Disclaimer: I'm not J.K. Rowling, and I will never be, just as Harry Potter will never belong to me. I only get enjoyment and reviews from writing this story.
(adapted from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)
The rest of the final term passed in a haze of blazing sunshine. Hogwarts had worked its way back to normal with only a few, small differences - Defense Against the Dark Arts classes were canceled (owing to Professor Lockhart's recent memory loss) and Lucius Malfoy had been sacked as a school governor, so Draco was no longer strutting around the school as though he owned the place. These events made Harry and Ron extremely happy, though Hermione was slightly put out at the cancellation of exams on top of Defense classes.
On the other hand, Ginny Weasley was no better than she'd been all year. If anything, Harry saw less of her, and now even Ron was starting to worry about her. She hadn't said anything to either of them since the aftermath of the Chamber, and they'd only seen flashes of her brilliant red hair in the hallways. Hermione said that she'd cornered Ginny in the dormitory one night, only to have the younger girl pale and run in terror. Harry wished he could get to the redhead to talk to her; he knew all too well the guilt of nearly getting your friends killed. Just last year he'd dragged Ron and Hermione through a series of traps to get to the Philosopher's Stone.
Too soon, it was time for the journey home on the Hogwarts Express. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, and Ginny got a compartment to themselves, but aside from the first few moments, none of them laid eyes on the youngest Weasley. Harry was starting to suspect that she was hiding from him, but a quiet conversation with Hermione told him he wasn't the only one she didn't want to see.
Even with Ginny's absence, the five made the best of the last few hours before the holidays. They played Exploding Snap, set off the very last of Fred and George's Filibuster fireworks, and practiced disarming each other by magic. Harry was getting very good at it, much to the others' dismay. The ride passed quickly, and the train was approaching King's Cross when Harry remembered something. He pulled out his quill and a bit of parchment, which he ripped in two before scribbling on both of them.
"This is called a telephone number," he told Ron. "I showed your dad how to use one last summer - he'll know. Call me at the Dursleys', okay? I can't stand another two months with only Dudley to talk to."
"Your aunt and uncle will be proud, though, won't they?" Hermione said as they got off the train and joined the crowd thronging toward the enchanted barrier. "When they hear what you did this year?"
"Proud?" Harry laughed. "Are you crazy? All those times I could've died, and I didn't manage it? They'll be furious..."
So they walked back through the gateway to the Muggle world, Hermione looking outraged at the Dursleys, Ron sniggering over Harry's comment, and Harry himself wondering (though he had no idea why) if Ginny Weasley was going to be all right.
1: Our Little Secret
If there was one thing the Dursley family of Number Four, Privet Drive was not at all happy to see, it was Harry Potter and his return to their home. But for reasons unclear to the young wizard, they allowed him in and gave him a place to stay. Of course they'd picked him up from the train station, and of course they'd treated him better than he usually was under the watchful eye of Molly Weasley at King's Cross, but he'd expected to be turned out as soon as they arrived home. He'd expected to be rejected and forced to live somewhere else during the summer holidays, but tonight he found himself back in his old bedroom staring up at the ceiling and wishing summer was over. Harry was very unusual in that respect - he was the only student he knew of that wanted to stay at Hogwarts over the summer, if given the opportunity. Well, almost the only student. Inevitably, an image of Tom Riddle flashed through his mind, one he forced away quickly and reminded himself that the diary was destroyed. Harry now had a great appreciation for basilisk venom.
Thoughts of the diary naturally led him to Ginny Weasley, whom he'd rescued from a certain death at the end of last term. He remembered the Valentine card she'd sent him, as well as the get-well card she'd brought to him during his recovery from the rogue bludger. A smile crossed his face as he remembered the butter dish she'd found her elbow in during his first visit to the Burrow; though a note of sadness passed as he remembered how she couldn't seem to work up the nerve to talk to him. It reminded him of his hero status, and how people always saw him for what he'd done and not for the person he was. That was one thing he loved about Ron and Hermione - they weren't fazed by his fame (Ron was green with envy, but Harry didn't mind that so much) and they treated him as normally as possible. All of the Weasleys seemed to be that way, now that Harry thought about it. Sure, their mother had fussed over him more than he might have liked, but it wasn't because he was Harry Potter; it was because he was Harry, Ron's friend from school.
All these thoughts running around in his head made it hard for him to sleep. He hadn't slept well the past couple nights, though it wasn't because of nightmares as he might have expected. He didn't know what was bothering him these days. He just couldn't seem to fall asleep, and when he finally did, Aunt Petunia was already rapping on his door to wake him and tell him to make breakfast. Perhaps that was why Uncle Vernon allowed him back - he wanted a servant for the summer. Harry could almost hear his two best friends' outrage at the thought, but he ignored them and turned over in his bed, which made a loud squeak. It didn't matter what they thought. Dumbledore said he had to come back here for part of the summer, and that was that, regardless of how anyone else might feel.
Sometime in the night, as the very early hours of morning approached, he finally drifted off to sleep and was confronted with a dream he'd never had before.
The chamber was just as Harry remembered it - dark, damp, and thoroughly disgusting - and if this was a dream, then it was the most realistic dream he'd ever had. He was standing in the final chamber, the one in which he battled the basilisk and destroyed the memory of Tom Riddle forever. Except now the corpse of the twenty meter long basilisk was nowhere to be seen. Harry looked around wildly and noticed the body of Ginny Weasley on the floor before his eyes locked on the most hated wizard of the last fifty years. Tom was already taking shape into a ghostly form, his eyes fixed on the young redhead that was giving him his power. Harry yelled and ran towards the sprawled form of the redhead in front of him, attempting to pry the diary from her arms, but his hands went right through her as if he wasn't even there. Tom paid no attention to his presence, as if Harry didn't exist. Soon, Tom began walking toward the shadows just as Harry heard a voice from behind him.
He whirled, recognizing the voice even before he laid eyes on her. He'd only heard it a precious few times in the last year, but somehow he'd never forgotten it, even though the longest thing she'd said to him were the sobs of apology after being awakened from her dance with death.
They both wore confused looks and there was a long silence before either of them could think of anything to say. Ginny was the one to speak first, if you could call it that. It was more of a whisper, and as Harry felt the doors behind him slide open, the memory paused.
"What are you doing here?"
How was he supposed to answer a question like that? "I...don't know. I think I'm dreaming, but I've never had this one before, and it's never seemed so real."
Her eyes never left him, and though her mouth was moving, her body was as frozen as ever. "You are...but this is my dream. I have it every night."
Harry blanched, wondering how she could stand to dream about this every night and keep her sanity. Even he didn't dream about his parents every night - he at least got some rest. "Why is it paused then?"
Ginny looked around as if she hadn't noticed. Her confusion deepened, and then a small breath escaped her as she saw Harry's younger self standing in the doorway with his wand in hand, frozen as he was taking a step into the inner chamber.
"I usually wake up about now...I'm not sure why. I think it's because I don't remember anything after this. Tom knocked me out just before you came in."
Harry turned to look at himself, and then fixed his eyes on Ginny again. He was surprised to hear her talk this much - usually she turned red and ran away by now. Perhaps she knew she couldn't run, or perhaps it was the fear the dream invoked, but she was talking to him like he was just Harry, and not the boy she had an absurdly huge crush on.
"I'm glad. I don't want you to see the fight."
Ginny blinked, and then moved for the first time. She took a step toward him, her breathing deep and controlled. "Are...Are you real?"
Harry blinked also, wondering what to make of the question. "I think I am. I mean, I was trying to go to sleep in my bed and now I'm here. I..." He would have said more, but the memory started up again as younger Harry stepped into the chamber. It took a few moments, but he finally put the pieces together - his presence in Ginny's dream was allowing her to see what happened from his point of view and not just hers. She was going to see everything.
They watched in horror as Harry summoned Fawkes, battled the basilisk, and finally had his arm speared by the Basilisk fang. Ginny cried out, losing control of her tears and wiping helplessly at her face as her cheeks became rivers. Harry felt a sinking in his heart and wanted to comfort her, but he could only watch as Fawkes used phoenix tears to heal his wound and he destroyed the diary once and forever. The memory paused again as younger Ginny was stirring, and the only sound that could be heard was older Ginny's sobs that echoed in the chamber.
Suddenly, Harry rose and left the inert Ginny for the real one, wrapping his arms around her and whispering to her that it would be all right, that he wasn't dead, and that he didn't blame her in the slightest. All of his thoughts about how she must be feeling came back to him, but he shoved them aside and held her as she slowly melted into his chest, wrapping her arms around him as the memory started up again and Harry saw himself comforting the younger Ginny as he comforted the older, the situations oddly mirroring each other. As the younger pair left, Harry wondered what would happen to the dream. He heard a loud knocking noise, one that startled both of them, but Harry knew exactly what it was.
"I'm about to wake up Ginny. You should write me. I'll be here for you to talk to if you want."
She nodded, but before she could respond the dream faded as Harry felt the real world pull him back to his miserable summer.
All Harry could think about the next day was his encounter with Ginny. Nothing, not even Vernon yelling about how horrid the shed looked after he painted it, could get his mind off of Ginny. It was the weirdest dream he'd ever had, and though he'd never had it before, it was one that scared him the most. It had seemed so real, and so detailed. When he dreamed of his parents, it was always flashes, he hadn't been able to see himself, and there was no one else dreaming with him. That was the weirdest part. Dreams were supposed to be a private matter, not one your best mate's sister could randomly walk into.
No. Harry shook his head to clear it. Ginny was not his best mate's sister - Ginny was Ginny, and that was that. She was her own person, and Harry was ashamed to realize that he had failed to acknowledge that all year. Granted, she wasn't around much so that he could get to know her, but she had been there enough he should have recognized her. Maybe if he'd paid more attention, maybe if she'd had someone to talk to she wouldn't have needed the diary and Tom wouldn't have been able to possess her.
Lonely. That had been the first thing he should have prevented. From the moment he saw her stand up for him in the bookshop he should have sought her out, tried to be her friend, and tried to make a difference in her life. Being the youngest sister to six brothers had to be hard on her, and she must have felt even more pressure than Ron upon entering Hogwarts without being the only girl, whether anyone paid attention or not. Instead, he'd ignored her, treated her only like his best mate's sister, and that had been a mistake.
Two days later, Harry began to wonder whether Ginny was going to write. He'd put down the long delay to the Weasleys' family owl (Errol was barely hanging in there these days) but nothing came. He was sitting on the stairs thinking of the girl in question when the phone rang and he heard his uncle's voice come up the stairs.
"Vernon Dursley speaking."
Harry sighed. He didn't know who it was, but it wasn't like he'd had any interest anyway. It was probably one of Dudley's friends inviting him over for tea, which they would promptly skip to go bully some of the smaller kids on the block. However, his uncle's next words caught him completely off-guard.
"Who is this?" His tone was sharp, and Harry guessed he was glaring around the room angrily. He crept down the stairs to get a better look at his uncle, peering around the banister to see the red tinge to his face that signaled an anger bout coming on. Whoever was on the phone, Harry decided they must be good people if they made his uncle angry within five seconds.
"How did you get this number?" By now, Vernon's voice was sharpening into a blade and he was rapidly becoming redder and redder. Harry's respect for the caller increased every second.
"There is no Harry Potter here, you must have gotten the wrong number from your friend." He spat the word nastily as if it was foreign to his mouth. "Never call this number ever again or I will report you for harassment. Good day." He slammed the phone down and looked around with a murderous glint to his eye. "BOY! Get down here NOW!"
Harry paused, wondering if it would be a good idea in terms of his personal safety to show himself at the moment. He could almost hear Voldemort egging him on, waiting for his uncle to kill him and finish the job he started twelve years ago. Harry slowly came off the steps and stepped into the living room, putting on what he hoped was his most innocent face. "Yes, Uncle Vernon?"
"How dare you give this number to people like - people like YOU! And if you EVER bring a girl to this house, EVER, you will regret it as long as you live!"
With that, Vernon turned purple and huffed into the kitchen, where he could be heard cursing everything that had any remote connection to magic, up to and including Mickey Mouse. Harry had decided that Hermione had called and been polite, but probably had made the mistake of talking to his uncle about Hogwarts when he heard his uncle bellow Ginny's name out along with the rest of the cursing. There was only one way he could have heard that name, and it took all the self control in the world for Harry to keep from drawing his wand and hexing his uncle into oblivion. Hermione would have been able to handle the rudeness, Ron would have been baffled but wouldn't remember for very long, but Ginny was completely different. She was so fragile right now that she was probably in tears, crying next to the phone and refusing to tell anyone what was wrong.
Harry stormed upstairs, pausing to put a hole in the wall beside the bathroom with his fist before slamming his door and letting his own tears start to fall. Harry had cried a fair amount over his nearly thirteen years of life, but this was the first time he'd cried out of anger. The hot, salty tears seared his cheeks as he thought of Ginny and how unfair this all was, and how he just wanted to comfort her and protect her from the abuses of his uncle. He'd learned to deal with it, to shrug off the prejudice and the hate, but Ginny had known nothing but love from her family, and that someone could be that rude had to hurt her.
Harry didn't question how he knew all this, he just knew that his heart was doing the thinking for him, because his brain had shut itself down to keep from letting the anger boil into action. He lay out on the bed, paralyzed, before one thought was allowed to cross his rage-filled mind.
She was crying, not for the first time in her life, but definitely the most she had in a long time. She was out in her father's shed, a small piece of parchment wrinkled in her hand, though as she now knew, it was useless. She didn't have the wrong number; she'd carefully pushed every button on the fellytone - no, telephone - exactly as Harry had written it. She'd made sure of it. Not only that, but she faintly recognized the voice that had been short and angry with her, more angry than she'd ever heard anyone in her entire life, save for the time her Mum caught the twins trying to get Ron to swear an Unbreakable Vow. She had quietly watched with her mother at the train station as Harry had been taken away by those awful relatives of his, his uncle's voice barking commands to him like he was a disobedient house elf. That was the voice that told her to never try to contact Harry ever again.
Her tears flowed in what seemed like multiple rivers down her cheeks as she held her head in her hands. All she wanted to do was talk to Harry, to find out if what they'd shared was real, and maybe to make a friend. He'd seemed sincere in his offer to be there for her, to talk to her if she needed it. And she did, desperately. She couldn't, wouldn't talk to any of her family - they had to be so disappointed in her. Hermione had been the closest thing Ginny had to a friend this past year, but even she wasn't that close, and she'd been petrified this past year because of Ginny.
She dissolved further into her own tears, dreading the moment that someone came out to look for her. She'd fought with Ron (much to her brother's confusion) about who got to call Harry first, and finally she'd just nicked the number from his room and dashed out to the shed. She didn't feel like answering Ron's questions about why she wanted to talk to Harry, or his pointed jabs about not being able to talk to him in person due to her crush. Those had hurt the worst - after a full year, Ginny realized that she'd been stupid about the Boy Who Lived. The dream had shown her that. If she'd just stopped to talk to him, if she'd just fought with her embarrassment long enough to see what he was like, maybe he would have talked to her and been her friend. But she'd never given him that chance. She'd put her elbow in butter dishes, knocked over porridge bowls, sent him stupid valentines that he didn't even like, and even dragged him down to the Chamber of Secrets to rescue her after all that. It was a wonder he even wanted to talk to her.
The voice echoed through her mind, but it was clear that it was not her own. She knew that voice like the back of her hand; it was Harry's. She looked up and around the shed, seeing nothing there and certainly not his emerald eyes gazing into her. As the voice echoed, two things happened. First, a presence slipped into her mind, making its faint existence known in the back of her head, like something that had always been there but she hadn't noticed before. When she felt for it, it was elusive, but she could always catch it and feel its faint place in her thoughts.
But that was nothing to her next thought. She realized as his voice echoed in her head that he was angry. He was angry at her. Of course he was - after all the pain she'd put him through in the chamber, she'd had the nerve to call his house and get his uncle angry with him too. No doubt he knew who had called by now, and he was angry at her for screwing up his life yet again. The thought of causing him suffering pulled at her heart as her brain shut down, her tears coming harder and faster as she fisted her hands in her hair and pulled hard enough to cause a dull ache in her scalp. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Her next actions weren't based in conscious thought, but more instinct than anything else. She stood up quickly and ran back into the house, crying the whole way and thankful that the rest of the family was enjoying a lunch outside in the backyard. She ran all the way to her room and slammed the door, collapsing on her bed and crying into her pillow as small arms wrapped around it. The parchment in her hand only served as an amplifier to her helplessness, a reminder that everything she tried to do right always turned out horribly wrong.
It had been a week since Ginny's ill-fated phone call, and Harry couldn't be more miserable. He worried constantly about her for no reason at all, wishing he could have known and could have gotten to the phone before his uncle had. He knew it was pointless to wish he could go back in time, but all he wanted to do was protect her from the anger, to save her as he had in the chamber, and...even hold her, as he'd done in the dream.
The dream. That had changed everything. After that one night, he saw her differently, thought about her differently. At first, it had just been instinct, his desire to keep people out of harm's way and shoulder everything himself, up to and including Ginny's personal demons. But after that phone call, it had become more personal. Harry realized that the only thing that would break him from this funk that had held him for the past week was a letter from her, telling him that she was all right, that she hadn't been broken by his uncle. God help Vernon if he'd hurt her. The last week had seen the birth of a creature in his chest, one that was still in its infancy but had an adult-sized portion of righteous anger on its side. It wasn't hard for Harry to know what that creature was meant for. It was meant to protect Ginny in a way that he'd never had to protect Ron and Hermione.
He knew what Hermione would say about it. She'd say that it's only natural to feel this way after last term, but that he'd have to stop protecting Ginny just because she was younger and had a bad experience with the diary. She'd no doubt quote Dumbledore's words back at him. "Older and wiser wizards have been hoodwinked by Lord Voldemort." (though she, too, would be stupid about the name) He regretted ever telling her Dumbledore had said that - his inquiries about Ginny's condition in the last of the term had always been put aside by that quote and saying that she'd get over it eventually. He'd stopped asking, but that didn't stop him from caring.
Ron's response would trouble him even more, if he caught wind of Harry's feelings. He'd put it off and say Ginny would bounce back, that she would be herself again soon. He would probably get irritated at Harry's continuing concern about his sister and wonder why he was interested. Harry didn't feel like explaining why he was; it was just natural. It came to him like he'd cared about Hermione when she'd run off to the girls' loo after being called a nightmare by Ron.
Suddenly, Harry felt a presence slide into the back of his mind. He didn't know exactly how he felt it, or why, but he knew it was there as sure as he knew his hand was attached to his arm. The next thing he heard was Ginny's soft, scared voice floating into his head from nowhere, crystal clear while still sounding terrified.
He looked wildly around, searching for the source, but he knew it was futile. The voice had come from inside of his head, and even though he was alone in his room, he doubted the Dursleys would have let her get much farther than the front lawn. It took him a few moments to think straight, but he connected the presence to Ginny's voice. Feeling a bit weird and wondering if he was going mad, Harry thought at the presence in the back of his mind, voicing a single word back.
The effect a single word could have amazed him. As soon as he thought it, the presence in his mind solidified, seeding itself in the back of his head and getting comfortable, if that was possible. Suddenly, the room around him faded and Harry knew he was inside of his own mind, gazing out at the inner workings of his thoughts. He had never seen himself like this before - it was like a black space with a trillion little things floating around, and though he could still see his bedroom, he could also feel the thoughts in his preconscious floating around him. The moment he concentrated on one, it would light up, the thing guided by his thoughts into projecting masses of images and words around him, but as soon as he stopped thinking it would darken and join the masses of objects again, replaced by whatever he'd stopped thinking of.
He thought of them as objects because there was nothing in the real world he could compare them to, and yet they all looked familiar. No two thoughts were exactly the same, though he did spot one that made him smile. A snitch flitted among other thoughts and darted behind a particularly large one (when Harry concentrated on it, memories of his first trip through Diagon Alley poured out), but he caught it on its way out. The snitch fluttered its wings and glowed softly, emitting images and feelings to Harry's consciousness about his Quidditch strategies, almost like his own little playbook of seeker moves. Harry smiled as he watched himself catch his first snitch, interrupted only by a soft voice once again.
Harry, is that you?
She still sounded scared. His changing focus set the snitch free as everything darkened and Harry's eyes locked on Ginny's presence in his mind. He'd expected a replica of her to be talking to him, for her to be sitting on a couch in the back of his head sipping pumpkin juice, but it was nothing like that. Her presence was signified by a faintly visible red sphere, exactly the color her hair was in his memory. He knew instinctively (this was his own mind) that he couldn't open it like he had the snitch, but he tried talking to it.
How...how are we talking to each other? His voice was weak, but somehow it didn't seem to matter at the moment. For all he knew, this could be perfectly normal in the Wizarding world, but something in his gut told him that it wasn't. Talking in your head to someone miles away was not something that seemed to fit into the laws of magic.
I...I don't know. I've never heard of anything like this. The insecurity in her voice was enough to scare him - if she hadn't heard of something like this, it definitely wasn't normal. Harry's mind faded from his vision, but he was still aware of her presence in the back of his mind. It took a little effort, but he managed to direct his next words to that place that was hers.
So...it's...not normal to have voices in your head talking to you?
Wait, hers? Since when did Ginny Weasley have her own place in his head? The only one who seemed to have that honor was Voldemort, and he more used it as a summer vacation home rather than a permanent residence. Harry wasn't sure how he knew all these things (felt them, really) about his and Ginny's new connection, but they seemed right.
I don't think so, but maybe Mum just hasn't told me about something like this yet. Her voice lightened, and there was a note of amusement to it. Harry smiled, though to anyone in the room it would have looked rather odd to just break out in a smile for no apparent reason.
Why wouldn't she have told you? Is this kind of thing dangerous?
There was a long pause before Ginny responded. I don't know...I don't think so.
Something about her voice set off alarms in his head, something that warned him that she was close to breaking down. He'd seen enough girls cry (mostly Hermione after a row with Ron) to know when he needed to get away, but he knew he couldn't leave Ginny now. He wouldn't risk breaking her any farther than he already had.
Is everything all right?
There was an even longer pause, during which Harry supposed she was thinking about the answer. That didn't bode well for him, if she was wondering what to say. The truth would always come instantly, if she wanted to speak it.
I'm sorry for getting you in trouble...I didn't mean it, I swear! Her words came out all in a jumble, as if she was talking very fast and was very nervous. He couldn't see her and their connection wasn't any more than a telephone call would reveal, but the alarms in his head got louder as she grew closer to breaking down.
It's not your fault, all right? I'm sorry my uncle was mean to you - he's like that to me too. I really wanted to talk to you, but he wouldn't let me.
A moment passed, and when she spoke again, Harry could hear the tears in her voice. I didn't mean to get him angry. I'm sorry for causing so much trouble for you, I really don't mean it. I just don't know where else to go.
Huh? Didn't she have her family? Harry shoved that thought aside, thinking of what Ron said about having five older brothers. Ginny, you're not causing problems, I promise. I'll always be here to talk to, especially if this connection lasts. I should have tried to talk to you last year, but I didn't want to make you uncomfortable.
Harry knew he'd hit a nerve with that, because she was silent for a long time. He was willing to give her all the time she needed; the last thing that she could handle right now was more pressure. I'm sorry about that too. I was being stupid and idiotic and-
Ginny! Stop it! Harry immediately regretted cutting her off so sharply, but there was no turning back now. Please stop apologizing. I forgive you for whatever you've done, just remember that. I just want to help you.
It was a testament to how out of sorts Ginny was that she didn't try to tell him off for thinking she needed help. I'm scared Harry. I don't know what to do anymore. Every time I try to do something right, something bad happens.
Harry sighed, glad that she couldn't see the frown on his face. She sounded so innocent, and yet she was scarred by the works of Voldemort at such an early age. She wasn't so unlike him; he'd lost a lot more than she had, but the experience was still fresh in her mind and she was old enough for it to really sink in.
If you want a friend, I'll make sure that I don't turn out to be a mistake.
She was silent so long that Harry thought she'd decided to stop talking altogether. He was just pulling out his Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2 when her voice floated into his head again.
I don't know what to say to that, Harry. I've never really had a friend that wasn't a brother before.
Harry blinked. Surely she'd met other Wizarding folk her age, and she must have found friendship in her roommates at Hogwarts? Even if they didn't spend every second together like he and Ron did, Harry still considered Dean, Seamus, and especially Neville among friends. Do you want to be my friend?
Her response was almost immediate. Of course!
Harry smiled at that, closing his eyes and letting her little red ball float into his vision again. It was easier to find this time, now that he knew how to look, and now that he had some vague idea of what his mind looked like. It seemed a little less transparent, and the color was a bit brighter than he remembered. He hoped that was a sign that she was getting happier. Then now you have a friend that's not a brother.
This time, he was sure there was a smile in her voice. All right then. I have to go see what Mum wants. I'll talk to you later? Her voice tilted up at the end, signaling a question.
Harry nodded, even though he realized afterward she couldn't see him. I'll be here..
It was a few hours before Harry heard Ginny's voice again. The sun was setting and he'd just been ready to come in from weeding the garden when he heard her, causing him to pause and sit against the side of the house. She sounded better, almost happy even. Guess what Harry?
It took him a moment to find the connection and send a thought back, but it was faster than the first time he'd done it. What?
Dad won 700 galleons in the Daily Prophet Galleon Drawing. We're going to Egypt to see Bill.
Whatever Harry had been expecting, it wasn't that. For one, if the Weasleys won 700 galleons, he'd expect her to be a lot happier (though there were traces of excitement in her voice), and if he was going to Egypt on a vacation, he'd be ecstatic. That's great! He couldn't think of anyone who deserved a large pile of gold more than the Weasleys. He would have given them the money if they'd asked for it, but he knew better than to offer. When are you leaving?
Tomorrow. That's what Mum wanted - we've been packing since I last talked to you. She paused, then her voice filled his head like a sad melody again. I hope this thing between us doesn't have a limit. We're going to be gone for ages, and I really want to be able to talk to you.
Harry smiled weakly in spite of himself. I can't be that fun to talk to, really. Life here is really boring. I get up, work, eat, and go to bed. He tried to take the bitterness out of his voice, but it didn't seem to work.
I'm sorry Harry. You know if you could, I'd invite you with us.
Harry wondered if Ginny knew he couldn't leave the Dursleys though Dumbledore's orders, or if it was a family trip that he couldn't come on because he wasn't a Weasley. Either way, it didn't help him. Don't worry about it. Just make sure to have fun for me so you can tell me about it and make me feel all jealous. This time, the bitterness was gone and a playful tone was in.
You know I will. And Harry?
It's really nice to have someone to talk to. Thank you.
Harry sighed. He knew exactly what that was like. You're welcome Ginny.
I have to go take a shower and get ready for bed - Mum says we're getting up early for the trip tomorrow.
Okay Ginny. Good night.
Good night Harry.
The rest of the night passed quickly for once, and he was in bed, under his covers, and doing a Transfiguration essay before he realized the sun had fallen. Suddenly, the homework seemed to come easy for him. He knew it had something to do with knowing that Ginny was all right, but he didn't know why it had bothered him so much when she wasn't. He shoved the speculation out of his mind before turning back to his book to put the finishing touches on his first ever completed summer homework assignment.
He didn't hear from Ginny all the next day, though he'd expected that. She was likely very busy with preparations for the trip; he had no clue how wizards traveled internationally, but it was likely that it wasn't any easier than for Muggles. So instead of talking to Ginny, Harry enjoyed the silence that the Dursleys gave him (minus Dudley's hateful teasing), and found some stability in the chores that he did. He'd long since learned to deal with and even come to like some of the work that Petunia was constantly on him about; he had to, otherwise he would have gone mad.
Because he had to do his homework in the dead of night, Harry didn't get to bed that evening until around two in the morning, which wasn't bad until you considered that he was woken at five in the morning by an insistent calling.
He groggily rubbed his eyes, cursing Ginny quietly and verbally, rather than risk the chance of accidentally having her overhear him. He turned over and put his face into his pillow (which was all lumpy and not very comfortable) before answering her.
Are you all right? You didn't answer, and I thought something happened to you.
Harry groaned. Ginny, it's five in the morning. What do you think I was doing?
There was a silence, and then Ginny's apologetic tones found him. I'm sorry Harry, I forgot about the time difference. It's seven here. I'll let you go back to sleep.
No, don't. I'm awake now. Harry let his eyes fall shut, wishing for a moment he could fall back asleep. How's your trip going?
It's all right, I guess.
Harry noted the lack of excitement, but he suspected that would be something that he would have to deal with. She'd seemed really torn up about the last year, and they hadn't even talked about that yet, as much as Harry wanted to help her. She would have to come to him on her own about that, and when she did, Harry knew he had to be ready for her. But for now, they spent the next few minutes talking about Egypt and seeing Bill again. For the first time, Ginny told Harry that there was someone else in the room and if she didn't respond immediately, that was why, but she didn't stop talking to him. Harry found that he was slightly pleased by this fact, other than that it brought up a question that made him think.
Ginny, have you told anyone about our connection?
A long silence followed, and then her answer was more of a question than a statement. No?
Harry wondered whether that was a good thing or not. He knew what they had was special, and that he didn't want anyone to take it away from them, but he also wanted Ginny to be comfortable. Do you want to?
Again, there was a long pause in which she must have been thinking, or perhaps talking to whoever was in the room at the moment. I don't know. Not really, but look what happened with Tom.
Harry cringed at the comparison, but was quick to respond. I promise I won't try to take over your mind and make you do things you don't want to.
I know you won't Harry, it's just...I don't know. It's hard.
I understand Ginny. You're welcome to tell the whole world about us if you want, but I'll leave it up to you. It's not like I have anyone to tell.
He could have sworn he heard her giggle as she responded. That sounds funny, but I'm not going to either.
Harry nodded to himself. Then this will be our little secret?
Our little secret. Ginny agreed, sounding oddly excited about it. Now you go back to sleep, okay? I'll talk to you later.
Okay. Harry was fast asleep before he heard her response, if there was one.
The next few weeks passed without incident, though Harry found that communicating with Ginny through thought-speak (as they termed it) was nearly effortless. They still didn't keep it up on a regular basis (he saw it more as a daily phone call), but it was nice to talk to her at night before she went to bed and sometimes early in the morning. Over time, Harry saw a distinct improvement in her mood, and by the week before his birthday, she sounded almost happy.
He knew it was a cover, but he didn't call her out on it. He'd watched her slowly build a blanket for herself using the excitement of the trip to Egypt, so by the time she was done, no one (besides Harry) could tell that she was anything but herself. Harry was sure her family assumed that she was getting over her first year, but she still slipped every now and then when talking to him that broke the illusion. Still, he didn't want to cause a confrontation and he knew if she wanted to talk about it she'd come to him.
In any case, they had plenty to talk about. Both Egypt and the ancient tombs were infinitely fascinating subjects, so much so that Harry was seriously considering the job of a curse-breaker. Before, when he'd picked his new courses he'd just signed up for the same ones as Ron, but now he actually might have something he wanted to do in life. Ginny shared his excitement and made sure to ask Bill all kinds of questions about his job, which he'd answered happily. His suggestion for Ancient Runes and Arithmancy for electives at Hogwarts worried Harry, but he knew Hermione had signed up for those and if he really needed help, he had someone he could count on. Ginny had suggested talking to McGonagall before the term started to see if he could get his courses changed.
I think it would be a lot of fun to be a curse-breaker, Ginny announced after a particularly long day. Harry could hear the sleep in her voice, but he was happy to get to talk to her.
Me too. I didn't know there was so much involved and you got to see all those cool things. I bet your brother loves it.
He does. You should see him when he gets going on some discovery or some complicated series of wards. I don't think he would stop even if someone cast a silencing charm on him.
Harry laughed at that. Wards? What are those?
Ginny assumed a tone that Harry loved to hear her in. She was great at explaining things he didn't understand, and while she was patient, she didn't look down on him for not knowing about magic. They're like defenses...I think of them as walls to keep people out. That's why Hogwarts is so safe – Professor Dumbledore did the wards himself.
Harry thought that made a lot of sense. So are there wards around every magical building, or are they really rare?
They're not really rare, but the kinds of wards Bill works with are. He has to do all kinds of things to get around them and take them down.
That sounds really exciting.
It is. You have to be careful, because it's really dangerous, but I want to a curse breaker when I grow up. Bill reckons that I might take his job. He didn't seem too happy about it though.
You're going to be a curse breaker?
I want to be.
Well, then I guess we can be curse breakers together, huh?
He could almost feel her voice lighten. I'd like that.
Harry heard all about her disappointment when Mrs. Weasley hadn't allowed her to go into the pyramid with mutant skeletons - something that gave Harry hope that she was finding some of herself again. He'd learned a bit about her true personality in the last few weeks, even if it was dampened by her depression, and he'd decided that Ginny Weasley was quite a likeable girl. She was fiery, passionate, and stubborn at times, but always had the best interests of people at heart. That's why she was so bothered by the diary and everything to do with it. In one late night discussion, she'd confided to Harry that she didn't want to talk to anyone about it because she felt guilty and couldn't face them. Harry had hinted that she could talk to him, but she didn't bite. They'd been talking about Harry's frustration with publicity, which led to Gilderoy Lockhart of all people, and that had led to Ginny wishing she couldn't remember any of her first year.
I just wish that I could be obliviated and start Hogwarts over. I wouldn't mind starting at twelve.
Harry sighed. He knew this subject would come up eventually, but it didn't sound like it was going to be an easy conversation. Obliviated? What's that mean?
It means they could erase my memory. The Ministry does it all the time to Muggles who accidentally find out about magic.
Harry found that thought a little disturbing, but he didn't say anything. Have you asked your Dad about it?
Yes, but Mum caught me. She freaked out and forbid me from even talking about it ever again.
Harry gave a silent cheer for a moment, then faltered. Do you want to forget me too?
NO! She paused for a moment, then continued calmer. Harry, you're probably the best thing that's ever happened to me. I love my family, but you don't know how nice it is to have a friend who isn't one of my brothers. I don't know why, but it's just so much easier to be around you than them.
Harry wasn't sure whether he should be proud of himself or ashamed for trying to replace her brothers. I'm not trying to replace them.
I know you're not, and you won't. I just want you to know you mean a lot to me.
He rolled that thought around his head for a bit. It was nice to mean something to someone, even if he felt a little queasy about it. He didn't want to hurt her, and if something went wrong, she would probably be devastated. He knew he would be if something happened to her. I'm glad that I do. You know it doesn't matter to me what happened last year, right?
She was quiet for a minute, in which Harry assumed she was thinking. She did that a lot, making Harry wonder if it was just him that made her think, or if she was always like this. She didn't seem like a girl that would think a lot, but she did when she was talking to him. I don't know Harry. I can't talk to anyone about it.
Why not? You can always talk to me.
Thank you, I really do appreciate it, but I can't. I know everyone says it wasn't my fault, but I just can't face everyone right now.
I'll be here when you do want to talk, you know that, right?
I know, and thank you.
The only truly disturbing thing that Harry noticed in his life was a lack of letters from Hermione. Indeed, Harry hadn't received any post in the last month, and if it wasn't for Ginny, his summer would have been miserable. He understood Ron not writing him, but Hermione hadn't even dropped so much as a note in his direction. He'd said as much to Ginny, who reminded him that she didn't have an owl and therefore couldn't send letters. Ginny had used Errol to send a note to their bushy-haired friend after the infamous phone call, warning her to not try and call him. Harry had been a little disappointed to hear that, but he agreed with her reasoning and assumed that Hermione had enough sense not to try to use Muggle post either.
Harry actually looked forward to his birthday this year, mostly because Ginny told him that Ron had used an international owl mailing service to send him a letter and a present. She wouldn't say what it was ("What's the surprise in that?"), but just getting something would be a vast improvement over all of his other birthdays at the Dursleys'. When a large barn owl flew in his window the night of July 31, Harry jumped to remove its burden of a letter and a package, giving it an owl treat and some water before it set off again. He picked up the letter to open it, but was distracted by a flash of white coming through the window. Upon further inspection, Hedwig had finally returned from an extended absence (one that Harry had started to worry about) carrying another package and looking extremely pleased with herself. He gave her a few moments affection and removed her burden before she hopped off to her cage and gulped down some water. Apparently tonight was the night for owl post, because a third owl, a handsome tawny, flew into the window with a third package and a letter bearing the Hogwarts crest. Hedwig hooted in annoyance as the tawny ruffled his feathers importantly and jumped back out the window.
Harry knew that Ginny was asleep already, or he would have checked to see if she was available to listen to him open presents. He figured he could tell her all about it the next time they talked, which depended on the Weasleys' trip. The way Bill ran it, they always had full days and there wasn't much time to spare, and when there was, Ginny was usually so tired that meaningful conversation was the farthest thing from her mind. Presents would make a good conversation topic at one of those times.
Harry sat down on his bed, then grabbed the letter he'd almost gotten to open and finished the job. He bent over to pick up the two items that fell out - a letter and a newspaper clipping. The clipping was from the Daily Prophet and detailed Mr. Weasley's winning of the Galleon Draw and their plans to go to Egypt, which was old news as far as Harry was concerned, but he kept the clipping anyway. It was a nice reminder that good things happen to good people now and then, and besides that, it had a photograph (even if it was black-and-white) of all nine Weasleys together. He paid special attention to Ginny, who looked older than he remembered and moderately happy. Ron had his arm draped around her which was a good sign, and she waved shyly at Harry before giving Scabbers a wary look.
He set the clipping down and reached for the letter, which he quickly found was from Ron. The young redhead apologized profusely for losing Harry's phone number and said that he was planning on writing before they left for Egypt but he'd never got around to it. Harry knew that Ginny had burned the parchment with his phone number on it; he'd given her permission when she'd been terrified of telling Ron why he couldn't call his best friend. The rest of the letter was about Egypt and how amazing it was, something Ginny had already described in great detail, but Harry enjoyed Ron's perspective all the same. He also took great joy in finding out that Ron would get a proper wand for the next school year and not just a hand-me-down from someone else. Harry's eyes caught the last paragraph for a moment, wondering exactly what Ron knew about his connection with Ginny.
I don't know what's gotten into Ginny lately, but she seems to be asking me more and more questions about you. I'd be careful around her unless you want to be stalked by a large tomato - that's what Bill reckons she looked like when he asked her how long she's fancied Harry Potter. She says she's over that, but I don't believe her.
We'll be back about a week before term starts and we'll be going up to London to get my wand and our new books. Any chance of meeting you there?
Don't let the Muggles get you down, and try to come to London.
There was a postscript about Percy becoming Head Boy, but Harry didn't have strong feelings about that. He had totally forgotten about Ginny's massive crush on him over the past few weeks - she'd seemed normal, if a bit subdued, and she'd shown less and less embarrassment about simple little things. He'd finally gotten her to stop apologizing for every little thing she did, and once he assured her that he didn't mind talking to her, she'd relaxed and seemed to be having a good time. Perhaps Ron was wrong and she had gotten over it.
Harry opened the package that came with the note with considerable delight; a sneakoscope (though Harry had no idea what to use it for) was the best present he'd ever gotten for his birthday. He was so engrossed in the gift that he didn't notice the second, smaller one until he read the last part of the note Ron left him explaining what the sneakoscope was and what it was for.
P.S: Ginny insisted upon getting you something, so it's in there too. Apparently it's an ankh, which is an Egyptian symbol of life according to Bill. I think it's a load of rubbish, but Mum said I should send it along with mine.
For the first time since starting Hogwarts, Harry disagreed with Ron on something. It was an odd feeling, contradicting your best mate to side with his sister, but Harry loved the gift she'd sent him. It was a simple necklace that was made of a rope-like material, and attached to it was a small silvery-blue ankh that hung from the bottom. Harry wondered where she'd gotten the money for it, but he was too pleased to dwell on it. She hadn't said anything about sending him a gift, but that was typical Ginny Weasley style. He put it around his neck at once, admiring how it hung off him, even though it was a bit long. He'd have time to grow into it, and this was certainly something he'd keep forever.
The next package was from Hermione, coupled with a long letter asking about him and telling him she was on holiday in France and talking about her typical academic zealousness. Harry gave Hedwig a smile when he came to the part about her showing up and saving Hermione the hassle of customs, to which Harry swore he saw affection in the owl's amber eyes.
The package she sent him turned out to not be a book as he expected, but a broomstick service kit. He saw what she meant about getting it past customs - there were some items of dubious nature for a non-wizard, and the idea of keeping a broom in top condition would sound absurd to a Muggle. Wow, Hermione. Where was this side of you the last two Christmases?
Harry took a moment to admire his three gifts, all of which he loved, but he was partial to the broom care kit. He missed flying something terrible, and perhaps the Do It Yourself Broomcare manual would help take his mind off things. Finally, he picked up his last package and opened it, jumping back almost immediately to avoid the chomp of the book (book?!) that nearly bit his hand off. It took a few minutes, but Harry finally got the Monster Book of Monsters under control and safely bound by his belt. Hagrid's card wasn't much use either; he didn't think that he could ever find a use for a biting book.
The Hogwarts letter was the typical one informing him of the start of term and detailing the books he would need. After his conversations with Ginny about it, Harry wondered again if it was possible to change his class ideas this close to start of term, but something else caught his eye that took his mind completely off of classes.
Third years are permitted to visit the village of Hogsmeade on certain weekends. Please give the enclosed permission form to your parent or guardian to sign.
Harry pulled out the Hogsmeade permission form, no longer able to hold a smile. From the tales of Fred and George (as well as other students), Hogsmeade sounded like a wonderful place to visit, but he would never be able to get Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia to agree to sign it. He sat there for a few long moments, staring at the blank signature line and feeling his heart slowly sink into his stomach. His watch beeped once, signaling two o'clock in the morning, and Harry tossed the form aside and rubbed his eyes. There was nothing he could do about it now, in any case. He rose and hid away his presents under the loose floorboard, sighing as he doused the light and flopped onto his bed, wishing for the millionth time in his life that he lived anywhere but at the Dursleys'.
As it turned out, Harry didn't get to talk to Ginny the next morning; he had to wait until the next night, when she called to him after dinner. Aunt Marge had arrived that day, but there was one single, solitary good thing about her arrival. Harry had coaxed his uncle into a deal that if he pretended to be a perfectly normal Muggle for one whole week, and stuck to the story about him attending St. Brutus' Center for Incurably Criminal Boys, then he would get his Hogsmeade form signed. Of course, when Ginny heard of this, she was nearly outraged, and that was after Harry decided to leave out the criminal aspects of the deal.
How can they make you do that?!
Harry sighed. She didn't understand what life was like at the Dursleys', and truth be told, he hoped she never would have to. It's just a week and I'll be free to go. It's not really that much of a difference because I'm not allowed to act like a wizard in front of them anyway. I just have to deal with Aunt Marge.
Ginny let her thoughts on his aunts fill his head, most of which were not far off considering she had never met either of them. It comforted Harry somewhat to know that someone was on his side and someone wanted to stick up for him, but there wasn't much Ginny could do out in Egypt, and they'd already agreed to be careful about what they knew about each other - it wouldn't do for Ginny to suddenly know that Harry wasn't going to get his Hogsmeade permission form signed when she was way out in Egypt and no letters had come from him.
Are you going to be able to do it?
Harry thought of the exploding wine glass and thought it was best to leave that out as well. I think so - I'm just memorizing the broomcare guide Hermione got me and repeating it in my head when I get angry.
Hermione got you a broomcare guide? Ginny sounded a little confused, which made Harry laugh. He was glad that the four Dursleys were down watching the new television, which was blaring rather loudly.
She got me a whole Broomstick Servicing Kit. It's brilliant.
There was a silence that Harry accounted to shock before Ginny replied. That's really cool Harry. Much more useful than the sneakoscope that Ron got you.
Harry smiled. But not as special as the necklace you got me.
Silence again, and Harry could almost see her blushing. He hoped there was no one in the room with her at the moment, because it would look very strange if one's sister or daughter randomly turned the color of a juicy tomato. So you really like it?
Of course I do, Ginny. It's very special. And it was. He might have liked Hermione's gift better for practical use, but in terms of sentimental value, Ginny was all over it. He supposed Ron had put a lot of thought into his gift too, but there was something special about that necklace that made Harry grin like an idiot. Maybe it was the fact that he knew Ron had gone, "Oh, cool! Let's get this for Harry." when he bought his gift, and yet somehow he knew that Ginny had sought hers out specifically for him.
I'm glad you liked it.
They talked for some time more, discussing what Ginny had seen during the day and more about Bill's job. It had become a common subject for the pair, discussing what it would be like to be a curse-breaker. Everything Harry heard about the job sounded interesting (though he was sure that there were bad parts; there had to be with all those nasty curses), and when he looked at Bill's picture in the Prophet article, he had to admit Bill even looked cool.
Ginny was in bed, fast asleep before the last dinner of Aunt Marge's stay, something that Harry regretted deeply even by the beginning of the meal. His eyes glazed over as he retreated into the recesses of his mind, only half aware of what was being said, finding a twisted sort of humor in Marge's prods about him being a few bricks short of the load. In Harry's view it was quite the opposite - he was the only intellectually viable person in the room, though he knew he probably looked every bit as daft as Marge was saying due to his mind-walking. He kept meaning to ask Ginny if she had the same sort of experience looking into her own mind, but her talk of Egypt and other things always allowed it to slip from his mind to the point where he just decided to ask her in person when he could.
No, Harry was staring at two things - one was the jar of Fleetwood's High-Finish Handle Polish that his mind had attributed to his knowledge of broomstick care, and the second was a small red ball that was slightly faded in a way that told Harry that Ginny was asleep. He'd figured that out after a couple weeks when she'd said good night, and five minutes later the ball had faded into translucence.
Things were going well and Harry was reminding himself of the rules for trimming his broomstick's twigs when a cutting remark from Marge bored its way into his skull, one that never failed to get him angry and cause odd things to happen.
"He - didn't work.," Vernon was saying with a half-glance at Harry. He was, of course, speaking of Harry's father. "Unemployed."
"As I expected!" Aunt Marge exclaimed, taking a huge swig of brandy and wiping her chin on her sleeve. "A no-account, good-for-nothing, lazy scrounger who -"
"He was not." Harry said suddenly. The table went very quiet at his sudden waking. He was shaking all over, feeling angrier than he could ever remember.
"MORE BRANDY!" Uncle Vernon yelled, who had gone very white. He emptied the bottle into Marge's glass. "You, boy," he snarled at Harry. "Go to bed, go on-"
"No, Vernon," hiccupped Aunt Marge, holding up a hand, her tiny bloodshot eyes fixed on Harry. "Go on, boy, go on. Proud of your parents, are you? They go and get themselves killed in a car crash, drunk I expect-"
"They didn't die in a car crash!" Harry yelled, standing up and shoving his chair back violently.
"They died in a car crash, you nasty little liar, and left you to be a burden on their decent, hardworking relatives!" By now, Marge was screaming to match Harry's volume as she swelled with fury. "You are an insolent, ungrateful little-"
But Aunt Marge suddenly stopped speaking. For a moment, it seemed that words failed her, that she couldn't invent horrible enough adjectives to describe exactly what Harry was. She seemed to be swelling with inexpressible anger at being contradicted, but she didn't stop swelling. Harry looked on in horror (and smug satisfaction) as Aunt Marge swelled and swelled, looking more and more like a balloon the longer he watched. Everything from her face to her toes started to expand, as if someone was pumping her full of air very quickly. She began floating up off her chair, several buttons bursting from her tweed jacket as Uncle Vernon grasped her feet and tried to pull her back down.
Harry tore from the dining room before anyone could say anything to stop him, heading for the cupboard under the stairs, which burst magically open as he reached it. It took him only seconds to heave his trunk to the front door, leaving it there for all of the fifteen seconds it took him to dash upstairs, wrench up the floorboard, grab the pillowcase laden with gifts and books, and return back downstairs where Uncle Vernon was waiting in a purple rage.
"COME BACK IN HERE! COME BACK AND PUT HER RIGHT!"
But the rage that had enveloped Harry instilled a recklessness in him that would have scared even the bravest Gryffindors. He pulled his wand out of his trunk, fixing it steadily on his uncle and already calling the disarming spell to mind.
"She deserved it. She deserved what she got." Harry waved his wand as his breathing increased. "You keep away from me."
The latch on the door stalled him for only a moment more before he threw the door open and pulled his trunk out onto a dark quiet street, Hedwig's cage under his arm and wand in the other hand. He was several streets away before he collapsed against a low wall in Magnolia Crescent, panting from the effort of dragging his trunk. He sat quite still, feeling the anger coursing through his veins and trying to still his breathing. Harry retreated into his own mind, searching for a split second before he did the only thing that came to mind.