|SIYE Time:8:43 on 16th January 2018|
Category: Pre-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, All, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Nymphadora Tonks, Other, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, General, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Harry had never friends, so he imagined one: a red haired girl he kept forgetting to name. Ginny imagined a shy boy with untidy hair and bright eyes, who knew nothing of magic, so she told him. He dreamt of a world of magic and of a girl who wanted to be his friend. She dreamt of a boy who loved to hear her voice, no matter what. Then dreams become a reality when Harry met Ginny.
Rating changed for later chapters.
*Nominated for 2014 November/December DSTA for Best New Story and Best Romance* *Nominated for 2016 January/Feburary DSTA for Best Comedy, Drama, and Romance*
Hitcount: Story Total: 98133; Chapter Total: 3549
A/N: Note that I found the idea that Ginny had Tom Riddle's memories from Brennus' story, the Thorny Rose.
Nine: The Prisoner of Azkaban Rewritten, Part One
Winner Winners, Snuffles, and Valentine's
That summer was blistering. Ginny wondered if the weather was trying to make up for the overly cold winter, yet she spent as much time as she could outside, and Harry would spend as much time as he could with her and Ron. They swam in the pond, climbed trees, played Quidditch in the orchard, or just watched clouds. One night they stayed out to watch the stars, and fell asleep beneath the night sky. When Ginny woke up, the sun was rising and she lay tucked in Harry's arms. He was still asleep and did not see her blush. She slipped out of his arms as gently as she could, and fell back asleep a foot away. When Mum came for them, Ginny woke up with her fingers entwined in his. She didn't say it, but she was glad for his presence beside her as she slept. It kept away nightmares.
The memory of the Chamber was burning brightly in her mind still. Every now and then, she felt phantom pains in her arm, where Tom had used her wand to carve Worthless into her skin. All of her scars had healed but for the faint word, and the scar on her soul. She had been possessed and tortured, and she knew it would haunt her to her dying day.
That wasn't the only thing bothering her. As she moved slowly on from what had happened, thoughts and memories that she swore weren't hers, nor Harry's, popped up in her mind. At first, it didn't bother her so much as it was just spells and vague recollections of years at Hogwarts. But then the dam broke.
While Ginny was in her room, working on summer homework, whatever was keeping those thoughts and memories from flooding her brain exploded. She found herself on her knees, pressing her hands over her head as sharp blinding pain moved through her head, followed by flashes of things she had never seen, never done, people she had never met nor heard of but hated with a burning passion.
An hour later the pain had died away, and Ginny sat with her back to the frame of her bed, hugging her knees to her chest. Fear and hate and anger warred in her, while memories replayed themselves randomly, overlapping each other. She could see bodies twisted in pain, heard the screams of victims long gone, felt power and an almost sexual pleasure in seeing them in such pain. It horrified her. She sat huddled in the shadow of her bed, trying to block out the memories and thoughts, but they refused to die away. Horror kept her frozen where she sat, staring ahead into space while screams and laughter echoed in her ears.
There was a knock on the door. Rage flashed through her, an alien feeling of anger at being disrupted by whoever was at the door. But the outside stimuli broke the cycle, and the images and sounds faded to the back of her mind. Quickly, she schooled her features into a plain expression, and called "Come in."
The door opened. Harry stepped into the room and shut the door behind him.
"Are you okay?" he asked immediately.
"Fine," she lied quickly. "Why?"
"You're not fine," Harry said, crossing the room and sitting down beside her. "I felt it. What happened?"
"Nothing," she said, averting her gaze.
"Ginny," Harry groaned, "I quote you "I'm in your head." What's wrong?"
She pulled her knees in closer and rested her chin between them. Now that Harry was there, the visions were less vivid, still present but faint.
I don't know, she thought.
I can't, it's horrible.
It's all right, whatever it is it's probably not real.
Trust me, Harry thought, giving her a small smile.
Ginny let out a sigh, and closed her eyes. Harry wrapped his arm around her shoulders, lending her silent support. And they were back.
Some small girl was lying on a stone floor, twisting and writhing, screaming in pain. Ginny saw from the eyes of someone taller than she, holding the wand that was hurting the girl and laughing cruelly. Flashes of satisfaction and sick pleasure battled with rage and her own fear.
And then it was gone. She opened her eyes to find her face buried in Harry's shirt, her body trembling and Harry's arms locked around her.
"That's not real," he whispered. "It's a hallucination or something."
"It feels real," she mumbled.
"It isn't," Harry insisted.
"What if it is?" Ginny said. "What if Tom turned me bad?"
Harry cupped her chin and stared into her eyes. "You are the most amazing, kind, and brilliant girl I have ever met. If a memory of someone could flip your morals, then the Chudley Cannons can win the World Cup."
That brought a hesitant smile to her face. Harry looked pleased with himself, and he let her sit back against the frame of the bed.
"Do you want to talk to Dumbledore about this?" Harry asked a moment later, with a more somber expression.
Ginny was silent for a minute. Dumbledore could help explain to her what she was experiencing, but did she want to share? This was something horrible, and one doesn't go telling powerful figures that one's mind has been invaded by the memories of a monster.
"I don't know," she said. "I definitely don't want to tell anyone in my family — I might tell Ron but that's only because he's my twin."
"I'm not saying you have to," Harry said. "But this is serious: What if they become sentient and try to possess you again? I don't want you to go through what happened to you last year again, and I don't want to lose you."
"I know," she said, folding her arms over her knees and resting her chin on them. "I'm just worried."
Harry put his arm around her again and gave her a gentle squeeze. "I know you are. This freaky stuff."
"Can we wait until school so if I do decide to tell him, my parents don't suspect anything?"
"If you want to," Harry said.
Ginny glanced at him. There was a small spark of confusion in his thoughts. "You want to know why I don't want Mum and Dad to know?"
"I don't want them babying me anymore than they already are," she said. "They always treated me like I was a little kid because I'm the youngest, but since — since the end of school they've been walking on eggshells around me. It's frustrating to no end, and if they knew about this they'd be worse."
Harry nodded slowly; she could tell he understood and was accepting her decision. This was one of the qualities she liked best about him: He trusted her judgment no matter what.
"You ready to go have dinner?" he asked.
"Sure," she said. Harry stood up and offered her a hand up. She took it, and — upon impulse — gave him a swift hug. "Thank you, Harry," she said as she pulled back.
"For what?" he said. She was pleased to notice that his cheeks were quite pink.
"Just being you," said Ginny gratefully. Harry beamed.
That night at the dinner table, Dad told Mum about how he bought a lottery ticket from one of his friends in the Finances Department in the Ministry. Mum was skeptical, but since he'd bought it second hand for less than the regular price, she couldn't complain.
"Shall we see who won?" Dad called out as the family plus one tucked into treacle tart. Winners of the Daily Prophet draw were usually announced in the paper, but this was the Grand Prize Draw so the winning numbers were announced on the official Daily Prophet radio station, the Nightly Sooth-sayer. Dad stood up and crossed to the radio, and twiddled the dial. Celestina Warbeck warbled for a moment as the radio woke up, but then Dad switched the station and a male voice spoke.
"...Hollyhead Harpies beat the Wimborn Wasps 430 to 420. Captain and Lead Chaser Gwenog Jones will be coming for a chat next Saturday about the stressful and exhilarating match at eight. And now for the winning numbers of the Daily Prophet Semi-Grand Prize. Hold onto your seats, witches and warlocks." A drum-roll issued from speakers; Dad held up his ticket in one hand and crossed the fingers on the other. "7," the announcer read, "9... 0... 6... 9... 0... 5... 3... 3... and the last one is... 2. 7906905332! Congratulations, whoever's got those numbers, you've won 5000 galleons!"
"Is that your number, Arthur?" Mum asked gently.
Dad glanced at his ticket. "No. But they're going to announce the Grand Prize in a minute, be patient."
Mum rolled her eyes. Ginny stifled a snigger.
"And now the Grand Prize. Starting with 2... another 2... 7... 1... 6... 7... 3... 9... 0... 5. That's 2271673905, witches and warlocks. Congrats whoever has that number, because you just won 7000 galleons!"
"Well?" Mum said. Dad was staring down at his ticket, an expression of shock on his face. "What's your number?"
"2271673905," Dad mumbled. "That's the winning number."
"See, I told you, the lottery is a tax on fools," Mum said.
"No, Molly, my number is 2271673905," Dad said, looking up. "I won."
"What?" the whole table shouted.
"We won!" Dad yelled, glee growing on his face.
Mum jumped up and grabbed Dad in huge hug, laughing like a little girl who'd received a unicorn. Ginny turned to Ron and the two yelled with shocked happiness. Ginny threw one arm around Ron and the other around Harry, pulling them both into a hug. Fred and George tried to high five each other, but Fred missed and hit Percy in the nose while George gave his twin a smack in the face to match Percy's. Despite the fact that Fred had just face-palmed him, Percy stared in shock at their father.
That week was full of celebrations. There was enough money to buy everyone new school robes, Muggle clothes for the teens to hang around in, and Ron a new wand, and they had plenty left over. Dad and Mum decided they wanted to visit Bill in Egypt, where he was working as a Curse-Breaker, and they stayed in Egypt a week, still leaving them with more than half of Dad's winnings.
Even though Egypt was amazing and it was wonderful to see Bill, Ginny found she couldn't wait to go home. Harry couldn't go with them — he had caught the stomach flu — and although his voice was always in her mind, she really missed him. She knew he missed her too, and his voice woke her up every morning. Sometimes at unholy hours, such as seven thirty in the morning, which really was later for him because of the time difference.
Despite her family's good fortune, not everything was going well. A mad mass murderer, Sirius Black, had escaped from Azkaban not long after they won the lottery. Ginny had overheard her parents talking about it, and her blood chilled whenever she thought of what they had said. She had told Harry instantly, and he had been quiet for most of the evening after that. Sirius Black had escaped from prison to hunt down Harry.
When they returned from Egypt, Ginny unpacked and did her few chores as fast as she could before grabbing her bike — Dad had given it to her for a birthday — and peddled as fast as she could to Mrs. Evans' house. She had barely put down the kickstand when Harry came running out of the house and grabbed her in a hug. Ginny was startled but amused when he picked her up and spun her around.
"I missed you too!" she said, laughing.
Harry put her down, grinning. "Hey, guess what?" he said. He was practically bouncing on the balls of his feet, grinning at her like the Cheshire Cat, and his eyes bright with excitement.
Ginny copped a serious pose, stroking her chin and looking at her best friend with one eyebrow raised. Harry laughed at her
"I have no idea," she said, dropping the pose.
"I got a dog! Gram and I found him at the animal shelter the other day, cause it was Dudley's birthday and she wanted to get him an animal. We got Dudley a turtle, but that dog just looked at us so lonely-like, Gram said we had to take him in too, as an early present for my birthday."
Ginny squealed and threw her arms around Harry's neck. "That's wonderful!" she said, grinning. "What's the dog's name? Boy or girl? Where is it?" she asked rapid-fire, letting go.
Harry turned towards the house, and whistled. "Come here, Snuffles!"
"Snuffles?" Ginny repeated, raising an eyebrow as a great big black dog came lumbering out of the front door. He had shaggy fur, lolling ears, and a long tail that wouldn't stop wagging. A leather collar was around his neck, the tags jingling merrily. Ginny was reminded of a picture she had once seen in Harry's photo album — a gift from Hagrid two years ago —, of Harry as a small baby and a black dog like this one, but this dog was thinner, his eyes sadder, and his fur was shot with gray along his muzzle and chest. She put it aside as it merely being a resemblance as the dog stopped in front of them, looking up at Harry expectantly.
"Gram's idea. He kept sneezing when we found him, so she decided to call him Snuffles," Harry said shortly. Ginny bent down and held out her palm for the dog to sniff. Snuffles licked her palm, and Ginny scratched his ears. She noticed that he wasn't just thinner than the dog in Harry's photos, he was downright emaciated. She could see his ribs through his black fur.
"He's beautiful, but he needs feeding," Ginny said. Snuffles barked happily, his tail wagging, and licked her face. She laughed, and hugged the dog around the neck.
After that, Snuffles followed them around everywhere. He was always by Harry, always wagging his tail. He acted like an overgrown puppy, despite his gray hairs. Ron, Harry, Ginny, and Snuffles found themselves sleeping outside more and more often. Snuffles seemed to be just as fond of Ginny as he was of Harry, and would let her curl up with her head on his stomach. Harry would always have an arm draped over his dog, and Ginny would always be holding his hand. For some strange reason, he was aggressive towards Scabbers, so they kept the rat in Ron's room whenever Snuffles followed Harry to the Burrow. After they found Snuffles trying to sneak into Ron's room to get at the poor rat, Mum put a spell on the door to keep him out.
Being only thirteen, neither child knew exactly why they slept with their fingers intertwined. Of course, Ginny felt butterflies in her stomach whenever her skin touched Harry's, and Harry's heart would imitate a race-car whenever she smiled at him, but they didn't really understand why. What Ginny realized though, was that when she slept outside, using Snuffles as a pillow and her hand in Harry's, she didn't have nightmares.
Harry's birthday was approaching rapidly, and Ginny knew exactly what she wanted to get him for his birthday. She convinced her mum to take them to Diagon Alley before his birthday so she could get his present.
Robes were bought, Ron got a new wand and rat tonic for poor Scabbers, Hermione bought a pet that was either a very big cat or quite a small tiger that seemed to dislike Scabbers as much as Snuffles did, and Harry had forgotten that his birthday was coming up. Ginny and Hermione snuck away while the boys were looking at the brand new Firebolt in the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies. Mum knew where they were going, so they did not stop to explain to anyone. Ginny ducked inside the little shop, with Hermione at her heels. The owner looked up as the bell tinkled, and gave them a wide smile.
"Hullo, girls!" she said through a thick Irish accent, coming out from behind the counter. "How may I help ye?"
Ginny moved to a counter displaying glass sculptures. Most of the little glass creatures sat on their own, sleeping or pawing the ground, but a group of glass dogs was playing tag in the middle of the counter. She bent, examining them, as a glass retriever stopped chasing a bull-dog to sniff her curiously.
"Like those, do ya?" the owner said with a grin. "I'm quite fond of 'em meself."
"How much are the dogs?" Ginny asked.
"Three galleons, seven sickles," she said. "But, if you buy one now, you get another half off."
Ginny picked up the retriever. It barked up at her silently, wagging its tail enthusiastically.
"I like this one," she said. Her eyes scanned the counter, and landed on another dog, sitting away from the others. Unlike most of the sculptures, this dog was made of black colored glass. It had shaggy glass fur, floppy ears, and looked identical to Snuffles.
"This one too," Ginny said, picking it up. The dog seemed startled at first, but then started wagging its tail hopefully.
"Aye, that one's a beauty," said the owner, smiling down on the glass dog fondly. "But, no one's ever wanted to buy 'im before now. Said he looked too lonesome, people said. Just out o' curiosity, why do you like him?"
Ginny shrugged. "He looks like my best friend's dog, but since we'll be going to back Hogwarts soon, I don't think Snuffles will get to come with us."
"Well, I think a few well chosen words with the Headmaster might get your friend's dog in," the lady said. "When I was at Hogwarts, me brother had this mastiff that followed 'im everywhere. Dumbledore didn't have the heart to make the poor pup wait for Jimmy to come home."
Ginny smiled at the shop owner, who smiled warmly back. "Anyway," she said. "Five galleons, ten sickles for both of 'em."
Ginny paid the woman, and watched as the shop owner charmed a box so the two dogs would not get broken on the way home. The miniature glass Snuffles was overjoyed to have been bought. Hermione then bought a colored glass barn owl, and the two of them went off.
Harry questioned her and Hermione's absence, but shut up when Ginny told him it was 'girl stuff.' Honestly, the boy was thicker than a troll sometimes and just as easy to trick.
Harry's grandmother was all in favor of holding a huge party for his thirteenth birthday, but Harry convinced her to hold a small one. Dudley was conspicuously absent from the festivities, but Mrs. Dursley hung around. Harry loved the glass dogs, so much so that he planted a kiss on her cheek. It was a chaste kiss, Ginny knew, but she couldn't help the swooping sensation that stole her stomach when his lips touched her cheek. Harry didn't seem to notice her reaction, and she kept it that way. Dumbledore even came to visit, and Ginny asked him if she could have a private word with him after term started and if Harry could bring Snuffles with him. Dumbledore was surprised at her request for a meeting, but agreed and as for Snuffles, the Headmaster said that as long as Hagrid would agree to keep him, Snuffles could come. Harry was even more ecstatic after that. She kept her appointment to herself for the time; no need to darken his mood.
The reason she had decided to talk with the Headmaster were the nightmares she had when she slept inside. She knew exactly where these visions were: They were replays of Tom Riddle's finest and darkest moments, accompanied by emotions that weren't hers and nor did she want them. She was hoping he could deaden the memories or remove them completely.
Before any of them knew it, it was September and time to leave for Hogwarts. Mrs. Evans, Harry, and Snuffles - the real one, not the glass one - joined them on the car ride to King's Cross. Mrs. Dursley had caught a cold recently, which meant that Harry's grandmother brought him.
Dad pulled Harry aside before they got on the train, and Ginny, curious, listened in to what Dad was saying. He was warning Harry to not go looking for Black, which sounded extremely odd to Ginny, and confused Harry endlessly.
Harry had not yet told Ron and Hermione about Sirius Black wanting to kill him, so after they all filed onto the train - Snuffles on a leash that Ginny was currently holding - Harry admitted that he had something to tell them.
"Go away, Ginny," Ron said, once again displaying his affinity for being tactless.
"Oh, that's nice," she said indignantly. "For your information, Ronald, I'm his friend too."
"Ginny, don't go away," Harry said, shooting Ron an annoyed look. "Come on." He led them down the train, searching for an empty compartment. People stuck their heads out in the hallway, looking at both Harry and Snuffles. Whoever had owned Snuffles first had must have trained him well, because he didn't get overexcited by all the people around him. He stayed close to Harry's side, and quiet.
Most of the compartments were full, and the only one they could find that was even remotely empty was one at the back of the train, occupied by only a man curled up under a traveling cloak and fast asleep. He looked quite young —maybe thirty—, but his sandy brown hair was shot with lines of gray and a few strands of white, his plain but handsome face was lined with worry wrinkles and scars and there were dark circles under his eyes. Snuffles ears perked up when he saw the man. They paused at the doorway, wondering whether to use the compartment or not. Since the train was usually only used by students, the only adult they had ever seen on the actual train was the witch who pushed the food cart. Ginny rolled her eyes at her friends and brother, and pushed her way in. Snuffles jumped up onto the bench immediately, and began sniffing the man.
"Snuffles, no," Harry said. "Let him be."
The dog let out low whimper, and curled up on the bench by the man, resting his head on the man's knee. Ginny and Harry exchanged looks; Harry pulled Snuffles off the man before he could wake up. They hadn't ever seen Snuffles behave like this before.
"Who do you reckon he is?" Ron asked.
"Professor R. J. Lupin," Hermione replied instantly.
"How do you know that?" Ron said, goggling at her.
"It's on his case," Hermione said, pointing up to the luggage rack above his head, where a battered brief case sat, held together mostly by a load of knotted string. 'Prof. R. J. Lupin' was printed across one end, the name was peeling away but the 'Prof.' looked new.
Ginny took the seat next to Snuffles, and draped an arm across his back. Harry sat next to her, and Ron and Hermione took the other bench, with Crookshanks, her new cat, held in a wicker basket on the bench beside her. Ron made sure Scabbers was out of both Snuffles and Crookshanks' reach by putting his cage on the luggage rack before dropping into his seat.
There was a short discussion on what they thought he would be teaching — Defense Against The Dark Arts, obviously — how well a job he would do — Ron remarked that one good hex could probably knock him over — and why he was on the train.
"Never mind him, listen," Harry said rather hurriedly, and he explained about Sirius Black being after him. Snuffles looked up at this, and while Harry was talking, Snuffles was growling. Ginny stroked his ears, trying to calm him.
What do you think is up with Snuffles? Ginny thought.
Probably the train, Harry thought back. Don't worry.
It was strange to have Harry tell her to not worry, since it was usually him that did the worrying.
I heard that.
I am aware of this fact.
You read too many books.
You don't read enough!
"Quit it!" Ron said, his voice exasperated. "Honestly, all this telepathy is driving me insane!"
Snuffles' ears rose up. Ginny could swear he was raising an eyebrow, but dogs don't have eyebrows.
"You're just jealous," Ginny told him. "If you had it, you'd never stop."
"That's beside the point," Ron said, though his ears were going red.
"That may be true, but Harry and I will continue our telepathy, whether you like it or not!" Ginny snapped.
Ron crossed his arms over his chest. Hermione shot him a look of deepest annoyance, and turned to Harry.
"So Sirius Black really escaped Azkaban to - to try and kill you?" she asked timidly.
Snuffles let out a particularly agitated bark. Professor Lupin let out a snort and shifted in his sleep. Harry reached around Ginny and bopped Snuffles gently on the nose. "Quiet," Harry said. "What's got into you?"
Snuffles whimpered softly and lay his head on Ginny's knee. Harry sighed at his dog, and ruffled his fur.
"Yeah," he said to Hermione, "at least that's what Mr. and Mrs. Weasley reckon."
"You've got to be really careful, then, Harry," she said, eyes wide with worry. "Don't go looking for trouble!"
"I don't go looking for trouble," said Harry, annoyed, "trouble usually finds me!"
"How thick would he have to be to go looking for a nutter who wants to kill him?" Ron asked, scowling still.
Ron's right, for once, Ginny thought. Why was Dad worried you'd go looking for Black?
A frown etched onto Harry's face. I have no idea.
Ginny met his eyes with her eyebrows knitted together as a slight worry entered her mind. You wouldn't go looking for him, would you?
No! Of course not; Black's a madman. I'd be just as mad as him to even think about looking for him.
"What are you thinking about now?" Hermione asked, looking as annoyed as Ron, but also a bit amused.
"Forget it," Ginny said. Snuffles, sensing she was upset, licked her hand. Ginny pulled her legs up on the bench and tucked them beneath her, leaning on Snuffles. Sometimes Snuffles treated her like he was her dog rather than Harry's. Not that she minded. She loved Snuffles, and it was nice to think of him as her dog too.
"He was my dog first, you know," Harry said.
Ginny stuck her tongue out at him. Ron and Hermione looked between the two of them, with familiar looks of bewilderment on their faces. Harry stuck his thumbs in his ears, giving himself cartoon antlers, went cross-eyed at her, and stuck his tongue out too.
Snuffles let out a bark that sounded just like a laugh. Ginny laughed too; Harry grinned, obviously pleased with himself. Ron choked up snorting, and Hermione shook her head in amusement.
The rest of the train ride proceeded much like the beginning, with Malfoy visiting in the middle to exchange a few choice insults and running back with his tail between his legs — literally: Ginny had found a hex in Tom's memories that gave the victim a long furry tail —, save for the last twenty minutes.
The brakes squealed, and the train lurched to a stop, almost throwing Snuffles off the bench.
"Finally!" Ron said, making to stand up. "I'm starving!"
"We can't be there yet," Hermione said, frowning.
"So why are we stopping?"His question was never answered. The lights flicked out. Neville came stumbling into their compartment, nearly sat on Crookshanks, and did end up sitting on Snuffles. Ginny stood up, maneuvered past Neville - who had elected to sit on the ground rather than the bench where there were too many animals - to the window.
"I think someone's coming aboard," she said softly.
"Who?" four anxious voices asked.
"Dunno," she said. Suddenly the train lurched again, and Ginny stumbled backward. She tripped over Neville, and, as the train lurched again, she fell over backwards, straight into Harry's lap.
"Hey, I'm here!" he said, almost indignantly, but Ginny heard his voice, which had just recently started to change, had taken on a higher tone. Even in the dark, Ginny saw that his cheeks were a bright pink. Hers probably matched.
But embarrassment fled as the compartment door slid open.
Ginny's breath caught in her throat. A tall, hooded, thing stood in the doorway, drawing in long, rattling breaths, like it was trying to suck more than air into its lungs. One rotted-looking scabbed hand rested on the handle of the door, looking like something disgusting that had decayed submerged in water. An instant chill spread through her, and, going by the fact that his arms had suddenly locked around her waist, it had also gone through Harry. The thing turned is hooded head towards her and Harry, and drew in another rattling breath.
Flashes of a memory she had been suppressing for the entire summer hit her. Tom's laughing face, the feel of his hauntingly cold fingers on her neck — ready to squeeze the life from her —, his cruel words. But mixed in with the Chamber, she heard a woman screaming, begging someone for mercy. She felt Tom's breath on her ear, saw a flash of green light, and blacked out…
Someone was calling her name.
Something warm and soft tickled her face. She wrinkled her nose. A rough, wet something ran over her cheek.
Her eyes shot open. Snuffles was bent over her, his wide eyes anxious. Could a dog be anxious? She registered Ron, Hermione, and Neville hanging over her with identical expressions of worry, saw Professor Lupin standing behind them, and felt an arm around her. The thing, whatever it was, was gone. She turned her head, to see a mess of black hair tucked in the crook of her neck.
"Harry?" she said groggily. He let out a sound akin to a whimper and tightened his grip on her. "Harry, are you all right?"
"Are you all right?" Ron questioned. Ginny ignored him, and prodded Harry in the shoulder.
He raised his head. His glasses were off. His eyes were out of focus, but still startlingly green. They were oddly bright though, and a second later Ginny realized they were bright with tears.
"Harry," she said softly, and, without really thinking about it, pressed her lips to his forehead. It was cold beneath her mouth. "Calm down. It's all right; it's gone."
Harry glanced around, then his eyes widened when he took in his arms wrapped tightly around her. He quickly let go and sat up. He sat up too quickly and moaned; Ginny knew he was dizzy. She sat up, but more slowly, and squeezed his hand reassuringly.
"What was that - that thing?" Harry asked. Professor Lupin answered him. It was a Dementor, and it had been looking for Sirius Black. Snuffles whimpered at this. He was shaking horribly. Ginny wrapped an arm around the dog, who licked and nuzzled her hand. Professor Lupin gave them all chocolate and Snuffles a strange look before going to see the driver.
Harry moved around Ginny to wrap his arms around Snuffles, who was still trembling uncontrollably. He asked Ron and Hermione what happened exactly, and, after receiving his answer, asked if anyone else had passed out.
"No," said Ron, who was still very white. "Snuffles was shaking like mad though."
Way to point out the obvious, Ginny thought. She was still very spooked, and so was Harry, but he was doing a better job of hiding it. Seeing Ron watching her anxiously, Ginny pulled her legs up on the bench and buried her face in Snuffles coat. Her hand found Harry's and she gripped it tightly.
Did you hear screaming? Harry thought.
Yes, she thought back. Who do you think it was?
I dunno. I saw Tom as well...
Ginny sucked in her breath. Yeah. I saw him too.
What do think it meant?
I don't know.
After the train pulled into the station and they pulled all of their things onto the platform, Ginny holding Snuffles leash as well as her trunk while Harry cartied Hedwig's cage and his trunk, and they all climbed into a carriage together. Snuffles sat on the ground by Ginny's feet, and Harry sat close to her and his dog. They had left their luggage on the platform as per normal, as someone would bring it up to the castle later. As they passed through the gates, they saw two more hooded Dementors. Harry closed his eyes and leaned his head against the seat until they had passed out of sight. Ginny gripped his hand like a life-line while the Dementors' chill still affected her.
Up at the school, they met Hagrid outside the Entrance Hall.
"Dumbledore told me yeh brought yer dog, Harry," Hagrid rumbled pleasantly. "He told me I was to let him stay in my cabin. Tha' all righ' with you, Harry?"
Harry gave his 'yes' and Hagrid walked off with Snuffles towards his cabin. They went on to the Great Hall, until McGonagall stopped them, saying she wanted a word with Harry. Ginny, Hermione, and Ron went on without them, taking their seats in the Great Hall. On Harry's side of her mind, she could hear Madam Pomfrey fussing over him, but in the Great Hall, the Sorting Hat was beginning its song. It sounded just like the one it had sung before her sorting, Gryffindors are brave, Slytherins are cunning, blah blah; Harry came back after the Sorting was through, and Dumbledore gave a few announcements. The Dementors were there to guard the school until Sirius Black was captured. Professor Lupin was to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, which meant Hermione guessed right. Hagrid was the new professor for Care of Magical Creatures. Filch had added new stuff to the banned list. There was the usual reminder to not go in the Forbidden Forest, since it was, as its name implied, forbidden. Ginny thought Dumbledore had looked right at her twin and best friend when he said this. Dinner was excellent, as usual. When the puddings had vanished, they stayed behind while everyone else went off to bed to talk to Hagrid. After talking to him a moment, McGonagall sent them off.
School started with its usual gusto. Hermione and Ginny headed off to Muggle Studies, while Ron and Harry went off to Divination. The Divination teacher predicted Harry would die; Ginny told him that she predicted deaths every five minutes, and her Muggle Studies teacher — Charity Burbage — asked her about her father's job, working with Muggles every day. Malfoy didn't listen in their first Care Of Magical Creatures class, and because of that got attacked by a Hippogriff. Not only that, but Ginny found that half of her lessons she already knew, thanks to Tom's memories. All in all, a good first day back.
The first Wednesday of term, Ginny received a note from Professor Dumbledore about the meeting she had requested. He had set aside an appointment for that evening at eight. After reading it through, she handed it to Harry, who glanced over it.
You're going to tell him?
Yes, Ginny thought. You made a good argument.
What's that at the bottom? He likes sugar quills?
It's probably the password to get in.
Oh. Okay. I'm coming with you.
Fine with me.
Harry smiled reassuringly, and went back to his breakfast. Ginny was nervous the rest of the day, and come eight o'clock, her knees were trembling and resented having to walk up to Dumbledore's office, with Harry by her side. She stopped in front of the gargoyle, and gave the password. The statue stepped aside, and the wall split open to reveal a spiral staircase.
Up at the top, Ginny gave a hesitant knock.
"Enter," Dumbledore said from within.
She turned the doorknob, and they stepped inside.
"Miss Weasley," Professor Dumbledore said, smiling warmly. "I was not aware that Mr. Potter was invited."
"I hope you don't mind," Ginny said. "It concerns the both of us, what I've got to tell you."
"Not in the slightest," Dumbledore said. "Please, have a seat."
They did, and Ginny clasped her hands in her lap. She always did that when she was anxious.
"So what did you wish to tell me?" Professor Dumbledore asked her kindly.
Ginny had never had much patience for subtlety, nor for dancing around the subject. So, she blurted it out. "I've got Tom Riddle's memories in my head."
Professor Dumbledore's gentle expression switched immediately to shock. He stared at her a moment; she dropped her gaze to her lap.
"You have Tom Riddle's memories?" Dumbledore repeated.
"Please elaborate," Dumbledore asked slowly.
"Well, after what happened in the Chamber, I noticed that I had these memories that weren't mine, but at first they didn't really mean anything. They were just random facts and thoughts about places and people. But then one night in July, the memories got horribly vivid; they practically attacked my mind. I got a terrible headache, and I could barely move. It wasn't just memories, I felt the emotions that came with them. They were like visions."
"I see," Dumbledore said.
"I didn't know what to do, but then Harry showed up and the visions sort of faded," she plowed on. "He convinced me to tell you. Lately they've just been sitting there, and I've done my best to stay out of them, but sometimes they come up as nightmares."
"You said that they were simply facts at the beginning," Dumbledore mused. "Can you still access those facts without triggering any memories?"
"A few," she said. "I, uh, I've been using some of those to help me in classes."
"Have you? And how does that work?"
"Well, I'm pretty sure I've got all his memories from birth to sixteen, when he stopped writing in the diary," she explained, "so I know about every class he took."
"I see," Dumbledore said again.
Ginny bit her lip. Dumbledore was looking at her strangely, almost in an appraising way.
"Do you know how he stored his memories in his diary?" Dumbledore asked suddenly.
Ginny shook her head. "I tried not to go through them much, so I didn't figure that out."
"I see," Dumbledore said once more. "Very well; thank you Miss Weasley. I will do some research on this and I ask you to keep this to yourself. As soon as I get some answers, I will inform you of them. In the meantime, keep doing what you are doing and avoid dwelling on Tom Riddle's memories."
Ginny and Harry exchanged glances. Harry shrugged, and Ginny frowned. "All right," Ginny said. "Thank you, Professor."
She and Harry left the office, and walked slowly up to the tower.
What do you think? Harry thought.
I think he'll take his time, Ginny said. Like he is with our connection.
It's a soul-bond, remember?
Ginny nodded. He had told her about his reading on their connection during the summer. But that only halfway confirms one suspicion. We still don't know exactly what it is and how it happened.
Ginny leaned her head onto his shoulder as they were walking. She was feeling exhausted. Harry wrapped an arm around her; she let her eyes drift closed and allowed Harry to guide her up to the tower.
Ginny leaned her head onto his shoulder as they were walking. She was feeling exhausted. Harry wrapped an arm around her; she let her eyes drift closed and allowed Harry to guide her up to the tower.
September passed by quickly in a flurry of essays and new spells. Snuffles stayed at Hagrid's cabin, and they visited him whenever they could. Halloween brought the first Hogsmeade trip, and Ginny reluctantly left Harry at the castle to go, but brought him back a load of sweets. Hogsmeade was interesting enough, but she felt a strange sense of deja vu. She supposed she had Tom to thank for that. November was gone before she turned around. One very rainy Quidditch match, the Dementors came onto the grounds, and ended up making Harry fall off his broom. Even though she was far from the Dementors' reach, she heard screaming and Tom's laugh in her mind. At the same time Harry fell from his broom, Ginny collapsed in her seat. Ginny had never been so worried, but he recovered quickly though saddened. Not just by the fact that his broom had been destroyed after the wind took it to meet the Whomping Willow. They had figured out whose screaming they had been hearing: His mother's.
Christmas came with another startling event. Ginny left with the others for Hogsmeade, feeling slightly guilty, but all the same, she needed to do Christmas shopping. She had instructed Harry not to peek while she was shopping, and wasn't really listening to his side of her mind. She was standing in Honeydukes, looking at a a display of Chocolate Frogs, rolling her eyes at what Ron and Hermione thought Harry might like, when a pair of hands clapped over her eyes, causing her to jump in surprise.
"Guess who?" said a voice in her ear. Ginny knew that voice, but it couldn't be...
"Harry?" she guessed.
The hands retreated, and she turned around to see Harry's grinning face.
"Harry!" she gasped, gobsmacked. "What - how -"
"Look at this," he said, showing her a yellowed piece of parchment. It was a map. Fred and George had given it to him. He had sneaked out of school using a secret passage that led right into Honeydukes.
"Those little prats!" she spat when he finished. "They never told me anything about a map!"
They put his — albeit not allowed — presence to good use. She showed him around Hogsmeade, hiding the gifts she had bought of course, and they stopped for lunch in the Three Broomsticks. While drinking their butterbeer, the two of them were hit over the head with a conversation Ginny wished fervently that they had not overheard. Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, and Hagrid arrived, causing Harry to jump under the table, with her father's boss, the Minister of Magic. Ginny tried to ignore them, but for some reason they chose a table right behind her and her hidden friend. She couldn't keep out their conversation, and was shocked to hear that Sirius Black wasn't just a madman who wanted to kill Harry. He was a traitor; he had given Voldemort the secret of where Harry's parents were living, allowing the dark wizard to find and kill them. Ginny's blood chilled as she heard McGonagall reveal that Sirius Black was Harry's godfather.
Ginny almost risked awkward questions to go with him back down the secret passage from Honeydukes to Hogwarts, but Harry convinced her not to. She was afraid of what he might do.
She finished her shopping as quickly as she could, and nearly sprinted back to Hogwarts. She found Harry in his dorm, looking at a photograph of his parents' wedding day. She didn't say anything. She sat down on the bed beside him, one arm wrapped around his shoulders, and listened to his angry thoughts.
She stayed there until he fell asleep. She put away the photo album, pulled his blankets over him with a flick of her wand, and, as an after thought, kissed his forehead. She was really worried about him. She pulled the curtains around his bed closed, and left the room. She passed Ron on her way out, who gave her a confused look.
The next morning, Ginny waited in the common room with Ron and Hermione for Harry to wake up. Ron was nodding off in his chair and Hermione doing homework. She hadn't told them about Black, since it was really Harry's decision.
When he did come down, he looked terrible. He had dark circles under his eyes, and a scowl on his face to match Snape's.
He didn't want to tell them about Black. They could tell something was wrong, but Ginny refused to say. She took him down to Hagrid's to see Snuffles, where they found Hagrid bent over a huge tankard of ale. He had not been sacked, but Malfoy's father was taking the case of Buckbeak versus Malfoy's lack of common sense before the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures. When Hagrid rid himself of most of his drunkenness, he yelled at them for sneaking out, even though it was the middle of the day. Ginny convinced Hagrid to let them take Snuffles back with them, since most people had gone home for the holiday, before he escorted them back to the castle. She knew Harry would need the comfort, even if it meant that they had to put Scabbers in his cage and charm the curtains around Ron's bed so Snuffles would not be able to get in to attack the rat.
Christmas morning dawned brightly, as Ginny woke to Harry yelling in her mind, which had become their tradition. He had perked up since the Hogsmeade visit. She snapped at him, even though she wasn't that annoyed, and turned to her presents, noticing Hermione opening her gifts. Mum had sent her a sweater, Hagrid candies, Hermione a pack of teen romance books - which made Ginny blush brightly and Harry tease her - and other assorted gifts from friends and family. Harry had sent her a bracelet, which meant it was his turn to blush. She nearly ran from her dormitory, not answering Hermione's queries as to where she was going, and up to his.
Before he could speak a word she had thrown her arms around his neck and was hugging the life out of him. Ron laughed at his red face when she planted a kiss on his cheek.
"It's just a bracelet," Harry stammered, still very red.
"I love it!" Ginny said, beaming. Ron tugged the bracelet out of her hand. "Hey!"
"'Harry James Potter'," he read the engraving. He looked up, eyeing Harry suspiciously. "What are you giving my sister a bracelet with your name on it for?"
Harry shrugged. "Just 'cause."
Ron looked at Harry with such an accusatory look it was comical. Ginny plucked her bracelet out of Ron's hand and stuck her tongue out at him.
"Help me put it on, please," Ginny said, almost shyly, to Harry. He did. She grinned down at the bracelet, and at Harry.
Christmas brought more than just a bracelet from Harry. In the midst of his presents was a brand new Firebolt. Ron and Harry gushed over it, but Hermione wasn't very pleased. She grabbed Ginny's arm and tugged her away from where the boys were examining it. She whispered her theory that Sirius Black might have sent the broom, and Ginny, seeing the validity of her worry, grabbed Harry's arm and tugged him off the broomstick. After Christmas dinner, McGonagall took the broomstick away to make sure it hadn't been jinxed. Ron was furious, Harry was upset, Hermione ran off before they could yell at her, and Ginny tried to get Harry to see the point. It took a while, and a threatened hex, but he finally understood.
New Years meant that Snuffles had to return to Hagrid's cabin, and brought the rest of the students back to Hogwarts, Lupin's lessons to Harry about warding off Dementors, and mid-year exams. Lupin was teaching him the Patronus Charm. Ginny had a memory of Tom learning about it in his sixth year, but Tom had never been able to master it, so Harry relayed everything he learned to her. Soon both of them were producing silver vapor, but neither one of them could make a true Patronus. A rift was driven between Ron and Hermione when Scabbers vanished; Ron accused Crookshanks of eating him, but Hermione stood by her cat. January brought more snow than was necessary, and another illegal trip to Hogsmeade for Harry. This time, Ginny insisted he bring his cloak.
February was more interesting, as the Valentine's Day Hogsmeade trip brought a curious event. Ginny was suddenly being asked left right and center by boys to go with them to Hogsmeade. The first boy to ask was a fourth year Ravenclaw she didn't know, and she turned him down as soon as she got over her surprise. At the time, Harry was at Quidditch Practice and wasn't paying attention, so she didn't bother to tell him. All the same, she couldn't help but feel a bit giddy that someone thought she was worth asking out.
That giddy feeling quickly turned to annoyance as more and more boys asked. A fifth year Hufflepuff she hadn't exchanged even two words with before stopped her in the corridor with a corny poem. Dean Thomas asked her to accompany him one morning when she was rushing to get to breakfast before class. He seemed rather put out that she said no.
For some reason, though, no one ever approached her when Harry or any of her brothers were around. She decided to not tell any of her brothers, as they were likely to go pounding and pranking every boy who even looked at her, and not to tell Harry because he was likely to help her brothers. After all, she found herself thinking almost bitterly, he was practically another brother.
But it seemed that a particular fourth year Gryffindor had not received the memo about not asking her in front of one of her brothers.
"Hey, Weasley!" Ginny turned in her seat at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall to see who was calling her. Harry, sitting across the table, kept eating his potatoes.
A well-built fourth year boy was walking towards her, smiling in a way he probably thought was charming and Ginny thought looked a bit sinister. He stopped in front of her, and dropped onto the bench beside her.
"Heard you haven't got a date for Hogsmeade yet," he said, still smiling creepily. "The name's Cormac McLaggen. How about being my date, eh?"
Ginny was about to answer when a load of half-chewed potatoes splattered the left side McLaggen's face, effectively wiping the smile away.
"What the?" McLaggen cried, a look of disgust taking his face, slightly marred by the potatoes. Ginny roared with laughter, and turned to look at Harry, whose mouth was hanging open still from when he spat his mouthful of potatoes across the table. Ginny grabbed a napkin and handed it to McLaggen, who hastily scrubbed his face clean of the offending starch.
"Sorry," said Harry, however his voice portrayed no apology.
You're not sorry.
Ginny let out a half-concealed snort, and turned back to McLaggen. "I am flattered by your request, Cormac —"
"So you'll go with me?" he said. "Good." He dropped the napkin onto the table, and mocked a bow to her. "I'll meet you in the Entrance Hall at nine Saturday morning."
"Wait —" Ginny said, eyes wide, but Cormac was already walking away. She sank in her seat, and turned to face Harry with a scowl, who was scowling just as hard.
"You are not going with him," Harry said, before she could even begin complaining.
Ginny swelled in her seat with indignation. "I beg your pardon?" she said icily.
"I'll tell him," Harry said, standing. "You are not going out with him."
"I rather think that's my decision," she said, now angry with him as well as McLaggen.
"You don't want to go with him!" Harry said, but he dropped back into his seat.
"That may be true —"
"He asked me, not you!"
"But you were going to say no!"
"So? You don't have to jump up and insist I say no!"
Harry crossed his arms over his chest, glaring at the retreating back of Cormac McLaggen. Ginny considered for a moment going with Cormac, just to spite Harry. Harry turned to her with a look of anger and hurt, telling her he had heard her thought, and she sighed.
"Fine," she said, "let's go tell him."
Harry was out of his seat and half way down the Hall before she had even set down her fork. She shook her head and followed her friend. The found McLaggen in the Entrance Hall, talking to a group of boys with triumph on his face.
"Hey, McLaggen!" Ginny called. McLaggen turned around, and smirked at her.
"Yeah, Weasley?" he drawled.
"I think you misunderstood me," she said, smiling gently at him. "When I said I was flattered, I didn't mean that I wanted to go with you."
His smug expression changed as quickly as if someone had splattered his face with potatoes.
"What?" he spluttered. "But — but -"
"So, that's a no," Ginny said. "Sorry."
"But — but — I -"
"I'm sure you are a lovely person," Ginny said, "I'm just not interested, that's all."
McLaggen turned red as her hair. He glared at both her and Harry, who stood just behind her with his arms crossed over his chest.
"Fine," McLaggen spat. "But you're making a mistake."
McLaggen stormed off. The group of boys were all sniggering behind their hands. Harry grabbed Ginny's arm, and pulled her away from them, towards the stairs.
"Hey!" she said, a little surprised. "What's gotten into you?"
"Come on!" he said, pulling her up the stairs. Ginny sighed and let him drag her into an empty classroom. He turned to her, still scowling.
"How many people asked you to go with them?"
"Beg pardon?" Ginny asked, trying to feign innocence.
"You heard me!"
"What's it matter to you?"
Ginny sighed. "A few. It doesn't matter, all right? I said no to all of them."
Harry scowled harder. "How many is a few?"
"Why are you so grumpy about this?" Ginny shot back.
He didn't answer. He didn't need to. Ginny felt a sudden wave of aggression from him, and not only that but a sense of possessiveness as well. Her fingers found the bracelet on her wrist, and she fingered his name engraved into the metal.
"I see," she said softly, sort of pink. "You're jealous."
"No!" Harry scoffed, turning bright pink. "No I'm not!"
"Don't lie!" Ginny snapped, though she was beginning to feel amused by the situation. "I'm in your head, you goose!"
Harry scowled. He seated himself on one of the desks, looking down at his feet. "Fine. I am."
Ginny slipped onto the desk beside him. "A few is about ten. I turned them all down, Harry. I didn't even consider saying 'yes' for a moment."
"I know," he mumbled. " I — I just — It's complicated —"
"It doesn't have to be," she whispered. She slipped her hand into his and gave it a squeeze. He looked up at her, a frown still etched into his face. His eyes met hers, and her heart skipped a beat.
"How can it not be complicated?" Harry asked.
"I don't really know," she said, "I just know that you don't have to say anything."
Harry nodded slowly, his gaze drifting to the opposite wall. He closed his eyes, and Ginny listened to the thoughts that were rocketing through his mind. He was confused. He was possessive. He was shy. He was a thirteen year old boy with a crush.
Ginny lay her head on his shoulder.
I understand, she thought.
I don't, Harry thought.
Yes you do. You just don't want to admit it.
Harry sighed. Fine. I... I like you.
She smiled. I like you too.
You are an idiot. You are in my bloody head and you couldn't tell?
No! Girls' minds are confusing!
Your mind is confusing you.
See what I mean?
Ginny smacked his arm, but she was smiling. Harry mocked a look of deep pain, then grinned at her. He lay back on the desk, and pulled her down with him. Ginny let her head rest on his shoulder, and his arm pinned her to his side. He grinned at her from ear to ear.
So, now what? Harry thought.
I dunno. Do you want to kiss me?
You don't know how badly I want to.
Why don't you?
Harry looked down at her, his eyes wide and bright. She could hear his heart thumping in his chest and wouldn't have been surprised if he could hear hers. Her tongue shot out and licked her lips. His eyes went from her eyes to her mouth, and his lips parted a little.
I don't think we should yet, he thought.
Why not? She thought, a bit disappointed.
I want it to be special. I don't think a classroom is special enough.
Ginny cocked her head. "All right. That makes sense."
Harry smiled at her, and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "That should tide you over until I find a special enough place."
"You know it won't."
"Can't blame me for trying, though can you?"
Ginny laughed, and dropped her head back onto his shoulder. She let herself just enjoy the feel of him next to her, his breath stirring her hair and sending slight shivers down her back. The light in the room slowly faded, while they fell into a shallow sleep, fingers intertwined.
Sometime later, Ginny was shaken awake to see her brother, Percy, looking down on her disapprovingly. He dragged them out by the ear and escorted them to Gryffindor tower, going on about inappropriate behavior and what her mother would say. Ginny got fed up with his preaching by the time they had reached the Fat Lady's portrait, and said if her behavior was inappropriate, then his rolling around the dungeons with Penelope Clearwater was downright disgraceful.
He left them with a very red face. She and Harry shared a laugh as they approached the stairs. Harry squeezed her hand with a smile, and sort of shyly kissed her cheek. He ran up his stairs just as red as Percy had been. Ginny just about floated up the stairs to her dormitory, beaming and bright pink. Hermione practically ambushed her with a rampage of questions, where had she been, what had she been doing, why was she so happy, but Ginny shrugged these questions off and settled into her bed with a contented sigh. She pulled her curtains closed in Hermione's face, and shut her eyes.
Ron was right annoying.
He always is, Ginny thought. Hermione wouldn't stop asking what we had been doing.
That's to be expected. Ginny?
I know I'm not really supposed to go to Hogsmeade, but would you go with me anyway?
She grinned into the darkness. Of course I will.
Up in the boys' dormitories, all of Harry's roommates wanted to know why he wouldn't stop smiling.
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