A/N: More at the bottom!! I hope you guys like it…
DISCLAIMER: I think you've got it by now…
What would it take to make you mine forever?
Saves the Day
Chapter 15: Come Undone
"Ginny! Oi, Ginny!" Pansy's grating voice floated through an open parlor door as Ginny passed by. She had hoped to get to Draco's study unnoticed, but Pansy must have been on the lookout for her. The familiar musical gloating tone of her voice made Ginny cringe with hatred. For a few solid moments she considered not stopping. But there was no escape when Pansy wanted to lord something over her; she had been stalked halfway around the mansion and restrained by subservient house elves just to be forced to hear about details of the wedding too many times already. It was better to get it over with quick than have to deal with avoiding her all day.
"WEASLEY," Pansy shouted from inside the room, this time all the sweetness was gone from her voice and replaced with ill-concealed impatience. Ginny heard a great rustling of fabric as she reluctantly turned back slowly towards the open door.
Her stomach seemed to sink with every step. It had been hard enough to have to watch and listen to Pansy plan her dream wedding to Draco, but waking up in Draco's empty bed only a few hours prior made her irrepressible disappointment worse. She hadn't decided what to believe about their conversation, but she was starting to think that the change she had felt between them had just been her imagination. He had called her a Malfoy and regardless if she wanted to be or not, the proof that she would never be Draco's wife was now standing in front of her in a stunningly atrocious black wedding gown.
"What do you think?" Pansy asked, twirling around as best she could manage with the many yards of stiff fabric arranged around her. The noon sun drifted in from tall windows and slightly silhouetted her as she stood on a low platform looking disgustingly pleased with herself. A giant charmed mirror slowly traced the perimeter around her and Ginny watched as Pansy eyed her reflection greedily.
Ginny also had a hard time looking away, but for a completely different reason. The dress was strapless, but attached to the fitted bodice were large billowy bell sleeves that hung down over her upper arms. They were so large and long that they touched the floor and looked almost as if Pansy was wearing ball gowns tied to her arms.
The fabric, however, was more visually assaulting than the cut of the dress. The black material was incredibly shiny and with the bright sun driving in on her, the folds of the fabric reflected blinding white. She looked like she was wearing metal. Or had transfigured herself into a deranged zebra.
"Why black?" Ginny finally asked, trying to hide the revulsion in her voice. Pansy tried to look convincingly startled that Ginny was still in the room.
"Did you actually think I would wear white?" she scoffed haughtily. "Death Eaters do not wear white. Black is the tradition."
"No one is even going to see… that… if you have to wear your robes over it."
Pansy's jaw set furiously and she turned to glare at Ginny. "Don't forget who I'm marrying, Weasley. Draco is one of the wealthiest wizards in Europe and I am his wife. I can't show up in some gaudy dress and think no one will notice."
Ginny felt a tightening in her chest and completely ignored the obvious comeback to Pansy's comments about her dress. "You aren't his wife yet," she sneered angrily before she could stop herself. Pansy looked as shocked as Ginny felt at her outburst, though Ginny recovered faster.
Pansy attempted to menacingly cross her arms over her chest but ended up only getting the fabric tangled around her. She gave up quickly and resigned to glaring down at Ginny. "What does that mean?" she demanded, her voice hissing dangerously.
Ginny actually had no idea why she had corrected Pansy so fiercely. She should have just let the comment go and she could have been out of the room and away from the annoying blonde. Ginny told herself she had no right to let herself think she had a chance with Draco anymore. She was only hurting herself.
But she wished desperately that she could tell Pansy where she had spent the night. She wished she could tell her how she had woken up during the night with Draco's arms wrapped tightly around her. She knew telling Pansy how Draco's hands had spread over her skin as if he couldn't touch enough of her would wipe the smile off of her smug face. But Ginny had woken up alone and had felt as empty as the room.
It was hard to be confident when she knew that a night like that would most likely be followed by Draco's complete avoidance her or flat out telling her that it shouldn't have happened and he regretted it. It was only a matter of time.
"You have less than forty-eight hours to not muck it up, Parkinson," Ginny said flatly. "That's what I meant."
Pansy scoffed loudly but looked slightly mollified and it was enough to get her to turn her attention back to the floating mirror. Her eyes narrowed at her reflection and Pansy snapped at two seamstresses standing in the corner of the room that Ginny hadn't noticed. Immediately the mousey girls and two house elves with loaded pincushions strapped to their heads rushed forwards and began pinning at the bottom of the dress. Pansy was sufficiently distracted that Ginny slipped away from the door unnoticed and started towards Draco's office once more.
She didn't know why she wanted to see him so badly; she suspected it was because she wanted to get the mystery of his reaction out of the way. There wasn't time for subject evasion and she desperately wanted some sort of finality before it was thrust upon her. The wedding hung over her like a dark, threatening reminder that once again he was choosing something, or someone, over her.
It wasn't her intention to stop the wedding or change his mind about Pansy. In fact, it was during the moments after she woke up in his bed that she decided it was time to stop letting herself be tugged around. As they talked about his mothers' death and how he had watched her in the hospital that day, she could feel herself letting her guard down. He let her see his pain and anger over his father's death. He acted like he needed her and wanted her and she believed him. The naïve little girl she had once been responded to the brief glimpse of the boy she had once fallen in love with.
Save him. Love him.
It was ridiculous. If anyone needed saving it was her. Draco could take care of himself as he liked to frequently point out. Let Pansy drown in his giant wake; she deserved to be ignored. But Ginny… she would need him and he couldn't and wouldn't give her that.
Which was why it had to end.
Ginny rounded the last corner quickly into the large hallway where Draco's office suite was located but slowed when the large, looming figure of Severus Snape stepped out from the office door and snapped it shut behind him. He immediately saw her and he paused before calmly walking towards her. His glacial expression did not change.
She knew she should have first thought of her family. Snape reported directly to Harry, Ron and Lukas and if anything had happened, Snape would be one of the people who could tell her. But she was more concerned with what he was doing visiting Draco at the Manor.
Snape's glacial expression turned into a slightly amused look as he reached her. "Miss Weasley," he looked down at her with his dark eyes. His lips thinned severely as he tried not to sneer.
"Professor," Ginny replied evenly, trying not to shrink under his intense glare as an awkward silence descended on them. She wondered if it would be polite to make conversation, then decided against it. Just because he was a spy for their side didn't mean he hated the Weasley's any less. "I was looking for Malfoy," she finally stuttered out. "Is he in his office?"
"I'm afraid you just missed him," Snape said after a moment. The way his greasy hair was hanging over his eyes could have explained the strange look Ginny thought he gave her. But after a quick second, the look was replaced by his cold gaze. He briskly nodded again and made a move to step around her. Ginny let him pass. After taking a step, however, he stopped.
"Don't screw this up tonight, Weasley," he said from behind her. She heard him sniff distastefully, "He's risked too much already."
Ginny frowned, immediately confused and alarmed as to what he meant. But when she turned around to ask him, he had already disappeared into another corridor. She stood in front of Draco's office contemplating what Snape had meant until Beck barreled into her leg crying about how he couldn't find her.
What was planned for her tonight? Her first thought was initiation, but she dismissed it. Draco wouldn't take her into initiation without preparing her. And if the night of Fight Night was changed, Pansy would have been hyperventilating with excitement and trying on fashionable robes instead of her wedding dress. Also, she had not practiced with Draco for days and if something was planned she knew he would insist on making sure she was ready.
But Draco wasn't in the Manor to answer her questions; in truth, she hadn't expected to find him. Her theory that he was going to avoid her seemed spot on.
Though she knew she couldn't make her final decision on him yet. The death of his father seemed to affect the whole house. The house elves were tense; even Beck clung harder to her leg as she made her way up to Xavi's work room. The curtains towards the front of the house were charmed black and drawn closed. The Manor was darker and gloomier than usual, but the tension in the house was what made it almost unbearable.
To the outside world, it had to look like the Malfoy household was in mourning from the untimely death of their patriarch. But inside the walls, everyone knew the real truth about how he died. The quiet strain felt as if everyone was collectively holding their breath waiting for the moment to pass.
Ginny found Xavi slicing roots and silently joined him. His grim face was enough to figure out that he knew about the nights events. They talked minimally and only about their research. It didn't take long for both of them to realize neither had much to say about Lucius' death.
She couldn't stop thinking about Snape's cryptic statement. But mentioning to Xavi that one of the High Council had talked to her freely would draw even more questions. Ginny knew Snape's life depended on not calling attention to himself, so she kept quiet. Xavi was trustworthy but she couldn't risk it. So Ginny sliced roots and boiled potions, silently bearing the weight of her questions.
In the afternoon, the house seemed to explode with chaos and Ginny was grateful for anything to take her mind off of whatever was planned for her. Pansy decided Ginny should help the house elves construct some sort of dirt and grass sculptures in the garden in the back of the Manor where the wedding was to take place. She seemed so completely oblivious to the front bell ringing every 15 seconds that Ginny wondered whether Pansy knew Lucius had died at all. It was left up to Xavi to take over duties of receiving the numerous visitors who wished to express their contrived condolences about Lucius' death.
It was nearing midnight by the time Ginny got back to her room. She was aching, dirty and wishing for sleep. The shower she took was long and steamy and did nothing to wash away her uneasiness. She wanted to convince herself that Snape was wrong and that there was nothing happening tonight.
But when she opened the bathroom door and saw a Death Eater robe lying ominously on her cheerful comforter, she knew her old professor had been telling the truth. There was no way to stop the fear from rolling through her body as she realized this was the night of her initiation.
Immediately her stomach tightened. After a few shallow breaths she tore her eyes away from the robe and released the painful grip she had on her towel. Months of knowing it was coming and telling herself that she would be strong enough to get through it meant nothing. The moment it actually arrived was paralyzing.
But only for a few seconds. Staring back at the robe, she gathered her strength and dressed slowly. Outwards, she knew she looked calm and confident. Hopefully it was enough to fool Draco because inside she still wished violently for some way to get out of taking the Dark Mark.
The material of the robe scratched against her skin as she slid her arms into the sleeves. It felt like betrayal and deceit were clawing at her, trying to get her to surrender. Without looking at her hands, she fixed the clasp at the neck and slowly pulled the hood down over her eyes. Turning towards the door she caught a reflection of herself in the mirror.
For one terrifying moment, the darkness of the room transformed her. Her reflection looked so much like a Death Eater that she quickly suppressed the urge to pulled up her left sleeve to make sure the Dark Mark hadn't somehow suddenly appeared on her forearm.
The betrayal she had felt when she had first put on the robe surged within her. She felt ice under her skin. The realization that no one had forced her to put on the robe made her want to vomit. Draco hadn't stood over her with his wand to her head, threatening death if she didn't wear it. Her actions were voluntary; this was her 'yes.'
Tears formed, blurring her vision. She knew she could run. Draco would find her, but at least she could go down fighting. Her family would forgive her if they knew she fought it. But Draco…
Snape's words came back to her, 'he's risked too much.' She already knew what Draco risked to get her to this point, though she had never really acknowledged it. He had saved her, but for what reason and for what life? Did Snape mean that he had risked more? Would he be in danger if she didn't do this?
Beck suddenly appeared at her leg, breaking her concentration on her reflection.
"Master wants missus with him now," Beck told her, his small voice booming through the deathly silent room. Ginny didn't move, even when Beck carefully grasped her hand and tugged.
Another step forward meant she would go through with it. Even with everything the night held for her, she knew this would be the hardest moment.
It shouldn't have been. She already had her answer the moment she put on the robe. She would do this for him. She would live to see her family again one day. She would fight and spy and help her family in any way. She would use Voldemort's misguided trust that she could be turned. She wouldn't get the glory, but she would win the war.
With a nod of her head, Beck led the way out of the room. It was only after she stepped out into the hallway did she realize that her room smelled like Draco.
Neither of them saw her enter and Ginny stood for a moment, watching them. Pansy sat with her legs crossed on the top of Draco's desk. Her foot was swinging close to his thigh, whispering against the fabric of his pants. She was smiling at him, fluttering her eyelashes. Draco looked bored, but to Ginny's surprise, not completely disinterested. He was leaning against his desk reading a paper that lay on the surface between them. He looked seductive and powerful and incredibly handsome.
The picture of the two of them made Ginny sick. They looked like a photo in a fashion magazine. Pansy's adoring face, Draco's flawless indifference; they were the perfect Death Eaters.
"I'm so surprised they changed the date!" Pansy gushed to him, her dimples creasing her over-rouged cheeks. Draco's jaw tensed and for a quick, unbearable moment Ginny thought Pansy was talking about the wedding. "As far as I know they've never moved a Fight Night. Do you suppose it's because of our wedding?" Her hand reached out for his and Draco made to pull away but he stopped and let her hand rest on his.
Ginny's stomach clenched with jealously and she walked further into the room, her initiation and new robe forgotten. Pansy was the first one to look up but she could tell Draco already knew she was there.
"Is she coming?" Pansy scowled, eying Ginny's robe carefully.
Draco was silent, his eyes skimming over the paper for a few long seconds as if he didn't care she was there. And then he looked up at her, his grey eyes locking onto her.
"Yes?" he said. It was only one word but she knew it was the question he had been asking her every day since training had begun. He looked at her for confirmation. Would she do it? Would she accept Voldemort?
She swallowed hard, "Yes." For you, she almost added on. It wouldn't have mattered if she had said it though because as soon as he heard her answer he turned away from her again. His eyes were back on the paper. Pansy's eyes were leveled on her.
"I can't wait for you to see my gown, darling," Pansy cooed at Draco. Her gaze, however, was focused on Ginny.
Draco exhaled fiercely and slammed his fist down on desk so hard Pansy gripped the side of it in surprise. "Can I get four seconds of fucking silence?" he snapped furiously. Pansy blanched, but her black eyelashes fluttered in silent apology. Draco worked his jaw, glaring at Pansy, who immediately started picking at her dark nail polish.
"Its time to go," he finally said, turning towards Ginny. Pansy's head snapped up.
"But we haven't been called!" she protested, jumping off the desk and following him towards the center of the room.
"Then stay here until he does," Draco sneered, this time with a quiet harshness. Pansy's large blue eyes turned cold.
Ginny was watching Draco however. Pansy was good at pushing his buttons, but his mood swing was so dramatic and intense that something else had to be bothering him. Was he angry? Worried? Suddenly she realized he was watching her too.
"Weasley, come here." With his hand held out towards her, he asked it reservedly; almost as if he was afraid she wouldn't want to touch him. Before Ginny could even move Pansy grabbed Draco's outstretched hand, shot Ginny a look of pure hatred, and linked her arms around Draco's elbow. Draco's expression didn't change as he merely held out his other hand for Ginny.
It felt so natural to put her hand in his. Strong fingers pulled her flush with his side then confidently wrapped his hand around her waist. Ginny's hand slipped up his arm to his shoulder before she could think about what she was doing. His fingers tightened against her as her body fitted against his.
It was almost a confirmation for Ginny that he wasn't faking when he had called her a Malfoy, or when he had told her he had watched her and needed her. Almost.
He looked down at her, his grey eyes indecipherable. "Put your hood up," he whispered softly, ducking his head towards her. Ginny hadn't realized it had fallen back to her shoulders; wordlessly she reached around and tugged it up. The hood came down over her eyes, blocking her sight of everything above her nose.
She felt his arm tighten around her just before the sensation of Apparation squeezed her body. They landed harshly and Draco immediately grabbed her hand to stop her from falling. Pansy, however, sprawled to the ground, her hands immediately flying to her face.
"Draco!! Where are my eyelashes?! You splinched my eyelashes!" she cried. Biting back immediate alarm, then laughter, Ginny had to tip her head far back so that she could see Pansy from underneath her hood. Getting awkwardly to her feet, Pansy rubbed her fingers tirelessly over her eyelids smearing the charmed black makeup around her eyes.
"I told you not to mess around when you side-along Apparate, it's your own fault," Draco said, malice and amusement coating his voice. Pansy inhaled shakily and Ginny, who still couldn't see their surroundings, was afraid the girl was going to scream.
"I wanted you to hold me like you held her," Pansy wheezed violently, whipping a finger at Ginny. Almost automatically Draco let go of her hand.
"I'll do more than splice your bloody eyelashes if you don't shut up and remember who you are and where you are," Draco hissed. Ginny couldn't see him but she felt the gravity of his warning. Pansy immediately sobered.
"Darling," she said softly, "will you take me back to get them?"
In response Draco turned away and brushed past Ginny. Without knowing what else to do, Ginny followed him. Instinctively she kept close, silent, and her head down.
She heard him push through what sounded like immense and heavy doors. Low light flooded around her as she followed him out onto strangely familiar stone floors. Even being unable to see much except her feet because of the hood, Ginny felt the vastness of the room. She also felt like she was being watched by thousands of eyes.
Draco stopped so abruptly that Ginny almost ran into the back of him. Stepping over a low stone partition, she saw Draco turn in place quickly.
"Look at me," his voice, now incredibly deep and frightening, sounded around her. Her heart pounded furiously and for the first moment since Apparating she could feel the blood pulse rhythmically through her veins. Slowly she pushed her hood back.
He was standing before her looking regal, powerful and unfamiliar. He was at the front of a small group of Death Eaters, but he was the only one she looked at. Unable to stop herself she searched for his eyes underneath his white half mask.
"Honor the Dark Lord." Draco's lips moved, but the voice that came out was chilling. It took her a moment to realize that he meant Voldemort. It was even more amazing to realize that she had not even noticed that Voldemort was standing, slightly stooped, next to Draco. In contrast to Draco's tall, commanding frame encased in the distinctive snake covered robes, Voldemort looked old and pathetic.
Confidence bloomed in her chest then died a swift death the moment Voldemort spoke. "Kneel before me, child Weasley."
His red eyes were lasers, boring tiny holes through her meager defenses. His voice washed over her like a bucket of cold water. It was almost if she could feel his putrid breath linger around her, touching her, soaking out strength and secrets.
Fighting a sudden desire to vomit all over her new robe, Ginny resisted looking back at Draco knowing that it would only make her look unsure and weak. She waited to feel deceitful as she dropped to her knees in front of Voldemort, but it did not come again. She stared at the hem of Voldemort's robe and waited, strangely unafraid but extremely on edge.
"Good… good," Voldemort said after a few long moments. "Rise and respect my Servant."
Without thinking she stood then pivoted to face Draco and dropped to her knees again. Almost immediately, as if he were uncomfortable, Draco nodded and Ginny was commanded to stand.
"Turn, and respect your superiors," Voldemort demanded, and with that the room exploded in mocking cheers. The noise was deafening and pushing her hood back a little further Ginny slowly turned in place, her eyes soaking in the sight before her.
Unable to see it properly before, Ginny recognized the same hall where she had been brought and tied to a chair, except this time she was not being hidden in a dark corner. It was the Great Room at Cassiopeia, where Draco had trained.
The columns rose around her as she stood on the fighting floor. Beyond her, every seat was filled with robed Death Eaters who were calling and yelling and screaming at her to bow to them. Taking another moment of what looked like defiance, but was actually wobbly knees, Ginny slowly lowered herself to the floor. Immediately the crowd silenced their electric hatred.
"Rise and take your place," Draco said from behind her. Unsure as where that was, Ginny turned back towards Draco and climbed confidently over the partition. Even if she was supposed to go somewhere else, she had a strong desire to stay close to Draco. Unknown hands grabbed her arms and pushed her back so that she was standing next to Snape. Next to him was Pansy who looked sickeningly proud to be stand behind her husband-to-be. Ginny figured that it had to be some sort of spot of honor since Pansy looked so pleased with herself, even without eyelashes.
Ginny however, couldn't sort out any specific feelings except the ones she knew she shouldn't have. For the first time since Draco left her seven years ago, she understood why people feared him. He looked like he was restraining a great force that was just waiting to escape. He exuded confidence and authority. She also understood why he felt so powerful among the Death Eaters. It was as thick in the room as was the stench of sweat and death… and he controlled it all.
Eyes shifted the moment Draco and Voldemort stepped out on the fighting floor, except all were focused on Draco. He commanded attention; Voldemort was invisible.
She knew she should be worried that bowing was just the beginning of her night. It had been painless so far, but the evening was long and her initiation was obviously going to require her participation. She strained to see Draco through the dim lighting as he walked further out onto the floor. Every step away he took, her nervousness grew. Not allowing herself to relax for a second, she knew that if her awareness of the room strayed for a moment, she would be at a disadvantage.
So Ginny slyly looked around. The huge room had not changed and Ginny's eyes drifted to the corner where she had been held. This was her second Fight Night. So far it was very different from the first time.
Unused adrenaline pumped through her as she listened to Voldemort speak. The things he said were of little of importance to her and everyone else; the Death Eaters already knew who she was and why she was present. They were waiting to see the fights.
The first few were announced and finished before Ginny even realized that the two of the losers had been mortally wounded. She had wondered before why Voldemort would allow the killing of his members for sport, but the filled seats climbing into the vast darkness above her was enough to convince her that it didn't matter. It seemed that the Death Eaters grew louder and more excited with each hit or slice.
After the first few, the fights held no interest for her. She knew she should be watching the Death Eaters die or at least counting the numbers of Death Eaters in the room to report back to Harry. Instead, underneath the shadow of her hood, she watched the back of Draco. The snake that wrapped around the length of his sleeve seemed to writhe whenever he clapped for the victor or leaned down to listen to something Voldemort or another of the council said. His broad shoulders seemed incredibly tense and a few times she thought he was going to turn around and look at her. Even if he did, she wouldn't be able to look away from him. It wasn't until he suddenly stepped out on the floor with Voldemort again did she realize it was because she was completely terrified. For his safety. For hers.
In the middle of the fighting floor, Draco listened as the cheers from the end of the last fight dissolved into charged silence. The complete attention of the room was glued to them as they waited to tell the Death Eaters why the fights were interrupted. Next to him, Voldemort began.
"The dishonorable death of a member of my council has brought many questions to my attention. Especially loyalty," his voice seemed to shake the room as he hissed out his speech.
Draco inwardly flinched as Voldemort emphasized 'dishonorable death.' It didn't matter that Lucius had served him for more than half his life, Voldemort only cared how it ended. From now on, Lucius, and the entire Malfoy name, would be tied to dishonor and disloyalty. Unless Draco could do something about it quickly.
Any question of his loyalty meant death for Draco. Someone would eventually figure what his father knew and even something tiny would balloon into a huge fatal mess. And in the middle of it would be Ginny and he would be unable to protect her.
Draco stomach tightened. He knew he had disappointed her by leaving so soon in the morning, he saw it on her face the moment she walked into his office. Her confidence in him was only that she expected him to hurt her. He had put her on the defensive and she had erected barriers around herself in anticipation.
If she knew how much he had wanted to stay curled around her until the sun went back down she wouldn't have been glaring at the back of his head so harshly during the fights. But if he had any chance of waking up next to her in the future, he needed to make sure his plan was going to work.
And what an awful plan it was. That morning he had left his warm bed to go and offer Voldemort the one thing he thought he didn't care about.
"Acts of loyalty are greatly valued by me. Tonight you will see an act of loyalty that will give an example that all true Death Eater's should live up to. I do not want servants that hide their true selves shamefully. I do not want servants that believe it is acceptable to serve me only within these walls. To be a Death Eater, to be a loyal servant, means that every aspect of your life is touched by darkness. Blood of a Death Eater bleeds black no matter where it is let. Tonight the example of loyalty is offered by my most esteemed Servant," Voldemort continued, looking increasingly joyful as he went on, even at one point clasping his hands together like an excited little girl.
Baited silence followed Voldemort's speech and underneath his mask and hood Draco watched the eyes of the Death Eaters flick between them. It was only one pair of eyes that he actually cared about however.
"Fellow Death Eaters," Draco started. With Voldemort, their silence was out of fright, but Draco could almost see the interest peak in their eyes as he continued. "With the recent disgraceful death of the Dark Lord's servant, I feel the need to demonstrate my loyalties to our Dark Lord," Draco went on after the applause for him had died. "As you all know, I am to be married tomorrow. It was the wish of my late father and late mother and I honor my mother's wish to still be married; however… I honor the Dark Lord by letting him pick my wife-to-be."
Whispers erupted as Draco paused to collect his carefully constructed statements. His nerves were curiously becoming a problem as he had to keep himself from looking over towards Ginny. Everything needed to be perfectly phrased or the careful line he walked would be tripped. The point of this had to be that Voldemort would to be honored and his father's dishonorable debt would be repaid. But that was far cry from the real reason he was doing this.
"My disloyal father made clear to me before his dishonorable death that his choice for my wife is Pansy Parkinson. I have no doubts of Parkinson's loyalties to the Dark Lord, but because of my father's opinion her worthiness is questionable."
Shouts erupted immediately. "Will there be a test?!"
"Parkinson is worthy!"
"Who will decide?!"
The last shout was undoubtedly from Pansy. Her shriek echoed across the floor and Draco felt sordid satisfaction that she was upset. He glanced sideways quickly to see Voldemort's slit mouth curve back into his face as he listened to the excitement of the Death Eaters. Draco could tell had not expected such an outburst and interest. Draco hadn't expected it either, but he had hoped that his effort wouldn't be futile.
"Quiet," Voldemort finally said, his voice booming through the columns and across the ceiling. "I have decided there is to be a fight. I can not leave all of my loyal Death Eaters out of the fun."
"The winner of the fight," Draco said in the silence, "will marry me tomorrow." From across the floor he heard only one gasp of shock. He wondered if it was Ginny or Pansy, but he didn't allow himself to look in their direction.
"Parkinson has fought for me a number of times and remained victorious," Voldemort said, attempting to sound soothing though everyone could see the excitement on his face. "She should think it an easy task facing the child Weasley," Voldemort announced.
This time the noise that erupted was filled with excitement but quickly morphed into angry shouts. Voldemort only laughed, "Some bloodshed will change your minds!"
Voldemort's last few words changed Draco's confidence into regretful second thoughts. He felt uncharacteristically sick to his stomach as he followed Voldemort back towards the council, but he knew he looked controlled. It wasn't the shouts of rage or the chance of dishonor that made him feel so awful. It was the anticipation of seeing Ginny and knowing that the look on her face was going to hurt worse than any battle wound he'd ever received.
She wouldn't understand his motives until he had the chance to explain. And he wouldn't have the chance to explain unless she won the fight. Pansy, the more experienced of the two, was going to be honored with the choice of fight: hands, wands or sabers.
When they stopped in front of the council, Pansy and Ginny were already standing on the fighting floor. Pansy was glaring furiously at him and Draco could tell that if it weren't for Voldemort's presence she would be shouting obscenities and throwing curses. Snape was standing next to Ginny with his hand on her shoulder. Ginny wouldn't meet his gaze and the fact that Snape was touching her was making Draco angrier by the second.
"What will it be, Parkinson?" Voldemort asked cheerily. Pansy looked directly at Draco.
"Sabers." Her voice was strong and confident and Draco realized she was expecting him to try to change her decision.
Secretly, he was pleased with her choice. Pansy, who wasn't all that experienced in the art, wouldn't have chosen sabers if she had known Ginny had been trained as well. She was a coward who liked to have the upper hand and Pansy certainly wouldn't have it if she had chosen wands or fists. It also meant that his training sessions with Ginny were still unknown.
"Interesting choice," Voldemort commented, clearly pleased. "Start them," he commanded Draco as he passed by to take his place behind the low partition. Robes were removed from the girls' shoulders and swords were placed in their hands before they followed Draco out into the middle of the fighting floor.
The room was silent as he turned to face Ginny and Pansy.
"Bow to me," he told them. Curiously, Ginny complied immediately while Pansy continued to glare at him a few seconds before she bent.
"You convinced him to do this, you whore!" Pansy snarled under her breath to Ginny.
"I didn't," Ginny said evenly, still not meeting Draco's gaze. "And I wouldn't."
Inwardly, Draco's anger began to grow. Wasn't she eager? Or even scared? Did she care? She was getting the chance to marry him! She had wanted him last night, at least it had seemed so from the way she curled up in his arms. He knew he wasn't the only one who had felt something.
But now… she wouldn't look at him. She looked completely and convincingly blank. And Ginny was never very good at hiding her emotions from him. Currently she looked like a stone. Suddenly, his stomach began to clench. What was she thinking?
"You warned me this morning! You said I had forty-eight hours to fuck things up," Pansy whispered furiously. "This was what you meant, you bloody…"
"Enough," Draco snapped. "She didn't know about this."
"Are you really going to defend her?" Pansy was completely red in the face as she tried to keep her voice down. "We're getting married tomorrow, you love me."
"Don't forget that I could end this fight right now, Parkinson," Draco threatened. "And we won't be getting married unless you win." Pansy's red face went white with rage.
"You don't question my worthiness! You made that up so you could save yourself," Pansy whispered. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Ginny's jaw flex. "So prepare to watch her die because I'm not going easy just because she doesn't know how to hold a saber."
"Don't worry, Pansy," Ginny said suddenly. Her voice was quiet and fierce as she glared at Pansy, but it was as if he were invisible. "I'm as eager to start this fight as you are. But just so you know, I'll let you win. It looks like he wants to marry you just as much as I want to marry him."
"Good, I'm glad it will be easy," Pansy smirked.
"I didn't say it would be easy, Parkinson. You're enough punishment on anyone and if this were for any other honor I would kill you," Ginny sneered at her. "You'll win when I'm finished slicing every inch…"
"Sounds exciting," Pansy interrupted, smiling sarcastically as her eyes narrowed.
Draco could tell Pansy was suddenly worried though. Ginny had broken her confidence which was a good tactic if Ginny actually wanted to win. But the only person Ginny looked like she wanted to hurt was him. The anger and frustration he felt were making his hands shake. He wished he could throttle Ginny for being so dense. She believed what Pansy had said, but he couldn't imagine that she actually thought he wanted to marry Pansy. There had to be another reason she was being difficult.
"Weasley," Draco whispered harshly, ignoring Pansy, "If you throw this match, not only will you fight for your life here but you'll also do it in the middle of a circle of Death Eaters."
Her fierce gaze bore straight through him as she continued to refuse to look at him. He had never imagined she would be so angry, though he hadn't been completely sure what she would do. Threatening her wasn't his first choice; he knew that he had never really intimidated her. Ginny did what she wanted when it came to him, but he hoped this time she listened to him. He was telling the truth. If she lost, Draco had little to bargain with to be able to keep her safe with him.
Clenching his jaw he waited to see if she would look at him. Pansy, however, looked completely smug and haughty that he had reprimanded Ginny that Draco couldn't resist one last shot at her.
"Pansy, its no coincidence that this is one day before our wedding. My only regret is that I couldn't make it sooner," Draco said evenly. Pansy was silent a long moment before her smile drained completely.
Satisfied with her reaction, he saw Ginny's eyes flick towards him. But when he looked back at her, her eyes were focused beyond him again. Insanely frustrated with her, he ignored her.
"The rules," he said loudly, his voice echoing off the vaulted ceiling, "Are the regular rules of any fight." All eyes were glued to him as he explained the boundaries of the fight. "The fight will begin and end at my command. The Dark Lord will declare the winner at that point."
The crowd started cheering in anticipation as Draco made to walk away. But over the noise Draco heard Ginny speak, "What are the rules?"
He turned and held her strong gaze for a moment. She still looked emotionless, but he noticed her fingers curving against her palm at her side. She was nervous. Or angry. His heart ached and suddenly he wished he hadn't made her do this. She wasn't ready; she was going to get hurt. His throat felt stiff as he looked at her.
"There are no rules," Pansy laughed at her. Draco nodded at Ginny and turned back. The walk to his seat was excruciating. Had he just condemned her to die? Was he going to lose her again? Worse, would it be at the hands of Pansy? Draco scoffed, trying to dismiss the thought.
"A little trouble?" Voldemort asked as Draco reached him. Voldemort's red eyes swept over him carefully.
"It was nothing," Draco said confidently, turning towards the crowd and the fighters. Ginny and Pansy were facing each other, their swords hovering. They were waiting for him to begin the fight but Draco paused, his fingers unable to give the signal.
Ginny could handle this, Draco reminded himself. She would succeed easily against Pansy, but only if she actually wanted to. The sickness Draco had felt all morning returned with a vengeance.
Without thinking about it further, he snapped his fingers. The amplified sound cracked overhead and instead of waiting for the reverberations to subside, Pansy launched herself at Ginny.
Their swords clinked against each other with much less force then the men that had gone before them, but Draco was sure that everyone in the room saw the strength behind the attacks. The first few hits Ginny defended easily. Pansy worked around her, circling and looking for a way in.
This swordplay went on for less than a minute before Pansy secured the first slice. Ginny tripped over her untied shoelace, unbalancing herself. Pansy's sword ripped across Ginny's upper shoulder and Draco almost threw up.
He was being watched very, very closely, and he knew it. Voldemort's eyes were on the fight, but his attention was on Draco. There was no way to fool Voldemort, and as much as Draco would have liked to use his Power to help Ginny through the fight, he knew Voldemort would some how figure it out. Not only Voldemort was watching him, however. Draco saw eyes flash between himself and the fighters; everyone wanted to see his reaction.
So he stood calm and indifferent at Voldemort's side, watching blood gush down Ginny's arm. But the gash seemed to do something to Ginny as she suddenly started to attack.
Pansy's wide eyes announced she didn't expect to have to defend herself, much less from Ginny. More and more, Pansy's movements were becoming more desperate as Ginny's were becoming confident.
Their swords hit together again and Ginny twisted hers, breaking the contact and sending the blade straight towards Pansy's stomach. He didn't know who moved; it looked like Pansy curved sideways and Ginny redirected her blade, but Pansy was only barely sliced along her ribs.
Pansy grunted in pain as if it were the worst wound in the world. Much to his surprise, Ginny smirked, backed off and waited for Pansy to attack again. Just like he would do.
This time, Pansy was smarter about her approach. Draco saw the calculation in her eyes. She wasn't the best at sabers, but he had seen Pansy triumph against some very big odds.
Slice after slice continued, each time getting a bigger and bigger reaction from the Death Eaters. After a few more minutes of fighting, both of the girls were tired, angry and bloody. The angry red streaks covered both of them, but Ginny had definitely made good on her promise to Pansy. Her skin was coated in tiny paper-cut slices to deep gashes. Ginny had all deeper cuts that sent blood streaming down her pale skin.
Draco felt every single slice as if it were his body that had been cut. He hadn't expected to feel so much. Ever. The hilarity of watching Ginny and Pansy hit him like a ton of bricks, but it wasn't something to smile about. The love of his life, who had made it clear she did not want him, was fighting the only person who wanted him now.
Pansy landed another hit on Ginny and Draco stomach heaved. The pain was evident on her face as she regrouped and landed another attack on Pansy. Twisting around, Ginny caught the side of Pansy's hip in a move that Draco knew he had not taught her. She had learned that from watching him, he realized again. But even with her few impressive moves, Ginny was still fighting at Pansy's level. It made him wonder if she was really going to throw the fight.
Suddenly, Pansy lunged forward awkwardly. Draco saw what she was doing moments before Ginny realized it. Stepping on Ginny's loose shoelace, Pansy was able to push her backwards. Ginny landed hard, her head snapping back against the solid stone floor. She held tightly onto her sword however and Draco could tell Pansy was angry that Ginny hadn't let it slip away.
Standing over Ginny like an angry troll, Pansy waved her sword over Ginny's body, taunting her. Draco's heart stopped; Ginny really was going to give up. He was too far away to see her face clearly so he waited, unwilling to call the fight over.
Pansy continued waving her sword about like an idiot; she looked smug and confident. A few long moments went by where Ginny remained motionless. Draco didn't realize he was holding his breath until Ginny raised her sword. But instead of pointing it towards Pansy she let it slide down her leg. Pansy stopped, watching.
Her pause gave Ginny a chance. She sliced cleanly through the shoelace that was holding her down and kicked Pansy's knee in all in one movement. Pansy bucked forward falling into Ginny. Ginny, however, had other plans and landed a fierce right hook on Pansy's jaw. The girl fell hard, landing next to Ginny on the floor with a loud thump. Pansy's eyes fluttered closed and her jaw went slack.
She lay still, completely knocked out. At that moment, Draco was sure he had never felt so much pride. Ginny kicked Pansy's legs off of her and stood with her sword, looking directly at him.
The crowd was silent, also watching Draco. He waited, soaking in the feeling that Ginny was going to be his. No one could take her away now. Not Voldemort. Not his father.
He snapped his fingers and the crack signaled the end of the fight. Voldemort's red slit eyes were wider than Draco had ever seen them as the old man turned to the crowd and said, "The child Weasley triumphs."
The announcement should have brought on cheers, but the Death Eaters were quiet as they watched Ginny walk back towards him. She looked angry and victorious. Her red hair spilled out from her ponytail and stuck to her sweaty face and neck. Her clothes were stuck to her and stained red with blood. The too-big old sweatpants she had on were his. They were stained and sticking to her. A rip from where Pansy had sliced through them revealed part of her thigh and knee.
She stopped in front of him. He had to admit that even with his strange nervousness Ginny was an absolutely captivating fighter.
"Is this acceptable?" Voldemort hissed. Draco could tell he had enjoyed the fight but hadn't expected Pansy to fail. The question came at exactly the wrong moment.
Ginny's eyes met his as he answered, "Barely." He knew it was the answer Voldemort wanted to hear, and he was right. Voldemort nodded in approval.
"So it shall be," his narrowed gaze fell on Ginny. Ginny, for all the pain that he knew she was in, stood proudly in front of him. Her eyes, however, had fallen to the floor.
"Your fight is last, I will announce you," Voldemort said as he stepped over the barrier and floated out onto the floor. For the moment, they were alone.
"Barely acceptable?" Ginny hissed.
"You almost lost because of a shoelace," Draco said back, caught between prying ears and telling her the truth that he hadn't meant it. Not at all.
She looked like a fiery queen as she held her sword at her side. She looked up at him and for the first time, Draco realized her eyes were brimming with tears.
"I didn't win because I want to marry you. I did it so that I'll survive and we both know I have a better chance against you than a 'circle of Death Eaters,'" Ginny spat at him.
"I wasn't joking," Draco told her. His feeling of triumph had plummeted back down into familiar territory. It would have probably been less painful for him if Ginny had just cut through him with her saber though.
"It doesn't matter. One day I will leave you and you will never see me again. And I will never think of you and how you've used me."
"I didn't…" Draco stopped, realizing that in essence he had used her. In their silence, Draco heard his name being announced above the cheers. He stepped over the barrier, throwing back his hood and pulling off his mask.
"I promise you won't think that when I explain the real reason I did this," Draco told her. He was surprised to realize that he wasn't angry. It was his normal reaction to everything, especially anything Ginny did that hurt him. But currently, he felt excited. It could have been the loud roar of the Death Eaters as they cheered in anticipation of his fight. But Draco knew that wasn't it. He was going to marry Ginny.
"I promise I won't care," she retorted. Draco shrugged out of his robe and thrust it into her arms. Ginny caught it to her automatically, but her eyes were still narrowed on him. He could tell she was slightly concerned that he wasn't angry at her yet. She had tried to be serious, but he knew she hadn't really meant it.
"Will you watch my fight first?" Draco asked. Ginny gave him such a nasty look that he almost laughed. He knew he could convince her to not to be angry if he had five minutes alone with her. But her anger was so fascinating at that moment that he decided to wait. The roar of the crowd was getting louder and louder demanding his attention.
"What's gotten into you?" Ginny asked over the cheers. Draco resisted smirking at her before pulling his thin shirt over his head leaving his torso bare. The snake on his arm danced over his muscles as he leaned in towards her.
"Last night was the best sleep I've gotten in… seven years," he whispered in her ear before dropping the shirt on top of the bundle of robes in her arms. Standing up, he made eye contact with Snape before turning and walking towards the center of the floor.
Ginny was glad he didn't see her mouth drop open. The tickles that had vaulted down her spine as he whispered into hear ear overcame the pain of her wounds for a moment. Was he… flirting with her?
"Miss Weasley, if you would," Snape said from behind her. She turned and stepped over the low barrier and stood where Snape had directed. The fight had not yet started, and Ginny watched as Draco rolled his shoulders in anticipation.
He looked back at her once, just once, before he was handed his swords and Ginny felt the heat of his gaze echo through her entire body. What was he doing to her? She had been so angry at him and within a few moments she was completely confused and had actually felt like kissing him.
The fight had started before Ginny realized he was fighting two men at once. He held a saber in both hands as he twisted around, landing slices on his challengers. She didn't worry for him as she had before. Anger was slowly building up in her again.
The moment Draco had brought up his wedding, Ginny knew it was the reason she was here tonight. Up to that point, nothing had seemed right for her initiation. But fighting Pansy to marry Draco was completely obvious. She hadn't been shocked at all when Voldemort announced her name. Pansy had gasped though, and somehow that had made Ginny angrier.
The more Draco spoke about 'dishonored Lucius,' the harder it was for Ginny not to be confused as to why he was doing this. With this one fight, he wanted to restore honor to the Malfoy family name and get rid of Pansy.
But Voldemort had made such a show out of Draco's loyal act that it made Ginny wonder how much of the Malfoy name was under scrutiny. Ginny decided making her fight Pansy was something Draco wanted to do, not HAD to do. He was as much respected and feared as the day he became the Devil's Servant. Not one Death Eater in the room had questioned his loyalty with the death of Lucius.
And Pansy. Ginny knew he had wanted her gone from the moment he had asked her to marry him. He didn't have to tell her it was mistake; Ginny could see it on his face. She had no problem that he wanted to get rid of her. But when she had offered herself to him, he had turned it down. Nothing had chanced since then. It still hurt as much today when he made it plainly clear that Ginny was just a little better than Pansy.
She watched as Draco cut into one of his opponents making him cry out in agony. The man collapsed onto his knees then slowly sank the floor. Draco didn't watch as he had already turned his attention to the other competitor. Throwing away one sword confidently, he waited, just as she had, for his challenger to attack him. He was stalling, playing the crowd. Voldemort, who was standing on the fighting floor near the weapons table, was soaking it up. His slit eyes were focused on Draco.
Draco got another clean slice on the man, and as blood started to stain his shirt, Ginny became very aware of her own blood. It was caked on the skin of her arm, stomach, and thighs, making them sticky and heavy. The adrenaline that had erased most of the pain was slowly giving way, making Ginny's head swim a little.
With the pain, anger blossomed full force. She had promised herself that she wouldn't ever fight for him again. She had already put herself out there for him and had gotten hurt. He had told her he had made his decision when he chose Pansy over her, and that moment had hurt as much as she was hurting right now.
But here she was, bleeding for him again. She had won the fight against Pansy, but she was still unsure if she wanted the prize. In almost twenty-four hours, Ginny had seen little pieces of who Draco once was emerge. This last one was the most disarming however. Even though he hadn't smiled at her like he used to, she had felt his meaning.
Another 'Oooh' from the crowd drew Ginny's attention back to the fight, though her eyes had never left Draco. He had just cut down the opponents arm so that the skin and cloth were hanging slightly off. The man looked unconcerned and kept attacking Draco whose perfect pale skin gleamed with sweat as he easily countered the attacks. She could tell he was getting bored though and after only a few meager attacks from his opponent Draco ended the fight.
The sword fell from the challenger's hand as he collapsed to the floor amid droplets of his blood. The crowd of Death Eaters went wild shouting and clapping. Draco merely bowed to Voldemort who was applauding demurely before walking over to speak with him.
Ignoring the cheers, the two spoke. After only a few moments with Voldemort, Draco threw his sword to the ground and walked confidently back towards her. Ginny was sure every Death Eater was watching him.
But his eyes were gleaming as he looked at her. He easily stepped over the partition and stood in front of her. His short blond hair was slick with sweat. His tensely muscled arms and chest were slightly spattered with blood that was not his own. The black tattoo that ran from his back and shoulders to his wrist was starkly contrasted against his pale skin and hair. He looked like a proud, arrogant god.
He held out a hand towards her and Ginny pulled his robes away from her body. Pain shot through her as she realized that pressing them against her had helped clot the wound on her stomach and she had just ripped it open. Draco saw her wince.
He held the robe up that was now crusty and wrinkled. With one disgusted look, Draco shoved his arms into the robe. One of the council members behind her clicked his tongue disapprovingly.
"Pick up any good moves?" Draco said harshly. The Death Eaters around Ginny laughed heartily from underneath their masks. Ginny looked at him, barely concealing her incredulous look. Who was he today? Was she imagining things? Was it her loss of blood?
Placing his mask on his face, he turned and walked away. Realizing he expected her to follow him, she stumbled over the partition and out through the door they came in. The antechamber was dark, but the light from the arena spilled in through the doors. The moment Ginny passed through the doors, however, Draco's hands were on her pulling her into a dark corner.
Before she could protest, she was up against a wall, pinned by his arms and chest. He ripped off his white face mask and let it drop to the floor before pushing his hands through her hair, taking her hood back with them. His face was precariously close to hers and their eyes met. His breathing was deep and even; hers wasn't.
Closing the space between their mouths, Draco kissed her. Long moments passed before Ginny realized that his body was now pushed up against hers. His hands ran through her hair and down her back, pulling her even closer. Anger and pain forgotten, Ginny felt her hands slide up his arms and under his robe. His skin was still hot and sweaty and the smell of him surrounded her.
His lips drew away from her mouth and began kissing her jaw. "I told you I would explain everything," he told her quietly.
"This doesn't explain anything," Ginny said, her head tipped back and her hands wrapped around his waist.
"Sure it doesn't." Draco kissed up her neck and behind her ear. Ginny dug her fingernails into his back. He pushed harder against her and sighed.
"Let's go home," he said into her ear. He pulled her back away from the wall and picked up his mask before wrapping her in his arms again. It felt good to be touched by him, but it didn't stop her confusion about why he was suddenly so intent on kissing her.
"I'm serious, Draco, this doesn't explain everything," Ginny looked up at him. Draco didn't answer but his arms tightened just as she felt the sensation of Apparation.
A shadow caught her eye just before Cassiopeia disappeared from her vision. Pansy, silhouetted by the light from the arena, was watching them boldly with her vengefully dark, eyelash-less eyes.
And then they were gone.
A/N: You can't even imagine how good it felt to write that last part. Ahh… together again, if only for a paragraph! lol… anyways, that Pansy/Ginny fight was another one of the first things I ever wrote. I hope everyone was surprised!! Obviously, I had to change it a bit from my original. I had it written with just Draco watching and I didn't describe the fighting at all. Thank goodness I had it saved externally during the hard drive crash. Next up: the wedding!!!
PS. I haven't decided if I am truly excited for Deathly Hallows to come out.
PPS. Thank you to everyone who reviews!! I'd send you popsicles, but it's flipping freezing here even though it's April. :( Hope its warmer where you are! And thank you to my little stalkers… lol just kidding!! But I know you guys are out there too, thanks for reading!
K, I'm out for the night. Tomorrow, I have more writing to do, but its boring school stuff. Anyone wanna do it for me?? -DC