Five Years Later
Everyone had their way of coping this time of year. There were always memorial services, anniversaries of the death of one friend or another. It was a time where the ones that were left bonded together out of sheer necessity, to survive the pain of losing them again. Another year they were not alive to share in the new world they'd fought for.
It usually started around March for the rest of the world, but for Ginevra Weasley, it was always in early December. She told herself it was a prequel to the holiday blues, that the memories of her friends and family seemed stronger at Christmas than they did on their death dates. But if she were honest for a moment, her heart would tell her otherwise.
It was in December he'd left her, five years ago today.
After the fact, she'd tried everything to forget him intentionally, throwing herself into her studies and Prefect duties with such passion she nearly had herself fooled. But then the night would come, and when she would inevitably wake at 3:09, she would cry softly in her bed, willing her foolish heart to let him go. It was the same every night, at least the nights she slept.
But, as time progressed, and the memory of his arms faded, she found it easier to ignore the dull, muted pain. It was a sort of coat over her shoulders at all times, and eventually she could even convince herself that she was over him.
So it took her by complete surprise when she picked up her copy of the Prophet that morning and saw his face splashed on the front page. The photo Draco was standing before a full Wizengamot, receiving his trial date. The headline nearly screamed to her in its large, black letters: "Draco Malfoy Found: Death Eater Trials Re-Opened".
Ginny dropped her mug of coffee as the photo Draco sneered in her direction, not even having the mind to clean the carpet before it stained. He was alive?
She'd tried not to follow the Death Eater trials too closely when they'd started, knowing that if he was tried he would be found guilty, and the last thing she needed floating through her head were intangible questions of "What if?". But it had been hard to miss the millions of headlines when he'd dropped off the face of the earth two weeks before his preliminary trial. Foul play was suggested, and no one cared about the lives of former Death Eaters. She had mourned the day as his death, because for all she knew, it was. And now he was standing there, sneering like the same presumptuous git she'd fallen in love with, and she felt the familiar palpitations in her chest. Her heart never beat for anyone else like it did for him.
Three Years Earlier
He had tried. He had honestly tried to outrun his past, but it was to no avail. No amount of money would silence the urge he felt to return to England from his hiding in France. It seemed no matter the amount of time, no matter how worn the memory became, he could not stop picturing her face.
He had known her with the edge of childhood still lingering about her features, but he would recognize her anywhere. Her lush auburn hair, the specific light in her hazelnut eyes when he would catch her off guard, her wit, her spirit, her embrace, her. Everything was her. And before, his father had been able to "influence" him to do Lord Voldemort's bidding, but he was a grown man now, and since Azkaban had killed both his mother and father, he was finally in charge of his own decisions.
He had paced the floor in his small, underground apartment day in and day out, trying to scrape together some semblance of evidence to prove he was not an active member in service of the Dark Lord. Which was entirely true. When he'd left her the note that night so long ago, he had every intention of serving Lord Voldemort with all the devotion of his father, but something didn't feel right anymore. It wasn't that he did not believe in the cause, but it was not as strong as his father. He could no longer imagine taking his father's place as a loyal, devoted servant of a man who hid from Potter. It seemed weak. And if there was one thing Draco could not tolerate, it was weakness.
He'd scarcely realized it, but damn that girl, she had changed him. He could no longer blindly follow a leader who lacked the commitment to affect change. But where was he to go? The Order? They'd turn him in without a second thought. He'd do the same were he in their position.
So he'd turned to the only other option available to him: sabotage. Just because his heart did not follow the Dark Lord didn't mean he wasn't a Malfoy. He had been trained in the subtle arts of wordplay and misdirection since before he could walk. If there was one thing he could do, it was minimizing damage. Were he honest, he'd have admitted it was all for her. She ruled his devotion now, and if it meant defying Voldemort, it meant defying Voldemort.
If only he'd thought to keep some kind of record of what he'd done. Then, he would be cleared. Unfortunately, the only record he had from those times was personal to say the least.
Draco stopped his pacing as he remembered the enchanted box he kept under his bed. Crossing the apartment, he ducked under his bed frame and produced a small, wooden box. Muttering the spell to open it, he looked at the old sheets of parchment with a sad smile. He'd always felt that she had deserved more than what he'd given her as a parting word, and so over the next few months, he'd written countless letters to her, never addressed, never mentioning her name for fear of incriminating her if they were discovered, but it was all he had.
He had detailed every deed he'd done against the Dark Lord in some feeble attempt at penitence, trying to win her back one good deed at a time, knowing full well she would never know what he did for her. Back when times were dark, he mused over the idea of enchanting it somehow so upon his death, she would receive the letters, but he knew no magic strong enough, and she had probably moved on anyway.
The news he received in his small outpost was obviously limited at best. He had received exactly four copies of the Daily Prophet in his two years in hiding, basically whatever his connections could get him, and in those four papers, there was one photo of her. She was hidden in the background of her family as they stood around the grave of her brother. Her face was the epitome of sorrow; he'd seen that look before. Nevertheless he'd kept it, determined to never be the reason for that face again.
Where that fit into his current scheme of redemption he had no idea. But he had never been one to hide away. If he was going to be with her, he had to be in her world, and her world included a trial and an inevitable term in Azkaban. The thought of the place gave him chills, but with a cleansing breath he forced them back. He deserved it, but more than that, she was worth it.
The idea of her and Potter flitted across his mind, but he shook it away as he sat down to write to his lawyer. If she was with Potter when he got back, he'd kiss the first Dementor he saw.
Present time, two weeks after the article
She did not care. She did not care. She did not care…
Why was there no mention of him in the Prophet? Really, it was just bad journalism. He was obviously the biggest story since the Fall, and not so much as a trial date or a brief explanation of the five-year hole in the story.
But there was no reason it mattered to her. No. None. She had moved on. She was interested in that man Hermione worked with in the Ministry. He was attractive. He'd asked her on a date. They'd had fun. She'd kissed him goodbye.
She let out a resigned sigh, hanging her head as she rested against the wall. Yes, she had. And she'd felt nothing. And she'd promised to Owl, which she'd never found the time to do.
The only information she knew was that he was alive. And he hadn't tried to find her. That should be enough to tell her it was still over. It had been over for five long years.
Truly, it had cost him an exorbitant amount of money to keep those hungry fiends at the Prophet quiet, but the last thing he needed was the press to be all over this. The press would only make the public care, make his sentencing seem like the final banishment of all things Dark Lord. And the last thing he wanted was to disrupt her new life; when he'd served his term, he would find her and explain.
He'd explain everything if she'd listen.
Four Months Later
Ginny had scoured every inch of the Prophet (and even the Quibbler) in search of information on him every day since the article. Today was the first day it had paid off.
A small paragraph hidden in the corner of the Social News read the following:
The trial of Draco Malfoy came to a close yesterday after new evidence was brought to the attention of the Wizengamot. Malfoy's claims had been detailed in old love letters from his days as a Death Eater, but had not been confirmed by any substantial evidence until yesterday. His Apparation license will be on continual probation, and he is not allowed to hold public office. The freeze on his accounts will be terminated marginally every six months in accordance with good behavior.
Ginny's heart caught in her throat as tears immediately overflowed her eyes, unable to think clearly. She propped her head up on her hand, her elbow resting on her kitchen table as it began to sink in.
Cleared. He'd been cleared.
As her mind continued to dwell on the subject, the issue of his evidence began to eat at her initial hope. It was mere moments before she realized nothing would ever happen between them again. He'd written the letters to his lover, and she hadn't received a single thing. He'd moved on, and now he was free to live his life. The good in Ginny tried to be happy for him, but such incredible sorrow flowed from her heart and to her eyes that it was impossible to swallow her sobs.
Hours passed in the span of minutes, and daylight faded over her cold coffee and stale, half-eaten bagel. Dusk brought with it heavy clouds, and by night there was not a star in sight.
It seemed the weather was on her side for once as it began to pour down rain. The sound was the only comfort she could find, and she lost herself in it, unable to deny herself the emotional release any longer. She felt the rain on the back of her neck and realized she'd left the window open. Groaning, she stood to close it, turning off the lights in the main room of her flat. She moved to the front door, intending to lock it when she heard a loud noise from down the hall. It was two in the morning; it was probably some drunken idiot stumbling back to his place. Wiping her eyes, she moved to open the door, ready to assist with whatever was on the other side.
A very wet, very real Draco Malfoy was standing with his hand poised to knock; his eyes were as red as hers, though his wet hair shrouded them. Ginny froze, her hand gripping the doorknob for dear life; her knees didn't have the strength to keep her standing if she were to let go. A shallow breath escaped him in an attempt to steady his rapid heartbeat, his voice deep as his shimmering eyes locked with hers. "Gin," was all he said before he caught her in his arms and pressed his lips to hers.
Ginny could scarcely believe it was happening, that he was there, really there, his warm body molding around hers, his clothing making hers damp wherever they touched. His palm cupped her cheek, pressing her mouth firmly to his, not allowing any room for argument. She was too stunned to answer, she merely stood there, still holding the doorknob, eyes shut against the hallucination. Her mind was playing tricks on her again; surely this wasn't real.
His mouth moved softly against hers, his tongue tracing the shape of her sweet mouth, willing her to respond, to react in any manner. He pulled away the slightest bit, releasing the kiss with a small pop, the only sound besides her quickened breathing. His eyes roamed her face, reddened from crying, and the beginnings of hope began to swell in his chest. He whispered against her lips, the bridge of his nose resting against hers. "Please, Ginevra. Remember."
Her eyes finally opened, meeting his gaze with the same overwhelming intensity. She was breathless as her broken voice managed three words. "I never forgot."
Emotion surged in his throat; he could not hide his ecstasy. He crushed her body to his, his arms holding so tightly they bit into her back. He buried his face in her hair and breathed deeply, letting go the pain he'd carried for so long, relishing in the scent of her. Comforting. Sensual. Home. His.
Her arms were around his neck, her head against his chest; tears of joy leaked from her eyes as the quickened beating of his heart rekindled the fire deep within her soul. She could feel her love flowing back through every inch of her long-dead heart, holding him so tightly her arms began to quake with the strain.
They stood there for a moment that was both infinite and infinitesimal, clinging to each other as if their lives depended on it. He nuzzled his head against her neck, exhaling heavily as he whispered in her ear, a constant mantra of the confession he never made. "I love you. I love you. I love you."
Without breaking their embrace, she nosed her way to press her forehead against his, repeating his words curiously. "You love me?"
There was no hesitation. "I love you. I've always loved you."
"You never told me."
"I thought you were dead."
She maneuvered herself so that her hands were against his chest; her fingers moved up the sides of his neck, continuing upward to trace his features like she had so long ago. His eyes slipped closed as the memory came flooding back, choking on emotion, determined not to show any weakness when she was obviously as fragile as him. The pad of her thumb ran around his lips, drawing a broken breath from deep within his throat. His blazing silver eyes opened as her hands stilled; she spoke.
"You scared me."
Barely daring to hope, he moved his arm from behind her back, running a hand up her arm and over her shoulder. He cupped her cheek in his palm, brushing away a tear with a feather-light caress. Her shining brown eyes met his, the smallest quirk of her lips betraying her cold façade. She took his hand in hers and kissed his palm, eyes creased closed in joy. When she met his gaze, they were both smiling through streaming tears.
Their mouths met in hurried passion as he walked forward, pushing her back into her room, kicking the door closed behind him. His hands framed her face as he begged entrance with his tongue; she immediately opened to him, releasing a sigh of relief, her breath warm on his face. He groaned as he tasted her; it was beyond what he remembered, so much more than he deserved. Tongues danced as he stepped out of his shoes and socks, nearly losing his balance more than once. Her arms looped under his, holding him against her until his feet were bare.
He continued walking her backward, aiming for her bedroom, but she pushed him against a wall, molding her hungry form to his. He flipped their positions as he ground against her, fastening his mouth to her pulse, earning himself a moan of approval and need. He had no shame as he marked her; he was claiming her. There was nothing between them now. Nothing but the suddenly unnecessary clothing they were both still wearing.
His hands wandered up the front of her shirt, delighting in the small tremors he felt building as he brushed a particularly ticklish spot. The tips of his fingers traced the cups of her bra, his touch no more than a whisper of skin. She felt her nipples harden in response, threading her hands through his hair as she brought his mouth back to hers. She felt his caress continue slowly before his need to touch her was no longer bearable, and his hands found the hem of her shirt and quickly lifted it over her head; their kiss was only broken as the fabric passed between them.
He reached an arm behind to the clasp of her plain cotton bra and quickly released it, his hips meeting hers in an echo of motions to come as she slid the straps down her arms before it met with her shirt on the ground. Quickly she divested him of his jacket and dress shirt, leaving their upper bodies bare to each other. His hands curved around the swell of her hips, groaning as she rubbed against his painfully encased erection. She jumped up, wrapping her legs around his torso as she kissed a burning trail down the side of his neck; he carried her to the bed on shaking legs, determined to keep strength long enough to do this right.
Ginny sat perched on the edge of her mattress, eye level with his pectoral muscles. She reached forward and started on his belt, trying not to tease him while relieving him of his restraints. When his pants had pooled around his feet he resumed their kiss, forcing her to lie down with the gentle pressure of his mouth against hers. Her head found a pillow as he kissed between the valley of her breasts, his hands kneading her roughly. Her moans were laced with heavy breathing, but it was nothing compared to his mouth. The feel of his warm, cavernous mouth closing around her nipple made her extremely aware of the wetness pooling between her thighs and the tension within that threatened to snap if he did not act soon.
His mouth continued to the fasten of her jeans; his hands abandoned her breasts to free the button and lower her zip, sliding her pants all the way down her legs, causing him to kneel between her thighs. He deposited them on the floor before running his hands up the backs of her legs, the ticklish spots on the backs of her knees causing her to twitch as he passed over them, his mouth hovering dangerously close to the waist of her knickers.
The thought of his mouth on her center sent her into overdrive, but she knew she did not have the patience to wait. She needed to feel him fully inside her more than she needed air; she had been empty for so long.
Ginny maneuvered her leg to rest between his thighs as he knelt above her, gathering what oxygen she could to form her breathless request. "It's not that I don't appreciate the gesture…" she bent her knee and let her leg slide between his, folding in towards her body, her foot brushing his very obvious arousal through his boxers. The way his eyes screwed shut told her he understood, and he hooked his thumbs into the elastic at his waist, removing his last barrier between them.
When he looked back, he found her mimicking his actions, slowly sliding her knickers down her legs. By the time they reached her knees, he could no longer stand it. He took hold of the fabric with one hand and tugged it forcefully down her legs, his other hand beneath her neck and snapping her body up to his. Her mouth opened in surprise, but before she could speak he covered it with a kiss. They fell near the center of the bed, Draco on top, his arousal hot and heavy against her stomach. She nearly cried out when she felt his tip at her entrance, spreading her legs wide, ready to accommodate him.
Everything in Draco was aching to bury himself to the hilt in her warmth, to claim every inch of her and forever cement his place in her life. Instead he hesitated, watching her beautiful form writhing in need, her fiery hair behind her like a halo, desire written in every movement of her hips, trying to complete their union. It was only a moment, but it felt like eternity, and it wasn't long before her questioning gaze met his eyes, warm with love she had never seen before.
"Draco, please…I need you."
Her voice brought him back to his senses, which were overwhelmed with the scent and feel of the woman beneath him. She framed his face with her hands, gasping in need of her completion. She tried to find the words to explain, her voice breaking in desire. "Draco, we'll—"
That was all it took. It was the way she said his name, no hint of distrust, love lingering in every syllable. He thrust all the way inside of her, reveling in the feel of her velvet walls embracing his length as her arms closed fast around him, her moan of triumph echoing in his ears. His hand dropped to their joining as they found a sinuous rhythm; he hit the perfect place inside her every time, his fingers circling her sensitive bud. The combination of sensation after being so long alone overloaded her senses, and she climaxed easily, spasm after spasm contracting around him. He buried himself deeper still, affixing his mouth to her neck to keep from spilling inside her.
When her aftershocks were waning, he took a deep breath, exhaling heavily as he began to pound into her again, her skin sensitized as he continued to bring her pleasure, needing her to feel how much he'd missed her, feel his promise in every stroke.
Ginny had tried to convince herself when he'd left that there was no way he'd made her feel so incredible, that no one was really that attuned to their lover's body, but as he rode out her first orgasm when he was so hard inside her, she felt everything come flooding back. He reached so deep within her sex she was sure he brushed her womb with every languid stroke, her mouth crying out as he continued the motion. One particular thrust increased the delightful friction, and she angled her hips, throwing a leg around his torso to keep him there. Her hands unfisted at this newfound pleasure, she brought them to either side of his face, capturing his lips in a bruising kiss, teeth clashing and tongues tasting in inexplicable haste. It quickened his pace, his own need for completion finally overtaking his self-control. He rubbed her center furiously, determined to take her over the edge with him.
Her voice was weak as she shouted her pleasure, a myriad of words escaping that she wasn't sure made any sense. "Draco…oh, I love you so much I ache…aahhh!"
He sent her over the edge with sensation, but it was the combination of her body's tightness and her tender words that sent him spiraling out of control, roaring his release as he pumped in and out to ride through her second orgasm, losing all sense of control in a strangled groan, spilling himself within her.
The moments after were marked only by their husky, mingled breath, their sated bodies losing strength as he collapsed on top of her and her arms fell limp, the slight sheen of sweat that covered them both causing them to stick together. He was reluctant to leave her warmth, to leave her most intimate embrace, but she seemed content to stay as they were for the time being, and instead he adjusted them so they lay side by side, his arm thrown over her hips as she burrowed closer to his chest.
Tears began to prick at Ginny's eyes, though she wasn't sure what for. Reading into her unsteady breathing, Draco kissed her forehead, explaining what he could in a soft murmur.
"I never dared to hope for this, Gin. I thought it'd be decades before I held you again. But your letters were the key, you were always the key for me."
"What letters? I never wrote you any letters."
"No, you didn't. But I wrote you. Every time I did something I thought you might look well on, I wrote you. There's thirty seven letters, and one day I hope you'll read them all."
Her heart warmed at the thought. He'd never truly left her, not even when she'd turned her back on him. "Draco, I—"
"Please don't tell me you have any sort of inconvenient relationship I have to deal with."
"No that's not—"
"No boyfriend? No husband? No Potter?"
Not pausing to wonder why Harry was his own category of sin, she shook her head and covered his mouth with her hand. "A moment, Draco?"
He pressed his lips to her fingers for a moment, and she took it as consent.
"I want you to listen to me. I love you with all of my everything, and there's nothing I want more than to say we can forget everything and pick up where we left off. But as glad as I am that you're here, I need time. We've been so long apart, and now you're suddenly back," she slid away from him, gasping at the loss of his size, but knowing it was inappropriate to finish the conversation with him still buried inside her, "but just because we make love doesn't mean we can be in love. It may not work."
Draco had not imagined this scenario; indeed the years had changed them. She could no longer trust just as he was learning how. With a deep breath he shrugged his shoulders, pulling her body closer, tangling their limbs as he kissed her softly. She could not help but respond, her traitorous body losing sight of her mind's goal.
It was he that pulled away even though she entreated him forward. "Give it one chance."
"We were nearly children, Draco."
"And since those days I have dreamed of having you in my life, for the rest of my life, until the day I die. I can't chalk that up to an adolescent phase, can you?"
She said nothing, though her eyes were warming.
"Once chance, Ginevra. Just one."
A slow smirk grew on her face, though it was not uncolored by fear. "I was planning on it."
A few months later…
He watched the clock on the nightstand as it read 3:08 a.m., the red numbers glaring at him as they had every night since his return, but he didn't mind. Draco had learned Ginny's numbers very quickly, nearly out of necessity.
If she was not in bed by 10:00 she would not tire until 12:23.
If she was not in bed by 12:23, she would not fall asleep without coaxing.
If she did not get up at precisely 7:05 every morning the rest of her day was ruined.
Dinner was always at 6:00 p.m., and there was hell to pay if he didn't show and hadn't told her.
She always awoke at 3:09 a.m. with a start, and if he was asleep she would curl around him and try to drift back to sleep, but if he was awake, she was often in need of convincing that he was still there.
Which often made it difficult to get her up at precisely 7:05 in the morning.
He'd asked her about it one night and received no answer, and since then he had forced himself awake every night she turned to him, determined to learn this idiosyncrasy, too. After 48 nights she told him, and while it cut him deeply that she was still afraid of his leaving, it touched him in some way to know that she remembered those early days more than she had originally let on. No matter the times he vowed never to leave, she still woke at 3:09 every morning, and every morning he was reminded of how his absence had changed her.
It only made him love her more. He knew one day it would be different, and then he would finally dig out that ring he'd had sized for her finger 27 days ago.
He watched as the clock turned to that fateful time, holding his breath, hoping that this night would be the night where in her heart of hearts she could trust him. Instead he felt her turn against his back, seeking out the shelter of his arms. He feigned sleep and turned as if in slumber, and she quickly drifted back into unconsciousness.
He sighed. Not yet. But still time. When the day came, he had plans to take the ring to a shop at Diagon Alley and have them engrave the number on the inside of her wedding band. He smirked to himself as he smoothed a hand through her hair, wondering what that number would be.
Okay, I thought I'd explained this well enough in the story, but I'm getting a lot of questions about it so I'll spell it out a little more:
Draco is getting the number 83 engraved on Ginny's ring because that's the number of days it took for her to stop waking up at 3:09 in the morning. It took 83 days for Ginny to completely trust him again.
Hope this helps, and please keep reviewing! :D