The night was still, not even the faintest of breezes reaching out to disturb the quiet of the country lane. At the crest of the largest hill stood a regal manor, every candle within extinguished, save for one. That candle sat upon an impressive mahogany desk in Lucius Malfoy’s personal study, casting its flickering light over a small stack of parchments and intricately laid plans.
Lucius Malfoy stared intently down at a single, rather tattered, photograph that stood out from all the other photos and parchments. He had not moved for quite a long time, unable to tear his eyes away from the photograph for more than a few seconds, and when he did finally manage to look away, it was always to stare intently at the nearby glass of brandy, as though he would be able to find the answers he was looking for in the amber liquid’s crystalline depths.
He heard the quiet sound of his wife’s careful footsteps approaching his study, and his fingers wrapped themselves around the brandy glass, trying to derive some comfort from the alcohol’s presence. With a final troubled glance at the smiling occupant in the wizarding photograph, he slid the photo between two sheets of parchment and raised the glass to his lips.
“You’re going to kill him, you know.”
Lucius swallowed slowly, giving in as the brandy burned its way down his throat. He could feel his wife’s beautiful eyes trying in vain to bore a hole through the back of his head, but did not even turn to answer her.
Making an impatient sound, Narcissa circled around him so that she was standing beside his desk, her pristine features rigid in silent rage.
“You’re not even going to look at me?” she asked, her soft voice quiet and furious.
Lucius raised a single eyebrow as he turned to face his wife, an unspoken acknowledgement of her presence. Her lips thinned into nothing more than a faint line, the only visible expression of her displeasure with her husband. Neither moved, but only held the other’s gaze, and Lucius was reminded, not for the first time, of the formidable woman he had married.
Perhaps it was this knowledge concerning the numerous times she’d been angry with him in the past that compelled him to clear his throat and break the deadly silence first.
“I have no choice, Cissa.”
“Don’t call me that!” she hissed, a furious glint flashing in her eyes.
Her husband had the grace to bow his head and repeat himself, this time addressing her by her full name, though it did little to soften her anger.
“He will die, Lucius. Do not lie to me, telling me there’s nothing you can do. You can stop this.”
“Narcissa, you know that I cannot refuse the Dark Lord’s orders because of a single—”
“You don’t understand!” she cut in, her voice rising in frustration as she glared down at her husband. She slammed her hand down on the thick wood of the desk, bending down to her husband’s eye level, the rage in her eyes directed solely into his own. She was pleading with him, saying each word slowly and meaningfully. “He loves her. Draco loves her, Lucius.”
She held his uncompromising stare, and he could see her throat tighten as she swallowed dryly.
“If you continue with this.” Here she brandished the photo that had been hidden among his papers to hold in front of his face though he refused to look at it. “If you continue with this,” she repeated, emotion rising up from her with each word, “you will be the death of your only son.”
Silence descended upon the room which seemed to echo his wife’s dark prediction. She swallowed once again, blinking furiously as though fighting back tears. Taking a slightly shuddering breath, she gently laid the photograph back on top of the desk, inches away from the eyeless mask that sat beside it. Suppressing her emotions, Narcissa turned on her heel and disappeared into the darkness as she left her husband’s study.
Bowing to the wishes of his own uneasiness, Lucius’ eyes finally glanced down at the wizarding photograph, watching the beautiful girl in the photo smiling and laughing as she sashayed back, her tumble of red curls twirling behind her. He reached once more for the brandy and drained his glass, his eyes never straying from the smiling girl. Finally, after two more glasses of brandy, Lucius took the tattered photograph and slipped it into the top drawer of his desk, closing it was a soft click.
Narcissa sat lounging in the drawing room, her forehead leaning back against her long fingers as she stared into the merrily burning fire in the hearth. She felt her heart seem to swell beneath her ribs, pressing against them in an effort to bring her to action, but she blinked a few times and any trace of her troubled emotions vanished from her angular features in an instant.
She heard approaching footsteps and swallowed, unable to look back to face her son. Not noticing his mother’s distress, Draco came up behind her, bending over the back of the couch to kiss her cheek.
“I’m off to see Ginny, Mother. Good night.”
Reacting impulsively, Narcissa reached a hand back to touch her son’s cheek, her fingers trembling slightly as she held him there, though her eyes were still fixated on the burning hearth. She felt her son’s lips twitch into an amused smile beneath her fingertips. Her heart pressed violently against her ribs once more and she swallowed. Draco took his mother’s hand, chuckling quietly as he brushed his lips over the top of her fingers, quite oblivious to his mother’s silent desperation in the gesture.
“Good night, Mother.”
He released her hand and stepped back, disapparating with a crack, leaving Narcissa still staring into the fire. She took a shaky breath and for the first time she let the tears that had been pressing upon her escape, her trembling hand falling to rest in her lap.
Draco still had the traces of amusement at his mother’s coddling on his lips when he apparated, arriving at the Burrow’s front gate where he could see his girlfriend’s house not twenty yards away. He looked up and when he saw the house, his blood ran cold, his heart constricting in horror.
The normally lopsided house had been devastated, whole sections caved in, billows of smoke from fires within rising out from the broken windowpanes, the eerie image of a sickeningly green skull with a serpent’s tongue hanging above it.
He ran, pushing through the gate and sprinting to the doorstep, the front door swinging loosely on the last of its hinges when he barreled past it. He skidded to a sudden halt when he entered the house, his eyes taking in the destruction. Broken furniture lay strewn across the floor, barely discernable among the torn up floorboards and caving walls. Draco felt his own fear and horror crash down upon him, suffocating him. He started forward, half-sobbing, half-screaming Ginny’s name, his lungs burning from the acrid smoke that permeated the house. He covered his mouth with the sleeve of his robes, struggling to breathe as he searched.
“Aquamenti!” he shouted, pointing his wand and dousing half the flames though the smoke still lingered. “Ginny? GINNY!” He saw a body lying still in the kitchen and after recognizing it, quickly turned away, unable to look into her mother’s glazed eyes. No one else had been home, no one but Ginny and her mother, who was already dead.
There was a choking sound from the back hall and Draco ran forward, his heart pounding with hope at the sounds of weak movement. Then he saw her, struggling to stand, her body shaking violently as she tried to steady herself with a trembling hand against the charred remains of the wall. Her face was hidden behind her tangle of blood-matted hair— until her brown eyes met his, her face pale and drawn. She inhaled sharply and her feet slipped. Draco caught her in his arms, his hands clenching around her as he knelt down, supporting her body as she shuddered against his chest, undoubtedly smearing his cloak with tears and blood as she clung to him like a terrified child.
Draco held tightly to her, holding her body so close that he could hear her uneven heartbeat growing faint, feel her blood as it left her body to soak his robes. She was convulsing, crying his name almost incoherently as he held her. Draco buried his face into her shoulder blade, squeezing his eyes shut to Disapparate with her to St. Mungo’s, still sobbing against her.
The corridor was silent, the anticipation of death hanging in the sterile air of the hospital. Voices murmured quietly to one another, relating mere echoes of the horror they had seen. The Healers had left, knowing the limits of their own magic, before closing the door to Room 73 silently behind them. Behind that door, they could hear Draco Malfoy’s anguish and loss as he knelt beside the girl’s bed. His hands were clenched around her small fingers, kissing them over and over and crying as he soaked her skin with his tears. Her skin was as pale as the white sheets and he could feel her life ebbing away.
She was dying, she was dying, they’d killed her. He should have been there, he should have known, have found out, had protected her and now she was dying and he was losing her.
“No, no, Ginny, please…” he croaked, squeezing her hand so tightly it should have hurt her but she was unresponsive. Her eyelids had fallen shut, her hand limp, only the shallowest of breaths escaping from her chalk-white lips.
He couldn’t feel her pulse.
He sobbed in agony, ripping at his hair and sinking to the floor, wanting the tiles to rise up and swallow him whole. “No, no, no, no! Please, no, Ginny…” he cried again and again until he had cried himself hoarse, tears still coursing down his cheeks as he kissed her limp fingers.
When her brothers arrived, they found Draco sitting in the chair at her bedside, still holding her hand and rubbing his fingers over her knuckles. He was staring ahead unseeingly, a smear of their sister’s blood across his lips that had mixed with his tears. He glanced back at them as they entered the room, their devastated expressions mirroring his own. He gestured helplessly towards her small and broken body, unable to speak, “I-I… I didn’t...”
His face crumpled and he raised a trembling hand, running it distractedly through his hair, his face wet with tears that kept falling. The youngest of her brothers took a shaky breath, his eyes wet. He slowly walked forward, each footstep echoing in the numb silence until he was standing beside Draco. He laid his hand upon the other man’s shoulder, his fingers tightening around him as he stifled a shuddering sob of his own. Draco buried his face in his hands and fell apart completely.
Draco sank to his knees in front of the grave, tears falling unrestrained down his face feeling cold against his skin in the slight breeze that belied the mournful silence. Draco gently laid the flowers over the fresh mound; they were pink, all of them. He had found every type and shade of pink flower that existed, magical and non-magical, wanting to give her all of them.
Draco remembered the way that she had scowled at him when he had presented her with a pink sweater last Christmas as a playful mockery of the ones her mother made. She had sworn to jinx him if he bought her anything pink ever again, harping on about how horribly it contrasted with her red hair. However, her threat had the opposite effect of what she intended and from then on everything he gave her was pink and her cheeks had always flamed in response. He would only smirk at her, knowing that it was really her favorite color despite her protests. He had told her that if it were her favorite, he would ensure she had it. He wanted to give her everything and only now realized that he never would have that chance.
He failed to choke back a sob and slumped forward, leaning his forehead against the stone marker, his fingers resting over the five letters of her name. It was a double funeral, for her and her mother but he hadn’t been able to tear himself away from her grave, not even long enough to pay his respects to her mother who had accepted him so warmly. He only knelt in the dirt, crying and tracing her name with his fingertips.
“Ginny, I’m sorry…” he whispered, his voice thick with tears. “I’m sorry and I miss you so much…” His voice broke and he pressed a kiss to her name, his shoulders shaking with unrepressed sobs that made the other mourners uncomfortable.
“I love you,” he whispered, still staring at her carved name from behind tear-filled eyes. “I swear I’ll never stop.”
Narcissa watched from several feet away, her heart clawing at her chest as she watched her son’s silhouette, broken and defeated as he knelt before Ginny Weasley’s grave. She lifted her handkerchief to her face, unable to bear the sight of her son dying inside, knowing that she had done nothing herself to prevent the attack that took the love of his life from him.
Narcissa bent her head in shame, making a silent plea for forgiveness to the girl’s sweet spirit. She had never been particularly fond of the girl but Draco had loved her. She had seen it in the way his face lit up before seeing her and the way he acted around her, so clearly treasuring the girl. Draco had not been unaware of the tension between their families, made even more acute because of the war, but had loved Ginny Weasley unrepentantly despite his father’s objections. He had photographs of her, framed and resting on his desk, wanting to be able to see her face even when they were apart. Narcissa had caught Lucius looking at the framed photos a few days before the attack, always passive with an unreadable expression. Narcissa had known, even then, that Lucius would follow through with his orders and that there would never be another photograph to join the others on her son’s desk.
After time, all the other guests, and there were many, finally drifted away and the only ones left were the young woman’s family and Narcissa’s son. Narcissa wiped her eyes; actually smearing her mascara with her fingertips, something she’d never done before so great was her guilt.
She had warned him, she had told Lucius and he had patiently ignored her as he always had done. Two more tears streaked down her face, knowing that this was destroying her son. She watched as the youngest of the Weasley brothers approached her son, laying a hand on his shoulder. Neither said a word though they seemed to have communicated something unspoken. Draco stood up, still staring brokenly down at the flower strewn grave. The youngest brother squeezed his shoulder once more and Draco nodded, finally tearing himself away.
When Narcissa saw his face and his empty stare, she knew her son had died inside.
Lucius sat in his study, the room growing steadily darker as the sun began to set. His face was half in shadow, half-illuminated by the withering fire crackling in the grate but he did not move to further light the room with his wand, not needing to see more than the brandy glass in his hand. His fingers curled around the still untouched brandy as he stared unseeingly ahead, thinking of the photograph of the smiling girl. More parchments and photographs littered his desk though he could not pay them any attention.
He nursed his brandy instead, remembering his son’s face when he had returned home after the funeral earlier that day… He hadn’t spoken, never demanding to know if Lucius had known about the attack, probably, Lucius assumed, because he had trusted that his father would have never let it happen if he had. Lucius couldn’t imagine what his son would have done if he had discovered that his father had not only known of the impending attack but participated in it.
Lucius swallowed the hot amber liquid and let the familiar burning sensation slide down his throat, glancing back to the eyeless mask that lay next to the small stack of parchments, undisturbed since the attack. He remembered the shock in the girl’s eyes when she had recognized his grey eyes staring out at her from that very mask. The image of her face was still burned into his memory.
The clock that sat perched upon the mantle over the dying fire ticked softly, the only sound in the otherwise silent house. Lucius briefly wondered if his wife was sleeping soundly or as unable to find rest as he was. Swallowing more of the brandy, he stood up and set the glass down, leaving his study to walk silently down the unlit halls to his son’s darkened room. He paused before the oak door before slowly pushing it open, his eyes sweeping over the made-up bed and unusually clean desk. He wondered if his son were wandering the halls himself, too haunted by the framed photographs of the smiling girl to be able to sleep in his own room.
Drawn inexplicably towards the mahogany desk that was so like his own, Lucius glanced down at the only photographs his son had ever displayed in his otherwise impersonal bedroom, seeing image after image of the girl whose photograph still lay in the top drawer of his own desk. It was an experience unlike any he’d ever felt before, to look into the face of the girl that was in each photograph, knowing that he hadn’t been able to look at the tattered photograph he had of her since the attack. As far as he was concerned, he would happily never look at that particular photograph ever again.
He looked from photo to photo, moments frozen in time of a girl who would never smile again. She was smiling and rolling her eyes in one, laughing as she was held down and tickled by the same photographer in another, blowing a kiss from behind another picture frame.
His eyes rested on a new frame, one that Lucius didn’t remember seeing on his son’s desk before then. Without having to look closer, he froze in unwanted recognition, suddenly understanding why his son was not in his room, why the house was so silent and still.
Behind the glass was a small tattered photograph of a beautiful girl, laughing and smiling with her red curls dancing behind her.
“I told you,” his wife’s cold and accusing voice whispered from the doorway. “I told you, Lucius that it would destroy him when he found out what you did.”
Lucius stared down at the newly framed photograph, unable to speak or look away, his hands clenching into fists at his side, his wife’s menacing accusation hanging suspended above them in the deathly quiet that had descended upon the all too silent bedroom.