|SIYE Time:21:46 on 17th September 2021|
Category: Pre-OotP, Post-DH/PM
Warnings: Mild Language
Summary: Impetuous Decisions made in childhood are meant to stay there, but Ginny's first year at Hogwarts was more life-threatening than most. She swears never to do anything to put Harry at harm again, but never is a long time. Voldemort is dead, but will echoes of the Chamber prevent her and Harry from ever finding happiness?
Hitcount: Story Total: 9869; Chapter Total: 1603
Awards: View Trophy Room
By the time Draco's Imperius Curse had worn off completely, Ginny was far down into the tunnel leading to the Chamber. If light from the bathroom above had made it into any part of the passageway, Ginny couldn't see it now; the space she stood in was almost pitch black.
"Lumos," she whispered. A spark guttered at the tip of her wand for a moment and then flickered out. She tried again, forcing herself to concentrate on nothing but the light. This time, her wand glowed faintly with a weak yellow that revealed only the stone walls immediately to her sides and a foot or so of the path ahead. It was halfway blocked with fallen stones, and from the scratches on her hands and the ache in her arms, Ginny suspected that this was not the first obstacle she had encountered down here.
There was a strange prickling on the back of her neck and she whirled around, holding her wand high to try to see back the way she had come. But only darkness greeted her, and her wand's light seemed even less able to pierce the blackness behind, so Ginny turned around again and began to lift the rocks out of her path.
She had no idea how long she walked, tripping over stones in the silence. A rockslide caught the edge of her robes and as she tugged at the cloth, more came loose from the wall. She shrugged out of the garment right there and let the rocks fall where they may, not caring that beneath it, she was only dressed in thin pajamas. How long ago her casual Sunday breakfast seemed now.
She pushed aside yet another pile of rocks blocking her path, wishing yet again that she could just blast them away with her wand, or at least charm them to weigh less. The prickling on the back of her neck was getting stronger and she suspected she was finally getting close, even though her memories of the last time she'd been here were murky.
She didn't want to continue. Her worst nightmare was coming true, the chanting in her head was getting louder that once again, this was all her fault, her fault, her fault.
But even louder was Draco's voice, warning her that Harry was going to die. Again.
So Ginny plodded on.
The tears would not stop flowing, and Ginny was not a girl who cried easily. Her personality was much the product of her six older brothers, and she had certainly never seen any of them cry. Sitting in Dumbledore's office after it was all over, Ginny's emotions veered from shock and horror to embarrassment, from pain and fear to guilt, and only briefly to relief. She had no idea what to do with what she was feeling; until this year the biggest complication in her life had been how to get her brothers to let her use their brooms to practice flying. And now look what she had done.
"Ginny, how many times have your mum and I told you, never trust something that can think for itself if you don't know where it keeps its brain?" Her father looked exhausted, the fear of the past hours only now beginning to be replaced with whatever came next after fear was extinguished.
"Seriously, Gin. That's something a Muggleborn might do. You really should have known better." The chiding from her brother Bill was even worse. Parents were supposed to lecture, but Bill, her adored oldest brother, had always been Ginny's champion and protector. She bowed her head as the tears began again in earnest.
"I'm just relieved to know that Harry will be all right, that poor boy." Ginny's mum had hugged her daughter fiercely, looked her over to make sure she was truly all right, and then, uncharacteristically sat quietly while the others in the room discussed the events of the day. That her first comments in almost an hour were about Harry spoke volumes to Ginny.
"Ginny is lucky that Harry didn't just let her stay down in the Chamber, you know, as payback for that singing Valentine."
Ginny shuddered. Lucky indeed, she had been. What if Harry really hadn't wanted to come? Logically, Ginny knew that was ridiculous; her brother Ron was Harry's best mate. But there was no question that all of this began, and continued, and got much, much worse, because Ginny had fancied Harry Potter pretty much since she was out of nappies. Everyone knew it; the family had teased her for years. Lucius Malfoy had clearly seen how her crush caused her to defend Harry that day at Flourish and Botts — why else would he have given her the diary? And Tom . . . Tom saw it immediately, how her feelings for Harry could be so easily used to manipulate her actions. Ginny couldn't remember much of what she had done while possessed, but she certainly remembered what she had written to a diary-boy she thought was her friend.
She fancied Harry and Harry had almost died because of it.
Ginny was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't realize at first that her family was gathering their things to leave the Headmaster's office. "Come on, Gin," Bill said. "Mum and Dad need to get you back to the Burrow and I need to get a Portkey to Egypt. You are all still coming to visit me next month."
Bill's voice had none of the teasing her usually reserved for his little sister and Ginny heard his unspoken thoughts — they were all still coming to visit despite the mess Ginny had made of things. She sighed and followed her family.
Look, I'm really sorry about that telephone call. I hope the Muggles didn't give you a hard time. I asked Dad, and he reckons I shouldn't have shouted.
It's amazing here in Egypt. Bill's taken us around all the tombs and you wouldn't believe the curses those old Egyptian wizards put on them. Mum wouldn't let Ginny come in the last one. There were all these mutant skeletons in there, of Muggles who'd broken in and grown extra heads and stuff.
Ginny was really mad at Mum for treating her like a baby, but she has been kind of a pain this whole trip anyway. The first tomb Bill took us into had all these snakes and things painted on the walls and she got all upset. Mum and Dad have been lecturing her a lot about making better choices at school this year. Honestly, they tell all of us the same thing — especially Fred and George — but Ginny seems to be taking it personally or something. She spent half of yesterday crying in the bathroom at our hotel. Mum told us it was none of our business what was wrong.
Your birthday present is attached to this letter — it is a Pocket Sneakoscope. If there's someone untrustworthy around, it's supposed to light up and spin. Bill says it's rubbish sold for wizard tourists and isn't reliable, because it kept lighting up at dinner last night. But he didn't realize Fred and George had put beetles in his soup. I told Ginny I was sending it to you so you'd be sure to know if she was going to cause you problems again this year but she just burst into tears again. I told you — mental.
I couldn't believe it when Dad won the Daily Prophet Draw. Seven hundred galleons! Most of it's gone on this trip, but they're going to buy me a new wand for next year. We'll be back about a week before term starts and we'll be going up to London to get my wand and our new books. Any chance of meeting you there?
Don't let the Muggles get you down!
Try and come to London,
P.S. Percy's Head Boy. He got the letter last week.
It was a relief to get back to England. Ginny spent most of the week in her room, thinking and packing and getting ready for school. Her family seemed to have finally decided that they had lectured enough and she was mostly, blissfully, left alone. She even managed a few secret night-flies on the old broom Charlie had left in the shed. It didn't go very fast, but it was better than nothing and being up in the air relaxed Ginny like nothing else.
Her nerves bloomed a bit again when they all went to stay at the Leaky Cauldron. Harry would be there. From the whispers between her parents and a few stolen peeks of the Daily Prophet — her mum had taken to burning it immediately after reading for some reason - Ginny concluded that they were concerned about him. She didn't know what exactly was wrong - she hoped he wasn't still suffering from getting bitten by the Basilisk - but it sounded serious.
As it turned out, Harry looked to be perfectly fine when she saw him at the Leaky. He was sitting at a table with her brothers and they were all in absolute hysterics over a story Harry was telling them, something about blowing up his aunt. Fred and George seemed particularly interested in the exact series of events that had led to the poor woman's inflation and Ginny feared they were going to try to recreate the scene with the next Muggle they came across.
"Ginny, hey, how are you?" Harry jumped up from the table and came over to give her a hug. She froze for a second but then muttered hello and hugged him back, mentally berating herself for the stupid swoop in her stomach. Harry looked like he was about to sit back down with her brothers, but then suddenly turned and frowned at the sight of her parents, talking to each other across the bar. Her mum was shaking her head and looked upset. Every so often one of them glanced at Harry.
Harry took a deep breath. "Something is going on," he said.
"Nothing about the . . . you know, the Chamber, don't worry," said Ginny quickly.
"That's good," said Harry. "I've had enough of the Chamber for a lifetime."
Ginny bit her lip. "Me too," she said quietly.
"I'm sorry, Ginny, I didn't think . . ." Harry looked embarrassed. "Ron wrote me that you had a hard time in one of the tombs in Egypt. I didn't mean to remind you."
Ginny wanted to throttle Ron for telling Harry about how she cried in the tomb of the serpent, and she said as much to her brother in no uncertain terms, pointing her wand at his nose while she threatened him. She was gratified to see Harry grin, his earlier worry replaced by mock fear that his best mate would soon be sneezing bats. But a second later his eyes flicked again to her parents.
"It's something serious," agreed Ginny. "I've heard Mum and Dad talking."
"Serious . . ." said Harry. "D'you think they mean Sirius Black?"
Ginny shrugged. "Hmmm, maybe that's what they meant. He sounds horrible. No one has ever escaped from Azkeban before."
Harry looked at Ginny's parents again. "I wish I could figure out what's going on," he said.
Ginny started to say something — maybe an offer to help — when she bit back her words. I'm the last person Harry would want help from. She jerked a nod instead and made a weak excuse about finishing her packing before running up to her room.
They were still more than an hour from Hogwarts when the train began slowing down, and then stopped. All along the corridors students were sticking their heads out of their compartments, trying to figure out what was going on. It got colder and colder, and when the lights abruptly went out, Ginny stumbled through the dark into the compartment where Ron and Harry were. She had a sense of foreboding she could not explain; she only knew she wanted to sit with family.
And then, a horrible black —cloaked and hooded figure entered the compartment and invaded Ginny's brain. Suddenly, she was back in the Chamber, watching from afar as Tom Riddle ordered his Basilisk to kill Harry and this time, Fawkes did not come to save the day.
Your fault, your fault, your fault, your fault chanted in her head. Even the sight of Harry falling to the ground of the train and convulsing couldn't entirely erase the words in her brain and she stared, horrified, at what she had done.
Even after the lights came back on and the horrible thing had disappeared, Ginny couldn't get the images of the Chamber out of her head. She let Hermione fuss over her and accepted a piece of chocolate from the new professor — Lupin, she heard his name was — and was starting to feel the tiniest bit better when suddenly Draco Malfoy appeared in their compartment with his constant companions, Crabbe and Goyle.
"Potter, is it true? Did you actually faint?" He and his stupid cronies laughed and mimed falling down. Draco caught sight of Ginny and his grin leered. "Maybe next time your girlfriend can save you from your little nightmares. You know, return the favor for last year."
Ginny froze. Everyone knew she had almost gotten Harry killed.
"Shut up, Malfoy." Ron had stood up and looked about to draw his wand.
"Anything I can help you with, boys?" Professor Lupin spoke mildly, but there was something under his tone that made Ginny pause.
Draco and his friends muttered that they were fine and left quickly, and Ginny breathed a sigh of relief. That is, until she looked at Harry. He was still eating chocolate and his color was better, but the haunted, confused look hadn't left his face. "What . . . what was that thing?" he asked shakily.
"One of the Dementors of Azkeban," said Professor Lupin. "Among some of the nastiest creatures that walk the earth. Among other things, they eliminate all feelings of joy and cause you to relive your worst experiences. I suggest trying to avoid them as much as possible. Now if you will excuse me, I need to speak with the conductor."
Harry leaned over and rubbed at his eyes. "That was horrible," he muttered. "I didn't think I'd . . . I mean, I don't remember . . ." he stopped, looking around helplessly.
Ginny knew how he felt. She wanted to comfort him, to let him know that he was not the only one who still had nightmares about the Chamber. But Draco Malfoy's leer still rang in her ears and Harry was very determinedly not looking at her. She swallowed hard and stood up.
"I'd . . . I'd better go change into my robes," she said quietly. She heard Ron and Hermione say goodbye as she left the compartment.
The halls and classrooms of Hogwarts were more unfamiliar to Ginny that she cared to admit. She knew she had spent the entire previous year there, had gone to classes, eaten in the Great Hall, even performed more than adequately on tests and homework, but her memories felt more like looking at photographs of someone's else's life than recalling her own experiences. She had really hardly been present, that entire year.
Her room was the worst. The bed was fine, but as soon as she caught sight of her desk, that damn desk where she had sat, day after day, writing her deepest thoughts and feelings straight into Tom Riddle's mind, her stomach flipped and a cold sweat broke out on her skin. It was like the feeling she had gotten in that pyramid in Egypt; there, her mind had transported her back to the Chamber. She had been able to see herself, lying on the cold stone floor, waiting for Harry Potter to save her. But this time, Fawkes did not arrive to save him, and the two of them died there, while Voldemort's soul floated out into the world. Your fault, your fault, your fault. She had heard.
Now, staring at her desk, all the things she had written in the diary came flooding back. All the stupid, childish, things she had told Tom about Harry Potter and how wonderful he was had made Tom powerful. He had stolen Harry's own power straight from Ginny's thoughts and heart and used it to become stronger, until he was strong enough to nearly kill Harry and Ginny both.
She shuddered and shook her head. This had to stop. With the greatest of effort, Ginny forced her mind away from memories of the desk. She heaved all her new schoolbooks onto its surface and dumped some quills and blank parchment there for good measure until the top was nearly covered. Ginny was usually a very neat person and the desk's messiness calmed her bit.
Ginny's roommates' arrival helped too. They hadn't known her well enough a year ago to realize that her mental and physical absences were more than dreaminess or disinterest, and all had been properly shocked and horrified at the thought of living just feet from Ginny's possession and not realizing it. Now Demelza turned to Ginny and smiled.
"All right there, Gin?"
Ginny took a deep breath and smiled back at her roommates. "All right," she nodded. She was determined to put the Chamber behind her and make this a good year.
It wasn't as easy as Ginny had hoped. Being completely conscious of her surroundings at all times was a relief, of course. Everything seemed to be sharp focus as she moved through her classes, talked to her friends, did her homework. She knew with absolute certainty that she wasn't being possessed or missing moments.
But the clarity made her more aware of what those around her were doing and saying too. Despite not having any classes with the second years, Draco Malfoy seemed to be ever present in Ginny's day. He never passed up the opportunity to make a snide comment, and Ginny soon grew tired of trying to ignore his remarks about snakes, little girl crushes, and getting rescued. She had no idea why the boy seemed to want to relive an experience in which his own father had come off looking bad, but that particular detail did not seem to bother Draco in the least when he teased her.
Just that morning, it had happened again as she walked by that bathroom. It appeared to be flooding again, water spilling out from under the door. Ginny skirted the puddle, but slipped a little. As she steadied herself on the wall a leering voice rang out.
"Watch it, Weasley. Potter's not around to save you right now if you fall on your arse." She heard several people laugh and she lowered her head and walked swiftly away, cheeks burning.
"And they are going to add a new section to Hogwarts, A History about the Chamber!"
Ginny's head jerked up from her breakfast. Down the table, Hermione was talking rather excitedly to Harry and her brother. Ron, predictably, was ignoring her in favor of shoveling food into his mouth. Harry, on the other hand, looked distressed. Our names will probably be in the book, and the fact that it was my fault, my fault, my fault. Harry said something to Hermione, too quiet for Ginny to hear, and Hermione shook her head. Ginny looked away, not wanting Harry to know she was watching him. Still.
Ginny's heart no longer skipped a beat every time she saw her desk, but even so, she much preferred to do her homework in the common room or library, or elsewhere. She was slowly repairing her relationship with her roommates and enjoying the camaraderie of living with — finally — other girls instead of all her brothers. Today, quite predictably, they were talking about boys.
"Colin Creevey?" Demelza's incredulous voice carried into the stairwell as Ginny walked towards their dorm just before curfew.
"What about Colin?" she asked as she entered.
"Vicky here thinks he's rather adorable," said Demelza with a snort.
Ginny snorted. "He barely reaches your armpits!" She collapsed onto her bed.
Vicky shrugged. "I dunno, I like his enthusiasm for life or something." She looked over at Ginny.
"What about you? Anyone you fancy?"
Before Ginny could respond, to say that no, she hadn't really noticed any of the boys at Hogwarts in that way, Demelza broke in.
"It's Harry, isn't it? I heard that you've had a crush on him forever."
"Yeah, and he really is adorable," added Vicky. "I thought after all that stuff last year that the two of you would make a cute couple." She spoke casually, as if talking about the fact that Harry had merely helped Ginny with her homework or something.
"No, definitely not," said Ginny quickly. The warm feeling from chatting with her girlfriends disappeared and she suddenly felt cold. "That . . . that crush on Harry, it was from when I was really little." Her voice rose a bit and her roommates looked at each other. " I haven't fancied him for ages and ages," she said forcefully.
"Sorry Ginny, I didn't mean to bring the Chamber up again." Demelza at least seemed to grasp Ginny's discomfort.
Ginny shook her head. "It's okay," she said. "I'm fine. It's not a big deal." Despite the fact that she had just returned to the dormitory, she stood up again. "I uh, I think I left a parchment in the library. I'll be back." She fled down the stairs.
It didn't help her state that Harry, Ron, and Hermione were all sitting around the fire when Ginny reappeared. She walked rapidly towards the portrait hole, not wanting to talk. Of course, it didn't work.
"Hey Ginny, it's almost curfew. Where are you going?" Ron looked up.
"I forgot a parchment in the . . . uh . . . the library," she said quickly. She kept walking.
"You probably can't make it there in time." Harry stood up. "If you really need it, I can go under my Invisibility Cloak."
"No!" the word burst out of Ginny much more violently than she intended. Harry looked taken aback and she rushed to explain. "I mean, thank you. But you don't need to risk getting in trouble over me. Really. I don't need it." She turned back to the steps leading up to her dormitory again. "I didn't realize it was so late. No one needs to get the parchment. It will be there in the morning." She wrung her hands. "Please. Don't go. It's really okay." She fled up the stairs without waiting for Harry to reply.
The entire time she was getting ready for bed, Ginny's thoughts were swirling about the close call. She really hoped Harry wouldn't decide to go try to find her missing parchment anyway, especially given that it didn't really exist.
Not surprisingly, Ginny had a nightmare that night. Once again, she was back in the Chamber. Tom was stepping out of the diary and talking to Harry, sharing every intimate detail that Ginny had written about him, laughing that Harry would waste any time trying to save stupid, lovesick little Ginny. "It's her fault that you are going to die," Riddle said. "She should have known better than to fancy you. Should have known better than to put you in such danger. It's all her fault. Her fault, her fault, her fault . . ." And the Basilisk slithered over and bared its fangs and Ginny awoke with a start, sweating and shaky and feeling like she wanted to vomit.
It took her two days to figure out how to ask and then to get him alone, but Ginny finally knocked on Professor Flitwick's door after the end of classes a week before Halloween. He looked at her with a curious expression.
"Miss Weasley," he said, ushering her into his office. "How can I help you? Are you having trouble with the Cheering Charm we worked on today?"
Ginny shook her head. "No, no, nothing like that," she said. "I was wondering if you could help me with something a little more important."
Swiftly, she explained her dilemma. "And I have nightmares about it all the time," she concluded. "If I don't get rid of it, I know it's only a matter of time before. . . before . . ." she couldn't finish.
Professor Flitwick looked thoughtful, and then nodded. "That is actually not a difficult problem to solve for someone your age," he said. "Have a seat and close your eyes. This won't take very long, and I think you will feel much better soon."
Half an hour later, Ginny left Professor Flitwick's office feeling much lighter. She closed his door carefully and thus missed his soft sigh. Ahh, young love is never easy. What is the harm for a couple of months if it makes her happy?
"Ginny, Ginny, wake up! Are you okay?" Ginny came slowly to herself, to see Demelza standing over her bed with a worried expression.
"Wha . . What happened?" she asked sleepily. "There was a snake . . . an enormous snake."
"I think you had a nightmare," said Demelza. Vicky was awake now too, watching her.
"I . . . did," said Ginny shakily. She realized she had forgotten to set silencing charms around her bed. "About being back in the Chamber. " She closed her eyes and shuddered, remembering. There had been an enormous snake, a Basilisk, slithering around her. And Tom Riddle coming out of the diary to tell her she was going to die. And there was pain.
"I dream about snakes a lot," she said quietly. That was all they needed to know.
The next morning, Ginny walked blearily towards the Great Hall for breakfast. It had taken her a long time to fall asleep again after her nightmare and she was later than usual. She wasn't paying much attention to where she was going when an arm reached out and grabbed her.
"Watch out, Ginny, you almost walked into a wall there."
Ginny looked up to see Harry peering at her with concern. "Are you okay?"
Ginny nodded through an enormous yawn. "Y. . .yes, just tired," she said. "I had a nightmare last night."
"Ahh," said Harry. "I'm sorry. I know how bad those can be."
Ginny yawned again. "I don't know how I'm going to get through my classes. And the Halloween Feast tonight. I think I need a nap." She peered at Harry. "You get nightmares too? I guess I'm not surprised to hear that." She noticed him slowing his steps to match hers as they walked into the Great Hall. "What are they about? If you want to tell me, I mean."
Harry shrugged. "I don't mind. They've been worse since the Dementor on the train. I hear screaming. I think it's my mum."
Ginny made a low sound of sympathy. "Ahh, yeah. I can imagine why the Dementors would bring that out. I'm sorry. That is not the kind of thing that is easy to get over."
Harry nodded. "It's not," he agreed. "And watching Malfoy pretend to faint every time he sees me doesn't help."
"Malfoy's an arse," said Ginny shortly. "Remind me to Bat Bogey Hex him next time he walks by."
Harry chuckled. "That hex is one of the first things Ron told me to watch out for when I visited the Burrow last summer," he said. "I'd love to see it — on someone else."
"Sirius Black is still on the loose," said Ginny lightly. "I'll keep an eye out for him."
Harry snorted. "To stay out of his way, I hope. He sounds nasty."
They had arrived at the entrance to the Great Hall and Ginny frowned. "I didn't realize how late I was," she commented. The large room was almost empty.
"Ahh, yes, well, it's Hogsmede for the third years and above." Harry sounded uncomfortable all of a sudden. "I suspect most people ate early."
Ginny remembered Ron ranting about Harry's horrible relatives and that they refused to sign his permission form. "Right," she said casually. "I hear it's overrated." Next to her, Harry sighed.
"Thanks, Ginny," he said quietly.
Ginny shrugged. "Want to play Exploding Snap or something after breakfast?"
"Yeah, that would be fun. I um, just have to see Professor Lupin first. Find you in a couple of hours?" He touched her lightly on the arm. "And . . . thanks."
The entire school was on high alert in the months after Halloween, once it was discovered that Sirius Black had broken in. Students walked around in clumps and the teachers talked in low voices.
Ginny's nightmares, which had eased for a while, roared back with a vengeance after the horrible Quidditch Match between Gyffindor and Hufflepuff. As the Dementors had swarmed onto the field, she was pulled under, back to the Chamber, back to the enormous Basilisk coming to kill her and kill Harry and allow Tom Riddle to escape.
No one noticed her distress; everyone's attention had been focused on Harry as he fell off his broom. As soon as Ginny had come back to herself, she went to the Hospital Wing to visit him.
He was lying glumly in bed; the rest of the team having just left. A pile of sticks lay on a chair next to him. Ginny couldn't help but gasp. "Is that . . . is that your Nimbus?" she asked, unable to keep the shock out of her voice.
"Was my Nimbus," nodded Harry. "Now it's firewood."
Ginny sat weakly down. "Wow," she said. "I'm so sorry."
Her distress at the loss of his broom seemed to cheer Harry a bit. "Thanks," he said. "Everyone else seems more upset that we lost the game."
"And no one is upset about the Dementors?" Ginny didn't realize her voice had risen. "I'm surprised everyone didn't fall of their brooms. I almost . . ." she broke off, embarrassed.
"You almost what?"
Ginny sighed. "I almost passed out," she admitted. "I felt like I was about to get bitten by a giant snake."
"The Dementors affect you almost as much as they do me," said Harry thoughtfully. He was quiet for a second. "Professor Lupin said he could teach me a way to try to fight them. We are going to start after Christmas break. Would you umm, want to learn too?"
Ginny smiled. "I'd like that."
In the end, it was difficult for Ginny to match her schedule to Harry's, and he visited Professor Lupin on his own. But Harry's success in producing a Patronus during the match against Ravenclaw (never mind that there had never been a real Dementor threat), Harry made a point to teach her the spell too.
It wasn't easy, Ginny was working mostly on her own to practice, but there was something about learning how to protect herself from the Dementors that just made her feel better. It was just before June, after Gryffindor had won the Quidditch Cup, that Ginny was first able to cast something that might, in the right light, be called a Patronus. True, it was mostly silvery smoke, but she was proud nonetheless. She jumped up, wondering where Harry was. She wanted to show him what she was able to do, what a good teacher he was. The light from the full moon shown through the window of the classroom where Ginny had been practicing and she started. She would have to find Harry in the morning.
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