So, my lovelies, I'm finally back. I looked at the last time I updated and said to myself, "Holy shit, Maq! You've had this thing typed out for a long time- what's the deal?" Because I've been gone so long, I feel I owe you guys an explanation. Those of you who know the deal already, skip on down to the story part!
Almost immediately after I posted the last chapter, my Granny died. It was very difficult for me because we were extremely close. I wanted to play a big part in her layout and mass, so I worked my butt of doing that stuff. Death was the subject of the last chapter, so it was hard to edit this bit, even though it only contains remembrances of death. By Summer's end, three more people died. I went back to school. In September, when H1N1 was running rampant in my area, I caught the flu. Initial testing came back negative for H1N1, but I was treated like I had it, just to be on the safe side. Then someone I cared for very deeply died of H1N1. It was... I don't know how to describe the feeling. People (and animals) were dropping like flies around me. In November I was in the hospital (not for the flu. I recovered from that in the normal amount of time). I was there for a week, then got to go home the Monday before Thanksgiving. Well, anyone who has lost someone knows how weird holidays are the first time you're missing someone important. Add that to a diagnosis of breast cancer for one of my aunts and you've got December's delay. In January I went back to school *again*.
So here we are, 9 Feb. 2010 (or 10 Feb, depends where you live). Today would have been my Granny's 80th birthday. Yeah, I'm depressed and upset, but writing is a good outlet for stress. I made it through the editing. Things should go back to how they were before Granny died (every week).
I'd like to offer my most sincere thanks for everyone who reviewed while I was gone. I'm still getting reviews and Story Alerts, so that was another motivator. THANK YOU SO MUCH.
P & Q
What have I done?
Did it really happen?
Who made me say that?
Does this make me a murderer?
Ginny tossed and turned in her bed for weeks after the death of Neville, these questions gnawing at her from her toes to her hair. Sometimes she would wake up and vomit; her body was trying to rid itself of the crime her mouth had committed. Sometimes she would swoon and have to grasp a wall. Her ears betrayed her; she would hear Neville screaming at that horrible man, hear the confession of murder, hear Tom giving her the go-ahead to pick the punishment. Her fingers betrayed her; she remembered clinging to Tom, the center of her world, and felt content with the recollection of how her fingertips felt as they clenched his robes in desperation. Sometimes she cried. Most of the time she couldn't. She hadn't gotten to say goodbye, or that she thought he was brave, or that he was a hero. Her eyes burned from tears that wanted to escape but were trapped by her psyche. Once she stole a fork from the dinner table. When she had gotten back to her room, she had stuck out her tongue and began to stab it furiously with the cutlery. This would make her cry. This would punish the tongue that had made her a murderer. This was penance. In the end, all that she accomplished was making herself bleed and causing her tongue to swell so much that she could only have liquids for almost a week. If the world wouldn't punish her, she would punish herself.
It was cathartic. Merely a year ago she had been studying, anxious to get to the Easter holidays even though the Christmas holidays were barely over. A year ago she'd been anticipating her final year at Hogwarts, flirting with boys, tickling the tentacles of the giant squid, and skipping along the High Street in Hogsmeade. Then he came, white-faced and wicked. He had made Harry use the worst curse there ever was. He had kept her from school. The descent into Hell had come only twenty days after she came of age. She hadn't gotten many presents; her father was dead, Fred was dead, and there was so little money. Still, one didn't come of age every day. Great Aunt Muriel had sent the promise of a Prewett heirloom. She wouldn't divulge the exact nature of the item, only said that she'd give it to her little niece when they next met. Auntie Muriel could be dead.
Yes, Ginny Weasley was in Hell. She wasn't surrounded by demons and her body wasn't being licked by lashing flames, but this was the devil's domain. There were people everywhere, but they were either completely empty or had swollen stomachs. In a few months, those girls would be empty too. That was the most cruel form of punishment, Ginny thought. Yes, the rape must be terrible and the psychological repercussions of that hideous action would sting, but to have one's child taken immediately after birth was monstrous. Her own mother had grieved so much for Fred and she'd gotten more than two decades with him. Ginny remembered being very small.
"Why you crying, Mum?" a tiny Ginny asked. She didn't like it when her Mummy cried.
"Nothing's wrong, Ginny, dear," Molly sniffed. "Go on and play with Ron and the others." But Ginny didn't go play. She listened as Mummy wept and as Daddy held her close. "Why, Arthur? I never knew him, but I miss him so much."
"I miss him too, Mollywobbles. There's no sense in crying over what might have been. We already have seven-"
Ginny watched her Mum slap her Dad. She held in a gasp. "You don't understand. You could never understand. Yes, we have seven, and I couldn't love them more, but eight would have been wonderful. And now… now the Healers say that there can't be an eighth. You'll never understand."
Ginny, being so young, hadn't understood the conversation then. Her mother was right. None but the poor young women having their children stolen could truly experience such agony. She counted herself lucky that she had been spared these many months. How much longer would she be so fortunate? She simply sighed and counted her blessings, few though they were.
Tom returned in February. For a week leading up to his arrival, the complex was buzzing with Death Eater preparations; on many occasions, these preparations involved using the Cruciatus curse on any prisoners who got underfoot. The screams echoed down the corridors, around corners, and finally into the ears of the other inmates; it was an effective incentive to keep them reserved and out of the way.
On the day of Tom's arrival, the complex was unusually quiet. Every little noise made the patrolling Death Eaters bow so low that they nearly scraped their noses on the ground; such was their fear of the Dark Lord's wrath. Once the noise was revealed to be a stray captive, they would be Silenced and cursed.
Though she was certain that Tom wouldn't seek her out, she still shook slightly. Those last moments with him, while comforting in the moment, embarrassed her and made her face flush crimson. She'd been utterly dependant upon him and hated herself for it. She hated herself more for hiding away the part of her that retained that raw need for the man who ruled her world. That he had even the smallest measure of control over her was disconcerting.
She stared blankly at the mirror in her toilet. She saw a girl with long red hair that was split at the ends, a girl with brown eyes and thin lips, a girl with a smattering of freckles on her wan face. She didn't see Ginny. Ginny, such as she was, had died months ago. It wasn't when she'd been so suddenly kidnapped; it wasn't even at the Battle of Hogwarts that she had died. It was a year earlier. It was when she and Harry had broken up. No, her heart wasn't broken; some part of her knew that she would never be Ginevra Molly Potter, and she was fine with that. She had first experienced true fear that day. Her brother and two dear friends had set out to destroy Horcruxes, something they never fully explained to her. The numb shock she'd felt when she'd seen Dumbledore's perversely twisted body at the foot of the tower vanished when blind nobility took those friends from her. Suddenly everything was real. Hermione and Ron were God knows where with Harry-
"I've found your Harry," Tom had said. That was months ago. How could she have forgotten? She shuddered and knew that she would go to Tom against her better judgment. She needed answers. The courage of necessity hardened her heart and she became resolute.
Ginny wandlessly Transfigured her Christmas quill into scissors and began to cut her hair with unskilled hands.
Somehow, and for some reason she would never understand, she was granted an audience with the Dark Lord. The strangest thing was that he had come to her. He entered her room unannounced. "I've missed you, little Ginny," he'd said with fondness as he ruffled her hair. His lips quivered into a small frown. "I liked it better long."
"It was too much trouble," was Ginny's dead reply. "It'll grow back."
Tom sighed. "Yes, dear one, it will." He tugged her locks gently and murmured an incantation. It was as if she'd never taken those crude scissors to her tangled mane in the first place.
She slapped his hand away. It hadn't been a strictly cosmetic change. Neville was dead. Luna and so many others were empty shells of their former selves. Their behavior was noticeably different. Ginny needed something of her own, something to see every day to remind her of what she had retained and what she had lost. She still had her quick wit, her short temper, and her undeniably strong magic; she had lost her freedom, her friends, and her family. She'd lost her innocence.
You're a murderer. You may as well have said the curse yourself.
Bravery: it was something else she kept. It was hidden under layers of depression and resignation, but it was still there. Now was the perfect time, if there was such a thing, to confront Tom about Harry.
"I have a question for you, Tom," she stated boldly, "and I'd greatly appreciate an answer."
His deep blue eyes lit up with something akin to glee. "My little Ginny hasn't lost her spunk after all. I was afraid that, given the events of the last few months, your spirit would be broken. This is a pleasant surprise indeed. It makes me… happy, for lack of a better term. So I will do this for you: you may not ask only one question, but instead seven."
Ginny's jaw dropped. She wanted to ask 'why', but she knew that Tom would consider that to be the first of her questions. Oh, how she was thankful! Now, what to ask? Originally she had only wanted to ask about Harry. Now a thousand and one questions buzzed around in her mind. Wait. This is Tom. Nothing is ever clear-cut with him.
"There's a catch," she stated confidently.
"Always," Tom replied with a smirk. "How clever of you to consider my liberal views on what constitutes a valid question. Yes, I shall do you a kindness and explain my rules. As I stated, you may ask seven questions and seven questions only. Questions may not have two parts. You may ask anything you like and I will answer the query to the best of my ability. I will be relatively honest, I promise you. Here is the most important rule: you must ask all seven questions at one time- now- before I provide any answers. Understood?"
Ginny nodded excitedly.
"Ask swiftly, little Ginny. I have an empire to run, after all."
Where is Harry?
How is Harry?
How is my family?
Is there still a resistance movement?
What's to become of us all?
Where do you go when you leave?
When can we get off of this damn island?
Where are we?
Why am I so different?
Why do you treat me so?
What are Horcruxes?
Are all of the Horcruxes gone?
How do you remember me?
How are you alive in this youthful body?
How are you alive?
How are you alive?
She knew her questions, knew what was important to ask and what was superficial.
"My first question is this: Where is Harry?
"My second question is this: How is my entire family, including in-laws and cousins?
"My third question: What has become of Hogwarts?
"My fourth question: What is the most descriptive definition of your Horcruxes that you can provide me?
"The fifth question: Why do you treat me differently than the other prisoners?
"My sixth question: How do you remember me from my first year if I wasn't communicating with you in the present?
"My last question…" she began slowly, "is one I've asked you before. You haven't told me the answer. I want, need, to know this." She inhaled sharply, preparing herself mentally for some sort of outburst on Tom's part. "How did you go from being a hideous snake… thing to looking like a normal human being?"
Tom laughed. It was an unpleasant sound, as high-pitched as his deep voice would allow, and cracking from the strain of his vocal chords. "You are very insightful, little one, and you obviously pay attention and retain knowledge. Your questions please me. I will answer them all, but not necessarily in the order you requested. Be warned," he said sternly, all mirth gone from his perfect features, "you will not like many of the answers. This will open a very large can of worms, and I will not answer any follow-up queries."
Ginny nodded solemnly and swallowed hard. "Thank you, Tom," she whispered.
"Anything, almost anything, for you, dear Ginny." He cleared his throat. "I shall begin with your third question, the one about Hogwarts…"
Yep, he's gonna answer.
Kudos to Selkie for being the first to point out that Tom may have manipulated the truth spell ^^
Press the button and leave a review! I plan on getting back in the habit of replying to each one. Thanks again for your patience.