Residue

"There are scars, of course, but no one else notices." Ginny Weasley deals with the aftermath of the Chamber. PostCoS oneshot

A/N: I recently discovered that I am in the middle of a series of vignettes centering around the Weasleys. It started with And the Clock Ticks, continued in Desiring Dragons, and the last installment was The Taste of Magic, featuring Molly, Charlie, Bill (and Fleur), respectively. Once I realized this, I decided that it might be a good idea to continue writing one oneshot about each family member. This time around it's Ginny.

It seems to me that Ginny healed awfully quickly and awfully well after the Chamber of Secrets. I'm convinced that there's more that she's had to deal with than Harry (typical oblivious male) picked up on.

Disclaimer: Ain't mine.

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I.

There are scars, of course, but since they are in places that no one sees or else are nearly invisible, no one else notices.

No one else asks, either. They're scared. And that scares her.

II.

Egypt is so wonderfully hot. All that searing sunshine and sand, so different from the dank castle that is always slightly damp so that it's hard to get socks on in the mornings and if you leave clothes unworn or unwashed for too long they get moldy. There are no leering green trees or mournful northern winds. Even the stone here is different: smoother, because of the sand; warmer, golden: there is no grey in sight.

Grey reminds her of the Chamber.

III.

She takes a lot of baths. Mum thinks that it's because it's so hot and water is really the only way to cool off. What she does not know is that behind the locked door, her daughter fills the old-fashioned claw-footed tub to the brim with scalding hot water and buries herself in it till it looses every bit of heat.

She only feels clean for five minutes after.

IV.

Mum fusses. Fred and George joke too much. Ron won't meet her eyes. Percy treats her like she's fragile. Bill is Bill, though, and what she likes best is Dad. Sometimes at night after dinner, he will sit down beside her on the brown wicker chair and wrap an arm around her. She won't say anything, and neither will he, but she lays her head on his shoulder, and it's nice.

The nightmares don't come quite so early on those nights.

V.

The sight of paper makes her nervous and she can't touch quills. She wonders what she'll do when school starts back, how she'll manage to do her homework. She doesn't like to think about school; there are too many memories in too many rooms.

What's worse are the gaping holes where memories aren't.

She asks Percy to teach her a spell to enchant her quill so that it will write exactly what she tells it to. She practices in her room at night, and it works, but she has to turn her back so that she cannot see the quill move over the paper, and she talks very loud to block out the sound of scribbling and scratching. It's the best she can do.

VI.

There is snake imagery everywhere. Not quite as frequent as those little scarabs, or even jackals or cows, but there are little gold snakes on charms and carved onto corners of buildings or twining their way across tile floors.

She's only seen one real one, dancing for a snake charmer. For one horrifying moment, she could not decide if she was going to throw up or faint or just blow away, but then Ron grabbed her hand and tugged her away to a corner table at a little café.

There are a lot of Egyptian gods of snakes. Some are good and some are evil. One protected the Pharaoh. Another one is a demon from the underworld.

She tries not to think about what all that might mean. She avoids the snakes as much as possible.

VII.

Her skin is not quite her own.

Either it is too tight, as though a shell that is far too small and innocent is trying to contain a body and soul that has seen too much, or it hangs from her skeleton in wrinkles like an old woman. She can't look at herself in the mirror, and at night, lying in bed, she tries to think about anything else in the world other than her consciousness of her own body.

She wears long pants and a lot of layers.

VIII.

She is glad that they are here and not at the Burrow. She is glad that all of her nightmares, her blood and ink stains, her guilt is not staining or corrupting her home. She could not bear tainting it, as well. Because she feels all of that seeping off of her and clinging to her family, staining them the way it has her and breeding yet more guilt. It is slowly eating everyone she loves alive, and it lingers in every room she has entered.

She wonders if they will fumigate the hotel after she leaves. She would.

IX.

She thinks about Harry a lot, and then feels guilty for doing so. She remembers last summer, when Ron came home from his first year. She bounced around the house the whole week before he arrived, so eager to hear absolutely everything about Hogwarts from a person she trusted more than the twins and Percy to tell her the right things. But really, she was just as eager to hear about Harry Potter.

Was he popular? Was he smart? Was he as talented as she was sure he must be?

But although Ron told her about crazy things like troll attacks and Harry being the youngest Quidditch player in forever, he also told her other things, sad things, all the horrible degrees of hell that Harry Potter had had to go through.

She thinks about that now, and feels guilty for putting him through one more round of torture. But of course she would. She's awkward little Ginny Weasley, quite unsure how to be herself when surrounded by six talented older brothers.

She thinks about him, and wonders if he blames her.

He probably doesn't think about her at all.

X.

She spends a lot of time on the hotel balcony that overlooks the river. It's right in view of the sun in the afternoons, where the temperature rises well over a hundred degrees, so everyone else avoids it. But she likes to watch the way the light glistens on the muddy green of the river till she almost cannot look at it without going blind, and the noise from the docks nearby rises and falls like a tide and is just loud enough to drown out the voices—one voice, really, besides the one that is her own telling her how stupid she was—that are whispering—hissing—insistently in the back of her head all the time.

XI.

Mum thinks that she needs to talk about it all, that it would be—what was the word Percy used?—cathartic. She makes not-so-subtle hints about her always being there if her baby needs her, and once even tells her straight out that anyone would be glad to listen, especially Bill or Ron.

The thought of confiding in anyone petrifies her. She never wants to tell another secret again—never wants to have another one—because, after all, if Tom could possess her soul after knowing such stupid, petty little hopes and wishes and goals, imagine how much power someone could have over her now that she truly had something worth telling.

She's known that she could never keep a diary again, as long as she lives, but now she wonders if she'll ever be able to really talk to anyone again, to truly trust someone without worrying about losing herself.

There are still ink stains on her hands.

XII.

The Burrow seems different when she returns. She is afraid of touching anything, for fear that it will shatter under the weight of her fingers. She spends most days outside, searching for sun, though there is much less of it here, and what light there is seems paler and wane.

Conversation at the dinner table moves around her, flowing and not eroding at her stony silence. Mum's eyes search, and Dad's sigh, but she barely notices.

The ghoul in the attic cowers in silence whenever Mum sends her up to fetch something down, and Ron doesn't have to degnome the garden, because the little pests run when they see her. Even Errol and Pig steer clear of her, though Scabbers seems as fond of her as ever.

She avoids her room because she cannot stand to think of the person she was before, the one who grew up in that room.

She misses her.

XIII.

The letter comes on a Tuesday. It is raining, and she has curled up on the corner of the sofa, staring out the window and praying for sun. The twins are creating a racket down the hall, and she's thankful, because it means that she cannot hear the voice. There is a tapping on the window, and she opens it to let in Errol. But it isn't the sad old bird; there is a wonderfully white, fierce-eyed owl waiting on the sill. She smiles just a little—her first in a long time—and turns to yell for Ron, when the owl pecks her hand.

Fingers trembling, she unties the parchment, wincing only slightly at its texture, and opens it slowly, recognizing the writing from the dozens of letters that Ron leaves lying around the house.

She swallows, then reads.

Dear Ginny, it says. It isn't your fault. I'm glad you're okay. I hope you're having a good summer. See you at school. Your friend, Harry.

For the first time in months, she is okay.

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I know that JKR never mentions Harry communicating with Ginny post-CoS, but it never says he didn't, either, and I think it's a very Harry-like thing to do. Hope you enjoyed!