"And when he looks at you--"
"It's like he's seeing right into your soul," Ginny said quietly, looking at the fireplace.
"You--oh, right," he said, a hint of a smirk on his face, as though it felt it should be there even though he didn't. "That whole Riddle diary thing. --someone told me about that."
"Your father?" she asked, considering him through the prism of her wineglass as she drained a little more liquid from it.
He said, "Hm," but it was more like a snort caught between a sigh and a sound of anger.
"You never say the word," she said, pressing a little, setting her glass back on the side table.
"You never stop being the shrink, do you?" he said sardonically, adding the log to the fire and not looking at her.
"You don't deny it."
"Well, it's an observable fact," he said, leaning back in his chair while the shadows from the fire and shadows from the chair conspired to hide his face from her view--the price of these interrogation sessions, though they would be so much easier and over so much faster if he would just let her look. "I see no reason to deny the truth."
"You're not going to stop until I answer, are you?"
"Stop answering my questions with your questions."
"Socratic method," he said, and she could practically see the smirk on his face solidifying.
"Dodging the issue," she countered, staring at him and thinking she was meeting his gaze, though she couldn't be sure.
He sighed, hands appearing out of the shadows to smooth down his impeccable trousers. Grey, like so many of his clothes, like his eyes, like, she suspected, his soul. Like the shadows.
Finally he said, "What is a father, anyway? The man who puts his semen in your mother's womb whether or not she wants it there? The man who invests time and energy into you so that you grow into something worthwhile in his eyes? The man who's never there and expects you to be worthwhile anyway? Your mentor?" He snorted. "He was all of these things, but I suspect that's not the answer you want to hear."
"There's nothing I particularly want to hear," she said, "besides whatever you want to say."
He combined the sigh and the snort again, hands drawing his robe over his trousers before smoothing that down too. Pale hands on a black robe, both warmed by the light of the fire. She wished, whimsically, she were an artist.
"I don't want to say anything."
"What's the right one?"
"The one that will get you off my back."
"The one that proves you're sane."
"Well, I'm not, otherwise you wouldn't be here," he snapped. "Fine. I don't like to use the word because the man who sired me is not what most people would traditionally call a father, and the sooner I can stop thinking of like that the sooner I can stop feeling guilty for failing him."
This time he leaned forward so she could see his sneer before settling back into the shadows. "I'm a failure in his eyes. Or I would be, if he could see me."
"And that's a bad thing?"
"No, no, it's a good thing, or at least the people who call themselves good say it is, and since they're the reason I'm still alive, I suppose I should agree with them. Not that I much see the benefit."
"You're too mean to be suicidal."
There she went with the non-doctor comments again. She snapped her mouth shut and tried to look innocent as he turned his head--the sound of his hair on the leather back of the chair--just a little to stare at her. Not wanting to distract him from the subject at hand, she said, "My father--"
"Oh, yes, the great immortal Arthur Weasley," he said, his voice that pure, venomous tone she had always called Malfoy. "Yes, let's compare him to the man that filled that role in my life, shall we? That's sure to make me feel--"
"My father wasn't perfect," she said quietly.
"Nobody's perfect. The world has shown me that, at least." The pale hands were smoothing down wrinkles in the robe from where they'd been clenching it. "But I'm sure he talked to you, and at the end of the day he loved you."
The way he said "loved" made her want to ask him what he had against the idea of love, when it was love that had saved them all, as much a mother's love for her son as a man's love for his family and friends, but she was afraid if she mentioned Harry he would go silent, like he always did, and then lock her in her room again.
"Yes," she said.
"Well, mine didn't," he said, "I don't think he ever did. He was disappointed in me because I wasn't as good as the Mudblood or that scar-faced idiot, because I wasn't--what kind of man goes to jail and abandons his family, knowing that his son is going to be asked to do the impossible to save him? He knew--he never--"
Silence, the charged sort of silence when he was struggling with whether or not he wanted to say something, whether or not he wanted to let his pride go so that for the briefest moment he could feel pain and begin the healing that he so desperately needed. Ginny waited, not daring to breathe lest he remember she was there, though she had the feeling that even when she came in unannounced and he never saw her he knew she was there, that he would never stop being aware of her presence in his house. Whether or not he found that offensive or comforting, she didn't know--at least not anymore.
"No one ever listened. He never listened to my excuses--which were lame and childish, because I was a lame child--but not to my success either, not even when I did well in Potions, because of course I did well in Potions, Snape was teaching it, but sometimes I'd do well with my own merit, and being good at Defense was worthless because any idiot should know the counterspells to anything he could cast and I'd been living with the Dark Arts since I'd been born, and I wasn't very good at Transfiguration and all my teachers hated me for being a Malfoy so none of them ever listened either. And Mother wouldn't listen, well she would but never about anything important, because she agreed with Father on everything because she thought he knew more than she did. And Snape wouldn't listen because he was always lecturing me, and I didn't have any friends because we were all ladder-climbing Death-Eater-wannabe backstabbers or else too stupid to understand what was going on--how pathetic is my life that the only people who ever listened to me are a bloodtraitor and an overly emotional ghost?"
She barely whispered, "Ghost?" but he heard her, because his head shifted again--he'd gone back to looking at the fire, but he looked at her for the briefest of moments before continuing.
Ginny was so surprised she didn't know what to say. Silence, however, seemed to be working best in this situation.
"Breathe," he said, "you're not a ghost."
She let out the breath she had been holding, and he continued.
"Sixth year. Right after Fa--that man went to jail, so the summer beforehand, I suppose, I was charged with the task of killing Albus Dumbledore--but you know that already." She did; she would never forget. "I swore my oath to Voldemort and swore to kill Dumbledore in exchange for my--for his life. Mother, of course, burst into tears whenever the subject was even thought around her, so of course I couldn't say anything to her. I couldn't talk to Snape, because Bellatrix had warned me about the Oath, that he either wanted to steal my glory or was a traitor and Dumbledore's lackey, so either way I couldn't talk to him--and he kept trying to interfere and wouldn't let me get one word in edgewise and kept making me feel like a stupid child--which I was--instead of a full-blown Death Eater, a man--which I wasn't, God, I was such a stupid, egotistical brat, thinking I could get anything accomplished. I couldn't talk to Bellatrix because she was fucking nuts, for starters, and wouldn't want to hear me whining about trying to kill fucking Dumbledore, and all my lackeys were just sitting around waiting for me to start the rebellion, and I was planning the whole fucking thing by myself because everyone else was stupid and Myrtle not only listened but she never squealed and she gave a damn about how I felt about the whole thing and most of all she thought I would get through it all right."
He took a deep, shuddering breath. He had leaned forward, elbows on his knees while his hands ran into his hair, as though the effort of pouring out his soul drained him, emptied him, pouring out everything and leaving an empty shape of a man behind. His eyes were closed and he was talking without thinking and Ginny could only stare at his profile and marvel at the results he could produce when he wanted to (and how stark the pale line of his aristocratic profile stood against the darkness of the wall behind him--she wished she could paint this). He bent his head, his hands turning into fists as he continued.
"Because, you see, no one else thought I could do it. No one thought I could do anything, except maybe Dumbledore, except they were asking me to kill him. But no one thought I would be able to do it. My father was perfectly willing to sacrifice his heir, though; Mother would just look at me and burst into sobs because her baby boy was going to die doing an impossible task that no one, not even the Dark Lord himself, could accomplish, and that's why he was sending me, because I was expendable and he was punishing my father and that man thought it was a good price to pay, because I didn't matter in anyone's eyes. Snape thought I was stupid because I wouldn't listen to anyone and he didn't think I had the power to do anything on my own. My friends were alternately hoping I'd succeed and circling like sharks waiting to take my place when I tripped and cut myself on a rock, all wanting my new power with none of the responsibility, the murder--and in the end they were all right, and I failed in my mission, and Snape ended up taking care of it for me. If that was a sacrifice--if fathers make sacrifices--then he's the closest I've ever had to that. But Myrtle--I didn't tell her exactly what I was doing, of course, but she believed in me."
Ginny's eyes were focused on something far away. "Someone," she said carefully, but also lost in thought as she listened, half-analyzing, half-just listening, "mentioned about finding you two talking with each other."
"Oh, you mean when Potter almost killed me?" he asked, and he looked up with a nasty smile on his face. "Yes, he did see me talking to her, didn't he?"
She refused to take the bait. "He didn't know what the spell would do," she said, "and he regretted it a great deal."
"He was...troubled," she said, for lack of a better word, "by you that year. Convinced you were a Death Eater and hell-bent on calling you out."
"He didn't succeed."
There was a faint note of smugness--ever-so-faint, and ever-so-fragile, but she barely heard it and didn't take it into consideration. "Well, no, but that's because we all knew you were a Death Eater. It wasn't like it was surprise or anything. We didn't expect--"
Even then, she winced at her words, even more so at his broken-glass bark of a laugh. "Me to actually act on my affiliations? Not even your side believed in me," he said. "Albus Dumbledore seemed to think there was something in me worth saving, but no one else on his team thought I was worth anything as a human being...or as an enemy. God. I don't know why I even bothered. That's a lie," he said, "are you going to call me on it?"
She stared at his blonde hair, mussed around his hair, still impossibly straight, as if a single shake of his head would bring it all back to order again. She wished the mind behind it were so easily fixed. "But...you proved us all wrong, didn't you?"
He lifted his head, just a fraction, not enough for her to see his face. She had shocked him enough to garner a reaction, but she wasn't thinking about what she was saying--not its effects, at least. She just felt--there was something-- "All of us. Both sides."
"By being a fucking coward, you mean? Oh, no, I'm sure you all expected that as well."
"No," she said. "You proved--you proved that you could stand up to Voldemort, as a human being, that you weren't just a mindless little slave bowing to centuries of tradition--your betrayal was totally unexpected on their side."
"They thought I was pussy-whipped. They were wrong."
"Exactly," she said, growing bolder. "And you proved--you proved to us that you were a decent--well, not decent," she said, but in a tone of brevity, because Draco Malfoy was possibly one of the least decent men she had ever met, "but a human being, a real person who could make judgments and come to the right one. And then stick to it."
"You mean I did what Dumbledore thought I could do?"
He was quiet, and finally said, "And look where that's landed me. Trapped in my own ransacked home with a bloodtraitor for a shrink because I'm still too crazy to go out in public."
"Where else would you be?"
"Dead. Happily oblivious to the world around me."
"...would you really rather be dead?"
At the last word he looked up, and met her gaze squarely; his grey eyes were bloodshot but his face tearless, skin perfectly smooth and pale as always, a shadow of a man with only the blood in eyes as proof that his heart still beat. She met his gaze, swallowing but trying to do so inconspicuously, because for some reason meeting his gaze activated her flight instinct, except she wasn't wanting to flee from a predator, she was...he seemed to be weighing her, measuring her, and for once she wasn't coming away feeling that she had been found wanting.
To distract herself, she went to take another sip of her formerly forgotten wine; they both noticed her hand was shaking as she lifted the glass. "What's the matter, Weasley," he said tonelessly, "have I opened your innocent eyes to the world again, is it too much for you to handle, is my world too--or are you pitying me again."
She let the wine slide down her tongue, burn a fiery trail down her throat and settle for smoldering in her belly, which was probably a mistake because the room was entirely too hot under his fevered gaze.
"No," she said as slowly as she'd sipped the wine, to answer all his questions.
He shook his head, one hand combing his hair as he did so, and when he sat up straight his hair was perfect again. His face was calm again, though his eyes were still watching her, constantly re-evaluating her. "We're done then, I presume?"
She blinked, and he saw her blink and they both knew she had forgotten to be a doctor again, even if it was just in one moment. "Yes," just as slow. "Unless you..."
"I think that's enough embarrassing secrets for one night. Hell, that should last you a week." He rose, not overly tall but still lanky and deliciously dignified in a way she thought only a Malfoy could be. "I will see you at breakfast. Good night, Weasley."
She found her voice (deliciously?). "Good night, Draco."
His lips twitched, but not in his usual smirk, and then he was gone in a twist of black robes and silent footsteps.