Chapter 6 : Chapter Six
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The word stared up at Ginny from the first page of the diary, marred and ugly compared to all its pristine fellows. In fleeting moments of courage, she had taken the journal out and examined the script, trying to decide if she had seen handwriting like it before or if there was any other way to identify the writer. Sometimes she swore it looked different from Tom Riddle’s handwriting, but once in a while she thought about how he could use his power to distort the handwriting, just as he had changed so much about his true nature to make himself more attractive to her. This was usually the point at which Ginny felt sick and her courage evaporated, compelling her to put the diary away and resist looking at it again for a long while.
But this time, inexplicably, she put a quill to the page. Hello.
It’s been a long time, wrote her disembodied companion.
Who are you?
You know who I am. The sentence materialized slowly and carefully on the page.
She sucked in a breath, her exhale striking the page softly as she replied. Tom?
Ginny felt warmth by her ear, unmistakably the closeness of another person. She faintly wondered if Harry would be disappointed by her use of Voldemort’s Muggle name when he had strived for years to get the wizarding community to use the proper moniker. She turned to greet him, closing the diary, and came face to face with a pair of dark eyes. She could see evil extending all the way to their depths.
“I’ve missed you, Ginny,” Tom Riddle whispered silkily, his eyes blazing blood red.
She started violently as she woke. The journal was nowhere to be found, and she could feel cool, clean bed sheets under her palms. A glance to her right revealed Harry snoozing peacefully next to her, taking advantage of the chance to sleep late on Saturday morning. Judging by the quiet in the house, her boys were sleeping, too.
Ginny blinked several times, but she seemed unable to erase the all-too-familiar image of Tom Riddle from right before her eyes. Even then, in the uncomfortable proximity they’d shared, he was intimidating, indomitable, a towering overlord. She had gone so quickly in her innocence from trusting him and soaking up his affection to needing him and feeling as if she would slip into nothingness and lose everything without him there, be it to protect her or merely take the blame. In a way—and she hated this part of herself the most—she was indebted to him. He had made her stronger than ever, made certain she would never give up her precious things again.
Shaking her head to clear it, Ginny stood up and walked downstairs. It was a bit too painful to be in the same room as Harry right now because she could remember when their roles were reversed. Like her, Harry had woken up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. In fact, he had done it for more nights than not for the first six months or so of their engagement, after they’d moved into this house together, and who knew how often prior to that? Once, on their honeymoon, he’d reached over in fitful sleep and squeezed her hand so hard that her diamond ring bore painfully into her palm. Ginny wondered if he had ever experienced waking nightmares like hers, terrible visions he had to convince himself weren’t real, and just never told her.
She put a kettle on for tea and retrieved a fresh orange from the basket on the table. Perhaps we should get a dog, she thought to herself. It had been said that animals were more perceptive to the spiritual world than humans, and having a dog around might give her some advance warning before one of her horrific trances came on. Besides, her children would love having a pet, and it might remind Harry of Sirius.
I need to remind Harry to go put flowers on his parents’ graves for Sirius’s birthday.
Ginny stood there in silence until the tea kettle suddenly went off, startling her for the second time that morning. This time, however, she felt comforting hands on her shoulders.
“Good morning,” Harry said, sitting at the table.
“Good morning,” she replied, turning to face him. “Did you sleep all right?”
“Yes.” He accepted the cup of tea she offered him. “And you?”
“Yes,” Ginny lied as she reached for the sugar, having already put cream in her cup.
“I think we need to talk.”
Ginny put down the sugar spoon. She looked at her husband. “What about?”
“I’ve taken the week off from work. Ron can handle things fine without me for a while, so I’m prepared to take more time if necessary. The most important thing is your safety.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I don’t think you should be alone after all that’s happened.” Her face must have fallen visibly, because he quickly added, “Hermione agrees.”
“Harry, I really don’t need you to look after me all day. It’s much easier to keep things clean around here if there’s no one in my way, and how would we explain it to the boys? I have plenty of distractions as it is. I’ll be fine.”
“I’ve told you that you don’t need to worry about cleaning, and I won’t be in your way. I just want to be nearby in case you need my help with anything.”
Ginny sighed. “Fine, but I’m going about my life as normal.”
“As you should—with one small change.” He pushed a folded newspaper that had been sitting on the edge of the table closer to her. “Have you seen this?”
She unfolded the paper, and the image on the cover caused her to wilt into the chair opposite him and concentrate rather fiercely on dissipating the strawberry hue that flooded her face. She could clearly be seen leaving a doctor’s office, her worried expression and careful check to the right and left flashing back and forth alongside comically large emblazoned gossip: Ginny Potter—On the Edge of a Breakdown? A brief flick through the pages revealed speculation about which kind of doctor she had visited (the top voted choice, apparently, was a wizarding obstetrician) and concern over her “frazzled ginger locks” and “eyes full of sadness and fatigue.”
“When did it come?” she murmured.
“Today. I was up early. Couldn’t sleep.” He sipped his tea. “Worried about you.”
Ginny said nothing, staring at the unflattering image of herself on the front page. Was it the work of has-been Rita Skeeter, or was a new pack of wolves on her trail?
“I looked through your things and found your therapist’s business card. I called her and made an appointment for this evening. We’ll both go together.”
“Absolutely not,” she retorted, looking at him angrily. “You can’t just do that.”
“I only want to support you,” Harry said, and he didn’t have to add that it would look better if both of them emerged from the doctor’s office in tomorrow’s cover photo. “And I think I can help, with what I’ve been through and all, if you’ll just let me do it.”
Ginny sighed again. Even if she had a choice—and the look on his face told her quite plainly that he wasn’t taking no for an answer—she couldn’t hurt him any further. In fact, maybe a show of good faith would help him step back, make things normal again. On the outside, she at least needed to look like her life was still in one piece.
“Okay,” she said as he opened his mouth again. “What time should I be ready?”
“Harry, it’s nice to meet you,” Bree said, offering Ginny a kind smile as the couple took a seat across from her in her office. She searched Ginny’s eyes for any kind of response, but the woman seemed to be avoiding her gaze as much as possible.
“We’ll need to vary when we meet for the sake of discretion,” Harry said, suddenly all business. “It’ll be hard for them to track us if we see you at different times and on different days with each session.”
Ginny smiled wryly. He used to reserve that sort of talk for Death Eaters, didn’t he?
“Of course, Mr. Potter. Your confidentiality is a great concern of mine as well,” Bree agreed, having subtly increased the formality in her tone to match his. “I’m pleased that you decided to join us. I think Ginny would really benefit from your involvement.”
“What has she told you of her experiences?”
“Very little. I assume she’ll disclose more details when she feels comfortable—“
“Ginny, you should tell her what’s been going on,” Harry said, turning to his wife.
Ginny was feeling the onset of a headache. What, had they finally decided to ask her opinion? The whole day she’d felt like she was a little girl again, being punished by her mother, or at least that’s how everyone had been treating her. She glanced up to see both Harry and Bree looking intently at her, waiting for her to speak.
“Look, I want to make sure some ground rules are laid,” she replied at last. “I still won’t talk about anything I’m not comfortable with, and that isn’t going to change just because you’re here now.” She looked over at Harry, causing him to frown slightly. “I don’t want any decisions to be made about treatment without my input.”
“I understand,” Bree said. “I’m happy to work with you, Ginny, in doing whatever we need to make sure you’re safe and happy.”
“What does that mean?”
“If I fear you may do something to hurt yourself—or your family—”
“I would never do anything like that,” Ginny said firmly.
Beside her, Harry nodded, and she felt a quiet resurgence of affection for him.
“All right,” Bree said, settling back into her chair. “Where should we begin?”
“The nightmares I’ve been having are about Voldemort,” Ginny said, not flinching when the name escaped her lips. She was well past that now; in fact, she was proud of herself for not saying Tom instead. “Sometimes I see him during the day, when I’m just going about my business, or there will be little things that remind me of him. I never know when something else will happen, and it’s made me very anxious. I had a panic attack yesterday, or at least that’s what I think it is.” That’s what Hermione called them, at least, when she had some. “I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin.”
“Have you ever had one before?”
“No,” Ginny said flatly. “But I want them gone. They get in the way.”
“I would imagine so. Did you see him when you had the attack?”
“Why do you think you have so much anxiety about Voldemort?”
“I talked to him—well, his spirit, sort of—when I was younger. He became a friend to me, at least until I discovered who he really was. He tried to kill me.”
“How did you escape?”
“Harry saved me.” Ginny felt Harry’s hand tighten on her own. She didn’t move.
Bree paused, looking at them for a moment. “Wait… I assume a story like this would have made the Daily Prophet, wouldn’t it?” she said softly. “Yes, I remember—there was an incident where they discovered he had some sort of old secret chamber in Hogwarts.” She blinked, considering this. “I was going to start school the next year. It was terrifying.”
Ginny nearly groaned. Her therapist was actually younger than she was. “Yes, it was sort of like that. Dumbledore chose not to disclose my identity, thankfully.”
“What a horrible experience,” Bree remarked, as if it weren’t obvious.
“I guess I feel like he’s never left me, even after all these years, after his death.” Ginny supposed it sort of felt good to get this off her chest, in a strange way.
“What about the techniques I taught you last time? Have they helped at all?”
“A little. I mean, the breathing was good.” Ginny elected not to mention the diary.
Bree must have read her apprehension, because she cleared her throat and spoke again. “Perhaps we should keep things short for today. It must have taken a lot out of you to come clean about everything that’s been going on—and I appreciate you sharing those details with me, Ginny.”
Ginny nodded. She did feel quite exhausted.
“I’d like to try a different tack with you in the future, given the very serious subject matter of your nightmares and visions. It can be somewhat controversial, but I think it could really help you. I can assure you that I’ve been trained quite thoroughly.”
“What does this technique involve?” Harry asked.
“Are you familiar with Legilimency?”
Ginny’s eyes lifted slightly, meeting Bree’s. Harry settled back against the couch, but he continued to clench his wife’s hand. Ginny had heard how unpleasant an experience this could be, but then again, it seemed quite fitting for a therapist to also be proficient in this sort of magic. And if it could actually help her…
“Essentially, this is an exposure procedure. We’ll try to induce one of your visions or nightmares in my office during a session—and Harry, you can be present for moral support—and I’ll enter your mind. Then, I’ll work to help you change the vision to a more pleasant one. The goal is that after a while, you’ll be able to change your thought pattern without my influence. That’s when we know you’re getting better.”
Ginny nodded. “Does it hurt?” She glanced over at Harry.
“It can, if it’s forced upon you. But don’t worry, we’ll take our time. It’ll be fine.”
“Okay. Then I’m willing to give it a try.”
“Great,” Bree said, brightening. “I’ll plan to see you in a couple of days. Between now and then, I’d like you to prepare a short list of things that make you feel happy and calm. Maybe pick a few specific memories. We’ll make use of them in our exercises.”
Ginny stood up, glad that the session was over for today. She even managed to murmur a quiet “thank you” on her way out the door. However, it was difficult to ignore the way Harry’s shaking fingers almost crushed her own as they exited the building. At least we’re alone, she thought. Not a single camera or reporter in sight.
Ginny’s dinner did not sit well with her that evening, though Harry had made a delicious meal. After she was finished with half her plate, which she had only eaten to model the importance of finishing one’s meal to her eldest son, she immediately went to the living room and laid down on the couch. However, even the brightly-hued kid’s show Harry had turned on for James to watch didn’t distract her.
Sighing, she stood up gingerly, wondering if she had any medicine left from when she had morning sickness during her pregnancy with Albus. She walked back into the kitchen, where the dirty dishes still stood in the skin, and looked into the pantry; it was easier to keep the potions away from the children here than in the bathroom. She got her stepstool and looked on the top shelf. This is where I left it, isn’t it?
But the shelf below the medical supplies caught her attention. It didn’t look at all right; her potions, normally organized by name and color, had been moved into a haphazard rainbow of bottles. Some of them even appeared to be missing. Ginny bit her lip, noting that some of the dry ingredients were also missing: aconite, belladonna, moonseed. She knew these ingredients well, though they were rarely used; in fact, the last time she’d used them was to eradicate a family of rats from their new home several years ago. The pain in her stomach shifted uncomfortably.
Ginny stared at the shelf, holding her breath. Poison. Someone’s trying to kill me.
At long last, a new chapter! If you have continued to stick with me despite my brief hiatus, I thank you heartily :) Hope you enjoyed this chapter, since it had a number of twists and turns! I wish I could say that Ginny’s plight is about to be ameliorated, but that wouldn’t make for a very good mystery, would it? I suppose you’ll have to stay tuned and see what happens to poor Ginny next!
Since you’re here, please leave a quick review and let me know what you think. As always, I appreciate getting your feedback thus far in the story.
Chapter seven is coming soon! I’ll try not to keep you all in suspense too long!
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