|Out of the Shadows
Author: ugahill PM
A sequel to "In the Shadows" examining how Draco and Ginny handle their young relationship. Can they balance their beliefs with their hearts?Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Draco M. & Ginny W. - Chapters: 6 - Words: 73,163 - Reviews: 44 - Favs: 13 - Follows: 13 - Updated: 08-09-05 - Published: 01-18-05 - id: 2225863
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Well, you've read HBP…what did you think?
Despite the developments, we're back into the world of fanfiction! Though its nearly impossible for me to continue in canon (particularly because of some romantic developments that just…well, completely derail D/G) I'll continue along the lines I've drawn, delving into an alternative possibility for Harry, Draco and Ginny, writing as close to the original style as possible.
The opening portions of this story were written pre-Half-Blood Prince—so some of the observations Narcissa makes about Draco came before J.K. revealed he indeed questioned his position as a servant of the Dark Lord and that his character was torn between killing and doing what he had to for love of his family. Also pre-HBP is the desire Voldemort has to split his soul amidst his followers. Though not exactly a horcrux, I did get a few chills rereading what I'd imagined and planned nearly a year ago, before I had any idea of what would come in HBP!
The graveyard stood empty, devoid of all life. A bitter breeze blew through the sparse trees that littered the edge.
Harry kneeled over the cold, lifeless body of Draco Malfoy, staring grimly at Narcissa Malfoy as she stood, facing them, her wand raised threateningly.
Anger began to bubble up inside him. No one, not even Malfoy, deserved such a fate…
To be killed…to be killed at the hands of you own Mother…
"HOW COULD YOU DO THAT? HOW COULD YOU KILL YOUR OWN SON!" Harry screamed, rising to his feet and withdrawing his wand. "HOW COULD YOU!"
"Harry!" Hermione cried from behind him, trying vainly to clasp his arm and pull him backwards. "Harry, please!"
"HOW COULD YOU!" he shouted, ignoring her. "WHAT MOTHER COULD KILL HER OWN SON?"
"NO MOTHER!" Narcissa screamed back, her voice cutting through the bitter silence.
Harry stopped his march forward, surprised, his wand still raised.
She studied him for a moment, then slowly lowered her wand. "As it so happens, there is nothing more a Mother could want for her child than to see them live forever. They would sacrifice their life for their son. Or the life of another."
She nodded towards the form on the ground. Slowly, the blond hair began to recede. Draco's soft, sharp face filled out, his smooth skin giving way to age spots, his brows fading together into soft gray lumps.
The body of an old man formed, and became whole.
Harry's brows knotted. "What…"
"Armando Luftwich. A Ministry Employee. I had a few things to settle with him after he chose to help Bellatrix—and no one else found out."
"You mean…you set this up?"
"Do you really think I would allow my son to get killed, after all I've done for him?"
"But…but the meeting…"
"Draco was here. But my plan insured he would not remain the entire time. And that Mr. Luftwich here, with a carefully prepared Polyjuice potion, would take his place."
"So you could just kill him?" asked Ron, a look of disgust on his face.
"Because of him, Draco, you, and everyone else at Hogwarts nearly died. Would you not say that death at the hands of the Death Eaters was a just fate? Wouldn't you kill the Death Eaters who, right now, are trying to kill your sister?"
"No, he wouldn't. None of us would, would we?" said Hermione, glancing between them.
Ron didn't respond, just stared at Narcissa defiantly.
Narcissa raised an eyebrow. "Don't be so certain you know everything about everyone, child. People will always surprise you. Luftwich surprised me. I never thought he would betray me, but he did."
Hermione raised her chin.
"If this is a Ministry employee, then where is Draco?" Harry asked suddenly, interrupting her before she could speak.
"Draco is safe," said Narcissa hesitantly. Her expression softened for a moment. "You see, I know my own son better than he knows himself. I knew that he would never be able to pass the test of the Veritaserum. I knew the Dark Lord could never accept him. He denied himself, denied his legacy—all because of your sister," she said, nodding towards Ron.
He frowned at her. "It's not like anyone on Ginny's side approved. If he'd wanted to join the Death Eaters and given up on Ginny, no one would have complained."
Narcissa glared at him.
"But why?" asked Harry. "I know that Malfoy cares about Ginny—but how…why would he have agreed to what he agreed to, if he truly loved her? Why should he even have been here tonight?"
"Because Draco has been torn—he has been struggling from the very first time he met you—between what he believes he owes his family and what he feels he owes himself. Everything you've ever encountered in school with regards to his "bad" reputation has been the product of his father, and his father's insistence that he continue on the Malfoy legacy. I would never have denied Lucius that right—or Draco that privilege. But Draco has always had a soft side—"
"A SOFT SIDE?" Ron snorted.
Narcissa narrowed her eyes. "Only those who have known the Malfoys would understand. Had Draco truly been of his legacy, he would have exercised a power much greater than the few jinxes and schoolchild curses he threw your way. Even his desire to see your muggle-born friend here fall at the hands of the basilisk was an immature little boy echoing the sentiments he heard his father eschew.
"Perhaps he would have stayed that way—or perhaps not, his own heart might have questioned the nature of what he had been destined for. I will never truly know whether Draco would have had a heart capable of murder had he been left to these choices on his own, because your sister entered his life. She worked her way into the depths of his soul, and brought out the part of it I hoped his father would never see. For Draco's sake, it would have been safer had Ginny never been a part of his life."
"But she was," said Hermione softly.
"Yes, she was. And because of that, she has placed not only Draco, but herself and your entire family in danger."
"That's not Ginny's fault," said Ron, looking at the ground. "She can't stop what's in her heart. No one can."
"You're absolutely right," said Narcissa. "And you're not the only one who knows so. The only power the Dark Lord has never been able to overcome is love. It is truly the greatest force in our world. That proved true today, and for your sister's sake, I hope it continues to prove so."
"What do you mean? Why would you care about what happens to Ginny?"
"Because Draco cares for her," Narcissa replied, crossing her arms. "I have slain my own sister, betrayed my husband, my family, my heritage, and my Dark Lord for the sake of my son—who also betrayed those things for only one purpose—to allow himself to love.
"I have lived my entire life serving the Dark. I have been proud of my lineage, and never regretted my choices—save for one thing. Do you not imagine, that, just for once, I would have liked to have known the ability to be cherished as your Mother has?" she nodded at Ron.
"Or yours?" she continued, glancing at Harry's eyes. "Your Mother was so loved that more than one man died or betrayed their friends trying to protect her. Had the Dark Lord chosen to strike me down for my actions tonight—not for the act of killing 'Draco' but for the choice to stay behind and mourn him—Lucius would not have raised a finger to my aid.
"We are not a family to love. We have never been. But somehow, strangely enough, either by my will to love him, or by the will of your sister to change him, or perhaps by both, Draco turned out differently from his family. He is the first Malfoy to respect the family name, but love beyond the family heritage. I suppose a part of me wished for that."
Harry watched her for a moment. "You are a part of that. Had you never shown him love, whatever form you may have given, Draco would not have known to seek it out. You have given, and you are loved in return."
Hermione and Ron both stared at him.
Narcissa grinned slightly. "But not enough, Mr. Potter. Not enough."
After a moment, she straightened. "Knowing Draco like I know him, I knew he would deny his destiny when it was presented to him, even if it meant his life. I had to do something, and knowing the nature of your family, Ginny was the natural choice. I knew Ginny would pursue him if she found out where we were at. Her coming here, I am afraid, IS my fault, because I let her know when and where the ceremony would take place."
Ron narrowed his eyes, but Hermione placed a hand on his shoulder, and he remained silent.
"It was my only option. I knew Ginny would offer to switch places with Draco, and that the Dark Lord would not be able to resist her. And I knew that Draco would try and save her, in defiance of everyone—which is why I set up this switch, using a special Portkey I had prepared.
"Right now, Lucius, Lord Voldemort, and the rest of the Death Eaters have no idea anyone knows what they are about. But I'm afraid that you will have very little time to rescue your little sister. My plan concerned only Draco's life, not hers. To this point, it still does. Draco, I'm afraid, will not agree with me, and I will have to step aside and no longer interfere."
"What IS this ceremony? What is Voldemort planning to do?"
Narcissa narrowed her eyes. "I would imagine you've had a taste of it, haven't you, Potter? It was how the Dark Lord revived himself in the first place."
Harry frowned. "To revive himself, the Dark Lord needed a part of me, to protect himself against the protective spell my Mother had granted me. But why would he want to pass that to Ginny?"
"Not just that—every part of him. Voldemort knows that his powers here are still limited, and that Dumbledore is a powerful foe. But if he can pass on his legacy—his skills and powers, along with his own form of protection for his own child—then the follower he creates will be more powerful than any witch or wizard that has ever been."
"You mean he's going to possess Ginny?" Ron asked, horrified.
"Not quite. He's not going to take her body over—that would be impossible. But he can manipulate her mind—using the same powers he employed in his diary—and awaken his physical powers in her form. With her rebirth will come a special protection afforded only to her—a part of your Mother's spell—that will be difficult to overcome. She will be like his physical form, but younger, stronger—and with all his powers untapped. It is what the Dark Lord most desires.
"When that desire is transferred to her, then, like you, Potter, even the Unforgiveable Curses will have no effect on her. She will become all powerful. And with her mind tied to his, she will be his completely—and completely unredeemable. She will become the single most powerful witch the world has ever seen, and no one, including Dumbledore, will be able to stop her."
"But…Ginny wouldn't allow anything like that to happen to her!" said Hermione. "She'd never allow her heart to be taken over by Voldemort."
"Are you so certain?"
"YES! Ginny isn't like that! Why would you even believe…"
"Because it's happened before," said Harry slowly, studying Mrs. Malfoy's calm face. "That's why you knew Voldemort would take her. Because Tom Riddle manipulated her—and just like me, a part of him resides in her still. That's why we have so little time. Because unlike anyone, even Draco, Ginny will be easier to manipulate—easier to transform. And ten times more powerful, because the evil was once a part of her."
"Invited in, by her own will. There will always be a darkness within her. It will never go away—and the Dark Lord will be counting on that."
"And she's powerful," said Hermione quietly. "Ginny's the strongest witch in her class. She might well be one of the strongest witches of her age."
"She is perfect in every particular—the Dark Lord could not have chosen a better child. And I could not have given him one. The only hope you have is to get there before the ceremony."
"Where will it be?" said Ron harshly.
"I do not know…none of us knew. We were to follow him there."
"Draco will want to be a part of this—you do know that, don't you?" said Harry.
Narcissa frowned. "You will find him at the Manor. But if anything happens to him…"
"We'll all be dead by that point anyway," said Harry coldly. "I don't think you have anything to threaten us with."
She smiled. "I suppose not. You are very much like your Mother, Harry Potter. Admirable, but foolish too."
"And you are very much like your son."
She stepped back from them. "From a mother to a son, as you have no one left to say such things to you—be careful. I'm certain it's what your Mother would tell you."
"I'm certain she would too…among many other things," replied Harry. Mrs. Malfoy stood back, her face looking rather careworn, and tossed a small stone towards them. It was a delicately engraved brooch, carved with the letters "NB".
"Please," said Mrs. Malfoy suddenly. "Please take care of my son."
Harry nodded at her. "I will do my best, Mrs. Malfoy. I owe him my life, and the lives of everyone around me. He deserves, if nothing else, to be given the same respect."
Hermione bent down, towards the brooch. "Harry?"
He glanced at her one more time, her pale blue eyes watching as they gathered together, her face tilted to the side as she slid back into the shadows of the crooked trees.
"Come on, said Harry, clasping Ron's shoulder, and taking their brooms in his other. Ron grabbed Hermione's hand and she lifted the brooch quickly towards them, allowing them all to place a hand on it before the familiar tugging sensation pulled at their middles, spinning them away from the graveyard.
Draco winced as the sucking sensation subsided, and he spiraled forward in an arcing circle, his cloak whirling behind him, sliding across a very familiar parquet floor.
He slid to a stop, feeling slightly dizzy as he raised his head.
The chandeliers of the Malfoy's grand ballroom came into focus, and he raised his head.
The Manor…how did I…
"I'm sorry, Draco…"
His Mother's voice came flooding back into his head.
I warned you once before. Just like with your aunt. I'm sorry…Goodbye…
Someone popped up beside him—a House Elf…Kreacher? He'd been carrying a wrapped bundle.
A bundle with his own face…
Narcissa had whispered 'Lumos Solemnia Solara'. The Fireburst spell.
Something cool and hard in his hand. That awful pulling sensation…
He leapt to his feet, the realization hitting him.
And Ginny was with the Dark Lord!
He flung the doors of the ballroom. "Teenesia! Archibald!"
The Manor was deserted. His voice echoed through the halls.
He bolted upstairs, flinging open the doors of his suite. Everything was as he had left it hours before. "TEENESIA!"
Panic coursed through him, his heart beating rapidly, his breath coming in gasps.
He raced up to the Night Wing, flinging open the doors of the Saniescamara. "TENNY! ARCHIBALD! Where the devil are you!"
A familiar voice rang through the halls of the house. He stopped, listening for a moment. It was a voice he never expected would grace his family's hallways.
Draco raced from the Night Wing, towards the massive stairway that led up from the foyer. Halfway down, a figure walked into view of the wall hangings, staring up at him as he took the steps two at a time.
Ron Weasley crossed his arms. Behind him, Hermione Granger was staring at the house with her mouth open. And behind her…
Potter moved around Granger. "Malfoy. So your are alive."
"What are YOU doing here?"
Potter's emerald eyes flashed. "We came to find you, you prat. Your Mother told us she saved you."
Draco felt the blood rush to his face. "She didn't save me…she gave me no choice."
"Whatever she gave you…you're still alive. And Ginny is…"
"WHAT CONCERN OF YOURS IS IT WHAT GINNY IS?"
"SORRY?" Potter screamed in return. "ONE OF MY BEST FRIENDS IS IN THE HANDS OF VOLDEMORT BECAUSE OF YOU! AND TO THINK I ACTUALLY FELT SORRY YOU WERE DEAD!"
"I DON'T NEED YOU TO FEEL SORRY FOR ME YOU STUPID SCARHEAD!"
"SHUT UP!" shouted Weasley suddenly, shoving an arm in front of Potter's chest. "WE DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS. FROM EITHER OF YOU. MY SISTER IS IN THE ARMS OF THE DARK LORD RIGHT THIS SECOND, AND IT'S BOTH OF YOUR FAULTS!"
Draco felt as though someone had punched him. Weasley's eyes were red. Granger came over to him a laid a hand on his shoulder.
Potter looked shell-shocked. "Ron…"
Weasley shook his head. "It's all our faults. We all should have figured she'd do something like this. We all helped her get there. We're all to blame. And now, she might…" he sniffed.
"Where…where have they gone?" asked Draco, suddenly feeling exhausted. He moved over to one of the ornate, decorative chairs lining the hall. "Do you know?"
"We came to get you, because we knew you'd want to be a part of this," said Granger softly. "We hoped you might have an idea of where they'd gone. Your mother couldn't tell us."
"I don't know," said Draco, a hint of nervousness touching his voice. "I have no idea. I knew as far as the Riddle graveyard, no more."
Weasley turned from them, raising a hand to his eyes. Granger watched him for a moment.
"Please," she said, turning to him. "You have to know something."
"Well, I DON'T," he said harshly. His tone softened as her eyes filled with tears. "Do you really think if I knew where Ginny was I'd be waffling here? I have no idea what the Dark Lord intended to do with us once the ceremony had begun. I don't even know what happened after."
"I think they apparated away," said Ron, turning back to them. His large nose was red and splotchy. They had a stone at the center of the graveyard, but we touched it without any effect. It wasn't a Portkey."
"A mass apparition?" asked Potter. "Is that possible?"
"With dark magic anything is possible," said Draco. "Their Death Eater marks allow a connection that is unlike anything else. It allows the Dark Lord to control them beyond just a method of communication."
"Why wouldn't they have completed the ceremony at the Riddle graveyard, though?" asked Granger suddenly. "Why go somewhere else?"
"I don't know," said Draco. "I knew nothing more than where we were appearing. I didn't even know about the Veritaserum…"
"If you had, would it have changed anything?" asked Potter.
"I don't know," answered Draco slowly. "But the moment I saw Ginny had arrived, I would not have stayed. I would have risked getting caught." He lowered his head. "At that point, I would have had nothing to lose. If only my Mother had told me…"
"But she didn't," said Ron. "She lured Ginny there instead. To save you."
"She convinced your House Elf to tell Ginny where the ceremony was going to be, and she left the rest up to Ginny. She knew Ginny would come."
"My Mother planned this?"
"She also killed a man in your stead. Probably in front of the Death Eaters, to make them think she'd killed you."
He stared at the floor. "I'm not surprised by that. Not surprised at all."
"We're wasting time, standing here," said Potter suddenly. "We have to start looking."
"But where?" asked Granger. "We don't even know where Professor Dumbledore is!"
"I think I know someone—something—that might," said Draco suddenly. He turned to Potter. "But I need your help."
The trio of friends stared at him.
"Come on. We don't have time to waste." He started off to the doors of the Manor.
Potter and the rest ran after him, their brooms in tow. "Wait a minute, Malfoy!" shouted Potter. "Just where are we going?"
Draco whirled to face him. "That's what you have to tell me."
Harry felt the familiar, sinking sensation creeping upon his heart as he swung open the doors to number 12 Grimmauld Place.
Nothing much had changed since he'd last set foot in here, just a few days ago, but what seemed like ages. The halls were still covered with the half-cleaned cobwebs Mrs. Weasley had attempted to remove when they'd stayed with the Order that brief time during his trial. The picture of Mrs. Black hung silently upon the wall, covered with the hanging. Harry wondered what she would do if she came face to face with Malfoy. Would he be a traitor, or would he be a hero? How much did pictures know?
"Where is he?" asked Malfoy.
Harry shrugged. "I can call him. Kreacher! Kreacher, come!"
They waited for a moment.
"You don't even know where your own House Elf goes?" asked Malfoy snidely, his arms crossed.
"Kreacher's not my House Elf," said Harry.
"He's not—didn't the traitor leave the house to you?"
Harry narrowed his eyes. "How should I know?"
"And why should that matter?" asked Hermione.
"Because House Elves come with the property. If the House is yours, Kreacher is yours."
"Then why was your Mother able to command him?"
"Because you never told him to disobey her," replied Malfoy casually. "House Elves can have their own free will under the eyes of their masters, so long as no order prevents them. And even then they might defy it. Look at Dobby."
"Dobby's free, which is exactly what they should all be," said Hermione.
"No one asked you."
"Look, can we stop this, please?" said Ron, a strange, strangled desperation in his voice. "Bickering amongst ourselves isn't going to help find Kreacher better, and its not going to help get Ginny back…isn't that right, Draco?"
Harry, Hermione and Malfoy stopped glaring at one another, all three turning to him in shock.
"What did you just call me?"
"Draco. That's your name, isn't it, Malfoy?"
"That's our bargain. You address me civilly, and I and everyone else will do the same, and we all remember why we're attempting this little truce."
"You must be joking…"
"Ginny. Ginny." Ron said pointedly. "Ginny."
Malfoy's face twisted for a moment, then he sighed. "Fine. RON. But I can't do it for Potter, it just won't work."
Harry grimaced. "Same for me."
Draco thought for a moment, crossing his arms. Granger looked at him with a quizzical face, though her eyes looked slightly sad.
"Fine," he said offhandedly. "Hermione then."
Hermione blushed pink. "Thanks."
"Good. Now, what do you need Kreacher for?"
"He was working for more than just my Mother. He might know where we should start to look."
"Then let's find him," said Harry, suddenly calm. "KREACHER! APPEAR, RIGHT NOW!"
A strange sulfur smell filled the air, and Kreacher appeared, bowed low, observing the group with a hateful eye.
"Kreacher is beckoned, yes, summoned by the hateful…"
"Shut up," said Malfoy harshly. "Where did the Dark Lord take Ginny Weasley?"
"He asks a question, he who failed the Dark Lord, his family…"
"Just answer the question," said Harry harshly, as Malfoy colored dark red.
"He takes her to where those who have gone before have yet to go again. Where those who have been do not know they have been, and those who have seen will never seek to find again. They who sit in the shadows will never go out of the shadows—only through one shall the light cover, and only through one shall it reveal."
There was silence for a moment.
"What?" said Ron.
Malfoy stared at Harry for a moment. Harry shrugged. "I've never been to or heard of such a place."
Hermione was gathering up her broom. "Let's go."
The three boys turned to her, staring.
"Thank you, Kreacher," she said politely, and tossed Harry the Firebolt. "I know what he's speaking of."
Kreacher looked repulsed. "She addresses me, she…"
Ron grabbed the house elf by his arm and flung him into the side hall closet.
He shrugged. "When someone from the Order gets back they can let him out."
Hermione observed him with pursed lips.
"Where are we going?" asked Harry.
"Hogwarts," she said. "Which you would know, if any of you would ever bother to finish 'Hogwarts, A History'."
"The Shadow Grove," said Hermione with a sniff, as they moved towards the Dark Forest. They'd covered ground in remarkable time, Flooing to the Shrieking Shack, then taking a tunnel from there to the Whomping Willow, right on the outskirts of the Dark Forest, where they were now heading.
"Hogwarts used to have less-than-agreeable wizards, you know," Hermione was saying superiorly. If this was the way she always explained things she knew, Draco didn't understand how Potter and Weasley managed to hang around her all the time.
"—the Chamber of Secrets demonstrates that—and they had a sacrificial grove designed for use of Dark Arts. It is called the Shadow Grove because no matter where in it you move, at whatever time of day, you are in shadows, except for the very center—which only has room for one person to be in the light.
"Students are prevented from going to it, of course—its near the center of the Dark Forest, so naturally students wouldn't find it—but if you read 'Hogwarts, A History', it tells you all about it.
"But how do you know how to find it?" asked Potter, as they neared the half-giant's hut. He tossed his Firebolt alongside the stoop. "What made you think of it?"
"Think about it—'where those who have been before have yet to go again'—that's because the Shadow Grove was concealed with unplottable charms and misdirection spells and a disguise hex. The only way to know about it is to have been there before, and know its purpose. If you don't, it just looks like a group of trees—'those who have not been do not know they have been'.
"And most importantly," she said imperiously, "once you've been to the Shadow Grove, you become immune to the spells. 'Those who have seen will never seek to find again'—they won't seek to find it, because they already know where it is."
"That being the case," said Ron rather snittily, "how are WE going to find the grove, since we've never been, and as its unplottable, we can't just stumble upon it?"
"There are ways around unplottable," returned Hermione hotly. "And as there will be a great bunch of Death Eaters hanging around it, it seems as though it might be rather difficult to miss, doesn't it?"
Ron pursed his lips.
Draco sighed as they marched ahead, Hermione leading the way, wand raised. Potter followed her, looking determined, and Weasley came behind. They were moving into the shadows of the Dark Forest. Draco had been here many times, most recently on a hunting expedition—he'd been hunting Potter and Hermione, hoping to catch them in the act of breaking school rules so severely Professor Dumbledore would be forced to expel them.
All he'd gotten was a chase from a great giant, and an armful of Ginny Weasley.
The ledge they'd tumbled down was a few miles away, on the other side of the forest entrance. He remembered quite clearly the expression on her face as he told her he was going to get her friends in trouble. He also remembered the smile she'd given him as she left him, petrified, in the middle in the forest, at the mercy of whatever was prowling the night.
It was then he'd learned that the people who followed Harry Potter weren't necessarily cake and icing. They had a hard side too—a strong side, one that could have been used by the Death Eaters, had they elected to go that way.
But Ginny never would, because her heart had chosen another path. It had chosen to follow Potter, and fight against the Dark Lord.
Or it had, until it had chosen him. Chosen him above anything else, even her own soul.
This whole thing was his fault, because he'd been too confused, too uncertain, to decide where he truly belonged. He knew now, that despite the loyalty he felt for his family, he should have stayed with Ginny. He should have believed in her, because she was the only person in the world who had chosen him, above everything else. What he'd yelled at her so many times—that she wouldn't have to give up her family—it wasn't necessarily true. She would have to contend with their disappointment at having a Malfoy in the family. There would be difficulty and mistrust, no matter where she went or who she associated with. She'd known all this, but had told him that what he was didn't matter to her—she'd have lived with it all, just to be near him.
He hadn't given her the same kind of love in return. He would always love his family, love who he was, but he loved her more. He should have known that from the beginning.
And now, he was in danger of losing everything. Not just his family—he'd lost them already—but the one thing, the only thing, that ever really mattered.
Potter's face appeared through the shadows, watching him. "Come on."
He nodded, pushing forward to catch up. As he passed by, Potter whispered, "don't let your guard down. No matter what they do."
Rather than sneer, as he might have, Draco only nodded. In the end, he was going to have to admit, at some point, Potter was right about something. Might as well be this.
Hermione sighed, lowering her wand. "That's the last countercurse I can think of. Everything should be down, but we still can't see the grove."
Ron patted her shoulder. "I'm sure there is just something we're missing. You've done really well."
She smiled. "Thanks, Ron."
"We're near the center of the forest," said Potter, checking his wand, which had been enchanted with a direction spell. "It has to be around her somewhere."
"If we can't see it, how did the others find it?" asked Draco.
Hermione shrugged. "If only one of them knows where it's at, then they could guide the others."
Draco thought back to Grimmauld Place. They who sit in the shadows will never go out of the shadows—only through one shall the light cover, and only through one shall it reveal...
Only through one….
"Wait a minute…Hermione, do you know the moonlight spell—the one that calls moonlight to you?"
"Yes," she said slowly. "But…"
"Call it to you," he said firmly.
She looked at him questioningly, but raised her arm to the sky. "Lumos Luna."
The moonlight, just as he'd seen with his mother, pooled towards her, gathering like a halo around her thin form.
"Now point," he said, directing his own wand at the forest. "Channel the light."
She lowered her wand immediately, her face registering understanding.
The beam of light followed her wand, focused through the point like a searchlight. It scanned over the trees ahead of them, weaving through the branches, casting bursts in patches across the forest.
At one clump, hidden thickly in shadows, the beam of light didn't course through the trees, but bent, into a perfect arc, around the grove.
"Go!" Draco yelled, pushing Potter forward. Ron crashed through the trees ahead of them, working into the moonlight still cast from Hermione's wand, and disappeared into the trees.
Draco felt a strange sort of thickness as he followed them, like he was being squeezed through a small crack. The tightness subsided, and he emerged into a clearing that was completely silent. Potter and Weasley were up ahead, glancing around.
Hermione appeared behind him, her face glowing. "That was…that was really, really clever, Draco," she said. "It would have taken me ages to figure that out."
Ron looked at them sharply, and gestured with his wand. "There are prints leading this way."
Potter took the lead, Weasley the rear. They followed the broken branches and bent leaves deeper into the forest—a path that was dotted in thin, gray trees and very little underbrush. An uneasy mist settled on them, weaving through the thin trunks as though it had a mind of its own.
A long, low howl reverberated from somewhere within the darkness of the trees.
"Gytrash," said Potter. Hermione swallowed, reaching for Weasley's hand.
There was a wall of black coming up ahead. A low sound, like a muffled roar, was echoing through the trees. Hermione's eyes widened, and she approached the black wall cautiously.
"Wow," she whispered. "These are Brovac trees. More than one thousand years old."
She laid a hand on the wall—a dark, pulsing piece of wood.
Draco scanned the branches. The trunk was so thick, it could have been one of the Hogwarts towers. At the top, small, fat branches curled into ugly knots, waving slightly in a non-existent breeze.
"How do we get past?" asked Potter.
Hermione followed the base around, until she found the end. She gestured to the group, and they followed, sliding themselves between the fat, ancient trunks. The tree seemed to creak and moan with displeasure.
Overhead, their branches arched forward, and Draco got a first look at their gigantic leaves, cut to shadow the center of the grove. Long, thin fronds, with creases in them like old fingers, ruffled, lying neatly leaf to leaf, letting not one drop of light through, save for the center of the grove, where an open hole allowed moonlight to pour atop a gigantic, carved stone.
Weasley motioned forward.
At the far end of the grove, gathered in a mass, were the cloaked figures of the Death Eaters. They appeared to be huddling together.
Draco searched the rest of the grove quickly. There was no sign of the Dark Lord.
Beside him, there was a small gasp.
He edged around Hermione as she stood perfectly still, staring at something in the shadows barely twenty feet away from them.
Draco's long fingers closed over her mouth, and he pulled her back into the deep shadows of the trunk, nodding at Potter to do the same. Potter caught his eye, then grabbed Weasley by his robes and yanked him backward silently.
The Dark Lord was leaning upon another trunk, swaddled in a cloak, only the red of his dark eyes showing beneath his hood. A bundle lay at his feet—Ginny, wrapped in a Death Eater's robe, her flaming red hair spread around her, unconscious on the ground.
Weasley struggled with Potter, but Potter shook his head, clutching tightly to his friend.
Draco released Hermione, and she clutched his arm, trembling. They were within feet of the Dark Lord—within feet of Ginny—but Draco knew they couldn't just burst upon him and hope to escape alive.
Ginny stirred, her face twisting slightly. The Dark Lord bent to her.
Draco felt his stomach turn. Have they performed the ceremony already? Is she already his? Is he just waiting for her to…
Hermione pulled them even further backwards, deeper into the shadows of the trees, as a sudden light filled the grove. The moonlight had reached a point where it was directly above the forest, and it lit the area with eerie, incandescent shadows.
The stone in the center of the grove began to sparkle. Quartz, and mica, buried within the stony surface, turned the moonlight into glittering daggers of refracted light.
The Dark Lord bent to Ginny, lifting her in his arms, and moved towards the center.
Potter had Weasley in a death grip, holding back his taller friend as much as he could. Hermione was clutching Draco's arm so tightly it was going numb.
The mass of Death Eaters watched as the Dark Lord placed her atop the stone, lying her sideways so that her red hair tumbled off the edge.
Draco clenched a fist, fighting the urge to burst out into the center of the mass.
The Death Eaters gathered around in a semi-circle, their voices filling the grove with a low, indiscriminate sound. Hermione reached out and pulled Potter close, whispering hastily while keeping one eye on the group.
"They haven't begun the ceremony yet, obviously. They must have needed it to be at a particular time."
"What can we do?" asked Potter, still clutching the back of Weasley's robes. "We can't take on a group of Death Eaters ourselves."
"We might be able to create a diversion," said Hermione. "Ron and I can go to the back of the forest and cause a stir. That would make quite a few of the Death Eaters abandon the Grove."
"That's extremely dangerous," said Potter, looking worried. "If they catch you…"
"They won't," she said with a trembling smile. "But what you might do…"
"I'll face the Dark Lord," said Draco. "You get Ginny."
"No," said Potter.
"Potter…this is no time to play the hero."
"You're right," said Potter. "This isn't the time. If Voldemort faces you, you'll be killed instantly. But he can't kill me—if I can get my wand raised in time, he can't hurt me with any spells."
Hermione watched him, her face set in a frown. "The Priori Incantatem—do you think it will work again?"
"A locking of wands," whispered Potter. "My wand and Voldemort's share the same core—phoenix feathers, both from Fawkes, Professor Dumbledore's phoenix. The last time we stood face to face, our wand cores locked and he couldn't attack me."
"But you only held him at bay, Harry. He's a great deal stronger, now."
"So am I," he said determinedly. "None of us here can defeat the Dark Lord right now. But at least I can find a way to hold him until we can try and escape safely."
"And how do we do that?" asked Draco. "It's not like we have our brooms."
Potter looked at him squarely. "How do you think?"
"If we're going to do something," hissed Weasley, "can we start right now?"
He motioned ahead. The Death Eaters had become still, and the Dark Lord was standing over Ginny, his hand in the air. Potter nodded, and Hermione and Ron scrambled off, towards the far end of the grove, careful to stay out of the light.
"Just take care of her, okay?" Harry said softly, as they moved forward.
Draco frowned. "I will."
The stone beneath the moonlight was still sparkling in the moonlight, making the coils of Ginny's hair glitter golden. One of the Death Eaters moved forward. His arm was clutched peculiarly to his side.
"Pettigrew," hissed Potter.
He moved forward, next to the Dark Lord, followed by two other Death Eaters. One of the two reached a pale hand towards the Dark Lord, handing him a knife.
"My father," said Draco.
The Dark Lord bent over Ginny, drawing the knife close to her skin. Both Draco and Potter tensed as he brought it close to her face.
His ancient hands drew up her arm, bending her palm forward. With a sharp movement, faster than Draco could comprehend, he sliced the blade across the center of her hand.
Draco was up in a moment, but Potter grabbed him, yanking him backwards, and holding him tightly.
"We can't take them all on," he said softly in Draco's ear. "Wait until Ron and Hermione…"
Draco tried to shake free. "How can you watch as he…"
"Because I've seen him do a lot worse," said Potter, releasing him slowly.
Ginny moaned. The Dark Lord let her blood slide across her hand, dripping down upon the rock. He twisted the knife, revolving the blade, and took it across his own hand, letting the dark liquid drop down.
The third Death Eater moved forward, holding up a silver urn. The Dark Lord took it from him, squeezing his own blood into it, then holding up Ginny's palm, and allowing the blood to flow down, mingling with his own.
Draco glanced to the trees behind the Death Eaters.
Where are Granger and Weasley?
The Dark Lord turned to the group. "Who comes?"
The group in front of him stayed silent for a moment.
He raised his wand, his eyes burning. "Who comes?"
Still the Death Eaters remained silent. The Dark Lord raised his wand.
"Then I WILL CHOOSE!"
The group before him seemed to bow in unison, moving away from the point of his wand.
"I," said someone suddenly.
Draco watched the Death Eater curiously as they moved forward. There was something terribly familiar about the voice.
The Dark Lord observed the hooded figure. "Do you come completely?"
"In honor of my Dark Lord. In honor of my parents. In honor of all we value." The Death Eater slipped off her hood. A tumble of brown hair fell forward, onto the small shoulders.
Draco's eyes widened.
The Dark Lord grinned, darkly. "You are the most loyal of all. Your sacrifice shall not be forgotten."
Draco watched, horrified, as Pansy repositioned her cloak. Her face was tear-stained, though her eyes were strong. "Yes, my Lord. I have nothing to lose, but everything to gain."
She turned her gaze towards Ginny. "Nothing to lose."
"No…" Draco started to rise. Potter grabbed his arm.
"We can't…Ginny," he said, his voice pleading.
Draco turned to him, trying to yank his arm away, and stopped when he caught a glimpse of the expression on Potter's face.
He seated himself back down. The knot in his chest was tightening.
Please…please Pansy. Please…
The Dark Lord raised his wand. "Avada Kedavra."
Potter turned his head. His fingers gripped Draco's arm.
Draco watched, watched as the curse struck Pansy, her arms flinging out by her side, her head tilting backwards, her form folding limply beneath.
He bit his lip, his fists clenched tightly, his nails digging into his hands. Blood pooled into his mouth, but he refused to look away.
Pansy tumbled to the ground, her long brown hair spilling around her. Her face wore no expression.
Two of the Death Eaters in the crowd began to whimper; one tumbled to the ground, a long thin hand clutching at her neck.
Draco struggled to keep himself still. Tears were rolling down Harry's cheeks.
The Dark Lord stared at the body for a moment, his face bearing a satisfied grin.
Pansy's body lifted from the ground. Her skin began to pulsate, rippling across the top. Tiny, miniscule droplets began to stream from it, pulling at Pansy's skin, covering her in red.
The blood pooled in the air, streaming towards the large silver urn. It splashed inward, filling to the brim.
Pansy's body lay, cold and pale, and suddenly still.
The Dark Lord grabbed the urn, a smile touching his lips. He raised it above his head, and splashed the mingled blood over himself, then turned, splashing it over Ginny.
Draco's breath caught. Ginny stirred uncomfortably.
The Dark Lord raised his wand.
"Societatem coire bicorporis unanimous…"
Potter stiffened beside him. The wand of the Dark Lord began to pulsate.
Sparks from the rock started to break off, gleaming, moving upwards in a tall column that extended over the tops of the trees. The light glowed red.
The Death Eaters fell back, save from the three that accompanied the Dark Lord by the rock. The remainder raised their wands.
Beams of light began to fill the grove, shooting from the ends of the Death Eaters' wands.
Ginny stirred. Draco had his wand in a death grip.
The Death Eaters suddenly lowered their wands, aiming directly upon the center of the Dark Lord's back.
Draco's eyes widened. Potter, still kneeling beside him, looked just as surprised.
Lord Voldemort arched back in pain, his arms stretching up to the sky. His wand trembled in his long fingers. A strange, strangled cry escaped from his lips.
A black mass of light began to glow around him; he pulled his wand forwards, towards the center of his chest.
"Societatem coire bicorporis…" he rasped.
"Unanimous…Unanimous…" chanted the Death Eaters.
A red, smoky haze began to draw from his chest. The blood that covered him was pulling from him, mixing with his own blood—
…No…his own soul…
"Like a pensieve…" said Potter.
The beam of light shining upon him from the Death Eaters' wands began to glow brighter. The Dark Lord bent over, his body writhing in pain, but his wand remained pointed at his chest. The cloud of red smoke began to solidify.
"We have to go!" hissed Draco. "Where are they?"
Potter remained focused on the Dark Lord.
"Un…unani…unanimousss…" he wheezed.
The red object formed into a huge, slithering snake. It pulled from him, separating from his chest by everything but a single strong thread of light. He bent over, his face contorted, as the serpent circled slowly in the air.
The light shining on the Dark Lord covered him. Draco squinted, trying to shadow his eyes. The Dark Lord was nearly howling, but he kept his wand steady.
The snake above him curled, writhing in the air.
"UNANIMOUS," he roared.
Draco and Harry both turned, shielding their faces from the light. The snake arced upward, forming into a perfectly solid entity. The snake hissed, showing large fangs, pausing. The Dark Lord lowered his wand, and the snake dove downwards.
Right into the center of Ginny's chest.
Draco screamed and shot upwards. He was vaguely aware of Potter rising beside him, charging to the center of the circle. A long, high-pitched wail was coming from the center of the circle, drowning out their voices. Ginny's back was arched, her eyes wide, howling in pain.
The Death Eaters began to turn as Draco flung curses their way. Many of them started in shock, their surprise at his presence making them incapable of retaliating. The ancient hexes, many of which had been taught to him by some of these very wizards, now brought groups of them to their knees.
Behind them, a large, white light exploded, and two huge balls of fire shot from the other side of the trees, knocking masses of the Death Eaters off their feet. Flames rose from the other side of the forest, curling around the gigantic, ancient Brovac trunks.
The Death Eaters flew apart in chaos. Draco shoved his way through the mass as they dove for cover, hexing anyone who tried to stop him. A large, glittering Phoenix flew gracefully over the group, sending waves of Death Eaters scrambling for the trees.
Potter was working his way alongside Draco, towards the center, where the Dark Lord remained standing, his focus still on the snake that was working its way into Ginny's chest. The blood that had covered her was digging like needles into her skin, working into her body, turning the pale, white skin a jagged pink.
He was nearing the center.
Draco felt something hit him hard in the stomach, and he stumbled to the ground, falling to one knee.
"You've made some terrible choices, Draco," hissed a cold voice. "But I never believed you were capable of this."
Draco raised his head. His father was staring down at him, his wand pointed at Draco's head. "You've defied the Dark Lord for the last time."
Potter was near the center of the circle, battling his way through the remaining Death Eaters.
"No, Father," coughed Draco. "I'm defying you for the first time. Expelliarmus!"
His Father's wand shot out of his hand. Lucius glared at Draco as Draco rose to his feet. "Why don't we see what it feels like, shall we?" he hissed coldly. "Crucio."
Draco's father stumbled to the ground, bending beneath the curse. His eyes opened widely, his mouth screaming without sound. Draco stood tall, his wand pointed fiercely, focused.
Feel it, Father. Know what it feels like…
Potter was yelling at him, trying to break past the one Death Eater who remained to guard the Dark Lord. Pettigrew stood just behind him, looking weakly from at the pair struggling in front of him, as though he wanted to do something but felt incapable of it.
Draco turned, his eyes widening. The Dark Lord had not moved, despite the chaos unfolding behind him. He was intensely focused, his wand grasped in two hands, his body straining under the power of controlling the serpent.
Ginny was writhing, her face horribly contorted. Her screams were soundless now, and the light that shown around her was turning blood red. The snake was halfway through her chest.
Draco broke the spell, leaving his father behind, and raced towards the Dark Lord. The Death Eater Potter had been struggling with fell suddenly, and Potter broke towards them, his wand raised.
Weasley and Hermione had entered the grove, downing Death Eaters. Behind them, powerful spells were booming from outside the trees.
Somehow, The Order of the Phoenix had found them. Dumbledore had arrived.
Draco hurtled to the Dark Lord. Pettigrew hissed suddenly, jumping towards him. Draco felt something incredibly heavy slam into his shoulder, and he fell to the ground. The lumpy, rat-like man leapt at him, clawing at Draco's arm, reaching for his wand.
"No…" Draco struggled with him, rolling through the dirt, scratching at the man's beady little eyes. Pettigrew's mousy teeth were bared.
"Get off me you disgusting excuse for a RAT!" Draco screamed, his fist finding the man's pointed nose. Pettigrew fell backwards, whimpering. Draco scrambled for his wand, sitting up and pointing it towards Pettigrew.
He didn't bother to see if the spell had worked completely or not. He scrambled to his feet, bolting towards Ginny and the stone.
The snake was almost gone; Ginny's face wore a look of wearied despair. In the distance, the Order was racing towards them, Dumbledore towards the front. He was screaming something.
Potter was within casting distance of the Dark Lord. He hurled a spell towards him. The spell slammed into the back of the dark wizard's robes, and rebounded toward Potter. He swung his wand, a shield spell protecting him.
A loud voice boomed through the nearly empty grove. Dumbledore stood at the opposite end, his wand pointed at Ginny. The Dark Lord's eyes widened, and he snarled viciously.
Ginny was writhing on the stone. Dumbledore's spell cut through the air, then suddenly slowed, drifting into a smoky cloud of thin light.
Draco turned, desperately straining to reach her. The air around him suddenly seemed thicker than syrup. His lungs were burning. Potter was on his feet, pushing through the mist, straining as though he were being blocked by something.
The serpent's tail was digging downwards. A red light began to shine from Ginny's eyes, tears streaming down her face, tinted red with blood.
With a loud cry, Potter reached the Dark Lord, his arms grasping around, pulling at the decrepit body. Both went down in a heap, the connection of Voldemort's wand and the stream of red from his chest suddenly breaking.
Ginny's shrieks burst suddenly through the grove. They were deafening. The snake was dancing out of her chest, making a strange, hollow sound.
Out of the back side of the rock, beneath her, the serpent's head suddenly appeared, as flimsy as smoke. It was leaving her.
Potter suddenly flew across the grove, sliding on his side with a loud cry. The Dark Lord was staring at him in pure hate, his eyes wide and flaming red.
Draco turned in horror as the spell flew from the Dark Lord's wand.
Potter raised his head, his black hair flying away from his face. He raised his wand. "Obstructum…"
The shield spell shot out of Potter's wand, connecting with the green burst of light flying towards him. The two streams met in a gigantic burst, their connection feeding back to the points of the wand tips. The sound of a Phoenix call echoed through the grove, its clear, beautiful melody creating a streaming cage of light around the two spell casters. Draco watched in amazement as the Dark Lord howled in rage, and Potter stood, grabbing his wand with both hands, using all his strength to hold back the Dark Lord's spell, which was now pulsating up and down the line, struggling against the shield spell he'd cast just moments ago.
Ron Weasley was running towards him, ignoring the imposing site of the Priori Incantatem. "DRACO!"
Draco turned, heading back towards the makeshift alter. Ginny was writhing on the stone, her screams drowned out by the song of the Phoenix. He rushed towards her, stuffing his wand in his cloak.
As he neared, the snake reared up, its head flowing foggily through the back end of the stone. Its large mouth snapped at Draco, its fangs visible, dripping foggy, poisonous mist.
He swished his arm around, waving through the mist, trying to reach Ginny.
The snake struck forward with a blinding speed, its large fangs bared. Draco howled in pain as they slammed into his shoulder. He bent down, gathering Ginny in his arms, and yanked her forward, ignoring the blinding pain in his arm and chest.
The snake arched upwards, a large, cold hiss echoing through it. Its long tail, the tip still extending from Ginny's chest, began to disperse. Ginny whimpered. The light around her began to fade, and a mist of red droplets poured from her skin, leaving thin, jagged scratches all over her body..
Draco gathered her into his arms, pulling her off the rock. Her head lulled dully by his side.
From the other side of the grove, the Dark Lord roared in pain. The cage surrounding he and Potter shattered, and he flew backwards, hit full force by the power of Potter's shield spell.
The snake finally dissolved, leaving behind a poisonous mist. Draco coughed, stumbling. The pain in his arm subsided slightly, but burning tingles still coursed through his chest.
Weasley reached him, helping to lift Ginny, and moving away from the cloud of red droplets that were swirling around the stone in the center.
The Dark Lord rose from his position on the grass, his eyes blazing. He raised his wand, pointing it straight at Ginny. "UNANIM…"
"EXPELLIARMUS!" yelled Potter.
The Dark Lord screamed, pushing himself off the ground with incredible strength. He aimed his wand at Potter once more, who'd risen to his feet, his green eyes blazing determinedly.
The Dark Lord's eyes widened. Dumbledore had come behind Harry, his own wand raised eye level, pointed at the Dark Lord.
Voldemort turned to Draco, his expression filled with pure hate. "You'll never be rid of me. You'll have to live with it as long as you live."
He narrowed his eyes. "As long as she lives."
Dumbledore fired a spell.
"NO!" Harry cried, rushing over to where he'd been. "NO!"
Draco kneeled down on the ground as Potter and the rest searched the point from which Voldemort had apparated. He laid Ginny softly on the grass, raising her head as the rest of the Order searched through the grove.
One of them walked beside Pansy's body, using his wand to wrap her in her cloak, covering her face.
His father was nowhere to be seen, nor was Pettigrew. Somehow, they had escaped. The grove was beyond the power of Hogwarts.
Weasley was beside him, staring worriedly at his sister. Hermione came up behind them, her curly hair mussed, dirt and blood on her nose. "How is she?"
Ron shrugged, looking miserable. "It didn't go all the way through, but…"
Potter and Dumbledore marched up to where they were huddled, Potter looking upset.
"You did well, Harry," said Dumbledore softly, his blue eyes glancing over Draco, holding Ginny in his arms. "You all did well."
"What's happened to her?" asked Draco softly. "What did he do to her?"
They all glanced up at the Professor expectantly. He looked down at her, his eyes sad. "I'm not certain. I don't know what magic he evoked."
"But he didn't finish, right?" said Ron shakily. "Whatever he was trying to do, it didn't complete, did it?"
"We'll have to wait and see what happens when she wakes," said the Professor. "We have no idea what Lord Voldemort has caused. Even I am unfamiliar with this sort of incantation. It is magic of the darkest kind, along the line of a horcrux."
"Horcrux?" asked Harry.
"An evil greater than any we've ever known. Perhaps sometime later I'll explain it to you. Right now, we should get Miss Weasley to St. Mungos."
"St. Mungos? But we're at Hogwarts," sniffed Ron.
"I believe this is beyond Madame Pomfrey's power to cure. We need to take her somewhere they can truly look after her."
Draco lifted Ginny, watching her face as it pulled close to his shoulder. Her eyes were wearied, her mouth set in a deep frown. Tears streaked her cheeks, leaving trails of red down her pale skin.
Her hand fell over his arm, still stained with blood from where Lord Voldemort had cut her. The blade had run right across her tiny scar. The Slytherin snake and "P" were unrecognizable.
The knot in Draco's chest closed tightly around his throat. "Let's go."
"Well, you mustn't move it. If you do, it will only make it worse."
The tiny wizarding doctor stepped away from Draco, observing the bluish-purple color of the bruise that extended across his shoulder. His ancient little face, framed with a fuzz of steel gray hair, wobbled from side to side.
"This is a strange poison, but nothing that won't take a few days to cure. You must keep it still, though, and apply the Stinkweed Salve every four hours until the color starts to turn.
"Don't forget," he lectured. "Or you'll have a green shoulder for the rest of your life—unless, of course, you run into a Dragon."
"A dragon? What can a dragon do?"
"It can bite your shoulder off!" laughed the little wizard in a high pitched voice. "Then you wouldn't have to worry about its color, now, would you?'
Draco narrowed his eyes, and the little man sighed. "Very well. You're not in spirits, I see. Let me wrap you up."
A wave of his wand set a sling into place, and Draco leapt off the bed, very glad to be leaving.
"Every four hours," said the wizard, his lips pursed. "Don't forget."
How could I? Thought Draco. But he didn't deign to let this man know that. "Thanks."
The man snickered. "Never thought I'd hear that from a Malfoy."
Draco's face twisted, and he stomped from the room, slamming the door behind him.
That PRAT! Ginny could have died tonight, and his world could have ended, and all he can do is make stupid jokes!
He slapped the side of the cement wall, frowning.
And it's all my fault…
The Halls of St. Mungo's felt stark and bare after the dim, shadowed lights of the grove. Everything that had happened only a few hours before felt like a dream. Despite what he'd seen, a part of him hoped it was just that, and that when Ginny woke up, none of them would remember any of this.
Ginny's bed was in the Emergency Ward, in a closed off area from the rest of the patients. As no one knew what might happen to her when she woke, they were keeping her away from the other wizards. Not for her safety, but for theirs.
"I'm uncertain," the chief wizard official had said. "we don't know exactly what affect this might have. With her past history, there might be somethin' left within her. I can't really tell you, havin' only descriptions to go by. Only time will tell."
Draco put a hand to his face. Memories of the battle coursed through his mind. His father, falling to his knees. Pansy's body, lying in the grass.
Ginny, writhing in pain.
A group of laughing young witches, more than likely nurses, turned the corner.
A sudden memory flashed before his eyes—of Ginny Weasley, towards the end of his sixth year, sticking her tongue out at him, her red hair flying around her face…
The laughter disappeared down the hall.
You haven't killed anyone yet, have you? You're not your father, Draco…
It was raining, outside the windows of the hospital. The water streaked across the glass. As it had in the hospital wing…
Today, you got to be Draco. That is who you are…
The Emergency Ward was silent, just a few wearied wizards seated in the chairs lining the Emergency Area hallways, looking distraught.
That is what you mean to me. More than my own life. More than anything…
More than anything.
"So we have no idea?"
Potter's voice floated in from down the hall, seemingly strained. "There is no way to trace them…any of them?"
"Not immediately, Harry. This will take time, and right now, we have to be most concerned about Ms. Weasley and her condition." Professor Dumbledore said.
Draco slid through the door of the chamber, pushing aside the cotton curtain. The group turned to him.
"How's your arm?" asked Hermione.
"Fine. How's Ginny?"
Ron shook his head. "We still don't know. She hasn't woken."
He felt slightly out of breath, panic fluttering in his chest. "What do the doctors think?"
"Same as before," said Potter, his hands stuffed in his pockets. "We have to wait and see."
"I'm going in."
The three friends glanced at one another, but moved aside. Professor Dumbledore laid a hand on Draco's good shoulder. "Quietly. Let's not disturb her. Ginny will have to make her way back on her own. There is much before her, much before all of us. The Lion and the Serpent."
Ginny's bed was in the far end of the room, covered by a half-curtain. Draco approached it slowly, the trio and Dumbledore choosing to remain in the hall.
He felt a lump form in his throat as he gazed down at her.
On the surface, she seemed almost normal. Save for the tiny scratches upon her pale arms and legs, she was sleeping peacefully, all traces of the terrible pain she'd suffered seemingly gone. There was no scar on her chest, according to the doctors. It was as though she'd never been attacked by a snake at all—or anything else—at all.
Had it not been from the large mark on his shoulders, Draco might have believed it hadn't existed at all. He reached for her hand, stroking the fingers. There was a bandage wrapped around her palm.
That is what you mean to me. More than my own life. More than anything.
"That's what you mean to me too. I'm sorry I didn't realize that sooner," he said softly. There were no 'whys' or 'hows' anymore. Nothing left but what needed to be said.
There were frantic footsteps clicking down the hall, outside the door.
Draco turned at the sound of the high-pitched voice. A few moments later the door swung open, and Molly Weasley burst into the room, followed by Ron, Hermione, Potter, Dumbledore, and Mr. Weasley.
"Ginny! Oh…" Mrs. Weasley rushed by him, pausing to cup his chin with her hand. "Oh, Draco dear, are you well? You're not hurt?"
She moved to Ginny's bedside, grabbing at Ginny's hand. "Ginny, dear…"
Draco raised his fingers to his cheek, where her hand had been. There had been nothing accusatory in her voice. She seemed genuinely concerned.
"She's not woken," he said softly. "I'm…I'm terribly sorry, Mrs. Weasley. So very sorry."
She turned to look at him. "None of this is your fault, Draco. Of course. What Ginny chose to do, she chose to do of her own free will. You did your best to bring her back. You should be proud of that."
Draco stared at her, his eyes wide. "Mrs. Weasley…"
She moved over to him, wrapping her arms about him. "There, there. Just calm yourself. Ginny's strong. She's a Weasley, and a fighter. She'll be alright."
She felt warm, and solid. So much warmer than he'd ever felt before.
His face crumpled.
She stroked his hair as he sobbed into her shoulder, leaning forward, into her jumper.
How long he stayed that way, he was uncertain, but when he finally glanced up he and Mrs. Weasley were seated on a hospital bed. The room was clear.
"What are we going to do, Mrs. Weasley?" asked Draco wearily, as she softly patted his shoulder.
"We'll take things one step at a time, dear. One step at a time. Beginning with Ginny waking up, and coming back to us."
"I'm going to speak with the nurses for a moment," said Mrs. Weasley. "You can stay in here with Ginny, right?"
"Of course," said Draco, moving to her bedside. "I'll be here when you return."
She smiled, her eyes crinkling. "Thank you, Draco."
He moved to the bedside, taking Ginny's hand in his, and laying his head upon the sheets, next to her side.
Harry sighed, leaning his chin upon the palm of his hand. Mrs. Weasley and Draco had been in Ginny's hospital room for what seemed like ages.
Hermione was sleeping, her head resting on Ron's shoulder. He was sleeping as well, snoring softly into her bushy hair.
The idea to attack with lightning bolts and beams of light had been hers; she and Ron had started their spellcasting only moments before the Order of the Phoenix had apparated into the grove, led by Harry's notes and Professor Dumbledore's own instinct as to where the gathering might be held.
Professor Dumbledore had listened intently to their description of the events as they had transpired, from the initial co-mingling of the blood, to the death of Pansy Parkinson, to Lord Voldemort's summoning of the massive, soul endowed snake.
He seemed puzzled, though, by the entire process.
"Honestly, a much darker magic," he said, "than I have ever heard of. This is ancient—beyond my time. I have no idea where Tom Riddle might have discovered this. It could be a trait passed down through Slytherin, but I know not where, or how. From wherever he learned this, however, we must be prepared. If he has gone to such lengths to protect himself, there is no telling what he might attempt next."
Harry shuddered, remembering Pansy Parkinson's willing sacrifice. He didn't know how Malfoy could stand watching. He'd felt terrible, holding him back, but he knew that the final choice would come down to their lives, or Pansy's.
What if I have to make the same choice with my own friends?
He stared for a moment at Hermione and Ron, sleeping so peacefully. If anything happened to them…
I'm going to have to find a way to do this on my own—though I know they'll fight me on it.
He looked up. Mrs. Weasley had come out of Ginny's room. She looked slightly weary, her face careworn. "Dear…"
She embraced him, the same way she had embraced Malfoy before. He hugged her back. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Weasley, that we couldn't get there sooner."
"Don't be. I know you all tried your best. We can wish things weren't a particular way, but they are, and we must learn to live with them.
"I just wish," she said sadly, her voice breaking, "that we knew what it was we were having to live with."
"Even Professor Dumbledore's uncertain at this point," said Harry. "Nobody knows exactly what he did to Ginny. We'll have to wait and see what happens when Ginny wakes up. And be strong in the meanwhile."
Mrs. Weasley glanced at the door to Ginny's room. "Yes, I suppose we will." She straightened, dabbling at her eyes with a handkerchief. "Now…have you seen Arthur and the twins?"
"I think they went down to get something from the trolley."
"Right, Arthur had mentioned they hadn't eaten anything—though with those two you just never know, they might be peddling tricks on the closed ward."
Harry smiled softly. It seemed ages since he'd smiled.
"Yes, Mrs. Weasley?"
"How…how did Draco…did he…"
"He did everything he could, Mrs. Weasley," said Harry honestly. "Had he known Ginny was going to go to the gathering, I don't think he would have been there—or he would have made an effort to prevent her from being seen. And he fought as hard as anyone to reach her. There were things he had to give up in order to do so—but he gave them up, for Ginny."
"Thank you," said Mrs. Weasley, cupping her hand upon his face. "I'm going to check on Arthur and the boys, and try reaching Charlie again. If anything happens, one of you come and find me, right?"
"Yes, of course."
There was a dim light, shining somewhere through the darkness. It shone red, a bright, pulsating red, that seemed to split into two, and back into one, shimmering through the foggy black that enveloped everything.
Voices broke through the silence.
One voice was louder than the others.
"Unanimous. Unanimous. UNANIMOUS."
A high pitched shriek.
Waves of pain…the light was drawing closer.
A narrow face…narrowed eyes…red…
The voices were shouting at her; she tried covering her ears but she couldn't find her hands. She couldn't feel her lips, shouting.
It was writhing ahead of her—the snake…the blood red, venomous snake…
The world shuddered suddenly into view.
Ginny shot up from the bed, gasping to catch her breath. Her fingers clawed at her throat, at her chest.
The snake was gone.
Ron was sleeping, his red head lying upon the red sheets of her bed.
No…the hair is straighter than Ron's…
She stretched a hand out towards it.
Her skin was pink.
She pulled her hand close to her face, then raised her eyes to rest of the room. Her breath caught in her throat.
"What…what's going on?" she whispered.
The person who was sleeping stirred.
Draco Malfoy lifted his head, his eyes widening as he caught sight of Ginny sitting up in bed. She stared at him in horror.
He…he can't be…he's dead!
"GINNY!" He stood so quickly the stool he'd been sitting on flew back against the wall. "Ginny, are you…"
He moved closer to her, taking her hand. "Are you…all…"
Her hand was trembling in his. She knew her eyes were wide, as she stared at his face.
He's dead. His mother killed him. He's dead, and this is a hallucination I'm having. It has to be…why…how could he look this way?
The boy standing before her wasn't human. His skin was completely pink, his eyes glowing a dull, shimmering red, like rubies. His normally platinum hair was as red as Ron's.
"Draco, what happened to you? What happened…" she studied his face—the wide, horrified eyes, the slightly parted mouth. His breath, his living breath, was coming in gasps.
The window was behind him, the glass glimmering in the early morning light. She stared at their reflections, Draco, standing tall beside her, and her own face, tinted pink, staring back.
Her eyes…her normally hazel eyes, were blood red.
Not red because she saw them that way—red for real, red for everyone to see. From the way Draco was staring at her face, he saw them too. He wasn't dead. He was alive. And he was standing in front of her now, horrified at the sight of her.
It was real…the snake was real…
"What happened to me?" she whimpered, pulling away from him. "What happened?"
"Ginny." He threw his arms about her. "It's my fault. I'm so sorry."
His closeness—his nearness, stirred something inside her.
His body was shaking as he held her. The voice in the back of her head, soothing, calmed her fluttering heart.
He's a traitor…
She wrapped her arms around him.
Betrayer of his name…
Draco stroked the back of her hair; it sent shivers up her spine.
He left you behind…he left me behind.
Her hands moved up his back, to his face. When she pulled him away, his eyes, his red eyes, were shimmering.
He tried to destroy us both…you nearly died because of him.
Her hands shaped his cheeks.
He was staring at her in confusion. "Ginny…are you alright?"
"Fine," she hissed softly.
His throat was bare. A silver prefect pin was pinned high on his cloak. She ran a finger over it, then up, to near his collar, where the perfect, pink-tinted skin peeped out.
The blood inside was pulsing.
"Ginny…" Draco had a vice grip on her arms. "Ginny, can you hear me?"
"Traitor," she said softly.
"Betrayer of his name."
"GINNY." Draco was shaking her, glancing desperately towards the door. His voice was louder than normal.
Her hands traveled to his throat.
"You know the punishment, Draco," she said. Her voice sounded peculiar, odd—strangled and low and harsh. "You know the reward."
His eyes widened.
Her hands closed around his throat.
He was clawing at her arms, trying to pull her away from him. With a strength not her own, she squeezed her hands together. He made a strange, strangled sound, his hands fluttering around her face, his mouth calling her name, silently.
His fingers flew away from her face, his red eyes wide.
And suddenly they closed, his body going limp beneath him, his hands falling away from her. Her fingers tightened about his throat, watching as the chest slowed beneath the cloak, beneath the pin.
There was a satisfied beating in her heart.
I got a chance to pour back over my original "In the Shadows" fic, and I have to say, this one is turning out much darker than I anticipated. Perhaps I was inspired by the events in "Half-Blood Prince." Strange how writing works that way! Stay tuned for Chapter 7, the wrap up to the much darker "Out of the Shadows" story!