Trouble Brewing 1/4
Disclaimer: This story is a work of fanfiction based on the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. No material profit is intended or expected, and no infringement or offense is meant.
Note: This story is a sequel to "Who We Are" and will make somewhat more sense in that context.
by Alan Sauer and Persephone
Ginny Weasley had never expected Professor Snape to stop being the worst thing about Potions.
She had, perhaps foolishly, been hoping for a comparatively uneventful second year. Things had been going very well up to a point.
Frankly, after Charlie's dragons and the twins' leaving nearly every small and relatively harmless creature traditionally expected to frighten young maidens in her bed at some point or another, she felt herself to be reasonably well prepared.
There had been no brawls in the course of shopping for school supplies, and no one untoward had handled her textbooks.
And then, during dinner on the first night back at Hogwarts, He Who Must Not Be Named had attacked the school. Ginny wasn't quite sure of the details of what had gone on -- being short, she hadn't gotten to one of the windows in the Great Hall in time. Many of the older Gryffindors had seen, and the common room had buzzed with talk that night -- not all of it terribly clear or consistent.
Harry Potter had somehow turned You-Know-Who into a young boy. You-Know-Who had turned himself into a boy as some sort of trap, which had either backfired severely or succeeded beyond wildest imagining since the boy was now in Hogwarts. You-Know-Who had Summoned a boy from somewhere who then joined Harry in attacking and killing him. Harry had made some sort of anti-Dark Wizard that made their enemy disappear when the professors couldn't do a thing.
Harry himself had been fine all through dinner, then suddenly so very sleepy that he nearly fell down entering the common room and promptly stumbled up to bed. Ginny, therefore, despite a certain uneasy sense of foreboding, remained uncertain as to what exactly had gone on other than that it involved Harry's defeat of You-Know-Who(again) and possibly a new student she hadn't seen.
She learned more than she wanted to the next day, when her first class was double Potions with the Slytherins and Snape seated a horribly familiar new student next to her.
"Tom Riddle." Already at her desk, dipping her quill into ink to label her notes for the day, Ginny froze for a moment as Snape pronounced the name and then forced herself to look up at the professor... and at the boy who had just come through the door.
Black hair. Fair skin. Green eyes. When she had first seen the "friend" who had written back from the diary, she had thought he looked a little as if Harry had grown up and learned to comb his hair. He was cuter with it messy, if heroes were supposed to be cute....
But the features weren't Harry's, and the last time she had seen them, they had faded from her vision as all colors drained to grey and then to black, as her life had drained out of her. She had thought she was dying.
She had been.
Tom Riddle. He Who Must Not Be Named before anyone had feared his name.
Harry must have turned him back into a boy. But, she thought a bit hysterically, couldn't he have made him any other age?
"Why don't you sit..." Snape's eyes roved the room and fell on the empty spot beside Ginny. She swallowed and wished wholeheartedly that she had made more friends last year, or failing that, that she had suggested to someone on the train or in the dormitory that they sit together in Potions. Professor Snape was smiling. "By Miss Weasley."
"Um, hallo," Tom said as he sat down. He managed half of a smile before it died in the face of Ginny's ashen stare. "I'm, ah, Tom."
"I know," Ginny said faintly. "That is -- I heard." He didn't sound the same... but he did. Feeling as if her mind had gone half-numb, she reached quickly to clear a few sheets of her parchment out of his way, and knocked over her ink-bottle.
"Erk. Um. I'll get that," Tom said, blotting the spilled ink with his handkerchief. "You can borrow my ink if you want."
Ginny flinched and righted the bottle as the puddle tried to escape the edge of the desk. "N-no. Thank you."
There was an awkward silence, and then Snape began lecturing on the virtues of Preservative Potion.
Ginny dipped her quill into what ink was left in the bottle and began trying to take notes. She squeezed her eyes shut after the first sentence she wrote, quill held trembling in the air, then opened them before Snape could turn and ask if she'd gone to sleep. The words were still there, still her writing. As they should be.
Between shaking hands and trying to conserve ink, however, her notes became increasingly hard to read even when she could pay attention to the lecture.
The line after she caught an accidental glimpse of Tom Riddle's notes was completely illegible.
"Psst," Tom whispered, "we're supposed to be getting our cauldrons out now. Are you all right?"
No. Not with him there. Ginny shook her head, then said, "Yes," and dug for her cauldron.
"Um... all right... could you pass the nettle oil then?"
Ginny set the cauldron down more forcefully than she'd intended, then picked up the bottle he'd asked for and tried to put it hurriedly on his half of the desk. When he reached to take it out of her hand, the smooth glass slipped from her fingers and dropped onto the desk, the oil slopping from around the loosened stopper.
"Ack!" Tom grabbed for the bottle, but only succeeded in splashing nettle oil all over his arm. It was highly concentrated, and angry red boils sprang up from his fingertips to his elbow within seconds.
Snape swooped in almost immediately. "Five points from Gryffindor for clumsiness, Miss Weasley. Mr. Riddle, you are excused to the hospital wing."
"It's not that bad, Professor, really --"
"Hospital wing, Riddle. Now."
Ginny thought she should apologize if she could only untie her tongue; she tried to say that she was sorry, but she couldn't even hear her own voice.
She did manage to set the bottle upright, grabbing it with a cloth that was supposed to have been used for something else. She didn't suppose it mattered; most of the nettle oil was useless now anyway.
"What was that, Weasley?" Snape's voice was menacing.
Ginny swallowed, desperately trying to get her voice back. "I said... that I was sorry." It was audible, even if it quavered. "To... Tom," she added. Professor Snape would probably have a comment about that, too, but at least he couldn't say she seemed to think apologizing to him would do her any good.
"Perhaps it would have been prudent to say it before he left the room, Weasley. But your family is anything but prudent. Back to work."
She'd tried to, but she bit her tongue at that and the insult to her family. The potion was, unsurprisingly, an abject failure.
This was not a good start.
She had a feeling it was going to get worse.
A month later, Tom was in the hospital wing for the seventeenth time, and although he and Ginny had actually made it through half the class this time, the situation had not notably improved. He was sporting a second nose that -- although Madam Pomfrey seemed sure she could remove it -- was not improving his day; his original was stuffed up, and the new one was runny.
Madam Pomfrey had just set an extra handkerchief beside him when Harry looked in the door, escorted by the Weasley twins and appearing much the worse for wear, with a large black-and-purple bump on his left cheek and temple. A cut over the cheekbone was still trickling blood.
"Harry! What happened to you?"
"Stray bludger," said Fred.
"It got past us," George explained. "Sorry about that, Harry." He gave Tom a slightly odd look.
Tom winced in sympathy, and blew his noses. "I got clipped by one last week -- they're a lot faster than I remember."
"Improved technology," Harry said, only slightly fuzzily. "I don't have that excuse."
"You lie down right now," Madam Pomfrey interrupted him firmly, steering him to the next bed over. "And you two go on back. Try not to send me any more prank victims today."
Tom waited until Madam Pomfrey had administered a Restorative to Harry and turned away to mix up whatever was going to eliminate his extra nose. "Ah... Harry, I've got kind of an... odd question."
"Go ahead." Harry fingered the swelling on his cheek tentatively, then decided to leave well enough alone and dropped his hand. "Did they do that?" He gestured toward the door.
"Who, Fred and George Weasley? No -- although that's sort of coincidental... you know their sister, Ginny, right?"
"Yes. Oh. Snape's been making you work together, I've heard. She's been jumpy about it."
"That's... kind of an understatement; I've almost started keeping my toothbrush here. Is she unusually clumsy, or... some other explanation?"
"Er... I'm not sure about normally," Harry said as tactfully as he could, considering that in his experience she was. "I've been kind of worried about her -- I didn't realize she was injuring you regularly, though. She had... last year was very strange."
"Strange how? I wouldn't ask, only it almost seems like she's terrified of me, and, well...."
Harry sighed and glanced at Madam Pomfrey, who chose this moment to disappear in search of other ingredients. "Well, you probably ought to know. It was... complicated. Students were being attacked and Petrified -- so were Mrs. Norris and Nearly Headless Nick, actually -- and until Hermione was attacked, most of the school thought it was me. And that I was the Heir of Slytherin." He paused. "Actually... you are."
Tom blinked, and wiped his left nose. "Was Ginny one of the people... who were attacked?"
"No." Harry grimaced. "No purebloods, actually. Anyway, it eventually turned out to be a Basilisk. Hermione had figured it out just before she was Petrified, but of course then she couldn't tell us. And... what we finally found out... was that Lucius Malfoy had slipped an old diary with a memory of Voldemort at sixteen into it... after he let the Basilisk out for the first time... in with Ginny's schoolbooks."
"A memory? I'm not sure I understand."
"Basically, he enchanted his... his personality into the diary. It looked blank, but when somebody wrote in it, he was there and could write back. And he... well, he pretended to be her friend and fed off what she wrote to him all year. Used her to attack people with the Basilisk, then finally kidnapped her and was going to kill her to make himself real again." Harry frowned. "So... most people don't know the details of this, and I don't know all of them... but nobody used to know Voldemort had been Tom Riddle. And most, at least most of the students, hadn't actually met him either way. Ginny...."
Tom felt sick. "That's awful. No wonder she's so twitchy in Potions... sixteen, you said?"
Harry nodded. "I don't know if she ever saw him, exactly, but I wouldn't be surprised... he was pretty much solid at the end, and... well, I would've recognized you right off even if Voldemort hadn't been talking."
Tom closed his eyes and leaned back into the pillow. "I'd better ask Professor Snape if he can give us other partners, then. I can't even imagine... I'm amazed she's only spilled stuff on me."
Harry looked over at him. "I'm surprised you haven't asked before, if this happens all the time...."
"Well, at first I thought she was sick, or something. And then, well, I couldn't find you to ask you about it. And, well, Snape kind of scares me."
Harry suppressed the "Well" that tried to sneak onto the beginning of his response. "He usually favors Slytherins. Though I suppose it's not encouraging that he hasn't switched things around already...."
"I think it amuses him. Every time he sends me to the hospital wing he's got that sort of half-smile he wears when he's taking House points away from Gryffindor -- of course, he usually just has, but last week Rensington blew up his Firestarter and he actually looked concerned." Tom paused. "Or at least I think he did. I was on my way out the door with a burned arm."
Harry winced. "That's... not encouraging. Have you tried just pairing up with someone else? He'll leave us alone when we do that at least part of the time...."
"I'm not exactly popular with the other Slytherins, and of course the Gryffindors won't give me the time of day."
"Hey." It wasn't a particularly vehement protest, primarily because Harry could only really argue the point in his own case.
"Well, present company excepted, of course. Sorry."
Harry sighed. "It's all right. I know what you mean." He chewed on his lower lip for a moment. "Um... You know, after what you've described so far, I'm a little afraid to ask what you were imagining when you said you were amazed she'd only spilled things."
"Well, it's not like she's doing it on purpose."
"I didn't think she was...."
"Well, that would be worse, if she were. I mean, from what I can see when she's not knocking over cauldrons, she's a fairly nice person. And since she's just terrified into being accident-prone, I can fix that by leaving her alone. It'd be different if she were actually trying to hurt me."
"She knows you're not really him." Harry paused. "I think. I did explain -- not that night, I was too sleepy, but the next day."
"Doesn't seem to be making much difference either way. Although at least now I know why she almost went for her wand when I offered to share my notes."
Harry winced at that thought. "Er... I think if she did think you were him, she'd feel she ought to try to hurt you."
"True. Well, I'll talk to Snape as soon as I'm back to my usual number of noses."
"Good luck." Harry hesitated. "I'll try to talk to Ginny, but I'm not sure if it'll help."
"I really think it'll be better once I'm not right there in her face all the time, but you know her better than I do.... Thanks."
"I'm just... not sure if Snape will listen, if he hasn't acted like he likes you so far."
"Well, I have to try something. She's going to hurt herself one of these days."
Harry raised an eyebrow and looked pointedly at the extra nose just as Tom sneezed. "Or you...."
Tom muttered something inaudible into his handkerchief as he wiped his noses.
"Bless you. What?"
Tom sighed. "I said, 'She doesn't deserve it.'"
Harry sat up abruptly. "Neither do you!"
"I'm twelve. The last time I was sixteen, I almost made her kill people. That's not, you'll notice, a whole lot of time."
"The whole point, you'll notice, of your being here is that you're not him."
"Now. I'm not him now. I don't know for sure how not to be him then. But I can leave Ginny alone and hope she gets better."
"You're not going to be unless you try to," Harry said firmly, "which I don't think you will. But I suppose, if you can manage it, it might help to give Ginny... more room." He sighed. "It might keep you out of the hospital wing more, too."
"I wouldn't complain about that."
"I'd imagine not."
Tom sat back again, not sure what else to say, and just then Madam Pomfrey whisked back into view with a tiny spray bottle the contents of which made Tom's spare nose puff into vapor. "There you are, Tom. Do try to be more careful. You're feeling better as well, I hope, Harry?"
"Yes, thank you." The swelling had been going down all through the conversation.
Madam Pomfrey went over and inspected it. "Almost done." She dabbed at it with a purple-soaked cloth that, despite looking like a bruise itself, left Harry's face unmarked afterward. "Off you go."
I'm going to try answering reviews in notes here, so here goes....
Booklover: Yes, this is an AU beginning after Chamber of Secrets; I should have been clearer on that to begin with. I was attacked by a plotbunny after finishing the first book. I'm glad you liked it and hope you've come back for more!
Lourdes: We have completed it, as you can see; actually, we've finished the next two stories and are working on some more! Thank you for the encouragement. Serious case of kudzu-plot.... Alan's working on one about Dumbledore and Grindelwald that isn't part of the AU but is included in the background for it.
Ozma: Thank you very much! We're glad to be here.
Kate Lynn: Thank you so much -- we especially appreciate that coming from another author of a Riddle AU!
Andrea13: Thank you, we're glad you like it. Unfortunately that was chapter 2 of the third story....
h, Lourdes: Sorry about that. I submitted a chapter of the wrong story by mistake, but it's fixed now.
Karie: Thank you! Rex was a lot of fun to write, as was Voldemort's demise.