You-Know-Who lives in my head rent free by PrincesseFelicie
Summary:

Cette fic est écrite en Anglais.

 

L'influence du journal sur Ginny s'était ancrée trop profondément dans son âme. Au lieu de mourir, percé par le croc du Basilic qu'il avait éveillé, Tom Jedusor avait réussi à prendre refuge dans l'esprit de la jeune fille dont il avait pris possession lors des neuf mois derniers.

Ginny s'est rapidement rendue compte que Vous-Savez-Qui, le pire sorcier noir de Grande-Bretagne, meurtrier sans retenue, visage de la suprémacie du sang pur, si horrible qu'il est interdit de prononcer son nom, est bien moins dangereux en tant que fantôme adolescent et colérique dont elle est seule à pouvoir le voir.

Très honnêtement, ses préoccupations étaient bien plus terre-à-terre: comment pouvait-elle réconcilier son coup de coeur sur Le Survivant, quand celui-ci semblait maintenant préférer le titre de Survivante...?


Categories: Linny (Ginny/Luna), Hinny (Harry/Ginny), Huna (Harry/Luna) Characters: Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter, Tom Jedusor/Voldemort, Luna Lovegood
Genres: Comédie/Humour, Femslash/Yuri, Romance/Amour
Langue: Anglais
Warnings: Aucun
Challenges: Aucun
Series: Aucun
Chapters: 3 Completed: Non Word count: 12560 Read: 327 Published: 30/04/2022 Updated: 02/05/2022
Story Notes:

Cette fanfic est également disponible sur Ao3 sous le même nom. Toute traduction en français est bienvenue, sous condition de me garder au courant!

 

1. Ghostly Possession by PrincesseFelicie

2. Say please and thank you, too by PrincesseFelicie

3. So when do we get to the fun stuff by PrincesseFelicie

Ghostly Possession by PrincesseFelicie

Ginny's first year at Hogwarts was supposed to be great.

Between finally getting her brothers to stop treating her like a kid, exploring her own gift for magic, and finally spending time with the living legend that happened to be her brother Ron's best friend, this first year of school looked to be everything she had ever wanted. She'd even been lucky enough to hit it off with a girl her age, Luna Lovegood, who she'd chatted with on the entire trip from London to Hogwarts' Great Hall! Luna, coincidentally, lived not too far from the Burrow herself, but they had never met until now.

Then everything after that slowly became more and more of a blur.

Ginny had found a blank diary in her pile of school books. Nonplussed, she'd decided to take it for herself, and use it as her own private diary. Her troubles truly began when the words disappeared, and the diary replied back.

It was amazing, at first. A book that talked! To her! Magic was amazing! She had gained a confidant, a counselor, a friend. He called himself Tom. Tom knew a lot about Hogwarts’ curriculum, and his helpful advice helped her get excellent grades in class (when he wasn’t busy calling out Lockhart for the fraud he was, at least). She had casually mentioned her friend Luna, and immediately, Tom demanded, begged that Ginny not mention him to Luna. She’d found it a bit odd, but had left it at that. Everyone was allowed to be a bit shy. She herself certainly was, when around Harry Potter, after all.

Things grew worse, slowly, too slowly to notice. She’d started to feel under the weather, but she was sure it was just homesickness. She often found herself zoning out for minutes at a time — clearly, she had underestimated the workload and needed to sleep earlier! It was nothing to worry about. Yes, nothing at all…

Until Halloween day. That was when she’d heard a strange voice for the first time. It was more like a whisper, serpentine, swaying. Her body no longer responded to her. She lost consciousness, and when next she awoke — she screamed, for on the wall in front of her hung a petrified cat and a message written in blood. She stared at her bloodied hands and fled before anyone arrived.

Time seemed to shrivel and disappear from underneath her. She would finish the day’s classes, blink, and find herself the next morning, the bell ringing as she was late for the first period. She started to feel too tired to do anything. Sleep was restless, her memory would fail out for hours at a time; she was lucky to keep up with class thanks to Tom’s excellent advice.

Tom, as it turned out, was a former student at Hogwarts. He showed her his memories of his time there. He was a misunderstood boy, apparently, a model student, yet also a troublemaker in his own right.

And then a first year boy was petrified. Colin, she heard through the grapevine, was his name. And another, Justin. Weeks apart, supposedly — but it had all gone in the blink of an eye to her. The apparitions of the book grew stronger. The voice was back, and with it came a presence. Tom was using her, manifesting himself by using her. She tried to rid herself of the diary, but when she found out it had fallen into Harry’s hands, she panicked and took it back.

Hermione had suffered for her folly. And everything went black for Ginny.

 

Damp. Wherever she was, it was damp. The air was clammy, and the stench that came with it was unbearable. She heard a scream, and felt something cold penetrate her. She shot her head up, her eyes opening suddenly; she gasped for air.

Harry was lying at her feet, writhing in pain. That didn’t stop him from smiling when he saw her. “Ginny… Thank god you’re alive.”

“Harry, oh my god! What is happening to you!?” She leaned over him, holding his head in her hands. He pointed at a gash on his arm, spewing out something green. In his hand was a fang, and next to it, the diary, pierced all the way through, and lying in a puddle of the same liquid coming out of Harry’s arm. She sighed in relief at seeing it gone, and jumped back as she noticed the corpse of a gigantic snake not too far away. “What is this!?”

“Basilisk…” Harry struggled to say. “Killed it,” he grunted, growing paler by the second. “I’m just glad you’re safe,” he added.

“Harry…!” Ginny worried. Why was he saying this? Was he dying!? He was dying, and all he cared about was that she was alive!? Harry, you… You idiot! She had very complicated feelings about all this, and none of the words to explain them.

A screech rang through the air, and her thoughts were interrupted by a bird, red as autumn leaves, coming to roost on Harry’s chest. It started shedding tears, slowly trickling down its beak and onto Harry’s arm. With a sizzling sound, the sludge washed away and his wound closed. Ginny had never seen anything like this before, but breathed a sigh of relief. It was Harry’s turn to get up on his knees, using Ginny’s shoulder to help heft himself up. She threw himself at his neck, hugging him tight. “Thank you… I’m so sorry… I’m so sorry…”

“What for?” he replied, all relief and smiles.

“The diary!” With the adrenaline slowly leaving her veins, tiredness overtook her once more, and she struggled to cohesively voice her apology. “I didn’t — I just found it in my stuff, and it started… I don’t really remember… I tried to get rid of it, but… I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what it made me do. I’m sorry for Hermione…”

“It’s fine.” Harry ruffled her hair. “Let’s get out of here, shall we?”

 

After helping each other walk to a strange shaft, and being lifted up and away by the phoenix (who Harry had told her was named Fawkes), they landed safely in Myrtle’s bathroom. Immediately, adults were upon them, and they were escorted to the hospital wing. Ginny’s whole family (minus the two eldest siblings) was here, and she so wanted to explain everything to all of them — but the moment her head hit the pillow, she was out like a light.

Ginny woke up in the middle of the night. After finally getting a modicum of rest, her bodily functions were catching up to her: her stomach was growling. She looked around her bed and found a sandwich and a glass of water on her nightstand. She wasn’t sure how long it had sat on there, but biting into it, she pleasantly discovered it had been enchanted to remain fresh and slightly warm. For the first time in months, she rediscovered the taste of good food. What little glimpses of half remembered meals she’d had over the past year were utterly tasteless, not due to any fault on Hogwarts’ cooks, but due to her own survival instincts tuning out any sensations besides shoveling food into her mouth. The nightmare was finally over, she thought, relieved. It was all behind her now.

She glanced at the rest of the hospital wing around her. All the petrified students had been cured, and were now sleeping soundly. Her parents had been graciously lent beds next to hers, and Harry occupied the one in front of hers. Everybody was safe and accounted for.

And then she felt something churn in her stomach. A ghostly hand clawed out of her midriff, followed by an arm sporting the green and black robes of the Slytherin uniform. Ginny recoiled back, bumping her back against the metallic headboard. Inexorably, an older teenager pulled himself out of her body, his hair brushed to the side in an old-timey cut. “Of all the things it could’ve come to…” he muttered, grunting. “Humiliating! I see now why that boy is giving my older self this much trouble!”

“…Tom!?” Ginny whispered as loud as a whisper could go, shocked. She had never seen the boy behind the diary before, but wasn’t exactly at risk of guessing wrong when there was no other option.

Tom turned himself around, floating a foot  or so above the bed. “Oh, well, well, well…” He grinned maliciously. “I suppose you must be the Ginny I have so much to thank for. Now, if you would be so kind as to…” He paddled backwards a little, and readied a stance. “…GIVE ME YOUR BODY!” He propelled himself forward, shooting down straight at her head.

Ginny didn’t have the time to dodge out of the way. A searing pain overtook her forehead, and everything went black.

She tentatively opened an eye and let out the breath she was holding in. Her head still hurt, and in front of her, the ghostly Tom held his own, muttering in pain as he rolled in the air. Undeterred, he tried again, and Ginny caught his approach with her hands, stopping him dead in his tracks. He pushed and pushed, but promptly gave up on that approach. “Hmm. Well, clearly my powers must be limited in this form… I can’t take you over quite yet. No matter! I have all the time in the world to whittle you down if I need to.” He turned around, scanning the room.

Ginny’s heart was thumping. This entire time, the dark wizard Tom who had possessed her was just… some random teenager? He was older than her, sure, but not by that much. He looked about the same age as Percy. Thoughts were racing in her head. She wanted to say something, but wasn’t sure where to start. Especially since, well, young boy or not, he was still a dark wizard, and a danger to her. “Why are you doing this? Who are you?”

“Well, that is simple. I want to live, and for that, I need you to give me your body,” he answered nonchalantly. “As for your second question, has nobody told you yet?”

“I… kind of fell asleep the moment I got out of those sewers.” She wasn’t sure why he was answering truthfully, but she might as well play along while he was cooperative.

“Well, young Ginny, you have in front of you the man who is destined to become Britain’s most famous wizard! The man who shall purge wizardry of all the unworthy! My name may be Tom Marvolo Riddle, but the world shall know me as Lord Voldemort!” He launched into a sinister laugh.

Her sweat ran cold. Not any random teenager, after all.

As he winded down from his boasting, he took notice of the boy in the bed on the other side. “Oh… there he is. Potter…” He grinned, approaching slowly. “I’m afraid that without my wand, I will need to get a little more… personal.”

“No!” Ginny jumped out of bed. She grabbed him by the ankles and futilely tried to pull him away. Her heels dragged against the floor as he positioned himself above his arch enemy.

“Your tale ends now!” He lunged at Harry with his hands, intent on strangling him. They passed right through him. Confused, Voldemort looked at his hands, and tried again to slash and swipe at the sleeping boy. Ginny let go of him. His anger rising, he tried to grab the flowerpot on Harry’s nightstand, to no avail. “AAAAAAARGH!” he shouted. Ginny covered her ears, but surprisingly, the scream didn’t wake anyone up.

They both realized she was the only one who could perceive him.

A beat passed. Voldemort slowly turned back to Ginny, looking aghast. “No, no, no… There must be… Ginny, as my subject, I order you to murder that little twerp!”

“No???” She was more confused than anything at this point. Was that all he could do? Demand that she act in his stead? Not a chance. Should she be worried about this? Watching him continue to impotently jab at Harry was certainly helping her feel relieved. This was a situation, sure, but no longer an emergency. With a sigh, she sat back on her bed and pinched the bridge of her nose.

Who should she talk to about this…?

 

Despite you-know-who’s noisy rage, Ginny managed to tune it out enough to fall back asleep. When she awoke the next day, she wondered for just a moment if she had dreamed it all, until the Slytherin boy manifested his presence once more, appearing in a similar fashion to last night’s. He seemed to be silent, either calculating something or brooding. Ginny wasn’t sure there was a difference.

She didn’t have the time to get out of bed before being tackled into a bear hug by her mom. ”Good morning, my sweet, beautiful, little girl… Oh, I was so worried, Ginny…”

Ginny smiled, returning the hug. “Thanks, Mom. I’m sorry.” Out of the corner of her eye, Tom rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. She elected to ignore him for now. “Where’s everyone else?”

“Well, your father had to go back to the ministry already. He’s happy to know you’re safe, you know him,” her mom said. Ginny smiled; she was well aware of her dad’s trouble with communicating his affection. Him showing up had been message enough, accounting for that. “Ron, Percy and the twins went to eat breakfast with everyone else, I think. The head nurse said she needed to talk to you before you could go.” Molly hugged her daughter again. “Oh, my sweet, baby girl…”

“Mom!” Ginny giggled. “I’m fine, I’m not eight anymore.”

“I know, I know! When I received the call from Dumbledore I was terrified.” Molly let go, caressing her daughter’s cheek. “Of course I thought you’d make it through, but just the possibility of losing you…”

Ginny bit her lip, and threw a glance at the ghostly boy floating behind her mom. She didn’t want to make her worry. “I won’t scare you again like that. I promise.”

“Urgh, if I could catch whoever gave you that blasted book… Not even Azkaban would protect them from my fury! Anyways.” Molly delicately placed a kiss on her daughter’s forehead, getting up. “Stay safe, sweetpea. Be sure to call me if you’re ever in trouble again, alright? No more keeping things to yourself.”

Ginny let out a nervous chuckle, rubbing the back of her neck. “…Sure, Mom. Love you.”

The Weasley matriarch trotted out, relief visible on her face.

“Well, aren’t you the definition of a picture perfect, happy family,” Tom spat, venom in his voice, as he glided towards her. “I will take great pleasure in tearing it apart when I take you over.”

He talked a big game, but Ginny hoped his threat was empty. “Just leave me alone. How are you even still in me? Wasn’t your diary destroyed?”

“Thanks to our deep connection, I was able to rebind myself to you at the last second,” Tom snarled. “In that sense, I suppose I must thank you. If you hadn’t been this devoted to our… friendship, that fang would’ve been the end of me. Let us make sure Potter believes so, hmm?”

Ginny’s eyes narrowed. Yes, maybe she had been a bit overeager and too trusting of Tom, back when she thought he was just an innocent book. That was part of why she struggled to think of him as you-know-who — even if hindsight showed that this ‘friendship’ had been completely self-interested on his end. Of course, the whole possessing thing still happened, and as well as he had hid it from her to gain her trust, Tom was still another of those pure-blood puritan types. She had to remain firm. “I’m not working for you nor with you.”

“We will see how long you keep on with that tone,” Tom said, crossing his arms. “Whether you like it or not, you will become the second coming of lord Voldemort if I so need.”

Their conversation was interrupted by Ginny noticing Madam Pomfrey approaching. She quickly switched to pretending she wasn’t talking with anyone floating in front of her face just now. Once more, Tom slithered a meter or so back, observing the scene from above. “Ah, Ginny Weasley,” the good matron stated as she arrived by her bed, “feeling better this morning, I hope?”

Ginny silently nodded.

“Good, good. We’ll perform a quick checkup and make sure all is in order, and if it is, I’ll let you go.” Madam Pomfrey opened the drawer on Ginny’s bedside table and pulled out a medical sheet and a pencil. “Have you noticed anything unusual, by any chance?”

“Errr…” Ginny turned her eyes to Tom. When he noticed she did, he started shaking his head disapprovingly. That was about all the confirmation she needed. “I can still see him.”

“You little…” Tom muttered through gritted teeth.

Pomfrey’s pencil-scratching stopped. “See who?”

“The diary, it belonged to, uh… you-know-who.” She pointed right at him. “I can see him, right there. He’s… young, about sixteen I think. Wearing a Slytherin uniform.”

Madam Pomfrey’s eyes darted around his area, fruitlessly searching for him. Then, she resumed writing. “I’ll call Dumbledore here immediately. He wanted to talk to you regardless, but that sounds important.” She stepped across the room and left, trotting as fast as her legs would allow.

“So this is how it’s going to be, huh?” Tom arched an eyebrow, floating to her eye level. “Very well, have fun trying to get rid of me. You’re in for disappointment, little girl.”

Ginny let out a sigh. She got out of bed, closed the privacy curtain, and contemplated her change of clothes. She wasn’t sure how comfortable she felt changing while he was around. It was making her feel exposed. But either he would be dealt with soon and that would no longer be a problem, or… the faster she got over that feeling, the better. “I suppose this isn’t worth asking, but could you please turn around?”

“Bah.” Tom threw his hand to the air and moved to the other side of the curtain.

As she started getting undressed, it took a moment for Ginny to properly register what had happened. She turned her head just enough to glance in his direction, then quickly finished changing her clothes.

She opened the curtain and saw Dumbledore approaching at his own pace, following behind Madam Pomfrey. “Ah, a pleasure it is to see you up and about, Ginevra. I hope I find you in better health this morning,” the headmaster said in his meticulous, mellow voice as they closed the distance.

“Hello, professor!” Ginny greeted quickly.

“I was given quite the peculiar news from Madam Pomfrey.” With a wide movement of his arm, he pointed towards the door of the hospital wing. “Maybe we would be more at ease discussing it in private?”

 

Dumbledore’s office was quite lived-in. With knick-knacks and baubles littering the shelves and reducing the available floor space, Ginny was immediately reminded of the Burrow. All that was missing was the smell of grass, and she would almost struggle to believe she was still in Hogwarts. The headmaster invited her to sit down in front of his desk, and he himself took his place on an ornate, cushioned chair. He opened a drawer and pulled out a hexagonal box. “Chocolate frog?” he offered.

“Ah… I’m fine, thank you,” Ginny replied.

Dumbledore tilted his head in acknowledgement and picked out a single blue and gold carton. The magical candy didn’t wait a second and jumped out of sight as soon as he opened it. “Ah… Well, I do suppose I should be avoiding sugary treats at my age, anyhow.” He placed his wizard card on the table, then placed the box of unopened frogs back where he found it.

Tom floated by his side, scowling. “How unsurprised I am that you haven’t changed, old man.”

The headmaster, following Ginny’s gaze, turned his head right towards the ghost. Tom looked taken aback. “If I am to understand, Ginevra, you are being… troubled by a certain spirit, is that right?”

“Y-yes, professor. He said his name was Tom… Marvel Riddle, or something like that.”

“Marvolo,” Tom corrected her.

“Marvolo,” she repeated. “And, uh… that would also be you-know-who.”

“I am aware of the nickname he has chosen for himself, yes.” Dumbledore removed his glasses, and started cleaning them in his sleeve. “Voldemort… One of my finest, most brilliant students. One of my most troubled, too.”

Tom’s anger flared. “Don’t you DARE speak of me this way!”

“Now, now… I didn’t mean it against you.” Ginny wondered if Dumbledore had heard him, or simply expected his reaction. “If anything, allow this old coot to take the blame. There are many things I didn’t do right by you, Tom. It is one of my biggest regrets as your professor. If only I had tried harder to convince Armando — the previous headmaster,” he clarified for Ginny, “to take you out of that orphanage earlier… If you are so inclined to accept an apology from an old man, I am truly, sincerely sorry.”

Dumbledore professing sympathy for you-know-who was not an idea that had ever crossed Ginny’s mind until now. It seemed utterly alien to her. Voldemort had murdered countless, including Harry’s parents… She supposed she saw the wisdom in it, in a way, but couldn’t disagree more. Surely, there was a limit to how much one could be forgiven? Was Tom just one of Dumbledore’s blind spots? The private history of these two men was obviously not public knowledge, and Ginny wasn’t sure how to feel about this glimpse she was getting.

Tom was fuming, circling around Dumbledore’s head and shouting. “How… dare you insult me this way, Albus!? Treat me like a failure!! I became more powerful than you ever will be!!”

“Ginevra.” Dumbledore turned back to the student in front of him. “How much do you know about horcruxes?”

Tom slowed down, grumbling. “I should’ve expected you to be on my tracks.”

Ginny shook her head. “I don’t know what those are.”

The expression on Dumbledore’s face turned grim. “Dark magic. Terrible dark magic. It is a means of cheating death that requires one to… through remorseless murder, split their soul in half, and infuse the shard in an item that is precious to oneself… or a person. It is a self-inflicted curse, dooming oneself to an incomplete existence. Voldemort, in his folly, experimented with going further. He created five separate horcruxes, each time splitting in two what fraction of his soul he still carried with him. The Voldemort you know… is a shadow of the passionate young boy I once met.”

Ginny stared directly at Tom, and thought for a second. “Is… is he?”

“A fragment of Voldemort’s soul, yes,” Dumbledore continued to explain. “I would wager the diary was Tom’s first horcrux, and that would make him the biggest surviving shard of his soul. And I am afraid that, until all horcruxes are dealt with, it is impossible to truly kill Voldemort for good.”

“My horcruxes, accomplishing their intended purpose…” Tom gloated. “Well done, future me.”

“Why can I see him, professor?” Ginny asked.

“Ah… Well, Ginevra…” Dumbledore paused, searching for the right words for half a second.“I believe in the aftermath of the diary’s destruction, Tom used the connection you had with it to make you into his new horcrux of residence.”

Ginny’s heart sank immediately.

Tom laughed. His laugh turned maniacal. And then, sinister. “Well done, Albus! Truly well done,” he said, sarcastically clapping. “Will you sacrifice your own student to drive me away for good? Or will you be forced to see me stay alive for as long as she does?”

“I would never, never ask any of my students to die for the supposed sake of the greater good.” Dumbledore said. Already, Tom took on a triumphant expression. “But… it would be premature to assume nothing can be done about this situation. Can I ask something of you, Ginevra?”

Tom’s gloating suddenly stopped. “Have you lost your mind in your old age, Albus? There is nothing anyone can do against this, bar sacrificing the poor innocent Gryffindor girl.”

“Do I even have a choice?” Ginny asked. If there was anything she could do to avoid resigning herself to this fate…

“Well, considering it is in everyone’s best interests… I suppose you do not have a choice, the same way that one wouldn’t have a choice to offer shelter from a blizzard to a shivering stranger. It is not a sign of lack of agency, but of kindness and bravery, to not see a choice in this situation.” Dumbledore settled his elbows on his chair’s armrests, and weaved the fingers of his hands together. He smiled angelically, radiating warm-heartedness. “I wish for you to extend a lenient, friendly hand to Tom Riddle.”

“What?” Ginny and Tom replied simultaneously.

With the same smile on his face, Dumbledore spoke up once more. “While it may be far too late to save Dark Lord Voldemort, scourge of England’s magical world, from his self-inflicted misery; while he must be put a stop to by any means necessary… I firmly believe Tom Marvolo Riddle, brilliant student of mine, was never destined to turn out this way. If he will so take my offer, I wish for you to provide him a second chance at growing as a person, atoning for his terrible deeds, and washing away the antiquated beliefs he learned out of fear and hatred.”

Ginny blinked slowly, stunned.

“I understand that this is a lot to ask of you. If you would humor the foolhardiness of an old man…” he added. “If things had been different, if Tom had been given the proper environment to thrive in, if he had not been left to suffer… That is what I’m asking of you. To right this wrong.”

“I… I’m not sure if I can,” Ginny muttered, “this is Vol— you-know-who we’re talking about…”

Dumbledore nodded, uncrossing his hands. The moment was gone. “I understand. I will drop the subject, and search if there is a way to extract him out of you, then.”

Ginny stumbled on her words. “Thanks, huh… professor.”

Dumbledore opened his drawer again, pulling out his box of chocolate frogs. Taking one, and opening the box more carefully this time, he was able to snatch the candy before it could escape. He looked at it between his fingers for a moment. “…Now, go enjoy breakfast while you still can, Ginevra. I will tell your professor you might be a bit late — or you can even take the day to rest, if you wish. If you cross paths with Harry, might you tell him to come see me again? I am starting to realize I have been repeating an old mistake.”

“Sure.” Ginny stood up, her brain still mulling this conversation over. She headed for the door. “Good day, Professor Dumbledore.”

“Good day to you too, Ginevra,” Dumbledore replied, before setting the frog free.

As she closed the door, she found herself face to face with a scowling Tom Riddle. “Don’t even think about listening to this… senile maniac. I will break you apart if you get in my way. Understood?”

She pushed him aside and walked down the spiral staircase.

 

Say please and thank you, too by PrincesseFelicie

Ginny traversed the corridors of Hogwarts to the sounds of morning classes hushed by the school’s aging doors. She rushed past as silently as she could, intent on not disturbing lectures, and crossed no one’s path but a late Ravenclaw kid, with whom Ginny barely avoided a head-on collision with. “Sorry!”

“Urgh!” Tom grumbled, his eyes narrowing in the direction the student had gone in. “This is MY soon-to-be body right there, would it kill them to avoid damaging it!?”

Ginny knew the smart thing to do was not to respond, but something about the slight hurt a bit too much. She couldn’t help herself. “You’re not getting my body, ever. Stop treating it like it’s yours.”

Tom brushed her off. “But it is mine. We might have to… coexist, for now, but if you get damaged or crippled, that would impact me too. So treat my body with a modicum of respect.”

“You’re insufferable,” Ginny growled. “I don’t care if Dumbledore could see you, I will never be your friend.”

“See me…?” Tom threw his head back, laughing. “If his idea of eye contact is staring at my knee the entire time! He’s a magician by all senses of the word, and that includes con artist.”

Ginny’s opinion of Dumbledore mostly contradicted his. Still, if the headmaster hadn’t actually been able to see Tom… “Does that mean he simply guessed your side of the conversation, then?”

Tom paused for a second, seemingly considering something. Finally, with an irritated look on his face, he answered. “Yes. He did.”

Maybe Dumbledore understood Tom that well, then? Maybe there was some sliver of truth in what he’d said. Ginny wasn’t enthused by that idea.

 

She arrived at the Great Hall after some more walking. The already gigantic room had taken titanesque airs now, with the sound of cutlery struggling to fill it.

And, right in the middle of the room, Harry was still slowly making his way through his breakfast, accompanied not by Ron and Hermione, surprisingly, but Luna, sitting across from him at the Gryffindor table.

Ginny promptly hid by the door, suddenly feeling nervous about talking to Harry. Oh god, not only was he already turning her stomach into a lepidopterarium by being handsome and brave, he’d also saved her life, now! How could she ever just… strike up a conversation with someone like him? Sure, she’d done it in those sewers, but there was no adrenaline to carry her through this time…

Tom looked down at her, shaking his head disapprovingly. Oh, he can shut it, Ginny thought.

“…there’s also Goblins,” Luna’s voice reverberated in the empty Great Hall, Ginny catching the tail end of a conversation. “They don’t really do gender in private. They only dress up for humans’ convenience.”

“…Huh. So all the accountants at Gringotts?” Harry asked, his voice openly displaying his interest.

“Probably their higher-ups asked them to all be men,” Luna continued to explain. “It’s nonsense to them either way, so they judge silently and joke about it in the staff room.”

Ginny wondered why Harry would be into that specific topic; it sounded pretty boring to her. But maybe she would be listening too if she’d been raised like a muggle.

Focusing back on her own situation for a moment… What was she supposed to do? ‘Hi, Harry, your parents’ murderer lives in my head now! He’s a sixteen year old with an attitude! This is totally not awkward!’ she imagined herself saying, and for all of the reasons in the world, immediately came to the conclusion she shouldn’t; at the very least as long as it wasn’t certain whether this was a permanent arrangement.

Her stomach let out a growl. She hadn’t eaten since her midnight snack, and the Great Hall was right there. Tom let out a sigh. “Of all the people who my diary could’ve been handed to, here I am having to herd a first year child into feeding herself.” He grabbed her hand before she could react and pulled her out into the doorway. She stumbled on her feet for a split second, and her eyes made contact with Harry’s and Luna’s. She gasped.

“Hi Ginny!” Harry called happily. “Is everything alright?” His eyebrow arched, observing her run for the Slytherin table.

She tugged her hand free of Tom’s grasp and tried to save face by correcting course to sit next to them, her cheeks burning hot. “S-sorry, I think I’m still a bit out of it.”

Luna, who was slumped over the table, gave Ginny her signature relaxed smile. “No problem. Heya.”

A new set of Hogwarts’ brunch menu magically appeared in front of Ginny, complete with tableware. She reached for the eggs and bacon and put them on her plate, poured herself a glass of apple juice — keeping her hands busy helped calm her down. “I… didn’t know you two hung out together.” She paused. “Wait, shouldn’t you be in class, Luna?”

“Yeah,” Luna unaffectedly replied. “Thought waiting for you was more important. You’re my friend and all.”

Ginny felt touched by the gesture, even if she wasn’t sure how to feel about the skipping classes part.

“Actually, it’s my first time talking to her,” Harry admitted. “Hermione insisted she didn’t want to miss any more class time, Ron went with her because she could barely walk straight… And I think the other petrified kids ran to their common rooms the moment they finished their breakfast, so that left us behind. Luna moved to my table, we chatted it up…” His expression turned pensive. “She knows a lot of interesting stuff.”

“It’s nice to have someone that likes hearing me talk,” Luna said. Ginny was never fully sure how to interpret her tone.

For a short moment, Ginny had forgotten about Tom’s presence, but was unfortunately reminded when she caught a glimpse of him floating in circles around Harry, phasing through the table like a common ghost. He was scrutinizing him, silently searching for his next move.

Harry, oblivious to his nemesis staring him in the face, placed his cutlery on his empty plate and got up, stretching his arms. “On that note, I’m going to head to class; spending time with my friends is my idea of a day off. It was nice talking with you, Luna! See you around, Ginny.”

Ginny breathed a sigh of relief as her crush left the table. She remembered the message she had to deliver just in the nick of time, calling at him before he was out of earshot. “Ah — Also! Dumbledore said you have to go see him when you have the time!”

“Huh, again? Thanks.” As he turned once more and his robe loosely followed his movements, she was surprised to notice, as she caught a glimpse at his shoes, that he was only wearing one sock.

As she turned back to her meal, Ginny was taken aback by the cacophony of Tom and Luna attempting to talk to her at the same time. She grimaced at the noise, her hand jumping to cover her left ear. “I’m sorry, what were you saying, Luna?”

Luna tilted her head, while Tom took a step back and let her go first. “You look in pain. What happened?”

“Nothing, nothing,” Ginny said before thinking. As her brain caught up to the opportunity before her, she considered for a moment whether she could mention Tom to Luna. Ultimately, she decided against it for now — while the risk of awkwardness was almost none with Luna compared to Harry, Ginny still preferred to wait and see if something could be done about it first. She focused back on her plate and cut off a piece of meat. “Some fly or something must’ve flown by my ear.”

“That would sound loud at that distance, yes.” Luna scooted back on her seat, and started swinging her legs. “Harry is nice. I like them. You have a crush on them, I think.”

Ginny froze, her forkful of bacon standing an inch from her mouth. “No, I don’t!” she defensively replied, reddening by the second.

“Oh? I thought you looked like you did,” Luna said, taking Ginny at her word.

With a sigh, Ginny finally bit down on her food and shrank a little into her seat. “Sorry, I thought you’d — I didn’t mean that literally. I do have a little crush on him, I guess…”

At that, Luna perked up. “I understand! I’ve heard lots of people in our year do.”

Ginny grimaced at her friend’s unintended blow. “I guess that makes sense…” Competition… It had to come with the territory of him being that kind of celebrity, she supposed. She started to feel inadequate — there were so many intimidatingly pretty girls in her year, in Harry’s, even, and in years above, and she was just Ginny. If any of them tried to seduce him, it would probably work; meanwhile she was just a girl with a puppy crush. “There go my chances, I guess,” she muttered. Not that she was much helped by the brain-ghost she exchanged a glance with at this moment, who answered by rolling his eyes.

“It depends,” Luna said, swinging her head left and right. “I don’t think many people will be open-minded enough.”

“What do you mean?” Ginny asked.

“Harry is a little special. Wait, no…” Luna corrected herself. “ I think Harry is a little special.”

Ginny couldn’t help but smile as she shook her head. “That’s kind of an understatement…” Not many people could claim to have bested Voldemort twice… Hell, thrice now… Two and a half? Well, Tom’s plan had at least been foiled, even if he was unexpectedly hanging on. That counted as a three, honestly.

As Luna zoned out, Ginny took it as an opportunity to focus on her food before it grew cold. She started digging in in earnest, but silently growled as she was interrupted by Tom. “Is the girl talk over? Might I come in?” he demanded, voice dripping with sarcasm.

Ginny elected not to dignify this with a reply, chewing her food.

Undeterred, Tom spoke up again. “You have a strange friend, Gryffindor girl. Not quite all there. Probably dreams of nonsense creatures, doesn’t she?”

Is that what you think of her!?, Ginny thought, honestly disgusted. Sure, Luna wasn’t quite like most people, but what kind of person would interpret people like her that way? Nevermind, she had a pretty good idea. Started with R, ended in G… Revolting.

“You could be keeping better company, you know. I could offer you so much more,” Tom whispered into her ear. “All it would take is to work for me, and you wouldn’t have to spend your time with… the underprivileged.”

Ginny was starting to see a pattern of it always being correct to believe the opposite of anything Tom said. Still, she wanted to grimace. She had no doubt in her mind that that kind of offer was exactly how he had earned his first followers… Never had it stared her this blatantly in the face just what it took to be a Death Eater. She decided to counter his resolve with her own, and spoke up, doing her best to address her reply to both Luna and Tom. “I really like hanging out with you, Luna. I wouldn’t trade it even for the world.” She looked at him a bit smugly, feeling proud of that one.

“Hmm?” Luna perked up and Ginny quickly turned back to her. “Thanks.”

Tom grimaced, crossing his arms. “Message received.”

Ginny started getting up as she downed the rest of her glass in a single gulp before slamming it back down on the table. “We should get to class.”

Luna stayed put. “You could take the day off.”

“I feel like I’ve missed enough of the year as is… My memory’s kind of all fuzzy,” Ginny admitted.

“Sorry to hear that. Let’s, then.” Luna followed Ginny’s movement, and the two girls headed out of the Great Hall, with Tom right by the latter’s shoulder.

“If it is magical prowess that you desire, I can also help with that,” he offered, apparently undeterred to try to convert Ginny to his cause.

 

Most of the day consisted of Ginny hugging walls and walking ahead of the pack of first years she was a part of. The attention wasn’t something she was interested in receiving, especially now that moments of welcome solitude were looking to become rarer than ever. Of course that wasn’t to say she hadn’t been subjected to her share of curious queries and prying glances, but most people stepped away before getting to any follow up questions. Maybe people were being considerate, or maybe some unspoken threat to house points kept them in line.

At the end of the day, some of the upcoming challenges of this situation dawned on her. While students were using her free time to hang around the castle grounds or to prepare for the exams at the library, she once again rushed, this time, to the Gryffindor tower. And yet another complication came as she stared, unsure what to make of it, at the stairs of the Gryffindor tower that lead to the girl quarters.

She raised up a foot and hovered it above the first step, which immediately began to wobble in uncertainty. She removed her foot, and the stairs regained their stability. She lifted it up once more… And, well, she got the picture.

Somehow, the strange anti-boy enchantment on the stairs was picking up on Tom’s presence.

“Who would ever install such nonsense?” Tom exclaimed after Ginny shared with him her findings. On that, unfortunately, she had to agree with Teen-Voldemort, at the cost of a sick taste in her mouth. “Gryffindors,” he continued beratingly.

Ginny peeked around the corner of the staircase’s pillar, and grimaced, thinking ahead. “That’s not the only problem, too. Even if we manage to get up, I wouldn’t want you having access to the girls’ dorm.”

Tom grumbled out a reply. “Quite… insulting, to assume I would be interested in prepubescent first graders, but I am not fond of that option either.”

Defeated, Ginny sat at the bottom of the stairs to the girls’ dorm for a second, hanging on the landing that split the path into two. As much as she could feel the enchantment quiver in confusion, it at least wasn’t throwing her off. That would be a good sign, but it only led back to her second concern.

“We have to come up with a solution. I want my body well rested,” Tom said, looking pensive.

Unable to find anything that didn’t involve giving up and sleeping in the hospital wing, Ginny’s thoughts drifted to her visit to Dumbledore's office again. They had intermittently done so all day, but now that she was done with the school schedule, she was finally given a moment to actually process them. Helping Tom… Well, he certainly had shown her the depth of his awfulness, and she had never understood the drive, in stories she had attempted to read from her mom’s romance collection, of women who threw themselves over backwards trying to ‘fix’ a man. Yet in this instance, Dumbledore seemed so convinced it was possible… Dumbledore, Britain’s most powerful and renowned wizard, saw in Tom Marvolo Riddle, saw in Lord Voldemort … a hurt orphan. “Dumbledore said you lived in an orphanage? Was it that bad?” Ginny asked, before her brain made one more connection. “Is that why you care about keeping my body healthy this much?”

Tom stared at her, looking hurt and angry. “I will not comment on that. Not to mention you should know already, I told you about it while I was sealed in my diary.”

“Yeah, well, whose fault is it that I don’t remember most of our conversations,” Ginny snapped back. She started hearing some noise in the common room below, other students had come in. She poked her head above the railing and looked down. She recognized the distinctive Weasley hair of her brothers Fred and George, who quickly noticed her back, and climbed upstairs to come see her.

“We had a feeling we would find you there. Is our little sister holding up okay?” Fred asked.

“I’m not sure, Fred, she does look quite grumpy,” George observed. “But grumpy is lively! An improvement over the last few months, don’t you think?”

Ginny gave them a small smile. “Thanks, guys. Yeah, I’m doing better. I think I might go back to the hospital wing, though… I’m still feeling a bit, uh…”

“Wobbly?” George said.

“Shaken?” Fred added.

“Confused, maybe?”

“Her choice of seating seems to agree.”

Ginny stood up immediately, her breath catching in her throat. “It’s — I can explain—”

Fred placed his hand on her shoulder. “Hey. Look at us. It’s fine, alright? You have our full support.”

“These stairs have always been weird,” George whispered conspiratorially. “We were just a year above you when we first ran into the same issue.”

Whatever confusion Ginny felt at Fred’s words was quickly replaced by exasperation at George’s. “You tried getting up the girls’ staircase?”

George shrugged, a smirk on his face. “You know us, we can’t resist a good challenge.”

“We wouldn’t have tried if there hadn’t been one!” Fred added.

“Aaah,” Ginny cooed. Now it made sense. “Wait… So what issue did you guys run into?”

Fred and George looked at one another and nodded, before turning back to Ginny. “Well, the same as you, right?” Fred asked.

“It approves of women, but sends men tumbling down?” George completed the thought.

Ginny caught a glance of Tom’s quickly souring face. She immediately understood why as Harry popped by, who seemingly was heading to his own dorm. He swerved towards the three of them, though, a smile on his face — Ginny shrunk back behind her brothers, feeling shy. “Oh, Fred, George, Ginny! Did you hear the news yet? I’m gonna live in Hogwarts for the summer! No more Dursleys for me!”

“Wow!” Fred exclaimed. “That is good news!”

“I’ve wondered why you lived there since last summer, if I’m honest,” George said, referring back to what Dad now called the First Flying Car Incident (he’d been very mad about the scratches, but it was nothing compared to when it was totalled by Ron).

The two twins turned their heads to each other for a second, and with a twinkle of mischief in their eyes, Fred spoke up. “Oh, Harry! Want to learn how to get up the girls’ stairs?”

Ginny fidgeted and blushed. How dare they trick her into having to spend even more time with Harry? Wasn’t her anxious heart battered enough? At least she was silently grateful that this specific idea was not likely to grab Harry’s interest…

Or so she thought, yet Harry froze on the spot. He turned his head back towards Fred and George, before glancing at Ginny. “I… can’t imagine that’s a good idea. It’d be weird if I knew how, right?” His tone sounded shaky, like he was trying to convince himself.

“It’s much more innocent than you’d expect, really,” George said.

Fred walked up a couple steps, which didn’t waste any time sliding him back down. “Hmm, George, I’m afraid we’re a little too much brother to get up.”

“Sounds like we need to be sisters, then!” With a shrug and a smile, George passed by Fred and started walking up… and up… and at no point did any form of alarm kick in. Ginny stared a little confused, and Harry did too in admiration.

Tom shook his head, grunting. “This is all an incredible waste of my time.”

“Okay, how did you do that?” Harry asked, grinning.

“It’s quite simple!” Fred said.

Just as suddenly, the steps beneath George’s feet gave way, but he rode the slide down unsurprised. “All you need is to think of yourself as a woman like you mean it.” The twins bumped fists and turned back to their audience. “Easy to switch to and from, isn’t it?”

Fred slid behind Harry and pushed him ahead. “Give it a try, won’t you?”

“Ah, uh…” Harry stared at the stairs, lost in a daze. Tentatively he gave it a try, and found the steps disrobing under his feet. Surprisingly, he seemed undeterred, and continued his attempts.

George slid by Ginny and whispered in her ear. “Hey. If I can be serious for a minute. I can imagine what it must be like to grow up to be the only girl with a bunch of brothers. It’s why you had trouble with the stairs just now, right?”

Ginny’s expression went blank as she realized the nature of this ‘intervention’. This had all been one giant misunderstanding. “Haha. Yes. Totally,” she answered in a monotone. She couldn’t imagine telling them the truth here and now. Not while Harry was within earshot at least, as distracted as he was.

He held her by the shoulder and hugged her tight for a second, still whispering. “Ginny, you’re the best sister we’ve ever had. You don’t have to fear that you’re not enough of a woman, alright?”

“Thank you,” she replied nervously, as if that had been anywhere in the ballpark of concerns she’d genuinely had.

“I…” Harry stood a little way up the staircase. “I did it. Wow, I am… wow.”

“Surprising, isn’t it?” Fred said to him, before exchanging a glance with George, who silently confirmed they were done here.

Harry climbed back down one step at a time, and smiled at the Weasleys. Then his expression shifted to something a bit more embarrassed. “Ah, sorry, I came here to grab some books from my room originally… If you’ll excuse me.” And just like that, he weaved past the twins and headed up the boys’ stairs.

“I, uh, need to go to my room too. I’m still kind of tired and everything.” Ginny slunk back from her brothers with too wide a grin. “See you around, right?”

George nodded. “Talk to us anytime, Ginny.”

“Anytime!” Fred emphasized. “You know we mean it!”

Ginny scuttered up the wobbling stairs as quickly as she could, climbing to her dorm with Tom in tow.

 

Ginny slammed the door of her room closed with her whole body, and headed to slump on her bed with a sigh of relief. Once her head hit her pillow, she groaned into it, letting the tension in her whole body dissipate.

“Gryffindor girl,” Tom called out for her attention. Seeing no reply, he repeated himself a bit more loudly. “Gryffindor girl.”

“Go away, Tom…” Ginny muttered, her voice completely muffled.

Tom thought for a moment, and headed away from her as far as he could. He didn’t even reach halfway through the room before some magical force progressively stopped any further progress. With an exaggerated shrug, he swung back, floating towards her with his hands behind his head. “I suppose it was worth trying at some point.”

Ginny agreed it really, really was. If only it had actually worked.

With a frown, Tom floated back to the ground and sat on the bed next to her. “Listen. It is becoming increasingly obvious that, whether either of us likes it or not, we seem to be forced into a… cooperative arrangement,” he spat out. “This is the closest I have ever gotten to existence, since my ‘creation’ fifty years ago.”

“Cry me a river, Voldemort,” Ginny replied, not moving an inch.

Tom chuckled in a way that sounded a bit too fake. “Oh, so this little girl can snap back, good to know. My point was that, like it or not, we are… at a stalemate, of sorts. You are unhappy with this situation, I am unhappy with this situation… And needless to say, if it ever escalates… War shall mean annihilation of us both.”

An image of Tom pushing her down some stairs to a potentially lethal fall passed through her mind, and she grimaced, both at the thought, and at knowing he very much had had the same.

“My death wouldn’t help me,” he continued, “Nor would sacrificing myself to take down a single Hogwarts first year help the version of me that still exists out there. I have told you — I want control over your body. Damaging it would go against my interests. Considering these conditions, I believe I must offer a pre-emptive truce.”

Ginny poked her face out of her pillow, wearily glancing at him. “…What are you scheming?”

Tom splayed his hands out, raising them up to his face. “Nothing!”

This sounded like an obvious lie coming from someone that had threatened to ‘tear her family apart’ earlier in the day. Obviously, there was something he would be getting out of this deal that he wasn’t telling… at best. “I’m not asking Dumbledore to stop looking for a way to remove you.”

“Knowing the old coot, he already knows it can’t be done. Don’t expect him to waste his too precious time for you,” he said in a sneering tone. “And that was not what I had in mind anyway. I meant that if you won’t be hostile to my presence, I won’t be to yours. Beginning with tolerating my presence in this room, hmm? We clearly cannot get away from one another, but if I want my body well cared for, I need you to sleep in your own bed. I do not want you to use my existence as an excuse not to. So our goals, in the very short term, align.”

Ginny was no gullible fool. Everything about this screamed extremely suspicious, quadruply so from this one exact individual. Tom was no stranger to deception; she had observed it first hand for the past year after all. Yet there were a few buts. First came Tom’s strange selective honesty. His kind of lying came more from omission. He very much kept a lot to himself, but what he did say seemed (for the most part) truthful. Notably and for example, he could’ve easily lied about his childhood… It was strange that he had offered that information himself.

Secondly, and she sighed as she thought about it, this kind of truce would be the perfect opportunity to enact Dumbledore’s request. Not that she’d want to be his friend exactly, but keeping tabs on him, giving him ‘the proper environment to thrive in’… She felt a growing headache at the thought, but that was as close to a preventive action as she could take. Nothing about keeping things as they were promised anything good ahead. She might as well steer them in a direction she agreed with.

And thirdly… Living in a space between courage and foolhardiness was the Gryffindor value of honesty at all costs. She was morally beholden to at least give it a chance, to try. She could always pull out at the first sign of trouble.

“Okay… Fine. But I’m closing my curtains and you’re to stay within them. It’s one thing that I’ll let you in here, but I can’t speak for my dormmates.” And she didn’t want to tell them about Tom yet. She’d finally decided that if anyone had to know, it could wait until the start of the next year. There were only a few weeks left, and Summer would give her plenty of time to plan things out. “And you need to stop calling me ‘Gryffindor girl’. My name is Ginny.”

Tom and Ginny stared for a long time at one another, until he tentatively reached a hand out. Ginny did the same, and they shook on it, both parties various degrees of begrudging. “Very well. Thank you for your cooperation, Ginny.”

It couldn’t be a mistake if she was aware she had to stay vigilant, right?

So when do we get to the fun stuff by PrincesseFelicie

It was with this uneasy alliance in place that Ginny’s first year at Hogwarts winded down.

Tom had offered to help her through her end of year exams, and she had promptly refused; indebting herself to him seemed the polar opposite of what she would call a good idea… not to mention the distinct impression that using the evil ghost in her brain’s knowledge surely counted as some form of cheating. Sadly, that particular concern ended up going moot — as she planned to double her studying efforts, it turned out that Tom was a surprisingly effective teacher, who eagerly offered a more morally sensible sort of help she felt she no longer had a good excuse to refuse. The boy knew a lot about magic’s many disciplines, and not all of it seemed to be exclusively booksmarts. Begrudgingly, Ginny felt that an unspoken moral debt towards Tom was inevitable.

All up until the exams were suddenly cancelled. For everyone.

To say that she was puzzled would be an understatement.

With the rest of her year ending in more relaxed terms, she spent most of her days enjoying Luna’s company, one of the few people unknowingly capable of keeping Tom at bay. There was so little about her he could even tolerate that he would end up completely disinterested with their conversations, content to float away and spy on literally anything else within the vicinity of his sphere of existence. Ginny had no idea how she would ever be able to repay her friend. She would stare at the ceiling of her dorm for hours every night thinking of the right gesture or the right gift to translate her gratitude, recalling on loop what she knew about Luna’s likes and dislikes. What did you give someone who didn’t want anything more than your company? The thought of somehow disappointing Luna made her wince so much.

 

Finally, the day of departure arrived. In the morning, as she was packing her belongings, she was surprised to find her dormitory visited by the head of Gryffindor House, Professor McGonagall. The stern-looking woman had gently knocked on the door, then gestured to the other girls in the room to keep at their preparations. “Weasley, would you have a moment?”

“Oh… Sure,” Ginny replied. She dropped her folded sweater back on her bed, then headed out of the bedroom, Tom slithering behind her as usual.

“If you would please follow me,” McGonagall ordered. They walked out of the Gryffindor tower, and after a walk that would only ever be called short in the massive corridors of Hogwarts, Ginny was brought to a small office on the first floor. It was nothing like the homely mess that was Dumbledore’s — this one was orderly and neat, the only element that could’ve been called messy being a fresh-looking pile of parchment on the desk that an enchanted feather was carefully signing one page at a time. Off to the side, next to a few decorative baubles, was a small green book titled Possessions and Poltergeists: How to Cohabit With Another, written by one Miranda Fontom — a name Ginny recognized from a wizard card as the most haunted witch of all time. McGonagall motioned at a chair for Ginny to sit on, then took place on her own, adjusting her reading glasses as she looked at her quill’s handiwork. “I would like to apologise for this last minute meeting; this whole Chamber of Secrets business requires a complete report to the Ministry, and paperwork isn’t quite Dumbledore’s… Well, I’ve been in charge of documenting everything, so I couldn’t fit you into my schedule until now.”

“Do I need to testify? Is that why I’m here?” Ginny asked. She wasn’t sure she would be of help if that was the case, what with being unconscious for most of it.

McGonagall waved away her question. “Do not worry about this, Miss Weasley, we would rather students your age rest undisturbed from traumatic experiences like this one. What I needed to talk to you about was…” McGonagall went silent, placed her documents back down, then gently leaned, looking Ginny straight in the eyes. “Dumbledore informed me about your situation,” she said, speaking as neutrally as she could.

Tom snickered. “A ‘situation’, am I now?”

“Regard— Regarding having become you-know-who’s—” Ginny paused for half a second to remember the word the headmaster had used, ”horcrux?”

Professor McGonagall’s eyes went wide. “Is that…? By Merlin’s great grey beard, that is even worse than I’d been told,” she muttered. Taking a long, deep breath, she spoke once more. “Speaking to you as an adult to a child, I am truly, deeply sorry, for what you are going through. That is a horrifying prospect.”

‘Is it really that bad?’ Ginny thought. She already knew it sucked, sure, but going off her teacher’s reaction, she felt as if she didn’t know the full extent of it yet.

Then, taking back on her dignified attitude, McGonagall continued. “And speaking to you as your Head of House, I must apologise once again that harm came to you within the walls of Hogwarts,” her hand unconsciously shifted towards the book on her desk, “and I need to know if there is anything that we can accommodate for next year.”

As Ginny started to think about it, Tom immediately spoke. “Easy. We need a bedroom just for ourselves. It’ll stop you being fussy.”

Ginny held her tongue in over how black this pot was calling her kettle. “Hmm, I don’t know…“ she muttered, considering it. She was worried people would wonder why the preferential treatment, why the isolation. She still didn’t feel ready to open up to anyone about this yet. “Just… pretend everything is normal, for now, please. Don’t tell anyone else.”

“As you wish Miss Weasley, though if your feelings on the matter change, know you can come to me anytime.” The professor turned her attention back to her papers. “You may go back to your room, then. Make sure not to forget any of your belongings, lest they spend the summer here.”

Ginny got up and headed for the door, when a thought stopped her in her tracks. “Actually, could something be done about the enchantment on the stairs, at least? They keep trying to throw me off because of Tom…”

McGonagall slowly tilted her head up, her eyebrow arching. She looked as if she had two questions on her mind, but settled to ask just the one. “What enchantment?”

“The one, uh, about making boys slide off the girls’ staircase?” Ginny replied.

“Oh, that safety hazard? We certainly had our own share of complaints about that back in my time as a student; I made sure to dispel it the moment I became head of Gryffindor.” The professor got up, grabbing her wand. “I take it that the stairs are enchanted again?”

Ginny nodded her head, somewhat surprised by how well that went.

At that, her professor passed her by, marching out of her office at a vigorous pace. “PEEVES!” McGonagall’s shout bellowed across the grounds, echoing far and away.

 

With her suitcase packed, Ginny descended down to Hogsmeade’s train station, where the Hogwarts Express was already taking in students.

“Fifty years later and they’re still using this old steam engine…” Tom pondered aloud.  “Who even is in charge of its maintenance?” He had often expressed the feeling that Hogwarts was already stuck in the past back in his time, and only growing more and more outdated now.

Ginny just wished he would stop ruining the magic of her dream education.

She saw, a little ways away, her brother Ron, Hermione and Harry exchanging words. And hugging too, a lot, with smiles plastered on their faces. If they were any worse for wear, they weren’t showing it.

Tom stared at Ron from afar, squinting his eyes a little bit. “Your family really does have a distinctive resemblance. Must be a strong, pure-blooded line, am I wrong?”

Ginny shook her head. He was technically correct, but very much wrong in thinking it mattered a bit. “Blood doesn’t make the wizard.”

Tom tutted. “Squandering your gift it is, then. You could be so much more, if you didn’t waste your time with the riff raff.”

And that was as much of him as she could take at once. Very much intent on putting an end to this exhausting conversation, Ginny resumed walking towards her brother and his friends.

“You’ve gotta tell us how Hogwarts is in the summer,” Ron said to Harry excitedly. “Bet it must feel like a proper castle when there aren't classes going on everywhere!”

Hermione nodded in agreement, biting her lower lip. “I’m so jealous… I’d do anything to get two months all to myself with the library! The perfect holiday if you ask me…”

Ron rolled his eyes, and Harry giggled before replying. “I think Hagrid has already enlisted me to help around the castle grounds.”

“He does have his own definition of what’s fun, at times…” Hermione fretted.

“Urgh, don’t talk to me about manual labour right now,” Ron grumbled, his shoulders slumping. “Mom’s already put me on de-gnoming duty all summer after the whole car stuff…”

“Labour? After the Dursleys, anything Hagrid could throw at me I’ll enjoy for sure in comparison.” Harry was the first to notice Ginny, smiling at her brightly. Her heart did a little leap, and she hoped her cheeks weren’t growing too red. “Hi, Ginny!”

“Potter,” Tom sneered, to an audience of no one but himself.

“Hi,” Ginny replied weakly. Why did Harry have to be so charming? Why did he have to be so handsome?

Ron stared at his sister silently, until Hermione bumped his shoulder. “Ginny…” He looked as if he wanted to say something, but ended up letting out a simple “Hey.”

Hermione sighed, and took over for him. “How are you feeling?”

Ginny didn’t know how to respond to this question. She was fine, kind of, but was she really? She apparently had a ticking time bomb strapped to her hip. And Hermione, of all people, was the one asking? “How are you feeling?” She sent the question back at her. “You were petrified for months… because of me. Because I touched a diary I shouldn’t have… I could’ve been more wary, more careful, and I just…”

“Ginny, none of this was your fault,” Hermione retorted, her eyes full of compassion. “If I’m being honest, I probably would’ve fallen for it too.”

“Books are the perfect Hermione trap,” Ron interjected, getting a chuckle from Harry and a glare from the girl in question. “Come on, it’s true!”

“It is…” Hermione eventually conceded with a sigh. “Anyway, you did nothing wrong, Ginny. All this… this was all on Voldemort. Well, a Voldemort, as I’ve been told.”

“Tom Riddle…” Harry’s fists tensed and balled up, an intense gaze showing up on his face. “…is gone. For good.”

Ginny struggled to keep from looking at her feet.

“Oooh, goosebumps. Haven’t had those in… Well, before the diary, for sure,” Tom said, grinning meanly. He floated in circles around Harry, coiling around him. “You will wish you had seen the last of me, Potter.”

 

Hagrid proclaimed the last all aboard warning before departure, and that left very little time for a quick hug and promises of owl-flown letters between Harry, Ron and Hermione. The latter two and Ginny scrambled into the nearest carriage and waved Harry away, the door closing and locking behind them.

As the train began to move, the repetitive ka-chunk of its wheels providing a pleasant background rumble, Hermione turned to Ginny. “Three weeks.”

“Hm?”

“You said I was petrified for months, but it was only three weeks, at least for me,” Hermione said.

Huh. Ginny’s sense of time really had been destroyed while under Tom’s control. “I don’t know if that makes me feel better…”

“It’s a silver lining, at least…” Hermione said with a shrug. “It went in the blink of an eye for me. It was no different from being asleep, really.”

“I guess that’s less horrifying…” Ginny stated, a little white lie to make the conversation move on.

The three of them settled into the last empty compartment and threw their hand luggage onto the overheads. Four of them? After everyone corporeal was seated, Tom tentatively took the seat opposite Ginny's, looking as if he worried he would phase right through. When that didn’t seem to happen, he nodded just a little, crossed his arms and legs, and made himself comfortable. “Well, goodbye for now, Hogwarts. May I continue your purge next year,” he grinned evilly.

Ginny had no doubt that Tom’s comments were intent on grinding her down piece by piece. For now, she thought all she could do was take it with the resolve of a Gryffindor, lest she make a scene she couldn’t explain.

 

They were joined a few minutes later by Fred and George, who unknowingly sat on top of Tom, forcing him to find a new free seat by Ginny’s side. With the Dark Lord outnumbered one to five, a cheerier ambiance quickly developed. After a couple too many questions that hindered the mood, it was decided that Hogwarts matters were to stay in Hogwarts, and the Weasleys started talking out their plans for the summer, while Hermione ‘caught up on some light reading’ (“Light?” Ron had interjected with a glance at the thick, numbered tome).

“The good news is, with Ron tending to the gnomes, the garden is going to be in tip-top shape,” George said.

“And thanks to the aforementioned sibling being grounded, we might have a spare broom to put to use this summer…” Fred bounced his eyebrows a couple times, a sly smile matching his twin’s.

Ginny gasped. “You’re really gonna let me fly with you guys?”

Fred nodded. “We were thinking of a complimentary course in Quidditch, even.”

“The most important class on the school curriculum, it is,” George added playfully.

“Hold on a second,” Ron butted in, “you can’t just lend out my broom without my permission.”

“Were you planning to refuse, little brother?” George asked.

Ron looked as if he wanted to object at first, but he bit his tongue almost as fast. “It’s not that,” he said, sounding almost dejected.

“Sport of brutes…” Tom muttered his opinion to himself.

The lively conversation grinded to a halt as trouble saw fit to find them. On the other side of the compartment’s inner windows, three raucous figures stopped by the door, exchanged muffled snickers, and tore it open, revealing the Slytherin uniforms they were still wearing.

“Well well well,” the plummy voice of one Draco Malfoy resonated through the carriage, “we’ve got the Potter’s whole array of lackeys. Abandoned by your little master, have you been? Did he finally decide you weren’t good enough for him?”

“Leave us alone, Malfoy…” Hermione exhaled, dropping her book on her lap. “You don’t have your dad’s governor status to hide behind anymore. Don’t think the school will hesitate to expel you the next time you do something bad. So unless you want me to report you to Professor McGonagall, you’ll leave me and my friends alone.”

“Hah! Like they would get rid of natural talent. Not something you would be accustomed to, Mudblood.” Draco took a malignant pleasure drawing his words out with a grin. His henchmen snickered behind him. “Enjoy your last moments of fame. Once the next school year starts and Potter gets tired of you, nobody will even remember an unremarkable little girl named Granger exists.” Despite his words, the boy grimaced and threw one last defiant glance before taking his leave, Crabbe and Goyle tailing behind him, as he muttered about mud, blood, muddy blood, and many in-betweens.

Hermione let out her breath, her eyes still boring into the corridor for a moment. The twins made a show of switching seats to each of her sides, playing supportive bodyguards.

“Kind of unlike him to give up this fast…” Ron said, his leg twitching. He had been about ready to jump to his best friend’s defence when Draco had instead just left.

“He tried not to show it, but my warning cooled him off,” Hermione explained. “School governor or not, I still don’t think we could get him expelled. Professor Snape would never let it happen. But that doesn’t mean Malfoy wanted to put it to the test this fast… He’ll probably lie low for the summer, at least.”

Ginny let out a sigh of relief. She hadn’t run into her big brother’s bully since that time at Flourish and Blotts, and she hoped she wouldn’t have to again any time soon.

“Malfoy, Malfoy, Malfoy…” Tom muttered to himself, looking pensive. “...The grandchild of Abraxas, then? Now that is a strong, pure blooded family. And loyal to myself, that is excellent news. You would do well to follow his example, Ginny.”

“Not a chance,” she replied.

“Hmm?” Ron turned his attention to his sister.

Ginny shook her head. “Sorry, just… thinking to myself.”

Ron shrugged. “Draco can be pretty scary, but Hermione is usually right with these things…”

 

Despite Tom’s best efforts to bring down the mood, the group of Gryffindors spent the rest of the trip to London talking, laughing, playing, and enjoying each other’s company. They set off what was left of Fred and George’s stock of Filibuster fireworks before Mom would get a chance to confiscate it, cursed each other with harmless jinxes, got a few rounds of Exploding Snap in, and Ginny gossiped about Percy and Penelope Clearwater with the twins, who absorbed the information with the attention they gave only to their most mischievous pranks.

Finally, the sight of platform nine and three-quarters made its awaited appearance, and Hermione and the Weasleys stepped off the Hogwarts express eager to breathe the Londonian air.

Both sets of parents were already waiting for them. While the twins took a detour to catch Percy and Ron reluctantly followed them, Ginny walked over to hers, dragging her luggage with her.

“There’s our daughter— oh, let me take that off you!” Her father, Arthur Weasley, rushed in by her side. He was wearing his muggle disguise: a bright white shirt with ‘I [heart] London’ stamped on it, under his usual coat and tie. As he kneeled to grab her suitcase, he whispered to her conspiratorially. “The whole hullabaloo aside, how was your time at the ol’ Hogwarts?” He asked, before quickly adding “Your Mom doesn’t like me calling it that, but if you’d know about the stuff that goes on at the Ministry, a cursed book is pretty small fries.”

“Small—!? I am the greatest wizard that has ever lived!” Tom, ever present, protested.

“It was okay, I guess…” It was hard to tell, with how little she remembered of it. A non-committal answer just ended up slipping out before she could think about it.

“Ah, well, I hope you got some rest in the last weeks, right?” Arthur winked. “Couldn’t have had you nose deep in a pile of books in those circumstances.”

Ginny gasped, understanding coming to her fast. “...Dad? Did you…? The exams?”

“You know how it goes, Cornelius owes me a favour, Dumbledore owes one to Cornelius… Don’t tell a soul.” Arthur gave another quick wink before standing back up, ruffling Ginny’s hair into a mess, and heading for the trolleys the parents had brought to the platform.

Well, at least it wasn’t hard to get who the twins took after.

Tom shook his head dismissively. “Shady government, shady school. All so happy to bend the rules…” Reluctantly Ginny could see his point, but surely the circumstances had justified it?

A properly ribbed Percy, as well as Fred, George and Ron reunited with them, they said their goodbyes to the Grangers, and unanimously elected to cure their homesickness as fast as they could.

 

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