Paper should be good enough: 10; she chooses
It's three in the afternoon, not an hour before the party is due to start at the Burrow and not a half hour before Neville is due to meet her. She checks herself in the mirror one last time before going downstairs, hoping not to run into any of her family.
Tom, Tom, I'm so nervous, what if I fail, what if Ron kills me, what if Ron kills Harry? Don't be afraid, Ginny. You're powerful. You're strong. You can do anything you want, have anything you want. Did you give Harry the potion? Yes, of course.
Don't be afraid, Ginny. You're powerful. You're strong. You can do anything you want, have anything you want. Did you give Harry the potion?
Yes, of course.
She had passed the bread at lunch right over his cup, and of course no one noticed the potion spill red and mix clear into the water.
Then there's nothing to fear. Remember; he swore he would be loyal to you. He loves you. Have faith in Harry, Gin. I will, Tom.
I will, Tom.
Neville is in the sitting room with Fred and George, in a nice set of robes that aren't too dressy. Ginny greets him with a soft "Hey." He raises his eyes and his eyebrows shoot up.
"You look great, Ginny," he compliments.
"I see we have our first set of lovebirds here," Fred says.
"No, our second. Did you forget Hermione and Harry pawing at each other earlier?" George adds.
"I think I Obliviated that out of my brain."
"I think I Obliviated that out of your brain. The only merciful thing to do, you know."
Ginny has to force a smile at the thought of pawing.
Neville barks an exasperated laugh and leans into Ginny to whisper, "They're joking. Harry's not feeling well, his scar was hurting so badly that he was puking."
Her smile fades. "Oh," she says, and Neville's face falls. "Well, I hope he feels better. Shall we go?" She fakes a bright smile.
Neville brightens again. "Let's go."
They have the backyard decorated tastefully, and Celestina is playing on the wireless; Ron and Cho are already there, and he greets them with a wave and heads over, Cho following.
"Ginny, you look great," Ron says.
Arrogant prat asks out Cho Chang because she's gorgeous and he wants a pretty girl on his arm. Soon he'll have another girl for his other arm and wear sunglasses and ruffle his hair a lot.
"Hi," she says. "You guys look great together, too."
Neville senses the tension and quickly smiles. "This was a great idea."
"Oh, it's nothing," Ron says offhand. "Obviously it was mostly Hermione's work, not mine." He glances past Ginny. "And there's the golden couple. Oi! Harry! Hermione!"
Whore, she thinks she can take Harry from me, well she's sadly mistaken, I can't wait to see her face, I know how Hermione is.
"You feeling all right, Harry?" Ginny says.
He manages a weak smile. "I'll make it through the night." The look in his eyes is serious, and she gets the message.
He's going to do it, Tom, I know it! Look at him!
The smile curves along her face, even as Hermione drags Harry off to talk to the gathering crowd.
I told you he would, Gin love.
"Ron and I managed to settle our differences," Cho says, smiling. "He came to grips that I like the Tornadoes, and I realized he'll never change to a team with a color that doesn't clash with his coloring and hair."
"Oh, shut it," Ron says, but the tips of his ears are red. "You know you couldn't resist me, even if I'm a Cannons fan."
"Maybe, maybe not." She grins. "I've got to go talk to Michael, d'you mind?"
"Not at all, I've got to have a go at Seamus," Ron says, grins at Ginny and Neville, and heads off. Cho gives them a politely puzzled look and leaves them quickly.
"Rather odd couple, don't you think?" Neville says. "Honestly, I think she's only going with him because he's the captain of the Quidditch team. She hated him last year."
Ginny laughs. "What, are you jealous?"
"No," he says, "just disdainful."
Someone turns up the wireless, they can hear Seamus holler in glee, and the couples begin to dance. Ginny dances with a few other boys, including Michael Corner, then Neville takes her arm. She leans on him, smiling. "You're much better," she says.
He smiles back. "So are you."
She laughs. "Thank you so much for coming... I don't know what I'd do without you, Neville."
Neville doesn't respond for a second. "You won't have to worry about that, soon. You'll have Harry."
"Harry is... different." My knight in shining armor. My darling, my love, my hero. Too bad that heroes don't know what's good for them. But that's why Harry has me. "I need both of you, differently."
"Different," Neville repeats, sounding faintly amused. "Is that a good 'different' or a bad 'different'?"
"You're always here for me, Neville. Don't think I don't realize it, and appreciate it." She runs her thumb lightly against the back of his neck, and he flushes a bit pink. She laughs, then glances over his shoulder to see Ron and Cho by the punch bowl, not looking very happy, and she winces.
"What is it?" Neville says.
"Ron and Cho are having a falling-out, I think. He'd have done better to take someone a bit less temperamental."
"She has the right to be, I think. Kind of."
By now a large amount of the crowd is watching the tension escalate between Ron and Cho, but Ginny can hardly hear the argument because the music and the distance. Cho sits sullenly away from him, and Ron stays where he is, face burning with frustration.
The song ends and Ginny pulls Neville over to where Harry and Hermione are standing, apparently debating on how to deal with this teenage drama. "What happened?" Ginny asks them.
"I think he broke her shoe, or something," Hermione says. "I don't know, neither of them are talking."
An idea occurs to Ginny. "...I'll go talk to Ron," she says, shooting a glance at Harry. "He needs to get some sense talked into him anyway." She kisses Neville on the cheek with a quick smile, and sweeps over to her brother. She looks back momentarily to make certain, and indeed, Harry is leading Hermione into the Burrow.
"Ron," she says. "We need to talk."
Ron sighs. "...All right, but I didn't start the bloody fight," he says. "So don't you go blaming me, these Ravenclaw girls are all out of their minds."
Ginny rolls her eyes, trying to think of an approach that'll work with his block-headed way of thinking. "It's about Hermione," she lies.
It works. "All right," Ron says, his curiosity sufficiently perked. "Out by the lake then?"
They walk until they can barely hear the music anymore, and she turns on him. At the action, he gets slightly nervous, and the flush abandons his cheeks to allow a faint blanch to rest there. "The first thing I will say is, you will not like this, but you are not going to be able to stop it, so get used to it." She smiles triumphantly, but it is a calculated triumph with no sign of glee.
Ron looks vaguely puzzled, then shrugs. "All right, what is it?" His tone is forced casual. "What's with Hermione?"
"It's not about Hermione. Harry and I are dating. Have been for a while now. He wants me, not Hermione, and there's nothing either of you can do about it."
Ron gapes at her, then his face snaps into indignant disappointment. "You swore to me that you weren't."
"No, I didn't. I said that I could handle myself, and I certainly can. I always have been able to."
Ron shakes his head. "It's too dangerous, Ginny. I've even been telling him to break up with Hermione, I mean, he wants to, but anyone close to him -- especially in that way -- is in danger. Being best friends is bad enough."
Ginny feels the Gryffindor rage rise in her, but an odd feeling, Tom, offers Slytherin apathy as cold and unfeeling as marble, which counteracts it. Her face doesn't change. "I love him and there's no way I'm going to be able to stop doing that," she informs him coolly.
"He's not Michael Corner or Dean, for Merlin's sake, he's the marked man for all Death Eaters and Vol -- You-Know-Who himself! He's got a lot on his shoulders and he can't be concerned about paying attention to a girlfriend or snogging her all over the place -- "
"Why do you care if we're snogging?"
Ron looks at her in abject horror. "You're snogging?" Ginny shrugs. "Ginny, no. You can't. I'm sorry. No." He takes a step towards her, and suddenly she glances at his left arm, paranoid, and she scrambles to produce her wand from her purse.
"Get away," she says evenly, and more bravely than she feels as she brandishes her wand.
Her brother looks puzzled. "...What?"
"Get away! I know the real reason why. He's going to do the Fidelius Charm and you want it for yourself! I won't let you take him. I won't let you kill him!"
"What are you talking about, Ginny? Look -- I think someone must have spiked the punch -- " Ron touches her shoulder, and Ginny squirms inwardly at the thought of the hand of a Death Eater on her; she shoves him away and steels herself, thinking of Harry's death and it must be for the best...
"Avada Kedavra," she yells, almost screams, and Ron manages to say the word "No," before the green light hits him and he's dead.
She stands over him, touches his face. "...Why did you make me do it?" she whispers, then kisses his cheek. "I'm sorry, Ron... but you made me do it." She stands after a moment, swallowing hard in order not to cry.
Yet there is something there that she doesn't want to acknowledge, because she does not understand, as it is darker than anything she's ever been. There's amusement, joy at the sight of the corpse -- Ron, oh gods oh gods --there's glee at the remembrance of the horrified timbre in which his last words were spoken... and it disturbs what little is left of what is truly her.
She leaves him there, hurrying through the crowd without a sign of grief on her face. Harry is standing by the punch, no longer accompanied by Hermione. "So what happened with Ron?" he says once she's in earshot.
"He... saw the light," she says, attempting a smile and mostly succeeding.
"Great. Where is he?" Harry glances around, then shrugs. "Never mind--look, Hermione reacted really badly, and I think you should avoid her for a while now, she's rampaging a bit..."
"Well, who wouldn't, losing a prize like you?" Ginny grins, then after glancing around quickly, she kisses him lightly.
Harry actually blushes, then cringes. "Sorry -- that's not an insult, I promise -- damn scar," he sighs. "I'll be in the bathroom, it's sodding loud in here."
"All right," Ginny says, and after Harry leaves, she scans the yard for Neville. After asking Seamus -- who seems a bit busy trying to snog Lavender, but she has no qualms interrupting that -- and discovering that Neville is inside, she collides with somebody at the door.
"Oh -- er -- sorry," she says, then looks up to see a tear-stained Hermione glaring at her.
"I can't believe you, Ginny," Hermione says coldly. Ginny calls up that cold Slytherin fire in her breast, and stands proudly, arrogantly up to the older girl.
"You should. I'm twice the woman you are."
Hermione's eyes flare. "You dare steal my boyfriend and then claim you're better than me? He was mine first, Ginny! I told you how I felt about him, and you just -- "
"Took what was meant to be mine." Ginny realizes her hand is in a death grip around her wand. She raises her wand, cocking an eyebrow at Hermione. "Do you want to continue this conversation or accept the inevitable truth?"
Hermione stares at her. "You wouldn't actually... Ginny!" she says in disgust. "What are you going to do, hex me for Harry's sake?"
"He doesn't need a whore. He needs me." With a sudden rush of arrogant victory, Ginny moves her wand in a quick slashing motion, and a slash of light rushes towards Hermione. Hermione tries to back up, but it hits her, and blood spatters as it slices open her chest. Her eyes are lifeless, open, dull, chocolate brown, no longer blessed with the spark of ever-present cleverness behind.
Ginny notes blood on her hands, and wipes it off on Hermione's front. She stands, leaving the body behind, not quite caring who sees.
She hurries back inside to the bathroom to tell Harry that the danger is over when it occurs to her -- the antidote. "No," she whispers, and runs as fast as she can, panting when she arrives.
"Are you all right, Ginny?" Harry says, one eyebrow raised. She nods to him, then takes a deep breath.
"You have to do something for me, Harry. It's important."
"Of course. What?" he says. She seizes his punch cup and drawing the vial from around her neck, she pours the contents into it. She pushes the cup into his hands, kissing his hands. "Drink it," she says. He could be lost -- all of this work could be lost -- her love could be lost.
Harry shrugs and draws away from her, drinking the cup of liquid easily. Ginny pauses as she looks into her reflection in the bathroom, noticing some sort of spill on the skin right above her right breast. Looking behind her to make sure that Harry won't notice this odd behavior, she undoes the front of her robes. Her breaths stop, her hand frozen, clutched around the soft red fabric. For a moment she is not sure if time has stopped, or if she is simply gone.
She touches it. The Dark Mark, on her breast, above her heart. "Tom," she murmurs.
"Ginny," Harry says, and his voice is weak. She turns, quickly doing up her robes, just in time to see him sway and fall to his knees, hard.
Ginny rushes over to him, wrapping her arms around him, kissing him all over the face, whispering nonsense words of comfort into his ears. "God," she says in a frenzied half-sob, rocking the dying Harry Potter in her arms. "I love you," she says to him. "I love you, Harry."
"Love you," he murmurs back, and she kisses him hard, shaking with sobs. He fades quickly after that; she still clutches his body to her own, delirious and faint from crying so hard. She presses her face against his shoulder.
It was all a lie. My brother, dead. Hermione, dead. Harry, dead. I love you, Tom.
I love you, Tom.
She chokes a shocked laugh at the realization.
As if cued, a voice says, "Gin," and she refuses to raise her head from Harry's shoulder.
"Gin. Look at me... I had to do it. All right? I got you what you wanted... you wanted Harry. Isn't that what you've always wanted?"
"Go away, Tom," her voice is muffled.
"Your name is so suitable..." his voice comes closer -- he must be walking closer to her -- her body stiffens at the thought. "Gin, like the alcohol. Intoxicating, fresh, clear and transparent but with such a lure..."
Ginny raises her head, meeting identical eyes with Tom. "You marked me. You used me. And now he's dead, they're all dead."
"It was of your own volition, my love." He reaches a hand to caress her hair softly. "I got you what you wanted, like I said. I gave you all I had, so you had to return the favor."
"I had to kill?"
"Come, they're only spiders, not truly living, only existing. Only when the plot twists begin does life begin. Spiders are not killed, they are exterminated."
She refuses to let his touch get a reaction from her. "My boyfriend. My brother. My best friend. They meant nothing?"
Tom's hand withdraws from her hair to stroke her tear-stained cheek. "Don't be selfish, Gin love."
"Selfish?" she demands. "Selfish? You used me, Tom!"
"What about what I want? You got Harry... Gin, I love you. I've told you so. And I couldn't take seeing Harry have you -- that idiot Harry, who got you simply by half-baked acts of valor and false naiveté." He kisses her on the cheek, and she doesn't move, though her grip on Harry's body loosens.
"He loved you, but he did nothing to get you... he tried to be part of you, but could never fully understand you. Not like I can, Ginny. We are one." He kisses the side of her mouth, and her eyebrows furrow with the effort of trying not to look at him, not to reciprocate.
"We are one," she echoes. "But... you mean... you want me?"
"Of course," Tom says, looking surprised.
She considers him coolly for awhile, then feels an odd thing -- and unexpectedly feels the connection between them, a strange mental lock that cannot be broken. He could be with her... she reverses it hesitantly, and with a rush, her conscious is across the link, and she sees herself from his eyes, a truly bizarre feeling.
We are one. We are one,
We are one,he agrees.
She feels him -- the true him, the soul and the body and the link between -- and she feels the truth in his words.
You love me, she says in his head. It is not what most would call love, it is admiration, but it makes sense. She understands, oh, does she understand.
As I said I did, Gin.
She tilts his head to the side, then retreats from within his consciousness, staring fixedly at him once she is back to herself.
"So what do you think, Ginny?" He stands. "He wasn't worthy of you. You are a queen, a goddess, and will never die, like an everlasting autumn." With a smile, he strokes her hair. "You can be my Queen. And I will love you, and do anything I can to please you. I love you, Ginevra Weasley. Will you accept that?"
He holds his hand out to help her stand. She drops her stare to his hand.
Would you rather be Queen of Hell...
She raises her eyes to his.
...or a beggar in Heaven?