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The Sickness and the Cure by DoubleCharms
Chapter 8 : Chapter 8 : Bare Skin on Cold Floors
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 25


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A/N: Sorry for the long time! More at the bottom…

Warnings: Slight AU; T for now (could go to M in the near future chapters) for slight violence and some steamy situations... you know what I'm talking about, nothing to serious though.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own anything you recognize... it all belongs to the wonderful JK Rowling and her family of publishers. I also do not own these song lyrics and they are not used to promote this story in any way. I actually buy CDs, mostly because I can’t figure out how to download anything.




If it's not keeping you up at night, then what's the point?
Taking Back Sunday/ Great Romances of the 20th Century

Chapter 8: Bare Skin on Cold Floors

Ginny awoke slowly, emerging from her dreamless sleep like coming out of a thick fog. After a moment, she became aware of her body and realized the pain from her injuries was significantly less and the dizziness had left her completely. Her arms and legs felt heavy and stiff and after a half-hearted attempt to move them, exhaustion rolled over her again. She felt like she had been sleeping for days and yet fatigue still griped tightly and she had to resist going back to sleep. The bed she was snuggled in was plush and warm and just as she felt herself drifting away she heard the distinct sounds of someone in the room with her.

She was instantly awake as adrenaline and fright pumped through her tired body. Opening her eyes slightly so that she didn’t alert the person that she was awake, she made a quick sweep through the room. It was decorated in beautiful rich blues, and though everything was obviously much more expensive looking, it reminded her of her old room at the Burrow. Except that there was an old man humming to himself merrily while he studied a book in the corner of the room.

He was bent over a thick volume, scouring it actively, and Ginny thought he looked thoroughly distracted. She opened her eyes father and noticed he was wearing thick glasses, a pair of bright colored women’s house slippers, and a sweatband around his balding head. Next to him was a small steaming cauldron and he started humming a bright tune she didn’t recognize as he added a few ingredients to the bubbling mixture. There were different potions and bottles and books spread wide through the room on the bureaus and chairs and after observing him for a moment she watched him add a few more ingredients to the potion. He was making a sleeping draught, she realized with slight panic. Was he drugging her?

Before she could think of a way to use the situation to her advantage, Ginny opened her mouth. “I'm awake, you know,” she said as nastily as she could manage with her hoarse voice then watched the old man’s surprised eyes flick towards her. “And I'm not going to eat or drink anything you give me now, so you can forget continuing to drug me.” She was expecting his eyes to be cold and dark, but she was surprised by their immediate sparkle. She was even more surprised at his response.

“Draco said you were going to be fun,” the old man said cheerily and smiled brightly at her. His voice was rough, but unexpectedly friendly. “Well… he didn’t actually say ‘fun,’ but close enough I think! And you see I'm not making anything to poison you with, as you must have thought. Are you by any chance allergic to Dreamless Sleeping potions?”

“Not at all, why?” Ginny answered suspiciously, though she really had no idea as she had never taken the potion before.

“After I healed your more major injuries, I gave you a tiny amount to help you sleep and it knocked you out for three days. Welcome back to the land of the living, duck, I was just starting to worry about you.” He smiled beneath his glasses and looked at her with unabashed curiosity. Ginny stared quietly back at him and almost smiled at his very odd appearance.

“Well then, I guess I won’t need this antidote.” She heard him emphasize the last word and she felt her suspicions ease back a tiny bit. He turned around and pulled out his wand, vanishing the contents in the cauldron and sending ingredient bottles zooming around the room to their supposed rightful places (though Ginny couldn’t fathom any conceivable order to the mess of bottles that was spread through the room).

“You healed me?” she asked with slight contempt and skepticism in her voice after the bottles had settled in their places. “I want to know exactly what you did and what spells you used.” Ginny tried to sit up but her muscles felt so soggy and weak that she resigned to glaring defensively instead. The old man laughed and pulled some papers from under a stack of large dusty books.

“After Draco told me that you are a Healer at Mungo’s, I figured you’d ask that,” the man smiled and approached her bed, thoughtfully spreading out the papers for her on her lap. “Here are my notes; you can have a look over.” He gave her a cheerful smile which Ginny didn’t return, then went back to reading the text she had pulled him away from.

Her arms were still under the squashy blue covers, and she didn’t feel much like trying to move them again, so Ginny resigned to reading what she could see. If his sparkling eyes and friendly demeanor were a surprise to find in the same residence that housed Draco Malfoy, an even bigger surprise was how detailed and familiar his Healer notes were. She was silent for a few minutes before looking up to find the old man watching her curiously.

“Most of your injuries were fairly easy to heal. The majority of your fainting spells and dizziness was caused by extreme fatigue and dehydration. You’re a tough girl, duck.” This time Ginny felt compelled to return his kind smile, though warily, then went back to looking over the notes. There were various descriptions followed by potion measurements, time intervals and complex spells written in almost the exact format Healers notes were presented at a hospital.

“Are you a Healer?” she asked him, considerably curious enough about the notes to forget how her healing was progressing. The cheery man brightened even more at her question.
“Yes, I am! In fact, I worked for a number of years at St. Mungo’s in the Bone division. My specialty was complicated bone regrowths and fixing lengthening spells, things like that,” he looked wistful for a moment. “But now I do full time research here at the Manor.”

As soon as he mentioned research, all Ginny’s reservations flew out the large blue trimmed windows. “Research was my absolute favorite in school, but I ended up specializing in something else,” Ginny gushed, suddenly forgetting that she was supposed to be aloof and cold.

“Really?” he said, his eyes widening curiously, a slow smile spreading across his face like he had just learned a great secret. “Must be fascinating work down there in the Emergency Department,” he said kindly, his eyes twinkling with excitement.

“Draco told you that, too?” Ginny asked hesitantly.

“Just a guess, duck,” the man slightly faltered, but continued. “Anyways, now that you are awake, how are you feeling?”

“Very tired still, but it’s getting better,” she told him honestly. But even her fingers hurt when she tried to move them.

“Excellent, excellent. And how is your pain?”

“Getting better also, except for my neck…” she reached up to touch the wound but a large bandage stopped her. “What is this?” she asked, confused, running her fingers along the length of the bandage.

“Well, the blade that made that cut was charmed to create wounds that are unable to heal magically so I had to use a Muggle method. You have eleven stitches closing the laceration,” he told her, searching her face for distress.

It took her a moment to realize the irony of the situation, but she ended up laughing in amazement rather than anger.

“Stitches. Go figure he would slice me up with a bloody cursed knife and I get stitches...” Memories of their last year together at Hogwarts flashed through her mind and she stilled. Seven years later and remembering how much she lost still hurt as much as the day Draco left.

“You’re referring to Draco?” the old man asked, watching her curiously.

“Yes… sodding Malfoy,” Ginny tried to sound annoyed but her words came out laced with unintentional soft regret and he smiled at her kindly, withholding the questions she knew he was bursting to ask.

“Well, other than your suspected allergic reaction to the sleeping draught and your obvious resentment of Master Malfoy, a few more days of rest and you should be much better. And I think if you continue to look over my notes, you will draw the same conclusion,” he waved a hand towards the notes still laying across Ginny’s lap and she smiled at him.

“Thank you for everything…” she stopped awkwardly, trying to remember if he had ever mentioned his name.

“Oh, yes! I am Xavier Meliflua, a quite distant cousin of the Black’s, Draco’s mother’s family name,” he smiled, catching her silent question. But the stunned look on Ginny’s face had nothing to do with his relation to the Malfoy’s.

“Healer Meliflua? The same Healer Meliflua that discovered the how to increase the rate of trauma bone regrowth and created the eleven uses of the siruk root?” Ginny asked, her eyes wide in amazement. She tried to sit up farther in her bed, but just ended up sliding down further so she pushed the covers off slightly so she could see him.

“The very same! I'm surprised you remember those,” he smiled widely at her, a slight pink of happiness staining his cheeks.

“Remember them? I can name all eleven uses and what they heal, and I used the pattern effect almost every day!” Ginny gushed. “I have every book you’ve written. And we studied the papers you wrote in just about every class during university, you’re a legend!”

“All that and I'm still known as somewhat the black sheep, as they say, of the family,” and they both laughed. Ginny quickly decided that she liked this man, no matter his connection to the Malfoy’s and his incredible medical knowledge.

“And please call me Xavi, everyone else does and since I heard you are staying for quite a while…” his smile fell from his face when he saw Ginny’s face go unexpectedly pale. “Forgive me for mentioning it, duck, I do not know the particulars,” he said quickly.

The mere thought of what Draco had said her fate would be brought her stomach to her throat. “Malfoy hasn’t said anything to you?” Ginny asked him, hoping that maybe after their fight in his office he had decided that he would let her go.

“No, I haven’t seen him in a few days,” Xavi said then frowned as Ginny’s face fell. “Don’t worry, duck, he is prone to disappearing for days. I'm sure he’ll be in to visit once he hears that you’re awake.”

“I highly doubt it,” she said quietly, incredibly frustrated that she was still going to be forced to be a Death Eater. Maybe he changed his mind while she was asleep and didn’t tell Xavi, she hoped. It was either that, or she would have to find a way to escape…fast.

“Well, lets hope you can get better quickly so that you can help me with my latest research on the properties of garbunkt flower stems,” he told her and Ginny smiled brightly at the prospect even though worry and aches were still flowing through her.

He shuffled towards the stacks of books littered through the room and started picking some odd ones out and heaping them in a pile.

“Now tell me about yourself, starting with your name,” Xavi asked kindly as he pulled another book out of a rather tall and wobbly stack and dropped the others on the floor. Ginny gaped at him.

“Dra… I mean, Malfoy didn’t even tell you my name?” she looked at him with wide eyes.

“As I said, I haven’t talked to him since the night you woke me up by throwing furniture across the fourth floor hall at a window,” he grinned at her. “You have quite the arm, too bad the window was charmed to be unbreakable.”

“I threw furniture?” Ginny said, trying to remember what he was talking about. The last thing she remembered clearly was running out of Draco’s office in a scared rage. Ginny figured she must have passed out, but throwing furniture? The yelling… his arm against her throat…“You’ll receive the Dark Mark”…

“…It was only a few vases and an end table, or two…” Xavi was saying when Ginny snapped herself back into the conversation. “But it was quite effective in making Master Malfoy worry about you.”

“He was worried about me?” she asked with amused suspicion, but it didn’t stop her stomach from doing a little flip. Xavi looked slightly sheepish, but Ginny glimpsed a twinkle float through his sharp eyes.

“Well, he never actually said that particular phrase aloud, but he yelled quite furiously when he thought I was moving to slow and not doing the right thing. He gets really annoying when he’s like that. Once you were stable and sleeping though, he vanished,” Xavi told her, still searching through the volumes of books sitting around on the various dressing tables and chairs.

“I doubt very much that he was worried, Xavi. You’re going to find out anyways and most likely from him, but Malfoy and I hate each other. He probably only stuck around because he was hoping I would die so that he wouldn’t have to deal with me anymore,” she told him evenly.

“Oh, I see,” Xavi said solemnly, but as he turned she saw a smile return to his face. “You are very good at evading questions about yourself, is there something that you’re hiding?”

“Oh! No, I just get distracted easily I guess,” Ginny said then yawned widely, trying to press herself up father against the headboard so she wouldn’t think about falling asleep again. “My name is Ginny Weasley, I was a Gryffindor at Hogwarts and I graduated last year from Greenwestern University then went to work at Mungo’s emergency department almost immediately after,” she yawned again, but stopped when she noticed the curious look on Xavi’s face.

“Ginny… Weasley, you say?” he asked, his bushy eyebrows knitting above his bright eyes.

“Yes, that’s right. Why?” Ginny watched him carefully. The thoughtful look he had on his face did not match his answer.

“I believe you wrote a paper about proper initial treatment of splinchings,” he said factually.

“Yes, that’s right,” Ginny said again, but the thoughtful look persisted and Ginny knew he was contemplating something else. “That’s not all you’re thinking, is it?” she told him.

“No… no, it’s not,” he looked at her, completely serious for the first time since she had awoken. “But, that is for another day,” his smile returned and he interrupted her when she began to protest. “I must go find Master Malfoy; he’ll want to know you’re awake. In the mean time, I want you to start to read up on the garbunkt. I would be honored if you assisted me while you’re here and it will take your mind off… other things. Now rest up, I’ll be back to check on you in a bit,” he dropped the mountain of books that he had been gathering onto the bedspread beside her feet and hobbled out of the room. The smile he gave her before he closed the door was clearly forced and Ginny wondered if she had gotten the wrong impression of this lovely old man.

His whole demeanor had changed when she told him her name. What did he know about her that made him so uneasy? And why didn’t Draco tell him her name in the first place? Was it because he didn’t want Xavi to know something? Ginny sat and stared at the dusty volumes, absentmindedly tracing the cover of a gold plated book that was encrusted with garbunkt flower patterns with her fingers.

It must’ve been something Draco said to him, Ginny finally figured. He must have heard Draco talk about her or mention his hatred of her family. Xavi was essentially a Malfoy, and if he lived underneath the Malfoy roof, he must share the same ideals as Lucius, Narcissa, and Draco. Xavi must have been livid to find out he had just spent three days nursing a Weasley back to health and left in such a hurry because he couldn’t stand to be in the room with her. But if Draco knew that Xavi would be mad, did he not reveal her name so that Xavi would do his best to save her?

Did Draco care, though, after everything she said to him? Ginny groaned and slowly slid further down on the pillows as flashes of what had happened in Draco’s office came back to her. He had actually physically hurt her…. something she never thought he was capable of. But then she never thought he would lock her in the dungeons for a month.

She couldn’t even think about how painful that was. The worst of it, though, had been when she heard Draco deny his involvement. From the moment she awoke in the dungeons with Moran and Verdure breathing down her neck, she knew Draco was responsible. She had wanted answers from him. Why did he do it? Did he think she was of some importance to the Order? Why did he leave her down there? Did he do it because of their past…

The aching in her chest returned and Ginny tried to push the thought out of her mind. Secretly, as much as she wanted to hate Draco and everything that he was and everything that he had done, the little memories of being happy with him still could outweigh everything if she let them.

Oh Merlin! Why had she said those things? Did you hate me that much? …I loved you… You thought I would ruin your dreams…

He probably had to hold himself back from laughing, she was so ridiculous. Mortification spread through her body and Ginny wished the gigantic fluffy bed would just swallow her up. Was there a way to play if off, make it seem like she was kidding? Ginny shut her eyes tightly, knowing that there was no way out of it. Humiliation rushed through her at the thought of realizing Draco now knew she had been heartbroken when he left her.

She refused to believe for one second that Draco had been worried about her, like Xavi had said. Draco certainly hadn’t changed, he was more worried about himself than anyone else and now that he had something to play over her head, would he use it?

Ginny sighed, the pounding behind her eyes returning. But all at once, the silence in the room seemed deafening and Ginny realized that she had been left alone for the first time in over a month. She had to get out; this was her chance to escape. She cursed herself for silently accepting that she would be allowed to stay in a posh bed for long. As soon as Xavi told Draco she was awake, he’d probably rush up here eager to kick her back to his filthy dungeons so she could ‘take a rest’ down there.

Pushing the covers off with difficulty, she noticed that she was no longer wearing the dirty scrubs she had been captured in and that she was scrubbed and clean. Her long red hair was silky and kinked from sleep, but she ran her hands through it gratefully. Looking down at the black shirt and large shorts she was wearing, she realized with cold distain that they looked like they were borrowed from Draco. And… holy Merlin, where were her knickers? Quickly searching for her clothes, more importantly her knickers, Ginny stripped off the shirt she was wearing intending to put her original clothes on. Though actually escaping in Draco’s clothes might be more insulting to him, she laughed to herself.

Silently hoping that Xavi was the one to change her and that he had used his wand and covered his eyes, she spotted her old clothes folded neatly on the only chair that wasn’t occupied by books and vials. She slung her feet over the side of the large bed which curiously made her gasp for breath like she had just run a marathon. But shoving that out of her mind, she quickly listened for activity in the hallway and hearing only silence she launched herself off the bed in a hurry, landed on legs that felt like they had been hit with a Jelly-Legs curse and promptly collapsed to the floor in a heap.

Bugger.

Ginny sighed, grumpily recalling that severe muscle weakness was a side effect of an allergic reaction to Sleeping Draughts. What a perfect time to figure out she was allergic to something, she thought angrily as she tried to reach anything that she could use to drag herself into an upright position. Or more importantly, find something to cover her very bare chest.

But she felt fatigued and extremely weak, her legs only responded slightly and her arms felt like they had heavy weights attached to them. She lay her head back down on the cold wooden floor and sighed, convincing herself not to cry as she stared up at the sun shining across the beautiful ceiling. Her skull was pounding and her body was exhausted and now she was trapped on the floor without a shirt on. Trying to wiggle her toes and move her legs further, she wondered why she hadn’t medically noted the severe muscle fatigue when she first woke up. It wouldn’t have made a difference though, she told herself; she still would have tried to escape.

Ginny was lying on the opposite side of the bed so that she was thankfully blocked from initial view of anyone coming in the door. Slightly grateful that she would be able to warn Xavi that she was lying half naked on the floor so that he wouldn’t have a heart attack if he walked right in and saw her, Ginny tried once again to reach anything she could use to cover up.

Double bugger. Why weren’t the bed clothes longer? And why were there no rugs… anywhere? And why couldn’t she have at least landed in a more graceful position?

Xavi was a respectable physician and wouldn’t be flustered at all to find her like this, she was sure, but Ginny was still probably going to be mortified enough for the both of them anyways. Then there was always the fact that Xavi now harbored the Malfoy-Weasley hated of her and would probably tell Draco that she was trying to escape. Yes, it was the truth, but Draco didn’t have to know about it. Another escape attempt was just one more reason to have her locked back up in the dungeon until it was time for… she pushed those thoughts out of her mind. She had bigger problems to deal with and Ginny decided quickly that she would escape before any Dark Mark came near her.

And true to her form, she spoke too soon and listened in horror as the door to the room opened with a bang and angry footsteps entered.

:¦:--:¦:--:¦:--:¦:-

The past three days had been the longest in Draco’s life. His days began at dawn, rising easily because he hadn’t truly ever been able to sleep peacefully; that much did not change. Neither did the rigid morning training and the business work that followed. He answered and sent owls, yelled at house elves, read the papers, executed his flawless influence in the Ministry, researched new magic, designed more plans, kept control of the High Council, and took care of what felt like a million other insignificant things. Nothing had changed. His very public image meant that Voldemort and Lucius called upon him when he was needed, and even then Draco still liked to think he did what he wanted, no matter what was expected.

The point was that everything was part of his routine, which he cherished. It gave him control over the day and over others who dared to interrupt it. It exuded power and discipline and influence. It was his life and for the past three days he had never felt so out of control. For him, the three days that passed seemed like eternity, which was way too long to feel so reckless and undisciplined. It was making him more irritated and uncomfortable than ever.

He was no closer to getting the answers to the troubling questions that burned in his mind. Lucius had disappeared conveniently after fight night on some request from the Dark Lord, which Draco highly doubted. But again, the speculation that Lucius was involved only aroused more cloudy questions. Someone had been wearing his robes, he was sure of it. Cinch had no motive to lie to him about who brought Ginny in. But even thinking about the person who dared to defy him so openly made his blood boil. Draco was also perplexed and suspicious of the way Voldemort had treated his obvious oversight.

The capture of Ginny Weasley was very valuable, and Draco couldn’t believe that whoever was responsible did not step forward immediately but preferred to stay quiet and let Draco take the heat of being irresponsible instead. He thought of the possibility of the presence of a hidden agenda someone might have invented to bring him down, but no one he knew was brave enough to steal and wear the Embellished Robes and face the inevitable consequences when caught. Draco was convinced Lucius had an idea of who was behind it, and it had even crossed his mind that his father had taken over his old role as the High Death Eater. But the possibility was too extreme, Lucius would not disobey the Dark Lord and he was too scared and proud of his son’s Power to conspire against him.

But there was someone…someone who was brave enough and smart enough to know what would get his attention, someone who wanted something from him, someone who was willing to risk displeasing the Dark Lord to get it.

Or maybe it was a coincidence, and Cinch was lying about the Embellished robes. After all, the dungeons were quite dark…

Draco exhaled fiercely in frustration. The whole concept made him uneasy and furious at the same time. Oh yes, he had plenty to hide, but he took great care to make sure that his exterior was naturally malevolent. He held the awe and respect of every Death Eater so there was no reason for someone to target him. Except for jealousy, he thought with a quick conceited smirk. And whoever it was first had to make it past his defenses.

Voldemort held him in such high esteem and glory because of his Power and all that came with it. But he knew that the kind of trust that came with it took only one slight push to break and then Draco would be screwed. He was the heir to Voldemort, but the Dark Lord had made it clear many times that he could be replaced. But his second defense was almost impenetrable. Being an Aspect had its definite advantages and he knew that Voldemort gave him more room than his other High Council members because of it.

But it wasn’t enough; his tightly controlled world had been tipped.

He knew he should be more interested in getting answers and that he should be concentrating on his increasing work for the Malfoy family business. He knew he should be livid about someone challenging his position as High Death Eater and that he shouldn’t rest until the culprit was caught. But he wasn’t.

Draco Malfoy found himself sitting listlessly at his desk, which was covered in tangible reminders of his responsibilities, twirling his eagle quill between his palms… thinking of Ginny.

Ginny.

He half growled, half sighed and slammed the quill down, then after a moment he stood and ran his hands through his short hair so that it skewed around at odd angles.

He prided himself on being able to push everything out of his mind and concentrate on the important, the now. But out of everything that had happened in the past few days he found that he could only think of her. The feeling of her head resting against his chest when he held her in his arms kept him awake at night. He would start to read a document and his eyes would slide from the page to rest on his right index finger, the finger that was missing the Malfoy Crest because he had given it to her days before he left her for good seven years ago. But the worst of it, and the part that bothered him the most, was that he kept finding himself taking detours past bedroom door where Ginny lay behind it, sleeping.

It wasn’t that he hoped she would find him outside, or that he wanted to make sure she was alright, or even that he wanted to see her at all. He just felt something, a small something, by just walking close to her door for only a few moments. He didn’t even dwell on the feeling, knowing that whatever it was, it was driving him mad. He had no idea if she was even alright because once Xavi had declared she would live, he had escaped from the suffocating atmosphere only to discover that it had followed him.

He was suffocating himself. Her words haunted him like a determined ghost set on revenge. He couldn’t erase the lingering feelings that raced through him when he thought of how she asked if he remembered her love or when she had stated with quiet contempt and finality that she hated him. He couldn’t forget the sudden look of love in her eyes right before she collapsed in the dungeon, and how scared and brave she had been when she had faced Voldemort, and the feeling of touching her body and having her close to him. He couldn’t escape them, even after resorting to firewhiskey, liberal amounts of Dreamless Sleep potion, and locking himself in his basement room. Nothing erased it.

But the worst was how jealous and invisible he felt.

“Harry…”

He could hear the way Ginny said it, so pleading and scared and hopeful, every time he closed his eyes. His mortal enemy’s name had been whispered from the lips of a girl he had cradled in his arms. A girl he had worried about, a girl he had accidentally injured and actually felt guilty about it, a girl he had saved from certain death. And all she could say was “Harry.” It wasn’t the fact that his pride had been injured, he knew she had been deliriously sick. The reason it hurt was because he now had the proof that Ginny had moved on. She no longer thought of him as protection. Potter was her rescuer. Draco was her demise.

It had been his choice, he reminded himself. He had successfully driven her from his life seven years ago, knowing that he would find everything he wanted within the ranks of the Death Eaters. The ultimate power, the prestige, the fear and awe…they were all there. But he couldn’t ignore the pressure in his chest when he thought of someone else in his place when it came to Ginny. Someone else was taking care of her, protecting her… loving her.

Draco collapsed back into his large desk chair and put his head in his hands, his elbows resting on his knees. He was positive she and Harry weren’t engaged as the papers had reported, but it hurt immeasurably to know that now Ginny now turned to Harry when she was frightened and in trouble.

He tried to convince himself he felt this way because it was Harry’s name she whispered. He knew Ginny still probably thought Draco hated Harry as emphatically as he did when they were still at Hogwarts. And he did still hate Potter, but over time he had mellowed slightly, preferring to be detached rather than spending his energy on unseen hate. Though somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew that even if Ginny had said another man’s name, he would have been just as infuriated.

But none the less, she was back: his weakness. He worried about her, then was angry at her for making him worry, then was angry at himself for worrying about her. Draco clenched his teeth together in irritation.

He chose this however, he reminded himself again. He saved her without rationalization and without concern for his fate. He did it knowing full well what would happen. He had no excuses for himself either. Draco knew that when her eyes flew to his in the Arena, scared and worried, he thought of nothing except that he wouldn’t let her die. He didn’t think of the benefit of the knowledge of her closeness with Order or her mysterious Power, or that she could be used as bait for Potter and Aspects. Voldemort saw revenge, Draco saw a chance.

A chance for what, he did not know. But he could not overlook the fact that he was slowly putting himself in the position to be distracted and overpowered. It took miles of concentration to deal with Voldemort and even his father. With everything else he had discovered, now was not the time to have to take care of another responsibility.

Ginny was just another responsibility. He was going to have to train her too, like Voldemort had commanded. There was no escaping it… The Dark Lord would expect results. And promising results, too. He wouldn’t put Draco in charge of something so mundane if he didn’t have a plan in the future for her. He knew it was going to take more carefully plotted words and intricately weaved deceptions to keep Ginny alive for longer than the next Death Eater meeting. But did he care that much? Did he care that he would be subjecting Ginny to this corruption?

Draco shut his eyes against the sunlight streaming in from the large windows behind him and briefly thought of escaping to the hidden basement room, but he knew his disappearance would be noticed. It was the only room that was his alone and no one else knew existed. There were no windows, one door, and it became a place where he could lose himself. Merlin, how he loved the darkness sometimes; it was so anonymous and uncaring. No one could see the truth when it was dark. Draco felt stronger when he was surrounded by the blackness; it hid his true feelings for him. He didn’t have to pretend to care or be someone else. The darkness covered all his faults that he worked so carefully to conceal.

But he knew that even if he was surrounded by the comforting darkness, he wouldn’t be safe from himself. He could face Voldemort without a care, but when it came to even thinking of Ginny, his hands shook and his resolve faltered. He knew that no amount of encompassing darkness would be able to mask those feelings.

Draco rubbed his hand over his face and looked down at the papers on his desk. Suddenly grateful for the distraction, he pulled a few towards him and began to read. It was only when Xavi burst into his office unannounced that Draco realized he had been rereading the same paragraph for the past few minutes.

“Good, you’re back,” Xavi snarled. “You tell me right now what happened to that girl! I healed more bruises and bone fractures and cuts on her body in the last three days than a trampled hippogriff patient!” Xavi wheezed in fury. Draco merely raised an eyebrow but he couldn’t ignore the little pang in his chest.

“What does it matter?” Draco asked coolly, eyeing the older man with slight contempt.

“Don’t be smart with me, young man,” Xavi warned him, his voice lowering dramatically. “For the last time, what happened to her?” The two men stared at each other in silent battle. His relationship with Xavi was particular. He was the only man that Draco respected who held no power or influence over him. Of course, there were circumstances behind everything, but even still, Draco would have seen his great uncle as a man who didn’t take well to manipulation and power plays. The old man was smart, unable to be bullied into anything, and extremely persuasive with just a few words. And more importantly Xavi wasn’t intimidated by Draco’s Aspect Power. Draco figured that was why they got along, well, tolerated each other. Xavi looked firm and annoyed waiting for Draco’s answer and he finally decided the old uncle wasn’t going to budge. In one last defiant and determined move, Xavi sat down in one of the chairs facing Draco’s desk.

“She was imprisoned in the dungeons for around a month,” Draco said simply, looking back down at the papers on his desk.

“Do you mean the Malfoy dungeons?” Xavi asked callously.

“Yes,” Draco said tightly.

“Thank Merlin she knows her medicine, you selfish hog, or she wouldn’t have survived,” Xavi burst sternly, waving one of his spindly fingers at Draco. The back chat coming from the old man was too much for him then. He knew he shouldn’t have let himself get so angry, but Draco felt the rage that erupted within him all the way to his fingertips. Draco was well aware that Ginny wouldn’t have survived long afterwards if he hadn’t found her, but Draco felt he had been punishing himself enough for it. Suddenly having Xavi tell him he was responsible for her injuries too made him furious.

“Don’t lecture me on this, Xavi; I'm a wand’s length away from throwing you out of this room. This conversation is done,” Draco said with finality and pointed towards the door.

“Keep your empty threats,” Xavi growled. “And this is far from over. Seal and watch the doors,” he commanded.

Draco’s jaw clenched and he knew what was coming. Locking and securing all the doors with a wave of his hand, Draco stretched out his Aspect Elemental Power to feel for anyone close to the room. There was no one, so he got up and poured drinks for himself and Xavi at a side table while Xavi glared daggers into his back.

“I know who she is, Draco,” Xavi said calmly, through Draco could hear the strain in his voice.

“I figured you would find out, it wasn’t a secret,” Draco told him, but he felt a small tug of sudden protectiveness.

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Because I knew you would act like this,” Draco snapped and Xavi’s eyes narrowed.

“Why did you leave her in there? Punishment?” Xavi said cruelly. Draco’s fist clenched and he wondered if Ginny still thought he kept her imprisoned in retribution.

“I didn’t know she was down there,” Draco felt like it was the millionth time he had repeated that phrase and no one would believe him.

“How could you not know? Aren’t you supposed to have some control over these things?”

“I gave strict orders I wanted nothing to do with the dungeons when Father offered the services of the dungeons last year, so obviously I wouldn’t know unless someone deliberately disobeyed me,” Draco said with a snarl.

“No one is too keen to do that lately…” Xavi said audaciously and narrowed his eyes. “So how did you find her?”

“My orders were deliberately disobeyed and a guard asked me to torture her,” Draco said with a scowl.

Xavi’s eyes widened. “You better not have!” Draco’s jaw tightened and Xavi continued. “Who brought her in? She’s important to the Order, right?”

“Both Cinch and Gin-, I mean Weasley, say it was me.”

“And you let her down there for a whole month?” he exclaimed, rising out his chair slightly.

“Did I say that I did it?” Draco growled savagely.

“Basically!”

“For the fucking last time, it wasn’t me!” Draco shouted at Xavi, who looked impervious. The old man’s eyes glinted furiously and Draco wondered what Ginny had done to instill such a protective streak in his great-uncle. “Someone wore my Embellished robes, captured Weasley and gave the order to Cinch for her to be treated as an Auror,” Draco said in a slightly calmer tone.

“Who was it?” his uncle demanded.

“Obviously I haven’t figured it out yet, Xavi,” Draco said, shooting a detached look towards him.

“I’ll tell you right now without using any of your stupid hocus-pocus Power junk - it was Lucius,” Xavi whispered dramatically.

“You don’t need to whisper. And stop thinking everything that goes wrong has to do with my father, Xavi,” Draco snapped.

“No, not until you open your eyes! He’s a conniving, malicious…”

“NO!” Draco slammed his fist on the desk and Xavi stilled, but his eyes were still narrowed in annoyance. “He is my father.”

“And look what he’s turned you into!”

“What does that mean?”

“You know what it means, you heartless flobberworm!” Xavi shouted and stood up fully this time. Draco was livid and he had to restrain himself from full on yelling at his uncle to leave. He watched as Xavi walked towards the fireplace and began pacing in front of it. Draco knew he was thinking and needed a chance to settle down, but after a few minutes Draco was getting impatient.

“Have you calmed down yet?” Xavi asked from the fireplace with a small smirk, shooting him a knowing look. Draco resisted a scowl. “This is quite the pickle you’ve gotten yourself into…”

You have no idea, Draco almost said and then thought better of it. It would just encourage Xavi and Draco wanted this conversation over with.

“Good gods, Draco. Do you mean to get caught? Is having her in the manor such a smart idea? And what does it look like for you when you go out of your way to save her?”

Draco glanced at his index finger before he realized what he was doing. “I couldn’t let her die, Xavi. They would have killed her,” Draco said more protectively than he meant. A small smile appeared on Xavi’s face, Draco ignored it. “And besides,” Draco said in a more neutral tone, “No one has ever dared or had a reason to look closer and the reason I gave to keep her around was logical and beneficial.”

Xavi’s face hardened. “You only told me she would be here for awhile… what did you really mean?” he said lowly.

“She is to become a Death Eater. She’ll receive the Dark Mark,” Draco said in quiet harshness, trying to ignore the look on Xavi’s face.

“You’re joking,” Xavi said.

“Do you have a better idea? Bellatrix wanted to burn her, gods knows what Lucius would have done,” Draco murmured almost to himself. “She doesn’t deserve any of this and if I could let her go I would, mostly because I can’t stand having her here. But you know about her family, they are blood traitors and…”

“And you’ve already killed her brother and his family,” Xavi finished dully, his eyes flashing.

“You know nothing, Xavi,” Draco said more harshly than he had intended. He felt his control slipping and he raked his hands through his hair again. Normally, he carefully resisted from letting his emotions show so obviously, be he knew Xavi would probably intuitively guess anyways.

“I only know what you told me,” Xavi retorted back. “But I’ve done a lot of guessing over the years, you streeler slime.”

“Well, you better keep your guesses to yourself, old man,” Draco warned.

“Why?” Xavi asked harshly.

“She will know what I want her to know. Don’t push me on this any farther, Xavi,” Draco’s cold eyes were glinting with rage and Xavi reluctantly backed down.

“You’re making this worse for yourself, acting like this,” Xavi scolded anyways.

“This isn’t about my history with her, even though that isn’t an issue at all, so back off,” Draco insisted. “She has a Power too and she needs to be watched. That is why I intervened. Anyone that can help the Dark Lord and the Cause is worth saving.”

“You are really going to sit here and feed me that hippogriff crap,” Xavi folded his arms across his chest. “You wouldn’t give her to Voldemort even if she ended up being the most powerful witch in the world.”

“You don’t know what I’d do, Xavi,” Draco said more softly than he had intended.

“I’ve been here for almost seven years, Draco, I have a better idea about your scatty actions than you do, it seems like,” Xavi retorted, his eyes narrowing on Draco. “Anyways, staying away from her is probably best. The topic of you seems to make her angry and argumentative and I’d rather have my patient heal in relative calm before you start terrifying her again.”

“So I gather she’s awake?” Draco studied the amber liquid as he swirled it in his clear crystal glass.

“She didn’t tell me her name while she was sleeping,” Xavi said smartly.

“And I also gather she said that she hated me?” Draco’s jaw hardened as he wondered why he had bothered to even ask the question.

“No, she said you both hated each other. That’s a big difference. But what do you care?” Xavi’s lip curled. Draco frowned into his glass then tossed the contents back quickly, suddenly impatient to see Ginny.

“Well, she is going to have to deal with being ‘angry and argumentative.’ I want answers about her Power and she’s going to give them to me,” Draco lied. Well, half lied. He definitely wanted answers, but he found himself just wanting to see her, period. He pushed back from his chair and Xavi launched himself out of his chair in alarm.

“You leave her alone!” Xavi shouted as he shuffled after him, but Draco reached the double doors first and turned and gave Xavi an acerbic smile before he shut the doors firmly and locked him in.

“I’ll be back for you in a bit, Xavi. Have some more firewhiskey and don’t touch my desk,” Draco called to his great-uncle.

“YOU GIANT GOAT ARSE!” The muffled shout came from behind the large solid doors. But Draco ignored him and started down the hall.



A/N: So what did you think? Lol You guys certainly put on the pressure, hopefully you like the angst:) See below anyways…

So, let’s play a game of Good News/Bad News, shall we?

The Good News: I haven’t given up as you must have thought by my lengthy absence! At least I hope some of you missed me, right? lol Anyways, no worries, I have no plans of stopping but…

The (very, very, Very) Bad News (at least I think it is): I haven’t given up, but my computer has. I’ve had a computer crash probably equivalent to taking a nail gun and a few magnets to my hard drive and subsequently lost everything. Yes, everything. I know I reported that I didn't lose anything... and I guess I cursed myself or something because I ended up vanishing everything. sniffle Anyways, I’ve lost all the new chapters I had written, all my notes on those chapters, all my outlines… it was awful. That’s not even the bad news. Since then, it’s been really hard for me to sit down and rewrite everything because I get so frustrated. So even though I'm trying, I fear all of my hard work and promises that I won’t have lengthy updates are going to be dashed. I just wanted to let you all know. I haven’t given up that hopefully I’ll find my groove, but again, I'm sorry for the long wait and I hope you guys won’t give up on me either!

Oh, and about Xavi. I know Meliflua is in the Malfoy family tree, but I couldnt find many first names or much about any of them so Xavi I made up. Woot.

To everyone who reviewed and I didn’t get to talk to thanks so much! I love to hear from you! And to everyone who reads, thanks to you too! I know you’re out there… :P

Alright, until next time… read, review, and have a fab week(s)! –xxx DC


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