When Ginny Weasley was eleven, she had her first boyfriend. They talked for hours and giggled together and traded stories about their lives. She thought she might love him. Sure, he was a little older, but he was so nice. He listened to her problems and gave her advice and was pretty much fantastic.
The trouble being, of course, that he was a dark lord and also dead.
Of course, Ginny wasn't aware of any of that at the time. All she knew was that something was a bit off, but something in her life had been a bit off for ages before she even met him.
She often sat up late long after she was supposed to be asleep, her feet tucked up under her oversized t-shirt. She'd been drifting in and out all term. One of her friends asked her if she was on drugs. Then again, maybe it wasn't a friend. Ginny didn't have many friends that year, and the few people she spent time with at the beginning of term stopped wanting to talk to her. Nobody wanted to be friends with the weird girl who carried her diary everywhere and wouldn't come outside, even to watch Quidditch. If anyone noticed that Ginny was getting worse, they didn't say anything. She started to suspect that no one cared. No one, of course, but Tom.
One day she flipped open the diary and wrote, How exactly are you supposed to make friends, Tom? It was a stupid question, and it came out messy and immature-sounding, but she didn't care. Tom would never mind if she sounded a bit silly.
When Tom responded, his words had the tiny slant to them that showed he was amused. I didn't have friends when I started at Hogwarts, either. It gets better, I promise you. Give them time, and they'll come flocking to you begging for your friendship. They won't call you strange or mad then.
Ginny frowned. No one had called her mad yet, at least not where she could hear them.
"Everyone says you're mad, you know. Mad Ginny Weasley!"
Ginny turns away from the taunting. She's tempted to ask, Do I even know you? It's never worth it, though. For one thing, the kid's probably right.
She's sixteen now and convinced she's going quite mad indeed. It's September and Hogwarts has turned into a nightmare. It's been a while since Harry broke up with her and disappeared to fulfill his bloody destiny. It's been ten days since she started keeping a diary again.
She dreams of black hair and bright green eyes, missing Harry, or something like that.
After a month of trying to ignore the tired old rumors she's been dealing with since her second year, she wakes with a start in the middle of the night to find Tom Riddle sitting at the foot of her bed.
She stares at him for a second. Then she says firmly, "You're dead." Never mind the fact that she's felt crazy since this whole year began, she is not going to start seeing things.
"Hullo, Ginny," Tom says. He looks solid and real.
She makes herself remember that this is the man who's destroying her world, but she's not afraid of what might come. War is nothing compared to what she went through when she was eleven. Of course, she's not even really scared of him anymore. "Go away," she says, and her voice doesn't shake.
He sighs. "You can't really be angry at me after all this time, can you?"
She watches his eyes carefully when she answers. "After what you did to me, everyone thought I was mad for years. Some of them still do, in fact. I got one just today. So thanks for that." Her fingers fumble under her pillow for the edge of the diary she keeps there.
"Terribly sorry," he says, and his eyes shine green, no traces of red flickering in the depths.
She forgot how beautiful he can be. Her fingers tighten resolutely around the diary, though, and she takes a quill from her bedside table. She turns away from him deliberately and writes on the first empty page, You're going to die, Tom. Harry is going to kill you.
He flinches. "Don't say things like that, Gin. I was sixteen."
"I didn't know any better."
"You should have." She crosses her arms over her chest, watching him. She won't be taken by surprise again, even if this is all in her head.
Tom edges a little closer to her. "I'm here to offer you something, Ginny. Together, we could live forever."
She sighs and forces herself not to move away from him. "No. You're dead. I know you are. I'm just seeing things, and as soon as this bloody war is over, I'm going to a therapist."
"We could be beautiful," Tom says. "We could live forever and be beautiful and powerful and—"
"You're a stupid vampire," Ginny says, and she throws her diary through him.
To her relief, he disappears.
Ginny curls up on top of the covers, too shaken to sleep again. She has to get out of this place, and soon. She can handle what she's seeing for now, but if Harry doesn't hurry up, it might get worse. The worst part is being powerless in the face of all this death and madness.
Ginny shivers. If she can at least keep Tom at bay, maybe Harry can manage the rest all right. He's always needed a little help, and this might not be a lot, but it seems worth doing.