by Faith Accompli.
NOTE FOR SELECTIVELY PEDANTIC FANGIRLS REGARDING THE GINEVRA THING: Look, I shouldn't have to do this, because you should all have brains, but clearly not quite everyone was in line when they were passed out. I know that JKR has said Ginny's name is Ginevra. I also know that JKR made this announcement in 2004. If you look at the 'published' date on this it's clearly at LEAST from 2003, and if you looked at the following author's note you'd know that it was started in April 2002. With that said, PLEASE DO NOT REVIEW IF THE ONLY THING YOU HAVE TO SAY IS THAT HER NAME IS GINEVRA/GINVERA/GINNYHAHA. I know what her name is canonically. I am NOT altering Walking Higher to become more canon-compliant. It would mean I had to rewrite a large portion of the story, or stop writing it entirely because to be honest, look - Ginny's bringing Tom Riddle back from the dead. Is there anything canon that implies she'd do it again after the last trauma? So those of you who plan to review just to say that her name is Ginevra... please don't bother, I KNOW. Please just press the nice alt key and the F4 key at the same time, and we'll all be a lot happier.
Hogwarts is the brainchild of Rowling. Most characters also belong to
her, I'm just bastardising them for my own pleasure. A scant handful
belong to me, mostly those who're throwaway or unnamed minor
appearances with last names nicked from other Rowling-owned characters.
The title is stolen from a song of that name by Heather Nova.
So, I started this horrid beast of a story some... checks Wow, only April last year? How time drags when you're writing a WIP. Anyway, I'm cleaning it up now and it's been edited and elaborated on. It hasn't been altered to fit with OotP canon, though, because I'm not completely mad and that might break my story. Christ, my writing was dreadful early last year-and so really, thank you everyone who reviewed th' fic in its prior incarnation.
It started harmlessly enough.
Enough, of course, was relative from Virginia Weasley's perspective.
She'd once had a crush on Harry Potter-famous Harry Potter-in her first year at Hogwarts. Before that, even, when Ron had arrived home from his first year and all he could talk about was fabulous Harry and their friend Hermione, after he hadn't bothered to come home at Christmas to see her.
The little fact that she had instead gone to Romania to visit Charlie meant nothing, of course; it interfered with her version of events and had to be generally dismissed. Besides, if Ron had wanted to, he could have gone with them. She had been Ron's tagalong sister because Percy was too prefect-y to follow around all the time and he had a girlfriend anyway, and the twins...only someone with a wish for death followed them around for extended periods of time. So she'd stalked Potter in her first year, had generally been ignored by all and sundry, and had become bemired in trouble that wasn't neck-deep but rather so far above her that she couldn't see the surface.
Now she was fifteen, two months into her fifth year at Hogwarts, and it had long been time to put that admiration and longing aside.
If she thought about it, she hadn't really loved Potter since she had come to know him. She hadn't loved him in the first place, because she had been just a child. She'd worshipped the ground that he walked on, yes, but it hadn't been real. Instead, it had been something to... cling to. He was a boy her mother approved of, and he had saved her from a basilisk and Tom in her first year.
Harry had been nice enough to her, certainly, particularly when desperate for a date to the Yule Ball. It had been a last resort for him, after Cho had turned him down. Neville had already asked her to go with him, though, after Hermione had declined because she was going with Viktor, and Ginny had accepted his invitation. Honour wouldn't let her agree to Harry's later request and tell Neville she'd had a better offer, and for all that Neville couldn't dance he'd been happy to let her wander off after a few rounds in search of a better partner. He'd been using her so he wouldn't show up at the dance alone, but she'd been using him, too, and lorded her attendance over the other Gryffindors in her year for weeks after. There was no malice on either side, and Neville was a nice boy, if a little slow.
It was her fourth year that her childhood dreams had come true, only for her to realise they weren't what she wanted at all. Harry had turned to her for... affection, she supposed, but she had been stupid, naïve, and eager to please. Not so eager to please that she listened to his breathless words of affection, went weak at the knees, and raced him to his bedroom-even if the thought of Ron being in the next bed over wasn't enough to clamp her legs shut, the thought of being known as the school broom and the realisation that she didn't even enjoy it when Harry kissed her and fumbled in her shirt were more than sufficient to make up her mind for her.
When Cho recovered from the broken heart she'd been left with after Cedric Diggory's death, helped in large part by counselling sessions with Dumbledore and-of all people-Trelawney, Cho seemed to think it natural that she would have Harry, in spite of the year's age-difference between them and the social stigma that usually accompanied those relationships in school when the girl was older.
Harry had thought it natural, too, and Ginny had-to all outward appearances-gracefully stepped to the side, knowing Harry's heart wasn't hers, and that it would be too much to cling to him. It wasn't so much that she even wanted him; deep down inside herself where her innermost thoughts dwelled, the ones that she only dared touch in the still of the night, she did not love Harry, and she didn't want to be with him. She didn't begrudge him whatever happiness he thought he could have with Cho, but it was the principle of the thing. Harry had told her that they were over, she hadn't been the one to tell him. Her resentment was a juvenile and childish fit of pique, but she was a teenage witch, and such things were really to be expected.
Still, Ginny had been well on her way to putting it in the past and moving on, when she had stumbled upon a half-dressed Harry and Cho in the girls' prefects' bathroom. She had entered with the innocent intent of taking a bath after Quidditch practice-and a rather sad practice at that-just in time to catch an eyeful of mostly-naked Harry and completely-naked Cho, both things she could have lived without seeing. Ever.
The head girl had snapped for her to get out despite Ginny's every right to be there as a Gryffindor prefect-which gave her more right to be there than Harry had, after all. Ginny had walked away, deciding that the climb up five flights of stairs to use a bathroom in the tower was better than having to wait for Cho and Harry to finish up and leave. All things considered, she really preferred to wait until the house-elves sterilised the occupied bathroom before she used it again.
It was so irritating, truly, to never be seen at her full value by her peers. She doubted that she saw them for their true worth either, but not for lack of trying-once. There was a good reason she hadn't been put into Hufflepuff, after all. Hard work? Not her style, not when she could con someone else into doing it. Between Percy's help and Tom's in her first year, she didn't think she'd done a single bit of her own homework, save for throwing in a few careful spelling errors after Tom had done her draft copies.
That help-that help and that hindrance, for she never needed to copy notes from others in her class, or barter their assistance in one of her worst subjects for her help with one of theirs-had ensured she hadn't socialised much in her first days at Hogwarts-not that Riddle had wanted her to be one of the giggly girls with never a moment for him. He'd told her she was better than they were, Percy had told her she was better than they were, and she'd believed them. After the vital first-meetings stage was over, she'd become far too arrogant to make the effort of befriending members of the same sex. Come to think of it, she was still that way, though nowadays she hid it well with the excuse of shyness.
She'd driven the final nail into the coffin by her second month at Hogwarts, and by the time her second year rolled around it had become obvious that there would be no exhumation of the corpse of her social life. She'd briefly tried to make friends with her fellow housemates with no success. Word of her possession had spread like wildfire because no one could keep a secret in Gryffindor, and they'd probably spent the entire holidays giggling about what had happened to Nose-In-The-Air Weasley. Even if they hadn't, they'd been scared of her-suspecting that some shade of Riddle lingered within her tortured little mind, just waiting to jump out and Avada Kedavra them. She'd laughed bitterly to herself at the time she'd overheard that, but it shouldn't have been such a tempting thought in retrospect.
Boys were much easier to understand, even when they were annoying dickheads like Potter.
Colin Creevey was always friendly enough with her, maturing and getting over his own worship of Harry sometime between their fourth year and their fifth, but he wasn't a girl. He and his best friend William were good; they welcomed her company whenever she chose to bestow it on them, as they were the only boys in their year and all the years below who could convince a pretty girl to sit with them of her own free will, but sometimes their chatter could drive her mad. She was just too picky, that was her problem.
After all, the only girl friends she did have were Hermione and Emeryth Zabini, and the latter was a Slytherin, too, which all in all made for a dire lack of company when her brother, Harry and Hermione were off saving the world, or when Ginny was in any class but Potions, and in that gap between dinner and bedtime when they were supposed to be safely tucked up in their common room.
What she wanted, she realised as she disrobed and stepped into the steaming tub that she had just drawn, was someone who understood her again.
Again like Tom Riddle.
Before he'd started possessing her and making her think she had lost her mind, at any rate.
Riddle just had to ruin it for himself-and her. He had started off as a nice boy, like a brother who didn't desire to torment her every spare minute of the day, like a brother who had the time to listen. If he'd only stayed that way, she could have... would have... might have liked...
It occurred to Ginny for half a second as she washed her hair that this kind of rationalisation was one of the seven steps to madness, but that wasn't a helpful thought at all, so she dismissed it with scorn. There was little point to her musing on the subject of Tom Riddle anyway; Harry had killed him, killed the diary.
Two boys superficially so similar, in both looks and upbringing. Why had Harry turned out so noble and good, and such an absolute wanker, when Tom had gone... so wrong? What had been the turning-point for Tom?
Why was she beginning to miss Tom, of all things? He had been evil, he had wanted to torture and kill Muggleborn students, he had-
he had been her friend, and although he had failed her... in a way, through some twisted use of logic, she had failed him too. She couldn't have been the best of company for a boy of sixteen who'd been trapped in a book for upwards of fifty years. She had been horribly self-obsessed and hadn't given a thought to being what he needed her to be, when he'd done everything he could that she'd asked of him.
She could have done something, she could have changed the outcome if only she'd been a little older, a little wiser. Even now she didn't think she wanted to have helped him kill Harry (although if she'd thought about it just half an hour earlier her answer could have been quite different), but there had to have been something she could have done if she'd only known what. If she could have influenced him as much as he influenced her, they could have come to a compromise, they could have found a way.
Hell, Harry had fought Voldemort in one incarnation or another five times and lived, the first time robbing Voldemort of nearly all his power and reducing the Dark wizard to a half-dead shell of a man. If Harry could do that at barely a year old, there had to have been something she could have done at the grand age of eleven going on twelve. If she had another chance...
She could bring him back, she could change him, she could make him good, an eerie little voice whispered behind her ear, the thought rattling through her brain like the Hogwarts Express. She could give him another chance.
Another chance. Draco's father had been the reason the diary found its way into her hands. Professor Dumbledore had assured her parents that the diary had been destroyed, all traces of Tom erased, but did he know that? Voldemort had a way of showing up again when the general populace assumed him dead. Perhaps it was time to wander down to the dungeons and waylay the heir to the Malfoy arrogance.
"I'm sorry, Weasel, I thought I misheard you asking for Riddle's diary back." Draco smirked carelessly, leaning against the wall in a casual fashion that he knew would annoy her just that little bit more and keep her off-balance a second or two longer.
"I did, Ferret. Your father can hardly need it, and I want it back. As a... keepsake." Ginny crossed her arms determinedly, glaring up at Malfoy and despising his greater height, although she would look quite the freak were she approaching six foot two. Her shyness had dropped quickly around him when she reached fifth-year and prefectship, which she had acquired for the sole purpose of getting in sarky comments without worrying about his feelings. Between them, they had settled for an apathetic mutual animosity without the venom of her brother's relationship, such as it was, with Malfoy.
"And I was born yesterday." He didn't believe a word of her story, and rightfully so. She was lying her arse off in a spectacularly bad fashion that was definitely not up to her usual standard of twisted tales, but if she'd planned to deface the diary, defecate on it, or throw it out the window, she would have probably come up with a more convincing story than 'give it to me, I want it'.
"You have no use for it. I have a use for it."
"Why should I give it to you, though? You're missing one simple point here-you're a Gryffindor. Whatever in the world would possess me to do something you wanted? You couldn't pay me enough to make it worth my while to spit on you if you were on fire."
"Ever the charmer," Ginny snorted, glancing away. "Emeryth should be able to vouch for the fact that I'm not quite so despicable as the rest of my house, and for Christssakes, Draco, your father gave it to me the first time and it worked then."
"I'll want something in return for asking him." Seeing her start to nod, Draco raised a hand. "Uh-uh-uh. Note I said 'for asking him'. I make no promises that I can actually obtain it."
"What do you want then?"
Oh, this could be very useful to him. If nothing else, it would serve to annoy Pothead, his Weasel and his Mudblood... if he chose to let them know. "I've not decided yet. Shall we just say... a favour? No time limit, I warn you. You may end up owing me for years."
"One favour. Not sexual," Ginny stipulated, holding out her hand for him to shake.
"My dear little Weasel, that I have Pansy for." He shook her hand slowly, not releasing her fingers until the very last second, at which point he nodded, turned on his heel, and returned to the Slytherin common room, leaving Ginny to find her way back to Gryffindor alone.
"Ginny, who's writing to you?" Ron asked his little sister in surprise a week and a half later, on a peaceful but chilly Saturday midmorning, after a snowy owl larger than Hedwig swooped down over her. It dropped a brown-paper parcel in her lap, taking care not to clip her breakfast plate with it, then snatched a kipper from Natalie's plate beside her and winged its way out the open doors again.
Ginny gave him a look of disdain and tucked the parcel into a pocket, catching Draco's eye over the tables and nodding nigh-imperceptibly in thanks. He nodded in return, glancing away as quickly as she did to ensure no one noticed their acknowledgement of each other.
"That's for me to know and you never to find out, Ronnie." Honestly, who the hell did he think he was? Her only remaining brother at school, of course, but she didn't have to listen to him. Bill and Charlie she respected, and she'd practically worshipped Percy as a small child, but Ron had nowhere near their authority.
"Ginny, I'm family! I'm the only family you have here, what with the twins graduating last year. C'mon, if you don't tell me who are you going to tell?" Ron pleaded. If she wasn't going to let him know, she could at least be gracious enough to tell him who he could go to for information.
"Absolutely no one. Have a lovely day." Ruffling his hair cheerfully, she sidestepped his grab for her pockets with the ease borne of living with six brothers, ducked out past the seventh-year Gryffindors, and flashed a cheerful sneer at Cho where the head girl sat at the top of Ravenclaw table as she went out the doors toward the stairs.
She reached Gryffindor Tower only twenty minutes later-brilliant timing, considering that it included a detour to ask Professor Flitwick about the correct pronunciation for the Vigoro-Denuo charm. The tiny professor had ensconced himself in his office with tea, scones and books to sit out the morning away from the rabble and get some reading done himself, but he'd been more than happy to help a student out who needed to know more about an obscure charm.
Her speed kind of impressed her, even if she did say so herself, and she ran up the last stairs to get to her dormitory, flinging the door open and slamming it shut once there, and hugging the tiny parcel closely the entire way. She knew what she was doing now, even though the future aspects of the plan were murky. She knew what she'd be doing in the next ten minutes, and after that, things would take care of themselves. She was brave, and she was smart. She had grown up now, and she remembered Tom Riddle's mode of operation. He would be the same as before. Maybe he would have lost his memory of her, and even if he hadn't then she'd just try her hand at Obliviating a book.
Sprawling over her bed and knocking the curtains back down with her foot, she ripped the parcel-paper carefully away from its contents. Her stomach did a nasty flip-flop as she pulled the last scraps of brown away to reveal the black book with a gaping hole right through it: the source of her nightmares, the cause of some of her wildest dreams before-
Faced with the harsh reality before her, Ginny wasn't even sure she could fix it. But a simple Reparo should do the hole, then she could reanimate it. Professor Flitwick had given her the strangest look when she had asked about the charm; she'd explained it off as a torn family picture she needed to fix before her brother found out, and he had bought it.
Did she want to fix the diary? What if she-
Of course she wanted to fix it. Everyone deserved a chance to live, to right their wrongs.
The basilisk was dead. From what she had read of the spell, chances were that diary-Tom Riddle would return with absolutely no memory of her, only of his own thoughts until the point of diary-creation.
This was proof, she decided as the hole mended itself under her wandtip; proof that she was a competent witch, not a stupid little girl any more. And as she cast the reanimation charm on the book, she decided that it was also proof that she was an accomplished witch. Not everyone could do that charm, even adults often had trouble. Flitwick had made her promise that if she couldn't perform it successfully she was to bring the photo to his office and he would help, but the green sparkle, the green glow that shimmered around the book told her that she had done it.
The book soaked up the green light greedily, radiating heat in turn that made her drop it to her bedcovers. Grabbing it carefully with the woollen gloves that lay at the end of her bed, she waved it in the air before it scorched the heavy red-gold linen covers. She hoped it wouldn't spontaneously combust in her hand and leave her with unsightly scarring, though she looked on the heat as being... fitting. Tom was a lot like playing with fire, but this time she didn't plan to get burned.
It was half an hour before the book had cooled sufficiently inside to turn the pages without discomfort, and she stared at those blank pages for another half-hour before she could finally bring herself to put quill to paper.
'Hello? My name is Ginny.'
Slowly, inexorably, ink leeched from her words to sink into the page and reappear in new shapes.
Hello, Ginny, my name is Tom Riddle. Tell me about yourself?
He didn't know a thing about her! Success! And this meant she didn't have to hasten an Obliviate spell, although she would be watching him very carefully for some time yet. He couldn't just reach out and take her, though that worry had crossed her mind once or twice. Last time... last time she had poured her heart and soul into him. This time she was on her guard.
'I go to Hogwarts. I'm fifteen. I just started keeping a diary again today...'
And I'm it? I'm glad...
He was flattering her shamelessly, but she didn't really mind. He had been ever charming with her, up until the last. Ginny giggled in exhilaration, rolling over onto her back and leaving the diary and quill where they lay, her arms free to hug herself in pure joy. She had done it, she had Tom again, and she could make him better-she would keep him this time.
With her head turned away from the diary, however, she missed seeing Tom's next words in a black-green ink that wasn't quite like her own. He had told her once that he was aware of what happened around the diary to some extent, but that thought didn't occur to her now. She was caught up with her own triumph, and rationality had abandoned her for the time being.
I'm glad you brought me back, little Ginny Weasley. So very, very glad... I'm still part of you, you know, and you will be mine.
By the time she rolled back, the words had faded to be replaced with How do you like Hogwarts? I went when I was eleven myself.
Ginny idly chewed on the end of her quill as she decided how to answer.