" That sounds just awful!" Hermione exclaimed, upon hearing Ginny's story about being the nurse at the Malfoy estate. Hermione and Harry had happened to stop by the Weasley residence. Harry had been dating Hermione for a while now, at least since Seventh Year, though Ginny suspected that Harry and Hermione could have dated in secret even before that.
" I could barely wait until the next day - until Saturday. I came here right away." Ginny admitted, her hands clasped together in silent despair. " Oh, it was horrible."
Harry looked a bit saddened, his forest green eyes were transfixed with the flowered pattern of Ginny's current floor-length skirt, which featured crimson, almost brown tulips with yellow and green leaves. The color of the tulips matched Ginny's shirt, and was just a few shades darker than her hair.
" Lucius did get what was coming to him." Hermione said, finally. " He was on Voldemort's side, and all. It would have been unfair if, after all these years of supporting the Dark Lord, he'd walk away unscathed."
" He was saying my name." Harry's voice was saturated with grief, almost theatrical. He wasn't as upset by it personally as he worried it might make Ginny or Hermione deem him insensitive. " Draco must really hate me now."
Ginny shivered. " It wasn't the fact he said your name, but more of the way he said it, as if he had died and was simply a medium through which some sort of - - utterly mad - - demon was talking!"
Molly Weasley was in the kitchen with them, making a salad the old fashioned way, like Muggles do. She found it almost exhilarating to put so much effort into so small a meal. While she had mostly listened to their conversation, now she was ready to add her own say: " Dear, I think that Harry could get you a different job."
Harry looked doubtful, but did add in: " If anyone applies for a nurse, I'll inform you right away."
" I don't know... would it be right to walk away? After seeing what I saw?" Ginny asked.
" The Malfoys are damned anyhow. The whole lot of 'em." Arthur Weasley said, all too hotly, and in an effort to show he meant it, he crumpled his paper in what could be only described as brutal tree abuse.
Hermione took a biscuit from the plate in the center of the table and then waved it at around with her hand while saying: " I doubt you're obligated to help them after one day."
" Something intrigues me, though." Ginny admitted. " For instance, what about that North Wing?"
Fred and George had just arrived home after a busy day in their joke shop, and when they stood in the doorway, both with their freshly sprouted goatees ("Every comic's gotta have 'em", George had explained), and they had only heard the last part of Ginny's words. " North Wing? Is that a new Quidditch team?" Fred wondered aloud.
" Ginny's just been telling us about her time as a nurse with the Malfoys." Molly told them. " Now, you two empty your pockets right now, before you dare step into the kitchen!"
" I'm insulted. My own mother - - really! She thinks we're criminals, George!" Fred turned to his brother, his eyebrows raised." I wonder whatever made her suspect us." George replied, pulling out a Two-Ton-Tongue candy out of his pants pocket.
Fred had by now also forfeited a generous amount of trick candies and was handing them in to Molly.
" Grown boys like yourselves..." Arthur muttered. " And still living with your parents, to boot." He took a big gulp of his coffee and continued: " You should both get yourselves married to your girlfriends - Angelina and whatnot - and buy some decent housing."
" We're not wanted here..." Fred said miserably, his chin trembling. Then he and George burst into laughter again, and after a few minutes everyone had forgotten about Ginny's sticky situation.
Ginny hadn't forgotten though. She sat there, quieter than usual, scraping poppy seeds off the bottom of her bun and then counting them once they were all on her plate. Before she reached eighty-three, her hour of time away from the Malfoys had passed and she had to return. Ginny stood and then took some Floo powder and said: " I'll be going, then."
" Oh, poor dear." Hermione jumped up to her feet and hugger her tightly. " It'll be okay." Hermione's large engagement ring - the one she got from Harry - brushed Ginny's cheek as they embraced. Suddenly Ginny felt sick and nervous.
" What if I have to see Lucius again tonight? I don't know if I'd even be able to wake up." Ginny's hands were shaking.
" I hope everything will be fine." Molly called after Ginny, as Ginny poured some Floo Powder into the Weasley's fireplace and then went right through, heading for the Malfoy basement, where their fireplace was.
Ginny looked around herself, taking in the surroundings. She was standing in the basement, where the old abandoned fireplace was. The rooms here were all vacant, and there were darker spots on the walls where the paintings had once hung. There was a thin layer of soot all around the fireplace and for a few meters later on the hardwood floor. Pulling her coat around her even tighter, Ginny walked up the long basement staircase and up onto the main floor.
" I'm back." She said, loudly enough so that anyone on the first floor would hear.
There came no reply though, just the sounds of the house creaking and setting. She made her way down the hallway, hanging her coat up on the peg by the door and then folding her golden shawl and draping it over her arm. Ginny crept soundlessly towards the kitchen and peeked inside, but there was nobody inside.
She sighed wearily, wondering if perhaps the Malfoys left her at home with Lucius. As she listened in to the silence in the kitchen, though, she could hear the crackle of fire somewhere. There was also a faint smell of smoke.
Ginny threw her shawl onto the table and then raced from the kitchen and through the series of rooms, passing empty bedrooms and dark dining rooms where tables stood in a dark eerie silence. The crackle grew louder, more intense, and the smell was heavier. Her boots skidded and her heel slipped from beneath her.
She fell heavily in the doorway of a small, cozy room that was the first room in the house that wasn't completely dark and miserable. Looking up dizzily, she took in the sights of the room. The walls were all painted a reddish brown, and there was a bark-brown couch and recliner crowding around a fireplace. So then there had been no dangerous fire, it was just a tiny contained flame behind some iron prongs.
" Are you alright?"
A shiver ran down her back and she jumped to her feet. Now that she was standing, she could see the figure slouched inside the recliner (its back was facing her). Draco, in his usual dreary gray business suit and pale blue pinstripe shirt, had turned his head and was looking at her curiously.
" I'm fine." Ginny murmured, smoothing her flower print skirt out. " I'm sorry for startling you, I heard the fire and I thought…"
" It's alright." Draco cut her short. He turned and faced the fire again, a glass of blood red wine in his hand. He tilted the glass towards himself, watching the liquid slosh to one side, and then he tilted it towards the fireplace, and the ripples in it turned golden.
Ginny stood and took in a more careful observation of the room. It was a very far back room, possibly some hidden recreation room that the Malfoys hadn't intended to be seen by anyone other than family in their glory day. There was an old, black grand piano in the far corner of the room, and on top of it a small ashtray. There were dead remains of cigar ash inside it, probably very old. A sprinkling of ash was everywhere in the room though, because of the fireplace. The walls had dulled entirely; from up close they weren't nearly as lively colored as Ginny had first thought. There was a single painting in this room, suspended crookedly over the fireplace, as if someone had added it as a last touch. In it, a very young Narcissa, actually smiling, held a tiny blonde baby. On her left was Lucius, looking very handsome, and slightly lost in thought, like a shady romantic figure in the Witches In Love series that Ginny had adored so much.
Her eyes shifted to Draco again. He looked completely tranquil, sitting there sipping the wine as if he had done this for so long now it had lost any deep meaning to him. He stared into the fireplace, the icy sparks reflecting in his eyes, the fire burning cold and cruel inside him. He looked lost and alone.
Ginny turned and went back to he kitchen, feeling slightly shaken. She wasn't too surprised that Draco hadn't offered to help her up from her fall – he was far above that, but she did think he might have invited her to sit down. She had always thought that rich people did that – command you to sit down and enjoy some wine with them.
Once in the kitchen she whipped up two cups of hot cocoa. She left the room afterwards, taking the musty old brown blanket down from the top of the china cabinet on the way back. Ginny walked into the room and handed Draco the cup of cocoa.
" You should have something warm to drink." Ginny offered.
He nodded absently, setting his wine down and taking the chocolate instead.
" I … I brought a blanket." A motherly instinct washed over Ginny now. She liked the motherly role, she found herself fitting into it well after years of running after her brothers to remind them to wear their sweaters or to button their coats.
Draco took the blanket but didn't wrap it around himself. Instead, he put it beside him on the recliner and used it as an elevated armrest. Ginny sat down on the couch to his right and asked: " Why don't you go out more?"
She watched his face intently for an expression – for any sign of an answer – but there was none. He looked frozen in a sort of melancholy. Perhaps he had too much wine in him already and it was hitting him in the head too hard, but Ginny had always thought that a hefty drink would make someone rowdier, if anything.
" Go out more." Draco repeated, turning to look at her directly for the first time, meeting her eyes. He really had awfully sad eyes, she realized. " Go where?" He asked. " And how long? What if something happens when I'm away?"
" I… I don't know. You just seem so depressed." Ginny replied, feeling her face burn up with embarrassment.
He set the hot cocoa down on the floor beside the recliner and then took his wine again, taking a decisive gulp of it. " I don't need anyone to pity me."
" I'm - - I'm not trying to pity you! I'm being sympathetic! I'm just sorry that…"
Another angry gulp of wine, followed by his outburst: " Yeah, I'm sorry! I'm sorry that Potter hadn't killed my father when he had the chance! I'm sorry that my father has to die a thousand times each day and lie in his own vomit and humility!" His voice quivered and his eyes darted to the fire again, the familiar gloss coming over them. He emptied his glass and then stood, yanking the bottle of Chardonnay off the mantle and pouring himself another glassful.
Ginny shivered even though the room had grown explosively hot.
Draco rested his hand on the mantle; his back turned to her, a golden corona outlining his body as he faced the fireplace, his back to her. He said, finally: " I wish you didn't have to see what you saw yesterday. I know it must have been horrible. I - - I should have let you see him before, but…"
" No, please, I can understand." Ginny replied.
He downed the glass without hesitation this time. " I bet we all look like idiots." He whispered, more to himself than to her. " Who knows - - I bet you do - - they're all probably talking about us. The Malfoys, so proud, so high and mighty." He paced towards his recliner and sat down heavily. " I bet we're the laughingstock of the town now."
Ginny didn't know what to reply, she was afraid suddenly, and wanted to leave the room. She didn't know what to expect from a drunk and peeved Draco.
" I thought I'd apologize, while I'm at it, for my mother."
" Oh, no, she didn't do anything…"
" She likes to pretend nothing's wrong. She still thinks we've got all the money in the world. She won't…" He tapped the edge of his glass against the coffee table in front of him. " … Face reality." He tapped along to his words, the ring of it echoing in their ears. " She won't just admit defeat."
" Why didn't you get help then? The Ministry was giving out money as revenue for people that were victimized by the fight. You could have gotten help."
" The Malfoys…" He shot back, sharply. " … Don't need help."
The words hung in the air like weights. Ginny didn't understand – a minute ago, Draco had been complaining about his mother not facing reality, but suddenly he was refusing to get help.
He started laughing bitterly. " I bet you think we're all crazy by now, don't you?"
He laughed again, the sound haunting her ears through the entire night afterwards. "Who knows, maybe we are."