Sniff! Here it is, the last chapter, all ready for you. It's uber-long – it took a lot more to tie my loose ends than I thought it would. Author notes to follow at the end.
Chapter 44: The Silence of Victory and Defeat
"You're a great big foolish bastard, did you know that Draco?" the pleasantly snarky voice of his cousin greeted him as he Apparated into study of Malfoy Manor. Slightly taken aback by both her presence and the unusual greeting, he simple grunted in response, shrugging out of his robes and tossing them aside as he brushed past her without a word. Gabrielle cringed slightly behind his back at the furious glow in his eyes, but chose to follow him as he stormed away. "I heard about what happened this afternoon, and I think you're a rotten, scheming jerk and I sincerely hope that Ginny beats you at this game."
"That's impossible now. I've successfully ruined her career," he answered, his tone cold and dull. Gabrielle stopped in her tracks as she heard him. This was not the confident Draco Malfoy relishing in a successful and hard-won victory, nor even the arrogant, cocky little twit he'd been apt to be after winning a Quidditch match with his friends when he was younger. He was much more reserved, and seemingly exhausted. And, most importantly, upset over his victory.
"And along with that career, you've also ruined any chance you'd had at making her forgive you for lying to her, and wining her trust back again, and making you the luckiest man alive," Gabrielle added, sarcastically. He stopped and turned to glare at her, coldly.
"Isn't that what you're doing for Potter when you buckle down and actual marry him?" he asked, one eyebrow raised, a grimace plain on his face. Old rivalries died hard.
"Stop being a bloody fool, Draco. What is it you said to her? 'You can't always get what you want', I believe it was. That's an interesting comment coming from you, Draco. You're the one who always told me to do whatever was necessary to make sure you got what you wanted, and it would appear that you're backing away from that," she said angrily. Harry, who had heard from Ron, had described all that had been said between the two. This information had been carefully recorded in the Ministry hallway, and this recording was swiftly making its way around the Ministry offices – the one Weasley famous for never losing her temper, finally losing it in a public place in front of the young and powerful Draco Malfoy was seen as rather entertaining, and no one wanted to miss out.
"You don't always get what you want, Gabrielle. I had to make a choice – I could let her anger with me motivate her to do something she would eventually regret when she'd cooled down enough and had a chance to think it over, or I could let her carry on with her personal vendetta and impose regulations that would hurt our family, Bulgaria and a host of other countries, but risk making her even more angry with me. The way I saw it, there was no way I was going to come out of this situation a winner, even if I won, so I had to make a choice."
"What a terrible choice! You've destroyed her credibility with the international wizarding community! Perhaps you aren't as informed as you should be, Draco, but her name was being floated about as a potential replacement for Fudge when the old fool finally retires. The youngest, and the first female Minister, in wizarding history! You took a lot away from her today, Draco," Gabrielle yelled. His eyes flashed in a way that made her heart twist painfully in her chest, and she regretted yelling at him. It seemed he was suffering enough.
"I had to, Gabrielle. If you understand nothing else, you have to understand that. She opened her eyes when she was with me in Bulgaria. She's had enough regret in her life, I couldn't let her add to the list," he said softly. "Especially considering the way she tortures herself with things from the past."
"So, you're telling me that you were a rotten, scheming little rat for her benefit? Because you didn't want her to pass the Cooperation Act, and then realize her mistake and regret it?" Gabrielle questioned skeptically.
"You take the term 'tough love' to a whole new dimension, cousin." Draco laughed, with a bitter edge in the sound, before he returned to the study, and sank into one of the chairs, his head in his hand.
"The look in her eyes when I told her what I did…that I'd sent a copy of her amended Act to the other Ministers…it was the same look she had when Longbottom took of his hood and she saw that he was still alive and also evil. The guilt about his death…it tortured her for well on six years…and she gave me the same look. There was no hatred in it, just a lot of pain," he mumbled wearily.
"What are you going to do about this?" Gabrielle asked.
"There's nothing to do. I lied to her, stole her papers, and ruined her career. You think I should just pop by and ask her out for dinner and offer to help her scan the want ads?" Draco sneered.
"Stop your damn moping and think a little more like a Malfoy," she snapped suddenly. Draco sat up, surprised. "Malfoys get what they want. We examine the problem, plot the best solution to solve the problem, and we implement that plot no matter what may stand in our way."
"Gabrielle, please, just leave this alone," he groaned. She grabbed his shoulders, rather roughly for her usual sweet temperament, forcing him to look at her.
"I know you want her. What are you going to do about getting her?" she asked. Draco was slightly thrown off by the appearance of the sudden Malfoy-thinking in his younger cousin.
"There's nothing to do, Gabrielle. Unless I suddenly declare Bulgaria's unconditional support for the Act and try to convince other countries to do the same – which I have no reason to do, since it still is against the best interests of the country," he snapped.
"Perhaps if you explain, apologize and grovel?"
"Malfoys don't grovel! Besides, I have nothing to apologize for," he growled dangerously. Before Gabrielle could argue back, the sound of someone Apparating cut her off.
"Darien! I didn't expect to see you here!" she explained, surprised to see her brother standing before them. She paused as she observed him – there was something foreboding in his eyes, that couldn't be explained by the heavy shroud of grief that had been hanging over her entire family since the discovery of Danika's death. "What's wrong?"
"Ginny Weasley didn't kill Danika, and Bulgaria is facing the rise of a Dark wizard," he said, darkly.
Draco had lost the capacity to move his limbs. Shock had rendered him immobile. He watched helplessly as Gabrielle took charge, jumping up and guiding her brother to a chair, then forcing a tumbler of brandy into his hands, hoping it would help stop their shaking, and had started to try to extract information from him. He was giving his answers in broken sentences, will very little coherence to be found in his words. Darien was obviously and visibly rattled – shell-shocked perhaps was a much more appropriate term.
"There's no possibility of a Dark wizard rising in Bulgaria, Darien! We just don't practice that kind of magic!" Gabrielle protested.
"It seems that his followers have disagreed. His technique is rather ingenious – he's managed to convince huge numbers of wizards that the Bulgarian Ministry is caving towards the wishes of Britain's Ministry and that unless they act against him and impose their type of magic on the entire country, we'll be taken over by Fudge and his followers. He's been infiltrating communities throughout the country for years, now, starting this kind of discontent, until he has them so certain that his is the only course of action. They have…plans, to move against the Ministry and families that would oppose them," Darien said, his eyes flashing with a guarded hint in Draco's direction. Families that would oppose them…our family, Draco realized, his thoughts scattering in a million different directions.
"Who is the wizard?" Gabrielle asked quietly. Darien laughed bitterly.
"Longbottom, of course. It appears as though your little Ministry witch didn't take care of him that night in the sanctuary like we'd all hoped. Now we're going to have to pay the consequences," he answered darkly.
"If Weasley didn't kill Danika, how did she die?" Draco asked, finally finding his voice.
"Longbottom, again, cousin. The blast didn't kill her like we thought it did. She died afterwards, by him before he made his escape," Darien explained.
"How? How do you know this?" Draco demanded, feeling a sudden burst of rage he couldn't explain. He shot out of his chair, standing to loom over his dark-haired cousin.
"The Excessus Veneficus test on her wand. My father and I were discussing ways that Longbottom could have escaped from Ginny that night. When the magic blast exploded, she said he was right in front of her. Danika was a few hundred feet away, and she wasn't able…able to escape. If it didn't kill Longbottom, where the concentration was strongest, how could it hurt Danika when she was so much further away? All it did to us was to knock us off our feet. So…we tested her wand, and it didn't contain the same magical residue that our own wands did, from the blast. But it did have something that pointed to the Avada Kedavra curse, and Neville Longbottom," he explained, his voice cracking slightly as he mentioned his sister.
"What? What is the..the Excessus Vene…" Gabrielle questioned.
"Excessus Veneficus…it's a test for wands that have been exposed to great magic – such as Weasley's blast in the forest. All magic leaves a residue, and if it's strong enough, your wand will absorb that residue, which can help you find the source of the power."
"It was Longbottom, not Ginny?" Draco asked, frozen in place. Darien nodded solemnly.
"Has anyone told her?" he asked, the question loaded with so much emotion, Gabrielle felt her throat tighten as tears burned behind her eyes.
"I thought you would be the best person to tell her," Darien said, his eyes meeting Draco's.
"What about Longbottom? What are we going to do to stop him? We should get Harry, he'll want to know about this," Gabrielle said, anxiously.
"Potter already knows; it's his job after all. There's only one thing that we can do to stop Longbottom" Draco said, his eyes glittering with a sudden spark that had been missing for six days.
"What is that?"
"Make sure that Virginia Weasley's Act does get passed."
"Draco, wait! Stop!" Gabrielle called, practically running to keep up with him as he swept out of the room, a man on a mission, after making his startling announcement.
"No time!" he called, as started to dash up the stairs.
"Tell me why you spontaneously have the need to do the exact thing you've been working like a maniac to prevent!" she called. He turned to face her.
"It's the only way to stop Longbottom. The answer is exactly what I've been trying to get Ginny to understand – it's the culture that decides things, not the laws."
"I don't understand," Gabrielle said, her confusion apparent on her face.
"The wizarding population in Bulgaria has very few laws, Gabrielle. Why is that?" he asked.
"We don't need them. The only things we have laws for are the very important, essential things – Unforgivable Curses, magic that mess with your free will such as Love Potions. What does this have to do with anything?"
"We've always said that a Dark Wizard couldn't rise in Bulgaria, because the culture just wasn't there for it – we do everything for the best interests of the whole country. But the few laws that we have are regarded as sacred and anyone who breaks them is immediately shamed and driven away."
"Yes. But you've lost me somewhere," she said slowly.
"If we sign that Act, then it becomes law. And whether or not Longbottom has a thousand supporters, the law is still sacred. We won't allow anyone to break either our laws or our cultural conventions – such as trying to become more powerful than your neighbors."
"But the reason they're joining him is because of the law in the first place!" Gabrielle protested.
"It doesn't matter! They'll obey the law while encouraging politicians to fight to change it. But as long as they are obeying it, Longbottom will lose all his power. It's the best way to stop him!" Draco cried, with a genuine smile on his face. Gabrielle surveyed him for a second, with slightly narrowed eyes. "I don't have much time, the press conference is early tomorrow morning!"
"Yes, this will solve everything," she said knowingly, as he once again took off, barely noticing the hidden meaning in her words. It seemed, without being completely aware of it, that Draco had a real shot at getting what he wanted, and Gabrielle figured that this was, above everything else, the reason he had smiled for the first time in a week.
The next morning…
The buzz of the reporters milling around them, competing for the places closest to the podium, was beginning to grate on Ron Weasley's nerves. As yet another reporter jostled him aside in order to edge closer to the front of the room, he had to grit his teeth to keep from yelling at the sodding git.
"I don't understand how you, big brother and all, can be so calm about this whole thing," Hermione's voice said, as she pushed her way through the crowd to him. He smiled, and before he could stop it, his eyes did a quick scan of the room, searching to see a certain person was there. "This is going to be terrible to watch the press rip her apart for not delivering on the Act."
"She's got some sort of plan, and she seemed really optimistic about it. You know us Weasleys, we always have something up our sleeves," he said with a smile.
"Indeed," Hermione responded.
"Where's Michael today?" Ron asked, before he could stop himself. Hermione had been under a bit of strain the past few days that didn't have anything to do with the long hours at the office and concern for Ginny. It was the kind of strain he recognized he'd recognized from past instances in their friendship – too many years of being The Best Friend Ron allowed him to tell when Hermione was experiencing "boy trouble", not that she'd ever elaborate on it with him, though. Her general snippiness increased significantly, and her tolerance for their habitual good-natured bickering faded significantly. This time, however, there seemed to be an air of nervousness around her that he just couldn't place that seemed to be contributing to the strain, more so than any problems she may have been having with that git, Michael.
"He's not coming," she said, shifting her eyes away from his curious gaze.
"I thought you were going to get him to come, so we could stack as many people loyal to Ginny in the room as possible, so that they can tear her apart when there's so many of her supporters here," Ron said, struggling to keep his voice neutral, as he stared straight ahead, refusing to look at her. Hermione bit back a smile.
"I asked him not to come. I figured it would be awkward, and all, considering that we've just split up," she said.
"Sorry to hear that, 'Mione. What happened?" he asked, turning to look at her, reaching out and patting her shoulder in a way he assuming was comforting.
"Well mostly…the incident in Bulgaria gave a whole new perspective on things. I did a lot of research into the psychology of near-death experiences and how they can change your whole perspective on many different things, and make you things that you were blind to before, and I guess that's what happened," she said with a simple shrug. Ron narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
"Hermione, we've had many near-death experiences. That's old news now, isn't it?"
"But that's just it – we've had so many near-death experiences. Michael is someone who I could never have that kind of experience with, nor would I want to."
"Are you telling me that because of the incident in Bulgaria, you're going to be judging all your relationships based on whether or not you would want to face death with them?" Ron asked incredulously. Hermione smiled.
"That's exactly it. I'm glad you understand. But you were wrong about one thing. I'm not going to be judging all my relationships by that, because it won't be necessary. I also realized that there is actually only one person I would want ever face death with," she said, a little breathlessly, as if she was incredibly anxious. Her eyes flicked up to take in Ron's expression, which was currently reflecting absolute bafflement. She sighed heavily, looking down, before she, rather timidly, slid her small hand into his larger one, before looking back up at him with a questioning look mingled with a cringe on her face.
Ron's eyes widened in confusion, before realization dawned on his face, followed by a flush of color as he turned a bright shade of red. He gaped; at her and then down to her hand grasping his, and back again. She bit her bottom lip nervously, and waited as Ron processed this new information.
"I'm sorry it took facing potential death for approximately the eighteenth time with you to truly open my eyes and see you there," she said softly, with a helpless shrug. He shook his head, and Hermione felt her heart, which had been pounding in her throat, drop. She started to turn away, when she felt his hand still holding hers.
"You're a complete nutter, you know that right, Hermione?" he asked, a smile on his face. She narrowed her eyes into a glare, ready to snappishly comment on the lack of his maturity in important and emotional moments, but before she could, he pulled her to him and wrapped his arms around her.
"Leave it to you, the brightest witch of her age, to start this kind of conversation in the middle of a crowded conference room, crammed with as much reporters as possible, with Ginny's press conference about to start any minute," he whispered near her ear.
"Seemed like a good idea at the time," she said haughtily, before laughing.
"Bloody hell, it looks like it's about to start," he said, groaning. "We'll have to finish this later today…somewhere more private. But…for the record, Hermione, you're the only I would want to face death with, as well. Well, you and Harry. But just because it's Harry and after all the You-Know-Who stuff…oh sod it, you know what I mean!"
"For once, I think I really do," she said, with a beaming smile as he sat down in one of the chairs reserved for them at the front of the room, pulling her with him. "Now be quiet, Ronald Weasley, it's about to start."
"Are you sure this is what you want to do, Virginia? I think it's a brilliant decision and you have my full support, of course, but it just seems so different from what you originally proposed," Cornelius Fudge said anxiously, as Ginny passed by him hurriedly; attempting to put on one shoe while trying to put on her suit jacket at the same time, while carrying the folder holding her revised speech.
"I'm absolutely positive that this is what needs to be done," she said distractedly, as she dropped the folder, stumbled slightly as the errant shoe was placed securely on her foot, and the jacket adjusted properly and buttoned. With a sigh, she picked up her folder, and took a deep breath.
This was the first time that this felt absolutely right. Her entire career at the Ministry had been about redemption – she felt that she had to make something of herself, to be a successful person, in order to redeem Neville's 'sacrifice', to prove that her life had been worth saving at his expense. It had driven her to where she was today, but behind all that ambition was the sorrow and guilt that had been eating her alive. But now, the purpose was her own, the motivation wasn't a ghost from her past, but the desire to do the right thing. It felt so right, as if this role was indeed made for her, and she was the 'natural' that everyone thought she was.
"I guess it's time," she said, glancing at the clock.
She could hear the loud bustle of the press as they scrambled to take their positions when they saw her enter the room, and step up to the podium. She scanned the crowd, almost out of habit, and spotted her brother and Hermione sitting together, along with Harry and Gabrielle. She was surprised that Gabrielle was there at all; she had assumed that she would naturally take Draco's side. After scanning the room and all the pairs of eyes staring at her in silence, she noted with a strange detachment, that one particular pair of gray-nearly-silver eyes wasn't there. She steeled herself to her task, and convinced herself that it was better this way.
She stepped up to the podium, ignoring the camera flashes as she laid her speech down on the podium, and after taking a deep breath, she began.
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, Ministers, members of the press. I'd like to thank you all for being here this morning. As you may know, today is the deadline that will decide the future of the International Cooperation Act; a piece of law that would create an unprecedented standard of regulation of the Dark Arts throughout all the international wizarding communities who have agreed to support this Act.
"I have spent many months, working with other Ministries from around the world, to create an agreement to see the successful elimination of all Dark Arts from the international community. We, in Britain, know first-hand the danger and misery that Dark magic can cause, after our experience with Lord Voldemort. After witnessing this kind of horror caused by the Dark Arts, I wanted more than anything to see that all instances of Dark magic be made illegal and stopped so that wizards such as Lord Voldemort could never gain power ever again.
"This Act was drafted based on the definitions and regulations of the British Ministry of Magic. Our plan to was to take our rigid laws and have other countries adopt them in return for support and aide with their implementation. I, like all of us, assumed that this would be the best way to prevent the spread and growth of any Dark Arts, by exporting our regulations and standards abroad. However, over the past few weeks, I have discovered that this plan, indeed, has a fundamental flaw and we were very wrong to try to follow this path.
"It is this fundamental flaw that has led to the failure of this initiative, as the main countries who were committed to signing it have very recently reconsidered that decision."
There was a loud murmur throughout the crowd as everyone took in this announcement. Most of the Ministry officials, who had appeared to hear about the progress the newest rising star of the Ministry had made on her biggest project to date, were talking excitedly among themselves. Ginny looked around, trying to drink in the reactions. She took another breath, trying to force herself to focus on the remaining parts of her speech, when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Virginia, I have to interrupt you for a moment, we have a guest with a very important announcement," Fudge whispered into her ear. She frowned but nodded, and allowed him to lead her to the side, and watched as he ushered in the guest.
She felt her heart stop as he stepped into the room, knowing by the very feel of magic in the air whom it was, even before she saw him. Her eyes widened, and it took all of her composure to remain standing as neutrally as possible as he approached the podium.
"If you'll excuse this brief interruption, Mr. Draco Malfoy, representing the Bulgarian Ministry of Magic, has an announcement of grave importance to the topic at hand to make. Mr. Malfoy," Fudge said, gesturing to Draco, and moving out of the way so he could move forward.
"Good morning. Bulgaria is currently facing a very serious threat. A wizard, who was mistakenly believed to have been killed during the War, has recently resurfaced. This wizard, known as Neville Longbottom, is responsible for an attack on my home and family, and for the death of my cousin, Danika Malfoy. After escaping un-apprehended, Longbottom has since been attempting to gather supporters to him, and gain power in Bulgaria as an emerging Dark wizard." A series of gasps echoed throughout the conference room. Ginny felt as though someone had squeezed the air out of her lungs – he was lying, he had to be, about Danika! Why would he lie about that?
While those of the press began to shout questions at him, he remained silent, and he turned his head to meet her eyes. Ginny felt a tremor run through her; the thought that he was lying to protect flashed in her mind, but the events of the other were still fresh in her mind, and she dismissed that thought. He had already proved that she, personally, didn't matter to him.
"As it stands at the moment, we have no laws in Bulgaria to stop him, or to regulate the use of Dark magic," he continued after the bustle had faded once again. "We have been opposed to Ms. Weasley's proposal due to our belief that this kind of regulation is unnecessary. However, because of this emerging threat, I have been given the authority to unconditionally commit the Bulgarian wizarding community to the provisions laid out in the International Cooperation Act for the Removal of All Dark Arts, and we will sign it as it is written, as soon as possible. We also encourage all other countries to do so, because this event has impressed upon us once again the dangers of Dark magic, and the tragedy that can happen as a result of refusing to interfere, because of any economic or simple traditional considerations. Thank you."
His words rang out, echoing throughout the room. As the press hurtled questions his way, he simply towards the exit at the back of the room. Ginny moved back over to the podium, her mind racing, trying to figure out what to say, what course to take. As she settled behind the podium, she looked once again over the crowd, and caught sight of a pair of gray eyes, staring back at her, before he walked out the door.
"At Mr. Malfoy's sudden request, we will, of course, create an emergency agreement between our two countries so that we can help in any way necessary to eliminate this new threat in Bulgaria," she said, to a round of applause by the audience. She waited for silence again, before she continued. "The measures, however, will be temporary. It would not be in Bulgaria's best interest to commit permanently to the International Agreement for the Removal of All Dark Arts, and it would be irresponsible for our Ministry to take advantage of their emergency situation to force them to commit to it.
" Through my work with the different Ministries in attempting to push this agreement forward, I have learned that there are many differences in cultural that would be destroyed or put into jeopardy by our actions. The simple truth is that most countries are not like us; and there are many different conceptions of what constitutes a 'Dark Art' that does not match our own. It would be an act of injustice to expect to impose our own regulations on other countries, and in fact, could lead to an imbalance of power within the country, creating the exact kind of situation we are trying to avoid.
"For this reason, I am pulling the draft proposal of the International Cooperation Act off the table. It will be completely re-written and negotiated – with separate clauses for each signatory country to take into consideration their specific needs. And once the situation in Bulgaria is resolved, the temporary agreement in their case will be renegotiated.
"Our purpose is to make the wizarding world a safe place. In order to do that, we do have to stop the practice of the Dark Arts – but we have to make sure that we are responsible and informed so that we can truly stop the practice of Dark magic, once and for all without repeating the mistakes of the past or sacrificing the relationships within the international wizarding community," she finished. The audience stared at her, before the room exploded into commotion, and questions were hurtled at her by the press, and Ministry officials jumped into action, beginning to plan the best course of action to help with the situation in Bulgaria.
It seemed like she blinked and then she was suddenly surrounded by people, clamoring for her attention. From what she could tell, there was a palpable excitement in the air, an excitement that invigorated her, causing her adrenaline to pulse through her body. She pushed through the crowd, trying to make her way to the door. Someone grabbed her arm, and she swung around to see Harry, Ron and Hermione had been able to reach her through the crush of people.
"Ginny! This is fantastic! You're taking an excellent stand, and they're loving you for it," Hermione said, looking around at the excitement in the room.
"He lied. Why would he lie about Danika?" Ginny demanded fiercely, her eyes stinging slightly. A look passed between Hermione and Harry.
"He didn't, Ginny. What he said is true, they just found out about it late last night. You're not responsible for her death," Harry said, attempting to be discreet as the room was milling with the press. Ginny stared back at him in shock.
"Are you sure?" she asked, her lower lip trembling. Harry nodded solemnly. She turned around quickly, and began pushing her way through the crowd once again.
"Ginny! Where are you going?" Ron demanded. She turned back, and smiled weakly at them.
"Should you be grouping your teams of Aurors? You have a new Dark wizard to fight, and full permission from Bulgaria to seek him out!" she called, before her small form disappeared into the crowd, as she made her way towards the exit.
"Virginia! Virginia! Where are you going? The press is dying to talk to you, as are all the Ministers!" Fudge's voice ran out down the back hallway that Ginny had chosen to make her escape, halting her in her tracks. She turned around and shrugged.
"Sorry, Mr. Fudge, but there's something I need to take care of. Clarice will have a copy of the agreement with her, you just need to sign it and get their Minister to do the same, and it's a done deal," she said, breathlessly. The poor man looked completely taken aback by her words.
"Virginia! You need to get back in there! This is your moment to prove what everyone's been saying about you. If you ever plan to be the Minister of Magic one day, I'm sure that you will get back in there!" he said, shocked by the lack of political posturing by his protégé. Ginny frowned, oddly perplexed by his words.
"I have no ambition to be Minister of Magic, Mr. Fudge, so I'm sure you'll see that I have no problem playing the political game at the moment, especially when I have somewhere more important to be," she said, with a respectful nod at the poor, baffled and blustering man, as she took her leave.
As she exited the Ministry of Magic, and stepped onto the Muggle street, she noted that, for the first time in over six years, the weight on her shoulders had been completely lifted, except for one small, little tug that she was determined to resolve before the end of the day. Beware all, who stand in the way of a determined Weasley and their goal.
She was floating, the euphoria still spread throughout her body, when she walked into the dark and quiet office. Her high heels clicking ominously on the floor, without a regard to propriety, she kicked them off with wild abandon, freed her long hair from its knot and began a little dance of victory, relief and a cathartic release of energy.
A slight cough coming from the shadows of the corner brought her up short, as she jumped slightly. Her eyes wide, she tried to draw herself up with as much dignity as possible, until the person stepped out of the darkness, and she could make out who it was clearly.
Draco stood before her, an otherwise neutral expression on his face if it weren't for the faint light in his eyes that most wouldn't be able to pick up. She looked into his eyes, trying to read his mind, trying to discover why he was there. The tension in the room rose exponentially, as moments ticked by in complete silence. Her strong political instincts, advising her to freeze up completely and not betray anything she was thinking, warred with the desire to set everything right, the way it should have been in the first place. Ginny barely dared to breath, wanting to say something, but unsure of what words to say, unwilling to be the first to break the silence. He stepped forward again. He seemed ready to say something, and that light in his eyes seemed to melt all of her resolve to remain silent.
"I didn't kill the Act for you, or for Bulgaria, or to save face or even my career," she said quietly, unable to tear her eyes away from his. He stepped even closer, so close he could almost touch her.
"And I'm not here because you killed the Act," he said, his voice equally as quiet as hers.
"Then why are you here?" she asked, and wanted to curse herself for the tremble in her voice.
"I could stay away any longer," he said, reaching out a hand to brush away a stray lock of hair from her face. They both started at the slight jolt of electricity and power that surged through them both at the contact, surprised it still existed. She looked at his hand in wonder, then took it in her hands, and placed her palm against his, and reveled in the force of power she could feel between them. "We belong to each other, Ginny."
"Do we, still? After everything that's happened?" she asked, keeping her eyes trained on their hands.
"We always have, we just couldn't see it," he said, reaching with his other hand to tilt her chin gently to look up at him. "I want us to belong to each other."
"You don't always get what you want," she said, with slightly more bite in her words than she intended. He raised an eyebrow, as if she had issued a challenge. With a swift move that left her completely breathless, he gathered her small body to him and captured her lips with is. She tried to resist and struggle free, but within a second, her body and the magical chemistry that existed between them took over, and all the energy, emotion and tension surged forward, funneling itself into the kiss.
She broke away, breathless, her body screaming at the pain of losing contact with him. His arms were still holding her tightly against him, and he pressed his forehead against hers, looking into her eyes.
"If you don't get what you want, you go after it relentlessly until you do. It's a Malfoy thing," he said, with a slight smirk.
There was a clamor in the hallway, and the discordant echoes of voices and footsteps shattered the silence of the room. Ginny flinched slightly, turning her head to check to see if they were headed towards the office. She turned back, feeling an urgent need to make him understand, to explain.
"There's so much we need to say," she whispered, but before he could continue, he shook his head once, silenced any of her attempts to speak further as he kissed her again.
Wrapping his arms tightly around her waist, he buried his faced into her neck, and held her as if he never wanted to let go, tightening his grip as the clamor in the corridor approached, and then eventually faded again, into silence. She sighed, relaxing against his chest, reveling in the feeling of rightness that existed between them at that moment. There was still a lot that needed to be cleared up between them, a lot that still needed to be said, but in that moment, in his arms, with the incredible spark of energy dancing over his skin at his touch, words just were not necessary.
They belonged together, the magic between them proved that. It was something she couldn't see, but it was there, and she knew it with everything that was in her. And for that moment, nothing else in the world mattered.
Note the first: I hate writing fluff, so if you were hoping for a huge, emotional reconciliation with tears and mutual declarations of everlasting, life long love, I'm sorry to disappoint, but I just couldn't see that in these characters. They're both too stubborn and have too much pride (although they both bend a little). I also detest conclusions, I never know how to end things to make it seem final and as if there is an actual ending, so if it's awkward or disappointing, I'm sorry. Without a plot twist for a cliff hanger, I'm lost when it comes to ending chapters.
Note the second: There will not be a sequel to this story. Sorry if you were hoping.
Note the third: If you're reading this right now, I want to extend a HUGE thank you for sticking through to the very end of this immensely long story (its almost 100,000 words). For anyone who ever reviewed, thank you so much for taking the time to leave a few comments on the story, I read and appreciated all of them.
Note the fourth: A very very small thread of this story has been very loosely inspired (so loosely that it's hardly recognizable) from the movie, An American President. I didn't want to mention this until the end, because it would have given away bits of the plot, but I feel its necessary to mention it.
Note the fifth: All other comments and notes about this story can be found on my livejournal ), including a few notes about some things that I tried to incorporate into the story that you may not have picked up on…(little things, so if people read it and say, oh, I can see that now, it'll make the effort seem worthwhile! Haha) Any questions about the story can also be answered there, or through email, just in case something wasn't clear to you.
And finally, this has been an awesome adventure in the HP fandom, and I'm going to continue writing more D/G-ness in other stories, so stay tuned if you're interested!
And thanks again! I'm done, I can't believe it!