Benediction by Mourning Broken Angel
Past Featured StorySummary: A post-HBP Christmas fic. Christmas is a time for new beginnings and whether the gift is great or small, sometimes it is enough to change the course of a life.
Categories: Completed Short Stories Characters: Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Molly Weasley, Narcissa Malfoy, Other Characters, Ron Weasley
Compliant with: HBP and below
Era: Hogwarts-era
Genres: Angst, Romance
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 3783 Read: 7435 Published: Dec 14, 2006 Updated: Dec 14, 2006

1. Chapter 1 by Mourning Broken Angel

Chapter 1 by Mourning Broken Angel
Author's Notes:
Just a little holiday offering to everyone. I hope you enjoy it! This version of Draco is selfishly naive and, in many ways, incredibly young in the beginning, but he has an awful lot of time to think and reflect on things, and he reaches the conclusion that maybe one should grasp a helping hand when it is offered.
Benediction


Draco turned the envelope over and over in his hands, examining the old-fashioned script in the dim light.

Master Draco Malfoy
A bench in a rather lovely park
On the run, London


How the writer had known that he would be on the run and how he had enchanted the envelope to reflect that was beyond him. Glancing up at the scowling man who had handed it to him, Draco said, "Professor Snape, I don't understand. Who gave this to you?"

"Open the blasted letter, Draco," Snape replied shortly. "We have to be off in a moment. It'll be sunrise in a few minutes, and we need to be out of sight before then."

Draco opened the envelope obediently. A single sheet of parchment fell out with a neatly folded square of linen.

Draco,
I am sorry to say that I am quite dead if you are reading this. I had hoped to avoid that. In any event, I entrusted this missive to Severus to pass on to you should your circumstances become dire, as I expect they are.
It is my heart's wish that my death came from another's hand, Draco, and I fervently hope that, in the end, you could not utter the words; however, I also understand that you faced a choice no one should have to make, least of all a boy of sixteen. Should you ever feel the need to shed a tear for this old man, or even for others like your parents, I hope you will accept and use the enclosed handkerchief. It is a gift for you.
May your life turn out to be more than you thought,
Albus Dumbledore


Draco reread the letter twice. The old man had been insane to think that Draco would cry over him- after all, it was his fault that Draco was now running for his life instead of standing at the Dark Lord's side, basking in his praise. If he hadn't said all of those things to me, Draco thought, I'd have-

"Draco!" the former Potions Master snapped. "Let's go. Now. Get up!"

Draco watched the letter in his hands go up in a puff of smoke. He tucked the linen in his pocket. I can always use it to wash my face in a fountain or something later, he thought as he hurried after Snape, who was striding purposefully towards a dark alleyway.

***


Draco huddled into the tatters of his cloak. It was bitterly cold, and had been for most of the day. Snape had firmly told him to not leave the basement they were hiding in while he went to find something for them to eat. That had been hours ago, and Draco could no longer feel his feet or his ears. All he could do was stare out the small, grimy window and watch the people that passed by and the twinkle of Christmas lights in the windows of the shops across the street.

Another family strolled no more than five feet away from where Draco had his nose pressed to the dirty glass. The couple held hands with a small blond boy, who walked happily between them. His cheeks were rosy with the cold, but he didn't seem to mind. He knew his parents would take care of him and make sure he got home safe. Draco felt a burning sensation in the back of his throat as they moved out of his line of sight. Flashes of Christmases past blurred through his mind: tearing open the packaging on his first trainer broom; his father hoisting him up to place the star on the tree; giving his mother a Christmas card he'd made for her by hand; being tucked into bed by both of them on Christmas Eve with kisses and hugs-

Wiping his suddenly runny nose furiously on his sleeve, Draco told himself sternly, "I won't cry," but his nose went right on running and his eyes teared up anyway. When he felt the first tear slip over his lashes, he gave up. No one was here to make fun of him anyway. When there were no more tears to cry, he raised his arm to wipe his nose on his tattered sleeve and stopped, fumbling about in his pocket.

Shaking the folds out of the handkerchief, Draco mopped his eyes before blowing his nose with a loud honk. When he held it out in front of him to refold, he stared at the fabric incredulously. Threads of ink began to unfurl across it, forming lines that swiftly became letters and words.

Only a man that can truly love can show true regret. My final gift to you, Draco, is this:

No. 12, Grimmauld Place
London


"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" he asked the empty room in bewilderment.

"It's about bloody time," Snape growled as he slammed into the room. "I've been sitting out there for hours now, waiting for you to have the decency to do what any starving, homesick boy should have done days ago- cry. Blast it all, Draco, must you do everything the hard way?" He grabbed Draco's arm and dragged him to his feet, shuffling him towards the door. "Let's go, Draco. The faster you move, the sooner we'll have a real meal and a place to clean up and sleep. Come on now, there's a good boy," the older man said with an almost paternal air as he swept the room a last time with his eyes and closed the door.

***


Ginny sighed gustily. She'd been trying to occupy herself with making a Christmas wreath by hand, but it wasn't going as well as hoped. In fact, it wasn't going at all. Just as she thought she had enough branches carefully twined together into a circle, one branch would snap free and send the whole damn thing falling apart. She kicked at a stray piece of evergreen. "I don't even know why I bother," she said.

The creak of the door behind her had Ginny swivelling in her seat. As soon as Draco Malfoy saw that the room was already occupied, he turned and left.

Ginny sighed again, but this time had nothing to do with her wreath. Remarkably enough, she felt bad for him. He had arrived last week with Snape, bedraggled and so dirty that Ginny barely recognised him. They had gone right into the kitchen, where a startled Molly Weasley shrieked and clutched at her heart when she saw them.

"My God, Severus, could you have taken any more time? The boy looks two steps from death's door."

He had sneered at her. "You act like I had any influence on the matter. I'm just grateful he bloody well figured it out before we either starved or froze to death."

Ginny had been sent at once to get her father and Remus, while Molly used her patronus to notify the other Order members. That had been six days ago now, and other than what little she could make out from eavesdropping on Malfoy's three-hour long "interview" with the Order, she hadn't heard him utter a single word. The one person he would have spoken to -Snape- had left the morning after he arrived and not come back. She supposed he had gone back to the Death Eaters, though she had no idea how he was going to be able to smooth over the fact that he had helped Draco Malfoy escape.

Turning back to the pile of greens that was refusing to become a wreath, Ginny picked up her wand and smirked. "Bugger it," she muttered. "This place is Unplottable; no one will ever know that I broke the underage decree." With a few waves of her wand, Ginny sat back and looked at the neat pile of wreaths covering the table.

Patting the decorations happily, she went in search of more things she could use in her quest to provide everyone with a proper Christmas. An hour later, three tangled balls of twine had become twinkling Christmas lights, Hermione's abandoned knitting made wonderful pine garlands, a bucket of crumbled concrete from the back garden had become ornaments and a handful of leaves transfigured into mistletoe. Ginny carefully locked the door as she left and hung a sign on it reading, "Ginny's Room: Keep Out!"

***


"Ginny!" Molly Weasley called up the stairs. "Ginny dear, come down here a moment!"

Rubbing a towel over her wet hair, Ginny clattered down the staircase. "What?" she asked shortly. "I was showering."

Molly grimaced. "Sorry, dear, I didn't know. Listen, your father and I are taking your brother, Hermione and Harry in to the Ministry for a bit. Apparently, something needs to be discussed right now. I've arranged with Remus for him to stay here with you and the Malfoy boy, so you don't have to worry about being alone, alright, love?" She gave her youngest child a swift hug before shouting over her shoulder, "Arthur! Are the children ready yet?"

Ginny swallowed her grumbling protest at being treated like a child- after all, it appeared that Molly treated Harry Potter, the likely saviour of the wizarding world, the exact same way. "Love you, Mum," she called as her mother herded everyone into the kitchen and passed around the pot of Floo powder.

Both her parents paused to say they loved her too, but within moments the house was silent.

An hour later, Ginny peered around the doorframe of the front sitting room- good. Remus Lupin was slumped in an armchair before the fire, fast asleep. Now was the perfect time to initiate her plan.

***


Standing at the railing on the third floor, Ginny looked down the staircase and admired her handiwork. Swags of evergreen adorned the banister all the way up from the ground floor, and wreaths were tastefully placed on the wall at each landing. Flicking her wand, she sent Christmas lights flying over the railing to attach themselves to the frame of each door. A shoe scuffed the carpet behind her.

"It's not too gaudy, is it?" she asked without looking back; the only other person in the house besides her and the sleeping Remus was Malfoy.

Silently, he came to stand next to her and took several long moments to examine her efforts. "No," he said quietly before turning and leaving.

A small smile tugged at Ginny's lips. How's that for the old Christmas spirit? she thought. Malfoy even broke his self-imposed silence for a moment.

Shrugging, she rubbed her hands together with relish. "Now for the tree," Ginny whispered with glee. "Oh, this will be such a great surprise!"

***


When everyone returned later that afternoon, Ginny was sitting at the kitchen table with a mug of hot chocolate and a grin that threatened to split her face.

"What have the twins done now?" Molly demanded upon seeing her daughter's expression.

"Nothing," Ginny said slyly. "This was all my fault." She waved towards the hallway negligently. "Go on, then. Everyone go see what happened."

When the delighted gasps filtered back to her, she pushed out her chair and joined everyone.

"Oh, Ginny," Molly whispered with tears in her eyes. "It's beautiful. You did all this?"

Ginny nodded and accepted the tight hug from her mother. "I thought we could all use a nice, normal, happy Christmas this year, what with not being able to be home at the Burrow. I -oof!" She was cut off when Ron plastered himself to her back and squeezed her even more tightly than their mother had.

"Nice, Gin," he whispered, causing her throat to tighten. Sure, she teased him mercilessly, but he was still her brother, and making him happy made her happy.

Arthur swept her into his arms next, but the moment he released her, Hermione and Harry were right there exclaiming over all the work she had put into the decorations. "Goodness," Hermione said in wonder, staring up at the garlands adorning the staircase. "Doing this all by hand must have taken you forever, Ginny. Those garlands alone-" Harry elbowed her in the side and gave her a significant glance. "Oh," she whispered. "Ginny, the Decree for Underage-"

"I know," Ginny sighed as quietly as possible. "But this place is Unplottable, and no one will ever know, and the charms I cast were ones a third year could do with confidence."

Hermione smiled. "I suppose I'd be the pot calling the kettle black here, wouldn't I?"

"No," Ginny said with too-wide eyes and good-natured sarcasm dripping from her words. "Never."

Tonks, Bill and Fleur came through the fireplace a moment later, clomping into the hallway and talking amongst themselves until they stopped to gape at the festive changes.

Smiling, Ginny glanced up. Draco Malfoy stood at the third floor railing where he had spoken to her earlier, looking down on them all with a wistful expression on his face. She hurriedly looked away before he realised that she had seen him.

***


"Ron, Harry, are you finished with the washing up yet?" Molly called from the sitting room, where she sat with the rest of the Weasley family, as well as Tonks, Remus and Fleur.

"Yeah, just about!" came the reply.

Molly nodded at Ginny and Hermione. "All right then, you two, go ahead and get those dishes put away and tell the boys they can come out here and relax. When you're done, we'll have some hot chocolate and you lot can each open a gift before bed."

The girls hurried to comply.

An hour later, Ginny stared into the fire sleepily with her present in her lap as everyone began to get up and go to bed.

"You too, dear," Molly said gently with a nudge to Ginny's shoulder. "No falling asleep down here."

Ginny smiled blearily and scooped her purring present up into her arms. "Thanks again, Mum," she said around a yawn. "He's so cute, and Arnold will just love having a playmate."

"Just mind that he doesn't decide that Arnold is a snack when the cat gets a bit older," she warned. "Good night, Ginny."

"'Night, Mum. 'Night, Dad," she said to the sprawled-out man in a corner chair.

Once she got up to her room, she handed the kitten to Hermione, claiming to have forgotten something downstairs. Creeping into the kitchen, she quietly prepared a mug of hot chocolate and, after a moment's indecision, pulled a small package from the back of the pantry.

Ginny made her way to the third floor and knocked softly on a door. When no one answered, she set the mug and package down and turned to leave, but stopped when the door opened a crack.

"I know that you don't like us, and would leave if you had anyplace else to go," she said quietly and evenly. "But that doesn't mean you deserve to spend Christmas Eve alone. Here." She bent down and handed him the mug and the package. "It's not much of anything, but I just wanted to tell you that at least one person here wishes you a happy Christmas." When she finished, Ginny turned to go.

"Why?" he asked in a low voice.

"Because whatever you might have thought about him, Dumbledore wasn't a fool, and he wouldn't have…" She swallowed and chose her next words very carefully. "He wouldn't have done what he did if he hadn't thought you were worth saving. And Dumbledore's word was always good enough for me."

Draco studied her wordlessly before raising the mug to his lips. "It's good," he said in that low voice that sounded rusty from disuse.

Ginny nodded. "My mum's recipe," she said, feeling awkward standing here talking to Draco Malfoy on Christmas Eve. She waved at the gift. "It's not much of anything really, since I'm never allowed to leave this place and couldn't shop, but I-" Ginny looked at her slippers in embarrassment. "I thought you should have a gift, too. Sorry I had to make it."

She shuffled her feet nervously as he gazed steadily at her, and was startled when he handed her the mug. The sudden urge to flee was nearly overwhelming, but she held her ground as he unfastened the plain brown paper she had wrapped the present in.

Staring at his gift, Draco was utterly transfixed. It was a perfect miniature of the Christmas tree she had erected downstairs, right down to the ornaments and the shining star at the top. Looking at the star, he felt that burning feeling crawl its way up his throat. Dad, he thought. I miss you, and Mother. I'm all alone here. All alo- He looked up and locked eyes with Ginny Weasley. "I'm not all alone," he whispered.

Cradling the mug of chocolate, Ginny tried to hide her confusion at his words. "Not if you don't want to be," she responded softly. "Come down to Christmas tomorrow morning. You don't have to talk to anyone if you don't want to, but come down and be around people. We deserve the chance. You deserve the chance," she added.

Draco looked away from her strangely appealing eyes and back at the star adorning his own little Christmas tree. She had made him a Christmas tree and said he deserved a chance. Drawing a swift breath, he took that chance.

Ginny was pretty sure her heart paused in astonishment when Draco Malfoy leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers in a soft, brief kiss. He pulled back from her quickly, as if he expected to be hit or hexed, but Ginny just stood there and stared at him. Finally she handed him the mug back, cupped his chin firmly and gave him a kiss of her own. "Happy Christmas, Draco," she said as a clock down the hall began to chime midnight. Stepping away lightly, she looked over her shoulder before going back down the staircase.

***


Hermione woke Ginny with a shake. "Here," she said, shoving a small, crudely-fashioned envelope made of parchment at her. "It was slipped under the door. Are you coming downstairs right now, or are you not really up yet?" she asked, well-acquainted with Ginny's habit of being a slow riser.

Ginny waved her off. "Go ahead; I'll be a few more minutes." After Hermione left, Ginny read the address with a smile before she slit open the envelope and tipped the contents into her hand.

Miss Ginny Weasley
Third door on the left from the staircase, second floor
No. 12 Grimmauld Place, London


It wasn't any handwriting she recognised, which was a sign of the sender in and of itself. She flipped open the parchment next.

Ginny,
I don't deserve second chances, and I don't know why you people keep heaping them on me, but your gift means more to me than I can say; it's like a physical reminder of Christmases when I was home, and small, and happy knowing that nothing in my world would go wrong, because my parents wouldn't let it. I'm no good at this sort of thing, but thank you.
My gift to you is nothing special. It's a scrap of linen given to me by someone else, but it's the only thing I have that I can give to you. I found some thread last night after you left, so I could make it into something you might consider keeping.
May your life turn out to be more that you thought it would,
Draco Malfoy


Ginny reread the cryptic closing remark curiously, but set the parchment aside in favour of picking up the small square of fabric. It had been handwashed in the sink- Ginny could smell the flowery soap her mother stocked the house with. Shaking out the square of linen, Ginny felt a soft smile settle on her lips. He had embroidered her initials in lovely, flowing script along a bottom corner of the handkerchief.

Refolding it carefully, she tucked the handkerchief into the chest pocket of her housecoat before going downstairs to open presents. She was the last to arrive, apparently, since the sitting room was near to overflowing with people and presents. Ginny scanned the room eagerly, but her face fell as she made her way to the tree to join the others.

Draco stood in the doorway uncertainly, watching the group of people boisterously carry on as presents were passed about. He jumped when Molly Weasley called out, "Well, dear, are you planning on haunting that doorway all day? Come on in and have a seat. I believe there's a present here for you somewhere." Licking his lips nervously, Draco waded into the room, not quite knowing where to go until he saw Ginny smile and touch her pocket, where a scrap of white linen embroidered in red and green peeked out. He took the chair closest to her and sat silently as the others opened their gifts, one by one, until there were no more boxes under the tree. Ridiculously, Draco felt his heart sink.

"Bill, darling, be a dear and go get the last gift from the kitchen for me, would you?" Molly called from the sofa, where she was hemmed in by mountains of torn paper and ribbon.

Draco's eyes shot to the door when he heard Potter, Granger and Ron Weasley gasp. "Mother?" he croaked in disbelief, staring at the blonde woman in the doorway as if she was a hallucination.

"Draco!" Narcissa cried, charging into the room, unmindful of the presents and people that scattered in her wake.

Ginny smiled at her mother and mouthed a silent 'Thank you' just before Arthur announced, "Mrs Malfoy will be staying with us. She has been persuaded of the benefits of helping our side," he said with a small smile. "Like the fact that we took in her son."

***


Draco took his mother's tea cup and went to the kitchen to refill it for her. He still couldn't believe she was really there.

"Aren't you glad you came down now?" Ginny said with a smile from the doorway.

"Did you know?" he replied, turning back so that he could look into her eyes.

"No, I didn't," Ginny said with a shrug. "But I'm glad, all the same."

"Maybe that handkerchief is magical," he joked weakly.

Touching the fabric in question, Ginny smiled wisely. "Or maybe it's what happens when you put someone else first. Blessings aren't linear; they come back around in one form or another."

He smiled, and a shadow of a smirk twitched the corner of his lips. "Maybe they do," he agreed equably as he twined the fingers of one hand in her hair and leaned towards her. "Maybe they do indeed."
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