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A Bed Made for One by Sarea Okelani
A Bed Made for One by Sarea Okelani
A Bed Made for One~.~
by Sarea Okelani
Summary: And in the darkness bind them.
We find them in a room not much larger than a prison cell, curled together in a bed made for one. A single candle gutters in and out, casting just enough light for us to see that the room is sparsely furnished and has no windows. We aren't sure, at first, what we're seeing. Maybe we're here to learn again that there isn't always a "just in time." That in life, "just in time" is balanced all too often by "too late." It's a difficult lesson to retain; the brain can't process what the heart, deafened by hope, will not hear.
For a moment I can feel the breath in my lungs compress in fear, in horror, in regret, in relief, and I know that my companions are feeling the same thing. It's been a long journey, and seeing the familiar red-gold hair that spreads over the pillow like blood and half obscures the face of the other occupant in the bed, we know that one way or another, closure has found us tonight.
I can feel Ron shaking beside me, so I approach the bed first. It has to be me if it's not him. I'm her surrogate brother, after all; it wouldn't be right for any of the others to assume this duty. As I get closer and still don't sense movement, I start to think about how I will tell Ron, her parents, the rest of her family.
But the figures in the bed aren't dead, only sleeping.
At last I can see the blankets shift as they breathe. The girl slumbers half on the bed, half on her companion, wearing a faded pink shirt that has seen better days. I can see enough to know the other person is male; unlike Ginny, he's not clothed -- at least from the waist up. The only thing that decorates his skin is her crimson hair, which falls everywhere. His face is in shadow and partially obscured by her fiery locks. The thought runs through my mind that most would find all the hair bothersome; brush the strands away in sleep, perhaps, in an unconscious attempt for relief. But he doesn't, and hasn't.
I reach out to touch her arm gently. She makes a sound of distress as my skin makes contact with hers, and I wonder if it's the roughness of my hands that makes her recoil. She feels alive and warm under my fingertips, and I expel the breath I didn't know I was holding.
Next to me, Ron does the same.
"Ginny," I say. "Ginny, wake up, it's me, Ha--"
A hand with long, hard fingers grasps my wrist. Startled, I drop to my knees to relieve the pressure and stare wide-eyed at the other occupant of the bed, the last person in the world I expected to see. He doesn't seem to recognize me as he rasps, "Don't touch her," but his eyes are like steel.
"What are you doing here?" It's the only thing I can think of to say, though immediately after I can think of a thousand questions to ask about the people who've kept them here. The information could be significant.
His expression doesn't change, but now Ron and the others are demanding that he let me go. Only when Ginny has been hauled out of the bed by her brother does Draco Malfoy let up on my wrist. I pull away, but he doesn't seem to notice anymore.
Ron holds Ginny by the waist, and his stunned expression probably matches mine when he correctly identifies his sister's bed companion. "You," is all he says.
But Malfoy isn't looking at him; he's looking at the girl in Ron's arms.
Her body feels like a doll's next to mine, frail and malleable, the bones too prominent and poking at me through her clothes. I'm surprised she hasn't already collapsed under the weight of the relief that's been bombarded on her from all sides, but then if her presence here proves anything, it's that Ginny is stronger than she looks.
I think I feel the ghost of her hands on my back, but when I pull away her arms are at her sides. She hasn't said a word since she arrived, and even when her mother wept all over her, Ginny's eyes remained dry.
She is so thin the robes she wears hang on her like a little girl in her mother's clothes. We're all thin now, food being a carefully rationed commodity, but she is especially so. I imagine her captors had a difficult enough time keeping themselves fed, much less their prisoners.
Her skin, which has always been pale, seems nearly translucent now, the freckles faded to the point of nonexistence. It's been a long time since she's seen the sun. This and the blue-purple shadows under her eyes lend a peculiar quality she's never possessed before. In fact, Ginny looks more beautiful than I've ever seen her, but I feel so guilty for this thought, when it's the result of her captivity, that I look away.
It's only then that I notice they've brought someone else with her. The shock of seeing Draco Malfoy in our foyer has me stepping back, reaching for my wand, before the rational part of my brain realizes that Harry and the rest of the rescue team are completely at ease, removing their cloaks and talking quietly amongst themselves.
No one sees my reaction except for Malfoy and possibly Ginny, but she's looking around as if she's never seen the inside of 12 Grimmauld Place before, and he doesn't say anything. He's thin too, almost to the point of gauntness, and this should make me feel compassion. Instead I feel an unexpected anger surge in my heart. I deduce from the conversation around us that he was found with Ginny, but it doesn't mean he can be trusted. Especially not him, someone whose father is responsible for the deaths of so many people I loved, someone I never once saw show the least compassion toward another human being, someone who called me 'Mudblood' with hatred and unapologetic loathing dripping from his lips.
I hate Draco Malfoy, I realize. As much as I can hate someone as insignificant as he is, I hate him. In the grand scheme of things, he is nothing and no one. But I hate him for every spiteful comment, every moment of bullying, every cowardly act, and every bit of snobbery, pretentiousness, and malice he ever inflicted on someone else. He doesn't deserve our kindness or our trust. What he deserves is a place by his father's side, but apparently he hasn't lived up to even those expectations.
I stay with Ginny when they are led to the kitchens for a hot meal. She picks at her food under her mother's worried gaze, while Malfoy inhales his like it's his last meal on Earth. I think about warning him to eat slowly, but something keeps me quiet. He wouldn't listen to me anyway, but I know that isn't the reason I don't say anything.
Ginny watches him eat while her fork makes motions on her plate, though it's rarely lifted to her mouth. Her mother tries to engage her in conversation, but Ginny doesn't look at us. I can't decipher her expression as she watches Malfoy, but it makes me wonder what they've been through. I can't imagine being trapped in a room with him for so long, with no relief from his company except for bouts of torture from her captors. The hot tears I feel sting my eyes are for my friend, and I want her to look at me so I can offer her my sympathy, but she doesn't look away from the boy on the other side of the table.
"How long has it been?"
I'm so startled Ginny's finally spoken that I forget to answer. I haven't heard her voice in a long time, but I know it wasn't this small thing that disappeared in the air like traces of smoke. It's only when the silence stretches unnaturally long that I notice Mrs. Weasley has turned her face to the side, crying quietly so that her daughter won't see.
"Seven months," I answer finally.
Ginny doesn't seem to have noticed the pause, and creates one of her own before she murmurs, "It feels a lot longer."
I imagine it does.
Mrs. Weasley gets herself under control, and she notices how Malfoy is shoveling food into his mouth, as a stoker might shovel coal into a boiler. "Dear, you mustn't eat so quickly. Your body isn't accustomed to--"
But it's too late; Malfoy drops his fork and is sick all over the table. Out of instinct, I recoil and push my chair away. I can see out of the corner of my eye that Mrs. Weasley has done the same thing, although she recovers quickly and makes sympathetic sounds as she uses her wand to clean up the mess. Some of it is on his face and on his clothes. I am amazed that Draco Malfoy let himself be sick, and in front of an audience, no less. I can't look away, curious as to what his reaction will be. I hate myself a little for that.
He doesn't look at any of us.
I take out my wand and help Mrs. Weasley clean up, and when we're done I notice that Ginny hasn't moved a single muscle, still staring straight ahead. And she might be just a doll sitting there, except for the tears, one after the other, that roll silently down her cheeks.
During my Hogwarts days, I never had any trouble falling asleep. In fact, it was somewhat of a joke amongst my dorm mates. "If you want Weasley to shut up, just put a pillow next to his head and he'll be unconscious in a heartbeat." But this war has taken more from us than we ever expected, and now sleep eludes me most nights.
Earlier, the decision was made to put Malfoy up for the night in the small attachment next to the kitchen, where the night-duty house-elf lived when the Blacks were still in residence. After some consultation, we decided to charm the lock so it could only be opened from the outside. I wasn't the only one who thought we needed to be cautious about him, at least until we could corroborate his story. Malfoy might have had a truce with my sister while in captivity, but that was circumstance -- circumstance that he might have had a hand in manipulating. After all, he probably learned deception before he learned to walk.
I expected him to complain about the room, but he surprised me by staying silent. He's either acting docile to get us to lower our defenses, or he knows it's exactly what he deserves.
He began to undress perfunctorily, and a sound threatened to escape my throat at the sight of what I had missed before, so focused had I been on Ginny. Thin lines crisscrossed the skin of his arms, his back, his chest. They were innumerable; most were white and healed, but some were red and looked painful. They didn't seem to bother him as he drew on a pair of cotton trousers Mum had dug out from somewhere. They were too big for his thin frame, and he pulled the drawstrings tightly around his waist in an effort to make them fit. He climbed into the single bed and turned his head away.
After I had doused the candles and closed the door behind me, I ran to the nearest toilet, where I dry heaved for several minutes. It was more than seeing the evidence of what they'd done to Malfoy; it was the idea that the same marks of abuse might also adorn my sister's skin.
When we were younger, Ginny and I spent a lot of time playing together. More often than not, I was a brave and daring Auror, and I'd borrow my father's wand to use as a prop when he was immersed in a new Muggle device. Sometimes the twins would play with us, but usually it was just me and Ginny, and I preferred it that way. When it was just the two of us, I was the eldest and made the decisions.
When she complained that she wanted to be the hero once in awhile, I explained that I had to be the hero, and she had to be the person I rescued from evil dark magicians and other forms of harm, because that was the responsibility of big brothers. Ginny always capitulated at this point, and at the time I thought it was because she understood the logic of my reasoning. Now I know different.
She'd been right behind me at the time she'd been taken, or so I had thought. I've relived that moment over and over again, and saved her a thousand times. But never when it mattered.
I had once told my sister that I would protect her, because that's what I was there for. I'd been lying, but I hadn't known it then.
She had, though.
I know because of the total lack of recrimination in her eyes when we found her. I'd have given anything for her to have hit me, or cursed me, or shouted, "Ron, you promised. You promised to keep me safe and you didn't." Instead she looked at me without blame, because she had never expected me to keep that promise in the first place. The knowledge is like tiny splinters of glass in my blood, traveling in my veins and cutting me to ribbons from the inside.
It doesn't help that the waif who returned to us barely resembles the sister I'd lost. They took a girl so full of life that it bubbled out of her in run-on sentences that tripped over each other because she couldn't get them out fast enough. They took her words and took her smile and made her a specter of who she used to be, and I don't know if that girl will ever come back.
And they made a liar out of me.
I want to tell her I'm sorry, but I'm afraid the words will stick in my throat. I want to ask her what happened during the months she's been gone, but I'm afraid of the answer. I want her to ask me to do something for her, anything, but I'm afraid I won't be able to follow through. But I can hold her hand and let her know that if she needs me I'm here, and those aren't things she ever has to ask for.
Hermione's room is dark, but the light from the hallway helps me navigate. Ginny's bed is empty, and I tell myself to stay calm as I gently shake Hermione awake.
"Ron?" Her voice is groggy. "What is it?"
"I'm looking for Ginny," I whisper. "Do you know where she is?"
"Isn't she in bed?" Hermione wears sleepy confusion well. "She said she couldn't sleep, and was going to get a glass of water."
And of course, Ginny's whereabouts are no longer a mystery.
"All right," I say. "Sorry to wake you. Go back to sleep."
Concern still etches her face. "I'll help you look..."
"No, don't worry."
Hermione closes her eyes and lets out a small sigh, sleep folding her in its arms again.
Down the stairs and through the dining hall, the solid walls and thick carpeting masks my solitary journey. Here the rooms are warmer; the heat from the stoves creates a haven during chilly nights. Then my destination is upon me, and I'm not sure why I'm here. My hand is turning the knob before I can decide, and it's only when I can see the two sleepers illuminated by a single lit candle that I know.
Seeing them, I am assured that through all the dark nights, she had someone. It doesn't matter how or why he was there, not if he helped her feel for even one second less alone. And that brings me comfort.
When I left Malfoy he'd been on his back, turned to the opposite wall, but now he's on his stomach, arms outstretched, and I can see his face, unguarded in sleep. My sister drapes him like a haphazard blanket. In sleep, she looks almost like the girl I once knew, and the long tresses she once defended from our mother's shears trail over Malfoy's shoulder. Her left arm covers his, and in this light, her skin looks soft and flawless.
In this light, they aren't scarred at all.
I read once that the ancient Egyptians had fifty words for sand and the Eskimos had a hundred words for snow. I wish I had a thousand words for love, but all that comes to mind is the way you move against me while you sleep and there are no words for that. - Brian Andreas, StoryPeople
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