Author's Notes: Just a reminder, I posted the last chapter and the epilogue together, so if you haven't read Chapter Nineteen, be sure you do.
And lastly, the epilogue; it's quite short. This epilogue ties up one or two loose ends, though it also opens a few more, to set things up for the sequel fic. I meant to wait a bit before starting on the sequel, but I'm so excited that I can't. So maybe keep a look out for it in this coming week. It will be entitled Economy of the Heart.
Speaking of titles, now you know why this fic was named as it is. The title is from a quote by Dwan Jacobsen Young, and it's a quote that I felt pertained to one of the themes of the story, mostly to Ginny's theme, to the struggle she goes through in this story. If you felt like this story focused more on Ginny, that's because I consider The Enemy of Souls to be more her story than Draco's. Likewise, Economy of the Heart will be more Draco's story than Ginny's.
"Hopelessness may be the saddest word in our language. Despair is the enemy of our souls. It can paralyze us, halt our progress, and cause us to lose our way. But hope awakens us like a light shining in the darkness."
Draco eased open the door to the second-floor flat so carefully, an observer might have thought he expected it to explode at any moment. He was half-hoping it would, and spare him the torment of looking at this place, let alone pretend that he was actually going to consider it as a place to live.
But then, he'd promised Ginny he would come. So here he was.
The place was unbelievably small, but then, Draco had expected that, so in a strange way, it wasn't quite as terrible as he'd imagined it might be. He shoved that stray thought firmly from his mind; of course it was that terrible. For Merlin's sake, his closet in the manor was as big as this empty living room. And his bathroom was probably as big as the whole flat, or at least, the bit that he could see, here, in this space.
Draco dared to take another step inside, glancing around. The place appeared to be empty, though the landlord—a Muggle, Draco still couldn't believe he'd actually spoken to the man—had said that Ginny was already here. "Weasley?" he called out.
"Malfoy, is that you?" She appeared quickly, from the tiny corridor leading off to the right. She brightened when she saw him, and Draco couldn't help but think that she looked remarkably at home here. Her vibrant red hair was pulled back in a neat ponytail, and she was dressed simply in cropped jeans and a blue, fitted t-shirt. She gestured around the small flat with one hand. "Well, what do you think? I was just looking at the bedroom."
Though he really had no desire to, for Ginny's sake, he surveyed the room around him, taking it all in. There really was no foyer at all, though the landlord had been prattling on about how wonderful the 'entrance hall' was. The flat opened up into the living room space, which was made of light hardwood floors and plain walls painted a pinkish, off-white color. There was a very small, white fireplace set in the far wall, a Muggle light overhead, and three large windows at the front which, Draco had to admit, let in a good bit of light. The kitchen was virtually in the same room, taking up the far corner past the living room area. There were several cabinets of an ugly brownish color, a stove, and a rather small sink set in the counter, just below another window.
Draco cleared his throat. "It's…nice."
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Yes, I'm sure you love it."
"Did you say bedroom?" Draco furrowed his brow. "As in, one?"
"Well, there is a sort of smaller room that I think is meant to be more of a closet," Ginny admitted. "Or maybe a small office space. But Will's crib should fit in it just fine. I mean, not his crib, not the one we used at the manor, because it's too big…but Diana said we could use James' old one. We'll have to give it back eventually, of course, but I don't think Will is really going to need a crib much longer, anyway."
"Yes, then we can just get him a bed that will fit in a closet," Draco said critically. "He can live like bloody Potter."
Ginny frowned. "How did you know Harry used to…sleep in a closet?"
"Please, Weasley, everyone knows that."
"Well, there's plenty of space out here, anyway," Ginny pointed out, "which is where he would spend most of his time. And there's a really large garden out back—a communal garden, of course, but it's really nice."
Draco sighed. "Weasley. We're in Manchester."
"So it gets bloody cold in Manchester," Draco grumbled. "Might as well move back to Hogwarts."
"Oh, please, it doesn't get that cold." Ginny shot him a wry look. "Anyway, you should be pleased, we'll be close to Pansy. Of course, she lives in the more…affluent…area of town. Down on that street where all the fancy townhouses are—"
A pang of annoyance and disappointment hit Draco at the mention of townhouses. The house that he was supposed to have—the house that should have been his—was a townhouse, a very large, nice townhouse in London. But the townhouse was not his. An inquiry into the matter had gotten him a quick reply; he did not meet all the stipulations required to own the house.
"Speaking of townhouses," Ginny said suddenly, apparently thinking along the same lines as he, "did you ever find out why you didn't get yours? Your house, I mean?"
Draco coughed, feeling inexplicably uncomfortable. "Er…yes. I didn't meet all of the stipulations." When Ginny nodded and gestured impatiently, he clarified, "One of the stipulations is that I have to…be married. And, well, I'm not."
"Oh." A mingled look of surprise and confusion passed over Ginny's face. "That's…odd."
"Not really," Draco drawled. "The stipulations were set by my father. What the 'marriage' part of it actually means is that I have to have the means, the guarantee, of having an heir. Marriage is supposed to be that guarantee."
"But—you do have an heir. So can't you get the house, anyway?"
Draco shook his head. "I know that's what that bit of the contract means because I know my father. But it specifically says marriage, and I can't get around that. Not unless my father legally changes the wording."
"So can't he come back for five minutes and do that?" Ginny said crossly.
Draco shot her an amused glance. "I hardly think he would risk his freedom to do so."
"Bloody inconsiderate of him," Ginny grumbled.
Draco shrugged. For a moment, there was silence between them, as Ginny sulked and Draco eyed her speculatively. Maybe…but, no. That would be ridiculous, and Ginny would never agree to it, anyway.
"Well, anyway, Pansy is close," Ginny repeated. "So, see? That would be a plus. You can go shack up with her anytime you start going stir-crazy in this place."
"Which will probably be often," Draco agreed, "seeing as this is a Muggle flat."
"Oh, so what?" Ginny said, a trace of irritation coloring her words. "It comes cheaply, more cheaply than some of the wizarding places I've seen. Those prices are just ridiculous. This place, on the other hand, is really very nice, considering the amount they're asking for it. And besides, Muggle living has its perks."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Like what?"
"Like…we could get a T.V."
Ginny turned an incredulous stare on him. "Oh. No. You have got be joking. I mean, I'm sure you didn't take Muggle Studies, and, yes, all right, you didn't have a father who was obsessed with all things Muggle, nor did you ever probably associate with anyone connected to Muggles at all, but…you've never heard of a television before?"
"No," Draco said flatly. "And if it's a Muggle contraption, then I've no desire to have one."
"I think you'll change your mind about that," Ginny muttered.
"We'll have to pay extra to get the Floo connected to the fireplace," Draco pointed out, thinking that if, perhaps, he seized on her endless frugality, she could be talked out of this. "Whereas, we wouldn't have to in a normal flat."
"Yes, well, it would still be cheaper than renting one of those normal flats." Ginny frowned at his terminology. "Honestly, the price they were asking for those flats was ludicrous…but if it really makes you happy, we can look at them as well."
Which then had Draco regretting that he'd mentioned those flats at all.
They spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon looking at more places Ginny had found. Four flats later—two wizarding, and two Muggle—Ginny suggested they head back to Bill and Fleur's place for lunch, even though there was one last place she wanted to show him. Draco was starving, and sick of looking at flats at all, so he agreed.
When they arrived at Shell Cottage, it was to find Will playing in the living room, with Bill Weasley sitting at the table, keeping an eye on him. "Bill!" Ginny said in surprise, when they entered the house. "I thought you were working today?"
Bill shook his head. "Nope, they didn't need me after all." He glanced away from his sister to spare Draco a cool glance. "Malfoy."
"Weasley," Draco said indifferently.
Ginny walked into the kitchen, but not before Draco caught her eye roll at the two of them.
"Dada!" When Draco stepped into the living room, Will's face lit up. He did not, however, step away from the toy he was playing with; he appeared too intensely concentrated on it.
"Hey, Will." Smiling, Draco lowered himself onto the sofa, sitting with Will at his feet. Draco had only just finished up at the manor with the Ministry officials a couple of days ago, and as he had spent most of his immediate time afterwards catching up on his sleep, he had not spent much time with his son at all recently.
Though he was very engrossed in his toy, Will glanced up when his father sat down beside him and, almost as though to make up for his distraction, he picked up one of his storybooks and held it out to his father. "Book?"
"Thank you," Draco said very seriously, taking it from him. "Want me to read it to you?"
Will looked at him in some confusion.
"I can read it to you," Draco repeated, speaking more slowly, and gesturing with the book. "Do you want me to read it to you?"
Will seemed to understand this time. "No," he said, turning back to his toy.
"Fine," Draco grumbled to himself, sitting back in the sofa.
"Where's Fleur at?" Ginny asked from the kitchen, addressing her brother. "And Victoire?"
"Victoire's napping," Bill said, "and so is Fleur. She had a headache."
"Oh, that's too bad." Ginny frowned. "Well, we're going to head out to look at one last place after we eat, so is it all right if Will stays here? He'll probably be ready for a nap soon, himself."
"Sure, Gin, it's not a problem."
After quickly eating a sandwich, Bill went upstairs to check on Fleur and his daughter, leaving Will, Ginny, and Draco alone as they finished their food and prepared to leave. Ginny cleaned up the kitchen, while Draco took Will upstairs and put him to sleep for an afternoon nap. He was on his way back, passing through the foyer, when he spotted a stack of post sitting on the front table. He wouldn't have given it another thought, had he not recognized Ginny's name on the second envelope, sticking out from beneath the first. When he pulled it out, puzzled, to look at it, he received an even greater shock at the return addressee's name.
Draco's eyes widened. Before he even knew what he was doing, he turned over the envelope, which was already torn open. He pulled out the folded-up parchment inside and quickly scanned its contents.
Well. What to say to a friend you walked out on a year ago? I'm so sorry about leaving like that, Ginny. But with everything that had happened…it was too much. I needed to get away from it all. I hope you understand, and I hope I haven't caused you or your family too much grief. Especially your mum.
I can't tell you where I am, but I'm safe. Please don't try to look for me, Ginny, it's really too dangerous, and I'm actually very happy where I am, for the most part. I hope you're well, and I'll try to get more word to you later.
Draco dropped the letter with a guilty start, and turned to find Ginny staring at him in open-mouthed shock. "What are you doing? Don't read that!" She rushed over to snatch up the letter from the table. "Did you read it?" she demanded, accusation drenching her every word.
"Well—it's from Granger."
"So?" Ginny snapped.
"So, we're…" Draco shrugged lamely "…old school friends."
Ginny snorted in disgust. "Oh, right," she said sarcastically. "Honestly, Malfoy, you can't just go around reading other people's mail!"
"Maybe you shouldn't leave it lying around in the open, then," Draco said pointedly. "I mean, anyone here could have seen it. And I kind of got the impression that Granger didn't want too many people hearing about where she's at."
"She didn't say where she's at." Ginny frowned. "Although you're probably right; I don't think she wants the rest of my family reading this."
"So burn it," Draco suggested.
Ginny scowled. "What do you care, anyway? Old school friends," she muttered, shaking her head. "Well, you're not going to tell anyone, are you?"
"And who would I tell?" Draco rolled his eyes. "Better question, why?"
Ginny huffed, but she said no more on the matter. After rushing upstairs to hide the letter away, the two of them left. Ginny was rather vague about this next place they were visiting, though apparently, it was in London. They Flooed to the Leaky Cauldron and then stepped out into Muggle London, where Ginny had them catch a taxi.
"Where is this place?" Draco grumbled, on the way there. "I suppose it's another Muggle flat?"
"Will you watch what you say?" Ginny hissed, darting a glance at the taxi driver. "And, no, it's not, as a matter of fact. You'll see when we get there."
Sullenly, Draco glanced out the window, and they spent the rest of the drive in silence, until they reached their destination.
Draco frowned as he stepped out of the taxi, glancing around his surroundings in confused suspicion, while Ginny paid the driver. "Where are we?" he demanded. This neighborhood looked far too nice, far too wealthy, to have any kind of flat they could afford. Though they were still in the city, they were in one of the more suburban areas, which he could tell by the large and well-built houses lining the street, one after another.
Ginny did not answer his question. "C'mon, it's just down the block," she said, heading down the street. Perplexed, Draco followed her. He couldn't help but notice that the houses grew larger and more lavish the further down they went, as well as became less uniform. Then the block across the street from them ended, opening out into a large expanse of green lawn. Draco was so captivated by the lush grass, in the middle of the city, that he didn't notice when Ginny came to a halt. With an "oomph," he bumped into her. She only smiled, however, and swept an arm out. "We're here," she announced.
Draco followed her line of sight and gaped. The place she was indicating was not a flat of any kind. No, it was a huge, dazzling white, Victorian-styled townhouse. It sat on the corner of the street they were on, wrapping around far behind, making it somehow even larger. It was a moment before Draco realized this house looked familiar, and a moment later before he realized why.
"This is the house," he said hoarsely.
Ginny raised an eyebrow.
"This is my house," he clarified. "My house that is not my house."
"Yes." Ginny beamed. "Yes, it is. Do you want to go inside?"
Draco scowled. "Weasley," he reiterated, just in case she'd missed it the first several times he'd told her, "I didn't get the house."
"I know." Ginny rolled her eyes, tapping her foot impatiently. "But I looked into it anyway, and I pulled in a few favors around the Ministry, and we now have the place to ourselves, for the afternoon. I mean—" She stepped ahead of him, practically skipping up the steps to the front door "—it will be yours someday, so what's the harm in checking it out now?"
Draco followed behind her more slowly. As Ginny unlocked the front door, he glanced aside and saw a woman, a well-dressed woman, standing on the front steps of the townhouse next door. She was openly gaping at them. Draco frowned, turning back to Ginny. "Muggles can see this place?"
"Well, of course they can, Malfoy, it's out here for everyone to see."
Draco narrowed his eyes. "So is Hogwarts. Doesn't mean Muggles can see it."
"Well, it's got enchantments on it, from what I understand." Ginny shrugged, opening the door and stepping inside. "You know, so Muggles can't get in here, without invitation or instruction. But they can see it, yes, and—oh, wow." She blinked, breaking off as she took in her surroundings.
Draco was a little stunned as well. This house was not as big as the manor, and the furnishing fancy in a simpler, cleaner way, but it was still a very fine house. The entrance hall was open and light; the walls, the banister overlooking from the second floor, all a very pristine white. Ginny clapped her hands together in delight. "Now, I was raised in a much smaller house than this—"
"I know, Weasley," Draco muttered. "Merlin, don't I know."
"—so I don't really need much space, or anything fancy—" She smiled a brilliant smile "—but this is spectacular." Without further words or even a glance for Draco, she took off down the main corridor to explore.
Draco followed her dutifully, taking in the house curiously. After checking out several of the rooms that led off from the main corridor, they ended up in the back of the house, which boasted a beautiful conservatory and a very large terrace, with plenty of sunshine spilling in to give the whole place a natural glow. Ginny sighed contentedly. "I love it."
"It's not mine," Draco pointed out again.
"I know, Malfoy." Ginny turned to him with a glare. "But it will be, eventually."
"What makes you say that?" Draco asked, raising an eyebrow.
She shrugged. "You yourself said, it was all in the wording. You'll find some way around those stupid stipulations, some way to get the house. And if not—" She smiled impishly "—you can just marry Pansy. I'm sure she won't mind."
"Not bloody likely." Draco shuddered.
"Look, all I'm saying is, this place is sitting here, with no one to live in it. They can't give it to anyone else, because it is yours, technically. So you will get it, eventually. You have to."
Draco glanced around, feeling almost wistful. "What if I don't want to?"
Ginny's jaw dropped. "Why wouldn't you? It's gorgeous!"
"It's different," Draco corrected her. "It's…" He struggled to put his feeling to words. "Look, I know you hated the manor, Weasley, and, all right, I suppose it was a bit creepy. Sort of. But it was my home." He shrugged helplessly. "It was the only home I ever had."
"Yes." Ginny folded her arms across her chest. "But then, you probably never expected you'd be living with me, did you?"
Draco blinked. " I suppose not."
"Then get used to it," she said lightly, "because this can be your new home, if you let it be." She sobered then, looking at him very seriously, and he knew her flippancy was only because she was trying to make him feel better, and not because she was making fun of him. "I know it's different, Malfoy. It's different for me, too. But that doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing."
And she was right, Draco knew. Because Ginny Weasley was certainly different from anything he had ever expected for his life—she was better than anything he had ever expected for his life. Still, he didn't have to let her know that. So he summoned a familiar scowl and said, "It's still different."
Ginny pursed her lips, tilting her head to the side as she looked at him. "So…you're not even the least bit interested in seeing the rest of the house?"
"Because," she continued, "I'm really very curious to see more of it." Her eyes widened innocently, which of course made her look more devilish and appealing all at once. "Particularly…the master suite. Particularly the bedroom."
Draco's eyebrow shot up.
"But you're not interested," Ginny sighed, making as though to turn away from him. "So, I guess—"
"You—" Draco grabbed her by the wrist, spinning her around to face him "—are a conniving little tart."
Ginny smiled smugly, leaning in closer to him. "Yes. I am."
"Good, I'm glad you admit it." Draco raised his hand, brushing his fingers across her cheek. "Because I like you that way."
And when he leaned in to kiss her, everything else vanished. His worries about their living arrangements, his father, the secrets he was keeping—it all faded away. Because all that really mattered, he knew, was that he had his family with him—and somehow, unbelievably, inconceivably, inexplicably, that family was Ginny Weasley.
- - - - -
Because a few people seem to be freaking out a little, on other sites where I've posted: OF COURSE the sequel is going to deal with the question of, are they going to get married/are they going to get the house. That's why that was set up at the end here. That whole issue will be addressed in the first couple of chapters in the sequel.
So, the end! Keep a lookout for the sequel. It picks up about a year or two after the end of this fic, and it will bring the return of some of the characters that fell off the map in this story *hint hint*. Not to mention, the first couple of chapters will reveal the secrets that both Ginny and Draco are hiding.
Thanks again to all readers and reviewers! I hope you enjoyed the story.