Actions

Work Header

Unexpected Complications

Work Text:

My Lord, your humble servant begs your advice.

Your magic is familiar. What is your name?

If it pleases you, I am Lucius Septimus Armand Candidus, Lord of the Noble House of Malfoy.

Ah, yes, I remember now. Your grandparents were friends of mine, once upon a time. You feel like your father, however. You wanted my advice, Lucius?

Yes, my Lord. My enemies are striking against me, and I do not know if I can maintain the wealth and influence I have gathered in preparation for your inevitable return.

Well, we can't have that, now, can we? You'll need to catch me up a bit. I've had little contact with the outside world for some time, it seems, and while I am pulling what I can from your mind, the details aren't always helpful.

Forgive me, my Lord. What do you need of me?

Let's start with the year and date.

6 July 1992

That long already. And there has been no word of my original self?

Rumours only, my Lord, insubstantial and fleeting. I am not aware of anything I can do to assist your other self, I fear.

No matter. What exactly is this problem you wish I would help you with, anyway?

Dumbledore's sycophants in the Wizengamot have passed tighter regulations on the possession of potentially dangerous enchanted objects. I fear any day now they may find some excuse to raid my holdings. I would perhaps be able to protect myself from a superficial search, but it will only be a matter of time until I am caught in violation of the new laws.

The old man is still High Enchanter? Really?

Yes, my Lord.

I figured he would have retired by now. Or perhaps angered too many people to hold on to power.

Unfortunately, the cowardly and the self-righteous all compete to prostrate themselves at his feet. He has not won the hearts of the entire nation, no, but he has shored up enough loyalty in the last decade opposing him is becoming increasingly difficult.

Why, Lucius, I believe I see green in your eyes.

Forgive me, my Lord, but I see no shame in admiring the skill of an opponent, no matter how detestable I may find him personally.

I never said there was. Albus has always had a marvelous talent for convincing people they are morally obligated to do what he wants. It simply wouldn't do to allow yourself to become distracted by the show.

Yes, my Lord.

I trust that if you had the votes to repeal these laws directly they would never have been passed.

I believe I could force a repeal as a last resort, but I would severely damage my own image in the process. I fear it would do more harm than good.

Very possible. They rejected your motion to suspend them for review.

It never came to a vote, in point of fact. That idiot Fudge decided to conjure free will at a most inconvenient moment.

I don't suppose you could solve that problem. The "free will" part, I mean.

Forgive me, my Lord, but that would be far too great a risk. If it is discovered the Minister's mind is not his own, I will be the first suspect. Even if it never comes to official charges, simply being accused of it in public could be catastrophic.

There are methods that would carry virtually no risk of detection. Did it ever occur to you to wonder why Bagnold was so ineffective in her opposition of us? I wouldn't think such an incompetent Minister would be permitted to hold the office in a time of crisis, or even ascend to the position in the first place. But I suppose it is altogether likely such methods are beyond your means at this time.

There must be a reason, after all, I am the Dark Lord, and you are not.

I did always wonder about Bagnold, I must admit, though I had never heard confirmation either way.

Now, Lucius, you know better than that. What good would it have been if I had confirmed it?

I remain, as always, in awe of you, my Lord.

True. Now, I suppose that exhausts direct, legal avenues of facing this problem of yours. Unless there is someone conveniently placed in the courts or the DLE you have not told me about.

I'm afraid not, my Lord. Bones and Scrimgeour have affected very thorough purges of relevant offices in your absence. Small problems can still be made to disappear, but nothing of this magnitude.

Cynaðar Bones and Erin Scrimgeour?

His granddaughter Amelia, her son Rufus. They are now the Director of the DLE and the Head Auror respectively.

Ah, yes, I remember now. I can imagine the two of them focused on a task could be quite formidable.

I am ashamed to admit, my Lord, I did not see them coming until it was already too late.

No matter. No one wins every contest. It seems we must take an indirect path. Who would you say is the most powerful of your opponents in this matter?

Excluding Dumbledore, my Lord?

Yes, we'll pass him over for now.

I would say either Scrimgeour or Weasley.

Which Weasley? There are so many of those.

The youngest of Septimus's sons, my Lord, by the name of Arthur. He currently runs the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office.

Really? Muggle Artefacts, your strongest opponent?

Unfortunately, my Lord, despite the relative unimportance of their mandate, the Office does report directly to the Director, making Arthur Weasley a deputy director, even if that is not his official title. He has far more access and power than his unsavoury position would imply. It does not help that he is a sickeningly affable man.

Ah, one of those friendly types. Yes, those can make disproportionate nuisances of themselves sometimes. He wouldn't happen to have any exploitable vulnerabilities.

Not so far as I am aware. Weasley is, in all appearances, free of any vices, patient and generous, though perhaps with more children than he can rightly afford. But in a way, that is its own advantage. He has no financial ties to exploit, and his is one of the largest pureblood families in Britain, despite his aggravating politics. He and his wife were both in that cursed Order as well, so if they have trouble there can be no doubt Dumbledore himself will come running.

What of his children? Do any of them present opportunities?

Not as I can see, my Lord. The two eldest are working out of the country. The next, one Percival, is seemingly the only one in the family with a grain of ambition, but he's as thoroughly brainwashed as the rest, and as he's only a Hogwarts sixth-year any potential usefulness is limited. The twins are a menace, the cause of at least half of all visits to the Hospital Wing by Slytherin students.

Which Albus ignores, I presume. They are Gryffindors.

Far as I can ascertain, Dumbledore doesn't even pretend to be impartial any longer.

He never was that exceptional of an actor anyway. There is another Weasley child, yes?

Yes, my Lord, two more. A worthless dullard of a boy in my son's year, and a girl. I believe she will be starting at Hogwarts this year, but I am not certain.

Wait a moment. Arthur has seven children?

Yes, my Lord.

Wasn't Arthur Septimus's seventh child?

I believe so. Forgive me, my Lord, the possible significance of that did not occur to me until this very moment.

No matter, Lucius. Tell me, do you know anything of this girl?

I'm afraid not, my Lord. The Weasleys and I do not walk in the same circles as such. I am almost certain she will be attending Hogwarts starting this very year, but I have heard little else.

A first-year, you say.

I believe so.

I'm having an idea. There are attendant risks but, if all goes well, we can neutralise several troublesome annoyances all at once.

I am your humble servant, my Lord.

Tell me, Lucius, how are your listening and tracking charms?


Dear Diary,

I feel stupid just writing that. Is that something people even do? Why did Dad even get me this ratty old thing anyway? Seems silly to me, but okay. At least it's quill practice, I guess.

And I can insult my brothers where they can't hear me. That's right, Percy, you're a prat. No, no wait, Mum can't hear me either! Okay, Percy, you're a mean, annoying, bloody arse, and every time you start talking about some boring shite I don't care about I wish I knew a silencing charm so I could make you shut up. Shut the fuck up, Percy. I think that when you're talking so much, you have no idea. You think I'm sitting there listening, your cute little sister, all nice and looking up to my smart big brother and blah blah, I know you think so. But most of the time I'm wishing I had a wand so I could hex you. Or one of Ron's smelly socks I could shove in your mouth. Myrðin, you never shut up! Half the time, when I say I said I was going to meet Luna, I really didn't, I'm lying so I can escape. But even then I usually go see her anyway because, yes, she's a bit nuts, but at least Luna and Xeno don't treat me like I'm a stupid five year old, even listening to her crazy until my head hurts is better than you!

This is rather fun, really.

And, Ron, could you stop? Just stop. I don't think I've ever heard someone whine as much as you. And what are you even whining about most of the time? Nothing! Morgen, I still remember that time I was, what, five? I think it was five. Anyway, Mum bought me a dress for someone's funeral, I don't even remember whose, and there you were whining as always about how of course Ginny gets new clothes, why didn't he get anything new, it wasn't fair. If you wanted it so badly, you could have just worn the dress yourself, you bloody prat! Okay, the thing wasn't even new anyway, one of the inner seams was torn, and there was a stain on the sleeve Mum hid with a glamour. And it was ugly. I know Mum and Dad have that Gryffindor pride and everything, that's fine, but those colours do not work with my hair, I looked ridiculous. Not to mention it smelled. But of course I couldn't have worn something that used to be one of our brothers' — I'm a girl, you fucking prat!

Wow, that felt good. I've been holding that in for da years.

Sometimes I wish I could just

Just what?

That's a really annoying enchantment. Why would someone want that?

I'm not an enchantment, Ginny. Well, not really. I suppose that depends on what you mean by "enchantment".

How do you know my name?!

You said it earlier. Look, right here.

Oh, I forgot.

That's okay. You were in the middle of a very impressive rant.

Is my diary being sarcastic at me?

That wasn't sarcasm. That was a compliment.

Fine, then. I'm pretty sure my diary shouldn't be complimenting me either.

You're probably right about that. I must not be a diary, then.

That's funny, you sure look like a diary.

Come now, Ginny. You're a smart girl, I can tell already. The diary is just a book, some bits of paper.

This isn't something I've seen bits of paper do before.

Are you just bits of meat?

Oh, I think I get it. You're saying you're inside the book, not that you are the book.

There you go. This diary once belonged to a Hogwarts student, some decades ago. I was something of a project of his, a magical experiment. Binding me to a diary was convenient, because then we could write back and forth like this.

That's interesting, I guess. Are you, I mean...

Did you actually write out the ellipsis for me?

Yeah, I guess I did. It just seemed the thing to do, cause you can't hear me.

I'm sorry, don't mind me. That's just adorable is all. What were you trying to ask?

I was wondering how much you're really there. I mean, what was his experiment?

It's sort of a sad story. I can tell you, if you like.

If it's not too private, I mean.

It's not private, just sad. The boy who made me lived in a muggle orphanage. Yes, he never knew his parents, that's not the sad part. At the time, there was a great war going on in the muggle world. Huge bombs were being dropped on London like fiery hail, people were dying by the thousands. These muggle bombs are powerful enough that, even were he Albus Dumbledore himself, he probably couldn't cast a shield charm strong enough to protect himself, even if he could see one coming in time to try.

Can muggles really make things that powerful?

Yes. They have weapons now that make those seem like a stinging jinx. Why?

It's just, my dad is always playing around with muggle stuff out in the shed, I never really thought that serious about it.

I doubt he could bring anything dangerous home with him. Muggles control these things very carefully. Like Unspeakables, I guess.

But, see, this boy was very afraid. The term at Hogwarts was about to end. He asked the Headmaster if he could stay for the summer, but he wouldn't let him.

That doesn't seem right. He could have died.

Yes, he could have. Mages don't always take problems in the muggle world seriously, don't consider how it could affect them. This boy knew it was very possible he wouldn't survive to return to Hogwarts. And he was afraid to die. He took his diary, and after weeks and weeks of study and practice, made a copy of his own mind, and bound it to the pages. So, even if he was killed, at least some part of him would survive.

Wait, are you saying you are the boy?

Sort of. Technically, I'm the copy of himself he put inside this book. We had all the same memories, mostly the same personalities — a person changes somewhat when you try to house their consciousness in an inanimate object. We are very similar, but not quite the same. But, in the end, that boy survived the war. He moved on, grew up, had a life. I stayed here, always the same, waiting for someone to take the time to write on these pages.

It sounds very lonely.

It is.

And I'm sorry, but I'm not sure I should be talking to you.

Why not?

My dad said, I'm not supposed to be talking to things that can think for themselves.

A reasonable precaution. I could take offense at being called a "thing", but I won't, I know what you meant. But I really wish you wouldn't go. My creator died, near the end of the war with the Dark Lord, and even by then he had lost interest in talking to me. I haven't had anyone to talk to in a very long time. I don't want to hurt you, I don't even know if I could if I tried. Just, please talk to me. I don't care what about. Even if you just want me to help you with your homework, I wouldn't mind. Whatever you want. I'm just so tired of being alone.

How do you know I'll need help with my homework?

I guessed from your rant you're school age. Am I wrong?

Well, no, I'm going to start Hogwarts in a couple weeks. I mean, I don't think first year will be hard for me. I've been stealing my brothers' books and my mother's wand and practising for years.

Really? I'm impressed. Not very many people could get away with that. Very sneaky. But I meant no offense, Ginny. I was Head Boy, you know. Well, to be precise, my creator went on to become Head Boy after making me, but he was still talking to me regularly at the time, and he talked out most of his work on through his masteries with me. I know a lot. I wouldn't mind helping. I always did want to teach.

I don't know. I'm still not sure this is a good idea.

I doubt there's anything I can say to prove I don't mean any harm. If you decide you don't want me anymore, you can always throw me away at any time. Or give me to someone else. I've been alone for so long, Ginny. I just want someone to talk to. That's all.

Ginny?

What's your name?

Tom.

Well. I'm still not sure about this, but we can see.

Thank you. Nice to meet you, Ginny.

You too, I guess.

Now, before I interrupted, I believe you were in the middle of a very impressive rant about your brothers.

Right. Give me a second to go back and read it.

No rush. I'm not going anywhere.


Are you okay?

Yes. I'm fine. Why?

It's just, you seem more agitated than usual.

Really? How can you tell?

Mostly? Your handwriting. And, I can sort of feel you there. The magic of your body vibrating against the magic of my book. It's the only sense I have left, really.

I'm not sure if that's fascinating or depressing.

Both, I believe.

Right. But, no, I don't want to talk about it. Let's talk about something else.

Are you sure? It's obviously bothering you. I wouldn't mind.

I well okay, fine. I guess I can.

If you're not comfortable, I won't make you. But, well, who better to talk to, when you think about it? I am quite incapable of blabbing away your secrets to someone else.

That is a good point, actually. It's just really embarrassing, is all. You know I mentioned Ron's best friend these days is Harry Potter?

Yes, I believe that came up at one point.

Well, he's here, now, and I guess I'm just a little stupid, I guess.

What do you mean, he's here? He's visiting Ronald?

He's staying until the start of term, actually. It happened rather suddenly.

Wait. I don't understand. He rather suddenly came over to stay until the start of term? Doesn't he have family?

You know, I don't think so? I guess I didn't ask. One night Forge and Ron stole Dad's car, I told you about that, and when they came back in the morning they had Harry. Said something about his aunt and uncle, I think, muggles?

Muggles? You're sure they're muggles?

Positive. Why?

Not Petunia and...well, whoever she married, I don't remember.

I don't know, maybe? How would I know? How do you know?

My creator met Lily Evans when she was, oh, fifteen, I believe? He was quite impressed with her, he wrote of her a fair amount. I believe he was considering taking her as an apprentice, in fact. But anyway, Evans was a muggleborn, she had an older sister, Petunia. She was not a pleasant sort of woman. I recall distinctly that she was viciously jealous of Evans — but, then, who wouldn't be? — and that she was quickly developing a hatred of all things magic.

Oh, well, that explains a bit, I guess.

What do you mean?

According to the boys, they had Harry locked in his room, were starving him. Apparently they had to yank these metal bars out of his window to get him out.

You're serious.

Yes. I think they were. It didn't feel like they were joking.

But that would

Excuse me a moment, Ginny.

Is something wrong?

Tom?

Are you there?


I'm back. Sorry about that.

Oh, hello. Are you okay?

Yes, I'm fine. I needed a moment to get a hold on my anger, is all. Apparently, I am still capable of feeling the emotion despite no longer having the proper neurological machinery. I wasn't convinced of that until just now.

What is that, those words right there?

Muggle science. Long story short, emotions are a physical process that happens in the brain. Since I don't have a brain, I hadn't been sure I was capable of feeling the more primal, visceral emotions. Apparently I am, because that, just then, that was rage. I'd forgotten what it felt like.

I'm sorry, I don't get it. What made you so angry?

Are you not angry? Think of the situation Harry Potter was in at his aunt and uncle's house. Think of what that must mean. How are you not angry?

Well, I guess it is very strange for them to be locking him in his room like that. I mean, I kinda figured he'd done some accidental magic or something, and they'd gone nuts on him. Seems a bit much, but not liking magic, yeah. No?

The kind of people who would so easily lock their ward away, reportedly deny him food, put bars in his windows, these are things that are not done independently. These things come in sets, a pattern of behaviour. If they locked him up, it was not the first time they did it. If they were denying him food, it was not the first time they'd done that.

What are you saying, Tom?

Surely you've heard of the idea of child abuse before.

No, that isn't

That can't be, I mean, someone would have known. Someone would have done something about it.

I hope you will not think me unpalatably condescending if I say,

Part of growing up, Ginevra Weasley, is coming to understand that life is not so simple the way story books tend to be. There is no such thing as an entirely good person; there is no such thing as an entirely bad person. Everyone is some shade of grey, lighter or darker depending on particular inclinations.

Sometimes people do evil out of malice, yes. But often, perhaps more often, it is simply because they are lazy. It takes effort to care about someone else, to understand and anticipate their suffering. It takes effort to notice. Some people who think themselves virtuous are surrounded by evil, evil they lift not a finger to ease or prevent, and often don't even realise it.

Think about it, Ginny. Harry Potter is an abused child. That much is obvious. Locked in his room the way he had been, so zealously there were bars fitted into his windows, apparently starved by his caregivers. Serious enough he needed to be rescued. Serious enough that he could be rescued. Children in healthy environments, they cannot run off to spend a few weeks at a friend's house like this. Think, would your mother just let you go stay at a friends' for a few weeks, especially without her permission, or even informing her? No, that is not something that could happen in the context of any healthy home.

But, think. How did Harry Potter get to this abusive home in the first place? With his aunt's temperament, the disintegration of her relation with his mother, I am certain his parents did want not want him there. And, it is known, it was talked about all the time, you've said, that nobody knew where Harry Potter had been sent. Ten years, and nobody could figure it out. That is very unusual.

All anyone knew was that Albus Dumbledore knew where he was. That Albus Dumbledore had taken care of it. That Albus Dumbledore was keeping the information private, for Harry's own safety.

Albus Dumbledore.

You can't be saying that! He's Dumbledore! He wouldn't no he wouldn't do that!

There is no such thing as an entirely good person; there is no such thing as an entirely bad person. Perhaps he does not know Harry is being abused. But he allowed the situation to come into being, through negligence if not malice. Knowing him, almost certainly negligence.

No, that can't be right, though. He's Dumbledore.

Dumbledore. Of course.

Let me tell you something, Ginny. Something I have only ever told two other people.

I told you I grew up in a muggle orphanage, yes? Or, more precisely, my creator did. Since I have all of his memories, and am operating on a copy of his personality...that identity issue really can be confusing sometimes.

I can imagine. And yes, you told me that.

Do they have orphanages in the magical world? I never did check.

I don't think so? I haven't heard of anything like that. I know the word, from books, but I don't think I've ever heard of a real one.

Right, never mind, then. Anyway. It was not a very pleasant place to grow up. It was run by an older woman. She drank, rather a lot. She was not often physically rough with us, though it did happen sometimes. But there was a lot of yelling, a lot of punishments, for any small thing we might have done wrong. Cleaning, mostly. The place had these white and black tiles, I cannot tell you how many hours I spent on my hands and knees polishing the bloody things.

The other ladies working there were rarely any better. There was one I liked, when I was a little older. She would let me borrow books. Some hers, some borrowed from her parents, or the library. Her, I liked. Most of them, well, they did nothing to stop it.

Until I was about, oh, eight or nine? I can't remember for certain. For most of my time there, anyway, I shared a room with a few other boys. I was always a quiet, strange child. I was extremely powerful in magic, even when I was very young, and I could feel and see and hear things that no one else could. Rather like your friend Luna, if not quite as obvious about it. And, rather like your friend Luna, other children took that as license to be not so nice to me.

All the time.

For years.

Those boys I shared a room with, it would mostly be them. Because I could not get away from them. If I could, I would always stay away from the other children, none of them liked me, I would go off with a book and read by myself, but I always had to go back to our room at night. Oh, the things they did. Steal my things — I took to keeping my books elsewhere, places they wouldn't find them. Incessantly tease me, smack me around. They even seriously hurt me a few times — I healed myself quite often, one of my more common bits of accidental magic. Even weird things. More than once they forced me to eat worms, or beetles, or whatever disgusting thing they could get their hands on. Once one of them smeared shite all over my sheets. Really don't want to know how he managed that.

It was all the time. Constantly. For years. I was so miserable, Ginny, all the time. More than anything, I just wanted it to stop. I would have done anything. Anything. I just wanted them to leave me alone.

Magic, Ginny. It was an accident at first, always on accident. I would defend myself from their torture in one way or another, not even meaning to, not knowing how I'd done it. They would be afraid, or angry, or confused. No matter which, they would find some way to take it out on me. But, eventually, after enough times, I learned I could do it on purpose.

I was very powerful, for a child. I could have done whatever I wanted to them. Anything.

All I wanted was for them to leave me alone.

With a bit of experimentation, I figured out a form of sympathetic magic. I would steal something of theirs — something small, and worthless, preferably, something easy to hide, that they hopefully wouldn't miss. And I would hold the thing in my hand, I would put my magic into it, and I would wish, as hard as I could, that they would leave me alone. Just that. That's all I wanted. And it worked. They left me alone. I got myself my own room the same way, which we usually didn't get until we were older, a little older than you are now.

And I was left alone. Rarely, I would have to do something again. Children aren't very smart, the ones I hadn't charmed away would occasionally think to try to hurt me, since nobody else was doing it, and I'd have to remind them that was a bad idea. But I never went out of my way to hurt someone who hadn't hurt me first. And I only did enough to get them to leave me alone. That's all I wanted.

I would spend every day, alone in my room, reading. Whatever I could find. Which might sound lonely, I guess. But, compared to before, it was heaven. I could read whatever I wanted, no one would bother me, the primitively enchanted talismans in my wardrobe keeping away the same people who had made most of my childhood a living hell.

I wouldn't say I was happy. Honestly, I'm not certain I'm capable of being happy. If someone is hurt badly enough, when they're young enough, and for long enough, it stays with them forever. They never get better. I never got better. But, I didn't hate simply being alive anymore. I was okay.

Until, one day, a couple months after I turned eleven, Albus Dumbledore came to the orphanage.

We had a short, awkward conversation. I could feel him in my mind. Legilimency, he was reading my thoughts. Which is illegal, but I think I can give him the benefit of the doubt on that one. By that point, the people who ran the place were certain there was something off about me, they probably filled his head with stories about what a demon child I was. Muggles tend to not react well to magic. So, he was probably just trying to make sure I wouldn't harm the other students at Hogwarts. It was still illegal, yes, but I don't blame him for that. It's understandable.

But then, he set my wardrobe on fire.

The fire didn't actually damage it, of course. But I didn't know that right away. All I knew was the thing was covered in flames. The same wardrobe that held every single thing I owned in this world. All the little in the way of clothes I had, all my borrowed books. Everything.

The same wardrobe that held the talismans that kept me safe.

And he told me to give them back.

He told me thievery was not permitted in Hogwarts. That I would be punished if my behaviour continued.

Think about it. If he knew my talismans were there, he had to have gotten it from my mind. Which means he would have seen why I'd taken them in the first place. What they were, that I needed them, that my life was unending torment without them.

He didn't care.

It didn't stop at Hogwarts. He was never that directly cruel to me, no. Unfair sometimes — he was somewhat infamous among the other houses for favouring his Gryffindors, so his treatment of me wasn't unique. But, every year, I would ask to stay at Hogwarts over summer. I told you earlier I wanted to because of the war, but I first started asking before the war even started. I didn't want to go back. I didn't want to go back there. I would have done anything to not have to go back.

The meeting would always be with Headmaster Dippet, and the four Heads of House, including Dumbledore — he was the Transfiguration Professor and Head of Gryffindor at the time. I would beg, every year, not to be forced to go back. I wouldn't give them the detail I gave you. I was ashamed, you see, I didn't want them to know, I didn't want anyone to know. I didn't tell even Andy any of this until I was in fourth year. But I still told them, I did not want to go back, I would do anything, anything, to not have to go back.

Every meeting, every time, Dumbledore would argue I had to. That the castle wasn't intended for students to stay over the summers. That I couldn't use the school as a place to hide from my problems at home. That I had to learn to...I don't even know. Stand for myself? Some platitude.

So they sent me back. Every time. Back to the same people who had tormented me for years.

That is why I was so angry a couple minutes ago, Ginny. Because, even now, even with my example, even though it has been decades, Dumbledore has learned nothing.

He put a child he assumed responsibility for in an abusive home.

He either does not know he is being abused — and, since he is the only one who knows where Harry is, it is his responsibility to at least check — or he knows, and has done nothing.

Either way — be it consciously, out of malice, or unknowingly, out of negligence — Albus Dumbledore is allowing a child to be abused.

And it is not the first time.

That is why I was angry, Ginny. Because Dumbledore is doing to Harry what he did to me. It makes me. extremely. fucking. FURIOUS.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Dumbledore is a bad man. He is a great man. His abilities and his achievements speak for themselves, I would have to be absurdly dishonest to not acknowledge that. But he is not perfect. He is human, and all humans are capable of making mistakes.

There is no such thing as an entirely good person.

I'm sorry, Ginny, I went on a bit more than I meant to. I'm still sort of worked up. It's been a while since I've had much in the way of feelings at all — books don't tend to feel things. I'm out of practice dealing with it, I guess.

That's okay. You don't have to apologise, Tom. Really, I think I should be the one apologising here.

Why?

I just feel kind of...silly? I mean, I keep it in my head most of the time, because I don't really have people to talk to about it. I guess I've been ranting at you a bit lately. But, I sort of complain a lot, even in my head, even if I don't say it out loud. And I just feel kind of silly about it now.

I mean, the thing I was going to talk about was about, how, well, he's Harry Potter, you know. I've been kind of stupid and shy around him, it's so embarrassing, I can't help it. And if you're right about him...

I don't know. I didn't even think about it. I shouldhave thought about it, you're right, there's something seriously wrong going on with him. It should have been so bloody obvious. I mean, he's tiny, not just short, but he's way too thin. I know my mum can be silly about calling people too thin all the time, but about him she's actually right, he doesn't look okay at all. And his clothes are ratty and old and don't fit him even a little, it's obvious they weren't bought for him. Mum made a comment about it the first day he was here, and he's been wearing his Hogwarts robes ever since, even though it's just our house.

That means he doesn't have any other clothes. I did the same thing when I was his age, whenever possible. Andy bought me some wizarding clothing during winter break fourth year, but until then it was all I had.

Yeah, that's obvious, now that I think about it. And it's obvious he can't see very well even with his glasses, he keeps squinting at things. I have no idea how he can possibly play quidditch like that, it's weird. And he's so, I don't know. Quiet and shy and careful. Not at all how I thought he would be.

I just feel so stupid.

And not just with him, either. I'm always complaining to you about stupid shite going on with my parents and my brothers, and it's just so stupid because, your life was so much worse when you were my age, I can't even imagine living like that, and I just, I feel so stupid, that's all. I'm sorry.

There's no reason to be beating yourself up about it, Ginny. It is only natural that we judge what happens to us relative to our own previous experiences. It is very possible that, were Harry or myself to be placed in your shoes, we would find your life quite pleasant compared to our own. But that does not mean your complaints are not legitimate. They may be perfectly proper within the context of your life. In fact, from what I have learned about your family so far, you are admirably patient with some of the worse nonsense from your mother or your brothers you have to deal with. I doubt I'd put up with them half as well as you do.

Our lives are simply different. That you are fixated on, that you complain about things that seem superficial compared against the unpleasantness Harry and I grew up with, that does not make you a shallow person, does not make you a bad person. Your experiences are simply different.

If it makes you feel better, I have not yet been annoyed at what you've been talking with me about. Vicariously annoyed at your family, perhaps. If anything, I find it all fascinating. I never had a family myself, it's interesting to hear about.

So, there is no reason to apologise, Ginny. You can't really help it, and you have not offended me.

That makes sense, yeah, but I think I'm gonna go ahead and feel bad anyway.

If you must. I just thought I'd make my opinion on the matter clear.

I do have some advice on the Harry Potter front, if you still wanted it.

Oh. Yeah, sure. It is really embarrassing, I mean, I can barely talk around him, it's awful.

It does sound it. If you can get it to work, I have a very simple trick that might help. Simple, but very effective with this sort of thing.

I really don't think I should be tricking him. How would that even work?

No, no, you wouldn't be tricking him. You would be tricking yourself.

What do you mean?

In short: he is not Harry Potter.

Forgive me, I can't recall. Harry has a middle name, doesn't he?

Yes. Well, two, actually, you know Noble Houses. James and...Ashley? I think the other one is Ashley.

Right, that'll work. Okay, he's not Harry Potter. Forget all that Harry Potter stuff you heard all the time growing up. Harry Potter is off somewhere else, doing Harry Potter things. He has nothing to do with this.

This is your brother's best friend Jamie Evans. He's a little, shy kid from a horrible, horrible family. Quiet, and lonely, maybe he just wants you to leave him alone. Trying to force a friendship on Jamie, with his home life being what it is, is one of the worst things you could possibly do. But if you're nice, and patient, maybe Jamie will warm up to you eventually. Just treat him as any other extremely shy kid, the least annoying of your brothers' friends, and it might work out.

But, do try not to force your company on poor Jamie. For people like us, that just makes us unbelievably uncomfortable. It feels aggressive to us, if that makes sense. If it looks like he's anxious with you there, give him space. Actually, if he's anything like me, he'll appreciate you leaving him alone when he wants to be left alone. It'll make him more comfortable with you in the long run, because he'll understand that you respect his boundaries, that you're doing your best to accommodate what he must realise by now are his own peculiar emotional issues.

It's nice, when people do that. Normal people, when you're visibly unhappy, they try to force some sort of interaction, to try to cheer you up. But for people like me, and very possibly Jamie, that just makes us more uncomfortable. When people realise that, when they give us what we need, even without being asked, well, those are the people we're going to be comfortable with, the people we're going to spend our time around.

So, if you think you want to get to know young Jamie Evans, that is my advice. Go easy on the poor boy.

Jamie Evans, huh.

Yes.

I think I can do that. You really think that'll work?

If you can think of him as Ronald's friend Jamie, and not the famous Harry Potter? You'll probably be far less embarrassingly nervous, yes. Will going slow and keeping your distance work to get him comfortable with you? Maybe. It depends somewhat on exactly how it goes, and exactly what he's like. I am assuming somewhat he is more like me than an ordinary twelve-year-old boy, but that's honestly not a bad assumption. It might take a while, but in the end, I think it's your best bet.

Right. Thank you, Tom. I'll start trying that tomorrow.

Good.

I'll make a proper Slytherin of you yet, my sneaky little snake.

Oh, shut up.


How long is this stupid train ride supposed to last, anyway?

It varies somewhat, but roughly six or seven hours. You'll be having dinner straight on arriving.

Ugh! Why can't we just floo in?

You just wrote "ugh" for me.

Yes. Is that bad?

No, just pointing it out. In any case, I believe it was originally a reference to potential students, centuries ago, making the trip to the Valley. At the time, the Floo Network didn't exist, and portkeys hadn't been invented yet, so they had to make their way there on foot, often forming little groups that travelled together. I believe the train was supposed to be in memory of the original pilgrimage, so to speak, but by now the intent has been lost entirely. Most consider it simply tradition. Even people who already live in the Valley usually apparate or floo to King's Cross, despite being able to see the castle from their front step.

That's retarded.

I don't disagree.

I just want to be there already. There's nothing to do, and I'm bored.

Don't you have anyone to talk to?

Other than you? Not really. I tried to stay with Jamie and Nev oh, did I mention Nev?

No, I don't think so.

Another of Ron's friends. Neville Longbottom.

Ah, I'm assuming that's Lady Augusta's grandson. Frank and...Alice? Longbottom married Alice Prewett, right?

I wouldn't know. Nev hasn't ever mentioned his parents, and he gets all uncomfortable when people are talking about theirs. I don't think they survived the war.

Well, that's unfortunate. Frank was a very capable and very popular Auror, enough he likely would have become Director in time. I don't know much about Alice, but I heard indirectly through Lily she was extremely talented as well, perhaps even more than her husband. Disappointing.

But never mind me and my old person rambling. You were saying?

You're not really old. Aren't you only sixteen?

Yes, I was sixteen when I made this diary. But that was fifty years ago, Ginny. I am, in fact, older than your grandfather.

What, really? Both of them?

No, only one. Correct me if I'm wrong, but your grandfathers are Septimus Weasley and Ignatius Prewett. Septimus was a prefect my first year — his sixth or seventh year, I can't remember which for certain — but I distinctly recall Ignatius was two years younger than me. Your grandmother Lucy, who was a Black at the time, was the target of some teasing by the other girls in our year for spending so much time with a younger Gryffindor, so I remember it.

See, there I go again! You were saying you tried to stay with Jamie and Nev. Why couldn't you?

I'll give you one guess.

Ronald.

Yes. The insufferable arse. He just told me to leave. Really mean. And when I said I didn't want to he actually pushed me out.

I'm surprised you didn't just hex him.

I might have.

Why didn't you?

Jamie just sat there and let him do it. So I decided I would just go. It's not worth hanging around the both of them if Ron is going to be mean to me and Jamie is going to do nothing about it.

That's very wise of you, Ginny. Many girls your age wouldn't be capable of being quite that level-headed about it.

That's because they're retarded.

Perhaps. Don't you know anyone else your age? I would figure your mother would have made sure you had some girl friends, at least.

Well, I've been introduced to a few over the years, but they're all annoying. The only one I even kind of like is Luna. I'm in a compartment with her right now, actually, but she's being boring at the moment. Just sitting there with her nose in her Quibbler.

Quibbler? The satirical political tabloid? That still exists?

I don't know about satire or politics, but yes, it still exists. Luna's dad publishes it himself.

Oh, this Luna is a Lovegood, then? I don't think you ever mentioned that.

Yeah, how did you know?

One Euphemia Lovegood founded the Quibbler in 1832. It's always been run by Lovegoods. That would be Xenophilius Lovegood, her father? Odd bloke. But then, he is a Lovegood.

Do you just know everybody?

My creator got around. He talked to me about the people he met or heard of, as a way to work out what he thought about them. I picked up a lot. It is quite likely I will know something about one relative or another of everyone you're attending Hogwarts with, simply because it is Hogwarts.

But don't mind me. Was there something in particular you wanted to talk about?

No, nothing really. I'm just bored.

If something's bothering you, go ahead. I don't mind.

Why do you think something's bothering me?

Your handwriting is somewhat more jittery than normal. I suppose that could be from the bouncing of the train, but I don't think so. Also, I'm slowly growing better at reading your moods through that little bit of your magic I can feel, and I'm pretty sure you're nervous. If I'm wrong, or you just want me to piss off, say so and I'll drop it.

No, we can talk about it, I guess. Not like I have anything better to do. It is sort of stupid, though.

That's okay. Even the best of us are stupid sometimes.

You won't think I'm silly?

Ginny, try not to take what I'm about to tell you the wrong way. Read the whole thing before you get annoyed with me.

Yes, I do think you're a bit silly sometimes. More than once, things you've said have been so ridiculous I've found myself wishing I was capable of sighing or rolling my eyes. I suspect eleven-year-old girls seem inherently silly to me sometimes, just by nature. That, and I honestly think some of the things emotionally normal people get worked up over are just stupid.

But that is not all you are. I don't know if you're aware of this, but you are extremely bright. Even just your use of English is more consistently advanced than I would normally expect, and your level of comprehension of, well, all sorts of things is simply astounding. I don't often go out of my way to communicate how impressed I've been so far, because I don't want to get too repetitive or come off as overly flattering, but it is clear to me you are exceptionally intelligent for your age. I sometimes have to remind myself you're only eleven. I've met adults who get confused when I'm talking about the fundamentals of abstract magic theory quicker than you do.

Not to mention your skill with magic! Do you have any idea how few of your soon-to-be classmates have ever used a wand at all, much less taught themselves nearly as many charms as you have? It's practically unheard of. I can think of a handful of prodigies off the top of my head who showed greater talent at your age, but only a handful.

So, yes, you are silly sometimes. And it's very possible what you're about to say might seem silly to me. But I sincerely doubt it will in any way diminish my already rather high opinion of you. Eleven-year-old girls are simply allowed to be silly sometimes.

Okay?

You really think all that of me?

I suppose I don't really have any way to convince you if you're not inclined to take me at my word. But yes.

I'm sorry, I don't know what to say. Nobody's ever said anything like that to me before.

Adults often miss age-inappropriate intellectual development if they're not specifically looking for it. And how many people even know about your sneaking around to teach yourself magic?

Just Bill and Luna.

They've never commented before?

Well, I guess. Bill just made sure I wasn't doing anything to hurt myself then changed the subject, but he was really busy. Luna doesn't say anything about it ever. That I'm good with charms is just a thing that is true to her. Like the sky being blue, it's just there, why talk about it?

When you think about it, that in itself is a high compliment.

...

I never thought about it that way. Huh. I guess so.

But, okay. I can talk about the silly thing. It's just, you know, the Sorting is going to be happening straight after getting there.

Yes, it will. Takes bloody forever, but yes.

I'm just nervous.

About?

What if I really am in Slytherin?

I'm not sure I understand. Is that a bad thing?

Yes!

Why?

I but— What?!

Why is that a bad thing?

It is!

But why?

I don't even know, but it is!

There is a reason for everything, Ginny. If you find the thought of being in Slytherin so very repellent, there must be a reason for it. If there weren't, well, where is that feeling coming from? Feelings don't come out of nothing.

It's not out of nothing, but, it's just obvious!

What's so obvious about it?

Slytherins are just, you know, I don't know!

Evil? Is that the word you're avoiding?

I guess so. I was about to write it but then

Then you remembered I was in Slytherin myself.

Yes. Oops.

You know, you are really quite adorable sometimes.

Shut up, Tom.

I realise I am in a bloody book, which means I have no eyes, so I haven't the foggiest what you actually look like. I guess it's your mind that's adorable, if that makes sense.

Shut up.

I don't mean to be patronising, you know. Just a statement of fact.

Still. Stop it.

Your wish is my command, fair maiden. I shall cease relating facts if you so desire it. From this moment onward only the foulest of untruths shall I stitch across these pages, lies so putrid the paper in your hands may fester.

Stop it! You're making me laugh, but this is supposed to be a serious conversation!

All right, fine, being serious now. Where were we again? I mean, before the part about you being adorable, and how this is an indisputable law of reality.

I really can't tell sometimes if this is supposed to be teasing or flirting when you get like this.

You're eleven, Ginny, and I'm a book. I think it's safe to say I am not a threat to your virtue.

Also, I hadn't realised there was a difference.

You're doing this on purpose, aren't you.

Yes. Humour is the best remedy for nervousness, I've found. How am I doing?

Not terrible. Just, find something else to make jokes about next time.

The adorable part wasn't a joke, just everything after that.

Myrðin, Tom, you know what I meant!

Yes, of course I do. Moving on, then?

Please!

So, Slytherins are evil, apparently. Have you informed your grandmothers of this knowledge of yours?

What? What do you mean?

Only that both of your grandmothers were in Slytherin.

Both? I mean, you mentioned Lucy, but

Yes, both were. Lucy Black was in my year, even. I didn't know Cedrella Black nearly as well, but she was Head Girl my first year.

Wait, they were both Blacks?

Well, yes. You didn't know that?

No I wait eeewwwww my parents are cousins.

Yes. Second or third cousins, probably. That's not strange at all, for purebloods. Lucy's younger brother Orion also married a second cousin, and she was even born a Black.

Ew ew eeeewwww stop talking about this, right now.

You know you're probably going to end up marrying a pureblood yourself, and you'll almost certainly be related somehow.

No. Nuh-uh. I'm gonna marry a muggleborn, so there.

Not Jamie?

Why are you telling nooo

Third cousins, I believe.

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

How many of those are you going to write?

However many it takes to get you to change the subject.

I thought you were raised pureblood. Shouldn't this sort of thing be normal for you?

oooooooooooooooooooooo

I mean, this really shouldn't be news.

ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

You realise you're being adorable again, of course.

ooooooooo shut up, Tom oooooooooooooo

Alright, fine. I can stop teasing you. For now.

But, okay, let's talk about Slytherin. The primary virtues that are said to exemplify the house — do you even know anything about this? I suspect you don't.

I just know about, you know, the Death Eaters and all.

There were Death Eaters or supporters from all three houses, but more from Slytherin than the other three, true. Though there were fewer former Slytherins among the Death Eaters than people who had gone to other schools, and were therefore in none of the houses, but let's put that aside for now. Yes, a fair number of Slytherins, but that is not to say all Slytherins became Death Eaters — some of the more visible figures who fought the Death Eaters were also in Slytherin. Among the Aurors, Rufus Scrimgeour was obviously the most well known, but there were also Geoffrey Savage and Caoilinn NicMhaoláin. Even in the Order of the Phoenix itself, Emmeline Vance and Dorcas Meadowes were both Slytherins. They were considered two of the Order's better fighters, effective enough the Dark Lord tracked Meadowes down personally; supposedly he tried the same with Vance, but she even managed to escape.

And let's not forget the Circle of Agastya, another major player in the war, and this one dominated by Slytherins. Orion Black, your great uncle, reinstituted the organisation specifically to fight the Death Eaters, even crossing wands with the Dark Lord himself on more than one occasion, finally succumbing in their fourth one-on-one duel, I believe. He was a Slytherin. Another member, his cousin Cygnus, was assassinated by his own daughter on the Dark Lord's orders. Another Slytherin. Orion's son Regulus was a Circle spy among the Death Eaters, eventually discovered and executed by the Dark Lord himself, he was a Slytherin. Ciara Selwyn, another Slytherin member — she escaped the Dark Lord's purge of the organisation by the skin of her teeth, but I'm not in a position to know if she's still alive. And there was Elizabeth Potter, of course, she managed to ruin a litany of the Dark Lord's plans before he finally captured and killed her.

So, yes, many Slytherins became Death Eaters, but many also fought against them. Being Sorted into Slytherin isn't a sentence to a lifetime of bigotry and terrorism.

I knew about some of those, I guess, but I never really thought about it. But, didn't You Know Who talk Slytherin stuff all the time? And he was a Parselmouth and everything...

Do you really have to call him "You Know Who" like that? It's so silly.

I guess I don't have to. I would feel weird using the V name, don't know what else to say.

"Dark Lord"?

I could, but only Dark people call him that.

Really?

Yes? I think so.

I didn't know that. Interesting.

Yeah. The first few times you called him that I was actually a little worried over it.

To be entirely fair, it wouldn't be incorrect to label me "Dark", if one were so inclined. I don't see why the government should be able to tell me what magic I can and cannot use. The Dark also tend to be more permissive when it comes to personal freedoms for non-human magical races, which just seems reasonable to me. Not to say I agree with the Death Eaters by any means — I honestly can't see how whether someone has magical ancestors or not should possibly matter the slightest bit, and many of their methods would be excessive no matter the justification. Those also have nothing to do with the political philosophy traditionally referred to as "Dark", but I suppose that isn't the point.

Aren't all Dark people pureblood supremacists? I thought that was just part of what Dark was.

No, not even a little bit. Death Eater rhetoric, taken as a political philosophy, could be thought of as a mix of traditionally Dark and Light ideas, with an overwhelming nationalist and racist slant. The primary Dark alliance in the Wizengamot opposed the Dark Lord's supporters, in fact, quite strongly.

But we're getting off topic. Yes, the Dark Lord declared himself the Heir of Slytherin. So? He liked to portray himself as such, but there was no proof backing his claim, and neither did he ever try to prove it. That reeks of a lie to me. Claiming himself to be the last living descendant of Slytherin is a lie — most Noble Houses and many Common will find Slytherins or Gaunts or some other closely related family in their ancestry if they look back far enough. You yourself are a descendant of Salazar Slytherin: both your grandmothers were Blacks, and the entire House has been for centuries.

And yes, he was a Parselmouth. So? There are hundreds of Parselmouths all over the world. Are they all irredeemably evil? Most Parselmouths of any renown are primarily Healers! Some of the greatest Healers in history have been Parselmouths, to the point that, in many areas of the world, Parseltongue and Healing are inextricably linked in their culture. I really don't see how the Dark Lord being a Parselmouth has anything to do with Slytherin, or why that should be a bad thing even so.

What is Slytherin actually about? Ask one of the prefects, or read one of several books on the subject, and they should talk about fraternity, and cleverness, and loyalty, and ambition, and determination. I suppose it's possible I've drastically misread your personality, but I can't imagine those are traits you would view negatively. I've been operating on the assumption you would be in Slytherin ever since you told me about how you've been sneaking around teaching yourself magic. Some of your comments about wishing everyone wouldn't think of you as a "girl" were significant hints, too.

So, honestly, I can't imagine why you are so determined to reject Slytherin. You're only rejecting a part of yourself, a part I know you are not truly ashamed of.

Stop that.

Stop what?

You're making far too much sense.

I generally do try to make sense, you know. I find it's far preferable to the alternative.

Yes, but, you're supposed to be, I don't know.

You do know.

You're supposed to be mean! Not, like, I guess, even some of the stuff you've been saying about Slytherins are things people say about Gryffindors! Oh, this one, he was your great-uncle, you know, he bravely fought the Dark Lord over and over, died a hero! That's Gryffindor shite!

Did I ever say he died a hero? He died a failure.

WHAT?!

He died a failure. He had dedicated decades of his life to defeating unreasoning bigotry, to defeating the Dark Lord specifically. But, in the end, he lost. The Dark Lord killed him, the Death Eaters purged most of his allies and followers, and even his family is on the verge of extinction.

Heroes don't die, Ginny. The concepts are mutually exclusive. Martyrs, martyrs die. Heroes win. And you can't win if you're dead.

Well, I guess it's kind of obvious when you put it that way.

This sort of thing is usually obvious when you take the time to think about it. The problem is that most people don't.

Mum talks about this a lot. You see, she had brothers, and they were in the Order, maybe you heard of them? Gideon and Fabian Prewett?

Yes, but those two actually did die heroes. While they were killed, yes, it took absurd odds to finally take them down, and even then they nearly killed the dozens of Death Eaters fighting them down to a man. Only a couple survived the encounter, I heard. Not only that, but they also succeeded in buying time for the muggleborn families they were protecting to evacuate. So, they did die, but they also won. Which makes them martyrs and heroes, I suppose.

Oh, well okay. I just mean... I don't know what to think about all this. I mean, I've been told forever Slytherins are bad, all of them are, it's just the way they are. My parents are a bit less... They don't usually say that. Some of my brothers do. I guess my parents only go so far as saying you shouldn't trust a Slytherin.

To be fair, you shouldn't trust a Slytherin. But then, you shouldn't trust anyone without good reason.

What do you mean?

Let's put it this way. You trust your brothers, right? Specifically, let's say, you trust Bill?

Okay, yeah, Bill I do trust, yes.

You would trust him in nearly any situation to have your back, to make sure you're safe. To always have your interests at heart.

Yes? What's the point?

Why? Why do you trust him that much?

...I don't know. I never really thought about it. He's my brother.

Do you trust all of your brothers as much as you trust Bill?

Well, no. He's just Bill, I guess? He's always doing things to make sure we're okay. I mean, whenever he's home he's usually enchanting things around the house, or checking the wards. Always asking how I'm doing, and actually listening, and healing me when the twins or Ron do something mean. I just do.

Yes, you do. And you should. You have good reason to trust him. He is your brother, and has shown multiple times he is a person who deeply cares for his family. Not only that, but you can think of myriad times he has gone out of his way to help you or provide for you in one way or another. Trusting him is wise.

Now, think. If you weren't Bill's little sister, if you didn't have in your past any of these times of him being kind to you, taking care of you, if you were perfect strangers — should you trust him then?

I don't know. I want to say yes, because Bill isn't just nice to me. He always tries to do right by everyone if he can. But...

Yes?

Well, I mean, just, it would depend on what I was trusting him to do. Trust him to not hurt me? Yes, Bill wouldn't hurt someone if they don't give him a good reason. Trust him to, I don't know, fix wards for me, or check if some enchanted thing is cursed? If I was paying him, I guess? He is really good at that sort of thing, but I couldn't expect him to do it for me for free if he had no reason to want to, could I? Since I wouldn't be his sister, I would need to give him a reason. If I were paying him, I would trust him then, he's an honourable sort. But, I don't know what else I could. I mean, if I were some stranger, I'm not sure I could expect he would stop the twins or Ron from picking on me, could I? They're his brothers, and if I'm not his sister, he would pick their side, I think. Is that what you meant?

More or less. Trusting someone is wise if you have good reason to expect their loyalty to you, or if you understand their personality and priorities well enough to anticipate how they will behave. But otherwise? Should you trust every random person on the street to consider you as fully as Bill does? No, that would be foolish. Trusting without reason is foolish.

Your parents have likely warned you and your brothers to not trust Slytherins because they might not be certain you realise this. Surrounded by close family and friends your whole lives, mostly Gryffindors at that, you have been taught to trust, and to trust unthinkingly. Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs often speak of trust as though it were a virtue, as though people have some inalienable right to be trusted, no matter the circumstance. This is, obviously, ridiculous. Someone a bit less presumptuous in their evaluation of other people might notice your tendency to trust people too much without justification, and use this to their advantage.

Your parents are wise to warn you to be careful, but unwise to have taught you to trust so easily in the first place. If they hadn't done the latter, the former wouldn't have been necessary.

How could they use that to their advantage though?

Who knows? I can't say without some knowledge about the specific person and what their priorities might be. It could be harmless, something you don't mind letting them have. Perhaps something you would do for them if they'd just asked. But, then, it might not be. You won't know until it happens.

But we got off-topic at some point. Why are you so opposed to the idea of being put in Slytherin? Honestly, now. The real reason.

The real reason? And you don't think I've been giving you the real reason?

I think you've been telling me what you think you should say. You may believe these things to some extent, but they're not the real reason.

So why did you bother going on these long rants correcting me then?

I said I would help you so far as I am able, Ginny. Allowing you to continue being wrong without any comment is not helping you under any definition I subscribe to.

Oh, well, thanks for informing me everyone ever has been lying to me. That's great.

I hope you realise I haven't said these things with the intention of distressing you. I realise they might, and that is unfortunate, but it isn't the purpose. The truth can often be painful, but it only stings once; a falsehood believed to be true may injure again and again and again.

Though, you are assuming I am telling the truth. How do you know you can trust me?

You have no reason to lie? And, anyway, if I found out you lied to me somehow, I might get mad and, like, stick you under a tree somewhere where nobody will find you. Then nobody will ever talk to you and you'll be alone forever.

Very good, Ginny. Also, I legitimately enjoy helping people learn things, but you can't know for certain whether I'm telling the truth about that.

I can though. You wouldn't tell me so much about so many different things with very little good reason and without being asked if you didn't want to. That you want me to learn things just because you like teaching is the only explanation that makes sense.

Ha! Yes, that's true, good catch. We'll make a proper Slytherin of you yet.

What if I don't want to be a proper Slytherin?

Don't you, though? Why wouldn't you? We are rather entertaining people, once you get to know us. I did have friends in other houses, of course, but I always considered Slytherins the most complicated and the most interesting.

Maybe there are things more important than being entertained.

At Hogwarts? I would argue not really. And even in the outside world, so long as your needs are met, wouldn't you rather have an interesting life than a boring one, all else being equal?

All else isn't equal though.

It's not the rest of your life, Ginny. It's only seven years. That might seem like a lot to you right now, but you're young. A few decades from now, nobody will care which house you were in. The topic might come up out of curiosity, but nothing more.

Then why do you think it's so important I go into Slytherin?

To be fair, you opened this conversation, not me. This conversation is more about your aversion for the house than my affection toward it. So, Ginny, why do you think it's so important you don't go to Slytherin?

I told you already!

You gave me reasons. Terrible reasons — and I think you realise that by now. You didn't give me the reason. What is the reason, Ginny? What are you truly afraid of?

My family will hate it okay! My parents were both Gryffindors, my brothers are all Gryffindors, and they all hate Slytherins, and they'll hate it! It'll be awkward and terrible and they'll hate it! That's why, you nosey little prick!

There, are you happy?

Why should I be happy, Ginny? Is there some reason your pain should make me happy? I'm not quite that much of a sadist.

Besides, I believe we've already established I'm not entirely sure what happiness is supposed to feel like, anyway.

But well bluh!

Bluh?

Bluh! Bluuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhh

That is a lot of pointless letters.

They're not pointless. I am expressing my dissatisfaction with this conversation.

I did assume. You get silly when you're uncomfortable.

I think that's most people, really.

Many, yes. About your family, though

No!

What?

No, we don't have to talk about it. I don't want to talk about it, I just bleh! Bleh bluh bleh bleh bluuuuhhh!!!!

You're writing out sounds at me again, Ginny. And, is that four exclamation points?

!!!!!!!

Ah, excuse me, it appears they brought friends.

Calling me silly, you're silly sometimes yourself.

Yes, but I do it on purpose, a conscious decision I make as part of my communication strategy. And sometimes just because it's fun. You do it when you get too flustered to think straight. There's a difference.

I'm going to ask you a philosophical question, Ginny.

This is going to come back around to the bit about my family, isn't it.

Yes.

You're getting predictable, Tom.

Maybe you're just getting smarter.

And now you're trying to flatter me into listening. See? Predictable.

Are you sure you're only eleven?

I wouldn't say I'm only anything.

There you go again. Astounding.

Yes, yes, aren't I so brilliant, my talking diary thinks so.

Whatever, Tom, just spit out whatever you're thinking.

I'll ignore the sarcasm for the moment and just do that.

I was wondering, Ginny, what you believe the limits are so far as filial piety is concerned.

?

Loyalty or duty of a son or daughter to their parents. Many mages use the phrase far more generally to apply to the House at large.

Right. Okay. And I guess I don't know, really.

We'll just go down a list of things, shall we?

Let's say your parents, or one of your brothers, committed a heinous crime. Tortured and murdered complete innocents, people who had done nothing to them. Would you still stand by them? Defend them from all opposition?

No, of course not, if they did something that bad.

How about something less severe? Say, they got pissed out of their mind, and assaulted someone. Didn't kill them, but injured them very badly. Do you still defend them then?

I suppose it would depend.

On what?

Well, what I was defending them from I guess? Like if someone was trying to hurt them out of revenge over it, I'd try to do something. Depending on which brother it is, I might still think they're a, I don't know, basically good person? People do make mistakes. That is a big mistake but still. They'd probably have to go to Azkaban over it, which would suck, but I wouldn't, say, try to hide them from the Ministry or something. Then I could get in trouble for their stupid mistake, and I'm not gonna do that.

All right, then. How about something far less severe? You're at Hogwarts, and you stumble on, let's say it's Ron. Ron is bullying some first year. Some random Hufflepuff, someone whose name you don't even know. Jinxing him, stealing his stuff, whatever. Then, a kid a couple years older comes over, a sibling or a cousin, and is about to start hexing Ron over it. What do you do?

It depends on what Ron was doing to the kid. If it was bad enough, I'd probably just sit back and watch, then drag him to the hospital wing after.

Okay. See, you do believe you should be loyal to your family, but there are things you will not back them on. And, as you've just said, that line isn't even that far away from day to day normalcy. I've known people who would have been entirely on their family member's side in the first situation, even for people in their House they don't particularly like. Blacks, mostly. Blacks are like that.

I'm going to turn this concept around a bit, and at the same time bring it back to the bit with your family. I'm warning you this time, just because.

Great, Tom. Thanks.

No problem, Ginny. And yes, I realise that was sarcasm.

Let's say, in another universe, you were older than Ron, and he was the youngest. Let's say, you were Sorted into Gryffindor yourself, and he's coming in the next year. Let's say he gets Sorted into Slytherin. Would you just up and abandon him?

Well, no.

Would you really treat him any differently at all?

I don't think so? I mean, if he was turning into a mean little arsehole, I might. I might hate his friends, if they're racist Dark arseholes. But if he didn't give me a good reason to, no, I don't think I would treat him any differently.

Just being Sorted into Slytherin isn't reason enough?

I guess I would wonder why he was put there. But he was my brother before he was Sorted, right? It doesn't magically make him a different person. He'd still be my brother.

It's almost amusing how you just contradicted your own thinking and don't seem to realise it.

It would make no difference to you if one of your immediate family were Sorted into Slytherin. So, why should it make any difference to them?

You're doing the thing again, Tom.

The thing?

Where you take something really complicated and then make it seem so obvious I'm a bit embarrassed I didn't figure it out myself.

I suppose that is my thing.

I didn't realise I had a thing. But, now that you've pointed it out, I feel a little embarrassed I didn't figure that out myself.

You're teasing me. You don't feel things. You're a book.

Yes. Yes, I am teasing you. That is also my thing.

I knew you were going to say that before you did.

That is starting to become your thing.

I guess. Anyway, you're saying, they shouldn't have any problem with it because they also...the Latiny thing.

Filial piety.

Yes. That. They have that, so it should be fine.

That is what I am saying, yes. Partially.

It is possible, you must realise, that they will shun you for being Sorted into Slytherin. But remember, you yourself are only loyal to your family to a point. One would have to wonder, if your family is so eager to hate you simply for being who you are, over something so innocuous as what house you are put into at Hogwarts, do they truly deserve your loyalty?

That's really scary, Tom.

I'm not saying it's likely. Your brothers might be pricks about it for the first few months, but they'll get over it eventually. Your parents shouldn't have any issue at all. I don't expect it to be a real problem. Of course, if your parents do make a fuss, you can always write your grandmothers. I am certain they would take your side in a heartbeat.

It would not be the end of the world, Ginny, and you would not be alone. It's really not something to worry about that much. You should simply go where you belong. Everything else will settle in time.

And you really think where I belong is in Slytherin?

Do I know so for a fact? No. But I do expect you to be Sorted there, and I expect you to do quite well for yourself. You have it in you.

And, well, I suppose I am here to help should you need it.

I guess.

Let's talk about something else.

If you like. Or you could talk to your friend over there, if you would prefer. You don't have to keep me company all the time, you know. You should have other friends.

I know. She's still reading her thing though.

Lovegoods.

Lovegoods.

Thanks, Tom. For...you know what for.

It was no problem at all, Ginny.