This story was written for PlutoniumBunny in The DG Forum Fic Exchange - Summer 2017 by a member of our forum. For more details please visit our page.
A/N: Smut will be rearing its smutty head in Chapters 8 and 9 (especially 9, although there's just a tad bit in Chapter 5 too.) Just a head's up. So if smut isn't your thing, you're safe for awhile! 😊
The sun shone bright and watery in the pale Northumberland sky, teasingly hinting at the warmth to come. But the spring wind whistled overhead, cutting keenly through Ginny's light clothing. She shivered and wished that she had a warmer jacket. They'd started going over her garden designs hours before, and they didn't seem likely to get done anytime soon—although it didn't help that her client was ranging far from reality, she thought. She suppressed the uncharitable thought. She loved her work and harbored a real affection for this particular client. But she was jumpy today, and she knew why.
"Er… Sir St. Swithins… if you'd like to take a look at these plans, I can show you where I was thinking of putting the heather—" she began, almost running to keep up with the small, rotund wizard prancing about his property.
"So, Ginny dear, I picture the barrel cactus here," said Algernon St. Swithins with a wave of a hand weighed down by gaudy rings, "and the saguaros here, and I do think a grove of Joshua trees just here."
Ginny struggled to suppress a sigh. She'd often had to deal with clients' unrealistic expectations, but this one topped them all. "I'm just not sure that a cactus garden and xeriscape in this climate zone is going to be the most successful plan," she said, as diplomatically as she could. "Northern England isn't really—"
"But that's the challenge, isn't it?" he asked, continuing to walk, his highly impractical pink silk robes dragging on the freshly turned and composted ground. Ginny winced and felt sorry for the laundress.
They passed a tangle of rosemary bushes. This were walking past the overgrown herb garden, now. The complex, astringent aroma filled the air. Ginny deliberately refused to close her eyes and sniff deeply.
Rosemary for remembrance…
Well, she didn't want to remember. She turned her thoughts back to the current situation. She'd tried to talk him into restoring this area as an apothecary garden, with dubious results. He seemed set on the most unrealistic ideas possible. '
They continued to walk and began to approach the far edge of the outside wall of one of the tumbledown brownstone outbuildings. Ginny knew that if they kept going and following the wall, which they certainly would, they'd turn and see the broad drive approaching the main entrance.
"I was thinking, for this front drive," she ventured, "that we might try something a bit unconventional, but it would work beautifully in this climate- How about rhododendrons and azaleas?"
"I know!" He clapped his hands together. "Sugar cane!"
"Mr. St. Swithins— Sorry, I mean Sir St. Swithins-"
"Oh, I've told you a thousand time, Ginny dear, do call me Algie, everyone does." He beamed at her with his wide mouth. "And any friend of my dear Luna is a friend of mine."
Ginny swallowed past a sudden lump in her throat. Nobody knew what had become of Luna; she was one of those who had simply disappeared in the chaos that immediately followed the last battle. Algernon St. Swithins was her mother's cousin, and he simply refused to entertain any suggestion that she might not be in the land of the living, as he himself would put it. Ginny often wished that she could agree with him wholeheartedly. But she couldn't. After the war, she didn't think she had that much hope anymore; it was as if that emotion, or experience, or whatever hope really was, had been surgically excised from her, with cool precision. It was possible to be content without hope, she thought, even happy, sometimes, but she was not the same person without it.
FOUR YEARS EARLIER
Luna. Her blond-brown hair flying in the wind as they stood behind the greenhouses at the far edge of the field at Hogwarts during the spring of sixth year, one of the few places they could possibly talk without being overheard and even then they could never be sure, during that awful last year that led up to the war. She was twirling a shasta daisy between her fingers, a late one, because it had been an unusually warm autumn that year.
"This could be awfully useful," she was saying, and Ginny knew what she was talking about. They'd just been beginning to develop the flower note system, although it had still been more or less a game, then.
"It could," Ginny had replied, her voice grave.
I'll never tell. That was what a daisy meant, in the language of flowers. Ginny hadn't been sure if that was exactly the sort of message they might need to send that year, or if the promise was already such a given between herself and Luna and Neville that there was no point in repeating it.
"But really, Ginny dear," Algie was going on in his high, vague voice so painfully like Luna's. "Sugar cane. And right over there, I picture a stand of orange trees."
Ginny returned to the present, pulling her hood tighter over her head as a particularly vicious blast of spring wind threatened to tear her hair off. "Er, I'm just not so sure that…"
Then her words died away. Colin Creevey was coming towards them both from the front drive, his steps hurrying. He was too far away for her to really see his face. But she knew, even before she really knew, that he did not carry good news. With that trace of magic left in her, the magic that she had been so determined to slice out of her mind, she knew. I shouldv'e known that was impossible, she thought dully. She couldn't keep Earth magic and plant magic and get rid of the rest. That was too good to be true.
Algernon St. Swithins looked at her, and she was grateful that his kind face didn't crinkle with sympathy. She couldn't have endured that. "Go and speak to your friend, my dear," he said.
She and Colin walked on one of the stone paths that wound through the overgrown rose gardens, filled with straggling monstrosities that likely hadn't been pruned at twenty years. He spoke quietly, even there was no need to. It wasn't as if anybody could hear them, or would have cared if they had done.
"Did you find Ron?" she asked.
"Yes. Well, sort of…"
Ginny glared at him. "Have you talked to him or not, Colly?" He's all right, he's all right, she repeated to herself again and again. I'd know if he wasn't. He'd always been the closest of her siblings by far, and now he'd taken the place of those who were gone, the ones she tried never to think about. He was the only one who had understood why she had to leave the wizarding world almost four years earlier, and he'd gone with her. More or less. He had never seemed able to quite let go of it all in the way that she had done. Although Ginny was afraid that she might not have let go quite as successfully she believed she had.
"Only it's a bit hard to explain," Colin went on. "I mean, it's not as if I don't know that he's all right, because he is," he added hurriedly. "And he's still there. But it's more complicated than that…"
She sighed in exasperation. True, her worst fears had been swiftly quieted. It didn't sound as if Ron had got himself into any serious trouble after leaving to answer a summons from the new head of the Ministry, John Grayson. Ginny hadn't wanted to go with him, although she still had a nagging feeling that she should have done it anyway. But Ron hadn't allowed her to leave, insisting that somebody had to make sure to keep the landscaping clients happy, especially because they'd landed such a huge account with Algernon St. Swithins and Higgletybottom Manor.
"Colly, will you please just tell me what's happened?" she asked with exaggerated patience.
Colin took far too much time in carefully moving a David Austin rose that was threatening to take over the path. "As far as I can tell, Ron had a bloody awful argument with someone in the Ministry, or something—maybe it was just your mum- and then he stomped off. I'm pretty sure that they've been trying to find him or not, but nobody's been able to, at least not from what they've told me. This new assistant minister, Grayson, is keeping information pretty close. He's the one who told me what happened, and that's all he said."
Ginny winced. She could just imagine the stomping scene, and Ron's red face as he yelled at the Aurors or her mother or whoever it had been.
"I tried to tell Ron what a bad idea it was going to be," she said. "Wait, so what else did this Grayson say?"
"He wants you to come down there."
They kept walking for a minute before she asked, "Have you heard anything about... the others?"
Colin stuck his hands in his pockets, clearly knowing exactly what they meant. "They're all right. That's what Charlie said."
Ginny nodded. Charlie was in Lapland taming frost dragons, and Percy had moved to America and was an attache to some senator or other. Those two remaining brothers had retreated into themselves after the war, retreated elsewhere, and she rarely heard from them, just often enough to know that they were alive. What she hadn't known was that Colin apparently had more contact with her brothers than she did.
"Why did Charlie tell you?" she asked curiously.
"Oh, we've kept in touch," Colin said. Ginny decided to let it go.
"Well, this Grayson is going to get his wish. I'll have to go down there again," she said quietly. The words were unnecessary, really, but she said them anyway.
Ginny had left London for good over a year earlier because she just wanted nothing to do with the new regime, not with any of it. The past was forgotten, the memories cut off as with a razor-sharp knife. She would not think of the last battles. She would not remember her lost brothers and father and friends. She would not remember her brief, abortive attempt to make things work with Harry. Ron went with her, and Colin. Both Luna and Neville would have gone as well if they'd survived, which they hadn't—yet another thing she tried not to think about. The three of them had started a design and landscaping business, an idea that Ginny had been toying with for a long time. But then Ron went back to London to talk to their mother and the Ministry a week before, he hadn't told her exactly why, and she'd known from the moment he left that if he didn't come back, she'd have to go after him.
She would have to return to London, to the Ministry, to the places she hadn't been in almost two years, and see the people she hadn't seen in all that time. Everything that she had tried to avoid, she would need to confront. She would not fail Ron. But if only he hadn't gone in the first place! Oh, I told him how all of this would work out… he wouldn't listen, he never has.
"I'm going with you," said Colin. "I don't want to hear a word about it. I'm going."
Ginny couldn't even muster a token protest. "All right. So we'll leave tomorrow? We'll take the train to London?"
"No." He looked slightly uncomfortable. "I thought that's what Grayson meant, that he wanted you to go the Ministry in London, but that didn't turn out to be it. None of them are there. I mean the Ministry is where it's always been, obviously, but your mother, and Harry, and a couple of others, I think… everyone Ron went to see, anyway… They're in… er… Wiltshire."
"What?" gasped Ginny. For an instant, she was sure that she couldn't possibly have heard right.
"Wiltshire. All right, I've got to tell you sometime, so you might as well know that the conference, or meeting, or whatever this thing really is, in Malfoy Manor."
"That's what this Grayson said?"
"He didn't exactly say it, but he sent an owl to where I was staying a couple of hours later, and the note said that's where it was," said Colin.
"I just can't believe this," Ginny muttered.
"Yes, I know, I can't believe it either. Someone apparently thinks it's a good idea—Grayson, I suppose. Personally, I think it's an awful one."
"That's the understatement of the year!" She took a deep breath. "But why?"
He avoided her gaze and kept walking. "I don't know why. It doesn't make the least bit of sense to me. But they've gone there for some sort of project that can't be done anywhere else. That's what I thought anyway, when I read between the lines a bit."
Ginny stood very still on the crumbling stone path. They'd almost reached its end. Colin put out a hand to her. "Come on, Gin, we've got to go pack."
She walked beside him, slowly, asking no more. They went into the large gardener's cottage where all three of them had been staying. After the door shut, Colin turned to her.
"Do you have any idea why this might be happening at Malfoy Manor?" he asked quietly.
Ginny dug her fingernails into her palms. "None at all. How odd. Well, I suppose it doesn't really matter. One place is as good or bad as another."
"Ginny—" Colin began.
"You're right. We have to pack. We have to leave at the crack of dawn, you said?"
"Ginny." He put his hand on her shoulder and looked at her, his big brown eyes serious.
She pulled away, marched into the other room, threw a suitcase on the bed, and opened it with a bang.
Colin let her rip clothes off hangers in the closet and toss them into the suitcase for several minutes, wincing as she stomped around the bedroom. "Are you going to be all right?" he asked.
She grabbed a handful of knickers from the top drawer and threw them in haphazardly. "Why wouldn't I be?"
Colin twisted his fingers together. "Look… you, and that place… There are things I've never asked you, things you've never told me, and we've never talked about—"
"And we're not going to start now!"
Algernon St. Swithins knocked at her door later that night and presented her with a year's worth of wages, waving away all of her protests.
"Think nothing of it, dear Ginny," he said. "I do so love indulging my generosity. It's a positive pleasure. You're doing me a favor!" His cherubic face beamed at her. "Besides, you'll feel so guilty over accepting the money that you're bound to return."
Ginny couldn't help laughing, because he was right. A blast of wind sent both of them swaying, and she clutched at the door. "It's so cold," she said. "You needn't have come out. Do come into the cottage, Sir—"
He raised a chubby hand. "Algie! I insist! And no, no, this is the best sort of weather for a midnight walk. I'll be picturing the groves of orange trees as I stroll about the grounds."
She suppressed a sigh.
Ginny sat on her four-poster bed a little later and stared blankly into the mirror on the opposite wall. The same thing as always flitted through her mind, that it seemed to be placed so as to reflect the bed and whatever activities went on in it. She snorted at the thought. Little danger of that as far as she was concerned; she'd had a few limited, rather boring experiences after Harry, and nothing since, not even the touch of a man's hand in over a year if you didn't count Colin's platonic hugs, which she didn't.
Her face was a pale reflected oval, her eyes large and dark, her features tense and exhausted. Her hair looked as if she'd been dragged backwards through a laurel hedge by ravens. Not a good look. I'll brush it tomorrow. She felt too tired to raise her hands now. Ginny closed her eyes and sniffed the scent of rosemary; she'd kept a pot on the windowsill in her room.
Rosemary for remembrance. That was the plant's meaning in the language of flowers, although she supposed that it was rather ridiculous to blame unwanted memories on a plant.
She sighed. She liked this area, this project; she didn't want to have to leave. The property was large and almost completely neglected; nothing had been touched in many years, and Ginny's hands had itched to start designing new gardens as soon as she laid eyes on the grounds of the manor. They couldn't lose an opportunity like this one. She'd stayed here for months; Algernon St. Swithins was the sort of client who could even keep her on as a permanent head gardener. She suspected that she'd be more than happy to do that. She loved her cottage. She loved the manor. There were times, true, when it reminded her of another. A place much further south, in Wiltshire.
Ginny closed her eyes.
She did remember, no matter much she rather would not have done. But she could turn that memory, could avert it before it solidified. She thought of Hogwarts.
She had wanted to remember something safe. Winning at Quidditch in her fifth year, maybe, joyfully snatching the Snitch, hearing the cheers of her house and teammates. Meeting Neville behind the greenhouses in her third year, maybe, forging a friendship that would long outlast the few fumbling, childish kisses they'd shared. She'd been determined to avoid remembering anything at all about her first year, the diary, her slow fall into temptation and sin, entranced by the handsome shade of the long-ago teenager Tom Riddle. Only something happy, something safe…
Instead, her memory picked up directly from the earlier scene with Luna during her sixth year, that awful crazy year when the war really began.
FOUR YEARS EARLIER
Luna had slipped away then, and Ginny had kept standing behind the greenhouses, waiting to leave. It wasn't safe for all of them to leave at the same time; Neville had already gone ten minutes before. But if she was going to get to her Monday Charms class in time, she was cutting it close. She was just thinking of taking off when she heard the soft footsteps coming up behind her.
Ginny gave a tiny gasp and drew in her breath to—what? Scream? Yell for help? Those stealthy footsteps didn't signify anything good. Instead, they almost certainly meant that somebody had been spying on her, somebody who meant her no good, because they hadn't said a word. Yelling wouldn't accomplish much. Names flashed through her mind, and all of the possibilities were awful. Could it be Theo Nott, or Pansy Parkinson, or Millicent Bulstrode, or perhaps one of the Carrows themselves, although it was hard to believe that they wouldn't be using a student to spy on her, one just never knew, not during that year when everything was so topsy-turvy and she'd learned to constantly expect the worst—
A hand clapped over her mouth, large, with long, strong fingers. Panic flared through her. "Mmph!" She started to struggle, to try to bite and kick, but a lean, tall, male body only moved forward from behind and pressed her into the back wall of the greenhouse, pulling her down to the ground.
A terrible fear was shooting through her veins now. Theo Nott in particular had taken to following her around the school and chancing on her in empty hallways and deserted classrooms, licking his lips when he found her, his eyes glued to her chest. She'd told him to stop more than once, but Theo had always widened his eyes innocently and insisted that she had it all wrong, that he was only trying to protect her from others who might hurt her.
"Especially Draco Malfoy," he'd said self-righteously. "I've seen how he looks at you, Ginny."
Ginny had indeed caught Malfoy giving her appraising looks more than once that year, but those might have meant anything, and she'd still never believed for a second that Theo Nott was trying to help her. And now he had her trapped behind a rarely used greenhouse at the very edge of a field behind Hogwarts, almost nobody ever came here and that was why she'd picked it for a meeting in the first place, nobody might ever hear her scream when he… if he… she couldn't finish the sentence.
As soon as all of these thoughts had flashed through Ginny's head, though, she knew that the scenario didn't quite make sense. Theo was much shorter than this unknown boy, nowhere near as thin and sinewy, and when she tried to turn her head, she saw blond hair falling over a long, narrow face, and silvery-grey eyes glinting at her dangerously.
"Malfoy?" she whispered incredulously. "You'd better just let go of me right now, you—"
"Shh, Weasley!" he hissed in reply. Trapping her against the greenhouse wall and the ground with one arm, he used his other hand to stab in the opposite direction. Ginny tried to wriggle up, to get a clear view of whatever he was pointing at, but he held her down without much effort. He was shockingly strong. She opened her mouth wider to scream, but then she caught a glimpse of the person walking towards the greenhouse on the other side, and she was quiet.
Theo Nott was stalking towards them both, his face crafty and eager. He'd followed her. She realized that at once. She didn't think he'd overheard what she and Luna and Neville had been talking about; he couldn't have been close enough for that. But he'd been watching them, and he'd seen the others leave. He was hoping to catch her alone. A shiver ran through her. Theo turned the corner, his smile widening. When he saw Draco, he stopped.
Draco Malfoy got to his feet and gave Theo a long, cold look. "Yes? Nott? Did you want something?"
"Ah…" Theo's gaze swung between Malfoy and Ginny. The look of disappointment on his face would have made Ginny laugh if she hadn't been so frightened. "Ginny. Are you, er, all right?"
Yes, because I'm sure my safety is all you were worried about! It was all that Ginny could do not to roll her eyes. She swiftly chose the lesser of two evils, which was what she sincerely hoped Draco Malfoy represented. "I'm fine, Theo," she said in a clipped voice. "You don't need to worry about me."
"Yes, I'd say that you don't need to trouble yourself a bit, Nott," Draco said in a silky voice. "I've got the situation well in hand."
"Yeah, I can see that," Theo said through gritted teeth. "Then I'll just be leaving."
"Yes, you will," said Draco, giving him a long, hard stare. Theo couldn't meet his eyes, and after an awkward moment, he started to walk away.
Ginny didn't know quite what to say once he was gone. For all she knew, she might be in just as much danger as before. Malfoy might have saved her from the other boy only because he wanted her for himself. Ginny didn't trust Theo Nott nearly as far as she could throw him with a dragon tied on, but he might be right when it came to those warnings about Malfoy's intentions towards her. She tensed. Whether anyone could hear her or not, she was going to scream; whether it did any good or not, she was going to fight.
"I wouldn't make any noise if I were you," said Draco Malfoy, breaking into her furious thoughts.
"Because it won't bring help?" she demanded, eyes blazing up at him. He was crouched in front of her now, a hand on her shoulder, pushing her down towards the ground, and she readied herself for an attack.
One corner of his mouth quirked up. "Well, it won't, but that's not why I'm advising you not to do it. We don't know if any of Theo Nott's little friends are lurking in the background, or any other spy for the Carrows. Many of them would love nothing more than to get you into trouble. Surely you don't want that?"
No, she didn't want that, and quite truthfully she shook her head no. Amicus Carrow had brought her in for private detentions more than once already. While nothing had ever actually happened beyond scouring cauldrons and scrubbing floors, he always seemed to be hovering over her when she least expected it, his small, piggy eyes shining, his gaze glued to glimpses of her bare arms and legs. The last thing she wanted was to trigger another one of those episodes.
"Then let's sit here quietly for a bit, Weasley," said Malfoy.
She stared straight ahead, all too aware of his presence only a few feet away from her. He seemed to be more present than other people, somehow, impossible to ignore, his skin radiating warmth even at this distance, his pale hair shining in the late afternoon sunlight, the scent of chocolate radiating from some indefinable source that seemed to be a part of him. He made her edgy, made it feel impossible to just sit silently.
"So I suppose this means that you're going to let me go?" she asked.
Malfoy shook his head, the slight half-smile still on his lips. "Not at this moment. But yes, I'll let you return to Gryffindor Tower as soon as we can be reasonably sure that you weren't followed by anyone else."
Ginny was suddenly afraid that he was going to ask what she'd been doing behind the abandoned greenhouses in the first place, so she said the first thing that popped into her head.
"Thanks, Malfoy. For keeping Theo Nott off me, I mean."
His silvery eyes narrowed at her words. "Has he been bothering you, Weasley?"
"Er, not really. A bit, I suppose."
"He makes you nervous, though, doesn't he?"
She squirmed. She hated feeling nervous or scared, and hated admitting to those emotions even more. "It's just that I never really know what he might do."
Malfoy's pale hand clenched into a fist, although he didn't seem aware of it. "He won't do anything now," he muttered. "I'll warn him off. You don't need to worry about that."
"By telling him that you want me for yourself, so he'd better clear off?" Ginny asked acidly. She regretted the question before she'd even finished asking it.
"If necessary," Malfoy said softly. He rose to his feet and extended a hand. After a reluctant moment, she took it. His skin really did feel warm, shockingly so, especially because she'd be sure he would feel as cold as a snake. He was trembling just the faintest bit, or was that only her imagination? She wasn't feeling too steady herself.
"Be careful, Weasley," he went on. "I'll do the best I can to help you. But I'm not the most dangerous player in this game, not by a long shot."
She stood and looked after his tall, straight figure for a long time, She didn't know what had shocked her most—that he had said he would help her, that he actually had helped her, or that his skin had felt so warm against hers. Not that any of it meant anything, except that maybe he was interested in her for the same reasons as Theo Nott but was rather more subtle about it.
Ginny blushed at the thought, sure that she had to be wrong. Their families had hated each other since before Atlantis sank into the sea. Malfoy had his pick of girls, from what she'd always heard, and she would have been willing to bet he preferred experienced partners—the pretty, sultry Pansy Parkinson, the cheerfully debauched Millicent Bulstrode. Well, maybe he just hated Nott. She'd always heard that he and Malfoy thoroughly disliked each other. So Malfoy wasn't about to let the other boy have something he wanted, and that something was Ginny. But even if it was no more than that…
The enemy of my enemy is my friend, thought Ginny. Maybe it didn't matter why Draco Malfoy was helping her, as long as he actually did. Or at least, it shouldn't matter.
PB's Prompt (2#)
Basic premise: Magic is somehow revealed to the muggle world! Purebloods are being captured for "scientific" purposes. Survival begins! It can be either canon-friendly or completely AU.
Must haves: Mischiveous!Draco; Cunning!Ginny. A turbulent, intense romance. Blood, action and passion!
No-no's: Any of them dying, Draco calling her "Ginny" (ugh), any of them married/ with children.
Rating range: T - M [NC 17]
Bonus points: sexy times! If you don't feel like writing raw smut, it can be "suggested" as well, just as you feel comfortable.