Ginny had started dinner promptly at six o'clock that evening. Before it was a quarter past six, she already had the entire dinner ready. It was nothing extravagant, just three plump meatballs, some red sauce, and spaghetti. When she set three plates down on the table at six thirty in the evening, Draco was already sitting at the table, simply saying "Good evening" to her before enjoying the meal she prepared.
They ate in silence, respecting one another's needs for silent brooding. Narcissa came down just as Ginny was finishing. Narcissa was still dressed in her baggy old nightgown and her hair was back in a frizzy gray-streaked braid. She went into the kitchen and took out the sleep-inducing potion that the Malfoys kept on the top shelf over the Magic-Oven. " I've had the most awful night." She confessed to nobody in particular.
" I'm sorry." Ginny said.
" You should be." Narcissa turned, giving her a fierce glare. " My head throbs like crazy, and my throat is completely raw. If it weren't for those open windows of yours…"
" They aren't her fault." Draco said, setting his fork down.
" What do you mean they aren't? Is this your idea?" Narcissa's voice had softened the moment the conversation turned to her son. There was an unmistakable belief in every mother that her son was always innocent, no matter how much evidence could be laid down.
" It isn't my idea." Draco replied. " I'm starting to catch on to the notion it could be a hex."
" Honestly." Narcissa put her hands on her hips in exasperation. " Who'd have thought you'd side with a Weasley in an argument?"
" I'm not siding by her." Draco's voice remained remarkably steady, despite the fact that he was obviously growing impatient. " It wouldn't be fair to point at a random person and blame them for the worries of the world." He twirled his fork through his spaghetti and raised it to his lips, before adding as an afterthought: " I'll try to get to the bottom of this myself."
Narcissa nodded and then looked at Ginny with raised eyebrows. " I saw you opening the windows in the kitchen myself, just two days ago, and they're always open in your room."
" Please, Mrs. Malfoy!" Ginny laughed. " As if you have never opened a window in your own home?"
Narcissa took a long drink of the sleeping potion and then sat down at the table to eat. "It's rude to try and prove an adult wrong. Children should be seen and not heard."
Ginny frowned, for she had always thought of herself as an adult, at eighteen, but didn't say anything more. They were all finished with dinner soon enough anyway, and Narcissa stood and retired to her room for the night, her nose runny and her eyes watering. They heard her coughing and moving around her room for a while, then the house grew silent, and they only had one another.
Draco propped his elbows up on the table and placed one hand under his chin, leaning forwards provocatively as if he meant to engage in some conspirational whispering with Ginny. Instead, he spoke: " You've been looking at my art."
" I'm very sorry, a stack of drawings fell from your desk, so I just…"
" It's no problem." Draco was making a weak attempt at an apology and he ended it with a truly honest smile, which lifted the gray and dreariness from his face.
Ginny couldn't help but feel glad that he was no longer angry with her. She sipped at her tea and then removed the tea bag, setting it aside on the saucer and pressing her spoon on top of it. The black grains inside squeezed together and a dark brown liquid gathered around in the concave center of the spoon.
" About the way you said I don't know you." Ginny began, her eyes shifting upwards so that they could keep eye contact. It was an important element of developing a trust between her and him – the constant need for eye contact. Her warm-brown eyes, like honey glaze on a chocolate cookie, were filled with a cautious respect. " I'd like to get to know you."
A mischievous grin plastered its way onto his face, immediately giving him the look of the conniving prankster of the Hogwarts days. " Is that so?"
She nodded earnestly.
His expression took a severe, serious turn. " So that you could tell Potter and Granger every little tidbit you find out?"
" No!" Ginny exclaimed, jerking upwards in her seat. Her elbow banged the back of her chair and Draco made a face. She continued, rubbing her arm worriedly: " I would keep everything confidential, if you'd like."
Draco sat there, silently brooding it all over in his mind, and then finally grasped the wine bottle at the table and tilted it over, readying to pour it into his empty glass. In an instant, Ginny's hand swiveled out and wrapped around the mouth of the cup, covering it completely. Her fingers trembled a bit, but she kept her voice steady: " Please don't."
He sat down again, still holding the wine in his hand, a grievous look painting in his features. His eyes were just a shade darker than the fog-cast autumn sky outside. " What do you want from me?" He demanded.
" I think you need someone to talk to."
Draco was giving her a hard look, measuring her in every angle and aspect with those eyes, brutal and unforgiving. The dark black pupils in the center dilated slightly as he glanced out the window at the hazy sun, trying to combat its way out from a thin net of clouds that blocked it out. Ginny could have sworn he was trying not to laugh.
" You must think I'm crazy." He managed, the Adam's apple in his throat moving slightly as he forced back his laughter.
Ginny didn't know how to reply, so she took a very neutral path: " You said yourself that I don't know you well enough to judge you."
He smirked. " Unbelievable, that anyone could manage to be endlessly nice."
She shot back: " Unusual that anyone can manage to be completely surly and dark their entire life."
He stood, corking the wine. " You're clever, for a Weasley. Good night." He set the wine on the shelf in the cabinet, stretched, and began to unbutton his shirt as he headed out the room and up the staircase.
" Good night." She called after him half-heartedly, trying to decipher his words. Was he accepting her help? Was he being obstinate? Was he trying to avoid talking to her at all costs? Or did he already prove he wanted to talk to her?
Ginny pulled out a parchment of paper and began to write to Lavender again. She stared at the paper for a while, and then scribbled Dear Lavender at the top. The paper suddenly looked horribly empty, beginning for words that she jus couldn't pull out of thin air. Her quill hovered over the paper, then began to scratch out a few words to describe Draco. Her hand was hesitant, slow, curving and exaggerating the letters, playing with the font and size, as if she was stalling.
Finally, she folded this letter in half and tossed it into the trashcan as well. She decided she still did not know Draco enough to judge him. Yet another voice in her head questioned her if she had passed judgement already.
It was midnight. The house was impeccably dark, with all the curtains closed and the dust thick enough in the air to choke her with every breath. There were some rooms in the house that haven't had a breath of fresh air for a few years now. The stale odor was everywhere, penetrating from the curtains to the floorboards. Ginny heard Lucius fussing in his room like a small baby, completely dependent on another person to live. Her eyes closed and she tried to imagine what anyone could do to deserve this fate.
There had been times where she had thought the Malfoys deserved every thunderbolt they got from the Heavens, but now she almost wishes that she had never thought that way. The single pained expression in Draco's eyes, or the hollow, lifeless eyes of Lucius, were enough to make her reconsider any of her ill wishes.
She had not even changed into her night clothes, so she didn't waste any time getting to Lucius. He had slipped from the bed and fallen to the floor and was face down, his voice muffled by the thick down comforter. " Mr. Malfoy!" She exclaimed, turning him over so he was on his back.
His stark white eyebrows arched high into his forehead and his eyes focused dead into hers, and she could see her reflection in the pools of shadow that were right in the center of his gray irises. His eyes were Draco's eyes, but lost of that magical sparkle. Lucius had the eyes of a wild animal, lost and alone in a world where he didn't understand, didn't feel or quite know what was going on.
" N… no… no, no!" Lucius stammered absent-mindedly.
Ginny smoothened his white hair back tenderly and then helped him up into bed. He had lost so much weight, he was like a straw doll, and even she, a chubby and slightly worn out young woman, could lift him with ease.
Once Lucius was secure in bed, the covers straight and smooth and cool to the touch, she sat herself down in the rocker opposite his bed and then watched him intently. He was breathing quickly, his ribcage rising up and down, the bones making strong imprints in the fabric of his shirt. He looked completely terrifying, a true specter.
Trying to calm his frayed nerves and her own, Ginny began a story. This one was more gentle, and her voice had a calming effect on them both. She told a story about a magical boy that received an invisible cloak, who found a magical mirror one night of his adventures and then saw his greatest desires in it.
Her eyes were brimming with tears as she whispered: " If you were to see into that mirror, would it be blank to you? Would you even see yourself in it? Surely you desire to be dead, than in your body… Oh, what a terrible thought." Ginny glanced down at her square-tipped nails sadly. "I wonder what Draco would see, then. I'm sure you'd be well in it."
Lucius let out a slow wheezing breath, his thin nostrils flaring open.
" If he would have such a pure, innocent wish, is he any more evil in his heart than - - than the boy in the story?" Ginny wondered aloud, pressing the covers underneath Lucius's body. He had already drifted to sleep.
Ginny stood and then put a second blanket over Lucius' still form. Then she walked out into the hallway and started to make her way to her room. She passed by the gargoyle and saw that Narcissa was standing right there, making her way towards the kitchen, mumbling something about how stuffy and congested she felt.
" I'd recommend hot tea, it works wonders on colds." Ginny said, cheerily, as Narcissa walked by. Narcissa's eyes were looking at the floor, her eyelids appearing near closed, and just a curtain of dark eyelashes separating her from Ginny.
Narcissa was so cold that she didn't even say thanks to Ginny, she simply breathed out: "Tea." In a mocking way, and then ambled down the staircase and to the kitchen, her step still slightly wobbly. Narcissa had just woken up, though, so maybe she was just too tired to take any notice in Ginny.
When Ginny returned to her window and saw that once again, her window was wide open, and her scarf had been tossed to the floor by the wind, where it looked sullen and dirty in the shadows of the desk.