Disclaimer – I own nothing of the HP books or whatever associated, blada blada blada, you know the drill…
This has been long overdue. It was just so hard to get this chapter out – you'll see why when you read it. I just finished typing this up, and I feel more than a tad depressed.
But I also feel a little excited…
Chapter 14 - A Never-Ending Line
'Lelocules, what are you doing?!' Voldemort demanded.
Ginny could tell from the tone and clipped shortness of the hisses that something was wrong. She didn't understand parseltongue, but the atmosphere between master and creature was something like she'd never seen before. Unless it was out hunting, the basilisk had always moved with slow grace. Now it was winding quickly, almost drunkenly around the Chamber, trying to locate them.
Lelocules was silent as it lunged toward them.
Ginny didn't have time to scream before Voldemort took her hand and moved both of them out of the way, escaping the basilisk just in time. "What is wrong with him?!" Ginny demanded, following the creature with her eyes.
Voldemort scowled. 'Lelocules!' he hissed, loudly. 'I am your master! Stay straight!'
Lelocules straightened, but only long enough to answer shortly, its hisses coming out in shallow, concentrated breaths, its voice as focused and undeterred as its mind. 'You are not my master. My Lord is not here. He instructs me to kill you. I shall do his bidding.' Lelocules wasn't listening to Voldemort, but it was obvious that the snake had heard its former master. It used the sound of the hisses to verify his location, and, once again, lunged.
A wave of disbelief at what his son had done passed over the Dark Lord, but he didn't have time to properly react to it. The basilisk was coming at him again. Voldemort cursed softly before firing a flaming jinx at the snake.
Though he temporarily slowed Lelocules now, the move made the situation that much worse. All this time, Lelocules had been acting on orders. Now it was just an injured animal. An injured animal was sure to lash out at whoever harmed it and anyone around them; orders from its Master be damned. The basilisk stood erect, writhing from the searing heat of the attack, before straightening and lashing out.
The Dark Lord tried to hit his old friend with a stunning spell in an effort to render him immobile, but the fervently writhing snake luckily whipped out of the way at the last second.
"I…" Hermione started to get up. "I have to go help them fight."
Hermione and Charlotte looked up in surprise at Tom. He was staring into an ashen fireplace at the other side of the room, expression unreadable. "No," he repeated. He turned to Hermione. "Go get your… Friend… Back. He's going to need his mask." When Hermione only stared at him in confusion, Tom gave her an earnest, but impatient look. "Bring him back before he joins the battle! Go!"
Hermione scrambled up. She lightly squeezed her daughter's hand and kissed the girl's forehead before moving. As she passed him, she reached out to touch her godson's arm, but his icy stoniness stopped her from doing much else. A part of her wanted to talk to him now, but there was a battle going on. She firmly told herself that there would be time later, and she shot Charlotte a significant look before leaving the room, shutting the door behind her.
Charlotte was sitting with her legs tucked beneath her and her head against the wall in the corner of the room. She looked cautiously toward Tom. Her mind fighting off the curse she'd been hit with, her eyes widened and she straightened, looking him over. "You're okay!" she exclaimed, breathlessly. She got up, her legs shaking under her weight. "What happened?"
All of a sudden, Tom was in front of her, supporting her as he gently pushed her back into a sitting position. "I just ordered a snake to kill my father," he told her. His grasp on her hand was firm and steady. He sounded disbelieving to his own ears.
Charlotte stared at him for a second. "You can speak to snakes," she finally said.
Tom seemed to snap out of a daze and he met her eyes. "Yes," he responded. There was a pregnant silence for a second. "Does that bother you?"
Charlotte didn't respond right away, but when she finally did, her best friend could find no indication that she was lying. "No," she said, giving him a small smile. "You'll always be you, no matter how many languages you speak."
The statement caught him off guard, and Tom laughed, and dry as it was, the girl across him took some comfort in the fact that it was a laugh nonetheless. "It doesn't bother you that I ordered a snake to kill my own father?" Tom asked.
Charlotte stopped short. "You were in danger, right?" she asked after a second.
Tom frowned. "No."
Charlotte bit at her lip for a second. "You had no other choice."
Tom looked away, silent as he pondered this. "I… Had other choices. But you probably wouldn't have liked them very much."
Charlotte gulped. "What were they?"
As soon as Charlotte asked, Tom suddenly remembered the white hot pain that engulfed him, spreading all over his body… Starting at one point. "Damn," Tom muttered, flexing his left arm. "Damn."
Charlotte, knowing something was horribly, horribly wrong, followed Tom's gaze to his left hand, which was entwined in her hands. Praying that what she suspected wasn't so, she let her fingers move up to the cuffs of his shirt. Before she could undo the buttons, she realized that the sleeve was ripped. She followed the tear, her heart pounding faster and faster, as she neared his forearm. Though she'd been expecting it, the Dark Mark made her start and flinch away a little. "You didn't ask for it," she suddenly said. She looked up at him, her eyes troubled. "Did it hurt?"
Tom smirked. "No," he lied.
As expected, Charlotte saw through him. But before she could move to hug him, the door burst open and Hermione walked in, followed closely by an impatient-looking Severus.
"What?" Severus demanded, keeping his eyes firmly on Tom.
Tom's face broke into a scowl before he got up and turned to face the other Slytherin. "Put your mask on. Go back out there, and tell your little friends that the Dark Lord is ordering everyone to retreat."
Severus gave the younger man an incredulous look. "I can't - "
"I know they listen to you, and I know you were the one who brought me to him!" Tom snapped.
Severus stopped short when he suddenly realized that the younger man's sky blue eyes were starting to darken considerably. He narrowed his eyes. "What the hell happened down there?" he asked, his voice growing soft.
Tom ignored him. Verbero echoed through the dark corners of his mind, and he frowned, trying to figure out what it meant. Verbero a voice whispered. Suddenly, he realized that Snape had spoken and he brought himself back to reality. "After you dropped me off, you stayed there," Tom continued. "The Dark Lord has made a change in plans, and now everyone is to be out of the castle within two minutes. Take no hostages. Then you alone will return here at 10:00pm tonight."
Tom felt himself grow angrier. Verbero the voice hissed, more insistently. Tom suddenly recognized the voice as the one that told him not to obey Voldemort under the Imperius. He had been helpful then, so… The word came out an inaudible hiss. 'Verbero.'
Severus suddenly doubled over, clutching his left arm.
Tom froze, almost taking a step back. He forced down the vile that rose at the back of his throat. 'Did I do that?' "Go," he repeated.
Severus looked at him in shock. Hermione had her hands clasped over her mouth. Tom did not want to turn around to see how Charlotte was reacting.
Tom swallowed inwardly. "I'm not going to ask you again, Snape," he said, his voice even. 'Verbero.'
Severus let out a soft curse beneath his breath, trying to hide his pain, before wandlessly summoning his mask to him from where it had fallen. He pulled it on before wordlessly leaving the room.
The two minutes were filled with tense, thick silence. Tom knew that his godmother was horrified – all he'd have to do was turn and look at her, and he'd probably see it in her eyes. But he couldn't tear his eyes away from the empty, gray fireplace. Two feet behind him, Charlotte was still and silent as stone.
Tom forced himself to ignore both women and lose himself in his plans. He wasn't entirely sure what he was doing, but little by little, the pieces were falling into place. Six horcruxes plus one man. Two horcruxes dead, one man about to die. Four chances of the Dark Lord coming back. Any one of his followers, any one of them who knew where these four pieces were, could simply pick one up and bring him back.
How would he stop them? How could he stop them?
He couldn't simply order the Death Eaters to leave the Horcruxes be.
Lelocules was starting to destroy the Chamber. Carvings, pillars and statues crumbled and fell when he slammed into them in panicked in its blindness and pain.
Ginny found herself staying close to her husband as they weaved around, dodging the falling stones and the snake itself. Their spells either kept missing or just didn't last long.
Suddenly, Voldemort pushed Ginny into an alcove, sliding in after her, pressing close to her in the small space. "Don't move. Don't breathe," he hissed, softly, following the giant beast with his red-tinted eyes. "It can't hear us over the fallings stones, but it might still pick us up." Then he turned to the woman he was pressed against and smirked twistedly. "Are you proud of your son, my Lady? Look what he has done."
It took Ginny a moment to understand. Slowly, she turned to look at the basilisk and inhaled sharply. "No," she quickly denied. "Tom couldn't - "
"Why not?!" Voldemort snapped. "He can speak the language. Lelocules told me of his orders. He meant to murder me."
Ginny swallowed, but her temper flared. "Like father, like son," she recited, almost flippantly. She looked into his eyes challengingly.
Voldemort reacted quite differently than the redhead was expecting. He actually smirked down at her. "We'll see," he muttered softly. Suddenly, he reached out and gently trailed her jaw with the back of his fingers.
"What are you doing?" Ginny whispered, following his hand out of the corner of her eye.
Voldemort smirked before leaning forward and biting her lower lip in a twisted version of a kiss. His hand slid down her throat to the base of her neck. Suddenly, he pulled out her locket. "Let's leave this out for a while," he said, almost nonchalantly.
"What are you doing?" Ginny said, again.
"We'll just let Lelocules tire himself out," Voldemort replied, smoothly. He looked her over. "What shall I do with you while I wait?"
Ginny pressed her back against the wall behind her, trying to put as much room between her and the Dark Lord as possible. "Don't touch me."
Voldemort chuckled. "Dear, my Lady," he muttered, moving his hand back up to cup her jaw. "What will I do with you when all of this is done?" He suddenly pushed her against the wall, holding her still with his own body. "If I kept him alive, how much could I barter out of you? What would you do to keep me from engulfing him darkness? What would you give up to keep me from hurting your little boy?" He moved his lips to her ear, and let go of her jaw to bury his hand in her hair. "What would you do for me then? How far could I push you?"
Ginny's face twisted a little and her lower lip trembled against Voldemort's shoulder. "You are disgusting," she spat. Suddenly, the Dark Lord tore out a whole lock of her hair and Ginny screamed against the sudden stinging pain.
Her scream was loud enough to catch the basilisk's attention.
Lelocules shot toward the sound, and crashed its massive head against wall their alcove was in. The snake and the falling stone bricks caught the Dark Lord and his wife off guard.
Voldemort reacted first. His wand was in his hand. He raised it, and got one syllable out. The snake heard the first "Av." At "ra," it knew where its old master was. Before the Dark Lord got to the second word of the deadly curse, Lelocules struck.
Ginny screamed and stumbled back a few steps when Lelocules snapped forward and buried its upper fangs into Voldemort's chest.
"It's been two minutes," Tom suddenly said. He didn't turn to look at his godmother, but his words were obviously directed at her. "Go and take care of any injured students."
Hermione stared at him for half a second before robotically leaving the room, too stunned to do much else. When the door closed behind her, Tom flicked his wand at it, securely locking it, before turning around to face Charlotte.
Charlotte was still sitting against the wall. She looked up at him with an expectant expression, the kind she always gave him whenever he'd try to explain his way out of facing her wrath after lying to her, or cheating on a game, or upsetting her…
"I'm leaving," Tom said, looking down at her. "If need be, I'll take the damn seventh year tests a year early, but I can't stay here anymore. I have to find his horcruxes. I can't let the Order go by it themselves anymore. Everything's changed." He paused, before continuing, his controlled voice almost shaking. "And I'm going to go about it in a way that you will hate me for."
Charlotte was quiet. Instead of saying anything, she held out a hand.
Tom looked down at her and steeled himself, giving her the coldest expression he could muster. "I can't let you convince me to stay," he said, harshly.
"I know." Charlotte's response threw Tom and he looked at her in shock. "I can never even get you to change your mind about the littlest things, Tom," she said, smiling, a little tearful. "But I can come with you."
Tom started to tell her not to be stupid, to stay put at the castle. But the words didn't come out. Instead, he found himself reaching out and taking the hand she offered before he pulled her up off the ground and into his arms.
They all stood motionless for a second. Suddenly, a green light erupted from the Dark Lord's wand and hit the basilisk. Lelocules was limp when Voldemort pushed the fangs out of his chest and let the snake's giant head drop to the ground. But even as he did this, it was obvious it was too late. The unimaginable amount of blood that was pouring out of his wounds was already stained black with the venom. Venom that was no doubt in his lungs, his heart, his veins… He collapsed to his knees before falling forward.
A force of something more powerful than magic and matter hit Ginny like a ton of bricks. She took one step forward before crumbling to her knees beside him, suddenly blinded by an onslaught of tears as memories – real and solid as if she had travelled back in time – tore through her mind and heart, leaving her as hurt and weak as her husband was a foot away from her.
Ginny's best friend, her boyfriend killed here by venom. By his own monster. By his own goals. And now, he was dying again. In the exact same way. By his own monster; by his own goals. It was all happening again.
Voldemort must have realized this, as well. "In circles lay my weakness," he recited. He looked up at Ginny and reached up, grasping her weakly by her neck and pulling her toward him. His crimson eyes were bloodshot now, and they were the last things Ginny saw before she kissed him. The Dark Lord was having trouble breathing now, and even though there should have been a million things running through his head, his mind was blank. He held the shuddering, sobbing form of his wife in his arms and suddenly thought to himself of what he'd just done by tearing her hair. Hurting her had led to this…
The Dark Lord finally turned to Ginny, and held her shoulders. He could barely hold her; his grip was so lose. "Ginevra," he said, shaking her lightly. She raised her own blood-shot, tear-filled eyes to her own. In an uncharacteristic move, he wiped away a drop that fell from her lashes. "I can't let you go."
Ginny didn't reply right away. Her eyes fluttered in confusion. "It hurts," she finally whispered, laying her forehead against his shoulder. "Why can't I differentiate between the two of you? I can't... It hurts so much…" Her voice cracked on a sob. Something suddenly occurred to her. "Why are you so calm?"
Voldemort pressed his lips against Ginny's. The last time he'd kiss her. At least, like this. With his last breath, he told her, "Wait for me, my Lady."
Ginny didn't have the time to wonder what he meant. She felt her husband's life leave the body in her arms. She suddenly felt her locket grow hot. Hellishly hot. The chain began to move and contract around her neck. Voldemort's last words came back to her. 'Wait for me, my Lady.' What did he mean?
Suddenly, the locket was choking her. The air cut off from her lungs, Ginny gasped and fell forward against her husband's still chest. Her vision was starting to blur. Her world was starting to darken.
Once again, Ginny fell into the blinding whiteness of death. This time, she welcomed it.
This time, Ginny knew she would wake up in Tom's arms. This time, she would stay there.
And that is the "end" of Circles… But if the name of this last chapter was any hint – a sequel will be posted soon.
There's one thing I need to talk about: Severus. A few people asked why I made him go good again. It made perfect sense for him to be evil; why did seeing his daughter make him do a flip? … I'll admit it – I was planning on keeping him evil. But rereading this fic, I realized that there were, like, zero good fathers. Arthur and family left Ginny after her pregnancy, and he only showed up off-stage for a few lines. I didn't want to portray this whole group as a bunch of jerks in this fic. Someone had to do a 180 and, at least, try at the father role. So, I chose Severus. … But he'll still be a jerk. And don't worry, I haven't forgiven him for what he did to Charlotte and Hermione, so, here's hoping that he will suffer greatly at the hands of his son-in-law in Arcs.
A random fact I'd like to throw out you at this point is that, in the last few months, something that has really caught my interest is: Necromancy.
I've been writing my own story (nothing HP-related - I actually hope to get this published in the next two years!) and it's about religion. Whilst researching a few things in paganism about necromancy and bringing people back from the dead, this Plot Basilisk (trust me, it is no bunny…) attacked me.
So the plotline of Arcs was kind of given away in the chapter, but here it is again:
- After some necromancy and getting his father's approval, Tom III will now be taking Voldemort's place at the head of the Dark Side, in an attempt to manipulate the Death Eaters into showing him where the horcruxes are. So that he could properly destroy them… But then Tom II tells his son what he could do to bring him back, using the horcruxes.
- Ginny's with her beloved best friend/husband, Tom, in heaven. But living with him isn't as heavenly as it seemed… Now, she'll have to (once again) deal with some of his more negative traits.
- Tom and Ginny's relationship in heaven has its ups and downs, but then they start noticing something… Something's wrong with Ginny's death. Her spirit seems to be fading.
- Seriously, can a seventeen-year-old lead an army of dark, murderous wizards without touching the darkness himself? How could his mother save him when she herself is fading away in heaven? What could his father do?
So that's Arcs… Coming soon.
Finally, last but not least, I would like to thank all my reviewers. There are too many regulars to name, one by one, but I honestly to God, love you all. You made me keep going. Thank you.