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A/N: Dear Reader, in this chapter I’ve taken some very obvious liberties with the content. Despite the vast sea of spells, potions and sometimes-foolish wand waving that JK explored in her writing, certain aspects of certain kinds of magic were purposely left unrevealed. She knows in her own writer’s mind how the following bit happens, but she has very intentionally not told her reading audience and I respect that.
While I always meant to stay as canon as I could with this particular tale, because of the hidden nature of the magic I’m about to explore, I’ve had to get creative. But because she welcomes other writers to play around in her world through fan fiction, I am sure that JK – and you – will forgive the liberties I take, and hopefully will appreciate my own distinctive interpretation.
BB


Chapter 4:
They had taken her body away, and without it Myrtle felt horrible alone. It had been a tie to what had happened, evidence – real and impossible to ignore – that she was in fact, dead. Able to look upon the waxy expression of her own corpse, Myrtle had no choice but to accept the unacceptable. She was gone, ended. But, with her body away, Myrtle’s ghosthood became suddenly very real. She wasn’t just ended, she was ending. Always ending, a continual course of some strange unnatural half existence.

“Not fair,” she muttered to herself, staring at the floor. Not fair that her feet no longer touched the ground. Not fair that she could not cup water in her hands to quench a thirst that she’d died with; a thirst that apparently she would for the rest of her non-existence be now plagued with. It was not fair that they had not seen her, those who had come for her body and left with her body and spared not a real look for the ghost left behind. It was not fair, that the longer she stayed within the confines of the bathroom, the more she remembered. Of her death, inane details that at the time hadn’t matter a wit but now seemed to matter so much.

She would not get away from the scent of mold, for it had been in her nose when she died and was there still. She felt chilled, and had felt chilled before she had died, her tatty school robe not nearly enough to clothe out the damp of too much stone and laughter. She had been before death, just a little bit hungry, and wondered now if she would ever feel full again.

And there was the emptiness, the great black emptiness with its own weight and its cold and its own scent. The absence of her mortality. Gone-gone-gone and never ever coming back, a mortal coil that would now forever be out of reach, a strand of life not cut, but rather pulled from between her little girl hands.

If hours passed, Myrtle did not feel them. Time (though she was mostly unaware of it) could not blanket the dead the way it did the living. It’s burden was lifted from her the moment her life had been snuffed out, and so evening sunk deeper into night, and while the bitter spider fingers of midnight, then two a.m., then three caresses sleeping persons with active blood in their veins, Myrtle did not connect to the passing hours.

What she thought about in those first few desperate and alone hours is a jumble. To look on those thoughts now is to see their reflections in muddy water, the wind of circumstance and choice blowing ripples across their surfaces. You might catch a glimpse of sorrow, the kind you cannot fathom while you draw breath, and you might see anger, blessed warmth in so much murk and cold.

Confusion could glint like a fleck of gray and disorientation makes all those ripples small, hardly stirring at all. You won’t see much that you’ll understand, but you might see something you recognize later, for this one all-too slow night did more to shape and spur on the girl-ghost than perhaps anything that had happened before.

Oh how terrible it is, to think that even with all the many unhappiness’ Myrtle suffered in life, it this first evening of death that made her a most troubled and regrettable soul. Yes, yes she certainly had been a pathetic and dreary person to begin with, but now, as night submitted willingly to morning, a lover of midnight bones rolling over to embrace her partner of morning flesh, Myrtle was becoming something more than what she had been while alive.

And perhaps it was this aspect, this sliding suckling transformation of an unfettered soul that drew a girl’s killer back to the scene of the crime. The bathroom door creaked open, and a spell of privacy was caste. He knew he was damn fool to do to it here, in this place. But where else could be more sacred, hold more ceremony? Even if he himself had not performed the final act, his hand had been behind it. And it had happened here: right…yes, right here. Tom Riddle understood the importance of places.

So he took out the journal with all due care. He swung his school robe away from his trim shoulders, and arranged it on the damp floor. He locked the door with a magic of his own making and conjured the seven candles he’d prepared, tall white pillars, unburned and untouched.

His fine hands with their nimble fingers were more efficient than gentle as he set the journal aside, rose and lit the candles, placing each one until a ring surrounded him. He did not notice the girl peering over the top of the toilet stall, and if she sniffed, or her icy breath caught at the site of his young haughty face, he took no notice. Myrtle had not existed for him in life except to fill a need, which could have been served by anyone in the right time and place. She did not existence now for him in death, so she watched while he worked and the boy was none the wiser for it.

As for Myrtle, her hands unable to grip the edge of the stall wall, her face unable to blush, she only had one thought and it was this: He knows I’m dead and he’s come to mourn me. Beautiful Tom Riddle. He’s the most lucky thing to ever happen to me.

In the jerky flickers of candle-light, and the smoky shadows of the wee hours, Tom Riddle – for perhaps the first time in anyone’s recent memory – actually looked like the boy he was. The smearing of light and shadow rendered the youth a hollow looking thing, all pale skin pulled just a bit too tightly across bone. The mouth, usually so lush and impertinent now seemed petulant and swollen. And his eyes, almost shallowly set into the skull, look wide and bloodshot.

Myrtle saw none of that though. She could only tip her head to the side and love the way his smooth motionless dark hair cupped his skull. She rather liked how very uniform his body was, as tall as it was broad, one arm no longer than the other. He wore his second hand clothes as if they were new and his prefect badge was always so shiny and bright, like a winking star.

It is not uncommon for girls of any sort to find themselves swayed by a person of great haugher, and Tom Riddle had that in spades; not just an affectation but an ugly kind of determined glamour he never completely shed. Even here, in this alone place with his blood trembling in his veins and sweat beading along his spine, he did possess an undeniable surety. It flared like black lightening in his dark eyes, and Myrtle was not mistaken, when she took the slight up turning of his prettily cruel as an expression of pleasure. He was pleased, immensely and obscenely pleased.

From the pocket of his slacks, Tom withdrew a bit of chalk, and stepping outside his circle of robe and candles, begin marking on the floor. The pattern of damp titles chipped at the chalk, and more than once did the boy carefully retrace over his rune-work, digging the chalk lines deep into the grooves of the bathroom floor if he had to, to make sure his circle was unbroken.

To Myrtle it looked as if he played at some silly sort of magic game, the kind she might have amused herself with as a stripling girl, tucked away from her parents, solitarily occupied in some cramped space of her choosing, where a little wand flourishing and bits of make-believe words could wrought upon her what nature and circumstance had not: beauty, a desire to laugh, to run and play and be careless and accepted.

But Tom played at no game. From his other pocket he withdrew a square of parchment, which he stared at for a moment. Myrtle leaned forward of the top of her stall, squeaking when hands that alive might have held her in place, sunk through the wood, setting her off balance to float nearly horizontally. She cursed, and floundered.
Tom’s head snapped up, his eyes went wide and his whole body tensed. “I’m alone,” he said. “I’m the only one here.”

Myrtle froze too, having gained a little equilibrium. She had not the heart to correct her Tom, and it didn’t matter a fig anyway figuring there was no seeing her to begin with. She just waited, and he waited and after a moment there was an audible sigh (his, not her, for ghosts have no need of air in the lungs) and activity resumed.

He unfolded the parchment and was very mechanical as he double checked the chalk work, the lines looking more gray than white against the damp black stone floor. He sank down onto his haunches at one point; nose nearly level with the floor as he looked from his notations to the floor, than back to his notations. Finally satisfied though, he stood up briskly, refolded the parchment and moved to put it in his pocket. 

Myrtle, having given up the pretence of hiding in her stall, drifted to the darkest corner she could, where she huddled and sniffed, watching Tom intently. This was the strangest sort of thing she’d ever seen done for a dead person, she thought as the boy cocked his head to the side. He regarded the square of paper in his hand, almost as if he were having a silent conversation with it. His expression changed, one from calculation to decision, and suddenly he tossed the paper into the air, drew out his wand in a sinuous gesture and faster than Myrtle could blink, the parchment burst into fast orange flames before drifting down in smoldering bits to land on the robe.

Tom stepped over the candles to quickly stamp out the burning confetti and Myrtle felt her mouth pull as if to grin, for he looked very silly and very young, stomping every which way to keep his school robe from getting burned. As it was, Myrtle could see a hole in the wool where Tom had missed a corner piece near the collar, and she thought with an indulgent sigh, that if she were still alive she might have pointed it out to him. He would have thanked her, for everyone knew he was very fastidious about his appearance, and then Myrtle – because she was a good thinker when properly motivated – would have used a bit of witty magic to set the robe aright and oh but that would have been a good opening for a conversation and smiles.

Myrtle swallowed, her hand unthinkingly rubbing at her chest. It was too late now, she thought liltingly. To late for conversation or witty magic or his smiles. That, like everything else, wasn’t fair and what could a ghost do about that? Nothing, because ghosts – or at least Myrtle as a ghost – could do nothing. Who said death was any different than life? “I wasn’t anything then,” she said, knowing she had only herself to hear it. “I’m still nothing. Nothing and none at all.”

When he started speaking, she looked up. In one hand he held the journal, carefully balanced, and in the other he gripped his wand. His eyes were closed softly and he spoke softly, as if telling a story in whispers. Myrtle found herself leaning forward, for Tom Riddle had a strange sort of voice, like velvet and razors, young but so very sure,  and was also eerie as well as captivating.

He spoke and the things he said – horrible slippery hissing things – set such a tremor in Myrtle that she fell back away, deep into her corner and as he carried on, voice growing louder, she crouched tighter and tighter into herself. Something, a slowly sliding something that she couldn’t quite remember, seemed familiar about those words, the odd little made-up language. She could not understand what he said, but she recognized the things he said and oh the fear it set in her. Myrtle shook, tucked into her corner. She shook and knew fear and it was nothing like the fear of being dead. This was something more… Something worse.

What happened next, the dead girl did not witness. Even if she had seen what Tom was about to do, she could not have explained it, for such magic for the moral soul is vulgar and heinous, and if you understand what it means to love, to have courage and faith than you cannot understand this, which is the better for you.

Even Mrytle, who was in life naturally shut-off, introverted and waspish, could hardly stomach as a mere shade of her former self, to remain in that space with him, while Tom Riddle chanted, and performed his terribly ceremony.

The candles flickered. The words wore on. The magic thickened.
It gathered, a cloud invisible and yet audible and it was the whine of a thousand mosquitoes, the thready pulse of a dying heart and a shriek of broken hope.

To look on the boy was to see the physical evidence of the darkness he gathered too him. It was on his face, and if you thought his expression – swollen mouth open, eyes wide and unseeing, cheeks flushed and brow pinched – was one of pleasure than you would be wrong, for the agonized cry that tore through the boy’s body was one of such impossible intensity it could not be contained in any sound. Pain such as that cannot be heard, it can only be felt and Myrtle and Tom felt it indeed, silenced by it’s horror, striven in two by it’s purpose, forever changed by it’s result.

The boy’s body arched up, as if pulled on invisible strings and he stood on tip-toe, and his frame bucked, arms jerking. The journal fell to the floor with a thud, barely discernable over the whine and wind of dark-magic and he screamed. He screamed and he screamed and he screamed: silent and bound forever and Myrtle could not even look at him, for she was afraid of what he had done, and she was ashamed because she did not want to save him from it, she only wanted to survive it.

Then the magic was done, it’s worked achieved.

The boy fell to the floor. His head bounced against the hard stone, and his wand rolled from his flung hand, as his grip was loosened by his unconscious mind. He breathed shallowly and Myrtle went still, her eyes held shut, her body bent.

And in the silence, there could be heard a rustling and if boy or girl had been able to look, they would have turned their attention to the journal, which lay open, it’s blank pages flipping slowly, one by one: stirred by a wind that was not there.

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