The Pensieve II
Draco was sitting with Ginny on the edge of her bed. It took Ginny a couple of seconds to even register the question in her mind. Her brain felt so busy with questions of her own. Eventually, she snapped herself out of her daze just enough to answer. "I was hurt, but not by you. For you. For whatever it was you wouldn't tell me. I thought you already knew you could trust me with anything."
Draco shuddered. "I trust you, Ginny… But…" Ginny watched him, her face radiant with empathy, and he looked as though he wanted to explain, but decided to resist. "I can't."
She nodded slowly, understanding that he wasn't about to change his mind. He looked so troubled at the memory, though, and she racked her brain for words to console him. But how would she go about healing an injured soul without knowing the cause of the injury?
It was strange, but what Draco had said to her about her hating him for her family's sake was true, in a way. She didn't like thinking back before he had arrived at the Burrow, but when she finally did, she saw Draco's cold world through his point of view. She'd hated him because he bullied Ron as though it were a hobby… because his father and her father feuded day after day at work… because he would constantly brag about how his family compared to hers in status, and in wealth… But all of that fell apart before her eyes as she returned to the here-and-now. None of it was real, nor had it ever been. With him there, she realized that his attitude towards the Weasleys had been nothing but a curtain to hide much more frightening things: confusion, fear, humiliation, even jealousy.
Ginny closed her eyes for a moment and let out a slow sigh. She hadn't seen any of that. It didn't matter to her that no one else had. She could have done something; she could have noticed the signs. She'd heard somewhere that bullying was really a sign of insecurity, but it hadn't made sense to her back then. Needless to say, it did now.
"Ginny?" Draco's voice startled her out of her reverie. She opened her eyes and immediately let her gaze meet his. "Don't let it bother you that much," he said. "What's important is, you're not like them."
A small smile crept across Ginny's face. "Neither are you," she said. It had become more or less irrelevant to her what 'them' meant. What mattered now was whether something could be said to comfort him.
Draco broke eye contact, turning his gaze downward. She had no idea who he was talking about. It was better kept a secret, but he found himself wishing he could just give her the memory, so that she could at least know who they were discussing without him having to put it into painful words. His thoughts drifted to the gift Dumbledore had left him. If he'd only kept his wand, he wouldn't have to explain; he could show her.
Ginny's hand touched his shoulder, unintentionally startling him. "What is it?" she asked softly. "What's wrong?"
Draco looked up at her again. "The Pensieve… in that room where Dumbledore's portrait is… He g—"
"Gave it to you?" Ginny asked. "Hermione told me."
Draco nodded. He had half-expected that. "Well, this would have been a great time to use it."
Ginny blinked at him for a moment. "Draco, why did you break your wand? Didn't you think you'd miss having it?"
"Of course I did, Ginny. But I had to set priorities. Mother and I needed somewhere to go where we would be safe. Some things are more important than magic."
"But why did you do that?" Ginny asked again. "No one was telling you you had to."
"Think of it for a minute. If I hadn't, you'd have thought I was going to attack you in your sleep. You still believed I was on the Dark Lord's side. You all did. Sacrificing my wand was the only way to prove we really needed help. I figured it would be a small price to pay."
Ginny nodded thoughtfully. "I wonder if Dumbledore knew you were wandless when he gave you the Pensieve. He might have been making a point, don't you think?"
"What point, Ginny? That I shouldn't have snapped my wand in the first place? If he already knew I was wandless, he would know why."
Ginny shook her head. "No, Draco, I'm sure he wasn't scolding you. What I'm saying is, I don't think he'd just give it to you on a whim and walk away. That doesn't sound like him. I think he must have known about this beforehand."
"He knew I'd come here," Draco thought aloud, his unfocused eyes staring down at his knees. "He said so. I never would have thought I'd end up living at the Order of the Phoenix headquarters, of all places, but he knew."
When Ginny gave no reply, Draco looked back up at her, but another redhead caught his eye from the corridor, looking livid. Ginny stood almost immediately to face her brother. "What are you up to now, Ron?" Ginny asked nonchalantly, as if the expression on his freckled face was of anything but anger.
While Ron took a few slow steps closer, Draco wondered what his problem was this time. "If you don't mind," he began in a voice laced with tension and topped with sarcasm, "I have something to say to our guest."
Ginny tilted her head to one side and returned Ron's tone. "You can say it to me. I'll be sure to pass on the message… if it's more than a collection of insults."
Ron's eyes narrowed further. "Sorry, Ginny. This is one message I have to send personally. Get out here, Malfoy!"
"And why would I do that?" Draco scoffed in an effort to hide his dread.
"Well, I wouldn't want you getting blood on Ginny's floor, you see…" As he spoke, Ron's expression turned smug again, and Draco wanted to kick him for it.
Ginny's mouth fell open in horror, her eyes narrowed defensively at her brother. Draco, on the other hand, was already boiling. "You think I'd give you the satisfaction, do you?" He started towards Ron, both fists at the ready.
"Draco, no!" cried Ginny, and she grabbed his wrist tightly. "Don't, please don't… You'll only be giving him what he wants!"
Draco stopped for a moment, but kept his eyes on Ron. "If it's a fight he wants, Ginny, I'd say it's about time I gave it to him." With that, he pulled his arm free of her grip and left the security of her bedroom. "So, where's your wand, Freckles?" he taunted, making a point not to call him by the surname of the family he so stubbornly defied.
Ron's expression took on a smug appearance. "I don't need a wand to make you pay."
"Pay?" Ginny exclaimed. "For what? He's been a gentleman compared to the way you've been acting!"
"I could care less how well-behaved you think he is!" Ron shouted in her direction. Turning back to Draco, he added darkly, "I know better."
Draco had no time to raise his arms in defense before a swift blow to the side of his head made him stumble back, with nothing but the hard floor to break his fall. He could hear Ginny cry out, and she hurried to his side. Draco shook his head to clear his thoughts, but it was Ron's voice that brought him out of his disoriented state.
"That was for Harry," he snarled. "You're not worth my sister's time, Malfoy, so stop trying to steal her away."
"Harry broke up with me, Ron! This is none of your business!" defended Ginny.
"That wasn't a break-up, Ginny!" Ron said, taking a different, less harsh tone with Ginny than he had with Draco. "He just wanted—"
"To protect me, I know. I understand. But the fact is, he did break up with me. He made that decision. Things change, Ron, and with each change comes another. When are you going to realize that?"
"I don't—" Ron protested.
"Then mind your own business!" Ginny said as she took a few quick steps toward him, ready to shove him away.
Ron stared at her for a couple more seconds, then stormed off down the corridor.
Draco glowered after him. "Next time will be the last," he muttered, and raised his right hand to soothe the spot where he'd been struck. He winced at the realization that the top of his ear was bleeding. "Bastard…" he whispered, letting down his hand to see the sticky, red substance on his fingertips.
At that, Ginny finally turned back to him, immediately making the change back from furious to worried. "Draco..." she whispered. But then, breathing in sharply, she wasted no time in trying to help. She took his wrist and started for the stairs. "Mum's great at healing," she told him. "Come on, she can help you."
Draco shuddered and stayed put, tugging his hand away from her. "How am I supposed to explain this to his mother?" he asked frantically.
Ginny turned back to him, shook her head and reached again for Draco's hand, which he did not pull back. "It's going to be fine, Draco. You're with me." This time, when she pulled him gently towards the staircase, Draco made no protest and followed willingly.
Before long, they came to a closed door, through which Molly Weasley's voice could be heard, then Narcissa's. At the sound of his mother's voice, Draco jerked his hand out of Ginny's grasp, more nervous than before. She looked surprised, but said again, "It's okay, Draco."
"It won't be if Mother knows..." he replied ominously. Ginny's eyes asked her questions for her, and Draco tried to answer them at once in a whisper: "If she finds out about this, she'll go after him, wand or no wand. She's not a – coward – like I am." He cringed at the word. It had been used on him enough times to teach him when it was appropriate, and right then, it seemed to fit perfectly.
Confused more than ever now, Ginny could think of only one thing to say. "Not striking back isn't cowardice, if that's what you're thinking."
"No?" asked Draco incredulously. "Try telling the rest of the world that."
"I've told you all I can." Narcissa told the meeting room full of listeners. "I'm afraid anything else of value is beyond my knowledge." She had refused to look at any of them throughout their discussion, choosing to gaze intently at the painted wood of the table before her. She would not reveal any more that she had to. On one hand, she could wholeheartedly vow not to attack or betray these people – she was certainly grateful to each of them for allowing her and her beloved son to stay safe at their headquarters. But to openly swear allegiance to the Order of the Phoenix was, in her opinion, tantamount to suicide. It was true that she bore no loyalty to the Dark Lord, but her one and only cause was her son's well-being. It had been that way for years, and nothing short of nothing would change it now.
Minerva frowned and sighed wearily. For the past week and a half, she, Alastor, Arthur and Molly had been questioning Narcissa, hoping in vain for a breakthrough. The new Ministry was working with dangerous resolve to hunt down Muggleborns, members of the Order, and anyone else who opposed Voldemort's rise to power, whether openly or in secret. She knew Narcissa must be aware of this, though the blond woman disclosed very little. But they needed any information she had on what was to come, and they needed it quickly.
Yet, just as Minerva was about to explain this, a sharp knock sounded at the door. She turned to Molly, who was nearest to the door, and asked, "Could you get that, Molly?"
Molly got up to do so, but was surprised to find her daughter waiting there, looking slightly nervous. "Ginny?" she greeted her, looking puzzled. "What's the matter, dear?"
"Can you come out here for a minute?" Ginny asked hesitantly.
Molly looked back only for an instant before leaving the meeting room. She was startled to find Draco leaning against the wall, staring at red stains on his fingers, and when he turned to look at her, she saw his injured ear. The bleeding had nearly stopped, but the spot still ached and stung, and somehow felt worse than when he'd first been hit.
"It's nothing like the Cruciatus," he admitted once Molly had gotten him to the kitchen, "but I don't have to like it."
"What happened?" Molly asked. Draco knew she might have suspected the answer, but he was still too worried to explain; he wasn't eager to be accused of provoking a fight. He bit his lip and glanced over at Ginny.
"Ron hit him," she said. Draco hoped that that would suffice, at least for now.
Molly looked down at the counter, her expression unreadable. At first, she seemed to be thinking something over, but after a second or two, she snapped out of her momentary daze and went to retrieve a small bottle of purple liquid from a drawer. Then, wetting a small, white cloth with the potion, she nodded to a chair by the counter and said, "Do sit down... I'll have to clean the cut before I can heal it."
Draco made an effort not to flinch as he felt the potion burning on his ear, but Molly wasn't fooled. "I know it stings a bit, but it's best not to heal it until it's clean." Ginny watched on with sympathetic eyes, but Draco avoided her gaze, stiffening slightly as the potion was applied once more.
"It's just a little cut..." he mumbled in protest.
Molly didn't reply, but instead replaced the potion in its drawer. Then she took her wand from her pocket and pointed it at Draco's ear. Before he could think to flinch, Draco felt the pain in his right ear and temple dissipate without leaving a trace. Ginny smiled when she saw him relax a little.
"Thanks, Mrs. Weasley," he said, and he stood to face her.
"Of course," Molly answered, still looking worried. "Now I think I'd better go find Ron…"
Draco's anxiety was reawakened at her words. He wondered what Ron would tell his mother in his own defense. "He doesn't have a scratch on him," he assured her, certain that she was just as concerned for her youngest son's well-being as she was about what to say to him. "Not from me, at least."
Molly nodded, but her worried expression remained. For a moment, she looked like she wanted to say something, but turned to leave instead.
"Well, you were right, Ginny," Draco sighed, relieved that he hadn't gotten himself into more trouble.
"I know my mum," Ginny said, smiling. "She's not the sort of person who gets angry at someone for what somebody else did." Draco nodded.
At next glance, Ginny seemed lost in thought, and when she returned to the here-and-now, she grasped Draco's wrist again and said, "Come with me."
"Where are we going?" he asked.
"To your Pensieve. You said you wanted to use it, didn't you?"
Draco pulled her to a stop a few feet away from the staircase. "I can't, Ginny… Without my wand—"
"Yes, you can," she interrupted him, grinning again.
Still confused, he followed her, wondering hopefully what she had planned. When they arrived there, Dumbledore greeted them with a polite nod, but said nothing for the moment.
Draco nodded back. To his surprise, Ginny retrieved her own wand from her pocket and, giving Draco a meaningful look, handed it to him. He stared at it, shocked at the idea. She wanted to see the memory so badly that she was letting him use her wand to do it… He searched her eyes for any sign that this was a joke of some sort, but found none.
"Draco, take it," she told him.
Taking a deep breath and wondering what he was doing, he took a few steps toward Ginny, knowing he would have little choice now but to show her what had happened. Yes, he had wanted to at first, but by now, his heart was racing. He glanced up at Dumbledore's portrait and slowly took the wand in his hand. It felt different from his own, but he hoped that it would work for him as well as his had done.
Taking one more step to the Pensieve, Draco thought back to a book he'd read in his fourth year, information he never imagined he'd have the chance to use. In its chapter on Pensieves, it had explained how the mysterious object worked, sparking his fascination, and had hinted at how to use it.
He sighed. Concentrate… he instructed himself in thought. Lifting the borrowed wand to his temple, he forced himself to recall the late night encounter. Deep down, he could feel the fury and humiliation from that night as if he were watching the scene all over again, and he slowly brought the wand – and the memory – down until the bright thread landed in the bowl.
Through his anxiety, he felt a rush of excitement at the sight of his own memory sitting in the Pensieve. The nonverbal spell that he'd used had been more trying than he'd guessed when he had first read about it, but he'd done it on the first try, and with someone else's wand! As simple as he'd once thought the magic would be, he had imagined he would need a bit of practice at first. He could only guess that the extra pressure he was under from Ginny being there to watch was enough to urge the spell to succeed.
Ginny smiled when she saw the look of awe on Draco's face. She bent forward to watch the memory, and as soon as her nose touched its silvery surface, she was pulled into it without a sound.
Draco jumped a little, and looked back at Dumbledore uncomfortably, but Dumbledore gave him an encouraging smile. "She will understand."
Draco nodded, but had his doubts, as always. He leaned with his back against the wall, watching the Pensieve, waiting anxiously for Ginny's return.
After a minute or two, she was thrown out of the Pensieve and onto her back. When she stood herself back up, she looked across the room at him, her eyes shining in the lamplight. "I want to see more," she said.
Draco just stared at her, wide-eyed, wondering why she had said that. It hadn't been the reaction he was expecting at all. "More? Why?"
Ginny walked slowly toward him. "Because I want to know you," she told him. "I can't imagine what kind of life you've been forced into, and just hearing about it isn't going to help. I want you to show me, Draco."
Draco swallowed hard at the thought; his throat had gone dry. "You want to see everything?"
Ginny nodded. "Seeing your memory showed me I need to see what happened to even begin to understand it all."
Draco felt his lungs and heart begin to work double-time. On the one hand, Ginny was clearly trustworthy, and no part of him doubted that. But to relive each memory, and the emotions and pain that went with it, was to recall a truth he wanted nothing more than to forget.
"I think it could help you, too," continued Ginny. "It might help you to sort it all out. It's worth trying, isn't it?"
Draco grimaced. "Easy for you to say," he said. "You're just watching." He gave her a meaningful look before handing her back her wand. "I know you want answers, Ginny, but I don't have any."
Ginny took the wand and looked down at it. She seemed disappointed, but in the next moment, she looked back up at him. "I know it would help you, Draco," she said again before turning to leave.
Draco winced at the look on her face just before she left. Not knowing if she wanted him to follow her, he glanced back at the Pensieve, and with a heavy sigh, started for his bedroom. Once there, he sat on his bed for a moment, and then laid back across it, staring at the ceiling. As endearing as it was to him, Ginny's insistence that there would be a happy ending to his story was just as much a barrier between them as an attraction. Her need to 'make things right' was keeping her from understanding how 'wrong' those things were. He knew, deep down, that the only chance she might really grasp that was if he showed her what she wanted to see, and went into the Pensieve with her.
He knew what he needed, but it was something he was unsure that he had ever possessed: courage. It would take more than he could conjure, he realized, to guide her through his years at Malfoy Manor, and at Hogwarts.
Worst of all, though, was the unknown. He had no idea how Ginny would react. Two different varieties of common sense tore him in half; one seemed certain that Ginny would understand, as Dumbledore had assured him, while the other suggested that showing her the truth would make her uncomfortable around him, as if he were some sort of freak. The latter might have seemed unlikely to anyone slightly more confident, but to Draco, it was enough of a risk to be cause for minor panic.
One of the most important things he had to make her understand was why he felt so indebted to his mother, and that receiving the Dark Mark had not been the first time he'd risked his life and more to defend her. She had lifted his spirits in the darkest moments of his life with stories of love and true happiness. She had fought with everything she had to protect him, to shelter him from pain. She had loved him through failure after failure on his part. Even when it seemed as though the world would be better off without him, she begged him to hold on. She had never once asked for a thing in return, but Draco had known better than to forget. She was the reason he was alive, and if the time to share this truth with Ginny had come, Draco knew he should not be afraid. Not now, not ever.
Slowly, deliberately, he got up from the bed and headed back up the stairs to Ginny's room. She was getting what she wanted after all.