"I don't want to."
"I don't want to!"
"No, I don't want to!"
"Please, please don't make me…"
"Please – I don't want to go!"
"Please. Please. Don't make me!"
"No! Don't hurt them."
"No…no…please…don't kill me…please."
Ginny sat up sharply in her bed, gasping for breath. Her hand was clenched in her nightdress, over her heart; she could feel its pounding. Tears started were streaming down her face. It was dark…it was too dark. She tried to soothe herself, whispering, "It's not real. It's over – he came for you. It's over."
It didn't work. Her room was too dark – who knew what could be lurking in the corners, underneath the bed? Ginny sprang up and ran for the door – she had to get out of there; it was too dark, too dark… Stumbling, half bent over, she reached the door within a second or two. The hall was dimly lit, but at least she could see into every corner – there were no serpents or sixteen-year old Heirs of Slytherin lurking.
Ginny shuddered, gathering her thin nightdress closer. She hazarded a look back into her bedroom – Hermione was sleeping calmly, one arm slung across the bed. Ginny turned back and started to walk down the stairs – she would sit in the kitchen for a while, and perhaps make a cup of tea. She wasn't sure how late it was – the house felt as though most people were asleep – but perhaps someone would still be awake. Sirius, for one, kept the oddest hours.
She picked her way down the stairs, dabbing at the tears that still stained her face. It had been a long time since she'd had one that bad – and she reminded herself again; it was over, Harry came for her.
But it had been so real – Ginny sat on one of the steps, hugging her sides. She could still hear his voice echoing in her head. She gave a sob, and put her hands to her face. It was over. Over – she wasn't still thinking about it, she wasn't still crying about it. Tom Riddle was dead.
She sat there for several minutes, pressing her fingertips to her eyelids ever so slightly – trying to convince herself that she wouldn't see him if she opened her eyes. Finally she did what she always did – picked her sad self up and stumbled on down the stairs.
She picked her way down to the kitchen – she could hear low voices murmuring in conversation. It was a pleasant sound, musical, and she was reminded that she was not alone in the house. Gently, she pushed the door open.
Sirius, Lupin, Tonks and Harry were sitting round the table – they were all bright-eyed and animated. She looked a sight – that would teach her to come down stairs half-crazed after a nightmare.
She closed the door behind her, and smiled back at them. "I couldn't sleep," she said, "Thought I'd get a…cup of tea maybe."
She moved past them – pretending not to notice that they had noted her tear-stained face and trembling hands (except for Harry of course – she'd have to be possessed by Tom Riddle for nearly a year before it'd strike him that something was wrong.) Why did they have to notice and send each other significant glances? Why could they just leave her alone! It wasn't interesting – it wasn't noteworthy – the only reason she'd had the blasted dream was because she had to convince Harry Bloody Potter that he wasn't being possessed.
Ginny sniffed as she filled the kettle – she wished Michael were here. He'd give her a cuddle and tell her how lovely she was, and he would be wonderfully, comfortingly oblivious. Silence had been echoing behind her, and Harry thankfully put an end to it by asking Sirius what position his Dad had played on the Quidditch team. Ginny sighed with relief – though she could still feel at least one pair of eyes on her back.
It took several minutes for the kettle to boil, and Ginny concentrated on staring at the reflection of the light in the back window – everything else was too dark. Finally she managed to fill the teapot, and she turned around to the table. The only place to sit was on the bench beside Harry, and she nudged him to get him to move over. He did so without even looking at her, and Ginny felt that familiar surge of irritation at being completely invisible to him.
But her thoughts wandered away from Harry very swiftly, recalling the voice she had heard in her dream – that horrible, mocking voice. She was still trembling, and when she attempted to pour her tea, she spilt it all over the table – some of it dripping on to her nightdress.
She sprang up, babbling, "I'm so sorry, I'll just get…a cloth and…" She mopped up the spilt tea quickly, trying not to cry. She couldn't even pour tea properly, she was such a mess – all nerves and shaking hands and she was so bloody stupid!
She squeezed the cloth out in the sink, and she felt Sirius stand beside her. He put one hand on her shoulder and whispered, "Are you all right?"
She shook her head – she wasn't all right. She hadn't been all right for…well that wasn't true. It just felt as if she had only just gotten out of that damned chamber. His hand was very warm, and when she looked at him she saw the familiar shadows in his eyes. He knew what it was like.
She managed a shaky smile and said, "Really – I'm fine. Just, I had a dream that's all."
Sirius smiled, "Well, if that's all."
They sat back down, and Ginny poured herself a proper cup of tea – stirring in two spoonfuls of sugar, and a little milk. Her Mum said it was good for shock, or something. Tonks grinned at her, made a pig snout for a moment, and then went back to talking with Remus. Ginny blinked – that had to be the oddest flirting technique she'd ever seen. She was considering whether she was more revolted or amused by their interaction when Harry turned to her and said, "So, I hear you're the new Seeker."
She nearly dropped from shock – Harry initiating a conversation with her. What on earth was the matter with him? Still, it was only good manners to respond properly, so she tossed her hair out of her face and said, "Yeah…I like to fly."
Harry cocked his head. "How come you never flew with us at the Burrow?"
His voice was genuinely curious, so Ginny took pity on him and gave him a real answer. "Well it's not as if any of them ever let me fly with them. Try being the only girl in a house of barbarians – Mum didn't even buy me a broom."
Sirius gave a bark of laughter. "Was she afraid her baby was going to be injured."
Ginny gave him a look. "Yes, Black, she was. Very much afraid. She even painted my room pink until I was twelve."
"Pink. With your hair!"
"That's what I said. She dressed me in pink too, you know. When I was a baby – so everyone would know I was a girl. I was not an attractive baby."
Harry glanced at her sideways and said, "What happened when you were twelve…to your room?"
"Oh. I painted it."
He leaned closer, interested now. "What colour?"
"Green. I was going to paint that emerald green I like, but I tried it on the walls, and it wasn't nice. They shouted. So I went for a kind of pale green - it's pretty. Hermione adores it."
She shut her mouth with a snap – she was babbling. She always babbled when she was nervous (unless of course her head was turning purple – which hadn't happened in a while.) Harry smiled at her, and his eyes flicked to Sirius, and Ginny saw it. What a clever little confederacy they made – trying to make her feel better with such subtlety. She didn't let on that she'd noticed, as he said, "Well don't go doing what Lynch did?"
"At the World Cup, when he ploughed into the ground? You were practically crying."
"No one likes to see a thing of beauty destroyed Harry. And it looked really painful."
Sirius raised an eyebrow at her. "You fancy Aidan Lynch? What does your boyfriend think of that?"
Ginny laughed. "He's very mature, and is not at all threatened…He doesn't know."
He laughed again and Ginny felt the tension in her back ease just a little. She continued. "Anyway, I don't fancy him anymore. Any man dumb enough to fall for the same trick twice is not worth my time."
She said this very primly, desperately trying to control the urge to giggle. Sirius nodded, "Well Weasley, I'm sure…he's very disappointed about that."
"As well he should. Poor man never knew what he was missing."
Harry stared at her curiously, and suddenly Ginny realised the implications of what she had said. She felt that cursed blush begin at the tops of her ears – though she hadn't meant it – and he raised an eyebrow. "Why do you call each other by your last names?"
Sirius gestured to Ginny and she said, "Well…it all started long ago, on a day when Sirius rescued me from having to clean with Ron and Hermione."
"What's so bad about that?"
Sirius laughed. "Yeah, Weasley – what's so bad about that?"
"Two hours about a broken picture frame…which wasn't even going to be kept. Someone had to rescue me." She considered adding on the words, "And since you weren't around Harry" but thought better of it. It wouldn't be wise to tease him about his penchant for heroics.
She finished with a flourish, saying, "And thus, the dynamic duo of Weasley and Black, was born. And there was much rejoicing."
Harry looked deeply unimpressed. "Dynamic duo?"
"Yes. Whatever you want to call it – what matters is the sense."
Sirius ruffled her hair across the table and she scowled at him. "And since that day I have rescued said Ginny from curtains, books and a certain nail in the dresser."
Harry laughed, "Oh yeah I remember – that was funny."
"Funny – was it? Well I'll pull out your hair by the roots and we'll see how funny it is."
Ginny was surprised at how harsh her voice was, and she said nothing for a few minutes, letting the others' conversation wash over her. She had to give Harry and Sirius credit – they could be quite soothing to be around, if they weren't feeling broody, or throwing massive fits of anger, that was.
She finished her tea and snitched a few chocolate biscuits while she listened, and it was nearly forty minutes before she went back to bed.
She did feel better, shaky but better, but it was nonetheless necessary to go back to the kitchen moments after she'd left, and ask Sirius if he had a lamp. It was rather humiliating, but Ginny knew she spend most of the night convincing herself that Tom Riddle wasn't hiding in the wardrobe, and then she'd be a wreck the next day and she needed her sleep.
Sirius walked up the stairs with her and handed her the lamp. He tapped it once with his wand and it flickered on. His look was curious as he said, "I didn't know you were afraid of the dark."
His face was kind, though shadowed, as he said, "Then what is it?"
"I…" And then she said it. Told the first person, who didn't already know, exactly what had happened in her first year. "I was…possessed by You-Know-Who in first year. And, I had a dream…and I heard his voice." She could hear tears starting in her voice and checked herself – Sirius looked stricken. "And I'm fine, really, and I don't even want to talk about it, but…I just want the light for this evening."
"How did this happen?"
She waved a hand tiredly. "Ask Harry…he knows all about it." She realised that Sirius might like the story, and added, "It was him who saved me – if he hadn't I'd be dead now."
She saw the shadows in his eyes again, and said, "Does it ever go away? I mean…you know because of prison, and most of the time I'm fine, really, but then…"
He looked sad. "It gets easier. There are people who understand. And, like you said, most of the time you're fine."
Ginny smiled – he didn't like having to lie to her. That was fine – she liked that. She managed a weak smile, and he squeezed her shoulder warmly. "Thanks." She said, her voice quiet. "I'll go to bed now. Goodnight Sirius."