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Chapter 1 : Some Nights
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A/N: Thanks to Rainpuddle for the beta!
It was easy to distinguish his moods when he returned from his late nights. Some nights he came through the front doors of Malfoy Manor with his body written in rage, hands shaking in unadulterated anger as he flung the black cloak and the white skull mask at a quaking house elf. Then he would stride into his study and attack the snifter of brandy he kept there, as though it alone were responsible for his foul mood.
"They’re such idiots!" he would cry when she came into the room. She always waited up for him on these nights. "Can they not see what he is doing to them?" He pounded back a shot of brandy and winced as it went down. "It is all I can do sometimes to stand there and say nothing."
"But you do say nothing, right?"
He sighed. "I say nothing."
On those nights, his angry nights, he would have witnessed some act of terror: someone’s death, the punishment of one of his peers, or perhaps agonizing torture, for Voldemort did so love to torture. He felt helpless, he would say to her later, wrapped up in her arms, with only the darkness otherwise to hear his confession. Had he reached them earlier they would be safe, the way he was. She smoothed his hair back and brushed kisses against his skin, holding him close until he fell into a restless sleep.
On some nights, he was another man altogether. His footsteps would drag, he would dump his cloak and mask on the floor as he went, and he would kneel before her chair in his study as though seeking penitence. And he would whisper a name to her, or perhaps several -- one night he had given her four names in total, and she had broken down above him, her tears bathing him like cleansing holy water. On those nights, he had killed. They would not speak the names in the manor after that, but though the dead were not mentioned, they were not forgotten. Could not be forgotten. Not ever.
Sometimes on these nights she would wake in the early hours and hear him in the bathroom, scrubbing uselessly at his hands, until they were rubbed raw and red from his fervor. She would go to him and encircle him with her arms, while he washed and washed and washed.
"Out, out, damn spot," she murmured.
"It won’t," he said, his voice catching. "I’ve tried."
But one night, one night that did not at first seem any different from the others, he was not tense with lividity. He was not limp with dejection.
One night, he did not go into the study where she awaited him.
She heard the house elf let him in. She heard his shuffling footsteps echo through the cold marble foyer -- he went upstairs.
She got up, confused, and followed after. He was at the top of the stairs when she reached the front hall, a night-black outline in a pointed hood that brought fear to far too many. Against her will, her pulse jolted at the sight. He was still in his loathed uniform.
He was holding Marius in his arms when she found him in the nursery, holding him close to his chest, and the boy was tucked under his chin, tiny fists clenching the black death cloak in his easy slumber. She felt her heart rise in her chest as she went in, torn by the incongruity of father and son together. If he was in here, holding their son after a meeting, something unspeakably terrible must have happened.
And he was crying, in the way only a Malfoy could. The tears stood glittering in his eyes, poised to trickle down his face, but stayed where they were as he blinked them back. His skull mask, leering now in its odd new angle, still sat perched on his head, under his black hood, and he stroked Marius’s back, up and down, up and down. She touched his arm lightly, and he raised his leaden eyes to hers.
"They --" His voice was a whisper, as though even now he was too shocked to speak aloud. "They killed a little boy tonight. I watched them. And when they were done, I -- I looked down at his face and saw Marius."
"Merlin," she breathed, choking back pity and pain and sadness and a million other things that these nights always brought her.
He replaced Marius in his bassinet, his hands lingering over the childish strawberry curls, and straightened to his full height. She didn’t like seeing him when he was in his uniform, for it only served to remind her of the difficulty of their position, straddling both sides of this awful war. He seemed to sense her discomfort, for he tore the skull mask from his head, his long blond hair falling around his eyes, and desperately flung the cloak after it. Underneath, he wore the very same clothes he had worn to one of her meetings in a basement kitchen in Central London.
"I can’t do this anymore, Gin," he said hoarsely. "I can’t."
"They killed a little boy," he repeated, running his hands through his hair. "He was two or three years old, Ginny. They tortured him, and his screams cut right through me. I can’t do this anymore."
She put her arms around him and hugged him tightly, squeezing him until she could hardly breathe. "Do they suspect anything?"
"They’ve started to," he said, his voice muffled by her hair. "Zabini gave me a curious look as I left."
"You can’t go back there."
She moved away and their hands clasped together, white-knuckled. "Can you contact Theo?"
"Already done," he whispered. "I went right to him after the Dark Lord dismissed us. He’s preparing for us now."
"How will we go?"
"The Floos are being watched," he said. "We’ll have to Apparate, and I’ll cover our tracks with the charms Snape taught me."
She winced, for he knew that she hated Apparating. "But Marius --"
"I’ll take him, if you’ll carry our things."
"Where is Theo’s house?"
"Carrog, in Wales. He’ll help us get to France after that, to the villa I bought last year."
Their plans had been in place for that long already? She was amazed when she thought about it. He had come to her saying that they needed an escape plan, just in case things got out of hand or they were in danger of being found out. She had agreed wholeheartedly, then, knowing the importance of having a Plan B in these uncertain days, but never had she thought it would come to this. He was strong, always had been. She had been convinced for years that he could simply choose not to feel.
Oh, but then there had been Marius. Beautiful, perfect, innocent Marius. And she had seen for herself how the boy had his father completely wrapped around his finger, right from the start.
She nodded. "All right," she said. "We’ll go."
"I’m sorry about this, Gin," he said, brushing a kiss on her forehead. "I know you wanted to fight for the Order."
"Your safety and Marius’s are more important to me," she said, lifting her chin and capturing his mouth in a kiss. "We’ll go."
"You can send your family an owl after we get to Wales, and after the Fidelius Charm is cast," he said, "to let them know what we’re doing."
"All right. Put Soothing and Sleep Charms on Marius, so he doesn’t wake. I’ll get our cases."
He kissed her again, more firmly, and she could feel the anxiety in every line of his body. "Gin," he murmured against her lips, "if anything ever happened to you --"
"I know, Draco," she said, offering what she hoped was a supportive smile.
She went back to their room, numb yet to what was happening, and found their already-packed cases at the back of the closet, shoved out of sight when she had thought they would never need to use them. Just to be sure, she unzipped them and checked to see that they had everything they would need. There were robes inside for all of them, and Muggle clothes, toiletries, a few toys for Marius, maps, money, and keys to access the secret Swiss bank accounts Draco had set up with his generous annual allowance from his father. Gringotts already knew to automatically direct his funds to that bank, and they would never tell Lucius where it was.
But she paused, cases shrunken to fit inside her pocket, and looked around their bedroom one last time. She wouldn’t miss the Manor, she decided, as she looked at their material items scattered on the bureau, their massive canopy bed, the ornate attached bathroom, the sheer luxury of the place. It didn’t feel like home to her. It never had. They were getting out of here, and they were going to be safe and secure in the knowledge that Voldemort could not reach them, no matter how he tried.
Her brothers might not understand. None of them had children, none of them knew the absolute terror she lived through each day, wondering if the Death Eaters would come for her son. They would say she was running away, and she was, but it was for them. For Marius, and for Draco. If she lost them, she would lose everything.
Her parents would understand. They always had.
The house elves packed up and locked up the house, the same way they would if the family were going on a brief holiday. Out came the white sheets to cover the furniture, out went the lights all over the Manor. The house elves hummed as they worked tirelessly, not knowing that their master was not coming back.
Draco waited for her in the foyer, Marius’s body curled into his chest and a blanket draped over him. One thumb hovered near his pouty, rosebud lips, and Ginny felt tears, at last, come to her dry eyes. She could not picture what Draco had seen that night, that poor child tortured and killed for a senseless war, but just thinking about the same happening to her sweet Marius... Ginny’s throat seized, and she raised her eyes to Draco’s.
"They won’t touch him," she whispered. "I won’t let them."
"I won’t either," he promised. He took her hand and led her out the double doors of Malfoy Manor, and into the night.
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