Ginny pushed gently against the doors to the hospital wing and glanced inside. It was quiet, and dark; even the lights in Madam Pomfrey's office were out. Ginny lit her wand with a murmur, and glanced around; Draco's silhouette – which had moved when the door opened – materialised into his usual, pale, pointy faced self, blinking in the light. Everyone else seemed to be asleep; Percy could have been petrified again, he was that still and silent, but he'd always slept that way. Colin's deep breathing was coming from his bed, and Hermione was fully cocooned in her blankets, with the only real identifier being her bushy hair, splayed over the pillow. Professor Flitwick was squeaking in his sleep.
Ginny slipped into the room and closed the door with a quiet click, then padded over to Draco's bed, a little unnerved by his stare. She wasn't sure what he could possibly want with her; they were friendly enough – or had been before she'd been possessed and loosed Tom on him – but she wouldn't have thought he'd expect her to visit. And Harry had said it was important – whatever it was that he wanted to talk about or see her for – but Ginny was still at a loss, unless he wanted to blame her for everything. Which, was possible, she supposed; Harry and Ron didn't keep things from each other, or their friends, and she was sure Draco and Hermione would know all about her and Tom and the Chamber.
Ginny didn't say anything to him as she approached; he'd asked her to be here, so she figured he could start. He didn't speak though, not straight away. He waved a hand at the chair beside his bed, and Ginny sat reluctantly; being on her feet meant she could make a quicker getaway if she needed to.
"It was my father," Draco said, without looking at her. His eyes, which were almost silver in the faint wandlight, were fixed on his blanket.
"What was?" Ginny asked, frowning. She wasn't sure what he was talking about, but she knew from his tone it couldn't be anything good. She pulled her knees up against her chest.
"That day in Diagon Alley, in the bookshop is my best guess… he must have put it into your cauldron-"
He kept talking, but Ginny didn't hear the rest; she'd heard quite enough now, to know what he was talking about. The diary. Mr Malfoy had slipped her the diary that day in Diagon Alley, because- because he could, because he was a monster. She'd never thought she could hate anyone as much as Tom, but she'd been wrong. Mr Malfoy now held close second, if not equal first, and she was so angry, and so- well, hurt. What had she ever done to him to deserve what he'd put her through? Why her? Was it just because of her family, or was it just that he'd happened across her and decided she'd do? She'd thought one of her parents must have picked it up second hand as a little present for her, without knowing what it was, but the fact that someone had actively chosen to do so, that someone had deliberately unleashed Tom on Ginny and on the school…
And all the grief Malfoy had given her since term had started up again, pointing out muggleborns in a low voice, or asking if she needed help fixing up the Chamber after Potter'd wrecked it, only to learn now that it was his father, and Draco's father behind all of it- Had he known? Or was he making those comments without knowing what had really happened?
"She-Weasel?" Draco's hand on her knee made her start. Ginny became aware of an odd, gasping-sobbing sort of sound, and realised, after a few confused seconds, that it was her. She jerked her knee to dislodge Draco's hand, and looked up at him, furious. He looked so much like his brother and father- except for his eyes; oh, they were the same colour as Mr Malfoy's, but softer, kinder. And worried, at the moment. Ginny wondered what she looked like, and felt herself calm down a little. It wasn't Draco she was angry with, though he seemed to be afraid that she was.
His father, though… Mr Malfoy wasn't there for her to- well, she didn't really know what she'd do if he was there. Maybe search through Tom's vague memories to try to find something nasty enough to hex him with; the only spells Ginny really knew were all first year ones, with the exception of a few household charms she'd seen Mum do, her bogey spell – which she was yet to test on anyone else – and the silencing charm that she'd finally managed about a week ago. Or maybe Ginny could forgo spells and magic altogether and just punch him- but he was too tall for her to reach his stupid pointy nose just yet… maybe she'd just wallop him with Charlie's oldest, heaviest broomstick.
And then Ginny's stomach twisted unpleasantly, as she struggled to grasp, yet again, that Mr Malfoy had deliberately inflicted this upon her, possibly for no other reason than he'd wanted to, or that he could. Tom's voice was silent in her head, perhaps realising that there wasn't anything he could say to make her feel worse than she already did.
"I'm sorry," Draco said, in a low, quiet voice. "It's- it's an awful thing he did- that he's done-" His mouth was a thin, unhappy line, and he dropped his gaze.
"Yes," Ginny said stiffly. "It really is. To the school, and everyone in it." To me.
Draco wouldn't look at her; instead, he nodded at his knees. Ginny had nothing more to say to him, not at the moment, and thought that he might be done speaking too. She unfolded herself from the chair.
"I thought you needed to know," Draco croaked.
Ginny gave a sharp nod, not trusting herself to talk. She wasn't sure whether she did need to know – knowing wouldn't fix her, wouldn't change what had happened – but it did give her an answer as to how she'd got the diary… and why, to a degree, though she didn't think she'd ever truly know if it had been as simple as Mr Malfoy not liking her for her family, or if there had been some other, more sinister reason, or no reason at all.
She didn't say anything, and Draco didn't either, as she left.
Ginny didn't return to her bed, though, or to Gryffindor tower. It was to Myrtle's thankfully empty bathroom she went, to sit against the wall beside the sinks, and cry, silently.
"Good morning." Draco wasn't really surprised that it was Severus that had come to see him. He lifted a hand in a sort of wave, as his godfather swept over to the chair She-Weasley had occupied just a few hours earlier, and took a seat. "I take it you're aware that everyone's leaving this morning?"
"Obviously," Draco said. His bed was the only one still occupied; the rest of the basilisk's victims had left earlier that morning to pack, or had been collected directly by their families. Draco, with no word on whether he was to catch the train, or whether Mother or Father or Dobby would be by to pick him up, had stayed. Severus' presence meant he'd made the right choice, he thought.
"Do you wish to leave with them?"
Draco, torn from thoughts about his Father, glanced up and asked, "I have a choice?" Severus inclined his head, and clasped his hands in his lap.
"Should you feel you need more time to recover from your ordeal, or, should Madam Pomfrey not see fit to discharge you just yet, you would of course be required to remain at the school."
"I walked to the bathroom this morning," Draco said. "Astoria couldn't yet, but they still took her home."
"Black has agreed to have you stay, should you require some… time," Severus said quietly. "And you are, of course, always welcome to stay with me."
"Why?" Draco asked, suspicious; did Severus know about what Father had done, was that why he was offering to delay Draco's return to the Manor?
"The last time you saw your father, the pair of you had words," Severus said, in that same quiet voice. "And as he has yet to visit you, I doubt you have had the chance to make reparations." There was a moment of silence, and then Severus made a soft, snorting sound. "Judging by your expression, my guess is correct." Draco forced his expression to clear, and met Severus' eye, daring him to say anything else. He stayed silent, waiting for Draco to speak.
"He's afraid," Draco said finally.
"Father," Draco said, struggling to keep his voice even on that single word. "That's why he hasn't come to see me." He knows Potter knows or suspects, but he doesn't know what I've been told since waking up. Draco wasn't sure how he was going to handle that, wasn't sure if he wanted to scream at Father for everything he'd done, for all the people he'd almost killed, or whether he wanted to never look at him or speak to him again. He clenched his teeth together so his jaw wouldn't wobble.
"Do you blame him?" Severus asked, frowning. Draco swallowed and bobbed his head. "I agree that he should have closed the school after Granger and the others were attacked," Severus said carefully, "but he did truly believe that you would be safe. It was idiocy, but not malicious-"
Lie, Draco thought dully, though Severus didn't know that.
"If it had been anyone else, he wouldn't have cared," Draco said curtly. And the only reason he thought I would be safe, is because he was in on it. Not that he could say that to Severus. Draco would never know, he didn't think, whether or not Father had been communicating with Riddle throughout the year. Draco didn't think he had been, but there was no way of knowing for certain.
Severus didn't say anything, and Draco knew that meant he agreed.
"Tell me about She-Weasley," Draco said, after a moment. "I saw her in here last night, and she was- different." He'd barely recognised the nervous, angry creature that had come to see him. Obviously her ordeal had changed her, and while he'd expected her confidence to have slipped, and for her to be a bit quieter, he hadn't expected it to strip her of her good humour. Some of her temper had been there, briefly, but it hadn't been the quick-to-irritate, quick-to-shout-and-retaliate temper he'd seen at the Burrow or around the common room. It had been a darker, cooler anger.
"Potter hasn't spoken with you about it?" Severus asked.
"A bit," Draco said. And Potter had. But Potter was also oblivious, and Draco wanted another opinion. Severus' take on it was sure to be accurate. "But he said it's hers to deal with, so he didn't want to say much." Potter hadn't outrightly said that, but that was the impression Draco had got. That, and Potter didn't want to say how bad she was, because he probably thought Draco would blame himself and Father.
"Perhaps he's not wrong," Severus said. "Have you asked her?"
"I might be a Gryffindor, but I have some tact," Draco said irritably. Severus inclined his head slightly, looking amused. "I want to know."
"Possession rarely leaves a mind the way it was, and the mind of a child is far more fragile than that of an adult. Her mental faculties appear to be in order, based on her ability to walk and talk, and her informational processing is also functioning – or, at least as well as it ever did - based on her performance in class and her exam results."
"Yes, but how is she?" Draco asked. What did my father do?
"I've never had any real conversation with the girl, nor have I ever paid her any particular attention," Severus said, looking down his long nose at Draco. "She is receiving help from other sources, and is not, therefore, my problem. She is my student- and not even that until September." Draco scowled at Severus, who didn't seem bothered. If anything, he seemed curious. Draco thought he might have wanted to ask something, but he didn't. Instead, he stood and smoothed his robes. "Now, would you like to return to your home, or would you like a few extra days here or with Potter or Weasley?"
"I'm going to see my family," Draco said decisively.
Severus hid it well, but Draco knew he was surprised. In truth, Draco would have loved a few extra days to not have to deal with Father – and he didn't even want to think about whether Mother had known – but he'd have to see them eventually, and he had things to do at the Manor. Father needed to be punished.
"I'll buy you an icecream as soon as this is over," Padfoot said out of the side of his mouth. He was standing on the podium beside Harry's, arms outstretched, and the same pained expression on his face as Harry thought he must be wearing. "Promise."
"I don't think an icecream makes up for this, Sirius," Matt said, straightening for the tape measure. "I'd ask for a new broom, Harry."
"The Firebolt's out next month," Harry said, grinning at Padfoot.
"There's absolutely nothing wrong with your Nimbus," Padfoot retorted, and then scowled at Matt. "And stop giving him ideas."
"I'm with Matt," Marlene growled, stalking into the room, in a pair of mustard coloured robes. "I want a racing broom for this, Sirius."
"You look- er-"
"Like a banana," Marlene said, blowing hair out of her face. "I might just take my leave from work, and come back on the morning of-"
"Now," Andromeda said, sweeping back into the room, "I think black for you, Harry, and perhaps navy for you, Sirius, to match Marlene-"
"Navy?" Matt mouthed at Harry, who shrugged; he couldn't see navy anywhere.
"Not a nice mustard?" Padfoot asked, mouth twitching.
"Don't be silly, that's an awful colour," Andromeda said. "They're just to check the cut and size." Marlene seemed mollified by this.
"You said it's in August, though?" Andromeda turned her attention to Madam Malkin, who'd just come in with a box of fabrics, and nodded. "Wouldn't go black for the boy, then, might be a bit warm."
"Black's traditional," Andromeda said.
"Because Dora's so traditional," Padfoor muttered. Matt coughed to hide a laugh, and Harry grinned, but none of the women seemed to have heard.
Icecream, then the Burrow, Harry told himself, as Andromeda and Madam Malkin started rifling through the box of fabrics and holding them up to him. Icecream, then the Burrow…
Molly waved her wand at the sink to start the dishes, and glanced out the window. Her boys and Harry were just specks in the sky over the orchard, but she could hear them carrying on from where she was. She smiled fondly, and glanced at the clock. Her smile withered, then, Molly heard Ginny's door open, and heard footsteps on the landing. The mind healer, a thin, grey-haired woman with square spectacles appeared on the stairs.
"Tea?" Molly asked.
"No, thank you, Mrs Weasley, I should be going."
"How'd it go? Is she- getting better?"
"Obviously there's not much I can do for her physically, what with the laws about Legillimency on children," Healer Merberry said, with a sad smile. "And she's still not comfortable talking about it… trust issues, obviously." Molly nodded, swallowing to make sure her voice wouldn't shake before she spoke.
"Did she say anything at all?"
"We talked about how she's not to blame for what happened, and I tried to make sure that she knows that, but- well, it's hard to tell. I think she'd certainly benefit from additional sessions, but that's really up to her, and you…"
"I'll talk it over with Arthur," Molly said, nodding. "And with Ginny, of course." Though she didn't think Ginny would be any more receptive to the idea than she had been before Healer Merberry's visit.
"I'll expect your owl," the healer said, and let Molly show her to the door.
Once she was gone, Molly leant against the counter and sighed, trying to decide whether to go upstairs and check on her daughter, or give her space. The dishes were done, which was a bit of a shame; she could have used the distraction of doing them by hand. Instead, she settled for checking the oven – and taking her teacakes out to cool – and going to check on the laundry.
When she returned, full laundry basket in hand, Ginny was in the kitchen, easing a steaming teacake out of the pan. She looked up when Molly entered, expression impossible to read. Molly had always thought having a daughter would be easy, but she'd learned that – while Ginny was very similar to her in some ways (she'd inherited Molly's temper, and ability to make herself heard when she had an opinion) they were also very different, and that Ginny was often a lot harder to handle than her brothers. And, while they were close, they didn't have the same tight bond that Molly had had with her own mother, where there were no secrets, where everything was shared. That was painfully obvious, particularly since school had finished.
"Jam or butter, dear?" Molly asked, gesturing to the cake in her daughter's hand.
"Butter," Ginny said hesitantly, and sat at the table while Molly fetched it for her. "Please."
"How was- did seeing Healer Merberry help?" Ginny just shrugged and reached for a butter knife. Molly still couldn't read her expression. "Did you want her to come and visit again?"
"No," Ginny said.
"Why not?" Molly sat down in the chair opposite her daughter, and Ginny's shoulders slumped; obviously, she realised Molly wouldn't rest until they'd spoken about this.
"Because I'm fine," Ginny said, staring at her cake.
"Aren't I?" Ginny challenged, looking up.
"I don't know, Ginny, that's why I asked," Molly sighed. "You've barely spoken to your father or me about it-"
"I told you, I don't remember much," Ginny said quietly.
"-Professor McGonagall said you didn't say much to her either, and Healer Merberry-"
"Isn't worth the money you're paying," Ginny said flatly. "I don't want to talk to her."
"She's- affordable," Molly said, and Ginny snorted.
"I asked her," Ginny said. "We can't afford her."
"If you want her, Ginny, we'll manage," Molly said briskly. "I can bake things to sell at the Sunday morning market in town, if need be, and we might have to rely more on the garden for vegetables for a bit, but don't you let that deter you, if that's what you need." It hadn't always been easy, but Molly and Arthur had never let any of their children go without things they needed, and she certainly wasn't going to start now. If Ginny needed to see a mind-healer, they'd make it work. Molly had even forgone her latest Witch Weekly magazine and used the money for that to enter the Ministry's lottery.
"I don't remember much," Ginny said firmly. "And what I do remember doesn't need talking about. T- The diary made me do some awful things, but it wasn't me and it wasn't my fault, and it's over now." There was nothing in Ginny's voice or expression that made Molly think she was lying, but her motherly intuition said not to trust her. "Thanks for the cake," Ginny said.
"Not a problem, dear," Molly heard herself say. "Did you want another one?"
She shook her head and ducked out the back door, probably to go and see what the boys were up to. Molly supposed that was good, at least, that Ginny wouldn't be sitting upstairs alone. The door swung shut, and Molly helped herself to a cake, eyes drifting back to the clock.
Arthur's hand pointed to Work, as did Bill and Charlie's; Percy's, Fred, George's, Ron's and her own were Home. Ginny's hand - as it had since February - Ginny's rested on Lost.
That's it for Identity! I had hoped to publish this last chapter at the same time as the first chapter for the next installment (tentatively titled "Impose") but I just haven't had time to finish Chapter 1 yet, and I know you were all keen for an update! :P
Thank you for all of the reviews you've written me throughout Identity, and thank you to all of my silent readers too, I hope you've enjoyed the story!
The sequel should be up sometime in the next two weeks (can't give you an exact date, I'm sorry, it just depends on how much spare time I can find), so keep an eye on my author page for the new story. :)