Draco wasn't entirely sure where to go to find her; he only knew that he needed to talk to her. But after exhausting every option that immediately came to mind, he was about ready to give up. That was, until he decided to let go of his pride and ask Potter.
"So, you not only want to have a romantic relationship with my wife, but you also need my help to pursue her?" He looked more amused than anything. "Really, Malfoy, are you even listening to yourself right now?"
The blond rolled his eyes. "I don't know how to find her, Potter," he said, exasperated. "How am I supposed to talk to her if I can't bloody well get in touch with her?"
Harry crossed his arms over his chest. "Listen, I saw her a few hours ago. We talked and then she left the house, but she didn't say where she was going. My best guess would be to try the Burrow. If I know my wife, she'd go home to her mother before she'd go anywhere else."
Draco nodded curtly. "Thanks."
As the other man turned to leave, Harry cleared his throat loudly. "Mate, do you even know where the Burrow is?"
Moments later, after an awkward Side-Along Apparation with Harry, Draco began walking through the fields towards the small house. He'd heard the Weasleys talk about the Burrow before, but what he saw was not at all what he had expected. Considering the size of the house he was raised in and had lived in for his entire life, and considering the fact that the entire house could fit inside some individual rooms at the Manor, he was almost afraid to approach the place. It seemed to be barely large enough for a small family to live in, let alone a family like the Weasleys.
He knocked on the door and, after only a moment, it was opened by a plump redheaded woman. She was immediately recognizable as the Weasley matriarch, and Draco couldn't help but feel a little discouraged at the way her face fell at the sight of him. After clearing his throat loudly, he asked, "Mrs. Weasley, is Ginny here?"
The woman crossed her arms over her chest. It only took a moment for Draco to be able to comprehend why she was always considered to be intimidating. The ice in her eyes as she stared at him was all he needed to know. Either Ginny was there or had been recently, and Molly obviously knew what was going on.
Draco softened his expression as much as he could. "Mrs. Weasley, please."
She stepped to the side to allow him inside the house, but her glare never became less cold or unforgiving. Molly Weasley was not planning to let Draco off the hook that easily.
"Have a seat, and I'll grab you some tea," she said.
The blond did as he was told, but took the opportunity to gaze around the room. The kitchen was homely and humble, but somehow comforting. Pictures of the Weasleys adorned the walls – from Molly and Arthur, all the way down to Ginny's kids. There were dozens of them, and he smiled involuntarily. Malfoy Manor was such a formal environment and a complete contrast to this place, and a part of him wished that he had grown up with a larger family. Something told him that not being extremely well off was never a deterrence for them, and that was a concept that Draco just couldn't comprehend.
A mug of tea was placed in front of him. It was plain and white china that was chipped around the rim, and he had to fight back the urge to make a face at its worn appearance. After Molly had taken her seat across from him, Draco folded his hands on the table. "Mrs. Weasley, I need to talk to Ginny. It's really important."
Molly mimicked the blond's gesture and stared at him intently. There was a long stretch of silence in which the two adults sat staring at one another before she decided to break the quiet. "Why should I help you?" she asked simply.
"Because I've done something awful. I said some things to her that I'm not proud of."
"Oh, yes. I know all about what you've said." She paused. "So I'll ask again. Why should I help you?"
Draco took a deep breath. "Mrs. Weasley, you and I barely know each other. You know what your children have told you, and that's fair and understandable, but that doesn't mean that you know me. Ginny – you don't know how I feel about her, and whether or not you help me, I'm going to find her eventually. With you, though, it will be much quicker and much less agonizing for all of us."
"I know a great deal more about you than you think, Mr. Malfoy," Molly said, her voice eerily still. "When you were just a boy, you did a lot more damage to me and to this family than you know. And what's worse is that you'll never be able to understand the pain you've caused. My oldest son is permanently disfigured because of you, and my youngest son nearly died. Now you want me to help you get to my only daughter? What gives you the right, Draco Malfoy, to come into my home and demand answers from me?"
He swallowed hard. He honestly had never considered any of this, but he also knew that everything she was saying was in the past. The Draco Malfoy that she was referring to had grown up. But, finally, Draco realized that there were some things a parent would never get over and could never forgive. He understood that.
"I'm sorry I've taken so much of your time," he said slowly as he stood from the table and walked to the door. "You'll not hear from me again."
"When Ginny needs someone to talk to, she always goes to her brother, George."
The words halted him and he spun around to face Molly. No words were spoken, but a slight nod of her head told Draco everything that he needed to know. Everything that she had said to him, the way she had looked at him, and all of her actions had been a test, and he had passed.
"Thank you," he whispered before Apparating away.
George's flat above Weasley's Wizard Wheezes was a disaster on its best days. It was obvious that he didn't do well with cleaning charms and that he didn't really care much to learn. It was a wonder to Ginny how Angelina could stand living in such a pig sty.
He handed her a mug of tea, and she accepted it graciously. She had not said a word since she'd come by, knocking on his door frantically as though she would have been attacked if she did not enter his flat immediately. As always, it was never anything so serious. George had been the only one that she had confided in about her feelings for Draco, and so it only made sense that she'd come to him. But she had yet to speak. Instead, she sat on his sofa, a quilt wrapped around her as she stared into the low fire.
He took a seat beside her. "Want to talk about it?" he asked gently.
"There isn't much to talk about," she replied, her voice uncharacteristically monotone. "Draco and Harry found out what Astoria and I did. Draco hates me, and Harry forgave me. The end."
"Ginny, you know I hate that slimy git, but did you ever think that maybe his reaction was understandable? The two of you did something really hurtful to your husbands, and maybe he's got a right to take his time thinking it over."
She bowed her head. "He was right about a lot more than that. Do you know that I never once thought about what this would do to my children?"
George rubbed small, soothing circles over her back. "You've spent a good portion of your life as a wife and a mother. I know you feel badly, and I know this is going to sound wrong, but sometimes it's alright to think about you for a change."
"No. What I did was not alright."
"Maybe not. Maybe you went about things in the wrong way, but don't you think that in the end things would have gone sour anyway? The way you tell it, things haven't been perfect with you and Harry for a while."
"Well, that's true." She pulled her knees up to her chest. "Merlin, this whole thing is a bloody awful mess, isn't it?"
He opened his mouth to answer but was interrupted with a single knock on the door. George put up an index finger to his sister, indicating that he'd be back in a minute. After only a few seconds, he returned to the room and looked at Ginny grimly. "It's – it's Draco, Gin."
Her eyes doubled in size. "Don't tell him I'm here."
There was a rustle inside the flat, and Draco knew that someone was inside. He gave the door another single, loud knock, and this time the door opened.
A tall, redheaded man answered the door, arms crossed over his chest and a scowl on his face. He cocked an eyebrow. "Yeah?" he asked, staring at the blond.
Draco remembered this brother from Hogwarts. The funny one, one of the twins. He'd got a lot more intimidating over the years. "I was looking for Ginny," the blond said, trying not to appear phased by the older man. "Your mother said I would find her here."
At the mention of his mother, George's face softened considerably. "What do you want with my sister?"
"To be completely honest with you, I don't even know what I want to say to her. I just know that something needs to be said, and I'm the one who needs to say it." He paused. "I know you've got every reason in the world to tell me to stay away and to slam this door in my face, but there's one reason for the other side that you've got to consider, and that is the fact that I'm bloody trying."
The redhead stared for a long time, a pensive look on his face. Draco couldn't decide if this was good or bad. George seemed to be calculating him and sizing him up, and he squirmed under the older man's harsh scrutiny. But a part of him had nothing but respect for George. It was obvious that he loved his sister enough to want to protect her from being hurt, and Draco knew that if he passed this test – the test from a shielding and caring older brother – then he'd have a real fighting chance of getting to Ginny.
"Listen to me, ferret," George said, breaking the momentary silence. "If you ever make my sister cry again, I swear it'll be the last thing you do."
Draco swallowed hard, but all fears he had were alleviated as George grabbed his coat and Apparated away. He'd gotten through Molly and George. Now, he had to face Ginny.
Slowly, he inched his way into George's flat, shutting the door behind him with a gentle click. Ginny was not in the first room, but Draco knew that if he called out her name that she'd probably just Apparate away rather than talk to him. Instead, he trekked through the flat until he finally reached a room with a closed door. He turned the knob and looked through the crack. She was there, sitting on an unmade bed with her knees pulled against her chest, looking out the window.
"Are you cold?" he asked, feeling stupid for asking, but wanting a non-threatening way to initiate a conversation. "It's bloody freezing in here, isn't it?"
She turned to look at him, an eyebrow raised. "I'll kill him," she said, irritation present in her voice. She looked away. "I told him to tell you I wasn't here."
The blond sat on the bed beside her, eyeing her cautiously. "If it helps, he threatened my life."
There was silence for a short while. Draco had wanted for Ginny to break the ice and say something to him – anything to indicate that, in some way, she wanted him around – but she said nothing. All she did was stare out the window, her breath the only thing audible coming from her.
"Astoria and I are finished."
And just like that, she suddenly appeared more awake. Her eyes shot to him. "Why?"
"Because she wasn't happy, and I thought that's what you wanted."
"What I wanted was to talk to you, yesterday at the Manor. I came into your library, tried to be civil with you and tell you that I was sorry for what I did, but you wouldn't hear it. You called me some really foul names and kicked me out, and now, after you've gotten the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of having a real, decent conversation, you've decided to harass me? Let me express to you how much I don't care."
"I was rude, I know that, but put yourself in my place, Ginny. How do you think it felt for me to find out that the woman I had been sharing a bed with was not who I thought." He got up from his place on the bed and stood directly beside her. "This wasn't some simple matter of white lies or people pretending to be certain things that they're not. What you did was close to being unforgivable."
"So then why are you here?"
"I said 'close to,' didn't I?"
To that, Ginny smiled. "What is it that you want, Draco?" she asked gently. "And I don't want insinuations or sarcasm or anything cryptic. I want you to talk and say what you mean."
"You're ruining all of my fun, Gin."
She shook her head with silent laughter. "It's irritating how charming you are when you choose to be."
Draco gave her a half-smile before sitting back down. "I know it would take time. I don't really have any reason to trust you, and I am still quite put off about the Polyjuice – although your cunning is impressive in a way – but I want to give it a try. A relationship, I mean."
A ghost of a smile crossed her lips. "If you had said that to me twenty-four hours ago, I'd have been yours. I'd have fallen into your arms, and I would have said to hell with everything else." She paused, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. "But now, things have changed. You've given me time to think."
He lifted an eyebrow. "Time is a dangerous thing, isn't it?"
"I can't be with you right now, Draco." She locked eyes with him. "Hurting you was an accident. It was a terrible thing to do, and with all of my heart, I apologize for every ounce of pain that I've caused you. But, after talking to Harry, I figured out that I can't be in a relationship with someone right now, not until I explain things to my children and decide what is best for all of us." She paused, lightly brushing her fingertips against the back of his hand. "You were right about one thing. I've been so selfish, and I need to fix that. If I don't, I won't be good for anyone."
There was a long stretch of silence in which they just looked into each other's eyes. He could see through the brown irises that she was waiting for him to respond, to give some indication that he understood what she was feeling and that it was okay. The problem was, it wasn't okay.
"You mean, after all of that, that you're just going to walk away?" he asked, his voice even and eerily calm.
Ginny bit her lip. "Not forever. I just don't think that getting into a new relationship is what I should be doing right now."
"I do understand, you know," Draco said quietly, "that you want to protect your children. I have a son, too. But after you've destroyed our lives and marriages, I thought you'd want to salvage the only thing left. I'm all you have left, Ginevra."
At the sound of her full name, Ginny flinched, but she quickly regained her composure. "My marriage may be over, but I haven't destroyed everything. But if you and I started something right now, that's exactly what I would be doing. I hope you can understand that."
He hung his head, chin resting against his chest, and stayed there for a long time, not knowing what to say or how to feel. Part of him wanted to allow himself to realize how hard he had fallen for her and act on it, to throw away his pride and beg her to reconsider. But the majority of Draco couldn't allow his emotions to show. Couldn't, and wouldn't. He'd never beg, even if it meant losing her.
"If that's what you've decided," he began, his voice expressionless, "then I suppose I'll have to honor that." He started towards the door, but turned around briefly before he left. She wasn't even looking at him and seemed to be completely unaffected by his departure, but he knew better than that.
Softly, he whispered, "Goodbye, Ginny," without knowing if she was listening or not. It didn't much matter. After putting himself on the line and being rejected, he wasn't much interested in seeing her anymore. The damage was done.
A/N: Don't hate me for the ending of this chapter, lovelies! The epilogue is still to come, and it has already been written and beta-ed! I will post it sometime next week. :)))