Death was a strange thing for Ginny. It had been like being pulled away through thousands of needles from the light and ripped open, feeling hundreds of dark beings slip through her body while her life was dimming, fast. With each creature that passed through her, a little more of her hurt, a little more of her died. So much agony, so much pain, only to be shut in the darkness at the end.
But then she had flitted through Ginny, and there was a tiny bit of light that filtered through Ginny's darkness. It was a different kind of light, more of a dark light, yes, but to Ginny, it was light. It was life.
And the woman, she had brought Ginny back, cradled her in her arms and crooned so softly, like Ginny's mother had - the mother who's memory had faded fast. As had everything else, except for the present. Except for Lilith, who held her and spoke gently to her. Ginny felt something was off, but as Lilith explained that she, Ginny, had died and had been saved by her mother, Lilith, everything became clear.
Lilith, or, rather, her mother, had been imprisoned by these beings called Shadowhunters, and a trustworthy brother of Ginny's needed someone pure, someone who was another child of Lilith's, but female, to release their mother. So he chose Ginny to be sacrificed for the Greater Good. Ginny didn't remember consenting to the plan, but, then again, she didn't remember a lot of things. And after seeing how much Lilith adored her and apparently had missed her during her unjust imprisonment, Ginny decided not to question it. What mattered was she was alive and well with her mother.
Now, she and her mother met with a group of warlocks, also Lilith's children, to discuss things that had been defined to Ginny as "mother's work." So many people in one room made Ginny nervous, so she repeatedly braided and unbraided her raven black hair, watching her mother take the place at the head of a long table while everyone else stumbled to find chairs. Even the snakelike man who didn't seem to particularly like her mother. This bothered Ginny.
"Ginny, dear, why don't you sit here?" her mother asked sweetly, waving her hand in an offhand manner to the chair to her right, exactly where the snake-man had been taking his seat. Ginny froze, watching how his red eyes seethed as he stood and pulled out the chair for her. She cautiously sat, thankful that her mother was so powerful and scary.
"Why do we need this child present, again?" he spoke quietly, making his words only that much harder to hear. But her mother had excellent hearing.
"She is going to be the line between your death and your immortality. I suggest you treat her kindly."
Her bored words brought a collective intake of breath from the other people in the room, all of whom were staring with wide eyed at snake-man, who glared angrily at Ginny's mother. Ginny looked down at her braiding, quite uninterested in the proceedings. She really just wanted to sleep instead of sit in this big room with everyone in it.
"What do you mean?" Ginny could tell he was very mad by the way that he spoke. Dark, red patches were on his thin cheeks, which slightly surprised Ginny. She could see his right hand twitching toward his right leg, as if wanting to grab something from his pocket. How strange these people were.
"My daughter, Ginny here, is going into Hogwarts to infiltrate it. There is one thing in there that, once properly prepared, will grant you immortality," Upon saying this, Ginny's mother smiled graciously at her, as if it had all been Ginny's plan, even though she didn't understand what she had said.
"LOOK AT HER!" Snake-man exploded suddenly, throwing his hand up in Ginny's direction, causing everyone, except her mother, to jump in alarm. "SHE'S A SIMPLETON!"
"I reason," he lowered his voice considerably, leaning in towards her mother, "that she doesn't even understand the words that you are saying, or even understands that I'm talking about her."
Something clicked inside of Ginny's mind. They were talking about her. Is that what he really believed? That she was a lame child, unable to think for herself? Anger flooded through Ginny, so much that she actually stood up, throwing her chair back in the process. Everyone's head snapped to her direction in surpise. Everyone except her mother, who just looked at her as if she had done something remarkably mature for her age. But, for once, Ginny didn't care what her mother thought. Her attention was on snake-man and snake-man alone.
"Let me tell you, Tom Riddle," she said through gritted teeth, clenching her hands into fists. "I am no simpleton. I have gone to Hell and back - something your scared arse hasn't been able to do and will never do. You think I don't understand what is being said? Fine. Find some other way to immortality. But you can bet your wand I'm going into Hogwarts and I'm going to get whatever my mother needs, with or without a promise of endless life for you."
Their mouths were wide open, shocked at the speech. But no one was more shocked than Lord Voldemort, who looked like Ginny had slapped him. She sat back in her chair, arms crossed, outwardly burning with hatred, but inwardly being overwhelmed. It had taken that one comment of his to break through the simple, lingering fog of death that had been engulfing Ginny's mind. But it was gone now, and the massive amount of sharp intelligence that was flowing through her mind was staggering, and it took every amount of her willpower to keep the dumbstruck look off her face. No, she needed to look angry.
"Forgive me, my dear," Voldemort said in an overly-sweet voice, regaining his composure. He shot a nervous glance at Lilith and trained his scarlet eyes back on Ginny, planning his next move. "I did not know-"
"Of course you didn't," Ginny snapped, glaring at him reproachfully. "You've never died. You've never had Death keep such a tight grip on your mind."
"And if you have your way, you never will," she finished bitterly, ignoring him. She stopped and looked over his shoulder, lost in thought. All eyes were on her, waiting for her next words, until Lilith decided to interecede.
"Finally," she drawled out, giving Ginny a gloating smile, which confused her. It was almost comical, the way every head in the room turned to Lilith. Ginny grappled with her newfound sharp mind, trying to find a way to access the memories before her death. A handful of strange pictures crossed her mind - a red braid of hair, a lightning bolt, and the flawless face of a pretty brunette with an expression of horror painted across it.
"I thought Death would never let go," Lilith said grandly, standing up to face Ginny, almost victorious. "I knew all it would take is a little push, but I didn't know what-"
"What do you mean you thought Death would never let go?" Ginny asked her, surprise coloring her voice. Voldemort quietly backed away, keeping his scarlet eyes on Ginny as he did so.
"Well, when I brought you back to life you were a little disorientated," Lilth said, frowning, before adding in a motherly tone, "But you're better now."
Ginny took a deep breath and sat back down, rubbing her temples. All of this new thinking room was just extra room for a headache, she thought. She could feel everyone's eyes boring into her, but she didn't care. What she cared about was the three pictures that she had managed to drag out of the darkness of her mind - the hair, the lightning bolt, and the girl. What did they mean?
She had a feeling that all three were, obviously, connected to her past, and, if her hunch was correct, she'd find them in the very place that her mother wished to send her. Sighing, Ginny glanced up and grimaced, noticing that everyone was staring at her.
Still grimacing, she asked her mother, "What is it that you want me to get, again?"
The slow, sadistic smile that spread across her mother's face scared her and, for a moment, Ginny could see why everyone else in the room feared her.
"It's not what, dear," she said, and her free-flowing hair began to whip around more aggressively. "It's who."
Ginny swallowed uncomfortably. Ignoring the stares, she whispered in an unbelievably childish voice one word.
The answer to her question rang a dim bell, and all it did was make Ginny more determined to know more about her past.
As soon as I rounded the next corner and was out of sight of Granger and Dumbledore, I let my temper get the best of me. Swearing in ways that would make a sailor blush, I punched the stone wall of Hogwarts. Of course, after the crack in my knuckle, it was apparent that doing so wasn't the best idea. Still letting out the nasty words, I pulled out my stele and did a quick iratz. I barely winced at the pain from the rune, but groaned in relief at the restructuring of the bones in my hand. No more broken bones there.
A quiet snicker caught my attention and my head snapped up at the sound. In front of me, about a foot above the space of wall that I had assaulted hung a painting of three giggling women. But none of them looked at me. Their attention was focused on the man in the middle of their painting, the one that had laughed at me; the one that obviously hadn't been painted into the painting.
While their colors and style were obviously more of a Renaissance style of painting with dark colors, whereas he was more modern, with sharper edges and brighter colors - more realistic. He didn't belong.
His hair was pitch black, complimenting pale skin. Though he wore the clothing of earlier London fashion, there was a slight bulge to his coat, as if something was on underneath it.
"The name's William," he said, looking down at me with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. The ladies swooned, fanning themselves with their hands. "William Herondale."
The last name triggered something in the back of my mind, but I dismissed it. This warlock painting was of no concern to me. I turned on my heel, heading to the Heads' dormitories, when his next words stopped me in my tracks.
"You might want to be nice to me, Master Malfoy. I'm to be the portrait guarding yours and Miss Granger's rooms."
I took a deep breath and turned back to the painting. He smiled a knowing smile and glanced down at his hand. I followed his eyes and had to struggle to keep the shock from my face.
There, on the back of his hand, was an eye, the rune for Sight. He had a rune on him. He was a Shadowhunter - no, a painting of a Shadowhunter, I corrected myself. And that would mean the "bulge" beneath his clothing would be the Shadowhunter gear.
"Have you always been here?" I asked suspiciously. I would remember if Hogwarts had had any paintings of a Shadowhunter-
"Yes, and I've been spying on you your entire life," he said sarcastically, rolling his eyes. My own narrowed. Either he was sarcastically saying that to mean that no, he hadn't been here before or he was sarcastically saying it as if were obvious that he would've been spying on me from the beginning. I scowled trying to analyze it.
"Oh Angel. No, I was recently put here to guard your room," he said in exasperation, seeing the look on my face. I shrugged and turned once more to walk away when another voice stopped me. Well, one that wasn't in a painting.
"Hawth- Malfoy!" Styx yelled from down the hall. He and Cece were running now to catch up to me and I waited, studiously ignoring Herondale's stare. They reached me, Styx gasping, Cece not gasping.
"You will not believe what hap-"
"Shut. Up." Cece hissed through clenched teeth, glaring warningly at Styx. He glanced at her with a snide grin and said, "Or what? You'll give me a concussion too?"
That started it.
"What he said was completely uncalled for and-"
"You shouldn't have attacked him-"
"You should've stayed out of it-"
"You need to learn to control your temper and-"
"You need to learn to control you Charge," I chose this moment to interfere because, although I was sure that Cece did, in fact, need to learn to control her temper, it was more important for Styx to learn to assist her in her journey to anger management. After all, that was the whole point of her being his Charge.
"Control his-" Cece began indignantly, but was cut off by the portrait of William Herondale, who was chuckling at the argument before him. I exhaled sharply and took the two by the arms, pulling them down the hall. The painting followed eagerly, walking through different portraits to keep up with us.
"Who's he?" Styx said in a low voice, casting the painting a confused glance.
"Sir William Herondale at your service," the painting said cheerfully, giving Styx a knowing smile. I looked back at Styx and saw an expression of familiarity cross his face - so I wasn't the only one to recognize the name.
"Why, you're a Shadow-"
"The Heads' rooms are straight up this staircase," Herondale said loudly, pointing to a set of spiralling stairs before he opened a door in the painting he had just walked through and disappeared. We stood there for a moment, then began walking up the stairs.
"He's a Shadowhunter, isn't he?" Cece stage-whispered, not even changing the pace of her breathing as we continued to climb the stairs.
"No," I cut Styx off sharply, not even bothering to look back at the two. "He's a painting of a Shadowhunter."
"He's a painting of William Herondale-"
"No," Cece said in mock surprise, interrupting Styx. "And I thought he was lying about his name!"
"You don't understand," Styx explained angrily before continuing quickly, "He's a painting of the Shadowhunter William Herondale."
I froze mid-step, causing both Styx and Cece to walk right into me, but I ignored it. William Herondale. The first Shadowhunter ever to openly defy the Vampiric Law of relationships between Shadowhunters and vampires.
"Er, Hawthorne, can we get a move on? There's a bathroom in that dormitory that has my name on it," Styx said, giving me a push on the back. Wordlessly, I started walking, my mind spinning.
Why in the world would a painting of William Herondale be stationed to guard mine and Granger's rooms?
"Ah, glad to see you found the place," Herondale himself said as we finally reached the top of the stairs, only to find a portrait where the door should have been. I looked at him in a new light, respect and disgust simaltaneously rising. Respect because he embraced a life of running for love. Disgust because that love had been for a vampire.
"Care to set a password?" he asked uncertainly, waiting for me to speak. I swallowed and, a few seconds later, said, "Responsibility."
Well, there you have the next chapter. Not the best, I know, but - trust me - everything is leading up to the big event near the end. I'm just placing the dots before they become connected soooooooo be patient :) And thank you so much for reading this far into my story and thank you even more so to those that have left me a review! It warms my heart knowing that y'all have been enjoying Suck It Up and I hope y'all continue to enjoy it!