The scene looked like something out of a Muggle horror flick. No trace of the earlier celebrations remained; people were running in all directions, shrieking and colliding into each other like the plebeians they were. And above it all hung, glittering bright green and rising slowly in the sky, a ghastly facsimile of the human skull with a serpentine tongue and black caverns for eyes: the Dark Mark.
All my fellows have long since gone, fleeing from the sight of our Lord's sign. Quickly I shed my cloak and mask and vanished them with a quick spell. The Weasley fool and his fellow Muggle-lovers would be tied up for a while yet, but it was best to be safe.
A small figure ran into me with a slight squeak and fell back. I looked down at the distasteful creature. Flaming red hair, ragged and patched robes, a smattering of freckles across the bridge of the nose and cheekbones. Ginny Weasley.
She had grown. And not merely physically, either. No longer the meek little girl to whom I gave my master's school diary, this Ginny Weasley blinked up at me, dazed. Her face fairly flowed with expressions. Confusion. Recognition. Shock. A grimace, close and drawn. It settled at last on a dark scowl.
'Where is Arthur?' she snapped.
'Up there worshipping the Muggles, no doubt,' I said languidly, waving a vague hand at the spot where we last left the Robertses. 'Filthy blood traitor that he is.'
'How dare you!' she spat, springing up to attack me. Evidentially, blind Gryffindor courage ran strong in her.
I caught Ginny by the wrist and dragged her into the forest to my right. 'How rash you have grown in the months since my Lord left you,' I whispered into her ear.
She stopped struggling immediately. The screams in the world outside were muffled by the trees now. I released her; she did not move. There was fear in her dark eyes, and something not quite alive. Good, I thought. She could still feel fear.
'Tell me,' I said. 'What did Tom Riddle do to you?' I wanted to watch her break. I wanted her to shatter. 'He was quite fond of you, you know. Such a sweet, naïve little fool.'
Ginny slammed me bodily against a tree, her hands already going to work on my garments. 'I am not naïve,' she said lowly. The expensive silk of my robe rent; I didn't care, for her cold hands were already moving on. 'Your master saw to that.' She jerked her hand roughly. I hissed and balled my fists.
She finished it deftly. I leaned back against the tree, shaking. If anyone should stumble through the woods here, they would have seen us clearly under the green light from the Dark Mark. Not that it mattered.
Quickly I returned the favour, watching as Ginny closed her eyes and bit her lip in pleasure, the scowl never leaving her face. I wondered then just what Riddle did do to her.
I left her kneeling by the tree as I mended my clothes with a flick of my wand. 'Brilliant, darling,' I drawled, handing her a piece of parchment. 'Do drop me an owl some time.'
She pocketed it without a word.