If you stared at the floorboards long enough, Ginny was sure, they shifted, ever-so-slightly. As she watched the shadows writhed, squirming between maple planks.
It was soothing, in a way, for Grimmauld Place was a jumble of eerie, sinister magic. Ginny would never have admitted it, but there was a part of her which felt a bit too comfortable around the Dark Magic.
Even she wasn't fool enough to think she'd be a Death Eater—the thought of Tom made her murderous, and she dreamt of Harry's victory—but Ginny had tasted a bit of Dark Magic at eleven, and it had left her curious.
It was strange, being at Grimmauld Place again. Surreal, really. Two summers ago her whole family had been there, and Harry and Hermione had arrived, as well as Lupin, Tonks, and numerous others.
Ginny rolled over in her bed, immensely glad that she didn't have Sirius' room. Of course, being trapped in his house, somehow under Dumbledore's protection still, plucked her heartstrings violently. Blaise Zabini, strangely enough, had been assigned to Sirius' room.
Zabini's presence made the summer even stranger. One thing at Order Headquarters remained the same: Ginny was not to receive much, or any, she felt, information. Zabini was suddenly at the table one morning when Ginny stumbled down to breakfast, and though she managed to hear whispers of 'turning from the Dark Lord' and 'fortune' she wasn't too sure what the boy was doing here.
Out of sheer irritation—why, was she, again, shacked up here while the others were out saving the world?—Ginny had observed him, wanting to know Zabini's story.
She attributed this to curiosity born of boredom, of course.
The first time Ginny could remember even seeing Zabini was at Slughorn's dreadful lunch on the train, at the beginning of her fifth year, and she'd caught glimpses of him at the parties which followed. She blinked, suddenly realizing she was a sixth-year, while astounded at how long ago that train ride seemed.
Would there be another train ride to school?
If you stared at the walls long enough, they seemed to quake, shrinking, darting, growing and closing in.
Ginny sighed. It seemed petulant, almost, to desperately miss the soft smoke of the Hogwarts Express when war was erupting around her, but she couldn't quite discard the thought. Ginny blinked, distracted, and brought her mind back to Zabini.
They'd spoken once, and the conversation hadn't been informative, Ginny thought with a frown, considering it had consisted of three words, two of them hers.
Zabini was no chatterbox, but Ginny suspected six years in Slytherin—and an upbringing at the hands of possible Death Eaters—infused one with a certain caution.
She didn't know much about him, really. He was in Slytherin. His mother was notorious for attracting successful men with a suspicious tendency to die young. His skin was supple but for a thin, jagged scar that ran from his jaw to the edge of his eyelid.
And sometimes she caught him scrutinizing her the way she did him, and Ginny was always first to look away.
If you stared at the ceiling long enough, Ginny was sure, the tangles of writhing shadow would weave upwards, as if lacing the inside of a pyramid, of concentric ceilings that rose far, far into the night, from the most surreal house in London.
Ginny walked like a woman with secrets, as if every footfall was to cover some past shame. He recognized her careful, somehow intimidating gait because his mother had walked the same way.
What are you hiding? Blaise longed to ask.
His first morning at Grimmauld Place he had sat in the kitchen, subtly examining every corner of the eerie Ginny Weasley, a cautious fifth-year with more tact than half the Order and her family's garish hair.
Truth be told, her bright curls were plaited in the same way his mother's had been. She was a reminder of the past, and he hated it. Hated her for it.
Ginny Weasley, Blaise had found, was as restless as he was. It was the ribbons that proved it. There were bright, different colours, and seemed even more vivid in the dusty lighting of the crumbling house. Satin strips wound through her braid, tied in elaborate knots at her neck, a pretty, simple necklace. Of course, Ginny appeared to be as simple, but Blaise saw something more complex within her, a grotesque coiling of something.
He knew she had somehow unleashed the legendary 'Monster of Slytherin' in his second year; Draco Malfoy couldn't keep a secret, and most definitely not with the chance to brag about his father. He wondered what it indicated, an eleven-year-old somehow letting loose something so distinctly dark—there had been speculation in the hiss of Slytherin's dorms, of course: was Ginny simply a lonely, pathetic maniac? Was she a powerful dark sorceress, vying for power?
Essentially the same rumors that had flown about when Potter had been thought to be The Heir. Apparently Slytherin had all the ambition without the innovation.
Whatever had happened, a girl this obviously determined—or deranged, perhaps? They hardly spoke two words to each other, after all—was something to consider, Blaise thought. Not the average Weasley.
Blaise considered this as they sat down to dinner. He observed her, and everyone who he encountered in this strange Headquarters, out of sheer boredom and Slytherin instinct. Observation is information is always useful, Blaise had always thought.
The ribbons were tiny bits of color, and Blaise had an unnerving urge to see how they would shine in sunlight not filtered through the grimy windows. He knew she was going as stir-crazy as he was; Ginny, too, casts longing glances at the doors, the windows, even the salad, wistfully. He was trapped, and Blaise was near ready to ask Ginny, the only other one confined (willingly, as Molly Weasley enjoyed running the house) to Headquarters, if she knew where a way out was. Forget danger at the hand of Voldemort, boredom would kill him before anything else here.
At dinner, Blaise popped sweet peas into his mouth as Ginny argued fiercely with her mother over his head. He listened as she raged about 'house-arrest' and being 'stuck, helpless, and ready to jump ship', unimpressed, though it was nice to know he wasn't alone.
Letting the screaming match fade into the background, Blaise couldn't help but be fascinated by the strip of cloth, intense against skin that was paler everyday, though Blaise didn't know if that was from the ceaseless, palpable absence of light, or the sheer feeling of uselessness, and he felt, again, the urge to reach out.
To reach out and touch the satin, a loose loop at the nape of her neck, gleaming in the candlelight like a hangman's rope (Blaise dreamed of Voldemort and the walls of Grimmauld Place burning with streams of infinite green, the same soft, petulant green of the ribbon strung above her collarbone just so), black and deceptively subtle against milky skin, freckles peeking even there, everywhere, like the light will be-
Blaise wrapped his fingers coolly around the stem of a tarnished goblet and looked away when Ginny's fingers toyed with the frayed edges of the ribbon.
Ginny knew what people thought of Tom.
Dark was the murmur, the king of all the shadow, commanding death, avoiding death, flinging a smothering despair over the world with magic as black as his soul.
Ginny felt that, if nothing else, Tom knew how to construct a reputation. He was no dark lord, no emissary of evil. Tom Riddle, Ginny knew, had touched darkness and scuttled away from it, burrowing away like the delusional coward he was.
Ginny arched her wand towards the candle at the window, fire erupting in a puff at the top, illuminating the butterbeer caps upon the windowsill. Charms had been put in place so that her wand wouldn't trigger Ministry alarms—though she hoped they were busy with matters larger than underage magic. Ginny idly waved her hand over the warm flame, watching the light seep between her knuckles. Her hands were parched, the knuckles chalky and the fingernails bitten to the quick. She took an odd pleasure in letting them wither like this, as if emptying her frustration by letting her palms become as worn as the house.
Her thoughts drifted to Blaise's hands. Blaise's previously luxe life was obvious; it was as if a strip of supple, buttery flesh had simply been sculpted into his long fingers. Ginny was often tempted to run her jagged thumbnail against his smooth knuckles, to see contrast.
The door screeched as it swung open and Blaise himself walked in, footsteps loud against the silence between them. Ginny's eyes snagged over those (seductive) fingers reflected in the dusty glass, but she didn't move, waiting as he came to stand beside her, until those fingertips were drumming upon the rough mahogany of the sill, shadows fallings long over the floorboards.
Suddenly tense, Ginny fiddled with the cobalt ribbon wound over her wrist, waiting. Speak, she willed him, tell me how we ended up here, how it is you and I are so alone, remaining still while the world whirs beyond us.
She gasped, feeling the loneliness sharpen around her, as if being next to someone else, so near but never ever touching, being so perpetually distant from everything, was choking her. Ginny felt an impulse to wrap her arms around him, to be enveloped in the sheer force that was another person, and, quelling it, she settled for placing her fingers over his, under the pretense of stilling the movement.
His hand was hot beneath hers, and she wished, for a moment, that he was Harry, that he was any he who would crush her frosty skin against his.
Ginny sighed, wincing as the isolation intensified, letting her eyes fall on the web of slim cracks in the window, lit by the citrine fire, the scene so blurred in the crumpled glass that she couldn't distinguish where her skin became his.
Blaise had found the much-needed confirmation that he'd chosen the right side.
Muggles obviously had something right, he decided, his thumb slipping against the thick glass of the Smirnoff bottle. Yes, old Voldemort couldn't be allowed to win if it meant destroying lovely things like this.
"I think you've had enough," Ginny said wryly, though she was watching him with a grim amusement. Blaise felt distantly shamed that the redhead could drink him under the table, as he was watching the walls blur and she was watching him watch them fade and sink into the filmy shadows of the room.
"Might as well have more than enough," Blaise muttered, "Celebrate leaving this nightmare."
"I'll drink to that," Ginny agreed, clinking her bottle against his, with an odd, relieved smile.
"'Course, we're being pushed out of the frying pan and into the fire," Blaise continued, a petulant edge to his voice. He was tempted to continue the conversation they'd finished a few hours ago, a tense, short talk which had gone like so:
"A kamikaze mission, I'm honoured."
"It's not suicidal."
"Fine, it's pointless."
"It'll help the Order."
"To do what?"
"Win this war."
"What happens if we win?"
"…look, do you want this assignment or not?"
Blaise idly stared as a gleaming spider scuttled around the corners of the ceiling, looking like a tangle of ink flying around the battered ceilings. That screeching about this house being 'the most ancient' was more than believable.
Not suicidal. It wasn't suicidal at all to be sent to hunt out what Blaise knew was an absurdly dark artifact. He was sorely disappointed in this mess of do-gooders. The Order of the Phoenix was lucky its reputation was so intimidating.
He looked back at Ginny, who looked as strained as he felt. Her skin was horrendously pale, making the freckles vivid, and her blinding ringlets tumbled over her shoulders in a chaotic way. She had donned a frayed cotton nightgown, obviously a hand-me-down that was too big, as the neckline hung over her shoulder, which Blaise noted bore an odd scar.
He thought she looked much too young to be about to embark on a (suicidal) mission against one of the biggest lunatics of their time.
"What happens if we win?" Blaise asked her quietly, curiously.
"Well, first we go to a lot of fancy banquets and whatnot, and find it all disgusting," Ginny teased, "Then we'll all drift into our own lovely sanctuaries, worry-free."
Her eyes had fluttered closed while she spoke, and Blaise frowned.
"You can't really believe that," Blaise chided her, "There'll always be worries."
"I know that," Ginny said slowly, suddenly flushed with a quiet rage, "Don't you think I know that? Know that we're not going to come out of this war in one piece, Blaise? We're suffocating in this madhouse, air is thinning right before us, and we're never going to get our happily ever after no matter what happens next, Blaise, I know it doesn't vanish. We'll never be foolish enough to survive, I know that.
Even through his vodka-induced haze, Blaise saw Ginny quivering, petite fists clenched, despair manifesting like hot smoke and shadow through her.
"Blaise," she murmured, tumbling onto her knees before him, "I know I don't want to know any of that anymore."
Ginny threw the last of the tangy drink over parched lips and slammed her mouth against his, tasting acid and stifled formality, wrapping her wrists over his neck, her spine clacking against the ancient floor as their bodies tip over, his ankles sharp against her slipping elbows, limbs like a flurry of new paucity, and an excruciating, exquisite fervor pillowing between them.
A/N: The first four of seven pieces written for 7spells on livejournal. Reviews, even an 'I read it' would be lovely.