"Ginny! Wait up!" Colin called to Ginny walking out of the portrait hole. "Did you finish the reading the second chapter for Potions this morning?"
"Barely. It kept putting me to sleep last night," she yawned. "Professor Snape's class is a lot more annoying than I thought it would be. And I would rather bathe in the grease stains from his hair than sit next to the Slytherin's any longer than I have too."
"Oy! Ginny that is a mental image I didn't need!" laughed Colin.
"Take any interesting pictures lately?" Ginny asked pointing to the camera swaying around Colin's neck.
"I have! I want to learn how to develop using magical solutions instead of the muggle way. I never saw a moving picture before starting here," Colin said as he held the door into the Great Hall.
"Oh look 'ittle Gin-Gin has a new special friend!" teased Fred. George laughed trying to pull him out of the doorway. Ginny spun around channeling Molly Weasley's fiercest look of disapproval. Fred looked at her glare, shuttered, and quickly caught up to George.
"You ought to be more careful with your impressions Gin-Gin. Wouldn't want your face to freeze like Mum's. She was quite gorgeous before we came along." Their laughter followed them down the hall as Ginny haughtily held her head in defiance of their insults.
"Ignore them, Colin, they are daft. My dad would be fascinated with your muggle pictures and film. He loves muggle stu-" Ginny turned around to face the room and stopped. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were in the middle of breakfast and the only empty seats were next to Hermione and across from Harry. Her face flushed and her stomach performed acrobatic twists as the trio waved them over.
"Don't sit me next to Hermione, I haven't touched any of those books she gave me," whispered Colin grabbing the seat furthest from the group. Ginny sat in the remaining seat across from Harry listening to him continue their conversation.
"As I was saying, Lockhart is a joke. He isn't teaching us anything useful and I doubt he knows basic defense spells," said Harry piling eggs onto his fork. Ginny stopped gathering food and listened. She liked Professor Lockhart. His books were filled with interesting adventures and people he saved. Days after meeting him in Flourish and Botts Mum talked about his admirability and how fortunate they were to learn a critical topic from him.
"Honestly, Harry, you ought to be more respectful of a professor. He isn't that bad. I enjoyed his books," Hermione chided. Ron rolled his eyes with Lockhart's praise and grumpily stabbed around his sausage. "What do you think about him, Ginny?"
All eyes turned to Ginny as she stared downward behind her curtain of hair thoroughly examining her toast. She wanted to tell them how interesting Lockhart was but didn't want to speak against Harry. She could feel his emerald eyes piercing through her shield of hair as a wave of heat engulfed her face. She continued the internal debate as her pulse sped faster than an illicit flying session. Should she agree with Harry or tell him the truth? Ron stopped stabbing his sausage sensing her dilemma and sighed.
"Forget blimey Professor Lockhart. He is bonkers. Did you see the score on the last Cannon match? Almost came even before they lost the snitch," said Ron.
Harry laughed heartily while collecting his things and rose from the table, "Sure if being down 100 points is almost even in your book. Stop stuffing your face, we need to get to class."
"So, you were telling me about how your dad likes muggle things?" started Colin as soon as the trio left.
"I will meet you in class Colin, I need to use the loo," Ginny whispered with her voice threatening to break. She left the dining hall alone and walked to the first-floor bathroom praying it would be deserted. Thankfully, Myrtle was somewhere else.
"The burrow. Mum washing dishes. Dad counting plugs. Twins laughing. Ron eating. Gnomes flying." She chanted her mantra internally splashing cold water on her burning face. She willed the blush to fade and could feel the pulsing of blood slowing down as her heart returned to normal. Composure regained, she took a final deep breath and ran down to the dungeon.
"Ms. Weasley," drawled Professor Snape. "Please explain to the class why you are entering my classroom five minutes late and distracting your fellow students from valuable learning time?"
"I am sorry sir," Ginny mumbled so quickly and quietly it was missed by most of the room. She took a step and her feet tangle causing her to fall. All of her things spilled onto the hard stone floor. One expensive vial of murlap essence shattered leaking the precious green liquid in the grout. Looking up with anger twisting her face the Slytherin side of the room roared with laughter. Before she could reach her wand Professor Snape stepped in front of her.
"Second day of class and already you cause as much trouble as all of your siblings combined. 25 points from Gryffindor. 10 for tardiness, 10 for your distraction, and 5 for your arrogance in not answering my question," said Snape. An outraged retort formed on her lips until she jerked her head up and saw the angry group of Gryffindors glowering at her instead of Snape.
Shame replaced anger as she silently gathered her belongings and found her seat. Colin looked bewildered as Ginny's buried her face behind her book. She would have to write to her mother about the murlap. A brick formed in her stomach as she calculated the cost of the replacement. She noticed she tore a hole in the knee of her robe and she didn't know the patching spell. Tears threatened to well up in her eyes.
"Broomsticks. Orchards. Wind in my hair." Ginny chanted internally giving up on paying attention to the lesson. "Quaffles. Hoops. Blue skies. Warm bread. Mum singing off-key. Dad's workshop." The unshed tears dissipated with the heat in her face.
As soon class ended she sprinted towards the door leaving Colin to clean their cauldron. She reached the corridor before the Slytherins caught up but the roar of laughter followed her down the hall. She raced towards the changing staircase desperate to lose the ruckus behind. She slowed her pace once the sound of laughter retreated to the distance.
"Hello, Ginny. You look a tinge fuschia today," said Luna.
"Oh Luna," sighed Ginny. "Today has been horrible."
She took a deep breath and looked at her friend. The familiarity of buggy blue eyes reminded her of the Devon sky and soft fields close to the burrow. Ginny felt the remaining tension calm as they walked side by side towards Defense Against the Dark Arts.
"Nargles are all over today. You should be extra careful. They already stole half my quills," said Luna.
"Don't worry you can have some of mine," said Ginny reaching in her bag.
Growing up other kids use to pick on Luna for her idiosyncrasies. Luna smiled serenely at her as she took the quills. Ginny tried to decide if this was Luna choosing to rise above the prank or if she genuinely thought Nargles scuttled about. Despite knowing her for almost her entire life Ginny still struggled to read what was beneath the sunny aloof demeanor Luna often projected.
"Well, this is where we part. Thank you, Ginny, for the quills," said Luna.
Ginny stood outside Professor Lockhart's classroom. Her annoyance rose at the thought of a lesson with the brunt of 10 angry Gryffindor's blame over lost points. Outside of flying, this was supposed to be Ginny's favorite class. But now knowing how much Harry disapproved of Professor Lockhart, she questioned her enjoyment.
The class did little to erase her agitation. Ginny skipped lunch opting for a retreat in her empty room to pour all of her shame and embarrassment into the blank pages of her diary.
"Today has been the worst. Everything was fine until I had to go sit next to stupid Harry Potter and his stupid green eyes and his wild black hair. I sat right next to him and had a chance to talk to him. Hermione even asked my opinion! But I was too afraid to speak up and disagree. I have no Gryffindor bravery. And stupid, slimy, nasty, Snape taking all those points and not punishing Slytherins for casting that jinx! I know one of them cast a jelly leg jinx. Feet don't turn in like that on their own. How am I going to tell Mum I need more murlap? Maybe I can borrow some from the twins. I know she would buy me more but I know Mum and Dad don't have the money."
Her words disappeared and were replaced with "Don't worry dear Ginny, soon everyone will see you for the beautiful and spirited witch you are."
Ginny stopped and stared at the pages. She picked up her quill and dipped it into the ink, careful not to allow a single unwanted drop to splatter, and wrote "Hello" on the page.
Her words disappeared as "Hello Ginny!" appeared in their place.
"Who is this? Why? How are you writing to me?" she wrote.
"I am Tom. And I believe you are the one who started writing to me. Would you like me to show you how this works?" Tom wrote.
"Okay," said Ginny.
Ginny left her familiar sunlit room and was transported to a dorm reliant on candlelight. The four poster bed and furniture were the same. Instead of red and gold, she was surrounded by silver and green. Her regular view of the bright blue sky from the turret was replaced with a porthole of black water rushing by. No longer alone a young distinguished man with a Head Boy's badge sat in front of her. He had a handsome kind face showing an open and welcoming smile.
"It is so nice to meet you in person Ginny. It has been a pleasure to read your inspired thoughts. It helps the time pass in the most enjoyable fashion," said Tom.
"Where are we? What is this?" asked Ginny. She left her seat and wandered around the unfamiliar dorm room while Tom continued to speak.
"Why we are in my diary of course," replied Tom. "I hope I wasn't too brash bringing you here."
"This isn't making any sense. How are you doing this?" she turned to face Tom.
"Well let's see. Where to start? As you can see I am a Hogwart's student myself." He said gesturing around. "This was my room. I didn't fit in with many of my classmates and was isolated. I vowed no one should go through these halls feeling like that so I created this diary."
Ginny continued to stare at him with skepticism. Finally speaking she asked, "Are you a Slytherin?"
"Why yes, I am! However, I went to school during a different time from what you have described. Our head of house would never have allowed the same out of line behavior as this Professor Snape. I do hope you will continue to write to me. I am enjoying your perspective and thoughts," he said as he took her hand gently stroking it with care. "You are much more observant than most. You are so pure. You are the first student I wanted to show my world."
"Other's have written to you? But you are blank? How do you work?" Ginny asked with continued hesitation. Her hand was taught with tension despite the gentle caresses.
"I have been around for many years and as you saw I can cleanse and replace words as needed. I am a secure place for secrets since I can clear all of your words if I fall into the wrong hands. I created this diary as a special project. The magic is too advanced for a first year. Just know, I experimented with several types of magic that allowed my heart and spirit to live on through the ages. I designed this diary to allow me to appear during a moment of emotional strife or great need, " he said. "I hope you continue to write, it's been so nice getting to know you."
"I am delighted to make your acquaintance too. Thank you for listening," said Ginny.
"The pleasure is all mine dear. Let me get you back to your room," Tom reached down and kissed her relaxed hand as she returned to her desk.
Ginny felt pleasure looking down at her hand remembering the soft strokes. Gentle warmth spread across her face. She had been writing in her new diary for weeks now but had never expected anything like this. She put her quill down on the blotter pad and closed the diary.
She turned it over inspecting the front, back, binding, and every blank page. She reached for her wand and tapped the diary unsure of what to do next. She never tried to use a spell to detect magic before. She sat holding her wand limply staring at the book trying to understand what was happening.
Her parents gave her a talking diary. But why? Her Dad always warned her not to trust something without a brain. After years of growing up with stories of bewitched objects he confiscated from the Magical Misuse of Muggle Artifacts department, why would he give her a diary like this and not tell her?
Wracking her brain for any potential magical device that could talk back, she twirled her wand nervously around a loose strand of hair.
There had to be a logical reason for all of this. Maybe it was okay for certain things, like paper, to respond. The other day the twins charmed words to insult her on some large piece of parchment. Fred and George didn't seem to have any moral issues bewitching their papers to talk back. And while she knew better to trust Fred's ideas, George wouldn't steer her wrong.
Maybe this magic diary was okay for her to use. This Tom fellow did seem nice.
Ginny put down her quill and got up from the table. Reassuring herself if she was still worried tomorrow she would tell Mum in her next letter.