It had been nearly three weeks and counting since Harry had unceremoniously hauled Draco away from the little cottage in the woods, and Ginny hadn’t seen or heard from anyone. The not knowing was driving her around the bend. The world could have ended, and she would have been none the wiser.
During the intervening time she’d packed her meager belongings in a battered case she’d found in the upstairs cupboard, damned and determined to return to London and her family. She was tired of having her life decided for her by her mother. She was an adult and fully capable of making her own decisions. And if Harry thought she was going to sit around, waiting for him to have time for her after he’d saved the world then he had another thing coming.
She sat on the front stoop watching a thunderstorm brew off in the distance, pondering the direction her life had taken in the last year. She loved the earthy smell of the wind-whipped, rain-cooled air just before a storm blew in. She’d miss that once she was in London where the rain smelled of asphalt and petrol, and the world never smelled quite cleansed.
Quiet moments like these helped her clear her head. Ginny had spent a long time pondering over the events of Draco’s stay that culminated in the mind-blowing kiss in the kitchen the morning he’d been taken away for questioning.
It should have never happened, but she chalked it up to being lonely, and he was the only boy available who wasn’t too old, a relative or Harry Potter. Not that it mattered anyway; he was probably finding it difficult to get comfortable in a cold, dark cell in Azkaban, if Harry had had his way.
“You’re probably not going to like the Knight Bus,” she told Juno as he wound his way between her legs, nudging against her and purring loudly. She scratched his ears and beneath his chin as he would allow. “It’s noisy, rather bumpy-”
“And quite dangerous,” said a voice behind her.
Ginny jumped, grabbing for her wand as her hands shook and her heart pounded.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” Remus said.
“What time is it?”
“It’s nearly four in the morning. What are you still doing up?”
“I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately,” she said, sheathing her wand and sitting down again on the step.
He settled down beside her. “Nightmares again?”
Ginny gave a slight nod. “Yes.”
“Want to talk about it?”
“Do you have enough Sleeping Draught?”
“Yes,” she said tiredly, “but I just hate waking up in a fog that I can’t seem to shake all day.”
“I understand that.”
And she knew he did. Having to be a slave to Wolfsbane potion for the rest of his life with all of its awful side effects must have been a fate that was only rivaled by death, but Remus sucked it up and did what he had to do to have some semblance of a normal life with Tonks. It made her feel a tinge of guilt for complaining about her woeful existence.
“So you’ve been thinking of running away,” Remus stated after a long silence.
Ginny turned away to hide her red cheeks, despite the darkness surrounding them. She was hoping that Remus would be too tactful to broach the subject of what he’d overheard. “I just want to go home. I miss my mum and dad.”
“I know,” he said soothingly, patting her hand a moment.
“They miss you too and would give anything to have you with them, but it’s just not possible right now.”
“I just want all of this to be over. I’m so tired of it.”
“We all are.”
“I could be doing something useful in London.”
“You’re doing something useful here,” he reminded her.
“What? Sitting around and twiddling my thumbs most days? I haven’t done anything useful since Malfoy was here,” she said bitterly.
“You would’ve been an easy target, and before you can argue with me, yes, you are good with your wand, but you’re no match for a seasoned Death Eater. There was an attack on the Knight Bus last week.”
“Yes,” the older wizards said grimly. “Several people were injured, two are still missing, and Ernie Prang was killed.”
“Oh no,” she gasped, her heart pounding in her chest so hard she wondered if Remus could hear it. Her mother had stated time and time again in her letters that things were getting very dangerous, and she was so very glad that Ginny was tucked away snug and safe far away from the fray. She’d never exactly believed her mother for she always had a tendency to exaggerate a little bit when it came to the safety of her children, but it was getting increasingly difficult to ignore the direness of the situation.
“So do you now see why you must remain here?” Remus asked in all seriousness.
“Yes, yes, I do,” she whispered, everything suddenly becoming crystal clear.
“Then you’ll stay put, for your mother? For Harry…”
“I’ll stay for my mum. As for Harry, well, he can jump-”
“What happened between you two, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I do mind,” she said tetchily, hating the fact that the mere mention of her relationship with Harry turned her into a bitch. It was just her natural reaction after so many people (namely her mum) had tried to saddle her with the fault in their failed relationship. No one knew him like she did, except maybe her brother and Hermione, and they were always willing to overlook his faults, which was the one thing she refused to do. Ginny was sure she’d be driven to murder after a few years of living with him.
“Ah,” was all Remus said as he continued to stare off into the distance.
“Where’s Ron?” Ginny asked by way of changing the subject.
“Running down some leads with Harry,” Remus said, standing up and offering her hand. “We should probably go in before it rains.”
The dark night sky lit up with lightning following by a low rumble of thunder across the hills.
“I think you’re right,” she said, taking his hand and pulling herself up just as the first drops of rain began to splatter the porch. “So what are you doing here in the middle of the night?”
“Early morning, really, and I bought you some supplies and things.”
Ginny willed herself not to feel disappointed, but she failed miserably. She was secretly hoping that he’d brought someone for her take care of for a few days, so she could occupy her thoughts with something other than trying to figure out a way to get to London without being killed the process.
“Good, I hope you brought some things to replenish my potion supplies. I used up most of my stores on Malfoy,” she said, making her way to the kitchen. “Would you like a bite to eat before you leave? I have cherry tarts. The Muggles have a brilliant market every Thursday when the farmers bring their goods in…” Her voice trailed off as she noticed a person slumped over at her kitchen table, swallowing hard when she caught glimpse of a bit of deep red plaid.
“Oh yeah,” Remus said, bemused, “I forgot, I brought Malfoy back too.”
It took every ounce of her strength not to run to Draco’s aid. He’d obviously seen a rough time of it at the hands of Harry, which didn’t surprise her in the least. Harry had had it in for Draco ever since they met as eleven year olds in Madam Malkin’s all those years ago, and it had long since grown old, at least to Ginny.
“He’s a little worse for the wear, but mostly intact, in case you’re wondering,” the older wizard in the room said after a while.
“I thought he was bound for Azkaban when the Order was done with him,” She responded, hoping she sounded indifferent when she was feeling anything but. She wished Lupin would just leave.
“Azkaban is no longer safe for a Malfoy.”
“So what now?” The news that the wizarding prison was no longer safe was not a huge surprise.
“We floated the story that he was found dead, which was picked up in the Prophet two days ago, and kept him hidden away until we could move him safely. That is why I’m here under the cover of night. It was my suggestion we stash him in the one place we knew he’d be safe.”
Ginny snorted softly. “What makes you think he’s safe here?”
“I just have a feeling,” Remus said, his brown eyes twinkling mischievously in the bright kitchen light.
“I’m not responsible for my actions if he starts acting like a git.”
“You can hex him, but you can’t kill him, not yet at any rate. He’s still of use to the Order.”
She just rolled her eyes before moving to put out a plate of tarts and fill the teapot, nudging Draco a bit when she set a plate in front of him along with a steaming cup of tea. He didn’t move. “What did Harry do to him?”
Remus took a big bite of cherry tart, savoring it a bit before answering. “I don’t know; you’ll have to ask Malfoy for yourself.”
“It looks like he hasn’t eaten.”
“How can you tell? He looks the same to me.”
She didn’t know why she bothered, really, because she already knew the answer to any question she could ask. Remus was just another one of Harry’s defenders. Nothing her former boyfriend ever did was wrong as long as someone was around to make excuses for him.
“His clothes are filthy,” she complained. “Did you keep him locked in a room the entire time?”
“Grimmauld Place isn’t exactly a bed and breakfast now is it?” Remus shot back her.
“But you knew how sick he’s been!”
“He’s not dead is he?”
“No,” she said grudgingly.
“He was treated much better than if the Death Eaters had captured him.”
She frowned and said nothing, turning her attention back to the young wizard slumped over her kitchen table. It was almost like déjà vu, only Malfoy didn’t seem on Death’s doorstep, and he was covered in less grime.
“I should take my leave,” Remus said, a sly smile lighting up his otherwise tired face. “Tonks would probably like to see me at some point in her lifetime.”
“Give her my love,” she said, distracted. Her mind was cataloguing all the things that she would need to do to get her charge back into the shape he had been in before he was taken away.
“He should have enough Veritaserum in his system to last a few more hours.” And with that he Disapparated with a soft pop.
She stared at the empty space for a moment as her brain tried to process Remus’ parting bit of information. She could ask Malfoy anything her little heart desired, and he’d be unable to do anything but answer honestly. It was too tempting to not at least entertain the thought of learning the answers to all things she was dying to know.
“Draco,” she said softly, taking the seat next to him at the table. “Draco, wake up. C’mon.” She tenderly brushed his hair back, silently willing him to give her a sign of life. “That’s a good boy,” she urged as he groaned and lifted his head.
“Weasley?” he asked weakly, blinking in the harsh light. His unfocused, glassy eyes were side affects of being doped with Veritaserum.
“How is your arm?”
“It hurts, throbs.”
“Let me see,” she said, carefully rolling up the sleeve of the shirt he was wearing when he was taken away weeks ago. The ruined skin that had once been the Dark Mark was still red and warm to the touch. “Do you think you walk? We need to get you into bed so I can fix you up as good as new.”
“I think so.” Draco stood, swaying a little once he’d reached his full height. “I don’t know.”
Ginny took his arm and draped it around her shoulders, wrapping her free arm around his waist to help guide him to the steps. “We’ll go nice and slow, okay?”
He nodded his consent, and thirty minutes later he was clean, wearing soft pajamas, dosed with a mild pain potion, and resting comfortably in one of the two narrow beds in the second bedroom. She served him a breakfast of two soft-boiled eggs, toast and weak tea.
“Are you done with that?” she asked just to make conversation. She’d tidied the room, cleaned the clothes he’d been wearing and put them away, and adjusted the curtains to keep out the flashing lightning, so he could get some rest.
“Yes,” he answered flatly.
“You didn’t like it?”
“It was fine.”
The tray disappeared with a flick of her wand. “Do you need anything else?”
Draco closed his eyes. “Yes, stay with me a little while. Please.”
“All right,” Ginny said, pulling the only chair in the room over by the bed. “I’ll stay until you fall asleep.” “Thank you.”
“Would you like a sleeping draught?” Ginny asked after what seemed hours of sitting in silence, but really was only twenty minutes.
“No, thank you,” he answered, staring blankly off into space.
“Was it bad?” she asked before she could stop herself. It was nosey at the very least, and knowingly taking advantage of him was a grievous sin. But then, when would she ever get the chance to have him answer anything honestly again? Despite everything, she still didn’t trust him as far as she could hex him.
“Was what bad?”
“The questioning – did Harry give you a difficult time?”
Draco hesitated, like he had wanted to make a snide comment, but instead he softly said, “Not really.”
“That’s good. I was worried-”
“You were worried about me?”
“I was worried you’d fall ill again and die before you could spend a good long time in Azkaban,” she informed him, and immediately felt guilty at the hurt look in his eyes. She hadn’t meant what she’d said, not really, but she couldn’t tell him how she nearly drove herself mad with worry. He wouldn’t believe her anyway.
Draco made a show of pulling up the blanket. “I think I will retire for evening now. Turn out the light on your way out please.”
“I’m sorry for what I said,” she said in a rush, and she meant it. “I don’t know what came over me. Will you forgive me?”
“Always.” His eyes were unreadable in the low light of the single witch light burning by his bed.
“Did it hurt?” Ginny asked after a few awkward minutes.
“Getting the Mark.”
“Unimaginable pain, worse than the Cruciatus.”
“That must have been horrible!”
“Why did you take it then?”
“I didn’t have a choice, really, but at the time I could only think about what I was going to do to Potter after I became a Death Eater,” he said bitterly.
“This was after your father’s arrest wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” he ground out. “Stupid fucking Potter. Ruining everything!”
Ginny swallowed hard. She’d been there that night in the Ministry. She’d broken her ankle in the fight that had ensued, and some of her recollections were a bit hazy, but if she wasn’t mistaken Lucius Malfoy had more than earned his one-way ticket to Azkaban.
“That’s why you killed Dumbledore isn’t it?” she asked in utter disbelief as the fragments of events from that horrible night on the tower fell into place in her mind. “To get back at Harry for your father’s arrest.”
“Yes, partly,” he said in carefully measured words. “I was assigned to kill Dumbledore. Getting even with Saint Potter was just a bonus.”
“Oh my god,” she gasped. “Voldemort assigned you…”
Draco nodded grimly. “Yes, it was kill him or the Dark Lord would kill my parents.”
“That’s awful.” Ginny’s mind was reeling as she tried to make sense of what she’d just heard. The unimaginable impossibility of the situation had to have been almost more than he could bear. “What did you do?”
“What did I do?” he snorted. “What did I do? How can you even ask that! I did the only thing I could in that situation. I attempted to kill Dumbledore several times over the course of the year.”
All of the strange occurrences of her fifth year came flooding back – Harry’s dogged obsession with finding out what Draco was doing; her brother’s poisoning; Katie’s mishap with a cursed necklace. “You nearly killed Ron and Katie!” she gasped in horror.
“You’re not even sorry, are you?”
“I’m more sorry than you’ll ever know.” A low rumble of thunder punctuated his words.
“Then why did you do it?”
“Kill Dumbledore? I didn’t. Snape did.”
“Snape?” Ginny gasped. Harry hadn’t mentioned any of this. “How?”
“He did what I couldn’t do. I couldn’t kill a weak old man, damn him,” he said with no emotion. “Damn him to hell. There he was disarmed, and at my mercy, and all I had to do was say the curse, but I couldn’t bring myself to utter the words. Then Dumbledore had to go be all fucking compassionate and offer me sanctuary. Offer to protect my parents. There I was trying to kill him and he was offering me a way out! After everything I’d done, he was offering me a way to save myself. I couldn’t do it then, not even to save my parents. Snape stepped in and killed him after Dumbledore pleaded for him to do it.”
“So Snape let the Death Eaters into Hogwarts?” She couldn’t make sense of it all. Harry’s versions of events were vastly different.
“No, that was me. I’d spent most of the year in the Room of Requirement trying to fix a Vanishing Cabinet. I managed it right before the end of the spring term.”
“You let them in?”
“Yes, I’m not proud of it now, but at the time I had little choice. My mother had been subjected to the Cruciatus, and the next time it would be the killing curse if I continued to fail.”
“Oh, Draco, you really didn’t have much choice, did you?”
“No, and I still couldn’t kill Dumbledore.”
“Why did you runaway then?” She couldn’t help herself from asking.
“Dumbledore was dead, and a bunch of Death Eaters had just witnessed my failure.”
“The Order would have protected you just like Dumbledore said.”
“They weren’t there; they didn’t witness what happened,” he said acerbically. “It would have been my word against Potter’s and who would they’ve believed?”
“You don’t know that,” she said defensively. She knew there were cooler heads in the Order than the likes of her ex-boyfriend and her brother. Ginny was positive someone would have listened to his tale and known he spoke the truth.
Draco smiled then, a very sad smile. “Always the Gryffindor, believing that truth and justice will prevail. I hate to inform you, sweetheart, but things don’t work that way in the real world.”
“You’re under the protection of the Order now,” she informed him sweetly.
“Only because I might be useful to Potter, otherwise he’d have left me to die.”
“You really hate Harry, don’t you?” she whispered.
“Saint Potter?” he hissed darkly. “Yes, I hate him with every fiber of my being.”
“He’s not all that bad.”
“He gets away with murder, because no one wants to believe he can do any wrong!”
“That’s not true! He doesn’t get away with everything!” She knew Harry had served detention loads of time for doing all kinds of stupid things, granted it was mostly Snape and Umbridge who’d given it to him, but still. He didn’t get away with everything.
Draco quirked an eyebrow at her and gave her a dubious look. “He got away with trying to kill me.”
“What?” she spluttered.
“I see your precious Potter conveniently forgot to tell you how he tried to murder me.”
“He told me you were injured when you hexed each other.”
“He hit me some slashing curse that nearly ripped me to shreds. I almost bled to death. I would have too if Snape hadn’t arrived.”
That didn’t sound like Harry at all. She knew he hated Draco, and they’d had their share of dustups, but she knew deep in her heart that Harry would never have tried to kill him outright. “I don’t believe you.”
Draco pulled up the faded black t-shirt he was wearing to reveal his ghostly pale chest marred by numerous thin, raised slashing scars. They looked like they’d been painful. “Where do you think these came from?”
“I thought-” She didn’t know what she really did think; though she had wondered when she was cleaning him up where those scars had come from. They weren’t too old by the looks of them, but they were definitely not from recent injures.
“So when is the wedding?” Draco asked silkily, drawing her from her troubled ruminations.
“You, Potter, married and breeding mealy-mouth little brats – when?”
“I’m not going to marry Harry.”
“What, no grand wedding over the corpse of the Dark Lord?”
“Of course not! That’s just disgusting!”
“And true if Potter had his way.”
“It is not!
“I thought your greatest desire was to be Mrs. Potter.”
“Not anymore,” she informed him flatly. It still stung - Harry’s rejection of her - even after so much time. The initial hurt had finally turned into angry resolved that he was not going to win her back, no matter how hard he tried. Ginny had learned long ago that Ron and Hermione would always come first where Harry was concerned. “Why are you being so cruel?”
“I don’t know,” he said tightly, as if it pained him greatly to say it. “I’m jealous of Potter!”
Ginny could scarcely believe what she’d just heard.
“Jealous of Harry?”
“He has you; that’s why.” She could see his pale features were tinged pink in the dim witchlight, and she couldn’t stop herself from thinking he was the most beautiful boy she’d ever seen.
“He doesn’t have me,” she told him just to see his reaction. “Not anymore.”
“He broke up with me.”
“Potter’s a fool.”
“He’s changed his mind, or at least he acts like he has.”
“Do you want to get back with him?”
“It would make my mum happy.”
“Would it make you happy?”
“No, no, I don’t think it would.”
“What would make you happy?”
Ginny chewed her bottom lip to keep from answering his question honestly. It wouldn’t do for him to have that bit of information, because he’d just try to use it against her. She did have to live with him until the Order decided what to do with him.
“I asked you a question,” Draco said impatiently.
“Why did you kiss me that morning in the kitchen?” she asked, trying to distract him with a question of her own. Ginny needed to regain the upper hand, before she ended up telling him things she’d never dared to give voice to before. It was frightening how easy it was to tell him things she couldn’t even talk about with her best friend.
Draco turned his head away, breathing in and out slowly, for what seemed an eternity, before turning back to look her, silver eyes meeting brown ones. “Because it seemed like a good idea at the time. I was about to be thrown in Azkaban, so I had nothing to lose.”
Ginny squeaked indignantly and muttered about all boys being the bloody same under her breath.
“And you’re really pretty, and I think I might be in love with you,” he finished softly, never taking his eyes off of her.
She was sure he was telling the truth. The Veritaserum was still at work in his system, because his eyes hadn’t yet lost their glassy look.
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