This story was written for Boogum in The DG Forum Fic Exchange - Summer 2018 by a member of our forum. For more details, please visit our page.
Arthur Lowe was the middle age, stubby, and balding senior writer of the lifestyle section of the Daily Prophet. In his younger days he was a very diligent journalist that would attend the Annual Wizarding London Toy Convention and visit every booth to discover exciting new games and toys to introduce to the general public. But 20 years of seeing almost exactly the same things—new versions of broomsticks that were just minutely better than last year's version, new versions of Wizard Cheese with different character designs, playing cards with a variety of reactions to a player's wins or losses, and nightmarish magicked dolls or figures that interacted with children (Arthur had made it a rule to never write about those because he thought they incredibly creepy)—he had long since given up hope to find anything truly innovative at the convention and attended it purely for the free booze and the fine looking show girls.
It was the pretty smile of a tall, shapely brunette in emerald green that first drew him to Booth 342 at the convention in September of 2003. "Welcome to the Armandian Entertainment Booth," the show girl said to Arthur when he walked nearer, and it was only then he noticed the lack of any recognizable games at the booth.
"What kind of games are you presenting?"
The girl gestured at the strange eyewear and earpiece that Arthur thought was part of her costume. "We presents Heafen, a magic based virtual reality role playing game where you're the hero of a kingdom in peril. Would you like to give it a try?"
The terms "virtual reality" and "role playing game" were completely foreign terms. Arthur hadn't planned to waste any time trying out any games at the convention floor that day, but the girl gave his arm a warm squeeze and another warm smile and he decided the free martinis at the convention VIP lounge could wait.
He put on the eyewear and earpiece.
"Are you ready, sir?"
He gave a small shrug. "Ready."
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, he was suddenly transported to a very realistic medieval kingdom of Valencia.
When his ten minutes of game time was up, he had just finished killing a giant with a broad sword and a few extremely impressive fire magic spells that he would never be able cast in real life. It took him a few seconds before he readjusted to reality, and then the realization that he just had a taste of something truly extraordinary. "What is this game called again?"
"Heafen, by Armandian Entertainment."
Arthur would spend the rest of his day telling people all about wonders of Heafen. The word of mouth grew, and by the end of the 3 day convention, everyone was talking about Armandian Entertainment. Booth 342 would have a line that wrapped around the corner, and Heafen was voted Game of the Convention by an extremely large margin.
The rest, as they say, is history.
There was a world before Heafen, and another after it.
March 6th 2008 begun as a perfectly normal day.
25 years old Ginny Weasley rolled out of bed just 20 minutes after her alarm sounded at 7:30am, she shrugged on a tank top and shorts, pulled on a light jacket, and left her flat on the edge of Diagon Alley for her daily jog. She felt upbeat and ready to take on the world. It was one of the rare sunny days in November, and she couldn't help but think, as she ran along River Thames toward the Tower of London, that the wind that had chased the dark clouds away had simultaneously driven away the shadows that had hung about her since her breakup with Harry six and a half months prior. She was excited to go on a date that night (not a rebound date, a real date with the handsome medic that treated her wrist sprain a week ago), and life—though not perfect—was good.
It was a perfectly normal day.
It was 8:52am and game day, but the game would not start until 3:00pm, so she took her time showering and changing, and treated herself to a full English breakfast completed with black pudding at Karl's Café downstairs. She picked up the dress robes she ordered for the Annual All-Stars Quidditch banquet from Madam Malkin's before heading to the Harpies' home pitch.
It was a perfectly normal day.
The pre-game routine went by especially smoothly that day. They were finished with their fly around the pitch and pre-game drills five minutes early. They were already in a good position in the league, so whether the Holyhead Harpies won or lost against Pride of Portree that day didn't really matter, but Ginny never played to lose. When the game started, she dodged and looped until the Harpies were so far ahead that even if Portree caught the snitch, the Harpies would still win.
It was a perfectly normal day.
Portree took a timeout 94 minutes into the game. Ginny took a minute and 24 seconds to land on the pitch surrounded by cheers. The sun was bright that day. She squinted toward the stands and waved to her fans. She turned around and waved to the fans on the other end.
And that was when she saw a blue flash at the corner of her eyes.
It was like someone had lit a fire inside her body, burning and tearing her apart from the inside. The pain was so intense she could barely register the moment when her body hit earth. She could hear screaming, but whether it was from the crowd or from herself, she did not know.
Her vision went dark.
When Ginny Weasley came to, she found herself attached to an assortment of magical contraptions. Everything hurt, but the pain was at a manageable level. She tried to call for help, but her mouth felt so dry, she coughed instead.
Her mother instantly hovered into her vision. "Ginny!"
She could see more of her family now: her father, and her brothers were there too. She gestured for water, which her father gave her. When she could finally form words, she asked what had happened.
"You were attacked at the game, probably by a Voldemort sympathizer," Ron said. He was so solemn, too solemn. "Harry was here earlier but he went back to the Ministry to work on the case."
She nodded numbly. She was glad Harry was on the case. If anyone could catch whoever did this to her, it was him. Her brain couldn't handle the implications so she changed topics and asked if the Harpies had won.
"They had, thanks to you," Bill assured.
Ginny tried to give a small smile and asked when the doctors said she could play again.
It was obviously the wrong question, because her father turned away, her mother let out a sob, and her brothers exchanged meaningful looks. Dread raised her stomach as their reaction sank in. "What is it? What's wrong."
No one would look her in her eyes. "Tell me."
Bill sighed and spoke up. "The healers feared there may be permanent damage." He gestured at somewhere at the end of her bed. Ginny struggled to push herself up, she didn't want to know, but she had to know.
Something was wrong, but for a moment, her mind couldn't quite process what was off. Then, to her horror, it finally occurred to her: she couldn't move her left leg.
She was released from St. Mungo's a month and a half after the attack. She could not walk out of St. Mungo's without help, but at least the pain was manageable even without potions and she could move her left leg a little. It was progress, and she couldn't help but be hopeful despite the healer's cautious warnings that full recovery was not guaranteed.
She would prove them wrong. She would get better and fly with the Harpies again.
She had after all survived Tom Riddle and the Chamber of Secrets. There was no way she would allow some dark wizard's spell to destroy her life.
The healers told her parents she must refrain from physical activities, and her mother had taken their words to heart. She brought her back to her flat, but stayed during the day to cook, clean, and take care of her. She wouldn't let her do anything, not even to wash a dish.
"I'm bored," she complained to her brothers when George and Ron visited her a week after her discharge.
Ron smiled. "Good thing I got George to—"
George elbowed Ron.
"Fine, we thought to bring you this." He pulled out a shrunken box from his trousers pocket and unshrunk it. "Full set of Heafen gears made by Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes ready to be used—the best cure for boredom!"
Ginny stared at the box skeptically.
Ginny first heard of Heafen from Victoire, who told her Terrius 2, a pair of over-priced magicked gloves was the thing she wanted the most for Christmas because it would allow her to "touch Heafen with her own hands." Heafen was apparently the hottest game in her class, and apparently Terrius 2 would make her the most popular girl in the class. Bill and Fleur refused to buy Rose the gloves because they didn't want to raise a spoiled daughter. But Ginny was Rose's aunt, and there were no rules to stop her from spoiling her niece and solidifying her status as the best aunt in the world.
She heard about it more when George and Ron negotiated rights for Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes to make official peripherals for Heafen. They were excited about the deal and she was happy for them, but as she had absolutely no interest in games in general (she was too busy for them), she often tuned them out when they mentioned Heafen.
Now though, she had nothing to lose: anything would be better than sitting in her room and staring out of her windows for another minute.
George took out the box's contents. It included an eyewear, an earpiece, and a pair of gloves. "Want to give it a whirl?"
She nodded as she took the gears from his hands.
"Ron and I will set you up in the original world, Valencia. Still our favorite, and it's a good place for beginners."
They activated the game and the Burrow swirled and shifted away. When her surroundings re-stabilized, she was standing in a foreign room with a stone wall. The castle from the window looked like ones she had seen in Scotland, but the purple moon above it told her she was not on Earth. A tall light haired orc, probably part of the game, told her some evil enchantress called Amoriala had released a horde of demons into the land of Valencia and she is the only one in the village who could help.
As she killed her first Komother with a jumping kick that she could not do in real life with her injured leg, Ginny felt tears in her eyes and suddenly understood what the hype was all about.
She felt like she could not breathe in the subtle tension that filled the room. Her family was talking and laughing but somehow everything felt so very forced and restrained. It was the beginning of another Quidditch season but no one mentioned a word about it. They were trying to protect her, she knew. She didn't really want to know who was replacing her in the Holyhead Harpies.
The ever-growing hoard of children her brothers had created ran into her in their game of tag. She looked up sharply. They children took no notice. Percy's girl, Molly, stepped on her bad foot. In truth, it hurt, but not excruciatingly, but it was the last straw after an evening of bottling emotions and she pushed Molly hard and screamed.
The Burrow instantly quieted.
All eyes were on her and Molly. No one knew how to react, and who they should attend to: the crying child who had been pushed onto the floor by her aunt, or the crippled aunt who had been stepped on and was hollowing in pain.
Ginny laughed at the absurdity. "I'm going home," she announced to no one in particular. If she stayed another moment, Molly wouldn't be the only one crying and it would only make her hate herself even more. Before anyone could stop her, she hobbled outside and apparated home.
The draw of Heafen was the promise of what one could not have in real life. For some, that was love and friendship; for others, it was magical talents and power; for Ginny Weasley, it was anonymity and a pair of perfectly functional legs.
In Heafen, Ginny is a perfectly ordinary mage class woodland elf named Wesvra. The only distinguished feature she had was a long flame-colored hair customization that she purchased (she was—Heafen or not—still a Weasley after all). As Wesvra, Ginny traversed worlds without the not-entirely-subtle glances and the constant whispering of words like "tragic" or "sad" or "pity" that followed her wake in the real world. Wesvra could run, dodge, and attack with an ease Ginny never quite appreciated before, and kill increasingly powerful foes as she honed her skills. And when Wesvra teamed up with strangers for quests and hunts, she was an asset and not a liability.
In the real world, Ginny Weasley was an empty husk of her former self, but in Heafen, Ginny felt alive.
"We will conduct a final test," said Healer Reed.
Ginny didn't quite remember how she had gotten to Healer Reed's office, but she knew whatever earlier tests she had done were good and she didn't really see why she shouldn't do a final test, so she nodded.
Healer Reed walked over to her desk and pulled out something from behind that she didn't notice before: a broom.
Ginny stared at the broom dumbly. She hadn't flown since the attack, and the last major milestone she had reached was 4 months ago when she was to be able to hobble on her own, but she seemed to have reached a plateau. "I'm not sure…"
"You can," the healer said with an encouraging smile, holding out the broom to her. "You just have to trust me."
Ginny stood up to find her leg surprisingly solid beneath her. She took a hesitant step and found the familiar pain gone. She took another. How could she have forgotten she had gotten better? She laughed and took the broom in her hand. She lay the broom flat and then pulled one leg up and around the broom, and suddenly she felt the familiar weightlessness. "I'm flying!" she cried in excitement. She turned to Healer Reed, only to find her gone and replaced by Georgiana, her captain on the Harpies.
"Took you long enough," Georgiana said in her usual teasing manner.
Her surroundings shifted while Georgiana spoke, but somehow everything still felt right. At the corner of her eye she saw a Quaffle zooming towards her. She reached out her arm reflexively and felt the ball land squarely in her hand. "Sorry to keep you waiting," Ginny said with a smirk, and flew toward the goal hoops.
She laughed as she felt wind flowing through her hair and past her body. She dodged a Bludger, and suddenly she was within scoring distance. She wound back her arm and—
She startled awake from the sound of a loud bang. She could hear wind and heavy rain from the window, and saw the flash of light from her closed eyelids, followed momentarily by another loud bang. A storm must have blown in while she slept. She felt the burn of disappointment as she oriented herself: she hadn't been flying, she was on her bed. It was all a dream.
She opened her eyes, and found herself alone, in the darkness of her room. Another flash of lightning lit up the sky and she numbly pushed herself up and to the edge of her bed. She should close the window, she decided. The sharp pain that shot up her left leg as she put weight onto it was so intense she grunted out loud. She managed three steps before she fell onto the floor. She cried out in frustration and broke into sobs.
It's been a year. She was supposed to be better by now. She was supposed to be…
Be patient, things will get better, her family said to her often. She wanted to believe them, but more and more, Ginny had trouble imagining better.
"Urg, these things just never stop coming, do they?" the short orc next to hear asked rhetorically while swinging her axe and slicing off the skull of another skeleton. "Remind me why we are here again?"
Wesvra rolled her eyes and cleared a small radius with her fire spell. "You invited yourself, Lucaorl. I told you where I was planning to go."
Catacomb of the Tututi was infamous for its hordes of persistent undead skeletons that level up with a player's level. It was a great place to grind for level, but more importantly, it was a great place to go after a particularly bad day. It was extremely cathartic to cut through hordes of mid level skeletal undead in a crowded catacomb.
Swing, slash, dodge. Swing, slash, dodge. "Bad day? I had a bad day too, my prof gave me detention for being 3 minutes late."
Ginny was indeed having a bad day. Rose had hurt her feelings by telling her she didn't want her to bring her to the museum because she walked too slow. It was an accurate observation, and perhaps she was overly sensitive, but the offhand comment wounded like an insult. It was ridiculous to be offended by a four year old, but then again, she was coping by mindlessly killing undead in the hundreds in Heafen with a suspected thirteen year old boy she had never met in real life, so maybe that's just how laughably absurd her life had become. "That sounds awful, kid."
Lucaorl scrunched up his face. "I'm not a kid."
"Whatever you say." She kicked away the skeleton that was about to hit Lucaorl in the back and cast a chain lightning spell. It felt good to see the skeletons collapse in a pile around her.
"I'm sorry, Miss Weasley," said Healer Reed after she read out the result of the latest test: no noticeable improvement since the last test 6 months ago.
Ginny couldn't keep her disappointment from her face. She didn't have high hopes, but to hear she had made no recovery in the last 6 months didn't just feel like a setback, it felt like crushing defeat. She could feel tears at the back of her eyelids and she took a deep breath to keep them at bay. She didn't want Healer Reed to feel even worse for being the bearer of bad news.
Ginny gave a wan smile and shook her head. "It is what it is." She glanced at the clock on her right and made her excuse, "I've somewhere I need to be in thirty minutes so I better get going. I'll see you in two weeks."
She stood up and hobbled as quickly as she could out of Healer Reed's office and out of St. Mungo's.
She made it to the end of the corridor when she heard quick steps, her only warning before a swirl of dark robes and blond hair made a sudden appearance from behind the corner and turned directly into her. Had this been before the attack, she would have been able to jump away to avoid collision, but as it was, she could only give a sharp yelp as they made contact and she fell backwards.
"Oh shit!" the man cursed and managed to grab her arm before she made full contact with the ground. "Sorry!"
The fall still hurt, she would likely bruise, but she could tell there was no permanent damage. She let the man pull her up.
"Are you alright?" he said. "I didn't—" he broke off abruptly and Ginny could feel his eyes on her. "Ginny Weasley."
Ginny gave an inward groan. He didn't quite sound like a fan and his voice did sound familiar. An old acquaintance perhaps? She looked up and finally took a good look at him: straight blond hair, cold grey eyes, aristocratic high cheekbones. His face had sharpened from when he was younger. She had not seen him for years in person or in the news, but she had no doubt, the man who had ran into her was: "Malfoy."
Words like "dark arts" and "Voldemort sympathizer" bubbled up in her mind and mixed with the bad news she had heard just minutes earlier, she was suddenly overcome by righteous anger. If she couldn't have her health back then she at least wanted justice dealt out to people like him who made her suffer. She yanked her arm away from his grip. "Were you trying to finish the job your buddies failed at?"
Malfoy looked genuinely taken aback. "What are you talking about?"
"Don't act innocent, we all know you people did this to me," Ginny snapped, gesturing curtly at her leg.
Malfoy glanced down at her leg. It took him a moment to process what she said, but his eyes widened as he reached a realization. "You think I…" he broke off, his jaws clenched. "I had nothing to do with your attack."
"Perhaps not directly—"
"No. Directly or indirectly, I had no involvement in it," Malfoy cut in, his voice firm.
Ginny sneered. "Of course not. After all, you are only a Death Eater."
Malfoy sucked in a sharp breath. He looked away through gritted teeth and combed his fingers through his hair. Then, closing his eyes, he let out a deep sigh. "We can't change the past," he said quietly after a long pause. He glanced down at her leg, then looked back up right in her eyes. "I wasn't involved with the attack, Weasley, but I'm sorry about what happened to you."
His words sounded surprisingly sincere and Ginny wasn't sure how to react. Before she could think of what to say, Malfoy nodded a silent good bye, and walked away.
There were few people in the Wizarding World who would not recognize the avatar of the creator of Heafen: Amaroc the Maker, a dark elf necromancer with black hair and grey eyes of unknown level and a crisp British accent. Amaroc was prolific in Heafen. He personally shut down user-made worlds that broke Heafen rules and routinely made public appearances in press conferences and interviews held in the Heafen city-world, Soltay.
Yet, despite all of his Heafen appearances, the real life identity of the creator was one of Wizarding World's best kept secret. Unlike the other executives in Armendian Entertainment, the creator never attended any public functions and made any public appearances. He conducted business meetings in Heafen, and the few c-suites like Blaise Zabini who knew who he really was wouldn't speak beyond confirming that the creator was in fact a male.
No one understood why such a popular (and no doubt rich, given Heafen's popularity) man would find a need for such secrecy. The mystery spurred on all types of wild rumours. Some said he was horribly disfigured in real life. Some said he must have had a medical condition that kept him from interacting outside of Heafen. Some said he may not even be human but some sort of sentient magic being. When asked about the rumours in interviews, Amaroc the Maker would only shrug, neither confirming or discrediting any of the theories, and say cryptically, "It's better this way."
A/N: Dear prompter, this story is probably a bit different than what you expected when you gave the prompt, but I hope you like it anyway.
Boogum's Prompt (1)
Basic premise: Ginny either joins or is coerced into joining some kind of "therapy group" (you can choose - whether it be an addiction recovery group, anger management, some kind of PTSD group - whatever). The point is that Draco is a member of the same group, much to her chagrin.
Must haves: Post-Hogwarts.
No-no's: Previous DG relationship. Character bashing. Excessive angst.
Rating range: Any
Bonus points: Some quirky or unexpected side characters (for the therapy group members). If Ginny and Draco are forced to draw crayon pictures (or something Draco would find equally ridiculous) as part of the therapy classes. Awkward flirting.