DISCLAIMER: I own nothing.
A/N: As this was written before the release of HP7, but set after the defeat of Voldemort, there's a lot of inconsistencies with the actual series. For one thing, a good number of characters whom J.K. Rowling killed off (insert heartfelt sob here) are still alive — notably, Lupin, Tonks, and Scrimgeour. Snape is also alive here, although he is a much less crucial character. Not to mention Crabbe and Goyle. Sorry about that.
For another, in book seven school continued while Voldemort was in power, but in this fic they all stopped and resumed school together. These things are central to this fic, so let's call this an AU. ^_^ And let's just forget that ridiculous epilogue (I love you Rowling, but come on).
"you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you..."
— e.e. cummings
Draco was in a lousy mood.
And it only had a little bit to do with the fact that it had been days since he'd managed to catch Ginny alone. The last time was in the tower, during the weekend, when she'd fallen asleep in his arms. He meant to ask her to meet up with him again, but he'd fallen asleep after her, and they only woke up a few hours later when they heard the alarming sounds of Mrs. Norris coming up the stairs. Followed no doubt by Filch. The angle of the sun slanting in through the tower windows indicated that it was late morning. They scrambled together under the invisibility cloak, and Draco marveled at the fact that he was using Harry Potter's famous cloak while Ginny cast a locking charm on the door.
Filch arrived after his cat, and tried to open the door, but couldn't. Muttering and cursing, he began trudging back down the stairs, and when silence fell Ginny removed the charm. Together the two of them left, invisible and quiet, and parted ways at the base of the stairs. They could hear Filch coming back with someone. To his surprise, she had given him a quick kiss on the cheek before darting off, stuffing the invisibility cloak under her robe.
All that had been nice, Draco reflected. More than nice. He'd never wanted simply to be with someone, without thinking about what his father would say, whether the girl was worthy of the Malfoy, and other crap like that. But these past few days had given him time to think about where this was going with Ginny, and he had to admit he didn't know.
Perhaps Zabini put it best just now. It was Friday morning in the Great Hall. A moment earlier, they'd caught sight of Ginny as she left with Hermione, Harry, Ron, Neville, and Luna. Their faces were grim and determined. Zabini commented, "Bloody hell, they look like they're on some sort of mission." He made the word sound like an insult. "Good luck hanging out with that group."
Draco scowled. It was true. He didn't belong with those people. He wasn't his father, but he was still a Malfoy. He was a Slytherin, and he was proud of it. But those Gryffindors — everyone knew they were practically heroes. He might think Ginny was smart and gutsy, but who knew what she thought of him? Who knew what her friends would say when they found out he wanted her?
Was he feeling insecure? Bloody, bloody hell. The next thing you knew he'd be having heart-to-hearts with Snape. Yeah, he'd heard that gossip. Hey, Professor, I too am in love with a redheaded Gryffindor. Hope my thing works out better than yours did.
He wondered what Ginny and her friends were so busy with. From his covert spying he could tell that Longbottom had a central role in whatever they had going on. But Ginny certainly looked stressed out, too. Shadows had deepened beneath her eyes, and he was sure she was spending most of her time at the library. That wasn't exactly a place that invited cheerfulness and relaxation.
He was so busy with his thoughts that he didn't even notice when his mother's familiar, striking owl arrived. Crabbe poked him in the side.
"What?" he asked irritably.
"Isn't that your mother's owl?"
It was. Draco felt a burst of foreboding. There was no envelope, only a single folded sheet of paper scrunched in the owl's claws, as though his mother had been in a tearing hurry. He delayed opening it to stroke the midnight-blue, v-shaped streak of Narcissa's beautiful black owl.
"Aren't you going to read that?" This time it was Goyle.
Mind your own business, Draco almost snapped. He restrained himself and opened the note.
The message was simple, a single sentence: "Your father has summoned us to Azkaban. Come home tomorrow."
Draco clenched his fists. Life just didn't get any better than this.
Neville was sweating.
He hoped it wasn't obvious. But judging by the worried looks Luna and Ginny were giving him, his tension was written all over him. He was seated alone in front of the classroom, while Hermione sat across him, armed with a stack of notes and newspapers. He, of course, had never thought of bringing anything to these mock trial sessions. The effort of preventing himself from shouting that he had changed his mind, he wanted to back out, was wearing him down. He shifted in his seat.
"Are you suggesting, Mr. Longbottom, that we should have faced the Death Eaters and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named with less than the full force of all our powers?" Hermione crossed her arms over her chest and scowled at him, narrowing her eyes like the elderly Wizengamot witch she was impersonating.
"Not less exactly," Neville said, trying to sound confident. "What I mean is that we shouldn't sink down to their level."
"You are aware of the vast variety of important information we gleaned from using the Unforgivable Curses on the enemy?"
"What about the vast variety of hurt you inflicted to gain that information?" Ginny muttered under her breath. But Neville had never been witty (or snarky, depending on how you put it), he was brave and he was honest and he would say something like—
"I am not aware of that," he admitted. Ginny winced.
"Perhaps you should endeavor to be better informed before presuming to advice us on what we should or should not have done during the war," Hermione snapped. She glanced at her notepad. "Now, I want to ask—"
"Excuse me, I think you might have misunderstood," Neville interrupted, his voice rising a little in his nervousness.
"Did you have something further to add?" Hermione asked coldly.
"What I meant," Neville said, taking a deep breath, "is that I was not aware we had gleaned any important information from those methods. I was involved in the war too. As far as I can remember, using the Unforgivable Curses was close to useless. You-Know-Who protected himself too well for that. And they were so much better at it than we were. We won because we knew other ways. If we had had to defeat them by becoming like them, then maybe we would have been better off losing."
Luna smiled beside Ginny, who was ashamed by the burst of relief she felt. She had always been guilty of underestimating Neville. There were other ways besides wit to hold your own in an argument.
For a few days now, every second of their free time was spent helping Neville prepare his testimony. Ginny had been demoted to library duty with Ron and Harry, looking up old articles and books on the Unforgivable Curses, the rules of the Ministry, the rise of Voldemort, and so on. "Because you make him nervous; when he's better you can watch," Hermione explained.
And so Luna and Hermione grilled him in private. Every day they took materials from Ginny and the others to find new questions to ask Neville. But when Hermione announced at last that he was ready, Ron and Harry admitted their reluctance about watching him, neither of them still sure about their stance on the issue. Ginny, however, was firmly on Lupin and Demetria's side. She wanted to listen.
At first she had been upset by Neville's terrible nervousness, fearful that if this was what Hermione considered "ready," he was going to fall apart at the trial. But now she could see that Neville was better than could have been expected: it was impossible to listen without seeing it from his point of view.
However, Hermione was good at her role, too. She paused for a deadly moment before asking, "Do you imagine your parents would agree with that? That they were better off losing? I read the account of their battle with Bellatrix Lestrange. Had they used the Unforgivable Curses, Frank and Alice might well be sane and lucid right now."
Ginny pressed her lips together at the unfairness of the question. If she were Neville, and some smug Wizengamot witch said those things to her, she'd punch her in the face, she thought.
But again, Neville found a better response. "I don't know what my parents would think," he said. For once, his voice was steady. "Thanks to the Ministry, now Demetria Laguna will never know what her husband would think, either. About anything. Not for sure, and not ever again."
Hermione stared at him. "Let me direct your attention to another part of your testimony. You said…"
Ginny closed her eyes. Maybe, just maybe, Neville could do this.
The door banged open, interrupting Hermione. Harry burst in, looking frantic. "I've had an owl from Lupin," he burst out, and they saw the note he was waving at them.
"What is it?" But by the look on Hermione's face, it was clear she already knew.
"Tonks is getting worse, isn't she," Ginny said, hoping against hope that Harry would shake his head.
"Yes. Much worse."
The group was silent, fearful.
"Ron's going to see Professor McGonagall, to tell her and ask permission for us," Harry said. He was calming down, but that wild expression was still in his eyes. "Lupin wants us to come tonight."
Harry hesitated. "To say goodbye."
That evening, at St. Mungo's, the scene was one of hushed urgency. A few healers, their bright lime green robes belied by the dismal looks on their faces, milled about outside Tonks' room, conversing quietly with each other. As their group drew nearer — Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny — they could make out some of what was being said.
"…sudden deterioration mirrors the earlier case…"
"…too fast, something's different about…"
"…politics involved, of course, the head Mediwizard not allowed to see…"
And one particularly loud voice, a young female Healer who spoke with an accent. She was familiar to Harry and the others, for she was one of the regular healers who attended to Tonks. "If I could go to Azkaban now I would. I want to kick Scrimgeour's ass."
The others immediately shushed her, but she was undeterred. "What, like you don't all agree with me? I want to talk to that Death Eater."
"Lainie, we already gave the Ministry official a list of our questions," another Healer reminded her. "The answers were inconclusive."
"That's because every question has a follow up. You have to know the method of inquiry. Honestly, I feel like he wouldn't mind if our patient died; then Remus Lupin would be distracted from that big case they have with the Aurors."
"Will you watch what you're saying?" someone hissed. "Keep your conspiracy theories to yourself!"
She rolled her eyes. Her companions glanced nervously around, caught sight of Harry and the others, and moved away from the door.
"How is she?" Hermione asked as they approached.
"I'm afraid she's growing worse," said one of the healers, a small bespectacled man. Gently he added, "You should go in now."
But an idea had popped into Ginny's head as she listened to the healers. It was an idea so outlandish, so bizarre, that she didn't even dare clear it with the others. Of course, she had to do it now. Right now. Time was running out. If she failed then she would have lost her chance to say a proper goodbye to Tonks, a witch she had liked and admired from the first moment they met; but if she succeeded—
"You go in, I have something to do," she said quickly. "Just for a moment," she told them, when Ron opened his mouth to ask. "Please, I'll explain later."
And she opened the door to usher them in, all giving her questioning glances, before she turned to the healers.
Three of them were departing, respectfully, but the young female healer and the bespectacled one lagged behind. She went to them, deciding in a split-second that it was best to trust her instincts and be direct. Tonks' life depended on it.
"Wait," she said, and they turned. She swallowed. "If you could go to Azkaban, if you had a chance to talk to the Death Eater who attacked Tonks... could you get the information you need to heal her?"
The wizard thought it was a hypothetical question, and said, "Oh, my dear, I hope you're not angry. Maybe we could, but there are other considerations. You have to understand that it's not ill will on the Ministry's part, they're just—"
But the witch, Lainie, understood Ginny immediately. She cut her companion off. "Are you saying you can take us?"
Ginny took a deep breath. "I'm saying I can try."
A/N: So there's no D/G interaction in this chapter. Sorry about that. But I had to set the scene for the coming events. There will be a doozy of a D/G scene in the next chapter, I swear. I'll be posting it over the next few days. (I've already posted this; had to repost it to make a few minor edits.)
Sorry for the long long long long delay in updating! So much has happened in my life. But I'm getting back to writing, and fanfiction is my warm-up. I hope to keep up these updates regularly. My goal is to finish this story (if only to prove to myself that I can finish it). Thanks to all reviewers and followers! ^_^