To Love and Be Wise
Ginny still thinks about him sometimes –
she doesn’t really know why. He represents a part of her life that is,
thankfully, over. And yet she can’t help but ponder the enigma whenever she has
a moment free. Thinking about him requires delicate spirals of thought, and she
can never quite touch the central point.
That point is the part of her that still
doesn’t want to accept that he was irredeemable. Ginny knows what everyone
knows, knows they would be horrified if she voiced such a thought – Hermione
would be shocked, Ron would think her mad, Neville would be hurt, and she
doesn’t even want to imagine what Harry would think.
But she still can’t quite make the leap of
thought required to think of him as a monster. Sometimes she wishes she could –
it would be easier than this eternal conundrum. Because she hates him – she
hates him more than she ever thought possible. Tom Riddle took things from her,
things she didn’t even know she had, and he keeps devouring more, like some
greedy god of war.
Yet she can’t lie to herself (another
remnant of his yearlong residence inside her skin). All humans lie to
themselves, every minute of every day, but Ginny can no longer – not without
being absurdly aware of the lie, a dead weight in the back of her mind.
So, Ginny knows that she is still in
mourning for the Tom she was so besotted with. Not the vicious psychopath
(Hermione lent her a Muggle book of abnormal psychology once – Ginny found it
more helpful than all the platitudes in the world) who tortured her for
entertainment, but the clever, handsome boy who made her feel special and
important, and with whom she fell, rather impulsively, in love. She had loved
him with all her little girl’s heart – almost like another of her adored
brothers, clever and funny and charming, but gentle with her, kind to her, like
another black-haired boy; it’s sometimes hard to fully believe that he was a
She can see him in her mind’s eye: the
greatest wizard of his age (well, perhaps he might have equalled Dumbledore) a
great diplomat maybe, with a beautiful wife and a family who adores him. She
scoffs at herself even as she thinks it – Tom Riddle could never be saved by
‘the love of a good woman.’ She knows he couldn’t have been, because she loved
him, and he still tried to murder children, murder her, murder Harry.
All that potential was wasted, and the only
thing that saves her from thinking she’s insane to mourn the loss is the
knowledge that Dumbledore mourns it too. They spoke of it once, and Ginny could
tell that Dumbledore had cared for his student, had grieved the loss, even as
they fought their bitter war.
It is so hard to think that Tom, who was
everything good, from handsome to good company, was also so vicious, so
unrelenting in his fury, that Ginny finds herself thinking of him as two
people, the better one burned away in the other’s rage.
At first she understood that astonishingly
pure wrath – his childhood had been at least as horrific as Harry’s, if not
more so, and his pain as great – but she gradually came to realise that this
was a cheat, a way of ducking the real question. Harry has suffered stroke
after stroke, a life so painful Ginny sometimes fears it will swallow him whole
– and he has never grown cruel or harsh, never lost faith in people, never
wavered. Neville grew up with parents who could not touch or speak to or even
know their son, and a grandmother who finds him a poor replacement, and he has
the kindest heart of anyone Ginny knows. And she herself had her soul poisoned,
her trust in everything shattered, and she has never felt that lust for
destruction, for pain, that blazed in Tom Riddle.
She hates him for making her think this
way. She hates that any unknown, dark-haired boy can make her start. She hates
that he bestowed such clarity of vision on her – that she can no longer retreat
behind comfortable walls of thought. She hates him, she hateshim, and
she can’t even tell him! He doesn’t exist, except as a shadow, a mocking voice
in her mind, the part of her that can see the self-interest, the hypocrisy in
every action. The part that is now, in the words of Charlie, “more cynical than
any fifteen-year-old has a right to be”.
She still wakes up in the night, heart
pounding, tears streaming down her face, her hands scrabbling desperately for a
light, for proof that he isn’t lurking in some corner. It doesn’t happen often,
thank God, but that it happens at all is enough. She can’t think of Voldemort
with the same blind hatred she sees in those around her – and she wishes she
could. It seems almost immoral to wrestle with such confusing dualisms about
someone who has caused such extravagant pain.
Ginny read once that ‘a kiss from a man
dying is often a kiss of death’, and she thinks of herself whenever the phrase
comes to mind. He kissed her, hard, in the Chamber, sucking out her energy as
intimately as possible (a secret she has told no one, though she has
occasionally wondered if Harry knows.) She sometimes thinks that he must have
bequeathed some wisp of his darkness to her, a last mocking gift.
But Harry saved her – a thought that always
comes to her rescue when she’s feeling low. He beat back the wraith, continues
to beat it back, and Ginny sometimes thinks this is why she loves him so much.
He doesn’t know what he did for her, doesn’t know that his determination to not
only do good, but be good, has been something of a rock for her faith. He’s the
best person she knows, and he, too, is everything good, from handsome to good
company to kind and true. And Tom Riddle has given her the chance to help
Harry: she knows when he’s lying, knows how to judge him now, and this is from
the canniness she imbibed as Tom’s unwitting disciple.
She thinks of it less and less as time goes
by – she is not, she refuses to be, a victim, clinging to a hero for the rest
of her days. That kind of dependency was what began the whole mess in the first
place, and Ginny can’t imagine going back to it – seeing the world as a fairy
tale. The potential for that kind of naďveté just doesn’t exist in her any more
– but she doesn’t have to give into despair. She will play Quidditch, she will
giggle with Hermione and watch Harry under her eyelashes, long for a better
partner in Charms and enjoy Hogsmeade, and that will be her victory. She wants
It’s just that, rarely, when she looks at
Harry, she can’t help a pang; thinking that Riddle could perhaps have been just
such a one – if only he’d had the courage.
This fic resulted from surveying Tom
Riddle/Ginny fanfic, and attempting to get my head around it. While I think
most of it springs from the fact that Tom Riddle (in the films) was extremely
good-looking, there are aspects of the ‘ship that interest me – the questions
of power and morality, etc. I’m not sure if that’ll be any help in understanding
this story (it’s a weird little fic whatever way you look at it) but it might
just possibly be illuminating, so I thought I’d point it out.