A/N: So ends my soap opera... with eleven painstaking pages of emotional and angsty dialogue. Ah, my friends... It has been a miraculous journey, and I am truly grieved to admit that we've finally come to the end. I don't really believe that there'll be a sequal, but y' never know. I'm sorry for the annoyingly ambiguous end, but that was the only way I could put myself at ease. I had two other versions of this, originally... one with an aggravatingly tragic end, and one with an unrealistically happily-ever-after end. I like this one the best, and I really hope you do, too. Some of you (most of you) will probably find it unsatisfying, and I'm sorry. Some of you will be glad, and I'm glad for it! Either way, I hope this story succeeded in my intention to put y'all on an emotional rollercoaster so you didn't know quite what you were feeling by the end. I was certainly very torn. I hope you were, too! It's been wonderful. I'll miss you deeply. Thank you so much for sticking with me through the only story that I have ever finished in my entire life (yeah, I know... pathetic). I'm feeling extremely accomplished about this, even though I'm not so sure it's a great ending (because I've never written an ending before, so... this is veeery new to me). So anyway... thank you dearly! I hope you've enjoyed this experience quite as much as I have! I LOVE YOU!
Five years later
Teddy's hair was forest green today. The six-year-old boy hopped cheerfully up the street, his small hand tucked safely into Ginny's. He was tugging her along the cobbled street towards Honeydukes with anxious need. "Come on, Ginny! You're so slow! Come on! Hurry up!"
Ginny laughed, placing her other hand over her bulging stomach as they made their way through the crowd. She was especially careful this time, after her last experience with pregnancy. She didn't even let Harry near her for fear that she'd be unable to control her lust, and would accidentally hurt the child inside her in an attempt to satisfy her own needs. Perhaps she was a bit paranoid, now, but could she be blamed? She had not thought of Draco Malfoy in nearly three years—it had taken her so long to forget him—but this pregnancy was bringing it all back. Every time she lay in bed, now, she could close her eyes and feel his heartbeat next to hers, and his arms around her. But she would open her eyes and find herself very much disappointed by Harry's presence. That guilt that she'd experienced all those years ago had somehow found its way back into her bloodstream, and it now coursed angrily through her veins like the most shameful drug. She would often have to excuse herself from hers and Harry's room at night to cry alone in their bathroom, remembering her extinct love for Draco, and how wonderful it had been when it had thrived. She would smile through her tears, and coddle her womb protectively, sometimes actually wishing the child was not Harry's, but Draco's. But that was just absurd, she'd remind herself, breaking down once more. Hers and Draco's child had died long ago—before her body had even begun to display her pregnancy. And although it pained her to admit it, she genuinely missed the feeling of carrying a child she knew was Draco's. She missed Draco deeply, more than she'd have ever liked to say. But it was true, and she could not deny it to herself. She had given up on denying that almost three months ago.
And now, in late 2004, she was nearly due to birth Harry's child. According to the kind witch who cared for her in St. Mungo's maternity ward, she was to bear his son. She loved her unborn son so much that she felt consistently filled with the warm light of him. Yet whenever she was not surrounded by her family or her friends, her thoughts turned cold, and she could not turn them around even by concentrating her energies on her love for this son. Too often it was, now, that Draco refilled her heart, and it hurt—it hurt so much she was suffocating in the memories. It had been so long ago, yet that part of her was still stubbornly attached, and she could not tear it out of her, no matter how she tried.
But today, her mind was occupied. The wind was overbearing, and her skin was raw and red in the freezing air. She was shivering immensely, but Teddy did not seem to mind. He skipped merrily through the cold ahead of her, dragging her along after him. He was the one who had insisted on coming with her, otherwise she would not have brought him out today. She'd needed to do more baby shopping, and now an enormous bag plump with tiny outfits was slung over her shoulder as she scurried after her husband's godson towards Honeydukes.
Inside the shop, the atmosphere was much warmer. She was grateful for the break from the chilly outdoors, but not at all delighted by the crowds inside. She remembered vaguely the days when she'd been an innocent girl in Hogwarts, shoving herself among these crowds without a care. But now, with a baby on the way, she was not pleased by the urgent and careless people around her. She did not want to risk anything. But she closed her eyes, breathed deeply, and reminded herself how unlikely it was that anything would hurt the child, this time. She'd been much more careful this time, and cast multiple protection spells around her womb when she'd found out she was pregnant.
"Go on, darling. Here's four galleons. Get yourself something nice," Ginny told the boy as she placed the handful of gold coins into his outstretched hand. He gave her a wide, crooked grin of excitement, and scurried off into the crowd while Ginny stood in front of the large window by the door, watching him warily. Teddy had grown so much in what seemed no time at all. He looked so like his father, in almost every fashion—but he had his mother's energy, and he even walked the way she used to. Watching Teddy often made Ginny miss Remus and Tonks deeply, but Teddy was such a wonderful individual to be around that she could hardly be sad in his presence. He was so cheerful, and that quality was contagious.
She looked away from Teddy for just a moment—just one second of distraction—and a deep lurch took place inside of her. A pair of grey eyes as warm as a gentle fireplace was watching her from beyond the window by which she stood. Was this a hallucination, she wondered? She swallowed, shut her eyes tight, shook her head, and then let her eyelids flutter open again. No—there he was, standing outside, staring at her, as simply as though he were waiting for her to come meet him for some prearranged visit. But the way he stood, so motionless in the midst of the bustling streets of Hogsmeade and the icily whipping wind, made him appear unreal. He seemed an apparition, glowing, pale, silver and beautifully suited with the dull hues of winter. His scarf and robes were flowing, and small strands of his platinum hair were standing on end in the cold air. But his face was impassive, his gaze fixed and his posture rigid.
As though by instinct, Ginny turned away from him to search the interior of Honeydukes. "Teddy?" she called.
The child bounced over the heads of some other kids his age, an eager smile plastered on his face. "I'm here!" he squeaked.
"I'm going outside," she called, her voice wavering slightly. "Meet me out there?"
"Sure, Ginny!" he piped, before disappearing once again into the sea of happy customers.
Ginny made her way outside easily, and the frosty air smacked her cheeks like an offended hand. She gulped as she locked eyes with her observer once again. His expression was so placid, she knew not what to make of it. She knew even less what to make of her own emotions, which seemed to have gone numb. It had been five years—five years since she had seen Draco Malfoy outside her vivid memories. Yet here he was, as real as she was, standing there as though no time had passed. He certainly looked more aged than the last time she'd laid eyes on him, but he was still overall the same. His eyes seemed to have developed a softness she did not remember, and his thinning hair donned streaks of premature white. His face was slightly more lined, now, but all in all, he was the same Draco that she recalled from all those years ago.
When she came to a stop before him, he blinked slowly at her. The moment of silence that passed between them was dense, bursting with their unspoken words. Her long, red hair blew about her face in the wind, and appeared to frame her view of him in dancing fire. She lifted a hand, and tucked her wild mane into her overcoat so that her image would not be obscured. She wanted to just look at him—just observe Draco fully for the first time in five years. Her lips betrayed her, and smiled lightly as she took in the sight. She could not help it. She had missed him—or at least, she had missed being near him, or being able to look at him without hatred.
For the first two years following hers and Draco's miserable relationship, she had wallowed despairingly in her anger, and let herself blame him. She hated him so terribly that her hate took up everything she was, but Harry had brought her back from that hate. He reminded her of all the good in the world, and the possibility of a happy life. She would never have expected him to take her back so easily, but he had, and she was grateful. And slowly, over time, she forgot about Draco—for the most part—until very recently. He had finally returned to her thoughts, but this time, he was purged of the hatred that she used to keep cloaked over every memory of him. There was a lingering resentment that remained permanently attached to that part of her life, but after so many years, she could not hate him. She sometimes feared him, sometimes pitied him, and always resented him—but she could not hate him anymore.
She took a very deep breath, one that seared her lungs in the bitingly cold air. "Hi," she said plainly on an exhale, not feeling as though any more complicated words could express the ineffably complex emotions that were churning in her heart at the moment. A large white cloud escaped her lips, and evaporated between them. Together they watched it vanish, and then their gazes returned to one another.
"Hello," he sighed. He emitted a similar mist with the word, and again they were temporarily distracted by it. They seemed to be searching for any excuse not to focus on the emotions suddenly mounting between them.
After several more moments of silence, Draco cleared his throat, and nodded vaguely at Ginny's midriff. "You're expecting," he pointed out dully.
She nodded. "Yes."
He smiled, and she was taken aback by the honesty behind it. "You look good that way," he told her with a slight chuckle in his tone. "You were meant to be a mother."
"Was I?" she choked, her eyes suddenly stinging with developing dampness.
Draco gave a small nod, his eyes flitting back to her stomach adoringly. She could not remember seeing him ever look so caring. "You and Potter must be so pleased."
"We are, yeah," she told him.
He gazed into her eyes again, and she felt her chest tighten uncomfortably. "So he really took you back, then," he stated. It was not a question, but she nodded nonetheless.
"He did," she sighed. "I never thought he would have, but…" She shrugged stiffly. "…He did."
Draco's grey eyes clouded over, and Ginny's breath caught. "I can understand why," he said. "Falling in love with you is simply irreversible, no matter what you do."
Her lips parted as though to reply, but nothing happened. She tasted the icy wind on her tongue, and shut her mouth quickly, feeling awkward. In the returning silence, she folded her hands around her protuberant belly, wishing she could feel her unborn son's tiny kicks through her jacket. The feeling often calmed her during times of great stress, but at the moment, she could feel nothing. There was too much commotion around them for her to focus on it, and in any case, she was clothed in far too many layers to possibly feel even a single kick. She sighed up at Draco, wondering what was going on in his head. She could not decipher her own thoughts, so she decided to simply ponder over his. A moment later, however, she got her answer—though it wasn't one she liked.
"I'm sorry, Ginny," he groaned, his eyebrows knitting together slightly. His strong, square jaw clenched, and a muscle tightened in his masculine cheeks. She swallowed nervously, and shook her head. She had not wanted him to apologize to her, for she did not know how to respond to it. She did not forgive him, nor did she think she ever would; but she could not hate him anymore, and this made everything complicated.
"Why are you sorry, Draco?" she queried, her voice cracked with uncertainty.
He shifted slightly where he stood, and glanced momentarily away from her as though admitting it made him guilty. "You should have been a mother five years ago," he sighed. "You and I should have been here today with a five-year-old child scampering around us, laughing, playing, and calling you mother." Her lungs seemed to freeze as she listened to him, and her heart compressed painfully inside her. "But I was afraid," he admitted. "I hurt you, only out of fear, and I never should have. There is nothing to be said that could ever redeem me, but I just need you to know that I'm sorry. I've needed you to know it for the past five years. It's been eating me up inside, and driving me mad. It's been destroying my life, and I've just been waiting for a day to tell you, and just have you listen. On my own wedding day, I…" He swallowed. Her lips parted again with involuntary shock. Nodding, he continued. "Yes. I'm married, now. I almost want to apologize for that, too, but…" He gave a noncommittal jerk of his head. "I love her. And on our wedding day, I told my wife about you. I don't know why I did it, but… I suppose, as my biggest regret, it seemed like something she should know, and I… Well, all it did was create tension between us. I shouldn't have told her." His eyes turned solemnly to the cobbled street, and Ginny watched him in amazement. She recognized the gleam in his eyes from all those years ago. He really loved his wife.
"I'm proud of you," she admitted slowly. He looked back up at her, his brow creased. "I'm glad you were able to find love again… someone you could open up to, and be intimate with."
He smiled fleetingly. "It was you, Ginny," he sighed. "You opened me up. I thought I came away from our relationship empty-handed, but… I gained so much more than I'd originally assumed. You made me open to love, Ginny, and I owe my life to you because of it."
Real tears started welling in Ginny's eyes, now, and it hurt to try and blink them away. "I'm glad," she croaked. "I always did hope you could learn to believe in love." Wet stripes on Ginny's cheeks seemed to attract the icy air to them, and she shivered.
Draco shook his head slightly, and gave her a much wider, warmer smile. "God, Ginny, you… you gave me so much more than I think you know. Y'know, when I met my current wife, it was all I could do not to ask about her family's background and blood, but I thought of you, Ginny, and was able to restrain myself. I didn't know she was a half-blood until nearly a year into our relationship."
Her eyes widened, and the tears fell more freely. "You married a half-blood?" she asked in a shaking voice. Her entire face was tingling with the effort of fighting the reflex to sob. "You… married someone… for love?"
He nodded, his eyes narrowing dramatically as they grew extremely red around the rims. His lips were shaking, and she had a feeling it was not because of the cold. "I did. And it was because of you, Ginny. Coming away from our relationship was like the most intense revelation. I learned more about myself during those few weeks than I did at any other point in my life. And… my god, Ginny… you made me want to change the person that I was so badly, I grew sick with it. I was crazy with the desire to be different, and I didn't know what to do with myself. But I did it, Ginny. I got a job as an editor for the Daily Prophet, and I bought my own flat with my own money and everything." His voice tore through her as she listened. He sounded so desperate to prove his worth. "I've changed, Ginny," he cried, his tone rising so drastically, he sounded like he was pleading with her to understand. "I had never wanted to change before you came along. I owe you everything that I am, now!"
Ginny did not know what to say. After everything he had put her through, she did not want to believe he could be different—and yet, that part of her that missed him had already submitted to his desperate pleas. Feeling unable to respond to anything but the simplest statements, she gulped, and said, "You got a job at the Daily Prophet?"
His breathing slowed, and he seemed to relax. He seemed to be torn between disappointment and relief that she had not replied more directly to his insistence that he was different now. "I did," he said. "And I hear your name quite a lot because of it. You're much loved amongst the sports critics."
She blushed slightly. "Am I?"
"Yes. And I heard you were quitting, recently. It's not true, is it?"
Ginny blinked stonily at him, and nodded. "Well, I'm preparing to start a family. I can't be expected to play Quidditch my entire life. It's been wonderful, it really has, but… I feel like it's about time to settle down, now."
Draco smiled sadly. "That's a shame. I went to every one of your games, y'know. My wife thinks I'm crazy for being such a Holyhead Harpies fanatic, but there you are."
"You've come to every match?" she asked, her heart aching.
"Yeah. It'll be sad to see you go, but you deserve a quiet family life, now. You always have." For a moment, he looked like he was suffering a great internal struggle, but then he continued. "I should never have denied you of that, those years ago. I was a coward—a pathetic coward. And now my wife and I are actually starting to think about having children ourselves."
Ginny's insides gave a strange flop. "You… you are?" She did not know how she felt about that. Part of her was ecstatic—so proud that Draco had grown a backbone and realized that he had the ability to be a better father than Lucius was. A separate part of her, however, was fuming with resentment. How could Draco destroy every possibility of a happy life with her five years ago, only to suddenly change his mind and settle down with another woman? She hated the conflicted feelings that were now battling viciously inside of her, but she tried to swallow them down as she reacted to this unusual news. "That's… that's great," she exclaimed tensely, though she knew her uncertainty was clear in her strained tone.
"I feel my guilt for having hurt you and the child we could have had… I have felt it every day for the past five years, and that guilt has made me an entirely new person. Every day, I hate myself for what I did," he told her. "I resent my actions, and how stupid and cowardly I was. I am… truly… sorry."
Ginny was very glad for the small figure that shot out of nowhere and collided suddenly with her thighs, for it gave her an excuse not to respond. "Ginny! Ginny, I bought some Pumpkin Pasties, look! And I got these—I'm not really sure what they are, but they look like bugs, and bugs are cool, and yesterday I found a spider at the Burrow and I showed it to Ronnie and he screamed like a girl and Herm-my-nee laughed a lot and I really don't understand why, but it was funny, and I think bugs are cool, so I got these, and do you think if we show Ronnie that he'll scream again, because that would be really funny, so I bought these to show him." Teddy was out of breath with excitement, and Ginny's heart felt warmed again as she gazed upon him. His presence seemed to solidify for her the life that she'd built over the past five years, and it gave her confidence as Draco continued to stare her down. She knelt beside her husband's godson with a glowing smile, despite the fact that her teeth were starting to chatter.
"Oh, Teddy," she fussed, whipping out her wand and cleaning the chocolate from the corners of his mouth. "You've been stuffing your face already? Oh, now, really. You couldn't have waited until you got home?"
"It was really good!" Teddy explained with a whine, as though this justified his actions entirely.
Ginny laughed. "If you say so, kiddo," she said, ruffling his hair before conjuring a woolen hat and forcing it over his ears. He made a face. "Hey, if you get to eat chocolate before your snack time, then I get to make you wear a hat. It's cold. We wouldn't want your ears to fall off, now, would we?"
He shook his head, his eyes growing suddenly wide with horror. He clamped his hands over his ears as though to keep them on his head. Watching all this, Draco gave a small laugh from above them. Ginny's stomach plummeted as Teddy turned to look at him, and she glanced up at him, too, her eyes awash in trepidation. "Teddy," she told the boy cautiously. "Say hello to this nice man. He's an old friend of mine."
"Hello!" Teddy exclaimed with remarkable politeness. His enthusiastic nature seemed to radiate as he stuck out his hand to shake Draco's. Draco's grey eyes widened in surprise at the straightforwardness of this green-haired child, and he stole a quick look at Ginny, who nodded. They grasped palms in an comically masculine sort of way. "I'm Ted Lupin," Teddy went on, shaking the bemused Draco's hand against his will. The boy blinked once, and his hair turned suddenly blonde. Ginny held her breath, watching Draco's reaction tentatively, wondering if he remembered.
"Ted Lupin, is it?" Draco asked cordially, an understanding smile spreading over his face. He knelt to greet the boy face-to-face. "Well, Ted Lupin, I am very pleased to meet you. And I must say," he added, reaching out and brushing down a loose strand of Teddy's now blonde hair, "you have very good taste."
"Well, Fleur had blonde hair and it's really, really long, and I always thought it was really pretty, and you have blonde hair too, except for that you're also white in places, but blonde hair's always really cool, and Victoire has kind of blonde hair, too, and she's really nice but I'm a year older than her, so I'm the big kid in the family." His cheeks went slightly pink, as though he'd finally realized he was talking a lot.
Ginny chuckled. "Oh, Teddy, you've had too much sugar, now," she said, taking away his bag of candies. But Draco did not appear to mind. In fact, his face was glowing as he spoke to Teddy.
"You're the big kid?" he asked, his expression one of delight at this transaction. "Of course you are! You're so big, that much is obvious! How old are you?"
Teddy giggled, and put his fingers in his mouth. "Six," he gurgled, chewing on his knuckles with an embarrassed smile as he reached over with his other hand and clung to Ginny's thigh. She rolled her eyes. The kid had mood swings. There was no denying it.
Draco's eyes were sparkling. "Six? Wow, you are big!" His face showed mock amazement, and his mouth was stretched wide in an uncontrollable amused grin.
"Yeah," Teddy agreed happily, his round cheeks still quite pink, even in the crisp wind around them. "And Harry and Ginny are getting a baby, and then Victoire won't be the baby anymore, and Ginny says that when Ronnie and Her-my-nee get married on Saturday, that they might get a baby, too, and then Ginny and Harry's baby won't be the baby anymore, either, but I'll still be the big kid!" He looked absolutely ecstatic. Ginny watched Draco warily, however, as though waiting for him to suddenly snap and revert into a state of violent outrage. But nothing was happening; in fact, Draco looked utterly calm and composed. His smile was still present, and although he tensed slightly at the mention of Ginny's unborn son, he did not react outwardly to it.
"That's so cool," he said encouragingly to Teddy. "It's fun to be the big kid."
Teddy nodded eagerly, but he clutched Ginny's thigh more tightly as his shyness suddenly took over. He blushed harder still, and suddenly buried his face in Ginny's waist, saying nothing more to Draco out of what seemed sheer embarrassment. Ginny laughed. "He's a good kid," she told Draco as he stood awkwardly to face her again.
He nodded. "He's sweet," he agreed. A moment of silence was exchanged again, but then he spoke conversationally, as though afraid to return to their previous emotional topic. "So Weasley and Granger are getting married, are they?" he inquired curiously, though his tone was thick with concealed sourness.
"Yes," she replied.
"I always thought they'd end up as such," he mused. Trying to stay friendly, he made more small talk, continually glancing at Teddy as though afraid to upset the child's ears with his preferred conversation. "So, how is the old Hogwarts gang, eh? Have you kept in touch with all your little friends?"
She nodded uninterestedly, narrowing her eyes at him. "Yes," she replied again. "Not that you care, but Neville's planning to propose to his girlfriend, as well."
At this, Draco actually perked up, his eyes shining with amusement. "Longbottom?" he gasped, not concealing the shock on his face. "Longbottom… with a girl?"
"Oh, yes," she assured him. "He and that Hannah Abbot girl, from Hufflepuff. They're together, now. He dated Luna Lovegood for a while, there, but eventually she decided her destiny lay in discovering new and exciting life-forms in the jungles… so she left him to go exploring. I don't figure she's really the type to settle, anyway." Ginny rolled her eyes. "Why am I even bothering? You don't care, Draco. Stop this false politeness. I know you don't really care."
"No," he agreed. "I don't. But I have changed, Ginny. That's really all I'm determined to make you realize."
"You certainly have changed," she admitted sadly with a small nod. "I can definitely see that. I mean, it's pretty glaring, the extent to which you've changed. It's almost unbelievable." She shifted her weight, pressing Teddy closer to her and running a hand over her stomach. "But I've changed, too, Draco. I'm not so weak that I'll give in to you again, the way I did when I was eighteen. I'm twenty-three, now, Draco, and you've got no power over me anymore. But I won't deny the truth, either." She sighed, needing to have it said, but not quite knowing if it was a good idea. "I still love you, Draco. It's as plain as fact, when I look at you, even five years later. Apparently my feelings have not waned, and I don't expect them too. But I'm not submitting again, Draco. I'm no longer yours. I'm not even Harry's. I'm my own person, now—finally. And you're not going to take that away from me, okay?"
His lips relaxed in a surprisingly content smile. "I wouldn't dream of it," he told her softly, his eyes glowing like small, grey candles that exuded the sweetest warmth to contrast the cold surrounding them. "You deserve this independence, Ginny," he told her resignedly, "and you deserve this life. I'm not trying to take that away from you in any sense. I just want you to know I'm sorry, that I've changed, and that… that I still love you, too, and that's not going to change, either. I never thought it was possible to love anyone, and then there was you—you and all your life-changing views and ideals that have made me so different, and made me believe in love. And then there was her… and I finally put those ideals to work, settled down, and married her. I'm not the coward I used to be. I love her, now… I really do. I never thought I could, but I do. Yet I still love you, Ginny, in a strange sort of way—like you're hovering eternally over my head, buzzing in my ear, whispering thoughts and good values to me whenever I'm indecisive. I don't even know what you did to me all those years ago, Ginny, but by refusing me… you somehow made me who I am. And, my god, Ginny… I've never been more grateful to anyone in my life."
Her heart was overflowing so powerfully with emotions, now, that she seemed unable to keep in her tears. As though her comfort herself, she stroked Teddy's hair at her side. "And yet," she croaked painfully, "there was a day you said you hated me for making you feel so unlike yourself."
He gave her a lopsided, awkward smile. "Those days," he sighed dreamily, gazing thoughtfully upward into the cloudy sky.
"Yes, those days. The things you did to me..." Her lips twitched as he looked quickly back at her. "It was as though you were trying to prove that hatred."
Slight color flew to Draco's ghostly white features. "I admit, I was rather…"
"Controlling?" she suggested.
He nodded sadly. "Yes. I was going to say needy… but I suppose what I needed was control, so both are true."
She cleared her throat, and rubbed the back of her neck, glancing away from him as the memories of their intercourse returned in a violent flash. "Are you still as…" She looked quickly down at Teddy, hoping he wasn't hearing or understanding this. "…Are you still as sick as you used to be?"
Draco stared down at his feet for a few moments. When his eyes flitted back up to meet hers, they seemed to have clouded over, and the corners of his lips were pinched in a suggestive smirk. "Sometimes," he growled. The old sneer that she remembered was sliding back onto his face, and a shiver ran treacherously through her. She skillfully ignored it, and smiled kindly at him.
"Some things do not change, Draco," she stated, a laugh present under her friendly tone.
"Yes, well, thankfully, a lot of things can," he said. "With a little help, anyway," he added, nodding toward her and grinning.
She grinned, too, and felt—for the first time in over five years—a complete sense of satisfaction, as though the closure she'd been longing for all this time had finally come to settle their restless minds. And quite suddenly, the two felt like old friends meeting unexpectedly in the cold, very glad to see one another after a long time apart. "You look good, Draco," she told him quietly, her eyes glinting.
He nodded. "You, too," he said, eyeing her stomach. "Even when you're pregnant. Or maybe especially when you're pregnant. I don't know. You look good, though."
She giggled slightly, shrugging and caressing her expansive belly proudly. "I like it," she confessed. "I enjoy being pregnant. Y'know… without the nausea, and the constant cravings, and the back pain, and the breast pain—" She paused, and turned scarlet. Draco, too, looked slightly flushed. "Other than all that, it's the greatest feeling in the world."
"You were made to be a mother, Ginny," he sighed for a second time, gazing at her with adoration so intense that it seemed to burn her palpably.
"And you're so good with kids, Draco, you could easily be an excellent father. Just don't take Lucius as your example, okay?"
The silver in his eyes was dazzling as he smiled. "I won't," he guaranteed her. "I never should have in the first place."
Ginny felt pride wash over her. "I'm glad you can see that, now, Draco. You really have changed."
For a moment, Ginny was taken back to all the nights she'd spent with Draco those five years ago. She could see him naked before her, his body crushing hers with such desperation, she thought she'd never be free. She could feel his hands on her flesh, his teeth and tongue on her neck, his breath on her ear, his love touching her heart. But that was over, she realized, blinking away the old images to reveal the worn man standing frozen in the street before her. He looked slightly aged, but just as handsome.
She drew in a deep breath, feeling the frost of the day strike her lungs. "Well," she said finally, "I really ought to be taking Teddy home before his grandmother has my head."
Draco nodded vaguely, staring avidly at Teddy. His brow was furrowed. "Time really has passed," he stated.
Ginny nodded, not really sure what else to say.
"Look at him," he practically whispered, and Ginny wondered if he was talking to himself. "I saw him before, five years ago. He was so small, then. Now, look at him."
"Yes," Ginny said, running her fingers lovingly through Teddy's thick blonde hair. The boy merely looked up at her, blissfully ignorant. "He's gotten so big, hasn't he? He looks so like his father, don't you think?"
Draco looked momentarily perplexed, but then the realization seemed to dawn on him. "His father," he sighed, nodding. "Professor Lupin. Yes, there is a remarkable resemblance."
"You know," Ginny added slowly, "Teddy's mother was Nymphadora Tonks." When this fact did not appear to register with Draco, she cleared her throat, and decided to be more specific. "His grandmother is Andromeda Tonks… previously Andromeda Black."
At that, Draco glanced up, his eyes narrow with disbelief. "My mother's sister," he croaked. "Or, rather… the sister she pretends she never had." He stared back down at Teddy, his expression indiscernible. "Who would have thought," he muttered, "that my old Defense against the Dark Arts teacher would father the child of my cousin, and that said child would be orphaned and left to be repeatedly looked after by my first real love, of all people."
She gave a short laugh. "It's a small world," she said amusedly.
As the noises of Hogsmeade became the only sounds again, Ginny cleared her throat once more to alert him to her exit. "Well, as I said," she reminded him, "I really should get Teddy back home. His grandmother—your aunt—won't be very pleased if I get him back much later than this."
"It's not so late," Draco grumbled, looking slightly awkward.
"Yeah, I know, but I still really ought to…"
"Hey," he interrupted her, suddenly reaching out and placing his palm over her hand on her stomach. Her breath caught, and their eyes locked. "We should…" His lips moved silently for a moment, as though he were struggling with his own words. She stayed quiet, letting him search his mind for a while. Finally, he choked out, "We should… get together some time." His eyes were glazed over with emotion, and Ginny's heart was beating fast. She could feel the pulse in his palm against her hand, and it was similarly fast-paced. Their rhythms were almost in tune.
She swallowed anxiously, tearing her gaze from his to watch their hands. His frozen fingers still felt curiously hot against her thinly gloved hands. Sniffing back an ominous flood of tears, she nodded indistinctly. "Yeah," she uttered quietly. "Maybe."
"Maybe," he repeated in a low whisper, his tone rich with joy. "Maybe is good enough for me."
"Just as friends," she reminded him warningly, glaring piercingly at him. Her expression was suddenly as icy as the wind engulfing them.
He nodded, and smiled. It was shockingly gentle. "I know," he reassured her. "Old friends. That's all."
"And just for the record," she said suddenly, "I don't forgive you."
He stiffened. "You don't have to."
"But I do see that you've changed." Her lips arched involuntarily into a warm grin, and he returned it. "And that counts for something." She moved to turn away, but let her eyes linger on his face for a bit. She did not know if she would ever really meet up with him—as friends or otherwise—so she wanted to absorb his presence. He was still so handsome, and could still make her feel so much. Whether it was painful or pleasant, she felt it deeply, like she was full to her bursting point with indistinguishable emotion. Her eyes were very wet. Shaking her head in confusion, she continued to smile at him. "It's good to see you, Draco," she breathed earnestly, and he nodded at her, finally letting go of her hand.
"Yeah," he said. "This was good."
"Definitely," Ginny agreed, moving backward now as she groped for Teddy's hand to pull him away. The old lovers shared a silent understanding that this meeting had been more than a pleasant reunion, but that it had somehow healed a five-year-old wound that had been ailing them both.
"So maybe we'll see each other," Draco suggested, his silver eyes conveying an equal mixture of doubt and hope.
She nodded. "Yes," she said again. "Maybe." She curled her hand protectively around Teddy's, moving away slowly with her eyes still fixed on Draco's handsome face—the face she still related to pain and deep love. The conflicting emotions danced rapidly within her, strumming terribly against her ribs, but she could do nothing for it. She sighed deeply, resigning herself to their inevitable parting. "Goodbye, Draco," she whispered.
And as she turned her back on him at last, she realized that in the depths of her heart, she was already hoping they would meet again. She had missed him, and their reunion had brought her closure—but similarly made her long for him again, though she had told herself she never would. So perhaps they would meet again. Perhaps they would come together again to catch up over a nice dinner, and maybe they could start the friendship that they'd never bothered to build last time. This time, the circumstances were so much different, and she would not give in. She had grown into herself, and was settling down at last to have her family. They were both married. The world around them had changed, as well, and the political climate was far stronger. Everything felt different, now. They would not give into each other a second time. Surely not. She smiled vaguely to herself as she pulled Teddy away, who was waving a quick farewell to the solitary Draco behind them.
"Goodbye, Ginny," he called after her, and her smile slid into a keen grin.
Things were different, now; there could be no denying that point. Surely, in this changed world, there was less of a danger for her to reunite with Draco. Surely, so settled in her new life, there could be little harm in seeing him again, right?
Ginny smirked knowingly as she stroked her pregnant belly. Maybe—just maybe—she and Draco really would meet up again, and they could finally discover how much actually had changed.