I could give you the reasons and excuses for this taking so long, but I'll spare you. Suffice it to say I've changed the ending entirely and have begun to re-write from this chapter on through Z.
She did in fact speak with Luna the following morning. She spoke of her dreams, how beautiful and reminiscent they were, and how she hoped Hermione was actually somewhere- alive- making those flower garlands. Picking at the dead skin on her thumb, she gazed intently into Luna's eyes. "I miss it. I can remember it all like it was yesterday, but that's just it. Those times are yesterday, and yesterday's gone. It's like my whole life before this place was something of a dream. I feel like I need to have an actual today, not one day in a string of monotonous days. I need to look ahead and see a tomorrow or I fear I'll go mad."
Luna's bug-eyes stayed glued to Ginny's. They lacked the precocious luster that once danced within them. "I have strange dreams sometimes, too," she airily confessed. "Last night I dreamed a baboon was hanged by its own entrails. Quite disgusting, really, but one can't control one's dreams." She weaved her hands in and out of her blond locks, causing the hair to tangle horrendously. "It's no big deal," she said to Ginny when the latter tried to smooth the rough spots. "Who do we have to impress?"
"No one, I suppose," Ginny sighed. But she wanted, she longed, to impress him. He was already pleased that she could do some Wandless magic. He took care of her. What could she do to repay him? Better herself. It would be difficult in these circumstances, but she'd have to try her best. Then she'd have to find him. That would be tricky, she decided, as his comings and goings weren't known to her. "We've got to look nice for our families, though," Ginny ventured. "They'll be sure to visit us soon."
Luna became uncharacteristically somber. She took Ginny by the shoulders and shook her. "No one's coming," she stated. "How long have we been here, after all? At first I was so optimistic. I thought Harry, Ron, and Hermione would come save the day like they always have before. When I got here, Neville was so full of that hope as well. We watched it slip away from him; that was almost as bad as seeing my mother die. The Dark Lord has no compassion. We're going to be used as brood mares and left to wither away." She silenced herself for a long moment and continued in her typical dreamy voice. "I should like to know how being a mother feels. I imagine it's very nice."
"If they let you keep your child," Ginny clarified. "One of the Patil twins came back… alone, if you recall. How you've escaped pregnancy so far is amazing."
"I could say the same for you, Gin," Luna said. "No one even makes advances toward you. That's very fortunate." The look in her eyes suggested a demand. Luna wanted to know her secret- how to escape the torturous touches of those vile men.
"I- I'm sorry, Luna," she choked. "I wish I could offer help, but I can't. I just got lucky, you see. Someone pitied me. That's all. Nothing else." She stared at her shoes, ashamed that she had misled her best friend, but she simply couldn't betray Tom. Even though this friendship may well have depended upon it, Ginny wouldn't betray her Tom.
Luna turned from her, arms crossed. The conversation was over. Tears pricked Ginny's hazel eyes. She heard a sniffle and knew that she wasn't the only one in heart-wrenching pain.
"No, Ginny. Just stop talking. You won't say anything helpful."
"It's not won't, it's can't!"
"The Ginny I knew would have sacrificed anything to help a friend. This place will kill you, just like it killed Neville."
Ginny would not see Luna again for a very long time.
She sat crying bitterly cold tears on a stone bench in the exercise area. The sounds of voices speaking German and different Asian dialects did nothing to calm her. She wanted Luna's voice, and not the Luna who lived here, now. Old Loony Lovegood and her bright yellow dress at Bill's wedding, or reading magazines upside-down, or wearing that ridiculous lion hat- that's who she wanted. Luna had spoken of change in Ginny; it was obvious that the other girl had been transformed as well. Sighing, Ginny wrung her hands.
"Someone hasn't been following orders," came the now-familiar voice of Mona.
"You haven't been using your unctions."
"Of course I have!" Ginny protested, standing up to face the woman in the mask. "I haven't seen my brother since I've been using that stuff. Strangely, I miss him, even though I know he wasn't real. I want to see that shade so badly, but I put that crap on my temples every night anyway. I'm doing something that hurts myself, so don't you dare tell me I'm doing something wrong."
"Touchy, touchy," Mona tsk'd. "I was referring to your hands. They look awful. You've been washing them before bed; I can tell. The Dark Lord gave you specific instructions. Now, if you don't follow them, both you and I will get in trouble. Angry as he's been lately, I don't want to irritate him."
"Angry? What's gone wrong?"
"Nothing he wants you to know about, dear. Ah, my faithful student approaches. Draco, what do you want?"
"Just a minute alone with the littlest Weasley," Draco sneered from beneath his hood.
"One minute, starting now." Mona turned and left.
Draco's eyes bore nothing but hatred for Ginny. They narrowed into slits as his nostrils flared and his lips thinned, all behind his grotesque mask. Cracking the knuckles of his balled fists, he began. "You killed my father."
Ginny's mouth fell open. "Pardon me?"
"You heard me, you little bitch. You killed my father. He was only trying to avenge me, you know, when he locked you up. You should have come with me when you had the chance."
"Get over it, Malfoy; that was months ago."
"He didn't want me humiliated, so he locked you in your tiny little room. I hear you went quite mad," he smirked. "But that isn't restitution enough. My dear mentor has given you antidotes for your mental issues. You'll be fine, but my father will still be dead. He was murdered because he gave you an entirely deserved punishment. He was Stunned and thrown into the sea."
Ginny gagged in horror at those words. How painful that must have been, possibly worse than torture. She tasted the sea air around her; it was thick enough on its own. Salt water was painful to swallow, and Lucius Malfoy would have had no chance whatsoever. He wouldn't even have had the capability to tread water. She choked on the thought.
"Malfoy!" came a shout from across the yard. "Time's up!"
"Just one more thing," Draco whispered. Quick as a flash, he held out his wand and Stupefied Ginny. "I did this to Potter once," he informed her as he punched her in the nose. A sickening crack resounded in her ears. "And now your pretty little face-"
"Get her patched up immediately, and make sure she doesn't wash her damn hands."
"And Malfoy, my Lord?"
"Give him another thirty seconds or so. Pain of this type will be his reward- for now."
"No, Tom- don't let anybody else suffer on my account," Ginny begged. "Please. His father just died, all he did was hit me in the face; it hardly even hurts."
"That it hurts at all, my little Ginny," Tom replied, "guarantees this wretch pain. No one damages what is mine and gets away without severe restitution. He's extremely fortunate to still be breathing. Oh, yes. Finite. That infernal screaming was grating my nerves."
"Stop whimpering, idiot boy," Mona snapped. She not-so-gently nudged Malfoy with her foot. Somberly she addressed her Lord. "He's my responsibility, and his actions reflect my teaching abilities. I know I must be punished, my Lord, for his behavior."
"Do you like our Mona, Ginny? Do you enjoy her company?" Tom asked, staring still at Malfoy.
"…Yes," she responded hesitantly. Where is he going with this?
"Then we shall be lenient this time. If he misbehaves once more, I cannot guarantee leniency for either you or your sniveling charge. Are we clear?"
"Crystal, my Lord," Mona whispered.
"We'll leave the youngest- oh, but I've forgotten! We'll leave the only Malfoy in the hands of his dear auntie Bellatrix. She's particularly efficient at meting out justice. I wonder how she'll perform on her own kin…" Tom smiled wistfully and stared off into the distance. A chortle escaped his lips and he ruffled Ginny's hair in an almost affectionate manner. "Take him to Bellatrix, Mona, and clear the yard. We shall discuss your situation later."
The Death Eater bowed in deference and grabbed a still sniveling Draco by the ear. The thundering of feet leaving the park area went unnoticed.
The ensuing silence was pregnant. Tom held Ginny's gaze until she blushed and turned her attention to the ground. His eyes were so beautiful. His Boticelli face belied what lay beneath, and she couldn't stand him for it. Even as her own eyes were downcast, she could see his perfectly shined shoes, the hem of perfectly pressed robes. Perfect, all of him. So what if he occasionally tortured and maimed? He was there for her when no one else was. Luna had snubbed her, but not Tom. And who knew what else Malfoy would have done? It was preventative defense for someone he cared about.
She hadn't felt him probe her mind, so she was a bit shocked when he lifted her chin gently and held one of her hands. "I care about what happens to you, my Ginny. Let's fix you up, make you beautiful again." She heard her nose slide back into place and felt the caked blood leave her face. "There now, much better."
His name was a whisper on her lips. How she wanted to press those lips to his again, to feel the warmth of his breath against her cheek. Hesitantly she brought her free hand to gently brush a strand of hair out of his eyes. A flicker of a frown crossed his features, but she didn't notice. He took that hand and pressed it against the smooth skin of his face, a shockingly intimate gesture. She looked at him curiously, mouth slightly agape. She drew breath to ask a question, but he silenced her with a stern look. She tried to turn away, but he let go of her hand and gently turned her face back to his. It was a frightening thing, staring into the eyes of Tom Riddle. If eyes were truly windows to the soul, she mused, then his soul was the most wonderful thing in the universe. A soft smile caught her off guard. "I'm going to kiss you now, Ginny Weasley," he quietly announced. She nodded mutely and let her eyes flutter closed.
As kisses went, it was rather spectacular. His mouth was warm and inviting; his tongue tasted like tea and honey. His hands would themselves into her ginger hair and he tugged, eliciting a quiet squeak of pain from her. She stood on tiptoe and wrapped her arms around his neck, holding him as tightly as she could. She never wanted to let him go. Sighing happily, she kissed him with a bit more force. Biting his bottom lip, she drew a moan from his throat. They soon found themselves leaning on a wall for support. Every few moments she would make the most delicious little noises in the back of her throat. His hands found their way to her waist and he tugged her closer still. A familiar sensation washed over Ginny. Warmth began to pool in her abdomen. It had been so long, and this was Tom, her first love and her savior. She clutched at his robes madly, trying to simultaneously kiss and breathe. He was panting heavily, his breath hot against her face. Suddenly she felt something she hadn't felt in a long time. She felt the hardness of a man pressing into her and smiled with satisfaction. Arousing a man made her feel powerful. She giggled against Tom's lips-
And he pushed her away. Her head hit the wall and she cried out in pain.
"Harlot," he spat venomously. "You've played this game before. Maybe you think you've achieved some sort of victory here, but let's get something straight. I'm in charge. I will initiate any contact, physical or otherwise. I kept you from Malfoy all those months ago for a reason. You belong to me in all ways. You-"
"I know that, Tom-" she interrupted, flushed.
"Shut up! You'll do as I say, and right now I'm telling you to never laugh at me again."
"But I didn't-"
"I've warned you against lying before," Tom seethed.
"I'm not- I only laughed because-"
"I don't want to hear it, Ginevra. Away with you, back to your room."
As she walked down the long hall, hot tears coursed down her cheeks. Why hadn't he let her finish? Looking into her mirror, she finished her sentence.
"I only laughed because I was happy."
Thanks to those of you who have reviewed at any time. Know what? You should review again, just for funsies. New folks should review as well. It spurs me on and generally makes me happy.