She saw his lips moving but his familiar silver eyes held her immobile. She simply stared into their stormy abyss as though she had been struck dumb. Irrationally, she feared that if she broke the connection, Draco would disappear. As long as she had waited for this reunion, she would not jeopardize it on something as trivial as being rational.
“Miss,” Draco started again, “are you all right now?”
Miss? Since when did he call her Miss? Ginny, sure. Weaslette, from time to time. Maybe even Ginevra if she was being especially irritating. But never Miss. He was her Dragon, not some house elf. Why wouldn’t he call her by name? What was he playing at?
She realized belatedly that he was expecting a response of some kind. Slowly she nodded her head, being careful not to lose eye contact.
“Good. Enjoy the rest of your evening.” With a polite bow he turned on his heel and began walking away.
Enjoy the rest of her evening? Where was he going? Was this some kind of joke?
She lifted her arm to stop him and suddenly she remembered. Her arm still hung in the air, its pristine alabaster skin glowing back at her. Not a single freckle marred its hateful beauty. How could she have let herself forget, even for a moment? The hair falling softly down her back was not the color of a blazing sunset; it was jet black. The violet eyes that followed Draco’s retreating form did not belong to Ginny Weasley. They belonged to Erin McIntyre.
Draco didn’t know her. The girl he loved was not sitting at this table in a hotel bar. She was dead.
The revelation tore through her like a knife. With every step he took away from her, her heart ripped a little more. What kind of cruel bitch was Fate to play these sick games with her? It wasn’t bad enough that she had to watch him walk away once? Now she had to do it again?
Every eye was on Draco as the Dark Lord murdered his lover. He watched impassively as the girl’s body hit the floor with a muffled thump.
“I trust you will be more careful the next time you desire a whore,” Voldemort said coldly.
Draco was the very picture of contrition. “Yes, My Lord. Forgive me.”
“You would not be alive if I had not forgiven you, young Malfoy. Now, this,” he kicked the lifeless form at his feet, “should be returned to the Weasleys. We wouldn’t want them to worry needlessly. I shall entrust that task to you, Draco.”
Ginny struggled to remain composed as Draco thanked the Dark Lord for his mercy. Picking up the body, he left to deliver Mrs. Weasley’s worst fear right to her doorstep. Ginny watched him go, not knowing when or even if she would see him again.
She could not watch him leave again.
Erin rushed after him, grabbing his arm. He looked down at her, his expression questioning.
Frantically, she tried to think of something to say to him, some way to make him stay with her.
“Yes?” he asked as he subtly pulled his arm from her grasp.
Just what, she wondered. I just wanted to tell you that I’m your dead girlfriend? That wouldn’t work. I just couldn’t bear to see you turn away from me because I love you? That was guaranteed to send him running.
“I just wanted to thank you for coming to my rescue. It was very kind of you to help me out.” Oh God, how lame was that, Erin thought.
He smiled. Oh, how she’d missed that smile! “It was nothing. I just thought you might need someone to persuade him to take no for an answer.”
She gestured towards her table. “Would you join me? I ought to at least buy you a drink after all you’ve done.”
Shaking his head, Draco looked down at the floor. “I’m afraid I wouldn’t be very good company tonight and I couldn’t ask a lady pay for my drink.”
“All right, no drink buying,” Erin cajoled, placing her hand on his forearm, “but please join me. It would save me from being propositioned all night. We don’t have to talk; I would just appreciate your company.”
Draco looked distractedly around the bar, obviously trying to think of some way to get out of this. Apparently finding none, he nodded in agreement and guided her back to her table. After she was seated, he signaled the waitress and ordered a fresh cocktail for Erin and a martini for himself.
“Thank you for joining me. I’m Erin McIntyre.” She said, offering her hand. As she knew he would, Draco took it and pressed it softly to his lips. This was one of her favorite hallmarks of his high society upbringing. She forced her breathing to remain steady as her pulse quickened under his touch.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Erin. My name is Draco Malfoy.” He released her hand and took a sip of the drink that had just arrived.
Erin smiled, “I’m glad to know you, Draco.”
They sat in awkward silence for a few minutes. Erin noticed when he finished his martini and worried that he might decide it was time to leave. She breathed a sigh of relief when he ordered another. She was in no hurry to finish her own drink. Her original plan to get rip-roaring drunk had been discarded. She didn’t want anything to cloud her thoughts. Being this close to Draco after so long was intoxicating enough.
Now that she was with him though, she had no idea what to do. Should she reveal herself to him? The urge to tell him the truth about what had happened was incredibly strong. Logically she knew she shouldn’t, it was safer for him to remain in the dark, but who could be logical in this situation?
“That’s a beautiful dress. Green and silver were my school colors.”
Draco’s voice jolted her from her thoughts.
“Thanks,” she replied, “They were my boyfriend’s favorite colors.”
“He prefers other colors now?”
Erin laughed, “No, I’m sure he still likes green and silver. I meant that we’re not…”
“I know what you meant. I was joking. Is that why you’re here tonight? Mourning the end of your relationship?” Draco spoke softly, a sad smile playing on his mouth.
“I guess you could say that. I still hope we’ll find our way back to one another someday.” This was dangerous territory; Erin decided to change the direction of the conversation. "What about you? You don’t sound like a local, what brings you to Washington?”
“I’m here on a shopping excursion.”
“Shopping?” Erin raised her eyebrows in disbelief. Draco left the fight against Voldemort to go shopping?
“My organization needed some items that are difficult to come by in Britain.”
“I see. So you’re not just here for the collectible shot glasses?”
Draco became very serious, “Oh no. The shot glasses are a bonus.”
Curled against her fair-haired lover, Ginny did not dwell on the war that raged outside the walls of her flat. It was because of the war that these quiet, content moments were rare. Whenever she and Draco found an opportunity to be truly alone they refused to let thoughts of the external world intrude upon them. Rather they immersed themselves in each other. The relationship they paraded in front of Death Eaters was but a pale shadow of the real intimacy they shared in these private moments.
Ginny lifted her left hand and admired the ring Draco had placed on it less than two hours before. It was perfect, a simple diamond solitaire set in 24 ct. gold with a baguette on each side. The diamond was only one carat although Draco could certainly have afforded a larger stone. He understood Ginny’s personality well enough to know that she would not have wanted a large showy diamond. What she liked best though was the fact of it. Draco wanted her. He wanted her forever.
“It looks good on you,” Draco commented. Taking her hand in his he lowered it to his mouth and kissed it softly. He was thoughtful for a moment. “What do you think about taking a round-the-world cruise for our honeymoon?”
“Mmmm, that sounds lovely. I’ve always wanted to travel. My family went to Egypt to visit Bill several years ago but that was the only real vacation we ever took. A cruise would be wonderful. We could visit all kinds of beautiful places, meet interesting people and collect shot glasses.”
Draco turned towards her, bemused. “Shot glasses?” he asked.
Ginny giggled, reaching up to stroke his hair. “Yes, Dragon, shot glasses. When Bill first started working for Gringotts he had to travel quite a bit. I was young when Bill left home and I was very upset that he was going away. To make me feel better he promised to send me presents from each place he went. He wasn’t making a lot of money so he started sending me shot glasses because they were cheap. It drove my mum crazy but I loved them. Anything Bill sent me was a treasure as far as I was concerned. I’ve had an attachment to them ever since. I know it’s cheesy but I don’t care.”
“That’s very sweet but I’ll admit shot glasses were not a big part of my plans,” he said, rolling Ginny onto her back and nudging her legs apart to accommodate him.
“No?” she asked lightly, allowing him to settle on top of her. “What did you have in mind?”
Draco ran his tongue over her pulse point, eliciting a small gasp from his partner. “I thought it would be fun to see how many different countries we could make love in.”
Her heart rate rising due to the kisses Draco was now trailing down her neck, Ginny’s voice was unsteady, “Yes, I can see the merit in that plan, too.”
“What about your shot glasses?” he asked between kisses. He moved lower, taking her breast in his mouth. Ginny tangled her fingers in his hair as she arched against him.
“Bonus,” she cried.
As Draco nursed his drink they talked for some time about inconsequential things. What type of work did she do? Would he do any sightseeing while he’s in town? He ordered another martini and asked what had caused her split with her boyfriend.
Erin shrugged. “Oh, forces beyond our control and all that. I had to move quite suddenly. I wasn’t able to explain to him why I left.”
He straightened in his seat. “So you just left without even telling him?”
“I had to, there was no other choice at the time.”
“Were you in the mafia or something?” he teased.
Thinking how strange it was to hear Draco talking about the mafia, Erin laughed. “No, not the mafia but you’re pretty close. We were involved with some unsavory characters.”
“Unsavory characters, eh? Those bastards are everywhere.” Draco shook his head sadly, “Poor sap. Must have driven him mad. I suppose I have a slight advantage over him, at least I know what happened to my Ginny.”
“Ginny?” she asked with interest. Draco was a private person. It surprised her that he would bring this topic up to a stranger. Perhaps the alcohol was loosening his tongue.
Studying his glass intently, he took a deep breath. He spoke without looking at her.
“My fiancée once upon a time,” he answered grimly, “She was murdered five years ago by a particularly unsavory character. Lucky me, I got to watch her die and then deliver her body to her family.”
She covered one of his hands with her own as tears welled in her eyes. “I’m so sorry, Draco,” she replied in sincere apology for the pain she had been forced to inflict on him.
“Thank you,” he replied, “but if you’ll allow me to offer a little advice, don’t spend too much time regretting the past. For five years I’ve mourned the loss of my beautiful Ginny. Recently her brother, who has never been a friend of mine, came to me and told me that I was no good to anyone while I wallowed in self-pity. He said Ginny would be ashamed of the way I had withdrawn from life. He was right. I’ll always love her but she’s gone. It’s past time for me to get on with my life. I’d advise you to stop waiting for a reconciliation that may never come. Your hopes are pinned on the possibility that the man you left has not moved on with his life. Is that what you want for him? That he close himself off from the world on the chance you’ll arrive on his doorstep one day?”
Erin jerked as though she had been slapped. While she had never been so specific, that was exactly what she had been hoping – that one day the war would end and Draco would be waiting for her with open arms. Now he was here, right in front of her, saying that he wanted – needed – to go on with his life. She couldn’t begrudge him that desire, he believed she was dead. There was no way to know how much longer the war would drag on. No way to predict when she might be able to return to her old life, if she would ever be able to.
Her mind raced. What if the war ended and Draco had found someone else? Could she bear to see him in love with another woman? She knew Draco, he would hate himself for having ‘abandonned’ her if Ginny returned and he had made a life without her. She couldn’t do that to him.
A tear rolled down her cheek as she realized there was only one solution. She could never go back. “You’re right,” she said, “I have to let him go.”
Draco pulled his hand from hers and ran it through his hair. Lost in his own thoughts, he stared blankly out at the crowd. The interior lights had dimmed as the evening progressed. A sad sort of love song began to play and couples came forward to sway slowly in time with the music. Draco turned back to Erin.
“You have enough melancholy thoughts to dwell on without me adding my own. I think I had better go,” he said. He pulled out his wallet and pulled out a large bill. “That should cover the drinks. Thank you for allowing me to join you.”
Erin rose with him from the table. This would be the last time she ever saw him, she needed to feel his arms around her once more.
“Draco,” she began, “would you dance with me before you go, please?”
He smiled indulgently and offered his arm, leading her to the dance floor. As they danced she leaned her head against his chest and rained silent tears into his jacket. Draco smoothed her hair to comfort her as they maneuvered through the other dancers.
As the music began to wane Erin impulsively wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. He pulled back abruptly and looked down at her in surprise. Embarrassed and dejected, she started to turn away when suddenly he grabbed her and pulled her roughly against him. He kissed her hungrily, ardently pressing his tongue into her mouth. With equal fervor Erin met his advances, reveling in the taste of him. When they finally broke apart, breathless, Draco took her hand.
“Will you come to my room?” he asked in a husky voice, kissing each of her fingers in turn. At her nod of acquiescence he guided her swiftly from the bar to his suite.
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