Chapter 12 : Chapter 12
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On the short walk to the entrance, Ginny quizzed Harry on the type of place it would be. There was no wizarding equivalent, so she had never visited a zoo before. “So let me get this straight… they just keep these muggle animals in cages to… look at them?”
“Precisely.” Harry replied, smiling as he bobbed Teddy up and down in his arms with every step. “Just remember this one rule: don’t annoy me in the reptile house.”
She laughed, throwing her head back so that her bright orange hair streamed out behind her. She seemed to be doing less of that lately, and Harry was glad to see that side of her return. “Do you think you’ll still be able to do it, though? Speak parseltongue, I mean.”
Harry had never really considered it. “I dunno… we’ll have to check.”
They rounded the final corner and saw in front of them the full glory of London Zoo. The entrance was thronged with visitors, all holding shrieking children close to them, parents clinging desperately to their children’s winter jackets. Ginny looked faintly repulsed. “Aren’t muggle children ghastly?”
Harry laughed, leading her to the ticket booth. A rather warty looking woman glared at them from behind the glass, handing over three tickets in exchange for the crumpled muggle money note that Harry passed her.
When they finally got through the teeming swarm of muggles, they found themselves in a large open space with a map of the site standing tall in front of them. They walked up to it, Harry pointing out each of the enclosures to Teddy, asking him where he wanted to go. In response, Teddy giggled, and wiggled his arms above his head. Harry bounced him up and down, provoking more and more giggles until the baby burst out into wild, uncontrollable laughter, baring his pink gums, showing the few teeth that had begun to emerge.
They decided to make a circuit, Harry holding Teddy above him on his shoulders, Ginny walking more slowly behind them. They saw the gorillas first, Teddy leaning out as far as he could, trying to reach the massive creatures with their deep black fur that looked so inviting to touch. They passed the other primates, then the herbivores, then the big cats. At the penguin enclosure, Harry sat Teddy on the wall overlooking the sunken watery arena. Holding on to the baby tightly with one arm, Harry pointed out all of the little birds, giving them names and trying to imitate the honking noise that they made.
Ginny looked at them, Harry holding on to that tiny little boy, talking in his ear, sliding his tiny hat further onto his head. The baby looked ecstatic, his cheeks flushed with the cold, but his little mittened hands waving at the animals below him, making little squeaking sounds of delight. A smile reached her lips, but her mind was far away. The scene before her brought her a trace of sadness, and she couldn’t quite put her finger on why. Harry snapped her out of her reverie, asking, “So, where to next?”
Ginny shrugged. “Let’s just carry on on the path.” Harry beamed, bouncing Teddy up and down as he walked along.
They came to a large forested enclosure. The ground was covered in pine needles shed from the trees that lay scattered around. Pinecones littered the floor, and in the middle of the enclosure lay ten wolves. Most were lying down, watching as their breath turned to ghosts in the cold autumn air. A few were pacing around their cage, wide eyes boring into their onlookers, grey coats gleaming in the pale light.
Teddy fell silent for the first time that day. He opened his eyes so wide that they matched those of a wolf who was now pacing towards them. The two stared at each other, kept apart by the restrictive barriers of the cage and Harry’s arms. The wolf tilted its head to one side, as if asking Teddy something. The baby responded in turn, cocking his own head and opening and closing his mouth a few times.
Their stare was broken only by Teddy’s occasional blink, and Harry sat down on the bench facing the enclosure, propping the baby up on lis lap. He still did not break the shared look.
Teddy waved his arm at the wolf, who in response pawed the ground gently with its paw. The animal let out a low yelp: loud, but still calm, gentle. The baby replied with a soft, sad cry, as if calling out for someone who he didn’t quite remember, but still missed. Harry kissed the top of his hat-covered head, and stayed sitting on the bench.
Teddy stayed the most still Harry had ever seen him. After a long while of sitting, Harry noticed that the baby had fallen asleep. He carefully bundled him up in his arms, trying not to wake him. He stood up, and with one last look at the wolf, he turned away. As he walked away, Harry heard a long, low howl. He held the baby tight, and Teddy did not awake from his slumber.
On the way to the exit, Harry tried to walk smoothly so as not to jerk the sleeping baby too much. They were about to leave, but then Harry caught sight of the reptile house. He nudged Ginny, and they went inside. It was filled with dim green light, and in each little glass box there was a motionless snake. Harry slowly made his way through the room, pausing at each cage. He finally reached the boa constrictor. He put a hand on the handrail, noticing how it was at his waist, where last time he was here he could rest his armpits on it with his arms dangling over the other side.
Inside the glass tank was a massive coiled snake. It was brown, with diamond-shaped markings all over its smooth body. It was awake, and looked up at him without raising its head, as if it were slightly bored. Harry cleared his throat, and made a low gurgling noise. The snake payed no attention. He tried again, louder this time, but to no effect. After one more unsuccessful attempt, he gave up. As they walked out of the house, he was quiet. He felt as though he had lost some part of him, a part that he hated, but still a part that made him whole. Ginny linked her arm around his, and he felt a little more complete.
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