The winds of change buffeted Ginny around the world. As she circled the globe, she became more and more certain that Tom's issue with her was repressed love, or an attempt to squelch the stirrings of love.
In Borneo he let her put her small hand on his arm.
In Paris he let her lace their fingers atop the Arc de Triomph.
In New South Wales he let her rest her head against him.
While Apparating to Mexico City she hugged him tightly. He stiffened but did not push her away.
Yes, she deduced, he must love her. No one else had ever gotten this close to him physically, she determined, probably not even mad Bellatrix.
Ginny didn't bother to consider that physical closeness did not necessarily represent love. Tom used Legilimency on her frequently, and she put up no resistance. Surely no man in love would abuse that power over her.
Tom was no ordinary man, however. In Borneo he wondered why she was touching him. In Paris he wondered why she interrupted his recollections of victory by childishly taking his hand. In New South Wales he became annoyed that she would dare touch him so intimately. On the way to Mexico City, he realized that she was holding him with a more than friendly manner. He allowed physical closeness, encouraged it by not brushing her off, and perhaps even reveled in this foreign affection. No one had been affectionate towards him in his entire life save the mad Bellatrix, though her actions could just barely be qualified as affectionate; they were more fanatic and obsessive.
Was it his youthful face and body? Was it his own strange behavior towards Ginny?
They both wondered this while touring a camp in Brasilia. Ginny was beyond caring. She knew why she loved him, and she knew with one hundred percent certainty that he loved her back. He didn't know what he felt.
"Ginevra," he said to her one cloudy day in Ottawa, "Happy birthday." He lounged languidly on the dark green sofa and propped his feet on the coffee table.
Her eyes widened in shock. "It's my birthday? It's already August?"
"Yes, Ginny. Time passes, even for the immortal."
She frowned and remembered her last birthday. Ron was offering to get rid of lawn gnomes for just a few Sickles. Percy kept silent. Her only gift was from George- movie passes. Her mum had hand-baked a small cake from scratch to celebrate her coming of age. It had been her worst birthday ever. Now, though she was far from her family, she was content. She had Tom and she was seeing the world. While she would have loved to see her brothers and mother, she made due, happily.
"I have some pleasant news for you," he continued. She raised an eyebrow quizzically. "Your brother Bill and his wife are expecting." Ginny clapped her hands gleefully. She wondered with a surge of strong hope if Tom would let her see the baby once he or she was born. Biting her lip, she realized that it was highly unlikely. She looked at her feet. Tom probed her thoughts. Maybe, just maybe, if she was alive next year, Tom would let her see the tyke from a distance.
That was when he realized it. The problem wasn't with Ginny; it was with him. He was unused to the concept of love, no matter how often he experienced it vicariously through Ginny's thoughts. He felt something unusual at that moment, and a strong urge came over him. Gripping her shoulders tightly, he pulled her in for the most passionate kiss Ginny had ever received. She groaned into his mouth, surprised and ever so pleased. He was finally returning her love. As he continued to kiss her breathless, she noticed something. He was just going through the motions, trying to gauge her reactions. She fisted her hands in the front of his robes. He was probably looking at this from a scientific point of view. She was willing to bet that he hadn't even closed his eyes. Still, she made due. Sighing, she touched the tip of her tongue to his lips, probing him onwards. She climbed atop him, straddling him, and elicited a moan.
Suddenly, he pushed her. She landed in a heap on the floor. Confused, she looked up at him. "But I thought we were having fun…"
His pupils dilated, he stared her directly in the eye. "If we're going to rut like animals," he rasped, "we're going to do it in the proper place." He grabbed her hand roughly and pulled her up. She trailed him to the bedroom.
When she woke later, pressed against his naked back, she croaked his name. "Tom?" The only sound was soft snoring. Ginny grinned. What would the world think if they knew their Dark Lord snored and slept like a baby? She snickered and wound her fingers over and over in his mussed hair. Drowsily the smile left her face and she fell back into a happy sleep.
When he woke he put a kettle on. His hands shook as he accidentally added too much sugar. Okay, so Ginevra was pretty, pureblood, and the most quizzical creature he'd ever met. What precisely did that mean? What they had done was not lovemaking. It was far more primal, needy. He'd behaved like a horny teenager, not a man of his age and stature. Yet weren't women often considered the spoils of war? Yes, that was it. She was a trophy. Harry Potter's former girlfriend was now his lover. He smirked into his teacup. If only poor Harry was aware. It would kill him- his precious girl on the arm of the man who ended life as he knew it. He remembered watching Harry struggle as he was being held down, as his essence was removed ever so slowly…
"We should do that more often," Ginny said from the doorway, interrupting his thoughts. He gave a noncommittal grunt. Yes, they would do that more often. Overpowering her with his superior strength and stamina was a thing to be relished. Having Potter's woman was a victory in itself. That he enjoyed himself doing it, well, that was an added bonus.
"Possibly," he said flatly. "If you behave."
She just smiled and poured herself a cup of tea. Cocking her head to one side, she said the words that had been screaming in her brain for some time. "I love you, Tom."
Then came the silence. Why wouldn't he say it back? She was absolutely certain that he loved her. He just showed it in the most physically intimate of ways. He told her secrets. He gave her gifts. He gave her a certain amount of power. But, she realized slowly, none of that necessarily proved love.
"And you don't love me?" she asked, voice trembling.
"No, I don't."
She hiccupped and laughed in a sad attempt to hide her tears. "Thank you for telling the truth… even though it hurts like a bitch."
"Right," Ginny affirmed quietly, "But you still want to fuck?"
"Fuck? Sure. Make love? Never."
"I understand," she sniffled.
"You're disappointed," he sneered.
"Yes, I am. I'm not ashamed to admit it. I'm not afraid to say that I love you. I'll play by your rules; they're my only option. But I'll always hope that, even for a second, you love me back. I know you think you're incapable of love because you were conceived under a potion, but you're not. You just have to let yourself. Maybe it won't be me. Maybe it will be, oh, Narcissa Malfoy, anybody, really, but you have the capability. It's in all of us."
"Are you done being sanctimonious?"
"I want you to know something," Tom said darkly, "and I want you to listen well. I will never love you, or anyone for that matter. I don't know what it is you elicit in me, but it isn't love. I could kill you without a second thought. I might kill you in the morning. Who knows? The day I say 'I love you' will be the day I tell you the most painful lie you'll ever hear." He poured a bit of Xanthan into his tea.
"You're right; that would be the greatest way to hurt me, and I can only hope that you'll never do it. What is that stuff, anyway?" she asked, motioning to the potion bottle.
"Yes, but what is it made of?"
"Life energy, pure and simple. When you kill someone, there's a moment when you actually see the light leaving their eyes. It's quite beautiful, really. After months of study, I discovered that if the blood of the victim of a magical death is taken from the body just at that moment, it has extraordinary properties. Think of it this way- If a man was 120 years old and destined to die naturally at 122 and I took his blood at that precise moment, I would get two years of life out of the Xanthan the blood made. If I kill a child, I get even more time. For every life I take, the longer I can live. If someone tries to use the killing curse on me, it wouldn't kill me. It would take the life energy of one of my victims, not my life. The more Xanthan I take, the more impossible it becomes to kill me."
"And how much have you taken?" Ginny asked breathlessly.
"You don't need to know that."
"How much did you give me?"
"About a hundred years. I told you before, I doubled your life. Someone could shoot you through the heart with a gun and you'd still have an entire life left."
"So you fed me… human blood?" she asked, disturbed.
"Too late to worry about it now," Tom replied with a shrug. "You can just forget all about Xanthan."
"Unless you make good on your threat to kill me," she ventured.
"Until I decide to kill you, yes."
She froze in fear. "Until?"
Tom just laughed. "I may never decide to kill you. I may decide that I like our little bedroom arrangement and sneak my potion into your food, keeping you young and alive for as long as I want. But don't get complacent."
"I wouldn't dare," Ginny declared truthfully.
"I'm done with this conversation. I've work to do," he said, resigned. "Go back to bed." Ginny nodded and headed towards the bedroom.
"I love you."
He laughed in her face.
******THERE IS AN EPILOGUE COMING LATER THIS WEEK******
...and you will probably hate me after you read it...