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.