velvetfiction: (chocolate&magic)
[personal profile] velvetfiction
Title: Memento Mori
Author: [personal profile] velvetmouse
Recipient: [ profile] r_becca for the 2010 [ profile] springtime_gen exchange.
Character(s): Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter & Others
Rating: PG
Warnings: Very AU, bordering on crack!fic; the mental gymnastics required to deal with time travel cause-and-effect paradoxes; off-screen character death
Wordcount: 10,616
Summary: Voldemort is dead, and everyone can finally get on with their lives.  Years later, the Dark Lord's personal effects are found, and it seems that he recorded more than anyone guessed.  A tale of change, memory and immortality found in the written word.
Author's Notes: Consider this an alternate time-stream from what we know happened in canon; the reasons for the differences will be explained, but not until the end.
Betas: The always amazing S.

Voldemort was dead.  Harry found he had to keep repeating that, often aloud, to remind himself that it was real.
Voldemort was dead, but not without a price.  Too many had died in the final desperate assault on Hogwarts itself. 

Voldemort was dead and, with him, the remaining known Death Eaters.  But so was Tonks, leading the rear assault of Aurors, who came running at Dumbledore's frantic message.  So was Remus, last of the Marauders, as he settled a personal score, avenging James, Lily and Sirius.  Wormtail was dead, too.

Voldemort was dead, but the students paid their price as well.  When it was clear that the school was under attack, the younger students were shepherded off to the safety of their houses.  But nothing could stop the older students from staying to fight for their school and friends.

Neville had shown his true Gryffindor nature at last, boldly defending a stairwell long enough for a group of terrified first- and second-years to escape to their tower.  He had paid for his bravery with his life, but not before exacting some measure of payback for his parents - in his death, he took Bellatrix Lestrange tumbling down with him.  Blaise Zambini, too, died protecting members of his house, students whose parents he was probably defying with that very act.  Terry Boot, Dean Thomas, Tracey Davis, and more, were all caught in the crossfire of curses.  Both Patil twins were gone, Padma caught from behind with an errant curse, Parvati gone as she defended her sister's body.

Voldemort was dead, but in the end it had not been Harry who had dealt the final blow.  Dumbledore, in all his power, had taken on the Dark Lord, and their battle nearly brought down the castle itself. 

Debates raged as to whether or not this was a proper fulfillment of the prophecy.  Some argued that the prophecy merely said Harry had the power to defeat Voldemort, not that he was required to do so.  Others, that this "power" was not raw magical power, but the inspiration for those around him to stand up to the Dark Lord.  Yet others said that the prophecy clearly implied that Harry was the one to defeat Voldemort, so it was as yet unfulfilled.  And a small, but vocal, minority - made up of mostly Seers - claimed that prophecies were inescapable and since Voldemort was defeated with Harry involved, ergo, the prophecy was fulfilled.  For his part, Harry didn't particularly care. 

Voldemort was dead, but not without the highest price.  Dumbledore was dead, too.


The next days after the Final Battle were a blur of tears for most people - tears of joy, of relief, of pain.  Exams had been canceled and students and adults alike were using the last few days of the school year to begin the healing process.

Unfortunately, this was not an option for Harry.  First, there were the endless meetings with the Aurors, trying to establish what exactly had happened, how the school came to be under attack, who had defended it, if any Death Eaters had escaped. . . The only saving grace of these meetings, as far as Harry was concerned, was that Kingsley Shacklebolt quickly pulled rank as the most senior Auror on site and took charge of the investigation.  It was a small comfort, having a known friend and ally in charge of questioning him.

Of course, as soon as he was done with the official Ministry inquiry, Harry had to face a whole new round of questioning - this time, from the hordes of reporters that had descended upon the school.  Flanked by a grim-faced Shacklebolt and an equally somber Minerva McGonagall, The Boy Who Lived stepped out into the impromptu press conference to a flurry of questions.

Yes, Voldemort was dead.  No, as far as he knew, none of the Death Eaters escaped.  Yes, Dumbledore had been killed in the final duel, too.  No, of course he wasn't "thrilled" that it was over, how could he be "thrilled," when so many of his friends had been killed?  Shacklebolt and McGonagall stepped in rather quickly at that point.

This scenario repeated itself for nearly a week until the Aurors and Ministry finally ran out of questions and the reporters ran out of ways to ask Harry what his plans were now that Voldemort was dead.
Voldemort was dead, and Harry could finally live.


Senior Auror Potter sat at his desk, feet up, twiddling a pen between his fingers, and studying the cryptic missive that an owl had deposited on his desk earlier that morning.  Rereading it for the sixth time made it no more clear, so he set it aside.

"Vanessa," he called out to his secretary, "would you send Weasley in here?"

A moment later, his red-headed partner appeared in his doorway.

"What's up, boss?"

Harry smiled at the junior Auror.  "I got a message from your brother this morning."

"Which one?"

"Which one do you think?"

Weasley grinned.  "What's the prat have to say for himself?"

"That he's got a new foreclosure case that we might be interested in and he wants to talk to us about it."

"A foreclosure? What on earth. . .?"

"I dunno, he's the barrister.  That's all his message said.  Are you free for dinner tonight with him?"

"No, and neither are you," Vanessa interrupted, appearing in the doorway as well.  "You've all got dinner at Hogwarts tonight, remember?  Tenth anniversary of the Final Battle?"

Harry made a face.  Even after ten years, it still hurt to think about.  He wasn't sure he wanted to face all those people tonight - nor face who wouldn't be there. 

His partner gave him a sympathetic look.  "I know, Harry.  It's hard for everyone.  But we'll get to see Hermione, and Minerva.  And maybe even Snape."

"Oh frabjous day!  Alright, Vanessa, why don't we do this: You know better than I do when we're both free, so why don't you find a night when Delmonico's has that little room in the back available?  I have a feeling we're going to want some privacy for this discussion.  I'd like this to happen in the next week if possible, so use my name if you have to."

"Don't I always?" Vanessa asked archly.

"Yeah, yeah.  Anyway, when you've got the reservation, would you owl Ron for me and let him know where and when?"

"Will do."

"Thanks." Harry turned to his partner.  "So I'll see you tonight at Hogwarts, Gin?"

Ginny Weasley smiled.  "You bet.  But meanwhile, I've got the paperwork from the Houghton case to finish up.  I'll see you tonight, Harry."


The Great Hall was more full than Ginny ever remembered seeing it.  In addition to all the students - more numerous now than ever - there were alumni, press and Ministry dignitaries crowding the tables.

Scanning the Hall, she spotted Harry hovering on the edges of the room, apparently hoping to remain inconspicuous. She watched as he sneaked along the wall towards the safety of the Head Table, and had to laugh when he was accosted by a man in bright blue robes and a press pass. Her amusement drew the attention of Hermione, who spotted Harry's predicament and sighed in exasperation.

"Excuse me while I go rescue our wayward hero," she said and waded off through the crowd.

"Honestly, you'd think a senior Auror would be able to keep himself out of trouble," Ginny heard Hermione say as they approached the table a few moments later.

"Well, you know me.  I've never been able to do that," Harry replied.

"So I've noticed.  Good thing you had me around all those years."

Ginny tuned out the rest of their conversation and instead observed the sea of faces in front of her. She saw many familiar faces as she scanned the crowds.  She smiled at Susan Bones, who stood chatting with some current Hufflepuffs; nodded as Justin Finch-Fletchley pressed his way through the masses, like a salmon swimming upstream.  Ginny even thought she caught sight of Millicent Bulstrode and Su Li, but they disappeared into the throng before she could be sure.

Everyone, it seemed, had shown up.  And why not?  They were celebrating the defeat of Voldemort, ten years of peace, ten years without fear.

"I see you have found our errant Auror.  Thank you, Hermione." The Headmistress's comment brought Ginny's focus back to those at the Head Table.


"Minerva." Harry greeted her warmly with an embrace and a kiss on the cheek. 

"Still need to be rescued, I see.  One would have hoped you had grown out of that unfortunate trait, Potter."

"Snape," Harry acknowledged the man with a nod and a faint smile.  "Hermione's a librarian, though, and finding things is what she does best." The hostility that had marred Harry's school relationship with the Potions Master had largely abated with Voldemort's death; they might never be best friends, but they could - and often did - hold perfectly pleasant conversations. Indeed, it was from Snape that Harry had learned some of his favorite stories about his mother.

"Indeed.  Speaking of finding things," Snape turned to Hermione, "I wonder if I might speak with you about several texts I am looking for."

"Certainly, Professor Snape.  After supper, if you wish."  Snape nodded in agreement and faded from the conversation to join his colleagues already seated at the table.

"He certainly changed after the battle, didn't he?" Harry murmured, watching the dark man chat pleasantly with another professor.

"We all have, Harry," the last member of the group answered.  Ron Weasley smiled at his best friend and a slight wave of his hand seemed to encompass the changes evident in Snape's demeanor, Harry's job and the cane he himself leaned heavily upon.  "You're the only one who has ended up even close to where we would have guessed, ten years ago.  Well, you and Hermione, I suppose."

"True.  Minerva, shall we get this circus under way?"

McGonagall nodded.  "Your seat is next to mine, Harry," she instructed and moved towards her position at the middle of the table.  Hermione made her way to her customary seat at one end of the table, while Harry offered Ron his arm, helping his friend up onto the dais.  Having got Ron comfortably settled, cane easily within reach, Harry made his way to his place of honor next to the Headmistress.

When everyone at the High Table had been seated, McGonagall stood up and tapped her glass for attention.  The murmurs slowly died down and silence fell across the Great Hall.

"Thank you all for joining us this evening.  We are here to commemorate and celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the Final Battle and the defeat of the Dark Wizard Voldemort."  Even now, Harry could see more than one person cringe at the mention of that name. 

"Although I expect that the current students are largely too young to remember that day," Minerva continued, "I have no doubt that the rest of our distinguished visitors each have their own memories.  Like any great moment in history, the knowledge of where we were, what we were doing that day, when we learned that Voldemort had been finally killed, will remain with us forever.  This celebration tonight is a chance for us to share our memories with each other and with the next generation of wizards and witches so that, collectively, we as a society will never forget.  It is now my great pleasure to introduce a dear friend and Hogwarts alumnus, Senior Auror Harry Potter."

Harry stood amidst deafening applause.

"It has been ten years since the Final Battle, ten years since the defeat of Voldemort.  As a good friend of mine commented earlier tonight, a lot has changed in that time.  I know some of us never expected to be standing here today."  He avoided looking at Snape as he said this.

"But it is for those who are not with us today that we really come together.  Those of us who survived did so because we were lucky, in the right place at the right time, not because we were destined to live or even deserved to more than another. And those who died did so because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, not because they deserved it, no matter which side they were fighting on.  So as I look around at all those gathered here today, I will be remembering those who cannot be here - Nymphadora Tonks, Hestia Jones, Samuel Dawkings, and the other Aurors who were killed as they came to our aid; the Longbottoms, the Bones, and Cedric Diggory, all slain before their time; my classmates on both sides of the battle, fighting for what they had been taught to believe in.  And most of all I will remember Albus Dumbledore, whose sacrifice enabled us to be here today."

There was a moment of stunned silence after he sat, but slowly one person began to clap, followed by another and another, until the Great Hall swelled with sound. Eventually, McGonagall cleared her throat and, with a sidelong glance at Harry, calmly announced that dinner was served.  Normal conversation slowly resumed as food appeared on the tables.  The evening was officially under way.


Ginny tossed her cloak over a peg and collapsed on the couch.  Her London flat was dark, illuminated only by the sickly light of the streetlamp outside.

She knew she ought to change out of her good robes, turn on the lights, do dishes, do paperwork, any one of a million little things.  Not able to muster the energy to do any of it, she simply sat there in the dark, trying not to think.

The "celebratory" dinner had been grueling for her.  Kingsley had been less than impressed with her partner's speech.  She winced at the memory.  It had taken all of her persuasion to convince their boss not to go chew out Harry for not following departmental policy right then and there.

It was one of the few on-going fights between the head of the DMLE and his most famous Auror. Shacklebolt was of the opinion that anyone who followed the late Voldemort deserved whatever they got; Harry rejected that idea in favor of a more shaded outlook on the world. He pointed out (correctly, to Ginny's mind) that few of their classmates could have been expected to stand up against their parents and a lifetime of teachings. Therefore, he argued, they should be mourned, along with all the others killed in the war, perhaps more so than anyone else.

The rest of the evening had been spent drifting from one knot of people to another, dodging reporters and friendly inquiries about Harry.  It seemed no matter what she did with her life, whether it was playing Quidditch for the Harpies or being an Auror for the Ministry, she was linked to Harry Potter.  It was fortunate they got along well, despite their on-again off-again relationship.

An excited hoot interrupted her reverie.  Ginny opened her eyes slowly and saw a small owl bouncing in the open window. 

"Hallo, Bear," she greeted him, and the bird rocketed towards her.  Catching him deftly in one hand, she gently detached the message from his leg and tossed him towards the kitchen.  The owl plummeted nearly to the floor before he caught himself and continued his hyperactive journey to the owl treats on the counter.

As she laughed at Bear's antics, Ginny wondered how her brother found these owls.  First there was Pigwidgeon, and now Bear, who seemed to be trying to outdo his predecessor as a small feathery pinball.  Shaking her head, Ginny opened the message.

Light your fireplace, Gin, Ron's scrawling handwriting said, I want to talk to you.

Depositing the note in the rubbish bin, Ginny rolled her eyes.  It was too damn hot to light a fire, and she knew that they both had perfectly functional mobile phones.  Unless Ron had stayed at Hogwarts.  They still hadn't figured out how to eliminate the interference from so much highly concentrated magic; that was one of Hermione's current side projects, and if anyone could figure it out, it was her sister-in-law.

"Bother," she swore, and tore a piece of scrap paper, hastily scribbling a reply.


In far less time than it should have taken, an exhausted but still exuberant owl landed on the sill of Minerva McGonagall's study.  With a tired hoot, Bear gratefully took off to the school Owlery for a well-deserved rest, while his owner perused the note he had brought.

"Ginny being stubborn again?" Hermione asked as Ron rolled his eyes at the short missive. 

"She is a Weasley, Ms. Granger.  How could she be anything but stubborn?" a low voice in the chair next to her inquired.

Ron shrugged cheerfully.  "You would know, Severus.  You've put up with enough of us."

"And no doubt will be starting on the next generation soon," the Potions Master commented dryly, but without rancor.

"What did Ginny say?" the owner of the room asked from her armchair by the fire. Even in summer, an old castle in the Scottish Highlands required fires to be lit in the evenings.

"That it's too darn hot to light a fire and I can bloody well go down to Hogsmeade and use my mobile if I want to talk to her that badly."

"Don't bother."  Hermione dismissed the idea with a sniff and held out her hand to Ron.  Pulling him down onto the sofa next to her, she leaned back against him comfortably.  "You can talk to her tomorrow just as well.  A few hours isn't going to change anything.  She isn't Harry's keeper, you know."

"No, but she is his partner.  Did you see Kingsley's face when he heard Harry's speech?  I thought he was going to storm up to the table and chew him out right there."

"Mr. Shacklebolt always did have a temper, if I recall.  Poor Pomona had her hands full dealing with him on occasion.  Loyal as they come, but stubborn as their house emblem, that one is.  But that is neither here nor there." The Headmistress changed the subject with a wave of her hand.  "Our concern right now should be with any - ah - ramifications, shall we say? - of Harry's speech."

"Yeah, I'd like to ram him something alright," Ron said darkly.  "What was he thinking, to go off like that?"

"He wasn't, love.  That was the problem."  Hermione tugged at a lock of her unruly hair and began chewing on the end of it.  "We know he's always felt strongly that everyone on both sides deserved to be mourned," she continued as Ron absently removed the hair from her mouth.  "He's like Dumbledore that way. It's just unfortunate that Ministry policy doesn't see things that way."

"I think part of the problem is that we still expect him to be too many things all at once," Ron said thoughtfully. "He's supposed to be 'The Boy Who Lived,' great savior of the Wizarding World. He's also supposed to be Senior Auror Potter, representative of the Ministry. As with most people, his personal opinions don't always match up with the official ones. Unfortunately, unlike most people, his opinion still gets plastered on every surface you can find, whether it's sanctioned or not."

Hermione chuckled slightly. "Poor Harry. He never wanted to be in the spotlight at all."

There was an indelicate snort from the vicinity of the Potions Master.

Hermione grinned.  "Well, alright, maybe he didn't mind it when he was on the pitch, but that was Quidditch.  My point is, he didn't want to be 'The Boy Who Lived' or any of the rest of it.  Prophecy or no, he just wanted to fit in and be known for himself, not something that happened when he was a baby."

"After the Final Battle," Ron agreed, "he was so happy that he could finally get on with his life and do something for himself for a change.  He's always resented reminders that he's different or special.  I guess tonight he was just speaking as Harry before he could engage the Ministry-approved filters." He shrugged.  "I'm having dinner with him in a couple of days, I'll see how he is then."  Then he made a face.  "Not that Harry's going to like what I have to tell him very much."


Ron glanced at the open door of the study.  Snape rose and prudently shut it.

"We finally got our hands on the Riddle house," Ron said quietly.  "I was able to get enough of the paperwork - both Wizard and Muggle - to prove that taxes haven't been paid on the property for at least twenty years.  With some fast talking to a contact of mine, Gringotts was able to repossess the house.  As much as Riddle might have wanted to distance himself from his father's name, he certainly wasn't above using that house to his advantage.  If we're going to find out anything more about him, it'll be in that house."

"Tread carefully, Mr. Weasley," Snape cautioned.  "Merlin only knows what kinds of traps and horrors he left behind."

"I know.  That's why we sent my brother in with a team of Aurors last week.  Bill said they were able to clean up most of the house.  However, they couldn't get into the top floor at all.  He said the door is just there, locked.  Nothing seems remarkable about it, except for the fact that it simply will not open.  At all."

"Curious," Snape said.  "So you propose to do what the wizarding world always does when confronted with a problem of Voldemort's devising - throw Harry Potter at it."

Ron grinned unabashedly.  "Exactly.  Harry won't like it much, but I have a hunch we're going to need him there.  So I'd like to take him and Ginny, and you, sir, if you're willing, to go look at the house sometime next week."


"You want me to WHAT?"  The small back room in the Italian restaurant rang with the shout.

"Calm down, Harry.  I'm asking you and Ginny to accompany me to the Riddle house."

"No way. No way. No way."

"Harry. . ."

"No, Ron.  I won't do it.  I don't want anything more to do with Voldemort.  Ever.  Haven't I given enough because of that bloody man?"

Brother and sister exchanged worried looks.

"Harry, what's wrong?"  Ginny asked her partner gently.  "I haven't seen you this worked up over anything in a long time."

Harry looked at the concerned faces of his partner and best friend and took a deep, calming breath. 
"N-nothing, really.  Just tired, that's all."  He forced a slight smile.  "So you really want to drag me off to the Riddle house, huh?"

Ron nodded.  "I really think you need to go, Harry.  Bill couldn't get into the top floor at all, and you know how rare that is.  You're the only Parseltongue that we know of, and what if that's how he locked it?  Besides, you're one of the best Aurors out there.  Everyone knows that."

Harry looked back and forth from the solemn face of his best friend to the worried one of his partner, and sighed.  "I don't really have a choice do I?   Time for the Boy-Who-Couldn't-Get-Away-From-Bloody-Voldemort to make another appearance, eh?"

"Harry. . ." Ginny said reproachfully.

Harry waved off whatever comment she would have made and applied himself to the meal in front of him.

The trio ate in silence for a few moments before Ron cleared his throat. "So. . . meet me at 1:00 next Thursday, and we'll take a Portkey to Little Hangleton?"

Harry shrugged noncommittally, and his partner sighed in exasperation. "Yes, Ron, that sounds fine. I'll check with Vanessa in the morning, but I believe Harry and I are both free then. Is anyone else coming with us?"

"Er, actually, I asked Snape to join us as well."

"Joy," Harry replied sourly, not looking up.

"Hermione might come also, if she can get someone to watch the library," his friend added brightly.
"Oh, speaking of unpleasant topics, the twins want to know if you're free for an R&D weekend sometime soon, Harry." All the Weasleys knew that Harry, as the silent partner in the twins' business, occasionally helped them out with their products.

Harry's face brightening immediately. "Sure, I think I can. But why is that an unpleasant topic?"

"Because I'm the one who gets stuck watching Gabriel, Remy and Padma," Ron said, making a face.

Ginny laughed. "Aw, you know you love your nephews and niece!"

"Yeah, you're not the one who gets stuck watching the holy terrors every time the twins need to take a weekend to do work."

"Why don't Angie and Laura watch them?" Harry asked, slightly confused.

"Because the only way the twins can get away with taking a whole weekend to do work is to bribe their wives with a spa weekend at the same time," Ginny explain with a wicked grin. "And the girls won't trust anyone but Hermione to watch the kids. They think the rest of us will be a bad influence on them."

"How anyone of you could be a worse influence than their own fathers, I'll never know."

"Hey, mate, you're the one who talked Remus into giving the Marauders' journals to the twins. Don't talk to us about being a bad influence!"

Harry's mood lightened considerably, and the rest of the meal was spent talking of inconsequential matters. But after Harry had left, the siblings spent a long while sitting at the table in silence, occasionally exchanging worried looks. Something was clearly wrong with their friend.


It was a solemn and tense group that appeared in the back garden of the Riddle house. Harry was grim-faced, and Ginny had barely got three words out of him all day. As soon as they landed, he strode for the back door. Once there, he started to open the door but then paused and turned to wait for Ron, who was proceeding at a more sedate pace.

"You said Bill cleared out everything up to the top floor?" Harry asked once his friend was within quiet-speaking distance.

Ron nodded. "It should be safe, they cleaned it out pretty good. Why don't you guys go ahead? Negotiating the stairs will take me a bit, and I know you want to get out of here."

"You and Severus go ahead," Ginny told Harry firmly. "I'll stay with Ron. I don't think we should get too separated, even so," she said with a shudder. Something about the house was definitely setting her on edge.

With a nod, the two dark-haired men set off into the house, leaving the two red-heads behind.

Ginny smiled at her brother. "Ready?"

Ron took a deep breath. "Yeah, I guess so." He visibly steeled himself and then started up the back stairs, one painful step at a time.

"Did you ever find out why Harry is being such a bear about all this?" he asked.

Ginny sighed and rolled her eyes. "Yes and no. He claims he's just stressed out because he's been trying to get through a back-log of paperwork, and we all know how much he loves doing that. Personally, I think all this Ten-Year Anniversary stuff is getting to him more than he's willing to admit."

"Could be. Remember how he always got around Halloween? Everyone else would be celebrating, and he never could because he felt like it dishonored the memory of his parents."

"Same thing, you reckon?"

Ron nodded, and the siblings proceeded a few more steps in silence.

"Have you looked into Muggle techniques for fixing your hip?" Ginny asked curiously as Ron paused for breath on the first-floor landing. She knew that magical healing had done all it could after her brother's awful fall from his broom during a Cannons’ game. It had saved his life, but even magic could not help with the limp he would forever have.

"I know Hermione's researched it, but frankly, the odds she was telling me about don't inspire a lot of confidence. Besides, I still don't particularly like the idea of someone cutting me open and mucking around with my innerds," he replied with a shudder.

"Fair enough. I just wish you'd let me levitate you. These stairs must be killing you."

"I've seen your levitation spells, Gin. No thanks. Shall we be off, then?"

"Fine," Ginny huffed as they made their slow way up the next flight. "But will you at least let Harry float you down?"

"I'll think about it," Ron grunted.


By the time they reached the door at the top of the attic stairs, it stood open, and Harry and Snape were each casting a barrage of detection spells at the open portal.

"Any luck?" Ron asked quietly when both men had lowered their wands.

"You were right, Ron," Harry replied absently, still mostly focused on the door. "All it took was a simple Parseltongue 'open' and it was fine. I'm not even seeing any additional protections on it." He glanced at Snape.

"Nor am I. He appears to have trusted that Parseltongue would be enough defense."

"Odd," Ron said. "After he came back, he had to have found out that Harry was one too, right? Surely he would have changed it then?"

Ginny shook her head. "Not really. Tom was arrogant, supremely confident that no one was as smart or crafty as he. He would not have wanted to dwell on the night he became a wraith. If he thought about it at all, it would only be to try to piece together what went wrong on his end; it would never occur to him to wonder what might have happened to Harry. And I can't imagine any of his followers would have approached him with the news."

"Never," Snape said firmly. "To do so, to imply that anyone might possess the same talents as the Dark Lord, was tantamount to requesting a bout with his Cruciatus Curse."

"Shall we get this over with, then?" Harry asked, clearly impatient to be done.

The four cautiously entered the upper-most room of the house. It was a small room, with low, slanting ceilings, and one lone window nestled under the eaves for light. Set up as a study, there was a desk and chair below the window and bookshelves lined the other two walls. There was an easy chair and a side-table, the former looking somewhat battered and worn, the latter bearing a book and an empty glass.

"Looks remarkably normal, doesn't it?" Snape asked in a quiet voice. To speak too loudly through the dusty gloom was anathema.

"It makes him seem almost human," Ron agreed.

Just then, Harry hissed something, causing the other three to jump.

"Merlin, Harry," Ginny grumbled as the ambient light level rose, "warn a body before you do that."

"Sorry," he said almost sheepishly. "So, what are we looking for here? Or did you just need me to get you in?"

"We mostly needed you to let us in. Everything here technically belongs to Gringotts now, so we'll send a team of curse-breakers and accountants over to inventory everything up here, and they can decide where it will all go."

"Um, Ron? You might want to hold off on that," Ginny said. Her voice was tight and pitched slightly too high. The men in the room turned to where she was staring at one wall. She pointed with a trembling finger.

There, along one shelf of a bookcase, were volume after volume of slim, black books, each with a year carefully embossed on the spine.

"Blimey," exclaimed Ron upon seeing the shelf. "What did V-Voldemort do, keep yearbooks?"

"No," Harry replied in a voice as clipped as Ginny's had been. "They're diaries."

"Well." Ron opened his mouth to continue but then closed it again. The others were similarly at a loss.

They stood staring at the shelf for a moment and then, before anyone could stop her, Ginny reached up and pulled off a volume.


Three masculine shouts tried to stop her, but she just gave them an irritated glance.

"I'm glad to see you all have such confidence in me," she said as she sat down in the armchair, diary in her lap.

"But you don't know what might have happened! How could you just pick it up like that?" Harry berated his partner. "You know what happened last-"

"Better than you, I'll warrant," she snapped back. "And I'll have you know that while you three were goggling at the rest of the room, I was running detection spells. There are no protections on them, just like there were none on the door. Look, we're going to have to open them up sometime. Who knows what he might have in there? We still don't know a lot of what he did to himself, or why he did it. Some of those answers might be in there."

"Then better they should stay buried," Harry mumbled, still scowling at his partner.

Ron and Snape watched the by-play with interest. "I think Ginny's right, mate. We don't understand a lot of what Riddle did or how he did it. What if he has another way of bringing himself back? Wouldn't you want to know about it? Wouldn't you want to know, in case someone else tries to do what he did?"

"Once knowledge has been discovered," Snape added, "it cannot be re-hidden. Whatever the Dark Lord did can be done by others. The only way you can fight that is to have access to the same knowledge - and learn how to combat it."

Harry groaned and lightly banged his head against the bookcase.

"Stop being so melodramatic," Ginny said with a roll of her eyes. "Now, are you going to make me open this thing by myself, or can I get a little support here?" There was a slight tremble underneath her light words.

The three men gathered around the chair, and she carefully opened the book in her lap. No one was surprised to be confronted with a blank page. Ginny stared at it for a moment before she was distracted by the rustle of fabric. She turned to see Ron fishing around in the bag that he had brought.

"Ah ha! I knew I had one in here!" he exclaimed triumphantly and handed his sister a fountain pen. "Much more practical than carrying around quills and an ink pot."

Ginny smiled, knowing of her brother's predilection for the writing implements, which dated back to his time in the Department of Law at the London School of Economics. His then-fianceé had pointed out that quills and parchment would completely out of place in the Muggle school, but that a fountain pen could be written off as a personal quirk.

She sat with the pen paused above the page for a moment, and then, with an almost wistful smile on her face, carefully wrote, Hello, Tom.

Everyone in the room held their breath as the writing hovered on the page for a moment and then seemed to get sucked into the page. A moment later, the neat, precise writing of Tom Riddle appeared. Hello. You seem to have me at a disadvantage. You obviously know my name, but I do not know yours.

"Well, I guess that answers that question," said Ron.

Ginny closed the diary and examined it thoughtfully. "Ron, can I keep these? I'll even come to Gringotts to work on them, but I really don't think we should let anyone else see these."

"Are you mad?" Harry looked at his partner askance. "Why would you want to do something like that?"

"Because I, unlike some people, want to understand what happened, not ignore it. I've been studying everything I can find about Riddle. I need to understand him. He's just as much a part of my life as he is of yours, Harry. Only, unlike you, I'm not running away from that part!"

Snape placed a restraining hand on Harry's shoulder before the Auror could respond.

"I'd like to keep everything in Gringotts, if only for the safety reasons. But I can put you down as a special consultant for this collection. Let's get them cataloged and then get out of here."


It took Ginny the better part of two months before she was able to reach any conclusions about the Riddle diaries, and the conclusions she found herself drawing were disturbing, to say the least. As much as she hated to admit it, it was time to call in some other opinions.

Two brief Floo calls later and Ginny sat behind the desk in the Gringotts office that Ron had provided her, and pondered how best to present her case. Neither of the men she had called were going to be pleased by what she had to say.

The sound of the door opening pulled her from her thoughts and she smiled at the two dark-haired men who entered the room. They were so much alike in so many ways - not that either of them would ever admit that; but to Ginny, who knew each of them better than perhaps anyone else alive, the similarities were obvious.

"Severus, Harry," she greeted them and then retreated to the sideboard to pour three cups of tea. Fixing each cup to its recipient’s preferences, she carried two over to her guests and, ignoring the looks Harry was giving her, went back for her own cup.

"As you know," she began slowly, "I've been working with Riddle's diaries. It was my hope that I might find something in them to explain how he managed to survive as a wraith for all those years. I think I've figured it out. Do either of you know what a Horcrux is?"

Harry blinked in obvious confusion. "A Hor-what?"

Snape, however, paled and swallowed hard. "A Horcrux, Potter. The darkest of Dark magic, a way of splitting one's soul and anchoring it in an object."

"And by anchoring part of your soul, that would allow you to, say, survive a Killing Curse being rebounded back onto you?" Harry asked. He had stopped pretending to be stupid a long time ago, for which Ginny (and, no doubt, Snape) was grateful.


"I'm still not sure how he found out about Horcruxes, but the diary I had in my first year was one," Ginny continued. "That was the first - and only - one he ever made. But the reason he chose to use the diary is perhaps even more interesting."

"How so?" Snape asked.

"He had already imbued that diary - and all of the subsequent ones - with his own memories and personality. He treated them as sort of a combination Pensive and portrait."

"How in Merlin's name did he manage that?"

"The ink," Ginny explained with a slight smile. Despite the seriousness of the topic, it really was fascinating. "He managed to imbue the ink with all sorts of properties, so that when he used it to write in the diary, he could cast spells and get the effect he wanted."

"But how does that make it a Horcrux?" asked Harry.

"It doesn't. Making a Horcrux requires the violent death of another person to generate the necessary power to split a soul. In Tom's case, he tracked down his father and grandparents shortly after leaving Hogwarts. He killed all three, although I don't know which one in particular was used to create the Horcrux." She paused and shuddered, not only at the subject matter, but the fact that she was able to talk about it so easily. "But the point is, when he decided to make a Horcrux, Tom decided to use a vessel that already had some of his essence in him, thinking it might make the process easier."

"Fascinating," said Snape.

"Are you sure he made only one? What if each of these diaries is a Horcrux?" A slight note of panic crept into Harry's voice, and even Snape looked concerned at the possibilities.

"He didn't," Ginny said firmly. "He only made the one. He was very clear on that. He decided that the cost to himself, to his own power, was too great. Having made one, he decided that he could then look for other ways to achieve immortality. I don't think he ever expected to actually need his Horcrux."

"So he can't come back again, right?"

"No, Harry, he can't." Ginny reached over and patted her partner's hand. "You destroyed one bit of his soul when we were in the Chamber, and Dumbledore destroyed the other. There isn't enough left in all these diaries combined to bring him back."

"As interesting as this all is, why exactly did you call us here, Miss Weasley?"

Ginny turned to face her former professor. "I want to make the ink."

"What? Why?" Harry nearly shouted, clearly uncomfortable with the idea.

Snape merely raised an eyebrow. "Explain."

"I've been able to get a lot of information out of these diaries, just by writing to them, and coaxing the answers out that way. No," she held up a hand when Harry looked like he was going to protest, "they don't have the same soul-draining effect that the first one did. That was an effect of the Horcrux. Believe me, I would know what that felt like again. However, I'm sure there is a lot more that could be found out from them. I think if one were to use the same kind of ink that Tom used, the diaries would be even more interactive - possibly to the extent of showing whole memories."

"He did that to me," Harry said suddenly, sitting up straighter. "After you threw the diary away, he showed me his memory of when he confronted Hagrid. 'Take you inside the memory' is what he called it, I think."

"What was it like?" Ginny asked eagerly.

Harry thought for a moment. "Just like a Pensive, really. I could see and hear everything but couldn't interact with anyone there. I followed Riddle as he went from the Headmaster's office down the corridors, so I don't know if I could have gone anywhere that Riddle wasn't. I'm inclined to think not, though."

"Amazing. I haven't been able to get him to draw me into any memories. The best I can do is watch them on the page, like a television screen."

"Perhaps the extra power from the Horcrux allowed him to actually pull Harry in?" Snape asked, looking interested despite himself.

"Possibly," Ginny agreed. "That's why I'm wondering if using the same ink that Tom did will make a difference. Besides, can you imagine the possibilities of this ink? It could be really beneficial."

"Very well," Snape said, although he did not look pleased about it. "But I insist on looking over the formula before you attempt it."

Ginny blew out a sigh of relief. "That's what I was hoping you'd say. This is what I was able to get out of Tom," she said, sliding a piece of parchment across the desk. "But I don't trust him to have told me the entire truth. Something about it is - off."

Snape nodded and stashed the parchment in his robes. "I will let you know when I have completed my analysis. I assume that you would prefer to be the one to brew it?"


"Then you shall use my lab. This will be done under my supervision, or not at all." With a nod to both Aurors, Snape left the office.

As soon the door closed, Harry turned to Ginny with a scowl. "I don't like this."

Ginny simply stared at him coldly. "I don't recall asking your opinion."

"Then why the hell did you ask me here? Please, Gin, just drop it." His voice went from angry to pleading. "Just forget Riddle, the diaries, the whole thing. He's gone now."

"No, Harry, I can't. He's not gone, not for me. I have lived with the consequences of what he did to me every day for the last fifteen years. I need to understand him, what he did and how he did it." She looked at her partner sadly. "I would have thought that you, of all people, would understand that."

"Well, I'm not stuck in the past like you seem to be. I'm actually living my life."

"Out. Now," Ginny said through gritted teeth. "Get out now before I hex you. That was uncalled for and you know it."

"Fine. But don't expect me to help you with this stupidity."

Ginny winced as the door slammed and dropped her head onto the cool smoothness of her desk.


Much to Snape's displeasure, both Potter and the Headmistress insisted on being present in his lab. Potter was still not pleased with what his partner was doing, but seemed resigned to it. Snape didn't blame him. Talking the youngest Weasley out of something once she had set her mind to it was not something even he felt capable of. They watched as Ginny confidently moved around, and even he could find little to criticize as he watched his former student prepare the potion.

"She's nearly as good as you were at that age," McGonagall said quietly to the Potions Master.

"Naturally," he replied without batting an eye. "Otherwise, I would not have apprenticed her." Harry could only turn to the older man with his jaw hanging. "Close your mouth, Potter, you are not a codfish."

"Apprentice?" was all Harry could manage.

Snape looked at him oddly. "Did you really not know that Miss Weasley spent a year of her training as my apprentice? I'm amazed at you, Potter. I would have thought you'd have found out a little more about your partner. Besides, did you really think I would simply offer up my labs to any Auror who happened by?"

Harry could not think of a reply to that.

Ginny, oblivious to or simply ignoring the discussion in the doorway, continued to work with a calm serenity. The recipe itself was not overly complicated, nor were the ingredients anything unusual. The trick lay in the careful timing that was needed and the additional spells that were cast into the ink as it was being brewed.

After an hour of careful work, she shut off the heat under the cauldron and carefully ladled out some of the ink into a clear bowl. It looked much like other ink, except for the slightly metallic sheen it had when the light hit it at a certain angle.

"Well, here goes," Ginny said and dipped a quill into the bowl. She thought for a moment and then wrote several lines on a piece of parchment, set aside the quill, and tapped her wand to her temple, much like someone would do to withdraw a memory for a Pensive.

"Can someone try this? I set it up so that it should display the memory on the parchment, not suck you in."

The three others in the room crowded around the table. Cautiously, McGonagall picked up the quill and wrote Hello, Ginny. What do you have there? in her elegant, flowing script.

There was a pause as the words were sucked into the page, and then Ginny's own handwriting started to appear. Hello, Headmistress. I think you'd really like to see this memory. May I show it to you?

Please do.

As soon as those words disappeared into the page, they were replaced, not by more words, but by an image. They watched in awe as Ginny's memory of her Sorting played out across the page.

As the page went dark, they were startled by an enthusiastic whoop and turned to find Ginny happily dancing around the room.

"It worked, it worked, it worked!" she sang. Harry openly chuckled at her; despite his reservations about the whole project, his partner's celebration was contagious. The two professors were both hard-pressed to keep straight faces as well.

"Well done, indeed, Miss Weasley," McGonagall said. "But where did you come up with this idea?"

Ginny shared a quick glance with Harry and Snape. "The idea was actually Tom Riddle's. But it's perfectly safe," she hastened to assure the Headmistress, who hissed at the name. "Severus and I both went through the formula many times. There's nothing harmful about it at all. All it does is captures the memories and a little bit of the personality of the writer, just like a Pensive or a portrait would. And it only does that if you add the appropriate spells. Otherwise, it just does that cool swirly thing to protect the privacy of the writer."

"Amazing! And Riddle came up with this just out of Hogwarts?" McGonagall marveled.

"While he was still there, actually," Ginny corrected. "Remember, he created the diary we dealt with while he was only in his sixth year." She paused to consider this. "He was brilliant, really. Deranged and sick, but brilliant."

"You sound like Ollivander," Harry muttered.

"So what now?" Snape asked his former apprentice.

"Now I see what other secrets this ink helps me reveal."


Ginny waited behind her desk at Gringotts for her partner to arrive, and resisted the urge to page nervously. She hadn't given him any details, only that she needed to talk to him. She knew she couldn't fully explain things to him - indeed, she wasn't even quite sure how she had come up with the idea herself. It was just something that Harry had said, about being sucked into the diary, that kept sticking with her. What she wanted to do now was outrageous, outlandish and possibly suicidal.

She gripped the arms of her chair tightly as she heard the door start to open. She had played this conversation out in her head many times, and knew approximately how her partner was going to react - and he was not going to be happy.

"You're going to WHAT?" Harry squawked. Nope, not happy at all.

"Enter one of the diaries - probably the earliest one - and see if I can change what happened," Ginny replied calmly.

"And by doing so, you're going to be polluting the time-line! You'll be displaced in time, stranded! You're not going to have a 'present' to come back to!"


Harry stared at her, stunned, and then gamely rallied. "No, Gin. I cannot allow you to do that."

She raised a delicate eyebrow. "Cannot allow? Harry, partner and friend you may be, but you're in no position to forbid me to do anything."

"I am your senior partner," he growled.

"And if I were acting in my official capacity as an Auror, then that would apply. But I'm not. As of the end of this month, I have resigned my position. I turned in my letter to Kingsley this morning."

Harry opened his mouth several times, but no words came out.

Ginny crossed the room and gently took her friend's hands. "Harry, please. I have to do this."

He looked at her in despair. "But I love you. Doesn't that matter?"

She leaned forward and kissed him gently. "I still love you too, Harry, and I always will. That's why I have to do this. If there's even a chance that I can stop Tom - stop him from gaining followers the first time, stop him from becoming Voldemort at all, then I have to take it."

"But why? He's gone now, really and truly this time. For ten years now he's been gone."

She looked at him sadly. "If you could have grown up with your parents, if you could have been raised in the wizarding world, with your mum and dad, and Uncles Sirius, Remus, and Peter, wouldn't you take it? If you could bring back everyone who has been killed, wouldn't you?"

"But you don't know that you can make that happen! What if they get killed anyway? What if they never have me? Hell, what if they're never born in the first place?"

"Isn't that a risk you'd be willing to take? If it could mean saving hundreds - maybe thousands - of lives, wouldn't you do it?"

Harry opened his mouth to argue, but then closed it again. He shoulders slumped, and Ginny knew she had won.

"I still don't like it," he grumbled. "I still think it's way too much of a risk."

"I know, Harry," she said wrapping her arms around him. "But I need to do this. I need to be free of him. You can understand that, can't you?"

He sighed into her hair and kissed the top of her head. They stood there for the longest time before Harry slowly disentangled himself and slipped out of the room, neither one saying a word.


"You want to WHAT?" Snape demanded.

Ginny sighed and pushed through the disorienting sense of déjà vu she just experienced. "Use a modified version of the ink Tom used to create the diaries to let me enter his timeline."

"Leaving aside the consequences of this insanity, how exactly do you propose to make that work?"

"We already know that he left little bits of his essence and memories in each of those diaries. We know that, along with some help from the Horcrux, he used the ink both to pull himself into our time, and to show Harry events in his." Snape nodded grudgingly.

"When he - when he possessed me," Ginny continued, swallowing hard, "he left a bit of himself in me. It's always been there, in the back of my mind. It's not a Horcrux, but it's more than what he left in the diaries. I think I can use that little piece of him to connect with him through the remaining diaries - rather than pulling him here, it'll pull me in, like he did to Harry. Only I'll be there, rather than just watching a memory."

"You are aware of precisely how devastating the consequences could be, both to you and the world?"

"I've spend the last month thinking of nothing else."

"And what exactly does Potter know of this idiotic scheme?"

"Only that I intended to use the diaries to go back in time and see how much of Riddle's devastation I can prevent. He doesn't know why I think I can do it. He can't know that part."

Snape turned away and Ginny thought she heard him mumble something about stubborn, hair-brained Gryffindors. After a few moments he turned back to his former apprentice.

"What exactly will you need? And who will you tell about this?"

"I would like to use a room here in the castle, so the Headmistress will need to know something. Yourself, Harry, and I suppose Ron and Hermione as well. Everyone else can merely be told that I am being sent on an undercover mission for an indefinite amount of time. Which is marginally true, I suppose."

The corner of Snape's mouth twitched up briefly. "Indeed. Now come sit and tell me how you intend to modify this ink."

Ginny breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps this would work after all.


By unspoken consent, Harry, Snape, Ron and Hermione all found their way to McGonagall's study. No one spoke much and the air was thick with contemplation. Ginny was now somewhere - or somewhen - else, her modified ink having done exactly as she thought it would.

"How do we know if she succeeded?" Harry finally asked in a somewhat plaintive voice. The thought that Ginny was now somehow floating around in time, with no way to get back, disturbed him greatly.

"We don't, I'm afraid," replied Hermione. "But the fact that we still remember everything, including the fact that she was going to go back in time, would seem to indicate that it didn't work."

"How so?"

Hermione sighed and tried to organize her thoughts. Snape pinched the bridge his nose in sympathy. Talking about time travel always gave him a headache, never mind trying to explain it.

"Look at it this way," she attempted. "In our timeline, things happened a certain way. Event A led to event B which led to event C and so on."

Everyone in the room nodded.

"But now, if Ginny went back and changed things so that Event A never happened, who knows what might happen? Maybe event B never happened at all. Maybe event C happened sooner. But either way, we shouldn't remember things the same way as before. If she was successful, we shouldn't remember there having been a need for her to go back in time at all - heck, we probably wouldn't be sitting here at all."

The sad sighs around the room told her that the other occupants had at least a limited understanding of what she was trying to say.

The room was silent again for a few moments.

"Well," Snape's voice quietly broke the stillness, "if anyone could find a way to salvage things, it would be Red. She's a remarkable -"

Hermione, who had been starting to relax against her husband, suddenly sat bolt upright and her eyes snapped open.

"What did you say?" she demanded.

"I was merely commenting that Ginny, of all people, might be able to salvage something out of -"

"No, no," Hermione interrupted again, visibly trembling. "What did you call her?"

"Red," Harry replied. "It was her code name when she was an apprentice. We all got them. Not very original, I'll grant you, but -"

He stopped when Hermione stood up suddenly.

"I'll be right back," she gasped, and bolted from the room. She came flying into the office a few minutes later and stood panting for breath, as though she had just run all the way to and from the library - which she likely had, given the tattered book in her hand.

"She did it," she announced to the stunned room.

"How can you be sure?" Snape asked skeptically, and Hermione held up the battered volume.

"Albus's journal," McGonagall said. "But how. . .?"

"I've been sorting through all his papers, Minerva. You know that. It was among them. Actually, there are a number of journals. This one covers the World War II era. Ginny's in here."

"How did you discover this, Hermione? Does it actually mention Ms. Weasley by name?"

"Well, not exactly. But when Severus called her 'Red' I remember something. And - here, let me just read you the first passage:"

14 July, 1945
. . . I had a most unusual visitor today. On my way back to the castle, a witch approached me and requested a private meeting with me. She was cloaked head to toe, despite the heat of the day, so it was obvious that she wished to keep her identity concealed. Surprised though I was, I could detect no malice in her, and so I bade her join me in my office. I brought her into the castle through a side door, to avoid any undue notice. Once in my office, she requested that I ward it well, for what she had to say was for my ears only. I did as she asked, and only then did she remove her cloak, and what I saw surprised me greatly. The young woman (for young she is, I judge her not more than her late 20s) possesses hair red enough to put my own to shame and the haunted eyes of someone who has seen far too much. If she were a Muggle, I'd say she had seen too much of the War, but I know there are few wizards, save myself, who have witnessed that much; certainly no witches that I know of, however powerful they may be, were that closely involved with the conflict with G.

She seemed quite curious about Tom Riddle, what the boy was doing now that he had finished his schooling, what his time here was like, what I thought of him. My answers seemed to please her, though I cannot yet figure out why. Her mind was completely closed to me, and I could detect no rhyme or reason to her questions, other than that they focused largely on Mr. Riddle. But she seemed to get what she wanted, for when she was done questioning me, she rose to go.

Naturally, I protested, pointing out that she had me at quite a disadvantage as I did not even know her name. She looked thoughtful for a moment and then told me "You may call me Red. I will be back in the near future, and I hope that someday I may be able to answer all of your questions." And then she left. Just like that. I have no idea what to make of her, or her questions, but I am confident that I have not seen the last of this mysterious 'Red'.

Hermione's voice trailed off leaving the room in silence again.

"How-how can you be sure he was talking about Ginny?" Ron asked hesitantly.

"I can't, but. . ."

"That's a pretty fair description of Ms. Weasley, don't you think?" McGonagall said. "And the use of that name - which seems to have been deliberate - is simply more evidence. There are more mentions of this 'Red' in Albus's journals?"

Hermione nodded. "There are several more in this volume, and I think I recall seeing her mentioned in some of the later ones as well. I'll have to go back and double-check to be certain." She paused. "You realize what this implies, don't you?"

The boys shook their heads, and McGonagall looked thoughtful, but Snape's eyes widened in understanding.

"Merlin," he breathed, "if she was successful, and yet we still remember. . ." He trailed off, unwilling to voice the thought.

Ron gulped audibly. "Then that means she did change things - only she changed them to how we remember them. That means that if she hadn't. . ." He too trailed off, unwilling to speak the words and make them real.

"Then things would have been even worse?" Harry concluded tentatively.

"Just think," Ron said with a mischievous smile, trying to lighten the mood, "Severus here could have wound up dead, trampled to death by first-years!"

"Or nibbled to death by garden snakes, a fitting end for the Head of Slytherin!" Hermione added.

"And you, Mrs. Weasley, could have ended up as a housewife," Snape pointed out.

"Or, worse yet, a Ministry employee," McGonagall added with a slight smile. "Although I can't imagine Mr. Potter could have wound up as anything but an Auror."

"Merlin," Harry breathed, ignoring the others' attempt at levity. "What if Riddle had succeeded in making more than those diaries? What if he had decided to make more than a Horcrux? Maybe Ginny somehow convinced him not to make more than one!"

Everyone in the room shuddered, and Harry walked to the sideboard. He poured five glasses of Scotch and distributed them to the stunned room.

Raising his own glass, he proposed a toast. "To Ginny Weasley - sister, daughter, lover, apprentice and friend. But most of all a damn fine witch, without whom, we literally would not be here today."

"To Ginny," four voices echoed.

Then the silence was broken only by the occasional crackling of the fireplace, in a room full of people who might never have been, in a castle that would always be.


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