Chapter 1: 01; she denies
The eyes of her mother and father are horrified as they stare at her. She looks away, looks as far down as she can, away from the stares. She's just as horrified as they are.
They take her to the hospital wing. She doesn't remember speaking. She said something about the diary. Her father yelled. She didn't hear it.
She was used. A tool. Tom, her trusted friend, was You-Know-Who, using her to get to Harry.
It can't be true. Tom, he loves her, he cares about her. She's numb. Completely numb.
She lays in the bed, staring at the ceiling. The greatest impulse is to reach back into her back pocket, pull out the diary, read Tom's--no, You-Know-Who's--comforting, charming advice. It's gone. Forever.
Madame Pomfrey speaks to her, but it slides past her ears. Madame Pomfrey hands her a Sleeping Potion and Ginny gladly drinks it. She sleeps a dreamless sleep, and is glad for it.
The next morning, the departure to the Hogwarts Express. "What's wrong, Ginny?" Ron says as he pulls up his trunk. He looks her over, concerned. "You all right?"
"Yeah, I guess," she says. She runs her hand through her hair, surprised to hit tangles. She thought she'd brushed it well. Hmm. "Why?"
"You look a bit peaky," he says. "Are you sure you're all right?"
She smiles; the muscles in her face twitch, as if they're abused, or just too numb. "Ron, nothing's wrong. I'll be fine."
Ron slowly nods. "If you need anything, just tell me," he says. It's rare he's ever this concerned about her. She must look horrid.
She pulls a good facade of happiness; in a way, she's almost happy. The numbness is better than the all-out confusion, the suffering of what Tom made her do.
Then again... Tom did listen like no one else did.
She closes her eyes and takes a bite of a Chocolate Frog. Silent. Vaguely happy, but silent.
"Hey, Ginny, come and play Exploding Snap!" Ron calls.
She goes, plays, smiles, laughs. But inside, she aches.
She saves and she saves and she saves every Knut and Sickle she can. Plying her mother, bit by bit, to take her to the bookstore. She finds a leather-bound notebook almost exactly like the one Tom wrote to her in, the one he was bound to.
She writes in it immediately when she gets home.
It seems odd that I consider it mad to write into a diary that doesn't write back. Isn't that true? Well, let's just say I hope that this diary, I suppose, will suffice. If not, I'll have to save far too much loose change to afford another one.
Well, let's see. My name is Ginevra Molly Weasley, and I'm going to be a second year at Hogwarts. Most people call me Ginny. I have six older brothers, I'm the only girl.
My brother Percy's a prefect, he may even make Head Boy next year. Who knows? Fred and George are pranksters, and the explosions rarely stop in their room lately. I wonder what goes on in there, really?
Charlie works in Romania, with dragons. I haven't seen him for about a year or so. Bill works for Gringotts, and I haven't seen him for a while, either. Ron is the normal one, I suppose, though that's probably exaggerating. He's the one I'm closest to, probably because he's only a year older than me. His friends are good friends of mine, I suppose, too. Hermione Granger and Harry Potter.
She puts down the quill for a moment, and smiles to herself. This isn't so bad after all. Life goes on. She writes on, setting ink on paper that does not live. But paper should be good enough.
Chapter 2: 02; she craves
Years pass. Ginny grows up. Fifth year. Tom is far from her mind, as four years is a long time.
Or maybe not.
Dinner on a rainy September night. Harry is talking hurriedly to Ron. "He's not going to leave Hogwarts alone for long. Dumbledore wants me to do the Fidelius Charm, but.." he hesitates.
"You don't trust it," Ron says. He takes a small sip of cider. His face is surprisingly serious. "Listen, I don't see what other course you can take, Harry. It's understandable that you don't trust it, but you can trust me, or Hermione ... we wouldn't betray you, you know that." He lifts the glass to his lips again.
Harry remains silent. Ginny just watches out of her corner of her eye. "Ron, I won't do it," Harry says quietly, staring down at the table. "You have to understand."
Ron puts down the glass. "I see." Silence settles uncomfortably over them.
"Ginny," Harry says. She looks up. "I want to talk to you."
"Harry," Ron says. There's a hint of warning in his voice.
"Ron, this is my choice."
"You can't have her do this -- she's been bewitched by him once already!" Ron looks furious, and begins to turn quite red. "She's my sister and I won't let you do this!"
"It's my decision." Harry seems a bit more uncertain.
"Harry," Ginny says. "What's going on?"
"Just come with me for a second, will you?" Harry stands and Ginny begins to follow suit, but Ron pulls her down.
"Ginny, no. Stay here."
"Ron," Harry says. His eyes narrow.
"Harry, you have to choose someone else. She's more susceptible than anyone else, she's already been taken over by him, all he would have to do -- "
" -- I know what I'm doing, Ron."
"Dumbledore would tell you the same."
"What is this?" Ginny breaks in. She can't take it anymore. "Is this about You-Know-Who?"
Ron glares away. Harry nods silently. "Okay," she says slowly, "fine." She turns to Ron. "I think you're right." Harry's jaw drops. "You should go to Dumbledore. He knows what to do. Whatever this is about, he'll know what to do."
Harry finds his voice. "All right." He gets up and leaves. "I'll talk to him. You two stay here."
"Fine," Ron says. His tone is cold, yet vulnerable. "Go ahead."
"Ron," Ginny says. There's just a hint of a warning in her voice. He quiets. "Good luck, Harry."
"Thanks," he says. Ron says nothing. Harry stalks away.
"Wanker," Ron says under his breath, and takes a small sip of juice. Ginny says nothing. Ron says nothing. The silence overpowers them and they surrender to it willingly.
Ginny takes out her journal and writes in it. Surrendering her soul onto its pages just as Tom did.
Just as Tom did...
She snaps it shut, shaking. She gathers up her things and carefully leaves the hall, as if afraid she could shatter into pieces at any moment. She hears Ron say, "Ginny, wait," but she ignores him and runs as slowly as she can towards the doors, towards the flames, to destroy that which imprisons her soul.
The third journal she's burnt already this year. Another "accident."
Countless amounts of paper that Ginny bound herself to with ink and a quill. Countless pieces of her soul up in flames. Countless pieces of herself sacrificed to the memory ofhim.
She craves, and she calls.
And he hears.
Chapter 3: 03; she falls
He hears, and he calls to what is left of her.
"Step into the fire, Ginny ... I'm here, it's Tom, come to me, Ginny Weasley ..."
She obeys like a good girl, and with the suddenness of Floo powder, she is in a musty cellar. And he is there -- Tom is there. A smile on his perfect sixteen-year-old face, charming as always.
"How ... how did I get here?"
His smile widens, and he twirls his wand between his fingers. "You called and I answered."
She steps towards him, a hopeless smile on her face. "I've missed you so much, Tom ... you wouldn't believe it ... no one listens like you do ..."
"I would imagine so, I'm quite a patient man." He brushes back his longish black hair. "Sit if you like, Ginny. We have as much time as we need. They won't miss you back at Hogwarts."
It's true, it's true, they won't miss her at Hogwarts. She sits on a chair that may have just appeared.
"How is Harry, Ginny? Tell me how Harry is. Is he as handsome as ever?"
"Not as handsome as you, Tom." He grins and she smiles meekly, as usual. "He's going out with Hermione, at least they went out once. He still thinks I'm a little girl, really ..." she stares down at her shoes. "Do you think I'm a little girl, Tom?"
"Of course not, Ginny. You're one of the most intelligent, mature women I know." He smiles that smile again and she can't help but blush that Weasley blush. "Do go on."
"Ron thinks I'm a little girl ... just at dinner he and Harry were arguing about if I could do something for him, something important, and Ron refused ... it hurt, Tom, you know, it really did. I'm not some little first-year who doesn't know anything. I could help ..."
"I know you could help, Ginny. You're valuable, very valuable, and Ron doesn't see that. He sees you as that little girl blushing at the very glance from his best friend; you're nothing to him, Ginny."
"Too right, Tom." Bitterness rises in her throat. "I hate Ron. And Harry, too. They both think I'm a little girl."
Tom leans forward. "Do you want to prove yourself to them, Ginny?"
"Yes, Tom, I do, yes ..." she feels drugged, blank, her body heavy. "Ron ... Harry ..."
Tom, the lovely sixteen-year-old boy Tom, leans forward and kisses her. So much like Harry, so intelligent, charming, heroic ... even through the fog she finds herself kissing him back.
It's pure ecstasy at first, then blinding pain.
"Remember that you wanted me willingly, Ginny, that you accepted me into yourself so eagerly, when they ask you why ..."
Her eyes snap open. "What, Ron?"
"Why did you run out of dinner last night? You scared me, I thought something was going on."
"No," she says, smiles. It hurts a bit, she's got a headache. "I just had to get out of the hall, the noise there was driving me mad. I've got a killer headache."
"All right," Ron says, but he looks doubtful still. "Where were you that you weren't in the common 'til ten?"
"What's with the interrogation?" She touches her hand to her forehead. "I went out for a walk."
"Okay, okay," Ron says. "I wish you wouldn't, Hogwarts may be getting dangerous quite soon, because ..."
"Because of Harry," Ginny finishes. The bitterness suddenly rises in her throat again, with Tom's voice ... he thinks you're a child ... "I can handle myself, Ron, I'm not a child," she snaps coldly.
Ron is obviously surprised. "Ginny, I -- "
"Forget it, Ron." She stands and quickly departs to her dorm. And Tom is sitting there, on the bed.
"That was wonderful," he says. "You really showed it to him. Keep that up."
"You saw it?" She's quite pleased.
"Don't you know, Ginny?" His smile never wavers. "I'm always with you now, I'll never leave you. You want me to stay, right Ginny?"
"Of course," she says. "Of course, Tom."
"You're just a lovely woman," Tom says. "Why Harry and Ron couldn't trust you with something I don't know. What was it that they couldn't trust you with?"
She blinks. "I'm not sure ... some charm, but Ron said I was too weak ..."
"The ... the Fidelius Charm, perhaps?"
She blinks again. "Yes, yes, that was it." She sits down beside Tom. "What is that?"
"The Fidelius Charm protects a certain person. Harry, for example. One person keeps the secret ... imagine, Harry thinks you would blab his whereabouts to everyone, like Colin and all of his fans! You wouldn't do that, would you, Ginny?"
Indignation rules. "Of course not!" she says. "I wouldn't betray Harry, not for anything!"
"I didn't think so. Of course not." Tom gives her that smile again. "I know a way to get Harry to trust you, to trust you with everything."
"Really? You're so smart, Tom," she says. "How?"
"Just trust me," he says. And she does. She can always trust Tom.
"You just tell him this," Tom says. "Tell him exactly what I say and he'll be yours, however you want him. I'll do anything to make you happy, Ginny, I'll give you anything you want, just say the word."
She thinks about it, and says, "I want Harry."
Tom smiles. "That's what I thought."
"Harry," Ginny says, and he turns. He is surprised to see her, no doubt, in this deserted hallway.
"Ginny, what are you doing here?" He looks at her more closely, but quickly looks away. "You should be in the common room. It's late."
"Only eight-thirty," she says. "Not late at all."
"Well, it's late enough," Harry says, the faintest trace of a flush visible on his cheeks. "I really should go, Ginny, so should you..."
She touches his shoulder. "I don't understand you," she says.
"You know that I care about you, might even love you, probably; but then you ignore it. And now, when I don't try, you see me this way, and you blush. I don't understand you, Harry."
He goes a little red. "Ginny, please, just..." he trails as he sees the serious look on Ginny's face. "You're serious, aren't you?"
She nods. He shakes his head. "I can't," he says. "You're Ron's little sister, Hermione and I... I can't," he finishes lamely. Ginny remains silent. "I can't," he repeats.
She silences him by kissing him. Harry does not resist. She breaks the kiss, then stares at him, silent still. "Ginny," he says. "You're different..."
I've always been this way, Tom whispers. "I've always been this way, Harry."
"Ron... Ron would kill me," Harry says. "I have to go." He tries to push her away, but she presses him against the wall, puts her arm around him.
He doesn't have to know, Tom whispers. "He doesn't have to know."
"Hermione -- "
"Neither does she."
They kiss again, until Harry breaks it, panting, whispering, "Ginny." She silences him again with a kiss.
Everything you want, Ginny, anything to make you happy. I'll make sure you get it. You can trust me, Ginevra Weasley... you can trust your Tom.
Chapter 4: 04; she diminishes
Harry doesn't look at her the next morning, rather pointedly. Ginny decides not to protest, but Tom is appalled. Look at him, Ginny, he says. How passionate he was last night, and how very cold he is today!
Ron may notice, he's just acting, she thinks back at him. He still cares.
Are you sure?
She isn't. She smiles at Harry, who nervously smiles back. Ron is chattering about something. She hasn't paid attention to Ron since Tom's been with her; she's realized what a huge prat her brother is thanks to Tom.
"...And so I said to Hermione, 'You might want to look away from a book once in your life... Parkinson was just humiliated and you missed it.' And she punched me in the arm."
Idiot, Tom says. He's an idiot. You don't need Ron, he's a loser, he's not talented like your Harry... what use is Ron, really? All he is is Harry's sidekick, spineless, the cowardly jester fool.
Yes, she agrees. Yes.
Ron has poked her at least five times in the shoulder. "Ginny."
She jerks up. "What?"
"I said, what is with you two? You're all quiet and I don't know why. Honestly, am I the only one talking here?"
Probably, Tom says. It's not as though he knows when to shut up.
Ginny snorts a laugh. "I'm wonderful, Ron," she says. "Wonderful." Smile at Harry, Tom commands, and she obeys. Harry freezes, staring into her brown eyes. "In fact, I feel better than ever."
"Well, that's good." Ron frowns at her. "You've been so off, thought something might've been wrong. Glad to see I was being a bit overprotective."
As usual, Tom says.
"I don't see what you mean," Ginny says. She glances up at Harry, who is rather busy picking at some eggs. "It was just that bloody headache. I came down with something not too major, I reckon."
The students start to leave the hall. Ginny makes sure to grab Harry before he runs off to meet Ron. "You were quiet," she says. "Even to me. What's going on?"
"I..." He doesn't look at her. "It's wrong. I know it, we both know it. We should forget it ever happened, Ginny."
"You think I can?" Idiot, tossing me away like I'm nothing... "You know I love you, Harry, and I will never forget last night."
"It can't happen again." He pushes his glasses farther up on his nose. "You know it can't."
Destiny is homemade, not tailored to fit, Tom says. "Destiny is homemade, not tailored to fit, Harry," she repeats.
He sighs. "Ginny, I'm sorry, but that was just... hormones. I can't -- I don't -- I don't really feel that way about you, Ginny, I don't."
Are you convincing me, or yourself? Tom says. "Are you convincing me, or yourself?" she repeats.
"Hopefully both," he says. "Transfiguration. I have to go, you do too."
"Remember that you wanted me willingly, Harry, that you accepted me so eagerly, when they ask you why," Ginny says, and is surprised by it. So familiar... what could it be? More of Tom's words?
Harry blanches. "Goodbye," he says, and fairly flees from the hall.
Tom! Tom, what did I do? He's afraid... what did I do?
You must trust me and I'll give you everything you desire, Ginny... you must know that I have a plan for this, too. Just trust me, Ginny.
Tom? He doesn't respond to her call. Tom...
With Tom's sudden absence she wakes. She now stands alone, useless as any mortal soul, in what feels like the cosmic vastness of the Great Hall.
She flees to Charms, glad to know where she is headed for once, where she is meant to be.
"What has gone wrong?" The Dark Lord is infuriated in his cold way, pacing, tracing the connection to the girl over and over again with a growing frustration. "Why have I lost her?"
"We can fix this, my Lord," Bellatrix says with an urgent optimism. "There must be a way -- "
Bellatrix is caught in the agony of the Cruciatus Curse as the curse snaps out of her Master's mouth. She writhes, screaming violently for the long moment that he tortures her, and then when he releases her, she chokes out, "Thank you, my Lord."
"Aid me," the Dark Lord says, touching his mind to hers, and Bellatrix nods fervently, helping her master force his way into the girl's mind.
Ginny screams in pain while rushing down the hallway and collapses right in front of the Transfiguration room. She writhes as though the Cruciatus Curse is upon her, and the sixth year Gryffindors are there, she is in Harry's arms, Harry and Ron trying to control her, trying to calm her down.
Eventually the pain stops and she grips Harry's hand so hard that her knuckles turn white. He says nothing.
McGonagall looks more than a little thrown. "I just don't see... well... Weasley!" she snaps. Ron looks up at her. "Take your sister to the hospital wing. Madame Pomfrey must see her immediately."
Ron nods, and Harry helps her to her feet. She looks up at her brother, up at Harry, still silent. Tom's voice is gone, and there is only concern in Ron's eyes. Maybe he's not as much of a prat as I thought he was. "Ron," she says, and pain throbs throughout her head. She sinks to her knees again, and Harry is there, pulling her up again.
Ron gives Harry an odd look, one Ginny can't decipher. "Go ahead, Harry," he says shortly. "I've got her."
Harry quickly nods to Ron without giving Ginny a second look, and goes into the classroom. Ron puts his arm around her and they start for the hospital wing. They are completely silent until Ron speaks tersely to her.
"Do you fancy Harry?"
She freezes, and many things flicker through her mind. The truth. No, a lie. Tell him no. No. He'll find out. How can she think without Tom? Where is Tom? "Did you hear me, Ginny?"
"I asked if you fancy Harry." He doesn't look her in the face. "Do you?"
Her face goes red. "Oh, Ron, you know I do. I have since... well, you know I do."
"Please stay away from Harry," Ron says, and she stares up at him, surprised.
"I..." He seems to be debating in his head, then settles. "He's Public Enemy #1 for You-Know-Who, and we have to be really careful. You must stay away from Harry because if someone bad finds out you fancy Harry, they could.... take you over, like back in your first year. And they could kill him."
"Ron, you're not making any sense."
"It doesn't matter. Stay away from him. He's probably going to hide off with Sirius soon anyway, wherever he is now. Hogwarts is safe, but You-Know-Who will do anything to get to Harry, that's what everyone in the Order's been saying." Ron gives her a sharp look. "Besides.... oh, never mind."
"What?" He says nothing. "You know I hate when you do that, Ron! What is it now?"
"My best mate and my sister can't date," Ron says. "It's just wrong. All I could see would be you two snogging in a corner when I looked at my baby sister, and that I could not take."
Ginny says nothing, mainly because this was what she and Harry were doing the night before. "Ron," she says. "Don't worry about me."
He looks at her as though she's mad. "You just were twitching like you were under the Cruciatus Curse, and you don't want me to be worried?"
She laughs, and then Tom is suddenly back in her head. Ginny, he says. Are you all right?
Where did you go, Tom? she thinks back at him. I was thinking, Ron isn't so bad after all, you know?
Ginny, Ron was the one who did it to you.
She looks at Ron quickly, then just as swiftly away. What, Tom? What are you talking about?
Don't look at him like that! He's jealous because he knows about you and Harry. He thinks that you're stealing his best friend from him. That's why he attacked you. Why do you think it hit you when you were going past that classroom?
That's ridiculous, Tom! Ron wouldn't hurt me!
Ginny, don't be naive. Your brother has you fooled. Do you understand? He's one of the bad guys!
A Death Eater?
Yes, yes... a Death Eater, Ginny. He's trying to get you to leave Harry alone so he can have him all to himself to kill him.
In her now-warped mind, she believes this. Yes, you're right, Tom. I'm sorry for not realising it.
It's okay, Gin. Just act normal. If he realises you know what he's doing, he'll hurt you for sure.
"Thanks, Ron," she says to him. "But I think I can make it the rest of the way there."
"Ginny," he warns. "I'm not going to fall for that again."
"I'm fine," she insists.
"Fine, go alone," he says. "I'll just follow."
She shakes her head. "You're impossible, Ron." She continues on and Ron follows. They reach the hospital wing in a few minutes. Ron leaves, saying, "Remember what I said, Ginny."
There is nothing wrong with her, Madame Pomfrey says, but Ginny knows that if Harry doesn't take back what he said earlier, she'll be back in here for a broken heart.
Don't worry about Harry, Tom says. I've got that covered. He won't be able to resist you, Ginny love.
I love you, Tom, Ginny says to him.
I love you too, Ginny. Now go get him.
Chapter 5: 05; she turns
Dianthe Perkins, the girl who sleeps in the bed next to Ginny's in the dorms, will not shut up about what happened to Ginny before Charms. "Is it serious?" she says. "What did Madame Pomfrey say?"
"She said there's nothing wrong with me." Ginny stares up at the hangings of her bed. "I don't know what happened. It was like I was on fire from the inside out. And..."
She was going to say that Tom left, but Dianthe doesn't know about Tom. "Oh, nothing." She stands up and brushes off her robes. "What time is it?"
"Eight-thirty. Hour and a half 'til bed." Dianthe sits up. "Why, are you going down to the common?"
She nods. "I need to talk to somebody," she says.
"Ooh," Dianthe says keenly. "Colin Creevey? You know everyone says that he has a real fancy for you, Ginny."
She shrugs. "No, just Ron. Or Harry."
"Harry?" Dianthe teases. "Are you going to ask him to sign your robes or what?"
"Shut up," she says, flushing. "I'm not like that anymore. He's just my brother's best mate, that's all."
"Your brother's fit best mate."
"Shut up, Dianthe!" She laughs. "I just need some help with Transfiguration, that's all, and I know they know it."
"If you're not up by bed, I'll bring McGonagall up and tell her that you and the famous Harry Potter are snogging."
It's amazing how many people joke about the truth, Ginny muses. "I'll be up by ten, Mum," she says, and leaves.
Harry is not in the common, but Ron is arguing with Hermione over something, so Ginny naturally goes over to Neville. "Where's Harry?" she asks him as he pores over a huge Herbology book.
"In the dorm," he says. He never looks up. "Why?"
"Nothing," she says, and after making sure no one is looking, she silently goes up into the sixth year boys' dorm. Harry is lying on the bed, staring up at the hangings in complete silence. She goes to his side as quietly as she can and touches his hand. "Harry," she says.
He jumps. "Ginny! This is a boys' dorm!" He shuffles up into a sitting position. "You shouldn't be in here."
"So?" She sits beside him on the bed, facing him. "Did you really mean what you said at lunch?"
"Yes," he says firmly. She says nothing, just looks him in the face with a serious look on her face. "You can't change my mind, Ginny."
This is your chance, Ginny, Tom says. Everyone's down there, in the common. He has no chance against your charm, Gin. Show him how you really feel. He loves you; he just doesn't realise it. He needs you, because he trusts Ron and you know who Ron is. If you can have him trust you with the Fidelius Charm, you are saving his life, and then you'll have your Harry and everything will be perfect, right Ginny love?
Right, she agrees. She leans forward and kisses the denial off of Harry's lips. He resists but she is stronger, emboldened by Tom's words; it is a long time before they stop. Harry finally stares up into her brown eyes and sighs. "I didn't realise you could be so..."
"Persuasive?" Tom's words through her voice. Harry laughs like those trapped in a tense moment.
"Yeah. Persuasive." He gazes at her. "I... I think I'm persuaded."
"Is that a yes?" Her fingertips trail his jaw and down his neck. He just nods, silently staring up into her face. "Good." Leave, Tom commands, and she stands. "I have to go before anyone notices that I'm up here," she says. "Could soil my reputation."
He laughs, and it's more hypnotised than happy. She leaves, smiling to herself.
Good job, Gin, Tom says. He'll never leave you now. You have him exactly where you want him. He loves you, Ginny. He really does love you.
Tom, I just couldn't live without you, she says. You've helped me so much. I love you, Tom.
Then the scene of the busy common room flickers, and she is standing inside that same musty basement. Tom is standing on the opposite side of the room.
"Come to me, Ginny. I have to ask you something."
She crosses the room and the trip takes too many steps, as though the length of the room grows longer with each step she takes. She reaches him and he takes her hand, leans close to her ear and whispers,
"Do you really love me, Ginny?"
"Yes," she whispers. A smile flickers across his face.
"Good." He pulls back, cups Ginny's chin in his other hand and says, "You're mine, Ginny. Isn't that right?"
"Yes," she says again. "You've given me everything I ever wanted."
He smiles again. "That's right, Ginny. I know you, I know you more than anyone knows you. You must trust me and only me, Ginny. Do you understand?"
"Yes," she says again. "Yes, Tom. I trust you more than anybody."
"Good." He leans towards her again and kisses her, longer this time, until the agony and ecstasy fade and she is in her bed in the dorm.
"Tom," she whispers as she fades into blissful sleep. "I love you." And she can hear the answer not only in her head but faint echoes in her ears now... "I love you too, Ginny."
A day has passed and Tom and Ginny are now one, one being of pure courage and intelligence. There is no separation now. Their thoughts and their words are the same.
Ginny now knows what Harry wants, how to make him happy, and best of all, how to protect him from the menace of her devious brother. Tom, her soul mate, is teaching her.
Ginny has variously set on fire, stunned, tortured and killed at least 20 spiders. She's mastered both the Cruciatus Curse and the Killing Curse. Quite an irony, with Ron's arachnophobia.
"You've really improved, Gin," Tom says approvingly. "Good job. You'll be set against Ron when it happens."
"When what happens?"
"When you reveal who he really is to Harry, of course. You are going to, aren't you? How else do you expect to be the recipient of the Fidelius Charm?"
She nods. "Of course. I didn't think."
"That's all right, Gin. Just listen to me and everything will be all right."
Ginny focuses. "Crucio!" The spider twitches on the desk. She looks up at him, her gaze adoring. "Of course, Tom. I don't know why I ever would deny you."
Tom smiles, and it's a snake's smile. She returns his smile, just as serpentine. "Nor do I," he says.
She is in the common room, poring over her Dark Arts book, the section on the Killing Curse. Harry sits beside her for one moment and she snaps the book shut, glancing back up at him. "Read this note," he whispers to her, and hands her a scrap of parchment. "It's from Ron. To me. Meet me at the Astronomy Tower tomorrow at eight, and we'll talk."
He stands and leaves the common room in a rush. Ginny rolls open the parchment and begins to read thus:
You've known since forever that Ginny has fancied you. All I have to say is, stay away from her. She still cares about you and I don't want you to encourage those feelings. She's my little sister, and you know damn well you can get any girl you want. Just flash the bloody scar and every girl except Slytherin girls are throwing themselves at you. Keep your eyes on someone like Cho and away from Ginny.
Your best mate,
She rolls it back up and bites her lip. She calls Tom's name gently in her mind and he appears beside her. "It's just a ploy, Gin," he says soothingly. "He knows that Harry wants you, has always loved you, and is trying to prevent him from giving you the title of his Secret-Keeper."
"In the Fidelius Charm, the secret of one's location or something likewise is kept within one person's soul. This person is called the Secret-Keeper. If the Secret-Keeper divulges the Secret, the location or whatever was chosen is revealed and the protection given is retracted." His face is serious, and he squeezes her shoulder. "If Harry chooses Ron, Ron will tell the Secret and Harry will be dead. Do you understand? Harry must tell you."
"Yes, Tom." She leans towards him and he pulls her close.
"Harry is yours," he whispers. "Harry is yours and no one else's. Just like you are mine and I am yours."
"Mine," she murmurs. "I owe you everything, Tom."
He kisses her forehead and she does not see the smirk unfold over his face. "You've paid everything you had to pay to get what you wanted the most," he murmurs into her scarlet hair. "Your soul."
Neville sits beside her and suddenly Tom disappears back into her head. "Ginny, can you help me with something?" he says. "I'm trying to get this charm right and Charms is your best subject. Will you?"
"Incendius," Neville says. "I just can't seem to get it. I keep getting flowers out of it." He pulls out his wand and says, "Incendeo!" Flowers wrapped in cheap green foil appear and fall to the ground.
"You're saying Incendeo instead of Incendio," Ginny says. "Incendeus is the charm for making the most mundane thing you think about appear. I bet it's all the Herbology research. Try Incendio."
Neville sighs. "Can you show me?"
"Sure. Accio spider." One flies into her hand. "Incendio," she says clearly, waving her wand, and the spider twitches as it starts on fire.
Neville watches in shock. "Ginny, stop! You're going to kill it!"
"It's just a spider," she says, and watches with vague interest. It stops moving and the fire consumes it. She blows the ash remains of the spider off her unmarked hand. "Don't get so... emotional over it." She gestures to him. "Now you try."
The expression of shock on his face wanes, and Neville looks around. "On what?"
"The flowers," she says, picks them up and places them on the table. "Probably the most flammable thing here."
"But I--" He looks at the flowers. "Ginny," he says in a pleading voice.
"What else, then? The fireplace?"
He grips his wand and points it at the flowers. "In.. Incendio!" Fire shoots out of the wand and the flowers are burning within seconds. He quickly puts them out and grins up at Ginny, if nervously. "I did it! Thanks, Ginny. Incendeo!" He hands her the flowers that emerge.
She takes them, smiles and says, "No problem. Where's Ron?" Tom is whispering in her ear, "You have to make sure he's not with Harry alone."
"Um, I think he's studying with Harry in the library. There's a big History of Magic test and I think they're actually studying." Neville glances at her. "Why?"
"No reason," she says. She begins to gather her books as Neville bids her good night. He tries to put out the fire and ends out stomping out sparks. She sees his retreating back and feelings unlike her surge throughout her body. Why did I waste time on him? What a waste, trying to teach a Squib. He'll probably forget tomorrow.
A smirk traces itself across her face, and she points her wand at his back. Her lips form the cruel word that she now knows haunts Neville in his sleep. "Crucio."
He falls, screams, flails under the torturous magic curling within his limbs. She watches with that serpent's smirk on her face for a moment longer, lifts her wand and says, "Obliviate."
Her innocence died the moment Tom first resided in her head. She is no longer a girl, but a woman, a princess with every wish and desire tended to by her very own guardian angel. A queen with the man she loves over all as her king. A goddess with power over every Squib and Mudblood.
She strides up the stairs with Tom's praise ringing in her ears and sleeps a night full of dreams of Harry and Tom, the two so alike they could be twins. She sleeps, and is the only one in Gryffindor Tower who doesn't crowd around Neville Longbottom's prone, tortured body, and doesn't help to take him to the hospital wing.
"Everything you want, Ginny, anything to make you happy. I'll make sure you get it. You can trust me, Ginevra Weasley... you can trust your Tom." Is it her voice, or Tom's? No telling anymore. No lines. His presence inside of her, within her head, now so common that she can't tell where her thought begins and his ends.
"I can't. You're Ron's little sister, Hermione and I... I can't. I can't." Dreams where she's kissing Harry, and Harry is kissing her, and Tom is watching and laughing with a smirk on his face.
"Just listen to me and everything will be all right," her voice says in the midst of dreams. The smirk slowly crawls over her face.
"You can trust your Tom."
Chapter 6: 06; she's marked
"I'm all right," Neville says for the millionth time. "It's... not that bad." Eventually most of the Gryffindors wander out of the hospital wing and Ginny, Harry, Hermione and Ron are the only ones left.
"Unforgivable Curses," Ron says to Harry. "Who in the school could actually use one of them?"
"Most likely not any of the students," Hermione says. She bites her lip. "Harry, I think you should take Dumbledore's advice and hide, for your own good. If someone is able to walk easily into the common, all they have to do is walk up a flight of stairs, and..." She swallows hard and leans on Harry's shoulder. Harry puts his arm around her, and Ginny is suddenly swallowed into bitter jealousy.
"It's fine, Hermione. Everything's all right. I'm not going to run away. Besides, you know as well as I do that the more I run, the closer I get to him. Fate tends to do that to me."
"Whoever it is, they're good at Memory Charms, too," Neville says. "They wiped my memory clean from about 7:30 forward. I don't even remember what I was doing in the common."
"Did you see anything, Ginny?" Ron says.
She looks up. "Hmm?"
"Did you see anything?" he repeats.
She cocks her head to the side and blinks a few times. She bites her lip. "I don't think so."
"Dianthe Perkins said you were late to bed," Hermione says. "Were you with Neville?"
"I don't think so." Ginny touches her forehead. "I... I don't remember."
"Maybe your memory was wiped, too," Harry says. He looks at her and she looks at him. Ron breaks through the silence.
"Are you sure?" He gives Harry another odd look and grabs Ginny's shoulders. "If you can remember anything, tell us."
"All right," she says, then steps back. The very thought of Ron's hands on her shoulders wells pure disgust in her body. She looks over at Harry again, who nods so barely that she hardly notices.
She leaves the hospital wing, all those feelings of disgust, jealousy, pride, and smugness jelling into a sublime high like nothing she's ever felt before.
We should tell Harry to tell Ron, Tom says to her. It's time. Ron is going to reveal himself. You know he will. You need to make Harry truly love you, so that he won't make the fatal decision of choosing "friendship" over true love. It's time to show Ron's true colors.
Yes. Yes. That's what I'll do.
Harry slips a note in her pocket at lunch. Wanted to let you know that Neville is out of the hospital wing. Forget about the Astronomy Tower. Come to the dorm. Make sure no one sees you. We really have to talk. I'll try to lock the door, but I can't promise anything.
She makes yet another excuse, slips up into the dorm, and Harry is there, waiting. He kisses her on the cheek and grins. She grins back. "Did you miss me?" she says.
"More than anything." She sits beside him on the bed. Harry is staring deep into her eyes, and he appears to be puzzled. "Ginny," he says. "Why are your eyes turning colors?"
She shrugs. "It must be the light. You know I have brown eyes."
"They just... well, they look green."
She shrugs again, and runs her hand against Harry's. "Harry, I think we should tell Ron." She shushes his frantic, obvious denial with a finger to his lip. "He'll find out eventually and he'll appreciate it more if he doesn't find out by walking in on us snogging. It's for our good." She pulls her other hand away and takes his hand in both of hers.
"He'll kill me, Gin," Harry says. His eyes dart away from her face. "He'll never talk to me again. He'll hate me for the rest of my life."
She touches her hand to his face. "Don't you love me, Harry?" she simply says.
He looks up into her now greenish-brown eyes. "Yes," he says. He pulls her into his arms and strokes her back. "We'll tell him tomorrow," he says. "Tomorrow, I promise. If that's really what you want."
"I don't want to have him protecting me like that anymore," she says. "I'm not a child." She settles against him. "You don't think I'm a child, do you?"
"No," he sighs. "No. You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, Ginny."
She leans close to his ear and whispers, "Do you really love me, Harry?"
"Yes," he whispers.
"Good." She pulls away and cups Harry's chin in her other hand, says, "You're mine, Harry. Isn't that right?"
"Yes," he says again. "You've given me everything I ever wanted."
She kisses him on the cheek, and he smiles. "That's right, Harry," she whispers. "I know you, I know you more than anyone knows you. You must trust me and only me, Harry. Do you understand?"
"Yes," he says again. "Yes, Ginny. I trust you more than anybody."
"I looked up the Fidelius Charm." Tom's words slip through her lips like water. "No one knows about us, no one will be able to take the secret from me. You said you trusted me, Harry..." She leans closer to him and whispers, "Prove it."
His breaths quicken, and he seems to be panicking. He pulls away. "Ginny... Ginny, I trust you, I love you, it's just, it's just that he's been in your head before and maybe..."
"Voldemort is not going to take me over," her voice says, laughing. "I'm not a child, you said so yourself, and yet you think I'm as weak as that?"
"Of course not, Ginny, of course not."
"Then do it, Harry."
"Ginny, this is the charm that killed my parents. I'm a little wary of using it." She stands up and starts to walk away, when Harry grabs her hand. "Ginny," he says louder. "You're not going to leave like that."
"All you have is words," Tom says through her. A lull goes through her body and she falls into a state of deep mental calm. "What's your proof?"
Harry turns her around and kisses her, hard, pressing her against the wall. She melts against him, arching against his touch as his hands slide down her back, pulling her close to him. He kisses down her neck, and she breathes heavier, whispering Harry's name.
This blissful universe where she and Harry were together shatters with a single gasping of breath from a foreign voice. The air vibrates with silence dead as night. Harry pulls away from her and she flushes as she looks up.
"Shit," Harry says. "Neville, please -- please don't tell anyone."
"What are you thinking, Harry?" Neville says in a strangled voice. "Ron will kill you if he finds out, and house points -- she's a girl, Harry, and she's in a boys' dorm! What'll people think?"
"Neville," she says. "You can't say anything, because we're telling Ron tomorrow. He'd rather hear it from us." Us. She treasures the word. "I don't care what he thinks anymore. He can't control me. You know how he reacted when he found out that you asked me to the Yule Ball." Neville nods quite nervously, swallowing hard. "You don't deserve to get that onslaught from him. This is our responsibility." She nods to him. "You understand, don't you?"
Neville nods again, swallows again. "I'm not that good of a liar, you know, if he says anything..."
"You'll do all right," she says. "You better, anyway." Ginny looks at Harry and kisses him on the cheek. "I'd better go. Tomorrow, we'll talk, Harry, all right?" When he nods, she goes for the door, but it opens before she reaches for it.
Ron stands there, and his eyes alight as he recognizes his baby sister in his dorm. "Ginny, what the hell are you doing in here?" He storms in and gives Harry a dirty look. "Go before McGonagall finds you in here." She doesn't move, if only out of fear of this new fury. His voice does not raise. It intensifies. "Now."
She leaves, but not quickly enough to avoid hearing Ron's onslaught on Harry. "I told you to stay away from her, Harry! You know she fancies you, and all you're doing is encouraging it!" Rather than hear Harry's complete denial, she quickly sneaks back up to her dorm.
Tom is sitting on her bed when she arrives in the dorm. "Great job with Harry. You're a hero, saving the Boy Who Lived's life. Why, I think a special award from the school is in order."
"Oh, Tom," she says, blushing. "None of that. I have to, he doesn't know about Ron. Besides, I really do... I really do love him."
"I'm glad." He pats the spot next to him on the bed and she sits beside him. "If you continue on like this, you'll be married within the next month! It's really romantic, you know, Ginny."
She blushes again. "I'm so glad you're helping me like this, Tom," she says. "I don't know how I lived without you."
He leans very close to her. "You didn't," he whispers. "Life doesn't begin until the plot has enough to thicken it. All those people living 9 to 5 lives aren't living. They're just... existing. You existed. I helped you live. Right?"
He pulls away from her. "Ginny, I don't know if you're really ready for what Ron has planned against Harry. Are you sure you can fight your brother?"
"With your help, I can do anything, Tom."
"That's right, Ginny," he says, his face serious. "We're soulmates, we were meant to be together. And without each other, neither of us can live."
His hand caresses her shoulder, down her collarbone, to her chest and something is... not right. Her hand slaps over the spot he was touching, and the feeling fades, eventually.
Chapter 7: 07; she fades
Ginny can barely keep from glancing at Harry at dinner, face twisted into a nervous mockup of a smile. He looks down suddenly, away from her, and then up at her. He shakes his head slightly. "No," he mouths.
Anger flushes her cheeks. "You promised," she mouths back at him.
"Listen," he mouths back. Ron is saying something that she's completely ignored.
"I'm thinking you should hide, Harry. Someone where none of us know about. Because if you don't... well, look at what happened to Neville. Tortured with Cruciatus, both Ginny and Neville's memories wiped. This is obviously someone smart. It's safest for you to hide, that's all I'm saying."
"Ron -- " Ginny starts to say, but Harry kicks her in the shin. She looks up quickly and he shakes his head.
He says, "Ron, you know as well as I do that he'll find a way. He always does."
"Whatever," Ron says. "I'm starting to think you want to face him. Some sort of final stand -- that would be what it would be. Have you been..." He gestures to some specific meaning she doesn't know.
"Yes," Harry says shortly. "Yes, I have."
"How's it going?"
"Well enough. I'm not learning anything I didn't know, as of yet." Harry shakes his head. "Ron, I'm not going to hide."
Ron leans back. The tension is thick yet again. "It's your decision. Choose wisely. You're no help if you're dead." He gets up and leaves.
Hermione sighs. "He didn't even finish dinner," she says. She squeezes Harry's shoulder. "Everything's going to be okay. You know how Ron can be."
"Yeah," Harry says, but his gaze is on Ginny.
Ginny fakes a smile, but her inner voice mixed with Tom's fills her to the brim with anxiety. Neville nudges her and she flinches. "Hey, Ginny, there's only a week left until Christmas hols."
Hermione leans into Harry, fluffing his hair affectionately. "I can't wait. We're going to have some sort of party at the Burrow the day after we get home, isn't that right, Ron?"
Ginny nearly loses control with Hermione's lovey look and Harry's accepting it, until Neville grabs her wrist. He gives her a look. Neville, she thinks, may be more useful than he seems.
"I can come, right Ginny?" He gives what looks like a nervous grin, which it actually is, but for far different reasons than most would think.
"Sure," she says, and a smile twitches over her face.
That whore. That whore. That whore.
She can't stop shaking.
Harry still loves me, I know it. Harry still loves me, he has to. Harry still loves me, or that whore -- she's going to die.
Her violent train of thought surprises her, and she opens her eyes. There is immediate pain when she moves her hand, for in her fury she buried her fingernails into the arm of the chair she sits in. Tom is now crouched around her, holding her within his arms. Time seems to wane and all the colorful people around her fade.
"She's the most inconsistent of them all," Tom says. "All that playing around with Ron last year -- she's an inconsistent flirt. Ron may be trying to kill Harry, but Hermione, she'd break his heart, or cheat on him. You know how Hermione is."
"Yeah. Yeah, I know how Hermione is. That bitch." The anger pulses in her like a second heartbeat. "If she touches Harry again, I'll kill her."
"She'll get what's coming to her." Tom kisses the top of her head, traces her ginger tresses down to her chin. "Perk up. You're ten times the woman she is, and twenty times prettier."
He disappears from around her and life flows back into greys, and her blood flows back to dull, average grey, like it always does when she leaves that world that only Tom and she can inhabit.
Harry is looking into her eyes and giving her a desperate look. Hermione has her arm around him, happily settled into him. She shakes her head and looks away. "I can't wait," she says.
Hermione gives her a shocked look and pushes a plate towards her. "Ginny, eat something," she says. "Good Lord, you're so skinny, you look like you're fading away."
Ginny can't stop obsessing, and she stares at her Transfiguration book as she sits perched, tensed on her bed. "Do you understand this reading?" she asks her friend, Dianthe Perkins. Most of the others are asleep.
"Sort of," Dianthe says. Her eyes train on Ginny's thin arms. "Have you been eating, Gin? You look a little skinny."
"Yeah," she says. She looks up into the mirror. Ginny would now make any Irish stereotype proud, with curls of red hair and emerald eyes. The scarlet of the Weasley jumper she wears offsets her pale skin and the freckles on her face. Scarlet like blood, flowing from the pages of a diary, or blood flowing from a soul.
When she looks into the mirror, time wanes and Tom's arms slide around her, his head on her shoulder. "Don't listen to her. You look gorgeous. You're a knockout. That bitch is no competition for you."
"Whatever you say, Tom."
He runs his fingertips against the line of her jaw. Ginny moves against it, eyes half-closed in something like weariness. "Don't worry. He's yours. He said he loved you more than anything. He can't break that promise."
"I'm starting to think he lied." She shudders and Tom turns her around, clutching her thin shoulders. "I'm starting to think that I can't save him. I'm not strong enough, I've never been strong enough to do anything."
"Shh." He puts a finger to her lips, admonishing. "Do you remember? I'll give you anything you want, Ginny, your heart's desire. You must trust me and only me. Isn't that right?"
She nods, but her eyes spill over with tears. "Then trust me," Tom says. His green eyes lock with her now-green eyes. "You must go to him. Tell him that on the night of the dance, he has to tell Hermione and Ron. Then you must kill Ron. Do you understand? You must kill Ron."
She nods again, swallowing hard. He pulls closer to her, hand cupped against her breast. There's a flash of pain then a rush of power, of arrogance, and she smirks up at Tom with the sudden confidence inside of her. "Go to him," he says, kisses her once on the lips, then disappears again.
Life flows within her veins again, and the arrogance quickly follows. She stands and walks to the door. "Ginny -- " Dianthe says, but she is gone before she hears any more.
Colin is the only one in the common when she gets there. She barely notices him until he says, "Erm, Ginny -- "
"What?" She turns on him, hands on her hips.
He turns scarlet and his voice squeaks as he speaks. "Erm, well, I was wondering if you wanted to go with me to -- "
She turns away from him. "Don't waste my time, Colin." She casts a quick Memory Spell for five minutes earlier on him, and goes up to the boys' common rooms. She peers into the boys' room. Ron is dead asleep, but Harry is awake and apparently studying for something. "Harry," she whispers at him.
"Ginny!" He puts the candle that he was reading with on the bedside table and runs over to the door as quietly as he can. "What is this?"
"Come with me." She grabs his wrist and pulls him into a bathroom. She locks and soundproofs the room with spells that she has become quite familiar with in the time that Harry and she have been meeting like this. "What the hell was all that with Hermione?"
A guilty look scorches pink across his face. "Look, I can't just shove her away, Gin. I'm supposedly her boyfriend."
"And you were supposed to tell them today! You lied to me, Harry, and that's unforgivable." She glares at him.
"Look, I know that I didn't follow through, but..." he looks down. "Ron would have killed me right then and there."
Her eyes widen. Does he know what Ron is doing? Then she remembers that the Death Eater bastard is her "overprotective brother." She rolls her eyes. "It's the risk that we're going to have to take. You can't just snog Hermione all over the place and tell me that you love me, you know. That's not right."
He flushes. "I have not snogged Hermione once, ever. We went on one date, Ginny, and we never even kissed. You have no right to be jealous."
"Oh, so I hallucinated her putting her hands all over you at dinner tonight."
He rolls his eyes. "Ginny, you're overreacting."
"We will tell them about us the night of the party." Her voice is firm. "Or I'll tell Ron that you seduced me and are double-timing Hermione."
His eyes are wide, shocked behind his glasses. "Ginny... you'd do that?"
"Prove your love. If you can't, you obviously don't love me." She backs him up against the door and puts her arms around him. "This is for our good, Harry," she says, and kisses him. The moment he reacts against her, Tom appears in her vision behind him. She opens her eyes a little more.
"I told you that he is yours. Trust me, Gin." He disappears, if he was ever there.
She pulls away, the smirk settled on her face. "The night of the party," she says, and opens the door behind him. Harry nods. He puts his hand on her shoulder, but she drifts away in silence. She doesn't remember sleeping, but she wakes up the next morning in her nightgown with something clutched inside her fist.
She glances out the window and the sun is rising. She opens her fist and a vial on a chain is lying there. Tied on it is a note in red ink, in her own handwriting: "Five drops if he doesn't. The whole thing if he does. Don't let it touch your skin."
Ginny puts it around her neck and watches the sun rise. Perhaps before this year it would have been beautiful, but it now simply inspires past memories of staring at the sunrise, lonely in her bed, silence in the Burrow. The sun is as red as blood, her eyes a strange dark amber in the light.
When eight o'clock comes, the other girls try to wake her up, but she doesn't respond to anything, and this is mainly because she is not there.
"He's not here," Wormtail says to Lucius Malfoy. "I don't know where he is. He's been missing since eight this morning."
Lucius scowls. "He must be in that little brat's head. Have you looked on the crystal ball yet?"
"The girl's body is empty, Lucius. Something has happened."
"I'll talk to them." Lucius goes downstairs and stares down his sister-in-law, who is dreamily staring out the window. "What is going on here?" He storms over.
She isn't intimidated. Compared to the Dark Lord himself, Lucius Malfoy is as impressive as a niffler. "He's with the girl," she says. "We can do nothing until he returns."
"He left us without orders?"
Bellatrix glares at him. "Our Master asked for my help. I aided him. He left. He will return. How dare you question him?"
Lucius's eyes flash, but he does nothing. "All right," he says. "But what if something's gone wrong?"
"You have no faith, Lucius," she sneers, pushing herself to her feet. "If you insist, I'll check the crystal ball."
"Good," he snaps. "To it, then." Lucius stalks from the room once more.
Tom? Are you there, Tom?
Am I dead? Did I die?
Where are you, Tom?
Chapter 8: 08; she returns
Her eyes snap open. Her whole body is pain. She realizes that she is lying in the hospital wing, and she is magically bound to her bed. Her throat is raw, as if she had been screaming for five hours straight.
"Are you awake?"
She shifts, trying to match the voice to a face, but her position on the bed does not allow this. "Who are you?" she manages to say through the pain of her throat.
"Your boyfriend's enemy. Draco Malfoy. I'm sure you know who I am?"
She settles into the magic binding her, submitting to the constrictive bed. "Yes, I know who you are. Number one, do you have any idea why I am--"
"Bound to a bed like a crazy person?" Malfoy laughs. "Because you were acting like one. I think your brother got a nasty scratch off of those nails of yours, one or two of the Gryffindor girls aren't going to be the same, and Potter might have gotten a good bite out of him, although I would think that's quite normal in the relationship between you two."
"Shut it," she says. "Number two, what are you doing here?"
"I'm here to check on you. Sounds odd, I know, but it's within my interests. I was told to wait here to make sure that you eventually came around."
"By Madame Pomfrey?"
"I don't think you'd believe me if I told you." He laughs again. "You don't remember any of it, do you?"
"I don't remember anything, no." She feels herself starting to panic.
Surprise almost jells in Malfoy's voice. "You were in a coma in the girls' dorm. They think the problem's an extended Memory Charm, but it's not." Smugness enters his voice, and she wants to ask, but he goes on. "You came to when they were transporting you and you were like an animal, clawing and biting. Eventually they Stunned you and got you here, but I don't think Pomfrey's ever going to be the same again. You've been out ever since. Four days."
"What's wrong with me?" she asks aloud, and the fear is oh-so-present in her voice.
Malfoy just laughs, pushes his chair back, and his footsteps echo away, leaving her staring at the ceiling alone, without him, without Tom, without anybody.
The letter is tucked inside of her trunk, to her surprise.
I had a dream last night, where you were snogging another bloke. He had dark hair, that's all I could see, but you were sort of into it and... well, it was a little unnerving. Not that I'm saying you're cheating or anything. If anything, you're right, I'm cheating on you with Hermione. But the end of the dream... you pulled away from him and your lips were covered in blood and the whole of your front was, too, and then you fell over as though you were dead. When the bloke looked at me, I woke up and my scar hurt like hell. If you know anything, Ginny, if you can think of any reason why my scar would twinge like that, tell me. It's important.
She lowers the parchment and blinks. She is numb again, because part of her, most of her is gone now. All there is, is fear and vague misunderstanding.
The girls come into the dorm, chattering, and Ginny suddenly has the presence of mind to roll up the parchment and lower it to her side. Dianthe and a few others run over to her as soon as they notice her.
"Ginny? Are you all right? Before, you were..."
"When did they let you out? Oh, I'm so jealous, you got to miss four days..."
"Do they know what's going on?"
"I don't know," she says. She glances down at her clothes. "I have to change." She kneels down and pulls out her robes, a skirt and a shirt. The girls stare at her.
"Are you sure you're all right, Ginny?" Dianthe says. She looks over at the other girls, bewildered.
"Why wouldn't I be?" she says. "You guys had better go down to dinner. I'll be down soon."
They leave, twittering, and she begins to change. In the mirror, a red-haired green-eyed girl, so pale, so freckled, so alone. "Tom," she says, and her fingers absentmindedly brush down her collarbone, to rough skin, almost a burn.
She buttons the shirt. A dull, throbbing pain builds between her temples as she does so. An animal groan escapes her lungs, sharp pain in her chest, and suddenly--
"Gin love, are you all right?" Tom's loving arms circle her, and the puzzle pieces of her soul click. Her eyes open wide, and Ginny strokes a hand down his arm.
"Now I am."
"That's the spirit." He kisses the top of her head. "Ron forced me away. He knows that I'm helping you, and he'll do anything to stop you from stopping him. The dance is in two days, so we must be prepared. Do you understand?"
"Of course, Tom," Ginny says. She looks up at him and smiles, but suddenly frowns. "Harry's scar twinged. He had a dream about me cheating on him with somebody."
"Did you?" Tom's face is bland.
"Of course not!" Ginny shakes her head vehemently. The very idea! "But he said I was, well, snogging someone and there was blood all down my front and I... died. Supposedly. And his scar twinged."
Tom shakes his head. "Ron again. He's trying to make Harry feel guilty because he suspects you two are in love. With that, he's saying that if Harry loves you, he'll kill you. What a thought, huh?"
"Harry would never do something like that." Ginny's hands grip around herself. "We're meant for each other."
"Ginny." Tom touches her cheek and she moves against it. "Don't worry about it. Go to dinner. Eat. Get strength."
"Yeah," she says, and Tom disappears into her head.
Many eyes train on Ginny as she comes into the Hall; Draco Malfoy's condescending gaze, Harry's worried, warm one, her friends' frightened ones. She sits, self-conscious, clutching her bag close to her.
Nearly the whole Gryffindor table goes silent as she sits next to Neville, leaving her even more unnerved. "Ginny," Ron says, takes her hand, squeezes it. The surprise registers even more when she sees concern in his eyes. "I was so worried. Are you all right?"
She averts her eyes, unnerved by his obvious faked worry and just how deceitful her brother is. "Y-yeah, I think so," she stutters. Her eyes fall upon Harry's face, fallen yet very, very relieved.
Ron squeezes her hand again, and she glances over at him. Something glints in his eyes, and Ginny is surprised to see -- tears? Her brother, crying over her injury?
She remembers one day when she was little, she fell from an old toy broom while playing kid's Quidditch and skinned her knees. Ron was there immediately with that same worried look, he stopped her crying, and took her to Mum, who healed her right away.
She remembers this, and guilt fills every nook of her mind.
No! No! This Ron is different. He turned his back on Harry two years ago. You know how Ron is. Don't be deceived, don't be naive, Ginny! Tom's voice bringing her back to the present.
She nods to Ron and swallows hard. "Thanks, Ron," she says, and withdraws her hand from his. The Gryffindor table stops looking over and goes back to its usual chatter. Ginny glances over at Neville. "Did I miss anything?"
Neville blinks, then beckons her closer. He lowers his voice. "Harry and Hermione had a fight."
"Really?" she whispers back.
"Yes. He said he was sick of her controlling everything, and she said that if he wanted to control things, he should do something once in a while." Neville winces. "It wasn't pretty."
Ginny isn't sure whether to be happy or upset. She settles on a medium. "Oh well," she says, leans away. "So, Ron, have you got a date to the party?"
Ron grins a grin that is a few shades short of beaming. "Cho Chang. I asked her and she said yes. That girl is beautiful." He notices the look Hermione is giving him, which mainly consists of the rolling of her eyes. "Not to mention her intellect," he continues. "She's a ruddy genius."
"Right," Hermione says. She looks at Harry. "And you've got nothing against this, right?"
He raises his hands in surrender stance. "You know we went out for one month and it didn't work out. I endorse this entirely."
"Even though she's the prettiest girl at Hogwarts."
"Not the prettiest." Hermione giggles as if it's meant for her, but Harry's eyes are on her. She flushes, but stays silent. Neville heaves a sigh.
Later that night, she curls up next to Harry on the couch. They silently study for a while until he finally asks, voice hushed, "Did you read the note?"
"Yes. I don't know, Harry. " She can't tell him what she really thinks. "You might just be nervous. About Ron."
"Why would I be nervous about Ron?" He looks at her. "He's too worried about you to think about anything like this. Did Pomfrey -- ?"
"No, she has no idea. Maybe an extended Memory Charm, but that's a guess," Ginny says, resting her head against his shoulder. "I'm just supposed to eat more than usual and stay around people in case something happens again. They think it got worse when I was out for two hours before anyone found me."
Harry wears a pained expression and eventually says, "Take care of yourself."
She smiles softly at him. "What about what you promised me?"
He glances around the common and kisses her forehead. "I promise. Even if Hermione kills me for telling the truth, I'll do it."
"Good." She pushes herself up off of the couch. "What about your fight?"
"It was nothing," he says. "I just can't take her anymore."
She has to force back glee. "We can talk tomorrow."
He smiles. "Yeah," he says.
She dares to lean in and kiss him before leaving the common room in a rush.
She crawls into her bed, pulls the hangings around. She clings to herself, curled into the fetal position, trying to keep herself together. More and more, she feels as though reality is pulling her apart, willing her not to exist, her body unmaking itself. Only with Harry's touch and Tom's touch does she feel complete, whole, stable.
As though clutching herself will keep the missing parts of her soul from drifting, she dares not to move from this fixed position. Her breathing is low, shallow, and she makes only one effort when she feels near unconsciousness.
His warm arm slides around her, and she settles against him, his breath hot against her neck and cheek. "What's wrong, Ginny love?"
"I wanted to ask you that." She swallows, and it takes more work than usual. "What's going wrong with me? I've gone to the hospital wing twice in the past month. It's getting harder and harder to do anything, even chew and swallow, or to change."
Tom takes a deep breath, runs his fingertips along her collarbone as he releases his warm breath over her cold, weak body. "I don't know," he says. "Hold together, Ginny. You must be there to help Harry."
"I can barely even walk to class without wheezing," she says. "How can I battle a powerful Death Eater?"
His hand strokes down to her breast and a rush of warmth, of strength, fills her. "I share my strength with you, Ginny," he says. "You need it more than I." He kisses her cheek. "Hold together. You mustn't fade away when it feels like the end. When the end comes... you'll know it for certain."
He melts away like smoke in the wind and Ginny sleeps comfortably for the first time since her waking at the hospital wing.
The Dark Lord considers Bellatrix coldly. "You pushed her too far," he snaps. "I took too much away from her and she nearly died after her feral came out."
"The feral?" Lucius murmurs the question to his sister-in-law.
"Your son is more versed in soul magic than you are, Lucius, that is something I think you should remedy." Voldemort smirks. "Bellatrix, explain. I won't waste my time."
Bellatrix glows with the honour of speaking for her Lord. "The feral is what comes out when the soul first leaves the body, the last gasps of the remainders of the soul. If the soul is pulled from a healthy body, the feral will react. It will not if the body dies first."
"The girl nearly died when her feral took her over. It is lucky that your son was there to send the feral back, Lucius." Lucius nods, looking quite proud. Voldemort stares down at Bellatrix again. "We must be cautious. Our controls must both remain equal so that we are not discovered."
"Of course, my Lord," Bellatrix breathes.
"Lucius," the Dark Lord says, "you may go."
Lucius leaves the basement as Voldemort lifts his wand. As he closes the door behind him, he heads into the kitchen, where his wife is preparing a large breakfast.
"How is the business going, Lucius?" Narcissa asks as she watches the pots and pans magically do all the work.
He glances at the basement door, laughs, and says, "Splendidly, darling. Splendidly."
Chapter 9: 09; she speaks
"Ginny," Neville says to her in the common the next night, "I hate this. I really do."
"What?" The roar of the common room is nearly impossible to hear over, which makes this a good time to broach this topic.
"I hate this. Ron is ignoring Harry, Harry is trying to convince him that what's happening isn't happening, and I think he's going to ask me next. He's already gone after Seamus and Dean for information. Ron's smarter than you two think, you know."
"I know he's smart. Neville, please don't tell him. We're telling him the night of the dance, only because any time before would just about kill Hermione." Not that Ginny would mind that, of course. "It's really important that you do not tell him."
Neville bites his lip and leans closer to her. "Did you see that bruise on Seamus's face?" She nods; she remembers Parvati asking him, and Seamus quickly brushing the topic away. "Ron hit him, not too hard, but Seamus is Seamus -- I mean, he's a footballer and all. If Ron hit me, well, you know... look, I don't want to get destroyed by Ron. Harry got a warning, but I won't. Ron'll just punch first and ask questions later."
"Did I hear my name?" She looks up and sees Ron there, half-grinning, half-scowling. Neville quickly goes silent, shrugs. "Well, all right then. Ginny, could I talk to you for half a second?"
She hesitates, but Tom pushes her on. "S-Sure," she stutters, and stands. Ron leads her to the chair nearest the fire. "What is it, Ron?"
"It's about Harry."
She rolls her eyes. "That again?"
"Yes." Ron swallows hard. "I really was convinced that Harry was going to try to -- I mean -- that he was going to -- "
"Be interested in me, you mean?" Ginny dissuades herself from the truth and puts on an innocent act.
"Erm, yes. And as it is, I've been asking about a bit, and... has he? Shown interest in you, I mean, more than usual." Ron presses a hand to his forehead. "I know what I mean, it's just..."
She puts a finger to his lips. "Don't worry about it, Ron," she says. "I can handle myself. I'm all grown up now."
"That's what I'm worried about." He scratches his arm, and the movement catches her eye. His Dark Mark, it must be... how sick, how twisted my brother is. I miss him. "You're just so different lately, really, and I was just thinking... it was silly for me to think so."
"It's all right, Ron," she says. "I understand."
His face is wan, but he tries a grin. "All right. Thanks for making me feel better about this." He pulls her into a hug, which she doesn't resist, but doesn't participate in. He leaves her, and she goes back to Neville.
"Don't you worry," she says. "I bought us one day's time."
Harry tosses her a Chocolate Frog. "I've got plenty, Hermione gave me a box." Ginny gives him a look to suggest that perhaps another topic would be favorite. "All right, but do you want it? If not, I'll take it."
Ginny is indignant. "Of course I want it," she says, opens it up, and bites the frog's head off. She takes a look at the card. "How many bloody Dumbledore cards are there?" She tosses it into the air and Banishes it into the fireplace.
It is ten-thirty, and they are in the common. They have books open to justify their reason for being there.
"I don't know what to do with my hair tomorrow," she says. She flips through Witch Weekly, and flinches as she turns the page. "Celestina never should have cut her hair short. Ew."
"Let me see that," Harry says, and Ginny tosses him the magazine. "You read this muck?" he says, and flips through it a bit.
Ginny crosses her arms. "This muck is very entertaining, I'll have you know."
Harry pauses. "I can't believe it." He shows a page to Ginny and it folds out to show a centerfold picture of Harry himself. He sighs, folds it back up, and tosses her the magazine.
"What do you expect? You're a famous teenage boy." She shrugs, then rips out the centerfold. "When did they take this picture of you?"
Harry shakes his head. "That's the scary part; I'm not sure. Perhaps they Polyjuiced someone into me, I did just get my hair cut."
Ginny grins. "I could give this to Colin. He's been trying to get this shot since third year."
Harry groans. "Don't!"
"Well... all right." She puts the centerfold back into the magazine. She leans closer, lowers her voice. "How are we going to do this?"
Harry looks startled. "Er -- " He considers. "We corner Ron and Hermione. We tell them. That's about it."
"And after? Ron's probably going to have a fit, as will Hermione when she realizes that you cheated on her."
Harry ignores the cut. "We could Petrify them and explain."
"Yes, that'll go over well. Especially if a teacher catches us practicing first year curses on our friends."
"No need to be snide." Harry throws another Chocolate Frog at her. "What do you think we should do?"
"I think that you should talk to Hermione, and I'll talk to Ron. It'll be better if all of that anger isn't in one room, and I think Ron would punch you."
"You say that like you think I couldn't take his punch."
"I don't think you can take his punch if he's just found out you're snogging his little sister. Did you see that bruise on Seamus's face? That was a warning."
Harry defers. "All right," he says. "Let's do that."
"All right." She flips through the magazine a bit more. "What should I wear for the party?"
"I don't care," he says. She turns to him to give him a piece of her mind when he says, "You'll be the prettiest girl there anyway."
She throws the magazine at him. "Shut up," she says, blushing, hiding her real fear.
In one day, I'm going to kill my brother.
She takes most of tomorrow's breakfast to assess Ron's habits, tics and weaknesses. He was right-handed, of course she knew that, and had quite a blind spot when they had played Quidditch on his left side.
Do I tell him that I know? Of course, of course, he'll know anyway, he knows because he tried to hurt me, right Tom?
Tom's voice, another voice in her head, a wise guide, a conscience. He knows you know. Just do it. The minute he goes off to see Harry, he will kill him. You must kill Ron, then tell Harry what was going on. Immediately. Do you remember the potion you made?
This confuses her. What potion?
It's red, in a vial, on a chain. It's around your neck. I enchanted it so that only you and I can see it. You must give that potion to Harry during the dance--it's an antidote to the slow-acting poison I'm sure Ron will be using on him during dinner. It reacts immediately, so if you do this correctly, Harry will be safe. You can't let it touch your skin, it's caustic to anyone who hasn't had the poison.
She's still confused. What about the writing on the tag? "Five drops if he doesn't, the whole thing if he does?"
If he does what you've told him to do, you must give him the whole thing. I'm certain Ron will give Harry more poison if he hasn't died by that point. If he doesn't tell Ron, then five drops will suffice.
All right, Tom. I understand.
Neville nudges her. "So how's Muggle Studies?"
"Erm, good I guess. It's quite amusing. It's too bad I can't keep the book, Dad would love it." She quirks a smile. "How's Advanced Herbology?"
He winces. "Quite more difficult than it sounds. Wolfsbane and shrivelfig seeds haunt me in my sleep."
"Too bad." She pokes her food around the plate; she hasn't had the real urge to eat in a long time, despite Healer's orders. She takes a half-hearted bite of hashbrowns, swallows, and sighs. "How's your grandmother?"
Neville sighs exaggeratedly. "As she usually is. I'll live."
She laughs, but there's still that small part of her, doubting and brooding.
One day. Twenty-four short hours.
"Are you ready for the party?" Hermione asks her.
Ron swallows whatever he's been chewing. "Yeah, are you?"
"She's born ready," Dianthe says from two seats away from her. "You know Ginny, our social butterfly."
"Neville, you lucky devil," Seamus says, and tosses a bit of sausage at him. "Lavender's too busy fussing over a bleeding outfit!" He pretends to primp himself in a mirror.
"Git!" Lavender throws back immediately, along with an airborne piece of egg, which promptly stops the pantomiming.
Ginny registers all this amusing stuff at only a subconscious level, but smiles as she pictures each and every one of those spiders she practiced on twitching, falling and dying.
Chapter 10: 10; she chooses
It's three in the afternoon, not an hour before the party is due to start at the Burrow and not a half hour before Neville is due to meet her. She checks herself in the mirror one last time before going downstairs, hoping not to run into any of her family.
Tom, Tom, I'm so nervous, what if I fail, what if Ron kills me, what if Ron kills Harry?
Don't be afraid, Ginny. You're powerful. You're strong. You can do anything you want, have anything you want. Did you give Harry the potion?
Yes, of course.
She had passed the bread at lunch right over his cup, and of course no one noticed the potion spill red and mix clear into the water.
Then there's nothing to fear. Remember; he swore he would be loyal to you. He loves you. Have faith in Harry, Gin.
I will, Tom.
Neville is in the sitting room with Fred and George, in a nice set of robes that aren't too dressy. Ginny greets him with a soft "Hey." He raises his eyes and his eyebrows shoot up.
"You look great, Ginny," he compliments.
"I see we have our first set of lovebirds here," Fred says.
"No, our second. Did you forget Hermione and Harry pawing at each other earlier?" George adds.
"I think I Obliviated that out of my brain."
"I think I Obliviated that out of your brain. The only merciful thing to do, you know."
Ginny has to force a smile at the thought of pawing.
Neville barks an exasperated laugh and leans into Ginny to whisper, "They're joking. Harry's not feeling well, his scar was hurting so badly that he was puking."
Her smile fades. "Oh," she says, and Neville's face falls. "Well, I hope he feels better. Shall we go?" She fakes a bright smile.
Neville brightens again. "Let's go."
They have the backyard decorated tastefully, and Celestina is playing on the wireless; Ron and Cho are already there, and he greets them with a wave and heads over, Cho following.
"Ginny, you look great," Ron says.
Arrogant prat asks out Cho Chang because she's gorgeous and he wants a pretty girl on his arm. Soon he'll have another girl for his other arm and wear sunglasses and ruffle his hair a lot.
"Hi," she says. "You guys look great together, too."
Neville senses the tension and quickly smiles. "This was a great idea."
"Oh, it's nothing," Ron says offhand. "Obviously it was mostly Hermione's work, not mine." He glances past Ginny. "And there's the golden couple. Oi! Harry! Hermione!"
Whore, she thinks she can take Harry from me, well she's sadly mistaken, I can't wait to see her face, I know how Hermione is.
"You feeling all right, Harry?" Ginny says.
He manages a weak smile. "I'll make it through the night." The look in his eyes is serious, and she gets the message.
He's going to do it, Tom, I know it! Look at him!
The smile curves along her face, even as Hermione drags Harry off to talk to the gathering crowd.
I told you he would, Gin love.
"Ron and I managed to settle our differences," Cho says, smiling. "He came to grips that I like the Tornadoes, and I realized he'll never change to a team with a color that doesn't clash with his coloring and hair."
"Oh, shut it," Ron says, but the tips of his ears are red. "You know you couldn't resist me, even if I'm a Cannons fan."
"Maybe, maybe not." She grins. "I've got to go talk to Michael, d'you mind?"
"Not at all, I've got to have a go at Seamus," Ron says, grins at Ginny and Neville, and heads off. Cho gives them a politely puzzled look and leaves them quickly.
"Rather odd couple, don't you think?" Neville says. "Honestly, I think she's only going with him because he's the captain of the Quidditch team. She hated him last year."
Ginny laughs. "What, are you jealous?"
"No," he says, "just disdainful."
Someone turns up the wireless, they can hear Seamus holler in glee, and the couples begin to dance. Ginny dances with a few other boys, including Michael Corner, then Neville takes her arm. She leans on him, smiling. "You're much better," she says.
He smiles back. "So are you."
She laughs. "Thank you so much for coming... I don't know what I'd do without you, Neville."
Neville doesn't respond for a second. "You won't have to worry about that, soon. You'll have Harry."
"Harry is... different." My knight in shining armor. My darling, my love, my hero. Too bad that heroes don't know what's good for them. But that's why Harry has me. "I need both of you, differently."
"Different," Neville repeats, sounding faintly amused. "Is that a good 'different' or a bad 'different'?"
"You're always here for me, Neville. Don't think I don't realize it, and appreciate it." She runs her thumb lightly against the back of his neck, and he flushes a bit pink. She laughs, then glances over his shoulder to see Ron and Cho by the punch bowl, not looking very happy, and she winces.
"What is it?" Neville says.
"Ron and Cho are having a falling-out, I think. He'd have done better to take someone a bit less temperamental."
"She has the right to be, I think. Kind of."
By now a large amount of the crowd is watching the tension escalate between Ron and Cho, but Ginny can hardly hear the argument because the music and the distance. Cho sits sullenly away from him, and Ron stays where he is, face burning with frustration.
The song ends and Ginny pulls Neville over to where Harry and Hermione are standing, apparently debating on how to deal with this teenage drama. "What happened?" Ginny asks them.
"I think he broke her shoe, or something," Hermione says. "I don't know, neither of them are talking."
An idea occurs to Ginny. "...I'll go talk to Ron," she says, shooting a glance at Harry. "He needs to get some sense talked into him anyway." She kisses Neville on the cheek with a quick smile, and sweeps over to her brother. She looks back momentarily to make certain, and indeed, Harry is leading Hermione into the Burrow.
"Ron," she says. "We need to talk."
Ron sighs. "...All right, but I didn't start the bloody fight," he says. "So don't you go blaming me, these Ravenclaw girls are all out of their minds."
Ginny rolls her eyes, trying to think of an approach that'll work with his block-headed way of thinking. "It's about Hermione," she lies.
It works. "All right," Ron says, his curiosity sufficiently perked. "Out by the lake then?"
They walk until they can barely hear the music anymore, and she turns on him. At the action, he gets slightly nervous, and the flush abandons his cheeks to allow a faint blanch to rest there. "The first thing I will say is, you will not like this, but you are not going to be able to stop it, so get used to it." She smiles triumphantly, but it is a calculated triumph with no sign of glee.
Ron looks vaguely puzzled, then shrugs. "All right, what is it?" His tone is forced casual. "What's with Hermione?"
"It's not about Hermione. Harry and I are dating. Have been for a while now. He wants me, not Hermione, and there's nothing either of you can do about it."
Ron gapes at her, then his face snaps into indignant disappointment. "You swore to me that you weren't."
"No, I didn't. I said that I could handle myself, and I certainly can. I always have been able to."
Ron shakes his head. "It's too dangerous, Ginny. I've even been telling him to break up with Hermione, I mean, he wants to, but anyone close to him -- especially in that way -- is in danger. Being best friends is bad enough."
Ginny feels the Gryffindor rage rise in her, but an odd feeling, Tom, offers Slytherin apathy as cold and unfeeling as marble, which counteracts it. Her face doesn't change. "I love him and there's no way I'm going to be able to stop doing that," she informs him coolly.
"He's not Michael Corner or Dean, for Merlin's sake, he's the marked man for all Death Eaters and Vol -- You-Know-Who himself! He's got a lot on his shoulders and he can't be concerned about paying attention to a girlfriend or snogging her all over the place -- "
"Why do you care if we're snogging?"
Ron looks at her in abject horror. "You're snogging?" Ginny shrugs. "Ginny, no. You can't. I'm sorry. No." He takes a step towards her, and suddenly she glances at his left arm, paranoid, and she scrambles to produce her wand from her purse.
"Get away," she says evenly, and more bravely than she feels as she brandishes her wand.
Her brother looks puzzled. "...What?"
"Get away! I know the real reason why. He's going to do the Fidelius Charm and you want it for yourself! I won't let you take him. I won't let you kill him!"
"What are you talking about, Ginny? Look -- I think someone must have spiked the punch -- " Ron touches her shoulder, and Ginny squirms inwardly at the thought of the hand of a Death Eater on her; she shoves him away and steels herself, thinking of Harry's death and it must be for the best...
"Avada Kedavra," she yells, almost screams, and Ron manages to say the word "No," before the green light hits him and he's dead.
She stands over him, touches his face. "...Why did you make me do it?" she whispers, then kisses his cheek. "I'm sorry, Ron... but you made me do it." She stands after a moment, swallowing hard in order not to cry.
Yet there is something there that she doesn't want to acknowledge, because she does not understand, as it is darker than anything she's ever been. There's amusement, joy at the sight of the corpse -- Ron, oh gods oh gods --there's glee at the remembrance of the horrified timbre in which his last words were spoken... and it disturbs what little is left of what is truly her.
She leaves him there, hurrying through the crowd without a sign of grief on her face. Harry is standing by the punch, no longer accompanied by Hermione. "So what happened with Ron?" he says once she's in earshot.
"He... saw the light," she says, attempting a smile and mostly succeeding.
"Great. Where is he?" Harry glances around, then shrugs. "Never mind--look, Hermione reacted really badly, and I think you should avoid her for a while now, she's rampaging a bit..."
"Well, who wouldn't, losing a prize like you?" Ginny grins, then after glancing around quickly, she kisses him lightly.
Harry actually blushes, then cringes. "Sorry -- that's not an insult, I promise -- damn scar," he sighs. "I'll be in the bathroom, it's sodding loud in here."
"All right," Ginny says, and after Harry leaves, she scans the yard for Neville. After asking Seamus -- who seems a bit busy trying to snog Lavender, but she has no qualms interrupting that -- and discovering that Neville is inside, she collides with somebody at the door.
"Oh -- er -- sorry," she says, then looks up to see a tear-stained Hermione glaring at her.
"I can't believe you, Ginny," Hermione says coldly. Ginny calls up that cold Slytherin fire in her breast, and stands proudly, arrogantly up to the older girl.
"You should. I'm twice the woman you are."
Hermione's eyes flare. "You dare steal my boyfriend and then claim you're better than me? He was mine first, Ginny! I told you how I felt about him, and you just -- "
"Took what was meant to be mine." Ginny realizes her hand is in a death grip around her wand. She raises her wand, cocking an eyebrow at Hermione. "Do you want to continue this conversation or accept the inevitable truth?"
Hermione stares at her. "You wouldn't actually... Ginny!" she says in disgust. "What are you going to do, hex me for Harry's sake?"
"He doesn't need a whore. He needs me." With a sudden rush of arrogant victory, Ginny moves her wand in a quick slashing motion, and a slash of light rushes towards Hermione. Hermione tries to back up, but it hits her, and blood spatters as it slices open her chest. Her eyes are lifeless, open, dull, chocolate brown, no longer blessed with the spark of ever-present cleverness behind.
Ginny notes blood on her hands, and wipes it off on Hermione's front. She stands, leaving the body behind, not quite caring who sees.
She hurries back inside to the bathroom to tell Harry that the danger is over when it occurs to her -- the antidote. "No," she whispers, and runs as fast as she can, panting when she arrives.
"Are you all right, Ginny?" Harry says, one eyebrow raised. She nods to him, then takes a deep breath.
"You have to do something for me, Harry. It's important."
"Of course. What?" he says. She seizes his punch cup and drawing the vial from around her neck, she pours the contents into it. She pushes the cup into his hands, kissing his hands. "Drink it," she says. He could be lost -- all of this work could be lost -- her love could be lost.
Harry shrugs and draws away from her, drinking the cup of liquid easily. Ginny pauses as she looks into her reflection in the bathroom, noticing some sort of spill on the skin right above her right breast. Looking behind her to make sure that Harry won't notice this odd behavior, she undoes the front of her robes. Her breaths stop, her hand frozen, clutched around the soft red fabric. For a moment she is not sure if time has stopped, or if she is simply gone.
She touches it. The Dark Mark, on her breast, above her heart. "Tom," she murmurs.
"Ginny," Harry says, and his voice is weak. She turns, quickly doing up her robes, just in time to see him sway and fall to his knees, hard.
Ginny rushes over to him, wrapping her arms around him, kissing him all over the face, whispering nonsense words of comfort into his ears. "God," she says in a frenzied half-sob, rocking the dying Harry Potter in her arms. "I love you," she says to him. "I love you, Harry."
"Love you," he murmurs back, and she kisses him hard, shaking with sobs. He fades quickly after that; she still clutches his body to her own, delirious and faint from crying so hard. She presses her face against his shoulder.
It was all a lie. My brother, dead. Hermione, dead. Harry, dead.
I love you, Tom.
She chokes a shocked laugh at the realization.
As if cued, a voice says, "Gin," and she refuses to raise her head from Harry's shoulder.
"Gin. Look at me... I had to do it. All right? I got you what you wanted... you wanted Harry. Isn't that what you've always wanted?"
"Go away, Tom," her voice is muffled.
"Your name is so suitable..." his voice comes closer -- he must be walking closer to her -- her body stiffens at the thought. "Gin, like the alcohol. Intoxicating, fresh, clear and transparent but with such a lure..."
Ginny raises her head, meeting identical eyes with Tom. "You marked me. You used me. And now he's dead, they're all dead."
"It was of your own volition, my love." He reaches a hand to caress her hair softly. "I got you what you wanted, like I said. I gave you all I had, so you had to return the favor."
"I had to kill?"
"Come, they're only spiders, not truly living, only existing. Only when the plot twists begin does life begin. Spiders are not killed, they are exterminated."
She refuses to let his touch get a reaction from her. "My boyfriend. My brother. My best friend. They meant nothing?"
Tom's hand withdraws from her hair to stroke her tear-stained cheek. "Don't be selfish, Gin love."
"Selfish?" she demands. "Selfish? You used me, Tom!"
"What about what I want? You got Harry... Gin, I love you. I've told you so. And I couldn't take seeing Harry have you -- that idiot Harry, who got you simply by half-baked acts of valor and false naiveté." He kisses her on the cheek, and she doesn't move, though her grip on Harry's body loosens.
"He loved you, but he did nothing to get you... he tried to be part of you, but could never fully understand you. Not like I can, Ginny. We are one." He kisses the side of her mouth, and her eyebrows furrow with the effort of trying not to look at him, not to reciprocate.
"We are one," she echoes. "But... you mean... you want me?"
"Of course," Tom says, looking surprised.
She considers him coolly for awhile, then feels an odd thing -- and unexpectedly feels the connection between them, a strange mental lock that cannot be broken. He could be with her... she reverses it hesitantly, and with a rush, her conscious is across the link, and she sees herself from his eyes, a truly bizarre feeling.
We are one.
We are one, he agrees.
She feels him -- the true him, the soul and the body and the link between -- and she feels the truth in his words.
You love me, she says in his head. It is not what most would call love, it is admiration, but it makes sense. She understands, oh, does she understand.
As I said I did, Gin.
She tilts his head to the side, then retreats from within his consciousness, staring fixedly at him once she is back to herself.
"So what do you think, Ginny?" He stands. "He wasn't worthy of you. You are a queen, a goddess, and will never die, like an everlasting autumn." With a smile, he strokes her hair. "You can be my Queen. And I will love you, and do anything I can to please you. I love you, Ginevra Weasley. Will you accept that?"
He holds his hand out to help her stand. She drops her stare to his hand.
Would you rather be Queen of Hell...
She raises her eyes to his.
...or a beggar in Heaven?