Ginny simply couldn’t believe her eyes. She blinked once, twice, and again, before she rubbed them in an attempt to bring herself back down to reality. There it was, plain as day, sitting on the bookshelf of an old antique bookstore. Sitting there innocent and plain, as if it were nothing more than an old tome.
Ginny’s hand shook as she reached out to run her finger down its leather-encased spine, hesitating, as if when she touched it it might suck her down into its vortex of trickery and betrayal. Her nail scratched lightly over the raised creases in the worn leather, and her fingers curved under the edge to hook it and pull it from its hardback reserve.
She didn’t try to catch it as it fell to the floor, and she took no notice as the bookstore clerk sent her a dirty glare, annoyed that someone might treat one of her books with such disregard.
Ginny was too busy to notice, though. The book had fallen, but not opened. It lay on the floor, its front cover as eerily bare as it had been in her first year, though considerably less hole-less after its ordeal within the Chamber of Secrets. There wasn’t even a mark from where Harry had plunged the Basilisk tooth through both the front and back cover.
“Ahem,” came the frustrated voice of the clerk. “Are you planning on buying that book,
Ginny slowly looked up at the woman, taking in the neat bun at the nape of her neck and her prim glasses and apron. Related to Professor McGonagall, she would imagine.
“Undecided,” she answered tartly, turning to stare back down at the fallen book, much to the annoyance of the clerk.
The woman snatched it up from the floor haughtily, flipping through its pages. She looked up at Ginny, no longer with annoyance but instead a barely veiled interest.
“You do know that this book has no words?”
Ginny stared at the woman, long and hard. “It’s not that it doesn’t have words,” Ginny answered, peering down at the empty parchment in the clerks’ dry, papery hands, “it’s that you can’t see them.”
The woman looked at Ginny curiously before snapping the book shut, as if suddenly remembering she was supposed to be angry at her. “Shall I wrap it for you?” she snapped, quirking an eyebrow and moving to place it back on the shelf.
Perhaps if the woman hadn’t made out that she was going to put it right back in its place, Ginny would have said no. She would have thought it was a terrible idea to actually buy it, and let the woman put it on its shelf. But she didn’t.
“Yes!” Ginny cried, startling the woman. “I – I’ll take it, thanks.”
“Will that be all, then?” she asked, moving behind the counter and pulling out some paper to wrap the book in. She fastened it all up, placed it in a small bag and took the money from Ginny’s outstretched hand.
Minutes later, Ginny was standing outside in the cold morning sun, with a small leather bound book burning a hole through her bag.
She would give anything to run home and examine the damn thing, leaf through every page and convince herself that it wasn’t the same one. That there was absolutely no way it was even possible. That he wasn’t sitting inside, waiting for her.
She had things to do, though, errands to run.
Several hours later, after doing the grocery shopping for her mother, dropping it off at the Burrow and fending off several little pink-headed monsters courtesy of Bill and Phlegm, Ginny was finally ready to make her way home.
She decided, briefly, to stop on the way back.
“What’ll it be, love?” the bartender at the Leaky Cauldron asked, leaning over the bar and smiling at her. “And how’re yer Mam and Pop, eh?”
Ginny smiled back. “Just fine, thanks. I’ll have straight Fire Whiskey, please.”
He nodded and came back a moment later with the amber liquid sloshing quite pleasantly in a glass. Ginny sighed and looked into the glass, watching as it swirled and settled. She needed something, anything, that might either persuade or dissuade her from doing something. Anything that might push her away from sitting on the fence.
He’d never done anything truly wrong to her, she considered as she fingered the glass of whiskey. He’d done terrible things, sure, convinced her to do equally terrible things, but she’d done them of her free will. To a certain degree. She would have done anything for Tom back then.
The worst thing Tom had ever done to Ginny was leave her.
Ginny remembered all the late, sleepless nights she’d spent for the remainder of her time at Hogwarts. Certain areas of the castle reminded her so much of Tom; places where he’d take her in his memories, to show her his world; places she would sit and write to him, read his thoughts mapping out on the paper, telling her how special she was. It had taken her years to build herself back up to the headstrong young thing she’d been at the start of her first year, and even now she sometimes relapsed into the timid little second year, wronged and wrongdoing at the same time.
Memories of waking up panting and hot in her fifth and sixth years at Hogwarts still plagued her even today, unexplained dreams leaving her aroused and sleepless whilst she lay in bed. She could never remember the dreams when she awoke, but the remaining throb deep in her gut was too hard to disguise, even without remembering the dreams themselves.
But those dreams had stopped in her seventh year, after Voldemort was defeated and poor Harry had been taken down with him. She had presumed that the death of the real Tom Riddle, the source of the diary’s magic, had caused the dreams to not only stop, but cease to exist altogether. She had presumed and she’d hoped, but at the same time she’d been slightly disappointed. As much as she hated to admit it, even to herself, Ginny liked having that seemingly small connection to the first boy she’d ever fallen in love with. The first man.
Ginny downed her fire whiskey, suddenly tired of playing his game, tired of putting it off. She knew, deep down, that there would be nothing there. It was a book that looked the same, it was as simple as that.
Ginny hurried back to her apartment, unlocked the door and slammed it shut behind her as she rushed to the kitchen table. She ripped the packaging from the offending book, and dumped it on the table.
Pulling up a chair, Ginny looked. She stared, she examined the front cover until every crack and crease had been thoroughly scrutinized. And, try as she might, she could discern no difference from this book to the diary.
Shakily, her hand extended to touch the cover. It wasn’t cool against her finger as she expected, and like other leather bound books tended to be. It was warm, strangely so, as if it radiated its own heat and bore no attention to room temperature at all.
She took a deep breath and told herself to stop being so silly. Picking up the book, Ginny flipped open the cover and flicked through the heavy pages. There was no “T. M. Riddle” smudged on the first page, nor the familiar “Vauxhall Road, London” printed on the back cover. Just like the diary though, one page was as blank as the next, as if it were an empty book just waiting for a story to be written in it. Just waiting for some kin of tale to sit on its pages and be told throughout the rest of its existence.
Ginny set the book carefully on the table and turned to pick up her bag. She rummaged around before she finally came up with what she wanted. A quill and ink.
She steeled her shoulders, quill in hand, and wrote to Tom Riddle for the first time in ten years.
Once upon there was a young girl called Ginny Weasley. Life was good for Ginny, until she happened upon the most lovely leather-bound diary she’d ever seen in her life. And in it, lived a monster. Tom Riddle ruined everyone’s lives, but Ginny Weasley’s most of all.
Ginny sat and watched, waiting for the ink to fade away into the page, as it had done with the diary. She waited for the elegant scrawl of Tom Riddle to scratch itself across the page, and say something tolerably insulting about her tendency of being overdramatic and emotional.
But there was nothing. Ginny wrote again.
If you’re in there, Tom, you’d better bloody reply!
And once more.
I’ll burn the book if you don’t!
But there was still nothing. No fading words, no scratchy replies, no Slytherin Heirs to sully the lonely pages of the book. It was naught more than a book, with a story left unwritten.
Ginny wasn’t sure if she was disappointed or relieved, but she was definitely
something. She threw the book against the wall in a sudden fit of anger the ink following not long afterwards. The table was pushed violently against the fridge, and every one of the six chairs clattered about the room noisily. Ginny had never been so terrified in all her life, yet she’d never been so angry, either.
She fell into bed, sobbing violently into the pillow, and fell asleep in that same position, with her kitchen in a vast state of disarray.
Ginny woke up the next morning after a fitful sleep, involving disturbing dreams that she couldn’t recall. She was left with the same nagging feeling in her gut that she had had in her sixth year, after the first of her most disturbing dreams. She had thought them gone with the death of Voldemort.
But she had work. She looked guiltily at her assaulted kitchen, ignoring the innocent book lying in the corner against the wall. Instead she showered and dressed for work, opting to grab breakfast on the way in rather than tidy up the kitchen. That could wait until she got home.
Ginny endured the hellish day at work, dealing with multiple enquiries about the rumours that the next Quidditch World Cup was going to be held in Australia, much to the chagrin of the majority of the callers. She supposed it was only to be expected, being secretary to the head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, that she would deal with these things. Especially since the next World Cup was planned to take place approximately three months from then.
Ginny took a quick lunch break to grab a bite to eat and send an owl to her mum letting her know that yes, next Saturday would be quite all right to have a family dinner as she wasn’t doing anything. She was never doing anything anyway, but it never helped to let her mother know that.
Finally, several more hours later, Ginny turned the key in her lock and pushed the door open, sighing with relief as she stepped into the relative sanctity of her apartment, and peace.
She dumped all of her things on a chair in the living room and threw her shoes off, not even watching where they landed. She glanced briefly through to the kitchen, still as messy as it had been this morning, before going into her room and stripping off her work shirt.
She rummaged through her drawers for a few minutes, looking for a suitably lazy shirt to wear around the apartment when she heard something fall to the floor in the other room.
Ginny froze and listened, trying to hear if there was any other noise. When she heard nothing, she turned and tiptoed to her bedroom door, peeking out. There was no one there, she was sure. She’d probably imagined it. But she might as well get her wand out, just in case.
It was in with her bags, which were all out in the front room. She dashed out and to the lounge chair where she’d dumped all her stuff as she came in. She dug through her handbag first, cursing herself for not putting in her pocket as she usually did. It wasn’t there.
She searched again, sure she’d had it with her when she left work. When she came up empty handed yet again, she tossed the bag aside and rummaged through her other things as well – into her coat pockets and the folds of her scarf. She looked over at the doorway for her shoes, wondering if she’d maybe dropped it in them.
“Looking for this
Ginny whirled around, the breath suddenly sucked out of her lungs and blocked in her throat. There was her wand, shining and whole in someone else’s hand. He had jet black hair. He was tall, taller than she, and she wasn’t exactly short. She swallowed loudly, almost not believing what she was seeing.
Like when she’d seen the book yesterday, she absolutely refused to believe that this was anything other than some twisted, sadistic figment of her imagination.
“You-you’re not real,” she managed to choke out eventually, clutching at the side of the chair to support her as a wicked smile spread across his features.
“Aren’t I?” He placed her wand carefully on the mantel piece above the fire before taking a step towards her.
“No,” she replied, jerking back at his movement, absolutely terrified that what she was seeing may just be as real as it appeared. “No, you’re absolutely not here,” she told him, glaring. “Leave. Disappear. Go back to whence you came, I don’t care, just go!”
He smirked. If she hadn’t already known that he was a Slytherin while he’d been at Hogwarts, there would be absolutely no doubt now.
“You don’t really want me to leave, Ginevra. I know you don’t.” He cocked his head to the side, examining her. “If you did, you wouldn’t have bought the diary in the first place.”