Alphabet Soup

T&U

Alphabet Soup

T&U

Truth & Consequences

As he lounged on his throne in the gigantic hall made of oceanic marble, Tom brought together his tapered fingers and narrowed his eyes. Was what Mona said true? Was his little Ginny Weasley falling into madness? A growl tore through his throat at the thought. He'd done his best to keep her safer than the rest; he'd waylaid Draco Malfoy when the brat had attempted to force himself on the girl; he'd given her a Christmas present. He had killed for her. It was one of the few murders he could call just. She was his confidante, loath as he was to admit it. He had never told anyone but her the secrets of his youth, cryptic though his answers may have been.

She was special, and now, if the story was true, she was broken.

Tom didn't like it when his toys were broken. He decided to instigate an investigation. First he'd have to talk with the subject.

He watched as his little Ginny was ushered into the extravagant room. She looked puzzled and murmured a few words to the empty air next to her. "No, no," he heard her say. "I promise. I don't think I've done anything to make him angry. I hope I haven't." Tom gestured subtly; she walked forward and stood rigidly before the dais. A feeble smile graced her lips but her eyes roved his face, looking for a tell.

"Typically people bow when they approach me," Tom stated. Ginny blinked and made mechanical movements as if even this small task was painful. "You're an exception." Ginny sighed in relief. Her muscles ached from lack of exercise. Those walks to and from the dining room were apparently enough to keep her relatively healthy. Her only movements had been from her bed to the toilet and back again for… how many days had it been? She looked to Fred for an answer, but he wasn't there. With a grand sweep of his arm, Tom dismissed his servants and sycophants from the room. He gazed upon Ginny's wan features with scrutiny. She didn't look well. Her eyes were empty. He cleared his throat and began his interrogation. "Ginevra," he began slowly, "how long were you kept in your room?" She shrugged. "A few days? A week?" he pressed.

"Two weeks, maybe," she replied hoarsely. "I'm not really sure."

"Do you know who gave the order to keep you in there for so long?"

"No," she replied. "I just heard the occasional sniggering and some jeers when I tried to get out."

"From men or women?"

"Men. Maybe only two or three. Why did you lock me up, Tom?" Her eyes glistened with tears. "What did I do wrong this time?"

"It wasn't me, little one, I swear to you." His voice was laced with poison. "You're an old friend- don't disagree. I have made it perfectly clear from the beginning that your punishments were only to come directly from me. When I find out…"

"Well, how should I know?" Ginny whispered.

"To whom are you speaking?" Tom demanded.

Ginny's brow furrowed. Was he taking the mickey? "Fred, of course. I want to thank you for giving him back to me. Genuinely, Tom," she said, "you don't know how much that meant to me. If only he could speak…"

Tom didn't know what to say. Every time he began to speak, he would clap his mouth shut almost immediately. She really was as doing as badly as he'd been told. He didn't want to exacerbate her condition; on the contrary. He wanted her whole again. After her isolation, he wasn't sure if that could happen. Maybe he could return some of her sanity, but he doubted that his little Gin would ever be completely well.

"Now, sweet Ginny, you must tell me everything you know. When did you start seeing- that is, when did Fred come to you?"

"A while ago. I don't know for certain," she said quickly. "Tom, can I ask you about something you said?" He nodded his approval. "You said that you didn't order my… isolation. Why was I kept in there? Didn't you know?"

He sighed heavily and raked a hand through his ebony locks. "No, I was out of the country. When I find out who betrayed me, Ginny, you can be certain that there will be hell to pay."

Ginny shook her head in disbelief. Shocked, she demanded, "Say that again." As an afterthought, she added, "Please."

"I said there will be hell to pay when I find out who committed this insubordination."

"Not that part," Ginny said quietly. Tom arched an eyebrow in question. "You called me 'Ginny'."

"It's your name," Tom answered irritably.

Ginny blushed and looked at the floor. "Obviously, but you've never called me 'Ginny' before. Even in the diary I was always 'little Ginny' or 'little one', 'sweet Ginny' or 'Ginevra'. It's strange to hear you just call me by my regular name, no adjectives or formalities."

Tom thought. She was right. He always patronized her, treated her like the eleven-year-old she hadn't been for so very long. She was a powerful witch, no doubt. A Pureblood with such talent should be treated with more respect than had been given her. He looked into her hollow eyes. Their gazes met; she looked away first.

"I'll… I'll find out who did this to you, Ginny. I'll weed out this traitor and deal with him most severely."

"You're going to kill him, aren't you?" Ginny whispered.

"Probably," Tom nodded. He heard her whimper. "He deserves it, little Ginny. Don't you want justice?"

She shuddered. "I- I don't want another d-death on my hands." Fat tears leaked down her cheeks.

"You've never killed anyone," Tom reminded her sternly. "I killed that man."

"But I asked you to do it!" Ginny sobbed. "I as good as killed him! I was the judge who sent him to execution!"

Tom's voice went cold. "You never judged anyone. I am the only one in the world with that power. Think what you will, but you don't have the ability to override my decisions. I would have killed him whether you wanted it or not. Don't overestimate your position in my court."

Ginny didn't miss the double meaning. She met his eyes again, this time with a cold dread building in her stomach. "Your court?"

"My royal court, yes." A smirk spread across his face. "You are looking at the most important man, the most influential man, in the entire world. I have it all now, and I don't just mean the continent. Asia, the Americas, Australia, and even the frozen wastelands of the South Pole. So dry your tears, little one. This was to be a day of celebration. We'll postpone the festivities until the one who locked you away is… chastised."

Ginny's stomach churned. She brought her hand to her mouth to stop the vomit threatening her throat. He's lying. He has to be lying. "My family…" she croaked. Don't let them be dead, don't let them be dead, please.

"Your family is fine, darling girl," Tom assured her. "They're living in Hertfordshire quite safely, with the exception of the two eldest. No, no, they're alive as well. One of them is in France with his wife and her family. The other is in Romania, still working with dragons. Does that make you feel better?"

She nodded, but two thoughts kept popping up in her mind. Harry and Hermione. So shocked and worried was she that she didn't even bother to attempt Occlumency when she felt Tom probing her mind.

"One is alive and one is dead," He said with a smile. "I'll leave you to ponder which is which. Ah!" he suddenly exclaimed. "Here comes my guest of honor. I had Mona retrieve the man in charge of the complex while I was gone. Sit next to me, Ginny, here on the dais. Lucius Malfoy, my slippery friend! Thank you for gracing us with your presence."

"I serve my Lord faithfully," Lucius said with a deep bow.

"I'm sure," Tom drawled. "We had an incident while I was in Mongolia, Lucius. I want to know how it happened on your watch."

"What was the problem, my Lord?" His voice was steady.

"Miss Weasley here was kept in confinement for what seems to be the duration of my absence. Were you aware?"

"No, my Lord," Lucius said. Behind the mask, Ginny heard his confidence slipping. "I had no idea"

"That's odd," Tom replied calmly. "I thought you more astute than that." His voice raised. "Did no one tell you that she was missing meals?" Louder, "Or did you think it funny to lock away someone you knew to be an important guest? I have no doubt that you knew, Lucius. I can read your thoughts; you may as well stop attempting Occlumency. I rule the entire world, Lucius Malfoy. I didn't accomplish that by being naïve." Louder still, "Did you honestly think that you could fool me? Did you not realize that someone loyal to me would tell me of your treachery, your threats to murder them if they let Ginevra out of her room?" Composed now, Tom continued in a whisper. "I confess that I was foolish to put any measure of trust in you. Now tell me why- and here's a fair warning: if you attempt to lie, to deny it, I'll not hesitate to kill you on the spot."

Ginny couldn't hear his reply.

"Louder, Lucius," Tom demanded. "I want it to echo off of the walls."

"My son," Lucius murmured.

"Louder, Malfoy!"

"My son! I did it for my son!" His masked face turned towards Ginny. "That little blood traitor denied him, Draco told me. She denied him for some upstart named Tom. I don't know a single Death Eater named Tom. My son comes from a long line of Purebloods on both sides of his family. He's a good-looking young man and she thought she was too good for him. They don't come any better than my son."

"I told you not to lie, Malfoy," Tom seethed dangerously. "I can hear it in your every word. You don't care that she rejected Draco. It's despicable that you would try to pin your actions on love for the boy. You're no worse than my own father was. I killed my father, as I'm sure you remember. Sweet Ginny doesn't want me to kill you; she said she'd feel guilty. Unfortunately for you, I don't hold her opinions above my own. Shall we have young Draco kill you? Shall I do it myself? No, I won't do it. I don't want to waste my time killing someone who betrayed me out of jealousy for a teenage girl. Go say goodbye to your son and whatever allies you have, though I am sure you have few," Tom ordered. "We won't be seeing one another again."

"But my Lord-" came Lucius's panicked voice.

"Pleading gets you nowhere. Get out of my sight." Slowly, ever so slowly, Malfoy left the throne room. Ginny heard him sniffling as he walked away.

Without thinking, Ginny threw herself onto Tom's lap and linked her arms around his neck, sobbing. "Oh, Tom, why? I hate him, I really do, but must he really die for what he did? I'm okay, and he can be just punished for disobeying you."

"You're less okay than you think," Tom said, disentangling the girl and setting her gently back on the floor. "And traitors must be dealt with swiftly and without remorse. If he lives, others will think he has power over me or they will try to get around the rules themselves. I cannot have it. Now, I have something for you. Mona is waiting in the hall. She has instructions for you."

Unctions

Ginny was trembling when she left the throne room. Mona embraced her tightly and let Ginny cry into her shoulder. Her mask dug painfully into Ginny, who let go as soon as she saw Fred in her peripheral vision.

"I have a few things for you," Mona said softly. "The first is permission to walk in the exercise area for a half hour. It's a rather nice day, so we'll want to take advantage of that. Also, the Dark Lord has assigned you two medical unctions to help you recover. This one-" she held up a pink bottle "-is to be put on your hands every night. It must not be washed off. It won't work otherwise. The other is to be rubbed on your temples when you wake and when you go to sleep. You are very lucky to have been given these medications, so take full advantage of them."

Ginny nodded in compliance.

After her first group meal in weeks and thirty minutes of supervised walking, jogging, and jumping jacks, Ginny returned to her room. "Don't forget to use your unctions," Mona sternly reminded her.

"Right," Ginny replied.

She pulled her pajamas over her head and grabbed the bottle of goo for her temples. She massaged it onto her skin gently and inhaled its heady mint scent. She smiled. "Well, Fred," she said, "let's see what this does." She looked around the room; Fred was gone. I hate it when he just vanishes like that.

She slathered the unction from the pink bottle onto her hands until it was deep into her skin. She got under her covers and snuggled in, falling asleep quickly. Tomorrow she would be up for breakfast and would maybe be able to talk to Luna.

She dreamed of Hogwarts that night. She was laughing with a vibrant Hermione near the lake. They splashed their feet a bit and lay in the sun. Small yellow flowers grew nearby. Hermione was telling her the genus and species of the plant plus its common uses. Ginny went over to pick them and they wove the flowers into crowns. A bee came over to the girls and landed on Ginny's flower ring. She swatted it; it stung her. The pain in the dream woke her. She needed to wash her hands.

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