The Dragon Rebels
Author: Lee Velviet
Chapter Nineteen - Redemption? Whatever.
Ginny couldn't believe her eyes.
Draco stood before her, clad in long, sweeping green and black robes, held closed by a simple silver snake clasp. His silvery-gray eyes were cold and empty as he looked at her down his nose, seemingly in disgust.
Ginny knew she was gaping at him, but...
He was nearly unrecognizable - at least, as the boy she'd come to know over the past half-year.
He was Malfoy again. Just Malfoy. Malfoy of the nasty remarks, and the insulting, sneering glances, and dirty, underhanded tricks.
His hair had been clipped even, the long, spiky growth that had begun to spill over his shoulders a thing of the past, and it was brushed back severely against his head, making him look even colder. The ragged clothes and scuffed boots were noticeably absent.
He looked like a younger version of his father.
Ginny had been darting through a narrow, curving stair passageway when she rounded the gradual bend - and found her exit blocked by a dark figure, who seemed to take up the entire arched doorway.
Ginny nearly dropped her books, and put her hand to her throat, choking on a gasp as the figure raised its head.
A pair of strangely bright, liquid silver eyes caught at what little light was in the passage as they slowly turned up to meet hers.
"Why so surprised, Weasley? I told you, didn't I? I told you nothing would keep me from seeing you." He smirked.
Ginny's heart dropped.
She took a stumbling step backwards, suddenly very aware of where she was - caught in a closed in, rarely used passage in the dungeons of Hogwart's with a boy who'd claimed to love her, and then suddenly turned on her in the worst way.
He took a step toward her, his face going totally into shadow. She couldn't see his expression, now, but the disturbing light in his eyes was enough to tell her she was in danger.
With a shudder, she dropped her books, and took off running. She probably would have gotten away well enough if she hadn't panicked and taken a wrong turn. She came up against a dead-end wall.
Realizing her mistake, she whirled around to retrace her steps - and found Draco's shadowy, robe-draped figure standing not ten steps away.
"What is this?" he drawled with cold amusement. "Afraid of me 'again', Ginny?"
His mocking way of saying her name hurt. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?" she said breathlessly. "Well, I'm not! I'm not afraid of you, Draco!"
He started toward her, his steps very slow - Ginny's back hit the wall at the of the corridor, and despite her words to contrary, she jumped, the skin all over her body pricking with a sense of danger.
Draco continued his slow stalking of her. Keeping her eyes on him, she felt along the wall behind her, and started hugging the the wall as she moved to the right, hoping that the hall would prove wide enough for her to dash past him.
"What did your father do to you?" she asked helplessly.
He was against her then, suddenly, and had her pinned against the wall with his lean body. She was dizzy from it - she hadn't even seen him move...
Draco bent his head low over hers. "I promised you I'd see you back at school, didn't I?" he asked in a frightening monotone. "I promised."
Ginny's whole being became chilled. Something was wrong here, very, very wrong...she shook her head. "Stop saying that!"
"I promised," he repeated, his voice sounding dull and controlled.
Imperious? Her throat went tight. "Oh, no...no...please, Draco, I love you!"
Something shifted in the cold, glowing eyes above her.
"Ginny...love you...but...but I promised." He lifted a hand, and pointed his wand at her face.
Ginny clenched her eyes shut and struggled against his hold, but it was no use. He'd kept his promise to her, by seeing her again, but she knew it was a promise to another he was being made to uphold...by killing her.
A fierce green light suddenly exploded all around her, and she screamed.
"Ginny! Ginny? Wake up!"
Ginny sat up with a gasp, but her fear didn't leave her.
It had been a bad dream, a nightmare...but what if it came true? What if Draco was in horrible danger right now?
"No," she sniffled, burying her head in her hands. Her hair fell in unruly waves all around her, and she knew it was going to be almost impossible to untangle, but she didn't care.
"Ginny?" a husky voice asked softly.
Looking up, she saw Harry lightly shaking her by the shoulders.
"Ginny, are you okay?"
The look of concern in his bright green eyes made her break out into sobs. She threw herself against his chest and buried her face in his warm throat.
"I miss him so much already," she choked out, not noticing the way Harry suddenly went stiff, or the way he swallowed hard against the pressure of her forehead.
"I'm so afraid for him. I'm afraid of what his father will do to him - or make him do."
Harry was silent as he slowly lifted his arms and wrapped them around her.
Ginny sighed at their warmth, relaxing slightly in the comfort they offered. After a minute, she pulled back, wiping her eyes on her jumper sleeve.
She'd come upstairs when Draco had left, and she'd cried herself to sleep. It was no wonder she'd given herself a scare with that dream. She was so worried about him...
"I'm so scared he won't come back," she told Harry finally. She gave the oddly flushed-looking boy a sheepish grimace. "Sorry I bothered you." She plucked at the damp neckline of his gray tee. "I've gotten you all wet."
Harry blinked, and swallowed again, licking his lips. "I-I don't mind," he said softly, and then quickly stood up, turning away from her.
Still muzzy-headed from deep sleep, Ginny frowned. Why was Harry acting so funny?
"He'll come back," Harry said suddenly. He turned around, his eyes warm and steady on hers. "I would. He'd be a complete idiot not to."
Ginny felt her lips tremble. She wasn't completely blind.
Harry gave a slight nod, his cheeks turning an even deeper shade of red as he suddenly looked towards the open bedroom door.
Ron and Hermione were standing there, staring.
"You were hugging my sister," Ron blurted.
"She, er...she had a nightmare," Harry gestured clumsily.
"In the daytime," Hermione added, nodding her head in amused understanding.
"You were...you were hugging...my sister," Ron repeated faintly, a betrayed look on his face.
"Oh, get over it, Ron," Hermione sighed and grabbed his hand, leading him back out the door.
Looking embarrassed beyond belief, Harry moved towards the door as well.
"I should probably be going, too."
"Wait! Harry!" Ginny stood up from her bed, one hand out-stretched to stop him.
Harry looked at her hesitantly.
Ginny pushed her tangled hair out of her face, swiping at her tears, and let her hand fall as she realized she probably looked hysterical. She smiled at him.
"Thank you, Harry. Really. You saved me...again."
Harry's gentle green eyes crinkled at the corners as he slowly returned the smile. It was a heart-warming sight.
"Don't you know by now? I'll always save you, Ginny."
"And just where are you sneaking off to this evening, Arthur?"
Ginny frowned as she looked up from pushing her dinner around on her plate. Things had been a bit subdued around the house that day, what with even the twins feeling something bad coming on, so hearing her mum ask her dad about leaving had her ears perking.
Leaving the others chattering - or in Hermione's and Ron's case, arguing - amongst themselves, she went to see what was up in the kitchen.
"Work? Have you forgotten there's a record snowstorm?" her mum was asking expectantly of her bundled up father, who had almost made it away, dear man. "Working at the holidays, really..."
"The world doesn't stop for Christmas, love, you know that," her dad said placatingly, trying to smooth his departure.
"You didn't say anything about working tonight, Arthur, and I want to know exactly what it is you're up to," her mum said stubbornly - but Ginny caught the glint of worry in her warm gaze.
"It's something to do with Draco and his father, isn't it?" Ginny suddenly piped up from the doorway, feeling her heart begin a mad race in alarm again.
From the way her father suddenly started, and turned straight around to look at her, Ginny knew she was right.
"He's in danger, isn't he?" she asked, feeling her throat clench tight, and her skin prickle in panic. "I knew it. I knew it, I told him not to go back there - "
"Draco will be - " Arthur stopped, swallowing, seemingly unable or unwilling to lie to his only daughter. He sighed, and rubbed his receding hairline. "I'm - we're - doing everything we can to keep him safe, Ginny."
"'Safe?'"Ginny asked wildly, "Safe! He is up to something, isn't he? He's - "
"He's helping the ministry take down one of You-Know-Who's staunchest supporters, and making it semi-possible for the both of you to be together without threat of reprisal - for now, anyway," her father whispered fiercely, his eyes more than a bit troubled. "Who knows what will happen in the future, but he loves you enough to take that risk."
"Oh, sweet Merlin," Ginny breathed, hardly able to believe she hadn't thought of the danger to Draco from that monster before now. "You-Know-Who...he'll consider Draco the worst-kind of blood-traitor! With his father supporting him, Draco will be practically right under Harry on his hate-list!"
Arthur grabbed his pale daughter by the arms and gave her a gentle shake. "Ginny, darling, if our plans work out as we hoped, the only thing You-Know-Who and his remaining supporters will think is that Draco has somehow been confunded, enchanted! It will not be common knowledge that he betrayed his father to the ministry, you understand? Lucius's memory will be altered, he won't even remember Draco being at the manor at all, you see?" He smiled at Ginny, silently urging her to have hope. "The house-elves there have already agreed to silence, thanks to Dobby, and Draco's mother Narcissa will have already gone by the time he arrived. We are fairly certain that Lucius waited until she was gone to summon Draco, so odds are she has no idea Draco will even have been there."
Taking a deep breath to calm herself, Ginny summoned a small, tight smile in return. "Well, then...I guess his chances for being targeted later will at least be halved."
"Gee, Ginny, way to be ecstatic that your boy-toy will probably live," Fred said from behind them, he and almost all of the others having stole up behind them to listen to this newest drama.
"Yeah," agreed George, "but then I wouldn't be too excited about having Malfoy back, either!"
While Ginny shot the twins a withering look, Harry stepped forward, looking anxious.
"Maybe we should go along with you," he said to her father.
"Definitely," added Ron and Hermione.
"Well, you can't leave us out," Bill announced from behind them. "Sure there's curses probably need breaking, place like that."
"And Lucius Malfoy's face," Charlie spoke up, one large hand pounding into the other for emphaisis.
Only Percy's voice was noticeably absent.
Her father wasn't having any of it, though, apparently. He was shaking his head, refusal written all over his care-worn face.
"It's all been planned, now, we can't make any changes. I appreciate you all wanting to help -" he said over the protests, holding up a quieting hand, "but it's been well taken care of. I don't want to hear any more about it - especially from you three," he demanded, staring down a thoughtful-looking Harry, Hermione, and Ron.
Ginny felt strange, standing there, unable to do anything. It was akin to the sensation she'd had years back when Tom Riddle's diary had possessed her. Angry, helpless - yet somehow removed.
Her father jammed his hat onto his head, consented to his wife when she fussed over the folds of his scarf wrapped high around his neck, her eyes suspiciously bright, and then opened the door to let in the swirling snow and biting cold as he prepared to walk outside to his disapparating point.
"We should be arriving back quite soon," Arthur said, kicking a drift of snow away from the doorway. "Please believe me when I tell you Draco will be with me," he added, looking at Ginny with determination.
Ginny straightened herself from a defeated slump she hadn't even known she'd sunk into, and forced a smile of encouragement for her dad.
"See you soon, Weasley's," Arthur called, his voice muffled by his drawn-up scarf, and he stepped outside into the snowstorm, leaning against the door to force it closed over the huge amount of snow on the ground.
It was silent inside for a long minute, and then, one-by-one, she, and her family and friends shuffled off, solemnly preparing to wait.
Draco was continually disgusted by the amount of dust in his old room as he waited throughout the day and well into the evening for his father to condescend to see him. He'd arrived early that morning, covered in ash and floo powder from the Weasley's fireplace, only to find out from a wheezing house-elf that the master was out, and he was to be confined to his rooms until his father returned to 'deal' with him.
With little choice, Draco had followed the obviously abused elf to his suite on the second floor, and had remained there, albeit in a fury after he realized he'd been magically sealed in, and was unable to summon the elf to demand his neglected rooms be cleaned, or even a fire, or food.
He'd tried, for awhile, to let himself out, but the notorious house-elf magic was impossible for him to surpass. He'd given up then, using his wand to start a roaring fire in the large fireplace. He'd gone to the bath for a shower and change of clothes, before coming back out into the sitting room from the bedroom and finding a simple but filling meal laid out on a table in front of the chair nearest the fireplace.
Draco had known his father probably wasn't out to kill him, but even so, he'd been cautious in tasting the food. He wouldn't put it past him to have a potion of some kind slipped into his meal, to make him more docile, but there wasn't.
After eating his fill, he'd found himself stalking about his bedroom, thinking about Ginny - and he'd realized it physically hurt being away from her. His chest was aching again, his hands constantly recalling the feel of her hair between his fingers.
To distance himself, to clear his mind, Draco had dragged his old trunk from beneath his huge bed, and begun digging through its contents, making a messy pile of old school papers and 'love' letters from previous girlfriends to be rubbished. A few other trophies from the last couple of years also made their way into the junk pile, and he'd wondered at his insecure need to keep such trifling things. He'd also realized a certain innocent, laughing, red-headed girl was the reason he was now letting go of them.
After digging for a couple of hours, Draco had tossed the trash into the fireplace, feeling a little better about himself. He was watching the last remaining sparks curling into smoke when the door to his room was suddenly thrown open without warning.
Startled, but knowing better than to show it, he forced himself to stand slowly, reminding himself he had his wand tucked safely within his reach.
A shadowed house-elf shuffled hesitantly into the room, long, bony hands nervously twisting into each other.
Draco relaxed, then called himself a fool for having expected his father to come through the door. His father never bothered to fetch him himself.
"What is it?" He didn't call it by name, as he realized he had never gone to the trouble of learning any of the elves identities.
The house-elf pointed tentatively to the door. "The master demands your presence in the Jade parlour, sir."
Draco looked at the house-elf with a bland expression. "Demands. Of course. Far be it from him to request anything."
It was with an anxious heart that Draco approached the parlour where his father waited. He didn't know what was going to happen to him, despite his carefully laid plans. Every step across the dark floorboards and plush antique carpets made it harder to keep his breathing even. Everything counted on this, his ability to remain unaffected, his effort to throw his father off balance.
As he came to the arch-way, high-lighted by the inconstant waver of flame from the fireplace, Draco realized this was the moment he'd been heading toward since that morning he'd gotten himself basically thrown out of the townhouse in London. That day had been the first time he'd ever gone completely against his father, had ever dared to speak against his beliefs - everything had changed since then. He had changed since then, not exactly for what others might consider the better, (he was still demanding, and selfish, and not terribly honest) but he was what he had made of himself, not what his father had groomed him to be, and that was what mattered.
Draco couldn't help the slight shudder that passed down his spine at the sight of Lucius Malfoy sitting in the large chair before the fire. Even seeing just the back of his head brought forth memories of being in this exact spot before, when he'd failed at something, anything, and it had been considered inexcusable, leading to punishments so severe he'd wished they'd shown on the outside, then someone might have protected him...
Giving his head a sharp shake, Draco straightened his back, and lifted his head, putting an imperious expression on his face. He held himself as erect as possible, putting to use the few inches he'd grown since he'd seen his father last. His effort proved to be futile as his father stood, and turned to face him - even leaning with deceptive indolence on the top of the chair, he still topped Draco by several inches, looking down on him as he always had, his eyes icy and speculative.
After a few moments, Lucius set his lips in a thin, disapproving line as he observed the state of Draco's attire. A small, disgusted curl of one corner of his mouth told Draco everything about his father's opinion of him. It was clear he found him low, as low as a Weasley at this point, no doubt, but for the first time ever Draco found himself completely unaffected by that look, that contemptuous sneer he himself had made a point of affecting as a child, and had used to great satisfaction ever since. It didn't matter now, and hadn't for some time, what Lucius thought of him, and Draco realized in that moment that it really was true. He'd spent the past year or so fighting against Lucius, telling himself and anyone who troubled themselves to listen, he didn't care what his father thought, and he knew now, it didn't.
The only thing that mattered...was Ginny.
A high-pitched squeal of pain and terror drew Draco from his reverie, and he glanced over, alarmed, to see that his father had ordered drinks, and then promptly kicked the house-elf for not moving quickly enough for his tastes. He cruelly stepped on its large, bony hand when it tried to retrieve the broken glasses from the now-stained carpet, and it bit its lips in an effort not to whimper, lest it receive a worse beating.
Draco was sickened by his father's treatment of the elf. It was nothing he hadn't seen a hundred other times in his life, but now he felt strong enough to say something about it. That was how it worked with his father, he knew. Let him know you were afraid, and the battle was lost. Frighten him, and he disappeared.
"Leave him alone, Father," Draco said almost wearily.
"What? You won't have me kicking the minions, now?" Lucius laughed darkly, motioning the house-elf away with an impatient hand. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were trying to provoke me, giving me orders in my own house."
"I might point out it takes little to provoke you - and maybe it's time someone did," Draco said coolly, even though his heart rate increased with alarm. His fear of his father was ingrained, had been since birth, and though he was here to stand up to him, the instinct to cower was still a hard habit to break. The old man was truly furious this time around.
"No, it's time you begin listening to me! I thought I told you to get rid of that Weasley brat, not move in with it!" Lucius hissed, incensed, his light-coloured eyes shining with impending madness.
"Oh, it's far too late for that, I'm afraid." Draco's smile was self-deprecating. "I couldn't get rid of her even if I wanted to."
"Nonsense! You've been bewitched! Do you have any idea what kind of embarrassment you have caused your mother and I? Your mother left yesterday to stay with her aunt in bloody Romania to get away from the scandal!"
Draco laughed at the ridiculousness of it. He wasn't at all surprised his mother had run away. It was one of the things she was best at.
"I'm sure her absence has just broken you up, too, hasn't it, Father?"
The sound of fury his father made then wiped the smile straight from Draco's face. His heart jumped straight into his throat.
"You dare? You dare?!" Lucius raged.
"Don't act so offended, Father. Everyone in this house knows your marriage has been in name only for some time, now. Hard to love a woman when you're so devoted to a dark wizard, isn't it?" With an effort, Draco forced a smirk even as he reeled from the fact that he could be so audacious. Provoking his father so far would put an end to him, he thought - but instead of destroying him, Lucius paused, looking incredulous, and then laughed.
"Say what you will, but do not think you are getting out of this so easily."
"What? You're not going to kill me?" Draco asked, skeptical.
"You're my heir, my son, Draco, of course I wouldn't kill you." Lucius turned a lethal gaze on him. "I'll leave that up to my Lord."
Draco shook his head. "You wouldn't have any problem taking care of Ginny, though, would you, Father?" he asked bitterly, lowering his head. "Seeing as she's so worthless, and all. Nothing to be gained by her, nothing to offer you - "
"Exactly so! There's nothing! She's nothing! She has nothing to offer you! Do you think that by renouncing your family, your heritage, you will somehow be saved? The Dark Lord owns us! There's no redemption to be had! You are a Malfoy!"
Draco didn't respond. He kept his head down, and refused to argue. Where was the point in that anyway? Arguing, reasoning - they got him nowhere, not with his father.
Lucius seemed stunned by his son's refusal to react. He drew back slightly, his expression going blank. "She's changed you."
Draco didn't laugh, but he did make a sound of disgust. "Oh, you're wrong there, Father," he sneered. "She didn't change me. I can't really change, or be changed. I'm no fool. I'll take what I can get from her, and enjoy it while it lasts. No, I'm not looking for redemption. I am still your son, after all." Draco lifted his head at last, spearing the other man with icy, unforgiving eyes through the messy fall of his hair. He smirked and lifted his wand, pointing it at Lucius, hand steady as a rock.
"In fact...allow me to prove it to you."
Lucius gave a delicate snort, tossing his head as he looked down his nose at Draco in contempt. He pulled his wand from his sleeve and pointed it at Draco. "If you kill me, you'll lose everything," he seethed. "Do you really think she'll continue to love you, a murderer?"
Draco sighed, shaking his head. "Father, really. Who do you think I am? You're mistaking my defiance for atonement again. Do you really think I couldn't bring myself to murder you just because of Ginny? Do you really think I couldn't keep it from her if I wanted to, or that I would allow myself to be put away in Azkaban for your murder? You taught me better than that. I learned from the best how lay blame, distract attention away from myself, dispose of unwanted...items." Draco smiled as fear finally lit the eyes so identical to his. He gave his wand a light caress.
"You wouldn't." Lucius tensed, backing away a step, completely blowing his facade of cool calm as he stumbled. Broken glass cracked under his boots, the sound disturbingly loud in the sudden silence. "You wouldn't dare do anything to me!"
Draco swallowed, the tiniest bit of regret showing in his expression as he straightened up and looked at his father for the last time. He then gave a small, careless shrug.
"I already have."
Lucius's eyes went wide in sudden understanding, and then there was a loud explosion, and blinding light...
He was free from his father's shadow at last.
Arthur Weasley and other wizards and witches from the Ministry of Magic had arrived to raid the Malfoy manor just as planned. They'd entered the building with explosive force, and his panicked father had retaliated, injuring several people, and Draco, himself, before he was overcome. But when he realized he was outnumbered, he'd set fire to his own home to destroy any solid proof they may have found to convict him of being in league with the Dark Lord.
Lucky for them, Draco just happened to know to tell them where to find several fire-proofed cellars full of forbidden artifacts underneath the manor. Arthur would still have his evidence, and plenty of it.
After his father had been apprehended, and taken to a secure room within St. Mungo's to heal while he awaited trial, Draco watched the wizards from the ministry trying to contain the hell that his home had become and shouted at them.
"No! No...let it burn."
A number of adult wizards looked back at him, some shocked that he would demand such a thing, others with knowing looks on their faces.
Draco had to shake himself to dispel a sudden feeling of dread and panic, though, as the main part of the roof collapsed in. For a long, terrifying moment, he had the thought that this was it for him. He had literally burned his bridges. He was a traitor to his family, his House - he had no where left to go, no where left to turn...and then Arthur Weasley surprised him by stepping up behind him and draping an arm around his shoulder. He looked at the older man, startled.
Arthur shook his head at the blazing inferno that had been Malfoy manor, and patted Draco's arm. "I'm very sorry about your home, son," he said quietly, regretfully.
Draco shook his head. "That place wasn't my home. It was my prison," he muttered uncomfortably, trying to sound resentful, horrified he might become emotional in front of Ginny's father. His damaged right eye ached and itched beneath the bandage a medi-wizard had plastered on him, his temple pounded like the devil, and the extreme cold was in danger of freezing off his most useful bits - wait! Had he just called him, 'son'?!
Draco frowned and snapped his head around to look at the other man, startled, but Arthur took a deep breath, and tugged him around, leading him away from the burning house.
"All bandaged up tight? Not still dizzy, are you? Fine, fine. C'mon then. Let's get you home."
Draco looked back over his cloaked shoulder one more time, and then faced forward, expression resolute against the sharp, icy flakes, and wind biting into his skin.
He hadn't really ever called the manor 'home', and he wouldn't call Hogwarts or the Burrow home, either. From now on, Draco determined, home was wherever Ginny was.
"I guess I should count myself lucky that all I almost lost was an eye," Ginny heard Draco telling her father dryly as they entered the Burrow. "Father lost all his important parts."
Ginny's eyes watered as she smiled shakily. The sense of relief she felt was overwhelming her. Just a short while ago she'd thought she'd never hear that beautiful - if not a bit snarky - voice ever again.
"Ahem, yes, well, that is quite unfortunate - "
"Did the house-elves from the manor ever arrive at Hogwarts?"
"Yes, yes, the head master said the others there were actually quite relieved to have some help readying the school for - "
"Draco?" Holding onto a doorjamb, Ginny leaned around it and eagerly searched out the blond. He was at the door, taking off his cloak. He looked a little wavering, and a little tired, and a lot...wounded.
"Oh, no! Draco! Your beautiful eye - !" Ginny cried mournfully.
"It's only temporary, it'll heal. What, you don't think a patch will make me look dead sexy?" Draco asked, his tone thick with conceit.
Torn between wanting to hug him and beat him, Ginny just threw herself against the lean strength of his chest and did her best to bury her face into his slightly smoky-scented hair. His clothes and his hair had a light coat of ice covering them, and she rubbed her hands over him in an effort to warm him up. She barely noticed when her father left the room.
"What are you pitching such a fit over? I made a promise when I left you this morning, didn't I?"
Ginny hauled off and slapped him in the arm, ignoring his groan of displeasure.
"You knew what you were going to do all along!" she accused, trying not to notice the ice making tiny diamonds on his long eyelashes, and faint blue tinge to his pale skin and lips. "You could've been killed you idiot!"
Draco grabbed her hand before it could do him any further damage and winked at her with his good eye before giving her fingers a long, slow kiss. "At least you get to see me again before school starts," he offered as an incentive to sweeten her up.
"I don't care! You lied!" Ginny snapped - but she didn't pull her hand away. "I'm going to beat you for scaring me like that!"
Draco pouted, and dropped her hand as if he hadn't really wanted to touch it anyway. "All right," he shrugged, nose in the air, pointedly looking away as if he'd completely lost interest in her, "just leave the face alone. It's taken enough for one day."
"Sure thing," Ginny said agreeably - before reaching out and giving his right nipple a nasty twist through his shirt where it was exposed by his half-open cloak.
"Ow!" Draco hissed, and slapped her hand away, glaring at her, and rubbing his chest.
"Right," Ginny said cheerfully, "I feel better now."
"Oh, I'm ever so glad to hear it," Draco sneered, still staring resentfully before looking away again - though his hand hovered protectively near his chest.
"C'mon," she said, grabbing his hand and lacing her fingers through his cold ones, "look at it this way - at least I finally had enough courage to feel you up! Aren't you excited?"
Draco turned his head to look at her with a little snarl.
"Please, don't do me any more favors," he sniped, raising a hand to touch the temple not currently wrapped in a bandage. "I already have a headache, and pain isn't one of my turn-ons."
"From what I've heard, I'd be surprised if it isn't the only thing that doesn't turn you on," Ginny muttered under her breath.
"Are you trying to call me easy?" Draco asked, offended.
Ginny looked at him, fighting a grin.
Draco looked as if he might come back with something, but suddenly swayed on his feet a little, his face turning even more pale.
Ginny bit back her alarm and sighed, taking hold of his arm. "C'mon, let's get you to bed."
Draco managed a small snigger that reminded her of his annoying childhood taunts. "Now who's the easy one?"
"Oh, don't make me hit you again."
"You musn't tell Ginny this, love, but...the only reason that boy is still standing there is because of the protection charm you two worked for him." Arthur pointed at the pair going up the stairs with a hand that still shook a little from the evening's events.
Molly gasped. "Never say such a thing, Arthur!"
"I tell you, it's true," Arthur insisted. "That medi-wizard at the site said he'd never seen such a simple charm act so powerfully." Sighing, Arthur gathered his wife under his arm and turned to watch his precious daughter and the son of his enemy disappear upstairs.
"I'll tell you something else, Molly-dearest, I don't think we'll ever have to worry if the love they have is true. After all, it saved that boy's very life."
"Er...welcome back," Ron offered grudgingly as they passed him by in the hall. "Your bed is still in my room, if you need it."
"Oh, that's inviting," Draco grumbled in Ginny's ear.
"Shut it, he's trying," she hissed back. "You could do with a bit of that, too, y'know."
"I beg your pardon, but I do have a few shreds of dignity left. There's also my reputation to uphold!" he snapped.
"Really? Do you think? I'll tell you what I think - I think your reputation is about as shredded as your dignity at this point, so why not give up and start rebuilding." She stopped at Draco's horrified expression, and then sighed. "Relax. You can be decent to my brother and Harry without giving up your Slytherin pride, y'know."
"In what alternative universe do you think that will happen, exactly?" Draco asked with a slight snarl.
"It's easy, Draco - just be cordial in private, to keep the peace." Ginny shrugged. "You can still act as if you hate them in public."
"I won't be acting!" Draco claimed darkly, his undamaged eye narrowing behind the dampening spikes of his hair. "Your brother has one brain cell, and it is fighting for dominance - and as for Potter, the only reason he's here is because some idiot left his cage open."
Draco looked up, ready to bite someone's head off.. Conveniently, Ron was staring at him, shaking his head.
"What?" Draco challenged irritably.
Ron threw up his hands. "Thank Merlin you were an only child - 's'all I'm gonna' say."
"We couldn't be that lucky." Draco muttered bitterly, still sulking.
Ron rolled his eyes at Ginny, as if to say "Why this one?", and turned away to walk down the hall. "I'll tell Harry and Hermione the bad news," he said, his dissapointment evident.
Draco actually bared his teeth at his back, and Ginny distracted him by pulling off the defrosting cloak. It hit the floor with a heavy, wet slap, and Draco turned his attention back to her in time to get pushed against the wall and be thoroughly snogged.
Ron, predictably, reacted to the scene with utter disgust as he, Harry, and Hermione arrived back in the hall a few minutes later.
Harry went wide-eyed and bit his cheek, and Hermione flushed with heat at the intensity of the embrace between her friend and Draco. Ginny had the blond Slytherin backed against the wall, one hand inside his half-buttoned damp shirt, the other buried in his dripping, shaggy hair. She wouldn't think about where Ginny's tongue was...
"Bloody hell, are you snogging the git again? You're in your mum's house, get a grip!" Ron complained with a growl, hiding his eyes behind his arm and feeling rather over-dramatically for Hermione's hand.
A loud gasp and a smack later had Draco snorting with laughter.
"Ow! What was'at for, then?" Ron demanded of Hermione, cupping his cheek. "I thought you liked me holding your hand!"
Hermione glared at him, chin up-thrust, bright spots of color burning high on her cheeks. "That wasn't my hand, Ronald!" she snapped, giving him a narrow-eyed look that spoke volumes.
Ron's face turned red right to the tips of his ears - and then he gave his new girlfriend a crooked smile. "I...uh...I know, sorry." Coughing into his hand, he turned his head and suddenly mumbled an excuse and practically ran off.
Hermione stared after him in shock, a strange mix of outrage and pleasure on her face.
Draco laughed even harder, and unfortunately managed to draw Hermione's ire.
"Oh, stop it! It's your fault, you know, you're rubbing off on him!" she accused.
The blond Slytherin almost gagged. "Take it back!" he demanded arrogantly. "In no way, ever, have I, or will I 'rub' any part of myself, literally, or figuratively, against Ronald Weasley," he announced with utter disdain.
"You know," Ginny began, winking at Hermione, "he is my brother - we share the same blood, and all...so technically - "
"I just want you to be aware," Draco muttered, looking vaguely green, "that you are currently killing any chance of my giving you children in the future."
At this, a quiet Harry and Hermione made themselves conveniently disappear, removing themselves discreetly from what felt like an increasingly private scene.
Blinking up at Draco in surprise, Ginny swallowed. This was the first time she'd really ever heard him say anything at all about the future - especially one that included her, not to mention their possible offspring.
Feeling emotional suddenly, Ginny blinked again as tears sprang to her eyes.
Draco shook off his nausea and looked down at her curiously, noting how quiet she'd gone.
"Gin?" He curved his hands around her shoulders, shaking her gently. "What's wrong?"
She sniffled a little, dashing the tears away on the back of her hand. "Children?" she asked quietly, not quite daring to look at him. "Really? You...you want to have children with me?"
Draco went very still. "Did I say that out loud?" he asked carefully, sounding embarrassed.
Ginny wiped her eyes again, trying to hide a hopeful smile. She turned away, leaning back into his chest. "You might have mentioned something akin to it, yes," she said softly. Something inside her felt so soft, warm, like a blossoming of sorts. Hard to describe, but amazing. Hope and love...she'd never loved someone so much in her entire life as she loved Draco Malfoy at that very moment. She knew then that no matter what happened between them from this point on, she'd always cherish and remember that feeling. Life felt so very precious just then...
That was when Draco Malfoy sighed and took her hand - and slipped something smooth and warm onto her ring finger.
Still lost in her cozy moment, Ginny absently glanced down at her hand. "Pretty," she murmured, wriggling the winking gems on her finger as if they belonged to someone else.
"Isn't it, though?" Draco asked in her ear, sounding amused. "Belonged to my grandmother...you know, the one responsible for my independent wealthiness, and not being scandalously impoverished and all?"
"Hmm," Ginny agreed, closing her eyes and relaxing against him, savoring his scent, and his solid warmth.
"Ginny...my father...he's never been very good at anything but following orders and terrifying everyone around him. I don't want to be like that."
That made her snap to attention. "You aren't," she said, turning in his arms to look at him again. "You couldn't ever be."
"What makes you so certain?" Draco asked, a heart-breaking self-doubt shimmering in his light eyes. "He is my father, after all."
"You love me," Ginny answered simply. "Your father couldn't love anyone."
He looked down at her, disbelieving, for a long time, then inhaled deeply and looked away, eyes blinking rapidly.
"I can't change who I am, you know," he told her, an odd, harsh edge to his voice. "I'll always be arrogant, and mean, and spiteful. I'll be selfish sometimes - most of the time - and I'll always want my way."
"Well, if you can put up with Ron exclaiming something about 'Great Merlin's saggy left whatever' every half-hour, and Fred and George occasionally replacing your toothpaste with Everlasting Gurdyroot Glue, I suppose I can learn to accept you as you are."
"I suppose," Draco echoed, his expression wrinkling in disgust.
"We'll just have to suffer through it, life together, I mean."
"Yeah, It sounds bloody terrifying."
Ginny peered up at him with a look of warning, and then took his chapped hand and led him past Ron's door and down to hers.
Surprised, and unsure, Draco balked in the doorway. He looked around like he was expecting someone to attack at the moment he set one booted foot down inside her door.
Tugging impatiently, Ginny caught him off balance and pulled him into her room. He stumbled in after her. Pointing at the bed, she said commandingly, "Strip."
Draco's eyebrows shot up into his hairline. As cold and miserable as he was right now, he still felt a thrill at her demand. He smiled lopsidedly, throwing caution to the wind as he toed-off his boots, cocked his his lean hips seductively, and ever-so-slowly reached for the button on his denims - only to have his hopes collide with the ground as she quickly stepped around him and stopped at the door.
"I'm going to bring you something hot to drink. I'll be back in a minute, and you'd better be in that bed - covered up - when I do. Draco," she used his name as warning, one delicate dark red eyebrow arched as she disappeared from the doorway.
Feeling horribly robbed, Draco sniffed and used his foot to kick the door shut - hard.
By the end of the evening, Draco ended up having his room invaded by all the Weasley's, and to his surprise none of the males in the family threatened to un-man him for being in Ginny's bed, especially sans anything but the bed-clothes. It wasn't really his fault after all. His trunk and every bit clothing he owned had been destroyed in the manor fire - and he absolutely refused to wear anything of Harry or Ron's. So until the clothes he'd arrived in were cleaned and dried, he was toga-boy. He had to admit, though, the bed and it's sheets felt much more comfortable than the lump-ridden cot in Ron's room, but that could have just been the fact that it was Ginny's.
Covered to the chin in heavy blankets, and full of a tasty hot broth laced with medicinals, Draco quickly found himself content and drowsy, even in the middle of the nosy, noisy crowd. He turned his head on Ginny's pillow, and looked for her until he saw her standing in the doorway, chatting with Hermione.
Her thick red hair was curling crazily, standing out in every direction, and her brow was still creased from her worrying over him. Her jumper was disheveled, her eyes tired, and her lips were swollen and cherry-red from biting at them constantly.
Draco smiled, a true smile, too befuddled to pay attention to how odd it felt on his lips.
She looked magnificent.
Watching her, in the midst of the chatter and the laughter, Draco asked himself if this was what he really wanted, to tie himself to this odd but welcoming family with their strange habits and constant chaos, and he thought, immediately...yes.
Glancing over, Ginny noticed Draco staring at her, an odd look of almost-wonder in his sleep-heavy eye, and she started shooing everyone out, citing that Draco needed his rest. Everyone left quietly, with guilty air of someone realizing they'd been inconsiderate - with the exception of her mum. She gave Ginny a look that quite clearly said "The door stays open!" and left with a just-so nod of her head.
Sighing as the stress of the day took it's toll on her, Ginny put out the light so that the only remaining light came from the hallway, and went down on her knees next to the bed. She looked at the incredibly handsome boy with his lovely tousled hair on her pillow and could hardly believe how lucky she was. Laying her head on the mattress so she could look at him, she sighed again, with happiness this time, and Draco blinked his one good eye at her.
"You are going to love me," he said in a quiet whisper.
"I am," Ginny whispered back with a small nod. She loved him so much it almost overcame her. Tears pricked her eyes and tightened her throat.
"And you are going to marry me...someday," he added drowsily.
"I will. Of course I will," she whispered hoarsely, reaching under the blanket to hold his hand.
His hand tightened for just a moment before his hold slackened. His eye closed.
"Stay with me, Gin."
Ginny smoothed her other hand over his forehead, brushing back his soft hair as she thought about everything they'd been through, and all that they would still have to go through. Happiness and ever after wasn't a guarantee for them. There would be danger, and heartbreak, and misunderstandings - but she wasn't the type of girl to give up when challenged anymore.
Seeing the slight twinkle of gems on her finger, Ginny leaned forward and placed a sweet kiss on Draco's lips, promising, "Always."
A/N: Yikes, is it really done?! Many thanks to those who were kind and understanding about the wait. This fic is almost officially finished, save for an epilogue which should be up shortly - in my language, though, we all know that could be, like, two years! Ugh. Honestly, though, I'm trying to get on the ball and finish everything up. I hope you guys liked this chapter, and I'm very sorry if anyone is disappointed by it, or thought it was too short. It's been awhile since I wrote anything, so it may not be up to some folks standards. I did my best. My sincere appreciation goes to those who continued to leave me reviews and advice, and who sent encouraging e-mails for all these years. To the few people who were just harsh about the wait and my problem, all I can say is, I'm sorry for disappointing you. I am so thankful to have a fic that people enjoyed this much, and I really am sorry for the frustration you guys must've felt. Writer's Block is one of the most terrible things I've ever had to go through. It took me years to finish this one chapter, and it was exhausting. Anyway, all I can give in advice to those also struggling with severe writer's block is not to stop writing! Try to write a little something everyday, because if you just give up and walk away from it, like I did, it's like losing your wallet - extremely hard to get back! Thanks, as always, for reading. - Lee