The Sugar Quill
Author: Fionnabhair (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: To Love and Be Wise  Chapter: To Love and Be Wise
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To Love and Be Wise

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 lie.


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 to live.


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.


Author’s Note:


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.

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