Ginny & Neville have a chat about inner beauty; Ginny & Draco talk duty; Ginny & Tom talk politics. In other words, this one is dialogue-heavy.
Tom had initially been correct in his assumption that he knew her worst memories, those dark truths she hid in the back of her mind. It was only natural that he would know; he put them there. Then… after watching Neville writhe in agony for a crime she had instigated, she felt like she could look back on her first year with joy compared to what she had caused. I should have known better. He said he'd go along with my stupid plan, but I shouldn't have been so selfish as to suggest it in the first place. I should have known… But the sick truth was that she had known that something horrible would happen. She glossed over the possibility, hoping that they wouldn't get caught. Sure, she had warned Neville and he nonetheless acquiesced, but the blame was on her. Selfish.
Dinner that evening was different than any that Ginny had experienced since she was first brought to the complex almost three months ago. For one thing, Neville and Draco were nowhere to be found. For another, the seating arrangements were different. The place card to her left no longer read "Dmitri Yurovski" but "Karen Hess"; Neville's name no longer appeared on the card to her right. Instead, foreign characters were printed. Ginny wondered why the alternating gender seating system had been changed. A third change was the subtraction of Death Eaters in the room. There was only one. She recognized the man; the frizzy brown hair sticking out from behind his mask marked him as de Dannan.
An unfamiliar face walked into the room. She had her yellow hair tied in a loose bun that threatened to fall at any moment and her light blue eyes were wide. She saw that there were assigned place settings and, shyly, she asked de Dannan, "Wo ist me-"
The girl looked shocked at her sudden and unanticipated lack of voice. Had she never been magically silenced? Tearfully she made her way around the dingy dining room until she found her name. This was Karen Hess. She snuffled.
An Asian-looking girl came around, not as surprised by her forced silence, and sat to Ginny's right. Neville should be sitting there. What have I gotten him into?
It was two days before she saw Neville again. The captives were in the outdoor exercise area despite the biting cold; they were grateful for the fresh air. As soon as Ginny saw him, she ran to him and hugged him. "Neville, I'm so sorry! I can't even begin to apologize- there's nothing I could ever do that would make up for my behavior-"
"It's okay, Ginny," Neville replied with a slight smile.
"No it isn't! I got you in trouble, I got you tortured!"
"It wasn't torture, Gin," he tried to assure her; his grimace betrayed him.
"I saw you writhing on the floor, Neville. I heard you screaming for god knows how long-"
"The bad part was really these last two days. The after-effects of the spell caused me to become nauseated. I've been getting sick. It's not like they used the Cruciatus Curse on me."
"That's almost what it looked like," Ginny replied quietly. She looked him in the eyes, wanting desperately to know what Tom had made him see. She didn't ask; if Neville wanted her to know, he would tell her. His eyes were sad and filmy.
"It wasn't. Don't worry, Ginny. It was my decision. You didn't force me to do anything. I don't blame you at all for what happened," he assured her and pulled her into a one-armed hug.
"Did anyone tell you about the changes going on?" Ginny asked. Her conscience didn't want to remain on the topic of her mistake.
"You mean the new arrivals from Austria and Korea?"
"Oh, that's where they're from? I couldn't figure it out. One girl's name tag was in weird…" she paused. "Neville, we don't get to sit by each other during meals anymore."
"Why not?" he asked, angry.
"Probably because of our little stunt. I have new girls on either side of me now."
"Girls? I thought You-Know-Who had that boy-girl-boy-girl thing."
"Not anymore, apparently. At least, not for me."
"What do you mean?"
"The rest of the group still sits that way. I wonder why," Ginny mused. "And Malfoy hasn't been in there for days."
Neville's face drained of color. "That's because he took the Dark Mark."
"What?! How do you know?!"
"While I was sick, he came to my room to show it off. He's probably showing anyone he sees."
"What a prat!" Ginny fumed. "And to think- remember, back at Hogwart's- after To- er, You-Know-Who died, or we thought he did? Remember, Malfoy was sitting with his mum and the rest of the survivors! He even looked sorry. God, how could I have even entertained the thought for a moment?" She tugged on a lock of her dark red hair and began to think aloud. "Why is it that- how is it that wicked people can be born beautiful? It isn't at all fair. Bellatrix Lestrange-" Neville flinched "-has those eyes, the Malfoys could have stepped out of a portrait, and Tom is just… well, you saw him. And he's absolutely vile. And then there are normal, average, or maybe even ugly people who are so kind. Eloise Migden was virtually an angel and she wasn't exactly pretty." She sighed. "I'm sorry; that last bit sounded really petty."
"I agree with you," Neville nodded. "I don't mean about Eloise, but about how people look. Gran always said that beauty is something on the inside, but it would be so much easier if there was some way of telling by looking at somebody."
"Well, if you look at some people's forearms you're able to tell," Ginny grinned. "No matter how pretty Malfoy's face might be, that mark on his arm shows him to be disgusting."
"Speak of the devil," Neville murmured. Malfoy was walking towards them. He walked with two others. Instead of being at the front of the trio, he was flanking a grown Death Eater. He was surly and put-out; his arms were crossed over his chest and he was scowling.
His eyes burned holes into Ginny's and he smirked. "Did I hear you correctly, Weaselette? You think I'm attractive?"
Ginny snorted and hoped that the blush rising to her cheeks could be interpreted as a result of the cold. "You obviously have selective hearing. Did being demoted to the position of 'lackey' cloud your cognitive functions?"
"Shut up," Malfoy spat.
"Touched a nerve, have I?" Ginny's hair whipped in the wind. She idly noted that she needed a haircut. "What's it like for you, ferret?" she breathed. "Do you feel like you're at the bottom of the chain? Not so smug anymore, I bet."
"I can never be at the bottom of any social hierarchy so long as a Weasley exists," he fumed, reaching for his wand. The hand of the adult Death Eater shot out in front of him before he could move.
"Choose battles wisely, Malfoy," a soft feminine voice commanded. "Rushing into anything increases the likelihood of mistakes." She turned her masked face to Ginny. "You might want to ponder that as well, Weasley. In point of fact, I think you ought not be aggressive at all, even verbally. You have two strikes against you already."
Ginny was dumbfounded to say the least. This was a rational Death Eater. This was someone who thought things through. This was someone potentially dangerous for precisely those reasons. Have actual standards been put in place for hiring now? This is weird. At any rate, she seems to know something I don't. I'll need to be careful around her.
Ginny nodded once as Malfoy, the senior Death Eater, and the other "trainee" walked away. Malfoy turned back to look at her contemptuously; Ginny stuck her tongue out at him.
It was odd, Ginny thought, that Malfoy was being somewhat civil to her. She knew it was only because his …trainer? …mentor? told him to be, but it was downright weird. As much as she hated to admit it, she was a little more comfortable around him. The older Death Eater wasn't always with him, but even when her presence was missing, Draco seemed to be almost kind.
"I wonder if a Grymble has invaded his brain," Luna mused one day.
"A what?" Ginny asked.
"A Grymble," she repeated. "They're little creatures that look like roaches. They can crawl into your brain when you're asleep and change your personality." She tilted her head to the side and a flash of curiosity came to her large blue eyes. "Or maybe You-Know-Who commanded the Death Eaters to be nice. Grymbles are more likely, I think."
Ginny shuddered; she didn't particularly want to ponder the image of a roach climbing into her ear while she slept.
"Whatever the case, I'm not complaining."
Luna nodded in agreement.
If Ginny thought Malfoy's civility was unnerving, she was completely floored by his behavior later that day. As she finished her plum pudding and left her chair, he accosted her.
"Weasley- Ginny, I need to talk to you," he muttered. He was shifting his weight from one leg to the other and picking his fingernails. Ginny glared and held a finger to her lips, reminding him of the no-talking policy.
"I have given him permission to speak with you," the soft voice of the female Death Eater said. Ginny nodded.
Draco wrapped his fingers around her wrist and pulled her into an alcove in the hall. "Weas- Ginny, this isn't easy for me, so keep your mouth shut until I'm done talking."
"Fine," she agreed shortly.
"Look, you're a blood traitor, but you're from a long line of purebloods." He looked into her eyes for a flicker of a second before continuing. "My recent promotion has forced certain responsibilities on me, and I haven't got much of a choice here. So, since you're a pureblood and not entirely bad-looking, I choose you."
"For what?" Ginny asked with curiosity. Draco flushed.
"I already told you, this isn't easy for me. Don't make me spell it out for you."
"What are you talking about?"
"Are you having me on or are you really so dense?"
"Dense, I suppose," Ginny snapped. She began to tap her foot.
"Don't you remember why we're here? And your little plan with Longbottom- Seriously, Ginny. I know you aren't that dumb."
And then it dawned on her. "You're asking me to… with you?"
"I don't have a choice! The Dark Lord gave all the Death Eaters this new 'assignment'. I don't like it either, but I told you, you're a pureblood and sort of pretty, so I-"
"I won't! I can't!" Malfoy looked shocked. Ginny wracked her brain for a plausible reason to turn him down. "I can't because my brothers… my brothers invented hexed skivvies! You'd get hurt pretty badly if you even tried anything!"
"That's one of the most ridiculous excuses I've ever heard," Draco snapped. "The Dark Lord might be willing to forget your past mistakes if you do this," he pled. "I'm being really nice by asking; we don't have to, you know! He just wants his little pureblood babies. I'll get in serious trouble and you can get out of trouble. It's mutually beneficial."
"I… I… Malfoy, you're off your nut!" Ginny exclaimed.
He narrowed his eyes. "If you don't take me up on this offer, someone else will come along. They probably won't be thoughtful enough to ask. Do you want to go through something like that, you stupid girl?"
"It's almost like you care about my well-being," Ginny mocked, "but I know better. Find yourself another girl." She spun on her heel and began to walk away when she heard the first syllable of an Unforgivable Curse leave his lips.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," a deeply familiar voice stated flatly. Ginny kept walking. "Come over here, little Ginny."
She cursed under her breath and inhaled deeply before she turned to face Tom. "Yes?" she asked sweetly. Oh god, Tom is going to make me comply.
"Malfoy the younger propositioning little Ginny Weasley? I never thought I'd see the day." Upon hearing his voice, the soft-spoken Death Eater came to her master's side.
Ginny remained still and silent. Tom pulled her closer to him and put his arm around her. She squirmed until he his grip on her shoulder became painful.
"Well, now you've seen it," Draco sneered.
"Watch your tongue, Malfoy," the woman snapped. "Never speak to your superiors that way."
"It's quite alright, my dear," Tom smiled. "He doesn't know to whom he speaks."
Ginny stared at Tom in shock. "He doesn't?!"
"No, little one. Only a select few do." He dismissed the senior Death Eater with a wave of his hand. She bowed and backed away slowly. "Now, Malfoy. It seems you're taking your assignment seriously. Lord Voldemort is pleased." Both Draco and Ginny flinched at the sound of the name. Tom grinned; he would never tire of that reaction. "You seem to be under the impression that Miss Weasley here is an option for you. She is, however, already spoken for."
"What?!" Ginny shrieked. Panicking, she flailed around, trying in vain to escape Tom's iron grip. "Who?!"
"Why, me, of course."
"I pick Draco," Ginny hastily responded.
Tom chuckled and stared down Malfoy. "Ginny has been mine for years now, and I really don't like to share."
"I was never 'yours', you psycho!"
Tom frowned. "Leave us, Malfoy."
Wholly unnerved, Draco did as he was told.
"Now, Ginny dear, why would you lie so? You've been mine since you were eleven years old."
"No, I'm not, never have been, and never will be yours, Tom," Ginny protested. She once again tried to free herself but that only served to irritate Tom further. He backed her into a corner of the little alcove and stood menacingly over her.
"You and I both know that's not true. You'll always belong to me. Soon everyone in the world will belong to me. I've told you before, little one, I have a soft spot for you- because you were mine years before I regained that hideous body. Don't take that for granted."
"Tom," Ginny began slowly. "How did you get that body?"
"You already asked me that, Ginny. The answer now is the same as it was before: you don't need to know." He took a few steps back. "I admire your tenacity. You would be a useful member of my team."
"I thought as much," Tom sighed. "Ginny, you may think that what I do is morally wrong, but you're mistaken. You perceive my actions as wicked because you were taught to do so. If you were to look at things objectively, you'd agree with me. The end justifies the means, little one. Think on that." His demeanor was chillingly calm and she almost thought that his smile was genuine. "You're one of a kind, Gin. Think about what I said; you'll come to the correct conclusion sooner or later." He gently ushered her out of the alcove. Before she could walk away, Tom kissed the top of her head. "Run along now."
Ginny walked to her room as if in a trance. As she sat on her bed, she thought. She wasn't thinking about Tom's politics as he had instructed, but rather on his attitude.
What the hell was THAT about?
Happy good fun times?
Suckish hatey times?
Let me know either way in a Review or PM!
The winner of the last challenge was MoreEverything, who noticed the David Bowie reference. This time, I want you to tell me the meaning of the word 'Jacobsite' WITHOUT cheating. The prize is the same: a line of your choice to be used in a future chapter.
Special thanks go to Selkie for putting the idea of Gred & Forge making enchanted undergarments into my head.