If only Ginny would have found Harry her first year on Valentine's day.
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The trip to Hogsmeade was all the easier without Daphne, though he was certain she would forgive him when he told her. He would have told her before he left, but it was an emergency. Dumbledore would have to forgive him too, if the older wizard could even detect Harry's absence.
He stepped through the space easily, three audible cracks echoing kilometers apart as he moved across the continent.
He broke into Hogwarts' grounds easily with his cloak. No ward could detect him. No defense was safe from him. He'd had to come after a call from Lisa.
Luna was in a psychic state.A "trance," she'd told him.
Well, the word she'd actually used was "seizing."
Harry had stowed the mirror and rushed right there. He didn't bother to climb the steps, instead, he breathed and drifted upwards, climbing swiftly under his own will.
He slipped inside the Hospital-Wing. Luna was there, bound under magic restraints to keep from hurting herself. Harry stepped beside her and revealed himself, silencing her as he did just to be safe. As he ran his wand over her though, she bolted upright. Harry pushed her gently down without touching her. Her bright blue eyes met his for a terrible moment before they rolled backwards into her head and she slumped back to the mattress.
"Shss," Harry hushed her. No one save Severus Snape knew Legilimency and Harry doubted he used it for healing. There was a reason muggles, mortals,mistook seizures for visions. He had to be here. A mind healer wouldn't arrive in time.
He reached out into Luna's mind, brushing against it. She was in there, shoved to the side, in pain, alone, as magic itself ran over her, tore her apart,and filled her with visions, her health be damned. He soothed her, her body slowly stopped convulsing in agony. She was still left whimpering, tears streaked across her face.
She was crying. Sobbing, really.
Only as her consciousness faded into a deep slumber did he allow himself to peer fully into her mind. As always it was blinding, almost. Harry traced the golden web skittering across her thoughts like a spider. He reached over and strummed a burning cord. He blocked it from her thoughts, sealing away the visions as they formed against the chaotic tapestry of her psyche.
Harry twitched the length of his wand and a simple 'get-well' card sprung into existence. With his wand he wrote a quick message inside before signing it and leaving it at her bedside. In reality, nobody but himself or another sufficiently talented legilimens could wake her.
He departed from the Hospital-Wing, his work done. Harry would be back come morning to wake her and set her about her day.
He barely even had to think to solve the usual riddle, finding many Ravenclaw students studying or lounging in the common room, though their discussions ceased when he entered.
"Harry..." A prefect stood. "You shouldn't be here, in Hogwarts at all! Let alone up here."
Harry was forced to stop and blink at the girl, a little surprised she had challenged him at all. He looked away, ignoring her completely.
"Lisa." He summoned her from the crowd over the squawking of the prefect.
"Lisa?" The Prefect wondered. "-No, no you shouldn't be here. You can't just walk in when you're not a student." She raised her wand but that was the furthest she reached before Harry stopped her.
"Quiesco." The magic left his lips and passed over her in a wave. Her body shivered into the sound of his voice. There was a clatter as her wand rolled from her fingers and onto the floor. Her eyes went dim, she was totally unable to resist even the slightest legilimens attack.
He caught her with his magic as she fell, floating her in place, then moved her across the room and up the stairs to where he knew her bed was.
"Lisa?" Harry murmured again. No one challenged him.
"Harry-uh-" Marrietta began before Cho tugged on her shirt hard.
Cho gave her a warning look. "We'll just clear out of your way, Harry. I'm sure you'll take care of things."
Harry was unable to detect irony in her words, so he nodded. Lisa approached him as the room began to disperse.
"What about Madam Pomfrey?" Lisa wondered. "Harry, I thought she was dying. Her dormmates mentioned she'd had… fits before, they called them. But this was different."
He nodded along at her words, he cleared his throat. Harry had been rapidly coming into his power in France, becoming closer to the man he'd seen in the mirror of Erised. He was coming to an unsettling truth. That he was less human than he'd ever thought.
Was there a definition of magical creature he'd read which described them but then hadn't excluded wizards? As though wizards were exempt from the definition and classification. Wizards were magical creatures, themselves. Not just Vampires and Veela and whatever the hell Harry was. All of them.
All of us.
He'd wondered for a long time about the nature of himself and the magical creatures around him. He consumed and used the emotions around him all his life in a way which seemed indistinguishable between that exhibited by a Dementor. They had to be similar, he'd modeled his abilities by studying them.
Boggarts too, as well as sphinxes. All had powers like his own.
He'd wondered briefly with Daphne if a sphinx could be the monster they would face in the first task. They'd quickly ruled it out. A sphinx wouldn't care about wizards and the tournament, the same way a phoenix wouldn't. How would you catch a phoenix and force it into anything like submission? Its regeneration would restore it from anything, and no ward could hold it back. Defeat one? Perhaps. Vanquish one? Never.
Was a wizard no different? Was he? He was just doing what humans did, but with magic. Taking apart and using the pieces of magical creatures as tools. Humans had been doing things like that to the animals they had hunted, sharpening bone and fashioning weapons for millennia. Even going so far to wear their skins as clothes.
His wand was like that. It was made of a magical creature and a stick, the height of magical technology. It actually was. When modern archaeologists refer to stone age tools as advanced technology it's easy to get arrogant and forget how many people suffered and died to get there. His wand was the same.
Their potions were the same too, recipes made from the essence of magical creatures, stripped of their magic for use by wizards and witches.
If Harry was a magical creature that could consume the memories and emotions of others, was Voldemort a revenant? Was he some kind of unstoppable, amortal wraith?
Voldemort had made himself into something missing a piece of its soul. Something which was less than a person. He'd created a Horcrux to stay alive; magic even Grindelwald had fiercely cautioned Harry against. The Diary was surely a Horcrux, but destroying it had not banished Voldemort.
Which could only mean one thing; Voldemort had made another. He'd murdered enough people to do it, certainly. So he'd made at least another. Perhaps two more to bring the total up to three, the first magically powerful number. Harry was sure. It was what he himself would do after all.
Where had the Diary come from? Had it lingered at Hogwarts until Ginny stumbled upon it? Was its mere happenstance? How else could an eleven-year-old girl get her hands on a piece of the Dark Lord's soul but through enemy action?
Harry would have guarded his soul with the most brutal and powerful protections he could. There existed magics which persuaded muggles to avoid areas. Wards which touched the mind. Harry could set these up easily. He could create barriers that would drive the perpetrator mad or haunt them with their worst nightmares. Even wizards and witches would be no match for his skill with breaking into minds. Not when he was at his most brutal, cunning, and wicked.
One piece he would hide in the school. A secret only he and the magical castle knew. This place had set his soul free, it was only fair that he'd pay it back.
He would never hide a piece at the Dursleys. The very thought disgusted him, but where else? Where else was important to him?
He began to pace, stroking his jaw.
Dumbledore would be hunting these objects, surely. Perhaps he knew but Harry couldn't trust the wizard enough to tell him.
Another he'd give to Daphne to protect. He could trust her to guard something like that, especially if she knew what it was. He could just tell her it was a valuable magical artefact and needed protection, though, she may not like him dabbling in such magics.
Then what of the last? Neville, perhaps?
What would that mean for Voldemort or… perhaps Tom...
Unless… unless what?
He needed to ask Ginny Weasley. She would tell him, or he would persuade her to. He had to know how she got the Diary, even if the memory had been removed that would be something at least. Something the Diary tried to hide, but she probably wouldn't even know whether her mind had been tampered with.
He supposed he'd find out. It was literally his only lead for that particular mystery.
Dumbledore knew about Horcruxes, surely. He'd read Secrets of the Darkest Arts but he'd kept it from Harry. Why? Was he scared Harry would desire a Horcrux too? Harry wasn't that scared of dying, but perhaps Dumbledore didn't know that. Perhaps the similarities between himself and Voldemort frightened the old man too much.
They certainly terrified Harry.
So did the question of what Harry was, though. He did things other wizards couldn't casually. Dumbledore may know. Unlike with Horcruxes, Harry wasn't sure Dumbledore knew. He wasn't even sure if Dumbledore suspected.
He looked down at Luna. With his power growing, what was happening to Daphne and Luna and Neville? Dumbledore either hadn't known about these consequences or had refused to tell Harry. Both options were damning.
Had his growing strength caused this seizure? Had he inspired the power for this vision? He was beginning to suspect he was changing those around him almost like-
"-Harry!?" Lisa reached out and grabbed him. He must have been truly lost in his thoughts. He'd summoned her only to almost immediately forget she was even there.
"I am taking care of Luna," Harry assured her. "Fetch Neville, Lisa."
"Yes, of course. I'm sorry."
"With Daphne in Beauxbatons, I may require your assistance early tomorrow," he informed her. "After you direct Neville to my room, you should retire."
"Where will you sleep? Shouldn't you go back to France?" She wondered. "Harry my head is going too fast- I don't know if I can slee-"
Harry held a finger to her lips. "I will be fine. Go to bed, Lisa. You are more tired than you think." He wormed his way into her mind and stilled her anxieties. She relaxed on the other side of his hand.
"Of course..." Her eyes grew blank as her words trailed off in a quiet hum. "Hmmh…" She dazedly kissed his finger and departed, her steps a slow, sleepy stumble.
Harry considered her. He hadn't meant to push for something like that. It just happened. Happened easily even. He was sure he had detected Lisa's romantic thoughts a few times, but he hadn't really taken them to heart. Something about a muggle boy in an apartment across from her mother's in London? On the other hand, that had been first or even second-year.
He turned at once for his fortress within the castle, hovering down the staircases and over the gaps their midnight motions made.
Entering, he flicked his wand. The candles and fireplaces roared to life at once. Flames flickered forward almost like expectant housecats and Harry felt at once like he was home. The place had been cleaned by someone and seemed well looked after. Harry set his feet down before the window looking outwards onto the gorgeous midwinter lake.
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Ginny was still mostly in her sleep-wear when she padded into the Hospital-Wing on an early Wednesday morning. She'd been dragged out of bed and excused from morning classes to see her friend. Professor McGonagall explained that Luna had some kind of fit but now, in the light of the early morning, her friend lay still in the bed. Her pale hair was turned golden by the light until she shifted and the light fell out of her face.
Luna's skin wasn't quite the right shade of pale to make her stand out and her silver hair was thinner than totally healthy. Ginny reached down and ran a hand across her friend's brow. She looked up as the door to the infirmary opened, but it was Madam Pomfrey who seemed content to leave Ginny to her visit. Ginny was still alone at Luna's bedside and her heart ached.
There were signs too, there were leather restraints still attached to the bed, ready to be secured to Luna's wrists. Luckily, no sign of restraint injury on Luna's wrists or ankles though, the leather would never allow for that and even if it did Madam Pomfrey could seal bruises and cuts in an instant.
"Oh Luna…" Ginny blinked back tears and flicked her bright red hair back as she straightened. She wiped her face on her combination of bluer evening and more crimson morning robes. When her eyes cleared, they focused on a small golden card beside the table. Ginny glanced down at her friend before delicately reaching over and picking up the car. She didn't open it or anything invasive, but she did read the signature.
Her chest tightened a little.
It was Harry's.
It wasn't creepy or anything, that she knew that. She'd just seen his name scrawled in his handwriting in some academic paper, or the newspaper, or perhaps even on his school work. Professor Flitwick kept one of the essays Harry wrote when he was twelve up amongst his artefacts and books in his classroom.
She set the card back down. If Harry was here in the castle looking after Luna it changed things. For one it meant that Ginny shouldn't have anything to worry about. She would probably be fine with Harry watching over her.
She looked down at Luna's shimmering silver hair and shuffled her feet. The smooth stone floor felt rough with only her slippers between her toes and the flagstones and they were freezing. With Luna showing no sign of wakening, Ginny decided she may as well change into her uniform and get breakfast, so she kissed Luna's hand goodbye and departed.
Ginny was first forced to briefly descend, riding and climbing staircases downwards before she diverted. She traveled around the castle and began to climb up again towards Gryffindor Tower. Portrait denizens, dozens of them, with some still yet to wake, gave the walls of Hogwarts a cozy animation.
She passed a window and Ginny pulled her robes around herself just a little tighter. All about her, with warm fires etched in enchanted canvas, ladies and gentlemen poured warm cups of tea and coffee. Gryffindor Tower was warm, but the Scottish winter was relentless and no matter where you were in the castle the weather seemed to want to push in on you. The people painted in the portraits weren't in Scotland, necessarily.
They could be somewhere warmer. Southern Europe or Northern Africa, maybe.
Ginny had been among the few talented enough to be invited to France. Her coursework was conventionally above average but her spell-work was considered excellent. With her mind healer… it just hadn't been in the budget after the trip to Egypt.
Ginny ascended to the Common Room and was nearly bowled into by Hermione as she rushed out of the tower. Their eyes met in a low stare.
There had been a spark of jealousy in Ginny's chest when they'd first met which had only been embittered when Hermione had thrown away that thing that Ginny had wanted most since she'd come to Hogwarts. She'd only wanted it more than ever since he'd saved her life.
"Ginny," Hermione greeted. "You're out in the castle early." It was phrased like a statement, but Hermione's nature wasn't exactly a secret. Her eyes held a curious and demanding glint.
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Not that it's any of your business, but I was visiting a friend in the Hospital-Wing."
Hermione's eyes narrowed. Ginny couldn't tell if it was at Ginny's tone or in curiosity. Probably both given her scowl. "Who was it?"
"I just told you it wasn't any of your business," Ginny returned. She stepped closer to Hermione, simultaneously, rising further into the Common Room.
Hermione's fists balled up, but she did and said nothing more. She continued to rush past Ginny and bumped into her. Ginny played sports and exercised often, and though she was built in a leaner fashion than Hermione, she was taller. Hermione stumbled down the steps before picking herself up. She gave one last wrathful look before disappearing completely.
Ginny shook her head. She breezed through the Common Room and up to her dorm to begin her morning traditions.
Neither of them had friends they'd made first year. At least comparatively. Ginny still did alright, but Neville was abundantly Harry's best friend and Hermione's paranoid rantings to anyone who would listen about how dangerous Harry was drove a wedge between them that couldn't be healed. The other girls in Hermione's year didn't share her motivations, so she was mostly alone.
What separated herself and Hermione was that after what happened to Ginny first year, she did start making friends, or at least acquaintances. It wasn't like anyone knew she opened the chamber. If Harry had told anyone, they'd been tight-lipped about it.
She had classes off in the morning, so she was content to take her time and get breakfast. The Great Hall was always crowded in the morning, but it also always smelled fantastic. Ever since she'd arrived at Hogwarts, Ginny had struggled not to help herself to everything every morning. Breakfast was awesome, even just the buttered toast with eggs on was enough to get her down here day after day.
It wasn't like she didn't get enough food at the burrow. Not that you could tell from a glance at Ron just a few seats down and across the table.
This morning however, sweet, sweet breakfast was interrupted with a small tap on her shoulder.
"Neville?" Ron looked up from a few seats down. "You were up early."
"I had things to do, it's looking to be a little busier for me than normal but..." Neville gave a low chuckle.
Aloud, Seamus wondered, "you here for breakfast, then?"
Neville shook his head. "No, I ate earlier this morning." Then he bent over slightly and much more quietly murmured at Ginny. "Could I talk to you for a second?" His eyes flicked away from the table, towards the exit to the Hall.
"Oh um-" Ginny set down her toast begrudgingly and made to stand.
When her eyes met Neville face again, it was bowled in a grimace. "You might just take that with you. I don't know how long this'll take."
"Wait hold on- how long what might take?" Neville glanced over at Ron. Power dynamics in all of Hogwarts had changed overnight when Harry killed Barty Crouch Jr. in a duel. An actual wizard duel to the death. Not some school conflict with Malfoy in a corridor but an honest to Merlin wizard's duel.
Neville looked over at Ron. Neville had started to lose his own baby weight, and while it was clear he wouldn't ever be as tall as Ron or the Weasley's, it wouldn't be by a lot. Beyond that Neville's shoulders were already wider than Ron's.
Ginny had seen a photo of Neville's father once and could easily see the resemblance beginning to take shape more and more. She's heard that Neville had once been one of the weakest wizards of their year, his only talent being Herbology.
Ginny had never seen it herself, or if she had it had been lost in the haze that was her entire first year. Neville was good at Defense and though his spells were inefficient, they were strong.
"I'm not sure," Neville shrugged, then reached over and grabbed an apple to place in his robes.
Ron glanced around the table and back over to Neville. "Well... where are you going with my little sister?"
"I don't need your help, Ron." Ginny rose from the long bench, snagging her toast from her plate as she did. "Neville's trustworthy." Despite her words and a bite of toast she still had questions of her own. "What did you want to talk about?"
"Well I was hoping I could take you to Harry," Neville explained. "He asked me to find you. He said he had some questions for you."
"Harry's actually here in the castle?" Ginny asked.
Neville nodded but he glanced at her with his head tilted slightly and his eyebrows low. "What do you mean actually? How could you-?"
"I saw a card from him for Luna while I was visiting her this morning," Ginny answered preemptively.
Neville bobbed his head. "That makes sense, you haven't told anyone have you?"
She could hear a hint of concern in his voice and Ginny quickly denied it. "No, it was just half an hour ago."
"Perfect. Excellent." Neville seemed ready to relieve himself of his anxiety over that. "You coming then?"
"Wait? Now?" She asked. "Can I at least change into something more…" She trailed off when Neville scoffed and shook his head.
"Harry is pretty busy. Come on."
Ginny grimaced but glanced down. She gestured over herself with her wand and muttered in Latin. A few hygiene charms she'd long since memorized helped a little and she straightened the creases in her robes. She didn't look particularly good but…
She didn't have much choice right now. "Lead the way, right?"
As they walked along the bench their path was blocked when Hermione swung her legs out, pulling a book bag with her. "I want to talk to him."
Neville had to angle his head down at Hermione. "He's in his study. Can't you find it?"
She glared at him. "You know I can't. If you don't take me to him, I'm just going to follow you."
Neville sighed. "Fine. Harry will deal with you. I bet he'll even be glad to talk to you." He started walking again and Hermione fell into pace beside him. Ginny stretched herself to keep up. Her own questions suddenly shoveled to the side in favor of Hermione's pestering.
Hermione scoffed. "Yeah right. You might believe that, but I don't."
"You'd be surprised at the esteem Harry holds you in." Neville seemed to find her disbelief genuinely amusing.
"Um-Neville?" Ginny managed as they began to ascend into the castle. ""Did Harry actually tell you what he wanted to talk about?"
"I have no idea."
Ginny wondered for a second. "Does it have anything to do with Luna?"
"Maybe?" Neville shrugged. "I know that's why Harry came here last night. Or one of the reasons, at least. He was here to do mind healing or something on her. I don't know the details."
"What's Loony Lovegood got to do with anything?" Hermione demanded.
"Don't call her that," Ginny snapped across Neville.
At the same time Neville glanced over at Hermione. "Better not let Harry hear you say that," Neville warned. "Anyways, I just told you I don't know."
"He didn't tell you?"
"I didn't ask," Neville shrugged Hermione's question off again. There was a casual practice to which he managed it.
"You just do whatever he says, then?"
Neville's hands slunk into his robes where they seemed to fidget. "Hermione have you ever known Harry not to help someone who asks him for it? Besides, I didn't even ask him for help." There was a low anger in the pitch of Neville's voice. "He just gave it to me. He changed my life. He made me better than who I used to be; so, when he showed up, I just asked him what he wanted me to do."
Hermione opened her mouth. "Neville, Harry blames Dumbledore. He thinks Dumbledore let him get hurt or something. He-"
"All families fight," Neville insisted, the minor fidgeting in his robes became clenched fists. "Because you were his friend, Harry trusted you when he shared that with you. And you just-" Neville broke off. "If somebody had shared something like that about me I would-" He broke off again, just as angry. "If I was Harry I would be pissed."
Neville stopped and Ginny was forced to blink. That Harry had turned room into the castle into something completely different was something of an open secret. People knew it was hard to find like all of Hogwarts' other mysteries, but Ginny had walked down this corridor for years and had never seen this door.
Neville swept the door open before them. The room was as fine as any other in Hogwarts. Freshly polished glass and a hovering chandelier of glowing lights made the room glow. The beads of light swarmed the air before a large white table over a mosaic tile floor. There were several more doors leading off from the room they were in from either side.
The far end of the room raised into a sort of dais where it met with an enormous window. Harry was casually leaning against the window. He looked as handsome as ever, really, not that Ginny had though that would change between now and when she'd seen him last.
His eyes glowed under wild unkept hair in dark pits, she wasn't sure she'd ever seen him look super well rested and now was no different. Even though France was warmer than frigid Scotland, Harry seemed a tad pale. Maybe it was the light playing a trick on her, though.
"Harry, about Hermione-" Neville lead. he'd left Ginny and Hermione near the entrance and walked to the far side of the room.
Harry calmly interrupted him. "Thank you, Neville. This is perfect. You should go to class, though. I'll take care of things from here." His words had an unusual reverb as though she was hearing the words twice. His lips seemed slightly off with the words.
Ginny had to blink her eyes hard to make sure she was seeing it right.
Ginny knew she wasn't alone in feeling it, though. She could tell that Hermione did too. Ginny could see all the muscles in Hermione's back and shoulders tighten at the sound and her head reflexively flinch as though to look around but stopping in the motion.
Harry was clearly standing in front of them despite his voice coming from next to them.
"Of course. You know where to find me, then." Neville walked out of the room past both the girls. The door shut solidly, shaking slightly against the frame and for Hermione that seemed sufficient to break the silence.
"What're you doing, here!" Hermione stormed forwards. Taking the first few steps out of the several dozen needed to cross the room she brandished her outrage, but Harry didn't seem afraid of the witch in the slightest.
Ginny was able to feel the agitation coming off the muggleborn. It was a harsh acrid taste and, compared to Hermione's aura, Harry's was minute and quiet.
Harry's eyes flicked beyond the bushy brunette. His eyes locked with Ginny's and she felt her breath catch. It was a familiar look. She'd seen it on the train in their third year and she'd even seen it when she'd seen him at Hogsmeade.
It was something that bordered both concern and guilt, but he didn't bother to hide it.
She'd reflected on that expression of his in both her waking and sleeping dreams. Of course, she'd often reflected on and imagined other things too. She felt her heart speed up in embarrassment. She had dreamed about things happening between the two of them that were outright impossible. It was outright wishful thinking rather than an actual plan in any sense.
Now standing in front of him she wasn't sure what to do or say.
Like Hogsmeade all over again.
"Ginevra-" The way he hit the 'v' in her name made her want to rub her thighs together. "-you look a little better each time I see you."
He spoke softly but she was able to hear him as though he was next to her again and his lips seemed off with the words. It felt like by the time she had processed his words his lips were closed and upturned slightly.
"I-uh," Ginny thought desperately for something to say but the note of relief in his voice was super distracting. "Er-well-"
I wasn't ready for this today! Oh Merlin I didn't even brush my teeth!
"Drop the act, Harry!" Hermione snapped at him. Ginny had forgotten Hermione had been there with all of Harry's attention on her. It was with a bit of relief and disappointment that she felt his eyes sweep off her and towards the other girl.
He smiled at her for a moment before he turned back to the window. "Of course, I could ask the same about you. You should be in class, no?"
"I meant here in Hogwarts!" Ginny could hear Hermione's teeth grit loud enough that she winced.
Ginny herself had crossed Hermione before but she'd never antagonized her so outright. Hermione was a witch who could extract terrible revenge on her peers.
Harry isn't her peer, though.
"I'm still technically a student here. You know I must be. Otherwise I couldn't have possibly gotten through the wards. Surely you know all about that from Hogwarts: A History."
"Don't mock me," Hermione glared. "You just used your cloak."
Harry looked almost disappointed. "Hermione, invisibility wouldn't hide you from the Hogwarts wards, you know that."
"Your cloak is special. Its more powerful than a regular invisibility cloak. It-"
"More powerful and more special than the wards here?" Harry asked rhetorically. His low laugh and generally unthreatened demeanor only seemed to unbalance Hermione more. "You know that can't be true." His tone was unapologetically gentle.
Ginny blinked and Harry had seemed to cross the distance to Hermione in that moment. With recall she knew he had walked the distance but she'd somehow lost track. He cocked his head to the side and looked at the bushy haired girl very closely.
Ginny watched Hermione bite her lip and looked away from Harry. "Don't condescend me."
"Hermione I am well within my right to be here at this school."
Hermione flinched away from his proximity like his touch would dissolve her, but the motion just made Ginny anxious about her own breath.
Ginny sniffed and a clear thought made its way through her foggy brain. "Then why did Neville want to know who else knows you're here?" Ginny couldn't help herself. The words trailed from her lips.
The look of surprise on Hermione's face was worth a million joules but Ginny couldn't bring herself to take any pleasure from it.
Harry didn't seem bothered by the question, in fact he seemed content to address it. "Just because I can be here legally and whatnot doesn't mean I want everyone to know it." He met her eyes with a shrug. "I have enemies who have ambushed me before. Making my location well known is a really good way to invite that sort of thing. Hogwarts can't be avoided for me but then again Hogwarts must be avoided by them. So…"
"So…" Hermione pressed.
"I'm being careful." He glanced between the two of them. "By the time my enemies know I'm here I'll have what I need and be gone."
"And what do you need?" Hermione demanded further.
"I need to talk to Ginevra." Ginny stomach clenched again.
Hermione's eyes narrowed. "Stop calling her Ginevra! Her name is Ginny!"
Harry laughed and shook his head. "Ginevra is a witch's name. Far more than 'Ginny.' And make no mistake," Harry indicated Ginny with an open palm, "she is a witch."
"She isn't! She's just a-"
"She absolutely is! She isn't some innocent girl." Harry disagreed firmly. "She can't be."
"She doesn't need to be dragged into whatever it is you 'need' from her." She gestured up at Harry violently. "She doesn't need to be mixed up in whatever it is-"
"That's not your decision!" Ginny decided she'd had enough. She would hear him out, she owed him that much. Besides, she wanted to hear him out. "None of this is! It's mine and I want to hear him out."
Hermione turned towards her, mouth parted slightly.
"You still aren't getting it." Harry's reply and expression were cold and jagged. "I don't need anything from you, except for you to get out." Somehow Harry had marched Hermione all the way to the door. Pressing closer with her backing up all the while.
"I won't let-"
He waved at the door and it opened straight into her back. Knocking her slightly and interrupting her. "Let?'" Harry laughed. "I don't take orders from anyone on this continent. You can't possibly stop me, and you have no authority to do so." Harry looked away from her and towards his wrist.
Ginny blinked. She trusted Harry, he'd saved her life and more but…
"You can rest assured that both of our guardians are both well aware of this subject."
"W-what do you mean?"
"Wait." Hermione intruded. "Is it-"
"-It's none of your business." Harry insisted. He gave a glance to his wrist again where a band of silver hung, It looked simple enouh, but with wizards even a simple watch could disguise so much more. "You have McGonagall's class now, don't you?"
Hermione huffed but it seemed that no matter how badly she wanted to fight with Harry, she seemed to want to stay on the professor's good side. "This isn't over, Potter."
"It was never anything."
The door shut with a loud thud when Hermione departed.
Finally, she was alone with Harry. It felt like a dream come true, a little. She ran her foot along the hard floor.
"I'm sorry about that." Harry apologized with an exasperated huff. "Now…" He paced back around the table. There was a small stack of books, quills, ink, and other work materials. Harry reached down and began to sort through it.
Ginny worked up her courage. "Harry, what is it we need to talk about?" She swallowed hard.
Harry was watching her carefully their eyes met, and she found her resolution. For once he looked away first. "It-ah-concerns your first year here," he confessed. He was pulling his own teeth with each syllable.
Her mind recoiled from the memories that were immediately drawn up. The ones she tried to fight most but whenever she closed her eyes they flashed in front of her. All her Occlumency training and therapy just let her analyze the feeling of Tom inside her.
She couldn't totally muffle the slight gasp she made at the memory, nor how her whole body instinctively shifted as though to escape a phantom pain. She tried to play it off as a natural part of her motion and speech.
She held it at bay and breathed. Instead she shifted to analyze the break in his speech. "You saved me," she managed. She met his eyes.
"For a certain definition of saved." When she met his eyes, she couldn't tell if she managed to hide how she reacted from him.
Come on Ginny. Don't blow this by acting like that in front of him.
"You did. I would have died. I was burning up when you found me!" She could feel the cold of the chamber against her skin. The smooth, wet pressure against her was nothing compared to the burning of her insides within, yet somehow it was all she could focus on, both now and then.
She could hear Tom's voice. It was like a serrated knife running across the bones of her spine. She knew now what vile Legilimency prongs felt like. She could never forget.
"I should have known," Harry murmured as he parted some books and set them aside in a pile. "I should have noticed."
"The headmaster said the same…" Ginny whispered back.
Harry barked out a laugh, "did he? Well, fair enough." Her eyes flicked back to his face. "Ginevra I wanted to ask you a few questions about-"
-Ginny almost screamed. In the end a half-strangled sentence escaped her. "Tom no-" The words became a guttural noise which barely had the air to pass her lips. Hot and suffocating barbs against her emotions that raked when she resisted until she could only mewl pitifully for mercy and submit. Her thoughts and memories corralled into a fine order for Tom. She had blurred memories of trying to fight when she and her therapist had peeled back the ones Tom had used to hide it with.
She tried to combat her reactions again, but Harry was holding all of her terrorized nights in his hand. She felt her vision go tunneled slightly.
It was small black book with a hole that looked like it had been part punched and part melted into it. Ginny didn't recognize the damage, but she could never forget the book. Disfigured as it was and even from across the room Ginny was able to recognize Tom's Riddle's Diary.
She could almost make out the written scrawl etched into the spine or she imagined she could. Every muscle in her body contracted painfully.
Tom had shoved burning rods inside her so that if she moved too much she would scream in agony and he marionetted her around in her own body. The burning agony never showing on her face all year, in front of everyone even the teachers had no idea-
It was slow and excruciating work but eventually the pentimento of what Tom had actually been and done had come into place.
She knew she wouldn't be able to hide how her body moved at the memory despite her Occlumency training. She tried to repress the movement as her whole body tightened and she flinched away like she'd actually hurt herself.
Of course, she didn't. It was just-
"Woah, woah, woah, woah." Harry led her to a chair at the table. She blinked away darkness. Her vision had tunneled completely, and she couldn't see at all. She just felt the chair against her and Harry's warm-real-hands touching her arm and back.
Her vision came twirling into place and she covered her head in her hands rather than look at Harry, then to the book that was still in his hand. Her mouth stretched in terror she pushed against his chest hard.
"What?" Harry asked. His gaze flickering from the book to where she was recoiling. "No. No! Its dead. Trust me." She didn't calm down. In fact, she felt plenty a little lightheaded. "Ginny it's dead. Dumbledore says so. I say so. It's gone."
Her eyes didn't waiver from where they were trained on the small journal. "He's dead?"
"The book is." Harry agreed, but it had the feel of good news before- "But Voldemort is not."
"He isn't? You killed him, though."
"No one, and I do mean no one, knows what really happened that night except for him." Harry ran a hand through his hair and Ginny could see his jawline easily. He sighed and relaxed his clenched jaw. "He was defeated but not vanquished."
"You're going to beat him, right?" Ginny insisted. "You and Dumbledore?"
"Tom only became wiser once he was out of school. He never stopped being clever. You know what he is."
Ginny shuddered. "What was he?" Her tone came out sharp. "What was he really? What is he now?"
"Yes." Harry purred. Ginny felt herself glow. "We need answers. We can't destroy what we don't understand." Harry slammed the book on the table. The slap of the leather against the marble made her flinch. "Ginny, I need to know how you got this."
"I already told Dumbledore I don't know!" Ginny shouted. "Everyone kept asking me. My brothers and my parents and the teachers too. I had to keep telling them I didn't know!" She looked away from him. Her fingers began to run through the hair across her scalp first one hand than the other.
"He made me forget. You said it's possible, Dumbledore did, my parents and the healer. Everyone says it's possible. I know it's possible, too. There are things he made me forget! I know he made me forget! I know I must have done those things, but I just can't remember it at all!"
Harry nodded along to her words.
Ginny felt manic she couldn't stop them, she trailed off, rambling into nothing.
Harry reached out. "Slow down. You're not in any danger or any trouble, and I believe you. Just let it all out."
She burst into tears and with them came a rush of endorphins. She felt him walking her somewhere, but she could hardly see through the tears.
"I had no idea your trauma was so severe." She scowled. He was supposed to think she was confident and strong. "Its okay of course. I don't know what I expected but I am honestly glad you made it out at all in any sense."
His arm settled around her with a warm cloak. It had the feel of summoned material, but it was warm and laced with his presence. She drank in the comfort like she had when she woke up in the Chamber.
"You stunned me," she said stupidly. Not just the statement but also the way she said it. The words left her lips anyway, though, tumbling lopsidedly and leaving her feeling slow. "In the chamber you stunned me."
"I did," Harry confessed. "I had no idea what Tom had done to you."
She looked away from him. Her expression was weak and pleading. "But then you never talked to me."
"You wonder why then I personally heal Luna and not you?" Harry interpreted preternaturally. He smiled empathetically. Her fingers stopped in her hair. Her hands stopped in place, one over the other. She could feel her skin burn and knew from examining herself in the mirror after an episode that she had probably rubbed the skin bright red.
Lowly, she returned with a, "yes."
"You know that I'm not healing her. Not really. I eased her suffering because no one else could but have I healed anything?" Harry shook his head. "Ginevra, Luna can never be cured. Only ever treated, and even then, only the symptoms. You know that. It's not the same. You suffered trauma but it has ended. Luna's never will."
Ginny blinked. "Hermione was dragging your name through the mud. She said you thought Luna was a genuine prophet." She peered closer. "You actually do think that. Is it true, then?"
"I think that she is a seer," Harry corrected. "I also think you should ask her yourself." He gave her a moment pause before he continued. "Besides, I'm not a mind healer. If I would have tried to heal you, I would have destroyed your life."
"I don't believe that," Ginny disagreed wholeheartedly.
Harry winced and returned with nothing. He didn't grow quiet as though he agreed but rather, it was as though her disagreement had only made him surer that he was right. He palmed his chin in a thoughtful silence before Ginny reached back out to him.
"You know about mind magic," Ginny insisted. "You must know something."
"I'm not sure what I would know that your own mind healer wouldn't…"
"You have to be able to do something."
Harry frowned and finally looked up at her. "Maybe… I can probably show you some of what I know." Harry considered for just a pause. Only long enough to make her wonder whether he was finished talking. "It'll probably be helpful for what I intend to ask you for anyways." That seemed to settle things for him.
"What do I need to do. I try and clear my mind, but it's really difficult." Ginny continued. "My spell work is always good, I don't understand why I'm failing at this."
"You are not trying to clear your mind." Harry intoned the words harsh enough to make her flinch, jumping slightly in the chair next to him. "I just saw you," he murmured. "You're actively trying repress your memories and thoughts whenever they encroach." He reached out and grasped her hand, firm enough to let her know it wasn't a mistake and soft enough to be comforting.
Ginny felt like she'd been whipped around again but she didn't feel like she had the energy for a blush or anything. "I'm doing them the way I was told," Ginny didn't quite disagree, she was simply letting him know. It sounded like an excuse to her own ears, but Harry merely nodded.
Harry released her hand with a reassuring squeeze. "I'll explain," he assured her; he raised his wand and Ginny couldn't help but feel her eyes follow it. She'd seen many wands before, and while she had more specifically seen Harry's wand before, a dark brown thing, she'd never actually been close enough to make out the detail on the handle before.
It was a simple and elegant device. He gripped it quite a way above the handle, far enough up that when he waved it, she thought something might explode, but the wand seemed to be fine with how he choked up on it.
He traced it before the table, casually summoning deep and wide saucer without a word. She watched as he slowly began filling the bowl with water from the tip. Once it was fill, he gently dipped the tip into the liquid and around the tip of the wand the water began to turn a rainbow of shades stretching out until all the water in the bowl was colored.
Ginny peered at it but couldn't discern a pattern. Reds and violets would bubble and sink down, in other places red swirled into yellow and orange and back out again.
"Let the water be your mind. The colors are your emotions and experiences, always mixing and never still. Something reminds you of a loved one and memories bubble up. You see an old friend or an enemy for the first time in years and your feelings just happen."
"What about fake feelings," Ginny felt herself whisper. "What about things I know didn't happen."
"A Legilimens, and to a lesser degree any empath," Harry continued. "Can force you to feel something." Harry touched his fingers to the surface of the liquid, and she watched him cause a flare of pink which then spread out and dissolved. "They force you to feel something and then just watch what happens naturally. If done subtly the target never even knows it happened."
Harry had her attention. She eyed watched a few of the pink splotches remain near the surface in tiny orbits. "They never go away."
"Nothing goes away. Everything is permanent." Harry rapidly agreed. "You can apply pavlovian conditioning to them if you want from there. That can be useful, but it can take a while. In the short term, I just need to remind you of something and see how your emotions react to it, or I can do the converse; I can make you feel something and see what it reminds you of."
She wondered briefly for a moment. "Why not do both?"
"If I control both what you feel and think, then I haven't learned anything, I've only stepped into you for a moment."
Ginny cringed slightly at that.
"Sorry," Harry apologized. "That was tactless."
"No, no. Please." Ginny sighed deeply. "I really need to know. So how do I stop these feelings from reaching everywhere?"
"Training yourself to ignore and not feel those surface feelings will only exacerbate your trauma," Harry informed her. "Your phantom pains will only get worse. You have to accept the reality of what happened to you. Besides, even if you did cut yourself off somehow, it still wouldn't stop a more direct approach."
"You can go deeper than that, though," Ginny affirmed. She already knew. "That's all on the surface though. The way you act and feel, and which are visible. Most of you is down here." She pointed at the deep sides of the bowl.
"You can influence the depths of a person from the top but that can take a long time, like I mentioned. It isn't a process that can be sped up or slowed down per se," he continued. "They can do more than that, too. If you don't care about what happens to the water and how it gets changed, or even how the deeper shifting waves are changed, they can reach in and take what they want." Harry penetrated the bowl all the way to the bottom. "This cannot be done subtly. There are always symptoms." He withdrew his hand from the now perturbed mess.
Water dripped from his fingers onto the table, pooling into little dome on the table.
"Then how do you do it? How do you stop them?"
"There are two traditional schools of thought on this. The first is to create a wall, to separate yourself from the world. You allow nothing to enter and leave and nothing to influence you." Harry tapped the bowl and the water froze.
"Sounds hard…" She watched him turn the water opaque again and melt it.
"It is. Especially in the face of something as stimulating as torture." He seemed to invite her to call him out on his wording but…
She saw what he meant well enough.
"Is the other method any easier?"
No," Harry chuckled as he shook his head. He traced his finger across the liquid again. Ginny watched the surface split and she could see through the clear water all the way to the bottom. The water beneath just beneath the surface was transparent. "You must be in control. You must know thyself. When someone enters, they see nothing, you control the currents and colors. All of them."
"If you are completely and totally empty in that moment, there is nothing to grasp and nothing to fight. Any single droplet is indistinguishable from any other. An attacker has no purchase."
"That's impossible." Ginny protested. "People can't keep themselves under that kind of control."
"Not at all times," Harry agreed. "No man is a tower. But that's the basics of Occlumency theory. That's what you are actually trying to accomplish by relaxing or focusing."
"But which should I do?"
"Both," he whispered. "Both and more. That's mastery."
"That'll make it stop?" Ginny had to wonder. Could her nightmares end that easily? "They seem like opposites. How can I possibly relax and focus at the same time?"
Harry shrugged. "How should I know your mechanisms?"
Ginny paused. "Then what should I do?"
"Continue to practice your exercises."
"Continue to-" Ginny sputtered. She shot upright out of her seat. "Continue to practice my exercises and get nowhere! I've been practicing. For years. I can't even keep myself under control!" She paced to the wall opposite. Having stood she realized she had nowhere to go. She wrung her hair in frustration. "There's got to be some way to practice more. To practice fast. How can anyone be good at it at this rate?"
"They can't. There are faster ways to practice," Harry admitted. "They are impossible for you, however. Except to the extent that you have already begun."
"Can I get like, a single answer?"
"I-" Harry stuttered off with a laugh. It sounded hollow and self-depreciating. "I feel like I seriously am trying." He took a moment to shake his head and smile before addressing her once more. "You have experience with possession and mind control. You know it better than most. That's experience few people have. Despite that strength you'd shatter like glass." Harry shook his head. "It isn't worth the risk. Trust me."
"You said I was a real witch."
Harry dismissed her. "You are, you must be to have survived. To keep surviving, even. Ginevra you are injured."
"Then what should I do?" She slumped over, her emotions drained before they could burst. She had no choice but to trust him. Getting angry at him for being concerned wasn't going to save her. Her temper was best served when it was directed at something worth being angry at.
"I've tried repressing it," She confessed. "I've tried accepting it too. Just slowly thinking through all of it didn't work either. I have no defense from my nightmares no matter how much I practice."
Harry shook his head. "No one is safe while they sleep. No one. Though the subconscious mind of a talented occlumency isn't exactly a safe place for intruders, it isn't rationally malicious."
"But when will it stop?"
"Never. Occlumency will never defend you from yourself. We all just must live with the pain. No one anywhere gets over something like you went through." Harry met her eyes. "This is permanent, you know that."
She felt goosebumps. She rubbed her left forearm with her right and looked away from his face. She felt childish. "You can't do anything? At all? To help me, I mean."
"Maybe," Harry admitted. "We can certainly start with some Droughts of Dreamlessness. I can brew them, but they can be fairly addictive." He measured her with his eyes for a moment like he was fitting her for a suit. "We can go from there too. I have some ideas, but they need more study."
"What's that mean?"
He scratched his jaw. "I-uh… I haven't figured out a shortcut that could help you. No magic a human can perform can heal this kind of injury but-hmm- that's not entirely true is it…"
"What is it?"
"I might be able to design a blood ritual that could do it." Harry hedged. He was shaking his head thoroughly as he said it. "It isn't a good idea."
"Blood ritual?" Ginny pressed. "Blood magic? That's horrible! Why would you do that? How do you even know about that magic?"
"I said it wasn't a good idea," Harry protested. "This means we need to do things the slow way for you. Come on."
He led her into an adjoining room. The entire room was centered on a dais upon which sat a small silver bowl not unlike the one Harry had just used for his demonstration. This bowl was full of a clear liquid like water but inside there was lights. Long with white patches of cloud like substance which drifted through the water and bounced light down and up to the ceiling across the floor in tight beams.
"This is a pensieve…" He traced his fingers across the bowl. He gazed down at the fluid and the lights below. "This is a device for studying memories. Both mine and others'."
"You want to study my memories?" Ginny wondered. "But you said they're wrong."
"Well of course they are. They were going to be wrong regardless of whether Tom had ever touched you. Human memory is weak. I challenge you to thoroughly comb through what you do and don't remember. A day ago is weak but I think you'll struggle to recall things from beyond five years ago. Examine your memories closer enough and you will find contradictions, but that's true for everybody."
Ginny had to stumble at that. She found that she didn't really want to go looking. The truth was she had often enough laid awake at night thinking and found a few examples of what he was talking about. She didn't like to think of them often, but they were there.
A birthday present she had been sure was hers had belonged to Ron instead. She flew a broom for the first time when she was five not six. She had been certain she had but her parents had informed her otherwise. The look on Bill and Charlie's faces were clear as day but they couldn't have been there. Couldn't have. Her aunt's dog never actually bit her. That had just been a mistake but if it was a dream then it felt as real as any distant memory.
"So, my memories may still have use. Even though they're wrong? What use do you have for manipulated memories?"
"You'll find that the purpose of memory is not to record the past but to give your present self-context." Harry explained. "What you actually recall are little more than delusions regarding the past."
"But everything isn't like that, is it?" Ginny begged.
Harry gave her a look that was simultaneously encouraging and pitying, like he was slowly waiting for her to reach a conclusion that he couldn't share otherwise. "No?"
"What about pain and emotions?"
Harry was already shaking his head. "That's just for context too. We need something more than that. Something above even that if we want the kind of stability you're looking for." Harry reached out and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. "What is transcendent about you?"
"I don't know."
"No one else does either." Harry turned back to the bowl. "Let's deal with what we can know."
pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq
Ollivander's shop was the same in Ginevra's memory as it was in Harry's, at least as far as he could tell from the outside. If Tom had begun to delude her here, Harry couldn't detect that.
Ginevra staggered and bumped into him, for a certain sense of the word. He 'caught' her, but it was only his control of the pensieve which allowed him to casually do so. He had done little more than poked and prodded at her mind. All the danger the light within Luna's dreams held was only poised so to him.
Her knowledge sat like a great beast that if he pushed too far would lash out and devour him. He was not meant to see what she saw. He was not meant to know all the things she knew. Harry personally held the opinion that if there was some agency here, Luna was not meant to know either.
Ginevra, however, seemed stable but it was not lasting. A strong blow to any number of places and she'd fall to pieces.
Harry had to be careful for her sake when he entered her mind and so far he'd done nothing but look.
"Are you alright."
"Yes, it was just so sudden." She caught herself and glanced around. "It doesn't seem quite right. Does it ever, or is that just me?"
"It never does because it is you." Harry returned. "Unhelpful, I know, but it never does because it's me either."
"I don't-" Harry struggled for a moment to try and explain how each person's modalities were unique but… "Memories are just like this, there's always something lost in translation."
"The translation is bad, the information itself is unreliable, and this one in particular could have been manipulated by Tom." Ginevra looked up at him. "You don't seem to be selling this very high."
"Don't forget that the act of recollection changes your memories. But despite all that, it's a lead." Harry gazed at the shop. "There you are."
Smaller, eleven-year old Ginny and a pudgy Molly Weasley swung into the shop. Ginevra stopped next to him eyeing her younger self. Ginny was nearly quivering with the excitement of getting her wand and she couldn't hide it. She was trying though.
Ginevra fidgeted next to Harry and he strode forward, he passed into the room straight through the wall like a ghost. He eyed Olivander.
"-Of course, I remember your husband's too yes it was Holly and Dragon heartstring. Nearly thirteen inches -why-"
Harry peered around the shop, taking a closer look at the wands. Ginevra stepped through the wall into the shop behind him.
"It's you, no?" Harry asked. He kept Ollivander tuned out. Ginevra jumped first at his words, then Ginevra, Ginny, and Molly all gave a start in near unison as the wand Ginny had been waving launched itself through Harry's head and into the wall.
Harry paid it no mind. Honestly that was fairly tame as far as bad reaction for wands go. Further still Harry had taken notes standing just meters from Grindelwald in the heart of the Duel. He'd long since learned to trust the pensieve
"What?" Ginevra asked at length. A wary glance in the direction of her past self.
Ginevra blinked at him.
"Your wand. Its yew."
"Oh, uh yeah., It is." Ginevra explained. "It's yew and unicorn. Why?"
"I was just curious. Things seem in order, don't they? Is anything unsettling?"
"I mean…" She glanced at him, her surroundings, then at Ollivander in particular, then back at him. "Yes."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Anything contradictory?"
She glanced around and shrugged. "This all feels like I remember it. Ollivander was creepy, my Mom acted like it was normal, I was expected to accept it." Ginny stepped back out of the wall to take a look at the shop. Harry joined her. "Is this how the shop looked in Tom's time?"
"I haven't gone looking for old photos of the place. There are probably some we could use. This is how I remember it, though, and I should be arriving any second."
Harry and Ginevra followed her past self and her mother out of the shop and up Diagon Alley. Flourish and Blotts.
The world seemed to bubble slightly. Harry closed his eyes and mind, waiting for the vertigo to pass as the pensieve tried to combine their memories.
"This," Harry gestured to the first memory once Ginevra was standing again and ready to listen. "Is my perspective. This is yours."
Ginevra continued to blink and shake her head. "I can hardly see what's happening."
"Relax, try to see from both of our perspectives, it's not so hard." Harry absently paused the memory in time.
"Harry?" Ginevra turned and looked around. Harry frowned. He was standing just before her or was appearing to at least, within both timelines.
"Give yourself a moment to adjust." He stretched out his mental fingers before swiftly retracting them. If he touched her mind and revealed himself, he may not be able to put her together again and wipe her memory of his power, he would need to commit. She would likely detect him and that was assuming he didn't accidentally crush her as he grabbed her.
She shook her head frantically and Harry acted immediately. He removed his memory from their shared perspective. He watched Ginevra fall again but it wasn't like she was hitting anything solid. She lay there rubbing her eyes.
"I just can't focus."
"You must clear your mind," Harry insisted. "Breathe."
She wasn't. He frowned. She wasn't going to die. Probably. If she had a psychosomatic reaction to a perceived lack of air, he would be able to resuscitate her. If she had a stronger reaction, Madam Pomphrey would resuscitate her. He wasn't sure she was processing her lack of air, so it seemed unlikely. It seemed like she was struggling to process anything.
She was just hyperventilating.
How the fuck does one treat mental illness without legilimency?
Harry extended a finger into her forehead. He reached around her, and he could feel her react to his presence. He furrowed his eyes in concentration. Lingering just beyond her thoughts. She inhaled deeply then exhaled. He wanted to reach out directly into her mind and stabilize her, he could do so with Luna at little risk to her but with Ginevra…
"You're in my thoughts."
"I'm just at the edge of your mind, I'm not inside. Feel me."
She shuddered and took another deep breath. "I can feel you," she murmured. "I can feel you." She shut her eyes tight. "Let's try again." When Harry said nothing, she peeked one eye open. "You said I'd probably fail the first time."
Harry gave a slow nod. He pulled his hand from her skin and prepared to add his memory to their awareness again. The control he had over the pensieve was not overt, instead it was a function of his will and that of others. Technically speaking she could try to contest him and divert herself else-memory in the pensieve but she could not possibly overcome his control, really.
Even still the pensieve served as a barrier between their thoughts. The magical device was designed to grant all kinds of protection to the user from malicious or ill-recollected memories. They were useful for examining emotionally hazardous events for this very reason. This space limited his powers over the minds of others in the same way, but it granted him new ones over the space within it and the barrier served to keep Ginevra's mind safe from her trauma, Tom, and himself.
She didn't fall this time, but it was a close thing, falling didn't truly make sense in this place either, not unless one wanted to, or they believed they had to.
"Everything is still double," she complained. "The people, the light, everything."
Harry agreed. "We don't remember everything the same, so it isn't double. They're just close. That doesn't go away, though, you need to get used to processing it."
Harry lifted his memory from her awareness. She let out a sigh of relief, he waited for her to catch her breath and once again he lowered it onto her.
Time was subjective here in many ways, but they did not have forever. Even if they spent subjective hours doing it here the mental exhaustion could kill her once they came back to.
Ginevra wearily blinked around taking in his presence through squinted eyes. She wasn't really using her eyes but that wasn't important now. What was important was that they could press forward.
"I'm ready. Which direction are you coming from?" Ginevra wondered for a moment. She blinked, her eyes growing wide and far away. "You came from Gringotts. You're coming from the opposite direction. How? How did I do that?"
Harry said nothing and time began to play forward. He paced after Ginny and Molly and Ginevra sped up to keep pace with him.
"Dean and Seamus came by that morning to join Ron for shopping. Then we met here after I got my wand for all of our books," Ginevra continued. "Gilderoy's inside but -oh, there you are, or were. Which is it?"
Harry stared at his younger self. He shook his head. "Ugh."
"What?" She paced up to him. "What is it?"
He looked away from his twelve-year old self and towards the shop, bustling with people. "It's nothing." He tried to gaze through the throng and windows for all of half a moment before the walls of the building fell away, of all the buildings fell away, places one had never been were absent in that perspective but just as physical in the other.
He watched the scene play out from the street, from what they both could see.
The people fell away next. All of them but young Ginny, Draco and Lucius. Harry played it again. Books scattered across the street.
Harry watched objects move through the air with no people to carry them. Ginevra winced beside him as Lucius was rocked back by an invisible punch.
Harry froze the memory after the Cauldron slid towards him, following himself up to it and gazing inside.
There it was. Ginevra paced up to him and looked inside too, she looked in, then back up at him, curiously. "It's here."
She shook her head, "it's empty, totally empty."
Harry lifted his perspective and gazed inside. It was empty, dark iron. He reached inside and felt the cold metal. "How did you know it was empty?"
"How did you know it was empty?"
"I just looked inside of it, just now."
"What's that book over there on the ground." He pointed at the closest one.
She walked over and crouched next to it. "Uh its intro-to-transfig. McGonagall uses the same ones for every year. At least since Bill…" she hesitated. "My family definitely already had a copy of this one, and I think I remember using Ron's all year." She gave an immense sigh. "This is fake."
Harry shook his head. "Why go that far?" He pointed to where Ginny stood then back at where Ginevra and the book sat. "You couldn't have seen which book it was. You couldn't see the cauldron from your perspective or anything inside. You couldn't have known it looked like this. Focus, what could you have known, and what could you have not? Watch."
He played the memory forward and watched himself gather her books, put them in the cauldron, and hand it to Ginny.
Ginevra watched the memory play out, her eyebrows furrowed together. She blinked up at him. "What about your memory?"
Harry nodded and flicked them over to his version. People moved and objects moved slightly, changed shades subtly or were a little back or forwards in time but it was still relatively the same.
The books in the street disappeared. This time when Harry played it forward, he didn't stop in the street and gather her books.
"You won't have my memories to help you out the rest of the time. If you want to find out what happened to you during your first year, you need to exercise this."
She nodded along. Staring at the memory where he had stopped it, mid-motion handing it to her.
Harry took that as his queue. He reversed time and space again all the way back to when Ginny put her brand-new wand in her Cauldron. They gazed inside together.
There was the diary.
"It was the Malfoy's, then."
"No," Harry disagreed. "They were just being themselves."
He sighed and began to rub his eyes. He didn't stop until Ginevra reached out to him.
"You couldn't have known." Ginevra insisted. "The Malfoys."
"I actually could have known."
"They did this to me."
Harry looked at her. He didn't need to be a mind reader to spot murderous intent.
"Stop it," Harry snapped. "You're being ridiculous. Me, and Tom, and Dumbledore did this to you." Harry pulled them from the memory. Ginevra wobbled slightly but Harry reached out physically and caught her this time.
Her mouth opened and closed like a fish's. "But the Malfoys-"
"The Malfoys," Harry began pointedly, "Spent years next to that thing if never in direct contact and Lucius let Voldemort bind him long before you were born. They had almost nothing to do with it."
"He tried to… do you have any idea what Tom did to me?" She hissed.
Harry met her challenge, "I do."
She snarled and the nearest windows shattered in a dozen places, "Malfoy needs to pay." Harry didn't spare them so much as a glance. He could fix them in a heartbeat.
"Let me take care of Malfoy."
She twitched visibly in the direction of her wand. "I just found out who was responsible for ruining my life and you want me to do nothing?"
"Yes. You will do nothing." Harry affirmed.
She really did pull her wand at that. Her anger made the tip glow where she pointed it at the ground, her hands coming to her sides where her fingers clenched tight around her wand.
"You just spent an hour learning how little you know and can know. Clear your thoughts." Harry looked pointedly down at her wand. "And stop being ridiculous."
"I'm going to kill him." She insisted. "Both of them."
"And you may be right to do so, but trying now will only get you and other people killed. I would have to stop you."
She shoved her wand angrily back into her robes. "Fine, I'll leave Malfoy alone."
Harry nodded along. It would have been complicated if he hadn't convinced her to bow to his wisdom. The last thing he needed was a murder in Hogwarts or any of his secrets coming to light.
She stepped into his face, her cheeks to flush with anger, "but I'm not going to do nothing."
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