Author's Notes:

Schlepping back with another chapter for your perusal. Many thanks to Marcia, my beta, for her help in restructuring this chapter. What a clever and insightful gem that woman is! A special thank you to all who have stuck with me, continuing to read and review this everlasting tale. You've kept me going when the going got dark! Not to worry - the end of this bumpy ride will be upon us soon. - fallenwitch

Chapter 18

A True Pureblooded Witch

Three days later, Draco crawled out of his shite hole, showered and began sizing up the situation. He paused in front of the mirror and startled at the pathetic, ghost-like image staring back at him: the dishevelled platinum hair, the irritable bloodshot eyes and the miserable face swathed in days of neglected stubble. He looked like shite, felt like shite and, until few minutes ago, had smelled like shite as well. She had reduced him to a seething, worthless pile yet again.

He hauled his hungover arse up and walked down two doors to her bedroom. The door was ajar. He kicked it open, a bottle of Firewhiskey in one hand and a crystal tumbler in the other. The midday sunlight crashed into him, breaking over the top of his pounding head and landing in a golden puddle around his boots. He stared at the barren and desolate place bereft of her presence and her particular magic, Squib or not.

He crossed the lifeless room and collapsed into an overstuffed chair covered in rich, raw silk in varying shades of muted pink. Tucking the tumbler under his chin, he opened the bottle of Firewhiskey, poured a stiff dose of the heart-numbing, mind-dumbing toxin and stretched out his legs.

What was it this time? He didn't know, couldn't guess and wasn't sure he cared. Mrs. Ginevra Weasley Chervenko was not only the wife of an indestructible wizard but also a losing proposition. His current suffering was the culmination of two years of a disastrous emotional investment. Her stock had long ago crashed and burned. He'd known this when he took her in the second time, but his foolish, desperate heart could not be stopped.

Draco stared at her bed, the place of her second resurrection. He would have given her his life if she wanted it, but she didn't. Turns out she didn't want a damn thing from him, not his love or his life or his manor full of trinkets. She had gotten what she wanted from him - his invaluable Malfoy protection and his exclusive healthcare services. He had thrown in his ridiculous heart and soul for free. It didn't matter. She was done with him.

He could debate her feelings for him with his tail between his legs, but in the end, he decided it didn't matter if she loved him or not. Whatever her feelings for him, they were inconsequential in the context of her notorious, fucked-up life with its multiple hidden agendas, the life she had repeatedly chosen over him. So she could stroke her Bulgarian fetish and screw her fucking husband and live out the rest of her sodden life producing half-Bulgarian spawn for all he cared.

Draco took a large gulp of the burning amber liquid which chased his heartache straight to the pit of his bitter, acid-filled stomach where it dropped like a fiery stone. After another pint or two, he wouldn't remember his own name, much less hers.

That was the moment a sudden, distinctive whirlwind of motion took hold of the room. Draco sat up and stared. Other than his, there was only one Portkey to the Manor, and that Portkey lay around Ginny's neck and led directly to her bedroom. He put his tumbler of toxins down.

A tall, handsome wizard in fine black robes dropped out of the sky, hit the ground and froze. The tip of Draco's wand dug into his jugular. He looked over, only to encounter Draco's sneering face inches away and furious.

Why was it when you gave a witch a Portkey, everyone in the world used it except her? Was it some kind of open season? And what the hell did this message boy want anyway? "Don't you goddamn Bulgarians ever use a bloody front door?" Rude as hell arseholes.

Christo's razor-sharp blue eyes cut into Draco's. "I apologize for the unannounced visit, Mr. Malfoy. As you can see, I am alone and come with no ill intent. If you could spare a moment, I would appreciate a word with you."

Well, this obviously wasn't the Great Bulgarian Freedom Fighters' Invasion of England, not with an anaemic army of one. Draco's wand hand began to itch and ignited an unbearable desire to be scratched. One swift Avada and his worst fucking Bulgarian nightmare would be over. No matter how fast Chervenko was, he wasn't that fast. As this scenario percolated through the edgy neurons in his cerebral cortex, a dozen competing scenarios rattled through his brain, disrupting the shite out of his crazed heart and his Ginny-adulterated mind. Goddamn it.

"Has something happened to Ginny?" Draco growled, more worry than not creeping into his voice.

"Not exactly," Christo said, "but I've come on her behalf with a proposition of sorts."

Draco pressed his irritated wand further into Chervenko's neck, completely compressing his precious jugular and stared at the ruddy Bulgarian idiot. "Not exactly what? Has she been injured again, yes or no?" It was a bloody simple question. Even a terrorist troll like His Royal Arseness could answer it.

"No, she has not been injured again."

Several tense seconds later, Draco sharply withdrew his wand and motioned for Chervenko to take the seat across from his in front of the fireplace. Christo looked around the large, exquisitely furnished room, decorated for a woman. As he sat in the pink chair identical to Draco's, he spied the open bottle of Firewhiskey and the freshly filled tumbler belonging to his disheveled host.

"Care for a drink, Minister?" Draco picked up the bottle of Firewhiskey.

"No, thank you," Christo said, shaking his head and watching his potentially intoxicated host settle into the chair across from him, wand still in hand.

Chervenko began by sliding a nondescript metal coin onto the coffee table. "Mr. Malfoy, this is a Portkey to my home in Bulgaria. If Ginny wishes to leave with you, she is free to go. I will grant her an annulment."

"An annulment?"

"Yes, an annulment. However, if she decides to remain with me, or you choose not to come to Bulgaria for her, I will consummate our marriage, and you will never see her again. I am making this proposition on her behalf but without her knowledge."

Christo dropped his eyes, ran a frustrated hand through his tumble of shiny dark locks and let out a sigh. "I have done everything within my power to restore some semblance of her magic - scoured every ancient text, consulted with the best Dark Magic experts and raided every private vault in Bulgaria. There is no cure and no sign of the original curse. She will remain without magic for the rest of her life."

He looked up, defeat bound in his tired blue eyes as they locked onto Draco's. "I love my wife, Mr. Malfoy, but I'm not blind. Ginny's happiness is all that matters. It's the least I can do for her." Christo ran a tense hand over his face. "I think I will have that drink after all."

Draco transfigured a glass, filled it with Firewhiskey and handed it to Chervenko, who took it and swallowed half of the liquid in one stinging gulp.

"She's dying."

"What?" Draco said, leaning forward.

"She's dying, Mr. Malfoy, and there's not a damn thing either one of us can do to stop it."

"How can she be dying if she hasn't been injured again?"

"Ginny is a pureblooded witch, a true pureblooded witch. The moment the Dark curse took her magic she began to die. Her life force lies within her magic. Without it, she cannot survive. I have the best Dark Magic Healers in the world at my disposal in Bulgaria, and they have never seen a case like hers before."

"Are you sure?"

"Short of giving her her magic back, there is nothing we can do. And without the original curse, I know of no way to return her magic to her. Do you?"

"Does she know?"

Chervenko took another sip of Firewhiskey. "Of course she knows. She's known for almost two months. Unfortunately, she spent five weeks of that time saving my life."

"How long does she have left?"

"Extrapolating from the date of her curse and her current course, our Healers estimate two weeks give or take a week, but this is only a crude guess, Mr. Malfoy. No Healer I know of has any experience with this type of illness. The curse that took her magic was an ancient one indeed."

A tense silence overtook the room and the two wizards, bound by the love of the same woman, sat in the pink chairs in her room ingesting Firewhiskey and staring at one another. The fight of their lives was over. Ginny wasn't going to be spending the next one hundred years of her life with either of them. She was going to exit stage left and leave them grasping for their winsome leading lady.

Draco pocketed his wand. Chervenko had come to acknowledge Draco as Ginny's leading man, even if their act was to be a brief one. Chervenko had the balls and the heart to allow her to die in the arms of the man she loved, the one she gave her life for, the one who held her heart in his.

Many minutes later, Christo reached into his cloak and pulled out the Portkey Draco had given Ginny, the silver chain with medallion. He dropped it on the table before standing.

"The Portkey to my home expires in two days. With this offer, Mr. Malfoy, I consider my debt to you paid in full should we meet again in the future under different circumstances."

----- ----- -----

Hours later, Christo knelt at Ginny's bedside. "Ginny," he whispered, kissing her forehead, "you have a visitor." When she shook her head and buried her face in the pillow, Christo drew open the heavy silk drapes with his wand, letting the piercing late afternoon sunlight stream into the room and creep into every crack and crevice and pore, setting the enormous room afire. She groaned and attempted to pull the bedcovers over her head, but Christo held them firm.

"No, Christo," she whined, refusing to open her eyes. "No visitors, not today, please."

"I'm afraid this one won't be turned away. He's come a long way to speak with you. It won't do for him to see anyone else." He kissed her cheek. She opened her drowsy eyes and looked up at him, too tired to glare.

"My potion, Christo."

----- ----- -----

The guard glanced over at the tall, immaculately dressed foreign Death Eater who had stopped pacing long enough to glance outside the tall, cathedral style windows at one end of the sitting room. He stood there for some moments studying the formal gardens dressed in their splendid winter finery, the fingers on his wand hand drumming anxiously against his leg. Who was this wizard?

"Draco?"

He swung around at the sound of her voice, and the four guards stationed around the room came to attention, boots snapping, before exiting as previously instructed.

She paid them no heed but continued moving forward across the large room to him, her confused dark eyes transfixed.

"Hullo, Ginny," he said softly, eyes alight, as she came to him.

She stopped and studied his throbbing left jugular, watching its steady, life-giving rhythm before reaching out to touch the front of his fine robes with her fingertips, freezing the moment she felt his hardened chest beneath.

"What are you doing here?" she breathed, withdrawing her hand and looking up at him.

But he did not let her go. He caught her hand and held it in his. "I've come to take you home."

Her face fell and she dropped her eyes from his, the spell broken. "I'm afraid I can't do that."

"Don't be ridiculous, Ginny. Of course, you can."

"No, I can't and I won't." She began tugging on her hand, trying to release it from his grasp, but he refused to let go.

"I know," he whispered, his grey eyes fixed on her futile attempt to cast him aside again.

"You know what?"

"Everything. I know everything, Ginny."

"Do you know that you're bruising my hand?" she spat out, now jerking on her hand, still snug in his.

"Stop fighting me."

"I'm not fighting you." Her hand stilled.

"Then what are you doing?"

"I'm running away from you. There's a difference."

"Don't, Ginny," he admonished, staring at her, but she looked away, sticking her freckled chin up in the air, her shimmering crimson locks tumbling down her back. "Ginny," he beckoned, leaning forward to whisper into her ear, "I know that your marriage to Chervenko is an unconsummated sham. And I know that he'll annul it if you choose to defect and run off to England with me."

She didn't move or respond to his revelations

He placed a gentle kiss on her cheek and another on her throat and then another as he nuzzled into her still neck, alive with her scent. When he spoke, his hot breath sizzled on her cool skin. "Don't turn me away this time, Ginny. There won't be a second chance for us. We haven't much time left, not with that curse on our backs."

"You've been conspiring with Christo behind my back," she said, disdain in her voice.

"And you've been lying to me all along," he returned, not moving from her.

"You don't understand."

"Then make me understand." He released her hand from his and straightened. Only then did he see the aching misery etched on her face and the tears brimming in her eyes. She was staring at him with a look he did not recognize and could not decipher. It was as foreign as the thought of life without her.

"I am not who I was, but it is not death that I fear."

With unsteady hands, she methodically unfastened her brilliant blue robes and let them drop to the floor. When they fell, the beauty charms they held fell with them, and there was no place left to hide. She stood splayed open in all of her horror before him.

Draco was staring and he couldn't stop staring, even knowing his egregious breech in etiquette was devastating for her. She was gone. His beautiful Ginny was gone. In her place stood an emaciated figure, wretched and pale and without a sparkle. Good god.

"Don't ask me to watch your love for me destroyed. I have my pride and vanity as well. Go home, Draco." Ginny dropped to the floor and threw her robes around her shoulders, sheltering them both from the truth of her. Instead of rising like the Phoenix he had always known her to be, she crumpled into a motionless heap, her face hidden among the voluminous folds of her robes. She had neither the will nor the ability to rise again. Her wings had been clipped. She would never fly again.

Draco dropped to his knees beside Ginny and gently gathered his broken, flightless Phoenix into his consoling arms, afraid he would crush her under the weight of his breaking heart. "Ginny," he murmured, cradling her tragically limp form to his and kissing the top of her crimson locks, "you're many things, but a keen judge of character is not one of them."

When she looked up, he stared down at her with his clear grey eyes. "I am not the weak-hearted wizard you believe me to be. If you think this curse has affected my feelings for you or my wanting you, you are wrong." He leaned down and kissed her tearstained lips, a chaste, tender kiss. When he drew back, her big, dark eyes were staring at him. He raised an eyebrow at her. "What?"

She didn't speak. Instead, she reached out and kissed him back, a long, lingering kiss that left him wanting for more. "Ginny," he whispered, his lips on hers, his body against hers, "there's nothing I want more than to throw you to the ground and ravish you. However, I don't think your husband or the guards listening to this conversation outside that door would be amused by our adulterous antics, do you?"

Without taking her eyes off of him, she released her hold on him and shook her head.

Draco rose and held out his hand for her. "Come, it's time to go home."

Without another word and with no looking back, Ginny placed her hand in Draco's. He pulled her up and locked his arms around her. Surrounded by his love and his magnificent presence, Ginny laid her weary head on his chest. "I haven't the strength to port back to England."

"I have enough strength for the both of us." With that, Draco activated his Portkey, liberating her from the killing fields of Bulgaria.

After seven long years of battling, the War was finally over for Ginny. He was asking her to lay down her sword and come home. There would be no more wars or prisons or political assassinations. Instead, there would be Draco and only Draco until she slipped from his arms across the veil and was no more.

Author's Note: Nope, not over yet but soon. Thanks for reading. -fallenwitch