"Right," Ron managed, after a difficult pause, "we'll just move on to the pertinent questions, since you're determined to be uncooperative. I'm sure your personal information won't be hard to find. Suppose you tell me a bit about the glass jars with the -"
"Yes," Malfoy interrupted harshly, "I'm sure you have an excellent source for my personal information, don't you Weasley? Dignity means so little to your family that not even the Ministry's much-vaunted Healer feels the need to stay true to contracts of confidentiality. I do hope she gave you quite an The Lewis House 90 страница interesting story." Malfoy's face was pink with fury and his hair fell into his eyes but he glared righteously through it.
Ron faltered. Ginny had said once that she kept the confidentiality of her subjects, and she had admitted to working on Malfoy in the Leaping Fish. Had she known something? And not told him? "What are you talking about?" Ron demanded.
Malfoy made a noise of pure anger. "What am I talking about? God." He tossed his head and cleared his eyes. "Your slag of a sister, Weasley. By all rights she should be the one The Lewis House 90 страница sitting in this accursed chair."
Ron's insides burned. He forgot that Malfoy was at a disadvantage. He let go of quill and parchment, shot out of his seat and leaned across the table, bringing his face uncomfortably close to Malfoy's. "Name calling's only going to dig you deeper," he nearly whispered. His breathing was labored and painful in his lungs. He wanted to kill him. "How does it feel to be the one in the chair, you bastard?"
Malfoy's eyes widened slightly and he leaned back.
Ron wasn't finished. "By the way, the M.L.E The Lewis House 90 страница.S. found a very interesting chair in your manor, Malfoy. Along with the hand I mentioned. And the heads. Care to see the rest of the list, or can you recite it for me?"
Malfoy breathed hard and tried to pull further away. He said nothing.
Ron leaned in, merciless. "No clever answers now? Cat got your tongue?" He waited. "Pity. While you're attacking my sister, why not tell me how that sick father of yours got a hold of her hair? And mine?" Ron leaned in further still; he could smell the damp of The Lewis House 90 страница Malfoy's panicked sweat. It gave him a thrill. He owned him. "Didn't have anything to do with that Polyjuice Potion, did you?"
Malfoy caught a choked breath. "Perhaps he rummaged in a rubbish heap of cast-off robes at a secondhand shop," he managed, but his voice cracked and his words were childish. Useless.
Ron remained where he was for as long as he could stand to be in close proximity, then sat back in his chair. "You're pathetic," he said quietly. "You know that?"
Malfoy straightened his shoulders. "I demand that you release me at The Lewis House 90 страница once," he snarled. "I demand to speak to the Secretary Privy. I demand to see my mother."
It was amazing. He even made demands while arrested, as if this were all a joke and he could buy his way out of it the way he'd always done, with everything.
"I want to give you an opportunity to defend yourself," Ron said slowly. It wasn't true. But it was his job to make sure that prisoners were fairly tried, and he supposed that he would do it for Malfoy, the way he'd done it for everyone else. Perhaps The Lewis House 90 страница with a little less care.
"Do you honestly believe I'm going to let you defend me?" Malfoy gave a cold laugh. "Public defenders are for urchins, Weasley. I'm sure you're well suited to dealing with them, but me?"
"And besides, how can you possibly be objective?"
"Why, because you brought a case against me?" Ron interrupted.
"Not least because of that. But yes, come to think of it." Malfoy's smug smile made Ron want to throw another, harder punch than the one he'd thrown last summer at the Snout's Fair The Lewis House 90 страница. "Don't forget, Weasley," Malfoy breathed, "I can reopen that case at any time within the next few years, and bring you to trial for assault, whether I am in prison or not."
"Yeah, and you're going to look really credible if you do," Ron spat. "Dropping the case when you were worried I was going to dig up information on you, and then bringing it up again now as a distraction tactic? It won't work, Malfoy."
"Oh won't it."
"No. No one's going to care about what I did - or didn't do - when The Lewis House 90 страница you might have cost people their lives. Speaking of which, the more information you can give me about what you've done, the more places you can point me where I can do some research, the better your chances are of getting what you want. But your demands aren't going to help you." Ron looked Malfoy dead in the eye. "And your money's no good here."
Malfoy gave a scornful, shaky laugh. "You're so stupid, Weasley. You can't hold me here. You can't."
Ron stayed silent and looked at him. He could. But it would The Lewis House 90 страница have been redundant to say so.
"I don't need to buy my way out of here," Malfoy said, speaking quickly. "All I have to do is explain how your sister breached honorable contract to give descriptions - and lies - about a house in which I paid her for her services. Apparently not even good coin is enough to buy your family some dignity."
Ron blinked. He couldn't quite understand what Malfoy had just said. "A house in which you paid... Ginny?" Ron stood perplexed. He had told Ginny not to be alone with Malfoy. He'd warned The Lewis House 90 страница her - and even if he hadn't, was she that stupid? Had she really… "In your house?" he repeated.
"Oh, the monkey can think?" Malfoy snorted. "Marvelous. I'm so glad that you're here to defend me."
But the insults were lost on Ron, who narrowed his eyes at Malfoy in disbelief. "What, are you - are you serious? She worked in your house? On you? Under some kind of contract, is that what you're trying to tell me?" Then she knew things. She had to. If Malfoy was guilty of anything, and Ginny had really been working under contract, then The Lewis House 90 страница she might have felt something specific. There had to be information.
"Brilliant powers of deduction, Weasley." Malfoy's expression had frozen again; he looked detached and composed. "And don't try to fool me. Any information you came by, you came to it illegally. Do you think you can prosecute me on that kind of flimsy evidence? You have nothing on me - or my mother."
Ron looked away. While it was true that he hadn't received any information from Ginny, his knowledge of the Malfoys' trapdoor had been illegally gained. At least, it had been against Hogwarts rules The Lewis House 90 страница. And he knew for a fact that to impersonate another under the guise of Polyjuice Potion was a crime punishable by several years' imprisonment. He and Harry had been minors, of course, but there was always the chance that it would come back to haunt them if anyone ever found out. Not that anyone would. Only three people knew.
Four. Ron winced at the memory of Myrtle. Not that Malfoy would even begin to know where to look, or whom to ask, but there was always the chance…
Thrown off his questioning, Ron looked back at Malfoy and tried The Lewis House 90 страница to regain his momentum. "Look," he said as calmly as he could, "I really am going to research your defense. If there's anything you can tell me about what we found..." He paused. "And we found more than the trapdoor, Malfoy. You're going to have to explain to me where you were on the thirtieth of June when the rest of us were in the Great Hall getting a commencement speech."
Malfoy paled slightly, though his expression did not break.
"If you had anything to do with opening the Hogwarts gates to the Death The Lewis House 90 страница Eaters," Ron continued, "then you're indirectly responsible for quite a few deaths and disappearances. Professor Snape's, among them."
Malfoy's face twisted. "Go to hell, Weasley," he snarled. "You don't have a hope with any of this."
"Don't I." Ron stood and pocketed his quill and parchment, full of awesome satisfaction. Clearly, Malfoy had no intentions of giving him any information, but that was fine. Contract or no contract, if Ginny knew anything then she could point them in the right direction. "I'm sure it doesn't surprise you that Blaise Zabini would be The Lewis House 90 страница sitting in the next cell, if he'd survived." Ron turned his back on Malfoy and went to the door. "You know, Mrs. Zabini had an interesting correspondence going with your father - she's in there keeping your mother company, if that makes you feel any better." He stuck his head out and asked the guard to go and get Moody.
"You're nothing but a barbarian, Weasley," Malfoy hissed. "If you don't let my mother out of this place right now you will regret it - she doesn't know anything."
Ron whirled and fixed Malfoy with a triumphant look. "Doesn The Lewis House 90 страница't she though?" he asked. "Sounds as if you do, then."
Malfoy blinked, looking stunned and furious for a moment, as if he'd realized what he had just implied about himself.
"If you want to get her out of here," Ron pressed, "why don't you just tell me exactly what she doesn't know?"
Malfoy's stunned look turned to one of fury. "You haven't won anything. Nothing. You have nothing, Weasley, just like you've always had nothing. You are nothing, and that won't change, and when I get released from this hole The Lewis House 90 страница you're going to be very sorry."
"You know, you're right." Ron laughed a little. "If you get released from this hole, I'll be very, very sorry."
Malfoy visibly ground his teeth and his glare was full of cold hatred. He flexed his white fingers on the ends of the armrests, his muscles taut. For a brief second, sitting there in his impressive dragon gear with wrath in his eyes, Ron thought that Malfoy actually looked competent.
"Finished, Weasley?" Alastor Moody thumped into the room and stood beside Ron, his rolling eye on Malfoy.
Malfoy's strong The Lewis House 90 страница appearance vanished. He shrank back in his chair.
"I am," Ron said. And then, with relish - "Go ahead."
Moody nodded. "You'll be woken," he said curtly to Malfoy, "in time for your trial." He raised his wand. Malfoy made a move to get as far back in the chair as he could, but it was useless. A second later, his eyes fell shut and he slumped. His chin lolled onto his chest.
Ron sighed into the silent chamber, and the sound was full of such an old and deep satisfaction that beside him, Moody began to laugh.
"Is that The Lewis House 90 страница so?"
Ron glanced at Moody. "You wouldn't want to turn him into a ferret or anything, would you? You know, to save space?"
Moody furrowed his scarred brow. "What are you on about, Weasley?"
"Nothing," Ron said. "Never mind. See you later." And with a last look at Malfoy's trapped, unconscious form he left Culparrat, walking on air.
Beleaguered by Halfwits
A/N: Thanks to B Bennett, who listens to many things that are read out loud to her. She claims that this is voluntary, but in reality she has no choice. Thanks The Lewis House 90 страница to JEC for the legal advice. Thanks to Firelocks, for never getting bored of hashing through ideas.
Thanks also, and always, to the super sexy beta readers: Cap'n Kathy, CoKerry, Firelocks and Moey. Sometimes their nit picks make us bang our heads on walls. Other times, their nit picks make us bang our heads on walls and then drink a beer.
It was the longest morning that Ginny could remember. She wasn't tired - though the only reason she had been able to sleep was that she had wanted to be ready to help Remus in the morning The Lewis House 90 страница. But she had woken at sunrise with a churning stomach, too afraid to go downstairs. He probably wouldn't want to see her. She couldn't imagine he'd let her help him. No matter what Sirius said, Remus wasn't going to forgive her for putting him through this.
She dressed quietly and went to sit at the top of the stairs, wrapping her arms around her knees. She listened to the distant slam of the back door, the low murmur of Sirius's voice and the stumbling of weak footsteps - of someone hopping. Hobbling. She heard the creak of The Lewis House 90 страница sofa cushions and a sharp, anguished noise like a bark. Remus, in pain. Ginny heard Sirius mutter spells… heard his low voice continue to speak after the spells were long done… heard her name, and flinched. She heard a teacup and saucer clink together, and another noise of pain. Heard Remus rasp something unintelligible. And then there was silence, interrupted only by a rhythm of deep, heavy snores.
Sirius climbed the steps towards Ginny, weariness and anger in his eyes. He stopped halfway up and stared at her. "He's sleeping," he said shortly. "Don't disturb The Lewis House 90 страница him."
"I won't." Ginny moved to let him pass, but when Sirius came to the step where she sat, he paused and laid a heavy hand on the crown of her head. Like last night. It gave her relief; she wasn't sure why, but she was able to breathe out.
"He asked to see you before he fell asleep," Sirius said, very quietly. "He's worried about how you'll take this."
Ginny looked up at him in horror. Worried about her? How could he be?
Sirius's pale eyes cut into her like razors. "Makes it worse. Doesn't The Lewis House 90 страница it." He left her sitting there and walked past to shut himself up in his room.
Ginny waited in still silence, listening for Remus to stop snoring and stir so that she could help him. He had to let her help him. She wouldn't stay up here any longer - she wouldn't be a coward. When he woke, she'd go and face him; it was the only way.
But she didn't know how she would look him in the face.
It was at least an hour before she heard the teacup clink against The Lewis House 90 страница the saucer, followed by a heavy creak of cushions, as if he'd fallen back.
Ginny stood. Her stomach was tight and she held both hands clenched behind her back. She didn't want to see the damage she had done. But she walked down the steps and into the front room without hesitation, and she fixed her eyes on the blanket-covered heap that was Remus.
His eyes were closed. He was so pale. And the shadows in his face were deep and blue and… not all shadows. Bruises stood out, all along his jaw line, and he The Lewis House 90 страница was gaunt beneath a glimmer of stubble. Ginny had never really noticed how finely boned he was. He was slight, like Harry. And thin. Perhaps quite strong, but easily broken.
To prove it, his leg was in a splint, suspended by a charm so that it could heal properly. She stared at it, and waves of guilt and sickness passed over her.
"Come here," he said hoarsely - suddenly - nearly sending Ginny out of her skin. His eyes were still closed.
She went towards him and stood over the couch, not sure what to do.
"Remus…" Her voice wasn't working. Her The Lewis House 90 страница heart beat painfully. "Remus, I'm so sorry. Please… can I help you?"
"Do you mean Heal me?" His eyes fluttered open and his gaze was incredulous. "I would have thought… you would have learned… something about limits." His eyes fell shut.
Ginny couldn't stand up. She sank down and sat on the table, trembling.
"On second thought." Remus sounded strangely like Dumbledore. "Put your hands out, Ginny. Open up to me. Assess the state I'm in, and tell me precisely what you feel."
"Go on. It's good practice, isn't it The Lewis House 90 страница?"
She wanted to run away - but could not. He couldn't have punished her better. She got to her knees beside the sofa, held up her hands and extended them over his head.
"Oh -" The cry escaped her before she could stop it.
"What?" Remus lay very still. "Tell me… exactly what the damage is, and where you feel it."
Ginny gathered all her strength - there wasn't much. "Your - head hurts." Her voice shook. "You've got a bad ache, especially… on the left side. You hit your skull." She drew her fingertips through the air over his face and The Lewis House 90 страница wished she had not grown so deft. She could feel everything. There was no guessing anymore. "You've got a bruised cheekbone and jaw, and a swollen lip." Her voice still wavered. It sounded far away. "But it's not swollen yet. You bit it not long ago. It's going to be bad in a little while, it already hurts, or it would if you pressed on it."
Remus pressed his lips together and winced. "True."
She didn't want to go on. "You pulled a muscle in your neck… your throat hurts. You…well. You've obviously partly The Lewis House 90 страница lost your voice."
He cleared his throat and nodded.
"Your arms are… all right. No." Ginny let her fingers linger in the hot air around Remus's right elbow. "You hit your elbow. Hard. It's sore. I think you split the skin." She clenched her hands shut when they came to his fingers - his hands were in so much pain. "You… ripped your fingernails," she whispered, noticing for the first time that there was dark blood crusted under all of them. He must have nearly pulled them off, clawing at the walls. "Remus…" And her voice was The Lewis House 90 страница shaking again.
But it shouldn't have happened. Ginny wished there wasn't so much more of him to assess. She felt the air over his stomach; it writhed and lurched and she couldn't make sense of it. "I don't know what's wrong with your stomach," she said honestly. "But you're ill."
"Well, that's what comes of eating raw meat and not fully digesting it before transforming back into a man." Remus opened his eyes and fixed them on her face, as if daring her to accept the full truth of The Lewis House 90 страница his situation.
Ginny hoped she had kept the disgust out of her expression. Carefully, she moved her hands down along the aura of his legs - first one and then the other. His left one was fractured at the calf. She shook her head and shut her eyes. "I'm so sorry," she murmured, and didn't even bother to name the injury. It was obvious to both of them. She felt along his feet and realized that his toenails were as bad as his fingernails - they ached and stung - he'd nearly pulled them right off.
She couldn The Lewis House 90 страница't speak any more. She withdrew her hands and hid her face in them for a moment, then dropped them to her knees and sat back on her heels. She wouldn't cry in front of him. She wouldn't do it. She was not the one in pain. Ginny forced herself to look at him.
"How do you feel?" he asked quietly.
"Horrible," she replied.
Remus studied her face for a moment. "Physically, I mean?"
She wasn't sure why it mattered. "Fine," she said. "I'm fine. But you're -"
"Think of what that means," Remus interrupted The Lewis House 90 страница, his eyes bright. "You're very open right now, Ginny. And you're assessing a werewolf, just hours after a full moon. And you are not in any pain."
Ginny stared at him. He was right. Shocked, she looked at her hands.
"How very far you've come." He sounded proud. "That was a perfectly accurate assessment - congratulations. You're clearly much readier to work than I recognized."
She looked at him and wasn't sure why her lungs were so empty and her heart was so tight. "No I'm not," she said. "I haven't come far, I'm The Lewis House 90 страница an idiot. Remus, I made you like this. I hurt you."
He laughed faintly. "Oh, I think we can safely blame someone else for making me like this. You weren't even alive."
Ginny tried very hard to control the tears that wanted to fall. "You know what I mean," she said, and swallowed. "I wouldn't listen to you and I was… so stubborn and I thought I had it all… under control… but the potion…" She swiped at her eyes and bowed her head. "I thought I could do everything. I took on more than I - I The Lewis House 90 страница didn't tell you I went back to work on Malfoy."
"At his home. Without telling any of us." Remus gave an angry snort. "Sirius told me. And I understand he told you in no uncertain terms that you couldn't have done anything more foolish."
"Not that he has any room to give that kind of lecture."
She raised her head and found that Remus was looking kindly at her. Sirius had been right. It made the ache go deeper to know that Remus had already forgiven her for putting him through such an agonizing night. She The Lewis House 90 страница studied the bruises on his face - it was such a nice face - and tears sprang up again in her eyes.
"Don't, Ginny. It's as much my fault as it is yours."
"Wha -" She had to laugh, though it came out more like a cry. "You have to be joking -"
"I never should have asked you to do something so time consuming while you were in the midst of your studies. I knew it was a risk."
"It wouldn't have been a problem if I hadn't been doing so many other things," Ginny The Lewis House 90 страница said vehemently. "And I've thought about it, and I'm not going to do other things. I'm going to turn in my badge at the Ministry. I don't need to be with the dragons anymore."
Remus quietly watched her.
"I won't work privately on anyone else until after my N.E.W.T.s, I swear it."
He nodded. "And you won't make the Wolfsbane Potion either. I will take it at the apothecary."
Ginny's heart gave a nasty thud. He wouldn't ever trust her after this. "All right," she whispered.
"Of course, if The Lewis House 90 страница you choose to make it for me after you have passed your N.E.W.T.s, then we can make arrangements at that time. But until then, I want you free of this responsibility."
She wasn't sure she understood. "So you… you still think I…"
"I know that you can do it." Remus smiled a little. "For you it's not a matter of ability, it's a matter of focus. Yours has been… scattered."
She nodded. Hesitated. She didn't want to give everything up - but she had failed Remus so profoundly that she no longer The Lewis House 90 страница trusted herself to do much of anything. "I'll just study for exams, then," she finally said.
"Yes." Remus looked straight at her. "And I imagine you'll want to keep working on the Grangers as well."
Ginny's mouth opened, but no sound came out. She didn't know how to answer. She desperately wanted to work on the Grangers, but she couldn't believe that Remus would even consider letting her near anyone else, after what she'd done to him. "You… you tell me what's all right," she managed, after a minute. "I'll follow whatever The Lewis House 90 страница schedule you set."
Remus's eyes widened. "Is that so?"
"Well." He looked like he was trying not to laugh, and Ginny couldn't imagine why. "If that's the case, then I can't see why you shouldn't spend an hour a night at St. Mungo's."
She had been spending two hours a night with the Grangers, and she would be sorry to give up any of that time. She had also wanted to begin working on the Longbottoms… but she was determined to do what he asked. "All right."
"I'd like The Lewis House 90 страница to see you putting more effort into Arithmancy and Potions - Potions class, Ginny," he said quickly, when she winced. "That wasn't meant to be snide."
"No, I know." She was quiet for a minute. "All right, I will," she said, determined to prove it. She would improve her marks. She would treat her professor with the respect he deserved. There would be no more careless homework, no more childish demands. She could hardly bear to think of her behavior up to now. "I'll go and get my books. But… I hope you'll let me sit with you The Lewis House 90 страница today and get you what you need. Your tea and things." She paused. "And I wish you'd let me take the pain out of your hands and feet. But I'll understand if you say I can't. You tell me what I'm allowed to do for you."
Remus nodded, and Ginny got to her feet. She went upstairs, still feeling horrible, but also strangely lighthearted. She gathered her books and went downstairs, and wondered why she felt so grounded. So tall. She floated an overstuffed chair over to the couch, sat beside Remus, and opened The Lewis House 90 страница her Arithmancy book. He did not ask her to help him with his pain, and she knew it meant that she was not allowed. At one point, she asked if he wanted more tea, and he said he wouldn't mind a bit more.
But he was asleep again by the time she had returned to fill his cup.
She sat sentinel beside her teacher, shushing Crookshanks when he meowed for supper, and waving Hermione out of the room when she got home from her work at the Burrow. "I'll explain later," Ginny whispered, when Hermione looked curious and The Lewis House 90 страница put out.
Not long after that, lulled by the deepening shadows of the room and the relentless monotony of textbook Arithmancy paths, Ginny slumped in the chair and dropped into a very light slumber.
"…not fair that you've spent your whole life as the pivot point for other people's personal realizations…"
Ginny stirred. She didn't know how long she'd slept, but Sirius was talking.
"Stupid people have always changed their ways at your expense, haven't they?"
"Ah yes." Remus laughed quietly. "Stupidity - that's obviously your problem. Both of you. I'm beleaguered by The Lewis House 90 страница halfwits."
"Well, what would you call it?"
"The inability to separate personal desire from actual reality."
Sirius was silent for a minute, and then he sighed. "Damn, it makes me miserable when you're right."
"Really?" Remus asked. "Interesting. How does it feel to be perpetually miserable?"
"She lives." Remus's voice was pleasant. Less scratchy. Ginny opened her eyes to see him sitting up and looking laughingly from her face to the book that lay open in her lap. "I see you couldn't get enough Arithmancy."
"I… really did try to study," she began, but The Lewis House 90 страница Remus waved her off.
"I know, and I'm glad you're awake," he said. "You've got a visitor."
Sirius raised an eyebrow at her. "My godson is outside."
Ginny's stomach was ice. Harry. Tonight. After everything that had happened in the past twenty-four hours, she wasn't sure she had the strength. "Oh," she said, and slowly put her book on the table. "I'll… go outside then."