Summary: "I rather like having you down here. Like Persephone." Ginny and Tom, told in five parts.
U N D E R W O R L D
The cold pressed her into the stones like the shadow she was. Imprisoned by ink and scales and old bindings. Strange flashes, events, were fragmented in her memory… but she was a book, and how could books have memories? She was parchment, a page, a canvas, the ghost of old words fleeting across her mind, the black patterns writhing in her veins, emanating through her skin,
… have my devotion… bound body and blood and soul… if you are willing…
Her heart. Pulsing. And beneath that, another echo, another heartbeat, close and intimate in the darkness. Invasive. Curled up within herself, she listened to the steady rhythm. Fainter. Then stronger again.
Why could she not move? Why could she not remember?
The air shivered damply against her icy skin. Slowly, dragging herself up from the cloying, watery depths, Ginny opened her eyes.
She could hardly see. A wash of green light flickered across her weakening vision. Coiling tendrils of mist creeping along the floor, the walls, the yawning stone ceiling. The chamber long and dim, the light bleeding from its shadowy edges. And beneath the towering statue of Salazar Slytherin, the three of them, in stasis - two living and one dying. Slowly, memory emerged through the dense veils that clogged the atmosphere of her mind.
Without seeing, she was acutely aware of Tom standing in the aureole of iridescent mist, felt the quickening throb of his returning heartbeat, his every inhalation that stole the breath from her lungs. He was inside her, everywhere, a part of her very being. She knew it because the moment she ceased to know it, she would die.
Wet and bloody, his robes torn, Harry stumbled weakly towards her, the great sword dragging along the ground at his side, leaving a trail of smoking blood in its wake. In the shadows, something lay coiled and massive behind him, something serpentine and monstrous.
Tom was staring at him, slender hands curled into fists at his sides. "You killed my Basilisk." And suddenly, he was a sixteen year-old boy again, agitated and tense, the colour high in his pale cheeks. "Do you know how long those take to grow to full size?"
The sword fell to the ground with a clatter of metal that echoed resoundingly off the ancient walls. Harry dropped to his knees beside her, his hands slick with blood and water, shaking her limp form. Ginny saw him through a blur of mist and darkness. She tried to reach out to him, but her hands would not obey her mind. They were Tom's now.
Harry's painfully familiar face close to hers. Pale, bleeding, desperate. Faintly, she saw his lips move, disturbing the still green air. Fight, Ginny. Fight.
But she had been fighting for so long. She was just so tired, so weak -
And so cold -
"Ginny, please -"
That quiet voice spoke again. Cool, refined, educated, twisting its way into her soul. She felt it reverberate through the caverns of her dying heart. "You're wasting your time, Harry Potter. She knows she's mine."
"No," whispered Harry.
"Don't pretend you care about her. If it weren't for her stupidity, I would not be here."
Harry turned his head quickly, black hair whipping against his face. "You - " he snarled. "You did this to her -"
"I took nothing that she didn't offer me willingly. If she chooses to give away her soul so carelessly, who am I to refuse it?"
Tom came closer, smiling. She could only watch through blurred eyes, immobile and helpless, as he sat beside her, long legs stretching out before him. Cool fingers sliding under her cheek, turning her face towards him. She whimpered and he hushed her, his exhalation of breath deceptively soothing against her chilled skin. Her world narrowed to dark eyes, skin pale as fever and hair black as ink. Spilling into the corners of her vision. In the vague, distant background, Harry's image was blurring, becoming fainter, while Tom was becoming ever more clearer.
"You see how completely I've possessed her?" he murmured absently, fingers caressing gentle circles around her pallid brow. She was so weak his fingertips left bruises. "Not that it was hard… she always was a useless little nobody, barely any personality to take over. But a blank slate was all I needed." He sighed. "I am grateful to her for that, at least."
Harry was speaking from somewhere very far away, his voice echoing strangely… no, Harry, don't leave me here, please don't leave me… Fingers worn to bone clutched at empty air. She needed to find him. She needed to find him or she would die.
… where are you?
You don't need to worry about Harry. She felt Tom's smile curve against her bones. He was cradling her limp body in his lap. Long fingers stroked through her damp red hair that spilled like ruptured virginal blood over the deep black of his robes. It's just us now. Isn't that what you wanted?
Numbness, everywhere. Darkness thicker than blood pooled in her eyes. She swayed and swayed, faintness overcoming her. And the cold, deeper and more piercing than anything she had ever known, was inside her -
Her head fell back against the stone. Inky blackness overcame her, like a rush of water through her heart and lungs, and then there was nothing but silence.
November 11th, 1992
Dear Tom, I was having the most horrible dream
I'm starting to forget it now I'm awake. But I remember it was dark. And I was so cold, colder than I've ever been. And I - I think I was dying, Tom, I
You sound healthy enough to me.
But all this stuff that's been happening at school - remember I told you how I blacked out at Halloween? And I'm not sleeping properly… I've started keeping you under my pillow at night because I feel like I can't sleep without you close to me… I've just got an awful feeling and I know that Percy's watching me
Such hysteria after one bad dream? I never thought you a coward, Ginevra.
Don't you ever have nightmares, Tom?
I am paper and ink. It's hardly an affliction I suffer from. But I can help you sleep, if you want. Would you like me to?
I can do many things, Ginevra. I'm not like others, remember? But you'll learn that soon enough. Now listen to me very carefully. Hold your quill over the page, just… there. Close your eyes. I need you to trust me. You do trust me, don't you?
Good. Then do exactly as I tell you…
Frozen in the stone dark, a fragile virgin sleeping in a enchanted coffin. Silence. The echo of water. Drip. Sonorous. Stirring life into her empty bones. Her pulse beating through the stillness.
Warmth rushed into her heart and her eyes flew open. She inhaled sharply. The air was cold and damp. Each breath a knife through her ribs. The world appeared to her slowly through an tourmaline-washed veil. Watery light, green and coalescing. And shimmering -
Her fragile hand reached out -
The blood surged warm in her veins. She watched it flow in fine traceries (dark blue - the colour of ink) beneath the skin of her outstretched wrist, half-fascinated… oh, but she was still delirious… in this enveloping, languorous daze, she could remember nothing after Harry threw the sword aside and knelt beside her, bleeding and determined -
Harry - Harry had saved her -
She tried to stand and a wave of dizziness overcame her. Emerald mist blurred into eddying stone and she staggered. Cool hands steadied her. A shudder of cold wracked her body. The flesh along her arms prickled strangely.
"So you're awake," said Tom. "I thought you really were gone for a moment."
Ginny gave a faint cry that echoed off the cavernous walls. The surrounding mist dispelled slightly and through a green web of colour she saw -
An unveiling. Eyes studying her, dark and curious. His mouth like a knife's blade. He looked youthful and lovely in the lambent glow, dangerously, brilliantly alive. He reached out to touch her hair but she flinched away.
"Oh, don't be such a child," he said impatiently. "You're alive, aren't you?"
Horror gripped her insides. She stumbled away from him, retreating until her back hit slick stone. The fog was dissipating from her mind and blind fear had taken over. She curled her arms around her weakened legs, shaking. She could feel the pulse pounding in her head (where his fingers had caressed her oh-so-gently). The green and shadowy world pressed in around her. This could not be real, he could not be real. Not like this. Not alive.
She tried to move her lips. They were almost frozen. "I thought I was going to die."
He smiled. "Did you?"
Tom wandered across the chamber, idly examining an outstretched hand that gleamed ghostly-pale, though he was so much more than a ghost, this living flesh and blood boy. "It would have been easier, I suppose. But I think it's better this way. If a phoenix can be reborn, why not you?"
"Why me?" The words left her in a hoarse whisper.
"I might tell you, one day." She could hear the curving smile in his words. "But not now."
Another shudder of cold wracked her body; she looked wildly around for some means of escape, for a bird (there had been a bird, she was sure of it), for Harry, for something -
Nothing greeted her eyes but emptiness and silence. They had all gone, left her to die down here, just as Tom had said they would (after all, why would anyone risk their lives for someone as pathetic and useless as you?)
"Where's Harry?" she demanded. Her frail shoulders stiffened with reawakened energy. If you've hurt him -
"He's alive. For now."
"Because he's not ready to die yet. I'm not ready to kill him. I thought I was… but I'm not. I'm barely corporeal. I have no wand to call my own. When I do it, it has to mean something. I have to use him. Or at least use what he will bring me. His death - the moment of killing him… and that sword."
Ginny stared at him. "You mean he escaped." And - for a brief, shining moment - a burst of triumph flared in her heart.
Tom clenched a long-fingered hand. Quiet, assured, deadly. "He'll come to me eventually."
"I'll escape too -"
"You can't," he said simply.
She clenched her fists stubbornly. I can. I will. I fought you for a year and I'm not dead. I'll get away somehow -
"Try," he said.
Ginny didn't need telling twice. She ran.
Splashing through the icy water, sodden robes clinging to her trembling legs… If only she didn't feel so weak… The gallery of monstrous snakes leered down at her with immobile eyes. The stone walls melting and dripping, streaming into shallow channels that swirled and eddied around her in confusion. She choked in horror as she stumbled over discarded sheathes of snakeskin that curled at her feet, scaled and enormous. Blood was pooling in the dank water, thick and sanguine and cold -
The entrance, slick and dark, loomed before her. Unhesitating, she plunged into the blackness, across the circular threshold and -
The deepest flash of emerald green burned her eyes. A sensation of tendrils spreading through her chest, paper and ink knotting into her flesh. Sinking in between her ribs. She doubled over, gritting her teeth against the pain. It was like dying all over again. She was too cold, it hurt too much -
She gasped for air -
"Did you really think it would be that easy?"
Ginny put a shaking hand against the wall. Slowly, she turned back to face Tom. Tall, slender and dark-haired, he had not moved from where the liquid light masked him in an eerie halo.
She looked up at him through watering eyes. Her chest was burning with cold. "Why am I - what have you done to me?"
He looked at her thoughtfully. "You still don't realise how much a part of me you've become, do you? Did you think that surrendering your soul comes without consequences? That ties so strong can be severed? There is too much of me under your skin, too much of you that answers to me. So if I wish you to stay here… you'll stay. After all, I'm the only one who understands the beating heart of this place."
Despair was a cold weight inside her chest. No - Harry, my family… they'll come here - they'll find me -
"They would not dare."
He approached her easily, light and graceful in his schoolboy's uniform, and even now, knowing what he was (who he was) a part of her ached for that nearness, the memory of cruel solace.
"I suppose you should thank me." A gentle hand on her shoulder. "After all, I have given your life meaning, kept you from death. All I ask for in return, is obedience."
If she could have killed him then, she would have. But she was only a child of eleven without a wand, and he -
The words came to her, black and fluid, etching themselves into her heart. I'm not like others. I am so much more…
His cold eyes met hers. "Make yourself comfortable, Ginevra. You'll be here a while."