Disclaimer: Okay, I always forget about these things. Listen up, this is NOT MINE! I'm just using the characters for my own twisted pleasure. Dance, puppets, dance!
Author's Notes: Thanks and hugs go to the wonderful Skye for her betaing =)
Darkness spread around her, the cold coiling tendrils seeping deeper and deeper into her mind, coursing inside of her and fusing all her doubts and fears. She stood still, wordlessly watching the man she loved battling one of the greatest evil, and losing. He fought fiercely, attacking and defending himself in flawless calculated motions. He moved swiftly, not heeding to the open wounds and gushing blood, his eyes set in unyielding determination. His dark, soiled and bloodied figure contrasted dramatically against the pallid gauntness of the Dark Lord, as they moved across the Chamber with fierce cries and desperate attempts to end their feud once and for all. But Harry was growing weary while the Dark Lord somehow retained his vigor through the struggle and was steadily growing stronger against failed strike of his opponent.
Ginny's stomach lurched painfully as she watched her Hero finally crumbling down onto his battered knees, his wounds overflowing with crimson blood and his eyes reflect nothing but pure hatred and desperation. A frightened cry hitched in her throat as she watched the Dark Lord raise his wand, a gleeful grin upon his hideous reptilian features and his lips drawn back in preparation of uttering the words that will finally put an end to his agony. Suddenly the scarlet slits of his eyes pierced her, catching her off guard and casting her breath away, as the hissing voice ripped through her body, too close for comfort and too familiar for sanity.
"Ginevra!" the voice recoiled from within her, slithering its way through her body like a poisonous snake. "You won't leave me… won't leave… I will not let you… never let you… mine… mine… MINE!"
Hot tears were streaming down her cheeks even before she could comprehend the fact that she had collapsed as well, that her knees were barely supporting her tired weight against the cobblestones and that there was someone beside her. But before she could bring herself to care, her reeling mind was pierced through yet again by the destroying roar reverberating through the vast structure and shakings its very foundations.
"NO!" she screeched out desperately, instinctively launching herself to shield Harry with her own petite figure. If she could just reach him in time, just a split of a second would suffice to save his life, and he would be able to continue fighting, and eventually win just like it was suppose to be. Just like it had already happened! This was all horribly wrong and it wasn't suppose to be this way, but if she could reach him in time, if she could save him, then things would return to normal. She herself didn't matter, obviously. She was such a small pawn in this horrid game they've been participating for the past years, that she was most likely to be forgotten in the history books later on, and it honestly didn't matter. She just had to save Harry. Harry had to live.
To her utter horror, the moment she shifted forward, a vice grip tightened around her waist, yanking her back with an invisible strength no one could posses. Eyes widening in disbelief, she clawed at the arms around her, writing and kicking and crying out in agony when the killing curse hit its target perfectly and the infamous Hero slumped lifelessly onto the cold stones.
Her heart sank with a sickening shattering and for a tiny moment she allowed herself to think that Harry was just resting. That he was so so tired that he just had to rest and now he will stand up again and fight and fight and win and she will get her promised Happily Ever After. But the body remained motionless and no Hero has risen from the ashes that day.
Her lips parted a little and she was plunged into oblivion, for a moment knowing nothing but the fact that her life has ended, simply because he had ended. Fighting the meaningless fatigue, she finally found herself free to move and quickly hurried to his side, pulling his head onto her lap. She rocked back and forth, nursing his wounded forehead with her searing, still believing kisses, until his blood was mixed with her bitter tears and she no longer cared. She wept over the lifeless body, vaguely hearing the shrill laughter echoing inside the accursed chamber, indicating to her that it was, indeed, the end.
============ *~*~*~*~*~*~* ============
A pair of honey-coated brown eyes fluttered open lazily, wincing against the white morning light that penetrated through the opened curtains and the heavy canopy that was pulled back. Stretching groggily, Ginny yawned and swung her legs over the edge of her four-poster, absently looking around the luxurious setting of her Malfoy Manor bedchamber. Her cheeks felt oddly stiff while she worked out her jaw in a morning tick acquired long ago, and she swiped her hand over them only to discover salty tracks of dried tears. Groaning tiredly, she realized she had been crying in her sleep again.
Pushing herself off the overly comfortably bed, she padded to the bathroom, thoroughly washing her face there and rinsing out the clinging cobwebs. Finally straightening up, Ginny glanced at the mirror just above the basin and stared back at the barely recognizable eyes. Her face was splotchy with dark shadows dwelling just under her eyes, which were red and irritated from the constant tears. New pair of wrinkles trailed around the sides of her mouth, drawing her neutral expression into a frown. Sighing dejectedly at the sight of new creases along her forehead, Ginny stuck her head under the faucet, turning the cold water fully on.
It has been a week since she first decided to stay in Malfoy Manor, and each passing day cost her a fair amount of her assurance and sanity. She hadn't spoken to Malfoy since the evening in the living room when he spitefully enough proclaimed that, apparently, she had no choice but to accept and tolerate his smug and tasteless remarks about her family while she was in his house. Well, if that's how he really felt, then he had another thing coming!
She decided to avoid him at any cost, even if it meant spending her days in her bedroom, arriving to breakfasts late, after he had already left for work and occupying herself with scarce books she had found in her room. She didn't think he would actually seek out her company when she was so obviously shunning away from him, just to insult her family. Unless he was indeed that childish.
And although her plan was successful in keeping away from Malfoy's uncalled remarks, Ginny had encountered somewhat of a problem soon after the beginning of her self-imposed exile. The books found in her bedchamber were indeed scarce and after finishing all of them during the first three days of her stay, Ginny found herself rereading the texts to the point of memorization of whole paragraphs. Very soon the desire to hurl the tomes into the living room fire and watch them as they were reduced to meaningless cinder became almost unbearable.
So she tried exploring the vast mansion presented to her in all its empty glory most hours of the day while Malfoy was too busy with his disgustingly successful corporation somewhere in the Diagon Alley. But every time she did try to wander off a bit further down the corridors, to mount an unknown flight of steps, or to proceed into some distant wing of the massive mansion, her attempts were cut short by the house elves, who quickly ushered her back into her bedroom, squeaking something about Master's orders. Malfoy was apparently against the idea of her roaming his house, snooping around as the elves so charmingly put it when she finally confronted them, and had directed to confine the guest to her bedchamber, dining room and the living room.
Ginny scowled at her reflection in the silver-brimmed mirror as the memory replayed in her mind. She was not snooping around! She was bored senseless and if he didn't want a raving Weasley on his hands he should've just let her roam around! Unless, he was hiding something he didn't want her to find, in which case he should really let her roam around! Preferably with specified directions, passwords and all available information regarding the possible booby traps.
The nerve of that idiot! He couldn't annoy her to her face, so he sent house elves to do the job for him! She could just hex him for being such an insufferable git!
But it wasn't his only obvious attempt to irk her into insanity. Each and every evening around 7, Ginny shaken out of whatever she was doing at the moment by shrill drunken giggles emanating the foyer. Oh, please! She couldn't help but to roll her eyes at his juvenile tactics. She put him on the spot with stating him visible aloneness, so he - in all of his Malfoy-ishness - saw it necessary to subdue the Manor to an infantile parade of all his conquests. Which, by their intonations and bits of conversation that carried over to Ginny's room, most probably shared a collective brain amongst themselves.
On top of that, she could've sworn he put a Sonorus charm on all his lady-friends just to spite her, because no human being could ever manage to shriek so ostentatiously that the blasted cries of supposed pleasure carried all the way from the furthest Wing to Ginny's bedchamber. Honestly, she really couldn't care less whom he did or didn't. He could hump trees as far as she was concerned, as long as those were quiet trees that didn't wake her up every blasted night!
She shook her head exasperatedly, plunging her face under the constant stream of warm water in the lavishly decorated shower, washing her nude body from all the sweat and tears that lately accompanied her dreams. She was beginning to become unsettled from all the troubling dreaming as well, mostly the exaggerated affects it was having on her body. She didn't have to search for any reasons of those fearful dreams, though, since Ginny knew very well that surpassed worries could easily inflict these horror visions onto her mind whenever she was unable to avoid them in her sleep.
And try to avoid them she did!
For the past week, all the while she was suppose to contemplate and muse over everything that happened and finally decide what she was going to do next, she had spend reading, dreaming of painful destruction of said reading material and sparring with a metaphorical Draco Malfoy through his house elves and the screams of his nightly entertainment. She had been avoiding the pressing issue with feverish vigor usually directed solely at Quidditch matches, and as of yet hasn't allowed the thought of Harry to cross her mind in whatever concept.
She knew this couldn't continue much longer, though. She just couldn't pretend that nothing had happened with Harry, or in fact pretend nothing had ever happened to her and that it was perfectly acceptable for a Weasley to be living in the Malfoy Manor for the rest of her life. She knew she had to get a grip over herself and start doing some heavy thinking, finally figure everything out for herself so she could continue living her life and actually leave this bloody estate.
But it was easier coaxed than done. Ginny just couldn't bring herself to relive the memories, replay the scene, the emotions - and most of all - the fear. Ever since she remembered herself the thought that day may come when she would be afraid of Harry, the man she loved for so long, never even crossed her mind. How could it? Harry was the Boy Who Lived, the one who fought evil and defeated it on numerous occasions, the person you would trust your life with. He was definitely not the one you'd imagine raising his hand on an innocent, a woman, and most of all - his own wife!
The thought was so absurd and preposterous that Ginny was very close to dismissing everything as yet another nightmare and gladly return to her home, her life and her husband. But each time she opened her eyes to find herself in the same small bedchamber in the infamous Malfoy Manor, she knew she was there for a reason, and that reason was that night.
She closed her eyes, inhaling a slow breath. She hadn't cried since that night while she was still awake and didn't know why. For sure the situation she found herself in was enough to drive even a Malfoy to tears. She was utterly lost, disoriented and as far as she could see, completely hopeless. Her world crumbled and she did not posses the power to recollect the pieces on her own. Yet still, no matter how hard she willed herself to, she could not cry, leaving all the emotions cooped up inside of her, smothering her with the heavy cloak of uncertainty.
She sighed silently again, climbing out of the shower and wrapping the soft towel around herself. She stepped out of the bathroom, walking over to the burgundy chair near her bed, and eyed desperately the garments that were washed and folded neatly by the house elves every day. She hadn't returned to her house since the night she ran away, admitting to herself that it was fear that prevented her from making her way back, even when she was in need of basic necessities such as clothes and her wand. So she possessed only these cream colored turtleneck, the flimsy brown skirt and one plain black cloak. She was getting sick and tired of these clothes, and the lack of her beloved wand left some sort of void inside of her. Still, she couldn't yet return to that house. Not just yet.
Huffing exasperatedly, she rolled her eyes and caught a glimpse of the dark green purse perched on top of her nightstand. She picked it up, quickly undoing the silver lace holding it closed and her eyebrows shot up in surprise at the sight of over a hundred galleons. Picking up the piece of parchment that was placed beneath it, she scanned the neat and elegant handwriting, correctly guessing its owner.
Swallow your pride and go buy yourself some new clothes. I know Weasleys don't spend this much money on robes and such (probably because you don't have this much money to spend it on anything), but it seems Christmas came earlier this year for you. You can shower me with gratitude later.
Ginny scowled at the parchment, fisting it into a tiny paper ball and throwing it into the nearest bin. That slimy git… she snarled to herself, tossing the purse onto her bed. I cannot believe this! I avoid him at all cost, so he won't be able to hurl stupid remarks at my face, and he has the audacity to do that in a friggin' letter? Well, you've really done it this time, Malfoy…
She quickly dressed and grabbed the purse, walking out of the room. Marching to the dining hall, her mind seethed with anger that simmered through the thick fog of confusion, deeming to be the only salient emotion in her right now.
"Master Draco had already left," she was informed by the house elves. Great! Just when I do want to see the prat to slap him, he's not home… typical!
She slumped down onto her usual seat and frowned at the bowl of porridge in front of her. Small dark-brown raisins and bits of various fruits peeked through the gooey texture and the sight of the traditional Weasley breakfast seemed to soothe her reeling mind. She tossed the purse onto the table, picking up the spoon and plunging it into the porridge with a squelching sound. She took a deep breath, stirring the bowl expertly, fighting off the ancient instinct of emanating noises of Muggle machinery that always seemed to brighten up the sulkiest of moods and the gloomiest of mornings.
She instead settled for making those noises in her head. Vrooooooom! Choochoochooh, choo! Whee!
She wasn't sure how exactly, but for the past week she noticed that her meals were consistent of all her favorite courses, prepared with suspicious skill of one Molly Weasley. She was quite sure that her mother hasn't been sneaking in and out of the Malfoy estate just to make Ginny her favorite meals, so she had to hand the house-elves the deserved credit. She didn't know how they knew, but they did and she was thankful for this tiny piece of normalness in her newly awkward existence.
By the time Ginny finished her breakfast she was so homesick she decided to visit her favorite twin brothers. She asked a house elf to retrieve her cloak and made her way to the living room's fireplace, leaving the purse on the dining table. Few moments later the house elf scurried into the living room, carrying her cloak and the silver tin filled with the cyan Floo powder. She thanked him with a smile, taking the cloak and a handful of the powder, tossing it into the fire and draping the cloak over her shoulders.
Only after she stepped into the green leaping flames and shouted "Diagon Alley!" did she notice the extra weight of the emerald purse in her cloak pocket.
============ *~*~*~*~*~*~* ============
Ginny stepped into the cold autumn morning in the middle of Diagon Alley, deeply inhaling the crispy cold air. A broad smile crept across her lips and she all but forgotten her momentary irritation at the house elf who slipped her the purse without her noticing. She gazed around herself, comprehending that she has been surrounded be people, actually real people, with no relations to the Malfoy family, for the first time in an entire week! People all around her, rushing to and fro, oblivious to her attention, surrounded her and now she realized just how much she missed everything - the noises, the shouting, the brisk politeness and the utter commotion.
As she made her way towards her brothers' prank shop, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, Ginny hoped they would use their usual tactic of dealing with important and uncomfortable issues - simply and reverently ignoring it. She would much rather them to fill her in on their new stock or late Weasley gossip instead.
Stepping into the colourful shop filled with everything from Firecrackers to Exploding Toilet Seats that was run by the infamous Weasley twins pranksters to the core, she yelped in surprise as the bells above the door roared with the sound of thunder rolls. In her distraught she didn't notice Fred stealthily sneaking up behind her, skillfully hoisting her over his shoulder. Cackling madly while his petite baggage dissolved in peals of giggles, he carried her to the counter, calling out to his brother.
"Oi! Looks like I got myself another one of those-- how'd you call 'em?"
"Oysters?" offered George helpfully, grinning at the familiar derriere of his only sister.
"Nah, mate! The small ones with the voices!"
"They have voices?" came the giggling inquiry from the bundle of laughter and red hair under discussion.
"Not oysters! Not skrewts… You know, the muggle ones! With the lolly poppers!"
"Munchkins!" George exclaimed finally.
"Yes! Them buggers! I got myself another one of those Munchkins!" proclaimed Fred, patting Ginny's shin, which prompted wriggling of attacked legs and demands of repositioning.
"And what will you do with this Munchkin, brother dear?" asked George, ignoring the propelling feet.
"I was thinking she would make an exceptional soup, don't you agree?"
"Nah, I'm afraid she's too bony for a decent soup…"
"Hey!" cried out Ginny with a frown, stopping her writhing. "I resent that! I would make an outstanding soup…"
Laughing out loud, Fred finally released Ginny from her uncomfortable perch, positioning her firmly on the ground. "You're right, Gin. You would make an outstanding soup…"
"And quite a delectable main course," George added supportively, walking over the counter and embracing her in a bear hug, which Fred soon joined.
Ginny held onto her brothers tightly, feeling at peace for at least this short while. After couple of moments, noticing no attempt to move away from the hug, Ginny began to feel the two bulky bodies working together in an ancient torturing technique. "Umm, guys," she tried to reason first. "You're crashing my wind pipes. "
Another few moments passed and quiet companionable sniggering could be heard overhead. Ginny sighed, reminiscing this tendency of theirs to try and crash her tiny body between themselves in their twisted idea of humor. Rolling her eyes, she wondered why they never remembered her counter-attack. She shifted her weight quickly before they could remember and stomped painfully, first on Fred's foot then George's, then quickly leaped up, hitting both their jaws with the top of her head, resonating a loud unpleasant clunking sound.
Yelping in pain and defeat, they staggered away from her, rubbing their jaws and shifting from their stomped feet. "Why, on bloody earth, do we always forget this?" fumed George, pushing his jaw with a crick into the right position.
"Maybe because I don't hit strong enough," mused Ginny cheekily.
"No, no!" assured her Fred. "You hit with just the right amount of strength…"
Ginny chuckled and hopped onto the counter, finding a perch between the register and a line of flamboyant jars containing various candy, which can be only described as evil. "So, brothers… what's new in the business?"
The Weasley twins exchanged wide secretive grins and Fred hurried off into the back room.
"Sister dear, we are standing on the brink of an entirely new era of pranksterness!" George announced in a loud significant tone.
"Is that even a word?"
"Era," he carried on as if there was no interruption. "That shall provide an outlet for the sickest and the most twisted senses of humor that ever graced the face of the earth!" he erupted in a wave of sinister laughter, halting abruptly only when Fred reentered the room, carrying a multihued box, and gave him a funny look. "That is…"
"You need to lay off the Muggle movies, George my man," Fred patted him on the shoulder, placing the box on the counter. "Or I'll complain to Holly and she'll cut your Viaress rights…"
"It is called VCR and you wouldn't dare!" George stared at him outrageously.
"This morning you were talking about putting Muggle elcetrial holes around the shop cause you like the look of them," Fred reminded his brother with a rare air of seriousness about him. "Oh, I'll dare alright. "
Ginny laughed at her brothers' bickering, realizing just how much she it. George had married a muggle-born witch a couple years younger than him, Holly Blackwood, and almost immediately developed his father's obsession for Muggle objects. His recent obsession was a black box he kept raving about, but not quite succeeding in explaining the wonders of it to his brother.
Ginny glanced at George sympathetically, averting her attention to the other twin when he tugged her sleeve. "See this one," Fred proudly offered her a red cellophane pouch filled with red chocolate beans out of the box.
Taking the pouch, Ginny eyed the label and smiled at the winking faces of her brothers hovering around the jagged font that proclaimed the name of this product - Weasley-Do.
"What is it?"
v "We believe demonstration is always more persuasive than mere explanations," Fred grinned, prodding her to try it out.
"Do I look seven? I'm not eating this," Ginny declared, placing the pouching onto the counter and pushing it away from her.
"Oh, come on, Gin. Be a sport!" George smiled at her most innocently, pushing the pouch closer to her. "Word of a prankster, it is reversible…"
Ginny squinted at her brother, knowing well enough that she'll regret this in a minute or so. Still, she picked out a rather large bean and popped it into her mouth, expecting smoke to come out of her nostrils, to cough out phoenix feathers or something much worst. But nothing so drastic happened while the chocolate melted away and some odd zinging sensation slithered along her jaw line and up to the top of her head. She narrowed her eyes at her brothers, who burst into uncontrollable feats of giddy chortling. Ginny nudged Fred in the ribs, frowning at him.
"Frederick Ormond Weasley, you better tell me right now what you did to me…"
The twins continued laughing, their voices growing hysterical amidst random glances thrown at her. After another painful nudge, this time directed at George, he recovered long enough to retrieve a hand mirror and offer it to her shakily, one hand clutching at the counter for support. Ginny frowned at her brothers once again and, mentally preparing herself for the worst, glanced into the mirror.
Her eyes widened in horror while her eyes trailed her startled reflection, smothering a whimpering sound of despair at the bottom of throat. Her regal mop of red hair, distinctive sign of a Weasley - which was always a bit brighter than the others, but dulled over the years - was now burning a lovely shade of neon-red.
She blinked at her reflection and then at her brothers. Seeing them roaring with new waves of laughter caused by her reaction, she slammed the mirror down and reached out towards both of them in a well-practiced imitation of their mother. Grabbing both by their ears, she jerked them closer to her from the opposite sides of the counter.
"Change it back…" she hissed at the two yelping idiots.
The twins guffawed harder, paying no attention to the shooting pain in their ears. "Sorry…" snorted out Fred. "But… but… we… haven't… got… antidote… yet!" at this they both burst in laughter once again, this time Fred losing his balance and plopping down onto the floor.
Ginny's eyes shot daggers at her brothers as she released their ears, burying her hand into Fred's long hair and yanking it up painfully, bringing him onto his knees. "Change it BACK!" she roared into his face, feeling another flash of anger simmering inside of her.
"Don't worry, Gin," George interrupted, trying to reassure his murderous sister. "It will wear off by itself…"
"Yeah," agreed Fred. "In a day or two!" his laughter thundered again and this time he collapsed onto the floor completely, rolling around and clutching his stomach.
Ginny snarled, kicking him as painfully and as sisterly as she allowed herself and heaved a deep sigh. You should've known… she shook her head and turned to the other boxes, checking out her brothers' new pranks, while they kept laughing maniacally.
She occupied herself for about fifteen minutes until the twins' laughter turned into constant hiccups and they finally calmed down, able to control themselves from bursting again whenever they glanced at her. She stayed at the shop for couple of hours, sitting and talking to her brothers as peacefully as it was possible. The twins didn't try anything else on her and if needed an example, used the tricks on themselves, feeling Ginny wouldn't hesitate to maim them the next time.
They hadn't talked about Ginny and Harry, and she was grateful for that. The only reminder of the whole situation was when Fred offered her to have a dinner at his house, saying that Angelina was worried about her stay at the Malfoy Manor and just missed her. Ginny accepted the proposition with a smile, but wasn't sure when she would be available.
She smacked herself mentally, reminding her that she had nothing but spare time, but she wasn't sure that a dinner with Angelina was the ideal proposition in her current emotionally fragile state. She liked the sister-in-law very much, adored their children and appreciated the changes she did in her brother to tame him a little; but she also knew that a worried Angelina is a zealous Angelina is an obsessed Angelina is a very annoying Angelina. Not to mention frightening.
Changing the subject, Ginny told them about the owl she received a few days ago from her editor, in which he stated that she was fired. To their loud interjections and wholehearted suggestion to beat the snot out of her boss, she assured them that she was not about to go down without a fight. She was one of the best journalists that the newspaper had and had single-handedly managed to raise the selling percentage by twelve percent since she first started working there, and finally if reviewing the situation regarding her forced resignation from the law's point of view, he had absolutely no right to fire her. Finally, pumped up by her brothers howls of encouragement, Ginny left the prank shop with rejuvenated spirits and headed towards the Daily Prophet office down the street with all the intentions of getting her job back.