By Firelight

Imperio?

Ginny watched him for a while more, unable to find words. Looking as melancholy as she had ever seen him, Draco avoided her eyes, preferring to let his mind wander to what lay in his pocket. He wanted to keep writing; he knew from experience that setting the magical ink free onto it's field of parchment was the only way to make himself any more comfortable in this place. He was through being questioned. It was emotionally exhausting, and he wasn't in the mood for that.

It was a few moments later that the silence was broken, but neither Draco nor Ginny had made a sound. "Draco?" spoke a soft and comfortingly familiar voice. Draco's face remained solemn for another moment, but his heart lightened contentedly at the sound, and he turned to see his mother coming down the stairs. Her eyes sparkled when they met his, but then they noticed Ginny sitting with him. She hesitated slightly on the second-to-last step, but remembered almost instantly Draco's reasoning for trusting her. She sat next to her son on the couch and let a subtle smile show.

Then, glancing again at Ginny, she said, "I heard you talking upstairs. I never thought your family would listen to our side of the story, let alone that you would believe it." Draco half-smiled, remembering with no difficulty the way Ginny had looked at him once she realized that he was telling only truth. She had most certainly been the first of their generation to make that realization.

Ginny knew that Narcissa had meant to thank her, but her words only cut the young redhead deeper. "It shouldn't have happened. A father should be defending and caring for his family, not harming them. I believe you – of course I do! But I've never thought anyone would be so cruel… to their own family…" She looked at Draco, who wore a pained expression and glanced at his mother.

Narcissa's smile had faded, but the kindness in her eyes remained. "We've left that behind, Ginny," she reminded her, "and we aren't going back. This could be the second chance we've both been holding out for."

Draco nodded, then looked back at Ginny. A slight smile brightened her face, but he could see it concealed a hidden sadness. "I'll try talking to Ron," she told them, "but I can't promise very much. I mean, especially with Bill still at St. Mungo's, he's not going to be on his best behavior about this, no matter what I tell him."

"I should probably talk to him myself," Draco said. "He needs to hear the truth from me." Both he and Ginny seemed anxious about the idea, but he had already convinced Molly to listen. Surely, Ron's heart could be softened as well. Narcissa looked worried, but eventually nodded her agreement.

When Draco found Ron a few minutes later, the red head was on his bed, glaring upward at the ceiling. Ron must have been lost in thought, Draco assumed, for it took a few more seconds for the boy to realize his solitude had been broken, and by whom. Turning to Draco, he snarled, "What do you want?"

Draco had to firmly remind himself not to let Ron's attitude problems become his own. "I'm not here to argue," he answered carefully. "I'm here to talk to you. You really need to have an open mind, like the rest of your family does." As he spoke, he walked over to the other bed in the room and sat at its foot, much to Ron's disgust.

"That's Harry's bed," Ron said flatly. "And as far as not having an open mind, who's the Death Eater?" he added. "Me or you?" Satisfied that he'd made his point, he went back to staring at the ceiling.

Draco, however, wasn't discouraged as Ron had hoped. "That's not what I'm talking about!" he growled, his frustration rising. "There's more to it than that. That's what I'm trying to tell you! I never wanted this to happen; I never planned for it. There's a concept you don't seem to comprehend; it's called duty. Potter knows what it means. You might want to take a few lessons from him, if you won't even listen to me."

Before Ron could interrupt, Draco explained further. "I had no choice but to do what I did. There was no getting around it. I've already told you I'm not proud of it. What more do I have to do to get you to listen to reason?" By then, both of them were fuming. Remembering his conversation with Ron's father less than twenty-four hours earlier, Draco marveled at the personality gap between Ron and Arthur once again.

If the young Malfoy really had gone too far in his "bullying," he had been in no position to care, and quite frankly, that hadn't changed. In Draco's eyes, ignorance was a crime, just as heinous as anything he'd ever done or tried to do, and in the Slytherin's mind, Ronald was as ignorant as anyone Draco had ever had the misfortune of meeting. It infuriated him to think he knew so much that Ron might never take the time to learn. While the Weasleys had fought against the Death Eaters' ranks, Draco had joined them. He had known terror sharp enough to blind a person. He had been the price of his father's freedom from Azkaban. That price, of course, remained unpaid – he had not been killed as expected.

As expected… Draco was supposed to have died; it was obvious by now. The loss of his life would have restored to Lucius his freedom, albeit in secrecy. But Draco was not the one who had lost the Prophecy! Why should he have been the one to pay for it? Had he not been, and had Lucius been punished for his own mistake, Draco wouldn't have had to be here, in the attic of the Weasleys' home, trying to talk some sense into the prat standing before him.

"There's no excuse for what you've done to me and my family, and not to mention, Harry!" snarled Ron. Then, he wore a half-smug, half-disgusted expression, and added, "You think I don't know how you got him to take you in? How much of an idiot do you think I am, Malfoy? You Imperiused Harry!" concluded Ron with a tone of visible rage. Before Draco could argue, however, he continued his rant. "I tried warning Mum; that's why she had you come here, so she and Dad could keep an eye on you. But now, I don't reckon you need to curse them, too. You've already got Mum, Dad and Ginny thinking you're harmless."

Aghast at the conclusion to which Ron had arrived so willingly, Draco felt his heart sink to the level of his stomach, which clenched in his rage. His next defense, however, was clear. "I broke my wand, you imbecile! You saw me do it!" he shouted. "No curse can endure that; if I had tried anything, why would I have snapped the wand I did it with?"

Ron's eyes widened as he took in what Draco had told him. Then, a look of realization spread across his face. "You've got another one, haven't you?" he suggested, folding his arms across his chest smugly.

Draco stared at Ronald, hateful thoughts racing through both boys' minds. "Search me," Draco managed to say through his blinding anger. "I have nothing left to hide."

Ron seemed to make yet another false realization, and with it, he stood from his bed and headed for the door. "I'll bet you haven't," he said, shoving Draco aside even though he had plenty of room to walk past him. "I'll bet your dear mother has it for you."

But before Ron could reach the staircase, Draco grabbed his arm from behind and threw him backwards into the bedroom with all the force he could muster. In merely mentioning Narcissa, the infuriating redhead had gone too far. With Draco's imagined second wand forgotten by both, Ron fumbled in his pockets for his own while Draco made ready to strike as hard as he could. "You lay a hand on my mother," he bellowed, "and you'll pay! You'll pay for everything! Do you understand?! Everything!"

Ron had just managed to retrieve his wand when another familiar voice found their ears. "What's going on…?" Draco backed away immediately, but he knew just as well that the damage was done. Harry stood on the landing outside Ron's room, taking in the scene with an air of disbelief. "What do you think you're doing?" he demanded.

Draco didn't answer just then. He felt painfully trapped, his stomach turning as though he were flying backwards and upside-down. Ron, however, looked more than eager to start blaming his attacker, and making rash accusations to his heart's delight.

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