A/N: I'd like to send a big thank you to my friend TrialLunatic, who helped me with Draco's French in this chapter. If you want a translation of what he says, it'll be available at the end of the chapter. You can find her account in my Favorite Author's List. She has five stories of her own.
Twenty-Four Years Later
Ginny couldn't stop smiling that day. Even if Voldemort had risen from the dead and held her at wand-point, she wouldn't have been able to wipe that grin off her face. She felt young. She was happy. She was in love.
It wasn't because she was in Paris. She'd been there before, plenty of times. Harry had taken her there during a continental tour for their honeymoon. Quidditch and reporting had brought her back many times over the years. It wasn't because she was particularly impressed by the Eiffel Tower or the Espace Dali Museum. No doubt, it was a muggle thing. However, she made sure to take plenty of pictures for her father of the muggles enjoying the sights.
She smiled because Malfoy looked like a complete ponce when he spoke French.
He also liked playing with muggle tourists.
She suspected he took her to the parks to do just that. Today, they were in the Parc de la Villette. He said he wanted to see the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie. She knew he just liked to laugh at muggles and their contraptions.
She indulged him because she was pretty sure by this point that she was in love with him.
"Excuse me?" The man and his wife were walking clichés. Trainers on their feet. Jumpers tied around their waists. Strange little muggle cameras in hand. And, of course, lost First Year expressions on their faces.
Draco turned to them with a polite, interested air. Ginny grinned behind a hand.
"Can you help us find the Louvre?" The lilt of the man's voice said they were Australian.
Malfoy cringed at the massacre of pronunciation. "The Louvre?" His French accent was perfect.
"Yes," the man said.
"Oui," his wife said with a shy smile.
"Oui. Très bon," Malfoy replied to her with what a stranger might've misread as indulgence, but Ginny knew was patronization and jest. He looked back at the man. "Le Louvre se trouve à l'autre extrême de la ville. Vous vous êtes vraiment égaré. Et malheureusement, dû aux regards vacants indiqués sur vos visages, je m'emène à croire que vous n'avez aucune idée de dont ce j'articule présentement. J'espère que vous n'êtes pas représentatifs de l'efficacité du système scolaire en Australie."*
His face was all earnestness and gave them no clue that he was insulting their intelligence and their country. His hands fluttered and flounced in a way that should've offended the entire nation of France. Malfoy had a very individual sense of humour. Ginny appreciated it. No doubt, her husband would think it slightly cruel.
"Yes, we're from Australia," the woman said. "Do you speak English? I mean, parlez-vous anglais?"
Before Malfoy could continue, Ginny cut in. "The Louvre is across town," she said. "It's on the Right Bank. I suggest you jump on the metro. There will be signs to help you find the way."
"Thank you!" the man said to Ginny with a jolly smile that made her feel slightly guilty. "Hopefully we'll find our way. I'm impossible with maps. Sorry for taking your time."
"Merci," his wife said to Malfoy, who affected a florid little bow.
Ginny waited until they were out of earshot before elbowing him in the ribs. He was all affronted innocence. When he was a child, it no doubt could've gotten him away with murder. As a wizard over forty, it made him look petulant and immature. She didn't buy it either way.
"You should be ashamed of yourself."
The façade broke and he grinned like an imp. He insinuated his arm around her waist. They fell into step with each other.
"You are enjoying yourself." He said it like it was judgment and sentencing.
"I am." The sun was bright and jumped on a thousand different sights. The grass was a crisp green the color of Ginny's favorite dress. The sky had so much dimension that she was tempted to reach out for it. "Such a beautiful day."
Malfoy pulled her closer to his side. "I have a flat here that no one knows about." To others, it might've been a non sequiter. Ginny understood how his mind worked.
"So, three weeks until they found us." That wasn't a rebuff. He knew that.
He smiled at the sky. "By then, we would be somewhere else."
"How conventional. I was thinking Barbados."
"Sweet Merlin, can you imagine how many freckles I'd get?"
He pulled a face. "Can you get any more?"
She stepped on his foot. They both almost tripped. He laughed and walked them through it.
"Alright. Barbados. Then where?" she asked.
"I want to go to China."
He groaned. "Do you have any idea how much the Chinese wizarding community relies on connections and inside information? It'll take months just to find them."
"You're just upset that the Malfoy name will mean nothing there."
He ignored the statement and she took that to mean she was right. "Then Egypt. Now there is a wizarding community worth lingering in. They have evidence of wizarding societies a thousand years before Merlin. Fascinating stuff."
"The galleon also has a better exchange rate there than in China or Italy."
"I love how you think, Ginevra." Malfoy squeezed her side. "Actually, I have always wanted to see the Book of the Dead in person. They have enough magical relics to keep me busy for years."
"You sound like Hermione." She couldn't have gotten a more physical reaction if she'd punched him in the gut. "Oh shut it, that's a compliment." He looked doubtful. It was best to change the subject. "After Egypt?"
"Who says we ever need to leave Egypt?"
"I'll buy you a hat."
"And you will burn."
"I'll buy myself a hat."
She laughed. "With what money? Once we go missing, I won't be able to use my vault without leading Harry right to us. And you know that once he goes looking, he'll get the idea that you snatched me up because of a schoolboy rivalry nearly thirty years in the past. No doubt, your accounts will be traced or, worse yet, frozen. How will we support your lifestyle? You're a very expensive man to keep."
"I can live economically."
"Malfoys are survivors," he argued.
"Have you ever even made your own pot of tea?"
He smiled winningly. "That's why I'd keep you around."
"Never mind. We wouldn't have the money to buy tea."
They walked in silence and tandem step over a manicured lawn and in the shadow of its concrete Folly.
"I could always sell my body," he finally said with such seriousness that Ginny nearly hurt herself laughing. "I'd make a fortune in a week. We'd live in luxury for the rest of our lives."
"Right, Draco." She patted his arm like she did to Ron when he had a row with Hermione and couldn't figure out what he did wrong.
"It's a good plan," he said. The indignant man with a boy's pout was back.
She rolled her eyes with good humour.
"We could do it."
He meant it. She didn't smile. Neither of them laughed. They stopped in the middle of the lawn and her spirit fell like a rock at his feet.
"Not this year," she replied. She looked everywhere but at him.
He took her chin between his thumb and fingers. "How much longer do I have to wait?"
They both knew why they shouldn't but Malfoy was used to getting what he wanted. When he decided he needed to have something, it was always just a matter of time in his mind. Ginny's world was a little more complicated. She saw the web of relationships and the cascading effect of such a choice that Malfoy didn't. Perhaps it was because he had so few real friends. Perhaps it was because he was raised in such a privileged household. Perhaps it was just his personality. Whichever way, she understood that there'd be exponential consequences. Malfoy thought people would get over it. Raised in a family with too many children and not enough money, she understood that sometimes she had to go without in order to help the family.
She could be satisfied by day trips in Paris. Malfoy couldn't.
Luckily, she'd also been forced to learn the art of compromise.
"Thirteen years," Ginny replied. She gave him a date because he needed one but it wouldn't be an arbitrary one.
In thirteen years, all their children would be adults. It wouldn't make it alright but it would make it better. If whatever she had with Malfoy couldn't survive such a wait, it wasn't worth losing her family. If it did survive that time, then she owed it to her family to tell them the truth.
"When Majesta turns seventeen." Malfoy was a smart man. He didn't need it spelled out for him. He nodded. "Sounds fair. Thirteen years, Ginevra. I will hold you to your word." He kissed her temple before briefly brushing her lips with his thumb. It was the most overt sign of affection they'd ever exchanged in public. Paris wasn't so far from London and Harry worked with a lot of people there. The sky was wide and the grass was open; anyone could've seen them. It was a risk.
It was a promise.
Translation of Draco's rant: "The Louvre is found on the other extreme of the city. You've really gotten yourselves lost. And unfortunately, due to the vacant looks shown on your faces, I'm bringing myself to believe that you have no idea of what I'm saying presently. I hope you are not representative of the efficacy of the school system in Australia."
One more chapter to go in the story!
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