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XVI: Seeking Peace
Her wand was cool in her grasp, a mirror to the neck of the chilled glass bottle in her left hand. It was cold on the seventh floor, but she hardly noticed it, choosing instead to focus on the complete silence that blanketed the castle at this hour. It was likely she was the only one awake this late, next to the Carrows, and she'd left them in the dungeons nearly twenty minutes ago after receiving her daily detention.
Her grip on her wand tightened at the reminder, and she began her brisk pacing before the Room of Requirement. On the third pass, the door appeared, and after listening intently for a long moment to ensure that no other souls were awake to hear or see her passage, she slipped inside the door soundlessly.
She immediately froze just inside the room, the door falling shut behind her with an audible snick. This wasn't the small, cozy sitting room she normally requested with medical supplies on a sterile tray to the side. This was…
It took nearly everything in her not to slump in defeat. Of all the people to use the Room of Requirement, of course Draco Malfoy would choose the night that she needed it most.
"Malfoy," she said blankly, briefly glancing up to catch curious grey eyes in a gaunt face before her gaze skittered down and to the side. "My apologies. The room doesn't usually appear when it's already in use."
Instinct bade her to reach behind her for the door handle rather than turning her back on what was an obvious threat. She and Malfoy hadn't spoken in the month that they'd been back at Hogwarts. It was partly due to the fact that he was a seventh year Slytherin and she a sixth year Gryffindor that had disparate schedules and partly due to the fact that she'd taken to avoiding anyone or thing that could bring more attention to her. She'd been targeted the night they'd returned to the castle by the Carrows simply because of her lineage and connection to the Boy Who Lived.
"Weasley, wait. Stay."
Ginny stopped scrabbling for the door handle and instead turned her incredulous gaze to Malfoy. He looked distinctly unhealthy in the pale light from the balls of light that hovered near the ceiling, casting an eerie glow over the green armchair and small table the room had provided for him. To his side, there was a fireplace, but the fire inside had been reduced to slow-burning embers. Size-wise, the room was just as small as the sitting room she generally requested. A pile of books were haphazardly stacked upon the table to his left.
"I don't think…" she began and then stopped abruptly, assessing Malfoy with a keen amber gaze. She wasn't sure of the time, but if the Carrows had followed their normal schedule of torturing her, she would guess it was nearing four in the morning. She had classes that started in almost four hours. She couldn't return to the tower before healing her wounds, and truth be told, she preferred to find her solace in the bottle she carried in her hand rather than the concerned words of her classmates. None of them were targeted as viciously as she was, and she'd never been a fan of pity.
Malfoy looked much thinner than he had in previous years, though she could admit to not paying him more attention than a passing thought. The year divide between them meant she hadn't been the focus of the rivalry that had sprung up between him and Harry, Ron and Hermione, although she had exchanged the occasional cold, dismissive look in the hallways and a particularly memorable Bat-Bogey hex in her fourth year. Outside of that, they'd simply not had much opportunity to interact. It was entirely possible that he, too, was suffering at the hands of the Carrows for the actions of another.
"How're your healing spells?" she asked instead with a burst of the same reckless courage that usually preceded her doing something equally rash, such as stepping between a Cruciatus and a classmate.
Malfoy blinked at her seemingly-random question, before his eyes widened in a sort of weary understanding. Giving her a small, tired quirk of the lips, he closed the book he'd been reading and waved his wand at the fireplace, instantly sending it into a fiery blaze that gave a warm, golden cast to the room. A moment later and the books on the side table vanished, replaced by a pile of bandages, cleaning solution and gauze.
"Just call me Healer Malfoy," he told her as he turned in her direction, a touch of humor lacing through the fatigue.
Hesitantly, she stepped forward, stiffly sinking into the burgundy armchair that appeared next to the green one, eyes locked onto his. It took two tries to convince her fingers to loosen their tight grip on her wand and a brief moment of inner fighting before she slipped her wand up her sleeve entirely.
Malfoy's gaze hadn't yet left her own. He looked as bad as felt. Dark bruises lined his eyes from lack of sleep, and his cheekbones seemed as sharp as carved bone, arching above his sunken cheeks. It didn't look like he'd been sleeping or eating properly, but really, who was in the middle of a war? She wasn't one for revealing weaknesses in front of another, especially one that was arguably on the wrong side of the war, but after a month of torture disguised as detentions she'd reached her limit.
"The worst is on my chest," she said conversationally, unscrewing the cap on the bottle she still held while doing so. "You'll forgive me for steadying my nerves the old fashioned way."
Malfoy inclined his head in acknowledgement but said nothing further. Conversely, rather than putting her on edge, the silence put her more at ease than if he'd spoken. The Firewhiskey burned a path down her throat that pushed tears from her eyes that she blinked away quickly, focusing instead on the warmth that filled her from the inside out and the slight haze that pushed into her mind with the quick-working alcohol. Ginny hadn't been a fan of drink before this year but certain circumstances had pushed her to find something that would help her cope. Firewhiskey was more efficient than any other she'd tried.
The burning liquid also served to strengthen her resolve. Shifting forward in her seat, she pushed off her robes before gingerly reaching for the hem of her shirt. Like pulling off a band-aid, she thought to herself, before ripping the shirt up and over her head, tearing open the clotted wounds on her front. Even before she'd dropped the shirt the bottle was already at her lips, Firewhiskey blazing a path down her throat that mimicked the fiery burn of the freshly opened cuts on her chest but thankfully forced her focus away from the wounds.
"The Carrows have always found particular pleasure in torturing purebloods," Malfoy said conversationally as he leaned forward and used his wand to clear the wounds of blood with a non-verbal Tergeo. "I believe it's because they themselves are half-bloods and scorned by other purebloods within his ranks. You'd do well to avoid their attentions."
Another swish of the Firewhiskey was enough to loosen her tongue. "I think it's pretty unavoidable at this point," she told the top of his disheveled white-blond head as he leaned in to delicately clean the deep cuts on her stomach. She couldn't help the air she sucked in through her teeth when his wand brushed over the particularly deep cut the 'I' had left in her skin. "They're taking out their frustrations about Harry, Ron and Hermione missing on me."
He glanced up briefly to shoot her a look that said no shit. "Not just that, I imagine," he said shortly, and she nodded in silence.
After a long minute of Malfoy gently cleaning the blood off her front, he leaned back. The wounds were still sluggishly oozing blood, and Ginny idly wished she'd be able to experience the Carrows' gruesome artwork from the front, as Malfoy was doing now.
"I don't think an Episkey will heal them entirely," he said cautiously after extensive scrutiny.
Ginny chanced a quick look at his face but it was completely blank. She knew what he was thinking, and took another large swallow of the Firewhiskey to prevent herself from breaking. "It won't," she answered shortly. "I've tried. I think it's becoming a permanent scar."
The non-verbal Episkey Malfoy performed gave her the urge to scratch at the itchy edges of her wounds but she resisted, watching Malfoy instead. His gaze was still tracing the words written into her flesh, and she had the brief thought that maybe those same words had been carved into his skin by the Carrows, too, before she dismissed the thought as unlikely. Why would the Carrows risk displeasing a higher-ranking Death Eater such as Lucius Malfoy?
As suspected, they remained written in her skin even after Malfoy withdrew his wand. This time, he reached for the roll of gauze that had appeared on the table to his right.
"Lean forward," he instructed, rising from his chair long enough to go to his knees in front of her. In any other situation, Ginny likely would have flushed at the request and at the position she was in. This brought Malfoy's gaze square with her cotton-covered breasts, but her awareness of such a position was merely a sort of exhausted recognition of the potential it had in any other situation. There was nothing sexual about their position now, especially as Malfoy began to carefully wind the gauze around her chest, beginning just underneath her bra and ending just above her hip bones.
She'd never be able to look at herself in the mirror again without remembering the Carrows' actions, and it inspired such bitterness inside of her that she took another sip of the Firewhiskey simply to drown it out.
By the time Malfoy was finished, her mind was finally, blissfully blank.
"Where else?" he asked.
It took Ginny a moment to catalog and remember that physically speaking, the daily carving of her front was the only thing the Carrows bothered to damage. The rest of the damage was internal courtesy of the Cruciatus and whatever other curses the Carrows saw fit to send her way while she hung in chains from the ceiling.
Shaking her head, she murmured, "That was it," leaning back and closing her eyes one her head hit the back of the chair. At the feeling of magic sweeping inside of her like a spice-tipped paint brush, her eyes snapped back open, wand pointed squarely at Malfoy's startled eyes. His wand was back out and pointed at her, and at her vehement gaze, he raised his hands in a pacifying manner.
"It was Reparifors – for the Crucio," he explained quickly. "It helps with the lingering pain."
She blinked once in understanding before closing her eyes once more, tracing the path of the magic as it raced along each vein and ligament, leaving a soothing sort of numbness she'd only been able to obtain after drinking herself into oblivion. She didn't bother to thank him. Already the combination of the healing magic and Firewhiskey and weeks of sleepless nights were combining into a potent package that made holding onto consciousness more difficult than holding in her screams under a Cruciatus.
She didn't hear him leave, but when she woke up again several hours later, there was a spell book on the table next to his chair. It was opened to the Reparifors spell.
Total words: 1,955.
A/N: Hi everyone. It's been a few years since I've been on FFN with the intent of posting something so I hope you'll forgive this paltry offering. I'm still not writing as regularly as I once was and I've decided to use this failed 100 Days, 100 Drabbles attempt to get me back in the habit of writing frequently. I will not be trying to meet the 400 word limit as was originally set and will be attempting to simply write, and these prompts are a great way to start that. This is the first I've written that's not Twilight fanfiction (nothing was ever posted, don't worry) and I'm looking forward to getting back into the Draco/Ginny groove. And I apologize that this has to be said, but please don't take this as an indication that I'm returning with any sort of certainty. I like the idea of continuing all my abandoned WIPs but at this point I'm happy to have written anything. I hope everyone is doing well. :)