This story is based on characters and situations written by J.K. Rowling. No copyright or trademark infringement is intended and no money is being made. The plot of this fiction is all mine, though.
What do I care
Slowly and steadily the snow spiralled down from the constantly darkening winter sky, and covered the old trees and pines in the park around the Manor beneath a thick blanket of whiteness.
In one of the cosy-lit rooms behind the windowpanes, Lucius Malfoy was seated in the huge leather armchair by the fireplace, a glass of Hennessy at the table beside him. He felt at peace with the world and himself on an evening like this, when the voices of Narcissa, Draco and his wife, who played with the children beneath the huge, entirely silvery-decorated Christmas tree in the living room, drifted in through the half opened door.
The House Elves were still busy clearing the large dinner table and Aunt Henriette had already retired for the night.
It was on evenings like these, when he came to wonder how entirely his life had changed. Only six years ago, his first aim in existence had been to serve Voldemort and help him to conquer the wizarding and Muggle world, whereas now – The soft creaking noise of the door caused him to look up. Like he had expected, his eldest and favourite grandchild had decided to join him in front of the fireplace.
The very next moment, Lilliana Malfoy slipped into the room.
"Want to join me by the fireplace, Lilly?" he asked with a smile and the little girl nodded earnestly. "Yes," she told him smiling, as she climbed into his lap, flinging her arms around his neck. "Grandpa – Are you going to tell me a story again?"
"Don't you want to go and play with your new gifts along with your siblings?" he asked with an amused smile, already knowing the answer.
Like he had expected, the little black-haired girl shook her head. "No, I'd rather hear one of your stories."
He could not help but smile at this. "Well then," he started off, enjoying the happy twinkling in her bright, emerald green eyes, "once upon a time there was a unicorn living in a green forest… "
–The Intruder –
The soft voice from the corridor outside and a knock on the door made the couple in bed flinch with surprise, just as Hermione started to unroll the rubber. Her eyes wide, she stared at her boyfriend, who looked equally startled and not happy at all at the disturbance. "Who the heck is that?" he whispered worriedly and hastily drew his T-shirt and boxers back on.
"How would I know?" Hermione whispered back. "I dropped Divination in third year, remember?"
With that she slipped out of bed and picked her sleeveless pale-blue summer night dress up from the floor. "I just hope it's not Mrs. Weasley on the war path," she added, dragging the gown over her head. Aloud she called: "Yes, I'm here. Who is it?"
"It's Ginny," the tear-strained voice from the corridor called softly in reply. "Oh Hermione, can I come in? I know it's late, but I –" another half muffled sob, "I can't sleep and I – Oh please?!"
A look of relief passed between Hermione and Harry, before she replied: "Oh yes, of course, Gin! Wait, I'll open the door."
She hurried across the room to let her friend in.
Her head bowed, the long red curls dishevelled, the slender redhead shuffled into the room, wearing a long, sleeveless, white night dress.
She looked as if she had been crying for quite a while, but when her eyes focused on Harry they grew wide with surprise and a gleaming redness shot into her cheeks. "Oh – Harry! What are you doing here?!" She looked around in wonder. "Where's Lavender?" she asked confused as her eyes fell onto the empty bed by the window in which Ron's girlfriend was supposed to sleep.
Harry shrugged. "Isn't she here? Oh dear, she must be sleepwalking in the garden once again, then."
Hermione rolled her eyes at him. Turning to Ginny she smiled: "Don't listen to him, Gin. He is an idiot. Lavender is up at Ron's."
"She's – Ooh –" the younger girl replied, blushing. Suddenly realising that Hermione was wearing her gown inside out and Harry was seated in the middle of her bed, without his glasses on, her blush increased. "I didn't intrude on anything, did I?" she stammered. "I didn't know – I – Shall I leave you alone again?"
"No, now you might just as well stay, Gin," Harry responded dryly. "It doesn't make any difference."
Confused, Ginny turned her head, her big brown eyes seeking reassurance on her friend's face. "I'm sorry Hermione."
Once he had overcome his frustration, Harry forced himself to smile at his best friend's younger sister. "It's OK, honestly." Looking back at Hermione he asked: "Shall I leave you two alone to talk?"
"Well, where exactly are you planning to go?" she asked with a smile. "I can't see Ron and Lavender being very thrilled if you return to your own bed right now."
He flashed her a fake grin. "Too true."
With that, both of them focused on their unexpected guest. Harry patted the bed with an open palm. "Come over here, Gin. Take a seat."
Slowly and hesitatingly Ginny followed the invitation and settled herself onto the bed next to him, dragging her feet under her body.
Hermione joined them, taking a seat on the girl's other side. Like the other two she leaned back against the wall. "What's the matter, Ginny?" she asked softly. "What did you want to talk to me about? You don't mind Harry being here, do you?"
The younger girl shook her head. "No, no I don't. I – just had such a bad dream and I thought – I couldn't stay all alone in my room up there –"
Once again she started crying and her voice became very small and thick with tears.
"Oh, was it about Fred again?" Harry asked carefully and sneaked his arm around her. At the unexpected, comforting contact Ginny broke down completely and merely nodded, burying her face in his chest.
Harry and Hermione exchanged a knowing glance over the top of Ginny's head. This was nothing new. It was more than a year ago, around the time when they had started dating at the end of their fifth year, when the horrible accident had happened.
The Death Eaters had attacked Hogsmeade in broad daylight to frighten the inhabitants of the little settlement and give them a display of the Dark Lord's growing power.
It had been the last Hogsmeade weekend of the term and a couple of students had died in the attack. Ginny and Ron had visited their brothers' Joke Shop to pick up a funny birthday present for Harry. Ron and George had been hurt by some pieces of wood and the beams from the collapsing ceiling, but Ginny had got away with merely a scratch. This was thanks to Fred, who had pushed her down into a corner and had stepped in front of her when one of the three black-robed men with their white masks, who had blown up the shop, had pointed his wand at her. Her brother had been hit with the killing curse and his dead body had shielded her from further attacks until the three Death Eaters had fled at the first signs of arriving Aurors.
The whole Weasley family had been struck by this like a blow, but Ginny took it the hardest. She'd had to witness her brother's death, and while the other family members tried to carry on as normal as possible, Ginny could not really overcome the horrors of the attack and the stab of guilt that she felt at the memory of Fred stepping in front of her, shielding her with his body and – dying – in her place.
'It should have been me,' had been her first words after staying silent for almost a whole week after the attack. She considered herself responsible for his death and could not overcome the feeling of guilt. They had told her countless times that it had not been her fault, that it had been nothing but Fred's own choice to save his little sister, but it did not really help. She only said that she never really came to appreciate him in life and got so easily mad at him for playing his pranks on her. She said she wished he could laugh one more time about frog-spawn-soap, or likewise shampoo he had placed in the shower, or one of his fake wands, causing a mess.
Slowly, the heart wrenching sobs subsided into soft sniffing noises and finally died away completely. When Hermione bent down to check on the redhead, she noticed that she had literally cried herself to sleep, her head resting in the crook of Harry's neck.
Very carefully, so not to wake her again, he placed her sleeping form onto the bed and Hermione drew the blanket up around her shoulders. Their friend certainly deserved the rest and neither Harry nor she had the heart to disturb her. With a sigh of frustration, they extinguished the lights and slipped out of the room to move over to Ginny's bed for the rest of the night.
A/N: I know I should be continuing on my other fics rather than starting a new one, but this just had to get out, I couldn't help it.
I hope you'll like the story.
Please don't hex me, I'll update and finish the other stories as well, I promise!
Lots of thanks to SilentG, for beta-reading!