A/N – An expansion of an idea. This is not a romance fic per se, in that the characters don't meet, fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. It's an exploration of a very strange relationship, and how it might possibly evolve over time.

Disclaimer – I don't own Harry Potter, any of the canon characters or concepts. Don't sue me.


Diminished


(I)


Slytherin or not, Malfoy or not, Ginny had loved her husband. It had not made for a smooth or convenient relationship for either of them, but their love had been enough to carry them through some very bad times – they had even dared to dream of a happier life, someday, after the war…

And then one stray curse had ended it all.

A sniper, who could so easily have shifted his focus to Ron, or Moody, or any of the others who had been there, standing beside him. But instead, he'd picked Draco.

Ginny had been staying at the Burrow when the news came. She'd moved out years before, when she'd married Draco, but in such dangerous times the Weasley family tended to group together for safety and comfort. There had been a small celebration, a birthday party perhaps, when the black-clad Aurors had come to the front door…

The envelope had been edged in black, and somehow she'd known even before she'd unfolded and read the letter. Dear Mrs. Malfoy, we regret to inform you that…

After that moment in time, things began to blur, and she had only vague recollections and images of the next few hours – her voice, almost unrecognizable, babbling in denial; her father's familiar, warm arms; her mother's brisk, no-nonsense scolding…

And then the acrid taste of a sleeping potion, and then nothing.

She had fallen apart. Strong, sure, pragmatic and capable Ginny Malfoy, daughter of down-to-earth Molly Weasley, lost herself in a black fog of depression from which neither her friends nor her family could coax or even drag her. She lost all interest in food, but spent most of her day huddling in the bed, feeling sorry for herself. She trailed through the house in her nightgown, her eyes dark and empty and hopeless –

Until, at the funeral, she came face to face with Lucius Malfoy…


They had seen fit to allow him to attend his son's funeral.

Evidently he had Potter to thank for that. Lucius couldn't decide whether the boy was entirely too softhearted for his own good, or far crueler than he had given him credit for – this momentary break in a lifetime of imprisonment would be forever associated with Draco's death. It seemed fitting that the weather should be filthy, that it should be windy and miserably cold, and raining unpleasantly – it fit his mood perfectly, and somehow lifted it with bleak ironic amusement.

They had told him he would never see the sky again.

So he stood there, bareheaded, face upturned without even the simplest of spells to ward off the rain, and allowed himself to enjoy the sensation.

There was a shocked gasp from behind him, quickly smothered – he opened his eyes and turned towards it, coming face to face with a haggard, white-faced ghost.

Her hand flew up to her mouth in shock. "Oh!" she breathed. "You're not…"

He eyed her dismay cynically. No, he wasn't Draco. No, he wasn't the bright, courageous youth who had chosen integrity over prudence, love over material advancement. No, he wasn't the man this woman hoped to see, with her heart so openly revealed in her eyes…

He inclined his head. "My apologies, Ginevra, if I have caused offence."

"No," she said hastily, in some confusion, "it's just… It's just that you look so like him. Just for a moment I thought…"

"Yes," he said bluntly. "I know."

"I'm sorry," she said, retreating backwards. "I'll leave you alone, then…"

He watched her go, and then turned his face back up to the sky.


Alastor Moody watched Lucius Malfoy and wandered just how much of his own life had been defined in some way by the other man. They were roughly the same age, Moody being some five years older, but Lucius had begun his career early – rumour put his initiation in his fifteenth year, when he'd still been at Hogwarts – when Moody had still been an Auror in training.

There had been three main periods of Moody's life defined by Lucius Malfoy – the first was the first Rising, when two young, brilliant men had been at the forefront of their respective struggles, and there had been nothing that they couldn't have done, in the glory and immortality of their youth.

The second period was the fifteen year peace, where Lucius Malfoy had grown in power and influence, and Moody had grown eccentric and paranoid, his warning voice increasingly shrill and hysterical compared to Malfoy's smooth, mellifluous talk of prosperity and a new era.

And the third had been the past nine years, when one man had languished in Azkaban and Moody had fought inferior opponents, who had none of Malfoy's brilliance and all of Voldemort's crude cruelty. For the first time in his life, Moody had felt old, keenly aware that his golden youth had been more than twenty-five years ago – watching the oddly diminished man standing out in the rain, it was easy to believe.

Lucius Malfoy had always seemed so invincible; it was jarring to see lines around his eyes, white streaks in the pale blonde hair, and the small, unmistakable signs of aging.

But such was the fate of all men, even Malfoys.

"Sir?" a quiet, faded voice spoke from behind him. "My brother said you wanted to speak to me."

He turned his mind from Lucius Malfoy to young Ginevra Weasley, who had married the man's only son. It had certainly been an agreeable surprise when young Malfoy had decided to become an Auror – the boy had had a definite aptitude for it, a legacy from his father no doubt.

And now the boy was dead, and all his brilliance with him – only Lucius was left now, and Lucius' brilliance had burned itself down to ashes…

"Sir?" the voice prompted him, concerned this time. "Charlie said…"

"Yes, Mrs Malfoy, I heard you the first time," he said gruffly. He turned to look at her. "The Ministry has given you, as Draco Malfoy's widow, sole possession and control of the Malfoy estates."

She looked stunned. "But…" her eyes turned to Lucius.

"His claim to the estate was forfeit when he was convicted and imprisoned. It passed to his only son and heir, and in the absence of another such it passes to you."

"And when I die?" she asked, stunned.

He shrugged. "When you die, it will be turned over to the Ministry."

He could sense Malfoy's attention to their conversation, and took a moment to savour the thought of the Malfoy estate finally in Ministry hands – the oldest pureblood House and estate in Britain finally succumbing to the inevitability of change and progress. They had been locked in the Dark Ages long enough.