"Mon bébé est allé."
Ginny lets her left leg dangle over the stone borders of the pond. Intricate knots of moss are clustered over the grey edges, and her calf is like moonlight against them, but for the sanguine gaps peppered into the once-milky skin, now eerily pallid, as if it, too, cannot quite retain a semblance of propriety, no longer uphold the appearance of strength, shape.
Theo first discovers Ginny fiddling with an empty champagne flute, ankles oddly slid between the steel railings of Pansy's apartment. She swings the glass through the supple night air, letting it glow with buttery starlight above her bruised thumbnail, and, gravely, informs him that she is trying to drink a glass of moonlight, because it is so bright that to pour it into her would surely purge her of all Riddles. Theo scrutinizes her: simple navy robes, tatty hem, askew enough to reveal a freckled shoulder blade, glaring tangerine curls with pins pulling every which way, smeared kohl tracing a scar from her left eyelid to her earlobe. She glances at him, blinking numbly, letting him blur with the view from Parkinson's balcony, utterly subdued. He nimbly extends a hand to her, and she takes it, letting the flute crumple into a thousand glass dots on the rooftop. He recognizes her—she is the epitome of post-war irony, heroic and famous while his own reputation is questioned daily by the public. He's fascinated, intrigued, already holding up a net to ensnare her within.
He knows she's the key to his restoration. A political gem.
He's not ridiculously intrigued by her, not at all. She doesn't haunt his dreams, he doesn't imagine what lies beneath thick velvets.
A month passes. They are wed on a Sunday, in a rural, breathtaking chapel in France, all muted stucco and vibrant stained glass. Ginny likes to believe they've chosen the spot, a village near Versailles, for its romantic seclusion, and not the piles of rumors—and there is never a bit of truth to them, oh no!—that remind her that Tom Riddle has finally fallen in Nice, that the last fugitive Death Eaters are suspect to be sulking within the confines of the nation, supposedly Paris. Her dress is a tumble of dipping silk and laces, glossy pearls strewn through the skirts. Theo chooses her veil, a soft net that sweeps over her neck to her toes. He has been poured into simple black dress robes, his cobalt eyes more steeled than ever. She clutches his wrist adoringly, and the magic is performed, the ceremony is done. Afterwards, she asks him however he chose the church, and he absently reminds her she, of course, selected it last week, how can she have forgotten it already, really?
Theo is just a hopeless romantic at heart, Ginny informs the Prophet's minions coolly, rolling practiced eyes at the hordes of eager reporters, and for an agonizing moment she is reminded of Rita Skeeter, scribbling an interview for Harry, giving names. Malfoy, Macnair, Nott.
Her family writes, owls bombard her, and even Hermione, with her superior, perceptively pitying gaze, asks Ginny why they are wed so quickly, and does Ginny really want this?
Of course she does, Ginny replies, enraged. Would she agree to marry someone she'd been seeing a month if she didn't love him wholly?
"Mon bébé est perdu."
Her fingertips fumble with her tatty hair, a jumble of unkempt, auburn ringlets, withered and looking as if they might simply rust and crumble away. Quivering thumbs finish constructing a makeshift plait, and for an instant the sepia photo on Theo's nightstand comes to mind: a dog-eared little photograph of the two of them, her grinning widely, glossy curls pinned and streaming down her back, his arm adoringly wound around her waist. A bark of hysterical laughter topples over her chapped lips, and she wraps her almost skeletal arms around her waist, over her belly.
The Nott maison, Ginny finds, is a palace, a labyrinth of obsidian pillars, marble courtyards, gleaming minarets and a pristine, uninhabited suite behind every door, with a boundless amount of staff, in subdued house-elves, efficient ghosts and numerous intriguing creatures (Ginny has stopped being surprised after stumbling upon an Abraxan—the massive horses that she'd seen tugging the Beauxbatons carriage so long ago--in the ballroom) scuttling around the place.
She had never spoken French, and at first the tangles of phrases Theo has pushed into her mouth taste brittle, and she finds herself murmuring her bonjours through gritted teeth, though where the candor she weaves into French comes from, Ginny never has managed to determine. Theo adores chatting with her in rapid French, and though Ginny is demurely amused, she knows that her ragtag hold of these exotic verbs, pronouns, is what donates to her inferiority in his mind. Ginny practices. Je. Bebe. Perdu.
She spends days at a time reveling in a novel (French, of course, for the Nott library, though colossal, holds no English texts) in a rooftop courtyard, often sleeps in a different bedroom every night in an effort to demolish the perfunctory world she has married into. The Trophy-Wife-Life, Hermione had always called it disdainfully.
Of course, Hermione was glowing when Ginny last saw her, at the annual England Ministry New Year's Ball, exquisitely happy that Ginny is exquisitely happy. Everyone is charged by joy, all sure of the promise of the future, now that they have ensured hero status. Now that Ron and Hermione are married, on their fourth child, and still no trace of Harry.
The Boy-Who-Vanished, she likes to call him. Her family was willing to bury him, mourn him, and claim he would have wanted them to be happy, they ought to be happy after fighting this war.
But Ginny can't help but feel that if anyone ought to be alive and living the luxe life, if anyone deserves a happy ending, it is Harry Potter, who had been noble to the end. Her heartstrings ache at the knowledge that his goodness did not triumph Fate's cruelty.
Theo is achingly courteous, perpetually polite—at Hogwarts Ginny often thought of him as the unMalfoy: Theo is understatedly strong, and has tact, quiet intellect, and is hazardously charming. On the third Friday—Venus' day, Ginny notes wryly, not bothering to voice the brassy thought—Theo declares his arrival by having a single, buttery rose somehow come to Ginny's lap, thorns not slicing her skirts, and the gesture never noted by either of them. She enters the grand dining room, sits primly at one end of the table, tangerine pieces of the sunset caught like baubles within the odd, spherical windows of the room, glowing against the marble floors, cherry corners of the table, toying with the arrays of cutlery.
He is there before her, they dine, he recites anecdotes from Marseilles, she nods, wondering, again, what exactly Theo does, inserting a witty riposte every-so-often, and platters of crème brulee, fillet mignon, an odd French salad she can't name come and go. Ginny has slipped into a simple, pearly muslin gown, silk gloves coiling around her wrists, winding up to her elbows. Her hair is clasped at the base of her neck, taut and neat.
He rises, and she follows wordlessly, heels clacking against the spiral staircase, knuckles grazing the lemony walls, gloves crinkling over the doorknob, spine writhing against his satin slipcovers.
"Mon bébé s'est cassé."
Ginny's eyes are frenzied, pupils dilated, desperation dripping from inky lashes. Tears slither over her freckles, a trail of salt staining her cheeks, she can taste it on her lips, she can taste sorrow again, the taste of the unborn, the unsaid, the undone. The taste of Harry again.
A fortnight (a full moon, the discovery of the Nott kitchens, and that the gates of the estate impede any strolls into town) and Ginny is delighted with the prospect of motherhood, of having an ally in her home. She is enchanted with the notion of a baby, a bundle of innocence in a home teetering on subtle indignities.
Ginny stumbles upon the study one night, playing hide-and-seek where she hunts for the secrets she's enlisted to obtain. The door is ominous, dark wood with jagged carvings, a doorknob in the shape of a cobra poised to bite. There are minute words inscribed into the panels of wood, scrawl so tiny she cannot read it. Ginny's imagination, wild with restlessness, decides they read like Dante's gates to hell: abandon all hope, ye who enter in. Breaking the lock—Fred and George's ancient lockpick set has proven useful indeed—she is surprised to find her memory pushing a sense of recognition.
She has never seen this room, Ginny reminds herself. She has been becoming acquainted with so many rooms lately everything may seem familiar.
But she can't help but think her eyebrows quirked at seeing Dante's Inferno on that shelf not too long ago…
Je me casse.
On the third Friday of September, Ginny, exploring, finally finds the kitchens. Peeking around the brass door, she watches a wizened house-elf uncork a vial of cerulean liquid—the scent is achingly familiar, ginger and asphodel, and she tugs at her memory, wishing she had a pensieve—and stirring it into a pitcher with light, cubic patterns engraved into it.
Je ne verrai pas.
For dinner she dons a lilac monstrosity with puffs of sleeves and a plunging neckline, feeling obscurely defiant. She is led to a different room, where she and Theo sit at a cozy tea-table, tiny and round, looking as if the legs are spun of tinfoil. She nibbles Viennese bread off a porcelain plate, he pours her water from a pewter pitcher with light, cubic patterns engraved into it.
Ginny lifts the cup, and pauses, as if ready to say something.
He holds his fork where it is suspended before his mouth, and blinks.
Ginny, perplexed by the halt, promptly sips the icy water, an eerie tingle of deja-vu playing at the rim of her mind.
She asks him if it is true, what is being said about the clemencies revealed by the French Ministry last Tuesday, and he smiles lazily.
Ginny wakes in a panic, bolting upright as the haunting grip of the dream fades away. It is always the same nightmare, an infinite jumble of hands and threads of fire, as if she is seeing hell itself. Gathering the cotton sheets around her, she notes, unsurprised, Theo has departed again, and, on impulse, Ginny lifts the sheets.
Blood is streaming across the mattress, staining, dazzlingly red, clinging to her thighs, her kneecaps. Her stomach twists, wringing itself out. Ginny faints, and in the morning the sheets are clean and it is as if she was never secretly planning on naming him Gabriel.
The next morning, the Daily Prophet announces Harry Potter's mysterious reappearance in London, and the Burrow is a flurry of welcoming, actions, hugs and stories. Ginny, having not touched a paper in months, pats her cheek with a stark-white napkin, wiping off a smear of butter, and finishes her morning toast quietly.
Ginny dreams of a sixth-year potions class, sees intimidating, tormented Professor Snape bark out the uses of a potion that steams in the textbook's grim illustration. Snape speaks of medieval tortures, scandals, the need to miscarry.
The dungeons are consumed by fire, Ginny sees Professor Snape's hands melt into the fires, and when she tumbles out of her four-poster, she can only recall dreaming of flames.
Ginny cannot think straight. Her thoughts arrive in fragments, nonsensical, and in an effort to clear her mind, she decides to take a stroll by the estate pond. She sits, and feels her mind collapse.
"Je ne peux plus fais ceci."
Paper doll-like, Ginny's spine curves softly, her limbs neatly crumple over the soil, her palms brush the stone, trace the moss, her ankles kiss the glassy surface of the water, her plait unravels and in a moment, ripples pierce the pond gently, blowing rifts into the more-real-than-real reflection of the grey skies.
Two Months Earlier
Ginny sits, legs crossed, in the leather armchair beside the desk. Theo leans against the doorway, and the two engage in a tense staring contest. Her hands are trembling slightly, and she sits on them, giving him a curt nod before rising.
"I'm ready," she whispers, looking anything but.
"To sell your soul to the devil?" he quips dryly, satisfied.
"Basically, yeah," Ginny lets a mirthless smile dart across her mouth.
Theo levels his stare upon her again, burrowing through her, and the floors are nearly shivering with the intensity of the seen, the tension and knowledge that is almost a flood of static in the air between them. Pansy, as planned, apparates at the center of the Persian rug, looking grim and tidy, as always.
Theo steps mechanically into the room and nimbly extends his hand to her, and Ginny takes it, letting her awareness crumple into what lies ahead.
She wraps her fingers around his, tempted to grip hard enough for pain to shoot up his arm, to hurt him as he is about to hurt her, but finally lets her palm sit inertly in his. The tip of Pansy's wand—beech, a foot, a gleaming unicorn hair weaving around its polished handle—is cold against their linked hands.
"Will you," Ginny begins hoarsely, reciting the words that have been beating her thoughts for weeks, "Theodore Nott, to the best of your ability to do so, reveal the location of Harry Potter to Ron and Hermione Weasley and proceed to deliver him to them unharmed?"
"I will," he states, his crisp reply ringing through the thick walls of the room. A thread of fire spits out of Pansy's wand, coiling around their hands.
"Will you," Ginny continues, voice rising, gaining force as she continues, "Proceed to never aid in a recapture of him, and, to the best of your ability, ensure that he continues to live in peace?"
"I will," he grits out, as if the words are venom. A second jet of crimson fire winds around the first.
"Will you, Ginevra Weasley, consent to publicly wed me, and proceed to comply with my every desire?"
The petite infernos knot around their fingers, binding, eternal and inescapable. And Theo brings his wand to point directly between her shut eyes, and as her eyelids flutter, blue irises revealed, he hisses a single word:
A/N: I don't speak french, so forgive me for using the evil of freetranslation. Reviews are precious, even an 'I read it!' would be lovely.