Chapter XIII: Domus Iterum
A/N: Oh wow, can you believe this story is finally complete? I just want to thank all my reviewers and readers, without whose support this would never have been finished. So, without further ado, enjoy this last installment of Iuva Me ut Sentiam!
This chapter title translates to Home Again.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Harry Potter franchise(s), Ginny Weasley, Draco Malfoy, or any other character appearing. But I do own my own copy of Hot Fuzz, yes! So, jog on.
In this chapter: A librarian's screech, Various conversations, and Happily ever after.
Even with having been through the portal once before, Ginny was still shocked by the all-encompassing wind and noise. She clung to Malfoy's shoulders desperately, trying to ignore the feeling of her body being compressed, her ears ringing with pressure, her legs thinning to noodles, and the air slowly but surely escaping her lungs. Her hair was everywhere, Malfoy's fingers were digging into her sides, she could no longer feel her feet, and suddenly it was over.
They were lying on the dusty library floor, breathing heavily and dripping river water everywhere, gazing at their ordinary surroundings with wide-eyed wonder and breathless smiles. Then, all too quickly, Ginny's windblown mind was forced to come to terms with the sound of footsteps and the unearthly screech of Madam Pince.
They both winced and scrambled to get up, trying to breathe normally as the frenzied librarian snatched the book off the floor, brushing off water and dust as she railed on about trespassing and befoulment of school property. Ginny realized with dismay they had nothing going in their favor: they had been caught lying in the middle of the restricted section with a restricted book lying open on the floor and were both completely soaked and filthy. She made a futile attempt to smooth down her hair and skirt, painfully aware neither of them were wearing the required school robes. By the time the tirade was over, they had both accumulated four double detentions each, to be carried out on Friday evenings for the next month.
Ginny sighed despondently as she gathered her things from her long-abandoned study table, feeling exhausted and bedraggled. She gazed out the window for a time, still unable to believe she was actually home, taking in the grounds like a starry-eyed First Year on her first day. Her hair draped against her cheek and Ginny winced at the coarse limpness of it, combing it away from her face disgustedly.
"It's a lost cause, Weasley, don't bother," came a snide voice from behind her.
"Huh?" she asked, turning to glare at Malfoy.
He smirked at her and pushed off the shelf he'd been leaning on. "This," he said, reaching forward to finger the end of her hair.
She shoved him off, scoffing. "Why are you still here?" she asked suspiciously, "I thought you'd already be halfway to the dungeons by now."
"Crabbe and Goyle scarpered, so I thought I'd stick around to see you off," he answered, bitterness creeping into his voice. "But if you'd rather I were gone I can always—"
"No, sorry, that's not what I meant. I just thought things would be...different again."
"...Different?" he asked, backing into the aisle.
Ginny reached out almost unconsciously, but stopped herself, forcing her hand back to her side. "Well, I mean," she began, awkwardly settling back on her heels to suppress the urge to reach out again, "You can't fault me for expecting you to fall back on the status quo. I mean, you never gave me your word or anything so how would I know if you wouldn't just, y'know..." She trailed off, suddenly feeling nervous and thirsty and so very stupid. What was she even saying?
"Is that what you want? My word?" he asked. There was something hard in his tone now and Ginny experienced a sudden feeling that something had gone very wrong.
"No!" she cried, louder than necessary. She couldn't look at him, but glanced back at the window, swallowing sudden tears. Stupid. What was wrong with her? "I don't know why I said that, I just—" she shut her mouth with a snap, wincing at her shaking voice.
They stood in tense silence for a few moments, silhouetted in dusty gray light. Ginny focused on breathing, suddenly obsessively worried about choking.
Finally Malfoy leaned forward, a strange look on his face. "You're an idiot."
Ginny clocked the table with her bag in her haste to turn and glare at him. "You—" she cut herself off, staring in disbelief at the hand extended to her.
Malfoy sighed impatiently. "I'm not going to stand here all night, Weasley."
She grabbed his hand, if only to shut him up. As they started to walk away, she grimaced at herself, tightening her hold. "I'm sorry," she murmured, looking resolutely at the floor.
"Hm," Malfoy agreed. "That's nice, but meek doesn't suit you."
Her head snapped up. "I was being repentant, not meek! Just forget I said anything then!"
"Well, whatever you'd like to call it. It's not like I'm an expert judge on Gryffindor—"
"Oh, shut it."
Adding together Madam Pince's four weekend-ruining detentions plus the one accumulated from McGonagall that morning (Ginny could hardly believe it was all of ten hours ago), Ginny spent a good portion of the month in Malfoy's company doing a variety of revolting and tedious chores. Perhaps it wasn't the best way to spend the honeymoon phase, but anything else might have forced them to come to terms with their, erm..."relationship", as it were, complete with an awkward pause and implied quotation marks.
Hermione was of course the first to notice that something was off, though how anyone else hadn't was a mystery to Ginny, what with her and Dean breaking it off for no reason at all and Malfoy giving Pansy Parkinson the cold shoulder at every turn. Perhaps because it was so very unlikely, she mused. Who would think to pair her and Malfoy up, after all?
It wasn't until a little later in the year that Ginny learned of Hermione's knowledge, in a long and memorable conversation involving many expletives and tears, especially after Hermione had divulged Harry's obsession with trailing Malfoy only for him to discover that the Slytherin was now reporting to Dumbledore instead of the Death Eaters and Voldemort as Harry had theorized. Needless to say, the resulting conversations Ginny had with both Harry and Malfoy almost immediately afterward had just as many expletives and tears, though they ended up working it all out in the end.
Malfoy's father did end up disowning him for a time, though this was quickly revoked as soon as Lucius and Narcissa were safely away from Voldemort and his vicious cycle of blackmail. When the Malfoys were revealed to be under the protection of the Order of the Phoenix right around the Christmas holidays (much to their dismayed gratitude), Ginny deemed it the best time to also reveal her association with the younger Malfoy. The subsequent backlash from her family and friends, not to mention the Malfoys, complete with tearful entreaties, furious rows, and fending off well-intentioned trips to see a mental healer at St. Mungo's, was completely expected though no less stressful.
Malfoy kept a remarkable calm through the whole affair that Ginny was forced to admit might come in handy for future events. Such events were looking more and more likely as time went on, through disgusting double detentions, Hogsmeade visits, and semi-regular breaks for banter.
Though Ginny and Malfoy never disclosed what had happened in the "Portal Book", as they had taken to calling it amongst themselves, they were highly aware that without that particular adventure, by turns thrilling, pleasant, and utterly terrifying, they wouldn't be where they were today, though neither of them would change that for the world.
A/N: The end! I realize that last part was rather like a cheesy "Where are they now?" segment, but I couldn't help myself. I hope you've enjoyed your journey through this particular story, and please spend a moment of time to write a review or drop a glance at my profile. Thanks for sticking with me through the tedious waiting periods (all those who have, anyway) and til next time!
-Girl With a Pearl Earring