Echoes of the Snake by straykneazle

Summary: Ginny Weasley is returning to Hogwarts after a disastrous first year. People keep whispering in hallways, she doesn't know what to do around those who were hurt by her actions, and strange things are happening at Hogwarts. There's only one person who truly seems to understand, but she can't even manage to speak to him.
Rating: PG-13 starstarstarstarhalf-star
Categories: Pre-OotP
Characters: None
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2023.07.10
Updated: 2023.07.10

Echoes of the Snake by straykneazle
Chapter 1: The Uninvited Passenger
Author's Notes:

September 1, 1993

The Hogwarts Express clattered along the rails, racing up the Scottish countryside, as Ginny Weasley brooded to herself in a compartment full of her giggling classmates. He had smiled at her. They had shared that, laughing at her brother’s attempts at romance. If only she could be that casual all the time, maybe even talk to him properly. He was always so kind to her. Even before May, Harry never said a word as she made a fool of herself time and time again. Ginny let out an audible groan as memories of butter dishes and poorly costumed dwarfs flashed past. But things were different now, and Ginny couldn’t quite figure out why he was still so nice to her. He knew, knew even more than the rest of the school, knew the true extent of her stupidity, of what she had invited into herself.

Now Hayley Towler was looking at her from across the cramped compartment with “the look”, that judgmental knowing look. Prat. Imagine if she actually knew just how stupid Ginny had been. How was it that Harry could still smile at her? When everyone else who barely knew what had happened down there was avoiding her, he had pulled her aside for many late-night games of Exploding Snap during the last month of term. They hadn’t talked much, but he had been there when nobody else was. Of course, her brothers had promised their mother that things would be different, but they were somehow suffocating in their presence.

Harry was different. He didn’t try to say anything, he was just there, sitting in the knowing silence of understanding. The simple presence of Harry Potter sitting with her, of all people, in front of the fire had the effect of students no longer giving Ginny the wide berth they had been giving her in the initial days after- after Tom. Harry had even pulled Lavender Brown aside when she had made a glib comment about doubting certain students’ “Gryffindor values.”

Why couldn’t she talk to him? Despite everything, he had never been anything but caring and kind. She knew he had noticed her awkwardness; they had locked eyes at breakfast last summer when she’d managed to put the elbow of her nightdress in the butter dish, but he had never given her even the slightest grief for it. He would just smile and continue talking to her as if she hadn’t just done something mortifying. If he mocked her feelings to her brothers, she never heard- and there was a lot to hear at the Burrow. Harry, he saved her, even though she had almost gotten him killed. He deserved to hate her the most.

And then there was the matter of her pig-headed brother. Once inseparable, Ron had barely talked to her for the past two years. The year she was left home without any siblings had started all right. For once she had the Burrow practically to herself, and Ron had written her all the time with the wildest stories about adventures with Harry Potter. At the time she hadn’t believed half of them, but they kept her amused and gave her a glimpse of him. Then Ron had started writing more and more about his new friend Hermione Granger, who had sounded quite bookish and annoying, she couldn’t quite see what he saw in her. Now, she had started to view Hermione as almost a friend, swot and all, and she had become quite sure of what Ron saw in her. But last year, he had hardly acknowledged her existance, leaving her to be bullied around by Percy or alone to write to Tom. At least the twins sometimes used her as a decoy for their mad schemes. She didn’t need a minder like her mother had in mind. She just wanted her brother.

‘Go away, Ginny,’ Ron had said as they boarded the train. A clear dismissal, but when Harry had asked for a private word as they boarded, his eyes had lingered on her in a way that didn’t feel like a dismissal. If only her dunderhead of a brother had just kept his mouth shut. Harry knew she could keep secrets. What were they talking about? Dad had pulled Harry aside, right after they had shared that smile over Percy, and spent several minutes whispering intently with him. Tom must have come up because Dad had flinched violently at something Harry said. Voldemort. Ginny reckoned she must get comfortable with that name too, but Tom somehow still felt less threatening after everything.

‘Oh, sorry. Hiya… you lot have a good summer?’

Ginny pulled away from her thoughts to notice the door to the compartment had slid open, revealing a small, mousey-haired boy looking up at her, wearing Muggle clothes and clutching an old folding camera. Colin Creevey. Another near-death she was responsible for. Ginny had been avoiding his enthusiastic attempts at conversation since the mandrake draught had awakened him from nearly seven months petrified in the hospital wing. He had missed almost his entire first year because of her. As she added her own pleasantries to the chorus of responses, Colin caught Ginny’s eye.

‘Would you know where your brother is?’

Ah yes, of course. He was looking for Harry. Stalking Harry. If he held an ounce of concern for Harry, he would know Harry hated that kind of attention.

‘No, I don’t know, he went off to find a compartment with Hermione Granger and Harry Potter. I don’t really keep track of them,’ said Ginny sharply.

‘Oh… okay then. See you around,’ Colin stammered as he retreated out of their compartment.

‘Maybe Slytherin’s monster could have done a better job with that one,’ Hayley scoffed as she closed her book and reached into her trunk for her school robes.

 Ginny froze. All eyes were suddenly on her.

‘Oh don’t. He’s really quite fun if you get him off the topic of The Boy Who Lived.’, groaned the usually-bubbly Demelza Robins.

She was right. Colin was nice. He didn’t deserve anything that had happened to him. Tom had attacked him as a ‘favour’ for Ginny. She had been annoyed with his non-stop chatter about Harry after that awful match with the cursed Bludger and had snapped at him to go ask Harry about it. Ginny had vented her frustrations to Tom as Colin had crept through the portrait hole. ‘Oh, how insufferable that must be,’ he had written. ‘And Harry doesn’t deserve that now, does he? Let’s see what we can do about that.’ The next thing Ginny remembered was waking up to Demelza’s sobbing. She’d had a lie-in apparently and missed most of breakfast, so the dorm had been empty except for the inconsolable girl. When she made it down to breakfast, she had known. That was when she should have gone straight to Dumbledore, or McGonagall, or Harry, or Ron, or even Percy.  But she hadn’t. She had been so worried about her own skin she had hesitated. When she had confronted Tom, he had turned quite nasty and told Ginny that he would kill her and tell all her secrets to Harry if she said anything. So, she had kept quiet and plotted her own way to fix that mess.

Growing tired of the bickering girls rehashing the far-too-personal tragedies of last year, Ginny hastily threw her robes on over her Muggle clothes and stalked out of the compartment. She intended to find Colin and apologise. For everything.

Having worked all the way to the back of the train, Ginny still hadn’t seen Colin. Thinking she must have missed him, she started to turn around to head back when an icy chill blew down the aisle as the train shuddered to a halt. The lamps were suddenly extinguished, and Ginny gasped as she found herself the coldest she’d been in three months. As her eyes began to adjust to the dim light cast by the setting sun, the windows began to frost over, blocking even that.

The familiar yelp of Neville Longbottom as he accidentally tripped into her startled Ginny, transporting her back from the memories that lingered just below the surface of her thoughts so often these days. He quickly ducked into the last compartment, and hearing the sound of something boarding the train, paired with a rising sense of dread, Ginny rushed to follow. Sliding open the door, she collided with a mane of bushy hair headed out of the compartment, knocking Hermione to the ground with a thud.

‘Who’s that?’



They were here at least, but someone was coming.

‘What are you doing?’

‘I was looking for Ron- ’

‘Come in and sit down-’

Ginny quickly slid into the compartment, careful to step over Hermione and took a seat.

‘Not here! I’m here!

The sudden yelp that came as she realised she’d sat down on Harry’s lap made the heat rush to her face. Leaping up, Ginny trod on the hand of someone sitting on the compartment floor.

‘Ouch!’ yelped Neville.

It was getting even colder, and somehow, she knew he was coming. Tom was on the train. Shaking, Ginny squeezed into the far end of the compartment bench next to Harry and clung against the wall, holding her breath.

‘Quiet!’ a tired, hoarse voice hissed, as someone shuffled from the other side of the compartment.

Suddenly a man came into sight as blue flames glowed in his hands, dimly illuminating the compartment with dancing light. His face was worn and tired, but he looked alert. He knew who was coming. Ginny gripped her wand, not even sure what she would do, but she had to do something to keep Tom away from Harry.

‘Stay where you are,’ the man breathed as he walked toward the door of the compartment, the glowing flames in his outstretched hand.

Before the man could reach the door, it slid open of its own accord.

But Ginny was not looking at the tall, handsome figure of Tom Riddle in the doorway. Instead was a great towering figure, cloaked entirely in black with its face obscured by its hood. The only part of it she could see was a glimpse of bony dead hand visible in the flickering light of the flames before disappearing under the cloak. The spectre’s breath came in shuddering raspy bursts that made her feel sick. She felt Harry slump onto the floor from next to her as an all too familiar laugh filled her ears.

‘Stupid girl. You have led your precious Harry Potter right to Lord Voldemort. I’ll make sure he gets to watch your death before I kill him. I suppose I should thank you for enabling my return, for I have gone farther than anyone in defeating death and it wouldn’t have been possible without your most willing assistance.’ Ginny was screaming at Tom, as the cold drained her soul away from her on the cold stone floor.

‘None of us is hiding Sirius Black under our cloaks. Go!’ A silvery vapour shot from the man’s wand, bathing the room in bright light, as Ginny was rocketed back to reality.

She had been back on the floor in the chamber, and now she felt so cold it took some work to convince herself she wasn’t still there. Ginny almost became sick as the cloaked figure fled. Harry was on the floor beneath her, sprawled next to a very white Neville, with Ron and Hermione kneeling over him. The train shuddered back into motion as the lamps returned.

‘Harry! Harry! Are you, all right?’ Ron was frantically slapping his face as Harry came to, shaking, his face beaded with sweat.

Ginny curled up into a ball against the compartment wall as Ron and Hermione heaved Harry back onto the bench.

‘Are you OK?’ Ron frantically asked.

‘Yeah, what happened? Where’s that “ that thing? Who screamed?’

‘No one screamed.’

She had screamed. Ginny Weasley had screamed herself hoarse, or had she? She locked eyes with Harry.  He gave her the kind of deep searching stare that she hadn’t felt since they were-- in the chamber.

‘But I heard screaming-’

At that moment the man began cracking pieces off of a huge slab of Honeyduke’s Finest and handing one to Harry.

‘Here, eat it. It’ll help.

‘What was that thing?’ stammered Harry, chocolate still in hand.

‘A Dementor,’ said the man as he placed an equally large chunk of chocolate into Ginny’s palm. ‘One of the Dementors of Azkaban.’

A memory swam before her of her father coming into the kitchen of the Burrow one day, cold and clammy after a day visiting Azkaban on ministry business.

She bit down on the rich chocolate and a bit of warmth returned to her, as the man repeated ‘Eat, it’ll help. I need to speak to the driver, excuse me.’

‘Are you sure you’re OK, Harry?’ pleaded Hermione. Of course, he wasn’t okay, not after that.

‘I don’t get it. What happened?’

As Hermione and Ron began recounting the horrors that had just happened, Ginny swallowed more of the chocolate and began to feel more like herself again. Or whatever ‘herself’ was now.

‘It was horrible,’ cried Neville. ‘Did you feel how cold it went when it came in?’

An almost equally shaky voice came from her brother. ‘I felt weird. Like I’d never be cheerful again…’

Oh, was that all he experienced? Lucky him. She met Harry’s searching gaze again. She knew they had experienced something much more horrifying. She tried to say something, but words failed her and only a most pitiful sob escaped her lips as she held her knees to her chest. Suddenly Hermione was next to her, wrapping her smaller frame in a tight warm hug that Ginny didn’t realise she needed so desperately.

‘But didn’t any of you- fall off your seats?’ said Harry, as if searching for someone to understand.

‘No,’ said Ron, looking anxiously at Harry again. ‘Ginny was shaking like mad, though…’

That thick-headed insensitive bastard. She might have stayed on the seat, but that was only because Neville had been at her feet. But she didn’t trust her voice to speak as Hermione cast a knowing look at her.

‘You were back in the chamber.’

Ginny could only give the slightest nod as Hermione continued to hold her in the embrace. She had never known the girl very well, despite sharing a room at the Leaky Cauldron with her last night, but suddenly she was very glad to have someone who felt this close to a sister beside her.

After a few minutes, the man returned to the compartment, looking around at their faces with the hint of a smile. ‘I haven’t poisoned that chocolate, you know… We’ll be at Hogwarts in ten minutes.’

As Harry began to eat the chocolate and regain a bit of his colour, the man knelt beside him. ‘Are you all right, Harry?’

How had he recognised him? Sure, Harry was famous, but very few people outside of Hogwarts knew him on sight without a close look at the scar creeping out from under his hair. And it was rather odd for this man to be on a first-name basis with him. Harry muttered a quiet affirmation and looked down at his remaining chocolate as Ginny looked up at Hermione, who was watching her. The compartment remained quiet until the train shuddered to a stop looking out over Hogsmeade station, which was difficult to see amid a downpour of freezing rain.

As they stumbled off the train and towards the carriages, Ginny felt a bit of trepidation creep back into her. They were back at Hogwarts. Her first year had changed her, it had introduced her to real horrors that a year ago she couldn’t have imagined. This castle held no pleasant memories, and she did not feel welcome. She suddenly felt very alone as Hermione hugged her before re-joining Harry and her brother. The man held open the door of a carriage and she climbed in behind Neville. She guessed this year couldn’t possibly plummet any lower than last.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

This story archived at