the cruel practice. "Does it hurt?"

"A little. The worst is that a fairy without wings is just plain ugly. I keep my wings beautifully groomed for myself, not for the wizards, thank you very much. When they caught me once, I hid from everyone for a week. I couldn't be seen wingless. It's embarrassing."

Jack chuckled at learning the unexpected fairy trait and sat down on the ground. Fairy magic felt like a soothing song, which radiated from his hands into his body. He wished he always had a fairy in his hand, so he could always feel like this.

"I agree with you about the wings."

Jack lifted his head to see Luna peering at him.

"I wish I could understand it," she added and sat down next to him to have a look at the fairy in his cupped hands.

Did she mean that he wasn't supposed to be able to talk to Reed? He had to ask sneakily.

"Wizards don't understand Fairish," he directed the statement to the fairy as a question.

"No, they don't," Reed answered. "It's a good thing that you're a fairy so we can talk."

Jack flinched at the statement. "I'm not a fairy."

"Yes, you are," Reed insisted.

"Of course, you're not," Luna said and laughed loudly for an extended time, causing a few students to look their way.

Jack gulped. Maybe it wasn't wise to continue this chat with witnesses around.

"She's really pretty," Luna said, leaning in to admire the fairy.

"He's male," Jack corrected, surprised that she didn't notice. He thought it was rather obvious.

"They always do that!" Reed complained and folded his tiny arms over his chest. "Do we all look the same to them? The nerve! Wizards are so clueless!"

Jack sighed. "Tell me about it," he replied and then remembered that Luna was still next to him. He panicked and racked his brain for a cover-up, but she surprised him.

"I like talking to all creatures too. Even objects. Or myself." Then, she addressed Reed. "I'm sorry for calling you a she. It's because you are one very good looking fairy."

"Well, of course, that's true," Reed said giddily, fluttering his wings to show them off. "Have you seen how well I groom my wings? I have the nicest wings in my colony."

"And your wings are lovely," Luna added.

"Are you sure you don't understand Fairish?" Jack asked.

"One fairy to another," Reed waggled his eyebrows, and Jack frowned at being called that, "she's a keeper."

"I've never seen them talk so much," Luna said. "I just wish I could understand it, but it's all just a bunch of buzzing noises."

"He's got a lot to say, I guess," Jack replied, glaring at the fairy. "A lot of fairy nonsense."

Reed scoffed. "You still don't believe me. How else could you understand me? No other beings can understand fairies but other fairies! You. Are. A. Fairy."

Reed stood up and flapped his wings rapidly until he hovered over Jack's hand.

Jack had more questions, but Luna was still sitting next to him. This conversation would have to wait until another time.

"I wonder where he lives," he said, hoping Reed would understand that he was asking a question.

"Probably in the forest," Luna said, watching the fairy with awe.

Reed understood. "Yes, in the forest. Can you feel my magic?"

"Yes," Jack said.

"Then, walk on the edge of the forest until you feel it. Follow it and you'll find your way to our colony. I'm sure the Queen would love to meet you. Farewell, Jack, the Winter Spirit. We shall meet again."

Reed flew away through a vent in the wall.

"Bye, fairy!" Luna said, waving.