can i have a hooray for long angst-ridden one shots? ones where ginny is seriously messed up from what happened in first year? ones where i move away from my otp (hinny) in response to a challenge? this was written for two: treacletart's 'take it seriously' challenge and lovegood27's 'the random pairing' challenge.

remember to review, my loves

The snow was deep here. Ginny trudged through inches of untouched white, cold steadily seeping through the worn fabric of her loose jeans, her hands shoved deep into the pockets of her robes. An icy wind bit at her exposed face, drew out a pink flush that clashed magnificently with her ginger locks, rubbed the tip of her sharp nose raw. Shivering, she ducked her face until most of it was buried in her scarf.

Few people had decided to wander this far from the warmth of The Three Broomsticks and the rest of the little gems Hogsmeade had to offer, leaving Ginny well and truly alone. She revelled in that, hoped that no one else would have the spontaneous idea to stare at the dilapidated building that was the Shrieking Shack. She sought solace in the silence, in her private thoughts, wanted to make sense of the blizzard in her head.

But apparently the universe had other plans.

As soon as she turned the corner, she saw a figure stood at the rotted fence guarding the path to the infamous building. She stopped in her tracks, watching the familiar boy with wide eyes as he wrapped both hands around his camera – a tarnished, clunky affair with a faded strap that looped around his neck – lifted it, pointed it, waited and then captured the Shrieking Shack in all its neglected, ugly glory. The camera spat a photograph into his expectant hand; his eyes glanced down, his mouth quirked up.

Later, Ginny would blame it on the snow, claim that it was so cold her legs had frozen in place, prevented her from fleeing. But in truth, all she could think in that second was it's him, it's him, it's him – and then, before she knew it, he was turning around and he was staring right back at her and the smile was fading from his mouth. The picture slipped from his fingers to be carried by the winds until it came to rest at her feet and the Adam's apple in his throat rose, pressed taut against his skin to push his words out into the open air –

"Ginny," he murmured and his voice was rough like broken glass on asphalt.

The air was forced out of her in a cloud of faint white. Her lungs seized up, scrambled to take it all back in. She bit her lip and blinked and settled for the only word running through her mind:


# # #

It was difficult to pinpoint where their story began. You could say it started when she nearly broke his camera that day she was hiding out in the library, her back crashing against his shoulder, his most beloved possession hurtling towards the ground until they both snatched up the leather strap with lightning-fast reflexes…

You'd probably be lying if you did.

In truth, their story likely began the day Ginny Weasley opened up her beloved diary and closed it to find Colin Creevey Petrified in the infirmary for the rest of the year. But that wasn't the sort of thing she liked to dwell on so in her mind, their story began in her fifth year that fateful day in the library.

"Oh – Merlin – I… sorry," she blurted, brown eyes swivelling about like mad. "I wasn't looking where I was looking – absolutely stupid, I know – "

"Ginny," a familiar voice interrupted. She stilled, recognising it like the back of her own hand. "It's okay."

Almost unwillingly, she dragged her eyes away from the gap between the nearest bookshelves to fix them on the boy beside her. Camera, red and gold scarf, mousey hair – she was such an idiot for not recognising him sooner. Colin Creevey smiled down at her, as friendly as always, even though she had nearly wrecked his most favourite thing in the world.

"Colin." The name was punched out – rough, awkward. "Um… hi."

He grinned, amused. "Hi, Ginny! Are you okay? You look a little… stressed."

Yeah, no kidding.

Her shoulders rose, tense. She forced herself to resist the urge to scope out the area once again, to search for either a friend and any oncoming danger, resist the urge to decide to fuck it and just run away. Colin… She really couldn't deal with Colin, not then, not ever, but it seemed a bit rude to say that to his face.

"Yeah," she said uncomfortably, her fingers still wrapped around the leather strap of his camera. Abruptly, she realised there was only a few inches separating his hand from hers: not enough to wander into the realm of intimacy but enough to feel the warmth in his fingertips, so she snatched her hand away as nonchalantly as possible. "I'm… sort of avoiding someone."

He nodded understandingly. "Dean?"

"Yeah," she admitted after a moment.

It felt stupid to say it out loud, to confess that the one of the reasons she was scurrying through the aisles was because her ex-boyfriend had just walked into the library. It made her sound like a silly little girl who couldn't handle herself. But Colin didn't seem to find it at all strange that she was running away, only sent her a sympathetic look that merely heightened the tension stiffening her spine, made her curse herself and her horrid luck for crashing into this student of all students. She had to have started a conversation with Hogwarts' most forgiving, most perceptive Gryffindor, hadn't she?

Because this was not some mere acquaintance, this was Colin Creevey. Colin Creevey, who hadn't thought twice about forgiving her for setting a fucking Basilisk on him when he was twelve years old. Colin Creevey, who had hero-worshipped Harry just as much as she had, who probably knew all about how hard it was to let go of the instinct to adore someone who had risked their life to save your own. Colin Creevey, who was much too innocent for the likes of her.

"You can hide out with me if you'd like," he offered, oblivious to the thoughts raging in her head. "I don't think Dean Thomas likes me much ever since I took that picture of Seamus blowing up his dinner so he won't come this way."

She gave him a thin smile. "That's sweet, Colin, but – " She trailed off as the second reason she was hiding out in the library turned into their aisle. Black hair, wiry glasses, head bent over a battered Potions textbook. "I have to go."

Fuck it, she thought and ran away.

# # #

Sometimes, when the moon was high and the castle was dark, Ginny thought that Harry might like her back. She entertained fantasies where he would sweep into her bedroom at the Burrow one lazy summer afternoon when no one was around and tell her that he'd been thinking a lot about her recently. She would reply with a coy query on just what had he been thinking about and he would take it upon himself to show her. Such thoughts were wild, heady and forbidden – which was probably why she only entertained them in the darkest hours of night.

They were also impossible.

She had it on good authority from the boy himself that he wasn't interested in that walk of life just now. It was too dangerous, too much – he had a target on his back, after all, and he wasn't going to be the one to paint it on another's. Besides, the disaster with Cho Chang had showed him that dating wasn't all it was chalked up to be. Romance was unnecessary; Ginny was unnecessary.

Unnecessary, unwanted, unclean.

Just like always.

Sometimes, when the sun peeked over the horizon and the castle was breathed to life, Ginny thought she might hate herself.

# # #

Colin Creevey sat next to her in History of Magic. She usually spent the hour napping, ginger hair spilling over the desk like a potion, her cheek resting against the rough surface, feeling the countless names carved into it press into her skin. Her thoughts were a fog, the bare minimum flashing through like a lantern in the distance. That was, until Colin Creevey sat next to her in History of Magic.

"Morning, Ginny!" he chirped with the usual ridiculous amount of enthusiasm. He pressed a mug from the Great Hall into her hands. "Coffee?"

She stared at him, bewildered. "Colin?"

He grinned, snapping his fingers and pointing them at the hot drink. "No, coffee." She made no move to drink it, utterly confused as to why he was next to her and why he was giving her a drink. "I figured you'd want some since you're not much of a morning person."

Slowly, carefully, she lifted the mug up to her mouth and took a small sip. It was bitter and strong, a Bludger to the senses, but it was just what she needed. She watched him with wary eyes. "How do you know I'm not a morning person?"

"We've shared classes for four years now, Ginny," he said with a small shrug.

Three, she felt like correcting. He was knocked out for most of the first. Because of her.

"Still a bit creepy though," she muttered without any real meaning. He threw back his head and laughed – loud because he was Colin Creevey, honest because he was Colin Creevey – and she shifted uncomfortably in her seat at the attention the sound beckoned. "Stop that."

A grin stretched his mouth from ear to ear. He had a nice face for such an expression: round, full cheeks, a stubby nose that must've been cute in childhood and inconvenient now. Freckles dotted his tan skin, much sparser and subtler than her own. When he smiled, she could see that there was an endearing sliver of space between his two front teeth. Nothing like Harry who screamed danger and riot. No, Colin meant safety and innocence. So much innocence.

"I'm just observant," he informed her.

For someone so observant, he really couldn't tell that she didn't want him around, did he? Biting her tongue on that particular remark, she chose to sip on the coffee some more instead and do her best to ignore his presence. Mind you, he made it difficult, always nattering on about something or the other. Even when she told him to shut up because she was trying to pay attention to the lesson – desperation was clearly nigh if she was pretending to listen to Binns – he didn't stop. By some awful twist of fate, it turned out that, unlike every other normal human being at Hogwarts, Colin Creevey actually liked History of Magic. Moreover, he liked discussing History of Magic.

And he most especially liked discussing it with her.

# # #

When Ginny turned twelve years old, Tom paid her a visit in her dreams. It began normally enough with Ginny eating breakfast in the Great Hall. And then, all of a sudden, in the middle of reaching over to pour herself a glass of milk, everything disappeared and she found herself crouching over Harry's body in the Chamber of Secrets, sinking a Basilisk's fang into his chest.

Tom slunk around then, his arms wrapping around her as she sobbed hysterically. "Poor sweet little Ginny," he murmured, his voice like the song of a siren. "How will you return from this? You've killed everyone, sweetheart. Harry, Ron… All those Mudbloods in the infirmary…"

His arms were an unbreakable vice but she still fought desperately. "Get – off – me!" The harder she struggled, the tighter his grip. "Get away!"

Tom pressed a soft, indulgent kiss to her hair. "Never."

"You're not real. You're in my head. Get out of my head. GET OUT OF MY HEAD."

And just like that, he transformed. Gone was the Tom who had patiently coaxed her troubles out of her, offering the sympathy and understanding her brothers had never had; here was the boy who had took over her body, used her hands to snap the necks of those helpless roosters, to write chilling messages on walls in blood. He crushed her in his arms, reducing her to nothing. His voice was the hiss of the Basilisk in her ear.

"Oh, I'm real, Ginny. You can try to kill me, but I will always, always be a part of you, no matter what you do." He dragged a hand through her hair, wrenching it ferociously against her scalp to glare down at her. "I will never leave. You will never be free of me. You will always be poor, sweet, little Ginny, the girl who killed them all. Unnecessary, unwanted, unclean of my taint."

When she woke up the next morning, she was sure she could feel him in the room.

# # #

An explosion had erupted in the Gryffindor common room. A victory against their bitter rivals, the Slytherins, was sure to beckon a night of celebrations and this time was no different. Even without the presence of Fred and George, the party had a seemingly never-ending supply of Butterbeer and a veritable feast of food in the far corner of the room – every time Ginny looked over, she was sure the poor table staggering under the weight of it all was only getting fuller. Deciding to take pity on the unfortunate thing, she took it upon herself to swipe a few Butterbeers just for herself and join in on the fun.


Ginny could do fun.

She had grown into a young woman who revelled in being at the centre of the rowdiest knot of students, feeling like she was at just another messy get-together of the extended Weasley clan, somewhere she could let her worries flee, tip back a bottle of Butterbeer – maybe even something stronger if she could manage it – and bask in the glory of a rambunctious night. Most of the time, she didn't even have to fake it.

So she slinked on over to the fire where the rest of her team had piled onto the nearby armchairs, sat down on Demelza Robins' lap with a laugh, her legs stretched lazily over Katie's, her hair falling out of its loose ponytail and tumbling down her back, teasing Ron with a smirk when he grumbled something about her inappropriate behaviour. She even shared a knowing look with Harry – his crooked grin punched a hole in her chest, his messy hair dragged her heart to her throat – as Hermione defended her honour, somehow turning the lecture into yet another bout of flirting – or Hermione's version of it in any case – with Ginny's dearest brother.

The entire scene warmed her in a way the Butterbeer never could. Here in the common room, a fire flourishing mere metres away, Demelza idly braiding strands of her hair, Harry awkwardly accepting praise every two minutes, she felt a million miles away from the Chamber of Secrets. There were no phantom arms locked around her, no water drenching her robes, no hiss filtering through the air. Just this. Ginny sat and laughed with them all until her sides ached.

It was only when she made a quick trip to the bathroom that it all went wrong.

In hindsight, she should've realised it was going to happen, really. After all, she was one of the Chasers who had led Gryffindor to one of their best victories against Slytherin in years and it was inevitable – expected, really – that people were going to congratulate her for her performance. Yet, when she descended the staircase and practically walked straight into Colin Creevey – again – her first instinct was to blurt out a startled curse and her second was to want Merlin to send a blackhole to swallow her up.

"Oh, hi, Ginny!" he exclaimed upon turning around. He smiled widely and, for a brief second, she hated the sight of it. Hated the way it slid a bucket of ice down the back of her robes, the way it seized upon her good mood and reminded her of how tainted she truly was. "Great game today. You know, I don't know how you manage to fly like that, I really think you could be a professional."

She blinked, feeling the resentment slip away. "Thanks, Colin," she heard herself mutter, the words mechanical, the response stilted.

He didn't seem to notice, only beamed further. "One day," he promised, "I'm going to be able to fly like that."

Even though an escape was the only thing on Ginny's mind, she couldn't help the grin that tugged on her lips at the declaration. If she remembered correctly, Colin had been awful at flying. Enthusiastic, certainly, but too shaky to match his vigour.

"You are?"

Clearly sensing the direction of her thoughts, he sent her a playfully stern look, one that made him look even more puppy-like than usual. "Don't you dare. A lot can change in five years. I might turn out to be brilliant at flying now, maybe even better than you." He paused and revised, "Okay, I probably won't get that good. But I might be decent."

Ginny nodded. "You might be," she agreed. "Why do you want to fly anyway? I didn't picture you to be the type."

"Are you kidding? Ever since I found out wizards can fly, I've always wanted to do it! Flying is like the ultimate magical thing to do. Besides, imagine the view. It'd be great to take my camera up there and take a few shots."

"Or a million."

"Or a million," he echoed with a grin. There was something different about it, something more than his usual friendliness – camaraderie, almost, as if they were sharing some inside joke – and, just like that, she remembered why Colin unsettled her so much, why she avoided conversations with him whenever she could.

"I should go," she muttered, cheeks burning for some inexplicable reason.

Without waiting for a response, she turned to leave, her shoulder accidentally knocking against his own, the icy fingers of a boy who didn't exist reaching out to tug on the tendrils of her hair, her dark eyes blinking the image of a cold chamber away – and then the sea of students in front of her parted and she jerked to a stop again.

Of course.

Curiously, Colin peered over her and then grimaced. "Damn."

Screwing her eyes shut, Ginny spat out the foulest cuss in her repertoire, cursing the day she had decided to date and then dump a boy who shared a dormitory with both her brother and the boy she'd pined after for years. Of course, Dean would be talking to her friends right now, probably about that stupid banner he'd painted and hung over the fireplace to commemorate their win. Of course, she'd be trapped in a conversation with Colin Creevey while he was.

Determined not to let this get the best of her, she spun around, her hair brushing over Colin's face like a whip, and stormed over to the stairs, settling down on the bottom step. Wordlessly, he sat down beside her and offered her a Butterbeer – lukewarm, clammy with the sweat from his palm, welcome anyway – and the two watched the rest of the party blare on.

She sipped on her drink, wondering why the universe seemed to hate her. Here she was, the great Ginny Weasley, sitting next to a boy who made her skin crawl with all her regrets as she watched the boy she wanted joke around with the boy she'd had.

And in the back of her head a different sort of boy stepped out of the box she'd trapped him in, stalking forward, armed with memories that clenched her gut. Eyes losing focus, the image of his face rose to the surface of her mind: the elegant cheekbones of a Roman God, the flat black of his irises, the feral smile that bared his teeth like an animal raring for the kill. She remembered his smooth baritone, the liquid poison of his voice dripping over her, the spitting hiss of his summons. Her head spun in a frighteningly familiar dizziness…

Until Colin Creevey lightly nudged her hand with his own.

"You love him, don't you?" he said gently.

Her mind still on Tom, fear shot through her veins like black ichor. "Wh-What? Of – of course, not!" It occurred to her, belatedly, that Colin didn't know who Tom was. She peeked a glance at the boy beside her, followed his quietly intent gaze to rest her eyes on Harry.

"You don't need to be ashamed of it," he murmured. "I was practically in love with him too."

Her features fought the grimace his words beckoned – their situations were nothing alike. Perhaps they were once but not anymore. Ginny wasn't some mere fangirl breathless at the thought that Harry Potter breathed the same air as her, desperate for the littlest bit of attention. Her ties to him ran deeper than that, born out of the blood he'd lost fighting her demons to bring her back from the cusp of death, out of that explosion of relief she'd felt at seeing him anxiously peer down at her all those years ago, out of the sickening knowledge that she would never connect to someone in the same way ever again.

"You were in love with Dean?" was what she said instead, her voice light with faux humour.

Colin paused, startled, before a bark of laughter burst out of him. When he looked back at her, there was barely a trace of that gentle, all-knowing compassion. "Of course," he said, smiling. He nudged her shoulder playfully. "But you beat me to it. Damn you, Ginny."

Grasping onto the joke with both hands, she smiled down at the swirling contents of her bottle. "Well, he's free now. You can have him."

"No, thanks." He stretched his arms high above his head, revealing a sliver of tan skin and a trail of fine brown hair between the hem of his t-shirt and the faded denim beltloops of his jeans. "I've decided he's not my type."

A stray suggestion to ask him just what his type was flitted through her mind before she batted it away. The question seemed uncomfortably flirtatious and she had a funny feeling the answer would be similarly so. She didn't want to hear it, didn't want to be even having this conversation if she was being truthful.

Perhaps he had finally picked up on this – read it in the awkward slant of her shoulders, the muscle ticking away in her stiff jaw, the crescent-shaped incisions of her nails in the Butterbeer label of her drink – because Colin stood up, worked out the kinks in his neck and said, "I'm off to get some food. Do you want anything from the table?"

Ginny shook her head and merely lifted her Butterbeer in response.

"If you insist," he said with that silly little grin of his, as if nothing in the world could put him down. He turned to leave – and then paused, pivoted, pursed his lips in thought, in hesitance, in deliberation. Shoving his hands deep into his pockets, he looked down at her, eyes soft. "You know… if you ever want to talk, Ginny, I'm here for you. I get the feeling that you don't do it much – but – you never know, I might understand."

All of a sudden, his words brought on an eruption of rage. She welcomed its stinging kiss, basked in how normal this felt, so at odds with the jumpy terror Colin brought on – remembered that this fury, this temper was what it meant to be a Weasley, to be Ginny Weasley.

"How would you know what I do?" she snapped. Her right eyebrow cocked dangerously. "In case it escaped your attention, you're not my friend."

His face was a blank slate. Alien. "That's what you think," he said at last. He ran a hand through his hair in a gesture so unlike Tom or Harry or Dean that she couldn't help but stare at him. "I've always been your friend, Ginny. You just haven't been paying attention."

Her mouth fell open but no words came out. Finally, she managed to splutter, "You – you can't just – decide you're my friend! Or that I need to speak to you – "

"I never said you needed to, I said you could if you wanted to."

"Well, I don't!"

"Then, don't." He shrugged, unconcerned. "If that's what you want."

"It is."

"Then, there you have it." Colin swept his hand in a ridiculously grand gesture, as if to set the decision in stone, to show her the path she'd chosen. His face was still devoid of anything that could betray what he felt: no anger, no hurt, only careful neutrality that, if it was even possible, set her on edge even more than his usual innocence. "But you should know, Ginny… I won't judge you if you did."

Of course, he would. Colin might've thought he was being a good friend, but he really didn't know what he was signing himself up for if she did happen to lose her mind and take him up on his offer. Pour her soul out to him, show the ugly truth of who she really was. The stupid little girl who killed them all, let all the Mudbloods drop like flies while she trailed around the castle, unaware of the destruction in her hands. Tainted forevermore, doomed to want the one boy she could never have.

She lifted her chin proudly.

"There's nothing to judge."

# # #

Sometimes, if Ginny was feeling brave, she would go down to the common room when she couldn't sleep. She didn't do it often – something about the act of sneaking out when the rest of the world was blissfully unaware felt intensely familiar and just as intensely unwelcomed – but when staying in bed only irritated her, she would shove her feet in her favourite bunny slippers and pad down the stairs. It was always strange to be down in the common room after midnight. Too quiet, too empty for a place that brimmed with life and laughter in the pale light of day. But sometimes a change of scenery was just what she needed after one of her nightmares and even the hauntingly wistful air of the abandoned common room was a sight for sore eyes.

Sometime in her fourth year, after an awful dream of setting the monster on Ron in his sleep, Ginny found herself shakily descending the staircase to the common room once again. Part of her considered even breaking into the fifth year boys' dormitory just to make sure her brother was actually okay – knowing Ron, he wouldn't even realise she was there but the other boys might not be as oblivious. Still, her brother's safety was surely more important than getting embarrassed at being caught in the middle of the boys' dormitory, right?

She was in the middle of arguing the case with herself when she realised someone else was in the common room too. For a second, she didn't even recognise him, too caught up in worrying for her brother and shoving ill memories to the back of her mind – which was why the breath was nearly knocked out of her when the figure stood up at the sound of her footsteps.

Low flames licking away at the logs in the fireplace threw the boy into shifting light. Shadows crept over the side of his face, making the bones sharper, gave them a delicacy that bordered on ferocious; his hair was swept back from it all, as dark as night, fading away into an indistinguishable mass. His shoulders seemed broader, his body leaner and his mouth was set in a fierce slant that had her stumble back in horror.

And then he shifted and she saw the truth.

"Harry," she blurted.

The stiff set of his shoulders didn't relax. "Ginny," he said, voice curt, sizzling with the undercurrents of irritation. "What're you doing here so late at night?"

She wanted to beg him to step into the light. She needed to see his eyes, to reassure herself that she was just going mad. Better to be chucked into St. Mungo's than have her fears confirmed. But he made no inclination to move and his behaviour, the way he held himself – as if she was an intruder, an enemy, someone to warrant that hostile clench of his fists (damn it, why the fuck did Harry have to be so angry all the time recently?) – the way he held himself, yes, that just made it all worse.

"I couldn't sleep." Her voice sounded high and thin to her own ears; she cringed, hoping he didn't notice. "Thought I'd sit by the fire until I could." When he had nothing to say to that, she licked her lips nervously. "You?"

Harry pinned her down with that hard stare of his before he turned back to look down at the fire. His hands were shoved into his pockets instead of being clasped behind his back, she noticed. Good.

"Same as you. Whenever I can't sleep, I like to come down here and just sit." A pause. "Alone."

The hint was more than clear. Swallowing back the hurt, she let out a weak laugh. "I think I'm gonna try to sleep again. Early start tomorrow and all that." He didn't say anything. "Goodnight, Harry."

At last, his cold, angry front fractured. Stepping into the light of the fire, he turned to send her a small smile. Small but genuine. Hungrily, she latched onto it, soaked in the sincerity, in the faint green glint of his eyes across the distance. Harry. This was Harry.

"Goodnight, Ginny," he murmured. "Sleep well."

Heart hammering in her chest, she scurried back up the staircase, eyes glued to her feet. After the fright she'd had, her bunny slippers looked a lot less endearing than usual, their ears drooping sadly, their features worn. A fleeting moment of lament shot through her, piercing through the whirlwind in her mind, forgotten an instant later.

She stopped outside the door of her dormitory, staring at the bronze knocker. Her breaths thundered in her ears. Eyes drifting shut, she leaned forward until her forehead rested against the metal, cool against her burning skin.

"Don't be insane, Ginny," she muttered tiredly to herself. "Harry looks nothing like Tom."

# # #

On the night she bumped into Colin – crashed, really, because she was always the epitome of grace around him – Ginny wasn't thinking of Tom. No nightmare had startled her awake that night, nor indeed for any night in quite a while, and she had been prowling the corridors for a single reason: food. Sleep had evaded her for hours, leaving her stomach growling in resentment until she'd finally decided to fuck it and sneak out, consequences be damned.

Staring up at Colin's face, eyes wide in shock as his hand encircled her lower arm and jerked her fall to a stop, she decided that maybe she shouldn't have fucked it, after all.

"Ow," she said, belatedly realising that that her chin stung from when his camera had smashed into it.

Whatever spell had frozen them shattered. Blurting out an apology for nearly knocking her over, Colin hurriedly helped her upright, fingers warm against her hand when they brushed over it as he pulled them away. With an anxiousness that didn't befit the recent rift between them – or perhaps, one that fit it extremely well since his franticness seemed to born out of the fact that he didn't quite know how to act around her – he peered at her chin, teeth worrying away at his lower lip.

"Damn," he muttered, ducking his head for a better look. She jerked away, shields flying up at the lack of distance. "I think that's going to leave a bruise."

Knowing that to show her irritation at this was to invite a conversation, she merely rubbed at it. "Don't worry about it. I've had worse."

He made a face. "Still. I'm sorry."

"So you've said."

Silence fell between them. It crackled with unease and the echoes of the words they'd exchanged the last time they'd properly spoken, she sharp and cruel, he steady and immovable. Ginny avoided his eyes, not wanting to recall their soft butterscotch colour at the party as he'd promised not to judge her. As the tension between them rose to the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro, her thoughts raced to find an escape before she realised, quite abruptly, that she owed him nothing and could just leave.

Mind made up, Ginny swiftly turned on her heels and set off towards the common room.

About two seconds passed until she heard the heavy but sure footsteps of Colin, casually following her as if she'd extended some sort of invitation. Her hair frizzed in irritation; she squashed the feeling down, told herself that they were simply walking in the same direction for a while until he went off to take pictures of Merlin knew what. But as soon as they ascended the staircase between the third floor and the fourth, she found she could no longer contain it.

Bursting out of her like a firework, the explosion had her whirl around and shove him away, hands pressed roughly against his chest. She watched him stumble against the wall, a wounded puppy who couldn't fathom the attack, staring at her with wide eyes. Her own crackled with lightning, her hair swaying behind her like some sort of blood-red halo: a vengeful angel with no mercy.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing? Stop following me like some pathetic pet, Colin – you're not wanted here. For the love of Merlin, for someone who claims to be so intuitive, you're so bloody thick, aren't you?"

It was as if he hadn't heard. Eyes darting around anxiously, he approached her again, both hands stretched out – a surrender, a placation, an attempt to grab her to tell her to stop. "Shhh, are you off your rocker? Filch is still patrolling the castle!"

"Yeah, well, he can fuck off," she snarled. Her voice crashed off the walls like a clap of thunder. She couldn't care less if Filch discovered them – let him try to strike her down when she felt like this, when she was trembling with the fury of the gods. "And so can you, for that matter."

He blinked at her. "What?"

"Stop – following – me."

"…We're in the same house, Ginny," he said after a long, incredulous pause. "I'm not following you anywhere, I'm just trying to go to bed."

Embarrassment washed over her. Her fury ebbing away, she blinked at him, suddenly feeling like a fool. Just as quickly, the stubbornness she was infamous for twisted her heart, told her tongue to ignore the taste of defeat and fill her mouth with spite instead. Somehow – she didn't know how – he had twisted this entire incident to paint her as the one in the wrong.

"I don't care," she snapped. At the sound of her raised voice, he winced and looked around for any incoming professors. "Take another route to the common room, one that doesn't involve following me – "

It seemed she had pushed him to the limit at last.

Faster than she could've ever anticipated, Colin shot forward, grabbed her by the hand and pulled her into the nearest classroom. A sharp kick to the door slammed it shut. His wand was whipped out of the pocket of his jeans and pointed at the door, bathing the entryway in a brief silver glow.

"What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?" Ginny cried.

"Making sure no one comes running from all the racket you're making," he said shortly. He turned around to fix her with an unimpressed look. "Go on, then. Carry on shouting at me for no reason."

His face was unfamiliar to her once again. Nothing like that night at the party – no, this was not a blank mask to hide his true feelings, not the face of someone who was determined not to let hurtful words chip away at his offer to help, his offer to heal. This was the face of someone who had reached the end of their tether but would be damned if he let go of it without a fight.

Inexplicably, it killed the shouts waiting in her throat.

"Well?" He raised an expectant eyebrow.

When she finally spoke, it was to find that she sounded like a sulky five year old. "It's not for no reason." She bit the inside of her cheek, hating the pathetic mewl that had left her mouth.

A long pause from Colin. And then… "No, it's not," he agreed. He tilted his head to look at her, curious instead of angry, oddly enough. "You hate me, don't you?"

The accusation crashed into her. Eyes as wide as saucers, Ginny stared at the boy across the room, lips parted to argue against it, to splutter out a denial. Hate. He thought she hated him. The word wormed its way into her brain, a bomb that exploded, sending forth a flurry of memories filled with what hate really was. Hate was such a powerful word: it was, after all, what was currently ravaging the wizarding world. She didn't – she couldn't hate Colin. He was too… good.

"I don't hate you," she said, horrified.

He gazed at her, hard. "You don't?"

"Of course, not!"

Sighing, he sat down on the desk behind him, long legs stretched down to the floor, feet grounding him. Two slim hands wrapped around the chunk of metal resting on his chest, tracing the curves of his camera as he lost himself in deep thought. He didn't even seem offended at the possibility that she could hate him, merely… weary.

"I think you do," he said quietly. "I'm not stupid, you know. I might seem it, but I'm not. Whenever you talk to me, you're always looking around me for an escape. Like you're going to run away in less than a second. And whenever I say hi, your face falls a second before you smile. Don't deny it."

Oh, Merlin. Her throat choked on the sudden realisation that she'd hurt him; for all her anger before, she didn't want to be the monster who hurt Colin Creevey, of all people. Again.

"I don't hate you," Ginny whispered. "I hate what you remind me of."

His eyes darted to her face. "What? What do you – oh, God, are you crying?" He shot to his feet and hurried over, frantically wiping away the first tear that slipped down her cheek. "Oh, Ginny, please don't cry, I didn't mean to make you – "

It was no use. Everything she had been bottling in for weeks, months – years, really – poured out of her. Tears welled up in her eyes, smashing past the dam she'd erected long ago and, without thinking about it, she threw her arms around the boy in front of her and sobbed into his shoulder.

"I'm so sorry, Colin," she cried. "I'm so sorry for what I did."

"It's okay," he said, voice weak, hands soothing her hair. "Plenty of people shout at me, it's no big deal – "

"Not – that. I'm talking about before. First year." She pulled back from him, already swallowing the rest of her tears, wiping her cheeks free of them. Her skin was pale, alabaster paint smudged with dark brown freckles, steadily burning to red as it hit her how much she had let herself unravel. "I was the reason you missed out on it. I… I set the Basilisk on you."

Colin stared at her. "I… what?" His eyes turned glassy with memories. "That's why you apologised to me in first year, didn't you? You said it was all your fault that it happened, but you'd just been dragged to the Chamber of Secrets so I thought… I thought you were just in shock."

"I wasn't," she said. Fear coiled in her stomach, squeezing her insides. It was just as she'd feared. Any second now, he would turn away from her in disgust; she'd be poor, sweet, little Ginny again. Unnecessary, unwanted, unclean. With sudden desperation, she felt the urge to explain herself. "There was a diary. Lucius Malfoy put it in my cauldron in Diagon Alley and it – I thought it was a present from my parents, Colin – something my parents gave me couldn't be evil, even if it talked back – but it was, Colin, it was and it – he – Tom possessed me! He made me open the Chamber of Secrets, he made me tell the monster to attack everyone, he – "

"Whoa, whoa, calm down!" He grabbed her shoulders firmly. "Ginny, slow down. You're saying you were possessed? Because of some diary? And Draco Malfoy had something to do with it?"

Her eyes slid shut. A deep breath stole in through her nose and was released again. "There was a diary," she repeated, forcing calm into her voice. She swallowed the lump in her throat. "Lucius Malfoy - Draco Malfoy's dad, that is - snuck it into my books when we went shopping in Diagon Alley in the summer and I thought it was a surprise present from my parents so I wrote in it. And it wrote back."

"Diaries do that here?" he blurted.

"No, Colin, they don't. But I… I didn't realise that. I wrote to Tom all the time – "


"The boy the diary originally belonged to." The memory of Tom in the Chamber rose in her mind. She flew her eyes open to drink in the boy in front of her instead, focus on the scab on the bridge of his nose and the endearing little gap in his teeth. He was so – different. She relished that. "His name was Tom Riddle. He managed to use magic to leave a memory of him in the diary, one that wrote back. At first, he was charming. He listened to all my problems without judging me, offered me advice and consolation when I needed it. He was my best friend.

"But he was – what he did to the diary was Dark magic. He did it so his memory could possess whoever wrote in it to open the Chamber of Secrets and kill all the Muggleborns in the school. Which was what he did with me. I'd lose entire hours and not realise that I had. He took over my body, he controlled me – had me kill all those roosters, open the Chamber, set the Basilisk loose in the castle. When I finally realised, I threw it away and then somehow Harry ended up with the diary – there were no attacks then, of course, Harry's too strong for that – so I had to steal it back and when I did… Tom wanted to have me kill him. It's why he took me down to the Chamber in the end – because he knew that Harry would come to save me since I was Ron's little sister… He – he wanted to kill me too. So he could live outside of the diary again."

There was a bit of silence. Colin opened his mouth, nothing but a faint croak escaping it before the air rushed out of his lungs. "Jesus."

"I'm sorry," she repeated miserably. Unable to meet his gaze, she looked down instead. She felt as if she was a million miles away, watching some other girl wring her hands together anxiously. How was she doing this? How was she confessing her worst sins to – to Colin of all people? "If I didn't write in that diary like an idiot, you wouldn't have been hurt."

"Don't be stupid, Ginny," he said softly.

Her head snapped up. "What?"

"If that diary did what you said it did – if the only reason it was even created was to possess someone to open the Chamber of Secrets, it probably had some sort of compulsion charm on it. Those exist, right? Something that would make you want to write in it, to – lure you in or something, I don't know."

Ginny's jaw slackened in shock. She thought back to that awful year of her life, to the consuming need she'd felt about writing in the diary, the tug on her heart when she'd seen Harry carrying it. It was as if she'd been in a complete frenzy that day she'd ransacked his trunk, desperate to get her hands back on Tom.


But it made no difference in the end.

No matter what Tom had done to ensnare her senses, he was still right: at the heart of it all, she was poor, sweet, little Ginny. The girl who killed them all.

"It doesn't matter." The whisper stirred the expectant silence. "I should've – I should've fought it. But I didn't and it got everyone killed."

Colin frowned. Hands still curled around her shoulders, he bent down to peer at her. "No one died, Ginny. We're all okay. The Basilisk's destroyed… And I'm guessing Tom was along with it."

He wasn't, she wanted to say. He was right there in the room with them, haunting her even after all these years. Whenever she saw Colin, Tom resurfaced to croon her sins in her ears, remind her that here was yet another living reminder of her violence, of her obsession with him. Mindful of the fact that it'd probably get her chucked into St. Mungo's, however, she bit back the remark.

"You're right," she murmured. Suddenly all too aware of how close he was, Ginny wrapped her own hands around his and tugged them off her shoulder, returned them to his side. "Well, there you have it. That's why I don't... That's why I don't like to be around you. You remind me of everything that happened, everything that's wrong with me."

His eyes were soft again. They were like that a lot, she realised, when he wasn't grinning like Christmas had come early. She was still uncertain as to whether it was a good thing or not.

"But there's nothing wrong with you, Ginny," he told her.

Her face twisted. "You don't – you don't know that! He – I'm tainted, Colin. Tom destroyed me, made me do things you can't just walk away from. He will never leave me alone and as long as that's true, there will always be something wrong with me. Merlin, I was possessed by You-Know-Who – how can you expect me not to be messed up?"

"What – but I thought – " He cut off. "Tom... Tom's You-Know Who?" His voice crept to a falsetto. At her stiff nod, he exhaled a long breath. "Jesus." Swaying dangerously, his hand darted forward, grabbing onto her for support. All colour was drained from him.

"Now do you see?" she asked. "I'm not clean, Colin. And you – you are. You're so – innocent and pure and whenever I see you… I remember that I'm not."

He was silent for the longest time. She could almost see the gears in his head turning, grinding against each other in an effort to process it all, to finally understand that Ginny Weasley was a lie. Whatever face she put on – cool, vivacious, feisty as hell – was all a veneer, an effort to hide the little girl who still couldn't believe that her best friend had betrayed her. His hand clutched onto hers, his pulse raced as fast as a Firebolt.


Ginny frowned. "What? You did just hear what I told you, didn't you?"

"Yes, I did. And I think it's all bollocks. I don't care how bloody innocent or pure I am, Ginny, no one deserved to go through what you did and the fact that you survived it and that you're still as – still as – wonderful as you are says something. No, I'm not talking about whatever front you put up. I'm talking about this, what I see right now – and let me tell you, what I see is amazing. You're not dirty or unclean, Ginny. You're a survivor."

"You only think that because you don't know…"

"I don't need to," he interrupted firmly. "I'm not going to lie and say what happened didn't leave a mark on you because it clearly did. But I'll be damned if I let you to bed thinking that he – he ruined you, made you dirty, that he still controls you."

Her lips were only a hairbreadth apart. "He does."

"No, he doesn't! And you know how I know he doesn't? Because I heard what you did this summer, Ginny Weasley. I know you snuck off to the Ministry with Harry and his friends and I know you fought bloody Death Eaters. You did the opposite of what Tom wanted, you helped Harry! You defied him." He paused, breathing heavily. "Maybe you're not innocent. Fine. Not everyone is. But you sure as hell are not unclean."

Later, Ginny wouldn't be able to recall who moved first. Perhaps she was embarrassed by it, perhaps she just didn't understand. But as Colin pressed forward with earnest eyes and earnest words, her brain short-circuited. It was as if a switch flicked – she was suddenly all too aware of how much she enjoyed butterscotch, of the boyish part of his hair, of the bronze lashes that brushed his cheeks just shy of the spot of ink that obscured one of his freckles. She surged forward, her mouth colliding against his, seeking more of the strange feeling he was pumping into her.

He stumbled back, sucked in her breath in shock… and then kissed her back.

Surely, she was insane. After all, that was the only logical explanation for kissing Colin Creevey in an empty classroom in the middle of the night. But, for the moment, she decided that sanity could go suck on it. Yes, she was there in Colin's arms, kissing him like he was the last drop of oxygen on earth, like she wanted to consume him because, even though he knew her for what she truly was, he hadn't turned away, hadn't fled in disgust. He was there, kissing her back, chapped lips moving against her own as if he'd been waiting for this for eons.


His camera dug into their chests, sharp and unwanted. Snarling, she tugged it over his head and tossed it onto a nearby desk.

This was necessary.

His shirt, his jeans. Her gown, her shift. Off.


His mouth blazing across her collarbones. Her head tipping back, crimson hair cascading down her bare back. Breathless gasps steaming the air.

He thought she was clean.

Her hands tracing a path down from his navel. Muscle and sinew trembling under smooth skin, as golden as the sun. An artist's body.


"Gin – Ginny… are you sure? Do you really think we should…"

She was wanted.


# # #

In the end, it turned out that she didn't love Harry after all. She'd merely loved the idea that someone out there was just as tainted by Tom as her, that there was someone she could look at from a certain angle and see the shadow of the boy who had promised her everything and had then tried to steal it all back. She'd been in love with the fact that Harry had his ghosts too.

But standing there outside the Shrieking Shack, knee-deep in snow, staring at the boy who had held her in his arms all night, she considered that maybe, just maybe, she was in love with Colin too.