Ginny didn't know what pushed her that night to shun the comfort and privacy of the library for the reading room where Narcissa often retired, waiting for her son to come home. If the older woman was surprised to hear her enter the room, she didn't show it, keeping her eyes to the book she was perusing. Though no fire graced the chimney and a cool breeze wafted through the open windows, the room looked no different from the wintery nights when both women read in companionable silence, patiently expecting the sound of Draco's footsteps in the corridor. There, Ginny had acquainted herself with the calmer, more profound but also more natural character of her mother-in-law; there, she had, for the first time, witnessed Narcissa's weaknesses and her struggles with remnants of the war that extended beyond the Harpy Pox' symptoms; there, she had allowed herself to imagine that Draco's mother could actually be a decent woman.
But through her veins ran a blood too similar to Bellatrix' own, toujours pur, but staining the hands of many generations, and Ginny could not forget that-she couldn't allow herself to. Regardless, and for reasons that eluded her but that she did not wish to inspect, Ginny took a seat in the armchair she usually occupied, fumbled about to find a comfortable position despite her belly, and started reading. She hadn't seen Izha since dinner, but thought nothing of it, for the dark-haired woman enjoyed moments of loneliness as much as Ginny herself did. Narcissa, on the other hand, was too adept at manipulations and politics to believe Izha's absence to be fortuitous. Uncertain of where things were going, she surmised that any new installment would be preferable to the one currently in place; she couldn't imagine her grandchildren growing up in a house with their parents acting as though they were constantly about to say something that would begin a war-or continue one.
When Draco stepped into the reading room an hour or so later, he was not surprised to find his mother, slowly lifting her eyes from her book, and coolly eyeing him. As he took in the appearance of her companion, however, his breath-much to his annoyance-hitched in his throat. Ginevra's curls, still unevenly cut from the knife he had thrown at her and her mutinous decision to finish the job, framed her face with vibrant red. She looked composed and unguarded, so absorbed in her reading she hadn't heard him come in, and though Draco had never thought of pregnancy as being attractive, he had to admit that it became her superbly. The fact that she became more beautiful every passing day, acquiring in maternity the majesty she had sometimes lacked, and every passing day more distant from him, was not a pleasant realization.
Draco took a seat as Narcissa rose, and the look they exchanged was evocative enough that they did not have to speak. She kissed him on the forehead, handing him the book she was reading. Ginny, although she could not have ignored the rustle made by their movements, read on. Narcissa left, the stern arch of her lips the enigmatic counterpart of Izha's unfathomable smiles. Wuthering Heights, read the book cover, and Draco suppressed a smile: it seemed so like his mother to fill her nocturnal lectures with fictional recollections of twisted relationships, as though the life of those living under her roof weren't misshapen and somber enough. He opened the volume.
I want you to be aware that I know you have treated me infernally -infernally! Do you hear? And if you flatter yourself that I don't perceive it, you are a fool; and if you think I can be consoled by sweet words, you are an idiot; and if you fancy I'll suffer unrevenged, I'll convince you of the contrary, in a very little while!
He may not have cared much for Muggles, but Draco could recognize good literature when he read it. The fact that he had opened the book at precisely this page seemed like no coincidence, either, and he needed no further proof to understand that this work, much like other oeuvres-d'art, had a life of its own-and an undeniable tie to his. Revenge, revenge, it always came down to this, and who was he to believe that words would suffice in shaking Ginevra from her torpor?
It would take more.
More than words, be they apologies or threats; more than explanations, justifications, and persuasion, for though Draco had always been adept at wielding those, he was too aware of his wife's personality not to acknowledge that they would fall short of what she demanded; more than anger and orders, because a stab at that had revealed how dispassionately she would yield, burying within herself until Draco couldn't even recognize her; more than pleas and remorseful begging, because theirs was a generation forever robbed of its capacity to believe in repentant confessions.
Ginny chose that moment to get up. She did so slowly, and not entirely gracefully, trying to maintain her balance without hurting her back. With all her might she cursed her aching bones and her usually lithe frame which, unlike her mother's, was not well accommodated for carrying two babies at a time. She placed the book back on the shelf where it belonged, and then headed for the door. Smoothly and swiftly, like a shadow following the body that casts it, Draco was up and following her. He slipped his fingers through hers, and, feeling as nervous as he had since he had asked a six-year old Pansy to be his girlfriend, he spoke.
"My mum used to call me Ginevra when she was angry," Ginny interrupted him, her voice betraying no emotion, but her confession and the fact that she hadn't taken her hand back encouraging Draco to go on.
"Would you prefer Ginny, then, like back at Hog-" Draco said, incapable of holding the hint of sarcasm from poisoning his words.
"Back when I could still pretend I was a little girl?" Ginny answered as they walked through the dimly lit corridor. Her voice held a bitterness similar to Draco's, but it was not aggressive. "No."
They kept walking, he utterly unable to bring about his suggestion, she growing increasingly curious about the reason for his silence. Luckily, Draco was as unable to conquer his unordinary muteness as Ginny was used to demanding information, so that it didn't take long for her to give in.
"What were you going to say?" she burst out, punctuating her question with an encouraging pressure on his hand.
He smirked despite himself, her belonging to the Weasley family all too obvious should one bother to take into consideration her fiery temper, impatience, and inability to keep her tongue when riled up. Only then did he notice the dappled texture of a Persephone orchid, hiding inconspicuously amidst Ginny's red curls.
"Do you know why Persephone stayed with Hades in the end?" he asked out of the blue, with the odd feeling that she would know what he was talking about.
"She came to know him, I suppose," she answered without missing a beat. "Understood his motives, his loneliness, the darkness within and around..."
Draco nodded and then stopped her by the stairs that lead to their bedroom.
"He had to show it all to her, though. For her to understand, she had to willingly follow his descent into the Underworld." (1)
Ginny looked up at him then, amazed as she usually was by his immaculate composure and the casualty with which he had employed the mythological parallel to ask her for a favor-but was it a favor, a moment of respite, or the possibility of reconnecting with their months of blissful companionship?
She nodded, and though he did not seem to acknowledge her movement, he started walking again, toward the end of the corridor opposite to the one they came from. Ginny knew his study was located there, but she had never been granted entry-nor had she asked for it, either, so careless of such things had she been before he discovered her true identity, and so weary of needlessly endangering their unborn sons after he had discovered it.
Draco placed his free hand on the handle, easily disarming the locking spells, and ushered Ginny into his study, glowing elegantly from its green leather and polished woods. Immediately, she felt appeased by the comfortable and tasteful sophistication of the room, knowing that it was due in part to the fact that neither silver nor green were blatantly predominant. Draco let go of her hand to head for a corner of the study in which the Malfoy crest was emblazoned. He then traced a pattern Ginny was unable to follow, but when he took back his hand, an opening formed in the wooden panel. It was no wider than one man, and as high as a painting would be; its penumbra shimmered with silvery wisps of light, so that Ginny immediately took the barely illuminated basin she could discern to be a Pensieve.
Draco pulled out his wand and lazily flicked it, floating the Pensieve across the room and allowing it to rest on his desk. He then held out his hand to Ginny, beckoning her to come forth. When she stared anxiously at the Pensieve, a part of him turned cold with the thought that she might change her mind, might refuse to endure his memories and therefore be forever unable to accept what he had done and why. She saw the emotion in his usually steely eyes, and whether she mistook the fear for compassion or assessed it adequately, neither ever found out; she took his proffered hand and stood above the Pensieve.
The pulling sensation that enveloped them affected Ginny in particular, and as the certitude that she was falling overwhelmed her, she felt Draco's arm around her shoulder, granting her a firm and stable support. As the silvery mists around them dissipated, they found themselves on what Ginny immediately recognized as the Hogwarts grounds, the night of Dumbledore's death. As soon as the darkness established itself around them, she felt Draco's grip tighten around her arm and knew that it was no longer in an effort to stabilize her so much as to endure a memory the depths and violence of which she would soon understand.
Draco, his mind reeling still from the pain and sorrow that night had wrought, had the distinct impression that he was hanging on to his wife for dear life, as though she were a pillar of stability that could anchor him in a scarred but hopeful present rather than leave him lost in the meanders of memory.
They barely had the time to see a younger and bloodied Draco being pushed into Hogwarts' open gates and stumbling through, followed by a harrowed and seething Snape. The young man made to run, carried along by the instinct of the half-dead that urges them to run, run in the hope of reclaiming a bit of their lost life, but the Potions master stopped him, gripping his shoulder tightly.
"I want you to listen to me now, Draco," Severus Snape hissed, "and listen to me well. If you want to live-mind you, you probably won't, anyway-you're going to grovel, kneel, scream, and cry until you think you can take no more, then scream and cry some more until, hopefully, he gets tired. And when I try to save your miserable skin, you will agree-will agree to anything and everything-because that is all I can do for you and your moth-that is all I can do. Are we understood?"
The younger version of Draco, looking very much like a terrified little boy, nodded frantically, and was grabbed by Snape. Ginny felt herself Apparating with them, but Draco's willpower seemed to kick in when, instead of following the two escapees, they found themselves facing the Dark Lord, hours or more later-the young woman did not know. His skeletal form was enshrouded in a dark cloak, billowing ominously though there was no wind, dramatically hiding his abnormal body. He oozed power and malevolence more violently than he had during his battle against Dumbledore at the Ministry, and Ginny shuddered from the retrospective awareness of the power he had gained in little more than a year.
Around him stood the Death Eaters, staring down at the crumpled shape at their Lord's feet. Ginny followed their gaze and bit back a sob, which was shortly followed by an intense wave of nausea. Draco's hair, matted with blood but still visibly fair, was all that could reveal his identity at this point. His face was buried in the crook of his arm, but if it looked anything like his bruised, bloody, and-judging by the angle-broken hand, it was probably as close to a mangled heap of flesh as a face could get without losing such appellation. In anguish, Ginny looked around her, feeling too sick to look at the boy-he had been but a boy, then!-and horrified by the observers' passivity.
"Well, then, Draco," Voldemort said slowly, his voice saccharine sweet and chilling to the bone, "I believe we are done here."
He extended his hand once more, eliciting no reaction from Draco's battered form, and prepared to cast a spell when one of the Death Eater stepped out of rank.
"My Lord, if I may-" he said, and Ginny suppressed a gasp upon recognizing her Potions professor's voice.
Slowly, Voldemort turned toward Severus Snape, his face concealed by the shadow of the cloak but his entire demeanor conveying a deceptively benign and intrigued attention.
"What is it, Severus? Surely you are aware of how essential it is for failures to be punished," Voldemort said patiently, although the implications of his words were impossible to miss.
"Indeed, my Lord, but..." Snape hesitated, as though thinking. "Potter saw that failure and, being the gullible fool that he is, will undoubtedly take this for a change of heart. If Draco were to return, alive, Potter would doubtlessly vouch for him-"
"Thereby granting him asylum..." Voldemort continued.
"And possibly even including him in his ridiculous plans to defeat you, my Lord," Snape added.
"A Trojan horse of sorts," Voldemort said, and chuckled mirthlessly.
Snape nodded in silence, and nothing could be heard for several minutes. Draco, from the corner of his eye, saw his wife stealing aghast glances at the memory of him that lay on the floor, agonizing, and was grateful for the shimmer of tears he saw in her eyes.
"Very well, then," Voldemort said at last, but raised his wand nonetheless. "He will live, for now. Crucio," he then added casually, and Draco's tortured figure let out a bloodcurdling scream.
Draco quickly took Ginny to another memory, knowing that the minutes-or hours-that had followed would be no different from those that had preceded them. When the mists that surrounded them had once again dissolved, Draco and Ginny stood by a gnarled tree in the middle of a swamp, facing a tired and grim looking Draco who was already but a shadow of his former, childish self. His shoulders had broadened-his torn, dirty shirt revealing about as much as it hid-and his face and limbs were caked with blood, although none of his wounds seemed too serious. He ducked in time to avoid a curse, and Ginny whirled to find Rabastan Lestrange, his dark hair tied back and his face equally bruised, with his wand pointed at his nephew.
The younger Draco shouted a curse Ginny couldn't even recognize and Rabastan deflected it, casting another one with such professional determination that the witch could not repress a feeling of relief at the memory of his death. People who could kill as if they were signing a business contract should not be allowed to wander freely, she thought, immediately remembering that such was unfortunately the case. At her side, Draco seemed more composed than he had in the earlier memory.
"Ducking won't do the trick, boy!" Rabastan roared as he advanced on Draco, casting spell after spell and pushing the young man into the mists that surrounded them. "You have to atta-"
"Sectusempra!" Draco barked, and Rabastan, surprised, saw the blood spurting from his wounds before he realized that this was a curse he did not know.
A powerful blow sent Draco to the ground, his neck bleeding from the gash freshly imprinted there. Fenrir Greyback emerged from the mist and licked his fingers with obvious delectation.
"You should also consider the fact that you'll rarely be fighting one on one, little boy," the werewolf purred, grinning. "Now let's see if you can fight a werewolf and a Death Eater," he suggested as Rabastan, having mended his wounds, headed menacingly for Draco, "but be ready to pay the price if you can't."
The memory faded as Draco murmured to Ginny, "I wasn't able to fight them off that time, and it took me a while before I could surprise Fenrir, but when I did..." He grinned darkly. "If he were alive, he would still remember it."
Ginny shuddered and belatedly came to the conclusion that a man who can best a werewolf and a Death Eater should not be trifled with. Draco took her through the months of June and July quickly, affording her little more than flashes of his training under his Lestrange aunt and uncle's egid. What she did catch, though, was his progressive transformation from a scared young man to a scarred, fearsome man-a man who, having added several Death Eaters' heteroclite fighting techniques to the skills in boxing and fencing taught by his father since he could walk, became little more than a human weapon.
Draco watched as his younger self learned to fear no one but the Dark Lord and his own weakness, astounded at the impudence with which he had smirked at Bane Danielson upon defeating the werewolf in free combat or failed to help his Aunt Bellatrix up after besting her for the first time. It wasn't recklessness, as it may have appeared to Ginny, so much as the understanding that only strength would prevent those wolves from tearing out his throat-Bellatrix included-and that only the promise that he would not fail his Lord a second time would save his mother and father.
Once again they found themselves facing Voldemort, although the Draco Malfoy who was kneeling before him looked nothing like the one who had writhed at his feet two months prior. The sun shone brightly on the deserted plain they stood in, so desolate and empty that it appeared unreal, and Ginny absentmindedly noted that she had expected Death Eater meetings to always take place during the night. There were fewer hooded figures than there had been the night of Dumbledore's death, but the shadows they cast populated the memory with intangible darkness.
"They say you've become quite adept at fighting," Voldemort said softly. "Are you willing to fight for me, Draco Malfoy?"
"Yes, my Lord," Draco intoned obediently.
"Sadly, I have better uses for you than sending you on the battlefield so soon, and my mark would prevent you from accomplishing your mission. Therefore, you are dispensed from bearing the Mark, although do not for an instant presume yourself to be anything but my soldier."
"No, my Lord."
Voldemort smiled and his eyes gleamed, a quick, reddish fire in the penumbra of his hood.
"You are going to return to the Ministry. If, as Severus suggested, Potter vouches for you, they will grant you asylum-a place in the Ministry, a job, anything. Make sure that they do, or you will be of no use to me, and let me assure you that Fenrir will be delighted to pay your mother a visit."
Salacious laughs erupted from the assembled Death Eaters and Draco suppressed a tremor of fear and anger. His older self, incapable still of dealing with the memory, clenched his fists, knowing he was as powerless of changing the past as he had been of changing the present whilst it took place.
"Now, then," Voldemort went on, and Ginny detected in his voice the same, almost childish, eagerness Tom Riddle had displayed when rambling about the ways in which he would kill Harry, "all we need to do now is provide you with a convincing alibi."
A look of incomprehension fell upon Ginny's face, but both Draco's eyes narrowed, indicating that at neither time had they doubted the meaning of such words.
"There's this intriguing word in old German," Voldemort said casually, "which means 'flesh' and evolved to mean 'arrow' in many Romance languages. Fitting, don't you think?" he asked rhetorically, then flicked his wand and added, "Flikki." (2) Three arrows shot from the wand, burying themselves deeply into Draco's chest before he had the chance to react. Immediately Draco changed memory, but not before Ginny could hear Voldemort observing to Draco, whose shirt was rapidly staining with blood, what amazing things Muggle inventions could do.
There was a flash during which Draco remembered being thrown against Hogwarts' gates, but he passed out quickly, and woke up in a foreign bed in a too small room, with a mass of red hair resting on his lap.
"You were awake?" Ginny asked, surprised, so certain was she that he would have pushed her away if that had been the case.
"Sometimes," he said neutrally.
But as Draco carried them through one memory after the other, she saw him, watching her sleep by his bedside; saw him slipping to the loo at night and peering about, studying his surroundings carefully; saw him brusquely thanking her mother when she brought him food in bed or glaring fiercely at her brothers whenever they dropped by to keep an eye on him. She saw him, completely aware of the protection the Weasleys believed they were affording him, and anger surged within her at the thought that this had not been enough for him to spare them. Draco felt her grow tense and would have tried screening her thoughts had he not understood that employing Legilimency would inevitably have broken their truce.
Quickly, Draco took them through his lengthy trial at the Ministry, at the issue of which he had been acquitted thanks to Harry Potter and Arthur Weasley's vouching for him. The following months passed by in a haze, and from the bits and pieces she managed to grasp, Ginny inferred that Draco had worked at the International Magical Trading Standards Body-a position that, if she knew her father's train of thoughts, was meant to keep the young man busy enough that he could not meddle with war-related things and, at the same time, kept him away from departments where sensitive information was being dealt.
All of a sudden they were engulfed by darkness, again, although it was that of a dimly lit room with a roaring fire. Draco, clad in the prune robes of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, bowed to the back of the armchair facing the fire, around which was wound the thick, scaly body of a snake. Ginny clung on to Draco instinctively, remnants of her first years at Hogwarts brought forth by the serpentine creature.
"I am tired of waiting, young Malfoy," came Voldemort's voice from the armchair.
"I'm sorry, I-"
"Be quiet," Voldemort hissed. "I want information, soon. Or you'll be wishing our sweet Cissy were dead rather than paying for your mistakes."
"Yes, my Lord," Draco said impassibly.
A skeletal, whiter-than-chalk hand stuck out from the armchair, dismissing the young man with a sharp, impatient gesture, and once again the Pensieve's white mists wrapped themselves around the couple, taking them to a room which Ginny had only ever seen in Percy's last memory: a courtroom in the Ministry. She disengaged herself from Draco's hold, standing tall and as straight as her pregnancy allowed, afraid of finally seeing her husband's side of the story. His memory counterpart, looking grim and desperate, sat on the floor of the courtroom with his head in his hands, immobile as a statue. Suddenly, the sound of voices could be heard and Draco looked up, his eyes rimmed with red, his cheeks glimmering with trails of dried tears. Lithely, he stood up and slid between two rows of seats, crouching so that the individuals who then walked into the courtroom would not see him.
"If only you could convince them to come out of hiding, we might stand a chance," came Rufus Scrimgeour's easily recognizable voice, and next to him stood Percy Weasley. "Surely their siding with us would drive many wizards to our ranks." He motioned for Percy to sit. "Few wizards your age understand the value of ancient families, but it goes without questioning that such an old and respectable family of powerful wizards could only be an asset."
Percy remained mute, his face like a mask of stone. Scrimgeour gestured to the single, chained chair.
"Do you know how long it has been since a Death Eater sat here? A few hours. Lucius Malfoy sat here and invoked everything he could come up with, his ascendants, his wealth, his family, his fear, to justify his having joined the Death Eaters. And you know what? He will walk free."
The young Weasley's head snapped toward Scrimgeour. Surprise and incredulous anger twisted its lines. Ginny looked up at Draco to find him emotionlessly staring at the chair as he imagined his father sitting there-as, she recalled, Draco himself had sat during the trial that had declared him innocent. She realized that he had been innocent, then, and that the Ministry's mistake, coupled with Voldemort's orders, had contrived to make him less so.
"Yes. Wizards understand him, because they are afraid. They feel compassionate. After all, there is no actual proof that he ever killed or tortured anyone... 'I would have done the same' 'Maybe he was just at the wrong place, at the wrong time.' People need to be reminded that there is no such thing. There are cowards, and there are fighters, and you could help everyone by being the link to a group of such fighters."
Percy looked at the Minister, then pulled a piece of parchment and quill from his robes. He began writing something, but Scrimgeour stopped him.
"I am not welcome under their roof. I was hoping of sending an Auror, perhaps Shacklebolt. I am not sure yet. Address it to the first reader, and I will make a good man go to them. Percival," he continued as Percy scribbled on the parchment, "there is no way I can adequately express my gratitude. I am sure that, in future times, said gratitude will be shared by the many wizards whose lives you will have contributed to save."
Scrimgeour clapped Percy on the back and slipped the piece of parchment in one of his robe's pockets. Percy, though clearly not entirely convinced by the Minister's last words, looked mildly reassured. In his eyes shone the hope of having done the right thing. As they walked out of the courtroom, Draco rose in silence, pulled out his wand, and whispered, "Wingardium Leviosa". The parchment slipped from Scrimgeour's pocket and floated toward Draco, who, when he wrapped his fingers around it, felt like Destiny had handed him salvation on a silver platter.
"I saved my mother, that day," Draco said dryly. "I don't expect you to understand, much less forgive me, but she was all I had left. I hoped the Death Eaters would be able to convince this 'old and respectable family of wizards' to join them, although I suppose that was foolish of me."
That's when it hit her, the fact that he used exactly Scrimgeour's words.
"You've watched this memory several times, haven't you?" she asked, stunned.
Draco nodded dejectedly, muttering, "So foolish," and then turned to face her, his eyes bright and frightening. He grabbed her by the shoulders.
"I didn't know it was them," he grit out, and the words, unbidden but unstoppable, poured from his mouth. "I suppose I should have guessed they'd choose Percy as their Secret Keeper, but it was too obvious. No one in their right mind would have done that, so I simply didn't think of it, and I figured the Dark Lord would be pleased at the thought of recruiting more able, pure-blood wizards." He punctuated his words with gentle shakes, but Ginny allowed him to, knowing that he had never allowed anyone to see him as he looked then, desperately guilty and made vulnerable by the power to sentence an entire family to death. "And yes I would have done it again had I known, because it was my mother or yours, Weasley, but I knew them and they protected me and I just-I-"
Draco fell to his knees, clutching to Ginny's arms as he did, and pressed his forehead against her prominent belly, the white mists enveloping them smoothly. They found themselves back into the study, he gripping on to her hips as though she were a lifesaver, she running her hands through his hair in an attempt to soothe him.
"I couldn't sleep for days," he whispered, and his voice broke down. He lied , though, because his nights had been terrible until Ginny came to live with him.
She could have answered that she hadn't slept for days either, nor stopped crying for weeks, but didn't find it within herself to do so, because she knew she would have done the same had any of her brothers' lives been on the line. Ginny let Draco hold her soundlessly, growing increasingly cold and numb, keeping enough distance so as not to feel his pain lest she begin experiencing it as well. At last she pulled him up to his feet, pushing stray strands away from his face, and holding his face with her small hands, she kissed him on the lips, softly, in a way that was neither welcoming nor neutral, in a way that sealed their truce and promised reprieve, all in due time. She made to exit the room, leaving him there, standing, unsure of what he had done.
"You know, about Persephone..." she added without turning around.
"... She also forgave him for taking her away from her family. It just took some time."
(1)While I do not think of this as an idea stolen from another D/G author so much as an applicable parallel with mythology, I'd like to take a second to recommend an exquisite fic I read a while ago, based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, by tudorrose1533: Under.
(2)I got the idea of an arrow-shooting spell from JKR (apparently it was a favorite of the Appleby Arrows' supporters), and found the history of the word ("fleche" in French, which sounds a lot like "flesh") in my Dictionnaire Historique de la Langue Francaise. Amazing what you learn thanks to Harry Potter!
(3) This is actually in reference to a scene I had meant to include earlier in the story, arhem. That is, it's part of the rewrite, but I'll be posting everything at once when it's all re-read and corrected.
Write a Review Hesperides' Apple: 27. The Ministry's Trojan Horse