I'm having difficulty with Final Riddles.
First is the lack of inspiration. So I reread the previous chapters I've published, and found them to be lackluster. I feel like Ginny recovered too quickly, again.
I don't want to rewrite the story again, because God knows I'll never finish it that way. I guess I'll just continue along that vein and bear it through, but for now – something else.
Enjoy, and please review!
Their foreheads are touching. The words are whispered into her lips, which are only a breath away from his.
She feels a thundering heartbeat in their intertwined hands.
Where else could she go?
Her nights are hot.
But not like summer's sticky heat. This fire claws and screams, hammering against her ribcage and gnawing on her flesh.
When her eyes open from a restless slumber, the first thing she sees is the color of anguish.
The color doesn't fade out entirely by the time the sun sets again and the fire starts to simmer back into her lungs before it swallows her whole.
She's been colored blind by a combination of despair and desperation – and a little bit of last minute spite.
"Hello." Her voice is smooth, sweet. "What's your name?"
"Roy, and this is Matilda."
She nods, exhaling slowly. "I'm Ginny. You wouldn't have happened to see a dark-haired boy named Tom, would you?"
"I thought not. Thanks anyways."
There's more than one color in her world when her mind retires to its dream state and her body churns in agitation. There are shapes here, too. And voices.
Sometimes they're angry. Most of the time, they're loud and they deafen her.
But tonight, they're quiet, and they're sad.
For her, the aria that plays marches to a rhythm of acceptance and good-bye kisses.
This song is no war cry.
But neither is it a lullaby.
The glass is cool and calming to touch, and it clashes horribly with the drums of battle that pound relentlessly in her heart.
She presses her hands flat against the glass, and it slides easily to the left.
There's something different in this compartment, she muses as her eyelids flutter shut. A sharp, spicy sort of aroma that stands out from the musky scents that surround, and she instinctively takes a step back, repulsion lining some corner of her heart.
Her lips part to speak the recited words, but it takes a little more effort to push them out – and when they do tumble from her mouth, they come out chapped. "Hello," she says. "What's your name?"
She knows the answer before she hears it, but still her stomach wrenches when he speaks. "Tom."
"I'm Ginny," she introduces. And now, new words: "Do you mind if I sit here? Everywhere else is full."
Time skips a beat and it's silent, before she crosses the compartment threshold and seats herself opposite the boy, staring vaguely outside the window. Beneath her, the train rumbles to an ugly chant that echoes hollowly in her mind: they're dead, they're gone. they're dead, they're gone. they're dead, they're gone…
"Haven't you got a trunk?"
She looks up towards the boy. "I don't own anything to pack."
The train takes on a new chant.
you're dead, you're gone. you're dead, you're gone. you're dead, you're gone. you're dead, you're gone…
Something nudges her, nibbling at her throat. Do something.
She doesn't. She sits still. She doesn't know what to do.
She can barely function on her own, and not even.
The rhythm begins to deviate on itself.
you're dead, they're gone. they're gone, you're gone. they're dead, you're gone…
"You're a first year," he observes, maybe from the lack of a house badge on her secondhand school uniform.
"Yes," she says. Then, to be polite, she asks, "Are you?"
She doesn't need to see his nod to know that he is. She's about to return to her windows before that itch nibbles her again, commanding her to speak. "Are you nervous about Hogwarts?"
"No," he answers stoutly.
The corners of her lips twitch upwards. It's a small smile, and not one with much mirth in it – she doesn't remember how to smile one of those happy smiles. But she's amused, dimly, by his pride and stubbornness. "I don't believe you."
"I'm not nervous," he insists, and his tone of voice has been knocked down a couple notes into something of a sustained growl, as if daring her to contradict him once more. He's just as angry and temperamental as she imagined he'd be, and only eleven years old – not yet old enough to control his fury into the calculated coldness he'd later master. "Like you'd know anything about me. Why don't you speak for yourself instead?"
She pulls away from his gaze and looks to the floor. "I'm petrified," she admits.
A somewhat uncomfortable silence settles afterwards on Tom's part, but Ginny is too distracted to consider the texture of the atmosphere. She decides she likes his open anger and his immaturity – it makes him seem less like Lord Voldemort and more like a boy. Maybe he is more mature than others his age, and better at masking over his emotions than most when his pride wasn't involved.
But he is, now, still entirely human, and that gives her a feeling she's rather unaccustomed to.
Once upon a time, she might've labeled that feeling as hope.
The doors of the Great Hall stand proudly before her when some twisted form of inspiration strikes.
She had climbed into the boats and back out with much difficulty, some coaxing, and a couple of hands as a few of her future classmates tittered about her obvious fear of water.
Their laughter didn't sting her in the least. At any rate, it wasn't the water she was terrified of, but she wasn't about to correct anyone when she sat in the boat, eyes clenched shut as the boat cradled from side to side while everyone else gasped at the sight of an illuminated castle rising from the fog.
Behind closed lids, she imagined the scene everyone else was witnessing. It was the best she could do as she gripped the edge of her seat.
"Tom," she suddenly whispers under her breath as the deputy headmaster concluded his introductory speech about houses and house points. "Can you promise me something?"
"What?" There's a base line of irritation humming behind his tone that she detects.
"They say – they say that some houses make enemies of other houses." The hall doors groan slightly, but they don't budge. She needs this promise before the doors open and they march towards the Sorting Hat. Hurriedly, she says, "Promise me you won't hate me, no matter what houses we're sorted into."
He doesn't answer, perhaps surprised by the strange request.
One final groan from the doors before the hinges give way and admit them entrance to the Great Hall.
As the cluster of first years begin to parade down the aisle, Ginny whispers, "Please. You're the only person I know."
Footsteps stop. They've reached the stool the hat perches upon.
"I don't know you well, but I know enough to say honestly that I don't want you to hate me."
The first name is called.
"Because I'd like to get to know you more."
A table erupts into cheers as another name is called, and a first year scampers away.
"I know that I – "
"Fine. I won't hate you, just stop talking," he mutters, almost drowned out by the roars and applause from the table beside them.
She smiles that broken smile of hers. "Deal."
From above, a familiar voice speaks an almost-familiar name. "Clearmonte, Ginny!"
The oversized hat slips forward and covers her eyes and ears when it's placed on her head just as before, and she's tense just as she was before – but this time, for a different reason.
Ginny Weasley… the hat ponders. Well, well, well. See how much you've changed.
Yes, she had changed.
You used to love life fiercer than any other lion.
Waking up painted the color of ash on the Chamber floor taught her to love life. To treasure it.
Not so anymore….
Watching others being painted the color of ash stripped the joys of living away.
Maybe you'll remember your old flavor. Better be…
She smiles numbly and walks towards the cheering table.
She dreams of green eyes.
Someone catches her wrist, and she turns around. Green eyes are watching her.
She hesitates, but she can't find her voice.
He can't do this.
"I can't. I have to try."
Her smile is decidedly forlorn.
"It'll be all right. You won't even miss me."
She feels his presence beside her. "Hello, Tom."
It's been two months since the start of term. Another couple of months of restless slumber.
"Congratulations on Slytherin, by the way. It's a good house. I think it suits you."
Reaching out, she places her palm over the feather that lies limply on her desk. She didn't have the chance to talk to him since the Sorting. She's always the first one in class, and he never chose to sit by her until today. And neither one ever sought each other's company alone.
"Thank you. Congratulations on Gryffindor," he offers.
She smiles politely, running a finger down the edge of the feather as an unsettled whisper nestles in the cavity of her chest. It's the crawling disease she's come to associate with the sharp scent that was his aura.
"You're quite talented, you know," he says boldly. "No one else can pick up a new spell as quickly as you."
She shakes her head, shifting slightly in her seat. She didn't think that he paid such close attention to her; she hadn't accounted for him figuring out her. Wasn't it supposed to be the other way around?
"That's not true," she disagrees. "You're always the first one to get it."
"But you always get it on the first try," he persists. "You just don't try until other people have already gotten the spell right. How do you do it?"
Ginny hesitates. "I listen," she says finally. "I listen to what people do right and what people do wrong, and then I taste the syllables for myself before I speak them."
That wouldn't be the first lie she's told him.
"It doesn't help me very much in Potions, though."
"Potions is just following directions."
She shrugs and rolls the handle of her wand around in her fingers. "Maybe."
"It'll be all right. You won't even miss me. That's the beauty of it, isn't it?"
Green eyes are frozen.
"No. That's the problematic part of it."
His grip on her tightens, and her heart tightens with it.
I've always wanted to write a nonlinear piece, and this is my first experiment with it. It's rough, I know, but any and all feedback is very much appreciated. Reviews are a beautiful motivation for continuing x) Leave it signed, and I'll do my best to respond!