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Chapter 19: XVIII
Thank you so much for your continuous support! This chapter is a little shorter than the rest, but I felt it was a good place to stop. For those who live in the U.S. and celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you all have a wonderful day with your friends and family! :)
A two-story, modernized cottage was surrounded with snow in it's large yard. There didn't seem to be any shoe prints or paw prints from any animals in the snow. The cottage seemed to be empty as the windows didn't show anyone through them.
Draco's eyebrows furrowed as he looked at the cottage. He looked down at the address Kingsley had given him, and then back up at the cottage's address to confirm he was at the right place. Shoving the small piece of paper in his pants pocket, he let out a rough sigh and walked up to the cottage. As every fiber in his body seemed to shout at him to turn around, he ignored it and knocked on the door.
A few minutes passed by, and as he was about to knock on the door again, an older man opened the door. He looked at Draco curiously.
When the man didn't say anything, Draco cleared his throat and held out his hand. "Mr. Palmer, I'm Draco. Draco Malfoy."
"Mr. Palmer has died. I'm Phillip," the man said as he took Draco's hand and shook it briefly. "What can I do for you?"
Before Draco could answer, his wife - Draco assumed - walked to the door wiping her hands and asked, "Who's at the door, Phil?"
"Draco Malfoy," Draco answered as he held out his hand to her.
"Hello, Mr. Malfoy, I'm Mary. Well, come on in, I was just making tea," she replied. Draco stepped in and moved past Phillip. Mary patted Phillip's shoulder. "Let the man in, Phil, and come help me with the tea. Mr. Malfoy, please, have a seat. We'll be right with you."
As he was about to object, Mary and Phillip walked into the kitchen. Draco rubbed the back of his neck and closed the door. Doing as Mary said, he walked into the family room and sat down in one of the chairs.
"Here we go," Mary said as she walked in with the tray, Phillip trailing behind her. She set the tray down, poured the tea in the cups, and handed Draco a cup. He took it and thanked her. Once she and Phillip had their cups, she sat down on the couch, a small smile on her face. "What do we owe this pleasure, Mr. Malfoy? The last we heard, Sophie stayed with you for the holiday. How is she doing? We sure did miss her."
Hearing her name being brought up so quickly and thinking how the two of them, and the rest of their family, had felt, Draco took a big sip of his tea. Finally, after what seemed to be ages, he swallowed the lump in his throat.
"I'm sorry about not stopping by during vacation."
"Oh, we understand that that's not your fault," Mary said warmly, making Draco believe it for a moment.
"She was pretty upset the day she found out, and the fact that we didn't tell her," Phillip continued, his face showing the regret he felt. "We never thought that it would hurt her. We thought we were protecting her, especially our parents."
"She's a wonderful girl now," he said, the words choking him up. He let out a cough to hide emotion. "I wish I could thank your parents. I'm so sorry about your loss. Sophie's been struggling with it."
"I can imagine."
Before Mary or Phillip could say or ask anything else, Draco was overcome with emotion. He ran a hand through his hair and stared at the floor. Thickly, he said, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"Sorry? Sorry for what, Mr. Malfoy?" Mary questioned, compassion in her voice.
"I've failed Sophie as a father. I've failed miserably," he choked out, his face moving into his hands.
"What happened? Where is Sophie? Is she all right?" Phillip suddenly questioned hotly. Mary looked over at her husband and placed a hand on his knee to comfort him.
"Mr. Malfoy, please, tell us what's going on," Mary responded as calmly as she could."
After a few minutes, Draco composed himself and wiped his eyes. "I know we had never met before this, and I know how your parents had felt about me and my family. I can only assume that you feel the same way, but I came here because you were Sophie's family for seventeen years. You deserve to know what's going, and I knew Ginny wouldn't come and tell you."
"What's wrong? What's wrong with Sophie?" Phillip asked again more anxiously.
"She's in St. Mungo's," Draco answered after releasing a deep breath. "I don't know what exactly what happened, and neither do the Healers."
"They don't know?" Mary choked.
Draco's eyes began to stung with tears as he continued, "Her cousins found her upstairs passed out. She hasn't woken up yet, and if it weren't for a spell to keep her lungs breathing, she…" He trailed off, not able to say the words.
Sniffles came from Mary after she blew her nose, and the color from Phillip's had completely drained. Draco watched the agony they were in and wondered if that's what he looked like or if his matched theirs. Before he could become too deep in thought, he added, "I'm sorry I hadn't come sooner."
"How long has she been in there?" Mary asked shakily.
"Close to a week," Draco answered. Phillip was about to interject when Draco quickly added, "As I said, I'm sorry I hadn't come sooner. I just found out the other night when I went to the Quidditch match up at the school. I just received your address from the Minister today, and I came as soon as I could. Again, I'm sorry."
A few moments passed. Draco looked down at the floor, feeling as if he were invading their personal space. He stood from the chair and said, "You're more than welcome to go visitor. She needs all the love and support she can get."
Without waiting for them to say anything, Draco walked out of the living room and walked out of the door, shutting it gently. As he walked into the cold, he let out a deep sigh and ran a hand through his hair. He walked down the porch and began to walk in the snow, far enough to Apparate, when he heard the door open and someone call his name. He turned to see Mary standing in the door. Not able to say anything, she mouthed "thank you." A small smile came to his face and he nodded. Taking a few more steps into the empty yard, he Apparated.
That evening, Ginny, Harry, and the kids were sitting at the table, finishing dinner. James pushed his food around with his fork as he had done since he had seen Sophie passed out in the bathroom.
"James, you have to eat something," Ginny said.
"I'm not hungry."
"You haven't eaten much in the past few days."
"Yeah, well, I don't see how you can eat, or live with yourself for that matter," he spat out as he looked at Ginny darkly.
"James Sirius Potter!" Harry exclaimed.
"Sophie's going to die?" Lily questioned quizzically.
"No," Ginny and Harry answered her hard.
"I believe you have something to say to your mother."
"You're right, I do," James admitted. He turned to Ginny, a small smile on his face. It diminished as he said, "I'm sorry you decided to keep Sophie out of our lives. And I'm terribly sorry you've allowed yourself, our family, the family who adopted her, and Sophie to live a lie."
Before anyone could say anything, James pushed away from his chair, it falling to the ground, and hurried up the stairs. As his door slammed, Ginny jumped, and she bit her lip.
"I'll go talk to him," Ginny said after a few minutes of silence.
"No," Harry said as his lied on top of hers. "We're going to finish eating; then the four of us are going to go visit Sophie."
"But, Harry," Ginny began before he interjected, "The four of us."
They finished their dinner quietly. When they were finished, Ginny cleared the plates and had them begin to magically clean themselves. The four of them grabbed their coats, put them on, and then Flooed to St. Mungo's.
Once they reached the waiting room, they saw that it was completely full. They passed and walked down to Sophie's room. As they entered, they saw two people around sitting at her bed.
Instantly, Ginny's brows furrowed and she hurried forward. "Excuse me, what are you two doing here?"
The man stood, and looked at her, his arm wrapping around the woman's shoulder. He eyed Ginny carefully. As she was about to ask again, he answered, "Austin Palmer. This is my wife, Carrie Palmer."
"Oh, I'm -," Ginny started, not paying attention to the last name, before Austin shook his head and held his hand up.
"We know who you are," he said. "You're Ginny Potter, Sophie's birth mother."
"I'm sorry…how do you know that?"
"Mum, he's from Sophie's other family," Lily said as he looked at the man. "Right?"
"That's right," Austin said with a warm smile, his blue eyes moving to Ginny. "I'm Austin Palmer; this is my wife, Carrie."
"Nice to meet you," Harry responded as he shook Austin's hand.
"How did you know she was here?" Ginny asked after a short, awkward pause.
Carrie stood up and turned away from Sophie. "Mr. Malfoy told Phillip and Mary this morning."
Anger boiled through Ginny's veins. Without saying a word, she turned and stormed out of the room. She stepped into the hall and Apparated to Draco's house.
Standing on the porch, she let in a deep breath and exhaled. As she was about to knock on the door, it opened and revealed Astoria, a smug look on her face.
"What can I do for you, Potter?"
"Where's your husband?" Ginny asked through her gritted teeth.
"He's at his parents' house. He shouldn't be disturbed right now," Astoria responded, her tone derogatory.
“Like I give a damn.”
As she turned around, Astoria grabbed her shoulder and stopped her. "His father and him are trying to find someone that can help Sophie. I'm sure you don't want to stop that. You never know how long she'll hold on for."
"Don't you dare," Ginny growled slightly as she turned and glared at Astoria.
"I'm only stating the truth." Astoria smirked and shrugged. "It'd be a shame… That poor girl…not able to know who her true family is because her mum decided to keep her a secret for all of these years…"
Tears began to sting in Ginny's eyes as her eyes refused to waver from Astoria's. As Astoria was about to say something else, Ginny cut over her and said, "You seem pretty sure about Sophie's outcome. What do you know about, Astoria?"
"Oh, right," Astoria said as her leant back and she let out a small chuckle. "As if I had something to do with the condition she's in."
"I think you had something to do with it."
"Please," she responded exasperatedly. "I would never hurt Draco's child. You're out of your mind."
"Am I now? Are you sure?"
With a shake of her head, Astoria sarcastically aid, "You're right, you caught me. I'm the reason Sophie's in the hospital. I just find it so enjoyable to see my husband in agony and get heartbreaking letters from my son."
"Maybe not that," Ginny began as her eyes squinted. "But you could've done it to get back at your cheating husband."
At her words, Astoria took a step back, her features becoming cold. Without waiting for her response, Ginny turned around and walked off the porch. Once her feet hit the pavement, she Apparated to Malfoy Manor.
As soon as she landed in front of the Manor, she walked up the porch and walked through the door without knocking. "Malfoy! Where the bloody hell are you?!"
"What in Merlin's beard are you doing here?" Draco asked as he walked down the hall toward her, his brows furrowed.
"Who do you think you are?" she questioned harshly.
"Excuse me? Draco, what is she doing here?" Lucius asked as he walked up from behind Draco.
"I've no idea."
Ginny glared at Lucius and then back at Draco. "Who do you think you are just going to the Palmers and telling them about Sophie?"
"Oh, here we go," Draco sighed as he rolled his eyes.
"Sophie doesn't need to be around so many people! Who knows what she could catch! The smallest thing could affect her!"
"Oh, come off it, Potter. You know they deserve to know and be there. Besides, it's not like they're going to give Sophie anything that your family couldn't!"
"Merlin! You're impossible!"
"Why don't leave before you embarrass yourself even more? I have work to do."
"If you have this handled, I'm going back to my study," Lucius said with a bored tone.
"I'll be right there, father." When Lucius was gone, Draco asked again, "Are you done?"
"Not even close," Ginny responded through gritted teeth as she turned.
"I don't know what else there is to talk about. You said what you had to and that's it."
"Why are you doing this to me?" she questioned, the harshness of her voice completely gone.
"I'm not doing anything that you didn't set yourself up for, Potter," Draco answered hard.
"You don't have to take me to the Wizengamot."
He paused for a moment as he heard the vulnerability in her voice. Hearing it took him back to the intimate moments they shared together when they were both teaching at Hogwarts. Before he could become too lost in his memories and emotions, he said, "No, I don't have to."
"Then why?" she asked as she turned back to him.
"Do you want the truth?" he answered softly as he stepped to her closer, their bodies touching. His grey eyes looked into her brown ones as if he were searching something. He could see that he had brought out her nerves. Her eyes looked down to their feet. He took her moment of weakness and lowered his head toward her, his breath catching on her neck. Hearing her sigh, he moved to her ear and said sensually, "Because I want you and Harry to pay for how you've hurt me."
As he felt her head move up against his neck, he pulled away and looked at her, his features cold. She looked up at him in surprise, her eyes searching his.
"You never loved me, did you?"
"If I didn't, do you really think you could ever hurt me so bad?" he asked, a lump in his throat. He cleared it quietly and said, "Now, if you could leave, that would be lovely. You're keeping me from important matters."
"I'm so sorry, Draco," Ginny whispered.
"Yeah, I know," he responded nonchalantly as he turned and walked back to the study.
Ginny watched after him, tears stinging her eyes. She sniffled, brushed her eyes, and turned to the door. As she was about to turn the doorknob, she paused and whispered, "If only you knew that deep down I still love you."