oh so noble, oh so strong Now I am home Here among my trappings
and belongings I belong and if anybody doubts it,
they couldn't be more wrong
(Prince of Egypt)
March, 1980, a room above the Hog's Head inn
"Well, Miss Trelawney, I'm here," said Albus Dumbledore, taking a place at the table, facing a middle-aged woman, who was heavily draped in various lilac shawls, clearly trying to give herself a mysterious look. However, with her enormous spectacles, Albus rather got the impression that she looked like some huge dragonfly.
"Thank you for devoting some of your precious time to me, Headmaster," the woman replied in a singsong voice. "I highly appreciate the opportunity for this little chat and hope that you'll find me most suitable for the job."
"I hope the same," he said with a benign smile, though in fact he didn't want to find a new teacher at all – Hogwarts could do without Divination, couldn't it?
"I can assure you, Headmaster, that the talents for Seeing run in my family. Perhaps you have heard of my great-great-grandmother, Cassandra Trelawney?"
"Of course I have." Albus nodded. "She was the greatest Seer of the 19th century, and if you possess no more than a tenth of her talents, then I'm sure you'll turn out to be a wonderful Divination professor."
"I'm sure I'll manage to fulfil your requirements, Headmaster."
"All right, then, Miss Trelawney, if you don't mind, I would like to test you a bit, just to see your skills in fortune-telling."
Sybill shifted nervously, but nodded. "Certainly."
Dumbledore reached out with his left hand towards her.
"I'd gladly see some Palmistry from you, Miss Trelawney."
"Er… of course," she said and took his hand. "Well, your life line is very long, Headmaster. However, it seems to me that you are going to have a very nasty incident with a goat…"
"Are you sure, Miss Trelawney?" He raised his silvery eyebrows.
"Absolutely." Sybill nodded eagerly. "Also, if I'm not mistaken, you are going to fall in love with a certain Undersecretary to the Minister in about sixteen years. Her name is…" she pulled his hand closer to her eyes as though trying to decipher the name. "Dolly Bambridge, yes…"
"How interesting." Albus's mouth twitched. "What about a bit of Crystal-gazing?"
"I would gladly, of course," she replied reluctantly, "the only problem is that I haven't brought a crystal orb."
"Not to worry, here's one for you." Dumbledore beamed at her and conjured an orb out of thin air.
Sybill seemed a bit miffed, but placed the crystal in front of herself and peered into it.
"Well… I see Hogwarts under siege… a herd of Crumple-Horned Snorkacks will attack it next May and eat all the plants save the Whomping Willow in the Hogwarts parks…"
"I see." Albus nodded. "Well, I think this is enough, Miss Trelawney. Just to inform you, the goat incident belongs to the past, not to the future. Also, there is a Junior Assistant to the Minister called Dolores Umbridge in the Ministry, I fear you have misread her name from my palm, not to mention that she's way too short and toad-faced for my taste. As for the Snorkacks, they are reputedly carnivorous, not herbivorous."
"Oh…" Sybill blinked, blushing. "Then I take the job interview is over?"
"Yes, Miss Trelawney, it is," said Dumbledore, standing up, ready to leave the room. He made to the door. Had he opened it then, an eavesdropper would have fallen through it. "I'm extremely sorry about not being able to offer you the job…"
However, before Albus could put his hand on the handle, the woman behind him started to speak in a low but determined voice so different from her usual one.
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him… born as the seventh month dies…"
"What do you think you're doing?" came the voice of the bartender from outside, then an ‘ouch' could be heard and hasty steps down the stairs. Albus knew at once that the bartender had caught an eavesdropper and must have thrown him out.
Trelawney, still looking sort of petrified, didn't seem to have noticed the commotion outside. She carried on:
"…and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives… the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…"
Suddenly she shuddered, as though waking from a trance, and looked around in a surprised way.
"Where am I? Oh, it's you, Dumbledore… I'm sorry that I don't fulfil your requirements," she said in a clearly hurt voice. "So I think I might as well go…"
"Wait!" Albus said to the witch who had already stood up to leave. "You've got the job, Miss Trelawney. Welcome in the Hogwarts staff."
She gave him a quizzical stare, then nodded. "Thank you, Headmaster, I was sure you'd eventually find my Seer talents satisfactory. And you know, the Snorkacks I was talking about were mutant, that's why they ate grass."
"Certainly, Sybill," Dumbledore said politely, "if you don't mind me calling you Sybill. We're colleagues now, so feel free to call me Albus."
"All right, Albus. When can I start?"
"I'd be delighted if you could start tomorrow," said Dumbledore. He knew he had to give Sybill accommodation at Hogwarts as soon as possible, Hogwarts being the only place where the Dark Lord couldn't get to her. For Albus – knowing that someone had overheard part of the prophecy and believing the eavesdropper to be one of the Dark Lord's followers – was pretty sure that Voldemort would be eager to hear it fully. Trelawney had to be kept safe at the school, because Voldemort mustn't know the whole prediction… "We lost our previous Divination teacher a week ago."
"Oh, died of age?"
"No, her crystal ball exploded on her, a rather nasty joke of Peeves', I must say…"
Trelawney shrugged, unaware who Peeves was, and unaware that she had just given the first real prediction of her life.
* * * * *
"My Master," the cloaked figure said, bowing.
"What is it?" growled Lord Voldemort, idly fondling a rattlesnake in his lap.
"My lord, I have just overheard something that you must know."
"Then out with it!"
"Yes, my lord. So, I was following Dumbledore as you had ordered, and he went into the Hog's Head, that very dirty little pub in Hogsmeade… he met some woman who was applying for the vacant job of the Divination professor. He made her predict all sorts of things, that, to tell you the truth, sounded totally ridiculous. Then suddenly she must have gone into some kind of trance, at least I think so, I never saw her - and a very peculiar prophecy left her mouth. A prophecy concerning you, my lord."
"Then what are you waiting for?" Voldemort raised his voice. "Tell me the prophecy!"
"To… to tell you the truth, Master, I only… only heard part of it, because… because Silly Sam, the landlord caught me eavesdropping…" replied the cloaked figure, trembling.
Voldemort rolled his eyes. "One can't trust you with anything, you fool!"
"I'm sorry, my lord!" squeaked the other one.
"Then tell me what you have heard," said the Dark Lord gruffly.
The small figure hesitated a bit, trying to remember the exact wording. "Er… it said that the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him… born as the seventh month dies."
For a minute Voldemort silently caressed his snake's head, contemplating the words.
"So, a child will be born soon. A child who will have the power to kill me? Hm… to parents who have defied me three times… there were lots of wizard couples that defied me once, twice, even thrice, but… they're dead. Or are there exceptions?"
The cloaked figure shifted uneasily.
"It seems to me that you know something… and yet you don't want to reveal it… Imperio!"
"I know of two married couples, my lord, two couples, who are expecting baby boys during the summer…" came the forced answer. "One of them is Alice and Frank Longbottom."
"The Aurors, eh?" The Dark Lord scratched his jaw. "If I think it over, it is possible that they have defied me three times… yes, I think they have. And the others?"
"The others…" came a shaky answer.
The cloaked figure was trembling, as though willing himself not to speak.
"Why do I get the impression that you're still hiding something from me, Wormtail? Something that you so desperately want to keep a secret that you're trying to overcome my Imperius Curse?" The Dark Lord pointed his wand at his servant again. "Crucio!"
Peter Pettigrew fell and started writhing on the cold tile floor, howling in pain. "The Potters! It's the Potters!" he screamed between two spasms.
"Good." Lord Voldemort lifted his wand and broke the contact. "See, you can behave sensibly, Wormtail, if you want to."
"Y…yes, my lord," Pettigrew groaned, slowly sitting up.
"So, the Longbottoms and the Potters expect children who may overthrow me… A tiny little child having powers to do me in? Hm… a tiny little child…" A dreamy expression fell over Voldemort's snakelike face. "This gives me a rather peculiar idea, Wormtail…"
* * * * *
21st May 2004, Malfoy Manor
Virginia Malfoy gazed out onto the flower-littered meadows surrounding Malfoy Manor. It was a warm May day, bright, sunny, and friendly. Birds were circling in the air, chirping happily, and sunshine came through the window into Ginny's room, painting the walls with its golden-yellow beams.
It was a magically beautiful, hot day, but all Ginny felt was coldness.
She was sitting on the windowsill, resting her right hand on her bulging belly. A little life in there kicked, as if sensing its mother's gentle caress, responding to her, ‘I'm here, Mummy!' Ginny answered with a new caress, reassuring her baby of her love. She diverted her stare from the park and looked at her hand stroking her abdomen.
Her face tucked into a grimace at the irony of life: here she was, wearing a diamond ring that had once belonged to Narcissa and to Lucius's mother before her - a Malfoy family heirloom -the diamond glinting on the hand with which she was caressing a child that was not a Malfoy.
Every pregnant woman would have been happy to feel her baby move, signalling that it was getting bored inside and was impatient to get to know the world at last, but Ginny didn't feel happy about the impending birth. She felt scared. Scared to death…
In her dreams she used to hold a tiny bundle with small hands reaching out of it towards her, but whenever she tried to have a look at the face of the little being in the bundle, she woke up. She never got to see the child's features, nor its hair-colour… red or black?
In the last two weeks every morning she woke up, the first thought that came to her mind was: would it happen today? Would her baby arrive today, or did she have another day or two to keep it safe?… for she wished she could keep the little one inside her forever, to protect it from the cruelty of the outside world.
Her heart ached for her baby, making a hot stream of tears course down her cheeks. Other children in other families were so happily and excitedly awaited, but this child of hers was not awaited – maybe it would bebetter for it not to be born at all, for once it was born and turned out to take after its father, it would be right away sentenced to death. It was like the sword of Damocles hanging above Ginny's belly, waiting to fall down and crush the child...
Ginny looked out onto the grounds again, heaving a deep sigh. She was trapped inside on a magical day like this, with nothing but her fear as companion. Surely her husband wouldn't mind if she just opened the window a bit to let the sweet smell of flowers in?
She reached out to grab the handle, but as she turned it and the window opened, not only a honey-scented gust of wind hit her, but some terrible pain as well. The first contraction.
It had begun…
"I'm leaving," Draco growled at his wife. "Don't expect me home for a while, I might not return for weeks... or months."
"Don't worry, I won't be expecting you home," she snapped and dropped herself into a cushioned armchair. "Have fun with your whores, or whoever you'll be fooling around with."
"Jealous, aren't we?" Draco gave her a mocking grin.
"Jealous? No way, dear," Ginny emphasised the ‘dear' in a derisive tone. "Jealousy is something that one feels when one is in love. I'm not in love with you and have never been, as you know."
"No surprise here," he said, shrugging. "Though I never managed to understand why you haven't fallen in love with me yet... I'm not that terrible-looking, am I? I'm not disgusting either, am I? Then why, Ginny? Why can't you love me?"
"How... how could you expect me to love you after all you did to me... to my family? After your damned father kidnapped mine, tortured him and compelled me to marry you in exchange for his freedom? How could I love a heartless beast like you?"
"Remember, Ginny... it was not me but my father who kidnapped Arthur Weasley, on the orders of the Dark Lord. You know... the Dark Lord didn't really like your father arranging all those anti-Voldemort-movements throughout Great Britain..."
Lucius Malfoy had managed to talk himself out of Azkaban, convincing that idiot Fudge that he had also been misled by the Death Eaters and had been accidentally present in the Department of Mysteries when the Death Eaters wanted to steal the prophecy. And Fudge, being Fudge, was more than willing to believe him.
"Your father had a finger in every pie, Virginia, so the Dark Lord just had to get rid of him and Father helped his lord with task. Then of course your little sweetheart made him flee again... but Arthur was still in my father's possession, and he wanted to take revenge on him... to hurt him as much as possible..."
"...and the best way he could hurt Dad was to throw me into your arms." Ginny scowled. "I'll never, you hear me, never forget my father's expression when I saw him atSt.Mungo's after your torturing! That paleness, those scars and black-blue marks on every inch of his body... you made a wreck of him!"
"He has healed, hasn't he?" Draco crossed his arms.
"Physically, yes. But mentally – no. He is still broken, and not by your torturing, but by the fact that he knows I'm so unhappy, living with a Malfoy! That was your aim, after all, wasn't it? To let poor Arthur Weasley know that a Malfoy was ruling over his only daughter, making every second of her life miserable!"
"That was my father's aim, yes. But not mine, dear Virginia." He bent down to lift up her chin. "I loved you. Already, at school. You were the prettiest girl at Hogwarts... the most desirable one, with your flaming hair, looking like an untameable wildcat... the only problem was that you happened to be Potter's girlfriend."
"You must be very proud of yourself for having separated me from him." Ginny's eyes narrowed. "What a great achievement."
"Exactly, darling," Draco laughed. "I was proud of myself for having taken you from him... and I was even more pleased to get to know that he had left you innocent..."
"You disgusting bastard!" She sprang up from her armchair. "You enjoyed it so much, eh?"
"I did... at first." He screwed up his face. "But you were no fun, dear. You're as frigid as an icicle, I feel like freezing whenever I touch you."
"Then don't touch me, it's so simple," she snapped.
"Don't worry, I won't be touching you for a while... I'll be touching someone else... someone else who responds, not just lies there like a dead fish. Someone who can still arouse me... someone who can give me what you cannot: an heir."
She lifted her head to look directly into his eyes. "So that's why you have been spending so much time away lately. You've been sleeping around, trying to get any witch pregnant... and what do you expect of me if you succeed in fathering a child? Will you finally consent to divorce me and marry its mother?"
"You know that I will never consent to divorce you," he replied coldly. "You are so much like my mother, Virginia: beautiful, cold and a nice dummy I can bring to any social event. A Malfoy never gets divorced, haven't I told you a thousand times? Getting divorced is something that would ruin the family's reputation and I won't let that happen. Never."
"Then how...? What will you do with an illegitimate child of yours?"
"Bring it here and make you raise it," he replied nonchalantly, as if it had been something natural. "As though you had been its mother."
"You expect me to raise the child of another woman?" she yelled, her eyes sending fire-bolts at her husband.
"If you can't give me an heir, then someone else will!"
"I'm not raising a little bastard!" She stamped her foot angrily.
"Yes, you will, you barren bitch!" He raised a hand.
"Hit me! What are you waiting for? Go ahead, hit me!" she hissed.
Draco, however, stepped back and re-adjusted his robes. "No. A Mrs. Malfoy can't have a black-eye, or people would start gossiping that our marriage isn't... perfect."
With that he turned on his heels and left the room.
Ginny sank back into the cushioned chair, feeling totally frustrated. Fury was building up in her, threatening to burst out with a loud explosion... a beautiful Chinese vase was standing on the little circular table next to her chair, and it mysteriously found its way through the closed window.
A scared house-elf ran into the room. "What happened, mistress?"
"Nothing, Blinky," Ginny replied. "I'm all right. I haven't felt this good for weeks."
"But the window..." The elf pointed at the broken pane and the slivers of glass scattered on the Persian carpet.
"Reparo." Ginny flicked her wand at the splinters, then stood up. "I'm leaving, Blinky. Should anyone be looking for me, I'll be at the Burrow, visiting my family. My real family."
* * * * *
Ginny grabbed her suitcase and walked out to the gate of Malfoy Manor where she took the Knight Bus to the Burrow. The old house of her parents looked the same way it had a decade earlier – sometimes even Ginny wondered how this ramshackle building could stay in one piece.
Just like in her childhood, chickens and gnomes were running up and down in the garden that was still filled with all sorts of weeds imaginable.
Ginny entered the house with a sigh – it seemed to have been a lifetime ago when she had been living here, although only five years had passed. Yet, she felt as if she had lived within the confines of Malfoy Manor all her life. The memories awoken by the Burrow felt like coming from another life, they were nothing but hazy pictures she could no more properly recall... pictures of a happy life.
"Ginny!" Her mother clasped her hands and ran up to her to give her a mother-bear-like hug. Although she felt a bit sore after Molly's way-too-enthusiasticembrace, Ginny was still grateful for it. She was at home, and for the duration of her visit she decided to push all the negative thoughts and sappy nostalgic emotions into the back of her mind. She was here to enjoy a bit of time with her parents, not to brood over old days long gone.
"Is Dad at the Ministry?" she asked Molly, sitting down at the kitchen table.
"Yes, dear. Overworking, as usual."
"Overworking... to forget? To take his mind off my misery?" Ginny asked sourly, knowing how much her marriage had shaken her father – no one in the family was as shaken as Arthur, maybe because of the torturing he had gone through. Although five years had passed, he still hadn't healed totally – his heart was broken.
"No, dear, he has a lot to do with a new Muggle Protection Acthe's going to introduce soon," Molly smiled nervously and placed a plate full of cookies in front of her daughter. However, Ginny wasn't fooled.
"I know you are telling me this so that I won't worry, Mum, but please, stop lying. I can see through all sorts of lies. I've been living with a Malfoy, after all, and at his side I had to learn to notice when someone isn't telling the truth."
Mrs. Weasley heaved a deep sigh. "How is he treating you?"
"Draco? Just the usual... but there's good news: he's gone for weeks or even months, so I'm a bit free at last."
"Then... you could move back here, at least for a week... I would be so happy to have my only daughter here again!"
"Thanks, Mum." Ginny smiled and took a cookie.
* * * * *
It felt wonderful for Ginny to be at home again, eat dinner with her parents and the twins, laugh at jokes... she didn't remember when she had laughed last.
Fred and George were the only Weasley ‘children', who hadn't got married or moved out yet. They kept exploding things in the house, working on new Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes products, but Molly never scolded them for making such a racket. Not anymore. She was thankful enough to hear some noise at all, because most of the day, when her husband and the twins were at work, she felt like drowning in the silence. Sometimes she caught herself talking to the thin air or to the gnomes in the garden.
Empty nest – that's what the Burrow was. All her young had flown out – Bill settled down in Egypt and married an Egyptian witch, Charlie was still a bachelor, but spent most of his time in Romania, Percy had married Penelope and lived in the Clearwater family's house in London, and Ron... Ron had moved to live with Hermione, although they were not married. Molly had found this scandalous and scolded her youngest son for his ‘unholy' relationship, but after the telling-off Arthur reminded her that she should be grateful that Ron was happy at least. "Just think of Ginny... she lives in the holy bind of matrimony, but she's still unhappy". Ron and Hermione were living in a tiny flat that barely provided any comfort, but, as Arthur had said: "Think of Ginny. She lives in that luxurious big house with dozens of servants, but she's still unhappy." Ron had told his parents that he and Hermione had agreed not to marry for a while unless she got pregnant – which was quite out of the question with all those birth-control spells she knew. As Arthur always said: "Think of Ginny. She couldn't have a child, even if she wanted."
Every time Molly felt like reprimanding Ron again and beseech him to legalise his relationship with Hermione, Arthur's words came to her mind and she thought better of giving her youngest son another telling-off. Not that he didn't deserve it...
But tonight that Ginny was with them again, chatting, giggling and teasing the twins, Molly didn't want to fume about Ron's behaviour. She had her baby daughter back, and that was all that counted.
"So, when are you getting divorced from that dung-eater at last?" George turned to his sister over dinner.
"You know that I can't get divorced, George," Ginny replied.
"Why not?" Fred asked.
"I just can't," she sighed. She didn't dare tell her family the truth: that Draco's father had used some very nasty sort of Dark Art called ‘The Fates Charm' on Arthur when he had been held at the dungeon of Malfoy Manor. The Fates Charm was invented in the ancient Greece; if a wizard takes a hair from the head of another and puts this spell on it, then he can actually hold the life of the other in his hand. If he cuts the hair, just likes The Fates in the ancient Greek mythology cut the thread symbolising a person's life, then the person dies. Draco hid the hair from his wife, so that he could keep blackmailing her; as long as she was willing to live together with him, Arthur would live.
Ginny shuddered every time she thought of this cruel charm – the charm that kept her chained to the man she did not love. The charm that deterred her from taking divorce proceedings... the charm that she had to keep a secret.
* * * * *
That night when Ginny entered her old room, she was surprised to see the book she had been reading before she left, still lying on her bedside table; it was a Muggle book called Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. She used to love that book, and strangely she had always imagined Ford Prefect as Percy, the Prefect. As for Arthur Dent... she couldn't help imagining him a bit like Harry.
Five years had passed since she last saw him – he had disappeared after she got married to Draco. The news that Ginny married to a Malfoy, when she was supposed to be in love with Harry, was the worst cold shower the young wizard could get.
It happened the very day of Harry's latest battle with Voldemort; exhausted, dirty and longing to hold Ginny in his arms, Harry Apparated to the Burrow, just to get the greatest shock of his life: there she was, in Draco's arms, Draco kissing her, Lucius Malfoy clapping and a wizard priest congratulating the new couple. Harry didn't even notice how pale all the Weasleys were, didn't even realise that Arthur wasn't present – all he saw was his one and only love in his archenemy's arms...
...and Ginny never had a chance to explain it to him, for he was gone. She didn't know whether she'd ever see him again. She sent him dozens of owls behind her husband's back, but never got an answer. Ron and Hermione also wrote to Harry, telling him about the forced marriage, but their friend never reacted to any of their letters.
Right after the wedding the news of Voldemort's so-called defeat reached Lucius' ears and he fled. Aurors raided Malfoy Manor and found the tortured and sick Mr. Weasley in the dungeons. The Weasleys wanted to go to the wizarding court to have the marriage annulled, saying that it was carried out under compulsion and not of the bride's own free will, but Draco had the hair and ordered Ginny to persuade her family not to resort to the law. So, Ginny pretended to love Draco. At first it worked, but later on she couldn't hide her true emotions from her family. They kept asking her why she hadn't got divorced, but she refused to tell – she could not to tell them about The Fates Charm.
To the Weasleys' disappointment, Draco couldn't be proven to have been helping his father with the Death Eater business, so he never got sent to prison. Lucius was killed by Mad-Eye Moody not long after he fled, and Narcissa had died months before him.
So, Draco, the last of the Malfoys, was considered an honourable nobleman by the Ministry – a nobleman who was unfortunate enough to have had a criminal for a father.
* * * * *
When Ginny slipped under the covers that night, for a minute she felt like that young girl who had once lived and daydreamed here. She pulled her stuffed Kneazle into her arms as the door opened and her mother entered.
Molly sat down on the edge of her bed and started stroking Ginny's hair, like she had done in her childhood.
"Are you also going to tell me a fairy tale, Mummy?" Ginny asked with an impish grin.
"If you'd like me to... what would you like to hear?"
Ginny smiled. "Just tell me, Mum... how come that nothing's changed in this room since I left? When I entered it today, I felt as though it was just yesterday I was last here... even my favourite book was in the same place I left it five years ago."
"I wanted to leave your room exactly the way it used to be, dear. And whenever I come into this room – and I come every day – I feel a bit as if you were still here with us."
"Mum..." Ginny gave Molly's hand a squeeze.
"It's so... so good to have you back!" Her mother sniffed and gathered her into a firm embrace.
"Don't cry, Mum, please."
Molly let go of her and looked directly into her eyes. "Why, Ginny? Why can't you just leave that horrible man? You don't love him, so why?"
"I'm sleepy, Mum," the young woman replied, though she knew it was no proper reply.
Reluctantly, Molly left the room and Ginny was alone with her thoughts again.
* * * * *
Next morning she woke up early – it was only seven o'clock, and she decided to be the old Ginny for a change… the old Ginny, who used to go downstairs to nick some pre-breakfast food without getting dressed properly. So, she headed downstairs – in her nightgown, her hair tousled, barefoot.
She had reached halfway down the stairs when voices caught her ear.
"Are you sure about this, little brother?" It was Fred.
"One hundred percent," Ron's voice replied. "Luna Lovegood saw him in an Apothecary's yesterday."