When Harry awoke the next morning, he blinked unseeing at the blurs of seven people in garishly orange clothes flitting around their posters. He felt for his glasses and shoved them on his face, bringing the players for the Cannons into focus. Ron was no longer snoring but was face down on his bed, his duvet wrapped around his legs in a tight knot.
Stifling a yawn with his fist, Harry sat up and his eyes instantly found a small rusty cage in the corner of Ron’s room. His vision went red as he stared at the man that had betrayed his parents to Voldemort. In all his thinking last night, Harry hadn’t considered Peter’s presence here. That meant it was just before Harry’s second year, as he’d stayed in the Leaky Cauldron before his third and Scabbers was revealed to be Pettigrew before his fourth.
Harry’s vision became less clouded as he focused on his plan. This was just one more thing to consider. In fact, it was one more thing that he could put to rights. If he could expose Peter this year, Sirius could be freed a year early and he could live with him instead of the Dursleys. It would also mean Harry’s third year would be unencumbered by Dementors, or a paranoid Wizarding world determined to protect Harry from a known murderer. He could use that extra time to collect Horcruxes....
This line of thinking led to more complicated thoughts and what to do with the consequences of tampering with the timeline as he knew it. Harry desperately needed to write things down, but didn’t dare trust anything he hadn’t personally charmed himself. He would have to acquire a diary of his own and then wait until he was at Hogwarts to make the necessary safeguards before he would feel secure putting any foreknowledge on paper. He just hoped his thoughtful planning could wait that long before it was clouded over with other thoughts.
Ron rolled over in his bed and yawned long and loud. He sat up and rubbed his eyes with the points of his fists. “You smell that?”
The scents of bacon and toast wafted into their room from the kitchen three floors below. “Breakfast?” asked Harry and they grinned. “Race you there!”
Harry was out the door before Ron reacted. “Oi!” Ron yelled but his lanky legs soon caught up with Harry’s short ones.
They thundered into the kitchen together and found Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and Ginny already sitting at the table. The moment she saw Harry, Ginny sent her bowl of porridge off the table with her elbow. When she emerged with her bowl, her face was on fire. Harry smirked internally. He knew exactly what day it was. He scanned the table and sure enough, their Hogwarts letters were in a pile by Mr. Weasley. Ginny’s was already opened and sat by her juice. She was about to take her first trip to Diagon Alley as a prospective student.
“Letters from school,” said Mr. Weasley, and he passed envelopes to Ron and Harry. “Dumbledore already knows you’re here, Harry – doesn’t miss a trick, that man. You’ve got them, too,” he added as Fred and George shuffled in, still in their pyjamas.
Harry pretended to read through his letter as he considered his plan for the day. He deliberated with himself about Ginny, who was carefully eating her toast. She was the most important person in his life whether she was eleven or not. The tricky part was that she didn’t know him at all at this point in their lives, and so, apart from the stories she’d heard from Ron about their first year at Hogwarts, her feelings for him weren’t based on anything real.
They were talking about Lockhart’s book list and Harry sighed at the memory of his lessons with the pompous git. At least the Defence teacher was mostly harmless.
Mrs. Weasley was speaking now. “I expect we’ll be able to pick up a lot of Ginny’s things second-hand.”
This triggered something in Harry’s memory. “Oh, are you starting at Hogwarts this year?” he asked Ginny as convincingly as he could manage.
She nodded, a blush spread from her cheeks to the roots of her crimson hair, and she put her elbow into the butter dish. No one saw because Percy walked in, but Harry winked at Ginny, who gaped at him.
Percy sat on Errol, bringing Harry out of his reverie. They discovered Hermione’s letter, which Ron read and they agreed to meet on Wednesday in Diagon Alley. That gave Harry some time to think about his course of action.
Ginny would be getting the Diary soon. That was something he could deal with immediately and he planned on saving his future wife from that torture as soon as he could. He would also be missing the Leaky Cauldron for Borgin and Burkes, which would put him into the same Vanishing Cabinet that Malfoy would later use to gain access to Hogwarts – another opportunity for Harry to prevent future deaths.
For now, Harry was determined to push his relationship with Ginny forward in simple, easy steps. It was going to start immediately.
“Harry?” asked Ron after he’d finished breakfast. “Wanna play Quidditch with me, Fred, and George?”
“Sure.” He swallowed his toast and chased it with the rest of his orange juice. Ron, Fred, and George left to find their shoes. Ginny was still sitting in her seat, her breakfast hardly touched. “You want to come, too?” he asked softly so her mum didn’t hear.
Ginny stared at him, like a deer caught in the headlights of an automobile. “Me?” she squeaked.
Harry gave her a reassuring smile. He leaned toward her and in a conspiratorial whisper, said, “I understand that you’ve been keeping your Quidditch skills hidden. Maybe you can make your debut with us?”
She didn’t move a muscle as he waited for her to answer. Maybe he was rushing things and she just wasn’t ready for him to be in her life yet.
Suddenly, a huge grin spread across her face. “Can I ride your Nimbus two-thousand?”
Harry’s smile matched hers. “Definitely.”
She gave a whoop and dashed up the stairs, returning in thirty seconds dressed in a jumper, a pair of jeans, and her trainers.
Ron clomped into the kitchen at the same time. “You ready? Hey, what’s Ginny doing?”
“I invited her,” said Harry, challenging Ron with his gaze.
“But she’s never flown before. Mum’ll go spare if she gets hurt.”
Ginny straightened beside Harry, sending her best Mrs. Weasley glare at her brother. “I bet I can fly circles around you, Ron.”
Ron took a step back, seeming to surrender. “Okay, okay,” he said, waving his hands in front of him. It appeared to Harry that Ginny’s reputation as a powerful witch extended back at least this far and that Ron wanted none of her kind of retribution if he pushed his luck. Then, the redhead smiled as his sister. “But I get first ride on Harry’s broom.”
They flew for the rest of the morning, Fred and George on their Cleansweep Fives, Ron on his ancient Shooting Star and Harry and Ginny trading turns on his Nimbus. They threw apples instead of using an actual Quaffle because they couldn’t risk being seen by Muggles in the village. Ginny turned out to be the surprise of the day, easily outmanoeuvring her brothers and setting Ron into fits of shock.
“How come I never knew you could fly like this?” he whinged. “Think of all the times we could have beaten Charlie...”
Ginny huffed. “I’ve been stealing your brooms from the shed since I was six. Even if I would have asked, you wouldn’t have let me play.”
Ron glanced at Harry. “Yeah, well, you can thank Harry for that.”
She blushed, seemingly involuntarily at the mention of Harry’s name, but recovered quickly. “Thanks, Harry,” she said softly.
Fred and George waggled their eyebrows at their exchange but, blissfully, they didn’t say anything.
Harry feigned confusion at the mention of Floo powder that Wednesday. He also winked at Ginny when her dad asked about escapators, and was rewarded with a giggle. Finally, after wading through the mounds of advice Ron and Mrs. Weasley heaped on him, he deliberately mispronounced the name of Diagon Alley and threw down his handful of gritty powder.
Strangely, the sensation of travelling by Floo felt just as it had when Harry honestly had first used it. He felt strangely sick and dizzy as he spiralled toward London. It was as if his body had its own memory and the newness affected Harry despite ten years of memories to the contrary. Harry concentrated and when the right grate appeared, he stuck his feet out and skidded to a stop in a familiar, dark shop.
He crept quietly out of the stone fireplace and instead of trying to make a break for it, he made a beeline for the Vanishing Cabinet. The Malfoys entered and a familiar scene played before Harry once more. Draco petulantly whined about Harry’s racing broom and position on the Quidditch team while Lucius bartered with Borgin about the illegal items he wanted to sell. At last, the Malfoys left and Harry was alone.
He pulled out his wand and ran the tip of it over the cabinet. The spells that linked it to the one at Hogwarts were still intact. He poked his wand at the points of magic that bound it to the wood and undid them one by one. Soon, it was rendered as normal as any cabinet you might find at a flea market.
Satisfied, Harry stepped carefully out of the shop and into Knockturn Alley.
He ignored everyone he met, intent on making it to the lighter and more welcoming Diagon Alley when his way was blocked. “Not lost, are you, dear?”
Harry muttered under his breath and took out his wand. “No. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll be on my way.”
The witch with the fingernails eyed Harry’s wand suspiciously. “What’s this? Going to hex me with a Tickling Jinx?”
Harry growled, something a bit worse than a Tickling Jinx on his lips when he heard a familiar voice.
“HARRY! What d'yeh think yer doin' down there?”
The witch jumped and her basket of fingernails fell with a clatter down the stairs. Harry raced toward Hagrid and followed him into the alley.
After explaining himself to Hagrid, they were reunited with Hermione and the Weasleys. Fred and George were especially jealous of Harry’s trip into the seedy side of the Wizarding world. As they were walking to Gringotts, Harry filled in Ron and Hermione on everything the Malfoys did in Borgin and Burkes. Mr. Weasley, who was leading their group, was especially interested in his report.
While Hermione waited for them in the Gringotts lobby, the Weasleys and Harry set off for their respective vaults. Harry took his normal allotment for his school purchases, but was surprised when he looked at the pile of Galleons. It was far larger than he had remembered and almost towered as high as his family vault, which became available to him after he turned seventeen. This puzzled him, but he rationalized it as Goblin magic possibly recognizing Harry’s more mature spirit. Seeing the gold, he decided that he was going to make another change in this new timeline. He scooped another pile of gold into a separate bag and stuffed it into his robes.
They set off together from the bank, excitement alight in everyone’s faces at the prospect of spending money. When they arrived at Madam Malkin’s, Harry pulled Mr. Weasley aside as everyone fanned out into the shop.
“What can I do for you, Harry?” asked the elder Weasley.
“Well,” Harry explained, “I’d like to do something for you for keeping me over the summer.”
This seemed to take Mr. Weasley aback, but he did not immediately decline as Mrs. Weasley would have been certain to do. “What were you thinking of?”
“Well,” began Harry, “I couldn’t help overhear that you wouldn’t be able to afford buying Ginny’s robes this year. Maybe I could make a donation?”
Mr. Weasley rubbed his chin in contemplation. “Why would you do that?” he asked sincerely. “You’ve only known Ron for a year and the rest of us for a few days. What would inspire such a spirit of giving?”
Harry pulled out the extra bag of Galleons. “Ron’s the first friend I ever had that’s my age. Your family helped me get on the platform at King’s Cross, and you rescued me from being imprisoned at my relatives for the summer. How could I not be grateful?”
This seemed to have affected Mr. Weasley.
Harry shoved the bag into his hand, knowing there would be enough to pay for all of Ginny’s books, robes, wand, and other required supplies. The way he figured it, Ginny was as good as his wife anyway, so it was already hers to spend. He just needed to supply a more acceptable excuse to her father, who likely wouldn’t take such a declaration with a warm embrace. “I don’t have a lot of ways to show how much I appreciate your family, Mr. Weasley. Let me do this for you this one time.”
Mr. Weasley nodded mutely and Harry ran off to get his own robes before the older man could change his mind. As he caught up with Ron, he looked back at his future father-in-law and saw him speaking with Ginny. She pointed to the bag and he nodded. Ginny looked up and locked eyes with Harry. He smiled and she smiled back, mouthing the words ‘Thank you’.
Flourish and Blotts was as crowded as Harry remembered. Lockhart was signing his books at the back of the store, much to the delight of the witches, both old and young. Harry quickly added a simple diary to his stack of books, but was otherwise deliberate in making sure he didn’t have a run in with the incompetent professor. The only drama of the afternoon was when they ran into Lucius and Draco.
Harry knew that he’d have to let Lucius give the Diary to Ginny because there’d be no other way to obtain it and destroying the Horcruxes early was very much part of Harry’s plan. Saving Ginny from the effects of possession by Voldemort was almost as important, so it was with restrained anxiety he watched the confrontation unfold.
Harry was paying close attention this time, as Arthur and Lucius fought. When Hagrid broke them apart, Lucius slipped one hand casually into his robes and extracted the Diary, placing it carefully under Ginny’s copy of A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration.
“Here, girl - take your book - it's the best your father can give you – ” Lucius said and strode out of the shop. Ginny tucked the books into her cauldron and didn’t give a hint of recognition that she’d been given more than he’d taken.
Hagrid and Mrs. Weasley traded turns scolding Mr. Weasley for fighting while Harry began to think of ways to get the Diary from Ginny. Knowing her as he did, she wouldn’t simply give it to him if he asked about it. She would probably start writing in it that very night, and so would be reluctant to give it to the very subject of her likely first entry. Therefore, Harry spent all of his effort in thinking of a way to get Ginny to give up the Diary, when every day that passed made that more and more difficult.
It was a week later that Harry found an opportunity to speak with Ginny alone. He’d used that week to continue building up their friendship, while maintaining his relationship with Ron, who was still prone to jealousy at this stage of his life. Still, Ginny had been very close to Ron before he’d left for Hogwarts, so it made for a ready excuse for Harry to include her. Over the course of their time at The Burrow, Ron had slowly grown accustomed to Harry’s insistence that she be invited to anything that Harry and Ron did together.
The three of them were playing chess when Mrs. Weasley called Ron to sort his laundry, leaving Harry blessedly alone with Ginny.
“You’re pretty good at chess,” commented Harry as he slid his rook over two squares. Her hair was held back in a tight ponytail by pink and purple ribbons and he had to fight to not leave off the last three words.
Ginny’s eyes darted across the board, calculating her next move. “Ron used me as his guinea pig to test his strategies on,” she said as she deliberated between moving a pawn or her bishop. “Some of it must have rubbed off on me.”
He waited for her to finish before he spoke again. “Are you nervous about going to Hogwarts?”
She tore her eyes off the board to stare at him. He noticed that they were already starting to puff out underneath the rims and realized suddenly how her mother must have failed to notice – she probably chalked it up to Ginny being wound up about starting Hogwarts.
“A little,” she replied and resumed calculating moves in her head.
“You seem a little more than just nervous,” observed Harry shrewdly, hoping that Ginny didn’t think he was being to forward. “Are you sleeping well?”
Harry realized that this probably sounded strange coming from his mouth, and stranger still being directed at Ginny, but he couldn’t help himself. He was, after all, a twenty-two-year-old in a twelve–year-old’s body.
“Why?” she asked, a different, more desperate kind of nervousness creeping into her voice.
Harry shrugged, trying to calm her down. “I just noticed that you’ve been having nightmares the past couple of nights.”
She dropped her eyes again, but this time, she wasn’t plotting how best to capture his king. “It’s nothing.”
Harry frowned. There was a muffled explosion from the twins’ room that set Mrs. Weasley muttering in the kitchen. He decided it was time to be bolder with her. “Ginny,” he began, “does this have anything to do with your new Diary?”
Her head shot up, panic etched on her face. “Wha – What?”
Harry tried to offer a reassuring smile. “I just noticed that you’ve been holed up in your room a lot and I was worried, so I peeked in last night and saw you writing in your Diary. I hope I’m not being too nosey.”
Red crept across her cheeks until it made its way to the spotted flesh of her nose. She seemed to hold her breath, brown eyes darting between his green ones. Then, she seemed to deflate. “Yeah,” she said, hanging her head as if in defeat. “It’s... It’s really weird.”
“What is?” Harry prompted. “The Diary? Is it magical?”
She nodded, the hair spilling from her ponytail around her shoulders. “It writes back to me.”
“Oh,” said Harry. He reached out a hand and took hers. “Do you trust me?”
She made eye contact again, and Harry was relieved to see that the fear was gone from her face. She nodded.
“Will you let me see the Diary? I think I might be able to help.”
She hesitated and then gave another stuttering nod. Without a word, she sprang up the stairs and brought it back just as Harry was moving the chess board off the table between them. She clutched it to her chest as if it were her most prized possession and Harry winced internally at how much Tom’s soul must have already dug into Ginny.
He held out his hand. “I promise I won’t read anything you’ve written.”
This didn’t seem to placate her, because Harry knew that the Diary absorbed everything that was written and Ginny’s main concern was that Tom would tell Harry her secrets. Still, she seemed to win her internal struggle and placed it on the table.
“Good,” said Harry reassuringly. “I’m just going to write my name. You can sit next to me to make sure I’m not doing anything weird.”
Again, she seemed to be fighting an internal struggle, but she came around the table and sat on the floor by Harry. Harry dipped his quill into the ink well and hovered it over the Diary. As with his first experience, he let the ink drop and watched it soak in. Then, he began to write.
My name is Harry Potter.
The ink was sucked in and then new words appeared.
Hello, Harry Potter. My name is Tom Riddle. How did you come into possession of my diary? Where is Ginny?
Harry gave Ginny a reassuring smile before he wrote again.
Ginny is next to me. She is afraid of you, Tom. Will you tell us how you came to be created?
There was a pause as the ink absorbed and then new words flashed across the page.
That’s not something I’m willing to divulge just yet. Perhaps you can tell me about yourself, Harry. I can teach you many things about magic and I only ask that in return you help me understand the world you live in.
Harry put the quill down and looked at Ginny.
“That’s exactly what he told me,” she said in a quiet voice. Then, her jaw clenched and determination stole across her face. “I don’t want it any more. Can we get rid of it?”
Harry smiled. “Yes, we can get rid of it, but I think this one will be harder to get rid of than an ordinary diary.” He picked it up and aimed it at the fireplace. It landed in a bed of coals, sending a cloud of ashes swirling up the chimney. The fire sputtered momentarily around the cold book before it continued to burn. Harry beckoned Ginny to follow him and they knelt beside the fire. After five minutes, the Diary wasn’t even singed. Harry used the fire tongs to extract the Diary and place it on the hearth.
He turned the pages. “See? Not even a bit warm.”
Ginny touched the Diary with her fingers, and then recoiled. “It’s evil, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” replied Harry. “It’s my guess that whoever created this Diary put a little piece of their soul inside.”
Ginny’s face contorted in horror. “Why would someone do something so awful?”
Harry shook his head. “We can only guess.” He thought for a second and then looked up to Ginny again. “I’d like to show this to Dumbledore. He’ll know what to do with it, but we need a way to keep it out of everyone’s... curiosity.” He gave her a wry smile, which she returned with a grimace. He reached up to her ponytail. “Do you mind?” She shook her head a tiny bit and he untied the ribbons holding her hair in place. When her hair fell out, her familiar scent washed over him. It was a very intimate moment for a twelve- and eleven-year-old, and Harry struggled to not reach out and touch her face. She wasn’t ready for that yet.
“Here,” he said, his fingers trembling. “Tie one of these around the Diary.” Harry bound the book with the purple one while she used the pink one. “Now, take your wand and tap it to the ribbon you tied.” They both tapped their wands. “Now say, Compingo Strictum.” As he said it, the ribbon glowed and tightened its hold on the book. Ginny repeated his words and her ribbon fastened itself like Harry’s had. “Good,” said Harry. “Now, no one can open the Diary unless both of us undo our spell.”
She looked at him in wonder. “Really?” she said, awed. Then, she flung her arms around Harry’s neck. “Oh, thank you, Harry.” She held on longer than strictly necessary and just as Harry was about to reach his own arms around her, someone cleared their throat.
Ginny sprang back, leaving Harry feeling bereft. “What’s going on here?” asked Ron, who was eyeing them warily. “What are you doing with my sister?”
Harry spread out his hands. “I’m just helping Ginny work through a personal problem.”
Ginny was blushing furiously, but she still seemed grateful. Harry stood. “It’s all taken care of. You done doing laundry? Wanna play some more chess?”
Ron narrowed his eyes again. “Nah, I’m about ready to kip for the night.”
Harry shrugged and took the Diary. He whispered to Ginny as soon as Ron left the living room. “We’ll go to Dumbledore first thing when we get to Hogwarts.”
She nodded and reached out a hand to Harry’s. “Thank you, Harry,” she said and then ran after her brother.
September first came more quickly than Harry had anticipated. He relished his time with the Weasleys, unencumbered by Voldemort, an interfering Ministry, or any other Dark threat. Having time to build up his relationship with Ginny made it especially sweet.
The Weasley family plus Harry navigated their trolleys through King’s Cross station, careful not to attract too much attention. Nervousness radiated from Ginny, so Harry took up a position directly next to her. Ron stayed on his other side until they reached the barrier.
“Fred, George, Percy,” called Mr. Weasley. “You first. Your mother and I will go through with Ginny, then Ron and Harry will follow.”
The older Weasley boys slipped through the barricade and Mrs. Weasley beckoned Ginny while her husband eyed the throng of Muggles. Just as Ginny pushed her trolley forward, one of her bags fell. “Oh drat,” she said and stopped to pick it up.
“You go on then, boys,” said Mr. Weasley, who waved them forward. “We’ll catch you up on the other side.”
Ron didn’t hesitate and disappeared through the portal, but Harry frowned. “I’ll wait with you, Ginny,” he said and was rewarded with a warm smile. She stowed her purse again and they followed Mr. and Mrs. Weasley toward the barrier.
Ginny’s parents went in first and as soon as their feet left the Muggle side, Harry saw the barrier shimmer. Even though Harry’d been expecting it, there wasn’t any time to react. Their trolleys slammed into the now solid bricks, sending their contents flying. Harry was only just able to put himself under Ginny to break her fall.
“Sorry,” she said, apologizing profusely, her cheeks slightly pink. “I didn’t think it would close like that.”
One of the guards was coming over. “It’s not your fault,” he said quietly and helped her up.
“What in the blazes d’you think you’re doing?” the guard said loudly.
“Lost control of the trolley,” said Ginny meekly as Harry picked up a squawking Hedwig. The guard gave them an incredulous look, but stalked away.
“What do we do?” asked Ginny, who was looking very uncomfortable as she probed the gateway with her hands. “What if Mum and Dad can’t get back?”
Harry checked his watch. They still had five minutes. “Stay here. I’ll be right back.” He darted between the Muggles that were still zooming from destination to destination and into a toilet. He locked the cubicle in the back and took out his wand, hoping that the Ministry wouldn’t come down on him for this little bit of magic.
A stag erupted from his wand tip and flew off to the platform, easily bypassing Dobby’s charm. He rushed back to Ginny and tried to console her by pointing out some of the more outlandishly dressed Muggles. “They’re more conspicuous than any of our kind,” he said and she giggled when a woman with bright blue hair and a dozen nose-rings sauntered by.
It wasn’t long before Mr. Weasley appeared behind them. He gave Harry an appraising look and seemed to struggle with himself. Instead, he probed the barrier with his wand and then gave it a good solid tap. “There,” he said. “All fixed. Hurry along before the train leaves.”
Harry waited for Ginny to cross and then he followed, but not before he gave Mr. Weasley one more glance and knew that he’d be getting a visit from Dumbledore before the night was out.
The train ride was both a new experience and more of the same. The biggest difference was that Ginny sat next to Harry in the compartment they shared with Ron and Hermione. Even Malfoy was more subdued, and looked somewhat surprised that Harry was on the train at all. Harry was growing more and more nervous as the countryside slipped past them. Not only was he about to visit Hogwarts for the first time since it was destroyed by Voldemort in his formerly future life, but he was also on the verge of speaking with Dumbledore about several uncomfortable subjects.
As such, Harry was very distracted through the Sorting and Feast, only able to focus when Ginny was Sorted into Gryffindor. His fears were realized when a note was handed to him from Marcus Belby.
“It’s from Dumbledore,” Harry said in answer to the questioning glances he’d been getting from Hermione, Ron, and Ginny. “I’ve got to speak with him before I turn in.”
“Rotten luck,” said Ron. “I don’t suppose you’d be in trouble for what happened with Malfoy in Diagon Alley?”
“Not a chance,” said Harry. He turned to Ginny and patted a bulky object inside his robes. “You probably will want to come with me.”
She pinched her lips in determination and nodded. Ron and Hermione shared a look, but didn’t press for answers as the crush of students began to flood the door of the Great Hall. Harry led Ginny to a back way and soon they were clear of all people in the seventh floor corridor. They approached the gargoyle, which leapt aside as soon as they drew near.
Ginny was trembling and Harry took her hand. “Don’t worry, Gin. Dumbledore is a great wizard. He won’t punish you for anything; especially for writing in a Diary you didn’t know was evil.”
When they approached the door to Dumbledore’s office, Harry didn’t even raise a fist to knock before they heard his kind voice say, “Come in.”
Harry swallowed and opened the door with his free hand, keeping Ginny’s tight in his other. It was bittersweet to be in the Headmaster’s office again. Bitter because of the tidal wave of unpleasant memories that assaulted him, but sweet because it was exquisitely wonderful to see him again.
The Headmaster raised his eyebrows when he saw Ginny with him and his eyes flicked to their entwined hands. “Welcome, Harry. It’s good to see you alive and well after your summer holiday. Please have a seat.”
“Thank you,” said Harry, his throat growing tight.
Dumbledore steepled his fingers. “Might I inquire why Miss Weasley accompanied you tonight?”
Harry took out the Diary. “She’s here because of this.” He placed it on the Headmaster’s desk. “It was given to her by Lucius Malfoy when we were purchasing our books in Diagon Alley.”
The Headmaster carefully turned the book over and there was the barest glint of recognition as he read the name emblazoned on the lower corner of the cover.
“It’s Lord Voldemort’s Diary,” said Harry matter-of-factly.
Dumbledore’s sharp blue eyes narrowed as they regarded Harry. “You seem very well informed, Harry. About this and about other things...”
Harry didn’t have any illusions about which things the Headmaster meant. Sending Patronus messages was the special tool of members of the Order of the Phoenix. No one outside of that organization knew how it was done.
“There are some things that I need to tell you, Professor, and then there are some things that I need to tell Ginny. I’m not sure how everything will play out after I’m done speaking, but I’m going to ask both of you to help me by not overreacting.”
Dumbledore kept his gaze steady while Ginny’s brow was knit from the effort of holding back a thousand unspoken questions.
“It all started five years from now,” he began, deliberately mixing his verb tenses. “Lord Voldemort had returned and it was the final battle at Hogwarts. Or... it should have been the final battle, but something went wrong and it set me on a course that landed me here.” Harry stopped, not wanting to go into the whole discussion about Horcruxes in front of Ginny. He also needed to give Dumbledore some bonafides after he dropped this very large bombshell on him.
Ginny was holding her breath and was squeezing Harry’s hand to the point of pain. “Ten years from now, I caused an explosion with my magical core that wiped out the Death Eaters and Voldemort, and... my own body. It happened in the ruins of The Burrow, at the topmost room, exactly over the spot I used to spend the night on a camp bed.
“Immediately after the explosion, a hole formed where my magical core used to be. Somehow, it drew my spirit – or whatever I was when my body was obliterated – into it and when I woke up, I was in this body, in this time, with every bit of the memories I had from ten years in the future.”
The silence that followed Harry’s words was stifling. Dumbledore didn’t move, but Harry could feel the tendrils of Legilimency caress his mind. Harry didn’t resist, because he had nothing to hide. Ginny’s fingers relaxed slightly, but her eyes were wide and vulnerable. He didn’t want to hurt her by lying, but he knew that he’d just given her a very large piece of mental meat to chew on. It would take a while for her to digest it all.
“I see,” said Dumbledore at length. “Perhaps there is something else you wish to share?”
Harry nodded at the Diary. “That’s not just something Voldemort used to keep track of his exploits at school. It’s a Horcrux. Tom made several of them and inside each is a bit of his soul. It’s what anchored his spirit to the earth after he killed himself when I was a tot, and... I know where they all are and how to destroy them.”
Dumbledore rocked back in his chair. The normally unflappable Headmaster stared unabashedly at Harry. But it was Ginny that broke the silence.
“V-Voldemort’s been talking to me through a Diary?” she squeaked. “He’s been trying to get into my head for a week and you didn’t say anything?” she said accusingly, but her hands still gripped Harry’s arm.
“I’m sorry, Ginny,” he said. “I’d wracked my brain that whole time to figure out a way to get the Diary away from you, but I just couldn’t until the night we were alone.” The stricken look on her face was heart wrenching. “Imagine if I’d approached you right after we came home from Diagon Alley? How would you have reacted if I would have just demanded it from you or tried to tell you any sliver of the truth?”
Ginny’s eyes fell to her lap. “Oh,” she said and tried to withdraw her hands, but Harry took them gently into his own.
“I don’t blame you for being angry, Gin. But considering how badly it could have gone, I’d say we’re doing all right.”
Dumbledore had stood while Harry was absorbed with Ginny and was engaged in probing the Diary with his wand. “Harry, would you mind unlocking this clever charm?”
He complied and urged Ginny to do the same with her ribbon, who then shoved them in her pocket.
Dumbledore waved his wand more vigorously and then the Diary shook and glowed a sickly green. “Indeed you are correct, Harry. This is a Horcrux and I would be foolish to believe that Voldemort was not involved in its creation.”
“So what do we do now?” asked Harry. “We need to get rid of all the Horcruxes before...” He looked tentatively at Ginny. “Before he finds another way to gain his body back. When he does, I’ll be able to defeat him.”
Ginny sucked in a breath. “Why?” she asked sharply and Harry was touched by her protectiveness. “Why does it have to be you? Dumbledore’s the most powerful wizard in the world.” She immediately blushed upon saying this, but the glint in her eye defied Dumbledore from denying it.
“I’m quite flattered, Miss Weasley,” he said with no hint of embarrassment. “I’m certain that Harry is referring to a prophecy that was given just before he was born, wherein he was named as the one who had the power to defeat the Dark Lord.”
Ginny’s eyes grew large again and tears pooled at the bottoms.
“It’s okay, Ginny,” Harry said soothingly. “I’ve fought him loads of times and I’m still here. Technically,” he mused, “I’ve even killed him a couple of those times.”
Harry pointed to the Diary, which still lay open on the Headmaster’s desk. “You’ll need a goblin-made blade, a Basilisk fang, or Fiendfyre to destroy that and the rest of the Horcruxes.”
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “Then I suspect we’ll be having future meetings on this subject.”
Harry nodded and turned to Ginny. “Let’s get you to bed. You have a long day ahead of you tomorrow, and I don’t want to be the one responsible for you getting a detention.”
Harry led Ginny down the stairs and over to Gryffindor Tower. She was getting more and more sleepy with each step, but Harry could still feel her unasked questions fluttering around like butterflies. He left her at the foot of the stairs leading to the girls’ dormitories, where Hermione dutifully waited for them. Ginny gave Harry a meaningful look before yawning widely and allowing the older girl to drag her to her room. As Harry tried to allow sleep to claim him that night, he wondered if he’d opened a bigger can of worms than he could handle.