And in the spirit of never ever EVER EVER EVER!!! allowing the Most Recent Fics category to remain empty, I give you this. And be sure to go to the 2014 D/G Fic Exchange A Go-Go and review, nominate, and vote. Remember, whoever leaves the most reviews gets a very special prize.
And big changes are coming soon! The FIA Forums will be seriously pruned and revamped, the podcasts will be revived, the D/G essay will be continued, and the OFIC forums will be planned and worked on. :)
Also, I have a new piece on Seeking Alpha coming out soon. Maybe I'll provide a link once it's up. Um... what does that have to do with D/G? You wouldn't think a whole lot, since it's a biotech company investors' blog. HOWEVER, I've been thinking a lot about a D/G crossover fic with Orphan Black. And if you're familiar with that show at all, you just may guess what the connection could be.
Anyway, without further ado...
Ginny stood at the small rental car counter in Shrewton and dug her nails into her palms. The woman typed something on her computer keyboard in a hunt-and-peck fashion, each letter seeming to take about ten minutes to find. She finally turned round, beaming a wide smile from a pleasant, comfortable face.
"Here you are, dear." She handed Ginny the keys. "Unlimited mileage. Not that you're likely to reach your limit in this neighborhood!" She chuckled for an unconscionably long time.
Hurry, thought Ginny. Finish! Let me get out of here!
"So where do you plan to drive, dear?"
"Oh… around." Ginny tried to fix a smile on her face, but she could tell that it was a lot closer to a grimace.
"You can't go up to Stonehenge, you know, dear. Unless you're one of those odd neo-reconstructionist Druids."
"I'm not. I just want to… er… look around."
"If you want to go to the burned-out house, you're not the only looky-loo. But it's all blocked off."
She felt as if her heart had stopped. "The… the what?"
Some other house, she thought with relief, just a second later. It had to be. Of course, too bad for whoever's house it was, but—
"Oh, a very big mansion," said the woman.
Her heart was thumping now. "Where… where was it, exactly?"
"About a mile from Stonehenge, I'd say. It's one of the few that isn't open to tourists. Most of the old families are a bit rag-tag nowadays. Some cousin or other of Prince Michael of Kent once sold the "Royal Windsor Line" of china on an American shopping network, can you imagine? But this family had a great deal of money."
"What were they called?" Ginny could hear how faint her own voice was. She'd gotten this far. She'd gotten an airline ticket, she'd made it through security. She'd waited to rent a car until getting very close to her destination, knowing that she'd have a better chance of finding what she sought if she chose a Muggle conveyance that had at least been in the area before she got here. She'd rented cars during her year in America, so she knew how to behave at a rental counter. She'd even gotten a driver's license. So she wasn't going to allow a mistake like the one about this house to throw her. Because it had to be a mistake. It was impossible for this story to be anything else.
The woman had been getting the car keys out from behind the counter, but she paused to answer. "The Malfoys, I believe."
Ginny clutched onto the counter to stay upright. This was impossible. It. Was. Not. Possible. Malfoy Manor had always been wound round with spells more powerful than those that any witch or wizard could ever have learned, spells that were in the stones themselves, in the very bones of the house. Earth magic, and deeper, even older, the kind of magic that she didn't particularly want to think about, and had more or less successfully avoided remembering for a long time. At any rate, no Muggle had ever known anything about its existence, and none ever could. And this woman on the other side of the counter was a Muggle; Ginny knew that with all of her magical senses.
"Are you all right, dear?" the woman asked in a kindly voice.
"Yes," Ginny replied mechanically.
" It's the early morning light, I suppose. It never gives one any color."
"Yes. I'm sure that's all it is. Tell me, how long had the house been there?"
"Bless you, for five or six hundred years at least, I should think. But then, I suppose that you wouldn't have known…"
There was a strange look on the woman's face as she said the words. Ginny leaned closer. "No, I don't know. I've never heard anything about this house. What's the history? Could you tell me anything about that?"
"Well, I…" The woman's eyes went vague. "I really don't know. I imagine you could learn more at the local library."
"I'm sure I could," said Ginny. "Thank you."
She was able to make it all the way to the car, and then she got in, slumped against the steering wheel, and stared fiercely ahead, determined not to cry.
There was no doubt about it. She had just seen the results of some kind of spell. But it couldn't have been one of the Befuddlement variety. No, it was the opposite sort, if anything, as if this Muggle woman had been permitted to know something that she should not and could not have known without a magical revealing. She clearly didn't know everything, but she knew that Malfoy Manor existed. Oh, Gods, what could this mean?
I could have learned a lot more before now, she thought. I didn't want to. Ignorance was not bliss, but I chose it anyway. Be honest with yourself about that at least, Ginny Potter. No. Ginny Weasley. It had been over a year now since she'd given up the right to use that name, but she still fell into those slips, even when thinking to herself. She was going back to her maiden name, regardless of what anyone thought about it. There was no divorce in the wizarding world; she'd gotten a Muggle divorce from Harry, perfectly aware that most of the people she'd always known would not recognize it. She almost wished she could pick yet another name, something that marked her as separate and distinct, now that her mother had made it so very clear that she'd been a disappointment to the Weasleys.
There was a road visible to Muggles that had always led part of the way up to the Manor, the A344. She drove from Shrewton to Wiltshire down the smooth asphalt, remembering how it eventually split off into the road to the parking area for Stonehenge. Surely, surely that would happen again.
But it didn't. The car kept driving without a bump or interruption, the road perfectly straight. It was a very warm June day, but icy chills ran up her arms, raising the tiny hairs, forming goosebumps.
There was a chain-link fence around the property where the road ended. She got out of the car and slowly looked around. She wasn't close enough to really recognize anything—the trees were very thick here, although not as old as the ones near the areas she'd been. But she though that she was somewhere in the area of the west wing.
A policeman stood in front of the fence, his arms crossed.
"Sorry, lady. I can't let you through. It's not safe." He had a broad northeastern American accent.
"I'm sure it's not," said Ginny. "Where are you from, uh, officer?"
"New Jersey. Camden. You know it?"
"I know where it is." She looked around, trying to collect herself. "Do you like it here."
"Yeah, sure. Great people. Less chance of getting shot, right?" He chuckled.
Maybe so, thought Ginny. But there were other dangers, ones that this Muggle knew nothing about.
"You better turn back now," he said.
"Right," said Ginny. "I'll go back the way I came now."
She got in her car and started on the way back down the road. He waved pleasantly at her, but one hand felt at his hip. She knew it must have been an instinctive reaching out for the gun that British police weren't allowed to carry. But it was still a gesture that reminded her of the wizards she hadn't seen in the past year. Again, though, this man was undoubtedly a Muggle.
Whoever was responsible for this hadn't wanted to risk local policemen, she thought. There was always the chance that they might remember too much, or rather, might remember that they weren't supposed to know anything at all about the existence of Malfoy Manor. And there had been some kind of extra, subtle spell used too, something that left a vague impression in any Muggle's mind that they needed to stay away, and to keep others away too. She would bet on that being the truth.
Ginny tried to think. There was another way. She remembered it. The magic was stronger there, and that could mean that maybe, just maybe, non-magical people couldn't go anywhere near it. She might be able to get through. It was a chance, anyway.
She began driving, letting her mind drift, willing herself to be elsewhere.
And then there she was, driving down a long, winding road set with smooth cobblestones and shaded on either side by impenetrable stands of ancient oaks. Her throat tightened. They had walked here once, she and—
She managed to cut the thought off as abruptly as if she'd used a knife.
Another turn, a left, a right, and then the road would smooth out. She was almost sure she remembered the directions correctly. The trees were at their thickest now, leaning over the little car with menacing dark fingers.
The road ended at a cast iron gate, decorated with sinuous snakes. She parked the car and went up to it, putting out her hand, testing the cold metal. She could see it, she could even touch it, but that proved nothing. There was the slight hum of magic; it hadn't been stripped away entirely. But she might have been able to find it simply because any magical person could have done so. The real question was whether or not she could get through it.
There was one way to find out.
She pushed at part of the gate. It didn't move; the large, ornate lock held the two halves tightly together. She took out her wand and tapped it on the bars. They trembled; her arm trembled too, as she felt the vibrations of magic. She was sure, now, that this was not part of the house that had been dragged into the light, dragged out of whatever magical dimension where it had so long existed.
Of course, that also meant that it wasn't letting her in. Only a Malfoy could have opened it.
She steeled herself.
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