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Loose Ends by LadyRhiyana

1. In the Beginning? by LadyRhiyana

2. Philby by LadyRhiyana

3. Trust by LadyRhiyana

4. Marriage Bonds by LadyRhiyana

5. Free Choice by LadyRhiyana

6. Chapter 6 by LadyRhiyana

7. Chapter 7 by LadyRhiyana

8. Chapter 8 by LadyRhiyana

9. Epilogue by LadyRhiyana

In the Beginning? by LadyRhiyana
A/N – Now this is an interesting exercise. Or at least, at 12.47am, I think it is interesting. This little introductory, world-building piece has quite a number of loose ends trailing off into plot bunnies and side stories. Most likely I will be inspired to go further into them, and will add more chapters, explaining, shading in the back story and so on, but even if I don’t you can all imagine. I will say that this was brought on by too much of the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett, and from any number of post-Cold War spy/action thrillers. And, strangely enough, from ‘The Lions of Al-Rassan’, by Guy Gavriel Kay.



Disclaimer – I don’t own the canon concepts or characters. They are all the property of JKR, and any other companies who have an interest in Harry Potter.



LOOSE ENDS



He did not like to be touched.


That taut, pale face, the rapidly beating pulse that was the only moving thing about him – it all seemed to belie the mythical composure, the iron strength of his restraint and self-control that had served him so well in the last few years. He had achieved so much success, won himself such a reputation, that it was hard to believe, sometimes, that he was only thirty years old – for pureblooded wizards, long lived as they were, he was barely into his prime.


There had been open war for the last fifteen years, and he had been in the thick of it; he had fought for every conceivable side, taking his considerable talents to so many masters that there were none, now, who trusted him completely, and yet none who could afford to give up the chance to have him on their side. Even now, she did not know who or what he truly served, or what he truly believed in – why, when in a war where there had seemed to be only two sides, good and evil, black and white, he made the fine ground between both his own…


Traitor, some had said. Serving both – all – sides, completely loyal to nothing and no one, betraying everyone in his insincerity.


Spy, others had said. Double agent. And yet, he had been completely and utterly discreet in the performance of all his contracts, no matter who or what he served.


Opportunist, said the more cynical. And perhaps this was the closest to the truth so far – he swung between Voldemort and the Ministry, between the Death Eater splinter groups on the continent and the forces opposing them, between the American Aurors and the shadowy groups they fought, most of which had some ties at least to Voldemort or those like him.


Because the war was so much larger than Britain, so much more complex than a simple fight between two sides. And there was scope, within that much larger context, for a number of grey, ambiguous figures – skilful, well practiced figures – to ply their trade. Mercenaries. Diplomats for hire. Assassins. But of them all, Draco Malfoy was perhaps the most notorious: for his skills – so well honed and in such demand – for his personal presence, which was considerable, and lastly, for his name.


He was a Malfoy. The only son and heir of Lucius Malfoy, the right hand man of the Dark Lord himself, who had planned and executed the 1972 bombing campaign in London, signaling the beginning of the true violence of the Rising – and then had orchestrated the war itself, until Harry Potter had put an end to it. The only son and heir of Narcissa Malfoy, who had been the Order’s most carefully hidden spy, and who had been responsible for the arrest and execution of nearly all of the Inner Circle in 1997, when they had all but destroyed the original parent group but inadvertently given rise to innumerous splinter groups, all claiming to be inheritors to the Death Eaters.


He had ties of loyalty as well as hatred to both the Ministry and the Death Eaters, ties that he could take up or shed seemingly at will, but there was one tie – one completely unexpected, inexplicable tie – that some unknown force had saddled him with that he could not deny.


His marriage to Ginny Weasley.


She remembered that night, that one, terrible night in Moscow when – working undercover for what was left of Russian Wizarding Intelligence – he had given her the only thing he had that could possibly keep her safe: the protection – such as it was – of his name. The precarious shelter of House Malfoy, fallen far from its past glories, its historical standing… And the strong arm of a husband and protector who knew no real loyalty, but who was, even without a master (because he had no master) one of the most significant men in the circles of the war.


One night.


For one night, in the bitter cold of the Russian winter, he had shown her far too much. She had had a glimpse of something, something so fundamentally vital and private, that she had never seen in anyone else, before or afterwards... For one night, they had lain chastely beside each other to gain the pretence of legitimacy necessary for the charade of a marriage –


And then, in the next morning, they had gone their separate ways – he, off to another contract, another source of employment and interest, and she, back to England, to her family, and her old life.


But nothing had ever been the same, ever again.


And now he was back, watching her with those fathomless grey eyes and pleasantly polite mask – but he was taking too much trouble to control his breathing, and there was a fine, imperceptible trembling in his muscles whenever she came too close.



***********************************************
Philby by LadyRhiyana
A/N - 'Kim' Philby was a highly-ranked British agent who defected to the USSR and took all of his knowledge of US/UK policy/espionage with him. He defected in the 60s, but was actually recruited in the 30s.


Disclaimer - I don't own any of the canon characters or concepts. Don't sue.




Philby




Wizarding Britain revered Narcissa Malfoy as one of the greatest heroines of the 20th Century. Countless songs, books and plays had been made of her story, most of them coming to a grand climax on the day when she had walked into Professor Dumbledore’s office and spoken the immortal words:


“We must act now. They will attack Hogwarts tomorrow.”


Ginny did not remember that meeting, but she did remember the next day – the growing tension among the Slytherin students, as they waited for an attack that never came, the looks of shock and disbelief on their faces as the rumours circulated, whispers spreading, growing…


Malfoy’s white, pinched face and forcibly steadied voice as he realized what had gone wrong – and his public repudiation of his mother and all her works in the most shocking language Ginny had ever heard…


The books and plays had never mentioned the effect Narcissa’s betrayal had had on her son; or the price he had paid to regain face in Slytherin after such a devastating blow – Ginny supposed that it had not been thought important.


But anyone who had ever seen the faces of those thwarted students would understand why she had disappeared so completely into protective custody, and was never heard of again…


*******************************


Driven by fear and necessity, Ginny had accepted Draco Malfoy’s less than gracious offer of an empty marriage. It had never occurred to her until after the ceremony, when they had spent the night on opposite sides of the same bed, that she knew almost nothing about him…


Oh, she knew the bare superficial facts that were public knowledge. But here was a man she had known since she was eleven years old, a man with whom she had gone to school for six years, a man she had just married, for the gods’ sake –


And she knew nothing more about him than that he was an only child; that his father had been taken away from him and his mother had betrayed him, and that he had never, ever been completely faithful to anything or anyone in his whole life.


It had been awkward, to say the least.


****************************************


It was freezing cold – a colder winter than usual, even for the jaded Muscovites – and the only warmth in the stark stone chamber was in front of the fireplace, where Malfoy was standing, staring into the fire, drinking, and under the blankets, where Ginny was huddled in her thickest nightgown, trying to convince herself that it was cowardly to hide in such a manner.


Her new husband – Draco Malfoy, of all possible people! – was giving her time to adjust to the surrealistic situation, politely averting his attention until she was composed enough to deal with him. Or perhaps he was simply concentrating on getting as drunk as possible. Nevertheless, it was an unexpected grace, one that she would not have thought to receive from a man she had always thought of as an enemy, from a scion of the very highest ranks of the pureblood aristocracy…


Of course, that was the only reason they were in this mess in the first place – the Malfoy name, considerably blackened as it was, was still one of the first and foremost of the pureblood aristocracy, and the current Lord was still extremely influential despite (or perhaps because of) his erratic loyalties and irregular employment. No one else could have released – rescued – her from the hellish Russian women’s prison so quickly, or at such a relatively low price.


Why, all it had taken was the mention that she was his fiancée, and the officials fell over themselves apologizing, and would my Lord Malfoy like to formalize the arrangement, so that such a terrible mistake would never occur again? That had been Petrov’s fault, the cunning bastard. Of course, while he couldn’t question Malfoy’s word outright, he could call his bluff…


“Well, Malfoy?” she had challenged, attacking as she always did when unsure. “What are we going to do about this farce of a marriage?”


He had stirred the fire one last time, tossed back the rest of his drink, and then turned around slowly, coming to lean against the bedpost. Backlit by the flames, his white hair had gleamed silver, but his face was shadowed and mysterious. His voice was calm and impassive, perfectly controlled despite the alcohol, as hers was not. “It need not be a burden on either of us, Weasley. We must spend this night together in the same room, to establish the basis, and then tomorrow we will go our separate ways. I will make no demands of you – you will have my name, and it will be enough to keep you safe.”


“And that’s it?” she’d asked. “We go our separate ways, but stay married because it will guarantee my safety? But don’t you want children, heirs? And what if I fall in love with someone?”


He’d looked briefly amused. “My dear girl, if you find true love you're welcome to indulge it – marriage is hardly a barrier. And as for children,” he shrugged, “I do not intend to have any.”


She must have looked surprised, and he must have been drunker than she realized. Slowly, he sat down on the bed, his weight causing her to tip just a little – she pulled the covers up further, up to her chin, and tried to ignore the fact that there was a man in her bed for the first time in her life.


“Do you know,” he said, very quietly, reflectively, “the difference between a child and an Heir? Children are wanted, welcomed – an Heir is merely necessary. I know what happens when two disinterested and indifferent people produce an Heir and declare their duty done, so they may go on to different things...”


He stopped.


She had not had the courage to enquire any further. It felt as though she lay less than a metre away from some kind of unknown, unfathomable predator whose motives and thoughts were utterly mysterious – and she sensed that prying into the cracks and weaknesses he had so inadvertently shown her would be repaid with instant retaliation…


So many others had tried and failed to understand this one, unaccountable, unreliable man – why should she be successful? She was nothing to him, after all, just a wife tied to him by the slenderest of threads…


And he would be gone in the morning, anyway.



**************************************
Trust by LadyRhiyana
Disclaimer - I don't own anything. Don't sue.




Chapter 3 – Trust




The first thing that he had ever noticed about Ginny Weasley – on that day, so many years ago, when she had first come to Hogwarts – was the depth and strength of her loyalties. From her love for her brothers, her lingering infatuation with Harry Potter, her fierce defence of her friends – her loyalty, once given, was absolute, and very often it had been given in a cause that had opposed or at least disapproved of his.


They had been natural opposites in almost every way – in birth, station, loyalty, personalities and beliefs – and yet…


****************************************


She slept like a child, with complete and utter assurance, the deep, unselfconscious slumber of a woman who has never had to wake quickly to face peril and death. To a man who had never possessed such basic innocence, it was fascinating – to the man who watched over her now, it was evidence of unconscious reliance and trust in his ability to protect her…


His wife.


He wondered if it should have hit him, in some way – whether it should have profoundly affected him, inspired a protective instinct or stirred a previously unknown possessiveness. Searching within himself, he found nothing but a distant sense of responsibility – the acknowledgement that, having rescued and married her, he still had to get her home safely and in one piece, before he could go his own way and let her go hers.


Still, he did wonder that she trusted him so readily in sleep, when her waking eyes were so wary and defensive.



*****************************************


And now here they were, face to face once more, when he had never thought to see her again. She did not appear to be too discomposed – but he suspected that she had become adept at hiding her true thoughts in the years since Moscow. As with everything else in this world, the protection of the Malfoy name came with a price.


They had both known it, but there had been no viable alternative at the time…


*****************************************


“Well, my friend,” Petrov said expansively, his burly form belying the sharp cunning in his small eyes. “Is it done?”


Draco, who had been hired for five hundred thousand American dollars – they had no such archaic notions as separate economies – to assassinate Petrov’s closest business rival, had inclined his head. That one murder would put the big, burly criminal at the head of the Russian Mafia – at least, if and until Russian Wizarding Intelligence used Draco’s painstakingly gathered evidence to bring him down.


The government being so disorganized even sixteen years after the Soviet Union collapsed, Draco was cynical enough to think it a mere possibility, not a certainty. Consequently, he was very careful not to give any hint of his true part in this matter – if this investigation came to nothing, it was best not to be discovered.


His reputation was shady enough to make Petrov extremely cautious as it was (in fact, he could not remember anyone ever trusting him completely) and so he did not want to give the man any more reason to suspect him.


“It is done,” he said simply, and then handed Petrov a yellow envelope. The Russian opened it, glanced over the photographs it contained – depicting the corpse of Katerina Tolstoya, a muggle bullet ruining her once-pretty forehead – and grunted approvingly.


“Good. Excellent, Mr. Malfoy; you are just as good as your reputation says.” He smiled, displaying strong white teeth and an unexpected charm. “Worth every penny of your fee. But there is something else, something extra – a genuine prize that fell unexpectedly into my lap. Come, and I will show you…”


And he led the way into the grim, depressing prison that he ruled as his personal fief, past dank, dim cells and ragged, wraithlike inmates with empty, hopeless eyes, towards a locked room that resonated with outraged shouts and screams, and curses in – of all things – English.


Draco suddenly had a terrible feeling of what awaited him on the other side of the door.


“Much as I am honoured, Petrov, I do not need you to play procurer for me…”


“Of course not,” the Russian protested, “I know your reputation with women. But this is something special. You will appreciate it immensely, I am sure.”


And he opened the door, revealing an outraged blur of red hair that Draco had no difficulty recognizing as the youngest Weasley – for all that he had not set foot in Britain in years, there was no mistaking that hair. And, disastrously, she had no difficulty in recognizing him.


“Malfoy!” she shouted as she tried once more to elude her chains. “Get me the hell out of here!”


Evidently, he was the lesser of two evils.



**********************************************


Blaise Zabini had been the closest thing Draco had ever had to a companion – an equal – as a boy. It eased something inside to know that such a piece of his past still remained in England even now – and not only remained, but thrived, and actively prospered. Even despite the reactionary anti-Slytherin bias in governmental circles, Blaise had turned focused his considerable talents on building a brilliant career in the Ministry –


Courtiers, diplomats, statesmen – once, they had been predominantly Slytherins, these brilliant, educated, articulate men who had once steered the course of England’s destiny. And now the modern face of the government was anonymous, bureaucratic, and tediously respectable, with no scope for flamboyance, extravagance, and individuality. Draco wondered how Blaise could have sufficiently submerged his personality to fit the mould – but he must have, to have been accepted by the Weasleys of this world and their ilk.


Whatever his new official persona may be, the Blaise who had greeted him on his return had been very close to the friend he had known in his youth – cool, sardonic, and extremely perceptive, with a wicked sense of humour.


So perhaps he shouldn’t have been surprised to see his estranged wife among the gathering in Blaise Zabini’s drawing room after all. But…


She had changed. Not just the superficial differences of clothing and appearance, but she had also grown in confidence and composure as well. She was a year or so younger than he, and on the night of their marriage she had been much younger in spirit – but now, it seemed, she had learned more of life than reckless Gryffindoric courage and determination. There were more wearing, less tangible pitfalls in this life than Death Eaters – and it seemed as if she knew it, now.


Somehow, he knew she no longer slept with such innocent trust.


*************************************************
Marriage Bonds by LadyRhiyana
Disclaimer – I don’t own any of the canon characters or concepts. I’m not making any money out of this. Don’t sue.




Marriage Bonds




“I believe you’re already acquainted with most of the guests tonight, Malfoy,” Blaise said blandly.


“Hmm,” Draco agreed.


He made all the appropriate noises, but Blaise knew him well enough to tell that he was not attending, that his entire focus fixed on the sleek, sophisticated copper hair of his nominal wife. Ginevra Malfoy, extravagantly dressed, was at the centre of an adoring male circle – as they watched, Draco unconsciously intent and Blaise in amused interest, she threw back her head and laughed, a rich, throaty laugh that drew male attention and stirred the blood. It certainly made an impact: out of the corner of his eye, Blaise could see Draco stiffen momentarily, an instinctive, tell tale movement that gave away far too much.


**************************************


“What the fuck is going on, Malfoy?” Nott demanded, his voice cracking as his nerves, wound far too tightly, threatened to betray him. “The attack should have begun five minutes ago – you know how vital perfect timing is!”


Draco was extremely pale in his black Death Eater robes, his movements too deliberate to be natural. “I don’t know. Something’s gone wrong.” The hand holding the white, ivory mask was trembling and white-knuckled, but he had hidden it below the table – projecting the illusion of calm, of control, even if it was far from the truth.


He turned to Blaise. “I think,” he said, ignoring Nott’s growing hysteria, “that we had best burn these robes. The attack is not coming, or has already been thwarted, and they will soon come to check if there were any inside supporters…”


He had always known when to abandon a lost and useless cause.


“Oh, the attack was more than thwarted,” said Pansy Parkinson, responding to her cue, entering the room and announcing, with more venom than anyone had heard from her before, “It was betrayed. And can you guess by whom?”


“Oh, stop your bloody stupid games and get on with it,” Draco had snarled impatiently, and then Pansy had smiled – only smiled, nothing else, but it had been so vicious that he had known then, even without words…


For one terrible moment, the glass mask of his composure shattered, and everything he felt and everything he thought had been written in and across his face – Blaise, shaken, had turned away from the hideous vulnerability, but when he glanced back it was gone.



**********************************


As they came further into the room, and the guests began to notice the newcomer’s presence, the whispering began.


“…Is it? Is that…?”


“…Malfoy. …Show his face after what he did…”


“…both sides, then pureblood leader… A mercenary, now – they say he was the one who finally got Nott…”


“…doing here, though?”


“…married the Weasley girl in Russia – saved her life, accepted a six figure reward for it too…”


“…Surprised her family allow him to come anywhere near her.”


“…Allow? Who’s going to stop him from doing anything he wants?”


“…valid and legal marriage, anyway – you know, let no man come between…”



Through it all Draco moved on with superb indifference, much as he had always done, even at Hogwarts, even after two disastrous blows.


And then, finally, after four years, he came face to face with his wife.


***********************************


There was no warning at all, no mysterious inner foreboding or frisson, no instinctive awareness – nothing other than the whispered conversations around her, and the sudden tension in the men surrounding her, and the way their eyes slid behind her, and then quickly away.


But when she turned around, she didn’t expect to see him.


‘Why, Mr. Malfoy,’ Scarlett O’Hara trilled breathlessly.


But here was no rakish smile, no sardonic amusement – here was high intensity and something too strong, too overwhelming to be successfully hidden; his eyes were anything but cool, and she could see his hands were carefully, deliberately controlled.


“Oh,” she said, as nonchalantly as she could, aware of their audience. “So you’ve returned, have you? – not, I should imagine, to see me.”


Automatically, the lips curved. “No,” he said agreeably. “It was not my intention. But, however, now that it is unavoidable…”


The tension level decreased, and others around them relaxed, deprived of their scene but not disappointed, and Ginny could only marvel at his skill. She smiled blandly, talked of nothing for a little while longer, and then held out a hand to him – much as she had seen his mother do, years ago – and he bowed over it, and it was done.


He walked off, lingered a while longer to chat politely to other guests, but made his way as courteously as he could to the door. When, watching out of the corner of her eye, she saw him leave, she was conscious of strong relief – and, strangely enough, of a sense of deprivation, that she would never see what lay beneath the fragile façade…


***********************************


Later that night, Blaise brought her a glass of champagne and deftly separated her from her circle of admirers.


“Your father summoned him, you know,” he said quietly, without preamble, startling her.


“Who?” she asked, and then flushed, cursing herself, when he only looked at her. In the last four years she had gained poise, composure and confidence, and was now at home in the brilliant, accomplished circles of influence and power into which her impromptu marriage had pitched her – but there were times when she reverted to Ginny Weasley, who had six blunt brothers and who had thought Slytherins the height of wickedness.


“Your father had him brought to Britain, with a choice of in chains or of his own will. The official talk is that they’re considering revoking his exile, if he agrees to a chain.”


Ginny stared. Leaving aside the question of her father taking such drastic actions – against a Malfoy or not – there were a number of things she did not understand in that statement. Not wishing to seem even more foolish, she only raised her eyebrows at Blaise and looked enquiring.


“For more than ten years,” he answered, “Malfoy’s been the most notorious free agent in Europe, flitting from one side to the other without check, control or any kind of true loyalty. There are a great many people who would like to be able to control him, to have that kind of brilliance at their exclusive disposal, but he’s always eluded them and there’s never been anything that could permanently bind him.”


She had a terrible idea that she knew where this was going.


“And then, four years ago, he married me,” she said flatly.


“Yes,” he agreed. “He married you, the daughter of Arthur Weasley, who two years ago became the Minister of Magic. That could be a very powerful chain, if he submits to it…”


“Why would he want to? Why did he come back, if he knows what my father intends, and he doesn’t want to be bound? I’m not that powerful an inducement.”


Blaise’s eyelids fell for a moment, shuttering, censoring some thought that he couldn’t have hidden from her – when he looked up again, straight into her eyes, the remnants of heat remained, and a strength of resolve that was quite frightening.


“Aren’t you?” he said softly. “Didn’t you see the way he looked at you?”


“Yes, but…”


“I have never, ever seen him that far gone before. He wants you, Ginevra – but with you come Britain, and obligations, and indissoluble claims on him and his services…”


She didn’t like where this was going, either, or the look in Blaise Zabini’s suddenly Slytherin eyes. “What are you saying, Blaise? Say it openly, so that we all understand what it is you want.”


He sighed. “Very well.” He walked out onto the terrace, so no one could possibly overhear, and said, “I, and several others, want to see Draco Malfoy’s particular skills and verve used for Britain’s exclusive benefit. We had been searching for a way to do this for years, until he so unexpectedly married you…”


She opened her mouth to voice an unpardonable thought, but he beat her to it. “No, Ginevra, no one could have predicted that your capture and his presence in Russia would coincide, or that he would act as he did. It was a completely random and wholly unexpected surprise.”


“But a remarkably fortuitous one, to be sure,” she said acidly.


He only nodded. “Indeed. But, once we saw what he had done, we did not hesitate to take advantage of it. Even though he may not have thought it at the time, you’ve become his responsibility – and from what I saw when he first noticed you inside, you’ve become far more than that.”


Shaken, indignant, she lashed out. “And you know him so well, do you? How the hell do you know what he’s thinking?”


His smile was remarkably cynical. “Oh, I know Draco Malfoy…”


No, she thought, still shocked by the calculating callousness of it all, I don’t think you do. Of course he doesn’t feel anything for me – how could he? It was only one night...


Surely he won’t give in to this blatant attempt at manipulation?



“And so, Lady Malfoy,” he said, smooth, urbane, and with none of the hard determination of a moment before, “persuade him to stay, to accept his obligations and responsibilities. Give him a worthy purpose – Britain’s purpose – and save him from a life that will ultimately lead to nothing and nowhere.”


He looked at her, there, in her sleek dress and her smooth sophistication, at the poise and confidence of four years of association with the brightest minds, the smoothest tongues, the most gifted artists – and the most ruthless intriguers. “I won’t tell you,” he said softly, “that he’ll give in easily. But you have far more of a chance than the rest of us ever will. Please – don’t let him waste his life.”


************************************
Free Choice by LadyRhiyana
Disclaimer – Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowlings and a number of other entities. It does not belong to LadyRhiyana, who is an impoverished student, currently wrestling with her old scientific calculator and what are laughably called ‘basic’ financial formulae. Needless to say, she is not at all pleased with this turn of events.



Free Choice



Arthur Weasley was not looking forward to meeting Draco Malfoy again. Their first encounter had been almost twenty years ago, at Flourish and Blotts in Malfoy’s second year – he still cringed whenever he remembered that day – and their rare meetings since had not been any more cordial.


They had met at Lucius Malfoy’s trial, and at his eventual execution, and at the judgment that declared Draco exile and outcast – his strongest impression of him was of frozen grey eyes and fierce, bitter hatred.


And now the fierce, half-grown boy was a man, and there was nothing open or obvious about him anymore. He was elusive, he was brilliant, and he was – despite the impossible implausibility of it all – Ginny’s husband…


And, as Ginny’s husband – as Zabini had been so eager to point out – he bridged all levels of wizarding society, linking the old order and the new, the rich and the poor, the purebloods and the muggle lovers…


Surely he could have become such a bridge by marrying someone else’s daughter.


“Mr. Malfoy,” he said courteously, standing up to welcome him as he entered the room, “thank you for coming.”


Draco Malfoy was cool and ironic as he inclined his head fractionally. “Minister.”


So. He was going to make this difficult. Facing a man who could be Lucius’ ghost, Arthur felt the familiar sense of awkwardness and inadequacy return…


“Ah… No doubt Mr. Zabini has explained the situation to you…”


“Indeed he has. Most persuasively.”


“Yes, well.” Malfoy’s unblinking eyes watched him with feline cruelty. “Please understand that I am most grateful to you for the, er, services you performed for me in Russia, but…” he cleared his throat, “I must make another request of you.”


A raised brow. “A favour? I must remind you, Minister, that my services do not come cheap.”


“No, I have no desire to purchase your services, Mr. Malfoy. I was speaking of your loyalties.”


For the first time there was a ghost of a smile in the other man’s eyes. “I highly doubt you could afford those, Mr. Weasley. Not after you’ve spent so long making yourself agreeable to all parties…”


Arthur sighed. “I speak of Britain.”


“Britain? Why should I care for Britain? The Malfoy, the High Clan – these things I might have cared for, once – but not for Britain.”


The arrogance of that statement was truly shocking. “But… The Malfoy, the High Clan, the rest of society – and yes, even the Muggles – they are all part of Britain; you cannot have one without the other. You of all people should know that, claiming your descent from Brandon Andenais himself.”


“I had not thought you such a patriot.”


“Pray, do not mock me Mr. Malfoy. You know of what I speak. Think it over – for ten years you have been a rootless, dishonoured exile. I’m giving you a chance to come home and take up what should have been your life.”


“And your daughter, sir? Will she be part of my new, honourable life?” Stung, perhaps already irritated by the ultimatum that had originally brought him back, Malfoy lashed out. “You do know that there is no possibility of a divorce – if I stay in Britain her fortunes will be permanently bound to mine…”




**********************************



A team of investigators had been sent in to find out the exact truth of the events of what Molly always called – at least in the privacy of her own thoughts – That Night. Neither Ginny nor her absentee husband would speak of it, or of the reason why divorce or annulment was impossible –


Don’t ask, Mum – just don’t ask…


And so she had been determined to find out the truth.


As far as the investigators could tell, Ginny had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. A mediwitch sent in to provide aid to an emergency area, she’d seen too much, and had been picked up by one of Petrov’s goons who’d recognized her red hair and the implications of her parentage. And Petrov, always looking for any possible advantages, had taken the connection further, remembering the ancient Malfoy-Weasley feud.


Exactly what he’d hoped to gain by gifting his newest contracted employee with a Weasley no one had been quite able to tell. Perhaps he’d desired a further hold over him (a favour, blackmail, who knew?) or perhaps he’d honestly thought Malfoy would revenge himself upon the Weasleys by torturing their beloved sister and daughter. Whatever the reason, as soon as Malfoy had proclaimed their engagement, Petrov had called his bluff…


And then he had taken it one step further.


“It is good that you give her your protection like this, my friend. No other name would provide greater security than yours – no other husband would ever keep her safe. So you must never abandon her, Malfoy; without you she would not last a month…”


The subsequent arrest and execution of Petrov and all of his men had not removed the danger, either, for Petrov had been – or else he had employed – a very powerful wizard. His wedding gift to them both had been powerful and long-reaching; for as long as she lived, no matter where or how, if she remained a member of House Malfoy, she would be safe. But as soon as that protection was dissolved…



*******************************************



“Well, Blaise,” Draco said absently, “I can’t say I appreciated your surprise.” They were seated in Blaise’s study, a typically masculine room with a blazing fireplace and walls covered with books. “In fact, I thought better of you.”


“Did you?” Blaise asked reflectively. Unlike many, many others, he was unmoved by the thought of Draco’s displeasure. “But then you knew my motives before you came.”


“What did you tell her?”


“Ginny? I told her the truth, of course. It’s past time you came back home, Draco. You’ve wandered long enough.”


Draco laughed, saluted him dryly with his glass. “Pick up the ancient mantle of my ancestors, you mean? That’s a bit old-fashioned even for you, Blaise. The days of pureblood supremacy are finished – I should know, I was there.”


“Yes,” Blaise argued, “and so was I, standing right beside you. And yet here I am, still influential if in a different way – reinvented, to fit into the new world order.”


“The new world order? Oh, please, Blaise –“


“No, Draco; listen to me. As hackneyed as the phrase may be, it’s true enough – the world has changed, and no – as you said – you can’t simply step into your ancestors’ shoes. But nor can you abandon your responsibilities.”


Draco scoffed. “What responsibilities? They confiscated the estates after my father was arrested, they took everything else when they exiled me, and now I’m nothing more than a private citizen. Any money I have I made myself, any influence I might ever have had has long been discredited.”


“That’s bollocks and you know it, man. The Malfoy name will never die – it’s too closely entwined with this land…”


“If you’re suggesting, Blaise, that I have some sort of obligation because my ancestor slaughtered his way to conquest and power twenty-five centuries ago…”


Blaise sighed heavily, knowing that any further argument at the moment would be useless. “Well then, what are you going to do about Ginny?”


Draco started. “What do you mean?”


“You must stand by the marriage, I know. But that doesn’t mean you have to live together, or have anything at all to do with each other – the curse only mentioned the protection of a name, and nothing further.”


For the first time in their conversation, Draco refused to meet his eyes. “Of course I would not stand in her way, if she wished to make her own arrangements…”


“Truly? That’s not what I thought.”


Malfoy raised an icy eyebrow. “I beg your pardon?”


Not in the least intimidated, Blaise grinned. “I saw the way you looked at her, Draco. You can’t tell me you’ll meekly stand aside and let her go to another man – take her mind, her charm, and her influence with her father with her?”


“I have yet to meet anyone who would not like to see it,” Draco said sourly. “Ours is not accounted a popular match.”


“But an excellent one for you. And, from what I’ve seen, a potentially passionate one…”


“Blaise, I swear you are worse than an old woman. Cease your matchmaking for a moment and think. She has not given one single indication that she sees me as anything more than a dangerous mercenary – and that is scarcely a good foundation for the love match you peddle so eagerly.”


“Well then,” Blaise said, grinning even more widely, “all the more reason for you to stay and try to convince her otherwise.”


Draco closed his eyes and breathed in deeply through his nose. When he opened them again, he set his glass down firmly on the table, got up, and retreated with great dignity from the room.



*******************************************



The party having ended some two hours ago, the house was deserted and the familiar corridors silent as he made his way blankly through them. It was not often that he retreated in such disorder from a confrontation, but Blaise had always known just how to provoke him, and how to needle him into thoughtless impulse. Following an ancient instinct he made his way outside and into the gardens, noting with ironic vindication that the moon was indeed full – no doubt that explained why the whole world seemed to have gone mad lately.


He also noted that his wife had not yet returned to her home – wherever she was living at the moment, he hadn’t the slightest idea – and was instead waiting on the lawn, gripping her cloak around her, watching him with startled dark eyes.


“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t expect…”


“A midnight encounter?” he asked sardonically. “No, I can’t say I expected one either. However, Blaise has proved most industrious of late…”


Ginny winced. “No, this was none of his doing. I was waiting for you.”


Forcibly, he checked the sharp reply. “Why?”


She shifted her feet, looked a little nervous, but then raised her chin and looked him right in the eye. “Blaise wants me to convince you to stay in Britain.”


I think I’ve heard a little too much of Blaise tonight…


“Yes, I know.”


She looked a little startled at that. “You know?”


He smiled grimly. “Quite a number of people lately have been trying to persuade me to stay. I’ve decided to be flattered.”


However, his tone was so obviously ironic that she swallowed, and decided not to be foolish. “Would it be so bad?”


He sighed, and lowered himself down to sit on the grass, tipping his head back to look at the stars. Here on the outskirts of London they were dimmed by man-made light, but they comforted him all the same. “Duty, responsibility, obligation – they were all drummed into me as a child, and most of the instruction was contradictory. I had a duty to House Malfoy and my dependents, but I was also to be a faithful servant to the Dark Lord – my father was often unclear as to which of those should take priority, should there be a conflict. I had a duty to be a good son, but when my mother betrayed everything I had ever held sacred…”


He turned to her, eyes painfully self-mocking. “And now they say I have a duty to my country when it killed my father and exiled me, and a duty to my people when they were the very ones who abandoned me.”


“Well, if everybody is telling you what you should do, what do you want to do?” she asked, sitting down beside him, carefully smoothing out the skirts of her dress.


“What do I want to do?” He smiled again. “How sinfully self-indulgent…”


She scowled at him, feeling no unease in his presence now that he was talking easily and was no longer bitingly ironic. “I should think you’ve been doing exactly as you pleased for the last ten years. I would call that an orgy of self-indulgence.”


“Would you?” His mood seemed to have taken a turn, and now there was untrustworthy whimsy in his eyes and in his voice. “But it was not self-indulgence when I married you, ma’am. I tried every way I could to get out of it, and even now I’m still trapped…”


Perhaps it was the full moon. Perhaps it was the wine she’d drunk at the party. Perhaps it was the lurking laughter in his eyes, gleaming brightly in the half-light of the moon. She glared at him and slapped at his shoulder lightly as she would have done to her brother or Harry or any of her other male friends – and just like her brother, or Harry, or any of the others with their quick, trained reflexes, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her off balance, wrestling her down to the ground.


But when he had finally pinned her lightly, there was nothing brotherly or friendly in his eyes…


And then he released her very carefully, stood up, dusted himself off, and walked away as quickly as he could, leaving her staring after him in confusion.



********************************************
Chapter 6 by LadyRhiyana
Disclaimer – Harry Potter belongs to J K Rowling and ors. I am not making any money out of this.




Chapter 6




They met again, a few days later, at the victory celebration held to commemorate the seventh anniversary of Voldemort’s final death. No one quite knew how to treat him – he had been a junior Death Eater in training, once, before he’d joined the Order, and then he’d betrayed the Order in turn…


But he was also Ginny’s husband, and an ex-Auror; in the end the other guests settled for a kind of distant politeness that Draco found amusing and Ginny infuriating. “Why are they whispering about you?” she demanded sotto voce, so that they could not be overheard.


He grinned sardonically. “They’re not quite sure whether I’m housebroken or not.”


She scowled. “Fools. You’re not about to turn on them.”


“I have done so before.”


“Before!” She waved a hand, dismissing the past as supremely unimportant. “That was different. This is now. And you’ve finished turning coats and changing roles.”


He looked at her quite strangely. “Have I?”


“Well, of course you have. Why else did you come back, if you weren’t tired of flitting aimlessly around the world?”


He laughed, then, seemingly light hearted and amused. But his next comment was a deliberate attempt to distance her. “Perhaps I came back to see you.”


Her straight, level look told him what she thought of such foolishness, but it had served its purpose. They stood in silence for a time, listening to the music and the speeches, watching men and women they’d fought with – and against – celebrate the miracle of their renewed peace and freedom.


“Do you remember,” she said slowly, returning to attack from another angle, “what you said to me that night in Moscow?”


“I don’t remember much about that night,” he replied. “I believe I talked a lot of rubbish; I was certainly very drunk.”


“You said that your mother and father should never have married, that all they had in common was ambition and a vast talent for hypocrisy. That you were a byproduct of their secret quests to destroy each other –“


“Dear me,” he interrupted, “I must have been drunker than I thought. I must apologise for inflicting such maudlin melodrama on you…”


“No,” she said abruptly. “You said that you would make no demands on me, and that our marriage would be in name only. And yet when you kissed me…”


He blinked, genuinely startled. “I kissed you?”


That threw her off her stride. “You don’t remember?” She searched his face for any signs of deception, or any hint that he was deliberately distracting her from her point. She couldn’t tell one way or the other; he was too good at hiding his thoughts.


“No. Most of that night is a blur – all I remember is the vodka, and the bloody freezing cold, and sleeping on the floor…” He stopped. “We didn’t…?” For the first time there was a hint of uncertainty in his voice, if not his face.


“No, nothing inappropriate happened,” she reassured him, and then pulled a face and tried again. “That is, we didn’t… you were a perfect gentleman.”


“Ah…” he breathed quietly. “Good. I didn’t think so, but I wasn’t…” And then, “Do you regret it, binding yourself to me? You could have married somebody – anybody – else.”


She took her time in answering. “There was no other choice at the time, was there. If I hadn’t been there in the first place; if Petrov hadn’t cursed me to prove a point against you… I like my life, Malfoy. And I was glad – well, perhaps not so much at the time – that you saved me; I would have welcomed Voldemort himself had he come to take me away from there.”


“And then afterwards?”


“Afterwards?” she repeated. “Afterwards I came home, but to a wholly different world. It is one thing to be Ginny Weasley, but Ginny Malfoy is an entirely different creature…”


“Was it very difficult?” he asked quietly, the light, flippant mood of the conversation gone, leaving behind something much deeper, and more troubling.


There was a short, tight silence. Ginny turned her attention to a shifting group of luminaries, where Albus Dumbledore and the other heroes of the Resurrection stood – Bill and Charles Weasley, and Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Harry Potter – in their proud navy robes with their Orders proudly pinned to their chests.


“At Hogwarts, we thought it was only Hufflepuffs who held loyalty above all else.”


Draco wondered at the turn her thoughts had taken. “Children are ever wont to overlook the fundamentals for flash,” he agreed, in the dark. “As they grow older, they learn with every betrayal.”


“As soon as I returned from Russia a Malfoy, they began to suspect me – it was as if I, too, was party to your actions…”


“They?” He demanded, too forcefully, too quickly.


Something must have given him away. “Oh,” she said quickly, “not everyone. Only a few…” Her eyes slid to her brother Ron. “Ron tends to be hot-tempered, stubborn, and slow to adjust to new situations; in a way I half-expected him to be difficult about the marriage. But Harry…he flinched. Even if it was only for a moment…”


The force of his outrage surprised him; he had thought himself long inured to Gryffindoric hypocrisy. For a moment, he was tempted to make a cutting, ironic comment, a cheap shot of the type he had so excelled at in his youth. But he could tell that she was genuinely upset, and so he held his tongue.


“Blaise rates you and your firefly brilliance higher than any of the other Aurors whose loyalty was never questioned. And yet my brother and the man who might as well be still doubt me, simply because three years ago we exchanged empty vows…”


Draco felt an entirely inexplicable desire to reach out and comfort her.


“I have never betrayed Blaise,” he drawled mildly. “Dumbledore, Moody, and a number of others may see things differently. But as for Potter and your brother, have you thought that perhaps they had some reason? Magical wizarding vows are never wholly empty, even if unconsummated. And you have been most vehement in my defense, even three years ago when you did not appreciate of my intervention…”


She frowned. “I don’t…”


“Why are you so certain that I can be trusted, Ginevra? It cannot all be on Blaise’s testimony.”


“Why did you marry me?” she demanded, countering. “And then, having married me, why did you get blind drunk and pass out on the floor?”


His brows twitched together, but he smiled, that ever-crooked, rueful smile, acknowledging her hit. “Perhaps,” he said, quite forgetting his customary edge, “I wished to play the hero for once, rather than the villain. And then, perhaps, I regretted it…”


Unaccountably, she smiled, softening, and then reached out to lay her hand on his arm. “That’s why I’m so certain you can be trusted, Draco,” she said warmly, voicing his name for the very first time. “Because you tried, although you made somewhat of a muff of it. Because you didn’t take advantage of the situation; and because you gave me the freedom to choose for myself.”


Already put on his guard by the unsolicited, uninvited warm touch of her hand, her last words confirmed what he had already, subconsciously guessed – his wife was a very determined woman. Blaise had been inspired when he had recruited her to ensnare him.


“I beg your pardon?” was all that he could manage.


“Don’t be naïve, Draco; it doesn’t become you. You know exactly what I intend; you said it yourself,” she continued. “Magical wizarding vows are never wholly empty, and nor are they wholly one-sided. Consummation or not, I am your wife, Draco – and that gives me certain rights….”


Suddenly, she was the predator and he the prey. He fought the urge to swallow nervously, but took a few steps back before he could stop himself.


“Ginevra,” he began, and then stopped. She was not likely to start unbuttoning her robes here, at a public ball. “If you do this…”


“I know,” she said impatiently, with a touch of arrogance. “I, too, am pureblooded. I know what will happen, and I know the risks. I’m twenty-nine years old, and I’ve spent the last three holding my own in High Clan society – won’t you give me the credit of believing that I know my own mind?”


He looked at her for a long while, gauging her sincerity, measuring the strength of her convictions and her will.


“We are forever bound together, Draco – I by Petrov’s curse and you by your own honour. There will never be another, better marriage, and I will never have the simple, homely house and family that I dreamed of. But we are not – indifferent – to each other; can’t we try?”


“In Britain,” he said flatly.


“Yes. In Britain. Where you were always intended to be.” She saw his uncompromising expression, and pressed harder. “You’ve been running from the past and from any kind of commitment for years, Draco. It’s time to return home...”



*********************************
Chapter 7 by LadyRhiyana
Chapter 7



He lay flat on his back on the hillside above Malfoy Manor, head pillowed on his arms, looking up at the aching blue vault of the sky. It was perfect summer day, of the kind one only ever found in childhood; the air was still, and heady with the scent of crushed grass and lavender.


Somewhere, deep down inside of him, Draco was aware of the easing of an old, old pain. Once, he had taken days like this for granted, thinking that childhood dreams and perfect summers could last forever –


Now, he knew how fragile they truly were.


He had been exiled from his home, his childhood, and from this perfect sense of peace for ten years. And he hadn’t known how much he’d missed it until now.


“Draco?” Ginny’s footsteps were light on the thick grass, as she walked up the hill to sit beside him. “What do you see?”


He said nothing.


Unlike almost every other woman he had ever known, she did not take his silence as a personal challenge, but was content to respect his privacy. They remained there like that for some time longer, until Draco adjusted to the shock of her presence.


“This was my place,” he said finally, not taking his eyes from the sky. “No one else knew of it.” He fell silent again, recalling memories of his childhood – the good times and the bad – before continuing. “My father showed it to me when I was about six or seven, old enough to trail behind him on my own. It was his place, when he was a child.”


Ginny put a hand on his sleeve, applying only the slightest pressure.


“The day before I left for my first year at Hogwarts, we stood here, with the estate spread out before us in all directions. Father said Hogwarts would open my eyes to a completely new world, but that I must never lose sight of this, my true home…


“I loved him, you know.” The familiar mix of shame and pain and anger was closer now than it had been for years, in this place that had belonged to them and them alone. “I built my whole life around him, turning myself into a son he could be proud of. Even after he was arrested.” His mouth twisted, bitterness lashing him now. “When I turned, they tried to tell me he was evil, a monster; but it wasn’t a lie. It couldn’t have all been a lie.”


Ginny’s hand squeezed, letting him know she was there, and that she felt for him. He relaxed his tense muscles, soothed by her presence despite himself.




*************




The Manor had seen many different gatherings over the years: ragged rebels against Roman, Saxon, or Norman invasion; hugely influential cabals of noblemen determined to curtail the king’s power, or to restore it; smooth-tongued courtiers and politicians intent on gaining favour and influence; ruthless Death Eaters bent on terrorism and destruction, and equally ruthless Aurors determined to stop them…


Now Arthur Weasley walked up to the famous entrance, with its weathered stone lintel incised, deeply, with the Malfoy sigil. It was said that Brandon, himself, had carved it into the rock of a far, far older sacred stone he had plundered from the original inhabitants of the island.


From all that Arthur had heard of the original Malfoy, he could well believe it. Old Brandon sounded like a first class ruthless bastard.


“Well?” Blaise Zabini asked. “What do you think?” The former Slytherin had proved to be an invaluable advisor on matters relating to the former Death Eater families; it had been his suggestion to bring Draco Malfoy back from Europe. Arthur appreciated the help, but did not make the mistake of thinking him completely trustworthy. As with all politicians, not just Slytherin ones, he had his own agenda; Arthur suspected that Blaise had his own vision of the future of wizarding Britain, and was willing to be extremely patient in order to see it come to fruition.


There were serious questions about his past allegiances: he had almost certainly seen some Death Eater activity in his adolescence, and he had been right beside Draco during the infamous post-war pureblood secession attempt. However, all had been forgiven in return for his current cooperation, and all would be forgiven again, because he was rich, and charismatic, and could make people overlook his suspicious past through sheer force of presence.


All in all, Arthur would rather have him at his side than opposing him.


“It’s certainly very imposing,” he answered rather dryly, looking around with great interest. Lucius must be turning in his grave to see a Weasley granted freedom of the Manor. “A reflection of the great power and influence of House Malfoy, the last of the great pureblooded families. For what it’s worth.”


Blaise grinned. “That’s right; you’ve been here before, haven’t you? All those raids trying to catch Lucius out. Did you ever find anything?”


“No. Our search warrants were incredibly restricted – Malfoy had the judge in his pocket – and we were only allowed in certain areas, always under constant supervision. It was a bloody farce.” He looked suddenly fierce. “You don’t know how much I wanted to be here with the confiscating party to take possession, Zabini. To turn this cursed place upside down and inside out, exposing all its horrors to the light of day, walking freely here just to spite that malicious bastard…”


Blaise looked at him in interest, in sudden reassessment. “Why didn’t you join them, then?”


Arthur shrugged, suddenly embarrassed by his vehemence. “It was enough that I knew he was going to Azkaban, and that the estate would be confiscated. I didn’t need to be there, to take part in it myself.”


“You’re a better man than I, Minister. I’d have been the first man through the door.” His smile was crooked and rueful.


Despite himself, Arthur made a point to remember that self-assessment, and filed it away for future reference. The talk became more pleasant for a time, as Blaise guided him down the rich corridors, pointing out points of interest and recounting a number of mildly scandalous anecdotes. It was all done with smooth, urbane expertise; he doubted that even Draco could top such a performance.


But then Draco had other skills, and his expertise lay in a different area.


“Where is Draco?” he asked as they came to the main drawing room, where the family used to gather just before dinner. “I thought he was to meet us here.”


“Hmm? Oh, he and Ginny came down early,” Blaise answered absently, absorbed in the view of the thick, lush lawn from the full-length glass windows. The late afternoon light bathed the grounds in an antique, fading illumination. “They probably arrived early this morning.”


Arthur looked at him sharply. “You seem to be quite well informed of their movements.”


Blaise turned back towards him, brows raised. “I thought you wanted them thrown together. I merely prepared the ground; it’s up to them to take advantage of the opportunity or not, as the case may be.” A flash of movement caught the corner of his eye; he turned back to the window and smiled, almost indulgently. “Look.”


Two figures were crossing the lawn, arm in arm. Even from this distance Arthur and Blaise could identify them, could see the tentative trust newly born between them, as the taller, white haired figure placed a hand on the woman’s back and leaned in, lowering his head to talk to her, or to listen…




*************************




After Voldemort’s death, the most influential figures of the Resistance had gathered in Hogsmeade to decide the future course of wizarding Britain. There, in a conference that lasted all of a week, they sealed the fate of all those who had had the misfortune to be on the other side of a vicious, intensely personal war…


Draco, who’d had the sense to pick the winning side, had been one of the favoured ones; as a faithful member of the Order of the Phoenix he could have asked for anything – anything, except an amnesty for the innocent families of pureblooded Death Eaters that would have helped ease the long, bitter rifts that crippled wizarding society.


Moody and his fellow fanatics had pushed for more prosecutions, harsher penalties, more stringent restrictions, and always, increased Auror powers. It had been a witch-hunt, pure and simple, aimed more at the old pureblood families than at ‘normal’ wizards.


Draco saw everything that he had fought so hard to combat – prejudice, intolerance, and hatred – creeping back with Moody’s words, with Ron Weasley’s sneers, with the blank, veiled faces of the vilified faces of the families of convicted Death Eaters. He saw the terrifying cycle begin again, and knew that one day the ‘Hogsmeade Accord’ would come back to haunt them all.


And so he had taken matters into his own hands. He, and other likeminded pureblooded scions, had shown the Ministry that they were still a force to be reckoned with, that they could be pushed only so far before they would push back…


When the crunch came – as they all knew it would – it had been he, and he alone, who had taken the responsibility and the blame. He’d been exiled from Britain for life, and had left knowing that he’d made his point, that he had been heard –


And now he was back.


And there was a new gathering, much smaller and more…moderate, if that was the word, eager to ensure his continued presence in Britain, and his continued cooperation with the present government. He had a real chance to make a difference – Zabini would support him, Weasley was a reasonable man, and together they had enough influence to sway the rest of the gathering and, afterwards, the Ministry. As long as he bowed his head to the expectations of society, settled down into his allotted place, became a good citizen, a good husband and, no doubt later on, a good father, he could make more progress working with the system than any Death Eater could ever have hoped to achieve.


All he had to do was let go of his old, old resentment, forget the memory of his father’s slack, mindless eyes and drooling mouth, and bring an end to the myth of High Clan Malfoy and pureblooded supremacy. Fate had even provided him with the perfect wife, to whom he was forever bound whether he willed it or not.


But truly, was it so bad?


Ginny walked beside him in the fading light, a tall woman, strong and courageous, willing to fight like a lion for her friends and loved ones. She was beautiful, and sophisticated, and perfectly at ease in all circles of society. And she was willing to become his wife in truth as well as name – but he did not think it was an entirely emotional decision.


He had had his fill of impersonal alliances characterized by hypocrisy and icy silences. He did not want to spend his life tied to a woman who resented him, or one who married him only to fulfill a contract and then spent the rest of her life pursuing her own completely divergent interests. He knew that she was not completely indifferent to him, he had seen the flare of desire in her eyes, felt the quickening of her pulse beneath him on the night of Blaise’s party. But physical desire was not enough on which to base a lifetime of enforced contact…


“What are you concentrating on so hard, Malfoy?” she asked him, half-humorously. There was a greater ease between them, now, as if the intimacy of his confession on the hill had bound them tighter together. Physical intimacy was a pale shadow of emotional intimacy. He knew it, but he didn’t think she did.


“Your proposition,” he said, heading over to a stone bench in front of his mother’s tea roses.


“Ah.” She looked at him warily. “Have you come to a decision?”


Draco paused. There did not seem any way to say this without sounding completely foolish. He looked away, out over the darkening gardens. “Why did you make it, Ginny?”


“I told you. I want you to stay in Britain.”


“And that’s it? You want me to stay in Britain. You want me to use my influence, my skills, and my money for the good of the country, to help heal the scars left behind by the fighting.”


“Yes.” She sounded puzzled. “I thought I explained all this before. Isn’t that enough?”


He laughed. A bitter, harsh laugh, completely uncharacteristic of him, and he could feel her puzzlement turn to shock as she turned, her hand automatically reaching out to him. He shook her off and stood up.


Enough was enough.


He would no longer allow himself to be used and manipulated.


Turning his back on her, on all of them, he walked away.
Chapter 8 by LadyRhiyana
A/N – Modified on 25th November, 2005.

Disclaimer – I don’t own HP. Don’t sue me.




Chapter 8




Ginny watched in paralysed shock as Draco walked away.
He was…he was leaving! He was actually walking away from the house, from the gathering inside, and from everything he could have been and done…


He was walking away from her.


Suddenly the paralysis eased and she regained her voice. “Wait!” she shouted, leaping up off the bench and running after him. “Wait! Draco, stop!”


Twenty-five metres away, he turned to face her, his expression arrogant and indifferent, so devoid of its normal subtle humour that it actually hurt.


“What are you doing? Why are you leaving?”


With his hands shoved into the pockets of his black robes, his fair hair drifting in the evening breeze, he looked remote, forbidding and untouchable. “Don’t you know?”


“No,” she said, still advancing, beginning to find her own anger now. “No, I don’t. I thought you understood, that you thought the same way I did.”


He laughed again, that same harsh, bitter laugh that had so shocked her before. “Well, you thought wrong, didn’t you? Whatever gave you the idea that I agreed to come back, that I wanted to be forced back into Gryffindor’s mould in a society that despises me and all that I stand for?”


“Then help me to understand, Draco. If everyone is telling you what to do, what do you want to do? What will it take to make you stay?”


There was a moment of complete silence, long enough to become aware of the rapidly cooling temperature, of the almost vanished light and the first appearance of the evening star on the horizon. He looked at her – they were only five metres apart, now – and smiled wryly, crookedly, his eyes dark and defeated.


“Don’t ask me to stay, Ginny, unless you want more from me than duty. I won’t stay for a cause, or a country, or even a legacy,” he paused, and then drew close enough so that he could touch her hair, “but I’ll stay for you.”


She looked up into his eyes, her own eyes very wide and wary. “For…me?”


“Tell me that you want me to stay, not Blaise or your father. Tell me that you want me to stay for your own sake, because you want more out of our marriage than my name, my protection, and my money.”


“But…” she swallowed, trying to think, “I’ve already accepted I’ll never have…”


“I know what you said. You’ll settle for what you can get of me. But, Ginny, tell me that you want that simple, homely house and the family you dreamed of, and that you want them with me. And then I’ll stay…”



***********************



It took Zabini four hours to find him. Draco looked up from his Ogden’s, a quizzical half-smile on his face as he saw Blaise exchange words and a glint of gold with old Tom, who was only too willing to point out his table in the corner.


“You’re late,” was all he said, as Blaise settled into a chair across from him. “I thought you’d be much quicker.”


“You’re leaving,” Blaise countered. “I didn’t expect that.”


“No?” Draco took another sip. “Perhaps you should have. You tried hard enough to prevent it.”


“Where will you go? You’ve made too many enemies, turned too many coats – you’ll be torn apart.”


“There are too many memories here, Blaise. Too many echoes and shadows, and nothing to replace them with – duty isn’t enough. There’s nothing to fight for, no meaning to it…”


Blaise frowned. “I thought – Ginny…?”


“She, too, speaks of duty.” He laughed. “Perhaps I should not be too surprised – neither of us particularly wished to marry.”


“But you wish it was more.”


Draco looked at him. Once, long ago, he and Blaise had shared everything – he wondered just how much the other man had changed, whether anything of that old friendship remained, under the skin of a man of power.


“Powerful as we wizards are, Blaise, none of us can yet command the human heart.” He shrugged, deliberately draining the last of the tankard. “Not Voldemort, not you, and most definitely not I.”


Blaise sighed. He knew Draco, knew that he could not be pushed any further. “No, I suppose not. So that’s it? You’re leaving?”


Draco nodded. “There’s no reason to stay, nothing to hold me here, and nothing to draw me back.” He stood up, tossed a few knuts on the table. Blaise followed suit, and there was a moment of awkward silence before they shook hands, and Draco walked off.


Blaise watched him. He did not look back.



*******************



A week later, Ginny sat at the kitchen table in the Burrow, watching her mother bustle about making tea. Even now that her father was the Minister of Magic, earning more money than he ever had before, her parents still lived simply, their house a haven of welcoming warmth and kindness. Ginny had slunk back home the day after Draco had walked out, leaving her with an incomprehensible ultimatum – Molly had asked no questions but welcomed her back with a warm hug and a hearty Weasley dinner.


For what seemed the first time, Ginny truly looked at her mother through clear, objective eyes. Molly Weasley was stout and matronly, full of simple, homely wisdom. She was not beautiful, or powerful, or sophisticated, but she was content – she had her house, her husband, and her children and grandchildren, and she wanted nothing more out of life.


She was steady, in a way that Draco would never be, in a way – Ginny was beginning to realize – that she, herself, would never be either. She looked down at her exquisitely manicured nails, at her silk robes, and realized that she would never have the Burrow – she would never have the simple, homely house she’d dreamed of as a young girl.


Neither she nor Draco were meant to be content, as Molly was content, with raising children and bustling about in the kitchen, or pottering about filling time with hobbies and only reluctantly accepting power. Draco was a Malfoy, and so, perforce, was she – and the Malfoy had shaped and ruled this country for centuries, with their particular gifts and brilliance.


Draco could no more escape the legacy of his name than she could free herself of their marriage. She was bound to him, and he was bound to his heritage –


But cold, bloodless duty was not enough, for passionate Draco. It would never be enough, unless he also had a dream, something to give it meaning –


“… Tell me that you want that simple, homely house and the family you dreamed of, and that you want them with me…”


“I’ll stay for you.”



Something to give it meaning.


She stood up.


Molly looked at her, questioning –


“I’ve got to find him,” she said abruptly. “I’ve got to tell him…”


What was her dream of a simple, homely house without love? What would the Burrow be, without the love her parents shared? A grand, influential destiny was nothing, if he had no one to share it with…



**********
Epilogue by LadyRhiyana
A/N – Modified 25th November 2005.



Disclaimer – I don’t own HP. Don’t sue.




Epilogue




Draco Malfoy’s return to his home country raised more than a few brows, at home and around the world. The knowledge that he had at last ceased his rootless wondering was greeted with skepticism, disbelief, and outright dismay – as long as he’d been a rootless exile who could be bought and hired by anyone with enough money, he had not been a true threat. But now that he had firm loyalties once again, he was dangerous – he had too much insider knowledge of too many groups, Ministries, and organizations, and he would use it all to devastating effect. He was not known for half-measures and compromise; everything he did, he did with extreme thoroughness.


There had been threats made against him and his wife, and pressure brought to bear, in the hope of scaring him off, and even a number of assassination attempts, but he had emerged unscathed from each trial. Such was his nature – he thrived on intrigue and challenges, and thoroughly enjoyed the dangers of steering a safe course through an increasingly dangerous world.


The Ministry may have declared the Death Eaters broken in Britain, but no one with any real intelligence truly believed it.
The few who had fled overseas had spread to the continent and into the fertile breeding ground of the lawless, poverty-stricken, forgotten parts of the world, where, like a virus, Voldemort’s creed had multiplied and mutated beyond all control. The war was by no means over, and the Death Eaters were by no means the only threat.


However, if Draco found himself more and more involved in the darker, dirtier aspects of internal and international security, there was always his wife to draw him back and centre him. She, and she alone, saw him as a private person, loving him for himself and not for what he could offer her.


Together, they lived in a simple, homely house, with children they both wanted, and made a life for themselves with wizarding Britain’s acceptance, if not its complete approval.



*****



Malfoy Manor, imposing, impressive and ancient, played host to a gathering of luminaries, politicians, academics and socialites assembled to celebrate the birth of the third Malfoy son. It was entertainment on a grand scale, as the pureblooded political families had always done it, and Draco, as the latest head of the greatest pureblooded family, had not abandoned all of his traditions when he had married a Weasley and settled down to the serious business of playing politics working with the system, rather than against it.


“You have to admit it,” Blaise said dryly, “I was right, wasn’t I?”


Draco turned away from his absent survey of the ballroom, where couples danced and chattered, to face his oldest friend, the Deputy Minister. “Yes, this is an excellent vintage, Zabini. Your palate is exquisite.”


Blaise ignored the conversational sidestep. “It was past time for you to return. You weren’t happy out there, drifting with no real purpose. Look at you now – you’re disgustingly content.”


Across the ballroom, Draco caught Ginny’s eye and they shared a very small, very private smile. The years since they’d truly, willingly accepted their ties to each other had been good – they steadied each other, gave each other purpose, and served as foils for their differing gifts and strengths.


Then he turned back to Blaise, still smiling, but eyes serious. “Yes, I am marginally grateful to you for having me dragged back to Britain in chains, Blaise. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to support your latest proposal…”


Blaise raised his brows, and they got down to the serious business of running the country between them.



*********



THE END



**********


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