Most of the credit and/or blame for these stories rests with JK Rowling for creating characters and plotlines that have inspired me to write them. Said characters obviously belong to her, as does Hogwarts and the elements of her plot that feature in this series.
Authors Note: First of all, many thanks to Birgit, for her brilliant beta assistance. Thanks also to Darker_Rage, who put a lot of time into pre-betaing this one. Again, I should say that I have been inspired by the work of other writers on the subject of Ginny's experiences in CoS. Last, but never least, thanks to prplhez8 for the constant encouragement.
2. Only Memories
I see him lying there and I know that he’s dead. I know this despite the fact that he’s shaking and that his eyes are wide open. They are terrified and I can tell that he is somewhere else right now. I ignore the creature to my right; I can’t take my eyes off Harry. And now, I’m hearing the voice that I hear every night when I fall asleep…
“I’m going to kill him, Ginny. You thought you’d beaten me; you thought you’d saved him. But his cold, dead body will lie next to yours before this night is through.”
And while this isn’t the Chamber, it feels like it. I can remember the slow, cruelly steady sound of water falling.
I remember being able to do nothing else but listen to the water ebb and feel life flow from my grasp; wishing that someone would come to save me, and dreading it at the same time.
“I’ll tell him about you, Ginny. I’ll tell him how weak and pathetic you are. He might even laugh at your stupidity before I let him die.”
I remember fighting as hard as I could back then, but now… there’s nothing I can do. I can’t change a memory. All I can do is let that awful moment, when he appears out of the diary, play out over and over again.
Nothing can stop it. I’m lost.
The words seem incredibly loud. I turn away from Harry, for an instant, to see the haggard-looking man, who spoke earlier, staring down the creature. He has his wand drawn and there’s a white mist between him and the hooded monster. It’s finally driven away.
The man looks at me for a moment and I see pain in his eyes. Yet I see kindness there too. I get the feeling that he knows how I feel, but I really hope he doesn’t.
“Harry!” Hermione shouts.
She kneels beside him and is joined by Ron a moment later. I want to run to him too, but I can’t move.
With a start, the Hogwarts Express jerks into movement and the lights come back on.
“Harry! Harry! Are you all right?”
Hermione is hitting Harry. I want her to stop. Harry mutters something. Yet that can’t be right. Tom said he was dead.
It wouldn’t be the first time Tom lied.
I don’t like how I feel when I think of Tom. I don’t like the hatred. When Ron trapped me in a weighed down laundry basket the day before my fifth birthday, I really honestly thought that I hated him. But I didn’t. In truth, I loved him dearly, like I adore all my brothers. Tom taught me what hatred is, and I feel like he took a part of me. I think of the innocence of that five-year-old, as she kicks and pushes and screams at the injustice of the world, and I envy her. Even when completely enraged, she still loved.
Harry is talking. He looks beaten and shaken, but he is definitely alive. He seems to think someone was screaming. I wonder if somehow he heard me as I struggled against Tom.
My hand goes automatically to my wand.
It’s the brown-haired man, who I assume must be a professor. He’s breaking a chocolate bar up into pieces.
“Here.” He gives Harry a piece. “Eat it. It’ll help.”
“What was that thing?”
“A Dementor,” answers the man quietly. “One of the Dementors of Azkaban.”
He pats me on the shoulder as he gives me a piece. I’m struck again by how sad his eyes are.
“Eat. It’ll help.” The professor has finished giving out chocolate. “I need to speak to the driver, excuse me…”
Harry is just staring at the chocolate in his hands. He’s entirely self-contained. He probably thinks it’s a sign of weakness to show pain. Harry can be really stupid sometimes; he thinks he has to be strong all the time. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that no one can be strong all the time. And, because of that, you have to find people to trust.
Trust is hard. It takes courage. Perhaps I should be more careful about who I trust. Yet I know that I can’t let Tom poison me. Tom was a means to avoid trusting anyone else. Tom was perfect. A friend I could carry everywhere, who would never hurt me and who fit a hundred and one of my silly, romantic ideas. But real people aren’t like that. Real people deserving of trust can be idiots that don’t see their own brilliance, they can be mischievous, loving tormentors or they can have sad honesty in their eyes and a kindness so obvious that it almost hurts.
I hug my knees to my chest and try to figure out what has just happened. A tiny, scared voice is telling me that it’s happening again. That Tom has found me. A stronger voice answers that Tom is beaten. That Harry killed him.
I look at Harry. The boy is shivering, his faith is clearly shaken; he’s doubting himself. But I never will. And as I stare at his face, I know without doubt that Tom isn’t coming back.
At least the Tom I knew…
So what was that? It must have been the creature. The professor called it a Dementor. Tom said something about Dementors once. Memories… yes, that was it, something about memories.
Neville speaks up from where he has been standing. He doesn’t look well.
“It was horrible. Did you feel how cold it went when it came in?”
“I felt weird,” replies Ron slowly. “Like I’d never be cheerful again…”
I sob. Trust Ron to describe it so simply and yet be so right.
Hermione leaves Harry and places an arm around me. I want to sob again, but I hold it back. I know that I’ve misjudged her. I was so jealous… I still am sometimes. But it’s not right to be; that’s just something Tom’s left in me and I will fight it with everything I have.
“But didn’t any of you – fall off your seats?”
Harry tries to sound like he isn’t bothered by all this and fails miserably.
“No,” says Ron. He has that look of nervous fear that is usually reserved for show-downs with Mum. “Ginny was shaking like mad, though…”
Typical Ron. My brother wouldn’t recognise tact if it slapped him in the face. Right now, that mental image appeals to me for some reason.
Hermione still has an arm around me. She doesn’t need to ask. She knows. Especially after last night.
I hadn’t really been able to talk to her that evening, even though we had been sharing the same room at the Leaky Cauldron. Conversation had been polite but forced. I hadn’t really known how to deal with my guilt. And, when I had finally fallen asleep, I’d had one of my worst nightmares of the summer.
I’d woken up to see Hermione standing over me. I was so embarrassed; I had been able to hide the nightmares from everybody else. Hermione had looked angry and sympathetic all at once. She had only asked one question, “Riddle?” and when I had nodded she had hugged me and I hadn’t been able to stop myself from crying. I had tried to tell her how sorry I was but she wouldn’t let me… Hermione can be very stubborn.
“Thanks,” I whisper.
My voice sounds impossibly small.
The compartment door opens again and the professor returns. He looks at each of us in turn.
“I haven’t poisoned that chocolate, you know…”
I’d forgotten the chocolate in my hand. A tiny part of me rebels at trusting something provided by a stranger, yet what I see in his eyes has already convinced me to trust him.
I put the chocolate in my mouth and bite down on it. Instantly the dull fog set over my mind becomes weaker. I don’t feel happy, but I feel like I could be again without too much trouble. As for Harry, he looks better too. I’m glad to see the colour flooding back to his face.
It is some time later when the train finally arrives at Hogwarts. My head is still an awful mess. Thoughts of Hermione and Harry… and Tom… are all mixed together and I feel very confused.
I hate not being able to move. Just sitting there huddled in a corner reminds me too much of being trapped. I remember during my first year, a lot of the time, I just wanted to run away and keep going. I wanted freedom.
And that’s why finally getting up and escaping this compartment brings the first, faint smile in what seems like a long time.
As we bustle out, Hermione touches my arm.
“Go with Harry,” I say. And I smile.
“You’re going to be OK?” asks Hermione with obvious concern. Some might find her tone nagging, but I know better.
She quickly catches up with Harry and Ron, as they get off the train. I watch as they disappear up the mud-track.
I get swept behind the mass of people hurrying to get to the feast and eventually find myself getting into one of the very last carriages. It’s empty. I’m just about to close the door when someone follows me in.
I vaguely recognise her as one of the Ravenclaws who I have Potions with. She has mud splattered across her front but doesn’t seem to be aware of it.
“Oh dear,” she mutters to herself. “I nearly missed this.”
Then she looks at me with wide eyes.
“Oh, hi, Ginevra.”
She continues staring. In the meantime, the carriage starts to move.
“Is it true that Harry Potter saved you from the Chamber of Secrets?” asks the girl out of the blue.
I gawp at her. Finally, I nod.
“Good,” says the girl, sounding satisfied. “I was worried about you.”
She pulls out a small notepad and what looks like a very strange quill from a pocket of her muddied coat. She begins to scrawl strange loops on the paper.
I watch her for a short time.
“Er… I’m very sorry, but I don’t actually know your name,” I say politely.
The girl laughs, and then seems to bite down on the laugh so it doesn’t go out of all control.
“I’m Luna Lovegood. You’ve probably heard them call me Loony Lovegood, but it’s not my name.”
“Oh…” I say.
She returns to her notepad. She seems to be concentrating very hard.
“What are you doing?”
She stops immediately and pops the quill behind her left ear. I take another look at the quill. It’s made of a clear material and the ink inside seems to be held still by some kind of clever charm.
“I’m working on my language,” replies Luna. “It’s a lot more difficult than you’d think!”
“Oh, yes, it’s one of the most important things. Everyone needs their own language. How else would we tell each other apart?”
I smile. “By our faces, maybe?”
Luna actually snorts with amusement.
“What do our faces matter?” she asks.
I think about this for a moment.
“So you’re actually making up your own language? Like Mermish or Troll or something?”
Luna looks slightly offended.
“It’s not at all like Troll. It’s much more complicated than just pointing and grunting!”
This time it’s my turn to laugh. I think I understand why people call her ‘loony’ but, at the same time, the conversation has made me feel better.
And now that I think about it, it would be pretty amazing if we did all have our own language. We’d know straight away what belongs to us and which bits are somebody else’s words put through our mouth. Identity is such a hard thing to pin down, after all. The only problem would be that we wouldn’t have any idea what anybody else was saying… we’d actually have to learn everyone else’s language as well as our own.
When the carriage arrives, Luna and I hop out and follow the last few students into Hogwarts. Just before entering the great doors to the Entrance Hall, I gaze straight upwards and get a full idea of the height of the stone walls. There’s something humbling about the sight.
I find myself wondering if Tom ever felt humbled in his life. Would he have turned out differently if he’d seen what I see in Hogwarts?
We have just reached the door to the Great Hall.
“You go on, Luna, I’m not hungry.”
Luna starts as if she’s forgotten that I’ve been walking beside her. She smiles vaguely at me and then watches as I turn around and hurry up a nearby staircase. I guess one of the advantages of being small is that it’s easier to lose yourself. No prefects call me back.
It’s so strange to be back here. The same paintings, the same wood-panelled walls, the same homely atmosphere… the same everything. Hogwarts is where I spent the worst year of my life and yet, I still love this school so much. I love the way that the very walls seem to shout with the promise of secrets, and the fact that you know that some of the most amazing wizards and witches are learning and living and teaching right beside you.
What I did… what Tom did was an attack on this school and those people. He could never see the beauty of Hogwarts; he couldn’t see how wrong he was. I’m different, I am! And yet, when I think back on the memories, it’s so hard to remember that I’m not really the one doing it. It’s so hard to see where I end and Tom begins. Especially with Hermione, I was so jealous of her, after all. But Tom forced me to attack her. I didn’t want to hurt her.
Shut up, Tom.
I have wandered right to the top floor of Hogwarts. The night air is pleasantly warm and so I take a left turn and then climb up the circular stairs leading to the Astronomy tower.
Despite the warmth, the sky is starless. Great black clouds move slowly across it and they seem to carry the promise of a thunderstorm. I’m rather fond of thunderstorms. I love curling up and just listening to them.
I sit down on the edge of the parapet.
It’s not fair. Damn Tom! Why does my first day back have to be like this? Why can’t I move past it? Now all I can think about is what I did. I can’t get myself away from the Chamber.
I had just lain there and refused to cry. I knew my tears only made him stronger and so I had blocked them. It was the very last thing I could try to do to keep him weak, to stop him winning. But it hadn’t mattered, he’d come out of the diary anyway.
And it was Harry who had had to face him down. I remember my amazement when I saw that he had killed the monster and beaten Tom. He’s incredible. Of course, I had been too scared of being expelled to be truly happy. I didn’t want to see my wand snapped in two.
And then, in Professor McGonagall’s office, he had tried to defend me again – refusing to tell them that it had been me all along. It was far more than I deserved. I still don’t know how he could be so forgiving after what I’d done to his friend. He and Ron had been so miserable after Hermione had been attacked.
I place my head in my hands and allow myself to cry.
It is a long time later when I hear footsteps coming up the stone stairs. I wipe the tears from my face and try to find somewhere to hide. But I’m too late.
“Ginny, why are you up here? You should be at the feast!”
The girl has bushy hair and rather large front teeth.
“Shouldn’t you be?”
Hermione looks uncomfortable. She fiddles with something around her neck.
“Yes, I suppose I should be,” she answers. “I came to find out why you were hiding out up here.”
“How did you know I was here?”
“Fred and George told me. They are worried about you. And don’t ask me how they knew where you were…”
“They’ve probably got tracking charms on me. Interfering busybodies.”
I pretend to be annoyed, but in truth, their concern is quite sweet.
Hermione’s brow furrows. “Tracking charms in Unplottable buildings are very advanced magic.”
The girl takes a closer look at me and says, in a quite different voice, “You’ve been crying.”
I avoid looking at her.
Something violent flashes in Hermione’s eyes. “I’m glad Harry destroyed the diary. I can’t believe what Riddle did to you.”
“It wasn’t all Tom.”
I feel a nervous jolt of fear, as I realise that I’m going to tell her the truth.
“What do you mean?” Hermione asks.
“I… I was really jealous of you. Harry likes you and respects you… and you have friends… and I was so lonely. I didn’t mean to be jealous… but I was.”
“Jealous of me?”
I can’t understand why she sounds so surprised. I nod mutely.
“That’s not the worst of it,” I say, a moment later. “When you figured out what was happening, when you shouted to Harry about it… I was there. Tom and I, we heard. And he said that we had to kill you, that otherwise I’d be expelled and his plans would be ruined.”
Hermione is staring at me with an unreadable expression on her face.
“I’d been fighting him for days. Ever since I got the diary back. And I tried to stop him… I swear I did… but I wasn’t strong enough, because… because…”
I’m crying again. I desperately don’t want to tell her. I sniff loudly and then blurt it out, all at once.
“Because a part of me really hated you and didn’t want to fight Tom.”
My tears have made my vision blurry. I can’t see her very well, and yet, I can imagine the look of anger and disgust she must be wearing. She seems to be moving closer and I ready myself to face whatever attack is coming without defence.
Hermione hugs me. I don’t recognise it for what it is at first. But her arms are around me and my face is lost in bushy hair. There’s really no doubt that it’s a hug.
“You poor thing. You’ve spent all summer thinking that this is your fault?”
I don’t understand what is going on. I break out of the hug and wipe the tears from my eyes.
“But it is my fault! I’m just like Tom…”
My voice sounds strong for once. Somehow it feels good to voice my worst fear.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” says Hermione. Her voice is matter-of-fact but I see tears on her face too. “A lesser person would have given up long before the attack on me. You fought as hard as you could, and perhaps a little bit harder. Everybody gets jealous, especially when they don’t know people very well. I know a thing or two about that from primary school. And Riddle simply used your particular weakness against you, just as he did with Harry.”
Hermione’s eyes widen.
“Well… ah, he knew Harry would come after you… into a trap.” She bites her lower lip. “I’m really sorry; I shouldn’t have brought that up.”
“That’s OK,” I say quietly. “It’s nothing I haven’t said to myself.”
“Ginny! It wasn’t your fault. You fought so hard! I watched you struggling in your nightmare, and that was only a glimpse of what you fought against. Of course Riddle used your jealousy to his own ends, to weaken you; he’s evil – you know who he grew up to be!”
Her voice has been getting progressively louder. She calms herself and continues -
“But attacking me was his intent, not yours. And trapping Harry, I’m sorry, but that was Tom playing to Harry’s heroism. I’m not saying that it wasn’t a great thing for him to do, but…”
Hermione’s voice trails off. She’s wondering if she’s said too much again.
“It was a really stupid thing for him to do,” I finish for her.
Hermione’s sigh is barely audible. “He really should have gone and told McGonagall. I bet she would have believed him after first year. I’m glad he got to you in time though.”
I smile ever so slightly. “So am I.”
Silence follows for a while. I can’t believe that she doesn’t blame me. She really is a brilliant person. I feel a sudden burst of anger at all those who’ve called her a know-it-all behind her back, without even getting to know her. I feel angry at myself too, but that’s all right, because she’s forgiven me.
It seems so strange to have this weight removed from my shoulders.
“I really am sorry,” I say.
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” replies Hermione stubbornly. Abruptly, she makes for the doorway. “Come on, we don’t want to be out after hours.”
I laugh, as for an insane moment she reminds me of Percy. Then a scary thought occurs to me. The last thing I want to do is to get a lecture from my Head Boy of a brother for being late back to the common room. We walk out side by side and I feel honestly, truly happy, for the first time in ages.
“So, what do you think of Professor Lupin?” asks Hermione.
“He was the man in our compartment?”
“Yes. The new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher,” replies Hermione impatiently. “He seems to know his subject. It will be really exciting to have a knowledgeable Defence teacher, don’t you think? It’s such an important subject after all. We might even have practical lessons!”
I stop walking.
“Oh no! Don’t tell me you’ve got a crush on another Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher?”
“You knew about Lockhart?” asks Hermione in a rather embarrassed voice.
I laugh. “Most of the school knew!”
“So tell me more about your thing for Professor Lupin. I suppose he does have rather nice eyes…”
“I do not have a ‘thing’ for Professor Lupin,” replies Hermione hotly.
“Are you sure?” I ask wickedly. “I bet you’ve got all the ingredients for Mum’s love potion laid out in your cauldron right now.”
“I do not…! I would never…!”
She is about to go off on an outraged rant when she finally notices the expression on my face. Our eyes catch and we burst out into helpless giggles. Just two girls, laughing at the absurdity of the world.
Hermione is the first to gain control of herself.
“Shhhh! We don’t want Filch to find us!”
I wouldn’t care if he did. It feels good to have a friend.