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The Game

By Maq

Drama / Horror

The Game

The Required Statement: The Potterverse is owned by Rowling and a lot of other people far wealthier than me. I'm just playing in it.


The Game

It is Hermione's idea.

Ginny raises an eyebrow as Luna rushes from the room to get the game board.

"It's only a game," Hermione says. "Muggles mass-produce the things. Plus, the ancient Greeks did something similar, so it's an historical experience. Divination is rubbish, of course, but I think this would mean a lot to Luna."

"Do you mean you're going to fake it?" Ginny asks. She's never played this game, but the other two girls have tried to explain it.

"You have to," she replies. "The dead can't really communicate with us."

Luna hurries back into the sitting room of the Lovegood house. Mysterious bric-a-brac are everywhere. Dust gathers on shelves crammed with books in languages Ginny doesn't recognize. A pile of old editions of The Quibbler leans precariously in the corner. Animal bones are everywhere; Ginny is sure that Luna and Hermione would get into a heated fight over what animal once housed them. Their chipped teacups, full of a bitter swill Ginny can barely down, sit on crooked end tables painted with fading pastoral scenes. Luna motions for the others to sit on the floor in the center of the circular room.

"Mother made this herself," Luna says, her voice at once both proud and sad. It is the tenth anniversary of her mother's death. "Isn't it beautiful?"

It is pretty, Ginny admits to herself, if unusual. It is a wooden board, a deep and shiny oak, carved with all of the letters of the alphabet. Beneath the alphabet are the runes for the numbers zero through nine. In the top corners, the words 'yes' and 'no' are carved in a flowing script. The most striking feature is the border. It is inlaid with shining pearlescent stones of some sort. Ginny runs her fingers over these; they're surprisingly smooth. She touches the letters, dancing out the name Fred Gideon Weasley.

"How does it spell things for us?" she asks, eyes still on the game board. "Do the letters light up?" How, she wonders, will Hermione trick Luna?

"We use Father's planchette," Luna says. She holds out a small heart-shaped object. The white wood is worn with time. "It's been in his family for ages. Everyone puts a finger on it, and when we ask a question it points to the letters to spell the answer." She is quiet for a few moments, turns the planchette in her hands nervously. "I suppose we only need to decide who we want to talk to."

"I think that's obvious," Hermione says softly, reaching out to touch Luna's shoulder. "We'll try to contact your mum."

Ginny lets her hair fall over her face to hide her expression. She thinks that's abhorrent, cruel- Luna believes in this Divination and Hermione plans to rig it. Better to let it fail than to be betrayed, Ginny decides. But she can't call out Hermione now; it's too late. Luna is ready to begin.

As the dim twilight seeps through the curtains, the three situate themselves around the game board. Hermione tries to catch Ginny's eye; Ginny avoids her. They each put a finger on the planchette. Luna closes her eyes and takes a deep, shaky breath. "Everybody ready?" she asks. Ginny and Hermione nod. Though she can't have heard them, Luna seems to know their answer and begins her questions.

"Is there a spirit with us?" she asks loudly. Ginny jerks back in surprise when the planchette moves. She should have expected it; she knows Hermione's plan, after all. Over the next half hour, she learns Luna's mother's name and some details about the afterlife that Hermione has invented. It wouldn't be so bad if they were the truth. They sound like the kind of things she wants for Fred. That's the point, she suspects. Make it sound pretty and Luna will believe it.

Maybe Hermione's intentions are good. Maybe she just wants Luna to think her mother is somewhere calm and beautiful. Maybe that beautiful betrayal is worth any misgivings Hermione has.

The sun has gone down. Luna has tears running down her cheeks and a serene smile on her face. The board has just told her that her mother was 'blissfully happy'. She sniffles and says she is satisfied. "See you later, Mum," she whispers. "Now you two take your turns." Ginny blanches. She doesn't want a fake conversation with her brother. "It doesn't have to be anything so serious," Luna remarks. "You don't have to ask for anybody. You can ask anything about the future that you want."

Somehow this makes her feel better. "Okay," Ginny acquiesces with a half-smile. She thinks of Harry. "Er, spirits, will I ever get married?" The planchette moves towards the stylized 'yes'. She thinks of rolling her eyes when suddenly the device turns sharply and points to 'no'.

"Ooh, looks like you and Harry will never tie the knot!" Hermione laughs.

Ginny decides to ask another silly question. It's just a game. "Will I play pro Quidditch?"

No

"Will I... have seven children?"

No

"Will I, er- I can't really think of anything."

"Try something that isn't a yes-or-no question," Luna suggests.

"Okay, if not seven, how many children will I have?" she asks. She expects the planchette to move towards the numerical runes. It doesn't. Instead it swivels.

No.

"There's a zero on here!" she exclaims. "You could have used the zero. One more question. What is the name of my true love?" That's too easy, she thinks. She watches the planchette head for the letters, guided by Hermione's hand. As if repelled by a charm, the device is pushed backwards.

No.

She throws up her hands in frustration. "That's it. I'm getting ready for bed." She doesn't wait to see if Hermione wants a turn; she knows that the older witch will decline. Ginny plans on how to give her hell later. As she pulls on her flannel pajamas in the Lovegood's guest bedroom, she decides to feign sleep until Hermione comes to bed and actually falls asleep, then wake her and tear into her. For all of her good intentions with Luna, playing that stupid prank could well have shattered the illusion.

She slips beneath the heavy covers and listens to the light rain that has begun. It lulls her to sleep.

When she wakes, the sun is already high. She finds Luna and Hermione having sandwiches. Hermione's rucksack is next to her.

"We thought you'd sleep all day," Hermione says. "It's going on one."

"Damn," Ginny swears. "I was supposed to meet Harry an hour ago." She slides into a seat at the kitchen table and grabs a ham sandwich. There's some kind of condiment on it that she neither recognizes nor likes, but she powers through; Luna probably made it, after all. She wonders if she has food on her face because they're both staring at her. "What?" she asks.

"You scratched your face pretty badly during the night," Luna says absentmindedly. "I'll get you something for that."

As soon as Luna leaves the room, Ginny rounds on Hermione. "That was a dirty trick," she hisses.

Hermione's brows knit in confusion. "What?"

"Screwing with me after telling Luna all that stuff about her mum. She isn't stupid."

"Wh- Oh, you thought that was me? No, that wasn't me. Luna was probably messing with you because it was getting you so worked up."

"Oh. Sorry for getting stroppy, then," Ginny says.

"No worries," Hermione replies, grabbing one of her hands. "You bite your nails to stubs. How you managed to scratch your face like that is beyond me."

Luna returns and hands Ginny a jar of a homemade remedy. Hermione grabs her rucksack, hugs her friends, and disappears into the Floo.

"I'll owl Harry while you get dressed and take care of your face," Luna says.

Ginny is taken aback when she sees her reflection. She thought she would have a mark or two. Virtually all of her face is covered in red lopsided Xs. She takes off her pajamas quickly, anxious to get into street clothes and out of this house, and shrieks. Her whole body, from her clavicles to her toes, is a canvas of Xs. She doesn't know if she should call for Luna. She doesn't want to. Frantically she begins to rub the homeopathic cream all over herself. How long will it take to heal the cuts and welts? How much was she supposed to use? Eventually fear wins out and she shouts Luna's name over and over, desperately trying to reach every part of herself at once.

Luna's presence calms her a little. Her breathing evens out. Luna puts the sweet-smelling cream on Ginny's back. "It has some murtlap in it," she explains, "but what most people don't realize is that too much murtlap causes scarring. Our fourth year everyone was soaking their hands in essence of murtlap, remember? Most of them have whatever words they had to write eternally on them now. I don't think you want crosses all over you for the rest of your life, so something with just a little murtlap is better."

"Crosses?" Ginny asks numbly. Luna rubs the cream onto her arms. "I thought they looked like Xs."

"One of each line is shorter," Luna says, "not that it will matter by tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?" Ginny starts, feeling panicky. "I can't stay like this for a day. I have a date that I'm already late for and Sunday dinner at the Burrow tonight-"

"There's nothing to be done about it, Gin," Luna says apologetically. "Do they hurt or itch? If it's just superficial, your family might not make a fuss."

"You know my mum, Luna," Ginny snorts. "Best to tell everyone I've got something extremely contagious and not to come 'round my flat."

Luna brushes and plaits Ginny's hair as she writes her letters to Harry and her parents. The owl that took the original letter to Harry arrives just as she has signed her name. He looks affronted at being sent off again so quickly but recovers his owlish dignity when treats enter the equation.

Ginny notices a significant decrease in the crosses by bedtime. She goes to bed early, feeling almost as if she is actually sick and not just worn out. She sleeps nude, hoping this will keep the crosses from becoming more irritated.

It's much brighter than it should be, and she is dizzy. She thinks she tastes blood. She can't sit properly yet, so she rolls off of her bed, banging her knees. She sees the blood; it is coming from both of her nostrils in thick streams. She pinches her nose shut and tilts back her head. Making her way to the toilet on shaky legs, she twists hunks of toilet paper and shoves them up her nose. The crosses are a very pale pink now; they will likely only be memories in a few hours. She draws a cool bath and simply lets the chilly water caress her skin for a while.

When she blinks, it's dark again. She drains the tub and takes the blood-soaked tissue from her nostrils. She inches back to her bed but doesn't quite make it. She falls into a deep sleep on the floor.

She's late for work. It's the first time, and she swears up and down that it's the last. She's in training at St. Mungo's. She wants to work with the people who helped her father. She visits Frank and Alice Longbottom on the first Tuesday of every month. Sometimes she looks in on Gilderoy Lockhart. She wants to pity him, but then she remembers that he would have left her for dead and turns away in anger. While she always buys a flower for Frank and Alice, she never even thinks to get anything for Lockhart. She learns about anti-venom today, just the theory. Tomorrow she'll start brewing.

She meets Harry at EAT, a tiny take-away Muggle place near the Tower of London. He talks about Auror training, how he's struggling with Stealth. She remarks that it should be much easier now that most people can't see his scar.

"It's more than Charming your hair," he says a bit angrily.

"I know."

"It requires a lot of spellwork-"

"I'm sure it does," she replies flatly, fiddling with the straw in her soda.

He looks at her sharply. "Is something wrong?"

"No. I'm just tired."

She's in bed before sunset.

It's much brighter than it should be, and she's dizzy. She smells seawater. Opening her eyes, she decides she's dreaming because she's never been here before. It's not remotely beautiful. The individual pieces are amazing, but when the puzzle is put together, it has a sense of wrongness. The ocean is a marvelous green, the color of the peridot in her birthstone ring. The cliff face is almost sheer, and the cobalt rock should complement the pale sky. Instead someone has stabbed a hunk of jagged blue stone into a washed-out watercolor pastoral and a vengeful spirit is vomiting against it all. Atop all of this are the children in their finery and rags. They're holding hands, spinning in a circle, singing songs. Their sweet voices add to the din made by the ocean hitting the rocks and the rocks hitting the sky. They repeat one song over and over, she realizes. She knows this song. It used to be about flowers. Ring around the rosie... Like everything else here, it's wrong. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down! The children fall, laughing, and they do not get up. She walks closer to them. Their skin is still there, but it's covered in thick black-

Hermione had told her that the song was about the Great Plague. Maybe that's true, she thinks. She doesn't care right now because it's time to get ready for work, and she has to get a flower for the Longbottoms. Throwing her nightgown to the floor, she grabs her acid green work robes and begins to get ready. When she gets to the mirror, she recoils.

Ring around the rosie.

Not trusting her eyes, she looks again. The rings are still there. They cover her, just as the crosses had, but these were different in nature. They are large and swollen, and could never be caused by excessive scratching while sleeping. She can't be late. Today is a brewing day. She takes as much concealer as she can find and coats all of the rings that will be visible.

She buys posies for Frank and Alice.

The rings are starting to itch. She's bent over a bubbling cauldron and the rings are getting itchy. She's certain that her makeup has melted away and that any moment one of her peers or supervisors will see the rings. She begins to breathe heavily and her heart is pounding. Scratching them will only make them worse, and she's wearing dragonhide gloves anyway. She tries to focus by watching the clock and counting along with it. There are exactly twenty-two minutes until the next step. She makes it to twenty minutes and fourteen seconds.

She blinks and it's dark again. She's naked, she knows, and she's cold. She doesn't know what sort of substance the hospital is soaking her in, but it feels like she's lounging in flan. She hates flan. They've called her parents, who have called Harry, who will be over after work. Harry, no doubt, will have told Hermione, Luna, Neville, and any number of people. Ginny wants to tell them all no, that this isn't a big deal. She has a rash. She doesn't need a flan-bath and a bunch of visitors. She needs rash cream and sleep.

Neville makes her laugh a little when he says, "It's rash flan." He doesn't know she's the one who leaves his parents the flowers. He asks her from time to time if she knows who does it, and she tells him no. She won't ever tell him. He might mistake the gesture as one of pity rather than see it as it truly is: a measure of gratitude. "Thank you for your son," she says to them. "He saved the world."

She is put on a week's bed rest and is decidedly not happy about it. She is given pills to take. She has always hated taking medicine. As a child, her mother would have to trick or bribe her into it. They tell her that the medicine is non-drowsy, but they are wrong. It's just as well; she's bored out of her mind and can't go anywhere. Sleeping is as good an activity as any.

She recovers quickly and throws herself into catching up on work. She doesn't socialize much. Dates with Harry are fine when he's feeling pleasant, but lately he's been doing a lot of grousing. She still hasn't fully forgiven Hermione for duping Luna at the divination game. Luna stops over once in a while. Neville firecalls. She goes to the Burrow every Sunday for dinner.

Harry wants to take her to the Ritz for her birthday. She tells him no. It's too upscale, too expensive, and probably has tiny portions. He says that he has plenty of money. She knows, she just doesn't want to go to the Ritz. Can't they go somewhere... better?

It's much brighter than it should be, and she's dizzy. She knows this is a dream because she's swimming with the giant squid in her periphery. She can stay underwater as long as she likes. She visits the merfolk. She goes up to the windows of the Slytherin common room and makes rude gestures. Surfacing, she sees all sorts of familiar faces. Some of these people are dead now. But not here, Ginny thinks. In this dream, they are all alive and young. She spots a shock of bright blonde hair and drifts over to Dream-Luna. "What year are you in?"

"First, same as you. Only how can you be here and under that tree at the same time?" Dream-Luna pointed toward an old willow. Sure enough, there was a tiny Dream-Ginny sitting there, all alone. "You're soaking wet, by the way."

She is already walking to her younger self. Dream Ginny is sitting, curled up like a cat, writing in a small black book. Ginny smacks it away. "Don't use that! You can't see where it keeps its brain!"

"It's a book. It doesn't have a brain," Dream Ginny says, looking at the dreamer as if she is an idiot.

"You can't trust Tom! He's You-Know-Who!"

Dream Ginny has the audacity to roll her eyes. "First, You-Know-Who is dead, Harry Potter killed him. Second, even if he was alive, what kind of name is Tom for an evil Lord? Third, I don't know anybody named Tom. Fourth, you just smacked away my Potions workbook and probably lost me my place. You wanna keep interrupting my education, moron?"

Ginny laughs and runs inside the school. If her dream self isn't communicating with Tom, will the Chamber still be there? She flies to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom and leans over the broken sink. She has never- and will never- admit this to anyone, but she says this word sometimes. She was never conscious when she said it, but her voice remembers how to make the sound and her mouth remembers how to shape it. Open slips from her tongue easily.

The Chamber is still here. She can't stop herself from entering, and she can't stop herself from speaking to the boy inside.

"Tom," the name is heavy in her mouth.

"Ginny," he says lightly. "I wasn't expecting you yet."

"Oh?" Suddenly she is eleven years old again and laying on this damp, cold floor praying for death.

"No, not for a few more days."

"What's- what's in a few days?" she asks, clearing her throat. She wants to meet his eyes, to let him know she isn't afraid, but she is afraid, and if she looks into those beautiful blue eyes she'll vomit.

"You'll find out in a few days, won't you?" He gives her that half-smile that always made her knees weak and she's ashamed to find that it has retained that power- that it has, in fact, increased in power because she is an adult now and she knows what sinful things that smiling mouth can do to her.

"Can I have a hint? It's my dream, after all."

"Is it now? Agree to disagree, I suppose. In lieu of a hint, I'll give you a friendly warning: stay out of the water, Ginny Weasley."

But she's swimming again, and she's afraid because he had said it was a warning. Despite what one might think, Tom had never lied to her. He had deceived her, used her, but never had he ever told her an outright lie. She thinks there must be a very real danger, else why would the only ever-truthful part of her be frightened? She wants to wake up now, but all she's doing is turning in the water. Merpeople are watching her with curiosity, but their curiosity turns to merriment when she begins to be overtaken by grindylows. She is helplessly tangled in seaweed and she fights, but suddenly she can't breathe.

When she blinks, it's dark again. She's afraid for one excruciating moment that she's still swimming because her skin is wet, but sighs when she realizes that it's just perspiration.

She used to dream of him often: sweet picnics in Green Park and sticky, urgent, explosive sex happened far more often than the nightmares. Her last dream of Tom had been the night Voldemort died. She had calmly walked up to him in the Chamber and said goodbye. He tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear and told her that goodbyes were silly things. "Friends never really leave one another."

She shivers and slides out of bed. Slinking out of her nightgown, she steps into the bathtub and squirts in a large amount of bubble soap. As the warm water rises around her knees, she remembers his warning. Stay out of the water. She jumps as if scalded and decides that taking a bath in the middle of the night is a ridiculous idea. She tries to sleep, but her eyes won't close. She snatches the latest issue of Witch Weekly, a guilty pleasure, from her bedside table and reads about vapid celebrities until it's time for work.

She grinds her teeth in frustration when she sees her reflection. She has pimples. She grumbles in her head that she is going to be nineteen years old this week and pimples are for people in puberty. Then she recalls last night's sweat and how she didn't wash it off in fear of the water. She tries to bust one, but it only bleeds. She covers the smattering of pox with makeup and is determined to ignore her dream's warning about water.

She succeeds, but just barely. She decides that showers don't count as being 'in' water, but she jumps out of the cleansing stream as soon as she can.

There are small red lines forming on her face, each originating at one of the pimples.

When she meets Hermione for dinner at the Leaky on Friday, the lines are zigzagging.

"Happy early birthd- oh dear!"

"Yeah," Ginny replies, crossing her arms over her chest. She isn't mad at Hermione, not anymore. They'd played that game weeks ago, and Luna seems fine. "My skin has been playing some twisted game with me all month. Crosses, circles, zigzags- what's next? A nice big rhombus on my forehead with stick figures dancing around it?" They both smile a little at that image. Ginny shakes her head. "It's not like I'm thirteen and skin issues are a common thing."

"What do the Healers say?"

"I haven't said anything to them. It's zits, Hermione."

"The circles turned out to be serious," Hermione reminds her. Ginny flips her hair, nonplussed. "If you don't want to say anything to the Healers, come talk to my uncle. He's a Dermatologist."

"A what?"

"A skin doctor," Hermione explains. "Muggles use them for all kinds of things- pimples, moles, even cancer." Ginny raises an eyebrow skeptically. "Okay, remember how in school I had big teeth and bad hair? Did you ever notice acne? No, because I didn't have it. C'mon, you have nothing to lose."

She reluctantly agrees.

Hermione's uncle is kind enough to look at her that evening without charge. They Apparate to his house in Devon after copious amounts of (early) birthday cake. He doesn't have to look long. Ginny hears him murmur 'just to be sure...' as he leaves the parlor. He comes back with a fountain pen and puts the ink on her face with no warning. She pushes him, surprised, but he is already wiping the ink from her with a cloth that reeks of alcohol. "Classic case of scabies," he says.

"That's not like rabies, is it?" Ginny asks, eyes wide. She has never heard this word. She is acutely aware of each rivulet of ink sliding down her face as Dr. Granger explains that the pimples and lines are caused by bugs burrowing into her skin, laying eggs and defecating as they go. When she asks how she could have gotten them, she learns that they are transmitted like lice.

"The mites originate in water, though," Dr. Granger says as he scribbles on a prescription pad. She feels her blood drain from her face, leaving only the last of the ink. When was she in the water? She made sure to follow his warning. The ocean roars in her ears; beyond it she can barely make out Hermione's garbled instruction that her uncle should make the prescription out to her and please don't ask why, she could get in a lot of trouble and she doesn't want to lie to him. Ginny wanders over to a mirror. Illuminated by the navy blue ink, the lines are more clear. She can also see how many more of them there are. There are too many to count. She wonders if all scabies faces look like this, with each zigzag having exactly four lines of similar length. She runs a finger over one of the patterns. It's almost a perfect W.

Hermione shakes her shoulder. Ginny spins, dazed, and half-listens to Dr. Granger's instructions on how to clear her flat and the possible side-effects of whatever he has prescribed. Ginny thanks him sincerely, and Hermione too, for insisting that she come. She has bugs living in her face, bugs from being in the water.

"When was I in the water, Hermione?" she asks.

"Pardon?"

"Your uncle said the bugs come from the water. I haven't gone swimming or anything, have I?"

"He also said they can be spread by skin-to-skin contact and live for up to 36 hours with no host," Hermione says calmly. "You probably caught it at work."

"Yeah," she replies lamely. She doesn't believe it.

She stays with Hermione while her flat is "de-bugged". Hermione lives in a London brownstone. Ginny both loves and hates this house; it makes her think of what Number 12 Grimmauld Place could have been. Ginny applies her medicine liberally and the girls Scourgify her bedding each morning. She's missing Sunday dinner with her family again. She has owled work to tell them she is sick. She has decided to get Frank and Alice sweet pea flowers this week; she hopes she can make it in on Tuesday.

She goes to sit the sweet peas next to Alice. The woman takes her wrist in a vice grip and mumbles incoherently, but she's saying something important, Ginny knows, because she's never done this before. Once she is sure she has Ginny's attention, Alice smiles and looks at another pot of flowers. She grunts, prompting Ginny to speak. "Are... are those begonias? They're very lovely." Alice calms, closes her eyes. Ginny is tempted to leave without saying anything, but she has to. These two people are too important to write off. "You guys gave us a war hero. I hope you know that." They don't seem to have heard her.

Tomorrow is her nineteenth birthday. She hates when birthdays fall on weekdays; it doesn't seem fair somehow. It seems especially unfair because she's been out of commission so much over the past five weeks.

Harry is taking her out tonight so that she can spend tomorrow night with just the Weasleys. She's wearing a sparkly little green dress, the type of thing only Harry could talk her into. He's taking her somewhere special, a surprise.

She's not surprised when she finds out he's taking her to the Ritz.

"What's wrong? Is the food undercooked?"

"No, it's good," she sighs.

"What is it, then?" he asks softly.

"I told you I didn't want to do anything fancy," she says. "I'm feeling... overwhelmed."

"Oh," is all he can manage.

"I mean, I've been sick, I'm trying to play catch-up at work, I'm not sleeping well, I just wanted a nice evening in, maybe some take-away and ice cream."

"You could have said..." Harry trails off.

"I did say," Ginny snaps.

"Well, do you want to go, then?" he asks her. He's raising his voice.

"No, I just want you to listen better next time." She stabs at the chicken-something-or-another on her plate furiously.

"I was trying to pamper you."

"Well maybe you should leave me alone for a while."

She knows she's in the wrong, knows she's hurt his feelings, but she stomps off to the nearest place she can find to safely Apparate home.

She's on the couch crying when he lets himself in. He's brought her flowers- begonias, of all things, a meaningless gesture because he knows she hates flowers, and immediately begins apologizing.

"Quit that!" she bites. "You didn't do anything and you know it."

"I want you to feel better," he tells her. "I should have respected that you didn't want to go anywhere fancy-"

"That is seriously the only thing wrong on your part, don't do it again, I forgive you. I've just been a mess since that girls' night at Luna's and I need things to be calm right now."

"What happened at Luna's?" he asks, holding her hands.

"Nothing really. We played this Divination board game, I got mad at Hermione and went to bed. When I woke up, I was covered in scratches. That's why I really had to cancel our date- my whole body looked like a cat had drawn crosses on it. I couldn't go out like that. Luna fixed me up, though. But all of these skin things have been happening since then and my sleep has been weird and I'm just exhausted."

Harry squirms uneasily. "A Divination board game?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Like a Ouija board?"

"What's that?" she asks. "This was a thing Luna's mum made, it had the alphabet on it and you ask it questions-"

"That's a Ouija board. Muggles use them, too."

"Yeah, Hermione said. So what?"

"They supposedly let out evil spirits. People wake up with scratches and burns all the time," he says seriously.

Ginny laughs. "Yeah, and I invented rubber ducks. It was a game, Harry. Hermione even- well, Divination isn't even real, and Luna wanted to talk to her mum, so she... But you, of all people, are telling me that I woke up scratched by an evil spirit? After everything we learned with the Resurrection Stone?"

Harry shakes his head, smiling. "I know. There were reports on telly about possessions and things. Divination is rubbish. Have I forgotten so soon? Don't tell Ron I thought for even a second that it could be real."

"Okay."

"Promise?"

"Promise," she yawns. He kisses her on the forehead and tells her to get some sleep. She fades into slumber right there on the couch.

It's brighter than it should be, and she's dizzy. She's dreaming of Hogwarts again, and watches the children of her past shuffle through the corridors. At least she isn't swimming, she thinks. She sees the blood on the wall and walks to Myrtle's bathroom before she's consciously made the decision to do so. Standing at the broken sink, she's about to hiss the word when some little voice in the back of her mind tells her to wait. 'Go to Potions class' or 'spy on your brothers' both sit like rocks in her head. She isn't sure what to do. She knows what she wants to do; she wants to say the word and see if he's down there. She's torn between desire and the instruction of the voice. She leans toward the tap, parts her lips, then leaves the toilet.

Wait.

That isn't what she wants to do.

She turns around and re-enters. Myrtle seems to have flooded the place. As she's walking to the sink, she hears the voice making suggestions again. 'Go see what Dumbledore is doing' and 'visit your old common room' ring in her mind. No, she's going to hiss. She has to know. She takes a long step forward and slips on Myrtle's water. She sends her hands out to catch herself, but it's in vain. Her head meets the sink, and she can hear her own skull crack. She smells blood. Myrtle is giggling nearby, asking if Ginny will be her neighbor.

When she blinks, it's dark again. She is on the floor, still in her sparkly green dress. The clock reads 11:58. She puts on proper pajamas and gets in bed.

It's brighter than it should be, and she's dizzy. She's in the girls' bathroom, and no voice is telling her to go elsewhere. She decides to say the word loudly. Open.

He's in the Chamber; she knew he would be. She decides she will be brave; she won't show any hesitation. She won't flinch.

She doesn't expect the welcome he gives her.

"Happy birthday, Ginevra!" He's smiling, and it looks like one of the rare genuine smiles he would give when he was pleased with something she had done.

"Thank you," she replies, uneasy. "How did you know?"

He mock pouts. "Because we're friends, Ginny. Today is your birthday, and mine is..."

"New Year's Eve." She wonders what game he's playing. She remembers what he said in her last dream, about her being a few days early. "You wanted me here on my birthday," she says.

"Yes," he replies. "You should have listened earlier, you know. You ought to have explored for a few minutes. I didn't like the sound of your head hitting that sink."

"Well, you could have had me slip sideways or something," she snaps at him.

He stalks toward her, still smiling, but she is afraid. She has seen that look in his eyes before. Breaking her promise to herself, she shrinks away when he touches her cheek. "It's your dream, Doll."

"Is it?" she challenges.

He frowns thoughtfully. "Yes. Not really. I suppose it depends upon which one of us you ask." He kisses her cheek. "Now, don't you want your gift?"

"That really depends on what it is, Tom."

The cold harshness she knows too well is back in his blue eyes as he says, "Don't be rude, Ginevra." Even now that she is fully grown and he is stuck looking like a seventeen year old, he towers over her. This dead boy in her dream is intimidating her, and she won't let it continue. Or at least she won't let him see it.

"I would love to see my gift, Tom," she says nervously.

"See?" he asks, truly puzzled. "No, no. Didn't you get my message?"

She knits her eyebrows together and searches his face for clues. Likewise, his eyes are roaming her face, but for a different reason.

"Did you stay out of the water?" he asks suddenly.

"Yeah," she says, "but I got this... thing on my face that comes from water anyway. How did you know to warn me?"

"And how have you been sleeping?"

"Strangely."

"Please elaborate."

She does, but only because he's being indifferent, and in the past he would fly into rages when that temperament was threatened. "I sleep a lot more, but I'm tired all of the time. My dreams are bright and give me headaches and dizzy spells."

"But you didn't get my message?"

"I... don't think so. Can you just tell me what it is?"

"Have you been sick?"

"Well, yeah," she says, shifting her weight from one foot to the other for no good reason. "Twice recently. The face lice and this fever with red circles thing. The Healers weren't sure what that was."

"Ginny, you were getting the messages but not reading them. Tell me how many children you're going to have."

"Excuse me?" she asks incredulously, taking a step backwards. "Why would I- even if I knew?"

"Because I'm asking, Doll. Or, let me try this- what is the name of your true love?"

"Harry is my true love!" she exclaims.

"You aren't paying attention," he growls, closing the gap between them. "When did you ask these questions?"

She goes white. The Divination game. Harry said evil spirits attack you through it.

"It was you! You came out of the game to get me!"

Tom laughs. He sees the horrified expression on her face and laughs even harder. "Yes. I popped out of a game you played with a crazy and a Mudblood to haunt you. Don't be an idiot."

"Then... then what do you have to do with the questions we asked during the game?"

"Nothing," he says, still chuckling. "I wanted to remind you that you woke up with your pretty skin torn to shreds. That was the first part of the message. Walk me through your woes now, Doll, and we'll piece it together."

She hates it when he calls her 'doll'. When she was a child it was her favorite nickname. She thought it meant he would protect her and cherish her. Now she knows it's just a synonym for puppet.

"I woke up with my skin shredded into crosses," she hisses. "Then I had huge red circles, then scabies. There you go."

"Crosses and circles. Interesting. Was there a pattern with the scabies? There usually is."

"Zigzags."

"Horizontal, vertical, diagonal...?"

"I don't know! They all looked like Ws, I guess."

"Can't be right all the time," he sighs. "Now, because you've been a good girl all year I'm literally going to spell it out for you. Consider it a bonus gift. Then you'll have a question. The answer is your birthday present." He takes his wand and begins to write in the air. "A cross."

t

"A circle."

O

"And a W, if you look at it another way."

M

"I've been trying to reach you for ages," he says, scattering the letters hanging between them. "Now ask."

"Why?" Ginny rasps, walking backwards, promise forgotten.

"Which why? There are a minimum of two. Don't run, Doll. It's just a dream." He is smiling beatifically, but his eyes are those of a predator.

"Why did you write your name in my skin?"

"I was hoping you would ask that one first. You see, I'm just taking my pound of flesh, so to speak. You left your mark on me, I'm leaving mine on you."

"But I never-"

"Oh yes you did, and don't interrupt me again or you'll be very, very sorry," he threatens. She is so thankful for the space she created between them, but she fears he'll take that from her soon. This is a dream, but is it hers? She has no choice but to obey. "Look at me, Ginevra. Look me in the eyes and tell me you had nothing to do with Lord Voldemort's downfall. You can't. You destroyed who I was to become, and you destroyed me, the actual Tom Marvolo Riddle housed within that stupid diary. The sad part is that I don't even entirely hate you. Part of me thinks I love you. Isn't that ridiculous? Every time you would take me on a date or make love to me in your dreams, I would experience that. Do you know what that's like? You're my most substantial link to the outside world, and I can only interact with you in your dreams. And when you wake up, off you pop to meet your friends, fuck Harry Potter, and do whatever else it is you do. Here I am, waiting, with your name written on me, like you own me. Do you want to see? Come and see."

There is madness in his eyes as she approaches, something feral, but if she doesn't comply he'll do something unspeakable. He grabs her hand roughly as soon as she is close enough and yanks her against his body. Their eyes meet and he raises the sleeve of his robes on his left arm. There, in her own handwriting, is Ginevra Molly Weasley, an old white scar. He suddenly pushes her. She falls to the floor of the Chamber, twisting her ankle on the way down. Tom paces, murmurs to himself in Parseltongue, seemingly at war in his mind. Ginny's chest heaves and she wishes for this dream to end, but it doesn't. Tom has come to a conclusion.

"I've changed my mind," he declares. "Why should I give you three little letters, none of which are permanent, and with plenty of time in between, when I have a full name carved into my skin? It's not fair, really." Before she can process what he means, she's already immobile and something sharp is digging into her skin and she screams. Behind her screams and sobs, Tom sings "Happy Birthday".

When she blinks, it's dark again.

It shouldn't be dark. It's time for work. Her alarm is going off. But it's dark.

She doesn't care. All that matters is that there is no searing pain anywhere on her body, no cuts or gashes. The nightmare is over. What hell that had been. What hell. She switches on the light in the toilet and runs a hot bath. There's no reason to be afraid of the water. He already spelled his name. She knows he isn't done with her, not yet. She's just going to leave worrying about his next attack until after her bath. She disrobes and steps into the steaming water. She takes extra time in washing her hair because she loves the way it feels. She's making her way up her body with the washcloth when she sees them. The letters. The words. His name.

It's spread above her breasts, each letter placed meticulously so that the entire scene is symmetrical. There's no blood, no inflamed tissue. His name is white, the letters already scarred in place. She lets herself freak out for a few moments; she's been rather level about the whole thing if she says so herself. There are plenty of potions and spells that can diminish scars. If she can get something quickly enough, maybe it will go away.

But she knows she's lying to herself. Harry's scars, Bill's scars, her dad's scars, all of them were treated when they were still open wounds. Tom Marvolo Riddle is inside her mind and now her skin for the rest of her life.

She puts on a happy face at work. Suzette at the Reception desk gives her a chocolate cupcake. Neville stops to see her. He asks if she knows who left the flowers for his parents; she tells him no. She nicks two potions from the supply closet: Dreamless Sleep and a topical cream used on patients who are expected to scar.

Pretending to be happy at the Burrow isn't as hard. She's glad to see her family. Molly hugs her too tightly and cries a bit because her baby girl is all grown up. Arthur kisses her on the crown of the head. George offers her some sweets, but she's too smart to accept. He winks at her and tells her that she made the right decision. Charlie is in Romania, but Bill and Fleur are here. It is Bill who notices that something is amiss.

"What's wrong?" he asks when they are alone. "And don't say 'nothing'. You looked like you wanted to punch us all and body slam the cake when we sang to you."

"It's..." she's going to say 'nothing, I promise', but he's giving her the Your Brother Knows Look and she has always trusted Bill the most. "I've been getting these skin problems." Bill nods. "And sometimes I get sick with them, but my sleep is ten kinds of screwed up." She intends to stop, but he gives her the Look again, and she sighs. "I've been having weird dreams, okay? Sometimes about... him. And last night it was really bad, Bill. It was so, so bad." She starts crying and he wraps her in his arms. She hiccups as she tries to speak. "He was cutting me and singing the birthday song while he did it." His arms tighten around her.

"He's dead, Ginny," Bill says forcefully. He makes her look him in the eye. "Do you understand? He's dead. He can't hurt you anymore."

Ginny twists away. "That's just it! He can. Maybe he can't hurt you, but what he did to me, that's always going to be with me. As long as I'm alive, he can hurt me. No one can erase him from history, so he's never going away. Don't you see? He doesn't just live in history books and the stories people tell. Every time I close my eyes I run the risk of being back in the Chamber of Secrets. That's where my dreams take me sometimes, Bill. They put me in Hogwarts and the first thing I do is go see if he's there."

Bill looks at his sister like she's a stranger, then cradles her to his chest. "You just... have to work on it."

She smacks her hands against him. "Did you seriously just say that?" Her voice wavers. "Like I'm not trying to get rid of him? I function normally most of the time, Bill. This is a recent thing, and I am working on it."

"That- I didn't mean it the way it sounded," he apologizes. "Have you talked to anybody about it?"

"I'm talking to you, aren't I?"

"A professional, I mean."

"No," she replies coldly. "I'm not crazy."

"Lots of people have to talk about the war with specialists. There's no shame in it."

There isn't. She knows there isn't. Hannah Abbott, Lavender Brown, Ernie Macmillan, and even Blaise Zabini are all in counseling. She's Harry Potter's girlfriend, though. She has to be stronger than the rest of them.

"Maybe," she says, but Bill knows she's too proud to follow through. "I want more cake."

It's brighter than it should be, and she's dizzy. She's at Hogwarts. She shouldn't be at Hogwarts. She shouldn't be anywhere. She took Dreamless Sleep. She begins to panic. Dreamless Sleep has always, always, always worked before. Even when he was possessing her, Dreamless Sleep kept the nightmares away. She won't go to the Chamber. She won't. But she wants to so badly. There's no voice prompting her and she isn't curious. She knows he's there and she knows he plans to hurt her again. She wants to wake up. She wants to wake up in Luna's house with no scratches. She wants Tom's sick game to have never happened. She wants to be eleven again and throw away that stupid diary. That's when they started playing. That's when she threw the dice for the first time. She ultimately won- Harry won. The dreams, the flashbacks, the nightmares, all of these were signs that the game wasn't really over. The game won't ever be over. She had gone off on Bill for telling her to "work on it". Maybe, she thinks, he was right, but not in the way he meant. She has to fight or the game will never end.

She goes to Myrtle's bathroom, but she doesn't say the word. She's indecisive. Tom has always been ten steps ahead of her. No doubt he knows what she's thinking. He knows she is standing here waiting, willing, wanting to hiss the word that will lead the way to him. She's sure of it. He has a plan for if she doesn't come to him. Her heart alternates between frantic beating and stalling and she thinks that, were she awake, she might die from the stress. That's when she gets the idea. Hitting her head woke her once. She grimaces; this is going to hurt. Balling her hands into fists, she closes her eyes and summons all of her Gryffindor courage. She hears a scraping sound just as she slams her head downward. Instead of hitting porcelain, she has hit something soft. Skin.

Her head is in his hands. She doesn't hide her tears as he rights her.

"I knew you might try that," he says.

"I figured as much, but I had to try," she replies. She is coughing as she tears away from him. She means to flee from the room, but the door isn't there. She beats the wall where it should be and screams until her throat is raw. Sinking to her knees, her breathing ragged, she hates herself for coming here. She rests her forehead against the cold stone of the not-door and cries the simple tears of a child who has lost a beloved toy.

"I would have gotten you anyway." He is whispering into her ear, and she trembles.

"I know."

"Would you like your birthday present now?" he asks. His breath is warm and sweet against her cheek. He makes her stand, slowly, and touches her tenderly, almost as if he cares. She nods. "Then ask the other question."

She looks up into his dark blue eyes. They're kind right now, the eyes of the friend she had when she was a lonely First Year.

"Why now?" She is still trembling, both from fear and from crying. She stiffens when her captor, the man who made the rules, pulls her into a close hug. He rubs a hand up and down her back. He is trying to soothe her. More tears fall when she realizes that he is being genuine.

"I couldn't be alone anymore," he says quietly. She feels his heartbeat pick up. "I couldn't be without you anymore." His grip tightens. "I told you that part of me might love you. It's possible." He relaxes again and rests his head atop hers. She hears and feels him inhale slowly. She doesn't remember wrapping her arms around him. "But more than that, we belong to one another. Not just physically, but spiritually, and for all eternity. We are literally incomplete when we are apart."

There is a surprisingly comfortable silence for a moment.

"How do you mean?" she asks, her voice barely above a whisper.

"You have a piece of my soul, Ginevra," he says without malice, "and I have a piece of yours. Possessing you for so long- I didn't understand the repercussions. I hate that it happened, but there's no changing it now. I need you in order to survive, and I want you with me."

She wants to push him and spit in his face. She doesn't have a bit of his soul in her; she can't. There isn't an evil bone in her body. But she doesn't move. Moving could lead to more torture, and he's being so kind right now.

"That's why I have taken measures to ensure that we'll always be together."

Now she does pull away. "What do you mean?" Her voice is laden with fear, and he relishes in it.

"You'll find out soon enough, Doll. Now it's time to wake up. Go to work, steal more potions. Tell anyone and everyone about your dreams. None of it will do any good."

When she blinks, it's dark again.

None of it will do any good.

And she knows he's right. She has to think, though, to dissect his words.

He had told her to stay out of the water, so she did. She still ended up with scabies. Hermione's uncle gave all sorts of ways she could have logically contracted it, but she knew of no one else who had it, and it originated in water. The only water she had been in was in that same dream, before and immediately after he warned her. He had given her an illness in the waking world via a dream. She thinks back to the circles. The night before she got them, she had dreamed of children singing on a cliff by the ocean. Hadn't Harry told her that Tom had vacationed by the sea? She can't remember dreaming anything at Luna's house before waking with the Ts all over her body, but she's still terrified.

He can get her sick through mere suggestions in dreams.

He can scar her by attacking her in dreams.

Dreamless Sleep doesn't help.

It reminds her of a horror film she, Harry, Hermione, and Ron had watched one Hallowe'en. The hideous villain killed the teenagers in their sleep. Her situation is different because the villain is an Adonis who has no intention of killing her. He is going to keep her and cut her every night for the rest of her life.

Only it isn't going to be just nights. She remembers that he said 'always'. How? How can he pull that off? But, she thinks, if anyone can do it, it's him. Tom has always been exceptionally clever. This memory of him has been essentially dead for fifty-eight years and he's still hatching plans.

She thinks about her birthday 'presents', the answers to questions. The first night, before he decided to carve his name into her flesh, what had he called her? His most substantial link. He has other connections. He can communicate outside the dream. It isn't as strong as with her, but it's something.

Who? It could be anyone. They might not even know. Worse, they might know.

Even though she knows he's right and that it won't help, she does everything he said to do. She steals more Dreamless Sleep. She corners one of the counselors at St. Mungo's and insists they speak right now, it's an emergency. When the counselor says his schedule is full, she resorts to name dropping. "Don't you know who I am? I'm Ginny Weasley. Harry Potter is my boyfriend! My mother killed Bellatrix Lestrange. I fought at the Battle at the Department of Mysteries and the Battle of Hogwarts! I think I deserve your time." The counselor simply says that all of his patients deserve his time and he won't cancel one of their appointments just because she's famous. Her eyes well up with tears as he walks away.

After work, she starts drinking coffee immediately. She hates the taste, but it's worth a try. She downs an entire vial of Dreamless Sleep, just in case. She starts writing letters to her family and friends.

It's brighter than it should be, and she's dizzy. She doesn't know where she is, which is a small blessing. Maybe he isn't here, she thinks, but she knows that it's a ridiculous notion. The walls are a sterile white, or they used to be. The wallpaper is curling and yellowing. Linoleum tiles are missing. Lights flicker, hurting her head. She walks down a long hallway, poking her head into a doorway on her right. It is a kitchen. Poorly maintained, she can see mold near the sink. The door of the refrigerator is hanging on by one hinge. Dead rabbits sit on a cutting board next to the stove, waiting to be skinned and cooked. The open window lets flies in.

The next room is much larger, a communal dining area. It is unremarkable but for the fading watercolor pictures on the walls. One looks familiar to her.

She walks up a flight of stairs. It is dim in this hallway, and the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. The lights overhead swing occasionally, squeaking as they do so. She tries to open a door; its hinges are so rusted that she has to run into it with her shoulder. This used to be a bedroom. Metal bed frames, three of them, are in disarray, their mattresses long gone. Wire springs litter the floor, as well as wood from the overturned chest of drawers. The only window is cracked and lets in little light. Beneath it is a fading black curtain. There are a few books in the corner, all covered in dust. She walks toward them slowly, afraid to make any noise even though this is a dream. One is an ornithology book. The pictures are beautiful and she thinks the colors were once vibrant. The next is a book of folk tales- or it would be if half of the pages weren't missing and the other half covered in scribbled drawings of birds. The final two are Shakespeare. One is full of sonnets, the other is Hamlet. She picks up the book of sonnets; there is a bookmark. She opens to that page and is unimpressed. She takes the book with her.

She goes into the room directly across the hall and is surprised to find Tom sitting among the detritus. He isn't wearing his crisp Hogwarts robes and his shiny Head Boy badge. Instead he is wearing some kind of dingy, frayed uniform. He doesn't look at her. She doesn't want to speak first, so she takes in the room. These beds have their thin mattresses and are covered with worn blankets. Only one of the beds is made; she knows this is Tom's. The chest of drawers is chipped and old, but there isn't a speck of dust on it. A black curtain hangs over the window. Glass is among the garbage on the floor, though, so this window is probably broken as well. There's a shattered mirror at Tom's feet, but she doesn't think he's the one who broke it.

"How do you like my home?" he finally asks. His voice is hollow and he still looks at the floor. "I made the Horcrux before I left this place. Did your Harry tell you I lived like this?"

"He... told me you were an orphan," she says, "but he didn't say anything about this."

"Tell me, Ginny," he looks up at her, capturing her hazel eyes, "do you think Lord Voldemort was born or made?"

"I never thought about it," she admits. He doesn't give her time to think on it.

"You see, one of the reasons I need you is to escape. Without you, I can only go to places I've already been. That's here, Hogwarts, and one cliff by the sea. You've been to places I can't imagine. You've already taken me to so many new places..."

"You can't dream up new things?" she asks, full of both pity and confusion. She masks the pity; if he sees it, he'll go on one of his rampages.

"I'm a memory, so no." He sighs and stands. He extends a hand and, despite her better judgment, she takes it. He gives her that half-smile that makes her knees knock. "That was a nice try today, pulling the fame card to get your way."

"Too bad it didn't work," she says, not bothering to hide the bitterness in her voice.

"Close your eyes and imagine somewhere beautiful," he tells her. She does.

They are sitting on a stone bench in a park. There aren't flowers, but there are plenty of trees in the distance. She rests her head on his shoulder. They sit in silence for a long time.

"You have my book," he says eventually, spotting the tome of sonnets she had taken from the orphanage.

"I forgot I had it," she says sheepishly. "Is that your bookmark?"

"Yes."

"You have terrible taste in poems, Tom," she laughs.

This is the wrong thing to say. He shoves her and snatches the book from her lap. He checks to make sure they are talking about the same poem.

"130?" he asks, voice rough.

"Yeah. I didn't like it. So what?"

"Read it. Read it out loud to me and think about it as you're reading it."

She recoils as he smacks the book back onto her lap. She clears her throat. "My mistress'-" she falters, then begins again. "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;/ Coral is far more red than her lips' red;/ If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;/ If hair be wires, black wires grow upon her head./ I have seen roses damasked, red and white,/ But no such roses see I in her cheeks;/ And in some perfumes is there more delight/ Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks./ I love to hear her speak, yet well I know/ That music hath a far more pleasing sound;/ I grant I never saw a goddess go;/ my mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground./ And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare/ As any she belied with false compare."

"What does it mean?" Tom demands, grabbing her shoulder.

"He's calling his girlfriend ugly," Ginny replies. He digs his fingers into her flesh and frowns. "Tom, you're hurting me. It's just a poem."

"No, that's not it at all," he states firmly, squeezing her ever more tightly. "He not only accepts her faults, he loves them, and challenges anyone to say they love their mistress more because they can't without using flowery language and ignoring who they really are." He shakes her, then stands so that he towers over her. "Don't you see? That's what we are, Ginny. We're fucked up and perfect because of it!"

She puts her head in her hands. "You really think that, don't you? Here's the thing, though, Tom-" she stands as well and maneuvers so that she isn't stuck between him and the bench "-I don't love your faults! The only reason this version of you exists is because you murdered someone! How can I accept that as a personality flaw? It's an act that you committed, and you aren't sorry that you did it. Was Voldemort born or made? It doesn't matter. He isn't here, you are. You wrote your name on me. Then you carved your name into me. Yeah, that's fucked up. It's beyond fucked up. That doesn't make us perfect. It makes us a train wreck. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of you and your games, how you keep... crashing my dreams. I want to wake up now."

He is deadly calm. "Then wake up."

When she blinks, it's brighter than it should be, and she's dizzy. She's in the Chamber.

"Good morning," Tom says sweetly. "Now, I don't know of any bedrooms but the one at the orphanage and the Slytherin dorms, so you'll have to imagine us something else if that isn't satisfactory. I don't think you want to sleep on this damp floor. Or maybe you do. Last night's outburst showed me that I don't know you as well as I thought I did."

"Last... night?" she asks. No, this is the same dream.

"Don't fret, Doll," he says, kissing her on the forehead, "I forgive you. This situation will take some getting used to. It's natural for you to be stressed."

"I'm going to wake up soon," she declares, fire in her eyes.

"You're as awake as you'll ever be, Doll."

She smacks him hard across the face.

"None of that," he snaps. He has her wrist in a tight grip. "Now apologize." She doesn't. He squeezes her wrist tighter, and soon it is tingling from lack of circulation. "Apologize and I'll let go, love." She bites her lip. Maybe she'll pass out.

He returns her slap with one of his own. She is shocked. She never expected him to strike her. It's far more surprising than the cutting somehow. It's less... elegant. He looks just as surprised; he keeps looking from his hand to her face as if he can't comprehend what he has just done. They both realize that she'll have a large bruise and that her lip is split. Fingers trembling, Tom touches her bloody lip. He regards the crimson stain for a moment, then tastes it. Ginny is repulsed. He swiftly pulls her into an embrace.

"I want a house," he says between kisses to her temple. "I want a proper house with a nice garden. I want my own things. I want my own bedroom, my own toilet with my own hot shower. You'll get your own, too. Sometimes I'll bring you to my bed because I enjoy making love to you. I'll never have to share anything with anyone. I'll let you have a pet. You just have to dream it all up for us. You'll do that, won't you, Ginny?" He sounds desperate, and she hears the voice of a boy who lived in an overcrowded orphanage with too little to go around. Her heart almost breaks, but he has hurt her. Her cheek throbs, her wrist is sore, and the circulation has yet to fully return to her hand. But she doesn't have a choice. She's stuck in this dream forever. She has lost this game. She never really had a chance of winning.

"Yeah, I'll do that."

-----------------------

To clarify: yes, Luna was trolling Ginny at the beginning. I don't know if she believes she actually contacted her mother (she didn't tell me), but she wanted to cheer herself up and messed with our protagonist in an attempt to do so.

Begonias are a portent of ill things to come. Ginny, who hates flowers (she thinks they're cheesy and cliche), doesn't know the symbolism. Never get a begonia for someone you love!

Sonnet 130 is my personal favorite. There's a Red Nose Day skit with Catherine Tate and David Tennant wherein Catherine, as Lauren Cooper, recites it and yells, "Bite me, alien boy!" Every time I see, hear, or recite it, that pops into my head ^.^

Reviews would be lovely! I've never written anything like this before and I'd like to know how I did. I try to respond to reviews.

Until next time!

Write a Review Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Maq
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Jessie: I wrote a review on fanfiction but I thought it would be fitting to write on on here too :) This story was honestly stunning. I am a budding writer myself and to read this- to FEEL this- reminded me of why I am honoured to have this passion and drive for a craft that is just so raw and beautiful.

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FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"

The Cyneweard

Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."

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Ro-Ange Olson: "Loved it and couldn't put it down. I really hope there is a sequel. Well written and the plot really moves forward."