Immediately after she got back to her room, someone knocked on her door. They didn't bother to wait for a 'Come in!' or 'Yes?'. That meant one thing: whomever was about to come in had no regard for her privacy. Death Eater, she thought. Tom was standing in the door frame.
"Did you enjoy your dinner?" he asked politely, hands folded behind his back.
"Not particularly," Ginny answered. Tom raised an eyebrow. "I mean, the food was good and everything, but after a while it just became bland. I kept thinking about my friends and felt kind of sick. Plus, what's with the whole assigned seating thing? And the no talking policy?"
"I think that your last two questions could easily be figured out by a clever girl like you, little Ginny."
"Yes, I believe I know the answers," Ginny replied. "I guess I just wanted you to confirm my suspicions."
Tom laughed and lay on Ginny's bed, stretching himself out and putting his hands behind his head. Ginny hobbled over to a chair. Tom's brow furrowed. "Didn't anyone give you murtlap essence for your wounds?"
"Who escorted you to this room?"
"Draco Malfoy," Ginny said, "but it's really not a big deal, Tom."
"Insubordination is a big deal, little Ginny," Tom acerbically replied. "Those damn Malfoys are practically begging to be-"
"Please, Tom! I know I can't talk you out of anything, but will you please not say what you're going to do?"
"Only for you, little Ginny," Tom smiled.
His face then became hard and serious; Ginny was afraid to speak, lest she anger him. She stared at him for a while, not knowing what to do. He was so different- different from the Voldemort she had seen not so very long ago, and different from the Tom Riddle who was trapped in a diary. He looked older than that Tom, but only just. He certainly wasn't fifteen anymore, but he couldn't be more than twenty-five. His beauty was more refined than that of a teenager. His blue eyes were open, unblinking, and full of something Ginny couldn't identify. She wasn't sure she even wanted to know. She yawned. Tom snapped into a sitting position.
"I'm sorry, Tom!" Ginny exclaimed. "I- I didn't mean to disturb you!"
"Fear doesn't become you, little Ginny. You're much more interesting when you say what's on your mind. So tell me, little one, what are you thinking?"
She blushed. She couldn't say that she was staring at his face and thinking about his looks. "I was kind of thinking that I wanted to know what you were thinking. You were all serious." Okay, Gin, it's part of the truth…
"My thoughts are none of your concern," Tom replied coldly. "Besides, I know you had other things on your mind. Tell me."
"Don't hesitate!" Tom demanded. "Answer me promptly when I ask you a question!"
"Sorry," Ginny snapped. "I want to know where a comb and toothbrush are. I want to know if I get to socialize at all. I want to know who you're going to make me sleep with to make little pureblood babies. I want to know why you let me call you 'Tom' when no one else knows that's your real name. And I want to know how you went from being so ugly to so good-looking!" Oops. Shouldn't have said most of that.
"Well, that's better," Tom smirked. "Let's see. The state of your hair does suggest that your room hasn't been properly supplied yet."
"You sure know how to make a girl feel pretty, Tom," she snorted. He ignored her.
"Socializing is allowed whenever I decide to grant that privilege." He paused. "I'm not going to make you sleep with anybody, little Ginny. Put a bunch of hormonal youths together and these things just happen."
"So I still don't really have much of a choice, then?"
"Don't interrupt. I allow you to call me 'Tom' because I was 'Tom' to you for a very long time. It would be strange to hear you call me anything else. As for the change in my appearance, the method is not known to anyone but me." He smiled cheekily. "But I'm glad you find my current state aesthetically pleasing."
"I didn't mean to say that part," Ginny said, blushing furiously and looking at the floor.
"I'm sure you didn't," he drawled. "You hate me, after all."
Tom stood up and sighed. "That's too bad, little Ginny. I had rather hoped that we could be friends again." Ginny's jaw dropped. Tom laughed sarcastically. "I'll have that murtlap essence sent up straight away. I hope you sleep well."
Sleep? It was just after dinner. She limped to her bed. Come to think of it, she was rather tired. Maybe the food had some kind of sleeping draught in it. She inhaled deeply. Her blankets smelled like Tom. It wasn't an unpleasant aroma (it was rather nice, if she was to be honest) but she gagged and pinched her nose shut. As she was falling asleep, her mind registered a woman putting a thick liquid on her right leg. Murtlap.
He killed her family but made sure that she was well treated. He was cold-hearted but not entirely objectionable.
Ginny didn't like him, but she voiced the conclusion to which she had come. "Tom Riddle, you are an enigma."
"So why are we allowed to talk out here but not at meals?" Ginny asked Neville.
He shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine."
"Luna reckons that he thinks we'll try to make escape plans."
"I don't think that's it," Neville said. "We used to be allowed to talk when we ate. I guess the Death Eaters didn't want to listen to us."
Ginny and Neville sat on a rough stone bench in the courtyard area. The tang of coastal sea air stung Ginny's nose. She sighed. There were plants and trees, even little animals out here. It was a stark contrast to the world inside their prison. They could see the sky here, and feel the wind, but it didn't matter. Not really. It was just prettier outside; they were all still trapped. Not even Luna's… what did she call them? could save them (if the things existed at all). Still, she could see the sky. That was something, right?
"Neville," Ginny started, "do you think we'll ever get out of here?"
"No," he mumbled. "If Harry could beat You-Know-Who, I'd have hope, but he didn't. He's the one the Prophecy talks about, and he couldn't do it."
"Yet," Ginny added. "He will. Or someone will. Someone has to." She stared out over the ocean, hazel eyes glistening. "One day we'll be sitting out here, moping like we are now, and members of The Order will come flying out of nowhere and save us."
"You don't believe that any more than I do," Neville replied, shaking his head.
She didn't want to think about that kind of future and abruptly changed the subject. "How'd you end up here? I said his name."
"Me too, actually," Neville grinned. "Gran and I were having a row and it sort of slipped out. I'd never been brave enough to say it, but it just came out of my mouth like it was a normal kind of word."
"There's nothing normal at all about the Dark Lord," drawled Draco Malfoy. He stepped closer to the stone-hewn bench on which Ginny and Neville sat. "He's more powerful than any being has ever or will ever be."
Ginny set her lips in a right line and glared at Malfoy. Before any harsh words could escape her mouth, she saw his condition. Both of his eyes were black. His hands were covered in scratches and it looked like someone had torn his face with their fingernails. "God, Malfoy," she breathed. "You look like hell."
"Thank you, Weaselette," he replied. "It was a well-fought battle. You should see the other guy."
"What happened?" Neville asked, eyes wide.
"I punched a high-ranking Death Eater in the face. He was badmouthing the Dark Lord; I couldn't allow him to do that. I snapped his wand before he could grab it and he fought like a common Muggle. I came out better, though; he has a broken arm."
Ginny stood quickly and dragged Malfoy away from the bench. "We both know that's not what happened," she hissed.
"Yes it is!" he replied defiantly. "You weren't there when it happened!"
"No, but I was there when To- The Dark Lord was deciding how to punish you!" she snapped.
He regarded her archly. "Yes, I'm supposed to believe that you are in the Dark Lord's inner circle, right? And that he discusses things with you that he wouldn't discuss with Death Eaters?"
She snorted. "Inner circle? No; not even if he invited me. I just happened to be there when he was… thinking out loud."
"Eavesdropping, Weasley? I'll have to report you."
"Go ahead, Malfoy," Ginny challenged. "I may get in trouble for talking to you about what he said, but I doubt that even then he'll consent to give you any murtlap."
He blanched. "So you know the truth, then? No one will believe you. I mean, why would the Dark Lord care about a blood traitor's well-being?"
"Oh, I won't be telling anyone. I just wanted the pleasure of hearing you falter a bit. How do you feel? Was your little lapse in judgment worth a beating?" She was ashamed of herself. Hadn't she begged to be left ignorant about Malfoy's punishment?
Malfoy flinched. "I heard you talking to Longbottom before," he said. "And you're a fool if you think you'll ever leave this place. You look at the sky and hope for a rescue; it won't happen."
Ginny went back to the stone bench; Neville was no longer there. She looked up and hated herself. Malfoy's probably right. She told her inner voice to shut up and called for Luna. Maybe Luna could brighten her spirits.
…And that was another relatively short one. F, G, and H are all longer; will that be adequate compensation?
Review, review, review!
Next Time: Stupid girls with stupid superiority complexes. Stupid rules. Stupid people tattling when they deserved to be hit. Stupid chair. Stupid Death Eater. Stupid Tom. Stupid spell being cast at her… oh, shit.