Ginny clutched her bag of potions tightly to her chest as she Apparated to the Patil manor house with Fred and George. It was a testament to how thin the Order was spread; Ginny was no Mediwitch, yet here she was, helping Aurors, her twin brothers in this case, respond to the calls in the wake of Death Eaters still wreaking havoc. Voldemort’s followers were angered to the point of being maniacal after their Lord had been killed some weeks earlier.
Ginny had expected the Death Eaters to go rather quietly, once their leader was finished, but unfortunately, this was not to be. The Death Eaters had been on a devastating rampage, going to what they called the ‘Blood Traitor’s’ houses, killing their occupants and actually taking things from their homes as trophies. The very thought of thievery left a horrible taste in her mouth. That particular crime had never really been a problem in the wizarding community before. She thought it ironic that such a Muggle activity would be pursued by the followers of one of the most anti-Muggle wizards in history.
She heard two soft pops and knew that Fred and George were right behind her. Just in the past few days, Ginny and her brothers had responded to calls at he Bones’, the Longbottom home, the Vance manor, and had even had word that the Death Eaters had been to The Burrow, though none of her family had been there at the time. All of the children had moved out, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were staying at Grimmauld Place for protection. Only Bill had gone to see the damage, and had reported that not only was most of the house destroyed, but they had taken the Weasley clock as well. Ginny had come close to tears when she heard that. That clock was part of what made The Burrow home. None of the other Weasleys had been there to see the damage that was done. None had wanted to.
“Alright then,” Fred began. “Malfoy said there are survivors here. Let’s go.”
She tried not to roll her eyes at the sound of Draco Malfoy’s name. The bastard had turned from the dark side and was helping the Order, like Snape, but he still bore the Dark Mark. In her considered opinion, he was still one of them, however much information he passed to the Order.
Ginny shook her head and focused her attention on the sight in front of her. Great strips of earth were scorched on either side of the house, almost as though it had been engulfed by a ring of flames. The front door hung forlorn from a single hinge, and the entryway of what had once undoubtedly been a very stately manor was reduced to desolate piles of rubble.
She heard Fred’s voice call her from a room to her left. “Oi, Ginny! Over here!”
She quickly moved to the sound of her brother’s voice and found him, in what ‘must have been the family’s sitting room,’ she thought, in a detached manner. He was crouched next to Parvati Patil, whose long black hair was caked with drying blood from a wound on the back of her head.
Ginny worked quickly to mend Parvati’s largest wounds, and gave her a painkilling potion, all the while murmuring in an attempt to soothe the young witch, who was as close to being hysterical as one could be in her condition.
“They killed Mum! They killed Mum! While I watched, Ginny! They got Padma, too!” She broke down into wrenching sobs. “What will I do without her, Ginny? She’s the other half of me!”
Parvati pointed to a place above the ruined, caved-in fireplace. “They got the portrait, Padma’s prized possession, Ginny! She used to love talking to her.” She fisted her hands in Ginny’s robes and brought her down closer to her face. The witch drew a ragged breath. “Please, Ginny. Get it back. Get it back for Padma.” She looked at the redheaded men peering over Ginny’s shoulder. “Please. Promise me. Promise me, Ginny.”
Ginny loosened the other girl’s hands from her robes. “Yes, alright, Parvati. I’ll get it. You’ll be fine. Quiet down now,” she whispered, looking around. By Ginny’s calculations, the Death Eaters had spared Parvati’s father and younger sister, but they were nowhere to be found.
The witch visibly relaxed, a combination of the potion beginning to work and Ginny’s words calming her. “Thank you, Ginny. I knew I could count on you. For Padma.”
Ginny patted the woman who, despite being a year older than her, seemed so young and helpless. She rose to look at the rectangular spot left unfaded by the sun on the wallpaper above the mantle. “Who is it a portrait of, Parvati?” Ginny asked, looking up at the bare spot, but Fred was the one to answer.
Ginny turned around. “What?” she asked, unbelieving.
Fred’s mouth set in a line and George rose to stand next to his twin. “She’s gone. The cleanup crew will be here soon. Let’s go.”
Ginny felt the tears begin behind her brown eyes, and forced them back. She didn’t want to appear weak in front of her brothers. “I’ll stay with her, you go on.”
Fred looked at George, who nodded. “Are you sure, Gin?”
“Yeah. She deserves that.”
After the two wizards Disapparated, Ginny sank to the floor next to her friend’s body and allowed the tears to come. She was so tired of it; tired of the death and the devastation of war, tired of the Dark Wizards, too tired to even be angry. She missed everyone who had died so much it hurt, especially the people that had died in her arms while she tried clumsily to tend to their injuries. She had made countless promises in the last moments of many wizards’ lives in the past year, to give loved ones messages, to tell children that they were loved, but now she had promised something that she couldn’t deliver. Tears seeped out of her eyes as she clenched and unclenched her hands.
She sat and let herself cry for a moment. It wasn’t often that she got to be alone these days, so she took the opportunity to let out her emotions freely. Wiping her eyes with her sleeve after her cathartic outburst, she stood and moved to what had once been a lovely bay window and looked out over the grounds. She had to get through this, but when the war was over, she would make restitution. She would do it for Parvati, as she had promised, but she would try to make things right for people hurt by the war. She had to.
“I’m sorry, Parvati. I’ll try. For Padma.”
Ginny swirled the tip of her wand in the silvery liquid of the Pensieve thoughtfully. For the past month, she had been plagued by dreams and nightmares of that particular night five years ago. She thought back to it again, thinking of how little progress she’d made on her promise to her old schoolmate.
She sighed deeply. Much of it could simply be attributed to not knowing what the hell she was looking for, as well as life moving on. She had gone through Auror training and had spent the last four years with a partner that, if she didn’t exactly like, she had at least come to grudgingly respect. Babies had been born, not to her of course, being unattached and unmarried, but her brothers and their wives had been busy populating the Wizarding world with enough prodigies for Gryffindor to have several years’ worth of Quidditch players. She thought idly that Grandpa Arthur might take a leaf out of Walter Parkin’s book and found another family-based Quidditch team.
She had started a life of independence, separating amicably from Harry, moving away from her family, creating a life for herself. She had wanted to help people; she wanted to do good for the wizarding world. Unfortunately, the Aurors weren’t needed much anymore. The vast majority of dark wizards and Death Eaters had eventually either gone into hiding or become respectable members of the community. Ginny had even come to like some of them.
Ginny collected her thoughts and hurriedly put the Pensieve away. She didn’t want to have to explain to her partner why she had it out again. Her partner. She’d spent quite a lot of time hating him over the years, but couldn’t really even do that properly anymore, as she felt she owed him for getting her out of a few rather nasty scrapes. It softened her attitude towards him somewhat, but she still didn’t want to have to explain the Pensive to him. He would probably tease her about it and she didn’t have the strength for that today. Although, admittedly, he teased her less and less these days. He had been strangely attentive, in an embarrassingly amorous way, and it was getting very hard to ignore. They had been partners for what seemed like forever, but just in the last year his behaviour towards her had changed.
She had just closed her desk drawer when the man she’d just been thinking about strode through the door. “Come on, Weasley. You know you want to.” He put a steaming cup of caramel coloured liquid on her desk.
It was a daily ritual for their office. He’d come in with her coffee, throw out an innuendo, and ask her out. He’d done this nearly every day for the last six months. Every day, she’d turn him down. It didn’t seem to diminish his enthusiasm, however. Instead, he always redoubled his efforts.
She prodded the coffee with her wand.
“I’m not trying to poison you, you know.” The bastard even favoured her with one of his rare, and - though she would only admit this privately - breathtaking smiles.
She didn’t like him. She tolerated him because he was the only person who could fix her morning coffee without ruining it. But she didn’t like him. She didn’t. Even though he was sweet to her. And thoughtful. And brought her coffee every morning and soup when she was sick. And he always made sure that she had fresh flowers on her desk.
She smirked. “You can’t be too careful.”
“Have dinner with me.”
“You’d get to dress up, go to a very large mansion, and be nasty to a whole different group of people. I know you’re getting bored being awful to only me.” He paused thoughtfully. “The food’s usually good, as well.”
He sat down at his desk and picked up a quill. “Yes, Weasley?”
“I do not want to socialize with you outside of the work that we do. It might compromise our partnership… erm, dynamic. I am your partner here at the Ministry. Outside the Ministry, Malfoy, I want nothing to do with you. I’ve told you time and time again. What must I do to prove this?”
Malfoy grinned at her again, momentarily rendering her speechless. She really wished he wouldn’t smile. The wretched beast was really far too attractive when he did that.
“I’m wearing you down. It’s only a matter of time.”
She looked at him in confusion. “Pardon?”
“You wouldn’t claim to be my partner a year ago, even though we’d shared the office for three years.”
She frowned. “Oh, right.” That much was true. She hadn’t even spoken to him for the first two months they’d been paired together. Then came the surprise raids. She then thought she was extremely lucky to have him for a partner. He really was a great wizard; he had saved her life two separate times, both when she’d thought no one would be able to find her, or get to her in time.
“Seriously, Weasley. The Notts’ ball. Actually, I suppose it would just be Nott’s ball, as he’s the only one of the Notts left. It’s the best of the season. Well, besides the Parkinsons’ ball. Or my own. I don’t want to have to call in the wizard’s debt you owe me, but I might,” he teased.
The wheels in Ginny’s mind began to turn. She had a thought, an idea forming in the recesses of her mind. Something was telling her to accept his invitation. In an instant, she decided to throw caution to the wind and, for the first time since he’d started asking, not turn him down flat.
He put his quill down and looked at her, frowning slightly. “I was kidding about the wizard’s debt, you know that, right?” At her absentminded nod, he continued, looking delighted, “Wait a minute. Weasley? Does that mean you’re actually considering my invitation?”
He put the two forefingers of his left hand to the pulse point at his throat.
Ginny half-rose from her seat. “What’s wrong?”
“Just checking to see if my heart had stopped. I’m shocked, that’s all.”
“Enough with the sarcasm, Malfoy.”
He let his hand fall. “So, is that a yes? Will you come to Nott’s ball with me?”
Ginny pursed her lips and sat back down. “I will. But only to keep an eye on some of the most horrific of wizardkind, and to make sure that you behave yourself. And the fact that I’ve rather a soft spot for Theo.”
He nodded, narrowing his eyes but smirking slightly. “Of course.”
“You did mention that I’d get to be nasty to Parkinson, right?”
“Yes, Pansy should be there. She’ll be thrilled to have a worthy adversary. It’s been months since she’s had a real challenge. I’ll tell her to be sure to sharpen her claws.”
“Ha, bloody ha.”
“Excellent. I’ll owl our R.S.V.P.” He moved to the doorway, mumbling ‘fantastic.’ He stopped suddenly and turned around. “You won’t be disappointed, you know.”
She looked at him, at the almost two meters of him framed in the doorway, smiling at her. She tried to ignore the butterflies in her stomach and turned her attention back to the paperwork in front of her.
“Mmm. I’m sure, Malfoy. I’m sure.”
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