Every human being, rationalist or not, has a reservoir in their brain wheredisbelief is suspended. If too much disbelief flows into that reservoir tooquickly, it will burst and the brain will scramble to recreate its picture ofreality from scratch. This is why, for example, a secret evil overlord whoshould already be the target of suspicion should not orchestrate plots thatimmediately appear absurd; dazzling absurd plots are only for situations whereit is certain that they could not point back at oneself even vaguely. (Seealso: the Hogwarts third-floor corridor, 1992-06-13.)
However, the reservoir may also be burst gradually, not by rapid addition ofunbelievable things in succession, but by slow addition of them, over thecourse of a year or a lifetime. In late March, 1993, that was happening toGinevra Weasley; the tipping point was probably when, following ProfessorSprout’s untimely and horrific demise, Ginny felt strangely unwholesome, ontop of simply feeling un-whole. The strange damage to Ginny – she seemed tofeel it in her soul – was slowly healing, but she decided that to simplyignore and it let it heal would be malignantly stupid, so she opted to uncachesome thoughts, beginning with _I should speak more with Hermione instead ofgiving into my Ugh Curses and avoiding her. _She opted to meet with Hermioneafter breakfast one Saturday. Hermione didn’t make nearly so much of apretense of being busy as Harry did.
“I just wanted to talk to you about the odd things that have been going onthis year,” said Ginny.
“There have certainly been a lot of them,” said Hermione. “Harry hasn’t beenbothering you, has he?”
“Well…” said Ginny. “He got kind of aggressive about the whole religion thingfor a couple of months, but he started to get quieter and more distant severalweeks ago, and since the attack on the greenhouse, he’s just been entirelywithdrawn. He’s even been missing meetings and having Blaise fill in for him,and it’s just not the same? Blaise even read Harry’s eulogy for Lesath. Butmostly I wonder what Harry’s up to.”
“I’ve noticed that, too,” said Hermione. “I have to be honest, I know someconfidential details about what he’s doing, and I can’t tell you about them.But I don’t even know what’s been occupying him lately. He does still talk tome, but he absolutely refuses to discuss how he’s spending most of his time,now. He says he’ll probably tell me in a few months. I’ve seen some strangeorders he’s been filling. Odd business at the Hospital. I don’t know what anyof it is, though. But even if I did, I couldn’t tell you.”
“Huh,” said Ginny. That was quite something. “That is fascinating. Andprobably very good news. The last couple of times Harry was up to somethingstrange, it destroyed Azkaban and established the Peverell Family Hospital.”
“The difference is that I was heavily involved in both of those things,” saidHermione. “I have no idea what this is.”
“All of that isn’t actually what I wanted to talk to you about,” said Ginny.
“Oh,” said Hermione. “What is it, then? Your Patronus?”
“Oh, um, I don’t have one,” said Ginny. “Gave it my best shot but I guess Ididn’t figure out the riddle.” Hermione smiled, perhaps inviting Ginny toproceed as though she hadn’t asked the question. “Everything just seems wrong,lately, Hermione. To me personally, as if I’m missing something big. Notsomething big about the problem everyone’s facing, but about the problems I’mfacing, personally. Can I tell you something really secret and can you promisenot to tell anyone?”
“Sure?” said Hermione, and as Hermione was thinking wait, what if it’s asecurity concern?, _Ginny was thinking _what, what if she feels she has totell people anyway because it’s a security concern?
“Um, never mind,” said Ginny. “What should I do if I suspect I’m beingregularly Obliviated? I feel like I have big holes in my memory and my thoughtprocesses get clogged up with clouds of fog that I don’t think originate frommy own faulty brain.”
“Oh!” said Hermione. “Harry actually taught me a pretty neat trick for this.Turns out it’s useless for me because of my Sparkly Unicorn Princess powersbut it should work just fine for you. If you suspect you’re going to beObliviated soon, covertly bite the inside of your lip really hard; so hardthat you’ll leave scar tissue for a long time. Commit to memory a long, longtime in advance that if you’ve bitten the inside of your lip like that anddon’t remember doing it, you’ve been Obliviated. Occasionally it’ll give afalse positive, because humans do occasionally bite their lips in their sleepor something like that, but it should at least grant you a degree ofprotection.”
“Brilliant,” was all Ginny could say.
“It’s very worrisome if you suspect you’re being Obliviated, though, Ginny,”said Hermione. “That’s very worrisome for anyone – particularly a young girl.And that’s on top of all of the other strange things that have been going on.You were one of the suspects after Professor Sprout was killed, weren’t you?”
“Yes, but I was cleared,” said Ginny. “I was just in the bathroom.” The truthwas that she had woken up in the bathroom, with a vague recollection that shehad fallen asleep there, but she had realized long ago that telling anyonethis would be simply disastrous.
“Alright,” said Hermione, just as worried as she had been seconds ago, if notmoreso. “Also, if possible – which it likely won’t be – try to leave somerecord of what you expect to be Obliviated of, somewhere where you expect tofind it.”
“That’s actually very convenient,” said Ginny. “Thanks for pointing it out.”
“No problem,” said Hermione. “But if you don’t mind, could you give me morespecifics on why you’re suspicious of your perceptions?”
“I do mind,” said Ginny. “It’s very private.”
“Private means a lot less in times like this,” said Hermione. “People aredying, anywhere and without warning.”
“Didn’t you read Harry’s first Method of December?” said Ginny. “‘On CivilLiberties and Terrorism’?”
“Yes, I did, as a matter of fact,” said Hermione, “and Harry was speaking ofcases like Lesath Lestrange, who were investigated and hurt without anythingeven mistakable for evidence. Not saying that people should hold back infinding the actual offender. This is no time or context for fooling around;what did you notice?”
“It’s just some cached thoughts I need to attend to,” said Ginny.
“Cached thoughts can kill people, Ginevra,” said Hermione. “What kind ofcached thoughts are they?”
“Well, talking to you, for one,” said Ginny. “I realized a long time ago thattalking to you was a good idea because of how wise and conscientious and so onyou are. But I kept putting it off because I was jealous of you.” Hermioneseemed to assume this was flattery, and looked distinctly unimpressed. “Andalso, Draco.”
“Draco Malfoy?” said Hermione. “He’s courting you, isn’t he?”
“Yes,” said Ginny. “And frankly, it all seems too good to be true. I’ve beenmeaning to test him for love potions; all I’ve gotten round to yet isAmortentia, because that one’s such an easy test because its effects are soextreme.”
“He likes you too much?” said Hermione. Ginny nodded. “Ginny, that’s stupid;you’re hiding something, and poorly.”
“Um, no?” said Ginny. “I’m not?” The truth was that Ginny absolutely washiding something, but that didn’t mean she was exaggerating about Draco. “Hereally is acting weird; I tolerate it because I like it, but that doesn’t meanit isn’t weird. Out-of-character, even.”
“Anything else?” said Hermione.
“Nothing of importance,” said Ginny.
“Anything else?” said Hermione, much more pointedly.
“Just that I’ve more or less forgotten entirely about a lot of the predictionsLuna’s made and told me about,” said Ginny.
“Oh,” said Hermione, “you can probably ignore that. Divination is a bunch ofpseudomagic, it’s barely any more effective than the Muggle kind that amountsto random number generators and con art. Rarely ever rationally actionablebecause the source of magic is so intent on playing tricks on people.”
“Technically, it’s against my religion,” said Ginny, “but the liberalizedinterpretation is that that only refers to the Muggle kind, since it’sdishonest. A scam instead of a science.”
“Wizard Divination isn’t a science, either,” said Hermione. “Luna’s varietyleast of all.”
“Maybe,” said Ginny.
At the scheduled time, Ginny arrived at Draco’s room, and entered using theknock Draco had shown her.
“Ginny!” said Draco. “What are those?” He was obviously looking at a smallmedicine bottle Ginny was holding; he snapped his fingers and Dobbydisappeared from the room.
“Some pills I got from Madam Pomfrey,” said Ginny. “I’m testing you.” Dracowas taken aback.
“Testing me for what, exactly?” said Draco.
“Love potions,” said Ginny.
“This again?” said Draco.
“Yes, this again,” said Ginny. “It’s like Luna said. If the world around youseems too good to be true, then you’re still in the mirror. And you seem toogood to be true, so I’m trying to figure out which mirror I’m still in.”
“Luna’s rubbing off on you,” said Draco. Ginny half-sneezed, and passed ninelarge pills – three light blue, three dark blue, and three yellow – to Draco,each of which radiated nausea.
“Here goes,” said Draco. “If this is what it takes to prove it to you.”
“You don’t have to prove anything to me, Draco,” said Ginny. “I’m provingthings to myself.” One by one, Draco swallowed the pills, and within minutes,they reappeared in Ginny’s hand, each with a horizontal green line on them.
“Alright…” said Ginny. “Good, good, good… good… You’re clean. There’s still ofcourse the possibility of Legilimency or an Imperius or simply evil plottingto explain your behavior…”
“Might I ask why you’re so suspicious of my behavior all of a sudden?” saidDraco.
“Oh, Draco,” said Ginny. “I feel that something’s very, very wrong with mylife, and I have no idea what that is. So I’m approaching the problemsystematically. Burning every possibility at the roots.”
“A grim metaphor, considering the circumstances,” said Draco. “Have youconsidered that the problem might be Harry? He’s been acting odder and odderlately.”
“Well… I have,” said Ginny. “Probably not enough, but I have. But what would Ido about that? Harry is absolutely impenetrable, Draco. He’s unapproachable,especially when he wants to be. If he’s keeping secrets from me, I amabsolutely not going to figure them out until he wants me to. I trust he hasmy best interests at heart.”
“But you don’t trust that I do?” said Draco.
“Well, let’s face it,” said Ginny. “I think I love you, but I have no ideawhat your motivation is. What drives you? What’s your goal in this story?”
“Well, first, to survive,” said Draco. “That’s harder than it should be atHogwarts lately. The Monster could be anywhere at any time, and no one reallyknows what’s going on.”
“Exactly,” said Ginny.
“Second, to forget,” said Draco. “I want to put the past behind me.”
“But why?” said Ginny. “Who would ever want to forget anything?”
“Well, I mean metaphorically forget,” said Draco.
“What does that even mean?” said Ginny, raising her voice in the tradition ofthe Great Interrobang of Oz. Draco stopped, and put his hand over his mouthcontemplatively, before speaking.
“It means I want to have something happier to think about instead,” saidDraco. “A place or person to escape to.”
“I’m so sorry,” said Ginny. “I wasn’t really considering your perspectivesufficiently. Or anyone’s, really. Paranoia-”
“Third – and this should really have been second. So, first and a half,” saidDraco, “I want to protect as many people as possible from whatever it isthat’s going on at Hogwarts lately. I had a feeling this would be a bad yearbefore the threats were even issued. That’s why Professor Lockhart is employedhere.” Ginny nodded.
“What?” asked Ginny.
“That’s why he’s employed here?” said Draco. “Because I contacted him toprotect us? I’ve told you this before, I’m sure.”
“I don’t believe so,” said Ginny. Draco appeared troubled by this.
“Tim told me that Gilderoy Lockhart could protect us from the trouble brewingat Hogwarts,” said Draco.
“I’m not sure if I trust Tim,” said Ginny. “Has he ever possessed you?”
“You’ve asked me this before,” said Draco. Ginny was growing impatient. Notwith Draco specifically; more with whatever force was making a riddle out ofher life.
“And what did you say then?” asked Ginny.
“I let Tim possess me so he could speak to Lockhart, to persuade him to cometo Hogwarts,” said Draco.
“That sounds bad,” said Ginny. “Very, very bad.”
“But I did it to protect you,” said Draco. “You and everyone. And you’ve gotto admit that he’s the best replacement for Monroe we could get.”
“It just… it doesn’t make sense, Draco!” said Ginny. “Something isn’t right.”But Ginny was already beginning to calm down, because her mind’s model of Timwas telling her that she should appreciate the present more, because she neverknew when everything might change. She didn’t know if she’d remember thismoment in years or even days, so, she figured, she should make the most of it.
“Maybe…” said Draco.
“Let’s talk about something else,” said Ginny.
When Luna was permitted to leave the Infirmary (not long after she wasadmitted), she was crying. But soon, Ginny appeared, which helped to soak upsome of her tears – literally, of course; Luna cried directly into Ginny’srobes. Ginny tried to calm Luna down, and finally began asking questions.
“Luna, thank God you’re alright,” said Ginny. “I’ve heard a lot of conflictingstories; what happened?”
“I was having – tea,” started Luna. “With Marietta Edgecombe.”
“Go on,” said Ginny. “Tell me everything.”
“Impossible,” said Luna. “But anyway, I was baking those fortune cookies Ishowed you a few months ago.”
“They don’t work very well,” said Ginny, and she immediately wondered whyshe’d said it. An attempt to lighten the mood? What an awful attempt.
“Yes, they do!” said Luna. “I opened mine, and the fortune was ‘Run.’ So Idid, and I told Marietta to run too, but she must have thought I was justhaving a fit or something. But I could hear something coming, so I hid, and Icould feel the Basilisk drawing near, and Marietta couldn’t get away, and shewas petrified.”
“Reversibly?” said Ginny.
“Of course, but it’s still awful,” said Luna. “Not to mention that I thinkthey’re covering something up about the Potions of Reanimation. I think it’sgoing to be longer than they’re saying before the people can be restored. Ididn’t finish my story. I’m crouched in an uncomfortable position in thecabinet, hoping that the Basilisk will go away, when I hear a human voice, andit’s unrecognizable because it’s been deepened. And it says ‘_PetrificusTotalus’. _And I can’t move. For hours. Then we’re both found, and I’munfrozen and made to answer questions about what happened to her, and I tellthem pretty much what I just told you, and then they let me go but half theschool is probably going to think it’s me, now! I was getting my worst marksin Herbology, and I saw Colin as a bit of a rival, and… and…”
“It’s not you, Luna,” said Ginny. “I have a strong feeling that the personbehind all of this is going to be caught very soon, and be stopped. This isall almost over.”
“How can you say that?” Luna asked, through tears. “You’re not a Seer.” Butwhat Luna didn’t know was that the interior of Ginny’s mouth had a deep gashin it. By Ginny’s bedside, furthermore, was a speck that explained inParseltongue that she was about to take Tim to investigate the Chamber. Andbest of all, Ginny had firmly decided, about thirty minutes ago, never to takeTim out of his box to speak to him again.
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