A/N: See the end of this chapter for notes and explanations.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Harry Potter. Or Ginny Weasley. Or anyone else. No profit is involved for me. I'm just rolling around in JKR's sandbox. I can only hope she doesn't mind.
Harry Potter was not nearly so foolish or unintelligent as everyone thought. The extensive abuse his relatives heaped upon him for most of his life taught him to defend his secrets religiously as a survival instinct — and that included the extent of his knowledge and ability. He didn't even think about it; it was just how he was.
What he presented to the world was what he thought everyone else wanted to see, not who he actually was.
Immediate questions arose during his very first encounters with the secretive community he now inhabited for most of each year. Why was it that he was only just finding out about it? If they could address his letter directly to the cupboard under the stairs, then how did they not know of his living conditions?
And why did they not do anything about it?
That series of questions was the first that came to mind upon meeting Hagrid and immediately made him wary. He trusted nobody in that world. Everyone wanted their made-to-order Hero Harry Potter, and didn't give a single damn about the beaten down boy that he actually was.
It also didn't take long to realize that his initial meeting with Ronald Weasley was engineered.
Or that the series of traps that "protected" the supposed Philosopher's Stone had no hope of stopping a Dark Wizard of Voldemort's reputed caliber.
Something was going on beneath the surface; something that he couldn't see just yet. These people — from the students on up to the Headmaster — did not have his interests in mind, let alone his best interests. Two years had gone by, and multiple adventures that nearly killed him, and nothing was done to improve his safety.
He was simply sent right back to hell afterwards, to await the next adventure.
Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger were an ongoing problem. They gave the illusion of friendship, but there was something wrong there, and so he investigated. He was quite a lot sneakier than most would give him credit for, and it wasn't long before he overheard worrisome snippets of conversation when they thought nobody was listening.
They were reporting on him to someone, of this he was certain. He believed it was the Headmaster, but had no proof. Ordinarily he would have discounted it; most kids couldn't keep a secret like that to save their lives. In a world of magic, though? They could easily be under some kind of geas to prevent them from revealing what they weren't supposed to.
And they stuck to him like glue.
Getting any private time during the day was, quite literally, impossible. It was incredibly disturbing, and for more than one reason. In addition to the apparent spying, he was an introvert by nature, and having constant inescapable exposure to people was exhausting and draining in a way that he would never willingly show to the outside world.
Fortunately, whoever was running the show (Dumbledore, presumably) had made a critical error. The "gift" of the invisibility cloak was probably intended to incite him into following the perpetrator's scheme, and Harry didn't trust it at all. And so he examined it carefully, and soon found the various trackers that had been placed on it in order to defeat its purpose.
The cloak itself was immensely powerful and could not be directly bespelled, so whoever had done this had simply sewn an additional panel of fabric into the lining. A bit of simple work, and that could now be left behind whenever he wanted a bit of unmonitored free time. He never slept much anyway — too many nightmares plagued him — and so he was able to spend much more time in the library than anyone ever knew.
And he learned… a lot.
For example, and contrary to his outward reactions, he knew very well who Sirius Black was. He knew that the man was his godfather. Under any other circumstance, Harry would have stayed religiously clear of someone accused of mass murder, but he had to play his part, and so he did. He wasn't looking forward to eventually meeting the man, though he was absolutely certain it would occur — just like in previous years, that would be this year's deadly adventure.
He had to do it to avoid suspicion. If anyone knew of his ultimate goal, they would certainly take action to restrict him further, and he could not afford that. He wanted a life — his own life — without all the abuse and danger. The only way to have that was to leave, but he had yet to figure out where to go or how to get there.
He was working on the problem, but that would take time, and the event itself would take opportunity. He could not afford to reveal his goals — or his extracurricular learning — until then. He had to play along.
Now, though, he had a different problem.
For all that he was focused on his goals, Harry was not ignorant of the plights of others, nor was he heartless. He had a genuinely good nature, and that was one of the reasons he wanted out of the madhouse that was his current life. He wanted to be with good people who actually cared about others, not the caricatures he was currently saddled with.
And someone else now appeared to be having issues similar to his own.
Harry knew what it was to be reviled. He knew what it was to live under constant suspicion, as though everything wrong in the world was his fault. He knew what it was to be marked as a troublemaker. It was positively soul-crushing, and he was lucky that he was resilient enough to survive it — and intelligent enough to understand that it wasn't actually his fault.
At first, he thought that the girl in question had finally made some friends, and was happy for her. Not everyone in this place was out to get him, and much though he refused to show it, he actually liked the girl. She was one of the few who seemed to never hold ill will toward him, or hold him under suspicion.
He didn't even notice the fact that the friends in question were older girls, probably fourth years. He himself preferred older company — it was a product of his upbringing really, he had no real patience for childish pursuits — and so he didn't think anything of it. And given what the girl had been through, it would not have been a surprise to him if she was similar.
But then he started noticing the subtle strain in her eyes, and the occasional scowl behind their backs when she thought nobody was looking. Harry knew better than to ever show his feelings in public, but she hadn't quite learned that yet. She was new at this, or at least had less practice, and it soon became apparent that she was not in the company of these "friends" by choice.
Ginny Weasley had minders now, just like he did in the form of Ron and Hermione.
To some degree Harry was unsurprised. He had caught snippets of conversation between the elder Weasleys that sounded like they were very unhappy with their daughter over the incident the previous year. Ron also grumbled about her a lot, especially when he thought nobody was listening. They were treating her like the cause of the problem, rather than as the victim that she was.
Harry was not happy about that, though there was little he could do. But now she had minders, and was probably experiencing much the same thing that he was. He was under the impression that she was not an introvert, so at least that shouldn't be an issue, but it would still be extremely annoying for her.
And it would be a constant reminder that they were blaming her.
He watched for nearly two months, and saw that her problem with the minders was different from his. For him, he needed time alone; for her, she needed contact with others, and her minders prevented that. He had overheard them deflecting people more than once, and caught Ginny scowling about it on several of those occasions.
She was a naturally social person who was being deliberately isolated.
To say that he was unhappy about this would be putting it mildly. On top of which, he could see the signs that she was starting to believe that she was truly responsible. That could go nowhere good.
He wanted to do something to help her, but he couldn't afford to get caught at it. They were both under scrutiny, and as he didn't know the goals of that scrutiny, he couldn't predict the reaction if he tried to openly befriend her. That was dangerous.
Fortunately, he had spoken with Dobby after freeing him, and the result of that conversation was own personal bound House Elf. Dobby did not actually want freedom, per se; he just wanted freedom from the Malfoys. And so Harry took him on, which was a dream come true for the little elf.
While he couldn't do much for Ginny directly, the elf's capabilities gave him new options. At least he could talk to her, after a fashion. And maybe he could be of some help. There was only one way to find out.
He just hoped that he hadn't misjudged her opinion of him. If she was in support of whatever campaign was being run against him, this would backfire horribly. But he had to try.
His instincts told him it was necessary, and his conscience would allow for nothing else.
Ginny Weasley trudged tiredly back to her dormitory, doing her best to ignore her two "friends". Like Harry, Ginny was much more intelligent and observant than anyone would have credited her with. Surviving a childhood with Fred and George pretty much demanded it. She knew very well that there was something else going on with those girls.
She had tried to shake them for most of the first month before finally giving in and ignoring them as best she could. It was clear that they had been set to watch her, and that they didn't want her around anyone else. It was terribly obvious that they weren't there for her benefit; their subtle condescension was palpable.
Really, whoever was behind it could have chosen better…
She didn't have to ask to know why it was being done; it was all about that blasted diary. She felt guilty enough as it was that she'd been so foolish without having minders heaped on top of it. The guilt was eating away at her, and the strain of acting normally — and pretending that she didn't notice her minders' motives — was thoroughly wearing her down.
She wanted nothing more than to make it stop, but had no idea how to go about it.
It wasn't like her parents or the staff of Hogwarts had said anything to her about it, so she wasn't even sure who was responsible. She was fairly certain it wasn't the girls themselves, though; she had overheard them grouching at each other about it once. They were annoyed that they had to waste their time looking after her.
She didn't dare broach the subject with her parents; they would either ignore her or berate her. Out of the public eye, her entire summer had been one harsh lecture after another — as though she had wanted to be involved with Dark Magic. As though the entire thing was solely her fault.
While she had plenty of guilt over it, she was aware of who was truly responsible, but nobody was doing a damned thing about Lucius Malfoy's part in that mess.
The Headmaster was also out. She had been watching Harry for over a year now, and had serious concerns; the man had done nothing for him as near as she could tell. He was dressed in little more than rags beneath his Hogwarts robes, and had come back to school looking like he hadn't eaten all summer, just like last year.
Thanks to the diary, she knew a few things about child safety laws in the British Magical world, and they should have been up in arms about his condition. And that was even without considering his fame. But nobody was doing anything; they simply ignored that it was happening in the first place.
And it wasn't lost on her that they completely and utterly failed to even check him over after he was bit by an enormous basilisk…
That was enough to utterly destroy her trust in the staff of Hogwarts. Snape's presence and attitude had already done that partially, but this broke her trust completely. And sadly, her parents were in the same boat; it wasn't like they hadn't seen him up close and personal. They should have reported it to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, but she didn't think they'd done so.
Her entire family had been in on the lectures — including Bill, to her horror — and so she had nobody left to turn to. She was more than smart enough to know that they would do little more than tell her it was her own fault for being so foolish. There was no point in even trying.
Shaking her head, she tightened her Occlumency to hold back her emotions and resigned herself to another night spent crying into her pillow. The Occlumency skill was another holdover from the diary; she had picked it up from Tom. It was truly useful, and she couldn't see any way it could be Dark, but she wouldn't be able to verify that so long as she had those annoying girls sticking their noses into every bit of her business imaginable.
On this particular night, however, something was different.
The two had gone back down to the common room after seeing her to her dormitory — that was normal — but when she opened the curtain around her bed, she noticed an envelope nestled on her pillow. The only form of address was a large elegant cursive letter G in the center.
Frowning, she crawled in and closed the curtains, but refrained from touching it for the moment. She racked her brain to come up with some way to check it for magic, but had no idea how. If her family had taught her to be safe rather than lecturing her, she would have been much better off.
Seeing nothing for it, she hit it with a strong finite incantatem — it was the best she had in her arsenal — and then cautiously picked it up. It was a standard parchment envelope, so nothing special there. There was no indication whatsoever of who sent it.
She carefully opened the envelope and pulled out the parchment within, and settled down to read, curious as to who would have sent her a letter of any kind these days.
I'm not sure how to start this. I'm making assumptions, and while I think I'm right, I don't really know you. Please read this entire letter; that's all I ask of you.
First, the diary. Voldemort made it, and we both know how dangerous he is. That thing was completely and utterly evil.
I'm only guessing here, but I don't think he would make something like that without making sure it would be used. My guess is that it had some kind of spell on it to make people write in it. I know I wrote in it when I had it, and I don't think I normally would have.
You were a first year with no experience, and I think it was meant to do exactly what it did to you. And it was made by Voldemort himself. I don't think anyone could have beaten it without knowing who Tom Riddle was, or what it was supposed to do in the first place.
If nothing else, please believe me when I say that it was not your fault!
I guess someone isn't seeing that, though. I've noticed the girls watching you, and I can tell you don't want them around. I wish I could help you, but I don't know what I could possibly do. Associating with me might make things worse. I'm not sure.
One thing, though. If you don't want people to know you're annoyed with them, act normal even when you think nobody is looking. If I can see it then someone else can too, and it's hard to keep a secret in this castle. You have to be very careful.
I don't know if that matters to you, but I'm guessing it does.
I wish I could help you, but it's hard to get any time alone. I'm not sure, but being seen together might make things worse for both of us. If you have any suggestions, let me know.
This is probably the only way we can talk. I have a way of getting letters to you, and of collecting ones you leave for me. I won't tell you how. If anyone finds this, I don't want them knowing my secrets. You should probably burn or vanish this when you're done. That would be safer for us both. I spelled it so only you can read it, but I doubt it would stop someone like Dumbledore.
If you want to reply, leave it under your pillow (let me know if there's a better place). Any reply I send will go there too.
This way at least you have someone to talk to if you want.
I'm sure you know who I am, but I won't act any differently. I don't want to make things harder on you. Or on myself. People watch me far too closely.
I'm sorry you have to go through this. I can only hope that it will get better in time.
Ginny read the letter through several times, her emotions churning. Whoever this was not only didn't think she was at fault, but also understood what was going on. She drank in the sympathy, the first she'd had since the diary turned her life upside down.
She was very curious how this person could get letters to and from her in the girl's dorm; it shouldn't have been possible unless it was another girl, and none of the girls around her would ever consider consoling her in any way, shape, or form. And besides, she was almost certain she knew the writer.
It had to be Harry.
The only other person with that initial that knew anything about her — and was watched at all, let alone closely — was Hermione Granger. That girl would not have lifted a finger to help her. She was highly critical of everyone around her, her arrogance knowing no bounds — and she was ten times worse when not in Harry's presence.
Ginny had already had six different lectures from the girl this year alone.
So it wasn't Granger. And that left only one choice: Harry Potter. The boy who she'd had an unholy crush on until reality came crashing down on her head. She knew now that he was not the storybook hero — and that there was much more to him than anyone was likely aware of.
The presence of this letter said it all.
Taking his advice, she reluctantly vanished it. If he thought it would be bad for it to be found, she would take him at his word. That simple letter was worth more to her than he would probably ever know, and she would not leave even the smallest chance of getting him into trouble.
And she certainly planned to reply.
Besides, she needed to know for sure; her judgement was already suspected by many, and it wouldn't do to exhibit a lack of caution right now. No, she was going to have to do this carefully.
Quietly retrieving some parchment, she set about writing her reply:
Your letter means the world to me, and not for the reason my brothers would imply if you told them. First, I need to be certain that you are who I think you are. After the diary, I can't afford to take chances, so I need some form of proof. I know it can't be something that anyone else would think means anything.
There's an easy way to do that though…
A/N: A few months ago I paused to figure out a plot problem with Ancient Magic, and two days later lost my job due to the aftereffects of a merger. Changes in scenery or routine tend to mess up my muse, and I haven't quite been able to reengage with AM yet.
I've stared blankly at the screen a lot for the last few months, until now.
This beastie crawled out of my brain unexpectedly over the course of the last couple of weeks. Started typing on the 5th, finished on the 16th. 97K words, give or take. Much like Champions so long ago, it just flowed, pouring onto the page almost as fast as I could type it — except that in this case I made it all the way to the end, in spite of a complete and utter lack of planning and outlining. There were very few cuts and course corrections.
I just kinda happened.
So what is it?
Yet another Bad!Dumbledore H/G bond fic of course. There isn't much action, but I don't think I've gone so far as to make it a total fluff piece. Chapters range from short to average for my work. In then end, it's just me dancing in JKR's sandbox for a few days. I found it entertaining.
I am completely ignoring my usual process with this; normally I'd rewrite it a few times, add lots of detail, and make it much better, but I don't feel I can do that with this one. This is what it is. I also feel like the style is quite different from my usual stuff — less refined — but I'm leaving it this way on purpose.
It's finished, completely and totally, and I'm basically throwing the first draft to the wolves. The only things I will change during publishing are typos and minor errors, and that's very deliberate. Consider it my apology to you for getting stuck and having to delay AM.
I'll publish every day or two. I hope you enjoy it!
PS: Be sure that you're ready to steer around the multitude of plotholes that are likely to have infested this thing! =)