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Road Not Taken by Mare
Prologue by Mare
Thank you so much to Immortal Phoenix and elyaeru for their help with this.
Ginevra Molly Weasley was a woman of action. She considered herself fair in rendering judgement, and though she was quick to temper, she was also quick to defend her family and those who could not defend themselves.
She didn’t indulge those who were unduly harsh on helpless people; she was a champion for the helpless. When it came to her own life and relationships, however, she was always second-guessing her choices. That was a holdover from her first year at Hogwarts.
Never again, she promised herself after that year, would she be controlled or made to feel helpless. She made easy, sensible choices; she became what everyone expected her to be. This didn’t make her weak or incapable. She was simply embracing her role in life.
Therefore, in the summer after her fifth year, she squared her shoulders and sequestered herself inside The Burrow while her brothers went off to war. She chose to tend to the garden and help her mum with the laundry rather than put up a fight. It was, after all, the way of things. Just as Harry — dear, sweet, love-of-her-life Harry — asked her to, she waited for him to fulfil his destiny and come back to her.
When Nymphadora Tonks and Remus Lupin announced their impending nuptials, Ginny squealed with delight and latched onto the bride-to-be, much like the Harpy who had sighted its prey. As the weeks went by with no word from the Trio, Ginny desperately needed a task that would keep her fully occupied.
She even found herself tolerating Fleur, much to her own chagrin. They helped the over-worked Auror plan what would be a small but tasteful affair. People came and went to greet the happy bride and groom – mostly familiar faces from the Order. Ginny had gladly accepted the role of Chief Bridesmaid.
“You look smashing, Tonks. Or should I call you ‘Lupin’ now?” Ginny winked at the glowing bride as the guests mingled after the short ceremony. The long, ivory coloured dress was strapless and showed off Tonks’ milky white skin. The dress had belonged to her mother, Andromeda Tonks.
“I couldn’t have done all this without you, Ginny. You’ve been amazing.” Ginny blushed under the words of praise.
“You know I was glad to do it; women stick together and all that.”
She excused herself so that Tonks and Lupin could make their way around the yard, speaking to their assembled well-wishers. Ginny made her way to the edge of the scene, taking a moment to collect her thoughts. Tonks had insisted that the wedding be held in her parents’ garden. It was late October and the leaves were bright colours of orange and red. It only served to remind her that she should be at Hogwarts, worrying about grades and Quidditch.
A slight breeze ruffled the hem of her thin dress, the same one she had worn to Bill and Fleur’s wedding that summer. She would never know which twist of fate made her look up, but just then but her eyes turned upwards towards the house. They gazed up at a window on the second floor, overlooking the garden.
The drapes were pulled back and someone was observing the festivities from inside. She might not have recognised him from so far away, if not for the fact that she had only ever seen one bloodline in the entire wizarding world with that shade of blond hair.
Furious, she forced her eyes back to the ground. Why in the world is he here? Ginny desperately wanted to know.
What was his purpose? Did Andromeda and Ted know that he was inside their house at that very moment? Was it a conscious act to harbour Dumbledore’s murderer or was he sent there to cause trouble for his cousin? All of these questions and more raced through her mind as she tried to decide who she could take this information to.
Very slowly and deliberately she made her way to the direction of the back door, trying not to draw attention to herself. She had almost made it too when she was waylaid by Andromeda Tonks herself, who was blocking the path to the back door.
“Could I help you with something, Ginevra?”
Ginny scrutinised the older woman’s face. Andromeda Tonks was gifted with classical beauty, dark hair and high cheekbones that reminded Ginny painfully of another Black. Andromeda’s stance was rigid and told Ginny enough to know that she was hiding something inside her house that she didn’t want to be discovered.
“You’ve a lovely home, Mrs. Tonks. I don’t mean to impose but I really must find the loo.”
“Of course, I’ll escort you inside.”
Now Ginny was sure that she was hiding something, and even more desperate to get inside unescorted. Andromeda studied her with piercing brown eyes and Ginny forced herself not to fidget.
“Oh no, that won’t be necessary. I don’t want to be any trouble.”
There. Ginny didn’t want to be too forceful but she wouldn’t leave the matter alone until she investigated. She only hoped the older woman was keen enough to deduce the double meaning in her words. She seemed to think on it for a minute before stepping aside with a brief nod.
Once Ginny was inside, she quickly bypassed the loo she knew was on the first floor and headed straight for the stairs. There was only one row of rooms that ran along the backside of the house and Ginny was sure the one she needed was at the end of the short hallway. The door was closed, of course. She took a moment to catch her breath. If she was right, and Draco Malfoy was on the other side of the door, she would need to catch him quickly before he could run or hide.
She needn’t have feared. After a quick Alohamora she pushed open the door, her wand raised, only to discover he was still standing in the same place beside the window. He gave no indication that her presence there bothered him in the least. Still, she was on her guard and watched him for the slightest sign of movement. His back was to her and his arms were crossed casually over his chest. It nearly startled her when he started to speak in little more than a whisper.
“My father raised me to believe that my estranged branch of the family tree were little more than dragon dung on the bottom of his boot.” His voice was toneless and devoid of emotion in a way that frightened her for some reason but she was too caught up in her own anger to think on it for long.
“So you’ve suddenly had a change of heart, have you? Come to wish the bride and groom a happy life together? You’ll have to forgive me if I find that hard to believe, Malfoy.”
He turned to face her then and Ginny couldn’t hold back the gasp that escaped her throat. What she couldn’t have seen from so far away down in the yard was glaringly obvious when standing so close to him. Large yellow and purple bruises covered his once-pale skin. There was a deep gash running the length of the left side of his face, from his hairline to his chin, and it looked freshly healed.
“My father always did have a twisted way of showing his affection.”
Deep mercury pools of pain and anger stared back at her. She found herself at a loss for words. It was a short leap of logic to discern his reason for hiding here. For she was sure now that he was in hiding, and this was in fact not a sinister plot by the Death Eaters to incapacitate so many Order members at once.
“You’re hiding from them.”
It was a statement, not a question, and he didn’t deign to answer it as one. He only continued to stare at her as if he had all day and nothing else to do, which, she guessed, he didn’t, since he was cooped up there and forced to hide from all the guests.
“You won’t tell anyone you found me here.”
Furious, the arm holding her wand, which had become lax upon seeing his mangled features, pointed towards him once more. What unnerved her, even more than his cool demeanour, was the fact that somehow he had known how to read her so completely. He obviously wasn’t a threat and she had no right to be poking around in the Tonks’ private affairs. That didn’t mean she had to like it.
“There are at least a dozen Aurors down there that would love to capture you. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t have them all storm up here right now.”
The whole scene was surreal; him standing there so unaffected at the thought of discovery while she threatened to turn him in. She desperately wanted him to show some sort of emotion, even the usual anger or hatred she equated with their unfortunate meetings. Things were changing so fast in her small little world that involved The Burrow and cooking meals for the Order; she needed just one thing that felt familiar and constant.
Very slowly, like a deadly cat hunting an unsuspecting mouse, he moved to stand in front of her. Mere inches separated them as he stepped so close that her wand pressed hard into his chest. She knew what he was doing; he was daring her to curse him first when he appeared unarmed and defenceless. He brought one of his hands up and gently lowered the arm holding her wand.
“Ginevra,” he whispered, closing his eyes for a moment. Then they were open again and scrutinising her as one would study a fascinating manuscript. “You’re smart enough to recognise a lost cause when you see one.”
For just a moment, Ginny remembered another Slytherin boy who had played on her weaknesses and made her do things against her will. No! They’re not the same, she told herself. Malfoy would accept whatever fate she decided for him. He too had been manipulated by the same evil. Could she really condemn him for making the same mistakes she had?
While she had been attracted by friendship, he had craved power. Both had gotten more than they had bargained for. No, she couldn’t deny that this broken doppelganger of the sneering, aristocratic boy she had once known was not out to cause harm. Whether the Order knew or not, well, she wasn’t exactly allowed to sit in on Order meetings, was she? If she wasn’t valuable enough to be kept informed then they couldn’t need her information too badly.
Suddenly mortified at the thought that she was anything like Draco Malfoy, she quickly left the room without a backward glance. When she entered the back yard once more, the first person she saw was Andromeda Tonks. She gave Ginny a piercing look and then quickly glanced up at the window where Malfoy had been standing. Ginny gave her a curt nod — Your secret is safe with me — and went to mingle with the rest of the wedding guests.
As Christmas and Easter came and went, she pushed Draco Malfoy out of her mind. After ten months with no word from Harry, Ron and Hermione they finally returned, weary but victorious. The whole of the wizarding world celebrated in their victory over evil and survival. She tearfully drew Harry into her embrace and then he kissed her, it was just like they had never parted.
For the entire summer, they lived in a dream world, frolicking in the large pond behind The Burrow and laying about. The three of them never spoke openly to her about what had happened during their long journey but Ginny caught glimpses of the changes in all of them.
It was in the way that Ron and Hermione never seemed to go anywhere without the other. They never had to say it but she could tell that some sort of understanding had passed between the two and they were now closer than ever. She once caught the two sleeping peacefully under the apple trees in the garden, Hermione’s head resting gently on Ron’s chest as his arms embraced her protectively and held her to him.
Harry was quieter than he had ever been and Ginny chose not to press him for details about what had happened. Most of the time they talked of Quidditch or her family and they seemed to easily fall back into the relationship they had started over a year ago.
Hogwarts would be reopened in the upcoming term and classes resumed where they had broken off. When September 1st, came they all found themselves back on the Hogwarts Express. All of the Gryffindors balked at Draco Malfoy’s presence in their midst, but Harry vouched for him and that was the end of that. Talk soon turned to Quidditch and the latest gossip.
She nodded at all the right times and laughed at her friends’ jokes. If she sometimes felt just a tad empty and listless, well, that was just a part of growing up. She floated through her classes and mealtimes. She was surrounded by normality. Her life had become a scripted performance, complete with sappy declarations of love and sickeningly sweet looks of envy from most of the student body.
The only reminder of her misgivings came in the form of smouldering grey eyes. Eyes that followed her progress across the Great Hall, out by the lake, or daydreaming in the library. She could almost fool herself into believing things were normal again until she caught sight of his white blond hair or his haughty, knowing smirk.
He looked at her as if he knew and each time he did, she turned up her freckled nose and looked away, lest the memories assault her again. Evil deeds did not an evil person make. If she kept telling herself that, maybe one day she would believe it. This was her penance, her punishment for losing control. And that would never happen again.
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