Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters you recognize, J.K. Rowling and those big wigs at Warner Brothers do. Since I don't feel like writing this more than once, this disclaimer applies to all following chapters. Don't sue, all you would get is my hospital and college bills.
Sweat was trickling down her back, but at that point it was pouring off her body everywhere. A pale freckled hand came up to push her hair off her sticky forehead, lifting her face up to the sky for the hopes of a breeze to cool her off. And cursing her luck when all she felt was more heat from the summer sun. Frustrated she turned her attention back to the task at hand, going through the pockets of dead people was a necessary part of war and one that she found herself doing without the hesitation she had at first.
"Weasley," Ginny turned from the emancipated body she was currently bent over to see her supervisor coming towards her. Luther Quinley's beetle black eyes shone with lust as they looked over her petite form, the thin medic uniform sticking to her body, "Have you checked and tagged these bodies yet?"
Ginny raised an eyebrow at the heavy set Healer, "Almost, I was just checking these last ones over before the carts arrived."
"Good when you are finished, report back to the medical tent for orders," he said before he spat on the ground and waddled off back to the newly erected tent.
Ginny watched him go with little remorse, actually preferring the company of the corpses over the slightly lecherous old man. Turning back to her work, Ginny removed wands and valuables, wondering the entire time how it ended up that she would be the lowest of the low during the war. How did she go from being third in her graduating class, accepted early to Medi-witch training; then completing it in record time so that she could be of some use in the war. All that work only to end up as a low drudge in the mortuary division of the medical unit. Shoving the corpse over, Ginny fought back the revulsion at the sight of the bloated face. Reaching for his pockets, she began the methodical search for his wand.
The blast threw her back onto to her back; the scream she loosed was lost to her own ears in the pounding of blood in her ears. Pain ripped through her body, Ginny could do nothing more than scream as she felt fire sting her muscles and sink into her bones. Ginny welcomed the darkness that began to encase her mind, welcomed the numbness from the pain. With relief she passed out, never hearing the shouts coming from the approaching Medi-witches and Auror's.
The first thing she was aware of was the darkness; it wasn't the usual kind of darkness that one associates with the night or even the darkness that came when a Dementor was too near. This darkness was soothing, warm in its envelopment of her as she became aware of her surroundings. The next thing that she was aware of was the voices, they were loud and abrasive. Turning towards the voices though Ginny became aware of herself in the darkness, patiently she waited for answers.
"Are you sure? There is nothing you can do?" Ginny's ear perked up, she knew that voice, it was one of childhood. Though at the moment, she could hear the tears instead of laughter. Arthur Weasley had had too much to cry about in the past three years since the war broke out fully. The loss of his wife in an attack on Diagon Alley and the fact that all of his children were involved in the war in some way or another had made him old far before he had a right to be.
"I am deeply sorry Mister Weasley, but the curse the Death Eater placed on himself is meant to kill. Your daughter is very lucky only to lose her eyesight," Ginny felt her heart miss a beat at the cold statement, she knew that Luther didn't really care that he was telling a father that his child was permanently maimed but she still felt a sinking feeling of hate when he said it so harshly to her own father.
"Dad," Ginny whispered, raising her hand to grasp her father's feeling the brush of his robes against the back of her hand, "Dad, it's alright. I-."
Arthur shushed her as he bent to hug her, his blue eyes watering as he looked at her small face shyly smiling up at him. Smoothing a hand over her unruly curls, he cupped her face in his hands, "Oh Ginny-bean, I was so worried."
Ginny smiled against his hands, reaching up herself to touch the bandages wrapped around her eyes. When she felt her father tug her hands away she resisted, "No, I want to know for myself."
"Don't Ginny," Arthur's ragged whisper was lost on his daughters ears as she sat up, he watched pained as she tugged the wrappings off. Turning to the portly man standing at the end of her cot he glared at him when he noticed the almost hateful gleam in his eyes. Arthur Weasley may have been the laughingstock of the Ministry, but when his temper was provoked he was not a man to be taken lightly. He smirked, yes smirked, as the Healer hastily exited the small curtained cubicle. Turning back to Ginny, he watched as she blinked her eyes open. The dark bruises around the once vibrant hazel eyes were made all the harsher because of the vacant look in the orbs.
"Permanent?" Ginny asked, as she touched her face carefully, shifting over on the bed when her father sat down.
"Yes," Arthur drew one of her hands away to hold between his much larger ones, "You have been out for three days, I was beginning to wonder if you would even wake up. You are not allowed to scare me like that ever again, do you understand?"
Ginny laughed, her heart shaped face drawn up in mirth gave him more joy than he had for what felt like a lifetime. Leaning forward he kissed her on the forehead, "I don't know what I would have done if I had lost you too Ginny."
"I'm not going to leave you anytime soon, I promise," Ginny folded her hands into her lap, looking for all the world like a demure young lady. But inside she was trembling, "I guess I finally get that vacation I wanted?"
Arthur nodded, then realizing the futility of the gesture looked hastily away as tears gathered in his eyes, "You'll be coming home at the end of the week, by that time I will have everything situated…so that you won't have any problems. That Healer said there was a program at St. Mungos that you could take for mobility and such."
Ginny nodded, she knew about the program having seen a few Auror's being forced into the rehabilitation program after some particularly nasty battles. Leaning back on the bed she yawned, "Sorry Dad."
"That's alright, you get some rest I'll be back tomorrow," Arthur gave her a peck on the cheek before tucking the covers around her already sleeping form. Straightening he walked stooped shoulder out of the camp, the walk of a defeated man whose last vestige of hope had finally left him.
Harry Potter looked out at the small camp he had been living in for the past three weeks, the tired looking tents that weren't even magically enhanced to add to the comfort of the occupants. Smiling at the few people who were milling about he leafed through the post that had been delivered with the dawn. It had been only a month since Voldemort was finally defeated, and the relaxation that Harry had always hoped for was still a long way in coming. The Death Eaters remaining were being rounded up quickly, but they still fought as if their lord wasn't a pile of ashes. Harry was hopeful though that by the end of the fall he would be sitting in the Burrow with the Weasley's celebrating the end of the war. Walking into the tent he shared with Ron, Harry smirked at the lump sprawled on the cot.
"Post just arrived," Harry said as he threw the stack of letters for Ron on the cot that contained his best friend, "Looks like you got a letter from everyone, and two from your Dad."
Ron grunted as he pushed the covers off his face, the night before drinking bout clearly written on his face. The two men were as different from when they had first met on the Hogwarts Express as night and day. Gone were the scrawny bodies of adolescents, having hardened and shot up due to sights and sounds that no one should have been subject to. Harry's hair was still an unruly mass, but he had finally gained the muscle and height that had been un-hinted at as an eleven year old. His bright green eyes were often times shadowed by blood of battles, but his mouth was soft with a ready smile that he had long ago learned was sometimes the only thing to keep you going through the hell of life. Ron too had come in to his own; his broad muscular build put Harry's slighter form in shadows. The bright red Weasley hair was long, but like his brother Bill it suited the ruggedness of his face. Where as Harry was whip-like in his strength, Ron was like coming against a brick wall, albeit a laughing one. Ron had finally found his niche in the world, the life of a soldier was one that he had adapted to with easy that surprised everyone. Commanding and strategizing troops were his specialty, and Harry was glad that in this his friend stood in the spotlight. Holding his head Ron sat up, the covers falling to his waist as he stretched before standing up.
Harry sat down at the small desk, looking through his own post as Ron shuffled about the tent. A letter from Arthur caught his eye; usually the Weasley patriarch only wrote one of them, conveying in the letter his message to the other. Sliding a finger through the envelope Harry read the short note in disbelief. Looking up at the red head who was pouring himself a cup of coffee while he thumbed through his missives, "Ron…"
Ron looked up, setting the coffee pot down as he threw his post on the cot again. Drinking he raised an eyebrow at his friend, "What's wrong mate? You look right stunned."
Harry set the cheap parchment down with shaking hands, "It's Ginny."
Ron set his mug down; feet braced apart he tugged nervously on his ragged Chudley Cannons t-shirt. Harry stood up; his hand reaching out to offer support, even as his eyes watered, but Ron took a hasty step back. The look on his face was that made of stone, and Harry knew that though he was loved like a brother right now he wasn't one.
"Tell me," Ron ordered, his teeth clenched as he feared the worst, "She's dead."
"No," Harry shouted, wiping a hand across his wet cheeks the words tumbled out heedlessly, "She was doing mortuary duty, when she was hexed. She's blind."
Ron sank onto the cot, crushing the unopened letters beneath him as he sat dumbstruck. Hastily he stood up and began riffling through the letters till he got to the thinner one that his father had sent. Tearing it open he read the hastily written words like a dying man, Ron's guttural sob made Harry close his eyes in frustration.
"Dad says it's permanent, she is fine otherwise and coming home at the end of a week," Ron whispered, crumpling up the letter when he was finished as if thinking better of it he straightened the paper and began reading it again. Broad shoulders shaking as he sat back on the cot, holding the letter reverently in his hands, "What the fuck was she doing going through corpses anyway?"
"She's a Medi-witch, Ron. They all do mortuary duty," Harry supplied, though he wished he hadn't spoken as the red head leveled his cerulean glare on him.
"She's my baby sister; I was supposed to protect her," Ron yelled, "I was supposed to protect her from Voldemort in her first year. I was supposed to be there; she wasn't supposed to be anywhere near this bloody war. She should have been at home where she belonged."
"Can you imagine Ginny staying home when we were all risking our lives? She was doing what she could to help," Harry sat down on his own cot, still to shaken by the letter to realize anything but that the girl who he had always shoved aside was now one of the few people keeping his sanity together and it had taken her being nearly killed for him to realize how important she was to him. Neither said anything as they sat and mourned the newest victim of the War, a war they had never wanted.
Draco Malfoy looked up from the map he was going over; it had been five years since he had stood on the top of a tower of Hogwarts. Five years of blood and battles that he didn't have the will to fight and it was all coming down to a fight he knew he wouldn't be walking away from. Hell he had prayed for this day since he had first been given the order to kill Dumbledore. Five years of hell on earth fighting for something that he didn't have the stomach for. Looking over the almost barren room that's furnishings had been sold off to buy food and other various necessities over the years. It was hard to believe that the room he was sitting in was once his father's study. Gone were the expensive wall hangings and rugs to warm the coldness, the Persian rug was the last thing to have been sacrificed and it's lushness was greatly missed. The heavy tomes that had once filled the mahogany bookshelves had been either sold or sacrificed for firewood. It was like this in all of the Manor, no longer a place of wealth but a shell of rafters and stone as cold and foreboding as a tomb. Looking around the room, Draco glared at the dust settling on the mantle. He had long surpassed his father's height, something that had stunned him the last time they had been together. But where as his father was given to slim build, Draco had surprised even himself by filling out in the shoulders and arms. The only one of his classmates still under his command, Vincent Crabbe, had joked that Draco no longer needed him to intimidate people into doing what he wanted. The icy blonde only had to raise one eyebrow and glare down his patrician nose and he had people scurrying to do what he wanted.
Draco stood up, his back protesting after being stooped over his desk for so long. Walking to the window he stared out at the wildness that had once been his mother's flower garden. She had been the one good thing that he had counted on his entire life, and her death had been what had shocked him out of his cowering. His father had become desperate for the cause, trying to prove himself and his family of worth had ultimately been his undoing. Voldemort had sacrificed him to the Auror's closing in on them, and Lucius was once again in Azkaban. It wasn't long after that though that Voldemort had fallen under Harry Potter's wand, never realizing that Potter had destroyed his fail safe, the Horcruxes.
The sun broke wearily through the clouds, Draco winced at the dilapidated state of the grounds. He had been his father's second in command, he trained and led men into battle. He watched as friends fell dead at his feet, never once shedding a tear at the loss of life. His father had been right all along, emotions were weakness and to let ones emotions rule in the way of good common sense was foolish. No longer the pale scrawny boy that had offered friendship to Harry Potter, Draco had buried that boy along with everything else so as not to fail again. Feelings were what had made him fail on the tower top, and he had been damned if he was going to let them get in his way again. He had become a machine was what the other's whispered about him, cold methodical machine. If only they knew that he was a machine waiting for the day he would die.
Never wanting a war was one thing, as was fighting in it. Draco knew that he would be given no leniency, to many people blamed him for things that in truth he had no control over. He was tired, plain and simple tired of it all. Tired of waking up each morning to plot how to stay alive; or where he was going to attack next. Grey eyes hardening; Draco called out for the one house-elf that was still in residence, the other's having been sold to buy off officials.
"How can I help you Master," Draco didn't look at the simpering elf.
"I want to speak to Harry Potter," Draco said to the window, fingers lying cold against the planes as the sun was blotted out with grey clouds. Turning away from the window, Draco looked down at the elf, "Take me to him, Kreacher."
Ginny pushed her sunglasses up high on her forehead as she walked without hesitation towards the warmth, fingers stretched out she laughed as she came into contact with the smooth plane of glass of the windows. The rehabilitation room of St. Mungo's was wide and airy, giving Ginny the feeling of being in out in the open. She knew though every square inch, such knowledge comes from having to spend almost more than eighty hours a week in the room. Standing with her fingers splayed on the glass, Ginny smiled as she soaked up the sun coming in. Her hair falling loose of the braid she had hastily put it in, Ginny didn't realize the beauty she displayed but if she had been asked she would have scoffed at the speaker and shuffled off before they could give her anymore foolish compliments. It had been two years since she had been blinded, and just as long since the war had ended. It had actually surprised her how simple things had come to a conclusion. Draco Malfoy, the self appointed leader of the Death Eater's following his father's imprisonment and Voldemort's death, had stepped forward with terms of surrender that had been if anything beneficial to both sides. The bulk of the Death Eater's were sentenced to imprisonment, those who refused were executed. Terms of imprisonment were based on involvement, willingness to surrender, and unsurprisingly how much they could offer to buy their way out of Azkaban. This agreement was not extended to those already imprisoned, thus Lucius Malfoy remained behind bars, while his son was due to being released any day now. Ginny still felt resentment to the former Slytherin and like many believed he was getting off very easy, considering his involvement in Albus Dumbledore's death.
"Ginny," Ginny turned her head towards the person quickly closing the distance from the entrance to the rehabilitation room to the window, listening to the shoes squeak with every step, "I understand you are interested in our rehabilitation program."
Turning fully away from the window, Ginny smiled at her old friend. Pushing her sunglasses back down so that they once again obscured her vision, "Padma, it has been too long."
Padma stepped forward to embrace the younger woman. Her long black hair pulled back from her face that was just as kind and gentle as it had been in school. Pale green Healer robes, with the Head Healer insignia emblazoned on her breast were stretched tight across her growing belly, "Since the ball, I believe. But you aren't here to catch up are you?"
Ginny laughed, allowing Padma to lead her towards a chair. Ginny sat down gracefully, something she had never thought herself capable of, "I am a Healer. I feel useless just sitting at home puttering away."
Padma frowned, "Ginny you are blind. There is nothing wrong with you sitting around relaxing-."
"I am not an invalid," Ginny bit out, "I am capable. I was trained by you for Merlin's sake."
Padma laughed, "No you aren't, are you? I will see what I can do, but I am making no promises. There are few chances for a Healer who is blind you understand."
Ginny nodded, getting to her feet she unfolded the white cane she now carried with her, "I'll look forward to your owl. And tell that prat of a brother of mine to let you out more often."
Padma laughed, her hands coming to caress her protruding stomach as she walked alongside Ginny to the doors, "I will be sure to tell him, though I think Percy might be offended that you don't come visit us anymore either."
Ginny waved away the notion, "I would if you would make me some more lemon tarts."
"Trying to weasel food out of me," Padma nodded to the young man sitting at the apparition station, "Christian is working today, so I will leave you in his capable hands. Make sure to stay out of trouble."
"Goodbye Padma, I hope my nephew's don't give you to much trouble," Ginny grasped Christian's lean hand, wincing at the sweaty palm but holding tight as he apparated them to the Burrow, "Thank-you again Christian, would you like a biscuit or two before you head back?"
Christian raised startled eyebrows as he looked around the immaculate kitchen, "No thanks Miss Weasley, I best be getting back."
Ginny waved to him as he left, before sighing and turning back to the kitchen. Setting the cane aside; Ginny fished her wand out of her pocket. Holding the polished wood in her hands she set it next to her cane with a sigh. Being blind hadn't been easy to adjust to, learning to read brail and how to get around had come easier than she had expected. She had never thought she would be able to do magic, but with the help of Padma she had been able to do some elementary spells without assistance.
Walking over to the grandfather clock standing by the stairs, Ginny reached up to the clock face and gently touched the hands. Two pointed straight up towards where the twelve would have been, but death stood in its place. The smiling faces of Molly and George Weasley were forever stuck on that doomed position. Ginny moved her fingers down, checking the position of her father's and brother Ron's hands, which were moved to work and traveling respectively.
Pulling her hands down Ginny hummed as she walked back to her wand and cane, folding the white cane up she tucked it in the pocket of her skirt before setting about making dinner. Pulling the already fixed containers of roast beef and potatoes; Ginny waved her wand in the general direction of the wireless. Her humming filled the kitchen as she set the roast beef in the oven and charmed it to start. Carefully she pulled out the loaf of bread she had baked earlier that morning and began slicing it, her hand smooth and sure as she made even strokes.
"If you are trying to sneak up on me then you had better not wear that cologne again," Ginny called over her shoulder to her brother who was quietly walking across the floor.
Ron laughed, ruffling her hair he snatched a piece of bread off the cutting board before she began cutting again. Mouth full, "What's for dinner?"
"Roast beef, now get out of my way so that I can get this on the table," Ginny shoved him over, going to the table hands full with unerring accuracy. Whipping out her wand she levitated the now finished roast beef out of the oven to the table, Ron barely had time to duck before the hot dish was flying over his head. Smirking Ginny turned her back on him, "Told you to move."
"Did that on purpose," he muttered under his breath, "Mental is what you are."
"Go get cleaned for dinner," Ginny ordered, swishing her wand to make the cutlery fly out of the drawer and into her hand. She waited until Ron had stalked up the stairs to wash up for dinner before she dropped the silverware to the table top. Gasping in pain, Ginny cautiously touched the smooth cut on her palm from the knife that had been turned wrong in the drawer. Concentrating she pictured the cut in her mind, her fingers breezing over the wound, mouth whispering the healing charm. Her hand warmed for a moment before the skin began to sew itself shut, within seconds the wound was gone. Grasping the table with her newly healed hand; Ginny took a shaky breath, it was difficult enough to do a healing charm wandless but adding in the fact of being blind and out of practice was enough to drain a person of almost all energy.
"Smells good Ginny-bean," Arthur said as he dropped his briefcase onto the counter top on his way in, "Roast beef, my favorite-. Are you alright?"
Ginny waved off her father's concern, smiling at his voice she began setting the table, "Got a little winded is all. And of course it is your favorite, why do you think I made it."
Arthur kissed her cheek, Ginny breathed in the familiar scent of peppermints and sandalwood soap happily. Pulling back she grasped his hand in hers, "How was work today?"
Arthur gave out a long tired breath, making Ginny's hair fan out, "Tiring, work on the treaty isn't going as fast as either party would like."
Ginny frowned, "I thought everything was settled? I mean both Harry and Malfoy worked out the terms together. I didn't think there was room for anything else to be added or taken away."
Arthur sat down, eyes twinkling as he watched his little girl effortlessly set the table for three. Pouring drinks and making dishes fly without the slightest problem. Clearing his throat he smiled as she sat down next to him, vacant eyes hidden by her sunglasses but cheerful smile the same as when she was a child. She wasn't a child anymore though; the upturned face that was turned towards him in anticipation of his answer was that of a young woman not a little girl. The petite figure always incased in tasteful fitting clothes, curtsey of shopping trips with her various sister in laws, was that of a woman who didn't even resemble the knocked kneed girl who had sat at this very table with him so long ago. Where did the time go, Arthur wondered, where did his little girl go?
"Dad?" Ginny asked, startling Arthur out of his study of her. Hands reaching out Ginny grasped his arm, strong fingers reaching for his wrist and checking the steady thump there.
Arthur chuckled, clasping her hand in his he pulled it up to kiss the palm. Eyes widening he looked at the dried blood gathered in the creases of her hand, "What happened to your hand?"
Ginny snatched her hand back, pulling a napkin from the table she began scrubbing her skin, "Nothing, I was setting the table-."
"RON," Arthur yelled, cutting her off. Ginny flinched as her father stood up quickly, the chair scraping the floor with a screech. The sound of a slamming door and steps on the stairs had Ginny hanging her head in shame as her brother pounded into the room.
"What in the hell, Dad I was in the bloody bathroom for crying out loud," Ron's voice was loud and his frustration burned Ginny's ears.
Standing up she set the now stained napkin behind her on the table, feeling more than hearing the silent fury that was emanating from her father. Placing a sure hand on her father's shoulder, "Dad, really it's nothing."
"Where the hell were you when your sister was bleeding," Arthur shook her hand off as he glared at his son, "You know she can't do-."
"I was setting the table, not doing surgery," Ginny snapped out, "I am not a baby."
"She cut her self?" Ron asked eyes widening as he stepped forward to examine the perfectly healed hand, "Damn it Ginny, you know better than to-."
"I am twenty-two years old Ronald, and just because I am blind doesn't mean that I am incapable of doing things myself," Ginny made to snatch her hand back but Ron's grip was stronger than their father's and he held her fast. Sighing in exasperation Ginny gave up the tug of war for her own hand, "It was a simple mistake, that has been rectified."
"A simple mistake that wouldn't have happened if you didn't try to over exert yourself," Arthur pointed out, glaring at his son when Ron sent him a warning look. "What? She is blind, and the sooner she realizes that she can't do things-."
"Can't do things?" Ginny asked, turning to her father she snarled at him, "I am fully capable of taking care of myself. I made a mistake that anyone could have, in fact I remember Mum cutting herself once or twice on flying cutlery. I don't need you to baby me."
"What you need is to stop-." Arthur began only to shut his mouth when Ginny jerked from Ron's grasp and stalked from the room, "Where the hell are you going?"
"Out," Ginny hissed over her shoulder, jerking her coat on she snapped open her cane, "I think you can serve yourselves, after all you aren't handicapped."
"Ginny," Ron placed a hand on her shoulder, "Don't go like this. Come on, sit down and have dinner and then we can talk things over."
"Ron," the anger left her as soon as her brother had placed his hand on her shoulder, but the tears were still threatening. Turning to the door she snatched it open, "I just need some air, I'll be back in a moment."
"Let her go," defeated Arthur sat down at the neatly set table, "Just let her go."
Ron cursed under his breath as Ginny calmly walked out of the house, watching her petite form through the open door as she took the well worn path that led to the village. Closing the door softly he just missed seeing her hand reach up to wipe the tears from her sightless eyes.
Ginny had walked the path to St. Ottery Catchpole almost everyday of her life; the well worn contours of the old deer run were as known to her as the hallways of the Burrow. Cane skimming the road, Ginny veered off after thirty paces from the bend going sharply into the dark recesses of the woods with the surety of a sighted person. Hand outstretched she caught hold of the creeping vine that ran from the back of a giant oak to the small brook almost a hundred yards into the woods. Stepping through the hole in the under brush, Ginny sighed as she breathed the faint fragrance of wildflowers drifting up from her feet. Familiarity with the area had Ginny stowing her cane as she walked towards the small wrought iron bench she had dragged to the small clearing when she was nine. Sitting down she leaned her head back as she listened to the brook trickle by her slowly, she could almost see the small minnows darting through clear water.
A steady freckled hand reached up to remove her sunglasses, exposing the hazel eyes to the sun still drifting through the branches of the towering oaks. Setting the glasses down next to her on the bench, Ginny reached behind her to let her hair down from it's braid. Humming under her breath she bent down to her feet and plucked some of the flowers growing wild, fingers nimbly began to weave the various plants together into a crown.
Tranquility flowed through her like the water flowing through the brook, finishing the crown Ginny ran a delicate hand over the flowers that were a riot of colors and types. The weeds were sitting next to delicate buds with no self discrimination at there unworthiness, and Ginny was made all the more beautiful for the gauche display. Putting the crown on her wild curls Ginny sank down to the soft grass and reached a hand out to dip in the brook, lip caught between her teeth at the coldness of the water. Fingers stretching, and concentration focused Ginny didn't hear the twig snap. It wasn't until the slight scent of leather reached her that Ginny knew she was being watched.
Whirling around so quickly she fell back on her bum, fumbling in her skirt for her wand, "Who's there?"
Draco breathed deeply, grey eyes turned to the heavens in amazement. Freedom, the idea was as foreign to him as Quidditch was to a muggle. Never in his twenty-three years had he ever been free to do anything, always he had followed orders. Shouldering the ragged bag that had been given to him by the guard, Draco turned to look one last time at the island prison that had been his home for the last two years. Strangely enough the prison had been more of a home than the Manor had ever bee. Never in his life had he had the ease with which he had been given while incarcerated. Never before had he been unafraid to fall asleep, or had he been as free. Shaking his head at that thought, the shorn blonde locks falling to his chin, it had been three months since the last time the guards had cut the prisoners hair.
His hair wasn't the only thing that had been neglected and thus had changed, though he had been given a newfound freedom in the dark halls of Azkaban he had also been given poor food. Not even in the hardest of times during the war had he eaten so poorly. So Draco had turned to the one thing that he had actually gained during the war, his ability to fight. Ironically the boy, who had relied on his friends to back him up and to enforce what he said, was now the man that sniveling weaklings had turned to take out there stronger opponents. Selling his services for food hadn't been as difficult as he had thought, it was better than becoming one of the inmates' playthings. The extra portions did nothing to help the ease the hunger that constantly racked his body in the first months. But gradually he had trained himself to go without, and though he had lost some muscle mass he was probably more formidable than he had been before.
Pulling out his wand, Draco marveled for a moment at the feel of the light piece of wood in his hand. Two long years he had been without it, not having to rely on his fists for getting what he wanted was going to be something he knew would be hard to relearn. Though for the life of him Draco actually resented the need for magic, it had only caused pain for him. Magic had marked his family for generations as different; the Dark Arts had given them a sense of power that exalted them over their peers. Then magic had led them down a path that now he was the only one who had survived.
With disgust he apparated away from the island; landing in front of the ruins of his childhood home. Pushing the massive oak door open, Draco dropped his small rucksack on the dusty leaf strewn floor. Footsteps echoing across the empty hall Draco inspected what was left of his home, a house he hadn't even expected to come home to. Most of his property had been auctioned off by his lawyers to pay for his early release, his father having ordered it so. Draco had almost thanked the old man for that, but he knew it was more that his father was waiting for Draco to help him being as his son had had a better chance at release than him in the first place had nothing to do with it. Resolutely Draco stepped through the broken glass of the French doors in the dining room and breathed the fresh air provided by wild garden that had once been so manicured.
A ghost of a smile lighted his eyes, even if it didn't hint at his lips. Setting off at a brisk pace he followed the pebbled stones choked by grass through the winding path was the garden. Quickly turning off the path to the even more obscure one that lead off into what remained of the vast woods that had once been apart of his ancestral home. Lost in the simple fact that he was freely walking out in the open had his feet falling farther than he had ever cared to venture before. Bending down to soak his one hander-kerchief in the first stream he came upon, Draco sent a cautious eye to woods about him. The sun was no longer as high in the sky as when he had first started out, something that made him frown at his own inattention to time. But the fact that he was in unfamiliar land had him checking the woods for any sign of life other than flora or fauna.
Wiping his face with the soaked rag, Draco closed his eyes in the simple pleasure. His ears perking up instantly in second nature to his vulnerability and with the slightest of breezes he heard the soft song. Still crouched he turned towards the slight sound, breathing shallow and perfectly still as to ascertain the source of the noise. Rising he crept silently through the dense underbrush, ignoring the sting from the brambles.
The first thing he notices was red, shining waves of red. Grey eyes narrowing he watched as a pale hand brushed through the red curls falling carelessly to the lower back of the sitting girl. Draco had seen women in prison, they had been kept separate from the men but the hardships were the same. And in the end the women inmates were not distinguishable from the men, but this woman sitting so gracefully in the midst of the flowered glen was like a fallen angel to his starved eyes. Moving around her quietly, but keeping to the shadows that were offered by the towering trees, Draco watched as she discarded a pair of sunglasses on the bench. Her slim fingers reaching down to gather flowers from the forest floor plucking the most common weeds along with little or no sense. Almost against his will did he push forward, wanting to see the face hidden by hair so tempting that it had his fingers itching to run through it.
Shifting on the balls of his feet, Draco crouched behind the cover an oak. Sweat began to bead on his forehead, his stomach growled in hunger, but he refused to move. A wood nymph, yes that was what she was, his mind whirling with the mystical beauty of the girl woman sitting before him. Red hair framed a full heart shaped face that was innocently beautiful; as though she had never grown up and was caught in the stages of half woman, half child. Her imperfections were made all the more beautiful by the simplistic beauty she offered. Though her nose was a little to narrow, it was countered by high cheekbones and a full bottom lip that he wanted to taste. Her body was temptingly soft, it had been far to long since he had felt anything as deliciously soft as the satin of the skin displayed for him by a peasant skirt and modest shirt.
The crown on her head only made his blood run hotter and for him to recklessly start moving forward. His feet abandoning their silent tread as he crept forward, want overriding his common sense. His carelessness cost caused him not to see the twig, and with its crack he felt his world collapse.
The nymph fell backwards, her hands scrambling at her skirt for what he could only assume was her wand. Frowning he watched as wide eyes raised to his, knowing he was caught he straightened. Her voice trembled as she called out, "Who's there?"
Raising an eyebrow at her, Draco found his mouth forming a smirk, "I didn't mean to startle you."
Wand raised with a sure hand, the girl drew in a ragged breath, "What are you doing sneaking up on someone like that then?"
Stepping fully into the clearing, Draco felt his stomach lurch as her head cocked to the side listening while hazel eyes stared vacantly into the brush. His perfect angel was blind.
Clearing his throat he looked down at the brook that separated them, avoiding the question he snapped out, "What is a blind girl sitting in the woods alone for?"
Her laugh was dark with secrets contrasting with her innocent face. Slowly she lowered her wand, though he was pleased to note she didn't relinquish her hold on the slim piece of wood. Blank eyes staring at him she sobered, "Are you scared for me? How very noble, to be scared for a girl you don't even know."
Noble, Draco scoffed at the word. He had never been called noble in his life. Cowardly, murderer, evil, traitor, these were all words that had been used abundantly but never noble.
As if sensing his uneasy with her words her smile widened, "You're not noble? Are you here to take advantage of me then?"
"Are you always this forward with perfect strangers," his tone was harsh, but she just smiled a siren's smile at him.
"No," she paused as if thinking hard about her answer, brow furrowed in concentration, "Sometimes I just throw them down and have my way with them."
The sound that escaped his mouth could be considered more of a cough than a laugh. She smirked at the sound, gloating up at him. His throat tightened, cutting off the sound harshly, "You shouldn't speak so to strangers."
"If you would tell me your name then you won't be a stranger," he watched as she climbed to her feet, wand slipping back into the skirt discreetly. Hand reaching out stiffly in his general direction, "I'll start things off, I'm Ginny Weasley."
His heart, if he could still call that organ by that blasphemous name, stopped for a moment. A moment in time where his life seemed to fall into place, and he found himself realizing just how cruel the gods could be. The urge to just run away was as strong in him as it had been when he was sixteen years old and standing on a tower with a man who he had been ordered to kill. Coldness seeped in him as he looked at the pale hand extended to him over the too great a distance separating them.
"Are you still there?" Her tone was light and teasing, but Draco could hear the slight note of worry. Easily his long legs stretched the small brook and he was on the other side being assailed by the softness that was now easily within reach.
His once elegant hand, now rough and coarse looking enclosed hers in a firm grip, "I'm still here."
Still holding hands, he studied her trying to remember the small freckled girl he had first laid eyes on in Flourish & Blotts. Her head tilted to the side in silent question as he remained silent; opening his mouth he said the first thing that came to his mouth, "Darcy."
"It's nice to meet you Darcy," her smile was worth his lie. Quickly though he withdrew his hand, wanting nothing more than to be back in his cell than standing with the nymph that was his enemy.
"Ginny," the voice rang out through the now almost dark woods, causing Draco to stiffen and Ginny to turn expectantly towards the trees.
"My brother," she whispered, though he had recognized the voice even if he hadn't recognized the girl before him. Bending she picked up her sunglasses, settling them on top her hair among the flowers, "How dark is it?"
Glancing up at the tree tops, Draco was somewhat shocked to note how far the sun had gone down, "Dark enough, you best go before he breaks his neck stepping into a hole."
As if in agreement, Ron's bellow reached the glade with renewed vigor, "Ginny where are you?"
Sighing, Ginny called out towards his voice, "Coming."
She began to walk sure footed towards the path, stopping with her hand on the bushes to push them back, "Thank you."
Startled Draco stepped forward, "For what?"
"For not treating me like an invalid," with that she disappeared into the underbrush, leaving a silent confused man in her wake.
Draco was still standing there long after Ginny had disappeared through the trees, only when his stomach growled in hunger did he begin the long journey back to the Manor. The moon was well settled in the sky by the time he pushed open the door to the sprawling monstrosity. Throwing his ragged jacket on the floor, seeing as there was no elf to take it, or any other place to put it, Draco paused as he listened to the quiet. In prison he had gotten so use to the tears, screams, and other noises of the other prisoners that the stillness of the house seemed like a welcome relief.
Making his way to the kitchens, he rummaged through the dusty cabinets finding what looked to be some homemade preserves and a stale box of crackers. Hopping up on the counter he popped the jar of preserves open and dug in with the cracker. Taste wasn't high on his priorities, but the stale crackers and raspberry preserves tasted like manna from heaven. Looking around at the magically lit room, he had actually been surprised when the candles and fireplace had roared to life when he walked in; apparently the charms surrounding the house were still in place. The large kitchen that had once housed over thirty elves was now a skeleton of what its former grandeur. As soon as he could he would begin to clean and rebuild the house, he thought as he looked at the broken windows and falling plaster from the walls.
First things first, he would need a decent place to sleep, finishing his dinner he trudged up to his old room. Standing in the doorway, he looked around the peeling wallpaper and rat droppings littering the floor, with a sigh he turned away. Grabbing his coat he transfigured it into blanket; thin but long enough to cover him. Walking out to the garden he settled himself on a soft part of ground, arms pillowed behind his head he stared up at the sky. His first night of freedom and he might as well be homeless, but staring up at the vast expanse of sky overhead he couldn't bring himself to care.
"Hermione," Harry called out as he walked into the library of Grimmauld Place, a hand waved to him from the couch set before the fire, "Have you seen my grey sweater?"
The brunette looked up at him over the top of her book, bundled in an overlarge grey sweater and pajama bottoms and grinning sheepishly, "Would it be the grey sweater that you got for your birthday?"
"Thanks for telling me that you borrowed it," Harry grumbled as he did an about-face back to his room to look for another shirt to wear. Calling over his shoulder, "Remember to wash it this time, last time it smelled like flowers and I got the strangest looks at work."
Hermione rolled her eyes before returning to her book, thinking better of it she rolled off the couch and trotted behind him. Pushing the door to his room open, she leaned against the doorjamb, "Are you going to go see Ron?"
Harry turned from his bureau, undershirt half on and glasses askew, "Maybe, you going to come out of hiding to see him?"
Shifting on the balls of her feet, she looked down, "Has he asked about me?"
Pulling a shirt over his head, he bent to pull his shoes on, "More like he has asked about everything but you."
Hermione flinched at his choice of words, lips thinning in anger, "Don't sugar coat it for me or anything."
"You cheated on him with his brother, his married brother what do you want him to do? Come crawling back to you on his hands and knees begging you to take him back. You want the truth? The truth is that you should be the one begging him, or move on," Harry angrily snatched his wand up glaring at her, "Do something because I am tired of you moping around here."
"Harry," Hermione began only to be cut off by Harry as he pushed his way by her, "Wait, please wait."
"I tried to be the good friend in this, I didn't take either of yours side. Now though I can't for the life of me remember why," Turning as he reached the front door he jerked his coat on, "Why him? Why did you pick Fred? I mean of all the people you could have-why Fred?"
Tears were pouring down her face as Hermione hugged her arms around herself, "I don't know. I was lonely okay, is that what you want to hear? Ron hadn't touched me in months-."
"He was exhausted from work and taking care of his sister, you remember Ginny. The girl who was struggling with being recently blinded," Harry yelled, not caring that the woman in front of him was like a sister. Finally letting loose the anger that he had held in for the past two years, "You fucked up Hermione, now grow the hell up and face it."
He left her sobbing in his house, apparating away before he could damage their friendship anymore. Appearing just outside the wards of his destination he shook his shoulders before walking towards the dark house. Raising his hand he pounded on the door, listening to it echo inside of the empty house.
He was raising his hand to pound for the fifth time, "What do you want Potter?"
Shoulders stiffening Harry turned to the corner of the house, "Part of your parole agreement, an Auror comes and checks up on you randomly."
Harry glared as the blonde just turned on his heel and walked back around the house, letting out a frustrated growl he followed. Surprised to see Draco standing on the patio surrounded by muggle power tools and lumber. Looking around Harry knew he was gaping but he couldn't bring himself to close it. Draco began measuring out a board, his hands sure and quick with the pencil and tape. Harry was stunned as he watched the man garbed in ratty jeans and a t-shirt work, Draco Malfoy was working like a muggle.
"Potter," Draco bit out causing Harry to jump a little in surprise, "Are you going to stand there all day or is there something you wished to discuss?"
"Oh right," hands reaching into his coat he pulled out the shrunken folder, a tap of his wand and it was restored to its rather thick normal state. Leafing through the papers he coughed as he quickly scanned the terms of Draco's release, "As per the truce at the end of the war and your release conditions, you are to report to the Ministry every month for a veriterserum administered questioning. You are not allowed to conduct magic between the hours of nine p.m. and six a.m.-."
Draco dropped the tape measure and pencil, moving the board to the table saw he ignored Harry as he sliced through the wood. Harry moved closer so that he could be heard, "You are to submit to random searches of your home, and if necessary be detained for two weeks without question if any contraband is found within the premises of your remaining property."
Draco picked the board up; walking into the open French doors Harry did a double take before following him. Walking quickly behind the silent blond he cast quick glances around the mansion, shocked at the damage and neglect he saw.
Draco was kneeling next to a section of wall in what appeared to having once been the library, hands already fitting the board into place on the bottom of a broken set of bookcases. Looking around Harry looked at the few repairs that had already been made, and the more recent damage that could only have been done by Draco himself.
The board secure Draco set his tools aside as he leaned against the wall, noting the give in the sheetrock and frowning as he realized the damage that termites had done. Turning his attention back to Harry though he ignored the need in him to finish the room; "Is that all Potter?"
Nodding his head Harry looked at the crude fix to the only piece of furniture, a cinder block placed under the uneven leg of a Louis XIV desk. Fingers running over the saw dust and dirt covering the surface, "What are you trying to do here Malfoy?"
"Trying? I am trying nothing, simply making this place livable again," Draco ran a hand along the bookshelf he had already finished redoing, "This place is mine, and nothing will take that from me again."
Nodding, Harry shifted towards the door, "Well then, umm, I guess that's all for today. I will be checking in on you in a few weeks."
Harry felt Draco's cold stare on him as he walked out the library, pausing in the doorway, "Your first scheduled appointment at the ministry is for this Thursday at one."
Silence was his answer and Harry couldn't help but think that even with veritraserum in him Draco wouldn't talk. Leaving the Manor he quickly walked down the weed choked drive leading to the gates. Apparating as quickly as he could away from the desolate place and the equally despondent man working in silence.
A.N. So I had to take a mind break from my other story for a moment and write something new. For everyone reading this who is currently reading my other story, don't worry I am still working on it. I realized that I am far from finished with it. I just need to get this little plot bunny out of my head before I lost it. I hope that everyone enjoys!! Lots of love to those of you who review, it makes for sad times when you don't.