"Wait!" Harry was shouting and running, and sure he was fast, but the dog was faster- Sirius was faster-
This was a perfect example of all that could go wrong with time travel.
He'd forgotten how his escape from the Dursleys during Aunt Marge's visit hadn't only brought him to the Leaky Cauldron. There was that tiny, tiny detail of how exactly he'd called the Knight Bus. He remembered now, of course, seeing a giant dog in the bushes and tripping over the curb. He'd thrown his wand out defensively against the beast and then his magical ride appeared.
But that wasn't just a dog, was it? It had been Sirius the first time too, come to see him in Little Whinging. Why? And why hadn't Harry remembered that? Now, with such a change of events, he was chasing a dog that was (most likely) his escapee Godfather through a crowded park on a Saturday. Did Sirius stick around this time in Little Whinging to watch over Harry? Why was he here, both times? Why did he run?
Even now, Harry wasn't sure what he was going to do about it. He couldn't come out with 'Hey, I know you're innocent!', he knew that, but when he'd seen the giant dog napping in Petunia's hydrangea bushes he'd snuck out some food. He'd been vibrating with excitement, but as he approached, Sirius panicked and bolted. Harry's instincts had him bowling after him.
"S-slow down! I just-" Harry nearly ran right over a toddler and got a shout from its mother on the bench. "Food! I just wanted to give y- "
"Watch it!" The mum hollered after him. He winced but kept going, Black was headed off for the fields. But even as he pushed himself with every breath, he saw a dog leaping and then vanishing, in plain sight.
He jerkily came to a stop, his feet dragging and he bent over, hands on his knees. Some passerby stared, but for the most part the park was hidden by the line of oak trees before the open, untamed fields and hills separating Little Whinging from Gomshall.
Can an Animagus Apparate?
Either way the hulking black dog that had been watching him for some time, was gone.
Ginny was hollering something right back at Percy- they were very prone to fighting since last year- and Ron was trying to study while looking like he'd rather not ever pick up a book again.
Transfiguration was a very systematic, exact magical discipline, working best for the scientifically-inclined mind and as such it is deemed "very hard work" by many and most, including Ron Weasley. But he was sitting in Percy's room, as he and Ginny had it out yet again, reading through his brother's extensive notes collection on Multiplication. He'd come under the pretence of being heavily suggested by Professor McGonagall, his Head of House, and to a lesser extent Hermione Granger, to study to make up for his subpar work in the past two years. He was, after all, intending to take Arithmancy as an elective, which required a greater grasp on Transfiguration work than he currently had.
It'd made things awkward when he'd asked, because Percy was enjoying the power high and mum was scolding him for not already being good enough for Arithmancy- he couldn't imagine what the twins would say when they heard he was camping out in Percy's notes stacks.
And while yes, he was going to take Arithmancy this year, that had nothing to do with why he was reading Percy's O.W.L revisions. The truth of the matter was that some of references in the work he and Harry were exchanging or doing on their own, was a bit more... all encompassing, than their current classwork.
"Ron," Ginny had approached him. "Ron, I've lost my lucky bracelet and Percy won't help me look for it."
"Ask mum to summon it," he said offhandedly, still trying to reason out why factoring the application made the transfiguration less effective in proximity to living beings.
"She can't," Ginny said angrily. "It's spelled against summoning so no one goes and steals it-"
"And now look, you've got and lost it-" Percy started up again.
"I didn't mean to! It was a gift from Aunt Muriel, I can't just forget about it either! Ron!"
He looked up finally. "Hm?"
"Ron, you've got to help me look for it, I think I left it out by the Pond, I was looking for..." her voice lowered and she turned a bit red. "I was looking for sprites."
"The Pond's never had sprites," he said patiently. But for some reason it was heartening that even after her brush with death, Ginny was still as interested in the same little-girl hobbies she'd had as Ron remembered in their first go-around. And looking at her young, young face he was reminded that he was here for his family that didn't make it in the war. What was the point if he wasn't there for them now, in everyday life? "But yeah, Ginny, I can try and help look for it." He stood up.
"Percy, could I just come back to this-" He gestured to the parchment rolls.
"Sure," his brother came over. "Surprising to see someone take initiative around here. But really Ron, you've gotten terribly confused." He looked over the scrolls Ron had been. "This is Transfiguration for O.W.L revision mixed up with the third year... oh my..." And Percy made to rearrange it, but Ron interrupted.
"It's for cross referencing, for a better understanding of certain details. Of um, like transmutation and so on."
"Right, well," Percy had an eyebrow raised. "That's a rather strong study approach. Just don't become too confused by material you can't understand yet." Ron's eye twitched.
"Okay, so, Ginny? By the Pond?" Percy inserted himself once more, once he saw Ron really was going to give in to her demands.
"Mother's in the front garden, I'll come with you two on this... pointless escapade."
Ginny groaned and rolled her eyes, all that arguing with Percy for nothing. He was going to come along now. Ron understood the prat was frustrating but he could see the undercurrent of worry for Ginny now, like he never could before. Maybe he resented Ron... and Harry, just a little, for putting Ginny in danger simply because of who You-Know-Who was and what he wanted.
But Ron understood it a bit.
The Pond was a gross, sludge-like pond, as you may imagine from the name, which sat beyond the gnomes from the dirt hills past the gardens, and close to the grove. It was shadowed over by three enormous oak trees and one maple that turned brilliant purple-red leaves.
On the way there, they traced Ginny's path as well as she remembered, scouting the grass and dirt for the faint glittery sign of a charm bracelet.
It wasn't a long walk to the Pond, not more than five or six minutes, but with the careful looking, it took closer to twenty. "I was lying right here," Ginny said, pointing to the spot where she had been watching for sprites in the tall grass around the water's edge.
"Then you probably lost your bracelet nearby," Ron suggested. He went to walk around the whole rim of the scummy pond and Percy said from behind him sharply, "Ginny! Don't go wandering near the edge of the pond, you'll fall in!"
Ginny gave her big brother an exasperated look. "I'm not a baby!" she said, her face screwing up in upset. "I'm not going to just fall in." And then she looked at the water, and gasped. She pointed excitedly. "There it is, oh, it's just right there!"
Ron was coming over in an instant, followed quickly by Percy. Ginny was edging closer to the water. "It's right there! It's lying in the mud right there!" she was relieved, Ron could tell- and Ron could then see it, a little circlet of gold only partially buried in the muck. He began pulling off his shoes, intending to wade into the pond for it. Ginny was leaning out over the water excitedly, as the bracelet was almost, almost within reach from the shore, and then Ron saw a horrid, ugly face below the surface, just before something green and slimy erupted out of the water and grabbed his sister and dragged her into the pond.
Ginny screamed, but she was cut off almost immediately as the green pond-creature wrapped a scaly arm around her throat. Its other arm was curled around her stomach, and it held her aloft as if she weighed nothing, though itself was not much bigger than Percy.
It had a face like the ugliest rat monkey imaginable, but with scales instead of fur. It had green lips curled back in a ferocious grin, revealing sharp, pointy teeth. The top of its head looked as if a little bowl had been carved into its skull, and water sloshed around in the depression. Dark, glassy eyes regarded Ron and Percy as they both jumped into the water with a splash and advanced on the creature. "Let her go!" Percy shouted shrilly, but he stopped when it squeezed Ginny's throat, making her terrified eyes bulge in her head. She gurgled, trying to breathe.
"Look who came to my pond!" it cackled. "Three naughty children, now who'll be dinner? Mmm, so sweet and juicy!" It did a little hopping dance right there in the water, lifting one webbed foot then the other out of the mud, never taking its eyes off of Ron and Percy, nor letting up in the slightest on its grip on Ginny.
"Let my sister go!" Percy repeated. He was paralysed with fear, but Ron, though his heart was hammering in his chest, was trying to edge just a little closer. The creature was quite aware of his manoeuvring and edged away by the same amount. Ron wondered why it didn't simply back away into the deeper water, and drag Ginny under. It held his sister effortlessly, so it was likely strong enough to hold her down and drown her while they wrestled with it. This was certainly no sprite- and if he knew anything about magical creatures, then they were dealing with a kappa.
A kappa? In England?
"Why are you here? What do you want?" Ron demanded. Nothing like this had happened in the original summer before third year.
The creature cackled again. "Why, I have what I want!" It hissed for good measure. Percy was trembling, Ron saw from the corner of his eye.
"You won't," he said, and noticed that the stupid, stupid bracelet was sitting in the mud between them. He also noticed that as the creature weaved this way and that, anticipating any sudden movements Ron or Percy might make, it was carefully keeping its head level. Of course. Kappa's heads...
"Just one then," the creature replied. "I'll suck out her blood and suck out her marrow, and leave only her insides on her outside." It smacked its lips with relish.
"No!" Percy gulped and looked ready to leap at it, terror making him look years younger.
"You won't mind if I take this, then?" Ron asked, pointing at the bracelet. He knew what to do, he recognised the Kappa's weakness now.
Its fishy eyes narrowed. "No, no, mine, you can't leave beautiful shiny things and take them back, nasty, nasty child! And look what it lured into my pond!"
Ron jerked forward slightly, keeping his eyes locked on the creature's face. It twitched in response to his feint, and the water in the bowl in its head sloshed a little. Its lips peeled back to reveal more teeth. "Leave it, leave it!" Its fingers tightened around Ginny's throat. She made a frightened little squeak, and then only a hiss escaped her. She was wriggling in its grasp, but weakly, and her face was turning purple.
"Ron," Percy hissed. "D-don't make it angry! Look, you can h-have the bracelet- just let my sister go!"
"No, the bracelet's Ginny's," Ron said. He straightened up, slowly, and the creature did too, matching his posture, eying him suspiciously.
"You can't have it! Go away now! The girl is mine, the bracelet is mine, if you stay you'll be mine too!" It hopped up and down, making ripples in the surface of the pond.
Ron lunged for the bracelet. The creature hissed angrily and let go of Ginny with one arm, but it still held her by the neck, while it dived forward to try to snatch the bracelet with its other hand.
Ron abruptly changed direction and tackled it, wrapping his arms around its neck and pulling it even further forward. It screeched as the water in the top of its head spilled out.
"Percy, help me!" he shouted as the monkey-like creature thrashed in his grasp. It was very strong, yet he could feel it weakening with every passing second. It was still strong enough to hold onto Ginny while clawing at Ron's face, though, and he could only spin in place and try to keep his feet standing him up while tilting his head back to keep its claws out of his eyes.
Percy's mouth dropped open, and Ron felt the creature's claws gouge his cheek, and then his brother's paralysis broke and he lunged forward as well, wrapping his arms around its waist.
"Don't let it back in the water!" Ron gasped, while it hissed and thrashed and almost bowled them both over. And it was very hard even for Percy and him together to maintain their grip on the creature. It snapped like a turtle and only Ron's grip around its neck kept it from biting off his ear. It let go of Ginny, who fell into the water with a splash.
"Ginny!" Percy screamed.
"Don't let go!" Ron yelled. "Need to hold it longer!"
The wrestling match between the two Weasleys and the ugly pond-thing only lasted minutes, though it seemed like an eternity to them. The two of them held it aloft like a great big ugly fish flapping and twisting in the air. Ginny rolled over in the water and managed to halfway sit up, but couldn't move as she tried to recover her breath.
Ron felt as if he were going to lose his grip and collapse beneath the creature's weight at any moment, and he knew that if they all went into the water together, it would regain its strength. Its thrashing became weaker and weaker out here, and its hissing tapered off to a piteous mewling sound.
"Let me go!" it pleaded, and Ron snorted.
"Why should we?" He threatened.
"Please, please!" it cried.
"You won't be drowning anyone?" Ron demanded.
"Yes! Yes! Never again!"
"And you won't steal?" He shook it for emphasis.
"I didn't steal! I didn't steal! She left it in my pond!" it protested.
"I dropped Auntie Muriel's bracelet! If something gets dropped by accident it doesn't mean it's yours!" Ginny rasped from the water, struggling to inch for the shore.
"Yes, yes, agreed! You can have it back!" the creature said hastily.
Ron wasn't at all sure the creature was trustworthy. Actually it definitely wasn't, and it was suspicious that a creature matching the depiction of a kappa, a Japanese water demon, was all the way out here in Southern England. He supposed there was no guarantee that it couldn't break its promises, but on the other hand, he and Percy couldn't hold it forever, and they needed to get Ginny out of the water.
"We'll toss it towards the shore, on the count of three, okay?" he said to Percy. He could only swallow hard and nod. Ron counted to three, and then with a heave, they threw it onto the banks of the pond, where it cried out as it landed with a wet thud.
Percy immediately put his arms around Ginny and dragged her out of the water. She was shivering and sobbing incoherently.
Ron bent over to grab the stupid bracelet. As he climbed out of the pond, he saw that the creature was dunking it's head into the water, scooping it into that depression in its head. It hissed and turned around to face them again. There was true malice on its inhuman face. With shocking speed it began to run at them, head perfectly still-
"Stupefy!" Ron shouted, his wand out before he could think it through. The kappa collapsed less than five feet from them and a shivering Ginny. Percy was looking at him with completely wide eyes.
They walked back without talking, tired and wet. They stopped only when they reached the back garden, far out of sight of the pond. Percy finally sat Ginny down, and then sat down himself as his trembling legs gave way beneath him.
"Are you okay, Ginny?" Ron asked. His sister looked awful. Her face was white and she was still coughing up pondwater. She couldn't speak and looked as if she'd been frightened out of her mind. Ron felt bad for her- she shouldn't have to suffer any more than she had, even if this time it had nothing to do with You-Know-Who.
"We got your bracelet," said Ron. She held her hand out wordlessly. Ron instead went to tie it around her wrist.
Fussing didn't encompass his mother's reaction to that day's events. A stuttering Percy retold the tale, and even went as far as to condemn himself for not having brought his wand with.
"Oh, don't be ridiculous," his mum admonished. "A kappa, oh are you sure? Here in St. Catchpole?"
"Y-yes," Percy got out. "Well, Ron realised first... he went to knock its water out of its head... and then of course, when it ran back at us he used the... Stunning Spell."
"Thanks, Ron," Ginny said quietly. Mum had went straight to work warming her up and fixing the bruising on her neck that was already starting to bloom. They would need to get potions prepared, all the same.
"That was some quick thinking, really-" Mum came over to give him a firm kiss on the head. "But wherever did you learn that spell? You've certainly been much more, studious, this summer." Her face crinkled in some odd concern.
"Just, Harry and I..." he trailed off lamely. "Hermione..."
"Speedy spellwork," his mum murmured with such soft eyes. "Rather advanced for you three, that's a spell I'd not learned until my fifth year! But, I would suppose, needs must." And now a rather soulful expression took over his mum's face, as she likely began to worry over why her thirteen year old was learning such difficult spellwork. It was just the sort of look Ron was trying to avoid, really.
"It's not bad to get ahead," Ron said weakly. "Hermione's always saying so, and yeah... with everything going on last year..." Percy nodded absently beside him.
She hugged him. "All the same, don't get used to using magic outside school. The Ministry will write it off as I or your father having cast here at the pond, but no need to tell your brothers that it's anything more than a mishap in the paperwork, that you haven't got a Misuse letter." Ron nodded. Percy showed no outward reaction, and it didn't surprise him that the Prefect already knew this rule.
He lightened the odd mood a bit. "I won't tell them- the first person Fred and George'll jinx is me! Lucky they're out with Lee..." His mum smiled and frowned at the same time. Back to the new mystery at hand- a kappa in Ottery St. Catchpole? What were the chances of such a deadly exception? He thought this to himself, head racing fearfully.
"Percy and Ginny just a moment with Ron, if you will, loves I'll be just back-" and she put an arm around his shoulders and began steering him towards the long sofa out of view. "Ron, I want to say... you've been more quiet this summer. I know, after what happened with Ginny... we've all grown up in some way or another. Don't forget to enjoy your time as well, it isn't always learning this spell or that- oh, don't look at me like that. I know how you've been up in Percy's room all day. He doesn't mind, rather likes the attention I imagine, but you don't have to be saving the world. That's what adults are for- you and Hermione and Harry could do to rely on them a little more. Now, I'm terribly glad you did take action today, but know that you shouldn't always have to- or worse be seeking it out. We're here for you, adults are here for you."
"So you've said," Ron spoke drily. Then more acquiescing, "I know, mum."
"Thank you," she said, with all the love in her heart.
Unfortunately, he wasn't just thirteen years old, and he really did have to be saving the world.
He already saw what the other outcome was.