Title: Tweet Revenge
Summary: Harry's not the only one who can communicate with animals. Humorfic.
Disclaimer: Not mine. All characters, etc., etc. are JKR's.
Word Count: 4,570
Inspired by: Giotto's Saint Francis Preaching to the Birds
Thanks so much to frek for looking it over, and to ladyg_funk for the beta. :)
Harry Potter felt a sharp thwack at the back of his head as he walked into the Transfiguration classroom.
"What?" he asked, turning around.
"Were you even listening to Hermione just now?" Ron asked. "She was asking you a question." He looked at his friend curiously. "You know, you've been really out of it today."
"Are you okay?" Hermione asked, a worried tone creeping into her voice. "Is it V-Vol—"
"No," Harry cut her off. "No, sorry. I was just daydreaming."
But Ron continued to scrutinize Harry’s face for any sign of trouble. “It must have been really good for you to have ignored us all morning.”
“I was thinking about Quidditch,” Harry half-lied, trying not to blush. “I can’t wait to get onto the pitch, now that I’m allowed again.”
No need to tell them he’d also been thinking of how sexy Ginny looked in her new Chaser’s uniform.
“Well, anyway,” said Hermione as she sat down at her desk, “I was saying that we’re due to start studying Animagi in more detail sometime this year, and I was wondering what forms we’d all take if we actually tried to transform ourselves.”
“I’d want to be a lion,” Ron said decisively.
“Why a lion?” Harry asked.
“Well,” explained Ron, a mischievous smile spreading across his face, “besides being our house symbol, I bet my being a charging lion would scare the hell out of Malfoy.”
“Oh, very mature,” said Hermione, rolling her eyes.
“This from the girl who slapped him in third year?” Ron asked, incredulous.
“I was under an inordinate amount of stress,” Hermione countered threateningly.
“All of your own bloody making,” Ron muttered.
Harry, seeing where their discussion was headed, quickly interjected, “So, what would your Animagus form be, Hermione?”
Hermione sighed, abandoning the quarrel. “Oh, I don’t know. There are so many intriguing possibilities. Perhaps I’d take the form of a cat. I’ve always wondered what kinds of things go through Crookshanks’s mind. What about you, Harry? That’s what I asked you earlier.”
Harry remained silent for a moment.
“Oh, here we go again,” Ron said.
“I was thinking,” said Harry, playfully punching Ron in the arm.
Harry’s first instinct had been to say, “A stag, of course.” But then, he wondered, didn’t he already look extraordinarily like his dad? Did he have to copy him at this, as well? No, it would be better to be original.
He was about to say he really didn’t know what form he’d take, but then noticed Malfoy, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle, sauntering into the classroom. Harry knew it had been too good to be true when he’d read the new schedule, which had detailed that they would no longer have Double Potions with the Slytherins. Double Transfiguration had simply replaced it. Harry toyed with the idea of announcing that he planned to transform at least one classroom object per day into a ferret, but as Professor McGonagall had just entered the classroom (with the Fat Friar and an enormous projection lamp in tow), he felt perhaps this was not the best time to pick a fight.
“Good morning and welcome to Advanced Transfiguration,” said Professor McGonagall, setting up the lamp. “Now, I’m sure many of you know that your sixth-year studies will cover some of the most popular and useful aspects of the discipline, such as Conjuring spells and Animagus theory. But before we get to that, I’ve often found that a few words of warning can prove useful to certain individuals.”
McGonagall paused and looked around the room. Harry noted that her eyes lingered on Malfoy.
McGonagall continued, “Today, the Fat Friar has kindly volunteered to talk to you about an unfortunate event he witnessed years ago. This incident involved a misuse of skills learned in the Transfiguration classroom. Please direct your attention to the screen.”
With the tip of her wand, McGonagall illuminated the projection lamp. A very old painted image of two monks looking at a flock of birds appeared on the screen. One monk was calmly speaking to the birds, while the other looked to be in a state of shock.
McGonagall sat down and looked attentively at the Fat Friar, who smiled at the students as his ghostly form bobbed beside the lamp.
“Hello, dear children,” he said. “I always love the first Transfiguration class of the school year, because it means I get to teach you. However, if the world worked the way I wish it did, there would be absolutely no reason for me to be here.” As he paused, the slightest sign of darkness flickered across the Friar’s usually jovial face.
Drifting down the center aisle of the classroom, he asked, “Can anyone guess who is the subject of this picture?”
Hermione raised her hand.
“Yes, Ms. Granger?”
“Please, sir, this piece is called ‘Saint Francis Preaching to the Birds.’ It was painted by the famous Early Renaissance artist Giotto, who worked mostly with the fresco technique, unlike many of his contemporaries, who worked with tempera on wood panel.”
“Excellent!” the Friar said. “Five points to Gryffindor.”
Harry reached over to the other side of the desk and pushed the lower half of Ron’s jaw back into place. The youngest Mr. Weasley seemed to be having an inordinate amount of trouble keeping his mouth closed at that particular moment in time.
“Yes, well done,” the Friar continued, “but not entirely accurate. Although it is true this painting is officially titled ‘Saint Francis,’ it is yours truly who actually talked to these particular birds. Brother Roderick – he’s also in this painting – and I had Apparated to Italy for a retreat, and we met Giotto during our stay. A lovely man he was, too – such a talented Muggle.”
Harry heard a bored scoff from the back of the classroom, but the Friar apparently took no notice.
“Yes, talented, but a little too nosy. He accidentally observed me talking to this flock, and I begged him not to paint the scene. But I could see that glint in his eye. Once an artist is inspired, there’s no stopping him.” The Friar chuckled softly before saying, “But at least I persuaded him to tweak the truth a bit about the subject.”
Draco Malfoy, not even bothering to raise his hand, asked, “So what exactly is the truth? Were you actually sermonizing to a bunch of birds?”
“Well, no,” the Friar said. “Not exactly. You see, ‘Saint Francis Preaching to the Birds’ sounds much better than ‘A Vacationing Scottish Friar Trying to Calm a Group of Muggles Who’ve Been Transfigured Against Their Will by a Dark Wizard.’”
“Five points from Slytherin, Mr. Malfoy,” interjected McGonagall, her eyes ablaze with indignation. “And that kind of outburst is exactly why we need to teach this particular lesson year after year. Tell me, Mr. Malfoy, what do you think happened to the wizard who perpetrated this sick joke? Would you enjoy spending ten years in Azkaban for a few minutes’ ‘fun?’”
“I wouldn’t be stupid enough to get caught,” Malfoy muttered.
“Fifty points from Slytherin!” McGonagall practically shrieked. The air around the Friar’s ghostly form suddenly turned frigid. Malfoy simply smirked.
Feeling sorry for McGonagall and the Friar, Harry tried to redirect the focus of the class.
“So, can you actually talk to birds, then?” he asked the Friar uncertainly. “Or just Muggles who’ve been transfigured into birds … or …er …”
“Yes,” the Friar interrupted, giving Harry a grateful look. “Yes, I’m what they call an Avitongue. I can talk to birds.”
“Wicked!” Ron exclaimed.
“Thank you,” said the Friar, beaming.
Harry briefly wondered why it was “wicked” to be able to talk to birds, but just about the worst thing ever to be able to talk to snakes. Surely, Voldemort’s Parseltongue ability would make the wizarding world skittish about people who could talk to any other kind of animal, as well. But then, he told himself, the prejudices of the wizarding world seldom made sense.
* * *
Harry was in high spirits at the end of the lesson. It had been a good class – he’d enjoyed hearing the Friar’s first-hand account and Slytherin had lost another twenty points – and he was looking forward to the first Quidditch practice of the season that afternoon.
And speaking of Quidditch, there was Ginny Weasley, walking down the corridor toward him – well okay, toward all the just-dismissed Advanced Transfiguration students, but he could pretend she was walking toward just him – with a big grin on her face.
“Excited for practice?” she asked, falling into step with Harry and Ron.
“Oh yeah,” Harry said a little too eagerly, and then he blushed.
Oh hell! he thought. Must not think of Ginny in uniform. Or out of uniform, for that matter. Oh, hell!
“I mean … er … it’s going to be a great season, isn’t it, Ron?”
“Outstanding!” said Ron enthusiastically. “And I know I’m not going to be rubbish this year, now that I’ve got one good showing under my belt and Hermione got me those … what were they called again, Hermione? ‘Sports psychology’ books? Hermione? Where’d she go?”
Harry stopped walking, looked back down the hall and spotted her; she was engaged in deep conversation with Dean Thomas.
“Hermione?” Harry called out. She and Dean started, and then they picked up the pace.
“Sorry about that,” Dean said. “I was just asking her how come she knew so much about fresco and tempera techniques.”
“I’m beginning to think Hermione knows everything,” said Ron, smiling.
“Oh, I do not!” Hermione said emphatically, but looked pleased. “Certain things just stick in my head. And art fascinates me.”
“So what’s so fascinating about fresco and … what was it called?” Harry asked.
“Tempera. Well, they’re just two of the artistic techniques that ushered in the Renaissance,” said Dean, looking slightly affronted.
Ginny rolled her eyes and gripped Harry’s arm as if to say, “Oh no, not again. Why did you give him an excuse?”
“I could go on for hours,” Dean continued, “but here’s the short version.”
Harry heard a small sigh of relief escape Ginny’s lips.
“The basic premise of fresco is that you put wet paint on wet plaster, so that the finished artwork becomes an integral part of the wall. Now, with tempera, you mix raw pigment with a solution of egg yolk and water before painting on a wood surface. Makes for very vivid colors.”
“Isn’t it fascinating?” Hermione asked. “I just love Muggle art.”
“Egg yolk?” Harry heard a disdainful voice say behind them. “Father did always say that those old Muggle buildings stank, but I didn’t think he meant it literally. Imagine the stench from five-hundred-year-old eggs on the wall.”
They all turned to see Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson, who were shrieking with laughter.
Dean, on the other hand, was twitching with suppressed rage. Hermione put a hand on his arm and turned him toward the staircase.
“Ignore him,” she said. “He’s a halfwit if he thinks there would be any smell after a few days, let alone five hundred years.”
“I did enjoy hearing about how all those Muggles spent a whole week as birds, though,” Malfoy continued very loudly. “In fact, that class gave me some great ideas. I wouldn’t be afraid to transfigure some of those filthy creatures, no matter what McGonagall threatens. How about I turn your parents into a nice pair of woodchucks, Granger? They’ve already got the teeth for it. Shouldn’t be too hard.”
With that, Ron rounded on him. Hermione and Ginny rushed to hold him back.
“No, Ron! He wouldn’t dare,” said Hermione, tugging at his sleeve.
“Oh, wouldn’t I?”
“No, you wouldn’t,” Ginny said coolly. “Because if Hermione’s parents woke up as woodchucks one day, you do know we’d write to Professor Moody, don’t you, ferret boy?”
“HA! Nice one!” Harry exclaimed.
“How about you shut up, Potter?” said Malfoy, sneering.
“How about you just go away?” said Ginny, turning and walking toward the staircase. Dean, Hermione, Ron, and Harry all smirked a bit before following suit.
Harry was the first to catch up with Ginny. “You’re fantastic,” he said.
“I know,” she answered, and laughed before she trotted down the stairs.
Harry’s stomach did a little flip-flop as he followed her.
* * *
“Great practice, don’t you think?” Ginny asked as she, Ron and Harry left the Quidditch pitch.
“I think that was your best session yet, Ron,” Harry said.
“Really? Thanks!” said Ron. “But my Starfish and Stick could’ve been a little better. I thought I was on to something toward the end of practice, too. Hey, do you want to go back for a few minutes?”
“Oh, okay,” Harry said, even though all three of them could hear his stomach rumbling.
“No thanks,” Ginny said. “I’ll just wait here by the lake until you’re done.”
“All right.” Ron started back up the path to the pitch.
When her brother was out of earshot, Ginny pulled Harry aside and said, “If you feel like you’re about to faint from hunger, use me as an excuse.”
“You know – the ‘your poor little sister is sitting alone by the cold lake, shivering’ excuse.”
“Yep. Guilt nearly always works. Learned it from Mum.”
“I’ll have to remember that,” said Harry, right before Ginny playfully pushed him down the path after Ron.
Ginny settled herself against her favorite tree by the lake – a large beech – and looked at Harry’s retreating figure. A very pleasing figure it was, too.
Oh, no, she told herself. You should not be thinking this. You’re going out with Dean. Remember Dean? The one who talks about art all the time and … has no real opinion about Quidditch other than it’s fun to watch and … has never ONCE told you he thinks you’re fantastic?
Ginny closed her eyes and smiled. Apart from there being a slightly chilly breeze off the water, everything was fantastic.
After a few minutes, a fluttering of wings and a soft chirping sound prompted her to open her eyes. Two bluebirds were sipping water at the edge of the lake.
“Hey there,” said Ginny, giggling. “If you only knew how much controversy some of your relatives stirred up this afternoon. Well, okay, they technically weren’t your species. But, from what I understand, they were pretty closely related to you for about a week.”
Ginny laughed again. “I’m making absolutely no sense. I’m not crazy, though. I just really need to go eat. Could you go tell my overzealous brother to come down off his broomstick? I’d be ever so grateful.”
“Oh, how sad. Yet, somehow, predictable,” said a voice startlingly close to Ginny’s ear. She jumped and turned to see Malfoy smirking at her.
“What are you doing here?”
“It’s really none of your business, Weasley. I was merely passing, and I heard you talking to yourself. Or do you actually think these birds were listening to you?”
“Go away,” said Ginny, who didn’t want to admit to someone like Malfoy that she’d just felt like being silly.
“No, I bet you just wish you could talk to these things. Maybe Potter would like you better if you could. A right pair of freaks you’d be, too, squawking and hissing all over the place.”
“Just shut up,” said Ginny, standing up and walking away from him along the edge of the lake.
Malfoy followed her, saying, “What’s the matter, Weasel? Can’t take the truth?”
He was uncomfortably close. Ginny felt unsteady, as if she might fall into the water. He refused to back off.
“Actually, here’s a free piece of advice. If you have half a brain, you should watch out. Remember who has that scar on his head? He could snap at any moment. Any moment. I just have a hunch. And, oh yes,” he said, grabbing her arm and turning her to face him, “snakes like to eat birds for breakfast.”
Ginny couldn’t think as she stared into those malicious eyes. After a few seconds, she managed to turn away.
“You’re horrible,” she said, edging away from the water.
“Just you wait,” he whispered in a way that made her feel sick.
“Oi! Get away from my sister!” said Ron, storming down the path. Harry was right beside him, looking fit to at least maim, if not kill.
“Fine,” said Malfoy, exaggeratedly raising his arms up above his head and backing away. His retreating form called out, “But remember, you can’t fight all her battles for her.”
“Git,” said Harry.
“Exactly,” said Ginny. “Let’s go to supper.”
Another cool breeze drifted by behind them, making Ginny shiver.
“You okay?” both boys asked. Ron put a protective arm around her.
“Yeah, I was just cold.”
As they drew nearer to the castle, Ginny noticed the two bluebirds were now flying in front of them. Under her breath, she muttered, “Dive-bomb him for me, will you?”
Ginny heard a soft chuckling behind her. She turned and flashed Harry a smile. For a moment, Harry looked utterly confused. But he managed to smile back anyway.
* * *
Ginny had hardly touched her shepherd’s pie when Seamus Finnegan burst into the Great Hall and tugged Ron away from the table.
“Hey, I was eating that!” Ron exclaimed, looking longingly at his beef Wellington.
“Leave the food. This is better,” Seamus insisted.
“You do realize the gravity of what you’ve just said, don’t you, Seamus?” Hermione interjected. “I mean, Ron and food, food and Ron. This had better be big.”
“Oh, thanks. Real mature, Hermione,” Ron said. Hermione smiled mischievously.
Then Ernie Macmillan ran into and right back out of the Hall, only pausing to shout, “Malfoy’s just been creamed by a bunch of birds!” He left a trail of (understandably) flabbergasted Hufflepuffs in his wake.
Ginny watched her brother do a double take. “Please tell me this is true,” he said.
“It is,” said Seamus, bursting into a fit of giggles. “And the best part is what they wrote.”
“Excuse me?” Harry said. “Did you say that these birds ‘wrote’ something?”
“Well, in a manner of speaking,” said Seamus, still giggling, and now slapping the top of the table with one hand.
“Out with it, man!” Ginny exclaimed, surprising herself.
Seamus pulled himself together long enough to say, “Mr. Draco Malfoy is now the proud owner of a set of robes which bear the purple-stained legend, ‘I ♥ Muggles.’”
Ginny dropped her fork.
“Ahahahahaha!” Ron yelled, running out onto the grounds behind Seamus. “Who stinks now, Malfoy?”
“Who’s the mature one again?” Hermione asked. But after about two seconds of drumming her fingers on the table, she ran outside after Ron.
Ginny felt Harry shift beside her, but she clapped a hand on his arm before he pushed away from the table.
“Harry, I need to talk to you now,” she squeaked.
“What?” he answered, nearly incoherent with the excitement of it all. “But … Malfoy … bird poo … utter humiliation!”
“I know. But I really need to talk to you.”
“Okay,” he said, looking slightly depressed. “What about?”
“Not here,” Ginny said. “We need to go to the Owlery. I have to make sure.”
* * *
“So what exactly are we doing here?” asked Harry, looking out the window of the Owlery. He could just distinguish, dozens of feet below on the grounds, many tiny figures pointing and laughing at a lone purple-stained figure.
Yes, he thought.
“You heard me talk to those birds, right?” Ginny asked, sounding worried.
Harry tore his attention away from the spectacle below. “What are you talking about?”
“On the way back from the lake. I was feeling really angry, and I saw these two birds, and I sort-of said that I wished they would dive-bomb Malfoy.”
“Really? That’s hilarious! And then it actually happened. Talk about weird …”
“You heard me say it to the birds, Harry.”
“No, I didn’t,” he said, looking confused.
“You did! I heard you laughing under your breath right after I said it!” Ginny exclaimed, feeling even more panicky.
This can’t be, she thought to herself. It just can’t.
“Wasn’t me.” Harry now had an amused expression on his face.
“Stop playing about, Harry! It certainly wasn’t Ron, and I’m not going crazy. I’m not.” She was close to tears.
Harry’s smile quickly faded. “I’m sorry, but I’m not joking. I really don’t know what happened.”
“Oh, please don’t cry. I’m no good with crying people,” he said, which only brought her closer to the brink.
“Oh hell, I’m sorry,” he said, awkwardly putting his arms around her. “I’m sure you’re not crazy. Maybe you can just talk to birds like I can just talk to snakes. It’s no big deal.”
“No big deal?” Ginny said. “As if I weren’t big enough of a freak to begin with – the girl who was possessed by Voldemort, and now the girl who talks to birds!”
“Well, if you’re going by those standards, nobody’s a bigger freak than me,” said Harry, pulling away slightly. “Anyway, it’s perfectly fine to be an Avitongue. I mean, in class, Ron gave me the impression it was cool.”
“Maybe it’s fine with Ron because he knows you, which means he knows that being a Parseltongue doesn’t necessarily make you evil. But the rest of the wizarding world treats Avitongues just like Parseltongues.”
“Oh, sorry. I didn’t know. That’s pretty stupid.”
“Yeah. So I wanted to make sure one way or the other, and that’s why I brought you here.” Ginny took a calming breath before continuing. “Could you … maybe … listen to me talk to Hedwig and tell me if I make any weird hooty or chirpy noises?”
“Oh sure, no problem,” said Harry, now reluctantly stepping completely away from her. He raised an arm parallel to the floor.
Hedwig obediently flew down from the rafters and cooed softly as she landed on Harry’s arm.
“Anything?” he asked Ginny.
“Try to say something to her, then. I find with snakes, it’s best to look them right in the eyes.”
“Okay. Uh … hello, Hedwig. How are you today?”
After a few seconds of looking into Hedwig’s mesmerizing yellow eyes, Ginny looked expectantly at Harry.
“Sounded normal to me. No hooting or chirping,” he said.
“Oh,” said Ginny, feeling both relieved and oddly disappointed.
“Listen, Ginny. I know it’s pretty strange what happened,” Harry said, “but it doesn’t make sense for you to think you caused it. I mean, have you ever been able to talk with Hermes or Errol or Pig?”
“Well, no, but I thought maybe it was a new sort of thing,” she said, crossing over to the window and smiling slightly at the ongoing scene below. “Oh, no.”
“What?” Harry asked.
“I’m horrible. Now I wish I had caused this,” she said, laughing.
Harry edged beside her to look out the window. “Excellent! Look at him squirm!”
“No! We are completely awful people,” said Ginny, smiling despite herself. “Taking delight in another person’s suffering.”
“Oh, come on,” said Harry, turning to face her. “We’re only marginally horrible. It is Malfoy, after all.”
“You … you,” said Ginny, struggling to find the right words and now trying to suppress a fit of giggles. “You’re just … unbelievable!”
Harry looked directly at Ginny’s warm face, and he felt a glowing heat begin to spread over his own. Oh, not again, he thought. What is it with this blushing-all-the-time thing?
“Uh, thanks, I think,” he managed.
“Sure,” Ginny said awkwardly, caught off guard by the sweet embarrassed confusion in those beautiful green eyes. Her gaze faltered, and she found herself looking not at Harry’s face, but at his arm, upon which Hedwig was still perched.
“He is rather unbelievable, isn’t he, Hedwig?” she said, stroking the bird’s glossy white feathers.
Oh, that was really intelligent, she thought, wanting to kick herself.
Harry, on the other hand, gazed transfixed at Ginny. I would give anything to be Hedwig right now, he thought, but then reprimanded himself. No, that’s idiotic. Who’d want to be a bird, really? I mean … oh dammit, I would.
“I think she’s trying to answer back,” said Harry, laughing a little too loudly. What are you saying, you halfwit?
“I think she’s agreeing with me,” Ginny said. Calm down, Ginny. Think before you speak, for Merlin’s sake!
“Oh, so you can understand her?” Harry asked mischievously. And then, before he could stop himself, he blurted out, “I’ve always wondered what she really thinks of me.”
“Well, let’s see,” said Ginny, hardly able to believe what she was thinking of doing. “I think, by that ‘hoo,’ she meant to say that she thinks you’re a good guy. I mean, other than the facts that you snore and you have an unhealthy obsession with treacle tarts, she thinks you’re pretty all right.” What did you just say?
Surprised, Harry laughed. “Really?”
Okay, maybe this is good, thought Ginny, allowing herself a small smile, but still not looking at Harry.
“Anything else?” Harry asked. Please don’t stop talking. You’re so funny and brilliant and beautiful and fantastic.
“Well,” said Ginny, raising her eyes back up to Harry’s face. But then she hesitated.
“Hedwig thinks you’re great, but she worries about you, too. She wants you to be okay, and she never wants to be without you, because you’re the best … the best … uh … pet owner,” she finished rather lamely.
Wow, thought Harry, his eyes locked on Ginny’s. “Thanks … Hedwig.” And then he smiled. “But you could really tell all that from one ‘hoo?’”
“It’s all in the pitch and timbre, really.” Ginny felt silly and dizzy and frightened and wonderful all at the same time.
“Cool,” said Harry. He knew he must be grinning rather stupidly, but Ginny didn’t seem to mind.
And then her stomach growled rather loudly.
“Was that Hedwig asking for an owl treat?” Harry said. Oh, bollocks! Why did you have to go and ruin it by saying something so incredibly ridiculous? Face it, you’re a failure at metaphors, Harry Potter.
“Uh, no,” said Ginny, stifling a giggle. “I think I’m just a little hungry. Let’s go back down to supper, shall we?”
“Yeah, all right,” Harry said rather despondently.
But then, before she walked toward the Owlery door, Ginny grabbed him by the hand and laced her fingers through his.
As Hedwig flew back up toward the rafters, Harry briefly wondered if his pet owl could ever soar as high as he felt right at that moment.
* * *
The door to the Owlery clicked shut right before Hedwig landed on her favorite beam.
“Wish they had given me an owl treat,” she said. “It looks like rain tonight. I hate hunting in the rain.”
“It’s not that bad in the grand scheme of things.”
“Yes, I know,” she answered. “Anyway, as I was saying before we were interrupted, nice one with the bluebirds.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I feel so guilty about it, and I’m going to have to do some serious penance.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s not as if the nasty bugger didn’t have it coming to him,” she said, preparing to take off.
“Well, I still don’t think you’re right,” said the Friar, “but happy hunting anyway.”
Author’s note: I stole the “You’re fantastic/I know” exchange from Star Wars (Leia to Han: “I love you.” Han to Leia: “I know.”). I go with what works. ;D